Chino Amobi recently tweeted that “the best compliment” he got about Paradiso was that it was “unlistenable.” Paradiso is the latest full-length from the Richmond-based producer and co-founder of NON Worldwide, a record label and resistance movement centering the artistry of musicians from within the African diaspora. The album’s sprawling 20 tracks brim with industrial beats, MIDI horns, and the raw power of his own voice—as well as the sounds and voices of his many collaborators, including Dutch E. Germ, Elysia Crampton, and Moro.
Ahead of Amobi’s live set on July 20 at St. Vitus, AdHoc spoke with the musician and organizer about the liberatory politics of Paradiso, and how difficult music can amplify marginalized voices.
Your new record is incredibly rich—there’s so much going on in every song. Could you talk about the process of composing these tracks?
I just wanted it to be something different, to have a moment where I liberated myself sonically from a lot of the stuff that I hear—[stuff] that people classify as “electronic.” These tracks are in conversation with so many artists, so many people that inspire me. I really wanted to go all over the place—to do things that were not only challenging for myself, but also challenging for the listener. I wanted to construct a narrative that felt cinematic.
That’s kind of the way my mind works, too—I’m inspired by so many different themes within the span of a day or an hour, and I really wanted to respect that thought process. If you look into my work, I don’t really have a style—I do, but I don’t.
Even Buck Gooter's name sounds gristly, vaguely profane, like something illegibly scrawled in a rest stop bathroom. And on 100 Bells, the Goot lives up to its name. From the overblown drum track and overdriven whammy bar shredfest of "Apocalypse Me" to the throbbing and unshaven cowtown karaoke of "I Don't Talk to the Dead," Harrisonburg, Virginia's Billy Brett and Terry Turtle sluice their "primal industrial blues" in "the sediment and grime" they apocalyptically envision in "Dissolved Song." With the intense sparsity and abrasiveness of early no-wave acts, the two have created a cathartic experience whose grinding repetition, howls, and blasting beats feel more akin to amputation than exfoliation. But by the time Buck Gooter stomps out the blues standards of "Fracking Up The Planet," an ecocritical polemic against pollution, garbage, and environmentally destructive governmental policy, Brett's and Turtle's murky process finally solidifies into focus: they play blues as bluesy as it ever was. But instead of floating downstream, lilting into a gentrified tradition, they drag us into the sludge and mud clogging the delta.
Mark McGuire's music kaleidoscopes. From the sparkling kosmische wormholes of his work with now-defunct Emeralds to theguitar latticework of his solo efforts, his output has covered immense sonic ground. But on his newest release on VDSQ, Ideas of Beginnings, the journeyman finally sounds at home. The interlocking strum patterns that texture the record lap gently on the ear, gesturing at a charred and worn personallore imbued within each warble of the guitar. Ahead of his performance on July 27 at Brooklyn's Park Church Co-op, McGuire spoke to AdHoc about the narratives his music explores, the role of guitar-based art in today's musical terrain, and the critical importance of playing from the heart.
The title of this record Ideas of Beginnings seems to signal a return to something primal or even pre-linguistic. What sorts of beginnings do you have in mind?
The title came from a line in Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts about the eternal nature of things, that there was no beginning and there will be no end. That ideas of beginnings only make sense to us because of our notion of linear time. So the music reflects the ideas both inside and outside of time. Kind of like standing outside of yourself looking back upon your life, and at the same time looking up as that inner child that wished for all those things to happen. Eternal beginnings and never-endings.
A lot can happen in 20 minutes and 52 seconds. It's funny, then, that on Shintaro Matsuo's latest 20-minute-and-52-second-release 20:52, very little seems to transpire. Across the 17 stems that quiver along the gossamer dough of the record's surface, Matsuo's burbles unwind and revert, never quite attaining a form or pattern. It's a process of ambient becomings through which Matsuo's fickle melodies trickle, tickling like a presence just before contact, like the air right above a follicle at the end of a goose bump. Glassine shards drift, encased in a sonic orbit whose perihelion teases a touching-down but whose eccentricity imbalances and collapses the approach. And it's a listen that only rewards further digressions into its whorls and helices, one that merits a grappling with metaphor and a necessitates a reconfiguration of the spacial and emotional possibilities of sound: gurling with potentialities and directionalities all nearing audial senescence, 20:52's negotiates the aporia of silence and catalogs brief, aleatory intonations against its suffusive logic. Matsuo nurtures this concrescence, these periphrastic excursions, into a shimmering, incantatory ptyx—but always knows when to snuff it out, quietly, deftly, spectrally.
