Shiggajon : Sela

It’s hard to describe what’s going on within the grooves of Shiggajon’s Sela. It’s hard to describeshiggajon Shiggajon. Okay, not really. Shiggajon is a Danish music collective that makes music you might hear prior to the Rapture happening. Or moments before aliens descend onto this planet. Or possibly what you hear in your head during a funeral at sea. It’s a volcanic sound. Overpowering, mighty, menacing, and kinetic. Sela, Shiggajon’s new album, seems to be the sound of bugs devouring the corpse of time, amplified to infinity. It feels like music created within a vast space of trees, brush, and menace. It’s two 18+ minute song cycles that carry you on a tribal, rural journey that neither kills you nor saves you. It merely whips you around for nearly 40 minutes of transcending madness.

So this is what Shiggajon has to say about Shiggajon: “A Danish modern free music collective and continuing collaboration revolving around the duo Nikolai Brix Vartenberg and Mikkel Reher-Langberg. Shiggajon is not freejazz.” Shiggajon is definitely not freejazz. What it is, to my ears, is music and nature colliding in an explosion of strings, woodwinds, percussion, and drone. The two songs collected on Sela feel like slow movements in nature. Something very much of the soil and sea. “Maeander”, on side one is slow moving yet forceful. It starts as intermingling violin strings and light, silvery percussion as the song slowly adds elements until it builds to a caustic conclusion. Much like it’s namesake(Maeander is the ancient name for the Menderes River of Western Turkey), this song flows and plods like a body of water down a gouge in the earth. “Sela” is the whole of side two and it keeps that post-apocalyptic folk sound going. Percussion touches gives the song a Middle Eastern flair, which makes sense given the word’s religious connections. Sela, in biblical terms, means rock. Mentioned by the prophets as “doomed to destruction”, you get that feeling as you listen. Within this track is where you hear what the folks at El Paraiso heard that made them want to put this album out. It resembles some of the spastic, spacey, and expansive vibes of Causa Sui’s Pewt’r Sessions albums, albeit grounded in more ancient waters. As a whole, “Sela” feels less tense and more spiritual and resonates with an inner light. Maybe not optimism, but a tempered stoicism.

Shiggajon’s Sela is an interesting and compelling record. It never explodes, nor does it fizzle either. It feels like a campfire within a dense forest. A distant light you see as you make your way slowly through dangerous foliage. No moon above to guide you, just the distant flickering of flames licking towards the black, night sky. Sela is both the sound of an Appalachian death march through mountains and rivers, and of the universe folding onto itself ever so gently.

8.2 out of 10

Editor’s Note: At press time pressing plant delays have pushed the release of Sela back to August. This is what El Paraiso had to say about it: “Some bad news – due to the current extended delivery time on vinyl, we have to push Shiggajon: Sela into an August release – we thought we had calculated the extended pressing time in the wake of Record Store Day, when delivering the masters and artwork way back in March (!) – making this a whopping 5 months in the printer’s delivery pipeline. We’ll think of something extra for your patience if you preordered the LP.”

Be patient, friends. It’s worth the wait. – JH


Lose Your Way : A Conversation With Love Amongst Ruin’s Steve Hewitt

Most of us -having been the drummer for an internationally successful alternative rock band for over ten years then subsequently let go out of the blue for no reason- would more than likely curl up into a ball and drown our sorrows in lousy food, lousy booze, and self-contempt. Right? Well maybe I’m speaking for myself, because I know I’m not speaking for Steve Hewitt.

Hewitt was the man behind the drum kit for Placebo from 1996 through 2007, contributing to both album and song creation. After he was let go in 2007, instead of wallowing in his sorrows he set out on his own musical adventure and started Love Amongst Ruin. Prior to joining Placebo Steve had been in a plethora of bands(The Mystic Deckchairs, The Boo Radleys, and Breed to name a few), so he was a music lifer.

In 2010 the debut self-titled album by Love Amongst Ruin was released. On June 29th Hewitt will release the follow-up to that debut. It’s called Lose Your Way, and from the sound of lead single “Lose Your Way” it’s going to be a great return. I recently spoke to Steve about the album and what Love Amongst Ruin has planned for the rest of the year.

J HubnerHello Steve. So it’s been 5 years since your debut album with Love Amongst Ruin. Now you’re ready to release album number two called ‘Lose Your Way’. Within those five years, what have you learned that helped you go into the writing process of the new record?

Steve Hewitt: I think in the last 5 years I’ve learnt to write better songs, I think song writing is something that improves the more you apply to it. Also, I think I realised that I could take the time now and release a new album when I felt happy with it. Concerning the writing process, I seemed to have a clearer lyrical context this time which helped the songs and music come together quicker as ideas, obviously then I would refine them until they became the complete piece.

