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Carolinas’ Independent Music Source

shufflemag.com Issue #12 Summer 2011

mount moriah

On Sacrifice and Redemption

Ahleuchatistas

Sonic Relocation for Noiserockers

Coma Cinema

Fitting In by Standing Out

The Aqualads

Riding Another Surf Music Wave


The Jam Room Analog Recording Special Free tape for analog recording projects! Record on 2� tape for the same price as digital

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Publisher Brian Cullinan Editor In Chief John Schacht Assistant Editor Bryan Reed Design Gurus Taylor Smith Patrick Willett Photo Editor Enid Valu Illustrator Taylor Williams Sales Christie Coyle Bryan Dowling Brett Nash James Wallace

Events/Marketing Shuffle Magazine Max Benbassat P.O. Box 1777 Josh Robbins Charlotte, N.C. 28224 Website shufflemag.com Mike King 704.837.2024 Contributing Writers Grayson Currin Corbie Hill Jordan Lawrence Topher Manilla Fred Mills Patrick Wall Christian Williams Contributing Photographers Ross Grady Thomas Hammond Jeremy M. Lange Elisabeth Vitale

All content © 2011 Shuffle Magazine Cover photo: Jeremy M. Lange This page: Ross Grady Microphone image used for logo on page 23 courtesy of Vectorportal.com

05 Concert calendar 07 paper tiger 08 hog 09 Elonzo 10 Birds & Arrows 11 fan modine 12 Pornojumpstart 14 Coma cinema 22 Ahleuchatistas 24 Aqualads 27 Now Hear This/Editor’s Picks 30 The Insider: Great Architect

Issue #12 Shuffle magazine is not responsible for your music tastes, just our own.

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Publisher’s Note

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Issue #12

t’s hard to believe but our next issue (due out in September) will mark the four-year anniversary of Shuffle Magazine. Coming into our fifth year, I’m happy to report that we continue to grow and trudge on as strong as ever. Four years ago, we started with a small group of likeminded grassroots music fans hell-bent on telling the world about the wealth of great music being made here in the Carolinas. Since then, our Shuffle family has grown to 12 staff and more than 50 contributing writers and photographers from across the Carolinas. If you’ve enjoyed reading Shuffle, you have these folks to thank for it. The tireless (underpaid and sometimes thankless) work these folks have put in to produce this magazine and give voice to the incredible wealth of hard-working, talented, independent musicians in this region is aweinspiring.  Thanks also to our readers who continue to so strongly support what we do. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you walk into a coffee shop, music store, or other place where we regularly drop off the magazine and see people light up when you say you’re there to stock the new issue of Shuffle. Thank you.  This issue will see us continue our great

growth in Greensboro with a series of events in the works in conjunction with CFBG and a new Shuffle Rep on the scene, Christie Coyle. Christie is a fixture in the Greensboro scene and a WUAG DJ. We’re excited to have her on board and she’ll be helping us grow even further in an area where we’ve already had such great support.  We’re also happy to announce a newly added Shuffle Rep in Charleston, where we’ll soon be breaking some new ground. Brett Nash will be our man-on-the-scene there. Brett’s work booking shows and house parties as well as playing in local bands and working in a local studio made him an obvious choice to help us with a proper Charleston intro. Although we’ve been dropping magazines in Charleston for some time, this issue marks a concerted effort to grow a bigger Shuffle presence there. So if you’re picking us up for the first time in Charleston (or anywhere else in the Carolinas for that matter), thanks! Please feel free to let us know what you think and what we can be doing to ensure the best possible coverage of your scene.  This issue takes us halfway through our quarterly 2011 release schedule. Our remaining

issues are slated for release on Sept. 1 (Issue #13) and Nov. 28 (Issue #14). If you’re an independent Carolinas-based artist and have a record you’d like for us to consider covering, send your material to the address located on the masthead. Although we’re happy to receive material at any time, please keep in mind that we start sorting through music submissions for future issues shortly after the release of the prior issue. The earlier we get your music, the better chance it has to make the next issue. We exist to support local music so please keep it coming.  For anyone interested in advertising with us, you’ll want to keep in mind that our ad deadlines usually run at least six weeks in advance of our release dates. You can contact any of the Market Reps listed up front or call us and we’ll be happy to help you get your business in front of our great and passionate readers.  Thanks for picking us up and thanks moreover for supporting local independent music. Please also remember to stop by our website and Facebook page for even more stuff.

Brian Cullinan, Publisher Shuffle Magazine brian@shufflemag.com


Concert Calendar

JUNE

10 Weedeater with Gollum @ Soapbox 10 The Kingsbury Manx with Birds & Arrows @ King’s 11 Thao & Mirah @ Local 506 11 Brice Randall Bickford album release

11 The Decemberists with Best Coast @

party @ Cat’s Cradle

Raleigh Amphitheater

11-12 Spoleto Festival @ Charleston 13 JD Souther with Jill Andrews @

McGlohan Theater

15 Dave Alvin & the Guilty Ones with Los

Straitjackets @ Visulite 16 The Strange Boys with Last Year’s Men @ The Pinhook 16 Los Straitjackets @ Cat’s Cradle 16 Futurebirds @ The Handlebar 16 One Another CD release party with Yardwork, Little Bull Lee and Brain F≠ @ Tremont Music Hall 16 The Blow @ Local 506 18 Jennyanykind with The Moaners split 7-inch release party @ Cat’s Cradle 18 Chris Mills @ Village Tavern 18 Chatham County Line @ Neighborhood Theatre 19 The Spits with TV Ghost and Temperance League @ Local 506 20 Dick Dale @ Tremont Music Hall 20 Nicole Atkins & The Sea @ The Milestone 21 The Body with Braveyoung @ Snug Harbor 23 Ben Sollee with Thousands @ Orange Peel

24 Reigning Sound with Wooden Toothe @ Grey Eagle 24-25 Drive-By Truckers @ Orange Peel 25 David Bazan with Centro-Matic @ Local 506 25 Zen Frisbee @ King’s 25 Dead Prez @ Grey Eagle 26 Holcombe Waller with Daniel Martin Moore and Haley Bonar @ Grey Eagle 27 Dinosaur Jr with Henry Rollins @ Cat’s Cradle 27 Tape Deck Mountain @ Snug Harbor 28 Fucked Up with JEFF The Brotherhood @ King’s

