Wednesday, March 28, 2007

TNV In Time Out New York

Times New Viking relieves Mike Wolf from his incessant boredom in recent Time Out story.

Font of youth
Times New Viking rescues indie rock from a boring death.
By Mike Wolf

At the end of “Little Amps,” the uncannily catchy third cut on Times New Viking’s Present the Paisley Reich, drummer Adam Elliott exclaims, “Pop song-uh!” in celebration. He also seems to want to assure us it is a pop song, because the minute-and-a-half track sounds like a garage-full of saw blades in joyous attack mode. Everything in “Little Amps”—and the whole album, actually—is distorted to the point where it’s hard to tell if Elliott is harmonizing with keyboardist Beth Murphy, or where Murphy’s instrument ends and Jared Phillips’s guitar begins, or that there’s no bass. (With all the dirt and fuzz flying around, who needs bass?)

Elsewhere on the new record, the band’s second, the fidelity jumps from severely shitty to medium in midsong (“Ladders”) and one channel of the music cuts out for a few seconds (“Common Cold”); the killer melodies at the heart of provocatively named tracks like “Imagine Dead John Lennon” and “Allegory Gets Me Hot” are in constant peril of being overthrown by noise. “Most of those things are happy accidents,” says Phillips, 25 (as are both of his bandmates), over the phone from Columbus, Ohio. “I think they happened while the record was being mixed, ’cause a lot of our music we mix down from a reel-to-reel onto a cassette—”

Elliott interjects: “That already has stuff on it.”

“—that already has stuff on it,” Phillips confirms.

This might seem like a surprising M.O. for any band in 2007, when pristine digital sound is accessible to anyone with a computer, and so-called mistakes on a recording don’t need to be there. Times New Viking has more elemental concerns. “I’m always after the intimacy of someone recording in their bedroom or practice space,” Elliott says. “Music is about getting together with people and enjoying it. If we do it at our house, we can get together on a Saturday night and record a song.” Talking like a short-order cook throwing together a meal, Phillips adds, “You just put some mikes up, make up a melody on the spot and go, ‘That sounds good.’ Then you make up some vocals, and you have another minute-long song that’s good.”

“No reason to think about it too much more than that,” quips Elliott.

That spontaneity helps make Times New Viking one of the most exciting indie-rock bands in years; the group’s live sets are so electrifying that, while in the moment, you feel like there’s no better band on the planet. The trio’s December show at Cake Shop undid weeks of seasonal blues, turning a crowd of roughly 75 people into a gleefully clumsy, beer-spilling mosh pit.

The three, who met at Columbus College of Art & Design, are also reinvigorating a vital, decades-old DIY lo-fi tradition that has always found special acceptance in Ohio. Columbus, in particular, had a superb lo-fi rock scene throughout the ’80s and ’90s, but after the shocking deaths of two of the city’s most talented rock songwriters—Jim Shepard (by suicide in 1999) and Jerry Wick (of the band Gaunt, in a 2001 bike accident)—things in Ohio’s capital went quiet.

Times New Viking’s first show, in early 2004, helped shake a trio of key figures out of semiretirement. Ron House and Mike “Rep” Hummel had for years played in and acted as godfathers of the Columbus scene; one or the other was involved in almost every good record to come out of the city. “Ron’s ego is like, once he found out there were kids who liked him, he had to start playing again,” Phillips says, jokingly, “to make sure he was in competition with them!”

House and Hummel soon passed recordings of the band to Tom Lax, whose then-dormant Philadelphia label, Siltbreeze, was responsible for some of the best underground sounds of the ’90s. Dig Yourself, Times New Viking’s debut, came out on Siltbreeze in 2005, and things have been rolling for the band ever since—the trio signed to Matador before Siltbreeze even released Paisley Reich. The bigger label’s interest in a band that might turn in its masters on a used cassette makes sense to Elliott. “It’s fitting because Matador put out the music we were influenced by in the ’90s,” he says. “Guided by Voices was like our Beatles, and Pavement was like our Kinks. I’d always imagined that the band I wanted to be in would be like if those bands had a baby.”

Present the Paisley Reich is out now on Siltbreeze.

Some sun bleached live footage of "Let Your Hair Grow Long" from this year's SXSW festival.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ashley's Painted Garden On Dusted

Referencing Roky Erickson, Skip Spence and Van Dyke Parks, Dusted gives a thorough review of Greg Ashley's latest solo work.

