Category Archives: FEATURES

Fast Romantics: United States Of Grief

Toronto’s Fast Romantics find their American beauty.

Matthew Angus doesn’t hate the United States—quite the opposite, actually. “It’s terrifying,” is how the primary visionary for Fast Romantics describes looking on from inside Canada at the ongoing spectacle unfolding in Washington, D.C. “Anyone in the U.S. who would challenge the notion that this affects all of us just doesn’t get it. It makes us feel even closer to our American friends, because it’s a grief state that we all have to go through.”

That dismay with political events south of the border led Angus to rethink the direction he was heading on his Toronto-based band’s latest release. “I realized that love doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” he says. “It happens despite all the chaos around us.”

American Love (Light Organ/Postwar) lives up to its title, delving into the real and imagined foibles and vagaries of falling in love in the 21st century. But it also drags the turmoil of an uncertain world order into the bedroom, where it messes the sheets, piss- es on the toilet seat and occasionally kills the mood. Ultimately, though, such broad strokes bring universality to the power of human connection—something that’s needed now more than ever. “We’re gonna die,  I  can see it in your eyes and you can see it in mine—it’s in the way that they shine,” sings Angus in his sultry Bryan Ferry-cum-Tom Jones lilt on “Ready For The Night.” “After that, I don’t know what happens, but I’m sure it’s all right.”

Chilling inevitability and unbridled optimism collide often on American Love, which was recorded over two years in Toronto and Brooklyn by Gus van Go and Werner F (Wintersleep, Whitehorse). The album’s lavish production is a grand-scale melding of slathered-on early-’80s synth drama and mid-’60s echo-chamber finesse that owes as much to Midge Ure as it does to Brian Wilson.

Angus founded a quite different version of Fast Romantics in Calgary with bassist Jef- frey Lewis in 2008, but the original lineup couldn’t hold it together after the release of intermittently brilliant 2013 LP Afterlife Blues. As Angus and Lewis worked on reinventing the band, Fast Romantics were generating buzz in Canada, winning 2014 pop group of the year at the SiriusXM Indie Awards and taking home the prestigious 2016 SOCAN songwriting prize for the irrepressible “Julia,” a new version of which appears on American Love.

The sextet’s most pronounced addition is multitalented singer/songwriter Kirty, whose sole contribution to American Love, “How Long Is This Gonna Last?” is also one of its most resonant moments. “Maybe on the next album, there will be more of Kirt,” says Angus. “She’s really infiltrated the sound and the spirit of my songwriting. It’s sort of like beauty and the beast.”

Hobart Rowland

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Red Beans And Rice

On the way to its 60th anniversary, the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band explores its Afro-Cuban lineage

The talk turns to food—red beans and rice, gumbo, all that good stuff—and how cooking, like music, is as much about circulating knowledge as it is about getting fed.

“I learned to cook in the kitchen,” says Ben Jaffe. “‘Here, wash these. OK, now peel this. Go grab that bowl and bring it over here. Now cut these up.’ That’s the same way I learned music: ‘OK, we have a parade at four o’clock. Show up on this corner and bring your horn.’ You learn from being in the middle of it.”

Like most New Orleans-born-and-bred musicians, Jaffe understands music not as a byproduct of the human experience but as a heart-deep part of that experience itself: “It’s like air, or food, or relationships. Once you get on that level, you’re talking about the four or five essential elements of life.”

Jaffe—tuba player, bassist and current leader/co-composer for the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band—comes by it honest, as they say. In 1961, his parents, Allan and Sandra Jaffe, founded the Preservation Hall venue at 726 St. Peter St. in the French Quarter—a performance space especially notable during the Jim Crow era for being one of a handful in New Orleans open to both white and black players. What started as the venue’s de facto house band is now a pillar of New Orleans’ musical history: a live performance, recording and educational outreach project 55 years strong and counting.

PHJB’s new album, So It Is (Sony/Legacy), continues the band’s longstanding custom of preserving and contributing new material to traditional New Orleans acoustic music. But So It Is looks south and east, across the gulf to Cuba, for its primary musical idiom.

