Saturday, October 24, 2015

Thee Koukouvaya: This Is The Mythology Of Modern Death

[ indiessance ]
As a kid, I learned homekeys from a typewriting textbook. Then wrote some sci-fi shorts inspired by pulp fiction featured in Omni Magazine and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. One of my stories was published in the high school's literary magazine. The previous year, I wrote Don't Underestimate Sour Meat, which was shown to the editor, but may have been too controversial to publish.

What I did with story-scapes, the experimental electronic band Thee Koukouvaya does with soundscapes. Building environments with sonic elements for the imagination to discover and explore. Melodies, chords and sonic patterns resonating with quantum particles in carbon-based life forms. New soundscapes from Thee Koukouvaya's latest album titled This Is The Mythology Of Modern Death have been listed and described below with words.

Thee Koukouvaya: This Is The Mythology Of Modern Death

The Magnetic State. Terra incognita, terra nullius, Ὑπερβόρειοι. A chill, a shiver: this is a land not of sightlines and landmarks but of the body and its responses. The first indications of success usually are a cold breeze passing over the hands. Victorian-era spiritualism was a domestic art, and the domestic sphere was the domain of woman. The belief, not unique to spiritualism, in the essential qualities of womanliness kept her shackled to the house, but it also opened a space for resistance, an authority and freedom of movement denied her by traditional expressions of spirituality. The clairvoyant claimed that magnetism was the source of her power, and in the magnetic state, she could communicate across vast distances. Meanwhile, a recent hypothesis claims that birds are able to follow identical migratory paths by interacting with the Earth's magnetic field: light strikes the bird's eye and splits apart entangled particles; if the polarized photon has a particular effect on these particles, the bird receives a stimulus that lets it know it is flying in the right direction. In effect, birds can see magnetic fields.

Anacaona. Resistance is not futile.

Chicago Warehouse Party, 1995. Went to lots of illegal raves in Chicago around 1994-95. One night the police, in full riot gear, busted up a party by charging at us from the freight elevator. They started clubbing people with nightsticks. Kids were getting dropped and cuffed and bloodied up. I escaped with my friends by climbing out the back window of the warehouse and racing down the fire escape.

Drunk Machine. The drinker does indeed find escape, he does indeed find a short respite and rest, but he returns from the illusion and finds everything as it was before.

40.207958, -74.041691. Fetal heartbeats juxtaposed with a nurses station. Coordinates identify the location.

Phantoms in the Last Age. The appearance of the spectral as symptom of catastrophe. Last as in previous, last as in final? Either way, the time is out of joint. Phantoms appear in order to issue warnings: things aren't supposed to be this way. As harbingers of this disjunction they transgress boundaries, move freely across planes, possess bodies. Despite this movement they are still not free, nor can they save us. They are irruptions of the past; they belong to the past. But it is often in the cracks and seams—where the joints come apart—where we might, in our peripheral vision, catch a glimmer of what it means to be free.

Prismatic Sun. The sky is a distant memory, as inexorably separated from us now as the past from the present. We see it now as through scales of fractured glass and never again as an unblemished dome of every hue of blue. The sun's golden light refracted, now a segmented wave, gleaming in all of its attendant colors. However apostate we may be in this world, there perforce we become apostles of the prismatic sun. And there is a voice. Are these the final plaintive gasps of a body subsumed by the prism, or the first words of a new being, bursting from this crystal case, one still without a language of its own?

A Life in a Portolan Chart. Modern cartography as a technology of control. In the period after ancient mappae mundi aestheticized geography but before longitude and latitude carved up the carcass of the sea, portolan charts recapitulated sailors' movements from safety to danger, their leaps between ports, thrusts into the unknown and back, the assembling of a body of knowledge. In place of the grid, rhumbline networks traced the movements of ships and the wind; drawn on a globe these lines would spiral away from magnetic north to its antipode. The era of the portolan chart was the last before cartography locked places into place.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Interview: The Humble Grapes

In an exclusive interview, The Brooklyn-based band, The Humble Grapes, talks about how they got their band name, the musically-saturated NYC area, and musical production.

[ indiessance ]
What does the phrase humble grapes mean to you? How did the band's name come about? Also, how did The Humble Grapes develop into its current lineup? David and Brie, could you also describe your musical backgrounds?