Artist: Greg Ashley
Album: Painted Garden
Label: Birdman
Review date: Mar. 21, 2007

With each successive album, whether solo or with his band the Gris Gris, Oakland’s Greg Ashley continues to both refine and expand on his version of the New Weird American sound. While Ashley isn’t a visionary in the same sense as Roky Erickson and Skip Spence (or other turned-on musical drop-outs from the Love Generation), he’s certainly indebted to them and travels similar musical lost highways. In the case of the above – easily identified, though certainly not the only, precedents of Ashley’s – their genius and legacy is forever intertwined with psychosis and reclusion. I know very little about Greg Ashley as his past relates to the hard times Spence and Erickson fell upon, but it’s equally as irrelevant to understanding and appreciating his music, as knowing about Roky and Skip’s time in an asylum is to being moved by The Evil One or Oar.

Still, Ashley makes some seriously far-out sounds. The basic musical template of Painted Garden, as on 2004’s Medicine Fuck Dream, is simple enough: pop songs built on folk, country, and blues forms, with an occasional nod to classic R&B (“Pretty Belladonna”) or Songbook. But Ashley takes these familiar sounds and drapes them in all manner of ethereal soundscapes, bells and whistles, hallucinogenic found sounds and free jazz skronk. While distorting a roots template with reverb and fractured constructions is nothing new in 2007, the tension that Ashley creates between the melodic and more warped elements in his songs is indeed unique. Unlike other spacey contemporary troubadours, Ashley's hooks certainly aren’t buried or meandering, in fact they’re quite immediate – at times positively toe-tapping (“Fisher King”), at others, hauntingly beautiful (“Caroline and the Orange Tree,” “Sailing With Bobby”) – but they exist wonderfully at odds with a production aesthetic that transports them from the terrestrial to the celestial. Medicine Fuck Dream, however, was a decidedly more lo-fi affair than what we’re given here. And while Painted Garden occasionally hints at the sort of slick, expansive cosmic sheen Dave Friedman has made de rigueur, thankfully that sound is merely a single element of a diverse yet fully cohesive and even-sounding recording.

Ashley’s music has a built-in awareness of American musical history, which makes clear that he’s not working in some sort of vacuum, running on his own twisted creative energy and that alone. In fact, I’m willing to wager his record collection is a stunner. Yet, his synthesis of those various forms – finger-picking folk songs, soul ballads, Sun Ra-style cosmic jazz, Tin Pan Alley pop – still feels organic and original. With that in mind, another ’60s oddball worth referencing would be Van Dyke Parks. Yet, where Parks cloaked everything in irony and knowing glances, Ashley makes the whole synthesis seem completely unaffected and true.

By Nate Knaebel

Greg Ashely tour dates galore:
03/29 Dallas, TX @ Double-Wide
03/30 Memphis, TN @ The Hi-Tone
03/31 Atlanta, GA @ 11:10 Teahouse
04/01 Nashville, TN @ The Springwater
04/02 Cincinnati, OH @ The Comet
04/03 Columbus, OH @ Caraba
04/04 Akron, OH @ Lime Spider
04/05 Cleveland, OH @ Beachland
04/06 Kalamazoo, MI @ Kraftbrau
04/07 Toronto, ON @ Rancho Relaxo
04/08 Hamilton, ON @ The Casbah
04/09 Ottawa, ON @ Babylon
04/10 Montreal, QC @ Zoo Bizarre
04/11 Boston, MA @ PA's Lounge
04/14 Brooklyn, NY @ Uncle Paulie's
04/15 Washington, DC @ Red & Black
04/18 Rochester, NY @ The Bugjar
04/20 Athens, OH @ The Union (Blackout Fest w/Miss Alex White)
04/21 Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
04/22 Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
04/23 St. Paul, MN @ Big Vs
04/24 Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium
04/26 Seattle, WA @ The Sunset Tavern
04/27 Vancouver, BC @ Pat's Pub
04/28 Portland, OR @ Slabtown

Friday, March 23, 2007

Times New Viking 8.2 Review On Pitchfork

The Siltbreeze label and TNV recieved some well earned flattery from today.

Times New Viking
Present the Paisley Reich
[Siltbreeze; 2007]
Rating: 8.2

Apparently Tom Lax of the venerably awesome Siltbreeze label was minorly miffed that Pitchfork somehow missed Times New Viking's first album, 2005's Dig Yourself. So call this oversight correction, because I fucking love TNV. Dig Yourself was, famously, the first new release on Siltbreeze in a bazillion years, after Lax had mothballed the label that h brought us such head-rearranging 90s noise-rock totems as the Dead C's Harsh 70s Reality, Harry Pussy's Ride a Dove, and dozens more. Times New Viking, three pain teens from Ohio punning on fonts, are another remaindered irregular tweed suit off the label's rack.

