YouTube Playlist: WFTBO Aug 2019

The August 2, 2019 edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE is packed with great guests — Detroit’s excellent indie pop trio DEADBEAT BEAT, who are releasing their new album, “How Far,” Baltimore singer-songwriter savant HOTHEAD, and DC’s underground music scene photographic documentarian AHMAD Z. Plus, WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE DJs Rick and Brandon.

Naturally, if you’re going to put on a special event with so many music makers and record collectors, it stands to reason that you ask them all to collaborate on a YouTube Playlist. Presented below is a selection of tracks curated for your listening pleasure. Extra props to Laurie Spector who actually provided commentary for her selections.

Enjoy!

AHMAD Z

DEADBEAT BEAT (Maria, Alex and Zak)

HOTHEAD (Laurie)

Laurie: I checked out Wynonna Judd out of curiosity after hearing this great Cocaine and Rhinestones podcast episode about her insane life. A lot of her songs are really cheesy ballads I can’t get into but a few are upbeat and poppy, and this one sounds to me like it could have easily been one of those late 80s/early 90s classic pop songs if it was just produced differently. People seem to have largely written modern-day country off as irrelevant and bad but country was just as much at the forefront of rock ‘n roll as the blues were… it started well, there’s a cool legacy there and there are some great genre traditions that have carried through the years. Country has treated its women pretty well if you think about all the majorly successful country stars that made a career singing about their independence and strength in the face of adversity. I’m sure there was discrimination going on behind the scenes like all industries, but the archetypes accepted and celebrated in pop culture matter a lot, and country music celebrates its rebellious independent women. Wynonna is definitely one of those.

Laurie: I don’t usually have favorite “songs of the year” or anything like that but I’ve listened to this song so many times since it was released earlier this year. I love it in that way where it’s almost too much to bear, when you think “wow how could something like a song mean so much to me.” Somehow it encapsulates a lot about how I’ve felt lately. It’s bittersweet but more sweet than bitter, with an incredible energy that always makes me feel better about not feeling good. Hard to explain, but it’s my gem.

Laurie: Joe from Don Giovanni told me about this band when we were at SXSW this year. He just put out their album. This song is from their last album and I listened to it on repeat for pretty much the entire ride home to DC from Austin. So good.

Laurie: Alla Pugacheva is a massive Russian pop star I came across while studying Russian in college. She’s glamorous and iconic. For me she’s something like a cross between Kate Bush and Barbra Streisand. A true performer. Very famous and well-loved in Russia, it’s fun to just put her name into YouTube and watch what comes up.

Laurie: I just checked out David Berman’s new album and I really liked it. My vibe is he’s just gotten more vulnerable and less snarky as he’s gotten older, which I like. My favorite Silver Jews album was the last one cause I found it kind of sweet and silly. I guess it’s the only one I really connected to. This one’s pretty down but I love that contrast of the darkness of the content with his lyrical playfulness and bright sounding music. It’s like that amazing thing that happens when you make art or experience art while you’re feeling horrible… you start to like the thing that came from horror and it turns the bad thing into something you can live with.

WFTBO DJs (Rick & Brandon)

Like what you’re hearing? Want more? Check out WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St NW, Washington DC 20010) every first Friday of the month!

5 Questions: Deadbeat Beat

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There’s a certain strain of pop music that’s impervious to trends.

I’m talking about a particular brand of classicist, hook-laden guitar pop that draws just as much from the 60s as the independent side of the 80s — think The Clean or The Bats from New Zealand. Or the self-titled debut from The House of Love. Or a little more recently — the debut LP from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Or records from Veronica Falls or Crystal Stilts.

Detroit indie pop trio Deadbeat Beat share a spiritual affinity with these bands, and their beautifully constructed pop songs have been weather-proofed to stand the test of time the best possible way — through classic melodies, gorgeous harmonies and sprightly guitar chords that sound just as fresh and vibrant as they do familiar.

