Friday Five: Scotty Karate, Clangstrum, John Holk & the Sequins, HUES & Gold Midas, The Strange Theory of Light and Matter


Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features alt-country by Scotty Karate, modern classical by Clangstrum, psychedelic country by John Holk & the Sequins, hip-hop by HUES and Gold Midas, and prog-metal by The Strange Theory of Light and Matter.


Scotty Karate, All the Way Out
Scotty Karate started to put his life back together in 2018 when he checked into a rehab facility. The Chelsea's singer-songwriter reemerged with the summer 2021 album Always Honey—read our interview with Karate about that album here—with the help of Darrin James who recorded and released the LP on his Ravine Records label. Karate and James teamed with Brennan Andes (bass) and Rob Avsharian (drums) and reemerged once again with All the Way Out, which takes up where the rockabilly-country-folk Always Honey left off. 

Karate's voice reminds me of Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner—a little rasp, a little twang, but mostly rock 'n' roll—in a country-music setting, whether a honky-tonk ballad like "Turn It" or the galloping "As We're Passing." Those are two of six Karate originals on the LP, which is rounded out by two covers. "Calfornia" is a song by Lost Dakotas, a Toronto alt-country band from the early 1990s that got its start busking in the city's subway system—which is also where Karate first heard this tune as he describes during the song's intro. The album closes with a solo acoustic cover of The Rolling Stones' 1965 song "Playing With Fire," with a slight lyrical change to update location from Stepney and Knightsbridge to Ypsi and Stockbridge. 


Clangstrum, "bathysphere"
Clangstrum is the name used by Gerald Siclovan, a name that might register with longtime Michigan music heads. The multi-instrumentalist started playing in The Zooks as a Dearborn high schooler in 1970 and then Retro from 1979-1982 (the latter with DJ Martin Bandyke). But where the former band was indebted to the outsider sounds of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, and the latter incorporated those influences plus the energy of new wave and punk, Clangstrum's music is more subtle and restrained, existing somewhere between post-rock and modern classical.

The Ann Arbor-based Siclovan has posted a lot of Clangstrum music on his Bandcamp page, but the 20-minute-long composition "bathysphere" appears to be the first new recording released in nearly 10 years. Siclovan has composed music for several different modern dance troupes, including Ann Arbor's Terpsichore Collective, and based on its length, it's possible "bathysphere" is intended for choreography. But this isn't "dance" music; it's cerebral, multifaceted, and motivic, moving through time at its own pace and logic. It's also quite beautiful.


John Holk & the Sequins, Tragic Songs EP
Ann Arbor's John Holk has been exploring some form of the self-described "psychedelic country" music with the Sequins since at least 2008, but the new five-song EP, Tragic Songs, is only the band's third release during that time. It's always nice, then, when the project was worth the wait.

The EP was inspired by themes presented on The Louvin Brothers’ 1956 debut album, Tragic Songs of Life, which focused on "broken hearts, hard luck, and murder." But where the Louvins had equal amounts of gospel and bluegrass in their country stylings, Holk & Co. look to the crisp catchiness of power-pop to beef up their twang on Tragic Songs.


HUES and Gold Midas, "Sensei"
With this single, Ann Arbor producer HUES is gearing up for two full-length releases: one a solo record and the other a collab with rapper Gold Midas. Both the lyric and instrumental versions of "Sensei" are included here.


The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, "Helium Flash"
The latest single from this one-person metal band from Ann Arbor that makes tightly constructed instrumental headbangers inspired by physics.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.