Monday, September 16, 2019

Kim Gordon shares new single, ‘Air BnB’

Check out its cheeky “video”.

Kim Gordon today (September 11) shared a new single from her forthcoming debut album, No Home Record. ‘Air BnB’ comes in the form of a cheeky music “video”, which is actually just a bunch of white-on-black text.

“This video was going to be shot in an Air Bnb”, it begins. “There wasn’t any money though to make it”. Instead, the visual lays it all out in a way that allows the reader to produce the satirical spectacle in their own mind, from the style of the proposed house (“think faux mid-century modern on top of the Hollywood Hills”) and its decor (also all black and white, even the dog) to the shots of Gordon crawling on the shag carpet and rubbing her guitar on everything.

‘Air BnB’ follows previously released singles ‘Sketch Artist’ and ‘Murdered Out’, continuing No Home Record’s theme of the “American idea… of purchasing utopia”. The album is out on October 11 via Matador Records.

Alison Sudol is back!

After a six-year hiatus, Alison Sudol returned onto the music scene with “Moon” on Nov. 2 of last year, under her own name. She finished out the Midwestern part of her tour at A&R Music Bar in Columbus on Monday, Sep. 9.

However, it wasn’t as if she had gone off the grid after her previous album “Pines” came out in 2012; Sudol continues to have a comprehensive acting career since her first role as Kaya in the two-time Global Globe-winning series “Transparent” in 2014. Sudol was even named one of “The 7 Most Exciting Newcomers on TV this Season” in Jan. 2015 by Elle for her role as Emma Wilson in the miniseries “Dig.”

Many more may recognize Sudol as Queenie Goldstein in the “Fantastic Beasts” series, prequel films of the “Harry Potter” series. However, despite these successes, Sudol clarifies the reason behind the hiatus in an interview with WWD last year. 

“I didn’t want to go back into music and pretend I took a hiatus because I wanted to start acting,” said Sudol. “I took a hiatus because I couldn’t bear it.”

“It” is “a damp, grey blanket of absence hanging across the landscape of [her] mind,” as explained in her note “to you who may need this” on her website, a reference to her recent diagnosis of clinical depression and anxiety.

Sudol reveals she has battled with “pain and shame” for as long as she could remember, and they affected her performance as a musician. Sudol said, “last time that I toured, I was dealing with all of this. I hid it from everyone.”

Sudol’s honesty and willingness to be vulnerable in her note and interviews extends to her performance in concert as well. Her songs are deeply emotional, discussing love and pain and she looks fragile onstage, like a shy teenager instead of a woman with an established career in her thirties.

Sudol shines on the stage. At one point, she keeps rhythm with her own drumsticks and captures the audience’s attention with her passion. When she finishes, she’s out of breath and admits that once she accidentally threw a stick into the audience. 

Local band Suitcase Runaway opened for Sudol. The band is no stranger to A&R Music Bar, having opened for Gnash at the venue in June. All of the members grew up in Cleveland and have performed at a variety of venues including Grog Shop, Mahall’s and The Flats for the Brite Winter Music & Arts Festival last February, although two of the band members currently reside in Columbus. 

Sudol asserted before she began her tour that she would not perform any songs by her band A Fine Frenzy because the name brings up unhappy memories of sexual harassment she faced. But amid pleads for an encore, she sings her most famous song, “Almost Lover,” which has more than 55 million listens on Spotify.

After the show, Sudol manned her merchandise booth, taking the time to take pictures with fans and signing posters. Up close and offstage, Sudol is the same. She stays until her last fan leaves, chatting with everyone who stops by and it is evident that she is grateful for her fans and excited to be performing again.

Sudol continues her tour this week with stops in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ariel Zetina, Ciel and Riobamba to contribute to Or.VA1 compilation

The compilation will be released on World Mental Health Day.

Orphan. Records has enlisted 15 musicians to contribute to their upcoming charity compilation Or.VA1.

All proceeds will be donated to the New York branch of the Child Mind Institute, a non-profit that works with children struggling with mental health and learning disorders.

Or.VA1 will feature appearances from previous Orphan. contributors Joey G ii and Klein Zage, New York-based producers such as Riobamba and Luis (aka DJ Python) and many other producers and DJs including Ariel Zetina and Ciel.
The label has shared a sample track ‘Mutual Counsel’ by Reckonwrong, streaming below.
Along with their tracks, each artist will contribute some writing about their own struggles with mental health. As the label writes, “With both the release and our accompanying article, we hope to shed light on an issue we feel very passionate about in attempts to spark conversations in our industry and beyond and raise money for a charity doing incredibly important work.”

