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Meet Mr. Sampson: An Eclectic Electro-hop Stew from Drexel

Mr. Sampson, a local instrumental electronic hip-hop group based at Drexel University. | Photo via facebook.com/mrsampsonofficial
Mr. Sampson, a local instrumental electronic hip-hop group based at Drexel University. | Photo via facebook.com/mrsampsonofficial

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to travel all the way to Red Rocks Coliseum or Bass Lights at Madison Square Garden to find high-grade electronic music. In our own back yard, an instrumental electro-hop band called Mr. Sampson produces a unique blend of funk, soul, hip-hop, and electronic dance resulting in a catchy groove. Disregarding the accepted standard for (most) modern electronic artists – sit in front of a DAW and work through a piano roll for a few hours, pausing only to throw a repeated drum loop made of 808 samples onto a step sequencer – Mr. Sampson blends digital synthesis, acoustic instrumental composition, and live recording into a controlled cataclysm of funk and glitch, not even settling to stick with the 100bpm hip-hop feel through the entirety of a few of their tracks. Continue reading →

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Listen to Stephen Powers’ interview on the XPN Morning Show, see him tonight at International House

Stephen Powers | Photo via firstandfifteenth.net
Stephen Powers | Photo via firstandfifteenth.net

Beginning tonight International House Philadelphia (IHP) is presenting the first in its newly conceived speaker series: Wayfaring: Conversations on Travel, Art & Culture, curated by Anthony Smyrski of Random Embassy and Megawords. The series will give members of the art community a way to discuss the way that travel and multi-cultural experiences have influenced the artistic process. The first speaker (tonight Sept. 18, 2014) is artist and graffiti muralist Stephen Powers who will discuss his on-going projects: A Love Letter to the City. Bob Bumbera from the XPN Morning Show had a chance to speak with both Powers and Anthony Smyrski recently about the new speaker series at I House Philly. Continue reading →

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Bridging fairy tales and hip-hop with MC Frontalot at the North Star this Friday

MC Frontalot | Photo by Ben Trivett
MC Frontalot | Photo by Ben Trivett

Back in 1985, when all the other kids were at recess playing kickball, 11-year-old Damian Hess was hanging out by himself in the school library obsessing over books of fairy tales. That interest stuck with Hess over the next three decades, and at 40, now known as nerdcore hip-hop pioneer MC Frontalot, he’s offering his own take on ten classic stories on his sixth album, Question Bedtime (Level Up). He’ll bring songs from the album and the rest of his catalogue to North Star Bar on Friday. Continue reading →

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Kicking back with Vita and the Woolf at Spice House Sound

Vita and the Woolf | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Jen Pague and Bobby Cleveland of Vita and the Woolf | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

On one of the last warm days this summer, I ventured past my usual points of familiarity in Fishtown to the newly opened Spice House Sound on Wilt Street. Suddenly finding myself somewhat lost in a tiny alley next to St. Laurentius, I stare at the address on my phone again and frantically call Jen Pague, frontwoman of Vita and the Woolf, explaining I think I’m at the wrong place. She laughs and tells me to stay where I am.  Continue reading →

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Expat Chats: Corey Duncan of Oh! Pears checks in from the Pacific Northwest

Corey Duncan of Oh! Pears | Photo by Adam Haney
Corey Duncan of Oh! Pears | Photo by Adam Haney

If you ask Corey Duncan where he is from, he’ll tell you Philadelphia.

The man behind Oh! Pears, is well known to Philadelphians in the music scene. With his everlasting love for quality pizza and of the word “jawn,” you’d probably think he is a Philly native, but geographically he is from Seattle. He grew up in the suburbs there.

Two years ago, he moved back to the West Coast after living in Philly since he was 19. Continue reading →

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What makes a tribute act tick? Find out with Get the Led Out

Get The Led Out | photo via facebook.com/GetTheLedOut
Get The Led Out | photo via facebook.com/GetTheLedOut

If you go out and ask a random bunch of Americans about their knowledge of Philadelphia, you’ll probably get the the typical cliches: cheesesteaks, Rocky, soft pretzels, the Liberty Bell, and rambunctious sports fans who once threw snowballs at Santa Claus and batteries at J.D. Drew. But there’s one more thing you should add to that list: Philly is home to the greatest Led Zeppelin cover band known to man.

Well, sort of.

