Archive for November, 2011

Altered Zones says Goodbye; Ad Hoc says Hello

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

As many of you have already read, it was announced today that Altered Zones, the blog network that we belong to under the Pitchfork umbrella, will be closing up shop. To many of you, this news might seem both shocking and sad. Since its inception last July, Altered Zones has become an important space for the DIY music community around the world that exists both on and offline. We proudly provided a hub for independent music and art coming from cities, suburbs, rural areas, and bedrooms. With the guidance and resources of Pitchfork, we were able to reach a wider audience than most music blogs can dream of. Although that voyage is coming to an end, we are thankful for what was gained along the way.

However, with every end comes a new beginning. In early 2012 the forces that worked tirelessly to bring you Altered Zones will be reborn in a new realm that we like to call Ad Hoc. Ad Hoc, which will be a completely independent publication and blog network, will not only continue the work that was started at Altered Zones, but expand upon it and move it forward into the future. In addition to being a web portal, Ad Hoc will be fully touchable in the form of a print zine that will feature more expansive and unconventional features pieces, writings by artists, and extensive showcases of visual art. While the benefits of being under the wing of Pitchfork were many, anyone with an inkling of what is going on in this country can see that the times are calling on independent voices to grow stronger. We see Ad Hoc as a music and art publication that will directly respond to this shift in the narrative. Between now and February 2012, the DIY gears will be turning to open up this new point of access, made by this community and for this community.

Let’s all bid a warm farewell to Altered Zones, and say an ecstatic hello to Ad Hoc.

With love,

Your Visitation Rites Family

P.S. You can still call yourself a Zoner if you wish.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

Sightings: Discombobulated Ventriloquist, “yuh io klop”

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

The name Discombobulated Ventriloquist doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. However, the strikingly zany name of this project isn’t too surprising when you consider that it is coming from master cymetic theremapist, Ron Rege Jr. (Lavender Diamond). Rege obviously loves a good experiment, so it is no surprise that his project recalls the minimalist, avant-garde aesthetics of Steve Reich. The track “yuh io klop” comes from an album called 2010 which interestingly enough, was released in early 2011. Perhaps 2010 was a particularly extraordinary year in Rege’s life, or perhaps the number itself has some significance that is unknown to me. Whatever it may be, the album is populated by stripped down, percussive, minimalist transmissions, that are generally quite brief. “yuh io klop”, which is just under 11 minutes, is by far the lengthiest track. Its expansiveness allows Rege’s style to evolve from pure repetition to a subtly detailed, mantric groove.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

2010 is available now via Bandcamp

Sightings: Sara Rara, “A Ray Array”

Friday, November 18th, 2011

In Aldous Huxley’s psychedelic memoir, The Doors of Perception, he comments on the beauty and mystery of the network of leaves surrounding a flower, over the celebrated blossom itself. The idea is that an expanded mind will be drawn to more subtle patterns and tones, as opposed to grandiose aesthetic flourishes. A Ray Array, the new experimental film by Lucky Dragons member Sara Rara, provides a lens for these details. The 58-minute film explores the idea of interference through visual ruptures, interactions between sound signals, and optical illusions, and is composed of static shots– mostly of everyday objects.

The score, which comes courtesy of Rara and Lucky Dragons’ Luke Fishbeck is overwhelming and persistent at times; and at other points, it seems to magnify diegetic sounds from what is transpiring in the frame. As simple and non-narrative as the film is, it is one of the most emotionally impactful experimental pieces I have ever seen. As two sets of hands pull a transparency with parallel lines over a nearly identical sheet of white paper, creating a dance of DIY optical effects, you are reminded of the strength and magic of partnership. When a sublime, rounded, moon-like sheet of marble suddenly shatters, you feel a profound sense of despair and destruction. Once again, these images are largely simple and commonplace. The film’s strength lies largely in its ability to remind us of the power of looking and listening.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

Portraits: Meg Baird

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Meg Baird is a singer-songwriter who first rose to prominence as part of storied psych-folk outfit Espers, a Philadelphia collective whose three full-lengths crystallized the sound of the more somber and sonically kaleidoscopic elements of the mid-aughts “Freak Folk” scene. Between Espers’ second and third records, Baird released Dear Companion, an understated but deeply affecting solo record consisting primarily of covers and traditional songs. Those who fell immediately under Meg’s spell had to wait an excruciating four years for the follow-up, Seasons on Earth, which arrived on Drag City this Fall. Some songs find Baird joined, variously, by Marc OrleansSteve Gunn, and Chris Forsyth on guitar. The focus on originals and the inclusion of other musicians expand the sound ever so slightly, though it’s still grounded in Meg’s signature playing style and voice. I spoke with Meg just before she played a show to celebrate the release at Brooklyn’s Union Pool.