The band, which consists of drummer Maria Nuccilli, singer/guitarist Alex Glendening and bassist Zak Frieling, can trace its origins to a high school friendship between Maria and Alex. The two bonded over their shared obsession over music — creating their own sounds was inevitable. After moving through a number of projects and working with various other musicians, Deadbeat Beat really came into its own with the addition of bassist Zak.

Deadbeat Beat released its debut LP, “When I Talk to You” in 2011 via the cassette label Gold Tapes. There’s been a smattering of other releases since then, but it’s only now that the band is ready to unveil its second proper full length, “How Far.”

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The record was recorded in the basement studio of Detroit-based musician and engineer Jeff Else, with significant input from singer-songwriter Fred Thomas of indie pop heroes Saturday Looks Good to Me. Thomas not only worked with the band on the recording, but was involved with the mastering.  Rather than rush through the recording and mixing, the band took its time to ensure the end result was something truly special.

And boy did the band ever hit the mark. Check out lead single “You Lift Me Up” to hear what makes Deadbeat Beat so compelling. This is as classic as classic indie pop gets…

Deadbeat Beat is on tour to promote its new album, and thankfully, a stop in Washington DC became a possibility when our friend Laurie Spector of Hothead suggested them for WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe. I got in touch with Maria and Alex to learn more about this very talented group of musicians…

1) Deadbeat Beat’s debut album, “When I Talk to You,” came out in 2011. You’re just now releasing the band’s second record, “How Far.” Why did it take so long? And what have you been doing in the interim? 

Maria: The original band was put on hiatus in early 2013 when one of our members relocated for a job. We spent the next couple years with a few different folks filling in, but nothing stuck long enough for us to squeak out a full length. We did, however, release a tape EP in 2015 called “Only Time Will Tell.” We did a couple other tapes and singles in between now and then too. Between all of that? We were working, finishing up school, playing/touring in other bands and doing records with them too, namely Outrageous Cherry (me) and Tyvek (Alex).

2) Do you feel that being involved in multiple projects is a help or a hindrance in sparking your creative muse?

Maria: As a drummer, the variety is something I need. I learn new things from whoever I’m playing with.

Alex: Playing with other musicians is essential to growth. I’m the kind of person where things are going to happen when they happen, and I’ve learned to accept that instead of freaking out about it. I read on somewhere that Kevin Ayers was also the same way.

3) We can throw around subgenre signifiers like garage, surf or indie jangle, but at the end of the day, Deadbeat Beat play pop music. Do you have a concept in your head of the so-called perfect pop song?

Alex: “Sister Ray” is the perfect pop song. It’s catchy, it washes over you, it sounds cool as hell. It’s also fucked up. There are many other perfect pop songs too.

4) What is Deadbeat Beat geeky about – other than music? Or is it just music?

Alex: A lot of what we are geeky about is music. We got really into making memes about the band Television for a minute, you can still see them on our Instagram. One time Maria and I were having a very serious conversation while driving and she turned to me mid-thought and asked, “Okay wait but is ‘Younger than Yesterday’ your favorite Byrds album, I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

5) Life on the road – can you give us a peak into what it’s like for Deadbeat Beat? Have you stumbled upon any accidental life lessons along the way?

Alex: Every time I go on tour, no matter how long in duration, I always bring a shirt that I never wear once. It is so annoying.

Maria: Alex makes the most friends, Zak goes to the most museums, I’m just over here trying to stick to my skincare routine. We’re all trying to drink as much water as possible. The best thing we did this time was go to Coinstar with an entire totebag full of change Alex found during his move a few months ago – gotta pay those tolls baby!

Listen to and purchase Deadbeat Beat’s music on Bandcamp, “Like” them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram and Twitter, and check out the band’s own website.

And be sure to check out Deadbeat Beat’s live show Friday, Aug. 2 at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St NW, Washington DC 20010).  Hothead is also performing a live set. Guest DJ Ahmad Z will be spinning records, along with Laurie from Hothead and the WFTBO DJs!

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YouTube Playlist: Celebrating American Independents

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We love you America. But like many loves, it’s complicated — especially in the Trump era.