J HubnerThe new single, “Lose Your Way”, is a dark, pulsating track, and the video depicts decay. Sound-wise it reminds one a bit of early 80s alternative: New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Psychedelic Furs echo a bit in the sound. Who were you listening to that informed the sound on this album?

Steve Hewitt: Something I remain to do today as from the Placebo days is I still make music in isolation, I tried then as I try now to not be influenced by anything around me musically. I suppose it’s a personal effort to try and be as original as possible. Obviously that hasn’t worked!!!!!!

J HubnerNo, not at all! I think it worked. Maybe I’m just hearing the remnants of those initial influences when you were still soaking them all up back in the 80s. Either way, it’s stunning work. Though speaking of influence, what was the influence lyrically for you on ‘Lose Your Way’? It feels both of internal and external strife. 

Steve Hewitt: It’s exactly that, the song ‘Lose Your Way’ is a view on how you can be in pursuit of something in your life. A goal to achieve or reach a point in a personal process only to suddenly find yourself, though surrounded by family and friends, lost! Like you’ve taken a wrong turn in your mind or your heart and because of that you no longer understand anything around you anymore. And the question is how could that have happened with all of the things around you that you rely on!

J HubnerCan you tell me about the making of the album?

Steve Hewitt: After getting most of the ides together for the album, myself and great music partner Donald Ross Skinner (Guitarist in L.A.R) moved into Moles recording studio in Bath. We basically started tracking drums to the recordings I had made in my studio at home, it seemed logical to do as a lot of the ideas were well formed.

J HubnerSo who engineered the record? It sounds amazing. 

Steve Hewitt: We started doing this with our great friend and long time partner in crime Paul Corkett. The worlds greatest engineer! It was Paul who suggested during these sessions that we should do a trial track with his friend and producer Dan Austin. So we decided to work together on Lose Your Way.

J Hubner: So it was obvious right away that Dan was the guy to produce?

Steve Hewitt:  Immediately it was clear that there was a great creative vibe and for three days we went from strength to strength. It turned into a wonderful whirlwind of non-stop ideas and understanding each other which showed we were all on the same page. The result of that track which you’ve heard, cemented our working ethos for the rest of the album! The deal was done.

J HubnerIt sounds like you found a great producer and cohort in Dan Austin. 

Steve Hewitt: Dan Austin is a very very talented man and fantastic to work with, I believe he’s going to a huge name in production for future music.

J HubnerBesides yourself, who else performed on the record?

Steve Hewitt: The people who played on the album were mainly myself and Donald Ross Skinner. But my other guitarist at the time, Steve Hove, played some great parts on the record too.

J HubnerThough there was 5 years in between the first album and ‘Lose Your Way’, you kept quite busy in that time. What other projects were you involved in between 2010 and 2015? 

Steve Hewitt: Yes, I have been busy in-between these L.A.R albums, busy producing other bands that have approached me to do their records.

J HubnerWho have you worked with on the production end of things?

Steve Hewitt: I produced a French band called LYS, I did their first album in Paris and then their second album at my own studio in Surrey. Then I produced an Italian band called Spiral 69, I did tracks on their last album “Ghost In My Eyes” and more recently played drums on and produced their current single “Exile Of The Heart”. I also recently went over to Italy to help promote their record and play shows in Naples, Milan and Rome.

J HubnerAre you currently working with anybody? Anyone we should know about?

Steve Hewitt: At the moment I’m working with a great pop singer called DéDé, recording tracks and producing and most recently I am now working on a solo album for Paul Draper who was the singer in Mansun, I’m playing drums and it’s coming together nicely.

J HubnerSo do you enjoy producing?

Steve Hewitt: Yes, I love producing. After spending most of my life touring the world, to spend loads of time in the studio is a great pleasure.

J HubnerWhat aspect of production do you enjoy the most?

Steve Hewitt: I love making music now with all sorts of artists who all play different styles of music it’s great to become so versatile musically.

J HubnerSo what’s the hardest part of producing artists? 

Steve Hewitt: The hardest thing to do is work with vocalists from other countries who want to sing in English but have their strong accents. So it takes me a long time to get them to a point of acceptable vocal takes, which means sometimes I find myself teaching English pronunciation rather than recording vocals. It takes a lot of time but we get there in the end.

J HubnerWhat’s in store for the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Will there be a tour?

Steve Hewitt: I’m just going to be getting the L.A.R. live band together and carry on working with Paul Draper from Mansun. I just want to see the reaction to this album while we look at our options. It would be so cool to get back on tour again, it’s been too long.

