Action Figures Drop Gnarly Noise Collage "Hangover"

Action Figures Drop Gnarly Noise Collage

In 2015, Ari Finkel and Adrian Mojica, who compose tracks as Dali Vision and Ace Mo respectively, combined forces and released their debut self-titled EP under the moniker Action Figures. Rooted in jazz-like levels of improvisation and unique sampling techniques such as running weird VHS movie snippets through a pedal board, this creative outlet offered these artists an opportunity to release some warped, consuming assemblages out into the world. Now, more than a year later, the duo is gearing up to drop their second EP for Bootleg Tapes called Anomia. On the standout lead cut “Hangover”, Action Figures continue to refine their uniquely gnarly, atmospheric sound. A soft fuzz incessantly murmurs throughout, as menacing percussive samples and distorted electronic elements warble on top of each other. The track forces the listener into an introspective state through its layered subtleties and inventive manipulation of borrowed sounds. With their minimalistic pastiche approach to production, Action Figures are able to take unassuming sonic sources and stitch them together to create a new, provoking narrative.

Anomia comes out soon on Bootleg Tapes.

Fear of Men Made Us a Gloomy British Playlist

Fear of Men Made Us a Gloomy British Playlist

Fear of Men, from Brighton, England, have spent the past month touring the US in support of Mitski. Before this stretch ends, the dream pop outfit will headline Baby's All Right on Sunday night, supported by both Toronto's Weaves and local bedroom pop breakout Yohuna. Ahead of this night, the band curated a playlist entitled British Miserabilsm, a hauntingly accurate title given the current state of both Britain and the US's political climates. Read what the band has to say below.

 

British Miserabilism: 1979-1989

The 1980’s was a bleak decade for the UK, blighted by a Thatcher government that greeted it and ushered it out. Preceded by ‘The Winter of Discontent’, a period of national strikes from 1978-79 which saw refuse left on the streets, blockades on hospitals, and bodies unburied, the country slipped into economic recession in 1980 and by 1982 unemployment had reached it’s highest figure for 50 years. By 1986 it hadn’t got much better, resulting in widespread rioting in 1986. It was against this backdrop that the bands forming in art schools across the country were making music, and a new expression of British miserabilism was formed, a nihilist post-punk movement with a set of aesthetic principles that would be adopted by artists throughout the decade and beyond.

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Visible Cloaks Preview Upcoming LP with a Mind-Bending Video

Visible Cloaks Preview Upcoming LP with a Mind-Bending Video

Portland’s Visible Cloaks have shared a neat little preview of their upcoming album Reassemblage: artist Brenna Murphy's video for “Terrazzo.” Concocted with the help of producer Joe Williams (Motion Graphics), the music recalls breezy, minimalist Japanese ambient-pop that Spencer Doran, half of Visible Cloaks, has been showcasing on his Fairlights, Mallets, and Bamboo mixtape series. However, the song’s arrangement (replete with Casio woodwind imitators) and the gaudy video bring it back to the James Ferraro and Oneohtrix Point Never-shaped world of retro-digital classicism. Experiencing “Terrazzo” audio-visually is like walking through a Second Life version of the Sistine Chapel, curiously deployed on a beach in a Middle Eastern state.

Reassemblage comes out February 17 on RVNG Intl. Spencer Doran is also about to release a limited-edition mixtape of “choral music from the Eastern Bloc, Italian spiritual minimalism, and early software-based generative music experiments,” titled Translations.

Sean McCann Mixes Musical and Conceptual Art in "Video Singing Score No.3"

Sean McCann Mixes Musical and Conceptual Art in

Los Angeles-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Sean McCann is working on something big—as if he's trying to redesign music from scratch, using classical music methods as a foundation. His upcoming double LP, entitled Music for Public Ensemble, is built around a fascinating conceptual framework, spanning a wide array of aesthetic and conceptual ideas, many of them outside the field of music. One of such ideas realized on the album is the "Video Singing Scores," in which the vocalists sing words being shown on the screen in different colors, whereby each color (or hue) dictates a different pitch. But this is just a tip of an iceberg: concept-wise, this album, made together with McCann's numerous friends (Ian William Craig, Andrew Chalk, Graham Lambkin, Cameron Stallones, and many, many more) is truly a mine of ideas—a lot of which take the lyrics from McCann's book Pacificsthat itself blurs the line between poetry and prose.