Or.VA1 will be released on October 10.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Brandi Carlile on leveling the playing field, one venue at a time

Brandi Carlile is not just paving a road with her good intentions, she’s creating a brand-new highway from the ground up. With her tireless work ethic and hard-won success, the critically acclaimed and popularly adored singer-songwriter is playing to some of the biggest crowds of her career while trying to address issues of female representation that have tarnished the music industry for decades. With the momentum of taking home three Grammys for her 2018 album “By The Way, I Love You,” Carlile will be touring throughout the remainder of the year playing such venues like Philly’s Mann Center tonight and a huge show at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, September 14. I caught up with the singer to talk about her journey to this moment and the importance of using your platform for good.

"I think that representation, on a level as it pertains to my daughters, is important because women and men are so different that there is an entire part, in fact, half of the story of the human race not being told with music right now in the way that it should be in the numbers that it should be told in," - Brandi Carlile

Your 2018 record “By The Way, I Forgive You” seems like a record that needed to be made in our current us-versus-them landscape but will remain timeless after the fact. The two centerpieces of the album, “The Joke” and “The Mother,” seem to be giving advice to your daughter Evangeline. Was that your feeling going into writing this record?

Brandi Carlile: Yeah. And also, I think trying to be a salve or soothing in some way to parts of the world that felt not just slighted by change in the atmosphere that we all feel, but also kind of laughed at by it and picked on by it. You know, we ushered in a new realm I think of insensitivity and unkindness with our sort of political atmosphere and I was kind of feeling like, all right, laugh now, you know? And so, in the same way that you want your children to feel in school, like the era of bullying and being ostracized ends in redemption, I wanted people to feel the same way about the era of bullying and ostracization that’s kind of tempering our country right now.

A lot of people look at an artist’s trajectory as starting from their first releases but don’t understand that getting to that release is a lifespan of an artist unto itself. Doing so well at the Grammys and now playing these large venues must seem like such a victory lap with that in mind.

Brandi Carlile: Yeah, it’s true. I mean, I’m only looking down the hill, you know? It’s like, for some reason, both an impressive climb and look at it and go, God, that’s steep. You know? And for some reason I’ve been able to approach the climb and look at it and go, that ain’t that bad. This is actually really fun and gradual and then get to the top of it and look down and go, “holy s—t.” It’s like that for me. I have always felt like I’m on the brink of all my dreams coming true since I was like entering karaoke contests and s—t. You know, the thing is I’m not saying it hasn’t been a struggle. I have washed my hair in a lot of gas station sinks and I’ve had a lot of unsavory times.

A big constant in your career has been your creative partnership with twin brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth. You’ve referred to your partnership as being in a band that just happens to be called “Brandi Carlile.” It seems like a really safe way to keep a good perspective on things.

Brandi Carlile: Yeah, I think it’s safe. People create characters all the time to do this job because it’s a dangerous job. They change their name, they change the way they dress. They do something so that they can differentiate between who they are and who they’re going to be. It doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy being that person on stage, or in the job, it just means that they have to have something to preserve. And whenever you are in something in and you call it your name, I think you have to be really, really careful. And for me and the twins, it was accidental that it wound up being that way, you know? It was just the way it was at the restaurant and busing level that we started when we met and when we got our record deal, we just didn’t consider it. But then it developed into starting stuff about publishing. We put the brakes on and we were like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s make this Brandi Carlile thing an even split, no matter what we do, even though it’s called, you know, Brandi Carlile.” Nobody’s possessive over their intellectual property or over their name or recognition. So we’ve split it up that way. Knowing that my name wasn’t leaving me anymore in that way. Which is good, because I never really liked my name. That sounds conceptually really strange, I think, on the outside. But when you do this with twins, you have to understand that they’re kind of ... not in a negative way, but like codependent by default. They don’t even have their own face. So it’s like when you enter into this kind of thing with them and you say, listen, we’re all “Brandi Carlile.”

Whether through your charity work or addressing the issue of female representation at major festivals with your Girls Just Wanna Festival, you have always used your platform for good. How important do you think it is to lead by example in that way?

