Friday Five: Chill Place, Doogatron, Ahmad, Opius, Fred Thomas
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features R&B by Chill Place, techno from Doogatron, drum 'n' bass via Ahmad and Opius, and Fred Thomas live on WCBN-FM.
Chill Place, Lights in the Loft
Kyle Love's Feels album under the Where She Creep moniker was such an unsuspecting blast straight outta leftfield. Not because the music was surprising—he makes no bones about being a new jack swing aficionado—but because the execution was so brilliant. Plus, it really stood out to have a sultry and straight-up R&B record come out in 2022. Love is a terrific singer and a confident, stylish frontman, which makes him the perfect focal point of Chill Place, an Ypsi-Arbor collective featuring Joel Harris (guitar and vocals) and producer Pranav Surendran that not only makes music but also throws vibes-laden parties. The same description could be used for Lights in the Loft, the butter-smooth debut record by the trio that moves in slow, seduction motion across eight songs. If you're a fan of D'Angelo and Fender Rhodes-fueled soul—and you'd be silly not to—then you'll love Chill Place's Lights in the Loft as much as I do.
Doogatron, Down Again
My brain always calls collections of B-sides, demos, and live recordings "odds and sods" after The Who compilation with that name. It's a regular thing for guitar-music bands to do collections like this but less common for electronic musicians, whose working processes usually mean building up a song brick by brick inside a computer. But Ypsianti's Doogatron often creates its freaky techno by improvising, which means the trio has tracks upon tracks sitting on its hard drives—which, as we all know, fail. The music on Down Again comes from Doogatron rescuing jams recorded in 2018-2019 from a computer that was on its last digital legs.
Ahmad, The Shaman EP
Ypsilanti's AGN7 label keeps cranking out great drum 'n' bass releases like the 1990s boom never went away. Ahmad's new seven-song EP evokes that era, too—or perhaps the "early 2000s Photek and Paradox, as well as a bit of late 90s Optical," as the label says. Most of the music is on the spookier side with hard beats punctuating the tension like jump-screams in a horror film, but there are also a couple of slower, dubbier tunes, too. (Read our profile of AGN7's main man, Aaren Alseri, here.)
Opius, Planet Jazz EP
Where much of the AGN7 label focuses on 1990s-esque drum 'n' bass where the snares are fast and propulsive, Opius takes his cues just as much from the jazz albums from which he's likely sourced his beats. In fact, much of Planet Jazz sounds like Art Blakey drum solos chopped and screwed into complete brain twisters. A lot of jungle jams from the '90s mix in a release with the tension in the form of melody lines or ambient synth washes that counteract the mania coming from the rhythms. But Opius is content to let your anxiety build and build with no release. Recommended if you like feeling hella nervous.
Fred Thomas, White Flowers: Fred Thomas on the WCBN LMS 1999-2023
Jason Adam Voss put together a two-hour program dedicated to WCBN-FM in-studio performances that feature Fred Thomas to some degree, whether as the leader (numerous ensembles) or all the way down to tambourine player in a six-piece (Santa Monica Swim and Dive Club). The show covers 1999 to 2023 and features just a fraction of the bands Thomas has played in during that time, with the genres running from indie pop and noise to ambient and folk. If you've been involved in the Ypsi-Arbor—or Southeast Michigan—DIY indie scene for some time, there's a good chance you've played with, been recorded by, or seen Thomas play, and this WCBN Local Music Show assemblage is an excellent reminder of his endless enthusiasm and creativity.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.