Sep 012017
 

guthrie galileo

The electronically-influenced soul and R&B on Vermont singer and producer Guthrie Galileo’s majestic new album Modern Day Ripples generally sounds timeless. One track, however, is more of-the-moment: “Labor Day.” The album came out a few weeks ago, but this song offers a lot to think about this weekend in particular.

Over a bed of piano, synthesizers, and field recordings (more on those in a minute) that echoes James Blake or Frank Ocean, Galileo explores the ironies of a holiday meant to celebrate workers. “”Labor Day” was written on and in the days following the workers holiday [last year], a time when I was coming to understand the world with a class-based perspective,” Guthrie explains. “I was remarking to myself, as I went about the motions of my day job, about the fact that all the people I know worked during the holiday. The bosses and the management at work, however, were nowhere to be seen!” Continue reading »

Jul 192017
 

jinxbox

A few months back, Vermont songwriter Tyler Daniel Bean released a music video that uses haunting imagery to show what it feels like when depression takes over. The heavy music matched the mood, loud and unrelenting like it was closing in on all sides.

New Middlebury dreampop trio Jinxbox tackles similar themes on their new album Relief, but through a very different genre. The sun-drenched melodies deliver earworm after earworm, but the lyrics stem from a much darker place. Nine Inch Nails could easily have written the opening lines of the song “Static”: Continue reading »

Jun 162017
 

amelia devoid

“Amelia Devoid” is a great handle for an electronic musician. In Devoid’s case, though, the name is no pseudonym. And discovering the history behind her unusual last name started Amelia Devoid down the path towards her magnetic new album.

Devoid’s heritage is a Native American tribe called the Abenaki. Based in New England and northeast Canada, the tribe came together during the continent’s colonization out of the splintered remains of other groups. Like so many Native tribes, their history over the past several centuries can be a painful one. Devoid even learned that her home state’s University of Vermont practiced eugenics on the tribe all the way up to the 1930s. “Researching this history has informed a large part of my identity, and has helped me in part make sense of my unusual last name,” she says.

The recent pipeline protests at Standing Rock drew Devoid back to her heritage and inspired her wonderful new electronic album, Hypogeum. Songs like “My Ancestors Died Here” and “Hopeless Call for Peace” tie directly into the recent conflict. Continue reading »

May 152017
 

wren kitz

NNA Tapes is probably Vermont’s best-known record label, an über-hip curator that has helped spearhead the recent cassette revival. Their catalog of experimentally-minded musicians extends from the out-there to the way-out-there. And their latest signing, fellow Vermonter Wren Kitz, can operate in both modes.

His first release with the label, Dancing on Soda Lake (out June 2), counts as relatively conventional – for him. Unlike some of his more experimental releases of ambient rumbles or Eraserhead nightmares, Dancing on Soda Lake is reasonably song-based. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t weird. Continue reading »

May 012017
 

Back in 2011, the soundtrack to the Ryan Gosling movie Drive updated 1980s synth-pop for the 21st century and became a big hit doing so. Songs like “Nightcall” and “A Real Hero” brought a film-noir darkness to the genre’s supremely catchy melodies and on his new album Pax Romana, Vermont-based producer Ebn Ezra aka Ethan Wells does the same.

Though Wells calls the Drive soundtrack “iconic,” he draws from further back in the history of synthesized music. He cites as his album’s biggest influence a Japanese artist named Chinatsu Kuzuu, who recorded medieval folk songs backed by MIDI compositions (similar in a way to a recent album of electronic Gregorian chants). But Kuzuu recorded back in the early 1990s, when MIDI – a primitive form of electronic music – was a new frontier. “It sounds like the most bizarre thing,” Wells says, “English folk by way of a Japanese woman in the ’90s using no more than a computer. So I thought, if she can do it, so can I.” Continue reading »

Mar 312017
 

David Chief

In the so-called streaming wars between Spotify, Apple Music,and the rest, Soundcloud often gets forgotten. Perhaps part of the reason is that it traditionally has not offered ads or any real way for an artist to monetize their work (though that’s changing), so bigger stars avoided the platform. As a result, it’s developed an ecosystem filled with up-and-coming experimentalists, particularly in hip-hop and electronic music.

One of the more recent Soundcloud breakouts is David Chief. A 22-year old producer in Burlington, he’s only been recording music for a few years, but a recent track called “roots” has racked up almost 40,000 streams on Soundcloud, and others aren’t far behind.

“I’ve been teaching myself producing/beatmaking for 4 years now, ever since moving to Vermont in 2013 for college,” he says. “I started as just a fan who liked Soundcloud for the underground & independent artists, and eventually fell in love with the chill, boom-bap stuff and decided to try it myself. I really liked how the beatmaking scene was like a little community. When I first started out, nobody wanted to collaborate or drop a follow, but as a really active user of Soundcloud, people began to take notice of my page.” Continue reading »

Feb 272017
 

Last month, Pitchfork posted a massive list of “The 50 Best IDM Albums of All Time.” That stands for “Intelligence Dance Music” for those not in the loop, and it’s one of those genres like “emo” where few of the category’s musicians think much of the label. But many of the greatest electronic artists – Boards of Canada, Autechre, Aphex Twin – fall under IDM’s amorphous umbrella, blending ambient music with (sometimes subtle) dance beats.

Vermont producer Foamek aka. Jake Davis also works in the IDM wheelhouse. On a pair of new singles, he sounds like a synthesis of all 50 of that list’s albums and some other influences besides besides (he loves Scottish post-punk band Cocteau Twins). Like the best IDM music, his new songs “Someone Has Died” and “Growing Up in the Woods” are thoughtful headphones records that might just make you move. Continue reading »

Jan 232017
 

Many musicians aspire to blend the old and the new, but few do so as dramatically as Alexander Vitzthum. What he considers the “old” on his upcoming album is not ’60s soul or ’50s beach-pop. He went centuries further back, to the monks’ vocal tradition of Gregorian Chant. And for the “new” side of the equation, he used the latest in electronics: vocoders, samples, computer effects.

It makes for a wild and surprising combination, hearing Gregorian chanting sounding like if Aphex Twin joined a monastery. Vitzthum has released one song so far in what he calls The Electric Requiem, his version of the traditional “Requiem Aeternam (Introit),” and promises more to come.

“I had this concept of mixing the classical music I studied in school with the electronic music that I’ve come to love since graduating,” he tells us. “These two things haven’t been blended before as far as I know, and so I wanted to push the idea further with this piece – the idea of combining the oldest western music we have with the newest. It’s set up as a call-and-response between the solo voice (cantus firmus) and the vocoder ensemble with some musical ideas interspersed. I sampled myself singing the traditional hymn tones, then added the vocoder and effects.” Continue reading »

Jan 122017
 
chance mcniff

In a blog post last year on reclusive electronic producer Chance McNiff, Vermont alt-weekly Seven Days wrote, “McNiff has been slightly dormant in putting out his creative production — [latest release] Sequoiahedron was released in 2013. Maybe if we clap our hands and believe, he’ll magically produce new tracks for us to ponder.” Well, it must have worked because a few days ago McNiff quietly dropped a new EP on Bandcamp. Titled Thoughts Count, the album is spare and haunting, channeling at times the ambient sides of Aphex Twin or Nicolas Jaar. Continue reading »