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.
When singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi began recording hyper-catchy and often deliriously distorted guitar-pop songs on a computer in his parents’ Cleveland basement, he was doing it alone—juggling every instrument and singing undefinable lyrics that used obtuse abstractions as much as they did teenage diary. The young, once-tuxedoed concert saxophonist started releasing a flurry of lo-fi earworms across 7” singles, cassette splits, benefit compilations, and one album, Turning On. Released by Carpark in 2010, the album will be reissued on vinyl in 2020 for its 10-year anniversary.
With the 2000s coming to a close, blog circuit hype was enough to book the then-18-year-old as the opener at a Brooklyn show with members of the next class of Internet-acclaimed “indie rock” bands. Baldi quickly formed a group with friends from the Cleveland music scene and drove to New York. Amidst a year of touring, Baldi recorded a self-titled album alone, this time in a studio, with a producer, and the backing of Carpark Records.
But forming that initial live band proved to be the key component to the project’s success. Together, as a unit, they shattered blog expectations with the 2012 release of Attack on Memory: an angry, often-in-the-red album composed of vocal-shredding jams about malaise, as well as tightly-wound pop songs about violence and confusion. What followed were brutal albums of hook-filled harshness (2014’s Here and Nowhere Else and 2018’s Last Building Burning) and stunning melodic clarity (2017’s Life Without Sound and 2020’s The Black Hole Understands), each distinctly different.
Cloud Nothings has brought their cathartic live show to stages around the globe, including festivals like Coachella, Primavera Sound, Bonnaroo, and Pitchfork. Home audiences have seen them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Last Call with Carson Daly, A.V. Club’s Undercover series (notoriously reimagining Coldplay’s “Clocks”), multiple KEXP sessions, and much more.
Before recording new album The Shadow I Remember, Baldi began writing one song a day, much like he did when he first started the project. Only a few months into 2020, Baldi had amassed a significant new library of songs. Ten of those songs became the surprise album The Black Hole Understands, which Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz collaborated on via e-mail while quarantining separately.
The band is currently comprised of Baldi on guitar, vocals, and songwriting duties; bassist TJ Duke; guitarist Chris Brown; and drummer Gerycz. Each is an accomplished musician with a slew of other musical endeavors to their name. Some of these projects exist in the same guitar-pop realm as their main band, while other projects veer into avant, grotesque, and otherworldly zones fit for only the most fried and open ears. Through consistent touring and a steadfast dedication to growing as friends and collaborators, the four-piece has perfected a heavy, aural-assault style and merged it with Baldi’s ridiculous pop genius. This amalgamation is beautifully evident on The Shadow I Remember.
For their fifth studio full-length as a band (and ninth album under the project name), they reconvened with legendary producer and engineer Steve Albini, who helmed the sessions for the breakthrough Attack on Memory. “He has a gift,” Baldi says. “He naturally makes it sound right. Albini’s work is a presentation of the band as they are. No affectation.” On The Shadow I Remember, the producer captures the band at its strongest. Though the lyrics concern the debilitating despair of everyday life, the band can be heard joyously playing unabashed, volume-driven, ear-drum-crushers that masterfully highlight Baldi’s astonishing songcraft.
Looking back on more than a decade of music-making as Cloud Nothings, the group has plenty of reasons to be proud. Though no one expects the beings who gave us the song “No Future / No Past” to pause for nostalgia or pride. “So many bands can fizzle out and fade into sameness, but it’s never been like that for them,” Brown, who joined in 2016, says of his bandmates. With The Shadow I Remember seeing the band mature and cohere like never before, it feels as if the group is only just getting started. “We’ve been mad at each other. We’ve had life-changing times together. We’ve been through so much,” Gerycz says. “At the end of the day, we’re still very close friends and we care a lot about each other. How could it ever end?”