Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.
It’s not a pretty world out there right now, friends. I mean, take a step back — for many, it’s never been a pretty world, and as much as past leaders have given lip service to inclusivity and equality, the reality of the situation for those most affected by discrimination and targeted by hate shakes out differently.
But now, though? Inequality is not just institutional, but overtly so. The president declaring that transgender servicepeople are a “burden” on the military; the justice department urging an appeals court to rule that civil rights laws don’t protect LGBTQ citizens; action at the state level, like Missouri debating a law that advocates say would reduce frivolous lawsuits and critics say would make workplace discrimination harder to prove.
Over the past ten months, there’s been an outpouring of support for organizations that protect marginalized citizens, and today, for the second time this year, Bandcamp is donating 100% of its share of music sales to charity. Back in February, it supported the American Civil Liberties Union; today, it supports the Transgender Law Center, and in addition to Bandcamp’s own donation, many artists are donating their sales as well. This week, as I do almost every week, I found a solid roundup of new music by Philadelphia artists on Bandcamp; music that is, in various ways, worth listening to. Today would be a great day to take that a step further, make a purchase, and like I said in February, use art to affect positive change.
Originally from Prince Goerge’s County, Maryland, MHYSA got her start with the Philly performance art group SCRAAATCH before branching out on this solo debut, fantasii. Its eleven tracks celebrate queerness, vulnerability and black femininity in a remarkably moving, atmospheric kind of way. “Bb” could be SZA as filtered through Cocteau Twins, while “Glory be Black” is a stirring and evocative piece of wordless sound design that bridges FlyLo and David Lynch. MHYSA calls this record an epic poem, a reverse take on Dante’s Inferno where the listener is taken from the lowest low and climbs upward into the world of hopes and dreams, confronting issues of sexuality and structural racism along the way.
I dig the metaphor of a musical project called Gender Work releasing an album called Disruption with the cover photo depicting one of the statues in Logan Circle fountain holding a sign saying “The Future is Female.” Like as if to say, this is the world of tomorrow, and we were on our way there, and got off on this unhappy side jaunt that hopefully only lasts a few years and doesn’t screw up the world too tremendously while we’re there but good Lord who can tell anymore. Or maybe it’s not politicized at all; maybe I’m just projecting. The “low-budget, high-gay” project of a person named Kenny answers these concerns with glimmering synthpop of the M83 / S U R V I V E variety, taking digs in song titles (“special snowflake”) and inviting guest vocalists to articulate specifics — “radical dust”, where rob’n delaine meditate on resistance.
Pax Ressler and Sam Congdon are the vocal / production team behind PAM — an amalgam of their names, perhaps — and their new EP In The Eyes is a beauty. Musically, it evokes Air’s Virgin Suicides Soundtrack and Perfume Genius; lyrically, it’s about love and devotion in the face of opposition and discrimination. And philosophically, it’s pretty right-on as well; a set of songs to score a fundraising effort for SUPER|Object, a queer arts collective in Philly.
THE STONED EYE
Volume is sometimes the best weapon. That’s not to project my sociopolitical outlook on Philly fuzz-rock duo The Stoned Eye — scrolling back through their Facebook feel, they seem to not exactly take public stances on issues of the day, preferring instead to push their gigs and channel their emotions into heady, Alice In Chains-inspired stoner metal. And that’s fine. Hope they’re not offended that I’ve included them in such an obviously slanted roundup of sounds. But, you know, sometimes losing oneself in fuzz and distortion is all we’ve got, and the title track from their forthcoming album The Meadow is perfect for times when you need to pop on the headphones, turn up the volume and scream into the void.
Joi Liana Carter is StUR, and StUR is Joi Liana Carter, a solo artist from just outside Reading currently in search of band members in Philadelphia. This collection of their songs is fervent and urgent and I could see them expanding into Cayetana-level punk anthems with the appropriate riffage and arrangements incorporated. But there’s something to be said for the unadorned purity of home-recorded acoustic demos like we hear in the Overgrowth collection; in a band kind of context, “Absolutely No Vision Whatsoever” would run the risk of being cut down from its six minutes of catharsis to half the time, or maybe broken into two (maybe three) standalone jams, either of which would just be a tragedy.
Seven minutes of psychedelic bliss for when you need those moments of total escape, multiinstrumentalist Matt Haslett dropped this “Test Dreaming” expanse on Strange Bird Recordings, and it floats like Tame Impala and Pink Floyd.
Local bassist Nicholas Krolak plays in folk outfit My Son Bison, is getting his masters in jazz bass at Temple and records stylish jazz with a bunch of East Coast friends — including in-demand trumpeter Josh Lawrence. This six-song set called Chicory Root hedges on moments of smooth jazz, but sax player Jon Katz keeps the proper balance of hip in the mix. Rounding out the sextet are vibes player Tony Miceli, pianit Tim Brey and drummer Gusten Rudolph. They bop around on the title track, then slow things down to a simmer on “Stargazer” before bringing things back up to the classic swing of “Big Pharma.”
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