Connie Converse: How Sad, How Lovely

Connie Converse: How Sad, How Lovely

In 1974 Ann Arbor resident Connie Converse wrote a series of goodbye letters to friends and family in, packed her things into a Volkswagen and disappeared-- or so the story goes. Before relocating to Ann Arbor, Converse had decided to make a go of it as a musician in New York City, where she wrote playful and plaintive folk songs that stood up next to those of her contemporaries. Whether she's breezing through multiple tempo changes on "Talkin' Like You (Two Tall Mountains)" or enticing you to join her in the dark on "One by One," Converse's singular voice lets the subtle intellect shine through. Ultimately, her music never reached as many ears as deserved. Squirrel Thing and Omnian Music Group intend to change that with a vinyl reissue of Converse's How Sad, How Lovely, which Squirrel Thing originally released in 2009 as a CD. The album will feature gatefold packaging, and liner notes by David Herman and Dan Dzula of Squirrel Thing, as well as Gene Deitch and Connie's late brother Phil. "I Have Considered the Lilies," a previously digital-only track, will also be included. 

How Sad, How Lovely is out March 17 on Squirrel Thing Recordings.

Tzusing: "Frankincense and Myrhh"


Ron Morelli's L.I.E.S. label has become an international gathering place for producers of gritty, minimalist techno and house, from the virtually unknown to genre pioneers. To Westerners, Shanghai's Tzusing will probably fall into the former category. In his city of residence, however, the Malaysian-born producer is a promoter, DJ, and founder of the popular party Stockholm Syndrome, a semi-regular club night with enough local support to compete with a Levon Vincent show. “Frankincense and Myrhh,” the first single from A Name Out Of Place Pt. II, the second EP in a planned trilogy for the New York dance institution, is riotous, pounding industrial techno. Anger forms the heart of the track's contorted mechanical soundscape, in line with Stockholm Syndrome's unofficial slogan, “sonic explorations for internal conflict."

A Name Out Of Place Pt. II is out in February on L.I.E.S.

Best Available Technology: "EMPIREVN"

Best Available Technology:

Kevin Palmer certainly doesn't like to make it easy on you. For starters, his work as Best Available Technology has shacked up a little bit of everywhere, skipping from free-for-all imprints like Styles Upon Styles to Working. A solid (and legal) point of entry might as well be here. Secondly, his sound-- equal parts Hound Scales, Excepter, and Cabaret Voltaire-- is a patient exercise in dancefloor dread that's under the threat of sabotage from within, even when Palmer's got a heavy grasp of control over his usual palpating dissonance. His latest release for Opal is entitled Form and Void and is a smoker from cover to cover. On the penultimate track, the hefty 13-minute "EMPIREVN," things reach their mightiest potential. "EMPIREVN" matches up stupendously to his previous work, pulling all the nastiest bits from Void and November's Neon Razor Chain-- a standout EP on left_blank-- and letting them fight for territory, with the form of the track only being a loose framework containing all the sounds the tunesmith has unveiled. Best Available Technology has never been a project in stasis: Palmer resets the rules of his own tune multiple times before it finally screeches to a halt.

Form and Void is out now on Opal Tapes.

"Putting out this work is like climbing a mountain:" An Interview with Matana Roberts

