In the middle of the organized chaos that is the Soundset festival we had the opportunity to sit down with Twin Cities rapper Manny Phesto. Born and raised in South Minneapolis, Manny made headlines last fall when “Manny Phesto for Minnesota” campaign signs started popping up in yards. He wasn’t actually running for any office, but instead used a write-in campaign for all of them as a DIY get-out-the-vote push (according to his website he received votes for Sheriff, Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and several judge positions). Manny brings the same combination of irreverence in support of serious issues to his music, especially on debut album Southside Looking In released in April of last year. Our conversation touched on everything from political hip hop and soul samples to what South Minneapolis represents.
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Allan Kingdom – Soundset 2014
Soundset 2014 brought an opportunity to speak with the Twin Cities own Allan Kingdom. Allan’s been working on breaking into the local scene for a few years now and is starting to see snowballing success. In addition to his first performance at Soundset (three years after he attended as a fan then swore he wouldn’t go back until he was a performer), the real life Allan Kyariga was named to First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2013, got a cover story with local indie newspaper The City Pages, created an official remix of Poliça’s “Chain My Name”, and is in the process of readying two new releases. Allan and I chatted about achieving childhood goals before even being old enough to drink legally, getting inspiration from the world around us, and what it means to be ‘The Northern Gentleman.’
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Life in 24 Frames is a Sacramento, California based band founded in 2008 by guitarist/lead vocalist Kris Adams. Over the years the band has evolved into a 6 piece (Adams, Richie Smith – Guitar/Backing vocals, Andrew Bernhardt – Keyboard/Backing vocals, Malory Wheeler – Organ/Backing vocals, Jason Brown – Bass/Backing vocals, and Joe Strouth – Drums) and built a large local following via their brand of folk based indie rock. Following the release their second full length album, Bitter End, on March 25, 2014, I chatted with Kris Adams via e-mail about storytelling through music, the difficulty of the label based music business, and Sacramento as a music town.
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In a music scene as crowded as the Twin Cities’, it can be difficult to stand out. This can be particularly the case when you are a gimmick free, rock trio playing loud, fuzzed out rock that would have fit in perfectly in late ’80s to early ’90s Massachusetts. Nonetheless, Fury Things is quickly finding their way to the top of the local heap and setting their sights beyond the Land of 10,000 Lakes. I recently chatted with the band about honest music, the Twin Cities music scene, and the future for Fury Things. After checking out the interview, make sure to head over to Bandcamp and pick up their 2 EPs for the price you want to pay.
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I reviewed here the most recent album by Finnish band Alamaailman Vasarat. Following that review, Stakula, the band’s leader, kindly agreed to an interview, offering some insights into the processes behind the music.
Valta is an addition to what by now is a substantial body of work, and Alamaailman Vasarat has established a distinctive sound. Has anything changed on this album compared to previous releases?
The most obvious changes were in the lineup. Before the Valta sessions, our new drummer Santeri Saksala had already performed with the band for a year, much to our enjoyment. The live performances really tightened up and had a whole new level of energy. In the Valta sessions, his knowledge and passion for the drums as instruments made a huge difference to album sound, not forgetting some of the most memorable improvised moments, like in the opening track “Riistomaasiirtäjä”. His contribution has made a huge impact in the overall sound of the band and we’re very happy to have him on board.
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This is the second and concluding part of an interview with Jayne Amara Ross and Frédéric D. Oberland of the Parisian band FareWell Poetry. Read the first part here.
Jayne, are there any moments in the album where the shape the music has taken added something to your sense of the poetry you had written?
Yes definitely, we try to create pieces where each individual element (the poetry, the music, the films) stand alone but work as a whole also. When we have done a good, thorough job every element should enrich the other. It is only when all the mediums align behind the same very precise objective that you get that feeling of something whole, and enveloping. I wouldn’t, however, rely on the music to give meaning to the poetry or the films. Music is able to sublimate and carry meaning but not to impose it. At its best, it can be the wondrous, intoxicating glue that holds everything together. In all my films, including those that I have made outside FareWell Poetry, music is a really important part and I have always shared a privileged dialogue with the musicians that I have worked with. You can also go really wrong when you add music to film, you can easily trip yourself up by making the wrong choices. Having a close relationship with the composer, and learning to communicate in their ‘language’ can help prevent this.
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In the closing months of 2011, a new band from Paris called FareWell Poetry leapt from obscurity to a prominent place on various best-of-2011 lists, thanks to their arresting debut album Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite. (Read a review and stream the music here). Weaving together spoken word, a literary narrative backdrop, film, and compelling, slow-burning instrumental soundscapes, the album combined a high-art conceptual seriousness with an accessible musical appeal. It evidenced a capacity to delight and move and fascinate while appealing to the intellect as well as the gut, allowing the listener to be carried away by the guitar crescendos or ponder the poetic allusions or both at once. Jayne Amara Ross composed and performed the poetry and directed the accompanying film. Frédéric D. Oberland (whose recent collaboration with Richard Knox, The Rustle of the Stars, is also excellent), contributes guitar, fender rhodes, piano, harmonium, soundscapes. Stéphane Pigneul on bass, Eat Gas on guitar, Stanislas Grimbert on drums, and Colin JohnCo providing analog electronics complete the line-up. Jayne and Frédéric kindly agreed to talk to us about how the debut album came about, about the band’s creative process, and about plans for the next release.
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A popular act with the MiG staff, Makunouchi Bento is an experimental electronic duo out of Romania that has been active since 2001. Made up of Felix Petrescu, a/k/a Waka X, and Valentin Toma, a/k/a Qewza, Makunouchi Bento create soundscape stories using organic sounds that are processed, filtered, dubbed and overdubbed until they form a cohesive whole. When exploring the world of Makunouchi Bento it becomes clear very early on that not only does their sound not fit into any single genre, but that it is music which must be heard to be understood. While one can discuss the group’s IDM influence, point out that the use of space feels descended from minimalist composers, or note the range of emotions they are able to create in a beatless environment, these words would still fail to adequately describe Makunouchi Bento’s work. In fact, the above illustration of Makunouchi Bento is probably the best written description of their music I have seen.
In anticipation of the release of Makunouchi Bento’s new EP, Rinbo, we spoke with the group via e-mail and discussed the new album, the group’s influences, both musical and otherwise, and their desire to collaborate with other artists of various mediums. We also learned how a couple 30-somethings from Romania imagine King Tubby would react to their work.
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Sebastian Plano (Picture by May Xiong)
Have you ever been moved by the yearning blends of classical motifs with electronic atmospheres composed by the likes of Max Richter, Ólafur Arnalds, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Nils Frahm, and Peter Broderick? Does the thought of what their aesthetic might sound like if relocated to warmer climes and infused with the passion and counterpoint of the tango sound intriguing? If so, then you need to listen to Sebastian Plano’s debut album.
The Arrhythmical Parts of Heart was released last year with little fanfare, but is an album that should not be allowed to slip quietly by. Across seven short tracks Plano, a young San Francisco-based composer and multi-instrumentalist who plays everything on the album himself, weaves together an array of sounds including cello, keyboards, bandoneón, wordless vocals, and electronic effects and percussion into a compelling and emotive suite of compositions charged with tantalizing twists and turns.
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