Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3-Way Singles Club Volume 9 Peaks Over The Horizon!

ITAV will be finishing off January with the latest volume of our 3-Way Singles Club (#9) and some exciting announcements about upcoming artists in the series!

January can be, in many ways, the spillover month from the holidays.  I know this, I was born in early January and my birthday can often seem like an afterthought when you've had a string of powerhouse holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.  But that is why they call it a new year, and that is why the holidays abate for a while -- so there can be a stock-taking, and a sober assessment of the months to come in the warm afterglow of gift-giving, feasting, and merriment.

Eh, excuses, excuses!

That ambling preamble precedes our proud announcement that we are going to slip in under the wire with the latest in our monthly series of 3-song/3-artist triple split singles, featuring Steve Leaf, Seth Bernard, and CrookedSound!  3WSC Volume 9 is due before the bell tolls at midnight, January 31st, and will feature brand new songs from CrookedSound and Steve Leaf, and an illuminating peak into Earthwork Music Collective co-ofounder Seth Bernard's 4-track songwriting notebook.  Recorded in attics and bedrooms across the northern midwest, Volume 9 is a sonic expression of the spirit of the series: that "singles" exist in many forms, at many speeds, and as children of the moment -- born when the spark of inspiration strikes.

ITAV's Independent Musicians Fund has also been created as the recipient of all proceeds from the 3-Way Singles Club.  It's a two part effort that consists of an aid fund for independent musicians as well as a source for information and consulting on recording, manufacturing, and distributing music for independent artists.  And the IMF grows by people listening to music!

My sincere thanks go out to the charter members of the 3-Way Singles Club Mega-Subscription, as well to each and every person who has listened, purchased songs, or contributed their music to the 3WSC this past year.  We have some great things lined up for the coming months!

Following volumes in the series will be new songs from Sunil Sawani, Small Houses with Pioneer, Benoit Pioulard, Brooks Mosher, Calliope, White Pines, The Sunset Club, Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts, and many more -- check the schedule for a full line-up!

2012 is also to be the year of ITAV's first vinyl releases.  That's right, releases!  Plural!  More on that in upcoming posts.  Stay sweet, stay tuned, and stay off old man Witherspoon's yard.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bandcamp Round-Up #2: Guilting The Lily

Bandcamp is the way that we promulgate our very own 3-Way Singles Club.  In addition, it provides a roof for the following six releases I've stumbled across while trawling its waters.  A good number of these artists have cropped up on ITAV-related projects, too.  With the exception of Photographers, my own solo project Stargrazer has also had the pleasure of performing with all of the below, and there's no better way to get to know someone's music than the live setting.  Photographers, hopefully we'll get our chance soon!

There are many great services out there for sharing independent music, so I don't mean to single out Bandcamp for endorsement, however I find it to be such a clean and appealing interface that it makes for a nice listening environment.  Their homepage could be tidied up a lot, but once you get to the artist you want to listen to nothing could be easier.  It's free to listen, you don't have to log in, and it's easy on the artists as well -- so there's lots and lots to hear, of all styles.

1.  FIELDS OF INDUSTRY - "Trouble House"

Trouble House was one of my favorite local releases of 2010, and it continues to be one of my favorite recent releases.  From the Sterling Morrison-esque guitar chords of the opening mini-epic "I've Never Been To New York" (which has been stuck in my head for over a year) to the moving closing couplet of "I've Got A Feeling" and "Your Letters," it's an album that revs up the hushed feel of prior Fields Of Industry releases, referencing their live shows which are often punctuated by a great rendition of the 13th Floor Elevators "Reverberation (doubt)."  Casual comparisons to the Velvet Underground aside, FoI has produced a truly cohesive work of engaging indie rock here that transcends that facile comparison.

2.  SMALL HOUSES - "North"

North and it's companion piece, the Just Before The North E.P., represent an arrival of sorts for Small Houses and the tremulous-voiced Jeremy Quentin.  On North especially, he builds on the strength of his previous album Our Dusking Sound and hits the musical equivalent of a grand slam with songs like "Country Flowers" and "Late July."  The accompanying tour found his fleet-fingered live set the strongest I've ever seen it (and I've returned again and again to see this artist).  The openness of North belies its attentive, even meticulous construction -- check out the album credits for a fairly jaw-dropping list of Michigan talent that contributed.  Catch Small Houses when it comes through your town!

