Electro-Valve Vibes: Justin Walter's "Unseen Worlds"

INTERVIEW MUSIC

Justin Walter

Justin Walter jams and loops on the Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI).

The warm, billowing, ambient music Justin Walter makes with the Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI) evokes Brian Eno's work the instant it caresses your ears.

But rather amazingly, Walter heard Eno's pioneering music only recently.

"That is true. So, I listened to a couple of his albums, one of which I liked a lot, Discreet Music," Walter said. "For me, it pointed to the beginnings of Boards of Canada, especially that opening number on Music Has the Right to Children. It also sounded like something I might come up with and I realized that my exploration into the world of ambient electronic music probably would have been very different had I heard this record at an earlier date. Seems like he makes amazing music."

So does Walter, whether he's playing trumpet with the avant-Afro-funk collective Nomo, sitting in with Ann Arbor jazz bands, or wielding the EVI, a wind-controlled synthesizer. His first recording featuring the instrument was 2009's Music for Science Film Strips EP; 2017's Unseen Forces is his sixth. They're all gorgeous, too, featuring languid melody lines hovering over clouds of harmony.

Walter's EVI music is improvised and the songs are selections from those free recordings, which are edited and treated in the studio. "I like to use the unique structure of the instrument to explore how a melody can be created using intuition," Walter said, "which is to say that most of the time I really have no idea what I'm doing."

Well, it sure sounds like he knows what he's doing and we wanted to find out more, so we talked to Walter about improvisation, the influence of trumpeter Louis Smith, and all things EVI.

Dynamic Duo: Musica Nuda at Kerrytown Concert House

INTERVIEW PREVIEW MUSIC

Musica Nuda

Look into the eyes of Musica Nuda, feel the virtuoso power.

Every article about Musica Nuda talks about how vocalist Petra Magoni and double bassist Ferruccio Spinetti formed their unique duo in 2003. It was all because a guitarist Magoni was supposed to play a concert with cancelled at the last minute, so she asked Spinetti to fill in -- and they’ve been making music ever since.

This guitar player is never named, but he haunts every article like a ghost.

“His name is Paolo Fazzi. He’s still a guitarist. He has another job,” Magoni laughed. “No, we never played together -- never, ever. But he’s very funny because each time he reads the story in an interview he says, in a way, he’s happy because me and Ferruccio would have never played together otherwise.”

Fazzi’s loss was Spinetti’s eternal gain: Magoni has an amazing voice that fits in any setting, from jazz to French pop to disco -- all of which are in Musica Nuda’s vast repertoire. The duo has released 11 wide-ranging albums, including 2017’s Leggera, but on stage is where Musica Nuda shows its chops and charm. (See the Tuscany, Italy-based group at Kerrytown Concert House on April 29.)

Kitty Donohoe celebrates "The Irishman's Daughter" at Conor O'Neill's

INTERVIEW PREVIEW MUSIC

Kitty Donohoe

Kitty Donohoe brings the Irish countryside to the woods of Michigan.

Kitty Donohoe's sixth album, The Irishman's Daughter, was a long time in the making for a variety of reasons: financial, personal, artistic. But the finished result is a testament to her perseverance and talent.

The CD's 12 songs swing from the instrumentals "Leaving the Land / Ships Are Sailing," "Chicago Jig / Chicago Reel," and "Star of the County Down" to the mostly instrumental "Sneaking Up the Hill" and the primarily a capella original "Working for Mrs. O'Leary. "Fish on Fridays" is her humorous ode to growing up in a non-Catholic Irish-American household, and there are also full-bodied interpretations of Irish classics "The Lark in the Morning" (featuring her daughter Callie on harmonies), "Bold Jack Donohoe," and "Bonny Blue-Eyed Nancy" (with her son Jesse singing lead).

Donohoe closes the album with four originals, including "Abe Lincoln's Army," "Sneaking Up the Hill," and "Ireland Song," but it's the closing title track that really marks "The Irishman's Daughter" as a highly personal project.

"This song kind of sums up for me what it was like to be raised by a maverick man, an original thinker, and a truly proud Irish American," Donohoe writes in the liner notes about her dad.

Despite this third generation Irish-American's connection to her ancestral homeland, Donohoe's influences aren't strictly from the Emerald Isle. There are elements of French-Canadian music, with its button accordions and rhythmic rushes, as well as American folk and country woven into her songs and arrangements. Her voice is bell clear, too, with an occasional twang.

Conor O'Neill's Irish Pub & Restaurant in Ann Arbor will host the official release party for The Irishman's Daughter on Sunday, April 30, at 5:30 pm. We talked to Donohoe about the album, her guided trips to Ireland, and The Yellow Room Gang songwriting collective.

