Young Magic is Jakarta born Indonesian-American vocalist Melati Malay, and Sydney-born songwriter-producer Isaac Emmanuel. The pair met in New York City in 2010 and began collaborating above a speakeasy in Brooklyn. Alongside original member Michael Italia, the trio signed to Carpark Records (Toro Y Moi, Beach House, Dan Deacon) on the strength of one single (Sparkly/You With Air) and a wave of positive press. Touring in Europe and North America began after a series of limited edition 7″ releases in 2011. The following year brought new visibility, acclaim, and artistic achievement with the release of the group’s full-length album debut, Melt.
Melt was recorded in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, U.S.A., Spain, Germany, Iceland, Australia, and the U.K. while band members travelled independently, collecting field recordings and documenting their experiences. The New York Times described the album as “lush and immersive…it summons an elusive mood of longing among the sonic wonderment.” About Melt, the BBC wrote, “like a beat poet racked by drink addiction; music that waxes and wanes, and explodes; and a great spirit which, rather than confine itself to basements and bedsits, aims its sights on the heavens. An exquisite new breed to behold.”
The band became quickly known for their percussive, cinematic style, as well as collaborations across film, music and visual arts with artists as such as Purity Ring, Leif Podhajsky, and Angus Borsos. Pared down to a duo with varying live collaborators, Young Magic toured the world in 2013 and 2014, including performances at Lowlands Festival, Iceland Airwaves, Berghain, Austin Psych Fest, and the Brooklyn Museum.
The duo’s ambitious second album, Breathing Statues, was released in 2014. Recorded in Morocco, Paris, Prague, Australia, and Iceland, the album gracefully dives headfirst into a more delicate, personal world of sound. AllMusic described Breathing Statues as “far bigger and more polished than their debut…evokes ’60s exotica and ’90s trip-hop with a hypnotic groove that feels like it could go on forever.” Q Magazine wrote: “Alternately dreamlike and arresting, they’ve discovered a formula that realizes the sonic sorcery always suggested by their name.”
In 2015, Young Magic released Remixes Vol. 1—a pay-as-you-feel charity album, with all proceeds going to the Aboriginal Benefits Foundation, an organization facilitating health and arts projects in Australian Aboriginal communities. Contributors included Roland Tings, Teebs, The Acid, Matthew David, and Basquiat’s musical partner, Nicholas Taylor of Gray.
The same year, Malay returned to her birthplace of Java, Indonesia, to begin work on a new collection of music. She rented a small shack by the water and spent her time gathering field recordings and collecting stories from her families’ history. The result is Young Magic’s most breathtaking album to date, Still Life, released on May 13, 2016.
Bevan Smith was born in New Plymouth in 1974. He has been recording and releasing music as Aspen and Signer since 1998. His earliest releases were on his own label Involve, but his music he been sought after and released by many international labels. At present Signer is released on Carpark records US, home of Dan Deacon, Panda Bear, Beach House. He has toured many times throughout Europe, UK and the US. He has composed for TV, Adverts, Theatre and FIlm most notably the Bafta winning ‘Touching the Void’ in 2004.
As well as working on solo projects Bevan has also written and produced albums with several bands. He worked on two albums with Nik Brinkman as ‘Over the Atlantic’ and on three albums with Matthew Mitchell as Skallander. Skallander were signed to UK based label Type records in 2006. At present he plays in Skallander and The Ruby Suns who release on Sub Pop.
Memory Tapes is the project of musician Dayve Hawk. Growing up in New Jersey, Hawk retreated into his obsession for music at an early age. He began playing drums at the age of nine. Inspired by his makeshift vinyl collection of The Beatles and David Bowie, he began writing songs—recording homespun guitar tunes on a toy karaoke machine. Over the next decade, he recorded hundreds of tracks alone in his parents’ basement—never going to shows, never playing in bands, and rarely sharing the demos. After years of building synthesizers and recording tracks at home, while working the overnight shift at a grocery store, Hawk was convinced by fellow coworker Matt Maraldo to form the Philadelphia-based dance-punk act Hail Social in 2005. The band released two well-received albums and embarked on international tours, giving Hawk an exposure to youth culture and an expansive music scene he hadn’t experienced outside of his insular home recordings.
When the band broke up, Hawk moved back to rural New Jersey. With a newfound interest to share his music with a larger audience, he started a blog to post his new tracks, recorded under the trio of aliases Memory Cassette, Weird Tapes, and Memory Tapes. The hazy electronic tracks began to circulate around the internet, along with his buzzed-about remixes for songs by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Peter Bjorn & John, and Britney Spears.
After releasing a Memory Cassette EP, Hawk officially adopted the Memory Tapes moniker and released his debut LP, Seek Magic, in September 2009. With the Memory Tapes project, Hawk fleshed out his vision of experimental electronic music based on field recordings, and Seek Magic was greeted with praise from critics, landing at #23 on Pitchfork’s top albums of 2009. In 2011, Hawk followed Seek Magic’s success with his second full-length Player Piano, a record that adopted a fuller band sound in its Motown-inspired treatment. Memory Tapes also earned a Grammy nomination for Best Short Form Music Video for the Player Piano single “Yes I Know.”
