Posts by Ben Bieser

Downtown Boys' Victoria Ruiz Bites Back

Downtown Boys' Victoria Ruiz Bites Back Illustration by Aubrey Nolan

This piece appears in AdHoc Issue 23.
 
Life is complicated, and so are the Downtown Boys. Like the roses that adorn the cover of their latest album, Cost of Living, their genre-exploding punk sound embraces beauty and crudeness, softness and thorniness. On stage, frontwoman Victoria Ruiz seethes about capitalist exploitation and white supremacy while speaking vulnerably about her experiences as a woman of color—sometimes all in one breath. 
 
The Providence four-piece’s thunderous new album bolsters these revolutionary messages with a new sonic clarity, one that sets blistering guitar riffage and Ruiz’s condemnations of the Trump administration front and center. Ahead of their upcoming show on November 17 at Brooklyn Bazaar, Ruiz spoke to AdHoc about the gendered and racialized labor of resistance, as well as the challenges of inhabiting a musical space that commingles English and Spanish language lyrics, punk and Mexican tejano music.
 
AdHoc: Downtown Boys is getting quite a bit of press around the new album. How has all the attention altered your approach to recording and releasing music?
 
For a lot of us, this was our first rock band like this. So after six years, we’re gonna be a little bit more refined. We wanted to break away from being typed solely as a punk band; we have always felt like we’re part of many genres, and not fully part of any genre. We also think about [creating] a sound that opens the accessibility to the music.  
 
We’ve always been influenced by Sun Ra Arkestra, a lot of Tejano music, and Mexican music—a sort of elegant chaos. And I think we seek people who are looking for that elegant chaos—and a message, and a space that you can’t quickly define [using] labels that you already know. 
 
Clearly, we’re in it because we believe in the people who believe in us and are part of a bigger community and collective power. We’re committed to proclaiming our messages of protest and crystallizing our dissent. Still, I think our growing platform has both motivated and challenged our message and what we believe in. When the message gets too set in stone, we try to transform it and find a new dimension [within] it.

 

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Minais B Eroticizes the Electronic

Minais B Eroticizes the Electronic

As intimacy becomes radical, the sensible becomes sensuous. Lubricated by sweat and the moisture of breath, As The River At Its Source, Villads Klint's first outing on Jens Konrad Barrett and Hjalte Lehmann's Petrola 80 label, trembles with an erotics of sensation whose quivering quiddity—across domains of sight, touch, and sound—makes explicit the sensousness of affect. Constituted by its glaring aposiopesis—the unarticulated verb ought to disclose what the river does at its source—the EP by the Copenhagen-based Minais B attunes itself to the telluric contours of its sonic ecology in order to feel out its own action, its own doing.

In this aporia, this unspoken yet not mute space of inquiry, the record reaches out into intersubjectivity, through the flickering of whisper, the "swaying and singing" of sabulous sybilance that snickers and slithers as spittle that slips from lips to ears. In its atmospheric drool, its tingling and atomizing drip, the onslaught of ASMR kisses and shivers, the record writes over itself, stuttering into an acidulated palimpsest that sunders and splices itself anew. Like muscle, the sinews of Minais B's sonic reticula striate and strengthen into a tissue that binds, a tissue that seduces.

Jake Meginsky Spins, Splits, and Spits Sound

Jake Meginsky Spins, Splits, and Spits Sound

"Fifth Gate" swings open to an alternate dimension—beyond the Pythagorean and the Platonic, beyond the shapes and forms that structure everyday cognition. On this final track from his latest record Gates and Variations, Northampton's Jake Meginsky convolutes a circular and corpuscular drone of motive and repetition. Visualized by Patrick Cain's sparse video, which plots the left and right channel audio, Meginsky's orbital sensorium burbles and gurbles on a denatured axis, its contours whorling in a nodular play of free particulars. The patterns that spill out of the conjunction here flicker and unfurl, affecting fleeting encounters and entangling topographies of tonality that linger just long enough to tickle the ear. The traces of sound Meginsky crafts and Cain transposes get stuck in: charged with concave resonances, they divvy up and coagulate, spitting points that spin and split into waves until they amass again. In this swirl of puncta, it's impossible not to get pricked.

"Fifth Gate" comes from Gates and Variations, out now on Open Mouth Records.

Cold Beat Gets Emotional

Cold Beat Gets Emotional

Despite lineup changes and stylistic shifts, Cold Beat stays true to its name. Over the course of three full-lengths, the band has never abandoned its signature icy coldwave jaggedness and sensuous pulse, illuminated by Hannah Lew's celestial vocals. On the band's latest effort, Chaos By Invitation, Lew establishes herself as a gracefully multifaceted songwriter, combining emotive lyricism, affecting guitar work, and electronic flourishes. Before she and a new touring band unleash a muscly, fleshed-out incarnation of the new record on September 21 at The Park Church Co-op, Lew spoke to AdHoc about the importance of connecting with one's emotions in a time of crisis—both personal and political—and resisting commodification.