[ David ]
The Humble Grapes is a name we came up with after spending about 4 months with the name The Big Deal. That didn't work. The Humble Grapes came from a lot of think tank hours where we tossed around so many different ideas. The idea behind The Humble Grapes is that its the translation of the Hebrew homonym for the word ah-nav. One spelling of the word means humble. The other spelling means grape. We thought there was something to that. We came up with the idea that we (Brie and I) produce the best under pressure, similar to a grape producing the best (fine wine) when squeezed.

The Humble Grapes are Brie and I. The musicians and other people involved are terrific people we've met along the way who help us in unique ways depending on the project.

My musical background- Classically trained pianist from 8-13 yrs old. Then I discovered the Beatles and that was that for classical piano but that education has totally helped me be the musician I am today. Have been playing in bands in NYC since I'm 16. I went to Berklee College of Music (which is where I met Brie) and studied songwriting, film scoring, and piano. That experience was invaluable as I was afforded the ability to eat, breathe, and sleep music for almost 3 years.

[ Brie ]
We were trying to come up with a name for the band after starting. We had been calling ourselves the big deal which as Dave likes to joke sounded like a Diner special. We wanted something that sounded rhythmically pleasing and we thought what about food? We were thinking apples or grapes, they have a history of being a fruit used in a lot of art and story telling And I asked Dave what does Grape mean in Hebrew? Which he explained is Anav. The word is a homonym like night and knight; humble and grapes. A grape; under pressure, humbled and squeezed, if its a good grape produces good wine. A person; who is under pressure but is humble can produce good work. We liked that idea. We try to work towards well crafted songs and continually develop, learn and change while we deal with pressures or everyday life and work.

Dave and I met in college and started writing songs. We've stuck to that duo essence and we've been lucky enough to find some great musicians to play with when we go into the studio or when we play live. We (Dave and I) write the music and then put together a fully arranged demo for the other players to hear. And then well run through it all with them before we have a show. So the line up has always been Dave and I at the core. We've been playing with Joey, Brad and Ben for a while, which has been great because its helped us develop our live show, building on past shows and ideas we come up with in rehearsal.

I was really influenced in my teen years by John Mayer and Stevie Ray Vaughan. My mother brought me up listening to great female vocalists like Barbara Streisand, Bonnie Raitt, and Linda Rondstat. I grew up listening to great songwriters from different genres, mainly classic rock; The Eagles, Warren Zevon. As a child I was involved in musical theatre and choir so I've always loved singing musical theatre pieces and performing. When I got older I listened a lot to Ryan Adams, again John Mayer, David Gray, Bonnie Raitt, Rob Thomas, to name a few... Working with Dave I've learned more and more about great bands and musicians since moving to NYC, I've definitely developed more love for groups like The Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, The Band, Tedeschi Trucks. I'm really into Father John Misty, Lana Del Ray, and Dawes right now.

Video: Young and Alive: The Humble Grapes

'Young and Alive' (B. Capone/D. Kaufman) 2015. Directed and Filmed by Mikhail Torich. Photographer/Production Assistant Teddy Bonsu. Filmed at the Cutting Room in NYC. Special thanks to Ryan Slater and Gerry Visco. Produced by The Humble Grapes and Ami Kozak. Engineered by Ari Raskin. Mixed by Ami Kozak. Special thanks to: Let 'Em In Music Recording Studio.

[ indiessance ]
Your bio mentions that The Humble Grapes will continue playing in the NYC area. Then possibly expand touring into the tri-state area. A heavy concentration of venues in Brooklyn flows into Manhattan. Touring America's largest city is a unique experience for any music group, and for you it has been home base. 

Could a band effectively continue to tour that specific area alone and remain busy? Are you still discovering new venues? How has such a musically saturated area affected your careers in various ways?

[ David ]
NYC is such a great city to be based in. One of the best qualities is the amount of fabulous musicians and artists who live within a 5-10 mile radius of each other. It's really incredible. We are never a phone call away from reaching out to this guitar player or that sax player to play a part on our song (ex. The horn part for our song Save Me was this awesome Julliard player- recommended to us by a guy who plays drums in a band I used to play in). So that to me is the best. The talent here is as close to infinite as possible.

