Friday Five: Knitted Myths, Deja Senti, Heavy Color, Unmanned Ship, WCBN Local Music Show sets

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the recordings featured in this week's Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features prog-pop by Knitted Myths, electronic excursions via Deja Senti, jazz-influenced experimental songs by Heavy Color, sludge rock from Unmanned Ship, and a slew of live sets from WCBN's Local Music Show.

Andrea Carlson's "Future Cache" exhibit at UMMA imagines decolonized landscapes for the native peoples violently removed from their land

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Andrea Carlson, Sky in the Morning Hours of "Binaakwiiwi-giizis 15, 1900", 2022, gouache on paper. Courtesy of the artist © Andrea Carlson.

Andrea Carlson, Sky in the Morning Hours of "Binaakwiiwi-giizis 15, 1900", 2022, gouache on paper. Courtesy of the artist © Andrea Carlson.

“Gidayaa Anishinaabewakiing / You are on Anishinaabe land”

The title of Andrea Carlson’s multidimensional installation Future Cache at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) references the Anishinaabe storage practice of using underground caches to store supplies through the seasons. 

The centerpiece of Future Cache, however, doesn't train your gaze toward the ground but up to the sky.

UMMA's Vertical Gallery has a towering 40-foot-high wall of memorial text. Written by the Burt Lake Tribal Council and presented in Anishinaabemowin (translated by Margaret Noodin and Michael Zimmerman Jr.) and English, the words commemorate the historical and ongoing effects of colonial violence on the Cheboiganing (Burt Lake) Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

On the lower level, a cache of Carlson's paintings complements the tower of text with imagined decolonized landscapes, as well as two carefully selected artifacts. Curator Jennifer M. Friess writes in the gallery text that Carlson aims "to draw attention to the theft of Indigenous land and to express solidarity with Indigenous communities on the long journey toward restitution.” 

​​"Conversations on Mortality" at 22 North looks to transcend the silence about the dying side of living

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Marta Carvajal, Blending With Nature, multimedia

Marta Carvajal, Blending With Nature, multimedia

Conversations on mortality are difficult, often avoided, and in America, they are traditionally taboo. The 22 North gallery in Ypsilanti welcomes the thought-provoking exhibit ​​Conversations on Mortality, which confronts our impermanence, the inevitability of death.

The exhibition's multimedia works engage with loss, mourning, and what is left behind once someone is gone. Described by the curators as “a chance to transcend the silence,” Conversations on Mortality offers works driven by the lives of the artists. Not only do they address the complexity of their mortality and loss of loved ones, but also their experiences of living with disability, illness, and the impact of COVID-19. ​​

​​Entering the space, hanging lanterns in an autumnal palette cheerily frame serendipitously matching works by curators Sharlene Welton and Tim Tonachella. I had a chance to speak with Welton who is both the show’s curator and an artist when I visited 22 North. Welton said she created the lanterns as part of an interactive element to the opening night, where visitors were able to decorate and write their names on the lanterns before hanging them. The pieces by Welton (a large painting) and Tonachella (two photographs of cemetery views) were brought in last minute when an artist was unable to make the show, but adding the works ended up being a great aesthetic success.

​​Welton and Tonachella’s gallery statement notes the overlapping threads among the works, as artists grapple with the questions, “How do we embrace the changes that come from death and dying, and more importantly, how we assimilate the loss into our daily living?” Though these may, ultimately, be unanswerable questions, they are worth asking—especially when operating within a mainstream American culture that predominantly ignores them. 

Songs of the Night: Berlin Philharmonic brought Mahler's 7th back to Hill Auditorium

MUSIC REVIEW

Conductor Kirill Petrenko and the Berlin Philharmonic

Berlin Philharmonic and conductor Kirill Petrenko at an unidentified performance. Photo by Monika Rittershaus.

I’d be shocked if there were a single empty seat in the house last Saturday night.

As people ducked out of the swirling snow flurries of the storm that would blanket the town over the course of the next few hours, the lobby of the 3,000-seat Hill Auditorium began to fill to the brim with eagerly bustling patrons.

And no wonder—it’s not every day that you have the chance to hear what’s arguably the world’s best orchestra perform music by one of history’s best composers.

