ambient

REACHING FOR GEMS
February 15, 2016 10:00 am

In two short years, GEMS has gone from “The Best New Band You’ve Never Heard” to “…an understanding of the true height at which these two stand as influencers.” I’m sure that’s not intimidating for them at all.

Luckily, the band seems to be keeping their heads on straight as ATYPICAL SOUNDS found out in our interview with vocalist Lindsay Pitts.

gems_2

Kill the One You Love, the title of your debut LP, is a reference to Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. You also use a Sylvia Plath quote in your band bio on the Carpark website. Have either of these authors influenced your work?


LP: Sylvia Plath definitely has. Actually, we kept coming across her collection, Ariel, when we were writing our EP, Medusa. It sort of just kept being there in our path wherever we traveled and I feel like we were meant to read it. Her poetry is very close to death and that’s something that we try to explore through our music.

How was your recent tour with Oh Wonder? Did anything surprise you about the experience?


LP: It was lovely. This was actually one of the shortest tours we’ve gone on. (We’d previously spent a month on the road with Autre Ne Veut and a month with Classixx—they were both great tours). But I was glad to have a shorter run this time and be in the sun in LA and not trudging through the snow on the east coast.

You also recorded a live session for KEXP a few weeks ago. Are you a fan of the station? Do you have a favorite KEXP session from another band or artist? 


LP: KEXP is a great station and one session actually comes into my mind right away. I was unsure how I felt about Grimes when she first came out, but after watching her KEXP performance, I was a convert. Her personality really shone through in that setting and it felt very honest and real.

It seems like GEMS has suddenly blown up with your last tour. Does it seem that way to you? Has your personal life changed at all?


LP: Wow that’s really sweet, we’re just taking things one day at a time and being grateful for having the opportunity to keep making music.

It’s been suggested that your songs “reach for authentic and raw human truths.” Do you agree? And if so, is this something you aim for when writing, or do you find your songs take on this quality as they progress in their production?


LP: I think that is a large part of the core of what we are about – especially the “reaching” part. My main goal with writing songs is to create something that helps people transcend space and time, connect with something on a higher plane, and access that deep sense of existential longing.

GEMS originated in Washington, DC but you have since relocated to Los Angeles. Did that come before or after your record deal with Carpark? Was it hard to adjust to the change?


LP: The move came after I guess, but I don’t think that really played a part in when we decided to move…basically we wanted to finish our album before packing up and making our way out here since we wanted it to be a cohesive statement. I feel more at home in Los Angeles than I ever did in DC. It’s so inspiring to be here.

What are your favorite places to listen to music in LA?


LP: I love going to the El Rey, the room looks and sounds amazing. I also really like the vibe of the Lyric Theatre.

What are your plans for the rest of 2016?


LP: Writing music is what I really love to do. I’m excited to finish what we’ve been working on and release more songs.

 

THE GLORY OF GOOD MORNING
November 29, 2015 11:28 pm

Melbourne band Good Morning has returned to Australia after 11 performances at their first CMJ and positive reviews from publications including Spin and NME. ATYPICAL SOUNDS had the pleasure of welcoming them to New York during that time, and you can read our interview with them here.

Now, the band is settling back in at home, and getting ready to release their Glory EP in February 2016. We were given a sneak preview of the album, and will do our best to convey its sound to you. It’ll be like you’re right here with us.

The album opens with “Overslept”, a lo-fi track that makes you feel like a pack of crayons on a hot radiator. Singer Stefan Blair certainly sounds sleepy in his delivery of the lyrics, “I overslept today/ What in the world/ What in the world/ What in the world should I say?” It’s the type of song that makes you want to stay in bed a little while longer while listening.

The EP gives the impression of following Blair and bandmate Liam Parsons through a lazy day during a hot, Australian summer. The timing of the release will be great for the band’s fans at home, since February falls during summertime in the southern hemisphere. For the rest of their fans, who will inevitably be freezing their asses off during this time, the album sounds like a chilled-out vacation in a much warmer climate.

“Cab Deg” is the band’s first single to be released from the EP. It’s the most “indie” album on the track, featuring extended vocal harmonies and a poppier sound. However, Blair and Parsons quickly bring the listener back down to reality during “To Be Won”. Played predominantly on acoustic guitar, it can be a challenge to decipher Blair’s softly-sung vocals, leaving the track up to interpretation over whether the song is sad or tastefully subdued. Either way it’s beautiful, making “To Be Won” the second single due to be released from the EP.

