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Unlocked: Darren Schlappich on the unexpected origins of Ataloft

Photo courtesy of the artist

“The last thing I was looking for was to start another band,” says Darren Schlappich. “It just kind of worked out that way.”

In fall of 2012, the singer and songwriter behind the new Reading-area six-piece Ataloft didn’t know Ataloft was going to exist a year and a half later. He didn’t know that it was going to release a fantastic pop-rock production of a debut LP, a far cry from his country-Americana roots. Schlappich was wrapping up a long stretch of activity with his other band, Frog Holler, in support of 2009′s Believe It or Not. He was pretty content that he’d kick back and take time to himself with no looming musical pressures, when his friend Bruce Siekmann gave him a call.

He had some free time in his Fleetwood, Pennsylvania studio, Amoeba Audio, and asked if Schlappich would like to record anything. Intrigued, Schlappich and his Frog Holler bandmate Michael Lavdanski showed up with an unrecorded tune called “Warning Signs.” It had a midtempo bounce and worked in a contemplative lower register; they recorded some guitar parts and vocal harmonies, then left for the day.

“A couple weeks later Bruce sent me a copy, and he’d added bass and keys, fleshed it out a lot,” says Schlappich. “And then it was another year before we talked about it again. He got in touch and said ‘Hey, did you want to revisit that song? It’s not really finished.’”

Schlappich, Lavdanski and Siekmann reconvened to put some finishing touches on “Warning Signs,” then moved on to another song – the plaintive “Heart Attack on the Holidays,” which kept things very tightly focused around acoustic strumming, an electric lead, and an understated bass part.

“I remember Bruce putting the first bass notes on it,” says Schlappich. “I was like ‘wow, we’ve gone outside of Frog Holler now.’” Continue reading →

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Edison will premiere new line-up and new songs at Kung Fu Necktie on 4/27

Michael James Murray of Edison | photo by Colin Kerrigan
Michael James Murray of Edison | photo by Colin Kerrigan

At the start of 2013 a band called Edison drifted into Philly with a debut EP called Living Room and a handful of shows.  Founded by locals Michael James Murray and Alexander Savoth, the duo crafted roaming soundscapes that incorporated string sections with quietly jazzy drums and large-room production that still kept things intimate with closely placed vocals.

Following several months of solo work by Murray and Savoth that coincided with a new approach to Edison, the band is back with an expanded line-up and new material, ready to hit the stage again at Kung Fu Necktie on Sunday, April 27th.  Chris Giraldi joins on drums and Bennet Daniels (Neighborhood Choir, Hippy Johnny) takes control of the bass, bringing new perspectives and possibilities to a band that already reached aural moments of Air and Radiohead.  Tickets and information for the 21+ show with Marc Neibauer and HLEP can be found here.  Listen back to last year’s EP below.

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Unlocked: Take a look inside the studio where Ataloft came to life

Ataloft | Courtesy of the artist
Ataloft | Courtesy of the artist

If you had to boil it down to a place, Amoeba Audio in Reading is where Ataloft came to life. As we’ll hear in tomorrow’s interview, Frog Holler members Darren Schlappich and Mike Lavdanski went into the studio owned by their friend Bruce Siekmann to mess around with recording some unreleased songs. The initial meetups went well, and the group kept returning until there was a full album and a new band in tow.

Earlier this month, the Reading Eagle met up with Ataloft to profile them upon the release of the self-titled album, and brought a video crew inside Amoeba to watch the band – now a six-piece – play live in the room where the music was born. Check out a performance of their very summery song “Old Jones” below, and get psyched to see these gents perform at Ardmore Music Hall on the 3rd of May.

Ataloft is the featured album in this week’s installment of Unlocked. Download “The End is Nearer Than We Know” in Monday’s post, read yesterday’s album review and check back later this week for an interview and more

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Plow United brings summertime punk to Asbury Lanes and Boot and Saddle in June

Plow United | Courtesy of Isaac Turner
Plow United | Courtesy of Isaac Turner

Plow United has some pretty exciting news for east coast fans.

Earlier this week, the seminal locally-bred punks announced they’d play two shows in July, the same month they’re releasing two records. The first show will be at Asbury Lanes on July 18th, but the one we’re most excited about will be on July 19th at Boot & Saddle.

The band released its first album in 16 years, Marching Band, last March. Loaded with heavy bass lines, gritty vocals and thrashy drums, the 12-song LP saw the three-piece picking right up where its left up in the late 90s. Along with the shows, Plow announced that it would re-release its first-self-titled LP and put out a new 4-song 7″ called DELCO. Both drop on July 10th.

Join ‘em at Boot & Saddle during the dog days of summer with openers The Scandals and Chumped. The show starts at 8 p.m. and the $12 tickets can be purchased here. Below, watch their cover of “Burn Up” by Siouxie and the Banshees from their 2013 Key Studio Session.

Plow United “Burn-Up” – WXPN Key Studio Session from WXPN FM on Vimeo.