24 T-Model Ford with Amy Lavere @ Grey Eagle 25 T-Model Ford with 2013 Wolves @ Snug Harbor 25 Eels @ Cat’s Cradle 26 Josh Ritter @ Music Farm 27 Black Lips @ Neighborhood Theatre 29 Bon Iver with The Rosebuds @ Raleigh Amphitheater 9-30 Belle Chere Festival @ Asheville 2

July

3 Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit @ The Pourhouse (Charleston) 7 Whatever Brains LP release party with Invisible Hand @ King’s 8 Harvey Milk @ Tremont Music Hall 8 Psychedelic Furs @ Orange Peel 9 Psychedelic Furs @ Cat’s Cradle 14 Toro Y Moi @ New Brookland Tavern 15 Bill Callahan with Ed Askew @ Local 506 15 Toro Y Moi @ Emerald Lounge 16 Elvis Costello @ Belk Theatre 16 The Ladybug Transistor @ King’s 16 Benji Hughes @ Snug Harbor 19 Elvis Costello @ Thomas Wolfe Auditorium

Iron & Wine at Amos’ Southend, Charlotte. Photo by Patrick Willett

August 2 Dolly Parton @ DPAC 4 Steely Dan @ DPAC 9 Woods @ Grey Eagle 13 TRKFest @ Pittsboro BioFuels 13 Joan of Arc @ The Milestone 19 Archers of Loaf @ Cat’s Cradle 31 The Hold Steady @ Cat’s Cradle

September

8-10 Hopscotch Music Festival @ Raleigh 10 SWANS @ Orange Peel 11 SWANS @ Tremont Music Hall 21 Meat Puppets @ Visulite

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Find news, photos, videos, concert info & plenty of other Shuffle stuff at: shufflemag.com Twitter: twitter.com/ ShuffleMagazine Facebook: Facebook.com/ShuffleMagazine


Paper Tiger On the Prowl By Fred Mills

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weet dreams are made of this: from the opening seconds of Me Have Fun (a sample — vinyl-sourced, natch — of regal horns, followed shortly by a slinky, downtempo bass/percussion throb), the listener can’t help but sense he or she is in for something special. Indeed, as the next 50-odd minutes unfold you’re transported into a hazy-yet-glistening universe of blissed-out beats and dense, trip-hop textures; of sensual keyboard lines and deft deployment of headturning samples; and most important, of riveting, deeply soulful female vocals that are simultaneously seductive and vulnerable.  Meet Paper Tiger: singer Molly Kummerle and beatmaster Isaac Gottfried, who are helping to transform Asheville’s electronic/ dance milieu into something akin to the vaunted Bristol, UK, scene that gave the world Massive Attack and Portishead.  “We are definitely of those bands, and honored,” says Kummerle, also of local jazz/ soul outfit RubySlippers, when asked if the Bristol comment holds water. (Reviewers have often compared her vocals to Beth Gibbons of Portishead.) “Some of my favorite music comes from the European electronic scene,

Photo by Ben Mason

and we also have a great love of old school hip-hop mixed in with Motown.” Adds Gottfried, aka DJ Mingle, “There’s no escaping the fact that our collective tastes from the past have melded into our current style. That being said, I also hope we can be seen as something a little different, and I think this will become more evident as Paper Tiger moves forward.”  No question there. Formally together for about a year and a half — Kummerle and Gottfried met in 2002, and first collaborated on a cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”; they later tested the live waters as simply RubySlippers/Mingle — Paper Tiger’s trajectory tilted skyward several notches last fall when the band performed at the threeday MoogFest in Asheville, putting them in front of an international audience. Glowing reviews for Me Have Fun have furthered the momentum, and plans are in place for a new video and an EP of remixes while they work on material for the next album.  There’s also to be an uptick in concert appearances, including a set at this summer’s Bele Chere festival, although intriguingly, Gottfried will be dialing

back his live activity to concentrate on the production side. Drummer David Mathes, from Sonmi Suite, has already been working with the band, so he and Kummerle will form the core touring version of Paper Tiger, with selected other players sitting in when possible. Explains Gottfried, of his decision to remain in the studio, “It can be difficult to decide how your music is going to be played live, simply because of the sheer number of ways it can be done. Molly and David have been tweaking the live show to allow for sounds to be triggered and played by the both of them.”  Both musicians are quick to point out that there’s an exciting creative vibe surrounding Asheville these days, and that MoogFest in particular raised the bar not only for them but for the local music scene as well. And for her part, Kummerle can’t wait to showcase Paper Tiger in front of new faces. “We want to challenge our own art and not get too comfortable,” she says. “And I’m also a live performer, so there is a huge opportunity to be able to present your music and connect with a live audience to share in that energy created.” shuf12 Snapshots shufflemag.com 7


Hog Black Magic Melody By Bryan Reed

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here’s a moment near the beginning of Sebadoh’s “Gimmie Indie Rock” in which Lou Barlow sings, “Started smoking pot/ Thought things sounded better slow/ Much slower, heavier.” Rich James, guitarist and vocalist of Durham’s Hog, says that lyric could serve as a biography for the lumbering, ambitious metal band and its members — which also include drummer Noah Kessler, guitarist Alec Ferrell and bassist Ryland Fishel.  Kessler spent his formative years listening to “more interesting” punk-approved bands — the Melvins, NoMeansNo, S.N.F.U. and the Minutemen. “It got real interesting when a lot of those punk rockers decided to, like, practice,” he laughs.  But in high school, the once-punks hated metal. “It was dumb and it was really showy in this ridiculous macho way,” James says. “Of course, I was a punk rocker and I had studs and spikes all over me, but at the same time it was like, ‘Yeah, well at least I’m not wearing corpsepaint.’”  It wasn’t until James moved to Savannah to attend that city’s College of Art and Design that he started to appreciate metal. “The

