Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brighter Pink

 Swimsuit did two gigs with Grass Widow last week, one of which was opening for the Raincoats at MOCAD in Detroit. The day was intense and long, and both GW and Raincoats were amazing. I didn't manage to get too many photos, mostly because my head was swimming the entire day, but the above photo of Grass Widow's drummer turned out really nice in a total Loveless style.

My friend Vice Cooler (semi-pictured right) was drumming for the Raincoats. Vice has always gone out of his way to lead me to rare and amazing food in his necks of various woods, so I was stoked to share Goodwell's and Avalon with him in Detroit.

People can try to ruin things for you, but you cannot destroy positive energy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flea Moments

YPSI FLEA happened a week ago. The 2nd installation of Life-Like and friends swap-meet/punk show/anything can happen style jam. Here are some photos of the affair.

                  SHELLEY SALANT




Friday, September 23, 2011

Michigan Cassette Reviews

Here is the first of what should be a somewhat regular column reviewing independently released tapes from Michigan artists and labels. The fruitful and prolific nature of some of these freaks around the mitten is really unlike anywhere else, and while some may claim a throwback trending is bringing the cassette release back, I feel that the immediacy and self-sufficiency inherent in the small-scale tape world is as radical as you can get, and one of the last really special phenomena in music not yet completely co-opted and made lifeless by the culture it originally sprang from. This column may not be limited to Michigan releases in the future, but for now there is more than enough to go over in the neighborhood.

With their self-titled LP finally available to the world after many many moons in limbo, Detroit's Gardens are out and about more often, touring more and generally ruling as they always have. Their sound got deeply refined on the LP, presenting us with mostly tight-and-shiny one-drop garage trances. No one coming to the band anew would think of the record as a "clean" sound, but anyone who heard the early demo or CDR-at-a-show recordings can detect the upgrade. No doubt this might have been a conflicting feeling for the band, and "Glider Cats" brings back some of the crusty, boomboxed feel from those earlier demos. For all I know, it could be those very demos, as the notes just say "raw demo collage 2008-2010". Jammier and far less succinct than any of the vinyl releases, a little bit hard to follow in parts and glowingly, amazingly broken rock and roll in others. No label info included, but available at shows, which are plentiful in the Detroit area.

Izzy Johnson, part of Ann Arbor newcomers Chit Chat, is more the subject of this tape than the principle composer. While the focus is clearly Izzy's mostly-wordless guitar mantras, this 18-minute wandering comes off so much more like a field-recording or a weird fragment of conversation being recorded without the knowledge of all the participants. Recorded primarily in Ypsilanti's Highland Cemetery during some hazed-out, red-eyed summer day, the backdrop of birds, rain and lighter sparks meld into the lazy compositions producing something almost meditative. The intimacy of these recordings is what's really most palpable, and the vibe reigns supreme above any sound you may hear. This is release #2 from the illustrious KUMA TAPES, and ordering info/more info is right here. Limited to 30 copies.

This is the strange double-life of Radiator Hospital, 4-piece pop punk/fastcore Grand Rapids vegan soda enthusiasts by night and lovelorn one-boy acoustic bedroom bleeder by daylight. Or moreover the live band that appeared recently on a sweet 4 song 7" is absent on most of their cassette releases, save the crooned warble and kiss-me-like-we're-going-to-die vibes of singer Sam Cook-Parrot. "Nothin' In My Eyes" is an albums worth of bedroom/bathroom fuzz-fidelity acoustically rendered romance/burning heart/summer feeling-obsessed 90 second songs. Covers of J Church and the Adverts in a way gentler style give some indication of the consistent pace. Again, no label info, but seemingly released on a label called Lafayette.

Ann Arbor grindcore duo the Jobys named their band after their friend Joby, who declined wanting to play with them. Genius, right??!! Why they would change that insanely brilliant name is beyond me, but here is their first output under the new moniker, a split tape with conceptual/comedic/Void side of the Faith-Void split punk one-man maven Skate Laws. Fast, growly and sometimes sludgy breakdowns from Bitchcopter, in a style that always reminded me of a more crust, less slowed down Man Is The Bastard. Surprisingly straight-forward stuff from Skate Laws, though interspersed with freakish found sounds and the occasional anonymous spoken bit of a ruined life crying for help. Limited to 100 copies. Contact: Bitchcopter P.O. Box 7343 Ann Arbor, MI 48107. Ballpitpedophile666@gmail.com.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Didn't It Rain////////////////

Just got sent over this video of the Mighty Clouds 2011 Springtime tour. Me & Betty doing an encore jam of an old Saturday song on a strange and beautiful Monday night in Hamburg, Germany.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Warm Feelings

My friend Patrick Elkins has been making music in Michigan for a good, long time, and has always brought a pure and holistic feeling into fragmented, fucked up pop songs. His random and quite seriously psychedelic lyrics have always tempered well with concise, strangely conceptual tunes. Imagine if seeing a "KEEP (WHEREVER) WEIRD" bumper sticker made you feel happy and loved instead of slightly annoyed. Pat's music is like that. When I was doing a 4-Track studio in my basement in 2005/2006, I was lucky enough to work on a few things with Pat that I still prize as some of the best stuff to come out of the joint.

The newest vehicle for Patrick's immense songwriting is a full-fledged band, known to us as the Rainbow Vomit Family Band. The group has been doing their thing around Michigan for a little over a year now, I believe, and the first long-playing documentation of the project is the instant classic "Warm Feelings", released this last Tuesday on Ypsi imprint Pleasuredome. Instant classic in the sense that the ten tracks herein feel like they've been around since the start of music, or maybe since the summer of 1993, but never in a nostalgia-steeped way. More in the way where a song (or in this case, a set of songs) instills a sense of total purpose without sounding like it's trying for anything. These songs are somehow outside of any movement or branding, even the ones they sound really similar to. The lysergic amble of "On The Beat With Shannon McDowell" owes something to the legacy of early 90's twee tape-trading, but it's easy to forget that as the song bumbles along. Incredibly, even what could come off as crowd-pleasing stoner pandering; the blue-eyed dub groove "Everything Smells Like Marijuana (To Me)" has a sense of purity and straightforwardness to it, the antithesis of what it looks like on paper. There's no walls or defensiveness on "Warm Feelings", even in the spaces where distance and coldness always lurk, there's nothing but good vibes. It's really exciting to hear this as a true band, as well, more than just Pat Elkins & Friends. Chelsea Jordan mirrors Pat's theatrical baritone vocals on most of the songs with her own softly spirited croon. Ian Fulcher fills out the jams with processed trumpet and bells and long-time collaborators Jason Voss and Chris "Legs" Pierce provide a sturdy, classic rhythm section. The band sounds completely on the same page, and apparently the entire record was tracked in one magical day by production team of Thom and Andy Elliott. That "sometimes-things-just-come-together" vibe flows throughout and is the perfect ambiance for what could be the strongest songs Pat has come up with in an age. It somehow follows that almost every song has excessive swearing or at least an F-bomb or two, yet still feels remarkably wholesome and non-aggressive to the core.

This vinyl-only jammer is limited to 100 copies, all hand-painted/numbered/everything. If you live outside of Michigan, I don't know where to point you just yet in terms of how to get a copy for yourself, but I bet Pleasuredome will have some web presence soon. I'll update when and if they do.

To the left is Emil. He loves The Doors but hates "The Soft Parade". What the fucking fuck?