Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s "Dying Well" looks at his wife's well-lived life and how she handled the end

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Bill Kellerman and his book Dying Well

We are a society that doesn’t talk much about dying well -- heck, we don’t really like to talk about dying, period.

But Bill Wylie-Kellermann ponders both in a loving memoir about his wife, Dying Well: The Resurrected Life of Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann, which he will discuss at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor on Thursday, January 24 at 7 pm.

The love story began when Bill met Jeanie in 1982. Both were arrested and charged with conspiracy charges after protest actions at Williams International in Walled Lake, Michigan.

“We were both nonviolent community activists,” says Bill. “And we both were held at the Oakland County jail after the arrests. We had to go back and forth to court pretty regularly. We always tried to make sure we were handcuffed side by side in the van that took us to circuit court.”

Those close quarters eventually led to love and marriage as the couple continued their work in Detroit, where Bill was born and where he attended Cooley High School. Jeanie served as a journalist, filmmaker, and writer. Bill grew into roles as a writer, teacher, United Methodist minister, and community activist. They had children, settled into a meaningful life together.

But then in 1998, something happened.

High Lonesome on the Autobahn: Land & Buildings make cosmic Appalachian electronica

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Land and Buildings

Dominick Smith and Kendall Babl's lo-fi country-ambient duo Land & Buildings will rock your socks on.

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.

Queer Eye for the "Gurl Groups and Boi Bands": Out Loud Chorus sings the hits

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Out Loud Chorus

You've got the girl groups, from The Supremes to En Vogue.

And you've got the boy bands, from The Temptations to The Backstreet Boys.

But for the Out Loud Chorus' annual winter concerts, you've got the “Gurl Groups and Boi Bands,” a program of music that plays to the ensemble's unique nature.

“We are unusual because a lot of gay and lesbian choirs are all men or all women,” says Out Loud Chorus board member Tim Hamann. “We have always been a mixed group, truly a community chorus.” 

During the January 18 and 19 performances, expect to hear music from Motown groups, '90s boy bands, Destiny’s Child, The Andrews Sisters, The King’s Singers, and more.

"'Gurl Groups and Boi Bands' will be set up like an episode of The Voice," says Hamann. “But we are calling it The Queer Voice. Then we will have skits peppered throughout the program.”

August Heat: Stephen Mack Jones' ex-detective solves crimes in multifaceted Detroit

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Stephen Mack Jones and his book Lives Laid Away

The Motor City is as much of a character as ex-police detective August Snow in Lives Laid Away, and author Stephen Mack Jones had many reasons for setting the story in Motown.

“Detroit is a very diverse city -- most people outside of Detroit don’t realize how diverse it is. They see only in terms of black and white. But … a variety of people from all over who wound up here," Jones says. "I wanted to create a character that was representative of the two largest minorities in Detroit: African-American and Mexican-American. These are two minority groups that have never really seen eye to eye. And for August, I wanted him to be the product of two cultures that have often clashed but feel no personal dichotomy. He feels he has the best of both worlds ... he has pride in both cultures. And he’s comfortable with himself. I wanted people to know that is achievable -- that you can be a product of two cultures, two peoples and be at peace with who you are.”

C.A. Collins’ "Sunshine Through the Rain" follows a feminist teen in the Deep South '60s

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

CA Collins and her book Sunshine in the Rain

Before the Civil Rights era, women couldn’t go to most Ivy League schools, get credit cards in their own names, or serve on juries in all 50 states.

So what was it like for a smart, headstrong young woman in 1960s era Deep South growing up in a family that wants her to either be a “Southern belle” or a tomboy?

C.A. Collins’ book Sunshine Through the Rain examines at that very question in the character of Christie Ann Cook, a wise-beyond-her-years teenager who speaks her truth as she comes of age during a period of extreme social change.

While the Concordia University grad and Michigan-based writer didn’t grow up in that era, Collins says, “I have always had an interest in those tumultuous years in the South. I raised in Louisiana where the 'n' word was the norm, but my parents taught me to judge someone by their character, not the color of their skin. In this book, I really wanted to show a young girl who had diverse people in her life that she loved and cared for and how she was torn between her small insular world and the uncertain bigger world around her.”

