screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: July 2014

Fort King: Everything Falls Apart (a tribute to Charles Bukowski and the Hollywood Park Racetrack)

It’s time to briefly check in with a favorite L.A. band, Fort King. They created a simply stunning video tribute to two Los Angeles legends, Charles Bukowski and the Hollywood Park Racetrack, scripted to the soundtrack of their lovely and haunting song, “Everything Falls Apart.” Singer-songwriter Matthew Teardrop (of Manhattan Murder Mystery) stars as Bukowski. The video is directed by Mike James and features cameos by Rob Danson as a bartender at Lot 1 and Ryan Fuller as a racetrack janitor.

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A brief introduction… The Cold and Lovely, their Ellis Bell EP and Doll video

Photo Credit: Misty Michelle Photography

Photo Credit: Misty Michelle Photography

Just a quick hello to Los Angeles band The Cold and Lovely, to pass along the recently released official video for “Doll,” a song from their new Ellis Bell deluxe 9-track EP. As you’ll see and hear, it’s dreamy West Coast music with dreamy vocals set to a dreamy drive out into the desert. What’s not to love? (oh, and by the way, they’re lovely looking ladies, which certainly does nothing to hurt their cause).

The Cold and Lovely are Meghan Toohey (The Weepies, Lenka, Schuyler Fisk) and Nicole Fiorentino (The Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt, Spinnerette). The video is directed by Rebecca Donaghe. Upcoming shows are at Chinatown Summer Nights in Los Angeles (8/9) and off in October (10/3) at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown, CA.

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Musician and producer Martin Bisi in Boston this weekend with documentary and performance

photo by Elizabeth Graham for Creative Loafing, Atlanta

photo by Elizabeth Graham for Creative Loafing, Atlanta

Saturday July 26th
Sound and Chaos: The Story of BC Studio
A new documentary about Martin and his Brooklyn studio – Boston premiere
Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St. (Harvard Square), Cambridge
2pm show, doors at 1:30pm | Q&A with Martin Bisi and filmmakers follows
running time of film: 72 minutes | $8

Saturday July 26th
Martin Bisi (10:30 pm set) with Black Fortress of Opium (11:30 pm set)
at Lilypad, 1353 Cambridge St (Inman Square), Cambridge
all ages, 10 pm doors | $7

Martin Bisi has an impressive musical resume. That’s putting it mildly. As a New York-based musician, producer, engineer and studio mastermind since 1981, he has recorded an illustrious collection of artists that include Sonic Youth (Bad Moon Rising, 1985 and EVOL, 1986), Swans (The Burning World, 1989, Love of Live, 1992 and The Great Annihilator, 1994), Angels of Light, Afrika Bambaata, Iggy Pop (Instinct, 1988), John Zorn, Alice Donut, Fab Five Freddy, Lydia Lunch, Foetus, EMF, Bill Laswell, Material, Serena Maneesh, US Maple, Jon Spencer’s Boss Hog, Helmet, Live Skull, Unsane, Ginger Baker, Cop Shoot Cop, White Zombie (Make Them Die Slowly, 1989), Boredoms and Herbie Hancock’s Grammy Award winning song Rockit. He recorded The Dresden Dolls’ highly acclaimed debut album in 2002 and more recent bands Pop. 1280, Rude Mechanical Orchestra and Cinema Cinema. He’s worked with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and with painter Jean-Michel Basquiat and performance artist Michael Holman’s industrial band, Gray. Bisi has been a vital part of New York’s underground music scene throughout the 1980s, 1990s and beyond.

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Introducing… N/A Hip Hop a.k.a. RNA the Messenger

N/A Hip Hop, from his "Marco Polo" video

Those of you who frequent this blog will know that I don’t cover a whole lot of hip-hop. In fact, I think the only rap artists I’ve ever covered here have been John Forte and M.U.R.S.. It’s not that I’m racist, or even that I particularly dislike this style of music. The issue is that I’m a lyrics girl, and let’s face it, the vast majority of rap/hip-hop is incredibly misogynist and perhaps even worse than that, vacuous. This is why, when I hear someone doing something vital and interesting in this genre, I get really excited.

