Ink 19: Chapin Sisters

The Chapin Sisters
Chapin Sisters Two
Lake Bottom

It’s not a good idea to make a habit of this, but there are a lot of clues about the current musical direction of the Chapin Sisters to be found in their album sleeve photos. The images from their 2007 split LP with Winter Flowers shows three primary-colored wildflowers, ethereal and diaphanous, matching more wandering and aether-dwelling folk sounds. On the cover of Two, the band is winnowed down to a duo — third member Jessica Craven leaving (to be a mom) — looking out seriously from a sepia photograph, much more grounded and self-possessed than the astral folk maidens of yore. That aside, there’s no denying that core sisters Abigail and Lily Chapin not only have beautiful voices on their own, but have that unselfish telepathy that makes for near-perfect vocal harmonies (along the lines of a Graham Nash/David Crosby or Azure Ray). Two is an album of graveyard ballads, alt-country finery, and torch folk. The strength of their voices lend an earthy grit not found in albums that furrow similar ground (Hope Sandoval, Orenda Fink, et al), and songs like “Sweet Light” and the “Rose in Winter” are undeniable. But some songs suffer under “mature” arrangements and overly-polished instrumentation, giving it too much of a latter-day Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, or even a Dixie Chicks feel. Whenever a more mannered number hits, I start itching, thoroughly wigged out like the Gothic dramatics of “Bird in My Garden.” Don’t grow up too fast, now.

Originally published in Ink 19.

Movement Magazine: Salem / Legendary Pink Dots

King Night

Look, at this year’s annual Popnihil staff retreat, ALL we listened to
was Salem’s King Night. David Bowie’s Station To Station even got
the boot, just so we could listen to the viscous, murky “Frost” one
more time. Pay no mind to any of the online fuss behind kicked up
about whether Salem are actually the crackhead hustlers that they hint
at, or just some smartass conceptualists. Who cares? Turn off the
computer and turn up opener “King Night,” which weds snatches of “O
Holy Night” with impossibly dark and epic synths, tick-tick-tick
hip-hop beats and twisted, choral vocals. Salem have been called
“witch house” (what a fucking cool sub-sub-genre), which I guess is a
combination of the slurry paranoia of Tricky’s Pre Millennium
, dubby bass-heavy echoes, the gothic splendor of classic 4AD
acts like the Coteau Twins, and chopped and screwed rap. Male vocals
are slowed down to a monstrous, tape-manipulated rumble, female vocals
drift like wisps of unearthly fog and the music moves at a glacial
pace; while icy, industrial synths are buffeted by tinny beats swiped
from some random mixtape. Evil as fuck.

Download: “King Night”

Legendary Pink Dots
Seconds Late For The Brighton Line

The news of this, the newest album from the Legendary Pink Dots, prime
exponents of psych-tinged childlike wonder and seriously nonlinear
space noise, marking their 30th (!!) anniversary, is marred somewhat
by the departure of longtime members Neils Van Hoorn and Martijn  De
Kleer. What this means in the grand scheme of the Dots is a temporary
setback, as the creative reins have been firmly in the capable hands
of Edward Ka-Spel (vocalist) and the Silverman (keyboardist) for a
long time now, though Van Hoorn’s sense of cabaret slapstick will be
missed. Sonically, Seconds Late For The Brighton Line is another
fine Legendary Pink Dots album, continuing much in the same vein as
“Plutonium Blonde,” just more stripped down and electronic. There are
some beautiful, hymnal interludes that just dazzle, Ka-Spel’s vocals
are in fine form (a potent reminder of where Syd Barret would be
today, if only…), and the layerings of synths and glitches is deft,
as usual. The problem is that the Dots haven’t had a truly astounding
album since the eulogy for realpolitik that was All The King’s Men,
and so this album becomes lost in the shuffle of a daunting back
catalog, and relentless forward movement.

Asteroid #4 – “Ignition Slated For Eight”

Veteran space-rockers Asteroid #4 are skilled adepts of that fey/freaked-out sound pioneered by the Byrds and then taken to glorious extremes by everyone from the Brian Jonestown Massacre to Chapterhouse to Donovan. (Guitars seemingly strung with power cables, etc.) Dissipated, molten, and yet oddly courtly, this track is emblematic of all the goodness to be found on upcoming album “Hail To The Clear Figurines.”

Download: “Ignition Slated For Eight”

Movement Magazine: The Kevin Lee Newberry Interview

Making this available for out-of-towners. Jacksonville residents should track down the real thing in full-color glory  from magazine kiosks, dark corners, and generally underfoot.

