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Unlocked: Check out an album of photos from Pattern is Movement’s self-titled record release show at Boot & Saddle

Pattern is Movement | Photo by Mark Schaffer
Pattern is Movement | Photo by Mark Schaffer

Our week closes with a triumphant homecoming for Pattern is Movement. Supported by their fellow Philadelphians Busses and Brooklyn-based Hometapes label mates Yellow Ostrich (featuring ex-We are Scientists drummer Michael Tapper), Pattern is Movement played the penultimate show on their first support tour for Pattern is Movement to a rapturous audience. Tearing through songs from the new record with an ideal balance of hit-by-hit perfection and erratic fluidity (mainly thanks to Chris Ward’s J. Dilla-inspired breaks and Andrew Thiboldeaux’s acrobatic live vocal runs), the band have proven that the gambles they took with their new record are starting to pay off.

Significant praise also goes to Busses and Yellow Ostrich, both of whose idiosyncratic takes on psych rock set an appropriate atmosphere for Pattern is Movement’s ecstatic return. Check out this gallery of photos from local musician and photographer Mark Schaffer.

Pattern is Movement has been the featured album on this week’s edition of Unlocked. Download the song “Suckling in Monday’s post, read Tuesday’s album review, learn about their videos for “Untitled and “Little by Little in Wednesday’s post, read yesterday’s interview, and stay up to date for future editions of Unlocked.

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Unlocked: Pattern is Movement see their mission statement come to its fullest realization

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Pattern is Movement started out as a Christian rap group. You heard it here first.

Well, that’s not completely true. But understanding this side of keyboardist/singer/composer Andrew Thiboldeaux’s and drummer/producer Chris Ward’s experience, rooted in strict Pentacostal practice (the same faith in which Marvin Gaye and D’Angelo nurtured their prodigal musicianship), might explain a lot. It certainly makes the eccentricity inherent to Pattern is Movement’s music – occasionally frantic, layered with intense stimuli and popping with vibrancy at every beat – a little easier to understand. Far more importantly, it allows us to understand the motivation behind what they have tried to do with their new self-titled album. The band celebrate the release of their album tonight at Boot & Saddle.

“Andrew and I started making Christian rap when we were 14, and we were in a Christian rock group when we were teenagers. We were so connected to music that…I think for me, as a 35-year-old musician who’s been doing it for 20 years with this guy, I wanted to go back to the roots of my childhood and figure out why I loved music so hard when I was a kid,” explains Ward over a crackling phone line. He and Thiboldeaux have just pulled into Austin, right on the cusp of an extremely ambitious South By Southwest schedule, but that’s not quite where he’s at mentally. “Rather than running away from that past experience – which was very painful and traumatic – I tried to embrace it and see what about it was positive. One of the things it gave me was this intimate musical relationship with this guy, and I hear a wonderful conversation between the two of us in this record,”

Through these artists’ eyes, the message behind the record becomes clearer and clearer. Past the surface-level complexity is a strong communicative purpose that has been the hallmark of all great music; that said, when Pattern is Movement’s history is looked at under the microscope, their gravitation towards RnB makes perfect sense. RnB as we know it is born of desire to bring the pulpit to the concert hall, to equate ecclesiastical power in a non-sacred setting, to find God in human passion. The genre’s greatest luminaries, folks like Marvin and D, all grew up and became artists in church. The power of music to bring people together in the service of something omniscient and massive is certainly not lost on Ward or Thiboldeaux.

“Chris and I like church, but we’re not so interested in Jesus, so we like the emotion and ecstasy of RnB music,” explains Andrew.

“I started challenging my beliefs and thought that all the stuff I saw – the speaking in tongues, the emotions that I had in service – that all of that was false. And as I got older, I started realizing the opposite. Like, yeah, maybe there is no God, maybe all the stuff they were telling me was bulls***. But the feelings I had in those church meetings were TRUE. My brain was registering it, I was high as a kite. There’s something about RnB and hip-hop that resonates with me as a result,” adds Ward.