Lose Your Way is out June 29th, 2015 on Ancient B. Keep track of Steve Hewitt and all things Love Amongst Ruin at 


Rock ‘N Roll Pilgrimage : Avers and Opera at The Brass Rail

by EA Poorman

Whenever I get a message from one of Fort Wayne’s finest songwriters, Mr. Kevin Hambrick, I always get excited. He’s been a staple of the Fort’s indie rock music scene for many years, putting out stellar power pop rock with the Orange Opera, as well as some incredible records under his own name(have you heard Turtle Wagon or Football Weather? If not you should.) Kevin gets a hold of me from time to time to see how I’m doing, what I’ve been listening to, and to generally chew the fat. He also lets me know when he’s got a show coming up or when he’s bringing a great band to town to play with. On Memorial Day Kev and The Orange Opera are playing a show at The Brass Rail with Richmond, Virginia’s Avers. I did some digging and this band is out of sight. I checked out their debut record Empty Light and it’s a smorgasbord of garage rock, indie pop, and pretty much anything cool that came out in the last 45 years.

I reached out to the band and Charlie Glenn was kind enough to chat for a bit. Avers is Adrian Olsen, Alexandra Spalding, James-Lloyd Hodges, James Mason, Tyler Williams, and Charlie Glenn.

EA Poorman: Hi Charlie. So tell me about Avers. How did you all get together?

Charlie Glenn: We had all played with different groups – James in the Mason Brothers, J.L. in Farm Vegas, Alex and Adrian from Hypercolor,  Tyler Williams from The Head and The Heart, and I play with The Trillions.  Adrian runs an amazing studio called Montrose Recording and James had mentioned to all of us about starting some psychedelic experiment.

EA Poorman: A psychedelic experiment? Sounds intriguing.

Charlie Glenn: That’s what it turned out to be – a recording experiment, with everyone collaboratively writing and playing various instruments to pump out a song a day for a week and change in the summer of 2013.

EA Poorman: That sounds like an ideal situation for some real organic creativity. 

Charlie Glenn: We all just all have a passion for ad-hoc writing and recording.  We had no idea that we would later form a band out of it, but soon we had an album that needed a group to perform it.

EA Poorman: Listening to your debut ‘Empty Light’ there seems to be a lot of different sounds happening. Some dream pop to gritty garage rock to even some late 60s Velvet Underground. How would Avers describe Avers’ sound? Did you all have a specific idea in mind in how you wanted to sound, or was it more of just letting things happen and going with it?

Charlie Glenn: Any one member of the band has hugely varied music interests, so as a group we’re pooling ideas from myriad genres and periods.  But yeah, for that first record, the umbrella idea was ‘psychedelic experiement,” hence the fuzz and echo and grit and reverb and so on.  Adrian has a plethora of recording toys at his disposal, and we just love plugging them in and turning knobs ’til it sounds bonkers.

EA Poorman: Avers recently had a pretty triumphant performance at South By Southwest. How was that whole experience? I’ve heard both good and bad regarding SXSW. Was it a postive experience for you guys?

Charlie Glenn: SXSW did prove to be well worth the drive this year – and not just because of good press.  Most of us going were veterans, and had a bit of anxiety knowing what a wild scramble it can be.  For just a taste of that, our planned lodging fell through – the day we were driving to Austin!

EA Poorman: Oh no! That’s never a good sign.

Charlie Glenn: But it worked out, we actually scored an amazing crash spot, and the shows, especially early on, went great.  We ran into friends, caught more than 50 shows between us, and thusly managed to have a blast.

EA Poorman: That’s great to hear. It was also great to hear that you all will be hitting Fort Wayne and the Brass Rail for a show with Kevin Hambrick and Orange Opera on Memorial Day. How did this show come together?

Charlie Glenn: Funny enough, I ran into Kevin Hambrick at SXSW!  I have known that gentleman for a while now – years ago, Tyler and I used to play in a band called Prabir & The Substitutes, and we would make it a point to get out to Fort Wayne and play with Kevin and the Opera as often as we could stand.  So, we found ourselves booking through Indiana, Kevin set up a show, and what a glorious rock n roll pilgrimage it will be.

EA Poorman: Mr. Hambrick is a Saint among us, and one of the most talented songwriters I know. I know a few, too. If he’s excited about bringing Avers to the Fort, then I’m excited. Besides the Rail show, what other shows does Avers have lined up in the Midwest? 

Charlie Glenn: We’ll be on tour with J Roddy Walston and the Business (who RULE, if you haven’t heard them), and if we’ll be getting as far west as Nashville, Louisville and Cleveland.

EA Poorman: It seems Avers are also working on new music. How’s the recording of album number two going? 

Charlie Glenn: There is a new record looming.  It’s… louder?

EA Poorman: Louder is good.

Charlie Glenn: Ha.  It’s quite different from the first.  The first record birthed Avers.  Now, Avers as a group recorded and produced a new batch of songs.  They have been mixed by Peter Katis, and we’re just now figuring out how to do what with said tracks.  But keep your ears perked, it won’t be long!  Check out our rough mix of ‘Vampire’ to get an idea.

EA Poorman: So what’s going on with Avers for the rest of 2015? 