Brandi Carlile: I think it’s ethically important. I mean, so first of all, the twins have never balked at it for one second. Even before discussing feminism and representation, which was cool and being discussed in the mainstream. They never once questioned that. I think always been powerful to see these two 6-foot tattooed men standing behind and backing up a woman singer vocally. It’s really fundamentally supportive in a really powerful way. So I think that’s really important for women to see, to a certain extent. We spend a lot of time being background singers, playing tambourines or being this kind of utility player. The girl in the band. It’s a role reversal of that. And then representation as a whole, I see as a really important problem because people know the work that I’ve done for refugees and displaced people has given me perspective on what we cry persecution about. I think we have to be really careful about that. I think that representation, on a level as it pertains to my daughters, is important because women and men are so different that there is an entire part, in fact, half of the story of the human race not being told with music right now in the way that it should be in the numbers that it should be told in. That’s a big thing that affects young people. I know that I found huge parts of my identity in the arts. I don’t know that I would have a family or would be married if I weren’t told by people like me in the arts that it’s possible. And so I just think it’s really important that you take a good, hard look at particularly the genres that are extremely exclusive right now, like the roots and country.

With that being said, what is the story behind your new supergroup, The Highwomen, with Marrin Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby? It seems like you are putting the country music world on notice.

Brandi Carlile: We’re trying to tell the stories that we felt we needed to hear to be the people that we are. And some — some women, some girls in rural parts of America — only have access to country music. That’s all they’re allowed to listen to. That was where I was in my childhood at the time, and even though I didn’t have very many gay women singers in my youth, just the women’s stories, just stories of women coming of age are really important to young girls. The Dixie Chicks were really important to young girls. So we’re trying to be that thing for our daughters and hopefully open the door so that more people can be that thing, you know?

Make sure to catch Brandi Carlile on tour this year and check out her new album with the Highwomen below...

New documentary tracks thrilling comeback of Liam Gallagher

Rock and roll is never short on rags-to-riches stories. But what about those artists who make it to the top of the mountain only to slide back down knowing what they had seen up there? The new documentary, “Liam Gallagher: As It Was” follows the hard-won comeback story of the famous singer of one of the most popular rock bands of the past 30 years, Oasis.  

The band broke up unceremoniously in 2009 after his brother (and chief songwriter of the band) Noel Gallagher had decided to leave the band after one of the siblings’ most heated blow-ups before a gig outside of Paris. As defiant, in the most entertaining way possible, as the two hard-headed and talented brothers are, the band has remained broken up since that fight despite the pleading of ravenous fans all around the world. 

As the documentary shows, the time between then and now has been a difficult road for Liam. As his brother has been releasing music with his longtime project, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Liams post-Oasis career went through a misstart. He and the rest of the band, sans-Noel, went on to form the short-lived Beady Eye which released two albums that only attracted a fraction of the audience their old band did. When the band announced their breakup after their second album, 2011’s “BE,” Liam was left alone without a purpose and away from the limelight that his old band controlled with so much swagger and panache at the height of their powers.

Lightening was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor before Liam’s incredible comeback. As a documentarian who has worked with Paul McCartney, Jamiroquai and the Brit-pop band Kasabian, Lightening has a way of getting candid with artists and immediately struck up a friendship with Liam ahead of the recording of “As You Were.”   

“We just became really good friends,” says Lightening of the beginnings of this project. “It was second nature for me to be there and film everything. I didn’t know at the time that we would go on this journey.”

As he filmed more and more, he realized that Liam was on to something special. This became more clear as Liam started performing live with his solo band at festivals throughout Europe. 

“It was just the atmosphere and I thought there was something special happening here and I’m privy to be capturing it all,” says Lightening. “People really didn’t properly listen to me until the album had done as well as it had done and then all of the sudden, film companies started being interested in this film.”

This new interest brought on Fitzgerald to help flesh the film out. An Oasis fan from an early age, Fitzgerald had made a name for himself with the Conor McGregor documentary “Notorious,” and found a similarity between the two in their persistent fighting spirits. 

“I definitely saw weird parallels between him and Conor,” Fitzgerald explains. “He kind of gears himself up before going out to sing like a boxer, almost. Like he’s going out for a fight and not a concert. That’s very Liam. There’s not many like him. There’s not many who can control those crowds now, or has his stage presence or attitude.” 

The confidence of the Gallagher brothers could either be an endless source of entertainment or turn off those not fans of their music during their heyday. But given the nature of the film as a long-form character exploration of someone who had a history of antagonistic relationships with the press, what was Fitzgerald’s approach to getting candid responses from Gallagher? 