Of course, because there is that great talent, trying to separate us from that is a big challenge. I think that challenge pushes us to try things, both musically and visually, that we might not have done had we lived in another city and not come face to face with all the wonderful artists that are here. So it's a challenge that I think we use to our advantage to constantly produce better songs.

[ Brie ]
We've managed to stay busy writing, creating, designing our EPs and singles as well as developing our identity through web presence and social media. I think we've had somewhat of interesting experience with venues because the way we've developed and created our music. We usually do more with social media, videos and web presence after we've finished a song and we'll debut new music at places we've been playing for a while like The Bitter End. We feel that if we can see, through social media, where we're having an impact we would definitely design a tour to bring our music to that venue. I think because NYC is so saturated, before jumping into a venue where no one knows who you are or only a certain amount of people know who you are, bands in our era of social media and outreach really owe it to themselves to use that outreach to their advantage. Find out exactly where the music is landing and see how to grow that fan base.

[ indiessance ]
Recording in the studio allows The Humble Grapes to flesh out songs with several sonic elements, but at the core of your new soul/pop single, Young and Alive, are the analog vocal and piano tracks. At the end of the song, David and Brie finish the track on their own. Highlighting the strong vocalist and keyboard parts. While pop music has been dominated by iconic electric guitar. But not to detract from the full band, which sounds excellent on the track. And HG also comes at listeners with various styles during performances, including a number of cover songs. Every track is a perfected production.

Does that reveal a perfectionist trait of The Humble Grapes? Also, recordings reveal which songs the band can make sound great, but are there any particular genres which you enjoy playing more than others? Out of your song list, which ones are your favorites?

[ David ]
Thanks for saying every track is a perfected production! Thats awesome.

Since we met at Berklee, our main objective has been to be the best songwriters we can be. What we've learnt in the last few years is the importance of production and live performance. Production helps us convey our song in the clearest fashion and the live performance really allows us to connect our songs to people in a face to face manner. As we produce more and more songs, I think we learn something about production that we didn't really know from the previous song. In that sense I wouldn't say our production has been perfected. One of our goals is that when you hear our song- you know its the Humble Grapes. The songwriting/ the production/ the performance. I think its a really exciting goal to strive and one that I think we're getting closer to with each new single we come out with.

One of my favorite aspects of the Humble Grapes is that its a really a cross-genre band. We easily can go from a slow Nashville style blue ballad (Only One In Love) to a gospel rock song (SSDD). The into pop rock (Save Me) then into classic rock (Honey) and into cabaret rock (24 Hours) etc. So I think we're not very genre specific and to me that's a huge plus with us. While you know our sound, you're not exactly sure what's coming up next.

All of these songs are my babies, but if I had to pick 5 I would say:

  • Save Me
  • Honey
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • SSDD
  • Sleep

[ Brie ]
I like the sound of perfected production. ☺ I think we want to produce well thought out work. It's very important to us. It sounds funny to use the term perfectionist. There is always room for growth or finding another way to bring out a sound or emotion in a better light. I learn something every session. A better way to describe something, or just changing tempo can open a door into a new choice. From my point of view, it's David that really has the talent for so much of the production. We produce together for sure, but I don't think it would be as well crafted if it weren't for his knowledge on instrumentation and ranges, placement and rhythm. I have always enjoyed working with Dave because he has the capability and patience to hear where I'm coming from with an idea or arrangement and to translate it into our demos. A lot of what it comes down to is prep work before we even get into the studio. We have a pretty well thought out identity to the song. And we work with people who are very smart and hear how to engineer and add to what we've brought in. That's very important. I always feel that a song is working when it moves like the inside of an old watch. Each piece is there and everything is connected to a rhythm and flow. And you can see it and hear it. Nothing is stepping over or covering up anything. It all exists at once, together.

I think we pull from a few different genres; blues, rock, pop, soul. We like to blend things together. I don't think we'd be happy or satisfied if a song was all one flavor. Everything is influenced by other genres.

