Ivan & Alyosha

Guest Spots: Ivan & Alyosha on its gospel roots

Ivan & Alyosha: Fathers Be KindIvan & Alyosha: Fathers Be Kind (Missing Piece, 2/1/11)

Ivan & Alyosha: “Glorify”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/05-Glorify.mp3|titles=Ivan & Alyosha: “Glorify”]

Seattle indie-folk band Ivan & Alyosha might sound like a duo, but the quartet’s name actually comes from the main characters in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

The band began as the solo project of Tim Wilson in 2007. Before long, Wilson linked up with guitarist Ryan Carbary, and bassist Tim Kim and Wilson’s brother, Pete, joined the band prior to its new five-song EP, Fathers Be Kind.

In this piece, penned by Pete and Tim Wilson, they reveal their deep love for gospel, and explain that even their pop songs have characteristics of the gospel tradition. After your read the words below, listen to the sounds of “Glorify” above to see how the band practices what it preaches.

The Deep Roots of Gospel Music
by Ivan & Alyosha

Lately, we have all been heavily influenced by traditional gospel music. Something magical happens when all four of us gather around a piano, have a drink, and enjoy each other’s company by singing old hymns, harmonizing together, and eventually writing a song. It’s a very natural thing for people who have a common bond to sing about things that they believe in. We usually tend to write “pop songs,” but lately we’ve realized just how deeply rooted in gospel our songs really are — even southern gospel.

Just like Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three, Elvis and The Jordanaires, or The Million Dollar Quartet, when these guys got together to sing, they would sing gospel songs. I’ve read stories about Elvis backstage after a show at the International Ballroom in Vegas; it would be like 3 AM, every famous person you could think of was in the room, and all Elvis would want to do ’til the wee hours of the morning was sing gospel jams. I sometimes fantasize about being in that room, singing harmonies with “The Memphis Mafia” and Sammy Davis Jr., but I’m happy to settle for I&A’s RV after a show, driving to the next town, getting late-night eats and drinks, and singing our guts out to “Known Only To Him,” “Softly & Tenderly,” or “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.”


Guest Spots: Beans on fiending for a good whodunit novel

Beans: End It AllBeans: End It All (Anticon, 2/15/11)

Beans: “Mellow You Out”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/beans-mellow-out.mp3|titles=Beans: “Mellow You Out”]

You probably know longtime indie rapper and producer Beans from his work in Antipop Consortium, a hip-hop group that he formed in 1997 with High Priest, M. Sayyid, and Earl Blaize. You might also know him from his extensive list of collaborations with artists like Vernon Reid, Holy Fuck, and DJ Shadow. Or maybe it’s his recently released album, End It All, featuring contributions from the likes of Four Tet, Son Lux, Sam Fogarino of Interpol, and Tobacco, among others.

What you probably don’t know him from is your local book club. But maybe you should. Beans loves mystery novels.

Why I Love Mysteries and Crime Fiction
by Beans

ALARM, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about reading how an author can depict someone getting cleverly murdered that really fascinates the shit out of me. Ask anyone who has ever toured with me, and they’ll probably say that I drink too much, but I’m also a voracious reader of mysteries and crime fiction.

The more gruesome and menacing, the merrier, I say. Bring it on! Personally, I don’t even remember how I got started reading mysteries. My father was the same way about reading, so I guess it runs in the family. As I was growing up, my dad used to read a book a night, but his genre of choice was science fiction. At the end of the day, I’d kill for a great whodunit.

In my reading taste, I tend to follow various authors and characters in a series that they’ve created. Currently, I’ve been reading Lee Child‘s ex-military, policeman-drifter Jack Reacher series. The series is both exciting and a constant page turner, as the character’s past is always catching up with him.