AdHoc: Chaos By Invitation showcases real stylistic fluidity, both within the record and in comparison to your previous releases. What other artists or genres have helped facilitate this shift?

Hannah Lew: When I’m in a writing zone, I tend to only listen to what I’m making. I get really insular and I almost don’t even listen to music while I’m recording. But I think that the process is what really led the songs to the more singular style. I was just writing a lot at home with a computer. It made for a more solitary process, in which I was zoning out in a computer program a lot more—and then fleshing it out from there. It was a tunnel-vision way of doing things.

Actually, one of the songs, “Strawberry Moon,” my husband Andrew helped me write, just at home. I was like, “I’m struggling with this song!” and he helped me finish it. We then toured with it as a band and added things to it. It’s been an interesting process: I recorded things at home and brought the sessions into the studio [from there]. At a point, I didn’t really have a band. One of my bandmates was having a baby, and the other one was in five bands, and it was a lull. [Cold Beat guitarist] Kyle [King] was half-in, half-out; he came to the recording session for a day or two, but, for the most part, I was just sort of in there. I did some post-production stuff with Mikey Young [of Australian post-punk outfit Total Control]. But, for the most part, it was an in-the-computer process.

Since the formation of the [touring] band, there’s been so much fleshing out, and people have brought so much of themselves to it, that it’s like the live version is its own incarnation. For that reason, we’re bringing this exclusive tour tape with us on the trip—that’s the Part Time Punks sessions that we’ve done that are different versions of the songs. The album is kind of like the demo, and the Part Time Punks versions are the band playing the songs.

How has this more electronic approach changed your relationship to your songs in a live setting?

The live set has definitely changed. The songs were written, and then they really came to life when people brought so much to them. There’s even new parts on the album that we played live—I’m like, “Damn, I wish that we’d played these for years before I wrote the album.” But it’s just it’s own thing. But it’s definitely what makes it worth seeing us play live. The people in the band right now make us the best lineup.

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Get Bodied By Byron Westbrook's "What We Mean When We Say Body Language"

Get Bodied By Byron Westbrook's Photography by Fana Feng

There's something singularly sublime about the goosebump. The way it prickles, nesting in the skin, all the while retaining a trace of the otherworldly. Byron Westbrook's latest piece, "What We Mean When We Say Body Language," off his upcoming Body Consonance LP for Hands in the Dark, not only elicits the goosebump but also plays with it, interrogating the uncanny connection it makes between the physical and the immaterial. Working to enhance and exploit the binaural qualities of stereo production—that is, the auditory illusion of a third tone produced when two slightly dissimilar tones pass through each ear—Westbrook fashions a horizon of dynamics, timbre, and feeling that shimmies and shimmers as the song swells across time. So close to each other, the binaural tones seem to skid against one another, against the ear, against the neurons. This dalliance, tense but generative, delivers a trace, a phantasmagoric residue that glows between two palpitating poles. And, though illusory, the binaural trace makes its mark on the body—as a fugitive cognition, an unthinkable body language that only exists in a fleeting excursion into the auditory cortex. Between the droning digeridoo and the brimming drum line, Westbrook cathects this sublime third dimension, one beyond the binarisms of anatomy and sound and fixable identity, into one that coagulates, consummates, consonates with the body. Good luck getting through it without a shiver.

Photo Gallery: DIIV'S Intimate, Acoustic Show at Murmrr Theatre

Photo Gallery: DIIV'S Intimate, Acoustic Show at Murmrr Theatre Photography by Nick Karp

Last Thursday, Brooklyn's DIIV took to the majestic Murmrr Theatre stage to perform a delightful unplugged set of covers and new music—all gorgeously captured by Nick Karp. Relive the night and check out DIIV's video for their cover of Sparklehorse's iconic "Cow" below.

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Giant Claw Gets Unfamiliar on "Soft Channel 003"

Giant Claw Gets Unfamiliar on

Keith Rankin plays with sound, tickling it out until it spills. "Soft Channel 003," from Soft Channel, his latest effort as Giant Claw, fidgets with the ludic ecstasy—fizzing and sprawling across circuits and MIDI—by which Rankin has for years made his name. But just as the album cover for this newest offering depicts a misrecognition, a crisis in identification, "Soft Channel 003" gnaws at uncanny sonic territory. Over the course of the track, Rankin fiddles with familiarity and unfamiliarity, spontaneously splicing and unexpectedly dissasembling spurts and motifs. One standout interstice is the MIDI choir Rankin employs: unstable, it titillates, inhabiting a vocal register that always feels androgynous, located somewhere in between the head voice and the chest voice, the alto and the tenor. Despite its uncanniness, the voices frequently spasm into something quite delicate, quite precious: a fleeting melody that hints at something grander, something that would complete the punchline that all Rankin's sounds seem to riddle toward. Now effortlessly incorporated into his repertoire, code-switching across aesthetic sensibilities becomes a focal point as Rankin grates the sublime and the beautiful, cartoon slide whistles and shards of Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1," together over his gurgling potpourri. A master impressionist, Rankin finds facsimile and structure too straightforward, too easy. Through this playful self-denial, the culinary asceticism, Rankin teases out something addictingly temporary, something effervescently evanescent, like the fizz before the swig.

