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Lesley Flanigan at The Fuse Factory’s Frequency Friday

Lesley Flanigan performing in Columbus as part of the Fuse Factory's Frequency Fridays series (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

Lesley Flanigan performing in Columbus as part of the Fuse Factory’s Frequency Fridays series (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

Wild Goose Creative, at the bottom of Summit St. in Columbus, is a far cry from Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, the last place I saw Lesley Flanigan perform. About 400 miles and God only knows how many seats separate the two venues. One, the picture of intimacy, the other the epitome of the Big Stage, with a stage so big it could swallow the former whole—many times over. Friday’s show, part of the Fuse Factory‘s Frequency Fridays series, was of the former variety.

It cannot be easy presenting an electronic music series in a city where DIY and garage bands dominate landscape and synthetic dubstep is the most readily available electronic music. And yet, Columbus isn’t without it’s electro-acoustic bright spots, Brian Harnetty, Masterer of Appalachian field recordings (and favored collaborator of Will Oldham) being among the most obvious examples. Within that community, Fuse Factory plays an important role in bringing national acts to Columbus as well as spotlighting local talent, like Tone Elevator, who opened the show Friday.

Peter and Jessica at Wild Goose Creative, March 2014 (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

Peter and Jessica at Wild Goose Creative, March 2014 (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

A small setting, like Wild Goose—with two dozen folding chairs set only a few feet from the performers—leaves little to the imagination. That immediacy, the intimacy, far from being a hindrance to the music, breathes new life into the listening experience. While the sight of a dubstep DJ propped in his perch pumping phat beatz into the club can truly be one of the most mind-numbing sights in all of music, even a slight cable malfunction early on in the Tone Elevator set injects a bit of dramatic tension into the music’s emergence from nearly-white noise while Tenori-On lights blink white from a tabletop corner. In the hands of Peter and Jessica Speer, incidental sounds like the chirping of birds and presidential speeches take on the form of intentional music.

Sound is a visceral thing. In purely physical terms, it is a disturbance, a disruption. The entire history of music is little more than the story of man’s effort to harness and control those disturbances. In an earlier Skype interview with Lesley Flanigan, we discussed in purely abstract terms the physicality of sound and ideas like sound sculpting. But at a distance of eight feet, abstract terms become a physical reality.

Lesley Flanigan at Wild Goose Creative, March 2014 (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

Lesley Flanigan at Wild Goose Creative, March 2014 (photo by Eric Robertson for The Indie Handbook)

Less a “glimpse of the artist at work” and more an entering into the work, the relationship between recording and live experience is more akin to the difference between visiting the Rothko Chapel website and entering the Rothko Chapel—one is interesting on an abstract intellectual level, the other is a conflation of small and broad strokes into a confrontation with one’s own mortality.

I won’t go so far as to say “I saw God Friday night”—I would hate to saddle any artist with such immense responsibility, and besides, it would be a lie—but I saw many other things. A twist of the wrist and sudden scrape of microphone against speaker cone. The near-violent trembling of a small piezo confronted with the presence of its own sonic reflection. In short (to borrow and adapt a phrase from EJ Koh*), I saw the Thingness of Sound.

And that is the importance of a series like Frequency Fridays. In a world super-saturated with passive listening experiences, artists like Lesley Flanigan are taking incidental noises and even minor annoyances like electronic feedback—the sounds of everyday life that so many of us go out of our way to drown out of our lives with our earbuds and iPods—and molding them into new forms, giving the intangible a physical presence.

Fuse Factory have an annual Frequency Friday crowd-funding drive (to pay artist fees and expenses, the usual). There is one week remaining in the current drive. If you’d like to donate, there’s an indiegogo page here.

*We’ll get to EJ Koh soon, hopefully next week.

New Music from Columbus, OH – Lydia Loveless

With a vocal prowess and songwriting chops that belie her young age, Lydia Loveless is already a seasoned veteran. In some ways like a harder edged contemporary iteration of Stiff Records ingenue, and fellow Ohio native, Rachel Sweet, her music is equally fit for a Nashville honky-tonk or Columbus, Ohio’s D.I.Y. dives. All I know is, I never fully understood the term “country punk” until I spent a few hours with a Lydia Loveless record.

