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Isaac Vallentin perfects art-folktronica in debut album Hedera

8 Sep

isaac vallentin

I’ve not heard a whole lot of folktronica recently, and I miss it. Freelance Whales introduced me to its hypnotizing combination of banjo and synth, and for that I will forever thank them. Of course, there are many iterations of the genre, give or take some instrumentation, depending on how far they wanted to lean on the spectrum of folk to electronic. The Whales took their banjo and kick drum very seriously, but Isaac Vallentin seems to take more pleasure in the manipulation of guitar and harp plucking. His debut album Hedera is gorgeous and surprising.

Vallentin wrote Hedera in San Juan, in an attempt to shake off writer’s block. He overcame it with a vengeance, clearly. Interesting stories are woven throughout the record, with a lot of attention paid to the production. The energy of each track flows into the next; from Stewardess to Peach Boy to the Garden scenes, something is relinquished, yet also replenished. The narrative shows us a haggard character who aims to help those in need, but perhaps feels selfishly used. Another character comes to terms with falling out of love, even though the relationship falls apart without the façade. Vallentin focuses on the idea of time, how it shapes our loves- all four of them.

I know I went on and on in the intro there talking about how great folktronica is, but I also want to throw in how amorphous Vallentin sounds on Hedera. The acoustic instrumentation can’t be ignored, but with that said, there are many more instances where only synths and other digital elements are used to carry the emotion forward. It’s done expertly, and brings to mind Owen Pallett or Glasser, who both exemplify the experimental-pop hybrid style that Vallentin has carved out for himself. The lyrics don’t always rhyme, the time signature isn’t always typical, even the imagery can be shocking at times (“Cloud of Smoke”?!), but the journey is always engaging.

Buy Hedera here. Find more information on Isaac Valentin on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Warehouse Eyes see the light

1 Sep

“I won’t be afraid,” sings Jennie Lawless on Warehouse Eyes’ single, “I Think I Can Live With It.” Warehouse Eyes take a fresh approach on pop, layering synths over vocals over synths over vocals, making their new song sound somehow intimate… but it all goes back to fearlessness. The title of this track is almost a misnomer, given how doubtful it sounds- this is a song about self-confidence and individuality, and the video takes a look at childhood innocence to cement its point.

Pop is pop inherently because of its predictability; easy recognition equals easy to remember, and sing along with, and eventually, purchase. That bores me, as I’m sure it does most of the audience of this blog. Warehouse Eyes is not something out of left-field, but it also isn’t something you hear every day, and that excites me. The structure of the song elongates at each chorus, allowing us to soak in the message: be who you are and don’t betray yourself. That’s powerful, and yet, it’s also catchy.

The video for this track is precious, and symbolic when it needs to be. She starts the track near a hearse, presumably carrying the soul of who Lawless (or I) was/who she (or I) no longer wishes to be. Breaking free is exhilarating and the kids know the feeling. It’s not every day you see a band of kids organize a random jam session in the woods.

“I Think I Can Live With It” is from Warehouse Eyes’ second EP, Prisms, which you can purchase here. Find more info on Warehouse Eyes on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Skin with Bat for Lashes

14 Jul

bat for lashesCurated by BBC Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney and composer Llywelyn ap Myrddin, Body of Songs is a project that explores the human body through music. The Music Court will profile each track in the compilation. The final four tracks will be announced this summer, and an album will follow. The concept is described best on their website:

“A collection of 10 songs by some of the UK’s most talented artists, inspired by the body’s organs.

Hidden from view, suctioned together in dark flesh, the organs are the core of our physical functioning, and our emotional and feeling world.

Each artist explores an organ with the help of experts, to find out how it works and unlock its mysteries and myths. Along the way they ask profound questions about their own lives; about illness and disease, and age and suffering.”

More information can be found at bodyofsongs.co.uk.

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The sixth installment of the Body of Songs project examines the skin- the largest organ, as you are told by your ten-year-old cousin every time you see him. Bat for Lashes took this subject, and very much made it her own. The sparse instrumentation amplifies her soft, brooding vocals, and give this track weight.

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Seeing is Believing: Astronauts, etc, Harriet Brown, and Swim Team

13 Jul
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Astronauts, etc

Last Tuesday marked Astronauts, etc’s first LA performance, and much to Anthony Ferraro’s surprise, tons of people turned up. And it’s easy to see why: all three artists on the bill are signed to Hit City U.S.A., one of my favorite labels currently. (Also signed: Kisses, Lord Huron, James Supercave. Right?!) Continue reading

Seeing is Believing: Bells Atlas, Pegasus Warning, and Mark de Clive-Lowe

1 Jul
Bells Atlas

Bells Atlas

Last Friday, June 26th, was a big day. Yesterday I dedicated a medley to the Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, but with that my day was only just getting started. That night, I also saw Bells Atlas give a life-affirming performance at the Lyric Theater.

The warm up act was something to behold. At times, I wanted to call it a stereotypical weird local act, but Pegasus Warning undoubtedly has talent. Pegasus Warning is the moniker of Guillermo E. Brown, and I was tempted to shout, “Pegasus, that’s you!” but I controlled myself. He had a voice that impressed, but all in all it was quite a lackadaisical performance. Even still, Brown had a good rapport with the crowd, which gave him the perfect platform to experiment, and he certainly left his mark.

Bells Atlas were next to take the stage, and they did more than just take it, they commanded it. The talent exuded in all of them individually is what draws me to their music, showing that such an amalgam of sound can be so satisfying, and seeing it live was breath-taking. The driving force of Bells Atlas is obviously in their vocalist Sandra Lawson-Ndu, whose voice killed it in person.

Guitarist Derek Barber

Guitarist Derek Barber

My favorite track, “Bling,” which features quite an interesting lyrical construction, truly came to life in the live performance. As an aspiring drummer (in my head only), I also thought that Geneva Harrison was on point. The precision of each track is often dependent on her rhythm, and she lived up to the challenge. Bassist Doug Stuart offered his vocals on “Sugar For the Queen,” another track that expands on the versatility of this band. If you haven’t heard their Hyperlust EP yet, set aside fifteen minutes later today and give it a go, you will not regret it.

To cap off the night was a rousing set from New Zealand-born, LA-based DJ, Mark de Clive-Lowe. Nia Andrews joined him on few tracks, and her voice floated beautifully along with the beats of Clive-Lowe. Most of the crowd disappeared after Bells Atlas concluded, which made the venue seem pretty empty, but that just meant more space for- and less people to judge- my uncoordinated dancing.

Buy Bells Atlas’s Hyperlust EP here. Find more information on Bells Atlas on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Find more information on Pegasus Warning on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Find more information on Mark de Clive-Lowe on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

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