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 →


Moor Mother’s Camae Ayewa brings her futuristic theater production Circuit City to FringeArts this weekend

Camae Ayewa | photo by Bob Sweeney | courtesy of the artist

Circuit City, the first original theater production by Philadelphia-based experimental artist Camae Ayewa, opens at FringeArts in Old City tonight and runs through Saturday night. FringeArts describes the production as “a futuristic exploration—part musical, part choreopoem, part play—of public/private ownership, housing, and technology set in a living room in a corporate-owned apartment complex.” Performances will feature poetry and music by Ayewa with support from members of Irreversible Entanglements, a Philadelphia free jazz group with whom Ayewa has also worked in the past, as well as Ada Adhiyatma (aka Madamdata) and Steven Montenegro of Mental Jewelry. Continue reading →


The Key Studio Sessions: Kilamanzego

I’m a sucker for hyper-specific genre names when I’m searching the internet for new music, so seeing that Kilamanzego tagged several of their recent tracks as “kalimba core” warms my heart.

For sure, it’s a reference to a song: this spring, the experimental electronic musician from West Philadelphia released an enchanting piece of music called “Picking My Kalimba From A Distance.” But “kalimba core” also works as a summary of their mission statement. Kila’s music is rooted in house, trance, dubstep, and ambient electronic styles, but draws influence from a variety of African sounds as well. Listen and you’ll hear Congolese rhythmic intricacies, highlife vocal samples, and that titular kalimba and its melodic leads — also known as the mbira (or colloquially as the thumb piano), it is an instrument with origins in central African countries.

Primarily, Kilamanzego’s music is indented to rock parties with high-energy beats — they’re part of the smth savant collective with MadamData and others, which organizes the backyardbxss event series — but they also look to push the possibilities of what those beats can sound like, merging Kila’s Ghanaian’s heritage with their punk rock roots and experimental spirit. Continue reading →


Items Tagged Philadelphia: Don’t hate, meditate

Iron Gump | via

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

It’s been two weeks since Charlottesville, and writing about music still feels kind of frivolous.

I mean, yes, music is what we do here at The Key. But when we’re living in a country where a sniveling torch-bearing Nazi mob gangs up on a southern college town that wants to remove monuments celebrating confederate Civil War leaders — not a terrible idea in 20-freaking-17, honestly — and when you’ve got some of that mob veering into acts of terrorism, shooting guns and driving cars into crowds of counterprotesters…I mean, being all “yeah, but you should totally listen to this band” seems insensitive and irrelevant at best.

I was at Union Transfer when the news broke two Fridays ago, watching The Districts wrap up their celebratory album release gig for Popular Manipulations. I pulled out my phone and opened Twitter to post a picture of the stage-diving frenzy. Instead, I found myself frozen, met with a stream of horrifying photographs from the white supremacist march. I looked back up — an obliterated fan just crowd surfed onstage and sloppily attempted to sing into Robby Grote’s mic, then stumbled to the side and cracked open a beer. Did nobody know what was going on just a few hours south? What would they feel if they did? Continue reading →