TsuShiMaMiRe (つしまみれ) – Mamire + “Speedy Wonder” video

mamiremamireSo it took me a while to get on top of this one, but from what I gather, Japanese art punk trio TsuShiMaMiRe released what I take to be a “best of” collection – Mamire – last week (though, given the usual limitations of Google Translate and the fact that my Japanese is limited to a few dozen kanji, I could be wrong about all of this), touching on much of the band’s 15 years together.

Within the one new track included on Mamire – “Speedy Wonder” – verses fall somewhere on the spectrum between late 1960s Midwestern garage and “Fell In Love With A Girl” era White Stripes while the chorus flirts seductively with what can only be described as punk rock monody, all of which is tied together with a whole-tone (nearly palindromic) under-chorus. Put it all together, especially with the video, and the package feels a little like a Coathangers track (who, by the way, will have a new record out next month). (Don’t for one second think I mean to imply anything by that. After all, TsuShiMaMiRe have been wielding these skills for ages. This comparison is intended for educational purposes only.)

Wow, lots of parentheses up there. Anyway, here’s the video. And one last link to the website. Also Facebook.

New music from Columbus: Nick Tolford and Company

With a sound that recalls the rock and soul of the early ’60s built on a solid foundation of ’50s R&B, a Nick Tolford & Company show feels more like a party with a few hundred of your closest friends than a rock ‘n’ roll show (which is just how a rock ‘n’ roll show should feel). “Every Day” comes from the band’s second LP, Just a Kiss, released in January.

NC25 – New Album, New Tour from Nickel Creek

File Under: BEST NEWS EVER

It’s been nearly seven years since Nickel Creek embarked on their Farewell For Now tour — eight and a half years since the release of their last (and, I think, perfect) album, Why Should The Fire Die? – and I don’t think I am the only one who had just about given up hope of ever hearing anything else from our favorite progressive bluegrass trio. But it seems, for once, an indefinite hiatus has proved to be just that, a hiatus.

Monday afternoon, in the matter of a few tweets and a Facebook post, Nickel Creek released the first track, “Destination” [below], off a promised new album and announced that they would be getting the band back together, beginning with a pair of shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, where the band played their last shows in 2007. Presale for the first batch of concert dates begins on Tuesday. Check the website for dates.

I realize this post has been rather matter-of-fact and somewhat out of character for me. Honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. It’s not every day your favorite band gets back together.

Cosmos – Fitness Forever and the next to last days of disco

Fitness Forever - Cosmos

Fitness Forever – Cosmos

“Disco will never be over. It will always live in our minds and hearts.” So begins Matt Keeslar’s final speech in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco. While the death of their club and the dawn of the Eighties spelled the beginning of the end for the Doomed Bourgeois In Love, disco’s fate, it seems, was far from sealed. Enter Fitness Forever with their second album for Elefant Records, Cosmos.

After their first album left frontman Carlos Valderrama empty, as he describes it, the band were left with ample room for stylistic exploration. In time it seems, the band took to mining a vast depository of ’70s music for inspiration. The result is an album that has more than one foot (let’s say one and a half feet) firmly planted in the disco era. But John Travolta, this is not. Cosmos, while a disco record in spirit, is more stylized in practice, marked as much (or more) by the metered cool of bossa nova as the licentious revelry of Studio 54.

While Cosmos is an album very much at home in the musical landscape, it’s not the sort of record to settle down in one place for very long. While numbers like “Disco Quiz” and the title track may be the most reminiscent of the last days of disco (well, I say “reminiscent,” but then, I’m not really chronologically qualified to reminisce about such things), tracks like “L’amore Annegato” play it closer to the ghost of Getz/Gilberto that haunts the whole of Cosmos. One would even be forgiven for comparing songs like “Hotel Flamingo” or “Le Intenzione Del Re” to latter-day Belle & Sebastian.

At its heart, Cosmos is driven by a loving embrace of an amalgam of influences: lush instrumental textures straight from late ’70s radio, shuffling rhythms and intricate jazz progressions, and bossa nova inflection. It’s enough to send Ted Boynton awkwardly cavorting his way across the dancefloors of Barcelona in pursuit of plain-looking girls.

At the end of that speech from The Last Days of Disco, Matt Keeslar’s character Josh declares, “Disco was too great and too much fun to be gone forever. It’s got to come back someday.” Whether that’s a part of his impassioned speech that Josh “actually believes” is irrelevant, because, if Fitness Forever’s latest is anything to go by, that day is here.