Charlie Glenn: Avers will be on the road quite a bit all throughout 2015.  We also got invited to play some great festivals – Austin City Limits, Doe Bay, and Landmark, a new spectacular event in DC.  We’re excited!

All I can say is you need to get out and see Avers with The Orange Opera on Memorial Day at the Brass Rail. Chances are this time next year this band will be playing much bigger venues. They may be on the soundtrack to your favorite indie flick. Or on Fallon. Or both. Either way, if you’re not heading to Austin then head to the Brass Rail on Memorial Day and see ’em then. Tell Kev that EA says “Hey.”






time traveler

Time Traveler : A Conversation With Musician J D Emmanuel

Last year was the year I fell hard for synthesizers. I’d always had a passing interest, but never took them all that serious. Hell, growing up in the 80s and listening to metal albums you could usually find in bold lettering in the liner notes of said albums “No synthesizers were used in the making of this record“, as if it was a point of pride. Though, when you’re listening to dudes shredding on guitars at breakneck speeds, you really aren’t all that interested in Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson types. It all seemed so pompous(like dudes in leopard print tights and primped hair playing guitar solos with their tongue wasn’t?)

But as the years passed I learned to appreciate synthesizers and what they could do. There was an organic aspect to synths(especially analog synths) that I learned to love. After watching a documentary on Robert Moog and his moog synthesizers I had officially become obsessed with the instrument. Watching how these instruments were put together by hand, circuits wired and soldered meticulously, and the wood used to frame these synths cut out carefully, I saw these keyboards as organic and legitimate as a guitar pristinely constructed by a luthier.

So in 2014 I made some pretty significant discoveries. First was the band Causa Sui. This Danish band is a psych rock powerhouse that contains within it three amazing synth players. The first one I discovered was drummer Jakob Skott. Besides being a monster drummer, Skott also puts out heady, synth-heavy records under his own name. Amor Fati and Taurus Rising, both released in 2014, were two of my favorite albums last year. A mix of killer drum grooves and synthesizer atmospherics those records pretty much put me on a journey to discover as much synth music as I could. Jonas Munk, Causa Sui’s guitarist, also puts out solo music heavily based in synthesizer landscapes. His 2012 album Pan, as well as his excellent new record Absorb Fabric Cascade are masterpieces in the synth genre. These all led to me picking up albums by Rudiger Lorenz, Terry Riley, Bernard Szajner, and Sinoia Caves.

Being a freelance(not paid) writer, I like to reach out to folks that I admire and am a big fan of and ask them if they’d be willing to answer some questions about their music. I’ve been very lucky in that most are happy to oblige. I’ve talked with Mr. Skott on two occasions, and just recently interviewed Jonas Munk. During that conversation, Jonas mentioned a synth player that had an impact on him named J D Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a Texas-born and based musician that put out a string of small but influential synth-based records in the 80s. One of those albums was called Wizards. At Jonas Munk’s recommendation I listened to Mr. Emmanuel’s music and was quite impressed. Emmanuel goes by “Time Traveler” when referring to his music as, in J D’s words, it can put the listener into a state where time and space seems to disappear.” I reached out to J D and he was happy to discuss his music and philosophy with me.

J Hubner: So where did you grow up J D? 

J D: I grew up on La Porte, Texas, a small town on the northern part of Galveston Bay.  I was born and lived the first four years in E Texas, Joaquin.

J Hubner: Was your household a musical one? 

J D: Music was around me, but I don’t know if I would call it a musical household.  My Grandmother was a piano teacher, so when I was around 6 years old she taught me the fundamentals but I never really got into it seriously.  However, I did like messing around on the piano, but did not try creating anything.

J Hubner: When did you first seriously get interested in music?

J D: There was not a time when I became interested in music, it has always been in my heart.

J Hubner: Well, what was one of your earlier influences musically?

J D: Since I played bass trombone in Jr High and High School a lot of classical music at first, especially Bach and Mozart.  Then I got into dixieland, and early and contemporary jazz – Brubeck, Stan Kenton, Tommy Dorsey, too many to name.  I also liked rock & roll in general.

J Hubner: I know that meditation has been an integral part of your music, and that you had some very early experiences with it when you were young. Can you talk about that early experience?

J D: For me it started when I was a kid. When I was around 11 years old, I discovered that if I laid down and closed my eyes while listening to music, I went into this wonderful dream state. I started out on long, evolving classical music. When I became a teenager, I found that jazz was an excellent source because of the beat and the extended play on themes, ie, jams. In my late teens, rock started having long jams and those took me very deep. I discovered that if I liked the music, whatever kind it was, it worked.

J Hubner: What was it that pushed you towards metaphysical studies? Was there something that happened in your life to peak your interest?

J D: I don’t know, as such. I was always liked Sci-Fi and fantasy books and movies, which kinda linked to the metaphysical.  I have always had a very open mind and know that we are infinite beings taking temporary visits in mortal bodies when we visit Earth.

