Friday Five: Alex Blanpied, Nadim Azzam, GVMMY, Fantishow, Normal Park
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features contemporary classical/ambient by Alex Blanpied, hip-hop folk by Nadim Azzam, hyperpop via GVMMY, early '90s-esque electronica channeled by Fantishow, and flannel-flying emo-punk from Normal Park.
Alex Blanpied, Will the Sun Still Shine Without Our Eyes to See It?
Baltimore composer Alex Blanpied, who studied at the University of Michigan, wrestles with the state of the world on his new album and more specifically where his generation fits into it as climate change, war, and demagoguery dominate the headlines. It's not an unfamiliar mindset for any young person to have—I know I had it and that was a hundred years ago. But most people in their early 20s don't have Blanpied's ability to turn those worries into compelling art that sounds simultaneously contemporary—samples and electronic elements abound—and classic(al).
The sixth track, "The Atlas Generation," which the oboist and pianist described as the centerpiece of this new album, features a poem with these words:
before I could walk,
before my mouth had formed its first word,
before I understood what it meant,
the towers fell.
Basically, how does a person, or a generation, find security and peace in the world when they were terrified from the jump?
Even though much of Will the Sun Still Shine Without Our Eyes to See It? is minimalist, there's a widescreen, big-picture framing that reminds me of John Luther Adams' thematic-driven work. But where Adams' music often builds or hints at a swell over its long-developing passages, Blanpied's pieces work in delicate chunks that can stand on their own. Yet they also add up to something bigger when collected into a whole, which is this contemplative and compelling album.
Nadim Azzam, "Show Low Me Love"
Ann Arbor's Nadim Azzam absolutely owns the hip-hop folk singer space, never failing to deliver the passion on a steady stream of solid singles over the past year. But I'm not pleased with him releasing a video in October filled with snow. Nadim, I'm not ready for the cold days of winter. (In fairness, I'm never ready.)
GVMMY, dada (instrumentals + finished masters)
Ypsilanti's GVMMY straddles the line between hip-hop, EDM, industrial, and hyperpop. Most of the tunes are instrumental (and are noted as such), but songs such as "acidSpit" and "realBlood" have uncredited rappers (or GVYMMY using wildly different voices) and are among the highlights of the album. A producer to keep an ear on.
Fantishow, ΨΦ (Psi Fi)
Ann Arbor animator and electronic musician Fantishow makes heady, Day-Glo club jams that evoke the cyberdelic era where psychedelics and technology melded into a dream world on the dance floor. This album could have easily come out in the early 1990s—which is high praise. RIYL: The Future Sound of London, The Orb, Psychic TV's techno era, and Timothy Leary.
Normal Park, "Cold Jam" and "Highway Gothic"
Ypsi's Normal Park released its first EP in November 2017 and its second exactly a year later—then nothing until 2022. But this year's terrific tunes, "Cold Jam" and "Highway Gothic," were worth the wait as the trio has refined its flannel-punk sound by keeping the rough edges but leaning into the hooks and melodies. One day, I wouldn't be surprised to see Normal Park listed among the acts playing Gainsville, Florida's massive, multiday annual punk-emo celebration The Fest. RIYL: No Idea Records, Hot Water Music, Leatherface, and Small Brown Bike.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.