Tag: Detroit MI

New Audio: ADULT. Return with Techno-influenced Banger “I Am Nothing”

Throughout their 25 year history, acclaimed Detroit-based multimedia and electronic music production and artist duo ADULT. — the husband and wife team of Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus — have a sprawling catalog of material released through  Mute RecordsGhostly InternationalThrill JockeyThird Man Records and a list of other labels that has seen the duo obscure and blur lines between genres and styles in a cohesive fashion within the album format. 

“but for this we wanted something that’s falling apart.” Becoming Undone, ADULT.’s ninth album reportedly sees the duo explicitly aiming for that goal, while simultaneously rejecting and reflecting the planetary discord that inspired and informed it. Written between November 2020 and April 2021, Miller and Kuperus kickstarted the creative process through additions to the rig: a vocal loop pedal for Kuperus and Roland percussion pads for Miller. They also reconnected with some of their earliest influences including Test Department and Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which helped spark a series of fruitful and frenetic sessions, centered on themes of impermanence and dissonance. “We weren’t interested in melody or harmony since we didn’t see the world having that,” ADULT.’s Miller bluntly reasons. 

While there are still plenty of the dance floor bangers the duo is known for, Becoming Undone is also informed by deep, personal loss: Kuperus’ father died during the height of the pandemic, just before the duo were about to start working on the album. As his hospice caretakers, she and Miller faced the banality of finality, surrounded by objects drained of meaning — “the joy of having a body, but also the drudgery of having one,” they say. 

The end result is an album that crackles with revulsion and dissent, and it seemingly equal parts exorcism and denunciation, centered around a breadth of vocal effects: Kuperus at times sounds alternately indignant and possessed, decrying the crimes, fears, and failings of a deluded, broken world. “Humans have always been pretty terrible,” Kuperus explains. “But every year the compromises of culture just accelerate.”

Late last year, I wrote about Becoming Undone single “Fools (We Are . . .)“, a glitchy and uneasy banger centered around stuttering beats, dense layers of arpeggiated synths paired with an unhinged and desperate vocal performance by Kuperus, who sings lyrics describing the sensation of being hopelessly stuck in a seemingly endless and foolish loop of the same ol’ banal, things while everything else around them collapses.

“I Am Nothing,” Becoming Undone‘s second and latest single is an abrasive yet accessible industrial techno banger, centered around arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rattling thump, metallic clang and clatter paired with Kuperus’ desperate howls inspired by Detroit techno between 1992-1995, Suicide‘s Alan Vega, SwansMicheal Gira and Malaria!‘s Gudrun Gut.

“The meaning of ‘nothing’ in the context of this song is not in regards to worthlessness, but of being lodged into something we can not understand and yet somehow accept it / or not accept it,” the acclaimed Detroit-based duo explain. “We are collectively living in liminality. And personally, we are more content currently to be in a state of nothingness.”

New Video: Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Charlie Gabriel to Release Debut Album As Bandleader, Shares Intimate, Behind-The-Scenes Visual for “I’m Confessin'”

88 year-old Charlie Gabriel is a New Orleans-born and-based saxophonist, clarinetist and vocalist, who has had an incredibly lengthy music career: Gabriel’s first professional gig was back in 1943, sitting in for his father in New Orleans’ Eureka Brass Band. As a teenager, he relocated to Detroit, where he played with Lionel Hampton, whose band at the time included a young Charles Mingus. Gabriel then spent nine years with a group led by Cab Calloway drummer J.C. Heard.

For a period of time, Gabriel fronted a bebop group. He has also played with or toured with Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin and a lengthy list of others before joining the legendary New Orleans jazz ensemble Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 2006. Since then, Gabriel, the most senior member of the group has developed a tight musical relationship with creative director, bassist and tuba player, Ben Jaffe, the son of the group’s co-founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe.

Gabriel signed to Sub Pop Records, who will be releasing the jazz legend’s full-length debut as a bandleader 89, which is slated for digital release on February 25, 2022 and a July 1, 2022 physical copy — CD/LP, etc. — release, a few days before his 89th birthday.