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metal that was coming out of there was a lot different,” he says. “More punk.”  And the time he spent there, watching bands like Baroness and Kylesa — whose frontman Phillip Cope produced Hog’s debut, Archetypes — in their infancy, casts a long shadow over Hog’s auspicious first record.  Still, it’s hard not to hear Georgia in this North Carolina band. The EP’s opener, “(On the) Eve of War” heaves like a Baroness trudge before springing into a fleet instrumental bridge. James’ voice, a bellowing croak, suggests Peach State titans John Baizley, Creston Spiers and Troy Sanders all at once.  “It would be completely dishonest for me to say Baroness has no influence on me,” James says. “But at the same time, that’d be like saying Guns ‘N’ Roses has no influence on me, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor has no influence, Hank Williams has no influence.” Baroness, he says, was an encapsulation of qualities he already appreciated — especially an attention to complex multi-part compositions.  That impetus is immediately clear on

Archetypes. Though three of its four songs were penned while Hog’s predecessor, Tooth, was still active, they’re presented here with more space than the more direct Tooth would have allowed.  “The first thing we did as Hog was write really complicated shit,” James says.  From harmonic leads to generous atmospheric passages, from a four-minute barn-burner (“A Word Is Born”) to a nineminute, multi-part epic (“The Fourth Facet”), Hog has made clear its ambition.  After Tooth, Kessler says, “It started to move past like, ‘These parts fit and work,’ to ‘How well do they work?’ There’s a lot more focus on transitions.” That’s what allows “The Fourth Facet” to move from a lumbering doom dirge into a spacious, loosely psychedelic cloud propelled by a bass line that bubbles like lava beneath it.  As the band moves forward, James says, it’s becoming much more conceptually inclined, trying to better match its lengthy excursions with the words therein. “All of our songs are hitting the seven- and eight-minute mark,” he says. “There’s definitely more of a literary and conceptual bent going on.” shuf12

Photo courtesy of Church Key Records


Elonzo Family Matters By Patrick Wall

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eremy Davis and Maggie Bourdeau, the brother-sister beating heart of Rock Hill, S.C., quartet Elonzo, don’t look related. Davis is a gentle giant of a man, tall and thickly built, boasting brown hair and a lumberjack beard; Bourdeau is redheaded and petite — elfin, even.  There’s a line in “Living Will,” the slowburning second track on Elonzo’s superb sophomore release A Letter to a Friend, in which Davis references his “long-lost family.” But Elonzo is a decidedly familial affair. The band gelled in 2008 with the siblings on guitar (Jeremy) and piano (Maggie), and drummer Dan Bordeau, Maggie’s husband.  But, despite their physical differences, when they sing, it becomes clear that Davis and Bourdeau shook loose from the same branch of the family tree. Their voices form seamless harmonies at the center of Elonzo’s widescreen Americana, and do so in ways impossible without the gift of genetics.  Jeremy and Maggie grew up in Summerville, S.C., near Charleston, in a musical household. “We didn’t really play together, but we both always played music,” Davis says. He’s sitting in a lawn chair in the

Photo by Danny Oakes

backyard of his girlfriend’s suburban home in Columbia on a hot but breezy Easter Sunday. “And there was always music being played, or just records playing.”  Their mother played piano and guitar; the acoustic guitar Davis plays belonged to her. The band is even named after the siblings’ father, who died in 1992. The name was Dan’s idea — Davis says using his father’s name never crossed his mind.  Dan and Maggie moved to Rock Hill and settled into a home on East White Street. Davis moved up from Atlanta — and in with the newlyweds — to start the band. After starting off as a trio, Elonzo picked up bassist Stephen Narron on, of all places, Craiglist. It was in that house that the trio recorded both Elonzo’s first record, All My Life, and A Letter to a Friend.  While All My Life was a haphazard, derivative debut, Letter is a confident, assured folk-rock affair that posits the still-young band as one of the Carolinas’ next great rural-flavored acts. With hints of Sam Beam’s bush-bearded folk-rock and John Darnielle’s novelist tendencies among its Sticky Fingers-ish rock ‘n’ shuffle, Letter is all cinematic Americana filtered

through an indie rock lens. And those sibling harmonies sit front and center. For a home-recorded album, Letter is surprisingly high-fidelity, eschewing lo-fi graininess for relaxed production and lush textures. It’s an economical record that’s rich in sing-along choruses and emotional depth, giving heft to its front-porch Southernisms.  “I think the Southern-ness is just, you know, we’re from here,” Davis shrugs. “That’s my life experience. I write about my own life.”  That’s where the idea A Letter to a Friend came from, too. The loose concept for the record is that the songs are letters to or about friends, loved ones and people who mean something to Davis. That includes the band, too, of course. “I can’t imagine, really, what it would be like [to be in another band],” Davis says. “I think it’d be a lot more difficult. I don’t have to communicate with [Dan and Maggie] in the same way that I have to with people who don’t know me like that.”  He takes a long draught from a perspiring can of Budweiser and laughs. “And because they’re my family, they’re willing to, because I’m kind of obsessive, put up with me more than most people would.” shuf12 shufflemag.com 9


Birds And Arrows Out of the Cage By Corbie Hill

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hen Birds and Arrows covered Genesis’ progressive rock staple “Carpet Crawlers,” the Chapel Hill band likely didn’t know it would change its sonic dynamic. “I feel like I came out of the prog closet,” says Pete Connolly, drummer and half of the songwriting team of the co-ed folk-pop trio. “We could all be more honest about our influences. We could be a folky band that grew up listening to prog.” And with the resulting expanded palette of its latest record, We’re Gonna Run, the band may have also found the key to avoiding a sophomore slump.  “I forgot about that phrase,” guitarist and vocalist Andrea Connolly laughs, sitting on the porch with her husband Pete and cellist Josh Starmer. “I feel so much more confident in this record.”  We’re Gonna Run is a powerfully varied document by a band suffering no drought of ideas. The Connollys insist it’s because they’re unashamed of their influences. “I didn’t realize how Pink Floyd the song ‘Three Ponies’ is until I got to the studio,” Pete says, after engineer Nick Petersen pointed out its Dark Side of the Moon feel. Andrea finishes her husband’s thought with a defiant one, “We’re like, ‘let’s embrace that shit.’”  The Connollys formed Birds and Arrows almost five years ago as a guitar-and-drums