“We’d been planning the trip for a couple of years by the time we went in Christmas 2015,” says Jaffe. “The history between New Orleans and Cuba runs so deep, and a lot of people don’t know about it. We’re all connected by this history, this rhythmic pulse that runs from Africa and Spain to Cuba, and from there to New Orleans, and of course it became different things in different cities. Cuban Moros y Cristianos (a white rice and black beans dish cheekily named for the Moors and Christians of the nation’s colonial history) became red beans and rice in New Orleans. It’s a little different, but really, it’s the same cultural tradition. The same development happens with the music—it’s a blend, like red beans and rice, that’s specific to that place, that you’re not going to find in any other city. And if you do find it in another city, it’s because someone from New Orleans brought it there.”

So It Is, like most of Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s 30-plus album catalog, begins in the commitment to recording the music as  it would be heard live, in the venue or in the streets. TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, who co-produced the new record with Jaffe, understood that commitment intuitively. “We worked hard on the mix and the production,” says Jaffe. When he was told that the bass and the percussion on the record sound so clear it’s like the band’s set up in the next room, you can practically hear him smile: “Yeah, that’s the point. That’s the heartbeat of our kind of music. Sometimes when you hear New Orleans music live, the bass and the drum are all you can hear.”

Fifty-five years, 30-something albums and god alone knows how many long-term and rotating band members later, Preservation Hall Jazz Band has made a record that brings to the forefront the Afro-Cuban ancestry that’s always been one strand of its DNA. From the snake-in-the-grass bass intro to the title cut, through the street-march percussion and bluesy piano of “Convergence,” to the storefront-church vocal stylings and muted brass of “Mad,” So It Is honors and celebrates those lineal ties in ways both traditional and contemporary. Anyone who wonders how a band more than a half-century old can continue to explore its core aesthetic rewardingly should remember the lesson of a good bowl of red beans and rice—a meal that’s kind of the same each time but also radically different every time you open up. The blend is what makes it, and the blend is an art, not a science. “In New Orleans, the blend is palpable,” says Jaffe. “You can find African elements in every place you look.”

Eric Waggoner

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Charming Disaster: Affinity For The Dark

On Cautionary Tales, Charming Disaster writes fables for the deconstruction

The quiet music of Charming Disaster explores frightening territory—murder, mortality, paranormal activity and looming apocalypse—with lilting waltzes, acoustic folk balladry and tropical grooves. Cautionary Tales, its self-released second album, has the intimate sound of a living-room recording. The duo—singer/ukulele player Ellia Bisker and singer/guitarist Jeff Morris—fills the air with smooth, blissful harmonies, often sounding like a single voice. They do the same in conversation.

“We have an affinity for the dark stuff,” they say. “The songs on this album were inspired by storytelling—ancient Greek and Norse mythology, fantasy novels and traditional folk tales. The unofficial title track of Cautionary Tales is the song ‘Little Black Bird,’ which draws from the fables of Aesop and La Fontaine. They always had a moral. Our moral is probably not that helpful: Beware. You are doomed. This will all end badly.”

The album came together in a cabin in Michigan, during the winter of 2016. “We were awarded an artist residency that allowed us to spend two weeks in isolation in the woods, where we wrote or completed almost half the songs on the album,” they say. “To capture a sense of the space we’d been working in, which felt haunted by benevolent spirits, we included a lot of household objects in our instrumentation—some especially resonant pots and pan lids, the rim of a wineglass, traced by a finger, and a whistling tea kettle.”

Onstage, the duo has the same understated presence that makes its albums so compelling. “We’re one creature with eight arms and legs, like a two-headed octopus, and we dress up for shows. Jeff in foppish Goth Americana style, Ellia in dark under-eye makeup and a feather headpiece, like an Edward Gorey character. It helps bring our audience into our weird alternate universe. Humor is also important. We intersperse our songs with witty banter, very deadpan.”

—j.poet

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Juana Molina: The Gift

On her new LP, Juana Molina goes dark but reaches for the heavens

It’s a good thing that Argentine artist Juana Molina cut her showbiz teeth acting in humorous ’80s/’90s TV shows like La Noticia Rebelde, El Mundo de Antonio Gasalla and her own starring vehicle, Juana y sus Hermanas. Because the singer—who’s just released her seventh album, Halo, after leaving television behind in 1994—is practically living a real- life sitcom. Her daughter Francisca, now 23, has moved out and wants nothing to do with the family business, which dates back to Mo- lina’s high-profile folks, tango singer Horacio Molina and thespian Chunchuna Villafañe.

“And they were terrible parents,” she says. “They only cared about themselves, so I spent my entire childhood with a nanny and only saw them on weekends.”