Depending on my mood... I love our song Sleep, I like how fragile it is as some points but develops into a bigger bridge and I've always liked the melody of the verse and the lyrics. I also really love playing Honey live. I feel connected to that song because of the lyrics. My time in New York I identify with a lot of this girl's story and sometimes feeling a bit lost. It also has beautiful guitar parts.

Thanks you so much for your questions!!

Saturday, October 3, 2015


By definition, a wrecker is a person or thing that wrecks.1

Clarice and Simon—songwriting gems of Suffolk-based AMETHYSTS—place the blame for heartbreak with every last one of us. The very same selves now appearing in millions of self-centered selfies on social-networking and photo-sharing screens. We are the wreckers of our own love. Guilty as charged.

...there are character traits that create specific and notable risks in a relationship: selfishness, selflessness, exploitative personalities, argumentativeness, and excessive self-preoccupation, among other traits, undermine a capacity for intimacy.2

Clarice's vocal texture might remind listeners of Stevie Nicks, known for her song Dreams (1977). Fleetwood Mac's only #1 hit on American charts. Ancients regarded the purple-tinted amethyst as a dream stone.

  1. wrecker. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: October 03, 2015).
  2. Leonoff, Arthur. The Good Divorce: A Psychoanalyst's Exploration of Separation, Divorce, and Childcare. 2015. London, UK: Karnac. Print. p.33

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bad Bad Hats [Kerry Alexander]

image by John Schaidler

Singer-songwriter Kerry Alexander left Minneapolis at age five, but familial relationships kept the cord attached—eventually drawing her back. As a teen, she learned to play covers on guitar. Interest in lyrical poetry dovetailed with retrospective love songs she now records.

Love Songs

...I do love writing love songs because I love love. They always start out as just feelings and emotions. In retrospect, a lot of songs deal with thinking back on a moment and wishing you could change it by saying something else or not saying anything at all. I think this album is sort of focused on past relationships I've had and reminiscing about things that were...1

What sets a lyric apart from a narrative poem is the outflow of a poet's heart, as familiar thoughts and emotions resonate in the souls of listeners. Esoteric songs can stir hearts subconsciously—adding to music's mystery. Suggesting that familiar sonic vibrations play a role. Human bodies are composed of seven octillion atoms, with spaces between every single one of them. Entirely unique subatomic symphonies resonating with love's perfect pitch.

Missing One Chord

Alexander read somewhere how the pop song Teenage Dream by Katy Perry leaves out the one chord:

Let's start by talking about the ingenuity of the harmonic content. This song is all about suspension—not in the voice-leading 4–3 sense, but in the emotional sense, which listeners often associate with exhilaration, being on the road, being on a roller coaster, travel. This sense of suspension is created simply, by denying the listener any I chords. There is not a single I chord in the song. Laymen, the I chord (one chord) is the chord that the key is in. For example, a song is in G but there are no G-chords.2

Bad Bad Hats' title track Psychic Reader also follows a similar kind of formula, Alexander said.

BBH Triforce

Alexander is primary songwriter of Bad Bad Hats' triforce who typically comes up with the basic song, then brings it to Chris Hoge and Noah Boswell who flesh it out. The lead track, Midway, makes a good A-side, and seems to be the intentional pop song. While the following track, Shame is an indie rock jam. The title track, Psychic Reader has good verses, but an amazing chorus melody which really stands out. And outshines Midway's chorus.

  1. [quoting Kerry Alexander] Weatherby, Lea. Exclusive Album Stream: Psychic Reader, Bad Bad Hats. Interview Magazine. 9 July 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (
  2. Editors: Woodworth, Marc; Grossan, Ally-Jane. How to Write About Music: Excerpts from the 33 1/3 Series, Magazines, Books and Blogs with Advice from Industry-leading Writers. 2015. London, UK: Bloomsbury. Print. p.306

GRRRL PRTY [Lizzo, Sophia Eris, Manchita]

image from Facebook

Lizzo of the hip-hop all GRRRL PRTY is a hard act to keep track of—she's moving too fast. In the middle of her formative years, her family moved from Detroit to Houston. In 2011, she responded to a friend invite, and busted a move to the Minneapolis indie scene. Where she co-led the electro-funk group Lizzo & The Larva Ink and co-wrote the song The New World Order. She then moved on to collectively co-found GRRRL PRTY, The Chalice, The Clerb, and Absynthe.