I say “sort of” because in reality, the phrase “cover band” doesn’t exactly do the group much justice. Get The Led Out is more than a cover band, but the band members have trouble coming up with a better way to describe themselves. Continue reading →

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The Art of Sound: Discussing the sound design of The Adults with composer Bhob Rainey

Bhob Rainey
Bhob Rainey | photo via www.bhobrainey.net

There’s no short version of the story with Bhob Rainey.  The local composer and sound experimenter’s personal history is as complex as the realm of improvised music he’s been exploring for the past four decades: an introduction to the saxophone in middle school, a summer at the immersive and intensive Governor’s School for the Arts, a suppressive and then expressive college experience in Miami, a collaborative stint in Boston and finally a fruitful career in Philadelphia all helped to shape and funnel the Hatfield native’s hunger for true improvisation into the boundary-eschewing amalgamation it is today.

With an arsenal of non-traditional compositions under his belt, Rainey now works primarily in quilting together field recordings and coded computational sounds.  The Pew Fellow’s current effort comes in collaboration with New Paradise Laboratories‘ production of The Adults, a staged play with Rainey providing sound design and a live score.  The show, which was inspired by Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull and the artwork of Eric Fischl, follows two families as they “gather at a vacation house to let loose, play out a classic comedy of manners that never existed, and prod each other with intimate cruelty.”  It premieres tonight at the Painted Bride in conjunction with this year’s Fringe Festival.

Continue reading →

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Go inside the studio as Restorations makes the most important album of its career

Restorations Jon Loudon records vocals at Miner Street | Photo by Mitchell Wojcik | mitchellwojcik.com
Restorations’ Jon Loudon records vocals at Miner Street | Photo by Mitchell Wojcik | mitchellwojcik.com

When a young music fan hears stories about their favorite bands recording new music, they often invent grandiose visions of the studio and its space. There’s a certain mystique inherent for those who haven’t stepped foot in one; like most unlived experiences it’s portrayed in our heads as distant, unattainable, a place where all-time art is created. A place where “regular people” don’t ever go. Of course, that’s not really true. Studios come in all shapes, sizes and budgets, from cavernous state-of-the-art compounds where million-dollar records are made, to dirt-floor basements walled with smoke-stained eggshell padding.

Philadelphia’s Miner Street Recordings, which has gone through several locations in its two decades of existence (and is no longer located on Miner Street, for the record – the name comes from its original location in West Chester), lies somewhere in between the two extremes of the studio spectrum. Situated at a central crossroads in Fishtown, it’s a nondescript, vaguely abandoned-looking building in a city full of them. Off-white and faded blue paint peels from the exterior walls, exposing bricks underneath. The only visual confirmation that it’s the right place is a small piece of black tape on the front door with the words “this is Miner Street” written on it.

Before spotting the “sign” though, there’s an aural confirmation; standing on the sidewalk outside, the sound of muffled, droned, noteless guitar strumming breaks through the walls. We’re here to observe Restorations as they record their third full-length and second for SideOneDummy Records, and even those distant, cacophonous non-notes are immediately identifiable with the band’s growing reputation for weaponizing sharp, bright melodies by weaving them into heavy, distorted riffs, an unassumingly thunderous rhythm section and the occasional organ, all of it anchored by the throaty vocals of Jon Loudon. Continue reading →

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Clocked In: A conversation about the difficulties of working and touring with Little Big League’s Michelle Zauner

little big league

I called Michelle Zauner on the phone a couple weeks ago and this is what she said to me: “I forgot this was happening.”

It is easy to forget things are happening, especially in the summer. Plus Zauner was on vacation, in Oregon, the state where she grew up and where she lived before attending college at Bryn Mawr, before making Philadelphia her home and before starting the band Little Big League.

It was recently announced that Little Big League signed with Run For Cover, the Boston label that released the new album by fellow Philadelphians Modern Baseball, You’re Gonna Miss It All. A new Little Big League LP, the follow-up to the well-received These Are Good People (Tiny Engines; 2013), is expected to arrive later this year.

In addition to her work as the singer and guitarist in Little Big League, Zauner also makes music under the name Japanese Breakfast. Last month, the Seagreen Records label released her cassette American Sound & Where Is My Great Big Feeling?

Zauner is clearly very busy with music, but when she’s not on tour, she works elsewhere. For this new installment of Clocked In, we spoke with Zauner about her non-music-related work history, from clerical work at her dad’s truck broker business, to bossing a grill at Bryn Mawr, to holding down the comic shop Brave New Worlds. Continue reading →

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Amir ElSaffar and Omar Dewachi bring traditional Iraqi music to the Random Tea Room tomorrow night

Amir ElSaffar | photo courtesy of the artist
Amir ElSaffar | photo courtesy of the artist

On their own, there’s nothing traditional about the music made by Amir ElSaffar or Omar Dewachi. An Iraqi-American trumpeter born in Oak Park, Illinois, ElSaffar has integrated Iraqi maqam with jazz in a series of stunning and unique hybrid projects. Dewachi is an Iraqi-born anthropologist and professor at the American University of Beirut who plays the oud in the free-improv and experimental band City of Salt.

Continue reading →