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duo. They met Starmer when he played in Graveyard Fields, an intermittent Chapel Hill sextet headed by area songwriter Brian Risk. “I would show up at rehearsals and I would aim my amplifier at Andrea,” Starmer admits. His bandmates, to whom this is new info, laugh. “I remember the cello being extra-loud,” Andrea says. Yet something clicked, and two years ago Starmer joined.  We’re Gonna Run — the first record as a trio — is also the first Birds and Arrows release that doesn’t sound wholly folk-rock. Woodgrain Heart, the 2008 EP, worked from a bleak, intimately introspective singer-songwriter foundation, while 2009’s Starmaker struck a poppier — but still predominately folky — note. Still, many of the band’s signatures are intact on the new record: Andrea’s bluesqueen belt intertwines with Pete’s Wayne Coyne-like conversational rasp, neither voice dominating in these democratic dual leads. Then there’s the sleepy western swing of “Weeping Willow.” Topically, the Connollys still apply everyday imagery — spoons in a drawer, unbalanced washing machines — without going totally Hallmark.  But even if the band isn’t completely reinventing itself, it’s hard to ignore the new elements. Andrea went wild with a

contact mic and various pedals, gathering ten minutes of squelching noise that she inserted in various tracks as she mixed We’re Gonna Run.  Near the end of “Summer’s Gone,” for instance, there’s a wash of clatter and feedback that builds into something more familiar to a Spiritualized record. It’s short, but distinct, rolling in like heavy weather before dropping out suddenly.  Elsewhere, some songs feature percussive reverb splashes and We’re Gonna Run even opens with a hollow midrange whine. Yet this drone morphs into the warmth of drowsy hands moving across worn keys, like the tones of an aged organ in some rural church. These noise accents are meant to be just a “bit edgy,” Andrea explains, but “not enough where it’s uncomfortable because that’s not the kind of music I love.”  Mishandled, this could be the most saccharine stuff imaginable: the adorably inlove, harmonizing married couple with cellist in tow could “make angels cry,” as Andrea jokes. “But it would get really boring,” Starmer picks up. The cuteness remains, but it’s been tempered by noise and prog-influences. If this is a Hallmark card, there’s a dirty joke scrawled inside. And that’s probably why it works. shuf12

Photo by Adam Dodds


Fan Modine Up From the Basement By John Schacht

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even years off the musical radar in the current zeitgeist might as well be Siberian exile. So it says something about Gordon Zacharias’ songwriting that, when he finally resurfaced, he found people like Jefferson Holt urging him to get on with it.  Zacharias, who’s recorded as Fan Modine since his 1998 debut Slow Road to Tiny Empire, met the former R.E.M. manager Holt through a mutual friend. He passed along some rough mixes of what would evolve into Gratitude for the Shipper, a luscious set of orchestral rock that had been gestating since Fan Modine’s critically acclaimed (though considerably sparser) sophomore record, 2004’s Homeland. Holt was as “floored” by the songs as Zacharias was by his reaction, and the former engaged in some totally needless arm-twisting to get him to finish.  “‘We’re going to book studio time, we’re going to do this, do that,’” Zacharias chuckles remembering Holt’s enthusiasm. “Obviously that meant a lot to me, respecting him as much as I do.”  Inspired by the feedback, Zacharias decided at “all costs and great personal risk, (to) jump off the cliff” and devote himself to music full-time. Holt stayed involved in a “meta” capacity over the year-long final stages, but it was co-producer Chris Stamey who had

Photo by Michael Traister

to make sense of a project that Zacharias admits had him “lost” after six years of songtinkering. Gratitude’s basic tracking had been done right after Homeland’s release, in the Carrboro millhouse Zacharias lived in at the time. But lacking the time or focus to “fully realize the record,” he says, the songs began accumulating endless layers — a xylophone here, a few more guitars and keys there — in his basement studio.  By the time Stamey got them, some songs had stacked up more than 100 tracks. (“It’s really not a good way to do things,” Zacharias sheepishly chuckles.) But he believes Stamey was the only person who could have sifted through it all and mixed the record. He cited the veteran producer’s ability to toss out, say, a particular bass line after hearing just 10 seconds of it.  “Chris is really quick at identifying standout performances,” he says. “But it was a bit of a surprise for him just how many different things there were to draw from.”  The process wasn’t just about subtraction, though. Where Homeland sounded like a cheerier cousin to 69 Love Songs Magnetic Fields, Gratitude was inspired by classic late-60s/early-70s records like John Cale’s Paris 1919 and Procul Harum’s A Salty Dog. Stamey tapped into his connections and soon

Gratitude’s buoyant melodies were swaddled in elegant strings — courtesy of several North Carolina Symphony members — and horns just jaunty enough to remind one of their origins in Triangle salsa band Orquesta GarDel.  Zacharias added some key guitar heft to counter-balance Gratitude’s lilting melodies and twee-tilting arrangements, lyrics that were deliberately “open-ended,” and his own voice — a wispy and sometimes theatrical vehicle. Triangle guitarists Ash Bowie (Polvo), Chuck Johnson (Shark Quest, Pykrete), Lee Waters (Work Clothes), Stamey and Mitch Easter all contributed parts. The result is a record that also embraces echoes of Big Star pop, late-era Wilco, and even the blue-eyed soul beats of Style Council.  Zacharias has been so inspired by Gratitude’s stretch drive — and the enthusiasm of his collaborators — that those long gestation periods between records might be a thing of the past.  “I’ve written a full record that I could go in and track tomorrow,” he says while insisting that those lengthy percolations were “the most natural timeframe for the type of records I’ve been making.”  “But I’m ready to try something new.” shuf12

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Pornojumpstart Outsider Trance By Topher Manilla

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ll outsider art must start like this: an experiment giving way to obsession. Granted, the term “outsider art” brings to mind acrylics and found-object pieces more than it does acid-house and MIDI controllers.   But such is the case for Columbia’s Adam Shlon, whose novice dabbling with a friend’s beat-making equipment soon found him compulsively sculpting cassettes of homemade, would-be trance tracks and scooping up any new MIDI that might add new capabilities to his arsenal. Compiling tapes and tapes of dark, warm instrumental rave-ups under the moniker Pornojumpstart (the name culled from a mysterious trick for warming-up a particularly finicky VCR with adult films), electronica has become like breathing for Shlon.  “It’s like it’s almost writing itself,” he explains.  And although Shlon all but refuses to share his music with me digitally in a pre-interview email (“I consider it a service to music that it’s not just fun to listen to, but to be held, loved and possibly bonded with”), Shlon maxes out his Pornojumpstart Soundcloud page on