Jacksonville-based singer/songwriter Kevin Lee Newberry is the real thing. He plays and records his music– music that recalls the lowest depths of Townes Van Zandt, Mark Kozalek, Neil Young, Lou Barlow/Eric Gaffney, and Daniel Johnston– in obsessive, manic, lo-fi bursts. Cassettes pile up, four-tracks are pushed to the breaking point, guitars splinter, while cameras document a creative spirit that is drunk on the possibilities of song. And maybe, yeah, sometimes just drunk. Live shows, meanwhile, become these exuberant, primal scream singalongs, presided over by a performer who has seen some dark, dark shit, but ain’t going to let it take him down. Newberry has recently found kindred spirits with the Infintesmal Records crew, who released his excellent “Dark Presser” album. Movement Magazine shot
some questions Kevin Lee Newberry’s way and was pleased to find out
that he talks just like he sings: honest, excitable, and passionate.

How long have you been making music? What made you want to make the jump  from just listening to music to instead creating your own?

I have been making music since I was real little.  I used to write little raps and
things when I was in school. I didn’t actually begin playing an instrument until I was 14 and I didn’t really start writing songs until I was 20. I wanted to be a rock star when I was young. I’d watch all these rockumentaries on the
Who, Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. I thought rock stars were cool. I loved music so much; I didn’t really know anyone that heavy into it though and kids don’t really know about that now.

Tell me about some of the influences on your work.

I listen to so many things. I mean, the obvious choices like Neil Young, but also Black Flag, Leonard Cohen… and life, really. I mean, those artist affected me deeply and gave me guidance but I am set on doing my own thing I don’t try to emulate the sounds of these artists but they mean a lot to me.

There’s so much ground to cover here. Would you run through some of your side projects and bands? (I think the first time that I encountered your music was when you or one of your bandmates sneaked a Helios Eye record into the Main Library’s collection.)

That was me… I thought someone would pick it up and think because it’s in the library it must be good. I don’t know how well that worked. I used to put them in all the magazines too. I have written and performed and recorded with Helios Eye, The Pretty Princess, Falcons of Youth, Paul Is Dead, and Moonies (which I must say is the best band I have ever put together).

“Dark Presser” is your most recent album. Would you tell me about the writing and recording of it?

I’ll tell you this much, it was weighing on me real heavy like the devil himself was tapping my shoulder. I took all my recording gear in a dark, cold, dirty garage and made a record. My records come in spurts. If I don’t get it all on tape while it’s there… you know, while the vibe is tense and everything is real, I will lose it. I am the Dark Presser… I became that guy. I had to live it, man, and it took me into some dark places but I had to go there in order to create this picture. I survived though. I always survive…

How do you generally record your songs? Home four-tracks? Studio? Etc?

I lean toward tape but I’ll record anywhere… I can make a record at home or in a studio. One day I’d like to have a budget to go into a big studio with choirs and strings and what not. But I love home recording… I mean, I come up with the craziest shit at home.

You post a lot of homemade performance videos online, when did you start doing these?

A while back. I figure if people dig my music I will give them new stuff all the time. It’s not all album-worthy but it’s not all bad either so it gets the songs out and they don’t go to waste. It’s free… I love the visual aspect of it. I love how real and personal some of them are. It’s fun.

You maintain a pretty feverish level of creativity. Do you feel a
sense of urgency in getting as much work out as possible? Do songs some to you very quickly?

The songs come easily but the songs come when they feel like it. I cannot force songs out. Songs are in my sleep, dreams, nightmares. Songs haunt me like a ghost. I can’t get away from them. I will do anything to catch that feeling for a song. Half the time I am thinking about writing but once in while I open up and 12 songs pour out… it’s enough to drive you crazy.

Just estimating, how many albums and cassettes do you think you’ve released over the years?

At least 10. Nine of them self-releases, and the “Dark Presser” was my first label release on Infintesmal Records.

Is it difficult at all to balance your family life with your musical life?

No, there’s one and there’s the other, plain and simple. My head may be on a song but I am right here at home. When I need to get that edge for writing I get it… I can tell my wife Cameron that I am going to lock myself in a room and record for 48 hours and she says, “Okay, cool.” Home is where the heart is…

How did you hook up with the Infintesmal people? They seem to be a a pretty supportive group.

Yeah, they have helped me a lot. After Helios Eye broke up I was out of it for about a year. I didn’t go to shows, play shows or anything. I joined After The Bomb, Baby!  briefly, but I wasn’t ready to be in a band. It was Nick and Jimi along with my wife who got me back into playing and recording. So after not playing for a whole year, I recorded “Bloody Mary Chanted” in like two days and they put it out. If it weren’t for some folks having my back, depending on me and me depending on them I’d probably flake out.

Besides them, are there any local artists or musicians you feel a
kinship with?

I love Jacksonville. There’s something real grimy in the water that produces
some amazing artists. I like Tuffy a lot, we have kinda been in the same place for a while… been doing it a long time. Those 2416 dudes have a lot of energy, a lot of stuff going on. Danny McGuire aka Jiblit Dupree. Chris Spohn’s 3rd version are real good and The Memphibians are making records and sounding crazy. After The Bomb, Baby!, grabbag, Borromakat, Os Ovni… All those cats have had a profound effect on me.