There was a chain of events that started with a lecture I heard on the radio by Ram Dass/Richard Alpert, in 1970, Here We All Are. Profound. Then I got into the Carlos Castaneda/Don Juan books.  In 1972, things really happened after I moved to Atlanta.  I got involved with a meditation group, got introduced to the work of Edgar Casey, and met and worked with a trance physic named Paul Solomon.



J Hubner: How old were you when you discovered Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Walter Carlos?  Who were some other artists that influenced you?

J D: I was around 21 years old.  Carlos’ work with synths and classical music was interesting. Best influences were Riley, Reich, Glass, Achim Reichel, and early Tangerine Dream up to about 1983, to name a few.

J Hubner: When did you first begin to experiment with synthesizers? Were there any artists that influenced you to head in that direction?

J D: Not until around the middle of 1980. I wanted something to add to the Crumar organ. Not sure about the influence, I just like the sound of them and programming them. Maybe Carlos, TD and Klaus Schulze.

J D instruments

J D Emmanuel’s home studio set up.


Here is a list of J D’s instrument set up:

Live Performance

    Setup within driving distances, combination of any of the following gear:

    • 3 – Dave Smith Instruments Mono Evolver Keyboards
    • Yamaha SK-20 Synthesizer, optional for local performances only
    • T.C. Electronics ND1 Nova Delay Pedal
    • SanDisk Sansa MP3 Player for playing environmental sounds and synthesizer loops
    • Zoom H2 Portable Digital Recorder for live recording
    • Kawai MX-8R Mixer
    • Zoom R16 16-track digital recorder

Studio Gear

    Synthesizer Keyboards

    • Yamaha SK-20 Synthesizer, circa 1982, analog synth/organ/strings – a gift from my wife,Cindy in 1982 – Sweet!
    • Mono Evolver Keyboard, Dave Smith Instruments, as close as I could get to a Sequential Circuits Pro-One keyboard which was also designed by Dave Smith. Very cool mix of analog and digital sound technology with a sequencer and arpeggiator.

    • 1998 Martin DBXR – I got this one in a pawn shop for $300. I could not figure out why it was so cheap and sounded almost as good as my D-35! When I researched it out, I discovered that it was a laminated guitar with wood bracing. This is a wonderful axe that sounds great and plays easy!!
    Studio Hardware

    • Zoom R16 16-track digital recorder
    • Zoom H2 digital recorder
    • Tascam 302mkII, dual well, 3-head cassette deck
    • Midiman USB Midiport
    • Behringer Denoiser
    • Yamaha RX-595 Natural Sound Receiver
    • 2 – JBL 4311B Studio Monitors, modified
    • 2 – JBL 4311 Studio Monitors
    • Sony MDS-JB930 MiniDisk deck for basic mixdowns and the source for tape dubbing
    • 4 Dual Recording Cassettes Decks for Dubbing Tapes for Resale
      • Tascam 302 mkII, also used as mastering cassette deck
      • 2 x Denon DN-770R
      • Sony TC-WE635
      • Onkyo TA-RW505
    Studio Software

    • Sony Acid Pro 6
    • Sony Soundforge 9
    • Sony CD Architech 5.2
    • Vegas Pro 12 Video Editor with DVD Architech Pro 6
    • MixPad from NCH Software for Mullti-track Digital Mixing


J Hubner: I’ve talked to a few artists that compose and create on analog synthesizers and I always ask them what is it about the analog synths that appeals to them. What is it about the medium that brought you to the synth?

J D: Actually, I just like synthesizers in general, not just analog.  I have used a lot of different ones over the years and just like the unique sounds I can create using them.

J Hubner: As a lover of synth music, I’m quite enjoy your work. In particular, I love your album Wizards. There’s something simple yet rather profound in the music. It reminded me very much of Rudiger Lorenz’ Invisible Voices. If someone was coming to your music for the first time, which of your albums would you recommend they start out with?

J D: Definitely Wizards. It is my favorite, too.  Oddly enough, I listen to my music a lot as it was created for me, as such.  I am glad others like it too.  I would also recommend my last one, Inter​-​Dimensional Time Traveling. I like that one as much as I like Wizards.  It also shows the progression of my music style very well.


J Hubner: So how often do you make music? Are you constantly creating?

J D: Rarely, right now.  I was forced to retire in the summer of 2013, after losing my job again.  Unfortunately, a lot of my time is spent on making ends meet.  Occasionally, I will do special projects for Dublab or others.



J Hubner:  I know you say your music is for deep meditative, or altered states. I can hear how being in a different state of mind could help enhance the experience of your music. Are you ever in an altered state or deep meditative state when creating your music? I’ve personally felt a sense of falling away and absolute stillness listening to Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians.

J D: That is basically the only way I create my music, whether live or in the studio.  I always become one with the music, so we kinda flow together. You don’t have to meditate to be in an altered state.

