Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes you get up just to get down again. Sometimes you run just to feel the wind against your face, and sometimes you stand still to watch things crumble around you. Vancouver's Ladyhawk knows this. And they got up - way up - and entered a recording studio for a day-long session between tours in the first half of 2006. Perhaps they then soared too close to the sun, like moths drawn into the flame, only to fly again into the shadows, their wings singed. And then maybe, gathering their burned and broken instruments about them, they limped their way home, rearranging the pieces and sounds haphazardly, letting them all lay as they fell.
The end result is the sound of four brothers breaking something down to create something new, reaching into the fire again. It is a shattering 6-song march called Fight For Anarchy, all unmuzzled and jawing out, nothing edited or expunged. And on it Ladyhawk show that, like Spoon, Dinosaur Jr. or Tom Waits, they have the ability to conjure growls, snarls, and storms of sound into musical lightning, never striking the same place twice.
Ladyhawk's core is bracing rock. Neil Young's Tonight's The Night is the hailstorm on the hood of The Replacements Let It Be, while distorted guitars invoke the thread and swerve of Silkworm and Dinosaur Jr. Helped along the way by Amber Webber (vocals) and Josh Wells (percussion, organ, singing) of Black Mountain, it will be hard to find a more hauntingly beautiful set of rock music than this debut. It was recorded and mixed, with the help of Black Mountaineers Wells and Matthew Camirand, in the "Karachi Vice" clubhouse, in the back of a furniture factory, amongst chicken and fish processing plants. With some of the more “inexpensive” ladies of the night scattered about, it captures the bottlenecked frenzy of their much-loved live show. There, each night, these grown-up kids at heart fall over, get right back up, cry on shoulders and fold the day in halves, watching the sun come up over the dashboard.
"Ices" is a celebration of flight, levity, and the conviction that you can leave earth. You take wing in an airplane, you go to real places when you dream, you have out-of-body experiences, you get high, you lose yourself in someone else.
When we started work on these songs, I was beginning a gradual move to California, constantly traveling back and forth from New York. I was experimenting. I was falling in love. Our studio in the Hudson Valley was full of electronics and computers and the sounds of future ships sailing through the vastness of space, and I sometimes forgot where I was. The first songs we wrote were called "flying 1", then "flying 2", and so on, which eventually evolved into songs on the album. Flight became a metaphor for the ignition of the imagination. The process created a lightness in me, a freedom and positive energy that I'd never before felt or explored.
This recording session became a two year music and spiritual retreat with my psychic twin brother, Eliot. A private journey during which we abandoned old habits and familiar sounds. We got really geeky and experimented in our studio. We obsessed over sympathetic magic, "Ancient Aliens", and the NBA. We allowed everything we loved to find its way in: Persian percussion, hip-hop beats, lo-fi, hi-fi, Pakistani pop, Link Wray, Jason Pierce, gospel, dub. We developed new systems; we worked with synthesis, software, and samples; we became producers. The Hudson Valley was home base, but I wanted to keep flying. I wrote songs in California, recorded vocals in Atlanta, and worked with Clams Casino in Brooklyn. For the first time, Lia Ices felt like an inclusive project with its own identity, not just a name.
"Ices" as a whole is devoted to these certainties. While we have evolved, we are still animals. We respond to planets, patterns, and cycles. We require the sounds of our origins. We live in the future but stay bound to the primitive and primordial. We will always want tribe, we will always want rhythm, we will always need music to guide us into our deepest sense of what it means to be human. So we hear sounds from all over the planet in this album. We devour so much music, and with this album we allowed ourselves to claim bits from all of it.
Drawing a parallel between Lia Ices and Pink Floyd is much easier than anticipated — they share a love for space that is both palpable and patient. If you've been curious about a starting point with her, please start here. The A-side originally appeared on MOJO Magazine's tribute to Pink Floyd's mighty Wish You Were Here. Lia's take on the title track soars high and quickly nose dives back to Earth. The B-side takes a turn at "Late Night", the closing track to Syd Barrett's solo debut The Madcap Laughs. On it, Lia balances just the right amount of jangle-y brawn and off-kilter poise that one of our best love songs deserves.
