Enduring Music: Peter Mulvey at The Ark


Peter Mulvey

Peter Mulvey's substantive music stands the test of time.

Peter Mulvey is a monster guitar player, able to coax supple, intricate, highly ornamented melodies out of his acoustic six-string as well as spiky, serrated harmonies. He’s equally adept at pinging out soft, atmospheric harmonics or pounding rapid, rhythmic riffs and percussive, danceable grooves that make you crane to see where the bass player and drummer are hiding. His guitar does not merely accompany his singing, it also dialogs with it.

And then there’s his way with words.

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Tools Crew Live: Mogi Grumbles


Downloads:
MP3 for "Library Jam 1"
720p video, 480p video or 240p video

Tools Crew Live is an ongoing video series where we invite artists to perform with gear borrowed from the Ann Arbor District Library's Music Tools collection: aadl.org/musictools.

Mogi Grumbles, the nom de plume of Alex Taam, sounds like a villain in a Superman comic. But the name's origin story isn't quite so heroic.

"It was a nickname given to me around the time I first started publishing my music," Taam said. "From how I understand it, it was a rap lyric originally from my friend Ian. He came up with the name in the song, but then it got dubbed to me because I was such an 'curmudgeon.' ... The name stuck, my label liked it, so there it is."

Those 2009 releases on Moodgadget -- Revolutions Per Minute and the split Worst Friends vs. Mogi Grumbles -- launched Taam's music career, which has expanded into videogame soundtrack work, rescores of classic movies, and studio recording and mastering for other artists.

The two Mogi Grumbles songs Taam composed for the third installment of the Ann Arbor District Library's Tools Crew Live series are called "Library Jam 1" and "Library Jam 2," but they could have easily been called "Retro-Futuristic Sci-Fi Soundtracks 1 & 2." Taam squeezed all the warmth out of the various keyboards he employed, making for a cozy couple of tunes that could easily accompany a voyage into deep space or a daring escape from a postapocalyptic landscape.

These videos were recorded on February 28, 2017, and a few weeks later, Taam answered questions about how he approached this session and the gear he used.

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Exploring the vibrational universe of Avram Fefer and Michael Bisio


James

Saxophonist Avram Fefer and bassist Michael Bisio will bring 25 years of chemistry to tonight's Kerrytown Concert House show. Fefer photo via Burnt Sugar; Bisio photo by Marek Lazarski/cooljazzphotos.com.

If saxophonist Avram Fefer can play a compelling duet with a towering wall of sheet metal, chances are good he sounds great improvising with just about anyone. Which sets the bar pretty high for tonight's Kerrytown Concert House performance with longtime collaborator bassist Michael Bisio.

Fefer was recently in London for the latest session in his Resonant Sculpture Project -- which he described by email as "a series of immersive, site-specific performances exploring the relationship between improvisation, space, acoustics, permanence, and sculpture" -- during which the reedman plays at, around, and sometimes within the large-scale, minimalist creations of sculptor Richard Serra.

It's easy to imagine tonight's show going more like a conversation between old friends who happen to be experts in their fields; a two-person TED Talk on intersecting disciplines as told on reeds and strings.

Or as Bisio put it by email, "Both Avram and I tell a good musical story."

The two players, composers, and bandleaders have been telling that story together in some form since the 1990s, either in Bisio's Quartet or as a duo. Fefer's lyrical approach to sax and bass clarinet effortlessly folds in several styles to create an organic, singular sound that pairs perfectly with Bisio's limber double-bass lines and expressive bowing.

We talked with Fefer by email -- with Bisio chiming in, too -- about developing his rich, varied style; composing and tracking the duo's lone solo record in roughly 25 years of playing together; and how he got started jamming with inanimate objects.

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Contemporary Music at Literati, Starring the Typewriter (and Composer Garrett Schumann)


Literati Bookstore

Typewriter.

The Literati Bookstore typewriter is home to patrons’ left-behind thoughts, many of which are touching, profound, or funny.

On Thursday, April 13 at 7 pm, Ypsilanti-based composer Garrett Schumann’s new work based on these typewriter musings will be premiered Literati as part of an evening of contemporary music presented by ÆPEX Contemporary Performance.

We talked to Schumann about how he came up with the idea for the piece, his favorite books related to music and composing, and what else you can look forward to from ÆPEX Contemporary Performance in the coming months.