Benoît Pioulard

Guest Spots: Benoît Pioulard on three perfect moments in soundtracked travel

Benoît Pioulard: LastedBenoît Pioulard: Lasted (Kranky, 10/11/10)

Benoît Pioulard: “Sault”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/02-Sault.mp3|titles=Benoît Pioulard: “Sault”]

Releasing music under the name Benoît Pioulard is one Thomas Meluch, a Portland, Oregon-based ambient electronic artist. His most recent album, Lasted, is his third as Pioulard, but it’s just one of more than 10 releases for the long-independent 26-year-old who cut his teeth as a drummer in half a dozen bands. His lo-fi, pop-influenced compositions are driven by a fascination with natural sounds and the textures of decay. As someone tuned into his surroundings, Meluch describes three memorable moments in his travels where everything — time, place, and sound — came together perfectly.

A Plane, a Train, an Automobile: Three Perfect Moments in Soundtracked Travel
by Benoît Honore Pioulard

1: Loscil: “Rorschach” (Plume)
On a flight from Detroit to Portland, December 2008

In lieu of any kind of pharmaceutical calmative, I typically assemble a playlist of the slowest, most repetitive music that I can summon from my now-antique third-generation iPod when I travel. On one particular plane trip from a holiday visit with the fam, on my way back to the Pacific Northwest, I happened to put this Loscil track (hey, Scott!) in the mix and settled into my window seat over the wing.  Seat 14F, maybe?

Anyway, once the piece swelled to full volume, I noticed that the careful pace of the song was exactly in time with the flashing of the little light at the end of the wing.  Not “sort of,” not “a little bit,” but fucking exactly. And it remained so for the entire eight-ish-minute duration of the track, keeping me wholly mesmerized.  It was the kind of thing that I always want to happen when my blinker is on in the car and it syncs up with whatever’s on the stereo, but y’know it always fall out of phase.  It was perfect, and I get a little sad when I realize that something like that will probably never happen again. Alors, life goes on.


Guest Spots: Starfucker’s cell-phone-picture tour diary

Starfucker: ReptiliansStarfucker: Reptilians (Polyvinyl, 3/8/11)

Starfucker: “Bury Us Alive”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/03-Starfucker-Bury-Us-Alive.mp3|titles=Starfucker: “Bury Us Alive”]

Portland, Oregon-based Starfucker (or STRFKR, if you’re into the whole no-vowels thing) has made a name for itself by crafting consistently catchy, effervescent electronic pop. Since its inception as a solo project, founding member Josh Hodges has added three members, and the band inked a record deal with Polyvinyl last summer.

With a new album, Reptilians, set for an early March release, the band is on the road, plying its trade. We caught up with multi-instrumentalist Keil Corcoran, and he gave us a grainy, lo-res glimpse into the wild world of STRFKR.

Starfucker’s Cell-Phone-Picture Tour Diary
by Keil Corcoran

My name is Keil. I play drums for Starfucker. I have a piece-of-shit phone called the Motozine ZN5. I have this phone because:

1. It was free
2. It has a five-megapixel camera
3. I am broke
4. It was free

This camera is by no means fit to photograph anything of true consequence. It is, however, terribly handy on tour when awesome things happen/appear.


Ryan [Bjornstad] and Shawn [Glassford] in Seattle looking fine.


Guest Spots: Epstein on Rhythmic Trash Sculptures

Epstein is Roberto Carlos Lange, a.k.a. sample-based collage maestro Helado Negro. Known for dense pastiches of drum-machine beats and piled MPC-filtered ephemera, as well as flashes of pop and psychedelia, Lange just released a new LP on Asthmatic Kitty entitled Sealess See. Leave it to a man with a wildly inventive, ever-changing sound to make something out of nothing. In this piece he penned for ALARM, Lange tells the story behind his collaboration with artist David Ellis and their trash-based music machines.

Rhythmic Trash Sculptures
by Roberto Carlos Lange (Epstein)

Video 1 (Quicktime)
Video 2 (Quicktime)

When I started working on the Rhythmic Trash pieces with David Ellis, it happened at a time when I felt defeated in NY and wasn’t trying to hang around for too long. The first time I came over, everything was all theory, and we didn’t have a good direction on how to get everything to work. We took so many things apart and saw sparks and smokes many times. The idea was to make an acoustic instrument out of trash that looked like a pile of trash. No wires showing or any electric plumbing out for the eye to see, just simply a pile of trash that came to life and sounded like nothing you had heard before.