How does one feel any sense of pride in our country when so much is going wrong? The rise of white nationalism. The increasing incidents of racism and anti-Semitism. The growing acceptance of cruelty. The inhumanity directed at undocumented immigrants. America’s fetish for guns, gun violence and macho culture. A broken health care system that values profit over people.

But as heartbreaking as America is today, there is also a reason for hope. Art speaks truth to power. And American art strikes with a defiant, fearless creativity that gives us hope in dark times.

Take, for example, the below 17-track YouTube playlist curated by yours truly and Teen Beat Records insider Chris Callahan (Sexual Milkshake). These slices of “American Independents” represents just a smattering of our favorites from the U.S. underground music scene. Most of them were recorded during another dark time — the Reagan years.

While these tracks aren’t overtly political, the bands’ artistic defiance of pop music norms can be read as a metaphor for rejecting the worst instincts of Gordon Gecko-capitalism and the Reagan regime. And we could all use a little more defiance right about now.

Our current political era has been referred to as “Reagan on steroids,” only worse. That’s a charitable way of putting it. But where’s there is art, there is hope. Even art made more than 35 years ago.

Feast your ears, then, on a soundtrack that rejects Trumpism and the worst parts of America. This is the soundtrack to our battle. A battle we will win.

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Devo – Modern Life (1981, Warner Bros.)

Suburban Lawns – Baby (1983, I.R.S. Records)

Get Smart – Eat, Sleep A G-Go (1981, Syntax Music)

The Method Actors – Do the Method (1982, Press)

B52’s – Dance This Mess Around (1979, Island)

Crash Course in Science – Cardboard Lamb (1981, Press)

ESG – U.F.O. (1981, 99 Records)

Abecedarians – Ghosts (1986, Southwest Audio Reproductions)

Suicide – Speed Queen (1981, ROIR – but recorded in mid-70s)

Ike Yard – NCR (1982, Factory America)

Implog – Holland Tunnel Dive (1980, Infidelity)

Human Switchboard – I Can Walk Alone (1980, Square Two)

Pylon – Volume (1980, DB Recs)

BBQ Killers – His and Hearse (1986, clip from “Athens, GA–Inside/Out”)

Black Randy & the Metrosquad – I Slept in an Arcade (1979, Dangerhouse)

Wall of Voodoo – Ring of Fire (1980, Index)

The Residents – Stars & Stripes Forever (1986, Ralph Records)

Want more? Join us Friday, July 5th 2019 at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St NW Washington DC 20010) for WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE with Spirit Plots and guest dj Chris Calla-sham!

5 Questions: Spirit Plots

(Photo: Nestor Diaz)

It’s reassuring to know that fiery, frenetic and wildly idiosyncratic rock and roll is alive and well in our nation’s capitol.

DC’s Spirit Plots specializes in a particular brand of it — the kind that calls to mind the best of spiky post-punk from the late 70s/early 80s (think The Fall and Wire) and ramshackle indie rock from the 90s (think Guided by Voices and early Pavement), but with a joyful exuberance all its own.

The band, which includes “Irish” Dave Johnston (vocals, bass, guitar, synths), Javier Diaz (guitar, vocals) and Sammy Ponzar (percussion, vocals) formed in 2014, and released an impressive self-titled debut LP two years later. So impressive, in fact, that it was included in WAMU 88.5’s Bandwidth’s list of “15 Recent D.C. Records You Don’t Want to Miss.” In May 2019, Spirit Plots released its second album, “Exit Acts.”

“Exit Acts” builds on the strengths of its predecessor. The record is a shrapnel sharp collection of rambunctious rock n’ roll, the kind that comes delivered with unexpected twists and turns, hooks aplenty and unmistakable glee. Spirit Plots is about as far removed from po-faced punk as it gets — this is a band that celebrates the sheer joy of causing a raucous, and leaving behind a trail of indelible earworms in its wake.

From a production standpoint, “Exit Acts” sounds fantastic. The record was recorded over a weekend at Treehouse Studio in Washington D.C., and brought to life by the great engineering and mixing skills of Devin Ocampo (The Effects, Beauty Pill, Medications).