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Hail to the Catholepistemiad Michigania: 200 years of U-M at “True Blue!”


True Blue! A Tribute to Michigan

True Blue! A Tribute to Michigan danced through 200 years of Wolverine history. Photo courtesy of Michigan Photography.

Saturday evening’s sold-out, star-studded True Blue! A Tribute to Michigan event at Hill Auditorium, celebrating U-M’s bicentennial, began like Michigan football games do: with the sonorous voice of Carl Grapentine.

But instead of introducing the Michigan Marching Band, Grapentine introduced two of the evening’s emcees, Glee star Darren Criss (’09) and Grimm star Jacqueline Toboni (’14), who welcomed musical theater majors to the stage to perform a special version of “The Victors,” arranged by A.J. Holmes (’11); and theater majors, who delivered a rap about U-M’s founding and growth -- wherein we learned that the school was originally called Catholepistemiad -- or University -- of Michigania. (Thankfully, the name didn’t stick. Imagine spelling that in the stadium.)

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Need a light? Wizard Union Collective carries a heavy torch


Wizard

Holy cloaks! Samier, Larry, and Aaron are the Wizard Union. Photos by Miles Larson.

It's fair, if lazy, to call Wizard Union a stoner-metal band. The Ann Arbor-based three-piece specializes in huge, slow sounds with roots running back to Black Sabbath, and its song titles and lyrics namedrop ancient bongs and wizard pipes. But there's a simple, no-gimmick efficiency and economy of scale to what they do that's also punk as punk.

On their latest record, Phantom Fury, released late last year, the band refined its chugging, earworm sludge, while also introducing classic rock shuffles and early grunge grooves (and an outro to one tune that could be a sequel to "KISS: Love Theme From KISS."). In the middle of it all, guitarist and vocalist Samir Asfahani's throaty bark sounds shredded and desperate not to get drowned out by the drones.

On Saturday, April 8, Wizard Union will play Crossroads Pub in Ypsilanti along with Toledo-based old school death metal band Mutilatred and hardcore punk acts No/Breaks and Hellghillies. Chances are good every human in attendance could compulsively lurch in rhythm when the band launches into old favorites, like "Into the Wizard's Sleeve."

We talked to Asfahani by email about the band's new efforts as a collective, demoing songs in his car during his lunchbreak at work, reviewing extreme music for his entertaining and informative personal blog, and distancing himself and the band from the sexism and misogyny that "plague" the metal scene.

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Attic-folk act -pf plays LP-release show at Canterbury House


-pf

Peter Felsman -- aka -pf -- might not have a searchable band name, but there's much discover in his music.

The self-described attic folk band –pf (pronounced “dash” “p” “f”) only formed in 2015 – more than 20 years after the Internet became a regular part of our lives. But the group made a serious digital-age error with its name.

“We only recently learned that Googling anything beginning with the character ‘–‘ tells the search engine ‘don’t search for what comes next’ and reliably returns no results,” said Peter Felsman, whose initials give the band its search-engine-unfriendly name.

But the band’s laidback attitude about its name snafu is reflected in the easygoing music on its new album, Candidacy. Even though “attic folk” isn’t an actual genre, the group’s light, playful sound really does reflect that description -- which is literal as well as figurative.

“Everything that’s been recorded as –pf has been recorded in that attic on Ann Street,” Felsman said, a Limited License Master Social Worker by day who's working on his PhD at U-M. “And, now three albums and two singles in, the sound of that room has become a part of the –pf sound. We try to capture the spirit of that room in our performances, bringing a sense of intimacy that is almost an inherent part of sharing songs in an attic.”

The six-piece -pf will celebrate the release of Candidacy with an April 9 concert at Canterbury House. We chatted to the Felsman about making a record in one night and Herman Hesse.

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Times Past: Catching up with 1960s Ann Arbor psych-rockers The Beau Biens


Beau Biens

Beau Biens rocking WCBN's April 1967 mixer.

The Beau Biens would have been entirely forgotten were it not for the single record they released: the "Times Passed / A Man Who's Lost" 7-inch, released in March 1967.

While this Ann Arbor-based group didn't last long, and the single wasn't particularly popular at the time, over the past 50 years the record's status as a lost psychedelic classic has grown and grown.

