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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 →

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An intimate affair with Kevin Morby and Ryley Walker at Boot and Saddle

Ryley Walker | Photo by Rocco Peditto | roccopeditto.com
Ryley Walker | Photo by Rocco Peditto | roccopeditto.com

The house lights were still up and upbeat pop music was coming from the speakers hanging from the ceiling, when unannounced, a man in a coat and winter hat with its ear flaps down to his chin took the stage and began tinkering with a guitar. Just a couple minutes later another fellow emerged from the crowd and sat down behind the keyboard at center stage, seemingly adjusting its volume and softy warming up his fingers with different chords. At that moment, this show stated that it’d be an intimate affair.

Ryley Walker then stepped onto the stage in same way, picked up his guitar and sat down at his microphone before taking one last long pull from his can of beer. While he started plucking at his 12-string, his accompaniment seemed to get louder and the house lights dropped. Walker took a deep breath and murmured a relaxed “All right,” into the mic, as they set up the head of “Summer Dress.” Continue reading →

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Documenting A Live Music Scene: A conversation with the man behind Philataper

photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com
Strand of Oaks at Union Transfer, one of the shows documented by PhilaTaper | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com

You probably didn’t know it, but at the last concert you attended you may have been standing next to a taper. Just ask Kris, a.k.a. Philataper, who has been documenting live gigs for over 20 years. Just a quick perusal of his Soundcloud page shows a treasure trove of local happenings: Strand of Oaks at Union Transfer, Hiss Golden Messenger at Johnny Brenda’s, Doug Paisley at Boot and Saddle.

Recording shows isn’t contained to only the jam band scene, where tapers have been found in designated areas at shows for decades with portable recorders, preamps and microphones on tall stands. True, it’s the only scene that often openly allows taping. In fact, that’s where it all started for Kris (who asks that his last name remain anonymous because of the nature of his hobby). Continue reading →

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Sheer Mag’s debut 7″ will bring you to your feet

Sheer Mag, as pictured on the sleeve of their debut 7"
Sheer Mag, as pictured on the sleeve of their debut 7″

You’ll hear the lyric “Well, I can drink from the river ‘til the ocean runs dry” on Sheer Mag’s debut seven-inch, and you’ll notice you’re mid-power stance: fist tightly clenched, eyes shut hard and knees bent just enough. But it just feels right. The song is “Hard Lovin’” and you’ve been standing in front of the stereo since you got up to flip the record over after “Sit and Cry” finished the first side. And that simply makes sense.

This springboard seven-inch coming out of South Philly is a raw-powered punch through unstoppable hooks. Continue reading →