A round-up of Washtenaw County arts and culture news.
Ann Arbor musician and Ghostly International co-founder Matthew Dear spent six years crafting his latest solo album, Bunny, which came out Oct. 12, 2018.
But for his contribution to FACTmagazine's "Against the Clock" series, Dear put together a song in 10 minutes.
Check out that Dear video below, plus the promo clip for the album single "Bunny's Dream," along with news on the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, the suddenly thriving Washtenaw County music club scene, and the AADL archives team recall a 1969 theatrical production that was accused of indecency.
The Appalachian Mountains and the German Autobahn are diametrically different creations in myriad ways: Earth-made vs. man-made; steep vs. flat; curvilinearly mysterious vs. linearly hypnotic.
But the duo Land & Buildings bring the sounds of Appalachia and Germany together in a way that is as natural as a mountain range or racing on a European highway.
Dominick Smith and Kendall Babl combine the high-lonesome sound of Highlands-inspired music with the gurgling cosmic drone of Krautrock on their second Land & Buildings album, Huron River Eclipse, which conjures the image of Will Oldham and Neil Young covering Cluster. I legit thought Huron River Eclipse's "Brandywine Harbor" was a Neil Young demo from 1972, while the title track evokes Conny Plank's Berlin studio in 1976.
Smith and Babel met in Chicago during what was supposed to be an MFA year together studying sculpture at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and they've been playing music on and off ever since. But it wasn't until 2013 that Land & Buildings became a thing, and in that same year the duo released its debut album, Hibiscus.
With Smith in New York state and Babel in Washtenaw County, it took a while for Land & Building to create its second album. Huron River Eclipse consists of mostly improvised jams that were later edited down by the band and Fred Thomas, who released the cassette on his Life Like label. It's a truly unique and gorgeous collection of lo-fi outsider folk and electronics.
I spoke with Smith and Babel about their kosmische Appalachian electronica.
You've got the girl groups, from The Supremes to En Vogue.
And you've got the boy bands, from The Temptations to The Backstreet Boys.
“We are unusual because a lot of gay and lesbian choirs are all men or all women,” says Out Loud Chorus board member Tim Hamann. “We have always been a mixed group, truly a community chorus.”
During the January 18 and 19 performances, expect to hear music from Motown groups, '90s boy bands, Destiny’s Child, The Andrews Sisters, The King’s Singers, and more.
"'Gurl Groups and Boi Bands' will be set up like an episode of The Voice," says Hamann. “But we are calling it The Queer Voice. Then we will have skits peppered throughout the program.”
“I think that it’s very important to play this music, to tell the story of Brazilian music,” he explained. Mehmari -- who appeared at Kerrytown Concert House nearly a year prior -- brought with him an exciting collection of repertoire, music infused with influences of jazz, ragtime, classical, and all manner of Brazilian and Latin American music.
But Mehmari has added another type of music to his repertoire: NPR jingle. The virtuosic pianist put out a 25-minute video of him performing three stunning variations on the well-known NPR theme.
Perhaps Mehmari will perform these creative variations when he returns to Kerrytown with his trio on Saturday, January 19, but you can check out the pianist's NPR jam now as you read the Pulp interview we did before that 2017 show:
U-M alumna Penny W. Stamps died from leukemia on Dec. 18, 2018, but her dedication to bringing arts and ideas to Ann Arbor community continues with the school and speaker series named in her honor.
The winter lineup of U-M Stamps School of Art & Design's Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series was announced Jan. 11 with 12 events, primarily at the Michigan Theater and many in conjunction with other performances and events at the university and in the community.
Synth music is often a solitary exercise. It's easy enough for one person to program all the music and not have to deal with band dynamics.
Electronic music duos are more common and count influential acts such as Orbital, Mouse on Mars, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Coil, and many more in those ranks.
Less common is a synthesizer trio, quartet, or quintet, but there is a rich history of synth groups, too, from Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Harmonia, Throbbing Gristle, Add N to (X), and Hot Chip. The combination of personalities mixed with live playing over sequenced sections gives the music a more human quality, and Washtenaw County trio Doogatron is part of this lineage.