This desire to create something ecclesiastically powerful is one of a few missions that guided the new record, but those implications resonate throughout the other circumstances that brought the record about in this form. In the six years between this record and 2008’s All Together, Ward went through a difficult divorce and picked up a full-time job doing bookings at Johnny Brenda’s that he still maintains. These events, mixed with a strong urge to get away from the record-tour-repeat cycle that made their previous albums feel stagnant to them, precipitated a need to step back and re-evaluate. Even though they started tracking songs in 2009, they ended up scrapping a whole mix by 2011, re-recording into 2012 (tracking separately, for the first time in any of their records), and spending 2013 getting things prepared to be played live. They essentially made a record in the way most bands don’t anymore, and they’re fully aware of the sea changes that have happened in the broader world during this time – changes that they, as an indie group authentically embracing RnB and hip-hop, are better prepared than ever to handle.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Communion Night with Johnny Stimson, Gretchen Lohse at Underground Arts, Pattern is Movement at Boot and Saddle, Real Estate at Union Transfer and more

Photo via facebook.com/johnnystimson
Photo via facebook.com/johnnystimson

This month’s edition of Communion Club night at Underground Arts gets a seductive R&B makeover tonight with a set from newcomer Johnny Stimson. Flaunting an effortless falsetto range, Stimson’s voice is soulful even as it accompanies more upbeat, dance tracks. Also on tonight’s lineup is folksy singer-songwriter Gretchen Lohse who recently released a dreamy video for “Spider At the Gate”. Dig into tracks from both artists below and get tickets here.

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Unlocked: How Pattern is Movement’s videos anticipate their evolution

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Artists use music videos to further a number of different aims. The most ambitious weave epics that read like short films, attempting (and often failing) to communicate a vision that would elicit comparisons to the greats of long-form film. For most artists, however, the goals are much simpler: to create the atmosphere in which the viewer understands some version of the artist’s present. This is why many rappers shoot videos in expensive cars, or why the “performance vid” has become a near-obligatory measure of a rock band’s credibility: they seek to bring you into their life, using the camera as the lens for you to see their life as they wish for you to see it.

Pattern is Movement doesn’t make too many videos, and a cursory search of the duo’s name on Youtube elicits a lot of random live videos that are either put up from touring shows or released under the auspices of other video series’ . But when they do make or officially sanction videos, they put a subtle twist on archetypal music video conventions by highlighting their innovation and eccentricity; instead of portraying the idealized version of their existence, or making some profound directorial statement (which they leave to established film directors), they bring the focus to their collective headspace, highlighting the path towards their artistic progression.

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Unlocked: The Key’s review of Pattern Is Movement’s self-titled new album

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In the six years since Pattern is Movement’s last full-length release, the indie kingdom where they (perhaps precariously) stake their ground has seen some significant changes. 2008’s All Together hit at a time when the orchestral, whimsical flourishes of indie rock were in full swing. Albums like Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest were the defining statements of that ethos – a textured, intellectual lens on cathartic and catchy tunes predominated over those works more subtle rhythmic components. While All Together is an extraordinarily rhythm-heavy work, with drummer Chris Ward’s breakbeat and time signature-dodging drum lines underscoring Andrew Thiboldeaux’s piano and vocal acrobatics point-by-point, the band’s groove-heavy elements are overshadowed by the cabaret aesthetic and almost-nonsensical quality to some of the lyrics (“Jenny Ono” is a stand-out in this regard). The album fits well within this era.

The ensuing six years would see this entire world change under everybody’s feet, and that musical world’s most persistent and celebrated artists deemphasizing their rock roots in favor of more conspicuous flirtation with EDM, hip-hop, and RnB. The lines between these worlds have blurred considerably, and are now almost invisible. Nobody bats an eyelash at Justin Vernon appearing on Kanye West tracks, or Drake pulling Jaime xx onto his album’s title track. These worlds were not meant to stay apart, and the ethereal qualities that permeated the best products of both musical worlds were destined to bring them together.

