Photos: Phantogram @ Riviera Theatre (Chicago), 4/10/14

Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, the Greenwich, New York-bred duo known as Phantogram, brought their unique blend of swirling guitars, genre-spanning samples, and breathy vocals to a sold-out crowd at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre Thursday night. Largely pulling from their sophomore LP, this year’s stellar Voices, the pair also peppered in favorites from their previous EPs and debut album, such as “Don’t Move,” “Mouth Full of Diamonds,” and “When I’m Small” amid strobing lights and clouds of smoke.

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Q&A: Ghost BC on orgiastic art and ABBA’s infernal fate

Ghost B.C.: InfestissumamGhost BC: Infestissumam (Universal Republic, 4/10/13)

Ghost BC is a Swedish metal outfit composed of five “nameless ghouls” and a singing zombie-priest whose vocals are so clean and sugary that he probably could land a role on Glee if he wasn’t always praising Satan.

One of the masked members – they don’t identify themselves publicly – recently answered a few questions about the band’s second album (an adventurous and elegantly thematic mix of Scandinavian metal, classic rock, and new wave), its controversial deluxe-version artwork, and how ABBA earned a “one-way ticket to hell.”

What was the band’s musical vision for Infestissumam?

To make a more diverse and rich album than our first (Opus Eponymous, 2010).

The music has gotten bigger and even more radio-friendly. How welcoming is the mainstream market to Satanism?

Define mainstream. We are banned from most of the chain stores throughout the US, and most American TV stations won’t have us on their late-night shows. Most commercial radio stations won’t play us. So, yes, mainstream America is absolutely welcoming us with open legs.

What was your reaction when CD manufacturers in the US refused to print the artwork for the original deluxe version of the new album, which included a painting of a blasphemous-looking orgy?

We couldn’t help but to laugh at the fact that it was the nudity that made the stir, when obviously they should’ve raised their hands over the inverted crosses. Pathetic and just downright ridiculous.

Dave Grohl produced and plays drums on an ABBA cover (“I’m a Marionette”) on the deluxe edition. How did you join forces? Did you feel a Swedish duty to Satanize your country’s most-prized musical export?

We met and quickly got talking about doing something together. That was that. And no, we are not looking to Satanize ABBA. They did a good job succeeding in show business themselves, which is always a one-way ticket to hell.

How do you manage to stay anonymous when you tour extensively?

We don’t.

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Begin the ritual: A coven enrobes in Ghost BC’s “Year Zero” video (NSFW)

Ghost BC - InfestissumamGhost BC: Infestissumam (Universal Republic, 4/16/13)

Swedish musical occultists Ghost BC have released a video for “Year Zero” from upcoming record Infestissumam. Once again with nods to The Omen, The Craft, and The Witches of Eastwick, the “Ave Satani” introduction leads into NSFW speculation on the identities of Papa Emeritus II and the Nameless Ghouls. Check it out below for a dose of flesh, young and old.

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The Groove Seeker: Mayer Hawthorne’s How Do You Do?

On a biweekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

Mayer Hawthorne: How Do You Do? (Universal Republic, 10/11/11)

Mayer Hawthorne: “A Long Time”

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As the soul revival sound goes, Mayer Hawthorne is in a league of singers who strike the proper balance between old school and new school. Yes, the singer’s act takes greatest influence from the early Northern soul era, but there’s more to Hawthorne’s music than a game of name-that-classic-45.

In exception to the Impressions EP and the New Holidays cover on his 2009 debut, A Strange Arrangement, Hawthorne’s music is wholly original. He shows his appreciation for the throwback song-craft by mirroring its fundamentals: carefully placed horn sections, sweet harmonies, tight group-vocal backing melodies, and exceptionally smooth and polished arrangements.

For his sophomore effort, Hawthorne reaches deeper into the late-’60s, early-’70s reference bag to make a no-frills record packed with tolerantly addictive soul hooks. How Do You Do? covers a lot of ground and shows some new sides to Hawthorne’s musical palette with cleaner and more robust production and instrument arrangements. Whether or not his jump to Universal Republic from Stones Throw has anything to do with it is arguable, but Hawthorne finds a way to use time-honored soul maxims to forge an individual sound.

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This Week’s Best Single: James Blake’s The Wilhelm Scream

James Blake: The Wilhelm ScreamJames Blake: The Wilhelm Scream (Universal Republic, 3/8/11)

James Blake: “The Wilhelm Scream”

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Out this week is the second single from London-based electronic producer James Blake‘s recent self-titled full-length on Atlas Records. Alongside the title track, “The Wilhelm Scream,” the single features two new B-sides, “What Was It You Said About Luck” and “Half Heat Full (Old Circular).”

Blake’s anachronistic brand of soul-infused dubstep is delicately heavy; his restrained, R&B vocals seem to float, navigating a dimly lit path of spare, echoing beats. In the recent deluge of dubstep, Blake’s music stands out by tempering the typical foreboding murkiness with humanizing touchstones like pop-song pacing and clear-eyed melody.

[Have you pledged yet? Don’t forget to visit the Kickstarter page for Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color and Music, our next book that profiles independent musicians and artists who explore color in unorthodox ways.]

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