Greg Matthew, the mastermind behind N/A Hip Hop a.k.a. RNA the Messenger is originally from Dorchester, Massachusetts, though he’s now based in Austin, Texas (one of many Boston to Austin defectors). An English grad from Boston College, he delivers the message to teens that it’s possible to rap sincerely and honestly “without selling out and saying all the nonsense one hears on the radio.” He’s inspired by the emotion the music evokes, and expresses himself through the filter of his literary background. The result is something sophisticated yet visceral, poetic and predatory.

N/A Hip Hop (which stands for nucleic acid and/or not available) released their first 6-track EP, “The Code”, under the name DNAtheG. They’re currently recording with Robie Rowland at Echo Studios to release their second EP, “Here Cometh The Dreamer,” under the name RNAtheMessenger, later this year. In the meantime, they’re releasing singles from it, the first of which is “Marco Polo.” The music video (see below) was filmed by Steven Yee, a former classmate of Matthew’s at Boston Latin School and Boston College who now works as a Hollywood film director. It’s beautifully shot like a short film, and follows the story of an emcee who chooses a performance over a date with his girlfriend. What follows is a dreamlike series of events where he comes home to find evidence that she’s cheating on him (though it’s not clear if she is or not), they fight and he takes off into the woods to clear his mind. There’s a lot of symbolism with a dropped and then found yin-yang necklace, as he confronts his personal demons. As the artist himself explains, “What I was trying to say is that even though he just fought with his girl and she cheated, he knows he was the reason for her disloyalty because he didn’t put her first, so the real fight is not with her but with himself.” That’s certainly a far cry from “bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.”

“I’m a mystery of Agatha Christie
Edgar Allan Poe yo I’m mad and sadistic
Noam Chomsky said I’m bad with linguistics
In battles I go ballistic
Y’all babble spitting sophistic
My talent’s simply statistics
Trial and error I’ll die by heuristics.
I think I might be a mystic, science fiction”
– Marco Polo

There will be more singles from the upcoming album. The other songs are “Mechanical Hounds,” “Janitorial Madness,” “If Only,” “Grammy and a Girl” and “Here Cometh The Dreamer.” Here are some excerpts:

“These stars are life’s scars, just a part of creation, we were only meant to be, not to solve the equation. The mystery of our history breeds misery, don’t miss the beat, see victory is sweet, we mask hegemony as liberty.” -Grammy and a Girl

“There’s no Clear Channel, our views warped, Now Everything We Slaves Consume Or Review Points to NEWSCORP” -Mechanical Hounds

“Edgar Allan Poe’s reincarnated soul, up at 3 AM copying “The Cask of Amontillado,” composing by the glow of a candle, with no handle on my sanity, one eye on the vanity mirror staring at my sorrow” -Janitorial Madness

Clearly this isn’t your typical rap music. The genre has been twisted and perverted, soaked in the stench of the mainstream music industry. What N/A Hip Hop is doing goes back to what I believe was the original intent, to report without a filter from the trenches of human experience. And besides, anyone who name drops Noam Chomsky in a song of any genre deserves a listen.

As for the title “Here Cometh the Dreamer,” it’s derived from a plaque outside the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis — “they said one to another, behold, here cometh the dreamer, let us slay him and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” Take that, Lil Wayne.

If you like what you see and hear, N/A Hip Hop will be returning home to open for Capone-N-Noreaga on July 19th at The Middle East Downstairs. His set is at 9:40 p.m. He’ll be performing with Colin Dwyer, who will be releasing his own EP on 9/11 at The Lizard Lounge.

