Tomorrow brings the official release of the album the internet has been eagerly anticipating since a 16-second ad aired without fanfare during a March episode of SNL. Random Access Memories, the latest from French discotronic duo Daft Punk, has been streaming on iTunes since last Wednesday, and its lead single – the pop earworm “Get Lucky,” sung by the ever-charismatic Pharrell – has been bumping the XPN airwaves since last month.
But what about the album beyond that? There’s a lot of hype and excitement in the air for it, but hype doesn’t always equate to quality. Sure, the duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter released the trend-setting 1997 album Homework and the irresistible Discovery in 2001. And yeah, James Murphy name-checked them in that song title that one time. But less discussed is the uneven 2005 effort Human After All, or the Tron soundtrack.
Does Random Access Memories hold up? Is it a new chapter in dance music and a return to glory for these mysteriously helmet-clad techno-heads? Or is it a bunch of bluster that will breeze away with the next album-of-the-minute? We asked a handful of Philly’s own electronic music heads – from Chris Powell of Spaceship Aloha and Man Man to DJ Apt One- for their thoughts on Random Access Memories, and got a variety of responses. Check them out below. Continue reading →
Spaceship Aloha at Bartram’s Garden | Photo by Inna Spivakova | DataGarden.org
Perhaps it’s because he’s a drummer, or maybe he’s a drummer because of it, but Chris Powell has a knack for juggling multiple things at once. Onstage behind a kit – in present day avant-popsters Man Man and going back a dozen or more years with his formative group Need New Body – it’s rhythms, tempos and even percussion instruments Powell mixes up. In a broader sense, it’s projects: he’s a producer and collaborator with Grant$, a band leader with Adventuredrum, and a cosmic one-man dance-maker in his new-ish electronic project Spaceship Aloha.
Last year, Powell launched the Spaceship with Universe Mahalo: Volume #1, his debut LP on the local experimental label Data Garden. It’s a heady potpourri of body-moving dub beats, exotic tropical instrumentation, futuristic electro-pop textures, and samples of that lean both towards science fiction (humming lasers, pinging radar) and summer vacation (breezy surf and seagulls). The followup, Tropical Information Systems, will be out this summer on Data Garden, and tonight he makes his second-ever live appearance at Johnny Brenda’s, opening for Mouse on Mars – who rang among his electronic music heroes. Powell and I swapped emails to get to the root of Spaceship Aloha.
The Key: The project emerged when you got married in Hawaii a few years ago. Was that trip your first full-on exposure to Polynesian music? What about the music hooked you so much?
Chris Powell: I’ve been obsessed with Hawaii ever since childhood. It’s this beautiful, magical, exotic, tropical destination – I love the vibe of Hawaii generally, and the music is a big part of that. But I’ve been familiar with Polynesian music since I was very young, thanks to growing up in a part of the country with wonderful local radio stations that played music from all over the world.
TK: The sci-fi / spacey electronic element of the band is great, because for the listener, it’s such an unexpected sonic twist. I have a hunch, however, that for you it was a natural fit – of course you’d think to mix the two styles! Is that right – did it come together really that quickly? Or was it more of an evolution?
CP: The sci-fi sonic style comes very naturally to me. I’m a huge science fiction fan – it just makes sense that those sounds would make their way into my music. I love the old sound effects that were used for UFO’s and spaceships. The Jetsons‘ sound design is amazing. And in terms of fantastical and exotic travel, it doesn’t get much more fantastic than outer space. Continue reading →
Philadelphia’s Man Man are a band whose energy and enthusiasm are contagious. Everywhere they go, they rile crowds—but perhaps nowhere as much as in hometown Philly, where everyone knows a Man Man show is not just another concert but an event. Saturday night, the band closed out a month-long tour with a stop at Union Transfer, where they regaled the sold-out crowd with nearly two hours of zany, rock’n roll theatrics, complete with wailing, freak-outs, and Zappa-esque costume changes—that transformed the venue into a circus of moshing bodies and good vibes.
Front man Ryan “Honus Honus” Kattner, whose raspy vocal chords and manic delivery drive the band’s antics—bounded around stage like a man possessed, switching instruments and shoes regularly, and pounding out bar band grooves on his keyboard. Beside him, Chris “Pow Pow” Powell proved true to his nickname, plowing through tempo and key changes while navigating complex, orchestrated cacophony. And new members Shono Murphy and Adam Schatz—alongside Murder by Death’s Adam Turla—proved fully integrated slices of the bizarre, Man Man pizza, manning a slew of other instruments while contributing vocal harmonies and general wackiness.
