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Cassette Connection: A conversation with Dante Scaglione of Ardmore boutique label Third Floor Tapes

Third Floor Tapes
Dante Scaglione of Third Floor Tapes | courtesy of the label

Two years ago Dante Scaglione was digging through Bandcamp when he came across a music community he was unaware of prior — one of cassette-exclusive labels.

He was immediately intrigued by this idea of keeping tapes alive in this age in which streaming services, vinyl rebirth and digital downloads are king. Labels such as Gnar Tapes and Burger Records appealed to him in that when they started; they too were releasing their music on cassette only. Scaglione started buying music on the niche format and began his own collection when his friends in Joy Again (formerly Forever Lesbians) were talking with him about wanting to releasing their first album on cassette. They hashed out the details and Third Floor Tapes was born with the band’s first album, Sherry, a set of warbling lo-fi garage pop.

That particular sonic characteristic, one that’s most definitely unique to tapes, was another aspect that influenced Scaglione’s decision to keep the label tape-based. Continue reading →

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Point, Counterpoint: Kevin Morby talks expanding his sonic palette on the new Singing Saw

Kevin Morby | Photo courtesy of the artist
Kevin Morby | Photo courtesy of the artist

A piano was left behind in the house that Kevin Morby moved into in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles in the fall of 2014. He began using it to write new songs, and he may not have realized it at first, but it would play a major role in carving out his latest album, Singing Saw.

Morby’s new tool for writing allowed him to explore a new way of adding layers to his music, rather than just using a piano for texture. It combined with his then new home had afforded him more time and space he needed for writing an album much more lush and thought-out. It’s one that shines a brighter light on the poignant folk singer-songwriter through additional orchestration. Continue reading →

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Seizing the Moment: The Birth of Needlove Records

Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst
Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst

In the fall of 2014, Needle Points were approached by Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog with interest to produce their next album. It was to be the neo-psych ’n’ rollers’ second album, following up their six-song LP, Bom Tugangu, that they self-released the year prior. However, the album has yet to see the light of day.

After spending two weeks at Mt. Slippery studio with McMicken, the band spent the next year and a half shopping the end result around to multiple record labels. They received varying levels of interest, as local as Brooklyn and as far away as England. Ultimately the band decided it would be in their best interest to release it on their own. They would utilize it to get their own record label, Needlove Records, off the ground with plans to finally release the new album later this summer.

The startup record label will be run by Needle Points’ lead singer Colin Holloway and drummer Jordan Kaplan. Having already released their own Bom Tugangu debut and through their dealings with other musicians and labels through their work with McMicken, the two definitely have some do-it-yourself experience under their belts.

Continue reading →

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Suite Life: Harsh Vibes on mastering the movements of their new psych opus

Harsh Vibes | Photo courtesy of the artist
Harsh Vibes | Photo courtesy of the artist

Not every album requires a significant amount of dedicated listening to find everything that’s lingering beneath its surface. And then there are others that reveal themselves in layers, a little more with every spin. But the latter doesn’t develop by chance. It’s the product of deliberate writing, tweaking and attention to sonic detail.

The latest Harsh Vibes release, You Left Me Far Behind, is exactly the that. The five-piece has stepped up its songs from being largely free-of-form jams to being some of the most detailed space explorations in Philadelphia. Guitarist and singer Chris Bergen is still the band’s primary songwriter on this two-song EP, and the songs still come from him arsenal of ideas he’s amassed over the years, but You Left Me Far Behind wasn’t recorded as improvised jams as their prior tape releases had been.

“This is the first thing that we’ve put out that’s fully pre-written material entirely,” Bergen says in the back patio of a Fishtown bar where a jazz band is settling into a groove just inside. “These are totally written ahead of time and then I was still producing stuff while we were recording so I’d add little parts here and there. I ended up doing that for a really long time. That’s why it’s so baroque or compositional. Really, it was kind of a pain in the ass.” Continue reading →

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Ruthless Recording: Lantern embraces limitations on its new Black Highways LP

Lantern
Lantern | Photo by Ryan Collerd | ryancollerd.com | courtesy of the artist

Two days after Philadelphia got buried in nearly two feet of snow in late January, Zachary Devereux Fairbrother, guitarist and singer of Lantern, is dressed for the weather. He walks into a Point Breeze coffee shop suited in a scarf, shin-height galoshes and his hood pulled atop his head. The cold is visibly lingering on him as he peels away the layers of clothing around his face. Emily Robb, Lantern’s bass player and singer, walks in shortly thereafter and performs the same peeling routine.

Lucky for them, neither were hindered much by the blizzard at their west and south Philly homes, respectively.

The snowfall came a little less than a month before the release of their second full-length album, Black Highways and Green Garden Roads. It’s an album recorded in 22 non-sequential days at The Bottle Garden in Montreal, Canada, over a year and a half. Lantern, a blues rock-leaning proto-punk three-piece, made a conscious decision to record the new album a bit differently than they had for 2013’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rorschach — strictly to analog tape.