"Holy Error" is sonic eschatology. The final track off of Sote's Sacred Horror in Design, Iranian composer Ata Ebtekar's latest full-length for Opal Tapes, brutalizes sound—both acoustic and synthesized—into something apocalyptic. Configured as a means of deciphering Ebtekar's "childhood following the 1979 Iranian revolution," "Holy Error" unloads rounds of sub-bass and discharges decaying arpeggiations. A martial thump introduces the piece before screeching setar and shrieking santour begin to bristle. Before long, the song curdles: distinguishable instrumentation dissolves as the tear gas hits and sound is weaponized, reconfigured and deployed as a mechanized toxicity. The collapsing logic of crisis reticulates, territorializing a state of emergency. Anxiety perforates the scene as electronic source engineered at EMS Stockholm becomes quantized, spectralized, hostile. Rubbery solidity ricochets and extends a network of noise, its erratic flows and spikes mapping a brutal topography across its viscid surface. As the apparatus continues to atomize sound into discrete zones of trauma, another aspect of the array emerges. It might be an alarm, but it could be a scream, too. In this postlapsarian moment of collapse, the ambiguity of the noise blurs the sonic signifiers of state-sanctioned violence (siren) with the visceral, human response to the trauma induced therein (scream)—cultivating a vital humanity from within the submission of imperial control. On "Holy Error," Ebtekar disrobes the acceleratory futurism of neoliberal rhythm while amplifying the voice that wails out in protest. Beyond this onslaught, "Holy Error" projects a glimmer of salvation, refracting into an insurrectionary revelation.
"Seams" sweats. That is, Pinact's latest single off their upcoming full-length The Part That Know One Knows possess a distinctly pubescent quality—one evocative of burps and braces, frayed t-shirts and enamel pins. It's raw pop-punk, jittery and slurred at once, tripping over itself as it follows Gillies' sneering tenor, singing of something "splitting at the seams."
Shot in the Glaswegian threepiece's studio, the accompanying video depicts a rowdy performance inspired by Nirvana's legendary Paramount show in which partygoers crowdsurf and mosh, revved by Lewis Reynolds' rumbling drums and Gillies' jagged, high-octane guitar. With its attention to the physical signifiers of pop-punk—from the bandmates' disheveled mops to Gillies' low-slung guitar to the VHS grittiness of the footage itself—the clip discharges the sonic retromania of a teenage era into a bratty physicality, capturing a moment of sounds and gestures and bodies still lingering somewhere in the corporeal memory of the skin.
"Barbapapa" should sound heavy, maybe even unpleasant. But it doesn't: despite the skronk of its mechanized percussion, its spooky minor chord synth stabs, and the diagetic scream that cut across the song's mechanical layers, "Barbapapa" is industrial music at its most infectious, at its most benevolent. Unearthed and reissued by Unseen Worlds, the track is part of a Frühe Jahre, a compilation of experimentalist C-Schulz's early work that showcases the musician's fluency with genres as disparate as noise and modern classical. On "Barbapapa," as drum machines squelch into place, Schulz's tools seem to sway into assembly as he refurbishes the harshness of industrial music into something more akin to the funky bounce of acid jazz. In the swirl of chug and chortle that C-Schulz conjures here, man, machine, and magic meld in a euphoric singularity—one that rewires apocalyptic anxieties and channels its clanking energy into a vision of pure play.
Sam O.B. and Miles Francis purvey a rare sort of pop music, one as whirringly complex as it is delightfully sweet. Though the two New York-based musicians deviate stylistically—Sam O.B.'s atmospheric tropicalia luxuriates in a loungy lavishness, while Francis' off-kilter avant-pop bounces with a syncopated ecstasy—their R&B-inflected sounds both sashay with a catchy confidence. Ahead of their performances on July 15 at Sunnyvale, the two like-minded artists took a moment to remix each other's biggest songs for us here at AdHoc and talk through their respective processes. We are really psyched to premiere their remixes, a playlist of all the tracks included can be found here.
Sam O.B.: What was the inspiration behind "You're A Star" (specifically lyrically)?
