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.
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:
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
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.
"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.
When the Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) put together the printed edition of its 2017 program, the organization did it the usual way: listing the dates and the movies underneath. Throw in the "Off the Screen" events and after parties, et voila: the program calendar for the 55th edition of this Ann Arbor mainstay.
But when AAFF was putting together its website, the staff noticed a theme -- or several.
"We did set the [film] programs first," said Executive Director Leslie Raymond to Pulp in this recent interview. "Later when we looked back at them, we recognized some recurring themes and some things people would be interested in that we could pull together -- a few different film programs. People have told us that it's great and it can really help them to figure out what they want to do at the festival."
It made a lot of sense to us, too. Film festivals often group their movies by themes, which helps viewers hone in on their primary interests rather than root through a calendar to see what movies match their tastes on a specific day.
With Raymond's guidance, we identified the 55th Ann Arbor Film Festival's major film tracks as listed on its website, reviewed the primary movies or collections within them, and previewed the rest of the screenings or events in the series. Below is a list of our theme-based coverage for AAFF 2017:
Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present
Feature in Competition | Music
For a man who was a paragon for expanding the paradigms of what constitutes art, music, and film, the subject of Tyler Hubby’s documentary Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present looks like any other rumpled khakis-and-button-down-shirt-wearing older professor. But when Conrad opens his mouth and the words begin to tumble out, his flowing imagination, sense of mischief, and singular view of the world make him anything but a tenured bore.
After graduating with a degree in mathematics from Harvard in 1962 and working as a computer programmer for a year, Conrad spent the rest of his life rebelling against anything as structured as those disciplines.
“He’s definitely got issues with authority,” says Tony Oursler, an artist and frequent Conrad collaborator.
"Short Films in Competition 8: Almost All Ages (Ages 6+)
Shorts Program | All Ages
March 25, 11:00am | Michigan Theater Main Auditorium
Cranky Shows: Low-Tech, High Entertainment Paper Theatre
Off the Screen! | All Ages
March 25, 1:00pm | North Quad Space 2435
Short Films in Competition 7: Animation
Shorts Program | New Media | Animation
March 24, 9:30 pm | Michigan Theater Main Auditorium
Bill Van Loo is a polymath.
“The description I use to describe to people what I do is I’m a maker, teacher, musician, and photographer,” he said, “and at any given point in my life, one or more of those areas is going to be more prevalent or in the forefront than others.”
In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Van Loo was part of the Detroit techno scene, including performing on the Underground Stage in 2000 at the first Detroit Electronic Music Festival, the now-legendary electronic-music event now known as Movement. He released most of his music on his own chromedecay label, and was part of a collective called Thinkbox, which created audio-visual multimedia performances and performed at the Movement Festival in 2003 and Montreal’s huge Mutek fest in 2004.
But for much of the past decade-plus, Van Loo has focused on his teaching career. He’s currently the technology, engineering, and design educator at A2 STEAM, the three-year-old K-8 school that has a heavy focus on project-based learning and tech. At the end of 2016, Van Loo finished his master’s degree in educational media and technology from Eastern Michigan University -- and suddenly found himself with enough free time to bring music to the forefront once again.
Van Loo’s currently working on new material in his home studio and hopes to release an EP or mini-LP on Bandcamp in the spring. We took advantage of Van Loo's sudden return to music by having him be the featured artist in our second Tools Crew Live video series where we have musicians use gear from the Ann Arbor District Library's Music Tools collection to create jams. (Fred Thomas was our first artist, which you can view here.)
Van Loo recorded the videos on January 3 and on February 16 we talked about the songs he performed -- one techno banger, one ambient guitar bliss-out -- and the gear he chose.
Tristan Cappel may have never picked up the alto saxophone were it not for his sister.
“My sister is four years older and I always looked up to her growing up, following in her footsteps in any way I could,” said the 21-year-old junior at the University of Michigan. “In 5th grade, band class was an option at my elementary school and my sister, who also played clarinet in the band, urged me to join and play saxophone. Wanting to be like her, I did.”
If you consider the long tail of her influence, his sister's encouragement all those years ago is ultimately what lead to Cappel making his debut album, Deadbird. The LP features eight original jazz compositions by the native of Sterling Heights, Michigan, all composed between ages 17 to 20. He recorded the album at U-M's Duderstadt Center studio and mixed the album himself.
Cappel’s alto sax sound is dry and lean, filled with rhythmic attacks as much as harmonic exploration. His bandmates do a great job of dipping into the avant-garde without falling into wholesale honking, in large part because they don’t need to play extreme for Cappel’s catchy songs to sound edgy as well. His compositions allow plenty of space for rhythmic interplay and chromaticism while maintaining a solid base of hooks and beats that quickly rope listeners into his sound world.
Cappel celebrates the release of Deadbird with a show at Canterbury House on Saturday, March 11. We emailed with the multitalented altoist, who gave long, thoughtful answers to our questions. At the end of the interview, you can stream Deadbird and read Cappel's track-by-track tour of the album.
There’s a whole mess of influences on Hate Unbound’s debut album, Plague, which came out on the Finnish label Inverse Records. Reviewers have mentioned brutal bands (Lamb of God, Gojira, Hatebreed) along with thrashier groups (Exodus) and death metal pioneers (Death) -- but not enough have acknowledged Hate Unbound’s occasional laser-sharp deployment of twin-lead guitars, evoking classic Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy.
“I actually wanted to be KK Downing when I grew up,” said guitarist Daryl Mitchell, naming the ax partner of Glenn Tipton in Judas Priest. (Hate Unbound's other guitarist, William Cundiff, is Mitchell's Tipton.)
But don’t mistake Hate Unbound’s love of twin leads fool you: This southeastern Michigan group, which includes bassist Sean Demura and drummer Franklin "Foot" Hannah, is primarily about pummeling you with riffs, not tickling you with harmonized solos.
You'll be able to have your chest caved in by said riffs when Hate Unbound celebrates the release of Plague at the Maidstone Theatre in Ypsilanti on Saturday, February 18. We talked to Mitchell and vocalist Art Giammara about the Plague year, song meanings, and whether too many influences is too many.
While reading our chat, stream all of Plague at Zero Tolerance Magazine.