Matana Roberts' artistic practice exists at the intersection of various established traditions without expressing slavish devotion to any particular musical lineage. She plays saxophone and has been classified as a jazz artist, but she is also signed to Montreal-based Constellation Records; a label renowned for their association with post-rock juggernaut Godspeed! You Black Emperor, but increasingly a haven for uncompromising artist-driven projects whose only stylistic affinity is a relentless desire to push the boundaries of genre. She is a Chicago native, cutting her teeth in that city’s illustrious improvisation scene, and although she has called New York City home for over a decade, she shies away from the endless self-promotion that many of the city’s creative types use for their careers. Roberts maybe an avid Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr user, but she resides on a boat in Sheepshead Bay, far away from the more happening enclaves of Manhattan and North Brooklyn.  Following the release of COIN COIN Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile in 2013, Matana's career entered a new phase of visibility and cultural impact in 2014, when she received the Herb Alpert Award and the Doris Duke Impact Award.
The stage was set for Robert’s most ambitious COIN COIN release to date, COIN COIN Chapter Three: river run thee is the latest installment of a twelve-part series, and the first solo chapter after two previous ensemble-based chapters. The conceptual background of river run thee incorporates a sojourn through the American South, the discovery of a 200-year-old ship captain’s diary, and seamlessely layered graphic scores, spoken word and live overdubs. In the hands of a lesser artist, these disparate elements might result in a confounding cacophony or simply a well-intentioned but over-ambitious "difficult album," but Roberts grounds river run thee in the human and the narrative, weaving her voice and a variety of melodies through the "panoramic sound quilting" that distinguishes her work. river run thee is another work of visceral sonic power and staggering depth from one of the continent’s most profound experimentalists (her term). AdHoc spoke with Matana by telephone while she endured a typically frigid January afternoon on her boat.
COIN COIN Chapter Three: river run thee is released Tuesday, February 3 on Constellation records. Matana Roberts plays a record-release show at Union Pool with Rain Machine and Ryan Sawyer/Nate Wooley/C.Spencer Yeh trio that night.
How did you end up living on a boat in Brooklyn?
I moved here in October. I spend a lot of time on the waterways, away from music. I kayak and surf and learned how to paddleboard through some free programming that happens on the Hudson. I got really into the water community in New York City, and you get into this thing where you start geeking out about water craft. I woke up one day last year and I was like “OK, I wanna get my Skipper’s License,” not knowing that many months later I would move onto a boat. There’s a boatel community in Queens, and I was curious what people were doing out there. One late night I just decided to look for a boat for rent. I’ve always wanted to live on a boat and it just so happened this whole last year I’ve been spending dealing with this Ship Captain’s diary and getting better at being out on the water myself. Being a New Yorker, it’s just hard to do stuff. So I thought living on the boat would also give me a chance to combine some things that I’m really into, and live in a way that is more reflective of my core values of caring about the environment and looking at the direct impact that I have as a human.
I’ve always tried to live in a way so that I go toward the things that happen, not navigate them.. When I started working on this record I had no idea that it would end with me being finished with the record and then a month later moving on to a boat. I couldn’t plan that if I tried!
I was living in Harlem and it was not a very positive space and I had to get going. Originally I was looking into the Rockaways but I’m still in Brooklyn. I’m in Sheepshead Bay, on the bottom [of the borough]! It’s far, but Brooklyn is so popular now and I wanted to get an experience of what Old Brooklyn is like. I love it, but I also feel like I'm in a foreign country because it’s a cinematic version of a Brooklyn I’ve never known. There are just so many things that I’m learning every day about this city that I thought I knew that I didn’t know.
Read More

The Playful John Carpenter and His Lost Themes

The Playful John Carpenter and His Lost Themes

This is an excerpt of an article from AdHoc Issue 4. Purchase this issue or a subscription.

It may come as a surprise to learn that Lost Themes is John Carpenter’s first studio album, but his musical output heretofore has been comprised of the scores to nearly every film he’s made throughout his career. Conceived as a set of music for nonexistent movies, Lost Themes invites the listener to imagine the scenes that these tracks might accompany. Very much in line with Carpenter’s soundtrack work, Lost Themes is dark, tense, grooving, and a little ridiculous, thanks to a combination of moody minimalism and proggy bombast. The album uses a similar vocabulary of sounds as his earlier work—brooding, martial synth arpeggios, heavily processed guitars, and reverberant percussion. It doesn’t quite sound dated, but it certainly doesn’t sound like something that would be made today. It is quintessentially John Carpenter. The music, much like his films, reflects an undeniably infectious aesthetic: Carpenter’s best work straddles the boundary between unnerving creepiness and outright goofiness.

Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween was a watershed moment for horror, helping codify the tropes that would come to define the slasher movie genre of the ’80s. Halloween is as scary and salacious as it is riotously fun, but it also has a certain artfulness. Despite its limited budget and short production time, Halloween is rife with Carpenter’s technical mastery. His careful attention to the film craft is clear throughout, from his use of a steadicam and first-person perspective shots to his careful avoidance of placing the violence in direct view of the camera. Nowhere is his aptitude more immediate than in the first scene, when an unbroken tracking shot lets us view the world from the perspective of a young Michael Myers as he creeps from outside his quiet suburban home and into the scene of his first murder.

Read More

Stefan Jós: "Inside Voices"

Stefan Jós:

If techno is supposed to sound like music made by robots, then “Inside Voices” from Montreal producer Stefan Jós, a.k.a. Devon Hansen, has the robots pretending to be a bunch of ghosts clattering around in your kitchen at night. Released ahead of Hansen’s forthcoming 12’’ for nascent Tokyo label raum (a sister imprint of the better-known flau), the song puts a biotic, musique-concrète bent on  a Villalobosian minimal aesthetic; it employs a techno vocabulary to create the kind of aloof-but-cozy, real-world mood normally associated with the subgenre of micro-house.  At the same time, Stefan Jós’s attention to detail is truly awe-inspiring: from pulsating icebox instrumentation and eerie samples that are insanely hard to pin down to creative use of dynamics in the mix, the producer’s prowess with texture leaves a stunning impression. But it’s not like we wouldn’t expect that from the guy that, under the moniker lotide, gave us this beauty

Stefan Jós's upcoming 12'', Things You Left Behind, is out February 25 on raum. You can pre-order it here.

Alex Craig: Hi-Tech AOR Mix

Alex Craig: Hi-Tech AOR Mix

Alex Craig plays guitar for Ducktails and Big Troubles, and also just dropped an EP as Limited, his solo electronic project. He made us a playlist of rock songs from the '80s, shedding light on some deep cuts from a frequently-maligned decade. Below, Craig explains what this niche style means to him.  

