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.
Tag Archive: new music
So, here we are, it’s June and festival season is in high gear. I’ve been to three and I’ve already got my sights set on Airwaves, trying to work out just how I can swing a week in Reykjavik come mid-October. One of my UK counterparts recently told me about a dream she’d had in which I had scored media passes to The Great Escape and was texting her updates as her jealously and disappointment mounted. This was pure fantasy, of course. (I only do that sort of thing to people who have treated me horribly in the past and I bear no such ill will towards her.) Moreover, and more importantly, come the weekend of The Great Escape, I was thousands of miles away at another, much smaller festival, in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Now, I call MusicNOW a “small” festival. And in terms of seating capacity and the shear number of bands slated to perform, it is. But one look at the lineup curated this (and every) year by Bryce Dessner of The National, it’s a wonder that MusicNOW—this year including The National, Owen Pallett, Sharon Van Etten, Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), and Megafaun among others—isn’t at the top of everyone’s list. My only regret being that I could only attend the opening night of the festival, but, in the immortal words of Frankie Valli: oh, what a night!
It looks straightforward enough on the surface. Three bands on the bill: Sounds of the South, Shara Worden, and yMusic. (I’m going to take them out of order, if it’s alright with you.) But it’s not so simple as that.
MusicNOW bills itself as a “festival of contemporary music” and is, in every sense, the embodiment of that ideal (opening night featured, almost exclusively, unrecorded music). It’s a festival about more than a string of bands taking the stage to play the hits. From the moment that yMusic took the stage, it was clear (as I’ve heard from so many people) that MusicNOW is a special festival. I first met yMusic (well, half of them, anyway) at String Theory Festival in Minneapolis in April. Now being a New York native, I had never seen them before, though I’d long heard tell of their impeccable performances. And it’s all true.
My first impression of yMusic was one of complete astonishment—like the shock of recovering the memory of something I never knew I’d forgotten. And with every subsequent performance (four in the last two months), I’ve come away thinking the same thing: that this is why I ever studied music in the first place. And MusicNOW was no different. From the opening moments of Judd Greenstein’s Clearing, Dawn, Dance (which you can download here) through the premiere of a new work by Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) and their set with Shara Worden it is, as always, abundantly clear that yMusic are one of the brightest lights in whatever the hell we’ve decided to call the current state of music.
Now, a word about the Parry premiere: one of the main focal points of each MusicNOW festival is the commissioning of a new piece of music. Past contributors have included Tyondai Braxton (Battles) and Annie Clark (St. Vincent). This year, the honor fell to Richard Reed Parry (or, as he was introduced by Bryce Dessner, “my friend from a band that no one has ever heard of who recently won a Grammy”.) For the piece, half of yMusic, seated at the piano with stethoscopes bound tightly to them, played to the tempo of their respective heartbeats while their three counterparts played in what might be called “the traditional manner”. The resulting pseudo-aleatory—always out of step, never out of phase—produces a beautiful haunting effect and will likely serve as a useful metaphor about stylistic diversity in future posts. It’s musica humana in its truest form.
And while yMusic may have played, quite literally, to their hearts’ content, the evening’s headliner, Sounds of the South took their organic cues from another source entirely. The performance, commissioned by Duke Performances finds its origins in the field recordings of Alan Lomax, appropriately enough, from the collection entitled Sound of the South. Through a series of new arrangements, reinterpretations, and reimaginings, the members of Megafaun and Fight the Big Bull breathe new life into Lomax’s legendary field recordings at once removing them from their native context to a whole new setting (the concert hall) and redefining the sound of concert music. All while enlisting the help of some very special friends along the way.