Lightning Dust's 3rd proper full length finds its inspiration in skeletal synth pop, modern R&B beats, the films of John Carpenter and -- in accordance with Lightning Dust's only longstanding rule -- absolute minimalism. The core of Fantasy lies as much in the songwriting as in its sonics, and begins with tools familiar to Webber and Wells: her acoustic guitar and his Wurlitzer piano. They worked to distill the arrangements to just the few key elements that were necessary to make the feel right, and through countless hours of labor in The Balloon Factory - their Vancouver studio - the songs found their way to a sonic palette more squarely electronic than either expected.
Infinite Light, Lightning Dust's sophomore album for Jagjaguwar, finds duo Amber Webber and Joshua Wells (both of Black Mountain) calling upon the powers of classic pop arrangements and making the most of five days with a Steinway Grand piano. While Webber and Wells met through their involvement in what they described as two of the saddest bands in Canada, the songs written for Infinite Light found the two moving away from the uniformly downbeat. Rather, the songs were more suited to lush and melodramatic arrangements. Cue the strings. Moments of Infinite Light remind us of the glory days of musical theatre, with touches of Hair, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Tommy. Lightning Dust have delivered a cosmic record about the adventure in finding love and the journey in losing and rediscovering "the light."
Amber Webber and Joshua Wells have been playing together for many years as part of Black Mountain. They've toured the world and have played impenetrable space-rock to the unlikeliest of audiences. With an abundance of creative energy to spare, the two decided to start a separate project together, that they named Lightning Dust.
Committing themselves to a more simplistic approach with Lightning Dust, Webber and Wells also decided to escape the comforts of their familiar instruments and writing styles. On their self-titled debut, minimal and spacious arrangements and a moody, theatrical vocal-style aptly expose the demons, creating songs that creep into your bones with a haunting chill.
The album was recorded in a dank cave and a bright blue house, perhaps an unconscious yet obsessive protest of the sunny beach and beer world that surrounded them on the outside. But despite this unattractive external world, and while completing the album in small fits of insanity, the two were compelled to retreat to the coastal summer air from time to time, when they could take no more of the shadowy frame that they had decided to enclose themselves in.
Many of the songs on this self-titled debut began years ago as melodies which persistently floated around in Webber's head. And, conveniently, Wells was at a loss for words to accompany the piano songs that wouldn't leave him alone. Their creation Lightning Dust matched these lingering ghosts with each other, creating a special, lasting work that perfectly brings together the shadows with the sunshine.
"While lovers of gritty, post-punk, gothic blues need look no further than Love Life - in fact, you might want to drop some of your other loves - even disparagers of the genre may find Ms. Ford too formidable a force to dismiss. Sounding like the bastard offspring of blues-era Diamanda Galas and a teenage Nick Cave, Ford outdoes both, growling and wailing and offering guttural conciliation while succinctly punctuating the ghastly things that befall the human heart." - Silke Tudor, San Francisco Bay Guardian Here is Night, Brothers, Here the Birds Burn is Love Life's second record, their first for Jagjaguwar. On it the Baltimore quartet create dark, twisted operatic-rock for the rest of us. Featuring ex-members of Jaks, Universal Order Of Armageddon and The Great Unraveling, their music is the evil carnival without the kitsch. Or the dance of the bull-fight without the sword. It co-mingles the sacred with the profane, making the juxtaposition seem natural. Odd time signatures, driving bass, spooky, multi-layered arrangements and Katrina Ford's uniquely sinister, guttural voice and lyrics...the music of Love Life is unlike anything else.