Between the first 3 and last 3 songs, the sound changes, like the guys have had some coffee. Overall, there’s less distortion and these tracks sound cleaner and more produced than the previous ones; “Give Me Something To Do” features some fancy saxophone but maintains the vocal harmonies of “Cab Deg”. However, the track goes in a new direction with spoken lyrics towards the end of the song that sound like they could be the slightest bit influenced by Lou Reed’s Street Hassle.

“The Great Start”, the penultimate track, carries through the psychedelic feel of the EP, but adds an airier, more atmospheric sound that blends well with Blair’s sleepy vocal style. By the time “In The Way” begins to play, I can’t imagine the listener is anything but blissed out, and this track prolongs that feeling all the way to the end of the EP. “I’m so sorry/ I get caught up…” is repeated through the track, but it’s never quite clear what Blair and Parsons are apologizing for. It doesn’t matter; it’s another beautiful song on the EP. Finally, it dissolves into a swirling puddle of sound before picking up and giving us one more “I’m so sorry…” and gently letting us go.

IT ALL FEELS RIGHT WITH WASHED OUT
November 18, 2015 1:56 pm

If I were to take a wild guess, you, the reader, having ventured into our wondrous world of ATYPICALSOUNDS, might be into ‘indie’ music, which by that extension means, you might recognize this tune.

Washed Out Band Photo. Ernest Greene pictured.

The creative forces behind Portlandia didn’t randomly select that snippet as the backdrop for their sketch comedy roughly based around the ill-defined ‘hipster’ niche. Washed Out’s “Feel It All Around” was the anthem to a short-lived–yet indispensable–piece of nostalgia-injected ambient-electro dance pop that emerged circa 2009 that is referred to as “Chillwave”, often characterized by heavily distorted lyrics, synthesizers, and sampling.  Think Toro Y Moi Causers of This Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms or Aerial Pink’s Before Today.

Washed Out is Athens, Georgia native Ernest Greene. He was discovered on, of all places, his MySpace account—which was still the social media mode of choice for most aspiring bedroom musicians at the time. Greene released his first two EPs High Times and Life of Leisure both within a short span in September 2009.  The former of the two was released via exclusively on cassette tape.  The latter saw a much wider release on Mexican Summer, a Brooklyn-based record company that specializes in elaborate vinyl packaging. Life of Leisure served as a major catalyst for Mexican Summer, which, along with Best Coast’s 2010 debut Crazy For You, was a hot commodity indie label at the time–and was certainly a major player in the vinyl craze that started around that time.  Greene next moved to Sub Pop where he released his debut full-length Within and Without in 2011 and followed up with Paracosms in 2013.

Thematically, Washed Out’s music tends to revolve around one central theme.  Look no further than his debut record cover.  That’s right: Love. Washed Out is a desperate romantic chasing after his muse. The titles of Greene’s tunes don’t really beat around the bush either; for example, “The Sound of Creation,” or “It All Feels Right.” His music is sensuous, immersive, and evocative, and at the same time, quite beautiful and dense.  Make-out music on a mild dose of psychedelia.

DEERHUNTER DIALS IT DOWN ON FADING FRONTIER
November 9, 2015 8:33 pm

Here’s the deal: Deerhunter has already earned their place in the ‘Ought’ generation’s indie rock pantheon. Bradford Cox is one of the most prolific, idiosyncratic, boundary-pushing voices to emerge in the last two decades. Microcastle is the quintessential ambient-psych-drone-punk album- evocative, dense and, if it wasn’t already apparent, difficult to classify. But bands aren’t professional sports teams. They don’t expire after a set number of ‘peak’ years. They grow old, and we get to grow old with them. Hopefully, we age well together. If Deerhunter’s 7th full-length album, Fading Frontier, is a sign of things to come, I’d say we’re in good hands.

1035x1035-unnamed-(1)Fading Frontier  is a wake up call. The genesis that spurred the record was a horrific car accident that left Bradford Cox severely injured—the soft-rock-injected “Breaker” ends with “jack knifed on the side street crossing, I’m still alive, and that’s something, and when I die, there will be nothing to say accept I tried not to waste another day”.

This is a softer, less dissonant, more fluid pop rock album than anything Deerhunter’s released to date.  The Upbeat “Living My Life” sounds like it could have been accidentally swapped for a Benjamin Gibbard song.  A pretty far departure from Cryptograms.

