A few months ago, AdHoc shared Honey Harper’s debut single, “Pharaoh.” The track—a slow-burn country tune that was ten years in the making—kicks off his debut EP, Universal Country, out now on Arbutus Records. Harper, aka London-based William Fussell, has a knack for carving out a wistful, nostalgic space within his lyrics and melodies. On the mournful “Secret,” Fussell seems like he’s one drawn-out syllable away from breaking into tears, singing, “How long must I belong to this?” The country-western “SOFR” chugs along with the help of a soft drumbeat and weeping pedal steel; one imagines the song wafting from a jukebox in a low-lit bar, everyone staring into their half-empty glasses. The songs draw the best out of the genre Harper chooses to constrain himself in: an art both immediate and indelible in its vivid evocations of longing.
Relatives are a New York and Providence-based folk-rock band whose slow-burn melodies and roundabout lyrics are equal parts playful, bookish, and melancholy. The duo—Katie Vogel and Ian Davis—started writing together in 2007, and their close kinship is evident in the strength of their songwriting.
Their new album, Weighed Down Fortune, is filled with songs that are spare in instrumentation yet feel lush and full. “Hope Springs” rides a bouncing beat and jumpy melody in service of puzzling, circuitous lyrics like “surely someday we’ll find that after all it was intended as such.” Perhaps the funkiest and most immediate song on the album, “Typee,” counters its danceable beat with cryptic lines like, “It’s an apocryphal world—we can’t keep scratching our noses but never stop the itching as such.”
Another track, “The Ambiguities” reminds me of Mount Eerie and Julie Dorion’s excellent 2008 collaboration Lost Wisdom, both in its intimate vocal harmonies and in the simultaneous sorrow and hope embedded in its lyrics. Davis says he drew inspiration for the song in “Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, a novel by Herman Melville about wealth, loss, sex, death, and angst." Melville’s novel and Weighed Down Fortune are alike in more ways than one: Both are oblique and evasive works that touch on romance, philosophy, writing, and family dynamics; but, in the end, a simple strength and beauty shines through.
Danny L Harle is an experimental pop musician intimately connected with the London-born PC Music label. As a producer, he crosses international borders, collaborating with artists from Asia, Europe and the US and creating a unifying, global pop sound in the process. His latest EP, 1UL, showcases his production skillset and inclinations: maximalist, sugar-sweet melodies with expressively pitched and edited vocals. Danny spoke to AdHoc about his music and his vision for the future of pop ahead of his Halloween show at Brooklyn Bazaar on Friday, October 27.
AdHoc: What are your thoughts on how PC Music has grown over the past four years, and where do you see it going?
Danny L Harle: There are always a lot of big exciting projects in the works, and that’s how we always operate. For me, the goal has always been to make music which is accessible, but is also deeply experimental in its heart and is an expression of things that I love. For example, releasing the Carly Rae Jepsen track is one of the pinnacles of what I’m setting out to achieve: it has its heart in the sort of trance music I love, and the kind of clarity of expression that I love. It’s just very exciting dealing with the pop industry, because there’s an open-endedness to everything.
There are various TV/film/game ideas that are always in the works. I’ve always loved kids’ TV, and I’ve always been into the fact that you can be completely experimental and kids basically don’t know what’s going on, especially under the age of three. I’m really into that, and I’m really into storylines of TV shows in that world—like the illogic of them [laughs]. That’s the kind of level that I’m at in terms of following narratives. I get it when there’s a funny monster that runs really far away then back to the front of the screen—like, very simple ideas. I’m into extremes of simplicity and I think kids are on that level as well. And really funny stuff, like the sort of thing that kids would find funny so it has to be really clear.
A long-range goal is sort of to infiltrate the world of pop music and push it over the brink of insanity. I like when pop delves into the realm of fantasy–I feel that pop music, and culture in general, points toward either reality or fantasy, and I really like that as an idea. I’d say pop at the moment is a reflection of post-EDM culture, which is like, “We’re done with the electronic stuff, let’s get real, with real sounds and with real people singing about real things,” but it’s a pendulum that swings from side to side, because of course this “real”-sounding music is just as fake as the EDM.
Ultimately, my heart lies in the more honestly fake-sounding music. I’ve been writing some Japanese pop music that’s coming out soon, and their aesthetics have been in that world for a long time. They can have a pop star like Hatsune Miku do a sold-out live show, and no one bats an eyelid. Whereas if she does a show in the UK, it’s presented as a more of an art [thing]. In Japan it’s just a live show from a pop star, even though she’s completely fake. I like that kind of pushing against reality, and it would be fun to push things more in that direction, both working with artists and with major label stuff as well.
