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.
With its blend of dissonant guitar clashes, raging synth chords, and frontman Jamie Stewart’s morbid imagination, Xiu Xiu is daring in a literal sense: it dares listeners to keep their headphones on and endure—rather than necessarily enjoy—what Xiu Xiu has to offer.
But it’s that challenge—the masochistic exercise of listening to a Xiu Xiu record, paired with moments of undeniable beauty—that makes their music all the more alluring.
“Wondering” features Stewart’s signature, trembling vocals imploring listeners to “swallow defeat” as a pulsing, club-ready beat chugs toward something of a rarity in Xiu Xiu’s catalog: a bonafide pop chorus.
But groovier tunes don’t necessarily mean Stewart is beginning to lighten up. At its core, FORGET is ultimately an exploration of frailty and loneliness, ending on a poem read by the drag artist Vaginal Davis. The poem closes with lines that are peak-Stewart: “It doesn't matter what you think/ Do anything you like/ Because I was born dead/ And I was born to die.”
Over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, Stewart seems reluctant to explore the roots of his fascination with darker topics, less because he's scared and more because he's worried it could ruin his creative process.
“A lot of ‘whys’ in music I think fuck music up,” he says
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.
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.
Some people write songs because they like to write songs, but James Jackson Toth writes them because he needs to.
“If I didn’t have to write songs, I wouldn’t,” he told AdHoc over the phone from his home in Richmond, VA. “If they didn’t pester me the way they do, I’d just do something else."
Since the mid-2000s, Toth has released a near-perpetual stream of music under the moniker Wooden Wand. The sheer volume of his output has freed him to dabble with a wide variety of scenes and sounds—freak folk, outlaw country, free jazz and psych rock, to name a few—without ever coming across as an artistic tourist. What ties that work together is Toth’s idiosyncratic lyrical stylings, and his refusal to linger for too long in the same sonic space.
Creative freedom doesn’t necessarily yield financial freedom, and Toth is no stranger to the necessity of side hustle. He explores the concept on “Mexican Coke,” a song off his most recent LP, Clipper Ship, singing, "Where there's a will, there are ways."
Although Toth admits he once viewed the side hustle as a somewhat romantic notion—doing something menial in service of pursuing your passion—he now believes it's assumed a darker significance in the age of the sharing economy. It’s a question that we kept coming back to during our interview: just how much hustling can one soul take?
James Jackson Toth: I guess I feel compelled to do it. I think it’s a misunderstanding that a lot of us enjoy doing it. I mean, it’s definitely satisfying to write songs. But it’s certainly not something I set out to do. I just started really young and kept on doing it. If I didn’t have to write songs, I wouldn’t. If they didn’t pester me the way they do, I’d just do something else. I’d probably sleep a lot better.
AdHoc Issue 21 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link, and look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. If you happen to live outside of New York, you may order a copy as well.
People often praise performers when they “lock into a groove”—when the music they are producing sounds as though it is being made effortlessly, under the artist’s full control. But the folks we spoke to for this issue—Chino Amobi and Laetitia Sadier—actively avoid that sensation of mastery. Amobi—a producer and co-founder of the NON collective—says the aim of his recent album, Paradiso, was to “challenge” himself and the listener alike. Sadier—a founding member of Stereolab—expresses being just as surprised by her recent work with the Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble as her audiences probably were. Both create music that’s fluid, open, and collaborative—work that can make for tough listening experience at first, but that encourages new modes of thinking while pushing the art form—and the community around it — forward.
AdHoc Issue 21's contributors:
Brandon Locher is an artist and musician who lives and works in New York. He made this issue’s cover.
Jesse Jerome Jenkins, V (b. 1984) is an American recording artist living and working in Corpus Christi, Texas. The singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer is a member of the romance rock band Pure X and releases music on his own as Jesse; he made a visual poem for this issue.
Whitney Wei is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work has appeared in Mixmag, The Guardian, and the nightlife zine Club Etiquette, which will soon be available for purchase soon at MoMA PS1’s ARTBOOK. She made the illustrations for this issue.
Chino Amobi recently tweeted that “the best compliment” he got about Paradiso was that it was “unlistenable.” Paradiso is the latest full-length from the Richmond-based producer and co-founder of NON Worldwide, a record label and resistance movement centering the artistry of musicians from within the African diaspora. The album’s sprawling 20 tracks brim with industrial beats, MIDI horns, and the raw power of his own voice—as well as the sounds and voices of his many collaborators, including Dutch E. Germ, Elysia Crampton, and Moro.
Ahead of Amobi’s live set on July 20 at St. Vitus, AdHoc spoke with the musician and organizer about the liberatory politics of Paradiso, and how difficult music can amplify marginalized voices.
Your new record is incredibly rich—there’s so much going on in every song. Could you talk about the process of composing these tracks?
I just wanted it to be something different, to have a moment where I liberated myself sonically from a lot of the stuff that I hear—[stuff] that people classify as “electronic.” These tracks are in conversation with so many artists, so many people that inspire me. I really wanted to go all over the place—to do things that were not only challenging for myself, but also challenging for the listener. I wanted to construct a narrative that felt cinematic.