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a daily basis, forcing him to cut the older material to make way for his latest creations.  A small sampling of his work can be obtained across an LP (Picture Perfect on PJS Recordings) and three cassettes (one of the tapes, Doug Filthy, released under his birth name), all of them limited releases on a friend’s micro-label, Space Idea Tapes. Pornojumpstart caught the ears of Swedes and Slovenians some time ago, and just this year began to pique the interest of American odd-balls.    “I think they just listened to it differently than people do here,” Shlon, 27, says of the Europeans who found his music via Soundcloud and reached out individually.  The focus on cassettes in regard to his own musical endeavors began when he experimented with a Nakamichi MR-1 cassette deck. “It started sounding bad in a good way,” Shlon says. “The natural tape impression was more forgiving. And I could go into the red and it would bring it back towards the middle.”  It would be wrong to categorize his music as “bedroom dance,” though it is made in a bedroom and has many of the

makings of dance music. But it’s music more for the metaphysical dance of the acid-fried brain as it trolls the Adult Swim message boards (another one of Shlon’s obsessions). Check out “Dream Girls Can’t Hurt You (In Your Dreams)” from 2010’s A Change In the Weather. Its glitchy, arpeggiated throbs threaten to have you grinding your teeth with or without chemical assistance. It’s the acned, juvenile delinquent step-cousin of chillwave, not allowed near babies or cats. “Almosthere” from Daybreaker, a collection of melodic, shorter loop sequences, is smoother, and full of warm lasers and expanding/contracting synth fuzz. But in true Pornojumpstart fashion, a ping/tap pulse threatens to go into the red throughout.   Still, Shlon’s words are careful and eloquent when discussing his art and process.  “The sound is best coming off a cassette. You can hear the space. Not space like a break in the music. A space that allows the sound signal to breathe. You can hear the physics of it being pushed and pulled so much better.” shuf12

Photo by Thomas Hammond


sh uffle Mount Moriah mount moriah

+ special guests to be announced

Friday, July 8 The Visulite Theatre 1615 Elizabeth Ave - Charlotte, NC Tickets on sale now at: www.visulite.com.

Come celebrate the release of Shuffle issue #12, meet the folks who put Shuffle together, and enjoy a great night of music.

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Restless Man in a Sleepy Burg By Jordan Lawrence

Spartanburg’s Mat Cothran uses Coma Cinema to battle hometown ennui

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at Cothran is easy to pick out in the middle of the Converse Deli. The downtown Spartanburg restaurant strikes a conscious balance between the charm of a Mayberry meeting ground and the authenticity of a kosher New York City eatery. It’s early on a Sunday afternoon, and the post-church crowd — mostly adorned in bright button-downs and sundresses — dig into the food and atmosphere with relish. In black Wayfarers and a slightly raggedy white t-shirt, the Coma Cinema frontman surveys the room with a 14 Coma Cinema shuffle Twelve

Photo by David Allen Glenn

bemused smirk. He’s visibly tired, sporting longish, greasy black hair that suggests a late, hungover awakening. Cracking jokes at the expense of the other diners energizes him, and his words wander into such revelry often.  “It’s all right,” the 23-year-old Cothran sighs in response to how he’s doing, dragging his attention away from the table to his right. The music he makes is similarly restless, a home-recorded grab bag of rough-and-tumble strums, pocket-symphonic synths and pummeling, trash-can-alley rhythms. He records almost


constantly, putting a lot of mileage on the Korg recording machine he bought with cash saved from a job at Publix the summer after 11th grade. It’s the only activity that seems to fully capture his ever-revolving attention. As he enjoys his lunch, texts roll in from pissed-off friends. Last night he hit up many of the people in his phone, singling out what he didn’t like about them and letting them know. It wasn’t a vindictive gesture, just a cure for drunken boredom, a state that strikes often when Cothran takes a break from his art. For now, his focus is squarely on music.  “I played three shows on Friday,” he says, explaining his tiredness. “We did a film festival in Columbia, and we didn’t start until 1, so that’s officially Friday. Then at 3 the next day we did radio, which was cool. Then at like 11 we played Ground Zero. That was cool. I’m pretty tired. I got pretty faded during all three events, so I’m pretty worn out.”  By the appearances of the deli crowd around him, he’s the only one keeping such hours. The juxtaposition is telling. Cothran’s life is highlighted by contention. He makes spastic lo-fi pop in a town where the very limited number of venues are most often dominated by modern country outfits, cover bands, or a combination thereof. He speaks often and vehemently of his disappointment with his home. He argues that the high school he attended is a racist institution. He insists that the city’s design places the rich and poor in proximity that’s bound to fuel socioeconomic tension. His outlook is so extreme that for a Spartanburg native, his appearance might be the most orthodox thing about him.  Tension and big, dramatic statements are the calling cards of his music, as well. He’s had no formal training, but somehow over the space of three self-made LPs he’s managed to focus his disparate ideas into hard-hitting bedroom pop that shines, not in spite of his DIY recording method, but because of it. By mastering his fuzz, Cothran has created an environment where brash electronic flourishes and patient folk acoustics are easily united by staccato drumming that’s simple to the point of infectiousness. But he doesn’t smooth the edges to make it work. He lets elements collide with rough volume, arming them equally in a scrappy sonic dust-up that lands most every punch.  Blue Suicide, his latest and best effort, ratchets up the intensity while maintaining fierce control over the chaos. It’s his most rhythmic record yet, popping with bright, jagged drums and riffs that ensure you will feel these songs move deep in your chest. Over the top he lays down the most expansive synths he’s yet deployed, lofting buzzing techno blasts that reach for heaven while forcefully containing arrangements with their weighty tones. The result is a confined space for Cothran’s many emotions, a padded room for him to attack without hurting anyone.  He takes full advantage, alternately mumbling and yelling through lyrics that move from trivial observations to boldly symbolic assertions in fascinating stream-of-consciousness style.

