Q&A: Aesthetic Apparatus distills beauty from poor choices

In a decade that will be characterized by staggering unemployment and one of the greatest recessions in recent history, it is refreshing to hear Aesthetic Apparatus’s story.  Forging a partnership based on a shared love of music, art, and design, Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski left their jobs at a Madison, Wisconsin, graphic-design firm in 2002 to do things their way.

Their creation — Aesthetic Apparatus — is a Minneapolis-based commercial art and printmaking studio that has designed everything from gallery art to logos for local pizza shops to concert posters for bands such as Cake and The Black Keys. Leaving a successful graphic-design studio to start something for themselves didn’t promise Ibarra and Byzewski immediate success, but it did set the stage for Aesthetic Apparatus to become modern-day purveyors of pop-culture cool.

Ibarra recently took some time to talk about Aesthetic Apparatus’s unique vision.

Q&A: Ill Bill on getting personal, Henry Rollins and Chuck D, and a changing Brooklyn

Ill Bill: The Grimy AwardsIll Bill: The Grimy Awards (Uncle Howie / Fat Beats, 2/26/13)

“Paul Baloff”

Ill Bill: “Paul Baloff”

It’s one thing to say a lot on an album; it’s quite another to actually have something to say. Drawing from artists who are equal parts entertainer and activist, Ill Bill uses his new solo album, The Grimy Awards, as a platform to both tell his story of growing up around drugs and violence in Brooklyn and sound the alarm against blind acquiescence to authority.

The former Non Phixion MC, coming off recent collaborations with La Coka Nostra and Vinnie Paz, teams with a host of collaborators and producers — including Large Professor, Pete Rock, El-P, HR of Bad Brains, and more — to showcase both the scars and the life lessons that come from being a hip-hop heavyweight with nearly three decades in the ring.

Jazz saxophonist Matana Roberts launches gender vlog

NYC experimental jazz saxophonist Matana Roberts has posted the first installment in her series of video blogs that attempt to explain being a woman in the male-dominated world of experimental jazz and the femininity of music in general. In an introspective monologue, the jazz collaborator gives an intimate look into the mind of a female jazz artists through rants, questions, and poignant narratives.



Sitting in a bustling coffee shop in Seattle, it occurs to me that Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn — simply Mirah for the purposes of her records — has nothing to prove.

Since her full-length solo debut, You Think It’s Like This but Really It’s Like This, she’s carved out a niche for herself as a much loved and respected member of the Northwest indie elite, winning accolades for a series of lo-fi albums that have met with broad critical acclaim.

I’m also talking with cellist Lori Goldston and accordionist Kyle Hanson. They don’t have much to prove either. They’ve made their marks in Northwest art music as founding members of Black Cat Orchestra, Spectratone International, and the duo The Shifting Light; they’ve scored silent films and collaborated on dance, music, and theatre projects. Goldston has played with artists like Nirvana, David Byrne, and John Doe.

Though Goldston and Hanson have, in fact, already once collaborated with Mirah by way of Black Cat Orchestra — on To All We Stretch the Open Arm, a collection of politically-minded covers of works by Kurt Weill, Stephen Foster, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and others — Share This Place is a whole other animal.

Paintings from the Rapture: Alexia Stamatiou

Trawlers, 2004, gouache, ink, and pencil on paper, 7” x 9″

Looking through the gallery window, Alexia Stamatiou’s paintings seem like a celebration of color and life, an eye-catching display against the pristine white of the Sunday Gallery located in New York City’s Lower East Side.

Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective: Watina

Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective - WatinaFor the past decade, producer Ivan Duran from Stonetree Records of Belize has gathered Garifuna artists to create exciting, impeccably produced new music that brims with the same timeless freshness as the finest roots reggae. In the process, Belize’s biggest star, Andy Palacio, abandoned the upbeat but mindless local punta dance music for a mellow yet funky, incantatory sound based on traditional rhythms.

High Priest: Born Identity

High Priest - Born IdentityMany times in the musical sphere, when different elements from different genres are combined, the result is labeled “experimental.” High Priest is doing something different, and doesn’t try to fit in any specific musical category.

The Glasspack: Dirty Women

The Glasspack - Dirty Women Louisville’s The Glasspack wears its Southern heritage like a badge of honor. Tales of barbeques, whiskey, and cars flow through their music like the Mississippi River through the delta valley.

Bleubird: RIP USA

Bleubird - RIP USA With RIP USA (Endemik), Bleubird’s deep and socially introspective lyrics beg you to listen to them because they are actually saying something. At times, though, there is so much dissing, it would be nice to hear the emcee say something progressive.