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.
The last time I spoke with Ted Hearne was in 2014; the subject was The Source, his collaboration with Mark Doten inspired by the work of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Now, Hearne has returned with a new album, Place — a collaboration with Saul Williams, in which Hearne addresses questions of gentrification in Brooklyn’s Ft. Greene neighborhood. It’s a work that involves countless vocalists, found audio, and a complex structure; it also involves moments of sublime beauty. I talked with Hearne about the genesis of Place and how he developed the themes contained within it.
On January 26th, Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell stole the stage at the Grammy awards collecting a total of 5 Grammys, including the most prestigious award of ‘Album of the Year’ for their 2019 album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Billie and Finneas entirely produced and wrote the album (with mixing and mastering by Rob Kinelski and John Greenham). Apart from all of the wonderful accolades, awards, and personal stories behind this masterful album, there’s something completely missing from mainstream praise and reviews of this record: its dense narrative and compelling themes.
Robbie Lee is an artist who thrives on collaboration. Among his recent partners: Guitarist Mary Halvorson, who won a 2019 MacArthur “Genius Grant,” and composer Lea Bertucci, whose album Resonant Field, named a top Jazz album of 2019 by the New York Times, featured Lee on flute.
In the following exchange, which took place over several months via a shared Google document, the multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer weighs in on David Bowie, his love of duos, NYC’s experimental music scene of the 1990s, and what it means to be a contemporary composer most comfortable in that liminal space between genres.
Dennis Callaci is an esoteric guy. He’s the man behind the excellent indie label Shrimper Records, who have released music over the years by the likes of Woods, the Mountain Goats, and Dump. He’s also a talented musician and writer, with a new album and a new book both set to be released on February 14th. The album is The Dead of the Day; the book is 100 Cassettes. Along for the ride on the former are a group of musicians including Franklin Bruno; contributing an introduction to the latter is Jonathan Lethem.
Earlier this fall, the self-titled LP from Seattle’s somesurprises hit record stores and digital services around the country. somesurprises began as the solo project of Natasha El-Sergany and has gradually begun involving other musicians; the result is a group that creates textured, haunting music that clicks on multiple levels. Following a fall tour, I talked with El-Sergany about the creation of the band’s new album, their time on the road, and more.