Ancient Ocean's music swells with gravity and delicacy, pummeling with subtlety. His upcoming release, Titan's Island, invokes the sublime vastness of the cosmic across its intimately otherworldly four tracks. It makes for gorgeous listening just as calming in the background as affecting in the foreground. The project's mastermind, J.R. Bohannon, spoke with AdHoc about composition and spaces, both familiar and extraterrestrial.
Let’s talk about your approach to composition. Do you start with a concept and build a sound and atmosphere around it? The opposite? Somewhere in between?
It generally changes. With this record, I actually spent a lot of time taking out layers from the compositions to open up the overall landscape. I spend a lot of time just tracking ideas and, over time, a complete vision starts to reveal itself—and thats what seems to make up a full album.
Brooklyn power-poppers Fits have been tearing up the scene for a couple years now, and for good reason–their loud, playful, DIY aesthetic is shaped as much by bandleader Nicholas Cummins' smart and pointed songwriting as it is the band's growing up around and playing in DIY spaces such as Shea Stadium and Silent Barn. The band–Cummins, Brian Orante, Emma Witmer (of gobbinjr), and Joe Galarraga (of Big Ups)–play to these songwriting chops, crafting each minute-long burst of Cummins' songs into something anthemic and cathartic. Their new song "Hot Topic," off their upcoming debut album All Belief is Paradise, starts off with a lazy guitar and languid vocals, a sound that betrays Cummins' lyrical barbs: "You would have not been pissed off if I stood behaved, but I frayed when I did 'cause I can't." The song grows louder as Cummins' voice grows more urgent, but then, after a pause, the song settles into a swooning instrumental groove through its end. It's the sort of song that, after its minute and a half is over, you'll probably repeat and repeat.
"This song is about losing your voice, getting caught in the throat, and missing an opportunity to stand up for yourself and who you are," said Cummins. "In that way it's about a failure, but it's also not an apology. National coming out day was last week and it reminded me of this ever-present pressure to describe, defend and explain your identity in really personal ways to complete strangers all the time. The personal is definitely political and all of us are intertwined but sometimes you don't want to be a narrative, you just want to be a person who's like, eating a bagel or playing Starcraft of going to the beach and stuff. Society can be exhausting and it can be really easy to forget that we're all individuals, with 8 billion gender presentations and 8 billion selves. You don't owe everyone all of your courage all of the time."
Atlanta’s floral print make guitar pop full of hazy, woozy melodies and textures, but strained through razors: their songs are full of sputtering stops, false starts, and sudden detours. Take, for instance, the opening track of their new album mirror stages, called “sweepstakes life": the song begins with an bouncy guitar line and playful melody, but soon devolves into a squall of noise that leads into a mumbling piano ballad. The band–made up of singer/guitarist Nathan Springer, drummer Paul DeMerritt, and bassist Joshua Pittman–rotates through genres and styles almost naturally, a gift that belies their origins of meeting by chance through Facebook. “egg rites” alternates between an American Football-esque post-rock and overwhelming distortion. The title track, one of my favorites, is perhaps one of the most discordant ambient songs I’ve ever heard.
"mirror stages was recorded between March 2015 and October 2016,” said Nathan Springer. “The bulk of the album was recorded in two separate two day sessions at Broad Street Visitor's Center in Atlanta in the late summer of 2016. Graham Tavel recorded, produced, and mixed the album. These songs gestated much longer than the songs on our EP 'woo' and are a lot more varied in style. We were going through some weird stuff at the time, and consequently the tone of the album is a little darker than our previous recordings.”
mirror stages is out October 20 via Tiny Engines. Listen to the album below.
New York's Combo Chimbita are a self-described "cumbia-not-cumbia" four-piece. Their sound is heavily indebeted to the rhythms of the aforementioned Colombian dance, but, as bassist Prince of Queens tells me, the band sees their take as “left field” cumbia: "taking the essence, blending different styles, experimenting, and making it our own." The band—which includes vocalist and guacharaca player Carolina Oliveros, drummer Dilemastronauta, and guitarist Niño Lento—cut its teeth as a collective during a residency at Brooklyn venue Barbès. Tracked live to tape, their new LP, Abya Yala, showcases their style of tight yet extroverted "tropical futurism," with an generous energy that could only come from lifelong creative partnership and friendship.
AdHoc: How did you all meet and start playing music together?
Prince of Queens: We have been friends and played in different groups for over six years. I met Niño Lento at a Colombian percussion workshop in Queens eight years ago. He introduced me to Dilemastronauta and later on to Carolina Oliveros. Combo Chimbita started pretty spontaneously—we started doing a residency at Barbès in Brooklyn on Monday nights, where we would just improvise and jam back to back with DJs. On most nights, the venue was empty, and Carolina would come hang out. One day she brought her guacharaca and joined us. It just happened naturally. We started narrowing down the jams and writing songs.
