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Unlocked: The Key’s review of Ataloft’s self-titled debut

a3607964194_10Darren Schlappich might be known as the lead guy in one of the region’s  Americana staples, Frog Holler, but that doesn’t mean Americana is his whole world.

The singer-guitarist has an evident appreciation of expansive pop-rock productions stylists like Brian Wilson, Phil Spector and John Brion, and while those leanings might not always get a chance to shine in his main project, his new band does an admirable job of scratching that itch.

On the debut LP from Ataloft, released on ZoBird Records earlier this month, Schlappich explores tones and takes chances with his music that he might not have in Frog Holler. Banjo player and multi-instrumentalist Mike Lavdanski also made the jump from Holler to Ataloft for the project, and it’s clear that the two have a very distinctive writing style. We hear it in “Bucket of Blood” – the midtempo shuffle and the twangy chord changes – as well as the delicate “A Heart Attack on the Holidays,” a plaintive solo acoustic number. Indeed, these were selections from Schlappich’s songbook that he wrote thinking that they may wind up being Frog Holler tracks, but here they’re dressed up in different tones and textures, aided by third-member and studio guru Bruce Siekmann, who sparked the collaboration. Continue reading →

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UK singer-songwriter Passenger brings summer tour to the Electric Factory

PassengerHe’s come a long way from a guitar case on the side of the road. After handily selling out World Cafe Live downstairs last summer, Mike Rosenberg – AKA Passenger – announced a summer tour that takes him through Philly this August for a headlining show at the Electric Factory. The venue presale begins Thursday, April 24th, at noon; general onsale happens Friday, April 25th, at 9 a.m.; more information at the Electric Factory website. Below, watch a music video for the new single “Heart’s On Fire.”

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Going inside, around and behind Kubrick’s The Shining with soundtrackers Psychic Teens

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Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 thriller The Shining is, by the estimation of many film buffs, one of the most complex and intense pieces of cinema ever made. Is it visually arresting, and harnesses sonic minimalism brilliantly to strike unsettling moods. Those who have spent any amount of time in a dark theater or an empty apartment watching the film know that it doesn’t deliver the type of horror where a dude in a mask jumps out and goes “BOO!” – it is the type of horror that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled.

The 2012 documentary Room 237 is a must-view for any fan of The Shining, whether you’ve watched it once or dozens of times. The film digs deep below the surface of already-tangled picture, espousing various analyses and hypotheses that range from plausable to odd-but-intriguing to looney conspiracy theorist.

Falling somewhere in the middle of that spectrum is the idea that if you watch simultaneous versions of The Shining - one starting at the beginning and moving forward and one in reverse, projected on top – scenes line up in strange, unexpected and possibly subliminally symbolic ways. In one sequence, Jack Nicholson’s face matches perfectly with the contours of a wall clock. Elsewhere, the grimacing ghost twins line up with Shelly Duvall running, frightened, in the snow. An injured Danny lies overtop the elevator of blood opening its doors.

The simultaneous screening was first staged in Brooklyn by artist, researcher and enthusiast John Fell Ryan. He took the idea from a heady film analysis that refers to The Shining as “a film organized with logic that flows both backwards and forwards” and says it “even seems to operate backwards, which means the film is a mirror of itself through time. The Shining is a film meant to be seen both forwards and backwards.” In his experiment, Ryan took that literally.

Tomorrow night, the Cinedelphia Festival will re-create Ryan’s The Shining, Forwards and Backwards, Simultaneously Superimposed at PhilaMOCA with a live score performed by Philadelphia noise-punk three-piece Psychic Teens, a band that’s no stranger to ambiance and mood-setting. I swapped e-mails with the band for some perspective on the project and what we can expect.

Psychic Teens | Photo by Oren H Echtman
Psychic Teens | Photo by Oren H Echtman

The Key: How did Psychic Teens first hear of The Shining backwards-forwards simultaneous projection phenomenon? Had you seen it in person before this project came about?

Psychic Teens: We weren’t aware of it until we’d heard about it in Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 documentary.

TK: What’s your read on the instances of stuff lining up between the two…interesting and eerie coincidences, or intentional arrangement on the part of Kubrick?