It’s been six years, almost to the day, since Ann Arbor heard from the Berlin Philharmonic, courtesy of the University Musical Society (UMS). When they last played Hill, to a similarly packed house, Simon Rattle was still at the helm of the orchestra, two years away from stepping down as chief conductor and artistic director, roles he’d held since 2002. I managed to attend one concert out of two that year, and it remains etched in my memory as one of the best orchestral experiences I’ve ever had—a thrilling offering of music from the Second Viennese School and a Brahms symphony that was all conducted, impressively, from memory. 

Saturday’s performance was no less remarkable.

Friday Five: Same Eyes, prod. P, Color TV, autodoom., Otherseas

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Album art for Same Eyes, prod. P, Color TV, autodoom., Otherseas

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features synth-pop by Same Eyes, beat sketches by prod. P, bedroom indie-folk by Color TV, lo-fi hip-hop shoegaze by autodoom., and an emotional MEMCO Exposure mix by Otherseas.

Immersion Therapy: Hannah Baiardi Unpacks Emotions on “Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation” Piano Instrumental Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Hannah Baiardi embraces her spiritual side on Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation.

Hannah Baiardi embraces her spiritual side on Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation. Photo by Funn Foto.

Hannah Baiardi immerses herself in a cathartic sonic experience on her new album, Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and pianist delved into jazzy sophisti-pop on her last two records, Magic (2022) and Straight From the Soul (2021), but Ascend Your Vibe explores the restorative side of mellow instrumental music.

“I brought all my emotions to the piano bench and got to unpack them in real-time at the keys,” said Baiardi about her fourth album. “The longer strings of phrases are riding a feeling while the pauses are the reflection and the process. The feelings drive the ebb and flow and unfolding of each piece.”

Throughout Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation, Baiardi unfolds feelings of hope, gratitude, and wonder across eight spiritual tracks, including the magical opener, “Pensive,” and the otherworldly “Somewhere East of Here.” Glistening keys slowly strike and pause alongside tranquil samples featuring soothing birds and a ticking clock.

“As a listener, you can choose where to direct your attention. The clock can ground or distract you,” writes Baiardi on her Bandcamp page. “The anticipation before a chord can make you focus on the next chord or can help you be in the in-between spaces.”

To get inside her headspace, we recently talked with Baiardi about her musical beginnings, favorite artists, and latest album.

David Fenton's "The Activist’s Media Handbook" traces his life in the media, from the "Ann Arbor Sun" to progressive public relations

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

David Fenton, The Activist’s Media Handbook: Lessons from 50 Years as a Progressive Agitator

Activist and public relations firm founder David Fenton launched his very first PR campaign in Ann Arbor in 1971: Fenton worked to get John Sinclair out of prison where he was serving a sentence for giving drugs to an undercover agent.

Following this effort, Fenton wrote for the countercultural newspaper Ann Arbor Sun where he worked on a campaign to increase sales by running a contest called “Win a Pound of Colombian Marijuana.”

Fenton’s new book, The Activist’s Media Handbook: Lessons From 50 Years As a Progressive Agitator, spends two chapters on his time in A2 and also details what happened before and after.

Of his time working at the newspaper and in activism, Fenton writes:

Everybody's Kranky: Bruce Adams' new book chronicles the rise of Chicago's thriving 1990s independent music scene and the influential record label he cofounded

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Bruce Adams and his book You're With Stupid

For a guy who cofounded a record label named kranky—small k, thanks—that used marketing slogans such as "Honk if you hate people, too," Bruce Adams is one of the nicest people in the music industry.

Adams' new book, You're With Stupid: kranky, Chicago, and the Reinvention of Indie Music, recalls not only the rise of his experimental label but also the inventive, genre-hopping sounds that were coming out of the city in the 1990s. It was also a time when major labels swooped into town to sign the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, and Liz Phair after Nirvana showed corporations that the independent music scene could sometimes provide commercial hits.