Small Town, Big Names: Midwest Literary Walk in Chelsea

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Heather

It's hard not to get caught up in Rich Fahle's enthusiasm for the Midwest Literary Walk, which strolls through downtown Chelsea on Saturday, April 29, offering readings and author meet-and-greets.

"The lineup for the Midwest Literary Walk this year is one of our very best, and this year represents an amazing array of authors who work or live in Michigan," said Fahle, a member of the festival's organizing committee and the executive producer of PBS's Book View Now.

The free event also includes Washington, D.C.-area poet, author, and former Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander, but the majority of the Midwest Literary Walk's roster lives in The Mitten and has a connection to the University of Michigan.

"That lineup includes Peter Ho Davies and Derek Palacio, both of whom teach at the University of Michigan and have books that appeared on many best-of 2016 lists, including The New York Times," Fahle said. "Heather Ann Thompson is a professor of history at the University of Michigan, a National Book Award finalist, and Pulitzer Prize winner. And Airea D. Matthews lives in Detroit but she is the former assistant director of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan where she also earned her M.F.A."

The five author events are all within walking distance of one another, and there's time between events to duck in and out of Chelsea's downtown stores. The event wraps up at 5 pm, which is the perfect time to grab dinner at one of the town's restaurants, or you can continue the literary chat session at the Chelsea Alehouse, which is hosting the afterparty.

We interviewed Fahle about the Midwest Literary Walk's history, its spirit, and other things to look out for in downtown Chelsea.

Rave On: FoolMoon 2017 in moving pictures

FILM & VIDEO PULP


Downloads:
720p video, 480p video or 240p video

It's hard to believe FoolMoon 2017 took place a few weeks ago; we're still glowing from the April 7 event and it has nothing to do with the neon paint we still can't get off our bodies.

To keep the FoolMoon vibes illuminated a bit longer, our talented photographer and videographer Tom Smith combined some images from the event with the techno track "bland western charm" from the album chromedecay tracks pt. 2: 2001-2005 by Bill Van Loo. (The Ypsilanti-based Van Loo also did one of our Tools Crew Live performances; check out the videos here.)

As the FoolMoon afterglow begins to fade, keep this page bookmarked for emergency illumination.


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

Tools Crew Live: Mogi Grumbles

INTERVIEW TOOLS CREW LIVE MUSIC PULP


Downloads:
MP3 for "Library Jam 1"
720p video, 480p video or 240p video

Tools Crew Live is an ongoing video series where we invite artists to perform with gear borrowed from the Ann Arbor District Library's Music Tools collection: aadl.org/musictools.

Mogi Grumbles, the nom de plume of Alex Taam, sounds like a villain in a Superman comic. But the name's origin story isn't quite so heroic.

"It was a nickname given to me around the time I first started publishing my music," Taam said. "From how I understand it, it was a rap lyric originally from my friend Ian. He came up with the name in the song, but then it got dubbed to me because I was such an 'curmudgeon.' ... The name stuck, my label liked it, so there it is."

Those 2009 releases on Moodgadget -- Revolutions Per Minute and the split Worst Friends vs. Mogi Grumbles -- launched Taam's music career, which has expanded into videogame soundtrack work, rescores of classic movies, and studio recording and mastering for other artists.

The two Mogi Grumbles songs Taam composed for the third installment of the Ann Arbor District Library's Tools Crew Live series are called "Library Jam 1" and "Library Jam 2," but they could have easily been called "Retro-Futuristic Sci-Fi Soundtracks 1 & 2." Taam squeezed all the warmth out of the various keyboards he employed, making for a cozy couple of tunes that could easily accompany a voyage into deep space or a daring escape from a postapocalyptic landscape.

These videos were recorded on February 28, 2017, and a few weeks later, Taam answered questions about how he approached this session and the gear he used.

Tusk Talk: Catching up with the Bristle Mammoth at U-M Museum of Natural History

PULP LIFE INTERVIEW


Downloads:720p video, 480p video, 240p video, or MP3 There was a lot of media coverage on the Bristle Mammoth when its remains were found on Lima Township farm in October 2015 and when the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History opened its exhibit in November 2016. But we were curious if there were any developments since the hoopla died down -- plus, we had a few questions of our own -- so we talked to Dr. Daniel Fisher, who led the excavation and heads the research team. Check out our interview in the video above. More videos about the mammoth excavation:

Times Past: Catching up with 1960s Ann Arbor psych-rockers The Beau Biens

INTERVIEW MUSIC

Beau Biens

Beau Biens rocking WCBN's April 1967 mixer.