Manishevitz are a bunch of introverts trying their hardest to make extroverted music (and failing). City Life is the third Manishevitz album, but it is truly the first product of the band Manishevitz. The first two albums, Grammar Bell and the All Fall Down (1999) and Rollover (2000), were largely composed by Adam Busch and Via Nuon. But after extensive touring in support of Rollover, a new larger band nucleus evolved to also now include cohorts Joe Adamik, Ryan Hembrey, Nate Lepine and Fred Lonberg-Holm. Vocalist Adam Busch has foregone his oft-indiscernible mumbling-like singing for a more articulated and attitude-fueled vocal performance. His delivery resembles that of Bryan Ferry’s 70’s work, while the rest of Manishevitz play foil to his Ferry. Most immediately noticeable are Nuon’s historical leads, Adamik’s rock steady drumming, and Lepine’s snotty sax riffs. City Life is about wonderment, estrangement, mania, exhaustion, solitude, and togetherness. Manishevitz bounces these themes back and forth as the songs thoughtfully bleed into each other (check out the wall of sound climax of “Hate Ilene” as it is hard spliced into the groove-y rock charge of “Mary Ann”). Sleazing, sweating, grunting and moaning through each tune, Manishevitz have created something that will endure. Produced by Michael Krassner and engineered by Andy Bosnak, the album was tracked in Chicago at Clava and then mixed and over-dubbed in Los Angeles at Kingsize with long time friend of the band, Wil Hendricks.
Following the So-Cal pop earnestness of 2000's Rollover, Manishevitz has taken us by the hand with their Private Lines EP and into a Chicago improv club where band leader and principal songwriter Adam Busch tosses his umbrella in the spitoon and lets his hair down while the band gets drunk in the street. Raging on the title track, Manishevitz more closely resembles the incredible live act they've become over the past three years than they ever have on record. It's here where their collision of art pop and jazz rock is sewn. It's as if Lou Reed's 1976 Rock And Roll Heart tour band was still alive and kicking. When the horns blare through the din mid-way through the tune, it's a profound declaration of clarity for modern rock music. Also featured on the EP are two stellar covers: "Free Will" by Robert Wyatt and "2 HB" by Roxy Music.
When Manishevitz's debut record GRAMMAR BELL AND THE ALL FALL DOWN was released in 1999, the record was quickly branded by the press as an "underground treasure" that was "bleak and baleful." To them it possessed "a poker-faced Gothic sensibility flavored with sinister acidity." In contrast, Manishevitz's followup record ROLLOVER is a more upbeat affair, possessing the absorbing chemistry of Mr. Van Dyke Parks, Arthur Lee's Love, and (from a different continent altogether) Robert Wyatt. This is exactly as intended. When Adam Busch, the man behind the band, decided to move from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Chicago, he was also looking to find a new home for his masterful collection of spacious blues effigies. The result: the fractured folk lonesomeness evident on the first record has become wrapped in glistening sheaths of 1960s So-Cal pop enthusiasm.ROLLOVER was produced by Michael Krassner (Boxhead Ensemble, Lofty Pillars and Simon Joyner) and arranged by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (Peter Brotzmann Tentent, John Zorn and Light Box Orchestra). In the recording of ROLLOVER, Manishevitz expanded to not only include Krassner and Lonberg-Holm, both of whom performed throughout the record, but also Via Nuon (Drunk and Bevel), Ryan Hembrey (Edith Frost and Pinetop Seven), Jason Adasiewicz (Central Falls) and Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5 and The Flying Luttenbachers). With the help of this superb collection of Chicago-area musicians, Adam Busch has put together a record backed by cascading percussive pellets and simmering, mellifluous horns that resound in mysterious cyclical rounds.
From the first cymbal crash on the first song of this debut record, you know instantly that you're dealing with something extraordinary. A songwriter has arrived, and he is much younger than he sounds. You must already know that songwriters are like mathematicians... they all peak in their 20s and early 30s. Then it is all downhill. We have so much to look forward to.Manishevitz is Adam Busch. And GRAMMAR BELL AND THE ALL FALL DOWN are confessional rock songs informed by old school rhythm and blues. It is obvious that the inestimable substance and the words that hold these songs together come from someone well beyond his years, in both lyrical ability and world-weariness. A glimpse of Busch's apparent trajectory was first seen in his previous work as part of the now defunct quartet called The Curious Digit. Whereas The Curious Digit were "adept impressionists" who, with their second record HESSIAN HILLS, created a few sweeping portraits of sonic, artistic and emotional paralysis, Busch, as Manishevitz, has created with GRAMMAR BELL... "a brittle folk document with quiet, understated power."
Midnight Sister is brought to you by the isolating landscape of the San Fernando Valley - its colors, diners, lunatics, neon lights. Midnight Sister's Juliana Giraffe and Ari Bazoulian, both lifelong residents of this storied valley, have only become more inspired by the area's mythology over the years: its two-faced magical wonderland and tragic circus.