With “Caroline, Please Kill Me” he combines love song and kissoff into one blissfully crazy assault. Over bouncing boom-chicks and booming synths, he oscillates between devotion (“I don’t know you, but I know you are beautiful”) and repulsion (“Your eyes are dead like outer space”), before begging that she end his suffering so that he might “hang out in (her) feelings until the end of time.” It’s captivating, the kind of over-blown consideration most keep confined inside their heads.  “I think all artistic pursuits are a way to get out negative emotion, so you can stay balanced,” Cothran says. “That’s why so many of my songs are negative. I don’t want to get rid of the happy emotion. If I write a song about how great everything is, then I take all that happiness and put it into that because I put so much into everything. I want to leave the happiness in my head and put all the bad things into a song — to depress other people.”  Music has been an outlet for bottled angst since his earliest tinkerings in the ninth grade. He had just moved in with his dad and stepmom, landing there after low grades forced a move away from his mom and stepdad. When his behavior didn’t improve, his dad took his records. He was obsessed with Pink Floyd lost soul Syd Barrett and was desperate for a way to experience his songs, so he bought a cheap voice recorder and began singing into it late at night. His recording methods have improved, moving through an 8-track before arriving at the set-up he uses now, but the raw emotion of Cothran’s work has been a constant. It’s now one of Coma Cinema’s greatest strengths.  The fervor with which Cothran delivers his songs suggests it’s a well that might never run dry. While that may be true, he sees an endpoint to expressing himself through Coma Cinema. He plans to release an EP and one more fulllength before retiring the moniker. He’s adamant that he will form another project, and with the amount to which this one consumes his life, it’s hard to think he wouldn’t. In two more records, Cothran believes he can say everything he has left to say as Coma Cinema. After that, he doesn’t see the point of continuing.  “You shouldn’t go on for too long,” he says. “Things will end, so either you can be in control of the ending or you can just let it go on forever. And it will end when people stop listening or you die or whatever. I like being in control of things.”  It’s an odd move, speaking of ending a project just as it’s beginning to catch attention, but Cothran’s never feared taking a left turn. The restless energy that makes Coma Cinema great is the same one that compels him to move on. And it’s likely to be the boon of whatever comes next. shuf12

“I think all artistic pursuits are a way  to get out negative emotion, so you can stay balanced.” —Mat Cothran

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A Beautiful Catharsis

Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller forge their life trials into friendship and music in Mount Moriah By Grayson Currin Photo by Jeremy Lange


W

hen Jenks Miller and Heather McEntire, the leaders of the Chapel Hill band Mount Moriah and the owners of the record label Holidays for Quince, look at each other during conversation, they stare into each other with expectation. No matter what the topic—the band, its lyrics, the label, its releases—one seems to be waiting on the other to reveal some unexpected truth, some previously unseen kernel of wisdom that’s long been left unconsidered. It’s the sort of pregnant gaze that a family member gives during an overdue fireside chat or that a longtime lover gets in a comedown after an ugly fight.  Sitting in a small café in Durham, after closing time, McEntire indeed watches Miller attentively as he tries to explain their chemistry as collaborators and friends. Her wide, translucent blue eyes barely blink as she listens. “I’m really hard to get along with,” he explains, “and one of the reasons Heather and I work together so well is that we’ve known each other for so long.”  McEntire finally breaks the visual lock, leans her forehead toward the four-top table, and laughs: “Oh, and we don’t date. That much is key.”  Only five years after meeting, McEntire and Miller might indeed pass for family, but they’re not a couple — something that, after all this time, they insist has helped them cling to one another for support during their darkest times. And for Mount Moriah, both personally and professionally, the dark times have been as abundant as they have essential. The eight songs on their long-awaited, excellent debut, Mount Moriah, are tales of hard truths being told, of perseverance (or at least the hope for it), and of clinched-jaw belief in new beginnings. The album’s centerpiece is a country jangle called “Reckoning;” it recapitulates the scene where McEntire told her Bible-clutching mother that the love of her life was a woman. “Look how my face smiles and shines/Can you learn to love your child?” she sings with deliberate sweetness, her resolve blooming into purpose.  These are songs with incomprehensibly difficult geneses. Finally getting to a place where the world could hear them wasn’t easy, either: Mount Moriah has cost Miller and McEntire friends, band members, money and very nearly their small, striving business. Still, every time the band has demanded some increased commitment, they’ve found a way to offer it; finally, after releasing one of the year’s best records, it’s starting to have substantial rewards, personally and professionally.  “I don’t feel like I have a choice,” Miller says, explaining their decision to devote themselves to their music time and again, in spite of the odds. “For me, at this point, it’s so close to who I am, I can’t say, ‘OK, we’ve hit another hurdle, so I can’t do this.’”  Miller and McEntire met in 2006, while she was working behind the counter of Schoolkids Records, the now-closed collegiate outpost on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street. He was looking for a job, so she convinced her boss to give him a chance. Schoolkids hired Miller, and they became fast friends.  Strangely, for both, the job at the store was more than a new

way to pay rent until something bigger came along; it was a break with the direction in which their lives had been heading, a fork that would change everything. McEntire was beginning to lead Bellafea by night, but by day, she was a career-path climber at a book publishing company. Though she’d studied creative writing at college in Wilmington, N.C., she was stuck with a good salary in an office, working press campaigns for other authors.  “I wanted to be on the other end of things,” she says. “I didn’t know it was necessarily going to be music, but I knew I had stuff inside of me.”  Meanwhile, Miller had just had a bit of a meltdown, including the realization that he suffered from a rather severe case of obsessivecompulsive disorder, followed by a break-up with his longtime girlfriend. He’d played music in high school, forming bands and developing his chops as a guitarist equally comfortable with poprock and heavy metal solos. But he was also the principal’s son at a private school — a good student who went to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and again did well.  Then came the trouble: “It disrupted the track of my life, which was very academic. I wasn’t the person who had busted ass in school to get into graduate school. I was in a place where I needed to feel empowered and in control of who I was and what I was going to do. I saw an out of the life I was expected to lead and into the life I wanted to lead.”  That viewpoint was the framework for multiple extended conversations Miller and McEntire had beyond the record store counter. Since finishing college, McEntire had known that she

