Guest Spots: Fredrik’s exotic botanical tour

Fredrik: FloraFredrik: Flora (The Kora, 4/12/11)

Fredrik: “Rites of Spring”

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Fredrik is an experimental folk-pop band from Malmö, Sweden. On its newest album, the simply titled, elegantly crafted Flora, layers of organic instrumentation meet dark, thundering electronic elements. As its name alludes, it was recorded in the band’s own “ramshackle garden studio.” In this piece for ALARM, the band decided to go to an eccentric local flower store to explore the theme of its new album.

The Flowers of Flora
by Fredrik

As you may or may not know, we are Fredrik, a band from Sweden. We’ll be releasing our third album soon called Flora. People have started describing it as being about “things that grow.” Fair enough. But we always start out building on dream stuff and freewheeling association. So when a music journalist recently asked us, “Dewds, which flower is this record about?” we sort of didn’t agree.

One of us said, “All of them.” The other person said, “The ones that grow in darkness.” Third person said, “It isn’t.” So, to settle the confusion, we figured that we’d find out for real. In our neighbourhood in Malmö, there’s a really old, strange flower store that literally has 10,000 varieties of exotic plants (allegedly the biggest collection in the whole of Europe). So we headed there, intent on finding the all-star representative of this album’s alt-conscious musical theme. Here’s the top 15.

The Flower Store

The store entrance

15. Some damn orchid

Some damn orchid

Okay. Thank you. Nice. But here’s one for the record: orchids are for wimps.


Beats & Rhymes: Blueprint’s Adventures In Counter-Culture

Each Monday, Beats & Rhymes highlights a new and notable hip-hop, rap, DJ, or electronic record that embraces independent sensibilities.

Blueprint: Adventures In Counter-CultureBlueprint: Adventures In Counter-Culture (Rhymesayers, 4/5/11)

Blueprint: “So Alive”

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Known for his lyrical virtuosity, Columbus MC Blueprint won fame as half of Soul Position with legendary indie-rap producer RJD2. After that group dissolved, he produced and released an admittedly retro solo album, called 1988, in 2005, and went six years without releasing a new solo LP. But while RJD2 has spent his time moving away from hip hop, Blueprint’s new record, Adventures in Counter-Culture, makes it clear that he has spent his time going deeper.

As the album unfolds, its sounds swerve and mutate, breaking away from the tropes of the genre and presenting an arresting hip-hop record. Though not all of the experiments pay off, the sheer inventiveness that Blueprint puts into his production and lyrics make Adventures in Counter-Culture worth a look.

The album’s first song, “Go Hard or Go Home,” serves as the album’s manifesto. Over a beat with droning, echoing synthesizers, Blueprint outlines his intentions: “I’ma tear rap down, then rebuild the shit, with total disregard of if the pieces even fit.” From a production standpoint, Blueprint delivers on this promise. Distant, sterile, inorganic synthesizers dominate the beats, serving as an aural complement to Blueprint’s lyrical themes of disconnection and alienation.

Tim Hecker

Tim Hecker: Reluctant Neo Eno

Montreal-based ambient electronic artist Tim Hecker recorded his most recent album, Ravedeath, 1972, in one day with a single church organ in Iceland. Then came the real work: meticulous editing, rearranging, and layering.

100 Unheralded Albums from 2010

Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.

Liz Janes

Guest Spots: Pop singer Liz Janes on her noisy, experimental past

Though her music might not immediately suggest it, adventuresome pop singer Liz Janes has a particular fondness for noise and drone music.

Janes entrenched herself in the vibrant Olympia music scene before joining Sufjan Stevens and Asthmatic Kitty for albums like Done Gone Fire (2002) and Poison & Snakes (2004). Those albums put a unique spin on classic Americana and blues, but her upcoming album, Say Goodbye (Asthmatic Kitty, 12/7/10), is a pop/soul record built on Janes’ inescapably experimental roots.

Here, in a personal recount of her musical history, her songwriting theory rings especially true: “You can choose any two points to be A and B, and there is always a way to connect the two.”

Liz Janes: “I Don’t Believe” (Say Goodbye, Asthmatic Kitty, 12/7/10)

Liz Janes: “I Don’t Believe” (Say Goodbye, Asthmatic Kitty, 12/7/10)

Drones Are Forever
by Liz Janes

I was a hippy living in a trailer in the coniferous rain forest of Olympia, Washington. Eventually, my endless meandering through the woods brought me into the little downtown. It was there that I stumbled upon the gentle and brilliant rock-poet solo performances of Mirah, Phil Elvrum, and Karl Blau; the kinder-pop of Jenny Jenkins and Super Duo; the pop punk of The Need; the hot, spastic, urgent noise of The Nervous System; and the shrieking, sexy soul of Old Time Relijun.

This sparked for me a new interest in culture. This K Records / Olympia scene was really vibrant and producing truly original and interesting art. So as I was drawn further into culture, and out of the woods, it just got better and better.

Stormy Records

Behind the Counter: Stormy Records (Dearborn, MI)

Each Tuesday, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.

Stormy Records in Dearborn, Michigan was created to serve the Detroit area with a diverse selection of hard-to-find records. That simple mission, along with the unwavering passion of its two proprietors, Windy and Carl (also the ambient duo Windy & Carl), has sustained Stormy for more than a decade. Though the “weirdo music” that fills the shelves leaves some customers feeling entirely clueless, its specialized focus fosters a tight-knit community. Get to know Stormy, and check out photos of Windy and Carl’s favorite records.

Stormy Records
Windy holds Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt and Vini Reilly by The Duretti Column
The Mad Platter

Behind the Counter: Rhino Records & The Mad Platter (Claremont, CA)

Each week, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.

ALARM recently spoke with Dennis Callaci, general manager of the Inland Empire-based Rhino Records and The Mad Platter, about the sisterly record stores and the potential correlation between UFOs, Jim Morrison, and Vietnam (hint: he’s not interested). To kick off the Q&A, here’s a photo of Mad Platter employee Jonny holding his favorite record.

The Mad Platter
Jonny holds The Cure's Disintegration

Brian Eno teams with Jon Hopkins, Leo Abrahams for Warp debut

English ambient pioneer Brian Eno has partnered with fellow crossover artists Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams to release his next album, Small Craft on a Milk Sea, out November 2 on Warp Records. The album, available as CD and high-quality download, will also be available in a limited-edition or collectors’-edition box set, both designed by Eno.

We don’t know how Small Craft on a Milk Sea will sound yet, but Hopkins and Abrahams are excellent picks for collaboration.  Hopkins’ 2009 album Insides made our list of 50 unheralded albums from last year.

Dysrhythmia: Hyperactive Technicality

Strip down, way down, the layers of the moody energy of Brooklyn post-rock metal trio Dysrhythmia’s fifth album, Psychic Maps, and you can hear an indication of the agility responsible for the band’s deep intensity.

Roedelius/Story: Inlandish

With the ambient piano and keyboards of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and the production and electronic manipulation of Tim Story, Roedelius/Story creates a soundtrack to a Socratic dialogue, an existential debate in which all paths of argument lead to fecund silence.

Q&A: Hum Discusses Chicago Reunion, Lyrical Intentions, and Artistic Integrity

On 12/31/00, dropped-D alt-rockers Hum played their final show in Chicago, appearing with the Flaming Lips at the Metro.  Now, eight years to the date, the group reconvenes in the Windy City for a double dose of reunion performances.

ALARM intercepts transmissions from Hum singer Matt Talbott and bassist Jeff Dimpsey before these impending shows, the first of which is tonight at Chicago’s Double Door.