Friday Five is where we highlight music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features dub techno from Bill Van Loo, synth-pop by Same Eyes, piano miniatures courtesy Alissa Freeman, an EDM comp from Intensity Recordings, and experimental works by Blue Gene Tyranny.
Bill Van Loo, Heavyweight Trouble
Ypsi polymath Bill Van Loo is so busy with projects, from teaching and woodworking to photography and synth building, that it's a treat to get a full-on finished music release from him. This four-song collection of dub techno is perfect headphone music since it's filled with tiny details bouncing around the mix, but don't be surprised if you find yourself shimmying in your seat to the beats.
Same Eyes, B-Sides Volume 1 and "Mass Infatuation"
Following on the heels of the March single "Mass Infatuation" and the Ann Arbor synth-pop duo's debut album, Parties to End, comes two tunes deemed "B-sides." I throw up the air quotes because these are A+ songs that will transport you back to a middle-school dance in 1982. Time travel is real.
Various Artists, Intensity Recordings Extended Collection (Season 2 - 2021)
I'm just learning of Ann Arbor's Intensity Recordings, having missed its first compilation in December 2020, but the tag line on the label's social media describes its aesthetic perfectly: "Where festival music lives." This second compilation features more sports-stadium EDM filled with big beats and even bigger wooshes of that squelchy horn-like sound (you'll know it when you hear it).
Alissa Freeman, Lili Boulanger: Trois Morceaux Pour Piano
Ann Arbor's 1473 label is doing yeoman's work in documenting local contemporary classical, improv, and experimental sounds coming from our area, often from University of Michigan students who may end up living in town while they do their studies but will end up leaving when they're done. But the creative outputs of these musicians while they're here add so much to this community and I'm grateful whenever anybody takes the time to record their music. While I don't know if pianist Alissa Freeman will stick around Ann Arbor after she finishes her master's in piano performance and pedagogy at the University of Michigan, I'm glad she recorded this short EP of Lili Boulanger compositions while she's here. Here's what Freeman wrote about Boulanger and her music on the Bandcamp page:
I was introduced to these three lovely little pieces by Lili Boulanger during my undergraduate degree by the professor I was studying with at the time. I remember being instantly drawn to the harmonic language which I find is completely unique to this composer. I was also curious about Lili Boulanger—actually this was the first real piece of classical music that I ever played written by a woman (I don’t even think I had heard a single piece written by a woman up until that point.) This curiosity spun into a life pursuit that is forming the basis of my doctoral degree: unearthing stories and compositions by women composers, and helping performers at all levels find and play them.
Boulanger’s story is exceptional. She lived for only 24 years, but her compositions show a maturity and depth that compete with the other french “greats” of her time. Though her music demonstrates that on its own, perhaps her greatest noted achievement was being the winner of the coveted Prix de Rome, a prize in composition won by Bizet, Berlioz, and Debussy, amongst many others. Through this award, she was able to travel to the Medici palace in Rome, which is where she completed her Trois Morceaux pour piano.
Each of the pieces evokes the images that are referred to in the titles. The first, “The Old Garden,” feels meditative and retrospective, the second “The Clear Garden,” seems to depict light coming through branches and trees, and the third “Cortège,” illustrates a celebratory processional. Through them all, the rich subtleties and vast color spectrum that the piano can create are fully captured in Boulanger’s detailed writing.
Blue Gene Tyranny, Degrees Of Freedom Found
Experimental pianist, composer, and All Music writer Blue Gene Tyranny, who died in December, lived in Ann Arbor from 1962-1971, performing with Iggy Pop's first band, The Prime Movers, and later with The Stooges, and participating in the now legendary ONCE Festivals. This six-CD compilation features music recorded between 1963-2019, all picked by Tyranny, including new but unreleased recordings as well as archival and live recordings from throughout his career. There's only one track from A2 on the comp: "Wooden Nickels (Live at the Canterbury House, Ann Arbor, MI, 1968)," which is not streamable yet on Bandcamp. But there's no doubt Tyranny's almost decade-long stay here was a huge influence on his creative life.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.