Music for Public Ensemble is out November 11 on Recital.

Stream Fresh Snow's Frenetic New Video "I Can't Die"

Stream Fresh Snow's Frenetic New Video Photo by Yosh Cooper

Since Toronto-bred four-piece Fresh Snow first started making improvisational drone and noise together in 2010, the instrumental krautrockers have shared stages with a sundry slew of notable acts—Atlas Sound, Tim Hecker, and Ratking to name a few. “Fresh Snow hates eardrums,” the band state on their Facebook page. Distorted guitar riffs paired with phantasmal organ melodies rip through the beginning of their single, “I Can’t Die,” off their latest record, ONE; the video is accompanied by frenetic visuals provided by Benjamin Portas. Hands and eyes whirl in surreal and vibrant landscapes until the song becomes centered around a slow bass line. The video has the same addictive and hypnotic effect of that Windows 95 screensaver maze. As geometric shapes pass through one another, it’s easy to let your mind sink into a meditative trance. "It's constructed spaces and realities in digital purgatory,” director Benjamin Portas told AdHoc via email. “I made up that world as a response to 'I Can't Die.'"

ONE is out now on Hand Drawn Dracula

 

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The Simplicity of Rock & Roll: an Interview with Rhys Chatham

The Simplicity of Rock & Roll: an Interview with Rhys Chatham Illustration by Leesh Adamerovich

This article appears in AdHoc Issue 15, a collaboration with The Talkhouse. You can pick up a copy at AdHoc shows around NYC. If you'd like to order a copy, you can do so here for a physical edition; you can download the PDF here.

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Rhys Chatham had already made a mark on New York’s avant-garde music scene by the age of 20. The precocious composer and instrumentalist had studied with Morton Subotnick, played alongside La Monte Young and Tony Conrad, tuned harpsichords for Glenn Gould, and become the first music director of iconic experimental performance space The Kitchen. But in 1977, at the age of 25, Chatham was inspired by New York’s burgeoning punk scene to compose Guitar Trio, a minimal piece scored for electric guitars and drums. Guitar Trio represented an important bridge between downtown New York’s fertile avant-garde and punk rock environments; per Chatham himself, it was the moment that he found his voice as a composer.

Chatham has spent the ensuing decades expanding the boundaries of rock and art music, culminating most recently in two very different-sounding LPs: the meditative Pythagorean Dream and a collaboration with free-rock band Oneida called What’s Your Sign?. For this issue of AdHoc, Simon Hanes—the leader of Boston-based experimental lounge outfit Tredici Bacci—grilled Chatham on the role of composition and improvisation in his work, and the sometimes very gossamer line between them. Tredici Bacci opens for Chatham, who will be collaborating with Oneida on November 12 at the Park Church Co-op in Brooklyn.

Simon Hanes: I read an interview of yours where you talk about the relationship between composition and improvisation—about how you see them as existing on a kind of continuum.

Rhys Chatham: I don’t make any difference between them; they’re just two different approaches to composition. That said, there’s some music that you absolutely have to notate, and there’s some music that would be crazy to notate. “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane could be notated—and it has been transcribed—but it’s much more fun playing over Coltrane changes, and it’s much more interesting for people to do so. Using my own work as an example, Guitar Trio, which is played by up to 10 musicians—it would lose something if I notated it. It was a piece that was meant to be played by rock musicians in a rock context. And the whole approach was that I play a rhythm, and people are asked to make a counterpoint to that rhythm that works with the backbeat the drummer is doing.

