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Unlocked: Sun Airway’s Jon Barthmus on orchestral collages, visual art and finding your onstage stride

Photo by Shawn Brackbill | ShawnBrackbill.com

Philadelphia’s Sun Airway can be a lot of things. Musical and visual stylists. Surrealist dreamers, lovelorn introverts, sonic trailblazers – often all within the same song. Their dazzling sophomore record Soft Fall was released on Dead Oceans on Tuesday, and the band is celebrating its release with a hometown show on Friday for the Making Time $2 Bill at Voyeur. We’re exploring the album this week on Unlocked, The Key’s regular spotlight on new and significant releases by Philadelphia-based artists, and today we have an interview with band leader Jon Barthmus. He and I sat down after Sun Airway played XPN’s Free at Noon concert a few weeks back and dug deep into the band’s creative palette, from collaging five full orchestras to finding the right photographs to accompany its sound.

The Key: So firstly – congrats on Soft Fall! It’s a really bold record, it has a confidence and groove to it that sets it apart from from Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier. Did you feel more confident making it?

Jon Barthmus: I definitely did. The first record was done with like no money whatsoever —really cheap microphones and very little gear, and I was learning those programs that I was using as I was going along. There was such fundamental things that I just didn’t know, like really simple things to do in programs that when I learned them I was like “Oh my God, how did I not know this? How did I make a whole record without knowing this?”

TK: “There’s this keyboard shortcut that could have just saved me hours…”

JB: Yeah, or even stuff like, “I guess you can’t do this, I guess I can’t crossfade anything.”But of course you can, and I just didn’t know! And I wasn’t really learning other than just doing stuff and trying to figure it out as I went along. So this time I got to buy better mics and got to take my time with it, actually got to do a couple days in legit studios, and had more people’s hands on it. They know what they’re doing better than I do, so that was definitely really helpful. Continue reading →

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Weekend Picks: Making Time with Dum Dum Girls + Veronica Falls at Voyeur, Andrew Lipke at Milkboy Philly

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10th
The members of Dum Dum Girls have always dressed to impress. Since hitting the scene with its debut album, I Will Be, in 2010, the ’60s-inspired quartet is almost always found clad in matching black nylons, red lipstick, and heavy eye makeup, hiding behind a veil of thick, glossy bangs. Though the ladies have always looked quite mature, their second album, last year’s Only In Dreams, carries a sound that has finally caught up with the group’s aesthetic. Though still creating a nice balance between beachy grooves and low-fi subtleties, the group’s latest batch of songs sounds less like adolescent heart doodles and more like someone who’s mastered the complexities of The Bell Jar. Born in the wake of lead singer Dee Dee’s mother’s lost battle to cancer, Only In Dreams strays from the typical boy-crazy narratives and instead acts as a cathartic confession of insomnia, restlessness, and change. Dum Dum Girls performs with Veronica Falls at 9 p.m. at Voyeur; tickets to the 21+ show are $15. —Marielle Mondon

Also Playing: This Will Destroy You + Mountains, Amen Dunes, Power Animal at First Unitarian Church (8 p.m., all ages, $12); Ryan Cabrera + Jennings at Tin Angel (10:30 p.m., all ages, $15); Vintage Kicks + Clone Justice, Bulletproof Tigers at Milkboy Philly (9:30 p.m., 21+, $8–$10)

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11th

Andrew Lipke performs with Exit Clov and Marc Silver at 9:30 p.m. at Milkboy Philly; tickets to the 21+ show are $10–$12.

Also Playing: Umphrey’s McGee + Work Drugs at Electric Factory (8:30 p.m., all ages, $25); The Summer Set + The Cab, He Is We, Days Difference, Paradise Fears at Union Transfer (6:30 p.m., all ages, $15); Man The Fire + Scoop The Freak, The Naked Sun at North Star Bar (9 p.m., 21+, $7–$9)

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12th
Woollen Kits + Pet Milk at The Level Room (9 p.m., 21+, $7); Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe Presents The Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers” at Union Transfer (8 p.m., all ages, $20)

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Listen to “Hot Bubblegum” by Pink Skull (performing a DJ set at Making Time on October 21st)

From NPR Music:

Continuing in the tradition of alternative dance-pop exemplified by The Dandy Warhols in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Pink Skull stakes its claim in effervescent electronic noiseplay. Philadelphia DJ-and-producer duo Julian Grefe and Justin Geller, known for their adventures in mixing and remixing, have expanded into a live band for which “programming” still plays a necessary role. Traipsing gleefully through styles like disco-punk, acid house and psychedelic tropicalia, the group’s recent Psychic Welfare finds Pink Skull showcasing a tight, focused sound.

“Hot Bubblegum” also appears on WXPN’s World Cafe: Next compilation, which we mentioned last week. This month, as part of World Cafe‘s 20th anniversary, David Dye will be highlighting one artist every weekday during his World Cafe: Next segments. All 20 tracks are currently available as a free download, which you can get in exchange for your email address here. You can also listen to Pink Skull’s recent appearance on World Cafe: Next here. The members of Pink Skull will also perform a DJ set alongside Dave P & Sammy Slice, Adam Sparkles, and the Broadzilla DJs at Making Time on Friday, October 21st, at Voyeur; the event will also feature live performances by The RaptureStill Corners, and Metronomy. Tickets to the 21+ show are $15.