J Hubner: In your years experimenting with meditation and reaching altered states, have you every experimented with sensory deprivation tanks? I’m curious if that sort of experience has ever come out into your music?

J D: I have not personally had the experience of using that type of device.  I learned about them via the John Lilly experiments with floatation tanks.  There was a commercial one in Houston in the early ’80 that used Rain Forest Music a lot for its clients.

J Hubner: Do you ever tour? 

J D: I have never toured except for one time in Europe, 2011, for lots of reasons that I will not get into.  I rarely play live anymore.  I do enjoy it when I can.  Part of the problem is the hassle of getting the gear I need to a location. A lot of it is the cost.

Plus as I have gotten older traveling is not much fun for me anymore, I spent over 20 years on the road with my job and I guess I have traveled enough. But that doesn’t mean that things can’t come together for me to be able to do a live program somewhere.

J Hubner: Are there any new albums from Time Traveler on the horizon?

J D: Not at this time.  I am in discussion with Black Sweat Records out of Europe to publish my early electronics, 1980-83, that is not on any albums.  If it happens, it will be later this year or early 2016.


J D Emmanuel is a great guy, incredible musician, and a deep soul. Read more about him here. And check out(and buy) his music here.

“Basically, I am a Seeker, someone who is always interested in learning more about my relationship to the “Universe” and the “Source of My Being”.” – J D Emmanuel




Metz : II

Metz seem to have found that perfect recipe for brash, explosive anger and have no plans of metzchanging that recipe. Not even slightly. On their follow-up to their 2012 debut album the Canadian trio seemed to be on a mission of destruction and mayhem. That record took the blueprint of bands like Big Black, the Pixies, and even early Nirvana and lit it on fire, pissed on it, and then reconstituted the ashes into a jet black cocktail of squealing guitars, exploding drums, and buzzsaw bass. Alex Edkins vocals resembled a madman falling in an endless cavern, and a blender on puree. It was a relentless, unforgiving thirty minutes of noise rock you wouldn’t soon forget(since your ears rang for an hour afterwards.) On II, the band’s new record, nothing has changed. It’s just as brutal, if not more so. It’s another half hour of abrasive, bloody sound blasts that do nothing to up the ante from last time. If you wanted something else, well you’re in the wrong place, pal.

From the opening fuzzed-out bass notes of “Acetate”, to the eardrum-splitting finale of “Kicking a Can of Worms”, the ride is relentless and combative. Edkins, along with bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies seem to have one goal in mind: get it as loud, angry, and in the red as they can. Then, just when you think it can’t get any more intense, push it up even more. I’m not sure you’ll hear anything more intense this year than “Nervous System”. It’s like a panic attack transcribed into music. Even punk rock never felt this intense. There are subtle changes this time around, though. There seems to be a little more attention put to making these songs feel more melodic, if that’s possible. Alex Edkins vocals seem to be more up front this time around, giving the songs an actual song feel; as opposed to the debut’s scorched earth policy of making each song a fire and brimstone aural revival. Edkins vocals at times resemble Jello Biafra drowning on his own blood. “I.O.U.” starts out sounding like someone searching the FM dial for something to listen to, and then comes across the sound of something familiar in a sea of white noise. The sound of punk morphing into post-punk right before our ears. “Spit You Out” could’ve been a b-side from In Utero. Just close your eyes and listen. You’ll hear it. “The Swimmer”, “Landfill”, and “Eyes Peeled” are the closest Metz has come to catchy hooks. They’re in there, just dig a little deeper. Past the bloody rags and sweat-soaked t-shirts.

Once again Metz self-produced and they seem to know what they’re doing. There’s a continuity in the swarm of noise. A through line from their debut to II that while some will say they aren’t evolving or pushing boundaries, I’d argue to say there’s something very comforting in that. Some bands don’t need to add orchestras, back up singers, horn sections, or piano ballads in order to evolve. Sometimes the beast needn’t be tamed. Sometimes a beast must simply stay a beast. Metz are the beast this world needs right now, and II is that beast’s mission statement.

8.8 out of 10



Rock ‘N Roll Andy Kauffman

Is there something wrong with Alex Calder? I mean, I listen to his albums and I really quite enjoy him. Weird, off-kilter pop music seems to be his thing. Songs that are catchy, yet there’s always something in there that seems kind of off. You’re waiting for the moment when this affable guy is going to snap and strangle you, chop you up, and mail pieces of you across Canadian provinces.

Maybe it’s just that I’m not Canadian and I don’t quite get that Canadian humor. Is he just putting me on? I mean the guy retires from music every couple weeks and starts new endeavors. Chef, actor, lizard man, etc…then he ends up putting out a new album and everything is back to kosher. His videos are really strange as well. They’re funny, but strange. He was in a band with Mac Demarco, so that should explain a lot regarding his behavior.