Both Lizzo and Sophia Eris are members of GRRRL PRTY and The Chalice, with the addition of Manchita forming GP's feminine triple threat. Lizzo featured rapper Sophia Eris on Batches & Cookies. Lizzo and Manchita co-rap on TBLIF 4. All three grrrl up for Wegula (a nerdy pronunciation of regular). Their farcical hip-hop graffiti is splattered with satirical double entendres. TBLIF 4 ends with apocalyptic industrial jibe:

It was interesting to hear Manchita's rap gain momentum in TBLIF 4. As the DJ's track looped, she got a feel for the sonic foundation her story would be framed on. Then rapped a few words, which seemed to represent the topic, and register with Lizzo. Then the duo exchanged a few words—it's official. Manchita started to impart inertia. Suddenly, it was as if a record needle fell into a groove. She broke into a steady rap, at times shifting into a fast-paced staccato. That's the cool part. Where ears need to listen or they're missin' the story.

The video for alt-hip-hop Batches & Cookies features a butter-coated male love interest. Lizzo collaborated with Lazerbeak from local Doomtree indie hip hop collective and Ryan Olson of Marijuana Deathsquads. The video goes with her début LIZZOBANGERS LP on the Totally Gross National Product label.

GRRRL PRTY's info page reads:

GRRRL PRTY is a celebration of femininity and unsheathed swagger featuring three of the most innovative voices in hip-hop this decade. The spitfire poetess Sophia Eris, percussive hellion Manchita, and southern rapstress Lizzo defy ideals and create an undeniable gritty, unapologetic sound. GRRRL PRTY delivers a sizzling live show. GRRRL PRTY is infectious and leaves listeners feverish for more. You're invited to GRRRL PRTY. Get it.1
  1. Eris, Sophia; Manchita; Lizzo. "Info." GRRRL PRTY. Sophia Eris; Manchita; Lizzo, 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Biting Elbows

There's no doubt why James Bond movies remain popular. Biting Elbows punked out the appropriately titled 007 soundtrack, but were overtly upstaged by 4min:30sec of continuous covert violence. Viewed from GoPro® POV, the suited protagonist became a first-person shooter with no time for character development. Central intelligence intrigue was nil. Just flying fists, bullets and brutal blood splatter as the merciless agent made an escape. When you're a secret agent ripping off arcane technology for elite exploitation, leave your humanitarian mindset back at the office. And take out every agent in your path, then carjack your way out!!

The unseen unsung hero hopped over decommissioned MiG fighters to chase down the quantum teleportation device. Which appeared as an old-fashioned vacuum tube. While holding it, a human body's quantum state suddenly teleports to random spots around the globe—unpredictable technology of the intelligence community's wet dreams.

(...Einstein wrote, the more success the quantum theory has, the sillier it looks.)

If two electrons are initially vibrating in unison (a state called coherence) they can remain in wavelike synchronization even if they are separated by a large distance. Although the two electrons may be separated by light-years, there is still an invisible Schrödinger wave connecting both of them, like an umbilical cord. If something happens to one electron, then some of that information is immediately transmitted to the other. This is called quantum entanglement, the concept that particles vibrating in coherence have some kind of deep connection linking them together.1

Biting Elbows doesn't mind being upstaged by dramatic action sequences. If you're into the featured video, you'll probably like the ones linked below, including two other episodes of Insane Office Escape—fore and aft. Insane Office Escape 3 features masked superheroes blasting their way through business cubicles. In Dope Fiend Massacre, the lead vocal's arms are on fire.


  1. Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel. . New York, NY: Knopf Doubleday. Print. pp.60,61

Monday, September 21, 2015

Porter Robinson: Divinity [feat. Amy Millan] [ODESZA Remix]

NME: Interview: Porter Robinson

Gemcutters have many ways to cut, shape and polish gemstones. For example, leaving the face-up size unchanged while adding pavilion facets—reducing a stone's weight by 10%. The original gem remains, but now additional facets dazzle; sparkling with new beauty for beholders. Weight ≠ Sparkle. Digital remixes are like that.