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Philadelphia Museum of Art presents vocalist Yeahwon Shin at Art After 5 this Friday

Yeahwon Shin | photo by Woong Chul An
Yeahwon Shin | photo by Woong Chul An

Korean-born singer Yeahwon Shin’s performance at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this Friday is doubly appropriate. Most obviously, it ties in with the museum’s current marquee exhibition, “Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910.” But coming just a couple of weeks prior to Mother’s Day, it’s also an early celebration; Shin’s latest CD, Lua Ya (ECM) was inspired by her newborn daughter and is dedicated “to mothers and children everywhere.”

Lua Ya consists of Korean lullabies and songs that Shin remembers learning from her own mother, along with a few originals that maintain the album’s quiet serenity. Shin’s music contains traces of jazz laced into it; there is improvisation, but it’s delicate and reserved, never threatening to dispel the music’s intimate fragility. Shin caresses these songs as she would her own child, with a gentle and nurturing touch.

The collection pairs Shin’s lovely, placid voice with Aaron Parks’ hushed, spare piano and Rob Curto’s breath-like accordion. Parks is a gifted jazz keyboardist who recently released his own ECM debut, the solo outing Arborescence. He has also worked with trumpet great Terence Blanchard, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and as one-fourth of the collective James Farm with saxophonist Joshua Redman. Originally a pianist, Curto studied the accordion with masters in Brazil – an influence he shares with Shin, whose self-titled debut was heavily influenced by Brazilian music and earned a Latin Grammy nomination.  More information for their performance at the Philadelphia Museum of Art can be found here.

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Interest Group

Philly psych-pop outfit The Interest Group made a splash before they were even really a band. On the heels of his involvement with local projects Blackhawks and Bananas Symphony, Yohsuke Araki teamed up with fellow singer-guitarist Marissa Lesnick to record a cover of the late 60s nugget “The Boys and The Girls” by The Network. The song was so infectious that, before The Interest Group had a full lineup or had even played its first show, it got a Pitchfork writeup. This set the bar relatively high for the fledgling band, and while it didn’t follow up immediately, it followed up admirably – with last summer’s Passenger 7″, a winning set at Little Berlin’s Fairgrounds Block Party, with another new EP in February, and even more new songs recorded this week for The Key Studio Sessions. The band is fleshed out with bassist Kyle Garvey and drummer Steven Urgo, and the songs they recorded are pure modern pop gold. Rooted in snapy sounds and jangling melodies reminiscent of The Left Banke, 13th Floor Elevators and The Zombies, the band adds nice contemporary experimental florishes – backwards loops, white noise, dissonant breakdowns – making the saccharine more gritty. Listen to their set and grab free downloads below; “Locked On” can be found on EP1, released in February, and the rest of the tracks are brand new. To hear more, mark your calendar for May 14th, when The Interest Group plays the Underground Arts black box with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

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Explore the world of percussion with Man Forever at Kung Fu Necktie tonight

Man Forever | photo by Lisa Corson
Man Forever | photo by Lisa Corson

As related in a Zen koan, Ryonen was the name of a Buddhist nun who lived in the early 19th century. The granddaughter of a famous Japanese warrior, Ryonen was inspired to study Zen when the empress she served died suddenly. Several Zen masters rejected her because of her beauty, so she burned her face with a hot iron.

More importantly, if Google’s search results are any indication, Ryonen is the name of a thin, large-eyed nude model. “I was excited to see that,” says John Colpitts with a laugh, “but it had nothing to do with the piece.”

Ryonen (Thrill Jockey), the latest release by Colpitts’ Man Forever project, was indeed named for the more philosophically-oriented of the two beauties. The album features two lengthy, intense all-percussion compositions written by the drummer (better known as Oneida’s Kid Millions) and performed by him along with the renowned So Percussion ensemble. He’ll perform an expanded 30-minute version of the album’s opening track, “The Clear Realization,” with Brooklyn-based percussion trio TIGUE at Kung Fu Necktie Wednesday night, on a bill with Stoner Boner DJs.

On the CD, “The Clear Realization” floats Colpitts’ hazy, ethereal vocals over intricately interlocking polyrhythms, building to a mesmerizing, almost spiritual, pitch. Live, he promises, the piece is “heavier in terms of the patterns and the impact. It’s more evolved and a little less raw.”

Man Forever was born at the suggestion of Ben Swanson at the now-defunct vinyl-only label St. Ives, an offshoot of Secretly Canadian. “Ben said, ‘I’d like to hear a solo drum record from you. We’ll put it out if you get it to us.’ I hadn’t even considered doing something like it,” Colpitts recalls. He was at a loss as to how to even approach such a project until hearing Fireworks Ensemble performing a chamber rendition of Lou Reed’s polarizing Metal Machine Music in 2010.

“I saw that and thought it would be really interesting to try to do something like Metal Machine Music but with drums,” he says. “So I had some conversations with Brian Chase from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs about tuning drums to just intonation and different pitches and I recorded [the first album] by myself.”


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