A round-up of Washtenaw County arts and culture news.
Ann Arbor musician and Ghostly International co-founder Matthew Dear spent six years crafting his latest solo album, Bunny, which came out Oct. 12, 2018.
But for his contribution to FACTmagazine's "Against the Clock" series, Dear put together a song in 10 minutes.
Check out that Dear video below, plus the promo clip for the album single "Bunny's Dream," along with news on the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, the suddenly thriving Washtenaw County music club scene, and the AADL archives team recall a 1969 theatrical production that was accused of indecency.
The Appalachian Mountains and the German Autobahn are diametrically different creations in myriad ways: Earth-made vs. man-made; steep vs. flat; curvilinearly mysterious vs. linearly hypnotic.
But the duo Land & Buildings bring the sounds of Appalachia and Germany together in a way that is as natural as a mountain range or racing on a European highway.
Dominick Smith and Kendall Babl combine the high-lonesome sound of Highlands-inspired music with the gurgling cosmic drone of Krautrock on their second Land & Buildings album, Huron River Eclipse, which conjures the image of Will Oldham and Neil Young covering Cluster. I legit thought Huron River Eclipse's "Brandywine Harbor" was a Neil Young demo from 1972, while the title track evokes Conny Plank's Berlin studio in 1976.
Smith and Babel met in Chicago during what was supposed to be an MFA year together studying sculpture at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and they've been playing music on and off ever since. But it wasn't until 2013 that Land & Buildings became a thing, and in that same year the duo released its debut album, Hibiscus.
With Smith in New York state and Babel in Washtenaw County, it took a while for Land & Building to create its second album. Huron River Eclipse consists of mostly improvised jams that were later edited down by the band and Fred Thomas, who released the cassette on his Life Like label. It's a truly unique and gorgeous collection of lo-fi outsider folk and electronics.
I spoke with Smith and Babel about their kosmische Appalachian electronica.
“I think that it’s very important to play this music, to tell the story of Brazilian music,” he explained. Mehmari -- who appeared at Kerrytown Concert House nearly a year prior -- brought with him an exciting collection of repertoire, music infused with influences of jazz, ragtime, classical, and all manner of Brazilian and Latin American music.
But Mehmari has added another type of music to his repertoire: NPR jingle. The virtuosic pianist put out a 25-minute video of him performing three stunning variations on the well-known NPR theme.
Perhaps Mehmari will perform these creative variations when he returns to Kerrytown with his trio on Saturday, January 19, but you can check out the pianist's NPR jam now as you read the Pulp interview we did before that 2017 show:
Isaac Levine is a restless creator and organizer. Whether it's fighting against unsustainable development, booking DIY shows at houses and small venues, or making music in numerous bands and solo projects, this Washtenaw County resident's proactive drive is admirable.
Levine's latest recording is the guitar-centric A Death So Obsessed With Living, which is his third album in the past 365 days, following May's auto-chord organ LP Cloudpleasers under his own name and last December's Pee on These Hands with one of his bands, The Platonic Boyfriends.
A Death So Obsessed With Living was recorded in November by Spencer Tweedy, son of Jeff and a member of his dad's band, Wilco. We talked to the Levine about the story behind recording the new album, the themes on his last two LPs, and the pros and cons of living in Ann Arbor.
Isaak Levine + Friends celebrate their record release with a concert at Unity Vibration in Ypsilanti on Friday, December 21.
Candace Compton Pappas' paintings evoke the dirt at dusk, the soil at sunset, and trees in the bleak mid-winter.
You can view these earthen works at Ann Arbor's Cafe Zola through the end of December, but you might have to lean over someone scarfing some smoked salmon bruschetta for a closer look.
It can be tricky to navigate this frequently full restaurant to get a close view of Pappas' paintings and truly appreciate their moody evocations, but she doesn't seem worried.
"Customers can figure out how to view the work amidst the coming and going of diners," said the artist, who lives in Chelsea, Michigan. "Cafe Zola is open from 7 am to 10 pm every day -- so lots of quiet times to enjoy without the high volume of lunch or dinner."
Plus, it's not the first time Pappas has shown her work at the 112 W. Washington St. restaurant.
"I manage Annekes Downtown Hair Salon on Main St.," Danielle Davis said. "I'm a true Townie."
But when Davis isn't overseeing people getting their hair done, she's crafting songs as Dani Darling. The artist formerly known as Soulgalaxygirl just released "2:22," her first single and accompanying video under the new sobriquet, and it's a woozy slice of off-kilter R&B. The video features Darling lounging around her place, swiping her way through a bunch of Tinder profiles in search of a soul mate, but the tune itself is more of a true love song.
