Items Tagged Philadelphia: Coming soon to a basement near you

My Name Is Tom | via

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. Periodically, we’ll check in to present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Somewhere in the push-pull between blue skies and grey hearts, the thing we like to think of as summertime 2018 is finally, for the most part, here. There will be gigs on porches and gigs in basements, there will be packed nights in clubs and rainy days in fields. And that’s just this weekend! For real though, as our musical agenda starts to fill up here in Philly, heading into the equinox and beyond, let’s not forget about the unknown. The songs and sounds we haven’t heard yet that may occupy a big portion of our listening in the coming months.

Here are six standout Philly releases I found on Bandcamp this month — some are out in full already, some are just teasers for projects that drop in June — and they run the range from blown out head trips for stormy afternoons to sidewalk chalk speckled romance in the form of classic soul connecting with retro-futuristic rock. Dig in below, and always remember to keep extra space on your playlist.  Continue reading →


With chimes and drones, Madamdata explores the emotions of empty space on a thick band of orange light

Madamdata | via

Experimental Philadelphia artist Madamdata, a founding member of the SMTH Savant electronic arts collective alongside Kilamanzego and others, first caught our ear last summer with a moving meditation called Four Short Stories in Curved Space​-​Time, a live set recorded in Singapore and dedicated to the memory of their friend Julia Caplan.

Madamdata’s new project, a thick band of orange light, is their first full-length release since then, and it’s an expansive and stirring collection of sound. Continue reading →


Curiosity and Chaos: Zwei Mann Orchester finds readymade music in the sounds of every day

Zwei Mann Orchester | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

“You are seated in the cockpit of a fantastical, Rube Goldberg-like machine. All around you is a forest of strings, rods, levers and all manner of other movable elements. Using your hands, feet, body, and head, even the smallest gesture to set forth a visible chain reaction of producing the entire timbral range of the orchestra.” – From the introduction to Bowerbird’s performance of Mauricio Kagel’s Zwei Mann Orchester

The room is massive. You can tell that the second you walk in. But the musical contraptions spread out everywhere seem to fill it up top to bottom. There are guitars balanced seemingly precariously over drums, a cello held in place on top of a rocking chair with a rope and pulley attached to one leg, a huge harp mounted on top of a piano with what looks like some dryer tubing wrapped around it, and … is that a sewing machine?! According to Bowerbird Director Dustin Hurt, who is overseeing the construction of Mauricio Kagel’s Zwei Mann Orchester that’s premiering tonight, the idea behind the composition is that, “Music is not just limited to what we do in the concert hall. Music can be found in everyday objects and in sort of the sounds of things that we already hear everyday.” Continue reading →


Items Tagged Philadelphia: Smash the decks, smash the system

Sieve | photo by Tiny Haddad | courtesy of the artist

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. Periodically, we’ll check in to present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

I’m coming off of a month of more DJing-in-public gigs than I ever expected to have in my life, and I’ve reached the conclusion that I have a lot of work to do towards becoming a better DJ.

I’m not particularly showoffy about it. I don’t beat match, I don’t do mash mixes. The closest I get to clever during my sets is when I line up two songs that echo one another — like Friday night before Dr. Dog’s Free At Midnight concert when I played TV On the Radio’s “Golden Age” into Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Something.” And even then, I’ll only do something like that maybe once per song pairing, because I hear Prince’s “Kiss” out of Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel” one more time, it won’t be a pretty sight. (Yes, yes, Prince worked with Janelle, the songs are similar, WE GET IT ALREADY!! Next, please.)

Basically, my criterion for a DJ set is simple: I play songs that I think are good. That might mean widely accessible, upbeat ones like Arcade Fire’s “Keep The Car Running” and Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing).” Or it might mean songs that totally test the room’s patience, like a seven minute club mix of Madonna’s “Vogue” into a punishing, dissonant take on Puff Daddy’s “Victory,” remixed by Nine Inch Nails. I’ve totally looked up from the decks at moments like this to a sea of perplexed faces. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Agent Zero

A lot can change in seven years, and for Noah Selwyn, it’s been quite the journey from his earliest incarnation of Agent Zero to the collective of musicians joining him in WXPN studios this week.