Miles Francis: The music came first with "You're a Star": I recorded the tom-toms for 4 minutes straight and built the song on top of it. The lyrics are sung from two angles: encouraged and pessimistic. I tried to articulate the crazy balancing act of being an artist right now. We commit our lives to music, but we also commit to getting our art out there no matter what, to working every day to become more established and well-known—all while retaining the genuine inspiration and motivation to create our songs in the first place. When the moment comes that you are "chosen," and the light is shining on you, you better be ready for it—because it turns out that every next step opens up a hundred more steps after it. All of this is to say: keep your head down and keep going, you're a star no matter what. That's the encouraging side of the song. If you focus so much on where you stand, where you're going, and seeking fleeting validation, it completely takes you away from what you're doing. That's where I wrote the song from, and the circular opening sentence inspired the rest of the lyrics: "All the things that I want to do with me hold back from doing the things I wanna do."
The Euglossine Bee is an insect whose burnished exoskeleton glints. Flitting in and out of their erratic pollination patterns, the bees adorn flora like jewelry, gilded and opalescent. Rather than collecting nectar from the orchids they visit, male Euglossine Bees instead apply pollen as a cologne, extending their opulence to the realm of the olfactory. Gainesville, Florida-based musician Tristan Whitehill, better known as Euglossine, makes music just as bedazzled as the homonymous hymenoptera. On Sharp Time, his latest record for Orange Milk, Whitehill further lavishes plush synth sounds and pathways, ladling redolent hums and stabs into viscous forms too slippery to crystallize. Perhaps most emblematic of Euglossine's indulgent meanderings and becomings, "Phenomenological Manifold" stages the insectile flutterings and shimmerings across its generous 13-minute runtime. Bedizened with plodding lounge guitar and trickling arpeggiation, the track offers a winding, multifaceted experience across sensations—the very manifold encounters with twinkling and resplendent phenomena that the song's title promises. Glossy and thick, Euglossine's sonics transmute into perfume, fragrant with luxury and luster fit for the ostentatious bees of the same name.
Euglossine's syrupy Sharp Time touches down on July 21 via Orange Milk.
Oliver Kalb has been making music under the name Bellows since 2011. He released Bellows' first album, the understated indie-folk-pop masterwork, As If To Say I Hate Daylight, while attending Bard College in 2011. That release, as well as 2014's Blue Breath—an album recorded while in search for a place to call home after graduating—established Kalb's skill as a lyricist and as an arranger. His most recent release, last year's Fist and Palm, is Bellows at its best, channeling new electronic influences into Kalb's intimate acoustics. Never one to shy away from self-criticism (as is perhaps most evident on Fist and Palm) it is no surprise that Kalb was willing to reveal his five favorite and five least favorite tracks of the many he has penned in Bellows' six-year history. Read on for Kalb's own thoughts on the process, and be sure to grab tickets to Bellows' July 15 show at Baby's All Right.
Oliver Kalb: I’ve been writing and self-recording music as Bellows for the last seven years. Recording is a pretty intense and life-consuming black hole process for me. When I’m recording an album, I listen to each of the songs obsessively, trying to iron out all the lyrical flaws and dips of the production, bouncing new mixes and walking around alone trying to imagine how each song can expand and develop in its recorded world. Sometimes this makes for really cool experiments, and songs I feel really proud of — when a lot of work goes into a song and it pays off, it’s cool to listen back years later, and hear the product of long periods of intense anxiety and labor live and breathe in a finished state. But other times, when I listen back to my own records, I’ll shudder at certain tracks. There are some songs I’ve released that I just totally hate, songs that make me feel really embarrassed when I hear them.
In the myopic world of self-recording, sometimes flaws that would be really obvious to someone listening with an untrained ear won’t be apparent to the actual person making the music. It’s very easy to get tunnel-vision when you’re working on an album, and think you’ve stumbled upon a really interesting and weird experiment, that to anyone else listening just sounds like a bunch of convoluted nonsense. I can hear some of my own songs, in hindsight, as really ugly kinks that might’ve been ironed out if I’d given myself some distance from the project. Years down the line from some of the records I’ve made, I’m able to see a little more clearly which experiments were successful and which were just kind of bad or confusing ideas, in need of an editor. So I decided to use this spot to explore what I think are my 5 best songs, and why I still respond to them after so many years, and then also what I think are my 5 worst songs, and why they’re bad, or at least why I don’t consider them good vehicles for conveying the ideas or feelings I hoped they would.