Friday Five: variant, Cedar Bend, Towner, Great Arm, Artdogg
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features space music by variant, indie rock by Cedar Bend and Towner, neo-grunge by Great Arm, and hip-hop by Artdogg.
variant, cosmic currents
When Ann Arbor's Stephen Hitchell isn't making Basic Channel-esque dub techno as Echospace or cv313, he's making deep-space music as variant (and releasing it all on his longstanding Echospace imprint). The new variant album, cosmic currents, is nearly two-and-a-half hours of interstellar-spa jams that will align all your chakras.
Cedar Bend, "Roots" and "Green Copper"
Ann Arbor's Cedar Bend has been around for about a year, seemingly building from the duo that recorded last fall's "Green Copper" to what appears to be a septet in promo photos and an octet for the new single, "Roots," which came out in December. More instruments serve Cedar Band's sound, which feels based on folk music but always with an eye on arrangements that tend toward the grand. The closest current local analog might be Kingfisher, which also makes widescreen music that sounds intimate, but it was Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes who I thought about when listening to "Roots." Both songs are excellent intros to a band that's going to be worth watching.
Towner, "Holy Mission"
Ann Arbor's Towner recorded this song in April 2023, but it's only seeing the light of day now. It's the first single of what is a delayed album, but after hearing "Holy Mission," I'm encouraging the trio to get on the stick and get this full-length out to the public. (Or just send the album to me privately since Towner's 2020 album This Is Entertainment and 2022's The Lever are among my favorite local indie-rock albums from the past decade.) "Holy Mission" mixes propulsive, downstroked guitars with billowing lead lines that blossom into anthemic shoegazey choruses.
Great Arm, "A Little Is All It Takes"
Ypsi's Great Arm is built around the songs of singer-songwriter Marty Casillas, whose solo work runs the gamut from lo-fi folk to impressionistic soundscapes. But the grungy "A Little Is All It Takes" sounds like it's from an obscure early 1990s 7-inch single from a tiny label in the Pacific Northwest.
Artdogg, "Al Capone"
Former Clague Middle School student Arthur Harrison, aka Artdogg, grew up on Ann Arbor's Northside in the Arrowwood development. I know all this because of a video interview he did with Off the Porch where he talked about his upbringing and how Ms. Hochella, his middle school choir teacher, encouraged him to make music and gave him access to a computer and mic. That interview also had some folks scratching their heads about the way Artdogg described Arrowwood and Ann Arbor's Northside community in general, but none of that is my concern; everybody's origin story is their own. But even amid the minor controversy about his upbringing, people kept praising Artdogg's talents as a rapper, which you can hear on his new single, "Al Capone," and on 11 other videos he's released over the past four years. (Artdogg was also interviewed by Voyage Michigan recently.)
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.