If you had told me two months ago that I would spend an evening listening to Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Sharon Van Etten singing blues backed by full New Orleans style jazz band, I would have—well, you probably wouldn’t have told me that, so this is a useless metaphor, but the point is, I did. And it was incredible. With intricate (and occasionally cerebral) jam sessions the rule for the night and a constantly rotating cast of singers to keep things interesting, Sounds of the South also highlights the transcendent nature of the source material (and folk music in general) – more than just songs, they are a launching point for a flurry of ideas and ingenuity. And as midnight approached 90 minutes into the performance, the only conceivable downside was that it would eventually have to end.
I’ve just been in Toronto for Canadian Music Week (more on that in the coming days), but The Indie Handbook passed a handful of anniversaries whilst I was away. The most timely of those being the anniversary of my first Dimbleby & Capper show. Now, I’m sure most people don’t mark the anniversaries of even the most memorable gigs they’ve attended, but I don’t have a whole lot to look forward to in my life and besides, there’s more to it than that. A few weeks ago, I sent a writer out to her first ever D&C show (the review will be available soon enough). Then, and this really is the most pressing issue, there is the matter of ‘Let You Go’, the new single being released next Monday on TAPE Records. I’ve been in love with ‘Let You Go’—as well as the B-side ‘Raise It Right’—since I first heard the rough cuts back in November.
At this point, it would be a waste of time for me to tell you how much I love Dimbleby & Capper or how confident I am that Laura Bettinson and her ‘Boy Band’ will be carving out a permanent niche for themselves over the next 18 months or so. But if you’re new to this D&C business, you can go back and read those interviews we ran last year and these other posts. But what the rest of you may not know, there’s still a good bit of that interview from one year ago that I never published. What better way to celebrate our anniversary than to let you read it, eh?
The Indie Handbook: You’ve been getting a lot of support from the BBC, haven’t you?
Dimbleby & Capper: Yeah, Huw Stephens, really, which has been fab, but—have you heard ‘Beautiful But Boring’?
TIH: Yeah, I have.
D&C: Well, that was a track that was literally a demo, and I hooked up with this producer Liam Howe—he’s doing all the über-pop stuff at the moment, Marina and the Diamonds—well, we hooked up a year or maybe two years ago and did that demo in, like, three days then suddenly (and that’s the beautiful thing about the internet, but also kind of irritating is that you lose control of stuff really quickly), but basically another blogger texted him and said you should play this and Huw Stephens checked it out. And then he played. And he played it every week, for the whole summer, every show, which is awesome, but also it wasn’t really ready for that. It was just a demo and I hadn’t quite—I was straight out of uni and we went straight on to do the Great Escape, we did Glastonbury, we did Latitude, we did a Maida Vale session, and I went over to L.A. on another project I’m doing and it was too much. I can’t imagine what it’s like when you get to the Ellie Gouldings where it just kind of runs, but even on that little level where you get played every week on a little specialist show and people are listening—and I needed a bit more time to figure it out, because I was just messing around with producers and suddenly realised that I can produce my own stuff—and I would prefer to.
That’s what I’m doing now. And I think some of the ‘Beautiful But Boring’ lovers have since gone Yeah, you’re alright…but then, alongside that, we’ve got a lot more people who are really into it. And there’s a few more things in the pipeline….I mean, I’m not really interested in the massive record label. Essentially, there will be a record at some point, but I have no doubt that it will be recorded before there is a record deal.
TIH: Until then, I suppose it’s just a matter of playing out and writing more and just generally soldiering on. What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
D&C: The best gig we’ve played was probably Latitude. If you’ve got mates who are around you—like in London I’ll have a load of good mates—yeah, it’s fun, but it’s not really a challenge, but at Latitude, no one was there that we knew. And we were just quite lucky that it rained just as we went on stage, which meant that everybody—everybody—that was standing on the grass just poured in and stayed there for the whole set and they really enjoyed it. And we got so many new fans, just from that little 20-minute set there and people were really really digging it and that was the most satisfaction I’ve gotten out of a gig, because, like I said, you know there is no one there that you know, but you can tell that the energy is really good and that was really fun. And Glastonbury was fun, but not quite on the same level. It was a bit more…I guess there was a bit more pressure, which sometimes can ruin things. If everyone goes in thinking This is going to be amazing—you just don’t need that, really. You’re just going to play what you normally do.