Tim Hecker

Guest Spots: Tim Hecker on the loudest instruments in history

Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky, 2/14/11)

Tim Hecker: “Hatred of Music I”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Hatred_of_Music_I.mp3|titles=Tim Hecker: “Hatred of Music I”]

Experimental electronic musician Tim Hecker recorded his forthcoming album, Ravedeath, 1972, over the course of one day, using a pipe organ in a church in Reykjavik, Iceland. As with the majority of Hecker’s work, the record was shaped by computer-based post-production tweaking and editing (with engineering help from Icelandic jack-of-all-trades Ben Frost). His ambient soundscapes comprise ever-changing layers of noise and melody, building toward monolithic sonic density and hemmed in by meticulous attention to detail.

In addition to making music, Hecker also studied the cultural history of urban noise in North America at McGill University in Montreal (where he now teaches a course called “Sound Culture”), making him the perfect candidate to expound on important moments in thunderous aural innovation.


Guest Spots: Meshuggah on the Drumkit from Hell

Meshuggah: Catch Thirtythree

Meshuggah: “Re-Inanimate” (Catch Thirtythree, Nuclear Blast, 5/30/05)

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/05-Re-Inanimate.mp3|titles=Meshuggah: “Re-Inanimate”]

Extreme metal band Meshuggah tends to do exactly what it wants. That attitude has spawned some of the heaviest and most progressive metal of the past two decades. On its 2005 album, Catch Thirtythree, its disregard for convention came in the form of programming software, used to produce all of the drum sounds on a long-form score-style epic. Drummer Tomas Haake and vocalist Jens Kidman explained the process of making the album, and the advantages and stigmas of the “Drumkit from Hell.”

The Drumkit from Hell and the Making of Catch Thirtythree

Tomas: Basically, the Drumkit from Hell is stuff we use on a daily basis whenever we’re writing songs, and the main difference with Catch Thirtythree is that instead of me as the drummer learning the songs, we just kept them programmed on the record. There are a few different reasons for that. Mainly, what we wanted to do with that album — this was an idea that we had for probably 10 years — we wanted to do an experimental piece that was just a one-track full-length album. That album was the first and only album that we’ve written as a band, sitting around the same computer, just trying to improvise and come up with guitar riffs and stuff like that.

The Boxer Rebellion

Guest Spots: Adam Harrison of the Boxer Rebellion on Latin jazz

The Boxer Rebellion: The Cold StillThe Boxer Rebellion: “Step Out Of The Car” (The Cold Still, Absentee, 2/8/11)

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/02-Step-Out-Of-The-Car.mp3|titles=The Boxer Rebellion: “Step Out Of The Car”]

British rock band The Boxer Rebellion made a splash in the US when it was featured as an unsigned band pursued by a talent scout (“I’m a Mac” Justin Long) in the film Going the Distance. The Cold Still, out in February, is the band’s third full-length, following Exits in 2005 and Union in 2009. We tapped the Rebellion’s bassist, Adam Harrison, to pen a piece explaining the influence of Latin jazz on his musical development.

How Latin Jazz Unlocked the Secrets of the Bass
by Adam Harrison of The Boxer Rebellion

Everybody knows that the bass guitar is the easiest instrument to start from scratch. Like many before me, I had learned guitar and then joined a band that already had a lead guitarist and no bass player. As the “inferior” guitarist (and, in retrospect, the smaller 12-year-old), I filled the role. However, concern at the sudden realisation that I would never be Kurt Cobain soon disappeared when I started playing the bass. I think the deep end perfectly made up for my lack of height, and the more I started to follow the bass players in my favourite bands, the more I realised that they were, in fact, the coolest in the group.

Aaron Turner

Guest Spots: Aaron Turner’s favorite musicians / visual artists

Aaron Turner, founder of Hydra Head Records and frontman for pioneering metal band Isis, is no stranger to the art of making an album, from the studio to the shelves.

In addition to laying down guitar riffs and vocals, Turner is an accomplished visual artist, responsible for cover art, layout, and package design for numerous bands. This unique knack for the aural and visual aspects of music inspired us to ask Turner about his favorite fellow double threats.