Soft Channel is out September 8 on Orange Milk.

Stream Brian Case's Walloping New LP

Stream Brian Case's Walloping New LP Photography by Zoran Orlic

Overcast and portentous, Brian Case's Spirit Design lurches. Rolling in like an oversaturated cloud formation swallowing anything from charred synths and shivering sub-bass into its its blackened atmospherics, Case's latest full-length for Hands in the Dark threatens to collapse under its own yawning depth and smothering weight. In this totalizing sound environment, Case evacuates melody, structure, and legibility, leaving only the cold and brutal sparseness of his voice and devastating instrumentation to populate the noxious territory. But even Case's voice succumbs to this airless sound sludge: on "Shipbuilding," for example, Case's intelligible—if ominous—words bleed into incomprehensibility as the song's suffocating logics ooze out of control. On later tracks, like "Control" and "Say Your Name," his voice can only eke out the titles of the songs themselves in an arcane incantation that condenses speech and meaning into noise, into effacing squalor. On Spirit Design, Case unleashes a singularly enveloping haze of sound and mood so thick it's impossible to hear your own breath. Like other forms asphyxiation, it's orgastic.

Spirit Design is available August 25 on Hands in the Dark.

Flesh World Put Together a Playlist Full of Songs by Strange Women

Flesh World Put Together a Playlist Full of Songs by Strange Women Photography by Roxanne Clifford

Flesh World purvey a muscly sort of post-punk, spurred into gear by Scott Moor's high-octane, high-feedback guitar and Jess Scott's spat-out vocals. But the musculature that Flesh World flexes is not one of aggressive machismo, but rather one of corporeal connections fostered, a press release for the band has said, in the nurturting spaces of "the punk show, the gay world, and the rest of the environments Flesh World insulate themselves in for survival."  They're a band threaded together by this bodily interaction—Flesh World's Jess Scott and Scott Moore met while "loitering around [San Francisco's] Panhandle district"—as well as a physical sound.

Flesh World's Jess gathered up some of their disparate influences into a playlist for AdHoc. Check out the lead single for their upcoming full-length Into the Shroud, out September 8 via Dark Entries, below, and catch Flesh World perform September 23 at Silent Barn with Home Blitz.

Jess Scott: The theme of this is strange girls from around the globe—artists active from 1956 to present, from Tokyo to Berlin to Australia to Montreal to Los Angeles, from women from prison camps to women in my living room. These are sounds from strange girls with strange histories, making everything from early French goth to italo to contemporary house to avant-garde compositions in strange places.

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Dance Your Head Off With Moon King's "Ordinary Lover Ft. Natty G" Premiere

Dance Your Head Off With Moon King's

Sometimes, the ordinary can be infectious. On "Ordinary Lover Ft. Natty G," the sparkling bonus track off Moon King's latest tape for Arbutus, standard kicks, punchy bass, and a earworming piano melody play out along a familiar house thump. In the hands of a less capable producer, such an assemblage could run derivative or fall flat, but under Daniel Benjamin's delicate direction, each element whirs into place and delivers an intoxicatingly coordinated performance. Accompanying the addictive pulse of the track is a video that also succeeds in summoning a satisfying simplicity.

Much like the song itself, whose ordinary components come from a stock milieu but—when locked into the groove—enliven and thrum in ecstasy, the video for "Ordinary Lover Ft. Natty G" is situated in a blank, unremarkable room. But what sticks is what populates the room: bodies in motion, perfectly attuned yet letting loose to the banger that galvanizes their movement. Shots of sweat and silk, tattoos and tanktops twirl across the visual register under a layer of VHS fuzz. Far from muffling or obscuring the dynamic magnetism of the beat and the dancing, the coating of chintz captures the hazy trace, the blur of motion in itself. It's precisely this motility, this singular capacity to stimulate movement, that textures the corporeal sonics of "Ordinary Lover Ft. Natty G."

In a song ostensibly about the desire for an extraordinary lover, Benjamin and Natty G suffuse the track with a sensuous desire to move, to dance. In the very articulation of his desire, Benjamin has crafted a genuinely seductive song—and awakened the listener's desire, too. As the track plonks along, music becomes more than just an expression, a communicatory pathway: it becomes somatic. It becomes satisfaction. When Natty G sings that she's "tired of all the cream without the cherry," it's hard not to think of the track itself, a bonus track, after all, as a cherry on top, a visceral delight that gets stuck in your gums well after it putters out. What's the best way to work off a sundae, anyway? Dance it off.

Check out Benjamin's newest tape Hamtramck '16 out now, and make sure to dance with Moon King when he performs September 8 at The Silent Barn with Dougie Poole.