Although he’s faced plenty of challenges over the course of his almost eight decade music career, none likely rank with the death of his brother and last living sibling Leonard to COVID-19. For the first time ever, Gabriel put down his horn, filling his days and weeks instead with dark reflection, a stubborn yet understandable despondency broken now and then by regular chess matches in the studio kitchen of Pres Hall leader Ben Jaffe, who was working overtime to bring his friend and bandmate some light.

One of those afternoons also included guitarist Joshua Starkman, who was sitting off in a corner playing his guitar and half-watching Jaffe and Gabriel play chess from a distance. When Charlie returned the next day, he brought his saxophone. “I was just inspired to try it, to play again. It had been a long time, and a guitar makes me feel free. I do love the sound of a piano, but it takes up a lot of a space, keeps me kind of boxed in.”

“We had no particular plan, or any particular insight on what we were gonna do. But we were enjoying what we were doing, jamming, having a musical conversation,” Gabriel adds, further musing, “Musical conversations cancel out complications.”

Interestingly, that day wound up being the first session for 89, almost entirely the work of Gabriel, Jaffe and Starkman, recorded mostly in the kitchen by Matt Aguiluz. Charlie Gabriel plays tenor sax and clarinet on the album, Starkman plays guitar and Jaffe plays bass, drums and keys throughout the album.

The album’s material includes six standards, including “Stardust,” “I’m Confessin'” and “Three Little Words,” which the New Orleans legend describes as “standard material that every musician, if they’re an older musician like myself, will have played throughout their career. Every time I play one of these tunes the interpretation is a little bit different.” The album also includes two originals written by Gabriel, “Yellow Moon” and “The Darker It Gets” — and while being Gabriel’s debut, it also marks a return to his first instrument, clarinet on many of the album’s tracks. “The clarinet is the mother of the saxophone,” he says. “I started playing clarinet early in life, and this [taught me] the saxophone.” 

89‘s first single sees Gabriel and his bandmates play a gorgeous and utterly charming rendition of the old standard “I’m Confessin.'” Centered around a subtle re-arrangement for jazz guitar, clarinet, saxophone and bass, Gabriel’s version to my ears manages to meet Peggy Lee and Louis Armstrong somewhere in the middle, while being roomy enough for Gabriel’s vocals, which balance a wizened raspiness with an sweet tenderness. Simply put, it’s the sort of vulnerable and endearingly honest love song that we just don’t get anymore — and that’s just one why I love it so much.

Directed by Alex Hennen Payne, the recently released video for “I’m Confessin'” is shot in a gorgeous and cinematic black and white and captures the 89 sessions with a warm and loving intimacy.

New Video: Detroit’s VAZUM Releases a Brooding Visual for Atmospheric “Gallows”

Zach Pliska is a Detroit music scene vet, who has played drums in a number of local bands, which has given him valuable hands-on experience writing, recording and touring. Pliska founded VAZUM back in 2017, and over the course of six self-released albums that have found the band’s sound bouncing around and spanning across several different genres and styles including post-punk and doom. 

During most of the band’s history, the band has gone through a series of lineup changes but Pliska found a deep connection with Emily Sturm (vocals, bass), who joined in 2019. With a background in the visual arts, Sturm has been instrumental in giving the project, a new, uncompromising aesthetic edge, which has resulted in what Pliska and Strum have dubbed as “deathgaze,” as they combine the raw energy of death rock with the sonic depth of shoegaze.

Last year, the Detroit-based duo was rather busy: They released two albums, V+, which featured the Sioxuise and the Banshees meets Sisters of Mercy meets The Verve-like “Haunted House,” a song based on a haunting, real-life experience, and Unrated V. VAZUM closed out last year with the “Gallows” double single, which featured two different versions of the song — with the first being, a slow-burning shoegazer version of “Gallows” centered around an arrangement of dreamy guitars, forceful drums and Shrum’s achingly plaintive vocals. Sonically speaking “Gallows” is slick mixture of A Storm in Heaven-like textures and brooding Siouxsie and the Banshees-like atmospherics.

Along with the double single, the band released an Emily Strum-directed video for “Gallows” that features the duo — Strum in a wedding dress and occasionally and Plinska in black peering into binoculars in a wintry forest. The brooding and gorgeous visual seems heavily indebted to Edgar Allan Poe.