3.  VIKING MOSES - "Howling Dogs E.P."

Howling Dogs compiles a number of demos and the immediate, propulsive title track from Viking Moses' forthcoming album The Conquest Night (May 31st).  By the evidence of these songs, the album promises to be every bit as amazing as his last full-length The Parts That Showed (which has been in heavy rotation at our house for at over a year).  Viking Moses is one of those artists whose demos and live performance can be an entirely different beast (BEAST!) than his finished recordings (as the demo of the title track makes abundantly clear), and this clutch of embryonic songs evades even my best time-tested superlatives.  Viking Moses is another live act I can heartily endorse, and he tours relentlessly.  Oh, also: brace yourself.

4.  PHOTOGRAPHERS - "Songs In Ursa Minor"

The form may have become familiar -- a duo or trio performing gentle indie-folk fleshed out with banjos and strings --but Photographers' music breathes in a natural way, like a polaroid developing on a nightstand.  Between the dew-soaked duets, spare arrangements, and nimble tempo changes, the recurring theme seems to be wonder (a sensation we can never, ever get enough of), and Photographers deliver up a verbal and musical record of wonders experienced and wonders hoped for.  It's difficult for pleasant, peaceful music to avoid a certain emptiness and lack of texture -- I'm happy to say that Photographers have circumnavigated that void with grace and a certain conceptual density that opens up in onion-skin layers.  It's a worthy pursuit to listen through their other releases, which are also truly captivating.

5.  JOHNNY UNICORN - "Thinking Hard To Overcome Nervousness"

Johnny Unicorn's brand of archly humorous rock and pop is distinguished from that of most auteurs by its prog sensibilities and his confident multi-instrumental arranging abilities.  Synth-pop one second morphs into free jazz freakout, then drops into a driving fusion groove, then into accordion-driven klezmer -- all in one song, "Break Out," a song about acne.  What slowly simmers out of an roller-coaster ride like THTON is that JU's take on good-time music is essentially an outsider's take -- clever, with an ear for arrangement that would make many pop icon's swoon, and a dose of heady avant garde/psychedelic leanings, married to self-effacing lyrics that can be surprisingly humble amidst all the stylistic twists and turns.  While JU's lack of seriousness may provide a stumbling block for some listeners, the dizzying virtuosity in music-making and production on display leaves little doubt that if he applied himself to other forms of music-making, he would excel at it.  Having witnessed JU live, I can report with authority that he's a born entertainer.


If the idea of Kranky Records recording artist Benoît Pioulard performing without his usual beds and washes of field recordings and lush reverb is appealing to you, this is your release!  A simple fingerpicked acoustic guitar and unadorned voice form the entire body of these four songs.  Two of them, "Tie" and "Ailleurs" appeared in sonically-embellished form on 2010's superb full-length Lasted.  Two others "Arrow Drawn" and "I Walked Into The Blackness And Built A Fire" (which apparently came out on a ltd. ed. lathe-cut picnic plate by People In A Position To Know) are new to these ears.  In my opinion, you can't go wrong with Benoît Pioulard, whether it's his blankety white-noise sound collages or the underwater acoustic folk pop that darts and filigrees throughout his albums.  In this subtractive state, however, it's Pioulard's songs that really shine through.  Fans of Midwestern indie folk in the vein of Chris Bathgate will find a lot to like here, established fans of Pioulard's work will find new footing for their appreciation of his literate, alluring songcraft.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two Stargrazer Shows In Two Weeks, Part Deux!

...Announcing the second Stargrazer show of 2012 (following this Saturday's show at Gone Wired w/ Teag & PK and Delicious Bass -- see the previous post):   

Stargrazer, Concepticons, Hampshire, and Confusing Sarah will perform at The Loft (414 E. Michigan Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933) Thursday, January 26!  Doors are at 8:00 PM, showtime is 9:00 PM.  This is an 18+ show, and there is a $5 cover.  The Loft is a large space and it sounds good when it's packed, hint hint.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Two Stargrazer Shows In Two Weeks!

...and this is the first of them:

...this is a FREE show at Gone Wired Cafe, 2021 E. Michigan Avenue  Lansing MI, Saturday January 14th.  Music starts at 7:30.  Also appearing will be Teag & PK and Delicious Bass.  The second Stargrazer gig will be at the Loft on the 26th.  More about that later...