The Beau Biens would have been entirely forgotten were it not for the single record they released: the "Times Passed / A Man Who's Lost" 7-inch, released in March 1967.

While this Ann Arbor-based group didn't last long, and the single wasn't particularly popular at the time, over the past 50 years the record's status as a lost psychedelic classic has grown and grown.

"The Beau Biens 45 is considered one of the best garage band singles of the '60s," said Frank Uhle, media consultant for University of Michigan's Instructional Support Services by day, Ann Arbor rock encyclopedia by night. "A couple of years ago a book was published that listed just about every American DIY record that came out then, and a panel of experts voted 'Times Passed' number 427 of the more than 8,000 records included."

Though it's been bootlegged on several garage-rock compilations, the original 45 is nearly impossible to find. That's one reason why Uhle has reissued the record; another is because he located Joe Doll, the man who had the original master tapes because he was the one who recorded it at WCBN-FM during an all-nighter. Even the first pressing of "Times Passed / A Man Who's Lost" was pressed from a second-generation copy of the tape, so this new edition is even better than the real thing.

The quintet consisted of Tom Kleene (vocals), Don Tapert (lead guitar), Tom Hartkop (rhythm guitar), Jim Masouras (bass), and Rick Fine (drums). Originally a folk group, the Milk River Jug Band, the group's sound got turned on its ear when Tapert witnessed a Rolling Stones concert and only wanted to rock. After some resistance from his bandmates, the group changed its name to The Beau Biens and the train started rolling. The ensembles sound evokes a garage-ier version of The Yardbirds, powered by a fuzzed out Vox amp stomp.

We talked to Tapert about The Beau Biens' beginnings, seeing the Stones, Yardbirds, and The Velvet Underground and Nico, and Ann Arbor in '60s. We also tapped Uhle's bottomless well of local-music knowledge about the '60s Michigan rock scene and how the reissue came about.

A World of Music: Galeet Dardashti & Divahn at The Ark

INTERVIEW PREVIEW MUSIC

"Well, it was only natural that a Jewish Middle Eastern band should form in Austin, right?" joked singer Galeet Dardashti when asked how she formed the band Divahn.

Though Dardashti and Divahn don't have any Texas twang in their music, the songs they create aren't hemmed in by geographical or cultural boundaries. The group blends Persian, Jewish, Arabic, and Indian music, with touches of European classical and American/Latin jazz, into a worldly blend that seeks to highlight our universal commonalities, regardless of the land under your feet.

It's music made to spark a bright light during a time filled with murky shadows.

"We chose to record our new song, 'Banu Choshesh Legaresh (We’ve Come to Chase Away the Darkness),' for our upcoming album because the lyrics really spoke to us. It’s a Hanukah song and we decided to record it right after the November election. Hanukah is all about overcoming the darkness and we were all very down and in need of some of that Hanukah light. The Hebrew lyrics are:

We’ve come to chase away the darkness
We bear light and fire
Each glimmer is small
But together, our blaze is fierce
Flee, darkness
Go away, night
Flee, before the light

The lyrics gave us hope, reminding us that we are more powerful when we resist/persist together. Our fans really loved the song and so we -- with the help of a friend -- made our first music video." (See above.)

Divahn plays The Ark on Monday, April 3, and we talked to Dardashti about her family's rich musical history, the band's hearty sonic soup, and being an all-female band performing an all-male repertoire when it tackles traditional tunes.

Choro-scuro: Danilo Brito brings Brazil's soul to Kerrytown Concert House

INTERVIEW PREVIEW MUSIC

"Heitor Villa-Lobos said that choro represents the soul of Brazilian people," said Danilo Brito, a mandolinist from São Paulo who plays this form of music that Brazil's legendary composer so beloved.

The 32-year-old Brito has been playing choro -- a high-spirited, waltz- and polka-influenced music that dominated Brazilian popular music from the late 19th century and well into the 20th -- since he was a child. At age 10, he would go to music shops that hosted choro jams and would sit in with much older players, and at 19 he won the Prêmio Visa de Música Popular Brasileira, a prestigious competition that was held in São Paulo between 1998 and 2006.

As one of the leading exponents of choro, Brito is dedicated to exploring the genre's history and expanding on its compositional template, which typically includes three sections, all in different keys. "Choro continues to be played, composed, and is a living rich genre," he said.

Brito and his band -- Carlos Moura (7-string guitar), Guilherme Girardi (6-string guitar), and Lucas Arantes (cavaquinho, a small 4-string guitar) -- will demonstrate choro's lifeforce with a show at Kerrytown Concert House on Saturday, April 1. We talked with the mandolinist about his musical background and what makes choro the heart of all Brazilian popular music.