“It was an experiment to see if we

could make music together. We had a chemistry, and we went with that.” —Heather McEntire wanted music to be a principal part of her life, but she thought that trying to make it her life or livelihood might be foolish. Miller’s commitment to that idea compelled her to try it, too.  “I needed to develop more of a sense of confidence,” she remembers. “Jenks helped me get that in myself and let me have that voice. I knew that I was driven, and I knew I was going to do it. But…”  Miller interrupts, so she turns to him, waiting for the words she can’t find: “You just needed permission. You had so many forces in your life telling you it wasn’t what you should be doing. You needed someone to say it was.”  “Yeah,” McEntire says, pausing to study his face, her thoughts. “Yeah. That was really liberating, to have that.”  It would be a while before they had that together, though. Mount Moriah actually began in 2005 as the collaboration of Miller and Aaron Smithers, his longtime former roommate and longtime former bandmate in the drone collective The Hem of 

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His Garment (a band I was in for a time, as well), the motorik noise-metal army In the Year of the Pig, and the initial live iteration of Horseback. McEntire saw that early version of Mount Moriah a handful of times; in fact, the first Mount Moriah — or, really, Smithers and Miller as an artistic pair — was at its most productive around the same time Miller and McEntire began to grow so close.  That Mount Moriah was less tuneful and less textured, with Miller’s vocals sitting low in a slightly heavier, burlier band. “Back then, it was still kind of Americana, but a more Silver Jews type, because I can’t really sing,” he told Brian Howe for the Independent Weekly earlier this year. “It was rougher, more rockin’ in some ways.”  The band didn’t last, as several other projects escalated independently. Miller began working on the luminous drone of Horseback, his exploratory solo conquest; what’s more, he started drumming behind a set of concise pop songs that McEntire had written before heading to Chicago to pursue a romance. These songs didn’t adhere to the post-punk agitation of Bellafea, so she needed a new outlet. They comprised Lovers EP, the short and sole disc by Un Deux Trois and the first release from what began as a very casual way to put out their own music, Holidays for Quince Records. When McEntire asked Miller to play drums on those tunes, she didn’t know much about him as a musician. She knew he could play drums but, more importantly, that she trusted him.  “I didn’t know what kind of musician you were,” she says to Miller. “It was, ‘Oh, you play drums? Cool.’ It was an experiment to see if we could make music together. We had a chemistry, and we went with that.”  Un Deux Trois was McEntire’s experiment in forcing concision, purpose and pop into her songs, which, for so long, had been circumscribed to Bellafea’s angular bustle. It worked, as a few of those Un Deux Trois hooks still sink deep. Soon, though, that sound and style didn’t fit her state of mind. Some romantic and familial relationships had begun to fall apart, so  she started writing new songs.  “I didn’t feel like the Un Deux Trois format worked for those emotions or narratives,” she says. “I see Mount Moriah as a sort of therapy for me. I had some difficulty with my family; I took two years apart from my family and pretty much wrote these songs in those years.”  Miller assured her that these tunes needed yet another new home. By that point, they shared not only duties with Holidays for Quince but also a Carrboro apartment. McEntire would hear Miller’s developing work with Horseback and a solo guitar record under his own name; his use of atmosphere and openness crept into what she was writing. These were carefully composed country-rock songs, splitting the difference between Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush and Harvest. Miller offered the name Mount

18 Mount Moriah shuffle Twelve

Photo by Jeremy Lange


Moriah; that decision, along with his commitment to both his own projects and his work with McEntire, weighed heavily on his friendship with Smithers. For Miller, though, this band’s always been worth it, especially because these songs come from such an authentic place.  The band’s second show was at the tiny Chapel Hill club Nightlight, where Miller and McEntire both eventually worked, sometimes alongside their trusty rhythm section of Jeff Crawford and James Wallace. The power of what McEntire had written quickly became immediate that night. Playing the lead guitar line of the first song that night, “Only Way Out,” Miller had what he calls a “North Star moment”—a feeling that he was part of something truly special.  “It has this wandering melody that introduces it before the entire band comes in. I remember playing that, and then the whole band comes in, and it was one of the few moments I can remember as a musician where this electricity went out into the entire room,” he says. “It felt perfect. That moment was so powerful, it made the band undeniable. We knew what we were capable of.”  Soon thereafter, Mount Moriah gained real momentum: Brian Paulson, the same producer who had recorded Wilco’s debut and Slint’s Spiderland, recorded their debut, and their local fan base swelled based only on the strength of the band’s live show (and the exquisite songs therein, of course). Those beginnings soon grew into even more prominent and more demanding opportunities; last summer, the Indigo Girls asked Mount Moriah to open a string of big shows, followed by a run with the solo act of co-founder Amy Ray. That’s when Wallace and Crawford bowed out.  From an outsider’s perspective, the move wasn’t entirely unexpected. Crawford and Wallace have been a bit of a journeyman rhythm section for years, starting their own bands and joining others to add a simple, soulful elegance. From Max Indian and Mandolin Orange to Ryan Gustafson and their Sunday morning church crowd, Crawford and Wallace have often seemed more devoted to perfecting their parts within a band than building that band into a brand. That is, their quest has long seemed to help bands develop, not to develop bands. Still, it had consequences.  “I come from this punk background, where your band is like your family. It was a friendship that I cared about. I was really bummed out when James quit — big time,” says McEntire. “It felt like he betrayed me. But looking back, it was one of the best things that could have happened to me as an artist. I started looking for people who could help me grow as an artist and who could challenge me as a musician. ”  Miller and McEntire didn’t pause for long; they found two new backing squads and completed the tours while trying to decide what to do with their finished record. In fact, they spent months looking for a home for their debut LP that was bigger than

Photo by Elisabeth Vitale

Holidays for Quince. They wanted some label that could really drive the band’s image with a promotional budget. Together, they sent the record to some high-profile friends, including The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. There was some interest, but no deal made sense.  Holidays for Quince had a full docket of upcoming albums and no money to spare; in fact, last fall, The Mountain Goats and Mount Moriah even played a benefit in Durham to raise funds to 

“This electricity went out into the entire room...It felt perfect.” —Jenks Miller on Mount Moriah’s second show

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keep the label going. Still, they decided to do it themselves, to, once again, take charge of their own burdens.  Yep Roc Records had talked to the band about the album, but when the band decided to self-release it through Holidays for Quince, Yep Roc’s sister company, Redeye Distribution, asked to distribute it. They ended up picking up the entire label’s catalogue, a coup that gives customers the same access to Holidays for Quince releases that they have to records by some of the biggest indie labels in the land.  Talking to Miller and McEntire, you get the sense that they’re on the precipice of some grand achievement, or several of them. McEntire is working on a new Bellafea album, but she admits that she’s in the middle of a writing flurry for Mount Moriah. She’s got songs in the wings, and Miller shifts excitedly in his seat when he talks about the way those songs will sound. They’re going to take more chances on the next record, he says, by experimenting even more with texture and space. Just as Miller does with heavy metal, noise and drone in Horseback, Mount Moriah will, in effect, be hoping to push the oft-unforgiving bounds of the country-rock envelope to which they’ve been assigned.

