Nate Wooley, Sonic Explorer

Nate Wooley

Nate Wooley. Photo by Ziga Koritnik.

Trumpeter Nate Wooley admits there are moments when his far-flung musical activities make him feel a bit scattered. While he’s at the center of an expanding circle of daring musicians, including saxophonist Steve Lehman and percussionist Tyshawn Sorey, who thrive upon moving freely and rigorously through disparate traditions, Wooley’s voracious appetite for exploration stands apart. Although he grew up playing straight-ahead jazz in Portland, Oregon, since moving to New York in 2001, he’s fearlessly opened up his practice to include contemporary classical, experimental, and underground rock.

“Earlier this year I did a tour with Mats Gustafsson’s Fire Orchestra, came back for two days, and then played Eliane Radigue, and that was really tough,” Wooley says of the Swedish free jazz ensemble and austere French composer. “To go from smoke machines, multi-colored lights, and a screaming big band, to being a guy in a room playing as soft as possible in two days was tricky.” Those aren’t the only stylistic poles reflected in Wooley’s work these days; by remaining true to his aesthetic, leapfrogging between various contexts, Wooley has emerged as one of America’s most exciting and inveterate sonic explorers.

He wouldn’t have it any other way. “In some way I get this fantasy, in my darkest periods, where I’m like, ‘Well, maybe it would be easier if I just made these kinds of records and people would be able to attach a sound to my name and maybe I could play some more gigs or get a little more notoriety,” he says. “But then I can step back and go, ‘Yeah, you’d be miserable. So now you get to play 150 days a year but it’s 150 days of that one thing. And I’m not built to do that. And luckily, by sticking to my guns, I feel like my brand or the way people view me is through the lens of, ‘He does different stuff all the time.’”

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The Month in Mixtapes: September 2016

September Rap Mixtape Covers
Given the massive number of hip-hop mixtapes released on Bandcamp, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Each month, Marvin Lin will help ease you into this bounty of music by spotlighting releases by rappers and beatmakers using the Bandcamp “mixtape” tag.

wllsn,  one thousand one nights

wllsn is a Geneseo, New York-based producer who is driven by capricious desires and a fluid sense of musical style. Since 2015, he has repped everything from from vaporwave to beat-oriented noise workouts , to an eccojam’d Filter album. His latest is one thousand one nights, a hip-hop inflected mixtape that takes the future beats out of the grid with tempo switchups and slightly-off rhythms, tumbling and stuttering with a playful, malleable composition. He even flips composer Erik Satie on this one. It’s an understated and ambiguous listen, but its quiet innovations are loud and clear.

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Dots Will Echo: Jersey’s Homegrown Indie-Pop Antiheroes

Dots Will Echo

“It should be a bit of an amusement park ride,” says Nick Berry of More Songs From the Little Yellow Garage, the dizzying new double album from his band Dots Will Echo. It’s a record that leaps from hook-heavy power pop, to trippy psych-folk and angular avant-rock oddness with giddy glee. It has contributions from the world’s fastest finger-snapper and a crater-voiced announcer. With everything from glockenspiel to Indonesian harmonica, it can safely be classified as a wild ride.

Guest artists aside, New Jersey’s Dots Will Echo consists of just two people: drummer Kurt Biroc, and Berry, who’s responsible for everything else. The duo’s last album, Drunk Is The New Sober/Stupid Is The New Dumb, another double record, came out on Sufjan StevensAsthmatic Kitty label in 2012. The Dots Will Echo story goes back much further than that.

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Black Marble on How to Design the Perfect Album Cover

Chris Stewart

Chris Stewart, frontman of Black Marble. Photo by Joseph Jagos.

It doesn’t take much to get Chris Stewart’s right brain going. Just the other day, the Black Marble frontman was watching a documentary on Great Britain in the ’70s, and a segment on the Labour party somehow led to him mulling over the finer points of dog food.

“There was a political slogan at the time for the Torries: ‘Labour isn’t working’, meaning the Labour party is failing you,” he explains. “But it also hit me as ‘your hard work isn’t paying off’, and I thought of a few different images for that. One was a casting call for a pet food commercial; there’s just a big white room with a handler and trained animal just standing there.

He continues, “It’s a weird idea but it stayed with me for awhile. Like, the monotony of trying to get this animal to perform on cue in front of ad execs all day long, hoping to pay the rent and hoping that your pet doesn’t pee on something, or wig out in unfamiliar surroundings and bite someone. As if it’s not frustrating enough trying to rely on other humans.”

To bring things back to the creative process behind It’s Material (Stewart’s first LP for Ghostly International), we asked Stewart, who is also a graphic designer and Black Marble’s de facto art director, to share six steps for creating a killer record cover.

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Album of the Day: KAGAMI smile., “MOUTHTRIP”

KAGAMI smile. doesn’t produce the kind of electronic music that gets the dance floor moving. Describing his fractured concoctions as “broken house” and “cellular footwork,” his idiosyncratic songs are full of wily left-turns, abstract soundscapes, and erratic beats that make it impossible for crowds to move their bodies with any semblance of unison. Previous releases like July’s EYEDREAM EP were better left to people who tend to react to music cerebrally rather than physically.

While MOUTHTRIP undoubtedly offers a break from such a loose framework, it too encourages a similar detachment from the body. Tracks like the volatile “MITOCHONDRIA” and the jittery “CELLDIVISION” sport inhospitable rhythms and atomic melodies, defying the listener to follow along with anything other than mute amazement. This kind of maximalist approach is a perfect fit for a 21st-century typified by “information overload” and “media saturation.” Yet as chaotic and as disembodied as MOUTHTRIP’s attack often feels, it’s remarkable just how deeply affecting songs like the swirling “LASHDREAM” and the near-heavenly “T HRT D RP” are. Their airy electronics resonate stealthily, too disjointed and slippery to ever fully register on a conscious level. But just because the listener can’t pinpoint their every movement and evolution doesn’t mean they don’t register on an emotional level.

Simon Chandler