It makes sense that Jesse Jerome Jenkins V finds solace in isolation.
As a member of the celebrated Austin band Pure X, Jesse is well-versed in crafting hazy, pining noise pop. But on his debut solo album Hard Sky, Jesse trades the collaborative ethos of his band for a solitary, personal undertaking. It's a record full of songs about loneliness, and creating it was a lonely process, too.
Hoping to grow as an artist, as well as “cope” with the “noise” of the outside world, Jesse decamped to his Corpus Christi studio to lay down tracks between 2014 and 2016. Rather than setting out with a high concept, Hard Sky is a collection of songs that see Jesse coming to terms with (and sometimes shrugging off) heavy concepts like impermanence and loss over a backdrop of Americana guitar licks and pillowy synths. On the surprisingly buoyant “De-pression,” Jesse ponders, “What happens when you lost the time that you had before?” It’s a question that Jesse never really answers, but he still leans in to the beauty of not knowing.
Jesse: I grew up in Northeast Texas in a little town called Emory, which is between Dallas and Texarkana. It’s a town of like 1,000 people—super small.
How do you think where you’re from and how you grew up affected your perspective as an artist?
That’s a good question and actually something I’ve been thinking of recently. I think I’m seeking isolation now because that’s how I coped with things growing up. I was in this tiny town and I really hated it and I wanted to get out of there so bad. Now, I kind of realize that it was a really good place for me to grow up as an artist because it forced me to create my own world and my own fun.
Kill Alters slithers. On "Ego Swim," a cut from their upcoming record No Self Helps via Hausu Mountain, the Brooklyn three-piece shapeshifts across sounds and signifiers, swimming atop squealing synths and slippery drums. As Bonnie Baxter's voice curdles over drummer Hisham Bharoocha's contorting rhythms, Kill Alters tickles the ossified limitations of genre: the hyphenation undergirding the category of noise-rock denatures into tildenation as the tilde (~) seems to wriggle out of the stability of the hyphen (-). Noise-rock, on "Ego Swim," becomes noise~rock—and the relationships between genres get a little trickier, a little more devious. The video that accompanies the bleating track captures the shameless instability at play on "Ego Swim." Fragments of images overlap, converse, and dissolve, depicting decontextualized neon signs, abandoned buildings, and big masks—sometimes all at once. Perhaps the most disturbing splices are the most resonant with the sonics of the track: footage of what appears to be Bonnie Baxter faceswapped with different people and things haunts the video and casts and eerie unrecognizability on the face of the song itself. Disfigured by these ill-fitting faces—from that of a pig to one smeared with makeup—Bonnie Baxter becomes an emblem of the song itself, less uncharacterizable as it is liminal, polymorphous. In its tortorous fluidity, "Ego Swim" isn't a dip into a kiddie pool but a nosedive into a whirlpool.
“Raise the white flag, give in, and let your heart reset,” frontman Dylan McCartney booms in the opening track of Mardou’s debut LP, “Flash,” setting the tone for a record that’s shocking and open in its turns. Post-punk is a term so ubiquitous that it risks backfiring, but Cincinnati’s Mardou are a post-punk band who manage to circumvent any possibility of becoming static. The group, which shares members with loud and hooky punk outfit Vacation, takes this first album as an opportunity to work from many palettes. A good portion of the record sees McCartney’s voice working as a steady, dark force over a whirling scape of basslines that hearken to Christian Death and glistening, coldwave-inspired synth interludes—but there are moments where the mold is cracked open entirely. “Earth” is one of several tracks that spins into darkly existentialist territory, with McCartney reiterating the same lines urgently and earnestly to the point of trance, but the songs that immediately follow are refreshingly sunny. The band mentions having taken some cues from Guided By Voices, and that influence shines through in the grungy, blown-out guitar riffs on “It Happened To Me” and the doubled tenor vocals in glowing album closer “June”. Given Mardou tout the theme of renewal explicitly in so many of their songs—"I died, came back in June"—it's only appropriate they'd undertake to mirror it in this constant turnover of sound. You can hear the LP in full below.
On Tuesday June 6, Elysia Crampton, Moor Mother, and Total Freedom joined forces to play an incredible series of noisy sets—as haunting as they were moving. Erez Avissar was there to capture the aura of the wonderful night.
Earlier this year, Thrill Jockey released Many Waters, a 33-song compilation to benefit the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank in the wake of the flood that swept the area in August of last year. The label enlisted the Baton Rouge, Louisiana doom metal five-piece Thou to help curate the release, which featured local groups from Louisiana alongside experimental metal heavyweights like Old Man Gloom and The Body. After more than a decade of touring, releasing music, and musical community-building in their home state, the band was more than up to the task.
Thou vocalist Bryan Funck in particular has tirelessly supported the Louisiana scene. After starting booking local shows in the mid-’90s, Funck founded the website noladiy.org in 1999, which features an impressively long, constantly updated list of shows, bands, venues, and promoters in southeast Louisiana. We spoke to Funck about the origins and ethos of NOLA DIY, and how some of those impulses filter into Thou’s heavy, metaphysical music—a new offering of which, Magus, is slated for release via Howling Mine, Gilead Media, and Robotic Empire later this year.
