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The Key Studio Sessions: Empath

We weren’t even ten minutes into setting up for Empath‘s Key Studio Session this week and conversation had already shifted from record pressings and tour schedules to laser light shows and the prospect of finding one that works at a basement gig scale.

Which, for four people dubbed “2018’s trippiest punk band” by Rolling Stone, it’s not entirely surprising. On the one hand, the booming low end blasts from Randall Coon’s Moog bass synthesizer throw us back to the cutting indie-dance of The Faint, or earlier to the sheen 90s noise-popsters Stereolab, earlier still to 70s experimentalists Suicide, while singer-guitarist Catherine Elicson spends the outro of “Soft Shape” coaxing caustic squeals out of her instrument, feverishly picking way up the fretboard in a frenzy reminiscent of Sonic Youth and Versus. Empath is punk at heart, and when it wants to hit, it hits hard and unrelenting, choosing the path of vivid and visceral expression over a more approachable conventionality.

But listen to their performance of “Hanging Out of Cars,” another song from their new Active Listening: Night on Earth, and a spark of serenity enters the picture. The introductory minute and a half of warbling guitar, racing rhythms and lyrics about travel, freedom, and desire give way to an ambient expanse. For the next four minutes, we’re adrift in upper-register keyboard pulsations from Emily Shanahan, soft and subtle free-time beats by drummer Garrett Koloski, bubbling loops from Koon, waves of sound from Elicson, with an underbelly of windchimes, bird sounds, and a voice murmuring indistinctly. It’s peaceful without being overly pretty, a potent improvisation in the spirit of Pink Floyd at Pompeii, and an immersive experience for performers as much as the spectators. Watching from the mixing console, the phrase Active Listening clicked in a big way. I also realized that, yeah, they weren’t at all joking about those laser lights. Continue reading →

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Empath is shrouded in shadows and dolls in the haunting “Soft Shape”

Empath | photo via Bandcamp

Empath is back with news of their debut album and a delightfully creepy video for its lead single. The Philly four-piece will release Active Listening: Night on Earth April 2 on Get Better Records, and “Soft Shape” is out now. The haunting bass-filled song is met with a fitting visual in the video, as the band’s members are shrouded in shadows, with plenty of terrifying baby dolls to go around. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Swearin’ at the First Unitarian Church

Swearin
Swearin’ | photo by Ali Donahue | courtesy of the artist

One of the best Philly bands there ever was will return home to the basement of the First Unitarian Church this fall. Local punk/DIY scene favorites Swearin’ rose to acclaim before breaking up in 2015, and for a while it seemed like the band was done for good. But last fall, news broke of their unexpected reunion, and they opened a few shows on Superchunk’s recent tour, including a stop at Union Transfer in April. As vocalist/guitarist Kyle Gilbride wrote in a press release, “Sometimes a band takes on a life of its own, and it seems this one came back to us when it was ready, and in its new form, to stay for the foreseeable future.” Continue reading →

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Madalean Gauze, Queen of Jeans, Louie Louie and Empath team up for Valley Youth House benefit gig

Madalean Gauze | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN

If you’re looking to kick off the new year with a gig that also benefits a good cause, look no further than this Boot & Saddle show. A stacked lineup of locals are coming together January 5 for a benefit show to support Valley Youth House’s Pride program, which provides services for LGBTQ youth in Philadelphia. The show will also be an EP release celebration for headliner Madalean Gauze; the Philly singer-songwriter’s new effort FUNeral will be released that day and is the follow-up to last EP Cool and Fun. The bill is rounded out by dream pop outfit Queen of Jeans, retro rockers Louie Louie and West Philly DIY regulars Empath. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sad13 at PhilaMOCA, Mexrrissey at The Kimmel Center, T.J. Kong and The Atomic Bomb at Underground Arts and more

Sad13 | photo by shervin lainez | photo courtesy of the artist
Sad13 | photo by shervin lainez | photo courtesy of the artist

Mostly known for her role as frontwoman for grunge-pop band Speedy Ortiz, Sadie Dupuis is slated to release her first solo album Slugger on November 11th under the moniker Sad13. She kicked off her debut tour on Thursday, and is paying Philadelphia a visit tonight at PhilaMOCA. Sad13’s music is largely centered around the idea of empowering women, and we’re all for it. Joining this Massachusetts synth-popper will be Philly artists Ivy Sole and Empath with NYC-based rapper Sammus topping off this stacked lineup. Go to the WXPN Concert Calendar for tickets and more information on this all ages show. Get a taste of Sad13 with this song off her new album, “Devil in U.” Continue reading →