Still, I’m pretty good at figuring out when someone is trying to pull one over on me. I get the performance art stuff. I loved Andy Kauffman, and a lot of times I get the feeling Calder is just performing some strange performance art piece when he’s in front of a camera. He even did one of those Vincent Moon/Blogotheque-like videos where he was performing his song “Strange Dreams” on acoustic guitar in a laundromat. You couldn’t hear him playing it as there was so much noise in the laundromat: conversations, loud mechanical noises, chewing. It was really pretty funny, which makes me think Calder just likes to screw with people, including his fans.

When it comes to his music he seems pretty legit. Both his Time EP and full-length Strange Dreams are pretty great. Woozy, stoned, quirky pop songs that have an element of menace hanging over them. It was announced by his record label Captured Tracks that they were releasing his Mold Boy recordings on a full-length LP as a Record Store Day exclusive. There wasn’t a whole lot I was excited about on RSD this year, but this was one of them I was intrigued by. Of course, no one had this album on RSD. At least none of the shops I visited. Was this yet another Calder prank? Had I been fooled again by this Canadian prankster?

Well a couple weeks after RSD Captured Tracks had the Mold Boy LP on sale at their site so I ordered it. After a little confusion on the shipping date it arrived last Saturday and I listened to it pretty much all weekend. There’s something lighter about the Mold Boy songs than with Calder’s other songs. Maybe a little folksier? Listening I imagine Deerhunter doing Velvet Underground covers on Quaaludes. Sonically it feels like it was recorded in an oversized garbage can with waterlogged microphones. Songs range from drunken pop bliss(“Rewind My Mind”, “Boil”, and “Carlito”) to stranger sounds(“Disease Freak”, “Take A Dip”, and “Microscopic”). There’s still that uneasiness that comes with the Alex Calder territory. One minute everything feels all right and cool, but then the next moment the room darkens a bit and the laughter becomes rather uncomfortable.

So why do I like the guy if he’s sorta weird and creepy? I don’t know, really. He hooked me back in 2013 with his song “Suki and Me” on his Time EP and I haven’t been able to shake him since. I think it’s the idea that the guy is completely normal -albeit maybe stoned and drunk a lot of the time- and that he just likes to keep people guessing.

With songs like “Moving Slow” and “Carlito” I supposed he’ll continue to keep me hooked, whether he’s f*****g with me or not. I’ll keep watching his freaky Rock ‘N Roll Andy Kauffman show until he dies in a blaze of irony, or until he stops lighting his farts. Whichever comes first.



Do Androids Dream of Electric Beats?

My musical tastes have run the gamut over the course of my 41 years. From when I was a kid in short pants soaking up the day’s popular hits in the backseat of my mom and dad’s boat of an Oldsmobile, to forcing Yngwie Malmsteen’s Odyssey down anyone’s ear holes within feet of my bedroom as a greasy teenager, to discovering The Beatles’ Rubber Soul when I was 18 years old. For a few years I felt I was in a holding pattern of sorts, revisiting what I already knew and only digging artists that fit in that power pop mold I’d constructed. 1996 was a big year for me as that was the year I discovered Wilco’s Being There. The album presented as a long form piece of artistry. Sure, there’d been double LPs prior to Being There, but none of them affected me quite like Wilco’s did. Even The White Album, for all it’s grubby genius and raw individuality, didn’t have the impact on me that Being There did. Then, in 1997, I bought OK Computer and I felt I’d found a portal to another dimension. A dimension where science fiction, art, experimentation, and rock and roll seemed to collide beautifully. There was a feeling of sadness and loneliness that permeated that record. An alien entity. It was like artificial intelligence had suddenly formed the ability to have it’s mechanized heart broken.

Up to that point I’d only been a mild fan of Radiohead. Pablo Honey did nothing for me. “Creep” was whatever. I bought The Bends as my local record shop had the CD for cheap. I quite liked that record, especially “High And Dry”, “Just”, “Fake Plastic Trees”, and “Street Spirit(Fade Out)”. But there was nothing there hinting at what OK Computer was going to do to me. So Kid A comes out in 2000 and I was expecting to be blown away. Just completely have my mind blown and handed back to me a zip loc baggie. What really happened was that I didn’t quite get it. I found portions of it exciting, but I found myself waiting for the rock bits to show up. I wanted everything to sound like “Optimistic”, and I was disappointed. Not really in Radiohead, but in myself for not being able to progress along with them. It indeed felt alien, disjointed, and like art put to music -all those things I loved about their previous masterpiece- but I couldn’t crack that whole electronic music thing.

Electronic music.