More info about Cosmos on Elefant Records

New track – “Dead Rabbit Hopes” by The Shoe

The Shoe

Late last week, Jena Malone sent out (via Tumblr and Twitter) a link to a new song by The Shoe (her band with co-collaborator and improvisor Lem Jay Ignacio). The song, “Dead Rabbit Hopes” is a first look at the band’s new EP, coming out in late spring. And, upon listening, it seems to represent a pretty significant development for the band.

We’ve been following The Shoe for years. The Shoe has never been a celebrity vanity project (though you wouldn’t know that from the lazy print review I read in a magazine five years ago). The Shoe is a violon d’Ingres. The Shoe is a band. A band that had, up until now, always seemed to be built around the principles of portability and improvisation. (Perhaps you remember the song they sent us for Christmas a few years ago?) But “Dead Rabbit Hopes”, if it is any indication of what’s to come, is the work of a band taking a more measured approach. The result is still lo-fi, the lyrics still tinted with a touch of the surreal, but this is the work of a band who put their blood, sweat, and tears into their music (which, to be fair, is exactly what the tweet says). As opposed to their earlier EP, this is more reminiscent of Rose Dougall‘s earliest recordings post-Pipettes, or that first Parlours song I fell in love with all those years ago.

The new EP, apparently self-titled, will be released in the spring. No word yet on the format, or whether it will be released through Jena’s own label, There Was An Old Woman, which has handled almost everything up until now (The Bloodstains once had a 7-inch on another label), but I’ll be sure to find out as soon as I can.

RIP Zoobombs and a call to bands from the rest of the world

(c) 2012, Eric Robertson

Zoobombs at Ace of Cups, 2012

About a month ago, I read a blog post from one of my favorite bands. Well, to be honest, I read an awkwardly worded Google translation of a post from the Zoobombs website. If I understood it right, the band have decided, after roughly two decades, to put an end to the Zoobombs legacy. With the departure of two key band members, the remaining Zoobombs have decided that it is best to bring this chapter to a close and to begin anew.

I think I agree with them.

It’s never fun to say goodbye to your favorite bands, especially the ones you never had a chance to see in person. But in most cases, it is inevitable, we all know that. (Thankfully, I finally did get to see Zoobombs — about a year ago, here in Columbus — after missing their apparently phenomenal set at Canadian Music Week in 2011. And while the local turnout was, honestly, pathetic, it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.) We want to wish all of those Zoobombs the best of luck with their future projects. I have all the confidence in the world that they will be every bit as good as the epic garage-psych freakouts that made Zoobombs’ shows the stuff of legend.

All of which brings me to a second point. This is something I don’t often do, but I am issuing what, in the academic world might be called “A Call for Submissions”. Of course, we’ve always encouraged all bands to send us their music, and we get dozens of submissions every week. But those submissions, not surprisingly, skew toward Europe and North America. And while that leaves us with plenty of good material to work with, I also know the world is a big place and there’s much more out there and I don’t want this blog to remain US/Euro-centric if it doesn’t have to.

I know there’s a burgeoning punk/DIY scene in China (I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about Hedgehog here before) and I know there’s more to Korean music than K-Pop and “Gangnam Style” (remember all my gushing about Vidulgi OoyoO?) and of course I’ve just done a whole thing about Japanese psychedelia. And, for that matter, Tuareg and African blues bands have been experiencing a surge in popularity here in Columbus recently. The point is, I know you all are out there, and I would love to hear from you.

There are a few Korean and Chinese blogs and YouTube channels I catch up with when I can, but it’s difficult to even do that more than once every few months. So, please, email us at the.indie.handbook@gmail.com. We’re dying to expand our horizons.

P.S. Don’t worry about any language barrier. As long as I can hear the music, that is all I need. Google Translate and I will do the best we can with the rest. BUT, when you email, please at least try to include words like “band”, “music”, or “press release” in English in the subject line, just in case they get sent to the spam folder. That way, I will know to rescue them. God only knows how many submissions and press releases I have lost because they were written in an alphabet or character set I do not understand.