My Favorite Musicians/Artists/Designers
by Aaron Turner

Album art is and always has been an extremely crucial component of the experience of an album for me. Though there certainly have been records I’ve loved that have had terrible cover art, most of those that have left an indelible footprint in my mind have been those with a visual presentation of power equal to that of the music.

When I think back on the records that have shaped my ideas about what it means to make music, I usually have a tangible feeling that comes with that recollection, a sense of the atmosphere that the record created for me and how that atmosphere was accentuated or more clearly defined by the accompanying sleeve art. As that has been true in the past for me, so it is now; when checking out new records, I’m consistently drawn to those with compelling covers that draw me in and make me what to know what’s going on inside.

In the last 10 years or so, I’ve become particularly interested in musicians who are also active participants in designing or creating artwork for the albums that they make. It seems logical to me that those people would have the best understanding of what the music is about and the clearest idea of how to communicate that visually. Some of my favorite album covers now are those that have been made wholly or in part by the musicians who also have created the music itself.

Below is a list of people who reside in that category of musician/designer/artist and who have excelled at both aspects of making memorable albums.

Fangs Anal Satan (Boris)

1. Fangs Anal Satan (Boris)

Boris has made some tremendous albums over the years, and the music has always been matched by the equally excellent illustration and design. Like the band, which has mutated through a series of different incarnations (in sound rather than personnel), so too have the visuals, without ever dropping in consistency of quality.

From album to album, numerous tactics have been employed: rigid restraint bordering on minimalism, unorthodox packaging materials (colored foam, die-cut cardboard, hand-painted boxes containing dried flowers, etc.), psychedelic fantasy scenes paying homage to ’70s album artist Roger Dean, parodies of classic metal logos (Venom), extensive and beautifully arranged LP-sized photo books.  Each release is a special artifact in its own right and as such warrants even further focus towards the music and the packaging from the listener/viewer.

Das Racist

Guest Spots: Das Racist’s favorite political rap songs

Das Racist occupies a unique place in hip hop. Its free-associative rap goes a mile a minute, riddled with the sort of postmodern deconstructionist lyrics that make publications like the New York Times rave. Much has been written about the group and its perceived seriousness, which, in turn, is turned into more fodder for Das Racist’s rhymes (as evidenced in the track “hahahaha jk,” posted below).

Whatever your opinion of its music, there’s no question that Das Racist wears its cultural and political awareness on its proverbial sleeve. With that in mind, we asked Ashok Kondabolu of the Brooklyn-based trio to name his favorite political rap songs.

Das Racist: “hahahaha jk” (Sit Down, Man, Mishka / Mad Decent / Greedhead)

Das Racist: “hahahaha jk”

1. Public Enemy: “Shut ‘Em Down” (Pete Rock Remix)

My favorite remix of all time. Pete’s short verse is ill (and sort of hilarious), and the beat’s insistence over and under Chuck D‘s screaming-ass voice is incredible. The clipped rapping on here serves really well as some “movement music.”

“I testified
My mama cried
Black people died
When the other man lied”

I mean, that’s an awesome way to start a song about corporate redistribution of wealth!

Todd Snider

Guest Spots: Singer/songwriter Todd Snider’s favorite musical storytellers

We asked Todd Snider, to tell us about some of his favorite musical storytellers. What we got was a collection of musings on the writers and performers who have informed his stage persona, which is captured on his new double-disc live album, The Storyteller (Aimless, 2/1/11). Read on for some of “The Storyteller’s” favorite storytellers.

My Five Favorite Musical Troubadours
by Todd Snider

1. Bob Dylan

For me, when it comes to being a fan of a troubadour, I have to laugh with you before I’ll cry with you, simply because most troubadours expect you to cry over their journal entries with them. Most troubadours are awful people. Bob, however, is not. I think he’s America’s finest contribution to the world, of any kind. He does not have a song I don’t like, and while he doesn’t talk much on stage, when he does, it’s precise, funny, wise, and everything else. There really is no point in anyone else doing this troubadour thing. Hell, I once paid for a tape of Bob arguing on the phone…and I thought it was a great album.

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.