A former Ann Arbor resident, Schoolkids Records employee, and WCBN-FM DJ, Adams moved to Chicago in 1987 to work for various music-distribution companies. He also worked at the influential Touch & Go Records as a publicist, handling bands such as Ann Arbor's Laughing Hyenas as well as Slint, Die Kreuzen, The Jesus Lizard, and many other bands that took the energy of punk rock and twisted it into new forms of dynamic and frequently very heavy music. 

But in 1993, Adams and his colleague Joel Leoschke looked at the stacks of indie-rock CDs and 7-inches flooding into the Cargo Distribution warehouse where they worked and decided they wanted to do something completely different with their record label. The duo took their inspiration from 1970s progressive-music labels such as Editions EG, which counted Brian Eno's transformational ambient albums in its catalog, and ECM Records, which focused on jazz (and classical) that came from a more European approach to improvisation; more open to exploring space and unique timbres rather than blues-informed swing. They also looked toward German kosmische musik of 1970s groups such as Neu! and Cluster as well as then-contemporary psychedelic bands such as Spacemen 3, which played drone-based rock 'n' roll.

Adams and Leoschke wanted kranky to represent music that was artful, hazy, and deep—and they found the perfect first band for their new label: Labradford.

Prazision was the debut album by the Richmond-based duo (later trio) Labradford, which used guitars drenched in reverb, 1970s analog keyboards that weren't popular then, and sung-spoken vocals that blended into the vast smudge of ambient sounds. 

The label went on to release albums by godspeed you! black emperor, Stars of the Lid, and kranky's most popular act, Low, the slowcore band fronted by the husband and wife duo of Alan Sparhawk and the recently deceased Mimi Parker. The label still continues to this day, releasing forward-looking music by Grouper and Jessica Bailiff as well as albums by Dearborn's Windy & Carl and Ann Arbor's Justin Walter.

Adams and Leoschke used what they learned from working for indie labels and distribution centers in order to not make the same mistakes they saw happening over and over: treat the bands with respect, pay them, and only release music you love. In the words of American poet Joe Perry, kranky "let the music do the talking."

A lot of music memoirs are filled with gossipy details, but since Adams really and truly is a nice guy, You're With Stupid avoids any deep, dark revelations or pointed barbs. It's more a survey of the vast amount of creative musical endeavors that defined Chicago in the 1990s rather than salacious tales of excess.

Adams will discuss You're With Stupid at the Ann Arbor District Library's Downtown branch at 6:30 pm on Thursday, November 17. I'll be the guy interviewing him—Adams doesn't say in the book why he sold his portion of the label to Leoschke in 2005, so I'm going to ask him that—and we'll talk about the kranky's groundbreaking music and the 1990s Chicago independent music scene.

For those unfamiliar with the label, Adams picked five tracks and added commentary to introduce new listeners to the kranky sound:

Friday Five: Kingfisher, Riot Course, Kai West, Hues, Anhedonia

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Art for the albums and singles featured in this week's Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features large-ensemble indie rock by Kingfisher, polished punk via Riot Course, guitar ambiance from Kai West, hip-hop by Hues, and genre-agnostic electronica by Anhedonia.

Group Swim: PTD Productions' "The Sweet Delilah Swim Club" makes a splash on the importance of friends

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

"The Sweet Delilah Swim Club" celebrates the friendship of five women over time.

The Sweet Delilah Swim Club celebrates the friendship of five women over time. Artwork courtesy of PTD Productions.

PTD Productions' The Sweet Delilah Swim Club is funny, heartwarming, and shows the beautiful bonds of five women just trying to get through life.

This comedy, written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, takes us to North Carolina and introduces us to a group of girlfriends who met swimming for their college swim team. Every year during the same weekend in August, they rent out the same beachside cottage in the Outer Banks and use that time to catch up with one another and have a yearly group swim. Time progresses rapidly in this show, with the first scene taking place 22 years after graduation and the characters in their early 40s. By the end of the show, another 33 years have passed and the ladies are in their 70s.

Marie Jones plays Sheree, the former captain of the team and the group’s Type A organizer. She has a set schedule for each day and gets overwhelmed if the schedule doesn’t go according to plan. Sheree's weird health food disgusts her friends even though they all pretend to like it. Jones’ performance is endearing and honest as she navigates a character learning to give up some control.