"The Beau Biens 45 is considered one of the best garage band singles of the '60s," said Frank Uhle, media consultant for University of Michigan's Instructional Support Services by day, Ann Arbor rock encyclopedia by night. "A couple of years ago a book was published that listed just about every American DIY record that came out then, and a panel of experts voted 'Times Passed' number 427 of the more than 8,000 records included."

Though it's been bootlegged on several garage-rock compilations, the original 45 is nearly impossible to find. That's one reason why Uhle has reissued the record; another is because he located Joe Doll, the man who had the original master tapes because he was the one who recorded it at WCBN-FM during an all-nighter. Even the first pressing of "Times Passed / A Man Who's Lost" was pressed from a second-generation copy of the tape, so this new edition is even better than the real thing.

The quintet consisted of Tom Kleene (vocals), Don Tapert (lead guitar), Tom Hartkop (rhythm guitar), Jim Masouras (bass), and Rick Fine (drums). Originally a folk group, the Milk River Jug Band, the group's sound got turned on its ear when Tapert witnessed a Rolling Stones concert and only wanted to rock. After some resistance from his bandmates, the group changed its name to The Beau Biens and the train started rolling. The ensembles sound evokes a garage-ier version of The Yardbirds, powered by a fuzzed out Vox amp stomp.

We talked to Tapert about The Beau Biens' beginnings, seeing the Stones, Yardbirds, and The Velvet Underground and Nico, and Ann Arbor in '60s. We also tapped Uhle's bottomless well of local-music knowledge about the '60s Michigan rock scene and how the reissue came about.

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A World of Music: Galeet Dardashti & Divahn at The Ark


"Well, it was only natural that a Jewish Middle Eastern band should form in Austin, right?" joked singer Galeet Dardashti when asked how she formed the band Divahn.

Though Dardashti and Divahn don't have any Texas twang in their music, the songs they create aren't hemmed in by geographical or cultural boundaries. The group blends Persian, Jewish, Arabic, and Indian music, with touches of European classical and American/Latin jazz, into a worldly blend that seeks to highlight our universal commonalities, regardless of the land under your feet.

It's music made to spark a bright light during a time filled with murky shadows.

"We chose to record our new song, 'Banu Choshesh Legaresh (We’ve Come to Chase Away the Darkness),' for our upcoming album because the lyrics really spoke to us. It’s a Hanukah song and we decided to record it right after the November election. Hanukah is all about overcoming the darkness and we were all very down and in need of some of that Hanukah light. The Hebrew lyrics are:

We’ve come to chase away the darkness
We bear light and fire
Each glimmer is small
But together, our blaze is fierce
Flee, darkness
Go away, night
Flee, before the light

The lyrics gave us hope, reminding us that we are more powerful when we resist/persist together. Our fans really loved the song and so we -- with the help of a friend -- made our first music video." (See above.)

Divahn plays The Ark on Monday, April 3, and we talked to Dardashti about her family's rich musical history, the band's hearty sonic soup, and being an all-female band performing an all-male repertoire when it tackles traditional tunes.

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Choro-scuro: Danilo Brito brings Brazil's soul to Kerrytown Concert House


"Heitor Villa-Lobos said that choro represents the soul of Brazilian people," said Danilo Brito, a mandolinist from São Paulo who plays this form of music that Brazil's legendary composer so beloved.

The 32-year-old Brito has been playing choro -- a high-spirited, waltz- and polka-influenced music that dominated Brazilian popular music from the late 19th century and well into the 20th -- since he was a child. At age 10, he would go to music shops that hosted choro jams and would sit in with much older players, and at 19 he won the Prêmio Visa de Música Popular Brasileira, a prestigious competition that was held in São Paulo between 1998 and 2006.

As one of the leading exponents of choro, Brito is dedicated to exploring the genre's history and expanding on its compositional template, which typically includes three sections, all in different keys. "Choro continues to be played, composed, and is a living rich genre," he said.

Brito and his band -- Carlos Moura (7-string guitar), Guilherme Girardi (6-string guitar), and Lucas Arantes (cavaquinho, a small 4-string guitar) -- will demonstrate choro's lifeforce with a show at Kerrytown Concert House on Saturday, April 1. We talked with the mandolinist about his musical background and what makes choro the heart of all Brazilian popular music.

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