Bryan Funck: When [Thrill Jockey founder] Bettina [Richards] heard about the flood down here, she asked if we were interested in doing a benefit. She coordinated with a bunch of metal bands who were friends with Thrill Jockey, and then asked me if there was anybody from New Orleans or Baton Rouge I wanted to add—so I started rounding up all the good New Orleans and Baton Rouge bands that could contribute.
Tether forms deeply complex compositions, melding disparate collections of sound sources into cerebral song structures. Tether is the cassette tape loop-based project of Lauren Pakradooni who has previously released work on labels such as Refulgent Sepulcher, Stenze Quo, and Price Tapes. Her first vinyl release Mirror Finish, coming out on Hot Releases, is a collection of sputtering rhythms, and drifting tones that radiate amongst haunting vocals. The first side of the album is a patchwork of tape collages, a melted assemblage of noisy keyboard drones, and skewered percussion. “HA! To Push/Out of Here/Stuck in What” accumulates into a disjointed cloud of tones evolving into a densely polyrhythmic soundscape. The wavering oscillations billow beneath Tether's voice, the repetition becomes hypnotic, and cathartic. Tape reels squeal, and sound splinters as fragments permeate into realms of obscurity.
AdHoc Issue 20 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link, and look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. If you happen to live outside of New York, you may order a copy as well.
In AdHoc Issue 20, we get to know three musicians who go out of their way to build community whenever they’re not making great music. Bryan Funck, who tours constantly as the vocalist of Louisiana metal band Thou, runs the website NOLA DIY, which collects information on local shows, bands, venues, and promoters, along with resources for bands just starting out. Moor Mother and Eartheater, in conversation, explain the importance of creating music in the face of systemic obstacles like class inequality and gender-based discrimination—and helping others do the same through collaboration and education. Which is to say, for each of these three, being a musician is certainly about releasing plenty of forward-thinking music—but it’s also about using that platform to help others have their voices heard.
AdHoc Issue 20's contributors:
Alexandra Drewchin is a Queens-based musician who records under the Eartheater name. She conversed with Camae Ayewa of Moor Mother for this issue.
Chris Stewart makes and performs synthy anthems under the moniker Black Marble. He composed and shot the cover for this issue.
Samuel Nigrosh is a Chicago-based illustrator who publishes books and comix under the name Trash City. He made the illustrations for this issue.
There's a live video of Aldous Harding performing single "Horizon" at Auckland, NZ's Whammy Bar rock club in 2016. She fidgets and sways on the foreground, pulling at her lip and nursing a menacing stare, delivering lines like "I broke my neck dancing to the edge of the world" with blood-curdling articulation. The performance is downright terrifying in a sort of Lynchian way, the emotion palpable without any context. "That was the gnarliest version," she recounts of the performance. "I'd drunk five cans of Red Bull."
Party, Aldous Harding's 4AD debut, is a meditation of sorts: on love, loss, pain and recreation. The narrative follows a progression that feels kind of akin to molting, with her and the listener emerging after the closing track, "Swell Does The Skull," with new skin—raw and pink with change. Following many festival appearances and a national tour with Deerhunter, American audiences are just getting hip to the New Zealand songwriter—just in time for her to be working on new music, which she says she's been playing at shows lately.
Moor Mother and Eartheater like to keep busy. Moor Mother, whose debut album Fetish Bones came out in 2016, has been touring the globe with her noisey protest music, publishing and lecturing about Afrofuturist and diasporic thought, and organizing events at Community Futures Lab, a Philadelphia multimedia arts and education space she founded with her partner Rasheedah Phillips, the other half of her Black Quantum Futurism collective. Eartheater, real name Alexandra Drewchin, released two acclaimed albums in 2015—Metalepsis and RIP Chrysalis—and has another full-length on the way, all while working as a visual and performance artist, and frequenting local creative hubs like Otion Front Studio in Brooklyn and Outpost Artists Resources in Queens. Both artists contributed to Show Me the Body’s recent CORPUS I mixtape, a collaborative release that aligns with their shared penchants for community-building and genre-bending.
In the following conversation, Moor Mother and Eartheater discuss their tireless work ethic, the artistic scenes around them, and the challenges of being a woman in music.
Prickly and polyrhythmic, Palm's "Shadow Expert" bristles and clangs. On the second track off their eponymous EP and upcoming Carpark debut, the Philadelphia-based four piece tumble even deeper into their bizarro corner of mathy art rock. Its ersatz drum patterns and guitar spikes interlocked in an unstable, impossibly complex lattice, the song seems buoyed only by Eve Albert's airy vocals. It's sharply effervescent and charmingly evanescent.
Before the band's June 23 release show with Palberta, Palm shared an expansive playlist with personal commentary for each track. Parse Palm's vast range of inspiration, from DJ Rashad to Broadcast, below a stream of "Shadow Expert."