Friday Five: Towner, Scary Steve, Comma, Cory Sibu Tripathy, John Hughes
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features power-pop from Towner, ambient by Scary Steve, vaporwave weirdness via Comma, experimental electronica courtesy of Cory Sibu Tripathy, and worship music by John Hughes.
Towner, "Closer to Surrender"
In 2020, Ann Arbor's Towner created one of my favorite albums ever to come from Washtenaw County. This Is Entertainment was the perfect amalgam of Guided By Voices, Cheap Trick, The Only Ones, and even Weezer—but don't let that last comparison scare you off. "Closer to Surrender" continues in the same vein, with big sing-along hooks. Great band.
Scary Steve, Falling Through Windows
The last time I heard music by Ann Arbor's Scary Steve was in September 2020 when he released a skittering, psychedelic, hip-hop-leaning single with rapper A.N.G.E.L.I. (with a very cool video). But his new release, Falling Through Windows, is a beatless ambient album full of post-club bliss-outs.
I don't know anything about Comma, but this album just came out on Kawsaki Audio Space, the label run by Ann Arbor native and vaporwave master Kawsaki. Comma works in a similar vein of retro electronica, but the music is continually messed about with pitch trickery. All the sounds seem to be running at a slightly wrong speed, which creates a woozy asymmetry. Wonderful madness.
Cory Sibu Tripathy, Broken Machines
I've heard this University of Michigan grad and Ypsi-based drummer smoke in a number of jazz settings, but he's gone electronic for his first solo record. In a roundabout way, Broken Machines reminds me of Detroit native and former U-M professor Gerald Cleaver's 2020 record Signs, another solo electronic-music album created by a drummer who uses percussion to trigger strange sounds. Broken Machines is so named because of the unique circumstances of how the record was made, as Tripathy explains on Bandcamp: "This music grew out of my first attempt to create an improvising computer program that would dynamically respond to the sounds I made on the drums and yield an equal collaboration between myself and the program. Instead, something entirely different emerged. Occasionally, my recording software would crash, and the program would no longer dynamically listen to me. Instead, the program would continuously reread the same data sent from the drums at the moment of the crash, creating endless variations that documented—in sound—that moment frozen in time. It was this experience that brought a new and unexpected meaning to the music as I heard—through musical gesture—the vast ubiquity of a single moment."
John Hughes, "Greeted From Afar"
You don't come across a lot of worship music on Bandcamp, but the gentle and folky "Greeted From Afar" by Ann Arbor singer-songwriter John Hughes fits the bill. He also released a full album, Hymns for Holy Week, in April.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.