Tag Archives: feature

Electric Assault Records Lets the Metal Do the Talking

Electric Assault

Henry Yuan went to Norway and had an epiphany. This was back in 2011, the last year that the extreme Norwegian metal festival Hole In The Sky raised its flag over the city of Bergen. Yuan was covering the fest as a reporter for Guitar World magazine. At some point during the four-day extravaganza, he went to a listening party for the new album from a renowned Norwegian metal band that, for the purposes of this article, shall remain nameless. “I’d never been to a listening party before, but I remember thinking that we’d probably just drink beer at a bar and listen to the record,” the 27-year old Brooklyn native explains. Instead, all the journalists that the record label had invited were marched to the local aquarium. On the way, they took a detour to one of the area’s fabled fjords, where a table was set up with wine and cheese. “I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’” Yuan recalls with a laugh. “Of course, I was real young at the time, but I thought it was supposed to be this unpretentious, underground thing. It made me realize this whole business is about kissing ass.”

Before that fateful year was out, Yuan started Electric Assault Records. While celebrating the same types of metal bands that might play Hole In The Sky, its methodology is a middle finger to the wine-and-cheese way of doing business. “The whole idea of Electric Assault is that the music does the talking,” Yuan says. “Not PR agents and stock terms for bands. We want the rocking to do the talking.”

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Brazilian Pop, Video Games, and UK Jazz

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Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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Diamanda Galás on Criticism and Context

Diamanda Galas

Photo by Austin Young.

Avant-garde composer and performer Diamanda Galás occupies a distinct place in history; her work is aesthetically unique, situated at the nexus of contemporary classical composition and activism (her music is inextricable from her personal, passionate work with ACT UP!), its threads going back centuries to folk and pop practices from a wide variety of countries. Those whose musical knowledge is not as wide-ranging as hers tend to misunderstand her. This is something she’s understandably furious about, speaking about the critical reception to her new pair of albums, All the Waya collection of traditional and jazz standards, and At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem, a live recording of, as she describes it, “death songs,” from a 2016 New York performance.

She’s speaking specifically about her vicious performance of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” on All the Way: “People who do not know anything about music—notably, most music critics—really should equip themselves with the changes of the original song and realize that every single one of the chord changes I use are connected to the original chord changes. It is not a bunch of keys falling down the stairs, and it is not someone who uses the song to her own ends only to destroy it and desecrate it and dismember it. I’m not doing [that]. I’m using the song and paying homage to what the song is originally about. The problem we have in this society is that those musicians—who perhaps used to be musicians and are now writers—have been replaced by a lot of music writers who don’t know a goddamned thing about music.”

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Joan Shelley’s Music Cuts Through the Chaos of Daily Life

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Joan Shelley. Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

When Joan Shelley performed with Wilco at New York’s Beacon Theatre this March, she stood huddled on the corner of the massive stage alongside collaborator Nathan Salsburg. Beneath Wilco’s elaborate backdrop of trees and foliage, the pair might have even appeared, from certain angles, as one body, their instruments (Salsburg on guitar, Shelley alternating between guitar and banjo), overlapping both physically and sonically. And if their tightknit music and cozy positioning on stage didn’t already indicate a sense of intimacy, Shelley closed the set—which highlighted tracks from her extraordinary new self-titled album—with a traditional folk song, sans accompaniment and sans microphone. As Shelley stepped to the front of the stage to sing “Darling Don’t You Know That’s Wrong,” the audience became a part of her small circle.

It was a fitting gesture from an artist who describes her music as “the quickest way from me to another person,” whose every word seems to be chosen as a way to cut through the chaos of daily life. “It’s coming to the people instead of people coming to you,” she says of the a capella performance: “As a singer, it’s asking more from my body in order to physically do it—to turn up what you’re doing, and step outside the barrier of technology.” It makes sense that Shelley sees technology as a hurdle and not a tool. As she’s evolved as a songwriter, her songs have become more unadorned and powerful. Her two previous records on Philadelphia label No Quarter—2014’s Electric Ursa and the following year’s Over and Even—each represented massive steps forward through the deeper refinement of her craft. If you carve out a place to listen, her music fills the space around you.

Shelley’s latest record is no different. Produced by Jeff Tweedy at his Loft Studio in Chicago, Joan Shelley widens her scope, focusing on more spacious songcraft. The first single, “Wild Indifference,” is built on a series of sustained, open chords that sound like sighs of relief. But the album also marks Shelley’s starkest, simplest work to date. Early in the writing process, she found herself inspired by the most primitive of folk tunes: recordings in which performers simply sang in unison with their instrument. “I started trying to be a more playful guitarist,” she says, citing the jokey songs of cult favorite folk artist Michael Hurley as a guiding light.

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Los Angeles Police Department Tackle Anxiety, Fear of Flight, & Piano Ballads

Los Angeles Police Department

Los Angeles Police Department. All photos by Philip Cosores.

“I paid my therapist over Venmo for the first time yesterday,” Ryan Pollie says while polishing off some homemade tacos at the large dining room table at his Mid-City Los Angeles home. “You know how other people can see what you pay for? I just used emoji to describe it. I went with the face with tears streaming down, and the baby bird hatching from its shell.”

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