In preparing this session, I found myself doing a deep dive on the Philly electronic dance musician’s Facebook archive of live photos and gig flyers, and discovered an early 2011 shot of him and three peers in We Are Psy-Fi productions on a rooftop near the Kimmel Center. Selwyn’s hair is short and spiky, he was mostly clean-shaven, and wore a button-down shirt and tie. It appears this was his standard stage attire at the time, and it seems like he often took the stage solo as well. Today, he’s got long, flowing and vaguely hippie-ish hair, rocks a beard, and dresses more casually to perform, including a stylish bead necklace worn during his Key Studio Sessions performance. And he has a band that takes the stage with him.

Beyond appearances, the more significant change is Selwyn’s music. It was always bright and upbeat, a bubbling concoction of trance, house and dubstep that he honed studying under Slit Jockey Records founder Starkey. Though his skill as a producer has certainly advanced over the past five years, you can still hear the Agent Zero of today in the Agent Zero of 2013’s EP Sound Sorcery Volume 1 — body-moving BPMs, ecstatic synthesizer tones, progressive rhythms that follow a dramatic ebb and flow. Selwyn always had the chops to make Agent Zero work in the DJ realm — potentially a new generation’s Pretty Lights or Quantic — but the big change that between then and now is his pop sensibilities developed and his ambition grew. Continue reading →


The Week Ahead: Queen of Jeans, The Diplomats, Drive-By Truckers, Lorde and more

Queen of Jeans | photo by Jessica Lim | courtesy of the artist
Queen of Jeans | photo by Jessica Lim | courtesy of the artist

Your choices are many; your excuses are few. Here are 25 concerts you could see in Philadelphia this week; enough for you to catch one per day, or for the more enterprising of you Key readers, several per day. Starting with folksinger Sam Amidon, and going up to arena pop rocker Lorde, here are our picks for the week ahead. Continue reading →


Ready Now is absolutely ready for you to hear them, now, on Love and Other Dumb Stuff

Ready Now | photo via

Not even a year after their Vices EP, Ready Now is back with a shiny new release — and a new name, too. The band, formerly known as Snakeboy, may have changed their handle, but their new EP, Love and Other Dumb Stuff, brings us more of the infectious pop tunes they’ve perfected over the last year. Continue reading →


Handsome Crü reflects on the end of an era and the beginning of a new one with “Dreamcatcher”

Handsome Crü | photo by Joel Todero | courtesy of the artist

After a momentary absence from the music scene, the band formerly known as Semiotics is making its return, with a shiny new EP and a new name, too. Now known as Handsome Crü (to avoid confusion with other bands called Semiotics), the band will release a new EP on April 2 — called Home of The Hits, it’s a compilation of new and old songs. Continue reading →


Items Tagged Philadelphia: Stop and take a look around

Hell To Pay | via

Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. Periodically, we’ll check in to present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.

Getting out of the space you’re used to, day-in-day-out, is important — whether that be a geographical space or a headspace. It’s a big country, a big world, and most of us occupy one small corner of a slightly larger corner of it. I don’t necessarily consider Philadelphia part of “the bubble“; yeah, we might have a higher concentration of vegan restaurants and locally-sourced grocery co-ops and a more robust creative community than other places around the state, but we are also not lacking in the proudly traditional opposite end of the spectrum. Often those segments of the Philly population disagree, sometimes those disagreements escalate to toxic hostility, and sometimes an event (like, I don’t know, a Super Bowl victory) will bring practically everyone together in celebration and harmony regardless of how different they are as people the rest of the year.

Even with the range of views and voices under the Philly umbrella, it still gives me pause when I find myself in another city or state — or hear stories from musicians who tour through other cities or states — and am reminded of how drastically different America can be from one region to the next. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Palmlines

About this time last year, my digging through Bandcamp’s Philadelphia tag on a regular basis led me to a captivating dream-pop outfit from State College called Sea Offs — and that opened up an even bigger rabbit hole of sorts.

Of the two singer-guitarists in that band, Olivia J. Price was the first to show up elsewhere on our radar in the band Queue and their Spotify hit “Frontier.” But her songwriting partner Rashmit Arora is equally versatile — these are folks rooted in Penn State’s music school we’re talking about here, it makes sense — and his other band Palmlines made the trip down to Philly to record a set of songs for this week’s Key Studio Session. Continue reading →