Jeff Jackson is the author of Destroy All Monsters, a heady yet visceral take on rock music, violence, and the nature of communities. Jeff Jackson also plays music in Julian Calendar, a postpunk band whose music could also be described as heady yet visceral. Since 2017, the group has released 5 records, including 4 EPs in the Crimson Static series.As an admirer of Jackson’s work in both spheres, I reached out to him about discussing the evolution of his foray into music, and how it’s affected his writing.
We’re pleased to be premiering “Conversion,” the new single from Nashville Ambient Ensemble, a group whose name tells you much of what you need to know about them. “Conversion” is from Cerulean, their new album set for release on March 19. They’re led by composer Michael Hix and feature members of Belly Full of Stars and Diatom Deli — as well as Luke Schneider, whose pedal steel album on Third Man is a favorite around these parts.
Few musical formats have had the comeback narrative that vinyl has in the last decade or so. A new documentary film, Vinyl Nation, explores the enduring appeal of LPs and the subculture that’s grown around them recently — including the rise of Record Store Day. I talked with directors Kevin Smokler and Christopher Boone to learn more about the film’s origins and how the project came to fruition.
We’re pleased to be debuting new music from Michael Zapruder. “New Quarantine” is the new single from Zapruder’s new album Latecomers. You may also know him via his earlier project Pink Thunder, which found him adapting 20 poems by a host of writers into critically acclaimed songs. I spoke with Zapruder about the song’s origins, its unexpected resonance in 2020, and the long process of making Latecomers.
I still rent DVDs through the mail. There’s usually a lag time of six-to-eight months between the time I add a movie to my queue and its arrival. I always forget what I’ve requested by that point and get a kick out of the small-scale time travel, the reminder of what I was thinking months prior. This took a wrong turn back in March. The first three movies to arrive during the onset of the Covid quarantine were Soylent Green, The Omega Man, and The Andromeda Strain.
What happens when autofiction meets doom metal? That’s the question Lee Klein poses in his new book Neutral Evil ))), inspired by a visit to a Sunn 0))) concert in Philadelphia in early 2017. As the book’s narrator takes in the concert’s atmosphere, he ponders questions of family, safety, and aging — a fascinating glimpse into a particular headspace surrounded by a fascinating sonic space.
Erik Hall isn’t 18 musicians, but you could be forgiven for thinking that he is. He’s recorded music as a solo artist and with the group In Tall Buildings; before that, he also had stints in His Name Is Alive and NOMO. For his new album, he opted for a particularly ambitious maneuver: recording Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians. The ensuing record is both a loving version of a minimalist classic and a work that shows the impressive flexibility within Reich’s composition. I talked with Hall about the making of this album and his own musical journey over the years.
What would you say if I told you that one of the year’s best ambient/drone albums was made from field recordings of bats? That’s the story being Ultrasonic, the 8th album to be released under the Field Works name. Stuart Hyatt, the man behind the project, recorded the sounds made by bats in Indiana. From there, the recordings were used by a group of prodigiously talented musicians — including Kelly Moran, Noveller, Eluvium, and Christina Vantzou — to create a series of stunning ambient soundscapes. I talked with Hyatt via email about the project’s genesis and the permutations that this album underwent en route to its completion.