A musical spectrum that I hadn’t really jaunted through up to that point. I’d dabbled over the years. My first foray into electronic music was probably in high school. I was subjected to Skinny Puppy, Ministry, and Nitzer Eb as my good pal Shane drove us home from school. I didn’t quite get it then. The mechanical crash and tat of programmed drums, the buzz saw guitars, and the angry vocals. Oh so angry. I didn’t understand the appeal. Where’s the vocal harmonies? Where’s the emoting? The guitar solos? Where’s the damn guitar solos? I did like some of that aggression that came out of industrial music, but I preferred my aggression man made with double kick drums, bar chords, and whammy bars. Speed metal was my aggression release, not drum machines, synths, and plastic guitars.

As I got older the electronic music thing was still a bit foreign and distant for me. I did buy a couple of electronic albums in the 90s. The first was The Crystal Method’s Vegas in 1998. I think it was because of the song “High Roller”. Looking back I feel kind of dirty for buying it. In retrospect it feels like the electronic version of Nu Metal. Then in 1999, on a business trip to Billings, Montana I bought The Chemical Brothers’ Surrender. Something about that album I connected with. It wasn’t brash and in-your-face like The Crystal Method’s “jock hopped up on Miller Light and speed at Mardi Gras” sound. “Music: Response”, “Orange Wedge”, and “Let Forever Be” were all top notch songs that felt just as organic as they did machine made. With this album, the world of electronic music seemed a much more welcoming one than it had previously.

The electronic music thing stayed rather dormant after that, with the Radiohead exceptions which were still sorta “out there” for my simplistic musical tastes. Then in 2008 that same friend that force fed me Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Eb, Ministry and the like had come over one evening for one of our beer drinking endurance tests and he dumped quite a bit of music onto my hard drive for me to explore when I had time. One of the bands he left for me were Boards Of Canada. He left me Music Has The Right To Children, Geodaddi, and The Campfire Headphase. All sat on my computer for about a year before I got around to really listening to them. Once I did, that was it. It was like a light went on inside my head. The distant loneliness, the nostalgia, and the longing were all right there for me to fall into and get lost in. I got from Boards Of Canada what I got from hearing OK Computer for the first time. Those Scottish brothers achieved a level of wistfulness and melancholia with synthesizers, computers, and detached, aged voices that Radiohead did with guitars, keys, drums, and Yorke’s ghostly vocals. It was at this point that I knew electronic music could be my friend. It could affect me as much as Being There, Rubber Soul, and yes, even Malmsteen’s Odyssey.

Nowadays, I find myself listening to as much electronic music as I do anything else. I think the biggest thing for me was discerning that fine line between EDM and everything else. I’ve never been, and still am not, much of a dance music fan. The propulsive beats, the repetition, and the trance-like state it puts you in has never been my thing. I always just assumed electronic music was just dance music disguised as something else. New Order, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, KLF,….these were what the face of electronic music looked like in my formative years. None of that appealed to me(though now I quite like Depeche Mode, New Order, and Pet Shop Boys.) But once I went through the Boards Of Canada filter I realized electronic music could be more than just rave soundtracks. The electronic music I find myself gravitating towards is of the emoting variety. Not so much the visceral stuff, as much as the intellectual variety. The electronic music I listen to would be more enhanced by a pint or a toke, as opposed to ketamine or MDMA.

Pretty much avoid any drugs that end in “amine” kids, okay?

So who do I listen to? Boards Of Canada, Flying Lotus, Oneohtrix Point Never, Sinoia Caves, Thug Entrancer, Huerco S, Sculpture, Terry Riley, Jonas Munk, Popol Vuh, Rudiger Lorenz, Kraftwerk, Thieves Like Us, Washed Out, Neon Indian, Cliff Martinez’ film scores, Wendy Carlos, Disasterpeace, Pauline Oliveros, JD Emmanuel,….just to name a few. There are a lot of great record labels putting out stellar indie electronic music, too. Kemado, Anthology Recordings, and Software(all under the Mexican Summer umbrella) have a huge variety of electronic music to choose from. Anthology Recordings reissued Rudiger Lorenz’ excellent 1982 album Invisible Voices last summer. It was an album I spun for months, and still spin it on my long walks in the afternoon. Software is a label I discovered fairly recently but have found some amazing records through them. Thug Entrancer’s Death After Life, Sculpture’s Membrane Pop, Huerco S’ Colonial Patterns, and Tropa Macaca’s Ectoplasma are just a few of the many I’ve been floored by. The Software label was started by Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin, and all the artists on the roster have a similar approach to creating music. Some even border of psych electronic.

It’s heady music, man.

So it’s taking me a long time to come around, but I’ve finally found an electronic music niche that I feel like I’m a part of. It speaks to me, instead of alienating me. Where as before I looked at this genre as a cold and detached way of making music, I find it quite warm and organic now. It’s still just an artist creating art. The tools are just different. Those tubes, circuits, and patches were created with human instincts. Those square waves and oscillations are manipulated with human hands, and tuned(or de-tuned) using human ears. It’s all very,…human.

I’m not so much the paranoid android I once was. Maybe more just a stoic replicant these days.