Though eight years apart in age, siblings Natalie and Elliot Bergman have a long musical history. Whether playing together in church in their youth, hearing James Brown and Neil Young records from their parents, or soaking up influences on trips abroad, the two have a shared musical heritage that has manifested itself in Wild Belle, a multi-cultural pop project that was born from Natalie’s demos and rounded by Elliot’s professional experience in Nomo.
Isles, the group’s debut full-length, is a blend of pre-1980s reggae and rocksteady, dub, R&B, rock, and African influences, all held together by Natalie’s airy vocals and lovelorn lyrics. Here she speaks about familial dynamics, quickly signing to a major, and using loss as inspiration.
There are plenty of prose and poetry journals in the world — we profiled one just a few weeks ago — but what about a comics journal? Award-winning anthology series Papercutter is just such a publication; this ongoing series is “dedicated to showcasing the best young, underexposed, and emerging comic-book artists.” Published quarterly by Tugboat Press in slim black-and-white volumes, the Portland-based zine has just released its 17th issue of original comics stories.
Jason Martin provides the seven autobiographical stories for this issue, each illustrated by a different artist. Using a different artist for each story seems a bit unorthodox, but the effect is rewarding; a cohesive thread of thought runs through the book, but the art shifts in style and medium with each artist. Each story takes on a slightly different tone depending on the type of art used in it. Stories set earlier in Martin’s childhood have looser, more cartoon-ish art, while the college-era tales use tight pen-and-ink strokes.
Martin opens with a childhood story of his own beginnings in comic-book writing, in the affecting “The Weeper.” He connects his early days of writing Batman stories with a personal “self-control” problem at school. Martin’s shifts between his real life and the life of his character, “The Weeper,” are well handled, as is his realization that he roots for his “villainous” analogue more than for Batman. He writes about missing out on childhood mainstay Nickelodeon, and about seeing a pretty girl singing in her car at a streetlight. The latter story, “Streetlight,” is only six panels long, but the dynamic art really pops, and a relatable sense of after-school camaraderie says everything about this memory for Martin.
Each week, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.
For Gloucester, MA-based Mystery Train Records, vinyl is the name of the game — it always has been and probably always will be. In fact, the store doesn’t order any new records. If you’re in the area and want to thumb through some carefully selected records — and maybe unearth a true vintage gem or two — look no further. We spoke with one of Mystery Train’s employees, Tim, and he gave us the lowdown on how the Train just keeps on runnin’.
What are the origins of Mystery Train?
Mystery Train began 30 years ago in Harvard Square, Cambridge selling only used vinyl (CDs did not exist), expanded over the years to five stores, then settled back to one large (most vinyl in New England) store in Gloucester, MA. Jack Evans, who originated the business, is now partners with Tim who will continue to focus on providing interesting vinyl for current and future generations of record fiends.
Carnatic and Hindustani music, the classical music forms of North and South India, provide the base for the Raga Bop Trio. Saxophonist George Brooks is an established fixture in the Indian fusion scene as a devout student and purveyor of Hindustani music. He has collaborated with India’s most respected artists and his deep understanding of raga is a vital element to the trio’s melodic force. Guitarist Prasanna brings an avant-garde approach to the table by taking the ornamentations and tones found in South Indian Carnatic music and transferring them to the electric guitar. While he is able to mimic the subtle microtones of the sitar, he is also able to incorporate within them modern shape-shifting technology, demonstrated by his 2006 Carnatic/rock tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ganesha Land.
As Helen Money, Chicago-based cellist Alison Chesley transforms a commonly known classical instrument into a mighty weapon for composing and arranging furious one-woman rock concertos. But unlike the explosive and menacing songs on her second album, In Tune, Chesley is unassuming in person.
Inspired less by drummers and more by instrumentalists such as John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, and Ornette Coleman, drumming virtuoso Zach Hill begins his journey as a bandleader with Astrological Straits.