But the comedic axis on which Molina’s life revolves is Rosa, her ex-husband’s nan- ny, who stayed on after their divorce more than a decade ago. “She’s 84 and refuses to leave, even though I’ve told her to leave 100,000 times,” she sighs. “I told her, ‘I can get you a place close to your family,’ and she said, ‘Who cares about my family? My family is you.’ She doesn’t read or write, and she never wanted to learn.” Rosa lost her par- ents at a young age, so her grandmother put her to work on the family farm. “She was in charge of rabbits and sheep, so she has a completely different idea of the world than we do,” says Molina. “So she’s a very special, different person than you have ever met, but she cooks these delicious meals for me, so it’s a deal.”

The 54-year-old Molina even penned a tune for her housemate called “The Gift,” but it didn’t make the final Halo cut. “It was about all of Rosa’s gifts, and it was silly, like a children’s song,” she says. “Because I think it’s amazing how a person can be like that. And you can’t kick somebody out when it’s someone who really loves you. So we are quite a strange couple.”

And there’s a lot of Rosa’s earthy simplicity—or blissful naivety, even—in the tracks that did make the record, starting with the rubbery, finger-popping rhythm of the opening “Paraguaya,” which gives way to skeletal keyboard tendrils with the faintest bloom of a melody and Spanish-sung lyrics concerning a potion, an invocation and a moon goddess. Molina’s vocals are gentle and whispery, almost conspiratorial, as if they’re a secret she’s confiding. Across eerie, windblown sonic heaths such as “Sin Dones,” (“No At- tributes”), “Estalacticas” (“Stalactites”), the spooky “Lentisimo Halo” (“Little Halo”) and a jittery, exuberant “Cosoco,” her dark imagery includes owls, oracles, burnt offerings and poisoned apples.

What was the keyboardist thinking when she conjured these visions? She’s still not sure. But she has a home studio where she could shut herself off from Rosa and any other distractions to experiment with Halo’s hushed tones, which she eventually perfected at Sonic Ranch studio in Texas. Initially, she only had music with murmuring, no lyrics— the words just wouldn’t come.

“I know that people love songs with lyrics,” she says. “But lyrics to me are just an excuse to be able to sing the song, and they have to be disguised in melody. And there are a few songs without lyrics on this record, anyway.” With “Paraguaya,” she adds, she only had the title at first but then came up with doubt as  its  subject  matter:  “Then  I  totally went somewhere else with it, and I wrote about this woman who put a spell on her boyfriend, and I thought that went well with the title.”

Halo was originally intended to be released last October. But Molina—who had whipped up her 1996 debut disc Rara in two rapid-fire weeks—took her time with it, courtesy of inexpensive home recording. “So when I fi- nally wrote lyrics, it was as if they just flowed through the air,” she says. “It was as if I was using a slingshot to hurl stones at a song, and then the song falls to Earth when you have lyrics.”

What did Rosa think of the finished opus, sans “The Gift”?

“She never really says anything about my music,” says Molina. “Although she came to a couple of shows, saw my band and said, ‘Juana! Those were the same guys that came to the house every day, right?’ Whatever she says will have nothing to do with the music!”

—Tom Lanham

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers: Outlaw Roots

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers bridge the gap between country and punk

A lot has been written recently about the new batch of women burning down the stuffy boardrooms of Nashville country music. They drink, they smoke, they cuss, they tell the boys to fuck off. These same things are being written now about outsider-country band Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, whose new album, Sidelong (Bloodshot), is out now.

Nashville’s hard-living women are finding a home in a kind of throwback country music that references both the genre’s outlaw roots and, somehow, its outsider status. Music journalists have been having a harder time trying to pin down what’s driving this new movement, but Shook doesn’t hesitate to spell it out. When asked about what ties she thinks bind old-school country with a punk spirit, her answer is one word: poverty.

“I think growing up poor cultivates the most authentic and relevant punk and country artists,” says Shook. “There’s a resilience and a kind of glowering pride that comes from growing up without all the opportunities your friends and peers have. You have to rely on yourself for things you can’t get anywhere else, physically, psychologically and emotionally. It makes for some raw, wide-open art.”