Porter Robinson, Amy Millan and ODESZA all played key roles in embedding the new gemstone recut of Divinity into the music industry mountain—a classic alt-EDM combo.


Porter Robinson

Robinson realized the confinement of EDM as a portal of artistic expression, limited to generic elements. Ideal for the synchronization of bodily movement on the dance floor, but lacking sophistication for lyrics to resonate deeply in the hearts of listeners. EDM ≠ Art. Once he began to squelch conventional dance elements, the sonic transition developed naturally. A bird escaped its cage.

Robinson doubted that many DJs would listen. He decided to live adventurously on an island without EDM. A castaway entering the studio with a pioneering spirit to record the Worlds (2014) album. He told NME:

...the first priority I had was that I wanted it to be beautiful and emotional. That was my first goal. And I guess kinda in terms of throwing off some of the EDM stuff; it just came about naturally. Because I found that it was; they're trying to shoehorn it into a danceable format. Trying to shoehorn every song into dance was really just limiting in terms of expression. I was finding that I could tell the story a little better if I didn't make it have a [boom boom boom EDM intro] like a, you know, a dumb buildup...1

Amy Millan

Amy Millan likes to infuse country with rock, Wayward and Parliament (2006) revealed experimentation. In 2014, the sonic moves of digital grooves drew her into vocal collaboration on Porter Robinson's foundational mix of Divinity.


Sound engineering can make or break a song, which ODESZA proved by making Divinity sound awesome with a remix. Effectively highlighting Millan's honeyed vocals. The beauty and emotion that Porter Robinson set out to accomplish has been recut into a new sparkly gemstone.

  1. NME. Porter Robinson Interview: 'EDM is entertainment, it's not art'. YouTube. YouTube, 5 June 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Image: Marine Bass/CERN

This San Francisco-based band is outer the ordinary as in space. The upper cymbal of the outspoken drummer's high-hat is riddled with 2 inch holes. Pan to the pink rhythm guitar that no one would rip off, then Ed will outplay most guitarists with it. Now pan to the short female Japanese bass player singing falsetto. Add a Star Wars-compatible lead guitarist, and you have Deerhoof.

Large Hadron Collider

Very few indie bands—if any other on Earth—could say they actually conducted sonic experimentation at the Hadron Collider. An introduction by physicist James Beacham preceded the experiment:

Thirteen trillion electron volts. That's the energy which the Large Hadron Collider smashes together protons—new, this year, 2015. Right now, a hundred meters below us, superconducting magnets just like these are doing the heavy lifting required to get these proton beams to bend around the twenty-seven kilometer tunnel and allow them to get us to almost the speed of light. And to thirteen TeV [teraelectronvolts], which is the highest energy that humans have ever used in a collider experiment. So what are we looking for? Things like dark matter, dark energy, super symmetry, quantum black holes, large extra dimensions... But really, we're just pushing the boundaries of human knowledge. We don't know what we're going to find at thirteen TeV at the LAC.

This is Satomi of Deerhoof, and I don't know what she's going to do...1

Each band member used their musical instruments—with GoPro's® attached—to sonically simulate the unpredictable chaos of quantum particle collisions at 13 TeV. Bending sound waves above CERN's 27km long proton beam bender.

The first stop of their La Isla Bonita Tour was recorded at the Baby's All Right music venue in Brooklyn, NY:

  1. Beacham, James; François Briard. Ex/Noise/CERN: Deerhoof vs. the Large Hadron Collider. YouTube, 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bully: Trying [Alicia Bognanno]

In Nashville-based Bully's A-side Trying, frontwoman Alicia Bognanno grinds her vocal folds to characterize a grunge/punk-inspired manifestation of raw youth angst. Gwen Stefani attitude is discernible. Tension, frustration and grinding characterize late teens in their struggle to overcome one identity crisis after another—most of us lived through it.