Justified: Peter Leonard's new novel brings his dad's Raylan Givens character to Detroit

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Peter Leonard and his book Raylan Goes to Detroit

Raylan Givens has been to a lot of places: Miami, Florida; Harlan County, Kentucky; Glynco, Georgia. And now he’s come to the Motor City in the riveting Raylan Goes to Detroit by Michigan-based author Peter Leonard

After an altercation with his boss, Raylan is given two choices: retire or take a job on the fugitive task force in Detroit. “His former boss gets him reinstated but the only opening is in Detroit and he takes it,” Leonard says. “Raylan’s been in a lot of places, so I decided to do something different. I live in the Detroit area, let’s bring him here.” 

All the Young Doogs: Ypsi trio Doogatron makes electronic music with a human touch

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Doogatron

Building the Perfect Robot: Take one Kyle, add a Stevie, mix with a Mike, and you've got a Doogatron. Photo by Kate de Fuccio/AM1700

Synth music is often a solitary exercise. It's easy enough for one person to program all the music and not have to deal with band dynamics.

Electronic music duos are more common and count influential acts such as Orbital, Mouse on Mars, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Coil, and many more in those ranks.

Less common is a synthesizer trio, quartet, or quintet, but there is a rich history of synth groups, too, from Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Harmonia, Throbbing Gristle, Add N to (X), and Hot Chip. The combination of personalities mixed with live playing over sequenced sections gives the music a more human quality, and Washtenaw County trio Doogatron is part of this lineage.

Stevie, Kyle, and Mike -- family names are for families -- make loose-limbed techno that mixes programmed parts on computer and live playing on vintage synths. The group's sound is elastic and trippy even as it's framed by linear rhythms. 

Doogatron's self-titled debut LP came out Nov. 2, 2018, and the group has followed that with a New Year's Day 2019 mix of original tunes, reworked album cuts, and earlier tunes initially heard on Soundcloud. In February, Doogatron will release the first of at least four EPs/singles scheduled for this year. "Each release comes from one continuous recording session," Stevie said, "so each track will serve as a part one, part two, part three experience," starting with "Before Subsidized Time" b/w "After Subsidized Time."

Stevie gave us the lowdown on Doogatron's history, name, and work process.

Folk favorites Gemini celebrate a milestone birthday at The Ark

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Gemini

San and Laz Slomovits have been Ann Arbor folk-music mainstays since 1973.

The folk-music duo Gemini has been a vital part of the Ann Arbor music scene for more than 45 years. 

Twin brothers San and Laz Slomovits started singing together with their cantor father in their native Hungary when they were very young and started learning instruments at age 7. They continued performing as the family moved to Israel and then the U.S., but things really took off after the brothers formed a folk duo post-college and then moved to Ann Arbor in 1973. For decades they’ve been known for their beautiful harmonies, multi-instrumental talents, and original songs, particularly for youth and family audiences, throughout Michigan and beyond.

Now, the twins are turning 70 and their music is still going strong. They’re planning a “140th Birthday Celebration” on Jan. 3 at The Ark, where the duo has performed countless times over the years. A number of special guests will join the brothers, and the concert will be recorded for possible release. Proceeds will benefit The Ark, where former leaders Dave and Linda Siglin and others have supported Gemini for decades.

“We literally can’t imagine what our music and career would have been like without them. This is a small gesture of gratitude on our part,” the brothers agreed. They answered a few questions about the concert and their career for Pulp.

Sonic Activism: Isaac Levine discusses his new LP, "A Death So Obsessed With Living"

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Isaak Levine and album cover

Photo by Kit Parks; album cover sketch by Hillary Butterworth.

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.

In a Mellow Tone: Earthly elements define Candace Compton Pappas' paintings at Cafe Zola

VISUAL ART INTERVIEW

Candace Compton Pappas' Journey With Branches painting

Journey With Branches, ink, oil on paper 22" x 30"

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.