One time we did a piece for 100 guitars—back in maybe 2005. We did it in Paris at the Sacré-Cœur. (It was for ostensibly 400 guitars, but we didn’t have that many.) The idea was to just be able to surround the audience with electric guitars. I did it the way I normally did: the guitarists all knew the piece, and I said, “Here, I’m playing this, and you make up your thing.” What happened is, the first time we did it, the sound was really confused. It didn’t sound that good. Later on, I played a concert in Montreal with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. We had a total of 12 guitars on stage, and I noticed that, after 10 guitars, the sound got a little confused.

So I realized that in terms of improvising, my limit is no more than 10 guitars. I made a new piece called A Secret Rose recently, which is for 100 electric guitars, plus bass and drums. One of the movements is a version of Guitar Trio, but I notated a series of riffs. There were three section leaders, and I had each of them improvise in the sense that each of the section leaders would point to a riff, and then their section of 33 guitars would play it. It was a case where it had to be notated, or else the sound would’ve been confused. A lot of my compositions use elements of improvisation. It’s rare that I play free, although I like free a lot.

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Stream Leo Svirsky's Spacious New Album, Heights in Depths

Stream Leo Svirsky's Spacious New Album, Heights in Depths

If a tree falls in the forest... what do the surrounding conditions do to the sound? This question peppers Heights in Depths, a new album by the Hague-based composer Leo Svirsky. The title piece, which comprises the entire A-side, realizes its name by hitting great heights with regards to frequency; the B-side, "Depths in Heights," appropriately spreads out and expands thanks to its effective use of accordion. Each piece provides a collection of sounds that help listeners locate themselves and interrogate how everything—sound, bodies, heights, depths, memories, perceptions—mingle, and in what order. Using a reduced sonic palette, Heights in Depths is nevertheless able to powerfully test the limits of its environment and create a defiantly present listening experience.

Heights and Depths is out November 11 on Catch Wave Ltd.

Shirley Collins Returns: "I Just Love This Music So Much"

Shirley Collins Returns:

Shirley Collins, English folk luminary, has been amassing a repertoire of traditional songs since her childhood in 1940s Sussex, England, a period she associates with being sung to by her grandparents during frequent stints in air raid shelters. As she matured, her interest in folk eventually led her to the American Deep South, a trip which resulted in the much celebrated collection Sounds of the South. As moving and inspiring as that trip proved to be, Collins’s heart was in her motherland, England, where she returned, continuing to collect songs in the English tradition, and creating such seminal works as 1959's Sweet England and 1969's Anthems in Eden, a collaborative record with her sister Dolly. Shirley’s career took a decidedly negative turn, however, in 1978, when she began developing dysphonia. She lost her ability to sing, and retreated from both the stage and the studio. That is, until one David Michael Bunting, known to many as Current 93’s David Tibet, phoned her up, asking to meet for what, in hindsight, was a surely fortuitous exchange.

Fast-forward through the '90s and early 2000s: after a few contributions to Current 93 records and a number of foregone invitations to perform, Collins appeared on stage for the first time in 2014 at Union Chapel, opening for Current 93. But why stop at one performance? Following the concert, and bolstered by the positive reactions, Shirley “wanted to give it one more go” and record a new album. She picked an assortment of personally important songs that would eventually become that album, Lodestar, out last week on Domino. Across the record’s ten evocative tracks, Collins reveals herself as enraptured by traditional music as ever, showing off a resplendent selection of penitent songs, murder ballads, may carols, and more, a nod to her excellent power of curation. It’s a powerful, profound release—a much-needed reminder of the power of personal contact and lineage in the digital age, and a much-needed reminder of how the oldest and most authentic songs are sung out of pride and necessity, in addition to enjoyment. We spoke to Collins about collecting and interpolating folk songs, and getting back into the studio.

AdHoc: You’ve been hearing or collecting folk songs since you were very young. How did you decide which songs to sing on Lodestar? Were they new songs for you?