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Sea Wolf’s Song Spells, No. 1: Cedarsmoke

A wondrous and magical gift for their fans

Sea Wolf's Alex Brown Church - photo by Mia Kirby

Sea Wolf's Alex Brown Church - photo by Mia Kirby

Just released from Los Angeles’ own Sea Wolf is the most eloquent and breathlessly beautiful of thank yous. Song Spells, No. 1: Cedarsmoke is a softly spoken, delicately woven, intimate and deeply personal masterpiece. They experimented with a faster, experimental approach to recording which has resulted in a simply gorgeous waking dream that feels like you’re sitting in a friend’s living room with the band gathered round playing for everyone. I’m tempted to say that every album from this point forth should be recorded in this way. This is rich acoustic and subtle electronic music elegantly intertwined but simply captured, with Alex Brown Church’s warm guitar tones and vocals front and center, accentuated perfectly by the music. Strings, percussion, acoustic guitar and voice all blend organically, interwoven in the magic of what feels like and probably is a live full band recording. That is not to say it’s simplistic, anything but, though the layering of instruments is very cleanly presented with each melody distinctly clear and shining brightly.

This lovely work is the first in a series of limited edition albums that are being made available on Spotify and other streaming services and on the band’s website as a pay-what-you-want download. Fans were able to contribute early on to a Kickstarter campaign for various “rewards” that included physical copies in a limited edition (500) vinyl or CD release. Church plans to continue these very special releases, which he’ll record between official album releases. For Song Spells, fellow band members Joey Ficken, Lisa Fendelander and Scott Leahy contributed, recording in Church’s home studio. He did all the recording, mixing and production himself. All I can say is… bands take note!

Their previous albums are Leaves In The River, White Water, White Bloom and Old World Romance — all consistently stunning. Of the new album, Church explains, “The word ‘spell’ can refer to a magical spell or a period of time. I wrote and recorded it in a four-month period to force myself to go with first instincts and let go of the need to get things perfect. It was done for fun, with no commercial expectations from a label, something to share with our fans until we make our next ‘official’ album. We’re basically giving it away as a thank you to the people that have supported us.” Nice.

Sea Wolf will spend the rest of this year working on their next official album, with a month-long break in the fall for a European tour. However, for those fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles (yes, I say that a lot on this blog), they’ll be performing as a 3-piece at a very special show on Wednesday, July 23, at The Sayers Club. Also on the bill is Rare Times and White Rainbow. The show is sponsored by Red Bull Sound Select and KCRW. RSVP for $3 tickets.

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Introducing… Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings

Photo Credit: Nihile Photography

Photo Credit: Nihile Photography

Just a quicky from me tonight. Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings isn’t new, though they’re new to me. They hail from Baltimore, Maryland (and also NYC and Philly, apparently). I’d call their sound Haunted Americana. This is definitely music to drink whiskey and take sleeping pills to, but please don’t do that, ok? Lyrically desolate and musically rich, this stunning ensemble features at times just acoustic guitar and banjo, and at other times everything but the kitchen sink — Robare Pruyn (Clarinet, Alto Sax, Accordion, Electric Guitar & Vocals), Matt DeBlass (Mandolin & Vocals), Molly Hebert-Wilson (Vocals), Noam Berg (Mandolin & Vocals), Alex Bell (Drums & Washboard), Melissa Perry (Vocals), Rebekah Greene (Double Bass), Tom Sowinski (Tuba & Vocals), Doug Bischoff (Trombone & Vocals), Terry Greene (Trombone), and Brennan Kuhns (Electric Guitar). They have a 5-track EP called Heartache Suite coming September 2. The track listing is Overture / Although You’re Gone / Holy Ghost / Slow Start / Wrought. Here’s a sampling:

“Maybe it’s about time that I admit the past exists.
Maybe it’s about time that it dies, bound by both its wrists.
Maybe it’s about time that I sink below the waves
and all the emptiness I’ve felt deserves a murky, unmarked grave.”
– Although You’re Gone

Cheery. Until these happy party tunes grace our shores, you can listen to their last recording below.