When Darling performs live, it's in a two guitar, bass, and drums lineup, and her music continues to evolve week by week and won't necessarily sound all that much like "2:22" in the future. But the multifaceted Ann Arborite with strong pipes can light up whatever kinds of songs she sings.
We talked to Darling about "2:22" and future plans with her band.
The Ann Arbor District Library's Fifth Avenue Press helps local authors produce a print-ready book at no cost -- from copyediting to cover design -- and the writers retain all rights. In return, the library gets to distribute ebooks to its patrons without paying royalties, but authors can sell their books -- print, digital, or audio -- however they choose and keep all the proceeds.
Started in 2017, Fifth Avenue launches its second round of books on Sunday, November 4, with a reception from 1-3 pm in the lobby of AADL's downtown branch, featuring author readings from the imprint's five new titles.
After "READ MORE," click the book titles to read interviews with the books' creators:
The theme for the 22nd annual Edgefest (Oct. 17-20) is “Chicago - OUT Kind of Town,” celebrating the city's rich legacy of avant-garde jazz and new music, which is strongly rooted in the vision of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). One of the first members of this collective, which formed in 1965, was saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell, who in 1969 spun off the Art Ensemble of Chicago (ACM) from AACM along with trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors, saxophonist Joseph Jarman, and percussionist Don Moye.
Mitchell and AACM musicians are guests at Edgefest this year -- along with numerous other Chicago musicians and likeminded explorers -- and their appearances are a launching point for an anniversary celebration of the Art Ensemble.
“This is the first performance of this 50th-anniversary project and Roscoe has written music for this group based on music written for the Art Ensemble years ago by Joseph Jarman, Malachi Favors, and Lester Bowie,” said Deanna Relyea, Edgfest’s artistic director. (Bowie and Favors are deceased; Jarman is retired.) “So, in many ways, it’s a premiere of music based on the past, looking to the future.”
On the song “5 Out of 6” from her latest album, Chime, Dessa raps:
I'm out here, arms wide
I've done it all in broad daylight
And I left the cameras running
That’s an apt characterization of her new autobiography, My Own Devices: True Stories From the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love, too, where he chronicles her 15-year career with the fiercely independent Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree. The book is an honest, clever, humorous appraisal of her family, career, and P.O.S., the Doomtree rapper with the highest profile and the longtime love of Dessa’s life. He’s referred to as X throughout the book because that’s what he is -- her ex-boyfriend. He’s still a member of Doomtree, and for years Dessa and P.O.S. have done the delicate dance to keep their group together and their solo careers growing even as their romantic relationship swung wildly between emotional hills and valleys as they rode coast to coast in a tour van.
“The task was to try to hide that, to try to not look like we weren’t getting along, and I’m sure we failed miserably at that and the tension was obvious,” Dessa said by phone between flights. “But a lot of times, I think we were able to keep the tension out of the van, to keep it to ourselves, keep it in the back with our luggage. That meant being nice, being cordial, making sure nobody had to worry about us.”
It's not an insult to say jazz guitarist Grant Green favored feel over technique. He didn't play double-time phrases or blaze with extended chords, instead favoring a languid, minimalist style that feels more like a blues singer's phrasing transferred to the fretboard. Green's single-line-focused playing was always lyrical, melodic, and funky, which is one of the reasons he was one of the most recorded musicians in the history of Blue Note Records.
Alex Anest, leader of the Ann Arbor Guitar Trio, became so enamored with Green's playing that he decided to learn the guitarist's 1965 album Idle Moments in its entirety, which he'll present on Friday, October 12 at Kerrytown Concert House with Gayelynn McKinney (drums), Eric Nachtrab (bass), Janelle Reichman (tenor sax), Alexis Lombre (piano), and Peyton Miller (vibraphone).
The recording is one of the most celebrated of Green's career, mostly because the title track is such a chill charmer. As told in the Idle Moments liner notes by pianist Duke Pearson, who also wrote the song, the tune's nearly 15-minute running time was the result of a happy accident: Green mistakenly played the 16-bar melody twice, setting up the longer solo structure for the rest of the musicians, all of whom followed suit. The rest of the album, which includes the songs "Jean De Fleur" (Green), "Django" (John Lewis), and "Nomad" (Pearson), is equally winsome and it's easy to digest why the record is so beloved.
The CD reissue unearthed alternate versions of "Jean De Fleur" and "Django" (which is four minutes longer), and Anest based his arrangements for the concert on these takes. I spoke with Anest about what inspired him to cover the entire Idle Moments album and what he likes about Green's playing.