Raw may be the perfect way to describe her new album. This is the portrait of the artist crawling herself back from the brink. It’s a brutally honest, terrified and heartbreaking album. There’s a kind of titillation factor that comes into play with hard-partying female artists, a kind of thrill for them playing the bad girl. But that cheap thrill covers up the hard costs of the music and the life, costs that these women have to bear. The road is a harsh companion to any musician, and you can hear this kind of weariness and fear in Shook’s words to “Heal”: “There’s a hole in my heart, ain’t nothin’ here can fill/But I just keeping thinkin’/Surely, the whiskey will.’”

—Devon Ledger

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Mountain Goats: American Goth

The Mountain Goats explore goth culture (including unicorns) on their new album.

It all started with Andrew Eldritch, the lead singer of the Sisters Of Mercy. While on vacation with his wife and two kids, the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle wrote part of a song about the lead singer of the ’80s goth band that told a story of Eldritch returning to his hometown of Leeds only to be met with “indifference.” Darnielle filed it away and for- got about it for several months. One day, in his home office in Durham, N.C., he came across it again. In order to avoid distracting his young son by picking up his guitar, Darnielle began to work on the song on his electric piano. After he wrote another piano-based song, using the same Fender Rhodes setting, he had a flash of inspiration.

“Then  immediately—this  is  the  way  my mind goes—I thought: What if there’s not guitar on the album? And in my gut, down in my spirit, I thought, ‘Oh, yeah! That would be great,’” says Darnielle. “And I immediately thought of some fairly unglamorous things, like, ‘Wow, when we fly to the studio to re- cord the album, I wouldn’t have to take any of my guitars and put them under the plane. I wouldn’t have to pick ones I was going to take. I wouldn’t even have to tune any guitars!’”

The eventual result: Goths, the umpteenth Mountain Goats album, recorded with long- time bassist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster and new full-time member Matt Douglas on woodwinds. Darnielle plays a Fender Rhodes and, on one song, piano (he took lessons as a kid, and his father played jazz piano), but no guitar, which may seem an odd choice for an album about goth bands and goth culture.

Darnielle has written songs about music and musicians before—“The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton,” “Song For Dennis Brown”—without mimicking the music it- self. He likes the friction between form and content—in this case, gently orchestrated, keyboard-based songs about goth bands and the fans who (used to) love them.

“There’s a very mild aesthetic tension about crossing the boundaries, as if you were writing poetry about novels or writing novels about poetry,” he says. “There’s a little bit of chiasmus there that’s interesting; there’s a crossing of streams.” Aside from the glorious New Order bass line that drives the coda of “Shelved,” the period allusions are lyrical rather than musical. Goths is the Mountain Goats’ most spacious record, notwithstanding the appearance of a dramatic 16-member choir on “Rain In Soho.”

Asked how much research he needed to do  in  writing  songs  that  reference bands such as Gene Loves Jezebel, Siouxsie and The Banshees and Bauhaus, and depict fans who obsessively “Wear Black” and claim “I’m hardcore, but I’m not that hardcore,” Darnielle rephrases the question. “Are you asking me was I goth? I kinda was, but as with everything I ever did as far as that kind of engagement, it was up to my hips but not past my chest.   I liked the term ‘death rock’—I thought that was great. Goth is kind  of  weird,  because do goths really want to read Emily Brontë? Maybe. I don’t. I’m sure she’s fine, but the death-rock types were super into 19th century Parisian stuff and surrealism and stuff like that.”

In his “goth/death rock” heyday in the mid- ’80s, Darnielle saw shows by Christian Death, the Sisters Of Mercy, Peter Murphy and the Cure. “The Cure counts for all goths,” he says. “The other thing about the Cure is that they’re so good, they transcend all that. If you can’t get down with the Cure, at least through Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, what is wrong with you?”

Only three of the 12 songs are overtly autobiographical, although Darnielle, who has recently published two acclaimed novels, admits, “There’s a lot of bleeding in and out of self-reference and fiction for me.” One of the autobiographical ones is the enigmatically titled “Unicorn Tolerance.” It tells a story of an existential crisis, of the conflict between the allure of the destructive and lurid and the perhaps more difficult faith in empathy and goodness.

“Along with ‘Wear Black,’ it’s about my time in Portland when I was at my peak goth look,” says Darnielle. “I wore dark sunglasses every- where. It wasn’t really a pose: I was in a pretty intense state of mind, into hard drugs. I was on the cusp of deciding whether I wanted to be a decent person or not. It’s not something you think about every day. It’s the little de- cisions you make: what you’re going to stop doing; what you decide is you. I was taking heroin and speed, intravenously. I was not a person you would recognize if you know my stuff or if you know me from my shows or hav- ing shaken my hand or whatever.