If the group's thrashing pop flair and shouty boy-girl vocal tradeoffs initially feel a little, well, hooky to stand alongside such cap-peeling titans as Mssrs. Russell, Morley, and Yeats, do not forget that Siltbreeze also released singles by the likes of Guided By Voices and was deeply steeped in the scratchy kiwi pop aesthetic. And the opening drums on "Imagine Dead John Lennon" (now that's a song title)-- the lead track from Present the Paisley Reich, TNV's second album-- sound like hammered aluminum, and the rest of the song, all 1:36 of it, seems as if it was recorded with one tin can in Ohio, the other tin can in Dunedin, and the twine dredged across the silty bottom of the Pacific. I wouldn't blink if you told me that the pressing plant actually used dryer lint or dead leaves to conserve petroleum; the album's sparkling multi-hued murk and wet paper flatness will have you cranking the volume in iTunes.

Paisley Reich recalls everything from the Swell Maps' bedroom odes to Gerry Anderson to Huggy Bear's claustrophobically recorded teenpocalypse rave-ups, and from the snotrocket twee of the Vaselines to the musky, druid's glen fog that hung over the production of the Fall's Slates. And the songs are pop-punk gnashing and snarling and droning with all the sexual frustration-- "Teenagelust!" goes one title, and note the exclamation point-- and delicious ennui that's been surgically removed from the radio version. Times New Viking write the kind of terse, bitingly smart lyrics too smart to be buried in 10 million pounds of sludge from New York and New Jersey, but hopefully you'll just listen harder.

So they caterwaul, "I don't want to die in the city alone" and reject a lonely death with frantic cymbals and keyboards like needles in a camel's eye. 30 seconds before the end of "Ladders" the whole song shifts, jump-cuts, or changes channels, from distant noise to, like, louder noise. They bring out a Nuggets/"96 Tears" organ that they play like a cloddish Terry Riley on "Hiding in Machines". And forget this era of emo concept double albums and epic Neon Bible-style chest-beating; Paisley Reich is finished and done in 28 minutes. If you think that indie rock preens too much these days, Times New Viking probably sport bruises and scraped knees, and if you think it was all over for Pavement after "Forklift", TNV's lo-fi skree and bounce will certainly shake your love shack.

-Jess Harvell, March 23, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Essie Jain Short Film

ASAP video reporter Ray Zablocki documented Essie Jain's first trip to Austin for the South by Southwest music festival. The three+ minute film gives a before and after glimpse of her March 16th showcase performance.

VIDEO - Essie Jane goes to SXSW

Essie is currently touring her way back to New York.
03/21 Lawrence, KS @ KJHK (on air Performance 2 PM)
03/21 Manhattan, KS @ The Dusty Bookshelf
03/22 Omaha, NE @ O'Leavers Pub
03/23 Saint Paul, MN @ ON AIR: MPR 89.3FM (on air performance 1 PM)
03/23 Minneapolis, MN @ The Alamo House
03/24 Minneapolis, MN @ The Triple Rock
03/28 St Cloud, MN @ KVSC 88.1FM (on air performance 4:30 PM)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Field Music Tour Press

With SXSW conquered, Field Music move on to tackle the rest of North America. Regional press keeps rolling in in anticipation of their upcoming Mid West & Eastern US shows. All dates are with Menomena.

03/20 Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
03/21 Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
03/22 Pittsburgh, PA @ Lawrence Moose
03/23 Toronto, ON @ El Mocambo
03/24 Ottawa, ON @ Zaphod Beeblebrox
03/25 Montreal, QC @ Main Hall
03/27 Boston, MA @ Great Scott
03/28 New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
03/30 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda‘s
03/31 Washington, DC @ Rock And Roll Club

Chicago Tribune feature:

Chicago Sun Times feature:

Chicago Reader Critic's Pick:

Cleveland Scene review/preview:

Riverfront Times review (St Louis):

Minneapolis City pages:

Daily Southtown (Chicago) feature:

Monday, March 19, 2007

Check out Lesbian's E-Card

This link will provide you with everything you ever wanted to know about the psychedelic / progressive / metal band known as Lesbian. The mighty "L" are currently touring their way back home from SXSW. More dates to come.

03/19 San Diego, CA @ Scolari's Offic
03/20 Los Angeles, CA @ Mountain Bar
03/21 San Francisco, CA @ Annie's
03/24 Seattle, WA @ Record-Release-Post-Tour Party at Casa Seven Tweezy
03/29 Seattle, WA @ Tin Hat "Power Hör" listening party - Lesbian DJs all night!
04/14 LIVE on KEXP 90.3 FM or worldwide at 10pm PST
04/20 Seattle, WA @ Comet Tavern
05/11 Seattle, WA @ The Funhouse

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Reigning Sound with Mary Weiss on Conan O'Brien

The Reigning Sound will be the backing band for the legendary lead singer of the Shangri-Las Mary Weiss for a Conan O'Brien Show performance on Tuesday March 13th. The band recently backed Weiss on her first ever solo album Dangerous Game. The Reigning Sound enter the studio the first week of April to record their follow up to Too Much Guitar for In The Red. Exciting stuff.