PT: It could be neither a coincidence nor a planned thing. It’s likely a reflection of a very methodical and obsessive filmmaker and the way that he created and laid out his vision, leading to things meeting up in interesting ways. Similarly, the entire film is visually stunning…of course it’s going to look even more incredible when you double the amount of imagery on the screen. Eerie is an understatement. Now we’re interested in further investigation of his other films in this manner. No spoilers – but the symmetry within the center portion of the film is crazy intense. Continue reading →

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Nick Millevoi set to release new record Numbers on the Side this month

Nick Millevoi | photo by Matt Hurst
Nick Millevoi | photo by Matt Hurst

Circling back to his solo work after releasing recordings with satellite projects Many Arms and the Ricart / Millevoi Quartet, local guitarist Nick Millevoi will release Numbers on the Side this month at the Pageant: Soloveev Gallery.

Spanning three tracks of dramatically different lengths and textures (the first stretches its legs to 21:30), Numbers on the Side is equal parts instrumental experimentation and environmental experimentation.  Millevoi brought in fellow Philadelphian Eric Carbonara to record the effort at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia, utilizing “the 103-year-old building’s high ceilings and 80-ft dome to help create the sonic space for this intense music.”

As each chord ricochets and delays off of The Rotunda’s walls, Millevoi warps and bends the noises into sounds that barely resemble a guitar.  On “‘Where is the Crime?’” he creates what seems like a live-action car chase, complete with revving engines and sharp turns before it flatlines and the chase comes to an end.

It’s hard to imagine that all of the screeches, fuzz and layers come from one guy, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Millevoi it’s that he is always one step ahead in the world avant-garde guitar experimentation.  Stream Numbers on the Side below and get more information about the release show on April 26th here.

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Night Panther reveal secret guest for final night of residency at Bourbon & Branch on 4/25

Pattern is Movement | photo by Mark Schaffer
Pattern is Movement | photo by Mark Schaffer

Night Panther has announced that Pattern is Movement will join the line-up for the former’s final residency at Bourbon & Branch on April 25th.  Already on the stacked bill are Grandchildren and Commonwealth Choir, together closing out a solid month of showcases that featured sets by Cruiser, Nicos Gun, Purples and White Birds.  Tickets and information for the 21+ show can be found here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: New Madrid at Boot & Saddle, Mount Carmel at MilkBoy, Flux Capacitor at North Star Bar and more

Photo via facebook.com/newmadridband
Photo via facebook.com/newmadridband

New Madrid might have their seasons confused, but they’ve got their sound right. The band released its newest album, Sunswimmer, just this past February. The album features enough ambiance to fill a room along with gritty, punky vocals presented by lead singer Phil McGill. Tonight, they’ll play at Boot & Saddle with DRGN King. The show starts at 8 p.m. and the $10 tickets can be purchased here.

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Belgium’s Ignatz channels heartland America, plays Pageant: Soloveev Gallery on 4/22

Ignatz-01-©-Mark_Rietveld1
Ignatz | photo by Mark Rietveld

 In George Herriman’s classic Krazy Kat comics, Ignatz is the main antagonist, a belligerent mouse whose habit of hurling bricks at the title character’s head only endears him to her. His anarchic aggression seems an ill fit for Belgian guitarist and vocalist Bram Devens, who adopted the name Ignatz for his spare, Appalachian folk-inspired performances.

“I used to draw comics myself and collect them,” writes Devens, who earned a Master’s degree in comics from Sint-Lukas Brussels University College of Art and Design in Brussels, via email. “Krazy Kat is one of my favorite comics. I love the drawings and the language. For my first recordings as Ignatz I used to speed up the tape, so my voice would sound higher pitched and more cartoony. With this in mind, and the references to old pre-war music, it seemed a good match to call myself Ignatz.”

He then adds, “Ignatz the mouse is also a bit of a dick in the comics, and I can relate to that.”

Whatever the reasons behind the name, Ignatz offers a unique approach that emulates the sound of early 20th-century American folk and blues forms as played on a warped 78-rpm record, electronically manipulated and altered. He’ll play a solo show at the Pageant: Soloveev Gallery on Tuesday night, focusing on new songs and material from his latest CD, Can I Go Home Now? (Fonal). The program, presented by Alabaster Museum, also features Philadelphia guitarists Mark Feehan and Mitch Esparza.

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