D&C: Well, I think that’s when people like it more, almost. I mean, it’s slow. The progress is slow, but every gig, we do seem to come away with people who are absolutely hooked and then others who just think it’s alright. But it’s cool. Like you say, there seem to be a lot of people who come and they’re really grabbed by it and some people who really get—well, there’s not a lot to get, really, it’s just a little fun—I think some people think we’re taking ourselves a little bit too seriously, but I really don’t mean to come across that way [laughs]. We’re just having a laugh. Some people really get it, and others—we’ll work on them.
TIH: Exactly. Just give it some time. What about these other side projects?
D&C: Well, the main one—it’s not really in any state of coming out or being released yet—but I’m doing a project with Nigel Godrich and a couple of guys from America (you know, the guy that does all the Radiohead stuff). So I’m doing a project with him that’s really exciting, really cool music. I really dig it, but we haven’t got—I mean, there are a few tracks there, but again, you don’t have the time to put in and finish anything, so there are about ten half-baked tracks there, some that are more like three-quarters-baked and others are only just started. It’ll probably come out when I’m about 25 at this rate. I’m hoping, and he’s telling me, that it will come out before I’m 23 and that’s next year.
TIH: How did that get worked out?
D&C: That came about because Nigel came to one of my solo gigs—which is weird—ages ago, at The Queen’s Head, in Angel. They were looking for a singer, basically, because they’ve got all these beats (they’re amazing musicians), these wicked soundscapes and they’re looking for someone to write over the top of them and that’s kind of what I do, you know. I start with a beat or a loop in general and then I write a song over top of that and add everything afterward. And we saw the method in that and thought we’d give it a go and it’s working out for the moment. So, we’ll see. And I spent a little time in L.A. with him in April last year, which was fun—a complete eye-opener—and then come crashing back down to Deptford in southeast London and the realisation that, ok, this is my life.
TIH: They are somewhat different places.
D&C: Yeah, but I love that. It’s this weird thing that one minute you can be the toast of the party…and then the next I’m back working my minimum wage job. The weirdest thing and quite funny, when I left L.A. in April, I landed back in London at Heathrow and my manager immediately called me up saying ‘How was it? Was it great?’ and I just thought 20 minutes before I left to get on the plane, I was in Beck’s swimming pool with his kids [laughs] and now I’m getting back on the Tube to come home. What is that about?
TIH: No doubt working with someone like Nigel Godrich is bound to be an amazing learning experience, but what about your other influences? I know it sounds like a loaded question—like I want you to pigeonhole yourself—but obviously you don’t exist in a musical vacuum.
D&C: I think, as a kid—well, as a teenager, anyway—I listened to a lot more Smashing Pumpkins (I was a bit of a grunger), and the Crocketts and Placebo and all those kinds of bands. I listened to a lot of Ani DiFranco, actually. I just listen to a massive range and I was—and still am, really—into all the Motown and soul stuff in a big way, which I think you can kind of hear in some of the harmonies that I put together. You get that a lot, they can be quite retro sometimes coupled with that kind of industrial crunch beat stuff makes for a kind of interesting combo. So, I listened to a lot of that, then I came across this band—I think they’re from New York originally, L.A. now—called White and the Writing, I think they might have actually split up, but I listened to them and I thought this is awesome. It’s kind of lo-fi but there’s really something in it, this melody—if you’ve got a good melody, you can put it over anything, really and it makes it stick. I’m a big fan of melody. And so now, I guess I listen to—I don’t know. You always find yourself, when you take your music more seriously that you don’t listen to that much stuff.
TIH: I hear that from a lot of musicians, actually, people who won’t listen to anything while in the process of writing or recording. I think, in listening to your music, I can hear a lot of diverse influences—not in the sense that it sounds like one thing in particular, but that it sounds like everything and nothing.