Stevie, Kyle, and Mike -- family names are for families -- make loose-limbed techno that mixes programmed parts on computer and live playing on vintage synths. The group's sound is elastic and trippy even as it's framed by linear rhythms.
Doogatron's self-titled debut LP came out Nov. 2, 2018, and the group has followed that with a New Year's Day 2019 mix of original tunes, reworked album cuts, and earlier tunes initially heard on Soundcloud. In February, Doogatron will release the first of at least four EPs/singles scheduled for this year. "Each release comes from one continuous recording session," Stevie said, "so each track will serve as a part one, part two, part three experience," starting with "Before Subsidized Time" b/w "After Subsidized Time."
Stevie gave us the lowdown on Doogatron's history, name, and work process.
You may come to the Ann Arbor District Library to pick up a book or movie or sewing machine or electric guitar knowing well in advance that’s why you’ve entered one of AADL’s five locations.
But if you come to visit us and you can’t quite figure out what you want to check out, you might ask someone on staff for suggestions -- and we’re always happy to oblige.
In that way, our 2018 staff picks for books, film, music, TV, podcasts, and more is one massive suggestion list.
We don’t limit our picks to material that came out in 2018; we list things that made an impact on us during the year, no matter when the media was released. Plus, we’ve added a Pulp Life category -- both on the blog and in this year-end roundup -- to note life experiences that we loved in 2018, from parks to restaurants.
And if you need help finding the material, or you’re looking for even more suggestions, just ask. We've already started making our lists for 2019.
The folk-music duo Gemini has been a vital part of the Ann Arbor music scene for more than 45 years.
Twin brothers San and Laz Slomovits started singing together with their cantor father in their native Hungary when they were very young and started learning instruments at age 7. They continued performing as the family moved to Israel and then the U.S., but things really took off after the brothers formed a folk duo post-college and then moved to Ann Arbor in 1973. For decades they’ve been known for their beautiful harmonies, multi-instrumental talents, and original songs, particularly for youth and family audiences, throughout Michigan and beyond.
Now, the twins are turning 70 and their music is still going strong. They’re planning a “140th Birthday Celebration” on Jan. 3 at The Ark, where the duo has performed countless times over the years. A number of special guests will join the brothers, and the concert will be recorded for possible release. Proceeds will benefit The Ark, where former leaders Dave and Linda Siglin and others have supported Gemini for decades.
“We literally can’t imagine what our music and career would have been like without them. This is a small gesture of gratitude on our part,” the brothers agreed. They answered a few questions about the concert and their career for Pulp.
Jessica Care Moore and Ursula Rucker are rockstars.
Google that shit.
On December 11 at the University of Michigan’s Trotter Multicultural Center in conjunction with the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies hosted Jessica Care Moore and Ursula Rucker for an hour-long discussion titled "Herstory: Hip Hop and Poetry."
Moore, a Detroit native, is most noted for her five straight victories at the "Showtime at the Apollo” competition as well as her publishing company Black Moore Press and her numerous books of poetry.
Rucker, who hails from Philadelphia, has released six albums of her poetry and has collaborated with many well-known hip-hop acts including fellow Philadelphians the Roots.
On Tuesday the women were resplendent. Moore sported a high-crowned red fedora and a colorful denim jacket adorned with an image of the late Ntozake Shange (Google that shit). Rucker had her hair pulled back and her face framed with black cats-eye glasses. Both women were performance-ready and engaged the audience with their own poetry and, perhaps most importantly, historical perspective.
Isaac Levine is a restless creator and organizer. Whether it's fighting against unsustainable development, booking DIY shows at houses and small venues, or making music in numerous bands and solo projects, this Washtenaw County resident's proactive drive is admirable.
Levine's latest recording is the guitar-centric A Death So Obsessed With Living, which is his third album in the past 365 days, following May's auto-chord organ LP Cloudpleasers under his own name and last December's Pee on These Hands with one of his bands, The Platonic Boyfriends.
A Death So Obsessed With Living was recorded in November by Spencer Tweedy, son of Jeff and a member of his dad's band, Wilco. We talked to the Levine about the story behind recording the new album, the themes on his last two LPs, and the pros and cons of living in Ann Arbor.
Isaak Levine + Friends celebrate their record release with a concert at Unity Vibration in Ypsilanti on Friday, December 21.