“We were working with only eight tracks,” says Fairbrother. “That sort of put an inherent structure on how we would go on with the arrangements and mixing.”

Robb adds as if finishing Fairbrother’s thought, “It kind of locks you in a little more. Working with tape really informs the process because it’s not limitless. If you’re working with Pro Tools you can have as many tracks as you want.”

Recording in this nature forced the band to be more, “ruthless,” as Fairbrother puts it, in what takes they decided would make it onto the album. He likens it to the “paradox of choice” theory, a line of thinking coined by Swarthmore psychology professor Barry Schwartz, in which consumers experience less anxiety when there are fewer choices while shopping. Continue reading →

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Finding Total Freedom: The journey to Spacin’s turbulent new LP

Spacin packaging up the first vinyl edition of Total Freedom | photo by John Vettese
Spacin packaging up the first vinyl edition of Total Freedom | photo by John Vettese

Jason Killinger steps through the front door of Atlantis: The Lost Bar onto the Frankford Avenue sidewalk in Kensington. He’s all smiles and greets me warmly with a firm handshake on an unforgivingly cold mid-November night. The guitarist and singer of Spacin’ is feeling good because he has Total Freedom on his mind.  Continue reading →

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Acting on Instinct: The psychedelic foundations of Philly’s Tygaton

Tygaton | Photo by John Vettese
Tygaton | Photo by John Vettese

Rain is coming down on Delaware Avenue. It’s early October and Tygaton is completely audible from the opposite side of the six-lane highway. They’re exploring an immersive jam that sounds like it could’ve gone several more leagues farther down when it stops rather suddenly.

Guitarist and lead singer Ben Will, comes outside followed by his bandmates. Each has a bottle of Yards Extra Special Ale in hand, presumably bought from the brewery within eyeshot of where they practice. After a quick introduction everyone heads inside.

On the second floor of a building that appears to have either been an apartment building or a warehouse converted into rehearsal spaces for several bands. Right now there’s one practicing in another room just down the hallway. Filing into their room Tygaton shares with another band, they each sit by their respective instruments. It may be about – generously estimating – 15-by-18 feet; stacked with gear almost up to the ceiling and is nearly impossible to take a step through without there being a guitar or synth cable underneath one’s feet.

The five-piece psych outfit has some deep roots, which is what aids them in creating their highly evocative songs. Will and bassist Dave Moore have known each other since they were about 15 years old, playing in different bands around the Philadelphia punk scene, but never in the same one. Continue reading →

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How Screaming Females became the backing band for a rap cypher benefit at LAVA

Rockers! founder Camae Defstar, left, performs at an event in 2011 | Photo via facebook.com/thegoodfolksatrockers
Bridging Rap and Punk: The seeds of Friday’s cypher at LAVA came from Camae Defstar of Rockers! | Photo by D1L0 | via facebook.com/thegoodfolksatrockers

Last March, Ian Winter played bass in an impromptu rap cypher at the Lancaster Avenue Autonomous Space, better known as LAVA Space. It initially was a show booked by Camae Defstar, organizer of ROCKERS! and frontwoman of Moor Mother Goddess. But it ended up turning into an open floor jam with many MCs rocking the mic.

“We just jammed on one riff for a while and probably about eight or nine people freestyled on it,” says Winter, a member of the collective that runs LAVA Space and bassist for West Philly MC Ronnie Vega. He goes on to say a DJ eventually took over with his sample pad to keep the groove going.

The way that night turned into such a loose and welcoming jam was influential on Winter and he decided he wanted to book his own cypher with a live band. He wanted it to be an opportunity for either a show or a practice session for both MCs and musicians who are interested in both punk and hip hop. Continue reading →

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More Than A Record Store: Profond Music and Art looks to be a hub for the Philly DJ community

For most people the Detroit Tigers logo is simply that: the emblem of a professional baseball team in Michigan.

But when you see it on the wall in Profond Music and Art, the newest record shop in Northern Liberties, it stands for something much deeper. Profond, a boutique specializing in electronic, house, hip hop, jazz and soul, opened the first week of August.

Owner Gabor K., a former DJ, is ready to provide for a community he knows is strong in Philadelphia but hasn’t yet had a store of its own to cater to it specifically. And he’s using his own prior experience to help shape his business model.

“My main thing is that I could never find what I was looking for,” Gabor says about shopping for records. “So we’re very cautious of what we carry here. We carry what we like and we want to be appealing to the DJ community, which is huge in Philly but it’s pretty much underground.” Continue reading →

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Here’s your instore guide to Philly Record Store Day 2015

Ben Arnold plays an in-store at Main Street Music | photo via Main Street Music's Facebook page
Ben Arnold plays an in-store at Main Street Music | photo via Main Street Music’s Facebook page

If you ask the most purist of vinyl record collectors, Record Store Day is a farce. If you ask those that aren’t jaded yet by the obscenely long list of RSD-exclusives and reissues each year, it’s pretty exciting. Regardless of whether you’re with side A or side B, there’s sure to be an event this April 18 that will be the needle that fits your groove. Continue reading →