Cloud Nothings’ critically acclaimed new album “Here and Nowhere Else”
Apr 1st, 2014
Apr 1st, 2014
“I think my music provides space for me to say the things I can’t always say in real life.” says Virginia native songwriter and multi-media artist Corrinne James. While studying New Media and Cinematography at the University of Virginia, James created a secret Bandcamp under the alias Naomi Alligator, and began uploading her intimate home recordings online. Although her primary creative practice has been experimental animation—producing several shorts and music videos for artists like Slow Pulp and Emily Yacina—James found a way to broaden her storytelling through music. “I grew up playing piano, but I was actually learning how to play guitar on the first few Naomi Alligator songs.” James admits. “At the end of high school my friend Ruby sent me a Google Drive zip of all the Girly Sounds recordings and told me ‘You need to listen to this!’” Inspired by the sparse and confessional qualities of Liz Phair’s early portastudio recordings, James decided to create her own musical journal to share and process personal anecdotes. “I was nervous to show it to other people because I was just scared about what they might think, but eventually I started sharing it with friends in college and they would share it with more people.”
This fall, five years since her first upload and over a dozen releases later, James will share her new four-track EP, Concession Stand Girl, while making her debut on Carpark. Self-recorded at home, Concession Stand Girl features Corrinne James playing guitar, synth, and banjo. “That banjo was actually a gift from my old professor and mentor, Lydia Moyer.” James recalls. Her modern folk production and poetic songwriting links the sounds of artists like Joan Baez and Steeleye Span to a 21st century context. James wrestles with guilt, purpose, and jealousy through vivid narratives in the songs on her new EP, as well as much of her self-released music and films. James says “I kind of feel like a kid when I’m writing music—it’s just about sharing whatever you’re feeling and getting that out, you know?” Following the release of Concession Stand Girl, James hopes to expand the sound of Naomi Alligator, experimenting with new recording techniques and layered instrumentation, while maintaining her warm songwriting.
Propelled by a fondness for boundless jangle-pop, Toronto’s Ducks Ltd. (formerly Ducks Unlimited, no association with the questionable waterfowl hunting nonprofit) is a duo that operates with the dynamism of a full band: Tom McGreevy (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards) and Evan Lewis (guitar, bass, drum programming) met at a Dilly Dally show around the time they were both applying for permanent residency and playing in different local bands, quickly recognizing something in each other: a resolute love of underrated ‘80s indiepop a la Sarah Records (specifically for Tom, U.K. groups like Close Lobsters, the Marxist band McCarthy, anything on Cherry Red Records; for the Australian Evan, The Go-Betweens and Flying Nun Records). But impressive knowledge of niche pop music does not make a band: the pair started writing and recording together in 2018, taking the time to discover their musical identity: a whole EP was recorded with outside producers and scrapped, never to be released. “It came out sounding good,” Tom explains, “But not like us.” Their critically acclaimed debut EP, Get Bleak, released on Madrid indie Bobo Integral (Tim Cohen, Massage) in 2019 and re-released on Carpark in 2021 with three additional songs, was originally recorded with live drums—“We’ve had rotating members ever since we’ve been a band. We’ve got Spinal Tap-level drummers at this point,” Evan is quick to point out. That EP, too, was redone—and with a drum machine, built from demos recorded in Evan’s bedroom, revealing the key to Ducks Ltd.’s sound: simple charms, just like the music that inspired it, and a project best served when it’s just the two of them trusting the intensity of their creative relationship. It’s worked out: Ducks Ltd. have played gigs with The Goon Sax, Weyes Blood and Juan Waters; they’ve received glowing praise in publications like Pitchfork, The A.V. Club and NME. But it’s their debut LP, Modern Fiction and its masterful melodies and depressive fun that confirms it: great things are here, and sometimes, all you need is a good friend to realize it.
The release of Blessed Repair is a grand experiment for the Baldi/Gerycz Duo. The duo consists of Dylan Baldi and Jayson Gerycz, both of whom are members of the acclaimed rock band Cloud Nothings. With Baldi on saxophone and Gerycz on drums, they deliver an album that steers away from the process of slowly crafting lyrics and instrumental components. This time, their project is grounded in the gravitational pull of both of their instruments; two people creating and releasing tension in real time. Blessed Repair is an album that romps with the spontaneous energy of free-form jazz.
Baldi and Gerycz are quite familiar with each other as musicians, proving to be an advantage as they navigate the strange yet exciting new waters of Blessed Repair. Primarily, they work as bandmates in Cloud Nothings, but nothing resembles their improvisational work as a duo. In Cloud Nothings, songs are written beforehand and rehearsed, but as the Baldi/Gerycz Duo, they just play. Which is how the project first came to fruition — they are two friends who organically wanted to see how far they can take their music together.