With this background, Pattern is Movement (released today on Hometapes Records) might appear late to the party. Fortunately for everyone involved, this album might be the best statement of the indie rock-hip-hop fusion that has been made. Whatever the Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, and acts of their ilk were attempting when they began taking obvious cues from 90s RnB, Ward and Thiboldeaux have lapped them in their dedication to the artform’s roots. They trade angularity for warmth and shimmering beauty, cheeky surrealism for heart-on-sleeve passion.

All of this is not to say that the band has let go of their flair for the dramatic (just listen to “Make it Right”, which could probably have fit in on All Together if not for the D’Angelo-styled vocal harmonies) — rather, they’ve commuted it into something more accessible, both aurally and poetically. Instead of feeling like a show or a musical, Pattern is Movement evokes a feeling of ecstasy that is inextricably intimate and communal. Intended to capture the atmosphere of first encounters (supposedly inspired by a trip undertaken by Thiboldeaux to the Dominican Republic, laced with the energy of what the Spanish conquistadors and Native Americans felt upon first meeting), the album employs every blippy keyboard, every auto-tuned vocal run, every string-and-horn ensemble buildup in the beautiful service of capturing something as ephemeral as it is universal.

On “River”, the album’s opening track, the new direction comes into crystal clarity. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Download Pattern is Movement’s expansive epic “Suckling”

Photos by Peter English
Photos by Peter English

2008’s All Together saw the Philly band Pattern is Movement expanding its sonic palette, eschewing the typical definitions of “math rock” for a sound with more orchestral flourishes. It seems that as the band has refined and solidified its artistic base, honing an interlocking core between singer / keyboardist / multi-instrumentalist Andrew Thiboldeaux and drummer / producer Christopher Ward. It actually broadened their sound to include elements of cabaret, RnB, and hip-hop. The resultant sound was something that exposed the duo for what they really are – multi-form masters, destined to make music that redefines genre boundaries that were way too small to begin with. Math rock is too tight of a pigeonhole for ambitions as big as theirs.

With this week’s release of their latest full-length, Pattern is Movement, the band weaves a new tapestry of RnB-heavy music with agility and conviction of purpose. In what can be seen as a logical progression of non-rock elements in indie music, the band construct layered vocal harmonies and lush instrumental textures over broken, J Dilla-inspired drum beats throughout songs that explore the fragility of a beautiful world. Despite the six-year break between full-lengths (characterized by false starts and one-off releases and shows / special events teasing the album), the band sound fresher than ever as they throw off the angularity of past releases for something wholly different.

Pattern is Movement is the focus of this week’s Unlocked, The Key’s regular series highlighting new and significantreleases from local artists. This includes a record review for tomorrow, with a video and interview later in the week; all of this coincides with the Thursday album release show at Boot and Saddle.

“Suckling”, a track as part of a 12’’ single in October, most clearly indicates the direction of the new album. Starting off as sultry, low-key crooner with percussive snaps and pulsing bass, Ward’s bombastic drums jump in to usher forth an expansive epic with tinny horns and syrupy vocals. If “Suckling” has you hooked, you can stream the full album (for as long as it lasts) via the A.V. Club here. Be sure to check back for more on Pattern is Movement on Unlocked.

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Groove to Pattern is Movement’s new track “Climb to Me”

Photo by Rachel Barrish
Photo by Rachel Barrish

When Pattern is Movement played a set of brand new songs at Union Transfer back in October, the one that stood out the most was a slick and smokin’ midtempo groover with dynamic vocal harmonies. Turns out the song is called “Climb to Me,” and it showed up on Soundcloud today. Check it out below and try getting it unstuck from your head. Pattern is Movement celebrates the release of its new album at Boot and Saddle on April 3rd; get more info and tickets at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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“It’s Finally Here”: Pattern is Movement release new single “River,” announce details for self-titled LP

Photo by Peter English
Photo by Peter English

After several years of recording, re-recording, moulding and shaping, Pattern is Movement‘s self-titled effort will finally be released on April 1st through Hometapes, accompanied by a record release show at Boot & Saddle on April 3rd.

