A new single from Ann Arbor's Dani Darling takes on social-media weirdness during lockdown

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Dani Darling S+M single cover

Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Dani Darling and her bandmates were recording a new EP in a studio when the Covid-19 stay-at-home order began. The Reverie EP is still on track for release this summer, but the first single, "S+M," features Darling solo.

"I found myself with those sessions and more to say, so I went back to doing my bedroom pop, late-night studio sessions," Darling said. "The beat is by a London producer GC Beats. Really just sounded like Dani when I heard it."

"S+M" features jazzy guitar chords over a slow-groove R&B beat with Darling's ethereal voice floating over the mix. She sings playful puns to tell her tale about what it feels like to be a musician in lockdown.

"'S+M' is a snapshot of my experience during the stay-at-home order -- my music career on hold indefinitely, feeling social media shift from a strength to something sinister," Darling said. "If felt like a scramble for the airwaves, like either you shut down and take time for yourself or you dive right in and try to make a wave, make a difference. I wanted to do that because I don't think of my music as purely entertainment -- it's a way to connect and healing is a big theme in this project. So I wanted to make an impact, but it started to feel like an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes you go online and you know you shouldn't; sometimes you go look at someone's [social] media knowing it will hurt and do it anyway. Sometimes people form an unhealthy relationship to you as fans."

Ann Arbor's WSG Gallery lost its lease on Main Street and upped its online offerings

VISUAL ART INTERVIEW

Pulp received an email on May 7 from representatives of WSG Gallery, the longstanding Ann Arbor artist collective that had space at 306 S. Main St., saying, "Our landlord notified us that he has already contracted with construction people to dismantle walls and etc from the interior of the gallery on 5/27. He plans to put a 'FOR RENT' sign in the front window."

The email went on to discuss surprise and dismay on behalf of the WSG artists, and I asked some follow-up and clarifying questions in order to write a post. But after saying they would discuss my questions and get back to me, I never heard back from WSG.

But that's not because anything had changed with WSG's sudden eviction; it's because the gallery decided to press ahead with its new life online.

"At this point we are dedicated to moving forward," wrote WSG Gallery president Valerie Mann in a June 18 email. "We are out of our old space and busting our tails with our online gallery.  We are having great success with sales so far and are really pleased!  Our strength is really in our people.  I mean, I have 83 year olds learning how to build web pages!!!"

T'onna Clemons' painting at the West Park bandshell is an extension of her political pop-art style

VISUAL ART INTERVIEW

T'onna Clemons' West Park mural

T'onna Clemons' painting at West Park in Ann Arbor. Photo courtesy of T'onna Clemons.

The woman is in a red shirt, white sneakers, and blue shorts, her outfit unintentionally matching the colors of the American flag. She's on the West Park bandshell in Ann Arbor, painting on a large white sheet taped to the wall between the stage-left doors.

The first thing she writes on the sheet is "Black Lives Matter" in blue.

The time-lapse video she later posted to YouTube shows her fleshing out the mural with protestors presented in a stencil-style, the BLM slogan crafted into pixelated form, and the old rising-sun flag of the Imperial Japanese Army painted behind everything.

Ann Arbor artist T'onna Clemons is the person who created this graffiti-inspired piece and it just about encompasses everything in her style: politics and pop-art mixing with Japanese imagery and the African-American experience.

Jared Van Eck's meditative "The Motions of Stillness" film captures a snowy April day in Ann Arbor

FILM & VIDEO INTERVIEW

Jared Van Eck

I hate winter. Especially Michigan winters. Gray, muddy, relentless ugliness.

But in the hands of Jared Van Eck, a recent Michigan winter day was turned into beautiful art.

Actually, it wasn't even winter -- see the word "relentless" up there -- it was on April 15, 2020, when the snow visited us again.

Van Eck, who's the technical director for the Michigan Theater Foundation, grabbed his fiancée's iPhone 11 Pro Max and a gimbal on that day, went to a west-side Ann Arbor nature preserve, and filmed the snow falling on fields, trees, and a pond. He edited the footage together, added some subtle effects, and composed a dreamy score on his iPad using the Cubasis and Korg Gadget apps.

The result is The Motions of Stillness, a lovely black-and-white, 60-minute meditation on nature.

The film is available to view for $3 via the Michigan Theater's virtual screening room or free for members.

I asked Van Eck about the inspiration for the project, his soundtrack, and some of his influences.

Ann Arbor's Chien-An Yuan produces music, photography, and design steeped in contrasts

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Chien-an Yuan

Self-portrait courtesy of Chien-An Yuan.

Chien-An Yuan's art -- be it music, photography, or design -- immerses your eyes and ears in a world that feels at once orderly and hazy, referential and singular, dark and light. Contrasts are this Ann Arbor artist's forté.

Yuan also runs the 1473 label, which is filled with deep-listening tones that can fill a room with a strange and beautiful ambiance, but most of the music works even better with over-the-ear headphones so you can immerse your brain in mind-expanding sound-art.

1473 has released 15 records so far -- including Yuan's Teeth Marks on the Everett, which features five piano improvisations run through effects and then reassembled in post-production. You can find more of Yuan's music, DJ mixes, photography, design, and his multimedia collaboration IS/LANDS (which was performed at AADL last year) on his website, chienanyuan.com.