The band’s massive set spanned its entire career, juxtaposing early songs like “Against the Peruvian Monster”—the first track off their debut LP The Man in a Blue Turban With a Face—with the title track to 2011’s Life Fantastic. The jaunty, witchy bounce of “Mister Jung Stuffed” had the crowd chanting along—and when it transitioned, seamlessly, into “Hurly/Burly” (which also follows on 2008’s Rabbit Habits), they shrieked and moshed even harder. Continue reading →
Local wild men Man Man close out a month long national tour at Union Transfer tonight. About to release their fifth studio album this summer, the eclectic rock outfit talked to The Key’s Kate Bracaglia recently about pre-show tea drinking rituals, Instagram posts and the “natural progression” of the new album from 2011′s standout Life Fantastic. Tickets and information for tonight’s all-ages show with Murder By Death and Northern Arms can be found here. Stream and download “Mayan Nights” from Man Man below. UPDATE: tonight’s Man Man show is sold out.
In many ways, you could argue, Philadelphia’s Man Man are like the zany heart of the local scene. Throughout the years, we’ve watched them grow: from a ramshackle league of whooping, circus gypsies—to the nuanced and creative band who released 2011’s Life Fantastic. And during this time, the band never failed to disappoint, regaling us with some of the most fun, colorful and memorable shows we’ve seen, and a sense of humor and energy that’s contagious.
Now, the band is getting ready to release its fifth record this summer, which features new Man Man members (Man Men?) Shono Murphy and Adam “Brown Sugar” Schatz, along with vets Ryan Kattner and Chris Powell. But first, they’re completing a month-long tour, which they’ll celebrate with an epic closing show this Saturday at Union Transfer. We caught up with front man Kattner (aka “Honus Honus”) ahead of time—to talk faking death, tea, and what fans can expect when Man Man rolls into town.
The Key: So, you guys have a new record coming out this summer, which you describe as a natural progression from Life Fantastic. Will we get to hear these songs live at Union Transfer?
Ryan Kattner: Yeah! Part of this tour was being able to take these new ditties and road-test them and see how they do.
TK: What has the response been like so far?
RK: It’s been awesome! They’re definitely different [from older material.] But they feel like this band. We’re forever gonna be anchored by my rusty throat (laughs).
TK: If you could describe the new record in one sentence or less, how would you describe it?
RK: I’d say it’s… refreshingly beautiful and strange.
TK: Well you have certainly piqued my interest! (Laughs.) So we all know that Man Man is known for being crazy and wacky on stage—but how do you prepare for a show behind the scenes? Are there any band traditions or rituals you like to partake in?
RK: We do nice, soothing, rosemary-huffing sessions—that’s boiled water with rosemary leaves and a towel over the head. We actually planned on doing this for the whole tour—but then we did it for one show and we realized that the rosemary had gone bad. So we were huffing bad rosemary! Continue reading →
Going big for 2013′s first Shaking Through video, Weathervane Music called in Secretly Canadian / Jagjaguwar / Dead Oceans founder Chris Swanson to curate Volume 4 Episode 1. Swanson took the opportunity in an experimental direction, bringing North Carolina hip hop artist Steven A. Clark together with local musicians to create a scenario not often encountered in the hip hop world. Clark, who usually is a one man band, was backed by The War on Drugs‘ Dave Hartley (bass) and Robbie Bennett (keyboard) with Man Man‘s Chris Powell on drums and Ava Luna‘s Becca Kauffman and Felicia Douglass providing additional vocals. From the Shaking Through website:
Fayetteville NC’s Steven A. Clark is something of a “bedroom R&B” artist. Until that sunny day in late September, he had barely worked with others, and he certainly had little experience fronting a group of actual musicians. He arrived at Miner Street Recordings that morning with no instrument in hand, no cases full of equipment – just his song, “Bounty” and a voice to sing it.
Watch the episode below and download “Bounty” from Shaking Through’s Bandcamp page here.
According to Paste Magazine, Man Man are planning to release a new album this coming summer. The album was recorded last November in Omaha with producer Mike Mogis, who worked on the band’s last album, Life Fantastic. Paste writer Philip Cosores reports:
Honus Honus cautions audiences not to expect “Life Fantastic 2.0,” but that the album will be a “natural progression.” Honus notes, “I can’t write the same songs I did when I was 23. It would be a disservice to me and anyone who enjoys what we do.”