My introduction to hi-tech AOR was a YouTube playlist made by a user named "CutlikeAZOR," called "Beyond Pop: The Hi-Tech AOR Legacy." I'd never seen the prefix of "hi-tech" stuck in front of the AOR tag. AOR is an acronym for "album oriented rock"-- basically synonymous with soft-rock. I did a google search for "Hi Tech AOR" but not much else really came up, which lead me to realize that it's predominantly a YouTube-specific term for a community of video uploaders and AOR fans.

The "hi-tech" part of it made sense though-- the playlist was all big 80's guitar anthems that heavily used technology which was considered "state-of-the-art" for mid-80s production. Those elements include lots of metallic sounding MIDI bass programming, twinkly Yamaha DX-7 synths, huge gated reverbs on drums and other over the top, flashy touches. The AOR community of YouTubers seem to use the "hi-tech" label to distinguish this stuff from other AOR variants they also upload, like "AOR Melodic" and "AOR Lite," which employ less of the flashy electronic stuff and focus more on softer ballad-type material.

Read More

Lucky Dragons: "Inside"

Lucky Dragons:

Seekers of The Zone, take heed: Lucky Dragons’ and Seabat’s score for Special Effect, Peter Burr’s project based on Andrei Tarkofsky’s Stalker, is seeing release. Special Effect featured a collection of experimental shorts inspired by Tarkovsky’s film (in which The Writer and The Professor are led by The Stalker into The Zone, an area of great danger and metaphysical possibility created by some unnamed cataclysm). The LP is the first from Vestibule Records, a new imprint from Seabat’s John Also Bennett. Side A features Bennett and his Seabat collaborator Forest Christenson going deep with the sinister synth atmospherics, while side B features Lucky Dragons in a somewhat restrained mode, building a slowly-evolving lattice of vocal samples. The Lucky Dragons side sounds like Zoolook-era Jean Michel Jarre recreating Reich’s “Six Pianos” on his Fairlight CMI.

Special Effect is available now via Vestibule’s Bandcamp.

AdHoc Issue 4 Is Here

AdHoc Issue 4 Is Here

We are very excited to announce the newest issue of our digital zine, featuring a previously unpublished essay by Brian Eno and articles on John Carpenter's Lost Themes, D'Angelo's revelations about social movements of today and yesterday, safe spaces in hardcore punk and DIY, Form A Log, and the Fantastic Planet original sountrack. Throughout the issue, Keith Rankin reviews his old visual art. 

Buy Issue 4 for a dollar or subscribe.

We are standing at the edge of something, but what? Last year was one of widespread protest in America, be it by outraged citizens rallying in the names of Mike Brown and Eric Garner or fast food workers striking in the name of a living wage. Such are reactions to our country’s increasingly bellicose approach to law enforcement and a so-called “economic recovery” that leaves our country’s lower and middle classes in the dust. Scarred by George W. Bush’s antagonism against his populace and Obama’s first-term tepidity, we millennials seem to be growing more aware of our collective voice by the day, of an imperative to actualize a better society. What will that society be? Well, time will tell.

D’Angelo released a new album at the end of last year, striking a chord with his socially conscious-- also furious, articulate-- throwback R&B. In this issue’s close-up on Black Messiah, Julia Selinger keenly links the record to black protest music made in similarly tumultuous historical moments, drawing a line from the Vietnam War era to today. It is crucial to keep in mind, though, that while both the Vietnam-era and present-day America are marked equally by corruption and oppression, it’s hard to look to the earlier era for blueprints for positive social change or metrics of successful progressive revolution.

After all, the longest lasting revolution in the post-Vietnam era is a socially conservative, economically neoliberal one, initially led by Ronald Reagan. Watch Paul Thomas Anderson’s stellar Inherent Vice for a look at the late Vietnam era: a time that little resembles our own either visually or tonally, short of ravenous chiefing. In Inherent Vice, a dream is dying, idealism is diffusing. Yet Black Messiah is marked by a pragmatism—an attitude that is equal parts “can do” and “how to”—and hopefully it is this very pragmatism that will see the triumph of our generation’s struggle. In both Selinger’s piece and Beth Tolmach’s on safe spaces, a uniquely millennial sensibility pervades: there is one way to make our world better, and it comes from people acting. Consider it the “do it” part of “do it yourself.”

Marie Davidson: "Balade Aux USA"

Marie Davidson:

Montréal’s Marie Davidson uses the French language like an instrument. Delivered mostly in a spoken monotone, she plays it well to its tantalizing effects. Or perhaps it’s my lack of understanding of the language and seeing one too many Godard films that has contributed to my perception of French as the lingua franca of the coquette. Despite the lyrics falling on unknowing ears, in “Balade Aux USA” Davidson’s voice is mesmerizing atop meticulously programmed drums and synths. Her composition is a feat of coalescence. Davidson merges her warm voice with cold electropop tools-- both are met halfway with wiley guitar lines. The track is a single from her sophomore LP, Un Autre Voyage, a collection of songs based on true intrapersonal experiences and the follow-up to last year’s Perte D'identite.
Un Autre Voyage is out April 14 on Holodeck Records.