Bognanno dealt with the female side of the issue. Girls flipping through fashion magazines. Searching for the meaning of elusive beauty, which has been waiting patiently inside all along—to unfold before the world like a rose. Then a infamous feminine delay triggered self-analysis:

I question everything
My focus, my figure, my sexuality
And how much it matters or why it would mean anything1

During adolescence, if not before, kids, especially girls, will develop the classic imaginary audience. Believing she is constantly onstage, she becomes self-conscious, thinking everyone is watching her, that everyone believes she is obese or sees the pimple that she discovered with horror this morning. Walking down the corridors of the mall, she cannot avoid the floor-to-ceiling images of slender Gap models or Britney Spears—like mannequins displaying well-toned abs. It may be impossible for her to pass by a mirror or a shiny show window without stealing a glance.2

Said the Gramophone Pop Bully - Trying (MP3)

Bognanno's image is grungy and cosmetically conservative. Her conversational tone, approachable. New listeners discover a realist. In the studio, the band is no different. Their sonic approach is very analog; every track is recorded directly to tape, advocating uncompressed audio. Reel-to-reel dating back to the 1930s continues to be real to this day. Bognanno explained to The Seventh Hex how she prefers recordings that sound like live performances—indulging realistic fans. She personally engineered Bully's first vinyl LP, Feels Like. Capturing the edgy angst of teen spirit.

  1. Trying. Bully. Startime International/Columbia, 2015. CD.
  2. Girls Rock!: Fifty Years of Women Making Music. . Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. Print. p.122

Bully Tour Dates

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Low: No Comprende

Seattle-based Low has diminished the breakneck pace of the rock'n'roll dream. Even while their music is sped up to twice the tempo, vocals fail to ring like cheery chipmunks (one way to test for slowcore). Two full albums at double-speed could fit on the same vinyl LP without forcing analogue sound or stressing plastic microgrooves. Their latest A-side, No Comprende, is like that.

Bands flare up like flash fires to drift into obscurity like ashes, but Low has maintained a consistent moderate pace for two decades. So pushing harder and faster might throw off the chemical balance, or shift creativity out of place, adversely affecting the band's indie rock longevity. In other words, faster ≠ better.

Other titles through Sub Pop are The Invisible Way, Drums and Guns, and C’mon. Their latest single No Comprende is a perfect example of how a well-crafted slowcore single should sound. Notice how the matchstick refuses to quit.

Oh So Slowcore

In 1998, bandleader Alan Sparhawk told QRD Magazine the chintziest label given to Low was slowcore:
I hate that word. The most appropriate is anything that uses the word minimal in it, but I don't think anybody's made one up for that.1
Minimal indie rock fits, but so does the indie rock subgenre slowcore as a type of anti-hardcore (or anti-genre). While minimal music actually relates general aesthetics, styles and techniques which frame the subgenre. Classification then details the movement as a particular subdivision of indie rock. Listeners use genres to find music—like a card catalog. Sparhawk may scorn the label, but his original intention was slow, sonically stripped indie music:

Of the bands grouped into sadcore and slowcore classifications by critics in the early '90s, none were slower—or perhaps sadder (though Red House Painters might win that contest)—than Low. The band's roots lay in a live prank pulled off by guitarist/founder/singer Alan Sparhawk's pre-Low band Zen Identity, in which the band performed a set of excruciatingly slow, sonically stripped, low-volume songs to a grunge/alt-rock-hungry audience. Reaction notwithstanding, Sparhawk liked the musical result and formed Low to carry out this vision. His wife, Mimi Parker, took a brush-and-stick approach to a drum kit consisting of a floor tom and a single cymbal. Bassist John Nichols rounded out the lineup...2

Slow tempo inspired his vision, and with that characteristic slowness came the music press's appropriated subgenre label—searing like a branding iron. Low shoots slow-mo spitballs in the same classroom with Galaxie 500, Codeine, American Music Club, Red House Painters, Seam, Idaho, Karate and Nina Nastasia. For example—thanks to the subsonic association—Codeine fans are made aware of other protracted bands, including Low. So the inherently ambiguous genre label is two-edged. Helping potential fan$ taste test sonic categories first at YouTube, MySpace and SoundCloud. While the same label might also stereotype a band, failing to accurately represent the particulars of their sound. Right about when that shifty little slowcore label receives contempt from both artist and fan.

  1. Low interview from QRD #14. QRD Magazine. October 1998. Web. Accessed: Sept. 16, 2015.
  2. Gimme Indie Rock. . Minneapolis, MN: Voyageur. Print. pp.177,178

Low's Tour Dates