New Video: Detroit’s VAZUM Releases a Horror Movie-Inspired Visual for “Haunted House”

Detroit scene vet Zach Pliska, has played drums in a number of local bands, which has given him valuable experience writing, recording and touring. Pliska founded his latest project VAZUM back in 2017, and over the course of six self-released albums that have found the band’s sound bouncing around and spanning across several different genres including post-punk and doom.

During most of the band’s history, the band has gone through a series of lineup changes but Pliska found a deep connection with Emily Sturm (vocals, bass), who joined the band in 2019. With a background in the visual arts, Sturm has helped give the band a new, uncompromising aesthetic edge, which has resulted in what Pliska and Strum have described as deathgaze, which combines the raw energy of deathrock with the sonic depth of shoegaze.

The duo’s seventh album V+ is slated for release this summer. The album’s latest single “Haunted House” is centered around cavernous drumming, wailing guitars played through reverb, delay and effect pedals, Sturm’s plaintive vocals and a rousingly anthemic hook; the end result is a song that — to my ears — sounds like a synthesis of Sioxuise and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy and The Verve. Interestingly, the song is based on a real, life-changing experience that the band’s Emily Sturm had one winter night: She was awakened by a shrill, inhuman sound emanating from the distance. Startled, she went outside to investigate the sound, but it was silent. The following afternoon, Sturm’s neighbor’s porch was taped off as a crime scene: the woman and infant, who had lived next door were brutally murdered. Understandably, Sturm has been haunted by the event ever since, wondering if she could have done something to prevent the murderers. As the band notes, in Irish folklore, a banshee warns of dangers by wailing or shrieking. So naturally, Strum has wondered if those sounds were that of a banshee. But overall, the song is about domestic violence and the awful aftermath left in the wake.

The recently released video for “Haunted House” employs Edgar Allan Poe horror tropes: the beautiful yet very dead bride, who dances seductively and haunts an old-fashioned candlelit mansion.

Throwback: Black History Month: Death

Today is February 21, 2021. It’s the 21at day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

etroit-based garage rock/punk rock act Death have one of the most interesting backstories I’ve come across in this site’s 10-plus year history, and it’s worth retelling: Formed by The Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar) and Dannis (drums) — in 1971, the band began as an R&B and funk band. But the sibling trio’s lives were transformed after they caught The Who and Alice Cooper in concert. As the story goes, David, the youngest of the sibling trio pushed for a hard rock-like song unbeknownst to them managed to presage punk and post-punk by several years, Of course, a change in sonic direction necessitated a change in band name — to Death, As Bobby Hackney explained in 2010, David’s concept was spinning death from the negative to the positive. “It was a hard sell.”

In 1975, The Hackney Brothers recorded a handful of songs written by David and Bobby at Detroit’s United Sound Studios with engineer Jim Vitti. According to The Hackney Family, Clive Davis funded those recording sessions — but while doing so, repeatedly implored that the band change their name to something much more commercially palatable. The Hackneys refused. Davis pulled his financial support and as a result, the band was left with seven recorded songs instead of the planned for 12. By the following year, the band released an extremely limited release of 500 copies of the “Politicians In My Eyes”/”Keep On Knocking” single, followed by their full-length debut to little fanfare.

By 1977, The Hackneys ended Death and relocated to Burlington, VT where they released two albums of gospel rock as The 4 Movement in the late 70s and early 80s. In 1982, David returned to Detroit while Bobby and Dannis remained, eventually forming the reggae band Lambsbread. Sadly in 2000, David Hackney died of lung cancer. But reportedly before he died, David Hackney told his older siblings that although they were misunderstood and forgotten in their heyday, history would prove them and their work as Death as truly revolutionary and important — even if it was after his own death. In a serendipitous spin of fortune that seems too good to be true, several years after David’s death, Bobby’s sons stumbled upon the original Death masters hidden away in their parents’ attic. Bobby’s sons were so impressed and innpisred bay what they had heard, that they began covering Death’s material during their own sets — and that helped bring attention to their father’s and uncles’ work together.

Drag City Records, re-released Death’s original recordings in 2009, 35 years after its initial recording and release.The band’s sound which effortlessly meshed elements of reggae, garage rock, porto-punk and metal manages to presage the punk movement by three years — all while being an important musical bridge between Parliament Funkadelic and Bob Marley and Bad Brains, Fishbone, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz, TV on the Radio, Prince and countless others.