We can’t wait to hear from you. (Europe, North America, we still love hearing from you. Keep up the good work. South America, Australia, Oceania, we hear from you on occasion, but we wouldn’t mind hearing more.)

Reason #86 Why we Love Amazing Radio


circular disc with gray border containing the text: played on amazingradio

Who says video killed the radio star anyway? We think radio is just as vibrant as ever, especially thanks to all the fantastic stations available on internet radio stations. In fact, you can now hear Possimiste’s Wanderer featured on Simon Raymonde’s Iceland special from November 4 on Amazing Radio. Take a look here and enjoy not just Possimiste but a whole playlist of other great artists including One Little Indian, Lay Low, Dead Skeletons and more. But if you really only want to listen to Possimiste, then you might like to know that it plays right around the 1:02:00 mark. Except, don’t do that, because there really is a lot of good stuff on that program.

So a huge thank you to the great Simon Raymonde for supporting one of our favorite artists. An artist we believe in so much that we released the record. How’s that for a vote of confidence? Which reminds me, we still have some copies of the Possimiste record left. You can buy one here.

Happy Birthday, Matinée Recordings

If you’re a long time reader of The Indie Handbook, then you are, no doubt, familiar with Matinée Recordings. Strawberry Whiplash, a Matinée band, was one of the first artists we ever covered here, way back in the spring of 2009. (I can’t believe I’ve been doing this that long.) Since then, they have continued to release so many great records, that I haven’t been able to cover them all. After all, I can’t let this turn into a Matinée only blog, as easy and consistently good as that would be.

But Matinée reaches a particularly important milestone this month. In November of 2013, Matinée Recordings turns 15! Now that I’ve had some experience running a record label, I can tell you firsthand what a huge accomplishment that is. This business is hard, and to produce a constant stream of high quality records the way Jimmy and the folks at Matinée have over the last 15 years is a big deal (and quite an undertaking). I could learn a lot from them.

Need a refresher? Some of the Matinée bands we’ve covered here in the past include: Strawberry Whiplash, Cats On Fire, Math and Physics Club, and September Girls. You may remember how much I loved Math and Physics Club’s I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do and that I am in love with just about everything Strawberry Whiplash have done. But I don’t think I ever mentioned how I fell head over heels for Northern Portrait, just like any good Smiths fan would. It’s an oversight I still regret to this day, three years after I received that first Northern Portrait promo.

Thankfully, hope is not lost. I have been given a chance to redeem myself. In celebration of their 15th anniversary, Matinée Recordings are releasing A Sunday Matinée, a compilation of unreleased tracks, rarities, and exclusives from many of the bands that have helped make Matinée the breeding ground for top class indie pop that it is today. Included on A Sunday Matinée are bands like Strawberry Whiplash, September Girls, Math and Physics Club, Bubblegum Lemonade, my beloved Northern Portrait, and Matinée legends The Lucksmiths and, of course, many more.

Normally, this is the point where I would provide you with a tracklist for the album. But, in this case, we’ve been provided with a Soundcloud playlist and, if I’m reading this email correctly, I have permission to share the whole playlist with you and, let’s be honest, that’s far more useful than a list of band names. I will say, I am particularly enamored of the Northern Portrait and Math and Physics Club tracks, though my Strawberry Whiplash Law of Unconditional Love does hold up through their contribution to this album.

The album is to be officially released on November 12, but it is available now through the Matinée website. So, after you have a listen, pop over to the website, and pick up a copy of the CD so you can pop it in your car stereo like I will, and spend the next four months pretending it’s summer.

OK, fine. I’ll give you a tracklist anyway.

A Sunday Matinée – Various Artists

1. Bart and Friends – There’s No Place
2. Northern Portrait – The Young And Hopefuls
3. Bubblegum Lemonade – You Can’t Be Sad All The Time
4. September Girls – Danny Wood
5. Simpático – The Rays
6. Would-Be-Goods – No More Tearstained Makeup
7. Charlie Big Time – One Step Closer To Enemies
8. The Lucksmiths – When I’m Walking
9. The Electric Pop Group – Parliament Square
10. Strawberry Whiplash – September Saturday
11. Math And Physics Club – I Know It’s Over
12. The Steinbecks – Through The Curtain
13. Pale Sunday – In The Hardest Moment
14. Clay Hips – Someone Who Wanders
15. Melodie Group – Only Forever

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