“‘Unicorn Tolerance’ is about how, when I was debating whether to become a death-ob- sessed cynical person, I also still was drawn to unicorns, the gentle unicorn. The unicorn is an image of peacefulness and curiosity and goodness: The unicorn is good. My girlfriend at the time gave me a coffee mug with a uni- corn on it. I had been so into unicorns when I was 11. But 18-year-old me looked at the uni- corn and sort of smirked a bit. ‘I’m more into darker shit now,’ I thought in my head. Then I immediately felt, ‘Do you really want to be the guy looking down his nose at the gentle uni- corn?’ It was a moment for me, which I didn’t resolve at the time. I remained this pretty dis- agreeable dark dude for a time. But eventually there came a time: I side with the unicorn, in the end.”

—Steve Klinge

 

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Imaginary Tricks: Brooklyn Dodger

The artful racket of Imaginary Tricks

Mike Visser calls it his “carpal tunnel routine”: the marathon looping sessions at Brooklyn’s Japam recording and rehearsal space in 2014 that accidentally spawned Imaginary Tricks.

A studio-rat’s nest of cables and keyboards tucked inside a graffiti mural of a building on Starr Street in Bushwick, Japam was, for the transplanted California musician (ex-Frank Jordan), the analogue of a neighborhood gym, and Visser got hooked on free throws.

“I would go there on my days off and just play all day long,” he says. “I didn’t have a band. I had this loop pedal, and there’s a drum kit in there. I was having so much fun that I kept doing it. I’m still doing it.”

Most times, the first thing he laid down was a bass line. Then the fun could begin. “Capo, detune, chord structure—basically make the guitar the bass line’s bitch,” he says, laughing. “Sometimes a song would happen in five minutes. Sometimes … I’m still working on a song.”

One of those early cuts, a tail-eating earworm called “Bird,” entered the world fully formed, a prototype of Visser’s preferred method of spontaneous-combustion songwriting: Abandon all premeditation and you get crimes of passion. Songs started emerging from the noodling in between takes: “What’s that thing? Let me do that over and over and over.”

“Bird” led off his first Imaginary Tricks release, the 2015 EP One Plus Five, and it’s the lead single off his first full-length, Skommel. It’s also the first track captured in Japam (the remainder of One Plus Five is cloaked in the lo-fi light of Visser’s bedroom), thus offering a glimpse of where this riderless horse is galloping.

“When it comes to recording, I am a fucking caveman,” he says, a self-deprecation that, considering the primitive energy that powers these Tricks, is actually quite the compliment.

—Noah Bonaparte Pais

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Laura Marling: Musings On Muses

With Semper Femina, Laura Marling explores what it’s like to be a woman

A conversation with Laura Marling about her work can quickly turn academic, riddled with reading lists and sociological arguments. She’s smart, self-aware, thoughtful and sincere; she laughs often. But Semper Femina, the sixth album from the 27-year-old artist, doesn’t sound like an academic exercise. It’s full of beautiful, complex, artful folk songs: melancholy, conflicted and empathetic. It’s an album about women—the title comes from a line from Virgil’s Aeneid, “Varium et mutabile semper femina,” which translates, roughly, as “Fickle and changeable always is woman.” In Marling’s hands, the line is an endorsement rather than a critique.

Marling was inspired by reading about the relationships of several muses: painters Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst; sculptors Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin; psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. She became interested in “whether being a female muse was inherently subjugating or not,” she says, and chose to explore the question by writing about her own female acquaintances. Of course, she’s aware of an inherent paradox in using these women as her muses for the songs.

“The muses: They were real, with artistic exaggerations,” Marling says of the songs’ characters. “I was experimenting with seeing what would happen if the gaze is mine and I’m not trying to subjugate anyone—I’m not the male gaze and don’t have any ill intent. It’s not like I asked permission of the people I’m writing about. It was liberating but also slightly anxiety-inducing to do that to somebody.”

On her previous LP, 2015’s Short Movie, Marling explored playing electric guitar, but she returns to the acoustic for Semper Femina, and not only because it lacks the masculine associations of an electric. “I’ve had an acoustic guitar on my lap pressed against my chest since I was six years old,” she says. “I missed that resonance, that relationship to it.”

