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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Darkthreatens 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 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.
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, andmake sure to dance with Moon King when he performs September 8 at The Silent Barn with Dougie Poole.
"Wochikaeri to Uzume," the latest track from Sugai Ken's upcoming UkabazUmorezU full-length on RVNG, roughly translates to "welcome back and forth." And, from the welcoming and sonorous xylophonic percussion that introduces the clutter of sound to follow to the rich pauses that punctuate the tumbles of clocks, trickles, and feedback, the track roughly charts a series of sonic welcomes back and forth. At various instances boinging, hopping, and spilling, each moment of sound (and negative moment of silence that bookends each sonic puncture) feels like an ecstatic, sponatenous spillage, an unstable quark jolting out of position. If this review makes too liberal use of physical metaphor and anology, it's because Ken's music emphasizes the physicality of the art, the fact that each honk and slurp owes its existence to vibrations thrumming on the eardrum. Each tickling note upends the linear dimensionality of music; transposed into a physical interaction, a molecular concatenation, senses blur and striate. Music, on "Wochikaeri to Uzume," re-turns (in)to something atavistic. A clock ticks in the tense final seconds, ushering us into a time in which sound and feeling were one. Welcome back.
The human body is a theater of war, a site wracked with violence and desire. In the video for "I Wanna Be Your Dog," the second track off of VIOLENCE's upcoming Human Dust to Fertilize the Impotent Garden, a certain body—that of VIOLENCE's Olin Caprison—situates the writhing interplay and intertwining of the two. Garbed in lacy lingerie and a disfigured ski mask, Caprison smears two pregnant signifiers together, grafting the criminality of headpiece and the sultry, oversexed salacity of the bra into symbolic prostheses that map violence and desire onto the smudged red lipstick on Caprison's face. But the visual poetics of the tracks video aren't the only indicators of this prurient conflation: Caprison's lyrics are positively filthy. Pleading, they detail fantasies of degradation and animalization, where the intimacy of "want[ing] for you to hold me close" gives way to "whip[ping]," "cover[ing] in spunk," verbal abuse, and even "giv[ing Caprison] a reason to die." And the semantic distinctions between violence and desire aren't the only things Caprison blurs: the song itself appropriates sounds from industrial, black metal, and drill to sculpt its asxphyxiatory and percussive filigrees. The glinting, limpid tones that buttress the basic but anxious melody wouldn't be out of place on Geinoh Yamashirogumi's Akira soundtrack. But unlike Akira, a science-fiction thriller that defers its anxieties into an animated future, Caprison confronts a brutal present. As they pound their flesh on the concrete floor of the shack in the video, naked and sexualized vulnerability putrefies—before our eyes—into pain, clot, bruise: Caprison historicizes the present in unflinchingly exposing the disintegration of desire into violence, touch into assault. The setting of this curdling is burnt-out, graffitied and decrepit, but it's present, it's really there. It isn't post-apocalyptic—isn't even doctored. It's real life, not a horrific possibility, but an always-already vitiated present. Despite the trap-conditions, Caprison leaves us with the potential for escape: in the final, fading shot, they turn and walk out of the frame, out of the immediate and battered present and into an unseen space beyond the limits of what appears possible.
Sometimes there's a light at the end of the banal. Sometimes, everyone feels lazy, angry, nervous, bored, empty—and, for Hypoluxo, on their latest extended play Taste Buds, "nothing's crazy" about feeling anything. Most of the tracks on the record occupy these commonplace spaces of stasis but channel the boredom typically found therein into a restelessness whose chiming indie guitar and gently driving bass and drum lines propel the Brooklyn fourpiece into a sonic territory just kinetic enough to be addictive—something so addictive that it feels edible if not appetizing. The charming baritone lyricism and driving indie guitar condense into something to be gnawed, something that can be enjoyed ambiently on repeat but whose audial nuances—from the twinkling horn on "Nevada" to the sputtering and dovetailing melodies on "Sometimes"—reward undivided attention to the artistry couched beneath common places and feelings that Hypoluxo indulge. Taste Buds makes for gourmet indie rock, and it's delicious.