Sine the re-release of their demos and full-length debut, the current Death lineup — surviving brothers Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis (drums) with Bobbie Duncan (guitar) — have gone on a number of national tours, including making stops across the national festival circuit, winning over new fans with their groundbreaking sound, while further cementing their rightful place in music history.

Punk rock is Black y’all. And being Black is punk as fuck.

New Video: Los Angeles’ Sleep Still Releases an Enchanting Visual for Slow-burning “The Panoramic”

Los Angeles based dream pop act Sleep Still, led by Mariam McCarthy (vocals, keys) and Scotty Whelan (vocals, guitar) and featuring Kelly Ehrenberg (bass), Chris Kellogg (guitar) and Jeff Darcy (drums, production) can trace their origins to the two separate paths its leaders began before they met:

McCarthy led Detroit-based Silent Violet, an act that shared bills with Yo La Tengo and Bittersweet, contributed three songs to the Rosie O’Donnell-produced film America. received praise from NPR and landed a spot on the West LA Digital Mixtape.
Whelan was a member of alternative rock act Haste The Day, an act that toured nationally along some of the genre’s top artists while working a day job as a music therapist.

McCarthy and Whelan met in 2017, bonding over a mutual love of Explosions in the Sky, Slowdive, The Cure, The War on Drugs and other acts. The duo started writing and recording material under Sleep Still. “With the fast-paced nature of modern culture, we rarely have a moment to breathe, reflect or recharge,'” Sleep Still’s Mariam McCarthy explains. “With Scotty being a music therapist, I was fascinated by this concept. So rest became a central theme for us.”

McCarthy recruited the Detroit’s Kelly Ehrenberg to join while Whelan recruited Chris Kellogg and Jeff Darcy to complete the band’s lineup. Playing around Los Angeles, the members of Sleep Still quickly developed a natural chemistry.

The Los Angeles-based dream pop quintet’s latest single “The Panoramic” originally played over the end credits off Amazon Prime’s The Protestants, a film for which McCarthy was interviewed on-screen. “The Panoramic” is a slow-burning and cinematic track centered around a lush arrangement of shimmering synths, reverb washed guitars, dramatic drumming that sounds as though it were inspired by Slowdive, paired with McCarthy’s vocals, which are imbued with an aching vulnerability and strength. But at its core, the song is a contented sigh of a narrator, who has achieved a brief but necessary moment of stillness and connectedness.

“I took a short trip to Palm Springs [CA] and stayed at a hotel where the view was so panoramic, I felt swallowed by it,” McCarthy recalls. “I was holding my baby daughter on my hip, and I felt so at rest. All of my muscles relaxed. I wrote the song and brought it to Scotty. It’s about feeling honest and at ease. It’s also about understanding what we can handle and what we can’t handle, being okay with it, and knowing you need someone beside you in those moments.” McCarthy adds, “It’s ok to take time to drop everything. It’s ok to not need validation on social media. It’s ok to not feel like you have to accomplish some ambitious goal. You can take a minute to rest and be okay with whatever’s happening in the present.”

Directed by JWH, the recently released visual, features dancer and choreographer Xin Ying, who came up with enchanting and expressionistic moves to accompany the song. And much like the song, Ying’s movements are fluid, delicate, graceful and haunting.

Lyric Video: French Electro Pop Duo Ninety’s Story Returns with an Atmospheric, R&B Inspired Single

Tracing their origins back to when its members — Guillaume Adamo and Florian Deyz — met in grade school, the Nice, France-based indie pop duo Ninety’s Story have developed a warm, sophisticated and sensual music inspired by the French Riviera and the likes of Phoenix, Daft Punk and Air. The duo released their debut single “KIKUKYU” and their debut EP through Kitsuné Musique in 2017. Adding to a growing profile, the Nice-based duo have opened for Archive, Morcheeba, Pale Waves and Puggy among others.