I wanted to know more about this excellent band. Thankfully, percussionist extraordinaire Sammy Ponzar and chief band songwriter “Irish” Dave Johnston were only too kind to field five questions via e-mail…

1) Congrats on a corker of a second album. What can you tell us about how the songs on “Exit Acts” came together? When did the songwriting process begin?

Sammy: Thank you good sir! We were lucky enough to recoup the money spent on the first record so we could afford to make “Exit Acts.” Irish Dave can speak more on the songwriting process.

Irish Dave: I have a little home studio in the basement. If I get an idea for a song, I’ll make a very rough recording and play all of the instruments (badly) myself. I’ll save the results to a shared dropbox folder and then forget about it. After the first album was finished, we trawled through this list for new Spirit Plots songs and began re-working them as a band, recording demos as went, until we had enough for an album. We continued to tweak the songs up until we went into the studio. Some of the lyrics were being reworked up until the very last minute – I’d sit scribbling with beer in hand, shout them into microphone, then get out my crayons again for the next song.

2) Going into making “Exit Acts,” was there anything you wanted to do differently from your self-titled debut?

Sammy: We were going for more of a raw sound with “Exit Acts.” We felt our first record was more polished. We wanted to capture the energy of these songs. A lot of that was accomplished by doing 3 takes or less, and banging out all tracking in under 3 days.

Irish Dave: I don’t think there was a significant difference to how we approached this record. We were definitely more proficient at playing the songs this time around, so were able to knock them out quickly once we got into the studio. We were excited to record with Devin (Ocampo). He was really great to work with and he understood how we wanted the record to sound. I put full faith in his judgement while in the studio – whether we could get a better ‘take’ or should move on, or if an idea was worth exploring or should be jettisoned. He also made everything, especially the drums, sound really great.

 

3) “Exit Acts,” like its predecessor, is chock full of catchy, kinetic and energetic idiosyncratic rock — mostly under 3 minutes each. What is it about these short bursts of aural joy that you find so appealing?

Sammy: The concept is to hit them hard and hit them fast. Any good punk or post-punk hit is under three minutes. If you think back to the classics like the Ramones, the Clash, XTC, Wire, etc, it’s hard to find a song that is over 3 minutes. We try to keep it fresh and interesting by leaving out the filler. However, I would say as a whole, “Exit Acts” has songs that breathe a little more. There’s slightly more vamping than the first record.

Irish Dave: I’m all for hip priests and hallogallos. Maybe if there’s a third album we’ll aim for a Sister Ray side B. When writing a song, I normally crank up the metronome and the resulting verse/chorus/verse/chorus/outro almost always clocks in at around the two minute mark. I have a short attention span. It’s normally easier to move on to a new song than try to drag something out.

4) Recording vs. performing live — which do you prefer and why?

Sammy: My vote is for performing. Maybe since I don’t really do sports, I’ve always had a competitive nature when it comes to performing live. My goal is to destroy the other bands on stage. That doesn’t happen all the time (we play with some great bands), but when it does it is a magical feeling. If the other bands blow us away, I try and learn from what they were doing that was working.

Irish Dave: It is good to hunker down in the studio to focus on nothing but music for a few days, but with a limited budget, recording has been an exercise in knocking out songs as quickly as possible. For the next album, I’d like to record it at home – partially to justify the amount of recording gear I’ve bought over the years, but also to allow time to expand on basic drums/guitar/bass arrangements.

I’ve grown less of a fan of playing live. I’m unable to divert focus from the negative – the technical hiccups, performance fuck ups, the awkward silences – most of which are usually my fault. When people had less stuff going on (i.e. when we were younger), playing shows was a good excuse for a piss up. Now it’s more of a hassle to get out and get other people out – the joy of getting older.

5) What’s one ambition you would like to achieve for the band?

Sammy: It would be great to open for some bigger bands that come through town. I also love getting out of town. We do a little bit of that, but it has become tougher with careers and families. One of my favorite things to do is play a town where I don’t know anyone, and relish the adventure and challenge of trying to win people over. If we can achieve that, then we know folks are not just there out of obligation or friendship.