That’s kind of the way my mind works, too—I’m inspired by so many different themes within the span of a day or an hour, and I really wanted to respect that thought process. If you look into my work, I don’t really have a style—I do, but I don’t.
Mark McGuire's music kaleidoscopes. From the sparkling kosmische wormholes of his work with now-defunct Emeralds to theguitar latticework of his solo efforts, his output has covered immense sonic ground. But on his newest release on VDSQ, Ideas of Beginnings, the journeyman finally sounds at home. The interlocking strum patterns that texture the record lap gently on the ear, gesturing at a charred and worn personallore imbued within each warble of the guitar. Ahead of his performance on July 27 at Brooklyn's Park Church Co-op, McGuire spoke to AdHoc about the narratives his music explores, the role of guitar-based art in today's musical terrain, and the critical importance of playing from the heart.
The title of this record Ideas of Beginnings seems to signal a return to something primal or even pre-linguistic. What sorts of beginnings do you have in mind?
The title came from a line in Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts about the eternal nature of things, that there was no beginning and there will be no end. That ideas of beginnings only make sense to us because of our notion of linear time. So the music reflects the ideas both inside and outside of time. Kind of like standing outside of yourself looking back upon your life, and at the same time looking up as that inner child that wished for all those things to happen. Eternal beginnings and never-endings.
Sam O.B. and Miles Francis purvey a rare sort of pop music, one as whirringly complex as it is delightfully sweet. Though the two New York-based musicians deviate stylistically—Sam O.B.'s atmospheric tropicalia luxuriates in a loungy lavishness, while Francis' off-kilter avant-pop bounces with a syncopated ecstasy—their R&B-inflected sounds both sashay with a catchy confidence. Ahead of their performances on July 15 at Sunnyvale, the two like-minded artists took a moment to remix each other's biggest songs for us here at AdHoc and talk through their respective processes. We are really psyched to premiere their remixes, a playlist of all the tracks included can be found here.
Sam O.B.: What was the inspiration behind "You're A Star" (specifically lyrically)?
Miles Francis: The music came first with "You're a Star": I recorded the tom-toms for 4 minutes straight and built the song on top of it. The lyrics are sung from two angles: encouraged and pessimistic. I tried to articulate the crazy balancing act of being an artist right now. We commit our lives to music, but we also commit to getting our art out there no matter what, to working every day to become more established and well-known—all while retaining the genuine inspiration and motivation to create our songs in the first place. When the moment comes that you are "chosen," and the light is shining on you, you better be ready for it—because it turns out that every next step opens up a hundred more steps after it. All of this is to say: keep your head down and keep going, you're a star no matter what. That's the encouraging side of the song. If you focus so much on where you stand, where you're going, and seeking fleeting validation, it completely takes you away from what you're doing. That's where I wrote the song from, and the circular opening sentence inspired the rest of the lyrics: "All the things that I want to do with me hold back from doing the things I wanna do."
Oliver Kalb has been making music under the name Bellows since 2011. He released Bellows' first album, the understated indie-folk-pop masterwork, As If To Say I Hate Daylight, while attending Bard College in 2011. That release, as well as 2014's Blue Breath—an album recorded while in search for a place to call home after graduating—established Kalb's skill as a lyricist and as an arranger. His most recent release, last year's Fist and Palm, is Bellows at its best, channeling new electronic influences into Kalb's intimate acoustics. Never one to shy away from self-criticism (as is perhaps most evident on Fist and Palm) it is no surprise that Kalb was willing to reveal his five favorite and five least favorite tracks of the many he has penned in Bellows' six-year history. Read on for Kalb's own thoughts on the process, and be sure to grab tickets to Bellows' July 15 show at Baby's All Right.
Oliver Kalb: I’ve been writing and self-recording music as Bellows for the last seven years. Recording is a pretty intense and life-consuming black hole process for me. When I’m recording an album, I listen to each of the songs obsessively, trying to iron out all the lyrical flaws and dips of the production, bouncing new mixes and walking around alone trying to imagine how each song can expand and develop in its recorded world. Sometimes this makes for really cool experiments, and songs I feel really proud of — when a lot of work goes into a song and it pays off, it’s cool to listen back years later, and hear the product of long periods of intense anxiety and labor live and breathe in a finished state. But other times, when I listen back to my own records, I’ll shudder at certain tracks. There are some songs I’ve released that I just totally hate, songs that make me feel really embarrassed when I hear them.
In the myopic world of self-recording, sometimes flaws that would be really obvious to someone listening with an untrained ear won’t be apparent to the actual person making the music. It’s very easy to get tunnel-vision when you’re working on an album, and think you’ve stumbled upon a really interesting and weird experiment, that to anyone else listening just sounds like a bunch of convoluted nonsense. I can hear some of my own songs, in hindsight, as really ugly kinks that might’ve been ironed out if I’d given myself some distance from the project. Years down the line from some of the records I’ve made, I’m able to see a little more clearly which experiments were successful and which were just kind of bad or confusing ideas, in need of an editor. So I decided to use this spot to explore what I think are my 5 best songs, and why I still respond to them after so many years, and then also what I think are my 5 worst songs, and why they’re bad, or at least why I don’t consider them good vehicles for conveying the ideas or feelings I hoped they would.