VR: Your first solo LP, Dear Companion, was just your voice and guitar. What was the impetus to bring in additional players for this record?

Meg: It happened pretty organically. It was all people that I knew and it was like, “Oh, we should play together,” and then just following through. I didn’t know Marc [Orleans] too well at first but I’ve gotten to know him through D.Charles Speer & The Helix. Steve [Gunn], he actually lived in Philly, so I’ve known him for a long time.


Horizons: Cymatic Theremapy

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Everything moves. Vibration runs through everything…

These ideas are central to Ron Rege Jr.’s Cymatic Theremapy performances. In a fusion of science, visual art, and sound, Rege (often with the assistance of Diva Dompe) creates a truly interactive, often magical experience. The set up is relatively simple: a liquid (usually water, or water and corn starch) rests in a plastic bed in the center of a speaker. When Rege’s theremin kicks into gear, the liquid gradually starts to vibrate as the sound waves coarse through it. Over time, these movements become more and more visible, and as the audio reaches its peak, the liquids often take on absurd shapes, giving them the appearance of living organisms.

While it is easy to fantasize that Rege is some sort of Frankenstein-like mad scientist in this equation, he often seems just as startled by the way sound morphs the liquids as we are. These performances, which have taken place mostly at small art galleries and bookstores in the Los Angeles area thus far, feel much more like participatory teach-ins than demonstrations. Participants are often able to pass speakers around as the liquids dance, their minds widening with wonder as they internalize the vibration themselves. While Rege has not reinvented the wheel with these experiments, he has brought to light the undeniable and often wondrous relationship between sound and motion.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

Sightings: The Smarts, “Modern Life”

Friday, November 11th, 2011

The Smarts were a band from Atlanta/Athens, GA founded by husband and wife Keith and Shawn Smart Longino, with Danny White and David Foster, in 1980. They played their first gig to a sold-out crowd with The Brains, were contemporaries of The B52’s and Pylon, and  garnered a reputation as “the band that opened for R.E.M.” The Live At The 40 Watt Club ‘80 EP is a collection of one-take studio recordings from that year — although the “live” part of the recording was created with the help of Greatest Hits’ Tyler Thacker in 2010, enhanced by “audience” babble from the Longinos’ daughter, Camile. On “Modern Life,” Shawn’s provocative snarl evokes that of fellow new waver Tina Weymouth and hints at glam-rock aspirations on par with her husband’s pension for discontented lyrics à la Lou Reed’s Transformer. The Smarts disbanded shortly after these recordings, and, unfortunately, have no physical releases to date. However, the Longino musical tradition has been given new life in Resin, a “dust bowl glam” collaboration between father and daughter.

The Smarts: “Modern Life”

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Words: Mary Katherine Youngblood

The Smarts perform “Rocket To Stardom” in Dan Halperin‘s fittingly “out there” short film by the same name:

Sightings: Littoral Drift, “Be Like A Bird Caught Up In The Air”

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Mix samplers represent the “spice of life” in the underground (or any) music community. They bring together the seemingly random sounds of seemingly random artists in one eclectic package that always holds some sweet surprises. The third sampler from the Patient Sounds (intl) collective holds many a gem in its 24 tracks. For me, this accoustic missive from Minneapolis’ Littoral Drift proved the most tantalizing. “Be Like A Bird Caught Up In The Air” combines equal parts tape-era Mountain Goats with the more sinister and atmospheric work of Phil Elvrum . The result is a dark, ambient folk track dipped in haze and teeming with reverb. The thick, messy background is as off-putting as the steady, acoustic strumming is comforting. The vocal narrative shares a message familiar with that of our generation’s folk crooners — break out and rise above your troubles, because there really are no other options.

Littoral Drift: “Be Like a Bird Caught Up in the Air”

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Words: Marc Picciolo

Stream and download the entirety of the magnificently varied Patient Sounds Sampler Vol. 3, as well as the first two volumes over at the Patient Sounds website

Sightings: Green Mansions, “Vacation #5” Video

Friday, November 4th, 2011

From what I understand, Green Mansions are a truly international duo. The members include Mike Pigott from Pittsfield, MA, and Peter Bonneman who is a power pop musician from Denmark. While I’m not sure how their collaboration works, I figure it must be through some sort of creatively fruitful correspondence. My mental image of them as two harmonious, but remote poles is perfectly underscored by Miko Revereza’s new video for their ambient track “Vacation #5”. Revereza is at it again with his painterly layers of colored analog video feedback. The visual motifs here are a worthy compliment to the melancholy, down tempo synthesis of the track. It is sort of a shy dance between a searing pink and a translucent blue. The two bursts of color dance within and without each other, creating moments of extreme harmony and distance.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

Green Mansions have a forthcoming tape on UUU Tapes