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Superlith & George Korein: Post-post-apocalyptic sounds

 

Superlith | Photo courtesy of the artist
Superlith | Photo courtesy of the artist

Superlith is the cyberpunk improv duo of trombonist Dan Blacksberg and circuit bender Julius Masri, two multifaceted sonic reducers with deep Philly roots. Blacksberg is regarded for incorporating music of the Hasidim into avant-metal and free jazz, having collaborated with Liturgy and Anthony Braxton. Masri switch-hits as a synthy noisenik with the likes of Joo Won Park and Charles Cohen, and as a versatile free drummer, often accompanying dance.

Together they traffic in dystopian soundscapes that evoke Paul Rutherford blowing through a writhing neurobiological mass or Bastard Noise devouring the Garritan Personal Orchestra horn section. Last year’s Plasma Clusters (Public Eyesore) is the sound of our world a few hundred millennia after Skynet becomes sentient, James Hansen’s predictions go unheeded, and saprotrophic bacteria are digesting the pixels from subaquatic Buzzfeed GIFs. Continue reading →

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Jason Hamacher: hXc attaché to ancient Syria

Photo courtesy of the artist
Jason Hamacher at the ruins of Ain Dara | Photo courtesy of the artist / Lost Origin Productions

Whether documentarian/drummer/massage therapist Jason Hamacher is rhapsodizing about Minor Threat and the Teen Idles or kicking some deep knowledge about the Gnostic origins of ancient Syriac chants, he does so with the same mix of startling scholarship and infectious exuberance.

Hamacher grew up the Headbanger’s Ball-watching middle son of a Southern Baptist minister in Satellite Beach, Florida before moving to the D.C. area in 1992. He cut his milk teeth in knotty 90s post-hardcore trio Frodus—touring with a pre-Shellback Refused in ’98—before going on to play in Decahedron with Fugazi bassist Joe Lally, and Tampa grind militia Combatwoundedveteran.

Hamacher’s decade-long Sacred Voices of Syria project began when he discovered that the world’s oldest Christian music had gone undocumented. In 2005, the Syrian Orthodox Church, one of the earliest Christian communities, granted Hamacher permission to record their oldest chant traditions. Over six years and several trips, he documented the ancient prayers, hallowed rituals, and sacred spaces of Syria.

Hamacher is bringing a showcase of his project to The Rotunda on Monday, and I spoke to him about the roots of community expression, guerilla-style ethnomusicology, and the lasting cultural impact of his endeavors. Continue reading →

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Camae Defstar brings Moor Mother Goddess to Hong Kong Garden

Moor Mother Goddess
Moor Mother Goddess | Photo by Chris Sikich for WXPN | sikichphotography.com

Camae Defstar is both immovable object and unstoppable force. Whether she’s reassembling interstellar and indigenous radio interference into busted Brainfeeder-via-Tackhead beats as part of her “blk girl blues/witch rap” project Moor Mother Goddess or hosting the monthly ROCKERS! series or leading educational workshops for marginalized women, Defstar’s intensity is pervasive and infectious. Come let MMG destroy and rebuild you at Hong Kong Garden on Sunday, September 13th. More details here. Listen to Occult Scorpio Technologies below.

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Jenny Hval: Avoiding Balance

Jenny Hval | Photo via facebook.com/jennyhval
Jenny Hval | Photo via facebook.com/jennyhval

There’s a death-defying, almost acrobatic quality to the post-millennially tense pop of Norway’s Jenny Hval. On two critically adored releases, 2013’s Innocence is Kinky and this year’s Apocalypse, girl, Hval traffics almost exclusively in charged elements—both sonic and philosophical. To witness Hval’s avant-songs unfold is akin to watching an escape artist set up seemingly impossible parameters only to elude total catastrophe with grace and style.

Hval’s music is built on extended vocal techniques, vintage R&B-style interstitial monologues, and molten noise, but there’s a fundamental rock n’ roll giddiness that her work elicits: “Is she going to pull this off? How is she going to pull this off?” The synthesis seems scientifically proven to lure the listener into a total body experience where one can be gently (and sometimes not so gently) provoked. Continue reading →

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Charles Cohen and Rosie Langabeer reimagine the movie Speed without dialogue or action.

Charles Cohen | photo via facebook.com/cbeepsandboops
Charles Cohen | photo via facebook.com/cbeepsandboops

In an interview conducted before his appearance at this year’s Présences électronique Festival, Charles Cohen gives a befuddling answer when pressed to describe his approach. “I improvise. I pack up and go home. I don’t think about it that much,” Cohen states matter-of-factly. Continue reading →

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Breaking down the elements of sound with Philly composer Bhob Rainey

Bhob Rainey | via bhobrainey.net
Bhob Rainey | via bhobrainey.net

Philadelphia performer/composer Bhob Rainey has developed a global reputation for his ability to reshape the raw material associated with sound— air, resonance, vibration, decay, silence—into delicately arranged sonic shrapnel with hallucinatory effects.

Whether improvising alongside trumpeter Greg Kelley in “lowercase” duo Nmperign, composing multichannel computer music inspired by the neural activity of squid, or designing sound for New Paradise Laboratories’ acclaimed 2014 Fringe Festival production, The Adults, Rainey’s M.O. is just as much about drawing connections between disciplines as it is about exposing “cracks in the symmetry of the world.” Continue reading →

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Interview: Powerdove on improvisation, academia and working with acoustic instruments

Powerdove
Powerdove | collage by John Dieterich

Outside Nashville, the “song” – with its vaudevillian and Tin Pan Alley roots – has become an increasingly irrelevant form. The dominance of crowd-sourced festival culture has pushed popular artists to work less with the “song” as a vehicle for storytelling and more toward designing functional, ambient tracks for the polo grounds, the dancefloor, the gym, the office, the bar, or the bedroom. In many ways, mainstream music increasingly resembles what many of us define as “noise.”

On the surface, Ithaca-based pianist, improviser, and Cornell lecturer Annie Lewandowski’s explorations with Powerdove seem blissfully removed from any larger musical/cultural conversations. However, on closer inspection, Lewandowski’s skeletal vocals nestled amidst house-of-cards instrumental arrangements point to a future where improvisers might be able to bridge the gap between our present thirst for novel timbres and our past predilection for narrative-driven songs.

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Death to Rebirth: The unconventional fall and rise of Death Grips

Death Grips | Photo by Kenny Sun | kennysunphoto.com

Last summer, when my favorite band Death Grips called it quits via cocktail napkin, I was beyond elated.

For most MC Ride-or-die fans, the group’s story is well-worn territory by now: between 2010 and 2015, the Sacramento trio spewed a prolific string of releases that split the difference between Damaged-era Black Flag and It’s Dark and Hell is Hot-era DMX, filtered through the most pernicious and unstable strains of UK bass music.

As luck would have it for a band that regularly referenced the occult (“Black Dice”) and particle physics (“Takyon”), Death Grips became accidentally zeitgeisty; the group’s ascent came on the heels of mainstream breakthroughs by the likes of Chiraq nihilist Chief Keef, punk-rap pranksters Odd Future, and left-of-center club-rappers like Die Antwoord and Azealia Banks. Not to mention the primetime NSA dramas of Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. Continue reading →