Little Wings – People (2019)
Former K Records indie rock band churning out many albums over the past twenty years. Shaggy frontman Kyle Field epitomizes the gently loping, breezy west coast aesthetic of the songs he writes. Music for campfires and beaches. Pedal steel and milky keys a nice addition on this effort. Kyle’s voice with its perfect imperfections sounds like a stoned schoolteacher singing about wonder, magic, and the mundane—sometime singing about wonder *through* the mundane. If you’re just now coming to Little Wings, I’d start with Light Green Leaves, though People is a nice, chill porch rocker.
Klein — Lifetime (2019)
Electroacoustic laptop creations along the lines of Dntel. Weird, but weirdly accessible. Piano, synth, samples, strings, percussion, birdsong, and effects are all at play in turn, but vocals are the featured instrument on this album. Heavily processed vocals weave in and out of the foreground, at once guttural and ghostly. Mostly ambient textures, sprinkled here and there with skittering beats and coiffed with sweeping strings. The forest finds its glade on the track Silent, where more angelic tones rule the busy textures. A chorus of chattering drones vie for supremacy on the track For What Worth featuring Matana Roberts. A patchwork quilt of old timey samples make for a sacred blues, reworked on We Are Almost There. Jazzy interludes dismount us from the whole strange journey.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen — The Slow Descent Has Begun (2019) (EP)
Bold swaths of ambient haze hang in suspended animation like cloud formations. Tiny solo string voices strike movement across the scene. Huge chordal piano pieces march along like a Beethoven sonata. Bells sound and fold back on themselves in a piece for echo chamber music. A curious closing piano piece that sounds like the soundtrack to a melancholy indie film. This EP is the perfect aperitif to the full length follow up, The Undivided Five.
Mdou Moctar leads one of many bands of the Tuareg people, now widely popular far beyond the region of Saharan Africa. The music has a bard-like folk quality to it, as he sings about personal experiences, love and loss, homesickness and more, all sung in the Tamashek language. The sound is like rhythm and twirl music, with an off kilter locomotion to it like an uneven merry-go-round. The harmonic landscape is familiar yet different, as the melodic technique and scale selection makes for a sound distinctive to bands from this region. I caught one particularly heartfelt tune from his brief Austin Film Society set and uploaded it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWTZoJx4X0M
Sean McCann Ensemble – https://mccann.bandcamp.com
Sarah Davachi – https://sarahdavachi.bandcamp.com/
In many ways this concert was about the light and the dark, the sacred and the profane. As you can see from the images, Sean McCann’s ensemble was bathed in light through stained glass, the last sunlight of the day. Sarah Davachi’s set began after dark, and all house lights were turned off except for the towering candles she surrounded her performance table with.
The music too was respectively light and dark in character. Sean McCann’s electro-acoustic work summoned the divine, with spoken word elements as chorus from his three female vocalists creating a shifting, pitched texture of the soft centers and edges of speech. This section of the piece created ASMR shivers as the shhh’s and smacks of women’s voices melted together in loops and layers. The piece then evolved into a tapestry of live piano, flute, and violin with electronics, hanging in the air like a blanketing haze of intermingling melodic fragments. The piece was all about soft edges and euphonious interlacing voices, smooth motion, and tranquility. The ensemble included Sean McCann (composer), Sarah Jane Hargis (flute, vocals), Courtenay Paris (vocals), Linda Akinkunmi (violin, vocals), and Sean Tomas (piano).
Sarah Davachi by contrast descended upon the sanctuary like a high goth priestess, surrounding her performance table with large, striking candles, just as the blackout curtains of moonrise enclosed the chamber in pitch dark. The seamless original piece she played included dirge-like organs pulsing for sustained, low pitches, rumbling in the acoustic crucible of the main hall. The slowly building drone eschewed melody for might, with heavy, ceremonial timbres manipulated live to create voluminous shapes. What seemed like eternity passed as these dark waves washed over the pews, until the final sample broke the spell into our first melody, a guitar (?) sampled slow and gangly to play out the conclusion of the piece. For sure, there were worshipers well aware of her work in attendance, and all were left changed physically and spiritually by the part music, part seance conjured up by Davachi that night.
Austin Davis, performing at Drone Camp 3
This annual event takes place in a warehouse turned coffee & beer spot, with an isolated room in back perfect for a small crowd. There were blankets, afghans, sleeping bags, and sit-upon pillows strewn about the space, with all modes of lounging and reclining encouraged. I snapped a few photos of each artist then retired to laying on my side among a crowd of others in various states of repose–the perfect way to listen to drone music, all attuning to the same vibrations.
My favorite act of the night was Heavy Stars. She’s a composer and vocalist who looped a lot of sampled instruments and background crackle, building up to layered vocals and live vibraphone. I had recently discussed Lau Nau earlier that day, so the comparison was right there for me.
Once, in college, a few friends got together in an apartment to have a listening event. Not unlike Drone Camp, we turned out all the lights, laid or leaned down against something cozy, and listened to the new Sigur Ros album with virgin ears. Still one of the best communal listening experiences I’ve ever had.
Afterwards, we ate cookies. 😀
I first met Ethan & Caleb at the show pictured above, playing songs from their debut album Turquoise, released 2007. I was surprised and impressed hearing them for the first time, the way you can be, unexpectedly, when paying heed to opening bands. I was cautiously hopefully before I ever heard them play a note when I saw them rolling in the Hammond, checking the harmonica, and asking the sound man for as much reverb on the guitar as possible.
I am a sucker for music evocative of the emptier patches of the American southwest (Calexico, Friends of Dean Martinez, Valley of the Giants, etc). With a name like Headdress and an album decorated with feathers, tipis, and hand-stitching, they make no secret of their aim to follow the same trail with their pueblocore sound. Unlike the previously mentioned bands though, the music of Headdress feels slower, thinner, and more expansive, with the small sound of their two-piece band echoing to fill the shape of much larger space, suggesting all the stereotypical imagery of vast canyons and open plains.
The song they performed that night, ‘Sky Mountain Rising,’ was recorded live at The Mohawk, and is yet to be released, but still my favorite:
They spin themselves into a shamanistic, purifying drone, with chanting and rattles and bone-shaking low end. Truly great stuff. Ride the snake, boys.
Headdress are playing tomorrow at Webster Hall, New York City, 1-28-2009.