Braford Cox is a stream-of-consciousness evocateur. There’s a difference between a cannon slasher flick and a full-on psychological thriller. Cox’s themes tend to fit into the latter category- and although Fading Frontier serves as a more ethereal, soothing vessel, Cox’s off-kilter commentary on self-destruction, alienation, and turmoil are ever present. The album ends with “Carrion,” a morbid play off carry on.

Deerhunter records tend to sound like they were transmitted from deep space, intercepting stray waves of static and intergalactic noise along the way.  Drenched in reverb, a smorgasbord of oddball soundboard effects, drone pedals, and synth. Fading Frontier takes these Deerhunter tropes and dials them down, just a little bit.

ON THE SIDEWALK WITH THE MILD HIGH CLUB
October 19, 2015 12:36 pm

Timeline by Mild High Club is one of those albums that makes you forget which decade you’re in, and like you’re melting into a shag carpet. Those are both compliments, in case it wasn’t clear.

Alexander Brettin, the man behind Mild High Club, is an LA-based musician who recorded the album with a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder, MacBook, 12-string electric guitar, PortaSound keyboard, bass, drum machine, software instruments “and whatever was lying around,”.

Brettin was in town to play tracks from the album during this year’s CMJ, part of a 20+ date tour, but did us the honor of a quick chat after his October 17th set at Pianos.

MILD HIGH CLUB BAND

I’ve never done an interview while sitting on the sidewalk before. Do you do that often?

AB: No, I don’t do too many interviews.

Well, I appreciate you talking with me. You’re in the midst of a really long tour right now, and you’re going to the UK next week. Are you looking forward to it, or are you fried?

AB: I’m totally looking forward to it. I couldn’t be more excited. I wish I had 30 hours in the day so I could sleep a little more, but I’m totally excited.

When I first heard your album, I thought you might be English because of how psychedelic it sounds. Do you get that a lot?

AB: No, I definitely listen to the Beatles way too much, though, so they’ve probably rolled off my tongue at times.

MILD HIGH

You also get compared to Mac DeMarco a lot, and you’ve performed with him as well. How do you feel about that comparison?

AB: Mac is a friend of mine, I think he’s a great songwriter and a fantastic dude. If the comparison is menacing by any standard, I think people are missing the point of why we make music in the first place. I take it as a compliment, the dude’s great. I get compared to everyone and their mother, so there’s nothing you can really do about critics. I think people run out of words to describe stuff, and then it’s easy to just say, “Oh, that sounds like David Bowie, or the Beach Boys, or Mac DeMarco, or Tame Impala, or Connan Mockasin.” I’ve gotten them all, and those are all great songwriters. I’m flattered.

Is this your first CMJ?

AB: Yes it is.

How is it going so far? I know you’ve done a number of shows as part of CMJ already, and you have another one tonight.

AB: It’s great. It’s fun to play music, and get out there, and do it.

Has anything happened during your shows this week that has stood out to you?

AB: A baby stood up at one of the shows and yelled at me, and that was cool. That was at the Knitting Factory. There was just a baby in a stroller, and I guess he liked it. He got up and hollered at us, and it was cute.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

AB: I have a couple tricks up my sleeve, I can’t say what. I never stop working, that’s for sure.

Can you give us a hint?

AB: It’s gonna be something musical, that’s all I’ll say. I won’t divulge too much.

The Dove & The Wolf – Taking The US By Storm
September 24, 2015 9:46 am

Paris-based duo Paloma and Lou have been musical partners for years. The Dove & The Wolf is their most recent project, and their music is spreading across the US like wildfire.

dovenwolf

Their self-distributed EP was released back in 2012, only six months after the duo’s formation, and was immediately picked up and highlighted by the New York Times. Now fresh out of college, Paloma and Lou seem to have spent just as much time in the US as their home countries, France and Martinique.

And what’s not to like about The Dove & The Wolf? Their dual guitars blend just as effortlessly as their vocal harmonies. The songs are catchy, yet they possess an ambient and melancholic quality. As they say on their website, their music is “where Crosby, Stills & Nash and Air meet a feminine tenor.” Despite the ambient tints of their music, Air doesn’t really come to mind when listening to them. Take away the electronics from Air and you have nothing, however the stripped-down, acoustic live versions of The Dove & The Wolf are arguably just as good as the multi-layered versions we hear on their EP.