Upcoming Shows

07/11 Brooklyn, NY – The Waystation (free)
07/13 NYC, NY – Jalopy Theater (all ages; they’ll be shooting footage for an upcoming music video) more info
08/02 Baltimore, MD – Joe Squared (free)
08/03 Tacoma Park, MD – Electric Maid (free, all ages)
09/06 NYC, NY – The Bitter End

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French Style Furs: Is Exotic Bait

A slightly abridged version can be seen on Ryan’s Smashing Life

What do two indie rock bands from New York and Long Beach, a Trappist monk, poet, social activist and mystic, and a furrier’s in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn have in common? Seemingly nothing whatsoever, and yet when they came together early last year, there was an inspirational spark, a perfect storm, and something quite, well, mystical happened.

The musical discovery of French Style Furs began when Nathan Willett and Matt Maust of Cold War Kids met with We Barbarians‘ Nathan Warkentin for brief recording sessions. Willett came to them inspired by the spiritual journey and writings of Thomas Merton. They worked on ideas that became the basic tracks for this debut. Moving between Brooklyn and Los Angeles, they fleshed out the songs with the help of friends. These contributions include vocals from Haley Dekle (Dirty Projectors), Zina and Marika Dahlin; percussion from Stephen Hodges (David Lynch, Tom Waits) and horns from Wyndham Boylan-Garnett and Nick Kinsey (Elvis Perkins in Dearland). They worked with Nick Launay, who produced albums by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Arcade Fire, Talking Heads, David Byrne and PiL.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968), writer, Trappist monk, poet, social activist, mystic – and now songwriter in a rock band – penned more than 70 books and many reviews and essays. He traveled the world in search of silence and solitude, and became a student of various cultures and religions traditions which included Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sufism and Taoism. In his dual desire for inner quiet and world peace, he met with important spiritual leaders such as the Dalai Lama, and shared his vision in essays, novels, devotional writings, poetry and autobiographies, while living the cloistered life of a monk. I’ll bet he never would have guessed that his poetry would be sung with such heartfelt conviction in an indie rock song, and that his words would be flashed across the screen in a video on YouTube.

Is Exotic Bait has a more desperate, frantic pace than the usual Cold War Kids fare. This is possibly due to Warkentin’s influence, or perhaps it was the presence of Merton’s spiritual longings that pushed them into new territory. This album can be thought of as “exuberant contemplation,” which is especially evident in songs like the jaunty David Byrne infused “Solitary Life” and the breathless self-realization of “(World In My) Bloodstream,” a contemplation of one’s place in the universe.

“I lie on my hospital bed / Water runs inside the walls
And the musical machinery / All around overhead
Plays upon my metal system / My invented back bone
Lends to the universal tone / A flat impersonal song
All the planes in my mind / Sing to my worried blood
To my jet streams / I swim in the world’s genius
The spring’s plasm / I wonder who the hell I am.”
– (World In My) Bloodstream

What at first seems odd makes perfect sense, really. During Merton’s time as a monk, he moved from looking inward to being deeply concerned with the outer world, participating in the race riots and Vietnam War demonstrations of the 1960s by writing about issues of peace, social equality and racial tolerance. If he were here today, with so many of the same perplexing issues facing us, would he not have been out on the road, guitar and microphone in hand?

“Turn and Burn” is yes, a slow burner, with passion and desire simmering underneath. This one’s a collaborative effort, based on Merton’s “Aubade: The Annunciation” (1946), part of his poetry honoring the Virgin Mary (“Prayers fly in the mind like larks / Thoughts hide in the height like hawks / And while the country churches tell their blessings to the distance / Her slow words move / Desires glitter in her mind / Like morning stars.”). “All The Way Down” is all fire and brimstone, damnation and salvation matched note for note. There is an awful lot here for those who like to dig deep. “Clairvaux Prison” is both social commentary leveled against bloodthirsty dogs of war and a loving tribute to a French abbey that was wretchedly converted to a high-security prison. (“It is a year of strategy / The bureaucrats, wiping the blood off their fingers / In the gates of the Temple of Reason / have voted to poison the enemy’s well. / They know their danger / They need to throw some dead thing / Into the living waters that were once Clairvaux / and kill the too clean image / in the heart of such a spring.”)