William Patrick Corgan is the solo project of the legendary Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan. He recently graced the Murmrr Theatre stage for a two-night run on October 14 and 15, playing through debut album Oglala as well as selections from the Smashing Pumpkins’ celebrated catalog. Nick Karp was on hand to take photos; check them out below.
Nashville’s Sun Seeker make languid, woozy psychedelia with a country bent: ideal for a carefree, sun-soaked day. Their sound is heavily indebted to the city they call home, but ahead of their October 11 show at Union Pool, the group–Alex Benick, Asher Horton, Ben Parks, and Rodrigo Avendano–shared a few of their favorite songs from New York.
I listen to this song everyday when I lay out poolside, thinking back on homecoming dances and smoking weed for the first time. I don't think that's what this song is about but it makes me feel good.
Television - "Days"
Sun Seeker has covered this song a bunch of times. Television was probably one of the first rock bands I got into in middle school. Television and Lil Wayne.
Crumb - "Vinta"
I just got into Crumb in the last few months and you definitely should too. That's all that needs to be said.
Asher Horton (bass):
Lou Reed - "Dirty Blvd"
Quintessential New Yawkness! He had a pretty wild solo career but throughout each of his phases remained very "Lou". New York and The Bells are probably the two records I come back to the most.
Arthur Russell - "Love Is Overtaking Me"
A truly individual and inspired artist. He’s one of the rare musicians who managed to jump between most conceivable styles of music and do each one just as great as the last. His documentary “Wild Combination” is definitely worth searching out.
The 6ths - "Falling Out of Love (With You)"
I first heard this song in The Adventures of Pete and Pete! That show turned me on to so much great music. The 6ths were a side project of the Magnetic Fields’ Stephen Merritt where he made the music and then got different singers for every song, which turned out to be a successful experiment in my book. This particular song features Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 and Luna as well as some memorable lyrics about dwindling love and building synthesizers or something?
Ben Parks (drums):
Steely Dan - "Any Major Dude"
A true banger. RIP Walter Becker.
Margaret Glaspy - "No Matter Who"
I love the way this whole record sounds. Everything is super punchy but blends so well together, especially on this track. Great musicianship all around.
Paul Simon - "Run That Body Down"
This is a track off Paul Simon's first solo effort which is a favorite of mine. Featuring the great Hal Blaine on drums. Super breezy.
Rodrigo Avendano (keyboards):
Since I was young I've always had a distant fascination with life in New York City. One that largely lived in my imagination since what I knew about it was largely informed by television, magazines and history books. I now get to visit the city a few times a year, mostly on music related pursuits, so my experience with NYC is still a fairly supercifial one.
Madonna - "Vogue"
East coast version of Chicago house by the queen of NYC.
The Strokes - "Hard to Explain"
My first teenage wonderment of melancholy in the bib city.
ESG - "UFO"
Music from the Bronx that won't stop giving inspiration everywhere. One of the most sampled songs in history.
The video for “Enter Shimmer” begins in silence. Snow covers the ground of a nondescript sidewalk. It covers the cars; it piles up on the curb and the foot of the building. Light snow falls across the screen, but otherwise the scene might as well be a still frame. Soon, though, you start to notice that a figure has been walking, slowly, from the edge of the horizon toward you, wearing an oversized white hat and a dress. Forty seconds in, a loud, dissonant guitar riff begins to play. The white snow is still falling, but the mood has changed into something far more agitated. The camera pans around the white-hatted figure and we follow them around the corner, into a side door, and up a dark staircase. The music becomes even more urgent, and erupts into a pinched scream. For a moment, it's uncertain where the figure is heading. Then, red curtains appear, and a microphone, and the figure takes the stage, screaming and stomping before an invisible audience.
Ani Ivry-Block, Shimmer’s leader and singer, has crafted ten such videos, each singularly esoteric, one for every song on her band’s album. They are, by turns, unsettling, strange, exhilarating, arousing, funny, and terrifying. “Crystal Listerine” stumbles around in fits and starts of jagged guitar and hushed singing, but the video–which features a brightly-lit figure silhouetted behind a white sheet–provides a ghostly juxtaposition. The clip for “Let Em Know” showcases a homemade-looking, rotating wooden stage set up in someone’s backyard, one that Ivry-Block jumps around on while wearing a sleep mask and space blanket. You can almost imagine someone driving past, wondering what the hell is going on.
“These videos were made over the course of ten months from October 2017 to July 2017,” says Ivry-Block. “The videos couldn't have been made possible without the help from my friend Jonah Peterschild, the man behind the camera for the majority of the shots. Get ready for visual album number two, coming out mid 2018!"