Unsurprisingly, a debut album is now in the works. Judging by their most recent release, a short EP called Words You Said, we could conclude that Paloma and Lou are heading into slightly more ambient territory. Perhaps the influences of Air will be more apparent in their next album. That would be interesting to hear, though I hope they don’t lose their melancholic quality in the process. In any case, I can be nothing but excited.

The Album Leaf – Master of Melancholy
July 6, 2015 2:02 pm

The Album Leaf has been around for quite a while. The solo musical project was founded by multi-instrumentalist Jimmy LaValle in 1998, only to have its first album released the following year. Originally a guitarist for the San Diego-based post-rock band Tristeza, LaValle is now widely known for his iconic use of electronics and Rhodes piano. His tracks are predominantly instrumental, and strike a unique balance between ambient music and post-rock.

There’s something oddly ‘faceless’ about The Album Leaf. I don’t know why, but despite knowing what LaValle looks like, I find it hard to picture him when listening to his music. In the rare occasions that he does use vocals, the voices are mixed to blend into the background. The music is so simple and organic, that it feels as if no one is, in fact, playing it at all. What remains is an acute feeling of yearning and wonder, a trait often associated with ambient music, such as that of Eluvium or Helios. The familiar ding of the Rhodes piano is everywhere in LaValle’s music, and it is baffling to hear how he makes this electronic sound from the 70’s ooze such a distinct melancholy.

LaValle began his career by collaborating with a whole variety of San Diego based bands. Nowadays he seems to have found his place alongside many contemporary Icelandic musicians. Much of his music has been made in collaboration with band members from Sigur Rós, Amiina, and Múm. He was also part of the Iceland Airwaves back in 2003, where he was backed by his collaborators. His music has been recognized as being particularly cinematic. To mention only a few examples, his song “Over The Pond” was used in Paulo Sorrentino’s The Family Friend, and more recently in a stunning compilation of Richard Linklater’s films created by Sight & Sound Magazine in the lead-up to the release of Boyhood.

Sadly, we haven’t seen a new studio album by The Album Leaf since 2010, but LaValle is clearly keeping himself busy. About a year ago he released this incredible song in collaboration with Oregon-based musician Peter Broderick, and his composed soundtrack to the 2014 film Spring was only just released last March.

Still, if you haven’t heard of The Album Leaf, you have a lot of catching up to do. Get listening folks! 

Leaf

Porcelain Raft: The Half Awake EP Release Party
June 30, 2015 10:30 am

Friday night saw the crowd at Baby’s All Right welcome the release of Half Awake, the new EP from Porcelain Raft that came out earlier this month. Porcelain Raft is the solo project of Italian-born Mauro Remiddi, who recently launched his own record label, Volcanic Field. As if both of those accomplishments weren’t enough reason to celebrate, the audience was already in high spirits from that morning’s Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage a right nationwide, a feat that was proudly announced onstage by a majority of the night’s performers and was met with cheers each time.

Porcelain Raft at Babys All Right 4

Half Awake is a superb addition to Remiddi’s already extensive catalog; this being his 10th EP and the follow-up to his full-length 2013 album Permanent Signal. The night’s set consisted mainly of tracks from the new EP plus Permanent Signal, and his 2012 album Strange Weekend.

The sound of Porcelain Raft is hard to fully articulate. It’s a unique amalgamation of ambient pop, shoegaze, and something that sounds a bit like early Jesus and Mary Chain, and Half Awake is no exception. It’s miles and miles of dreamy reverb, led by an androgynous-voiced angel. “Love Chain” stands out as the most pop-oriented track on the EP, following a more traditional song structure and featuring a chorus that quietly demands you sing along.

Porcelain Raft at Babys All Right 3

Remiddi is most well known for his poppier singles, including “The Way Out” and “Cluster”, which are both fantastic tracks. But to focus only on his bigger releases would be to miss out on the genius of his experimental nature. His setup onstage consists of a microphone, guitar, a series of synthesizers, a keyboard, and some effects pedals. He creates the music from scratch right in front of the audience, allowing them to become part of his creative process.

During his set, Remiddi also performs a couple of “acoustic” songs, e.g. songs he performs using only vocals and his electric guitar with no added effects. While singing, he steps away from the mic, still playing, but using only the natural amplification of his voice to carry his lyrics across the crowd. It’s a beautiful moment, and stands as testament to his natural ability as a performer. The show ends with Echo, which is left to loop when Remiddi disappears backstage. The audience soaks up these last moments, staring off into the smoke and colored lights on an otherwise empty stage.

Listen: “Love Chain” from Half Awake EP