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Just Announced: The Rapture to perform at Making Time at Voyeur on Oct. 21st

The NYC-based dance-punk trio The Rapture has just announced a U.S. tour—which includes a stop at Making Time at Voyeur on October 21st—in support of its upcoming album, In The Grace Of Your Love. The band recently released the album’s first single, “How Deep Is Your Love,” which you can get for an email address here; the Emperor Machine remix via Adult Swim is available here.

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Get ready to hyper-rage with Making Time July 29th and August 5th at Voyeur

Dave P and the folks at Making Time have been going hard all summer, and the next two weekends should prove to be no exception. They’ll serve as the conclusion to their summer of hyper-raging, featuring two extra-special bangers taking place at Voyeur.

Craft Spells

The first event goes down this Friday, July 29th from 9 p.m.-3:30 a.m. Performers include pop-rock four-piece Dom, Seattle indie-poppers Craft Spells, and Cali indie-psych newcomers Gardens & Villa. The entire gang of Making Time residents—including Dave P, Sammy Slice, Dave Pak, Mike Z, Joel Flood, Russ Alexander, Steve Vena, Adam Sparkles, Pink Skull (DJ set), and The Broadzilla DJs—will be in attendance as well. Get there early for complimentary PBR, Sparks, and Sailor Jerry rum drinks from 9 p.m.-11 p.m.; if you miss those you can still chow down on free hot dogs all night long. Tickets are $10 and are available in advance here.

The second hyper-rager will take place on Friday, August 5th, from 9 p.m.-3:30 a.m., again at Voyeur. Live guests will include synth-pop project Cold Cave and Canadian new-wave trio Austra. Dave P and the whole Making Time crew will rock the dance floors both on the main floor and in the basement. The same free drink and hot dog deals apply; tickets to this event are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. If you’re looking to rage extra hard and save a few bucks, MT is offering a 2-Day Hyper-Rager Pass for $20, available for purchase online here.

DOM – Living In America from Modular People on Vimeo.

Cold Cave – “Love Comes Close” from Peter Jacobson on Vimeo.

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This Weekend’s Concert Picks: Warpaint at Making Time + The Antlers, Linfinity, Rickie Lee Jones

Warpaint
Hyper-rager rad supertime Warpaint raddest 12/3 Voyeur Making Time just like a year ago

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3
Part of the business of being an editor is occasionally reading something that makes you feel like your brain is going to explode like that dude in Scanners. Today, that moment comes courtesy of the folks over at Making Time, who put together this sweet beauty of a write-up about tonight’s Warpaint performance at Voyeur (you can read the full version here):

“Dear Philadelphia, About exactly one year ago we had a band called the xx play at Making Time. It was an interesting choice to have a band like the xx play Making Time. No….they aren’t the first band that comes to mind when you think of an all out hyper-rager are they?????…Well…..I’m not sure how many of you were lucky enough to attend that historic Making Time but….the xx helped create an energy that was unparalleled to any Making Time in recent history and not only did they contribute to making an epic night…..they helped make that Making Time on November 16th, 2009 one of the best Making Time parties in the history of Making Time. So….here we are again….one year later and another band has come along that isn’t quite the first band that comes to mind when you think…..HYPER-RAGER but…..Warpaint are making some of the raddest music at the moment and are surely one of the most exciting bands of 2010. So….when Warpaint came to us and asked to play Making Time we were so stoked to have them and the first thing that came to mind was the epic radness of Making Time one year ago with the xx…I believe we truly have another night of epic radness reminiscent of that night one year ago when the xx performed one of the most amazing shows ever at Making Time.

Warpaint performs at 9 p.m. at Voyeur; tickets to the 21+ show are $12.

Also playing: The Antlers + The Luyas at First Unitarian Church (7:30 p.m., all ages, $13); Dutch + Writtenhouse at Kung Fu Necktie (7:30 p.m., 21+, $10); James McMurtry at World Cafe Live (7:30 p.m., $30-$40)

LinfinitySATURDAY, DECEMBER 4
Do you like pork pie hats? Linfinity ringleader Dylan Von Wagner does—so much so that he’s seemingly issued one to each of the musicians he picked up to fill out his band. (And, when he ran out, he turned to fedoras.) Luckily for Von Wagner, everyone in the snappily dressed band is also on the same page musically. As noted in the band’s press release, after putting out solo EP and an album’s worth of demos back in 2007, DVW assembled a permanent backing cast, which then “learned how to work together, feeding off each others ideas as drum lines, guitar solos and effects, and string arrangements.” Which, you know, kind of sounds like how every band works. But those bands don’t have cute hats, do they? Linfinity performs with Waking Lights at 7 p.m. at Kung Fu Necktie; tickets to the 21+ show are $8.

Also playing: Stornoway + Franz Nicolay at Johnny Brenda’s (9 p.m., 21+, $12); Rickie Lee Jones at Temple University Performing Arts Center (8 p.m., $38-$48)

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5
Tennis + Family Portrait at Kung Fu Necktie (8 p.m., 21+, $10); Tom Rush at World Cafe Live (7:30 p.m., $35-$45)

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