Irish Dave: I’m fine just slogging along. Hopefully some people will stumble across our records and like them. Maybe in the year 2030, somebody will include one of our songs on a Killed By Death-style compilation of unknown bands from the DC circa 2019.

(Photo: Nestor Diaz)

Listen to and purchase “Exit Acts” at the Spirit Plots Bandcamp page. Don’t forget to “Like” the band on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Catch Spirit Plots live at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE on Friday, July 5th 2019 at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, Washington DC 20010). Show is at 11pm. No cover, but you must be at least 21. For more info, check out the FB event page.

YouTube Playlist: WFTBO June 2019

The June 2019 edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE was an especially memorable event. Not only were we treated to a live set from one of our favorite local artists — TWIN JUDE — Brandon and I had the pleasure of spinning records with HANNAH BURRIS from DC’s COVEN TREE, TEETHING VEILS and TADZIO.

For your summer listening enjoyment, here is a 10 track YouTube playlist inspired by our dj sets, followed by a complete set list. Happy listening!

Stanton Miranda — “Wheels Over Indian Trails” (1986, Factory Benelux)

Tones on Tail — “Lions” (1984, Beggars Banquet)

Simple Minds — “This Fear of Gods” (1980, Zoom Records)

Flasher — “Pressure” (2018, Domino)

Sneaks — “Hong Kong to Amsterdam” (2019, Merge Records)

Danielle Dax — “Cold Sweat”

Fad Gadget — “Lady Shave”

Human League – “The Black Hit of Space”

Pussyfoot — “Dancer Dance”

A.C. Marias — “One of Our Girls Has Gone Missing”

Below is a (nearly?) complete list of tracks we played on June 7th…

Brandon set #1:
Kongas – Anikana-O
Stanton Miranda — Wheels Over Indian Trails
Nancy Nova — The Force
Danielle Dax — Cold Suit
Flash and the Pan — Midnight Man
Disco Circus — Over and Over

Hannah set:
Tony Cruise — Replica
Sir EU — Ocean
Sneaks — Hong Kong to Amsterdam
Ultrabeauty – Powerade
Abdu Ali – F.U.F.M.
Bend – Baby
Gauche – Running
Tony Cruise — Paid
Moor Mother — deadbeat protest
Go Cozy – Body Boarding
Kelow Latesha — Can’t Loose
Broncho — Big City Boys
Flasher — Pressure
Ariel Pink & Weyes Blood – Morning After
Br’er — Help Me Live
Hailu Mergia — Hailu
Xiu Xiu — Amargi ve Moo

Rick set:
Savant – Using Words
Comsat Angels – Be Brave
Colin Newman — I’ve Waited Ages
A.C. Marias — One of Our Girls Has Gone Missing
Human League — The Black Hit of Space
Jeff & Jane Hudson – Los Alamos
Can – Oh Yeah
Vivien Goldman — Launderette
Tones on Tail – Lions
Cocteau Twins — The Spangle Maker

Brandon set #2:
The Dance – Do Yourself A Favor
Chrisma – U (12 inch)
Simple Minds – This Fear of Gods
Pussyfoot – Dancer Dance
I’m So Hollow – Touch
Disco Circus – Over and Over
Drowning Craze – Storage Case
Fad Gadget – Lady Shave
Alien Sex Fiend – Hurricane Fighter Plane
Dead or Alive – Flowers
Tantra — Hills of Katmandu

Now Hear This: Rupa — “Aaj Shanibar”

I love discovering unusual and odd stories behind my favorite songs. Take, for example, “Aaj Shanibar” from Rupa Biswas, which was released in 1982 on the LP, “Disco Jazz.”

“Aaj Shanibar” is an incredible song — a one-of-a-kind mixture of Sarod and synthesizer, a perfect fusion of East meets West. Admittedly, the track is “barely disco and hardly jazz,” as Numero Group recently said. The label has just reissued “Disco Jazz.”