Giraffe, 23, an André 3000 fashion disciple and daughter of an LA disc jockey, was raised almost exclusively on disco and David Bowie. Her lyrics and lyrical melodies were composed gazing out from a tiny retail window on Sunset Boulevard. Her Rear Window-like longing allowed her imagination to run wild and cook up the wild narratives that would fill Balouzian's compositions. Balouzian, 27, classically trained and already a go-to arranger for odd-pop names like Tobias Jesso Jr. and Alex Izenberg, is inspired by the immersive, almost visual language of Stravinsky and Ravel as much as the cinematic jeu d'esprit of Altman's Brewster McCloud and Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love.
Saturn Over Sunset, their debut album, is a shared musical vision of Hollywood's oddest corners. It is the baroque, eldritch alley you must pass through to fine the speakeasy night of your life. You’ll come out bleary-eyed and the sunrise will be pouring all pink and orange through the smog and palm trees.
Make the Dead Come is a limited edition mini-album that Minus Story created as a creative outlet in the middle of making their upcoming full-length My Ion Truss (due out June 19, 2007). In between recording sessions for My Ion Truss with producer John Congleton (The Polyphonic Spree, Explosions In The Sky) at Electrical Audio and Low Key, the band self-recorded Make the Dead Come on their 8-track in Kansas City. A thematic continuation and resolution of the death/ghost songs from their last two full-lengths No Rest For Ghosts and The Captain Is Dead Let the Drum Corpse Dance, Make the Dead Come is a darker and scarier journey with the group of Boonville, MS natives. On it, they rejoice in their trademark intuitive & distorted self-recorded style, which they've warmly named the Wall of Crap. This is their first recording with new band member Lucas Oswald, who contributes hammer dulcimer and background vocals.
In the distance the land kisses the sky. If you squint just right you can see Minus Story in flux there, somewhere between earthbound and ethereal, making sunspots on the horizon line with their noisy & melodic headphone pop. Reared together in America's Midwestern cradle, Minus Story speak their own codified musical language as only childhood friends can share. Tirelessly artistic yet unpretentious, they are unafraid of abject noise, folk, soul, or straight-up pop rock.
My Ion Truss is Minus Story's Studio Album. It was recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago with John Congleton (Explosions In the Sky, The Polyphonic Spree). Having a producer behind the controls for the first time allowed them to work more collectively as a band, giving them the freedom to record the primary tracks completely live. It is the closest thing to Minus Story's cathartic live show that they've put to tape to date. The result is an epic & anthemic cross between Pearl Jam, Queen, Brian Eno, and Roxy Music.
If we could hear the angels singing about us, they would be in harmony with the chosen sons of Boonville,Missouri. With No Rest for Ghosts, their second full-length record for Jagjaguwar, Minus Story have arrived. Their heavenly racket shuffles, flutters, crashes and bangs all about us. Their reedy artistic voice nears multi-octave range. Their rhythmic presence delights us in a sublime collision of the conventional and the experimental. And while their trademarked “Wall of Crap” sound is still present to some degree, No Rest for Ghosts has transcended the earnest collage aesethic of sounds battling it out for attention and now fully exhibits a depth and subtlety of performance not found on their critical darling The Captain Is Dead, Let the Drum Corpse Dance (their first full-length for Jagjaguwar, released in 2004). No Rest for Ghosts is a portal to a richly imaginative Minus Story universe, where the band sings about a narrator being eaten and regurgitated by his/her own baby in order to feed its own monstrous young, the chasing of a cloud that eats souls, the jumping off of a cliff like lemmings after employers are laid waste to, the dreaming of a Nazi invasion of their hometown, God sadistically laughing at them, and their respective minds being invaded by undead celebrities. The emphasis is on either structure over hooks, or the willingness to enjoy a story in words unfolding over a set of chords without any unneccessary “window dressing” getting in the way. Minus Story is influenced musically by the solo work of John Frusciante, the tenderness of Bjork, the melodic interplay ofTelevision, and the directness of late period Tom Waits. The band is also conceptually influenced by the brutality of JerzyKosinski's The Painted Bird, the sweeping and ambivalent authoritarianism critique of Jason Lips (the provider of cartoon drawingsfor the album art, and the creator of the Opera and the Blond Stalin character), and most of all by the idea of the invisibleenemy and the erosion of the soul by unknown outside forces.The isolation and boredom of small town life has led Minus Story to put the love of art and best friends before career, fashion andprofessionalism. The writing and recording process for them is one of festivity and trying to capture inspiring moments in theirmistakes. They will never hit their mark, but, in failing, they arrive transported somewhere else. A driving aesthetic force withinthe band is their conviction that they are only different from their musical idols in that they are dependent on shitty jobs to fundtheir art. Only the rich and privileged are truly independent. Minus Story feel that they and their peers are bound by a commonlack of funds as “budget artists” playing “budget rock”.