The project uses two iconically jazz instruments, nudging Blessed Repair into the free-jazz realm. The saxophone soars and tumbles and the drums build and scatter, but both instruments are more linked by their playful experimentation and synchronicity than anything else. While they are fans of improvisational jazz music, neither Baldi nor Gerycz had formal jazz training past high school, making this album authentically experimental for them both. That being said, Baldi does recount that his first official gig as a musician was playing jazz music in the background of a wealthy Clevelander’s dinner party in 2008.
The Baldi/Gerycz Duo have taken the opportunity to harness the liberating energy of improvisation in Blessed Repair. And ultimately, they’re two friends exploring and pushing the boundaries of their music.
When Sonic Boom debuted with 1990’s Spectrum, it was a fresh chance for Peter Kember to go it alone. Poppy psychedelia with lo-fi edges, gridless guitars, and Velvets-obliged scowls marked Kember’s departure from the soon-to-disband Spacemen 3, the influential English psych soul outfit he co-founded in 1982 with Jason Pierce (Spiritualised). Kember’s new solo work hinted at the self-taught experimentation, circuit bending and interest in modular synthesis that would hallmark his career as a producer and performer.
But Kember, a co-conspirator by nature, got lonely alone. Soon enough, Spectrum gave rise to a band of the same name, who toured extensively and recorded several records, including a joint effort with Silver Apples. Next, Kember got busy with E.A.R., an even more experimental and prolific project with a fluctuating lineup that counted among its many members Kevin Shields and electronic music trailblazer Delia Derbyshire, who mentored Kember in audio physics and harmonic series.
The name Sonic Boom did stay in rotation, for solo sets (during which Kember singlehandedly manipulates a tabletop of keyboards, noisemakers and modules), split releases (like 2018’s EP with No Joy), and production work for artists including MGMT, Beach House and Panda Bear. But the list of Sonic Boom solo LPs stalled out after 1990, a rare single entry for an artist whose other projects’ output skews plentiful.
Finally, 2020’s All Things Being Equal updates the Sonic Boom discography with a second notch, and a first for Carpark Records–home to several artists Kember has produced. Recorded and mixed over a half decade, the songs began as instrumental studio sketches in Rugby, UK. “But I wanted to get out of the urban commercialised environment,” Kember explains of his move to a national park in Sintra, Portugal, which he calls “an enchanting area famous for being inspiring.”
His new surroundings inspired the album’s lyrics, which stress humanity’s role in our planet’s “critical collapse,” redress the power of our symbiotic relationship with nature and plants, and riddle over Animist spirituality. Wonderfully layered, drone-based voyages coalesce into hooky showcases for the intrinsic characters of the synths he worked with. “I wanted to mix bright digital with chunky analogue,” says Kember. “Certain instruments have something about their sound that touches me deep, and I’m always trying to focus as much vibe as I can into the songs.”
Although the album shares a project name with his first solo album, Kember’s decades as a forward-thinking producer make this new work more in step with his cutting-edge collaborations than a nostalgic glance at his past. “I learn from everyone I work with, and I wanted to bring what I learnt into this record,” Kember explains. “Everybody thinks about and listens to music in different ways.” With All Things Being Equal, Sonic Boom once again offers us a new way to listen, with music that is textural, full of dimension, and conscious of its place in the galaxy.
Johanna Warren is a multi-instrumentalist and producer who began her career as a singer/songwriter in the Brooklyn-based psych folk band Sticklips. The group released two albums before disbanding in 2012, and after a stint performing backup vocals for Iron & Wine, Warren self-released her debut solo album, Fates, in 2013. The album prompted her to tour nationally under her own name, and since then, she’s led a nomadic existence, calling cities across the United States home for short periods of time.
Over the past few years, Warren has toured alongside Mitski, Julie Byrne, and Marissa Nadler, but a life on the road hasn’t slowed her output. In 2015, she released her sophomore album nūmūn to acclaim, propelling her to the forefront of artists to watch in the second half of the decade. Warren dedicated the spellbinding collection of acoustically-driven songs to the phases of the moon and to the divine feminine–forces of great power and consequence that are all-too often overlooked.
The following year, Warren announced a twin set of albums released on her own label Spirit House, which promoted a radically inclusive, artist-friendly ethos. Each of the songs on Gemini I corresponds with a song on Gemini II, which debuted later, in 2018. The two albums are in conversation with one another, offering up a character sketch of dueling personalities vying for acceptance. To contrast nūmūn, which was rendered using a simple palate of acoustic instruments, the arrangements on Gemini I and II integrated a wide array of instrumentation and more palpable percussion, furnished with help from a small cohort of Warren’s longtime collaborators.
Following the release ofGemini II, Warren embarked on her extensive Plant Medicine Tour, during which she invited local herbalists, farmers, and activists to come and share resources with attendees about alternative remedies. In the spare moments between tour stops, Warren recorded her latest album in studios across the United States. Entirely self-produced,Chaotic Good is Warren’s first album for Wax Nine/Carpark and it is her boldest to date, finding her in a state of transition as she introduces listeners to a new phase of her artistry