But let’s talk a little more about “Aaj Shanibar” and the wonderful Rupa Biswas…

The stunning track, like the rest of the LP itself, was recorded at Calgary’s Living Room Studios by a combination of Indian and Canadian musicians. While nothing else from the era sounds like quite it, the record did not achieve commercial success. Apparently, music listeners weren’t ready for melodies intrically played on the sarod atop a disco beat and synth playing.

“Aaj Shanibar” languished in obscurity until Internet fame beckoned.

It was only when Ruba’s son, Debayan, searched for her record online that they found it had been uploaded to YouTube, that original copies of the record were selling for more than £500, and that it was being reissued by the US label Numero Group.

It had earned new fans, such as Dan Snaith, AKA Caribou and Daphni, who brought it to wider attention after including the track Aaj Shanibar in his DJ sets. That track has now had more than a million streams on YouTube.

Ruba

Now Hear This: Steve Monite – “Only You”

Anyone who has been a passenger in my car or listened to one of my DJ sets over the past 12 months has likely heard a singular slice of Nigerian pop magic that I am OBSESSED with — Steve Monite’s 1984 single, “Only You.”

What is it about this track that I find so captivating? In a word – everything.

Let’s start with that Moog Bass guitar synth line. Once you hear it, it’s impossible to get out of your head. And that beat — it’s driving, insistent and unusually fresh sounding for a track released in 1984.

Then there are those tantalizing Fender Rhodes guitar chords, which seem perfectly married to the Moog Bass synth. Why can’t every band pair these sounds together?

The icing on the proverbial cake is the devastating voice of Steve Monite himself. There’s an irresistible cool to his delivery, but also a palpable wink and a smile. As he sings “Only you can put out this fire,” you can tell he’s not just seducing someone, he’s having fun.

As someone with a natural predilection for odd and unusual sounds, my ears immediately gravitate to the idiosyncratic beeps and swooshes that punctuate the song’s rhythm. “Only You” is catchy and appealing enough to please the masses, but just odd enough in its nuances to keep fans of more left-of-center sounds smiling ear to ear.

Steve Monite

How did a track like “Only You” get made? Context is key — around the early 80s, African artists were drawing inspiration from electronic sounds making their way over from Europe. When combined with the funky sound of Nigeria, the result was some truly dazzling creations — the height of which is arguably “Only You.”

Interestingly, “Only You” was largely rescued from obscurity thanks to Frank Ocean, who performed a cover of it at 2017 FYF Fest. More recently, Theophilus London teamed up with Tame Impala to cover the song.

Before those covers, Soundway Records helped raise awareness of “Only You” by including it on its superb “Doin’ It in Lagos” compilation from 2016. The comp collected Nigerian pop and club culture tracks from the late 70s and 80s.

Doin it

The strength of the original version of “Only You” is a tribute not only to Steve Monite, but Nigerian music producer Tony Okoroji.

The track first appeared on the album bearing the same name on EMI Nigeria in 1984. The record is extremely rare — if you are lucky enough to come across an original pressing, it’s going to cost you. It has fetched as much as $1,300.

To unearth a track as singularly brilliant as “Only You” is indeed a rare thing. It makes you wonder — what other lost Nigerian treasures are waiting to be rediscovered?

 

From the Vaults: Rare Scritti Politti – circa 1979!

Every once in a great while, the Internet coughs up a head scratching surprise that puts a smile of delight on even the most jaded middle-aged hipsters in Williamsburgh.

That once in a great while became earlier this week when someone named Denis Cullum posted an extraordinary 16mm film clip of a young and scrappy Scritti Politti in the studio circa 1979. The “pop promo” in question is for the track “P.A.s” — taken from the band’s classic “4 A Sides” EP.

Scritti Politti is something of an anomaly, even by the wildly inventive standards of late 70s/early 80s U.K. post-punk.