Minus Story’s debut record for Jagjaguwar from a year ago, The Captain is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance, drew rave reviews and solidified the band’s standing as young sonic provacateurs on the brink of widespread notoriety, as fertile crafters of mystical melodies and harmonies that dig truly and deeply under your skin. Drawing from the spirit of The Captain is Dead… but looking unflinchingly towards the future, Minus Story have now created a new shorter work that will inspire the same kind of fervent (and sometimes hyperbolic) reaction as did their Jagjaguwar debut. Listening to the Heaven and Hell CDEP, one is left with absolutely no doubt that this band is special, that they are especially privy to the fundamentals of great music making, that they are becoming in more and more proximate league with the likes of Smile-era Beach Boys, Circulatory System and Neutral Milk Hotel. The first two songs on the CDEP are a couple of years old. The third and fourth songs are newer, the fourth (“Misery is a Ship”) being written just a week before recording occurred. Along with a Misfits cover and the recital of a “true” ghost story, these four Minus Story songs contained on the CDEP are about death in one way or another.
Minus Story's mystical third full-length, The Captain is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance, is fuzzy and full of sunshine but also full of dark clouds and cold rain and is wistful and billowing, much like the music of The Zombies, Smile-era Beach Boys, Circulatory System and Neutral Milk Hotel. It also embraces those indefinable qualities found on records like Mt. Eerie by Microphones or Fragile by Yes. It is experimental pop, through and through, with all the attendant haunted edges, including a storyline about some young boy who rallies together an army of children, some black cloud that eats birds, and some girl who comes back as a ghost in a marching band. A masterpiece that will creep into your consciousness and lay anchor for some time.
In October 1999, Monroe Mustang were invited to attend the Crossing Borders Festival in the Netherlands, an annual musical gathering organized by the VPRO (Dutch Public Radio) that tries each year to unearth all the best kept secrets in independent music internationally. For Monroe Mustang, the motley crew of Texan / Oklahomans who reside in Austin and prefer to record at home and rarely travel to perform, this was a special treat for two reasons. Not only did they finally experience the joy of performing in unfamiliar territory, but they were also afforded the opportunity to be recorded live in VPRO's studios -- their first taste of third party production of their music. Engineered/produced by Berry Kamer, Jan Hiddink and Maurice Woestenburg, the result is almost a full-length's worth of largely acoustic, perfectly paced music that culls together the best moments of this youthful outfit's career -- songs from their post-psychedelic masterpiece THE ELEPHANT SOUND and from their glorious debut full-length PLAIN SWEEPING THEMES FOR THE UNPREPARED (Trance Syndicate, 1998). Also, in the mix, are new, previously unreleased songs that are their strongest material yet.
the Monroe Mustang, still first in spaceThis band has cool charm and mystique to spare -- the least of their qualities. They are from Texas, for crying out loud. And they are resolute, having put together a special session of musical embroidery that sounds like nothing else. Still, sonically-speaking, you can't help but think that Monroe Mustang have been around since 1971, session-guitarists, perhaps, for Ziggy Stardust. Or openers for that unfortunate T. Rex stateside tour. Maybe they were simply in the background, hanging out during Syd Barrett's last stab at it, watching him slowly melt away. There is some lineage that is inexplicable but apparent. And with THE ELEPHANT SOUND, Monroe Mustang have created an epic, post-psychedelic masterpiece -- on equal footing with any of the works of their erstwhile predecessors.