Grace/Confusion, an experimental album of far-out pop hooks and epic instrumentals, was released in Dec. 2012. In an 8 out of 10 review, Spin called the LP “warm-blooded, definite, vulnerable, exposed.” Hawk returns on March 31, 2015, with a back-to-basics approach: a quickly recorded two-song digital single, Fallout / House On Fire.
Midwesterners often feel obligated to apologize for/complain about their landscape. Chicago’s Light Pollution does not. The contrasting feelings of wonderment and isolation evoked by the frozen Midwestern plains deeply pervade their sound.
23-year-old songwriter James Cicero grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the son of Italian and Spanish Catholics. His grandfather was a poor trumpet player, and his father a strict military man. As a result, when Cicero bought his first guitar at the age of seventeen, his father took to locking it in the attic. Cicero left for college in Dekalb, IL, met drummer Matt Evert, obsessively wrote songs in class, and soon dropped out. Over the following years, the two honed their skills and sensibilities, eventually acquiring Nick Sherman and Jed Robertson; evolving into what is now Light Pollution.
Cicero wrote the album over the course of a long, stoned, agoraphobic winter spent isolated in a heatless warehouse west of Chicago. In a piss-poor living environment, filled with anxiety, he removed himself from the outside world and sought spirituality in seclusion. Lyrical themes developed within the warehouse walls. Various apparitions were translated into long ambient tape and synth drones. Dreams of the Virgin Mary resulted in late night sessions on an old church organ.
These strange happenings resulted in Light Pollution’s devestatingly beautiful and spiritually heavy debut album, “Apparitions.” Swirling analog synths, shimmering arpeggios, and washed out tape noise are embedded into combinations of 90’s shoegaze, chill-wave and vocal psych-pop. Thanks to a unique blend of hi-fi and lo-fi tracking and their Midwestern demeanor, they are able to create hazy, psychedelic, layered sounds that set them apart from recent waves of lo-fi pop bands.
Light Pollution released Apparitions on 6/8 via Carpark Records. The band has been on tour recently with Phantogram, A Place To Bury Strangers, and Memoryhouse, as well as various dates supporting the likes of Deerhunter, Best Coast, and Mike Snow. Light Pollution will play Forecastle Festival (featuring the Flaming Lips, Massive Attack, Spoon, Devo, etc.) as well as upcoming shows with Small Black, Glasser, and Delorean.
For a band that sticks to its impulses instead of trends, Cloud Nothings accumulates critical praise and loyal fans with the type of ease modern rock bands can only dream of. That’s because the Cleveland four-piece is the byproduct of Dylan Baldi, a frontman whose melodic intuition and musical fervor are as innate as they are impressive. Baldi’s early indie rock songs welcome pop warmly without sounding trite. His later alt-rock hooks are too busy criss-crossing guitar lines to overthink things. The urgency he writes with comes across in the vividness of his guitar. Since expanding his solo project into a proper band, Baldi has positioned Cloud Nothings as the torchbearers of the frenetic, visceral, and thundering rock of bands like The Wipers and Drive Like Jehu. It’s all alternating resolves and anticipated breakdowns. And live, it’s near impossible to dispute talent that palpable.
Looking back, it makes sense how Cloud Nothings got here. At the age of 18, Baldi gained attention after a string of lo-fi songs he recorded in the comfort of his basement began circulating online. It landed him a spot on a buzzed-about show in Brooklyn where, in turn, he caught the eyes of Carpark. His music began its upward ascent immediately. In 2010, Carpark released Turning On, a retrospective combo of the band’s debut EP and various 7” singles. Cloud Nothings unveiled their self-titled LP the following year, a record that showcased how crisp Baldi’s hooks sound when given proper studio time. But what followed in 2012, their breakthrough LP Attack on Memory, paved a new path for the band. The album saw Baldi throw himself into his guitar while collaborating with the rest of his touring band—drummer Jayson Gerycz, bassist TJ Duke, and guitarist Joe Boyer—to create an aggressive, unrelenting, and throat-scratching album that captured not just their sound, but their collective raw energy. Cloud Nothings fleshed out that sound further on 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else, this time as a trio after Boyer’s departure. Even when Baldi, in a decision to feed his quiet fondness for pop, used 2017’s Life Without Sound to showcase his melodic inclinations, he showed a continued growth in his songwriting skills.
Cloud Nothings fold all of that forward momentum into their newest record, Last Building Burning. Just over half an hour in length, the album is a singular listen designed to mirror the experience of their live shows. Gerycz and Duke propel the rhythm section with their fastest speed to date. Baldi and guitarist Chris Brown reshape converging guitar parts into double-edged swords, reaching beyond power chords for instantly pleasing riffs that are urgent in delivery. Though the record touches on various sounds of the band’s past—“Another Way Of Life” digs its toes into the harmonies of Life Without Sound and “On An Edge” recalls the blistering peaks of Here and Nowhere Else—it showcases how untouchable the band has become. Cloud Nothings are a permanent staple of what rock music should sound like: gritty, caustic, and tireless. In that, almost a decade into their career, Cloud Nothings have become a reference point for budding rock acts while perpetually looking to outdo themselves as they go.