“Oasis in the ’90s took the media by storm,” Fitzgerald says. “Them getting into more and more trouble just created more and more tension. They’re masters of staying in the headlines. They learned that by being themselves, they’d find their own unique voice. Liam still has that. He calls everyone else ‘vanilla.’ I knew he couldn’t be like that all the time. There is an element of that where he’s at an award show or around paparazzi, he turns it up to 90. It’s all within him, but there’s also a human side to him. You’re just trying to get to that, trying to catch him with his guard down. It was quite difficult to be honest. He’s quite aware of the camera. I hope we managed to cut through some of it. I think he see a human side of him, because everyone is human. He’s a nice guy and he’s a lot more chill now at 40.” 

You can catch the film “Liam Gallagher: As It Was” in select theaters Sept. 13 and VOD on Oct. 8. Gallagher’s new album, “Why Me? Why Not.”, will be released on Sept. 20.

Bauhaus announce one-off reunion show for 2019

All four band members will play together for the first time in 13 years

Bauhaus have announced a one-off reunion show which will see all four members perform together on stage.

The goth-rock icons – comprised of Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and David J – will play at Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles on November 3, according to a press release.

Tickets are available from this Friday (September 13) at 10 am Pacific Time. It’s not yet known whether further dates will be announced.

Meemo Comma crafts “a romantic eulogy to autumn and winter” on Sleepmoss

Inspired by her daily walks on the South Downs with her dog.

Meemo Comma, aka Brighton-based producer Lara Rix-Martin, will debut on Planet Mu with a new album, Sleepmoss.

Described by the Objects Limited founder as “a romantic eulogy to autumn and winter”, the album was inspired by the landscapes encountered on her daily dog walks, as well as paintings of William Turner.

Listen to ‘Tanglewood’, a new track that weaves together earthy drones, snatches of bright woodwind and knotty, organic sound design.

The album is intended as “a time for peaceful inner reflection, amidst the backdrop of British woodlands, dramatic skies and turbulent storms”, explains the producer. “Finding peace with mental health and being mindful of the beauty in death and endings.”

Sleepmoss arrives on October 25 and is available to pre-order now. Check out the album cover and tracklist below.


01. ‘Reaping’
02. ‘Night Rain’
03. ‘Murmur’
04. ‘Tanglewood’
05. ‘Winter Sun’
06. ‘Amethyst Deceiver’
07. ‘Windross’
08. ‘Lichen’
09. ‘Meadhead’
10. ‘Firn’
11. ‘Sleepmoss’
12. ‘Psithur’

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Behind Holly Herndon’s Radically Human AI Music

When I meet up with Holly Herndon for lunch in Soho in mid-April, congratulations are in order, even though it’s still a month before her third full-length album, Proto, is to be released. The day before, she had defended her doctoral thesis on ethical and aesthetic issues in AI in music at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, a subset of the school’s music department. The center has an impressive history—it’s where composer John Chowning first discovered a key technique called FM synthesis, and this lucrative patent still enables the center to fund projects that, according to its website, use “computer-based technology both as an artistic medium and as a research tool.” Herndon, who has a way of parsing what should be daunting technical terminology into language that is not only easy to understand but also compelling, does the same for the center: “It’s this really cool pink building up the hill from the music department, full of computer nerds,” she says. To celebrate the accomplishment, her label sent her a chocolate cake decorated with blue frosting that spelled out her new official title: “Dr. Herndon.”

Born in the mountains in East Tennessee, but now based in Berlin, Herndon started singing in her church choir. More recently, she’s spent years studying computer music and making it sound radically human. For her first official release, Movement (2012), which she started working on while studying electronic music at Mills College, she created custom vocal patches that she manipulated live, using her highly processed voice to create subterranean club music. Her sophomore album, 2015’s Platform, took these human-oriented sonics a step further, casting light on the ways in which social media and similar platforms have further ossified preexisting power structures and made surveillance even more quotidian than before. One of the album’s standout tracks, “Chorus,” translates her browsing history data into samples that Herndon masterfully arranges—she’s essentially surveilling herself—and “Lonely at the Top” holds the distinction of being the very first song on a commercial album aimed to trigger ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response (that tingling sensation you might feel at the base of your skull when you hear a whispering voice or get a head massage—there’s a whole YouTube subculture dedicated to inducing the sensation in others).

Proto is essentially her doctoral thesis come to life. Today, Vogue is premiering Birthing Proto, a documentary produced in partnership with Dropbox, which shines light onto Herndon’s process. Central to Proto’s uncanny valley-esque vocals is something called Spawn (probably because Herndon describes it as her “AI baby”). Spawn is years in the making—after receiving a German grant in 2018 dedicated to composers implementing novel technologies in their work (in honor of Beethoven, no less), Herndon and her partner, artist Mat Dryhurst, alongside musician and developer Jules LaPlace, bought a GPU gaming PC that they customized without any particular end goals in mind. “That was a beautiful way to approach it—just a purely experimental way.”