Formed in 1977 in Leeds by the Welsh singer-songwriter Green Gartside, Scritt Politti started out as — to quote Acute Records head honcho Dan Selzer — “the coolest, most DIY and post-punkiest post-punk band of the era.” The band, driven by Gartside’s creative restlessness, couldn’t stand still. The group evolved into a stylish new wave band with grade A pop song writing smarts. Just listen to “The Sweetest Girl.”

From there, Scritti embraced the mainstream, dabbling in blue-eyed soul, hip-hop and melancholic folk — never standing still.

Over the years, Gartside’s talent has attracted some pretty impressive names to his roster of collaborators, including Miles Davis, Robert Wyatt and Roger Troutman.

But every great artist has to start somewhere, and with Gartside it was those early Scritti recordings. What’s particularly amazing about this inexplicable 16mm clip is it gives us a sense of how those recordings were made. We get shots of the recording process, the record pressing, the packaging — hell, even the kitchen.

Questions abound. Where did this video come from? Who shot it? Why has it been hiding for so long? And does our new friend Denis Callum have any more where that came from?

For now, these questions will likely remain unanswered. But let’s celebrate this stunning discovery now that we have it.

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Now Hear This: Br’er – “Help Me Live”

Br'er
DC’s underground music scene is brimming with inventive bands and talented risk-takers. So much so that it’s all too easy for stellar acts to get lost in the flurry. One band that absolutely should not be relegated to the pile of forgotten brilliance is DC synth quartet Br’er.

Br’er initially began as the solo recording project of Philadelphia native Ben Schurr as a means of completing several unfinished songs he began for another project.

It sounds crazy, but Br’er ended up in DC after Ben and bandmate Gabi hit a deer on the way to a playing a show at The Paperhaus in 2013. Once Ben arrived in DC he never left. He helped start a label (Blight Records) and music production house (The Blighthouse).

To date, Br’er has released four full-length albums – Br’er (2007), City of Ice (2011), Masking (2015), and Brunch is for Assholes (2017) – with multiple EPs and singles interspersed while touring extensively on the DIY circuit throughout North America.

The band doesn’t stick to one musical style. On “Help Me Live,” Br’er turns its focus to moody, silky synth sounds with an undercurrent of dread. It would be the perfect left field, late night 80s college radio tune, if said 80s college radio show was programmed by David Lynch.

Regardless of how you describe “Help Me Live,” there is no denying the immediacy of that beguiling hook. And those gorgeous synth chords…it’s no wonder I keep returning to this track again and again.

Have a listen…

Want more? “Like” Br’er on Facebook and check out the Br’er’s bandcamp page.

Don’t Miss: Seventh Stanine Festival@RhizomeDC

Reason number 3,465 to love RhizomeDC — the celebrated DIY house show venue is once again hosting the Seventh Stanine Festival, the annual live music festival curated by DC’s avant-psych pop weirdos The Caribbean.

The festival is happening Saturday, July 15th from 2:00pm to 11:00pm. I’m not going to tell you how to spend your precious weekend hours, but you really should consider going if it’s not already on your radar. The previous two were phenomenal and this year’s event looks equally impressive.

Attendees will get to see performances from Tristan Welch, Jon Camp, TONE, Kamyar Armani of Time Is Fire, Chad Clark & Erin Nelson of Beauty Pill, Mike Shirley and of course, The Caribbean.

Speaking of Mike Shirley, not only will he perform live, but his 24 hour-long “Tetracosa” will play continuously throughout the festival in an upstairs room, in a completely immersive environment.

Usually I’m not a fan of music festivals. I don’t like big crowds or festival venues. Seventh Stanine is the music festival for people who don’t like music festivals. The lineups are always idiosyncratic and interesting. The attendees are there for the right reasons. The vibe is chill and relaxed. It’s a great opportunity to hang out, make new friends and hear some amazing music.

Thank you Matt Byars, Dave Jones and Michael Kentoff for showing us all the right way to put on a music festival!

Check out the Spotify playlist of this year’s artists.

$20 suggested donation (100% of proceeds go to artists and Rhizome)

DJ sets by Marc Masters, Jim Thomson and Josh Harkavey

Full schedule here: https://Seventhstanine.tumblr.com/lineup