The local duo of Andrew Thiboldeaux and Chris Ward teased the album last year with a creative There Will Be Blood listening party at PhilaMOCA.

(Read More – Interview: Pattern is Movement’s Chris Ward on mixing music with film, literally)

They also played a handful of shows in support of the 12″ single release of “Suckling,” which is now followed-up by the next single “River” (premiered today via Spin). With their layered vocals, dynamic keyboard and drum pairings and experimental electronic flourishes, the new record nods to James Blake’s blend of soul, electronica and R&B but has a more cinematic focus.  Stream “River” below and get tickets and information to the 21+ show with Yellow Ostrich here.

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Sameer Rao’s Top 5 Musical Gut-Punches of 2013

Photo courtesy of Sean Agnew
Photo courtesy of Sean Agnew

Year End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2013 awesome. In this installment, contributing writer Sameer Rao talks about songs that make you feel.

For those who are true monsters, hardened against moments that expose you for the vulnerable and fragile human that you really are, please stop reading here.

For the rest of us, we occasionally crack at the wail of a guitar, the cry of a love-lorn singer, or the naked clarity of a synthline (or, more often, all of the above). I call these moments “gut-punches” – musical cues that can stop you in your tracks or make you uncontrollably sob in the middle of a friend’s Christmas party, screaming “It’s just so beautiful!” as you wipe your snot-encrusted nose with that ugly sweater you bought just for that occasion.

Moments like this confirm why music in the age of digital reproduction can still be powerful and transcendent, and I masochistically yearn for them with every new record I listen to. Fortunately, we had a bunch of great ones this year. I’ll try not to stain my shirt as I run down the list of 2013’s Top 5 Musical Gut-Punches.

5. Little Big League – “Tokyo Drift” from These are Good People

The exemplary debut full-length from Philly’s own Little Big League is filled with moments that compel you to scream out for jilted love, but this song was a personal stand-out. It’s a song that evolved in texture throughout live performances from the past two years, blending classic shoegaze and 90s melodic rock into a volatile cocktail that threatens to overflow through the song’s delay-heavy bridge. Just when you think you’ll punch a hole in the drywall, squeals of feedback withdraw into singer Michelle Zauner’s haunting and understated soprano before the song gracefully shimmers into thin air. You’re left coming to terms with your own power, or your shattered hand in the drywall – either way, you’re still grateful to be alive.

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J Dilla’s Matter to a Movement

J Dilla in the studio of fellow producer Madlib | Photo by Roger Erickson
J Dilla in the studio of fellow producer Madlib | Photo by Roger Erickson

Producers very rarely develop the same kinds of public profiles as the artists whose works they assist/architect/benignly neglect. Rap and hip-hop has managed to elevate the status of producers, but only somewhat – in this world, the producer only reaches that level of fame through effective branding, enigmatic reputation building, or putting out their own massively triumphant, if histrionic, material (Yeezy, I’m talking to you…in the .001% chance that you’re reading this).

Detroit-born James Yancey never really hit those heights, and it is unclear whether or not he actual wanted to. On the one hand, he cut his production teeth early with remixes and acclaimed singles for folks like The Pharcyde and Janet Jackson. On the other, his group Slum Village never really managed to launch on a massive scale, even with major label support at the late-90s/early-00s peak of music industry power.  In any case, you might wonder why a hallowed local indie band like Pattern is Movement might use a coveted First Friday at the Barnes slot to pay tribute to this specific hip-hop producer.

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