D&C: It’s like you put everything in a blender on a quite chunky kind of setting.
TIH: As if you’ve processed your entire listening background and poured it all into one place.
D&C: I think you’re bang on it, there. Yeah, because a lot of it is nursery rhyme-ish as well, some of the melodies are. I’ve got this one song, it’s called “Want This”. It’s almost afro—it’s got a lot of this African kind of feel to it, but also nursery rhyme-ish melody and, like I was saying, soul-like harmonies and this disgusting beat and it’s kind of—I don’t know. You get into your own bubble kind of, until you realise that it’s just me. I guess it will be interesting to see what other people think of it.
So, there you have it. Dimbleby & Capper—the whole D&C brand, for that matter—has come a long way in the last year. And now the rest of the digital world is falling in love with D&C like so many of us always knew they would. The added dimension of Tá Na Deptford to the D&C live experience is proving to be a fruitful and thought-provoking conceptual partnership. As far as traditional media is concerned, D&C is receiving some well-deserved attention from the NME these days, including the online premier of the new video for ‘Let You Go’ earlier this week.Things can really only get better from here. For my money, all the impending immense success couldn’t be more well-earned. And I’m thrilled to have been an insignificant witness to it all.
You can buy ‘Let You Go’ b/w ‘Raise It Right’ starting Monday, 21 March. You can watch the video and download these remixes now.
Leaving the majesty of the Modernist and Deco-dotted Chicago skyline behind me, I lived in Columbus, OH for many years before discovering any beauty in its architecture. But I’d cast my sight too high, in search of drama rather than subtlety. It was only three years ago that I happen upon—or rather into—the work of Peter Eisenman, the master of deconstructivism. I walked up an incline that I could have sworn sloped to downhill (to a performance space where, later that night, I would first meet Shara Worden) and was immediately seduced by the paradoxical instability of it all. Later, I would find a book about Eisenman (Blurred Zones: Investigations of the Interstitial) and in it, a new obsession.
It is there, in that crack between genres, where Missy Mazzoli and post-chamber rock quintet Victoire have established themselves. Victoire first drew the attention of critics with an EP, A Door Into the Dark, released exclusively through eMusic in the 2009. Eighteen months later (September 28) will see the official release of their debut LP, Cathedral City, on New Amsterdam.
It is rare that an artist ticks all my boxes—glitchy lo-fi electronics, rhythmic instability, microtones, meandering melodies, ostinato, and sampled vocals to name a few—and even rarer to hear them woven together seamlessly. And yet, with Cathedral City, Victoire have done just that. Eschewing soaring melodies and sudden dynamic contrast, Victoire opt instead for a drama built on subtle variation, rhythmic and harmonic dissonance, and asymmetry. It is music so intricately constructed that it is not until the title track, three songs in, that it becomes clear that Cathedral City has long since firmly implanted itself in your consciousness.
From the brooding opener, “A Door into the Dark”, Cathedral City builds through the title track and trip-glitch “Like a Miracle” to a climax with “A Song for Arthur Russell”. The album draws to a close with the ruminative “India Whiskey”, but not before calling on numerous new music luminaries including Bryce Dessner (The National), Mellissa Hughes (The Little Death, Vol. 1), William Brittelle, and Florent Ghys while evoking the spirits of Philip Glass, Giacinto Scelsi, and a sedated Autechre or Aphex Twin. The result is a distant voice, filtered through a fog of influence and experience—a voice that’s fallen through the cracks.
The Interstitial. It’s one of the most beautiful concepts imaginable: the water frozen in fissures that reduces a mountain to dust—the artists who haunt the cracks and closes of aesthetics. And it is here that Missy Mazzoli and Victoire have been hard at work building a magnificent Cathedral City.
Download: Victoire – A Door into the Dark mp3