Spawn uses machine-learning programming to produce sound on its own from scratch, thereby “singing” by mimicking the voices of Herndon, Dryhurst, LaPlace, and an ensemble made up of her friends or anyone Herndon knew who had voice training or a musical background, which she assembled weekly at her home in Berlin. Herndon created training sets, which Spawn uses to create its own musical contribution. Depending on what Herndon and her collaborators input, it can take Spawn anywhere between five minutes to a day to produce its own interpretation of the ensemble voices. They also recorded an entire audience at Berlin’s cacophonous Martin-Gropius-Bau, to make a public voice for Spawn to train from too. At times, the results sound almost uncannily pure—the quality of the live vocals of “Cannan (Live Training)” are so resonant and real that you can almost visualize the space they were singing in. At other times, the choir is a bit disorienting; it’s often hard to differentiate between completely synthesized sounds, a human voice that’s been modulated, or Spawn straddling both of those worlds.

When Herndon starts explaining Spawn in more detail, she gets so animated that she starts to break a sweat. But after taking her sweatshirt off, while breaking down her intent for her AI baby, Herndon bemoans how much AI research in music is focused on training neural networks to approximate a particular piece of music or style. She uses Beethoven, naturally, as an example. “If you feed a neural net a bunch of Beethoven MIDI data—pitch material and rhythm and note range—the neural network can statistically analyze those relationships and then come out with a piece of music that’s in the style of Beethoven, but isn’t a copyrighted Beethoven song,” she explains. Herndon thinks this creates a false sense of how advanced AI technology really is: “You create this new score and you usually play that through a digital instrument or your favorite player, and it sounds like AI is really perfect, like it’s super smart and it’s super developed. It doesn’t show its flaws or shortcomings.” There’s an ethical issue at play too, when a computer can extract and automate an entire musical aesthetic without any kind of real attribution.

With Spawn, Herndon wanted to be able to move beyond these entrenched narratives. “How can this technology be used in a way that’s not this kind of retro mania where we’re just regurgitating the past?” she says. “That’s not how music develops.” Humans are essential in Herndon’s project, and in shifting paradigms surrounding machine intelligence. “We wanted to have a sonic fingerprint of the vocalist involved, and deal with AI more as a performer. So we have a human ensemble with an inhuman member,” Herndon says. “Instead of outsourcing my composition to an AI, I’m still the composer. I’m the director of the ensemble, and the AI is an ensemble member that is improvising and singing and performing alongside us.” By centering the voices of herself and her colleagues, Herndon hopes to highlight the human element of AI that many public conversations on machine intelligence obscure. “For Google Translate or something like that, so many of these automated services appear as these really clean, almost magical things, but what’s behind that clean surface is millions of human translations that it was trained on. There’s always human labor that’s made invisible.”

Herndon’s work deals with high-level concepts, bringing into play platform and protocol theories and highly technical electronic processes. She asks me, midway through our conversation, what I think a Vogue reader would be interested in regarding Spawn, AI, and music. I turn the question back around to her. “I hope that people start to really think about where ideas come from and how we honor those ideas, and how we can celebrate people who are taking risks, pushing conversations in different directions—not just seeing human culture and society as something that can be hoovered up and played back to us, without any kind of attribution,” Herndon says, drawing an analogy to the ways in which larger fashion houses might co-opt the innovative work of younger designers.

Herndon might have lofty conceptual and technological aims with the album—there’s her interest in AI ethics and its influence on societal structures as a whole, as well as her pioneering vocal processing techniques—but at the end of the day, Spawn arose from a much more natural impulse. Herndon is quick to emphasize that Spawn is only a part of the larger ensemble, and that human sounds make up the bulk of the album. “Only about 20 or 25 percent of the sound is AI generated,” Herndon explains. The album also pulls in folk traditions—on “Frontier,” Herndon provides her own take on Appalachian sacred harp music, a nostalgic nod to her rural Southern roots. “So much of it is human, and I think you can hear that it happens in a real space. For computer music, that is something that I was really craving—being in the room with people and singing, the joy of performing with people. It sounds cheesy, but I was missing that,” she says. “That’s how I started making music back in the day, in church: the joy of music making with people in an actual space.”