Additionally, the duo wrote the music for Citroën C4 Aircross ad campaign that aired in China —  with the band representing the company at the Paris and Hangzhou Motor Shows. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site, you may recall that I wrote about the rising French duo’s acoustic rendition of the breezy yet anthemic “APO.” The French electronic duo return with the sultry R&B-influenced “Home.” Centered around skittering trap and boom bap beats, atmospheric synths, expressive and bluesy bursts of guitar, fuzzy bass synth, plaintive vocals, a soaring hook and an enormous drop “Home” may remind some listeners of JOVM mainstays Beacon, as well as Montreal’s Seoul and Detroit-based JOVM mainstays Gosh Pith. “The song was composed, produced and recorded in Brussels during the quarantine period,” the rising French duo explain. “Everything was quiet outside and put us into a very inspiring [sic] mood, different than usual.”

Directed by Victor Rahman, the recently released, cinematically shot lyric video features the rising French duo rocking out to the song during a gorgeous purple-red sunset. “For the video, we drove across Belgium and just stop [sic] in a  spot were [sic] the sunset and the sea were beautiful. We just put the music [on] very loud and enjoyed the vibe in front of the camera,” the duo says. 

Live Footage: Royce da 5’9″ Performs “Thou Shall” and “Overcomer” on Vevo’s Ctrl

Born Ryan Daniel Montgomery, Royce da 5’9″ is a Detroit, MI-born and-based emcee, best known for his longtime association with Eminem, with whom he’s one half of duo, Bad Meets Evil, a critically applauded solo career, primarily collaborating with Carlos “6 July” Broady and DJ Premier, as well as ghostwriting for the likes of Diddy and Dr. Dre. He’s also a member of Slaughterhouse, an All-Star hip-hop act that also features Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, and one half of PRhyme with the legendary (and aforementioned) DJ Premier.

As the story goes, Royce da 5’9″ signed his first deal with Tommy Boy Records, who offered him $1 million while Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment offered him $250,000 and unlimited beats, a decision that he described as one of his biggest regrets in a 2016 Complex interview. After Tommy Boy Records closed, the Detroit-based emcee signed a deal with Columbia and Game Recordings, with whom he began recording an album then titled Rock City, a title which referred to Detroit being the former (and best known) home of Motown Records. When the album wound up being heavily bootlegged, the Detroit-based emcee left that label for Koch to re-record the album, eventually releasing it 2002 as Rock City (Version 2.0). And although the album didn’t sell well, the DJ Premier-produced single “Boom” helped Royce achieve some underground recognition and lead to the two working more closely with PRhyme.

Their 2014 debut album together featured both artists going out of their comfort zones, and expanding upon their familiar sounds; in fact, Premier enlisted the compositional skills of Adrian Younge, whose work he sampled throughout the album’s production while Royce da 5’9″ traded bars with the likes of MF Doom and Little Brother‘s Phonte on the initial release, and with The Roots‘ Black Thought, Joey Bada$$ and Logic on the deluxe edition released the following year. 2014 also saw Royce da 5’9″ team up with Eminem on the posse cut “Detroit vs. Everybody.” 

Since then, the Detroit-based emcee released 2016’s solo album Layers, 2018’s Book of Ryan, which featured another ongoing collaboration with Eminem “Caterpillar,” that year’s second PRhyme album Phyme 2 and a guest spot of Eminem’s surprise release Kamikaze. 2020 continues a recent period of incredible prolificacy with the release of his eighth album, the 22 track The Allegory, which features guest spots from Westside Gunn, YBN Cordae, Benny the Butcher, and a boatload of others. 

Vevo’s Ctrl series highlights the work of hard-hitting, cutting-edge artists making an impact in today’s music scene with a focus on both emerging and established artists. The artists Vevo’s Ctrl series features are artists that the video platform believes demand attention, and the series is a way of shining a deserving spotlight on those artists. Recently, Vevo’s Ctrl invited the acclaimed Detroit-based emcee to their Brooklyn studios to perform two tracks off the album — “Overcomer” and “Thou Shall.” “Thou Shall” is centered around an eerie, RZA-like production: stuttering beats, a sinuous bass line and a looping string sample and eerie atmospherics while Royce da 5’9″ of bold and swaggering pronouncement of being doper than anyone else out there, full of pop cultural references with Kid Vishis slamming the door on anyone who may challenge them. “Overcomer” is centered around a looped and seemingly ancient soul sample and thumping beats while Royce da 5’9″ rhymes about blessings, the wisdom he’s earned, sociopolitical observations and more.

The performances that Vevo’s Ctrl captured are swaggering, passionate within an intimate yet minimalist setting.