Marling wrote the songs for Semper Femina in 2015 while on tour for Short Movie, but she continued to explore ideas of female creativity, specifically in the music industry, in a 2016 podcast series called Reversal Of The Muse, for which she interviewed artists such as Haim and Dolly Parton and a few of the rare female engineers and producers. But for Semper Femina, she chose a male producer, Blake Mills, known for his work with Fiona Apple and Alabama Shakes.

“What I discovered toward the end of working on the podcast is that I love working with men,” she says. “I wish there were more women around. I wished there was a female engineer around. I wanted a female producer who could do that task, but there’s just not enough. And it’s Blake Mills! It doesn’t get much better than that. After doing the podcast, I helped run an all-female-run-and-operated studio for a week. I was hoping there would be some great revelation that would come out of that. But actually there was no great revelation: Women do it exactly the same way men do, which sort of voided my whole exploration of whether we’re missing some great part of female creativity. There’s just not as much of it.”

—Steve Klinge

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Diet Cig: Thank You For Smoking

After a long gestation, Diet Cig unleashes its debut full-length

Three years ago, nascent guitarist/songwriter Alex Luciano attended a house show in her New Paltz, N.Y., hometown to see indie-rock band Earl Boykins. Luciano stopped them mid-set to ask drummer Noah Bowman if he had a lighter, an off-the-cuff exchange that resulted in the formation of guitar/drums duo Diet Cig.

The pair quickly recorded their first seven-inch and the Over Easy EP with friend Chris Daly in his New Paltz studio, then spent months booking every available show and learning how to play and write together. The payoff for their hard work and diligence is their blistering LP, Swear I’m Good At This, again with Daly, which shows that Diet Cig has retained a raw, garage-stained immediacy while exhibiting amazing growth within its simple yet powerful songs.

“We’ve gotten a little more cohesive musically,” says Luciano. “We’ve learned to write together, and our songs are a little more thought out and intentional. I think we learned to listen to each other’s instruments instead of doing our own thing and hoping it turned into a song.”

For Bowman, drumming behind Luciano wasn’t substantially different from his previous band experiences. It was simply a matter of finding the intersection of their individual directions and turning it into Diet Cig.

“We’re meshing together better,” says Bowman. “I’m playing off her new strengths. My style and Alex’s style have become one thing, and we have a better understanding of who we are and what our sound is after the last year of touring.”

Although the majority of songs on Swear I’m Good At This clock in around two minutes, Luciano increases the melodic classicism in her vocals and the direct expression in her guitar work. That gives Bowman leeway to provide expansive rhythms.

“We had a lot more confidence going into this record,” he says. “On the song ‘Link In Bio,’ I get to stretch out a little bit because she’s stretching out a little bit. It gets a little more fun.”

—Brian Baker

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

Sneaks: Skewed Punk Jazz

With It’s A Myth, Sneaks proves bass is the place

Eva Moolchan, the woman who performs and records as Sneaks, is one of Washington, D.C.’s most unique artists. Her singular musical approach amalgamates the most propulsive elements of punk, rock, dance, hip hop, jazz and free improvisation into dense nuggets of rhythm and melody. Driven by her prodigious bass playing and nonchalant half-sung/half-spoken vocals, she usually appears onstage alone, backed by a small drum machine and her bass guitar.

Moolchan honed her craft playing guitar in local bands, but when she started writing songs, she stripped the music and lyrics down to a refined rhythmic essence—just voice, bass, her skittering programmed backbeats and occasional keyboard accents. As her fingers dance over the frets, she unspools an astonishing variety of tempos and textures, the instrument often sounding more like a lead guitar than a bass. When asked about her approach to the instrument, she says, “Bass is more ja ja. Bass got kick. Bass soothes. Guitar is more trelo, but who knows? I may go back.” Her reply is just as cryptic as the lyrics of her songs.

It’s A Myth, her second album, gives us 10 songs compressed into 19 minutes of melodic mayhem. Everything is minimal, but there’s an impressive demonstration of musical and emotional density in every line. “With A Cherry On Top” sounds like a doo-wop confection with some reggae on the side, “Act Out” rides a driving British new-wave bass line to express anxious alienation, while “DEVO” may be a bubbly homage to de-evolution or not.

“It’s a multicolored circus parade,” she says. “The result of being alive in a time of absolute beauty and friction, as well as a lot of personal stuff—being in a binding relationship. Not being grounded. Going to Mexico. Being alone. Snow.”

—j. poet

Posted in FEATURES | Comments closed

  • FaceBook