Do you prefer playing live or recording? I’ve heard some pretty crazy stories about your live shows; is there one that sticks out in your mind?

Recording. And ask me tomorrow it would be live. I love both. Recording is a little more controlled. Live is a lot more drunk. I have had great shows and I have had the worst shows. When things go well and sound good, I’d say live. Playing what I play in bars is real challenging.

What sort of projects are you working on at the moment? What’s coming up next?

About to start a new record this weekend. I am going to check into a motel in Alabama and record some songs I have. I am just looking for some isolation and a vibe hopefully.  And recording with The Moonies. I am really enjoying what I have going on for the  moment… Playing live…

La Sera- “Never Come Around”

It’s fashionable, when going on hiatus from your increasingly successful thrash/dreampop band, to claim that you’re going to take some time off to work on other projects. Cue eight months of Netflix’n’Combos-fuelled vegetation and creative blockage. Kay Goodman, formerly “Kickball Katy,” apparently very much meant what she said. She’s already been involved involved in the feedback-scuzz of the intriguing All Saints Day project, and now she’s stepped out, well and truly on her own, as La Sera. On the evidence of this track, at least, La Sera is a little more subdued than the Vivians or All Saints Day, more of a mix of Lush’s narcoleptic Spooky and girl group delinquents the Shangri-Las. Lo-fi hypnosis. Listen to the song, watch the endearingly homemade grindhousey music video, and get ready for a full album.

Forward Movement

New issue of Movement Magazine now available for your reading pleasure throughout Jacksonville. (First issue of 2010!) Plenty of Popnihil representation, including interviews I conducted with Sunbears! and Kevin Lee Newberry, along with reviews of new albums from the Legendary Pink Dots and the incomparable Salem. Also pay close attention to the “Flow Chart” history of Jacksonville Hip-Hop by Jessica Whittington and illustrated by Jason Brown. Now if I can just get the new issue of Popnihil out…

Order Movement here.

Girls – “Heartbreaker”

Like seemingly everyone else on the planet, I couldn’t help but be charmed Girls’ (that is to say, a duo of boys) debut album, a ragged mix of the Jam’s wired brevity and Half-Japanese’s twisted-up innocence, with a wounded heart and slacker vibes aplenty.  They’ve got a new EP out in a matter of days and are making available a new track, “Heartbreaker,” if you sign up for the privilege. (Gotta keep things close to the vest, I guess, these days.) The song is bigger and the sound is definitely clearer, but it’s still wayward and unfocused enough (yep, it’s a compliment) to please the devoted.

Download “Heartbreaker” below….

Prince Rama – “Shadow Temple”

Now, I wouldn’t expect the trio of musicians in Prince Rama to own a large chunk of the Projekt Records’ early back catalog — they were probably too young — but Prince Rama’s music is subconsciously reminiscent of a particular strand of early ’90s tribal Gothic music. Faith and the Muse, Mors Syphilitica, Lycia, This Ascension, that kinda thing. Alhough Prince Rama are signed to the Captured Tracks label and even enlisted the help of Avey Tare and Deakin for recording/production (this thing was recorded in Kurt Vonnegut’s grandson’s cabin?), I hear Swans, the drum heavy nightmares of the Cure’s Pornography, and ESPECIALLY Siouxsie and Budgie’s Creatures project.

Read the full review at Ink 19.

Trees – “Freed Of This Flesh”

And what is Trees’ sound exactly? It’s a sickened hesitation, the clenched night-terror panic when you’re trying to breathe or talk and no air will enter your lungs. It’s nausea and indecision, a primal shriek. Trees’ songs are decentralized, nonlinear affairs that bring to mind free music as much as winter, but without any chance of virtuoso wank. Trees keep it simple and evil.

Read the full review at Ink 19.

The Fall – “Your Future, Our Clutter”

Like Suicide’s Alan Vega, like Lee “Scratch” Perry, like Motorhead’s Lemmy, Smith is the eternal artist/provocateur, giving up the trappings of commercial comfort to keep pushing and pushing when peers gave up, got fat, or even worse, got fucking boring. And though the Fall fans are constantly tested by Smith’s mercurial working and “promoting” methods, the music just keeps getting better and better, gnawing away at the limits, running at full speed away from notions of musical “safety.” With another new lineup of impressionable young men and faithful keyboardist Elena Poulou, the Fall circa Your Future Our Clutter are tightly drilled, leaving Smith with the freedom he needs to fuck with the formula and keep it weird. Songs are built around simple, solid drum grooves, layered over with off-center electronics, and then focused down with grating bass and rhythm guitar. (Some of it reminds me of the economy of Jesus Lizard.) Smith layers caustic, sarcastic, prophetic cut-up verbiage, sounding like clearheaded prophecies mixed with barroom chatter and conversations heard through a hotel room wall.

Read the full review at Ink 19.