Is Exotic Bait gives a modern voice to a visionary author who melded a sense of social responsibility with the age old search for inner truth. This is some heady stuff for a trio of rock musicians, but it’s clear they’re having a good time. And you will too.

“There were three friends
Discussing life.
One said:
‘Can men live together
And know nothing of it?
Work together
And produce nothing?
Can they fly around in space
And forget to exist
World without end?’
The three friends looked at each other
And burst out laughing.
They had no explanation.
Thus they were better friends than before.”
– Three Friends, from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton

French Style Furs Is Exotic Bait is out 7/8 on Frenchkiss. They will be performing at the Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on 7/7 and at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, NY on 7/9.

French Style Furs: Is Exotic Bait

3 Friends
All The Way Down
(World In My) Bloodstream
Solitary Life
Miami U R About 2 B Surprised
Ambassadors Of General Electric
Turn Or Burn
Man The Master
Christmas Card
Clairvaux Prison

Words by Thomas Merton courtesy of New Directions

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

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Introducing… the Hillary Reynolds Band



I’d like to say I planned to cover a few vintage style Americana-flavored bands right around the July 4th holiday, to pay proper tribute to our nation’s independence, but to be perfectly honest, it was a happy accident. The Boston-based Hillary Reynolds Band features, yes, Hillary Reynolds on sparkling clear lead vocals, Trevor Jarvis on cello and backing vocals, Connor Reese on guitar, Jeff Hale on drums and Chris Mewhinney on electric and acoustic bass. On The Miles Before Us, their imminent new album (it comes out next week), they stretch out into a smorgasboard of rootsy country-flavored homespun pop music with the emphasis on the warm sound of acoustic strings and Reynolds’ effortlessly soaring vocals. They’ve released a new video ahead of the album, for “Honey, Come Home,” a delicious slice of their folk-infused Americana.

Even on tracks like “Pretending I’m In Love,” the mood is decidedly upbeat, though my personal favorites are the quieter songs like “This Love Is Ours,” with beautiful interplay between softly sung vocals and reverent cello, and “How,” with its tinkling piano lines adding extra emphasis to heartfelt lyrics. “I Didn’t Know Who To Call” brings melancholy piano and a softly drifting voice, creating a jazz-blues feel and moving things into moodier territory, with the cello adding a perfect counterpoint. The album ends on a hopeful note with “Keep On Driving,” piano and cello driven along nicely with chugging organic sounding percussion. It’s the equivalent of comfort food for the ears.

They’ll be celebrating the new addition with a performance at Berklee School of Music’s wonderful performance space, Cafe 939. While the band members hail from different parts of the country, Berklee provided a central meeting place where they shared their love for traditional American music. As for the venue, the laid back coffee house atmosphere and intimate space is the perfect environment for listening to music like this, so if you’re in the area, definitely check them out. If you’re not in the area, they’re also performing in Biddeford, Maine on July 23, and will then be embarking on a proper tour in August, beginning in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as all great tours must do. They’ll be hitting Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and parts south. See their full tour schedule for more information.



Speaking of the band’s multi-instrumentalist leanings, guitarist Connor adds: “Each instrument adds a different flavor, and if someone plays some random thing, we can usually find a way to incorporate it. Because of this, the instrumentation is always evolving — we travel with 10 instruments on the stage and more in the car, like piano, cello, mandolin, acoustic, electric, and pedal steel guitars, ukulele, upright and electric bass, and drum kit. It’s quite a family.”

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