Shirley Collins: Oh! They just presented themselves, really. I’ve got so many songs in my head, but there are some that really stick with you, ones I’ve regretted not recording before. There were a couple of new ones that came in as well that wanted to be sung, so I sang them. The most likable one for me was the Cajun song “Sur le Borde de l’Eau.” I love Cajun music’s rhythms and its independence—it stayed itself. Once I heard this early 1920s recording of Blind Uncle Gaspard, a Louisiana singer, I fell in love with the song. We went ahead and did it, but that’s very unusual for me, because I mostly sing songs from the English tradition. It’s been my life’s work listening to as much as I can. Working with Alan Lomax in America was incredible, but back in England there were collectors too who were working throughout the country, noting down songs. That tradition had gone back as far as the mid nineteenth century when collectors just wrote down songs. Once the tape machine was created, the BBC sent out people in the 1950s to record and collect what were left in the countryside. Things changed so much with the proliferation of record players, radio, television, and pop music. It swamped a lot of the tradition. I understand why, but I never quite saw why you’d give up your beautiful tradition for something with built-in obsolescence, if you judge pop music that way [laughs].

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TCB are a Reminder of Chicago's Free Jazz History

TCB are a Reminder of Chicago's Free Jazz History

On TCB’s self-titled debut, the Chicago trio reverberates with a languid cacophony over the course of four long-form improvised compositions that add up to a ninety-six-minute listen. The group, composed of Adam Tramposh, Carlos Chavarria, and Ben Billington, is resplendent in Chicago experimental music stalwarts. While a ninety-six-minute record of anything could be, well, pushing it, TCB’s refined curation manages to capture the listener’s attention throughout. The release affords freakouts galore, but most shocking are the moments of stark, minimalist beauty, like the beginning of the fourth piece. It’s a reminder of the variety you might see at a basement in the city: punk rockers playing with jazz cats and noise heads. It’s a wonderful artistic ecosystem.

TCB is out November 4 on 1980 Records.

Body/Head's Bill Nace on Improvisation: “You’re always bound to something when you're playing.”

Body/Head's Bill Nace on Improvisation: “You’re always bound to something when you're playing.” Illustration by Leesh Adamerovich

This article appears in AdHoc Issue 15, a collaboration with The Talkhouse. You can pick up a copy at AdHoc shows around NYC. If you'd like to order a copy, you can do so here for a physical edition; you can download the PDF here.

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Bill Nace is something of an enigma. A fantastic guitarist, improviser, and visual artist, the Western Massachusetts and Los Angeles-based musician seems to have pulled off the rarest of hat tricks: achieving global notoriety in and beyond his field while making some of the most difficult and challenging music around. The guy doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, but he’s spent the last decade touring basements and festivals around the globe, helming a prolific record label called Open Mouth Records, making countless collages and drawings, and collaborating with some of the biggest heads in the free music game, including Yoko Ono, Chris Corsano, Paul Flaherty, Thurston Moore, and, more recently, his Body/Head accomplice Kim Gordon. And he’s done it all without gimmicks, shameless self-promotion, or really any shtick whatsoever.

No Waves, the new Body/Head LP, is out this November on Matador Records. The record was edited out of a live set they played at Big Ears Festival in Tennessee a few years ago; each of the album’s three tracks is longer than the last, with the LP culminating in the epic, 23-minute “Abstract/Actress.” Throughout, we hear their guitars running, jumping, dodging, and weaving around each other; the musicians stay on an uncomfortable texture just a little longer than you’d like, and then flip the whole thing on its head. According to Bill, he and Kim never talk about what they’re going to play before a set; they just go out and rip. And that’s the secret of Bill's enigma: the guy just RIPS. All the time. In his damn sleep. He’s really nice, too.

We spoke on the phone the other day about improvisation, running an independent label, and the challenges and unforeseen upsides of bringing free and improvised music to a mainstream audience. (Note: Nace also made the art for Issue 15's cover, pictured below.)

AdHoc: When did you start playing free music?

Bill Nace: I was in some bands in high school and in my early twenties that were a bit more of a traditional band configuration: two guitars, bass, drums. I played bass in all of those. But those bands had an element of improvisation involved, whether it was a process used to generate ideas for parts for songs or [meant] to stand on its own. So the transition was pretty natural. I had always gravitated toward those parts anyway, so it was just kind of focusing more on that aspect of it. I’d say that I was around 23, 24, when I really started to work explicitly with improvising and trying to figure out what that was for me.

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