We talked to Yuan about his work and his track recommendations for diving into 1473's world of sound.

The Great Michigan Online Art Fair looks to help creators "uncancel" their livelihoods

VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The Great Michigan Art Fair landing page

Brian Walline's work is instantly recognizable. The Ann Arbor artist creates Michigan scenes in the style of vintage travel posters, using bright colors and bold typography to convey a deep love for his home state.

While Walline takes freelance commissions -- he did the art for AADL's 2019 Summer Game -- a significant part of his income is derived from tabling at art shows across Michigan. But most of the major art shows for the summer have been canceled, and since they all take a while to organize, it's unlikely any will attempt to reopen even in a modified fashion that's in line with the current phase 4 guidelines for the way businesses can operate.

With his fellow artists in mind, Walline took it upon himself to create The Great Michigan Online Art Fair as a virtual way for creators to display their wares in a playful, interactive environment.

"We are trying to uncancel our livelihoods," Walline writes on the art fair's website.

Artists and vendors can apply to be a part of The Great Michigan Online Art Fair through 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, June 7. The site will host 31 artists and 16 vendors between June 15 and July 13, and the art fair is also accepting sponsorships.

We emailed with Walline about his creation of The Great Michigan Online Art Fair:

Glaciers & Glacial Paces: Sean Curtis Patrick's atmospheric photography & ambient music evoke mysterious beauty

MUSIC INTERVIEW COVID-19

Sean Curtis Patrick

Sean Curtis Patrick is one of Ann Arbor's most multidimensional creatives.

I don't mean to limit him geographically, either; this blog is about Washtenaw-area culture, so I gotta stress Patrick's local connex, but he's really one of the most well-rounded, multidimensional artists I can think of working today, excelling in music, photography, sculpture, film, and whatever other creative pursuits to which he applies his endlessly curious mind.

Even during the COVID-19 quarantine -- where some artistic folks are struggling to do any creative works in this chaotic time -- Patrick has been musically prolific and continues to pursue his photography, pottery, and more.

"A lot has been happening, even though I'm not leaving my house much," Patrick wrote in an email. "I've grown two full beards and then shaved them off during quarantine, so I know some time has gone by."

Patrick is the media design and production lead at the University of Michigan Center for Academic Innovation, and he's made remarkable films, interactive displays, and photos of Greenland's glacial melt. Outside of his day job, Patrick pursues hobbies with the sort of obsessive focus that bespeaks a passion for experience, exploration, innovation, and just living a full and rewarding life, from climbing mountains and riding motorcycles to racing bikes and modifying technology to fulfill his artistic ideas.

During quarantine, Patrick has been releasing a series of EPs and singles that explore ambient music realms, but they feel like extensions of his overall artistic aesthetic and purpose rather than mere background sounds. His is a world of visual wonder, aural invocations, and a desire to live not just as a bystander but as one who dives in and explores our universe and shares those discoveries with anyone who's open to experience all the grandeur, sadness, beauty, and wonder of our Earth, existence, and beyond.

I asked Partick about his creative process during quarantine and how his various artistic pursuits inform one another.

Polly Rosenwaike's stories give an intimate glimpse into the contexts of motherhood

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Polly Rosenwaike and her book Look How Happy I'm Making You

Author photo by Michael Lionstar.

This story was originally published on March 29, 2019.

Women who want babies. Women who do not. Women who try hard for a baby, and women who easily become pregnant. Women who lose a baby, and women who have one. 

These women populate the stories in Look How Happy I’m Making You, the debut collection by Polly Rosenwaike. Efforts to conceive and be mothers -- and the effects of those efforts on these women -- engage them. 

Rosenwaike’s stories, however, do not only center on the processes and acts of conceiving, birthing, and parenting. This collection moreover illustrates the complexities of the feelings and relationships surrounding motherhood and the wish for it. 

Rosenwaike draws inspiration from her own experiences as a mother and often works from branches of the Ann Arbor District Library. A resident of Ann Arbor, she is the fiction editor of Michigan Quarterly Review, is widely published in literary magazines, reviews books, teaches at Eastern Michigan University, and has two daughters with her partner, poet Cody Walker. 

Rosenwaike will read and discuss Look How Happy I’m Making You at Literati Bookstore Wednesday, April 3, at 7 pm. She answered questions about life in Ann Arbor and her new collection.

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

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Beau Biens

Beau Biens rocking WCBN's April 1967 mixer.

This story was originally published on April 4, 2017.

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.

Valencia Robin’s poetry collection "Ridiculous Light" spans time, space, and seasons -- from Milwaukee in the 1960s to Ann Arbor in the 1990s

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Valencia Robin, Ridiculous Light

Author photo by Jennifer Walkowiak.

This story originally ran August 12, 2019.

Valencia Robin’s new poetry collection, Ridiculous Light, spans time, space, and seasons -- from Milwaukee in the 1960s to Ann Arbor -- and offers moments of distinct observations. The speaker invites readers into specific recollections and, within them, shares not just what happened but vivid descriptions and sublime reflections on the natural world, people, identity, and experiences. 

A poet and painter, Robin is one of the founding members of GalleryDAAS at the University of Michigan. She now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

She will return to Ann Arbor to read at Literati Bookstore on Friday, August 16, at 7 pm, and Pulp interviewed her before her visit.