Rozwell Kid Explore the Profundity of the Mundane

Rozwell Kid

Photo by Emily Dubin.

Jordan Hudkins, the frontman for West Virginia band Rozwell Kid, is sitting at a lengthy wooden table, flanked by bassist Devin Donnelly, drummer Sean Hallock, and guitarist Adam Meisterhans. He’s been busy putting up a series of gig advertisements on his Instagram page. All of them are obnoxiously-watermarked photos of different dogs wearing headphones and looking at laptops, with the show details pasted crudely on top. “Do you want to see the picture I made for tonight’s show?” he asks me at one point. “This dog is reading a newspaper article he is not happy about,” he reasons. “‘The tax on dog bones is going up.’” His bandmates chuckle uncontrollably.

Meisterhans turns to me with a grin: “Are you enjoying the peek behind the curtain?”

Rozwell Kid

The band has reason to be giddy. Their sophomore full-length, Precious Art, on California label SideOneDummy has been a long-time coming, and it’s tied up in a bit of personal history for Hudkins. The first rock show he ever attended was Suicide Machines on the tour for their album A Match And Some Gasoline—which was also released by SideOneDummy. The circularity is fitting; Precious Art is a record on which Hudkins often revisits and recontextualizes his childhood.

Lyrically, Precious Art addresses adolescent anxiety, growing up, friendship, displacement, and heartbreak, but it’s littered with references to MadTV, futons, boogers, and Michael Keaton’s turn as Batman in the 1989 film. Hudkins writes in relatable specifics; he repurposes unremarkable objects or pop culture touchstones as vehicles for conveying grand human emotion. At first pass, the songs scan as humorous, and while that’s not entirely untrue, they also highlight the fact that humans are socialized to express serious matters in self-deprecating ways. When we hear these goofy references as genuine, sincere sentiments, we open ourselves to understanding different ways of getting at emotional truths. Is it just a cute photo of a dog, or is he mad about the impending bone tax?

After we finish our coffees, we head over to Everybody Hits, a Girard Avenue institution. Though it’s mostly occupied by batting cages, Everybody Hits also hosts shows. (Hallock, who lives close by, says that he played bass in a No Doubt cover band here.) The owner’s dog is sprawled on a picnic table in front of the cages, and Hudkins asks his bandmates which bat he should use. He runs his fingers over the helmets hanging on the fence, and takes pictures of the guys at bat. Revisiting one’s childhood, indeed.

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The Best New Hip-Hop on Bandcamp: June 2017

hip-hop-June-600

Welcome back to The Month in Hip-Hop, your go-to source for great beats and rhymes throughout Bandcamp. This month, we assess throwback tracks from South Philly and delve into North Carolina’s self-anointed Leader of Cult Rap. Plus we have sun-kissed, L.A.-influenced instrumental grooves, and a candidate for the year’s most eye-catching album title courtesy of a couple of horrorcore rappers from Australia.

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The Merch Table: June 2017

Merch Table

Illustration by Paul Grelet

Every month, The Merch Table brings you the best and most bonkers merchandise you can find on Bandcamp. We commend bands and labels that get a little creative and think outside the tote bag. Whether it’s a fashion accessory, a piece of art, or something entirely unique, The Merch Table showcases inventive, original—and, occasionally, downright strange—stuff that you might want to get your hands on.

To mark the official start of summer we’ve got fly T-shirts and slick baseball hats for all your festival needs.

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An Introduction to Avant-Garde Electronic Music in Poland

RSS B0YS

RSS B0YS by Natalia Kabanow.

In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the reach of Polish underground music, in terms of both sonics and audience. That development didn’t come out nowhere; the country’s rich history of experimental cinema and animation fuelled a tradition of avant-garde music in the mid-20th century, deploying pioneering tape sampling methods alongside early synths to soundtrack many experimental short films. Warsaw-based audiovisual duo (and sisters) WIDT offer up a short history lesson: “In 1957, the Studio Eksperymentalne Polskiego Radia (Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio) was found by composer Józef Patkowski,” they explain. “This was the place where the soundtracks were produced and [where the] most significant creators came from.”

Since Poland was still deeply under Soviet pressure at the time, it was only possible for this outpost of experimental electronic music to emerge during the détente in Russian influence that followed Stalin’s death in 1953. By 1956, Poland had became noticeably more autonomous, and censorship’s reach gradually declined. In the 1980s, groups like Germany’s Tangerine Dream were hugely popular, and homegrown Polish pioneers like Marek Biliński were starting to experiment with electronics, finally outside of the context of soundtrack work.

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Album of the Day: Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski & John Scofield, “Hudson”

The members of the jazz supergroup Hudson share a language created in cities: by dense hive-minds of musicians, the spaces where they cross-pollinate, and audiences who amplify the buzz. But as with many people who grow older, the four members of the group eventually moved out of town—in this case, up the Hudson River north of New York City.

That happy accident of mutual proximity, and master drummer Jack DeJohnette’s 75th birthday, spurred this new project, which also features John Medeski (keyboard instruments), Larry Grenadier (bass) and John Scofield (guitar). They form a multi-generational crew of improvisers, particularly noted for working at the nexus of jazz, funk, and rock. (See: Medeski Martin and Wood, or Miles Davis c. 1969, or the bulk of Scofield’s discography.) Yet their first album isn’t an overt fusion of a style x + style y. Their mergers are more subtle, gestures from musicians who have lived through a lot, and who now freely supplement their common dialect at their own leisure and discretion.

About half of Hudson is original compositions, with the remainder written by folk and rock musicians connected to their home region: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, and Levon Helm of The Band. The latter portion is read with a deceptive cleanliness, with Scofield clearly stating melody lines; at times, Hudson comes close to being a rather overqualified instrumental cover band. Sensing as much, the quartet attempts to match its musical choices with the lyrics of the originals—see the messy apocalyptic breakdown on “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” or the unsettled wistfulness in “Woodstock.”

DeJohnette takes the vocal mic on the New Orleans-inspired mixed-meter shuffle “Dirty Ground”; his “Song For World Forgiveness” transforms into a rock ballad. The band sounds more conventional on the hard-bop blues throwdown “Tony Then Jack,” or on the Spanish-tinged churn of “El Swing.” All this makes their opener a red herring, as the collective, groove-driven improvisation “Hudson” suggests this meeting of minds might be a loud, high-intensity jam band. But by their closer, “Great Spirit Peace Chant”—literally a group chant, inspired by the native inhabitants of the Hudson Valley—it’s the range of what they attempt which echoes loudest.

Patrick Jarenwattananon