20 Mount Moriah shuffle Twelve

 And by now, that plotline—overcoming the obstacles they didn’t anticipate—is a familiar one for Mount Moriah. On the first six tracks of Mount Moriah, for instance, McEntire takes us through a past full of romantic bitter ends and difficult reality checks. During “Plane,” she details the unease of want in a long-distance relationship, singing “You know it’s true: I would sell this shelf full of records for a ride to your affection,” singing with the resolve of bitten lips. The country dirge “Old Gowns” is a call to shed skin and stop enabling battles, punctuated by a command — “Oh, take my breath with the softest kiss.”  During the last two tracks, though, we finally feel the embrace of the future: In “We Don’t Need Much,” McEntire escapes the anxieties and excessiveness of the world, making an idyllic, sylvan home with her lover. And on the tense closer “The Hail, The Lightning,” she refers to some new “truest beginning.” It’s the sound of experience and suffering and understanding, all being broadcast into something new. shuf12

Photo by Elisabeth Vitale


Two Is Kinetic Enough

By Bryan Reed

I

t’s rare, but not impossible, to make a second impression as impactful as the first. Stasis diminishes impact. But a reinvention is an opportunity to greet the world anew.  The existence of Asheville’s Ahleuchatistas can be traced to 2002, when the group’s foundational trio — guitarist Shane Perlowin, bassist Derek Poteat and drummer Sean Dail — began a collaboration that would result in four albums of kinetic instrumental rock full of frenzied runs and abrupt shifts. The many who called it math-rock weren’t off-base, though the allusion to bebop innovator Charlie Parker’s “Ah-Leu-Cha” in the band’s moniker is telling; the swinging runs of notes, nervy interplay, and stop-time tension-builders owe more to bop than post-hardcore.  The trio was also a razor-sharp and precise presence, bursting with punk energy so propulsive that the music often seemed bound to tumble over itself. It didn’t, but the trio didn’t hold as tightly. Dail left the band in 2008. Illinois drummer Ryan Oslance joined soon after replying to a Myspace bulletin. He and Perlowin clicked instantly.  “Our first phone conversation lasted for maybe three or four hours,” Perlowin remembers. They “immediately” began playing together on the side, as well as in Ahleuchatistas. When Poteat quit in late 2009, Perlowin and Oslance decided to continue on without a third. So 2010 marked a logistical and stylistic renaissance for the band.  “I wasn’t really dying to hold onto this thing, when the group started to evolve in terms of the members of the band. It really 22 Ahleuchatistas shuffle Twelve

Photo courtesy Ahleuchatistas

felt absolutely appropriate to continue with something that was always evolving anyway that there were no rules for.”  They kept the name, but the approach was a significant departure — more spacious and dynamic, though much less frenetic on the whole. “If you listen to the earlier records, it’s not the dominant direction, but there are tracks that have more space and that are ambient and that are more sonically focused than with the nimble, jump-cut arrangements,” Perlowin says. As a duo, Ahleuchatistas’ work began to explore textures more concertedly; their improvisations together became searches for what Perlowin describes as sustained tension.  “It doesn’t really interest me to play music that I wrote when I was 24 or 25 years old, when I’m constantly writing new music and moving in new directions,” Perlowin, now 33, says.  Despite the transition, Ahleuchatistas have kept a steady pace. The band’s sixth album, Location Location, released in March, follows only two years behind Of The Body Prone, the band’s final album as a trio, but feels much removed. As Perlowin suggests, it’s not a complete departure, but it’s a noticeable — and telling — one.  “Perlowin and Oslance have a unique psychic interplay,” the band’s bio suggests. The two had begun collaborating without Poteat more than a year before the bassist’s departure, developing and recording pieces that might not have made sense in the trio context. Location Location gathers pieces recorded between September, 2008, and March, 2010.  “Israel,” the album’s penultimate track, is the first product of Perlowin and Oslance’s partnership. It was recorded less


Asheville out-rockers Ahleuchatistas follow new muses for their sixth album, Location Location

than a week after Oslance, 27, moved to Asheville and joined Ahleuchatistas. The six-and-a-half minute exercise floats cinematic post-rock guitar — layers of gently-hung chords and ringing, tremolo-picked notes — over a playfully busy jazz rhythm. Already, the duo was exploring texture and layering beyond what Ahleuchatistas accomplished as a trio.  And the rest of the album continues to stretch the boundaries of Ahleuchatistas’ sound. “No Sleep” lays expansive, anxious drones while “Waterboarding” cuts an angular set of doomsurf. “Mistaken Identity” evokes the percussive guitars and polyrhythmic drumming of Afro-beat and “A Little Effort Goes A Long Way” evokes the ringing percussion of Indonesian Gamelan.  “In a sense, it’s like an archival recording,” Perlowin says. “But I think it works as a conceptual whole. It was almost like this album revealed itself. We had all these recordings and I started going through it, and it was like, ‘Holy shit. We have a full-length album here that we should put out.’”  The album doesn’t arrive entirely unexpectedly, though. “I initially wondered if people would just reject what was happening,” Perlowin says. But 2010 offered ample opportunity to find out, with the band appearing at Tennessee’s Big Ears Music Festival and The Wire’s Adventures in Modern Music Festival in Chicago, in addition to two European tours. “It really seemed to

be more warmly embraced than before.”  After its second European tour — a three-week stint in December — the band took a break. Oslance, a “pretty intense backpacker” by Perlowin’s description, stayed behind for about six months. “I just pretty much left him there,” Perlowin says. In his counterpart’s absence, Perlowin finished Location Location and released it through his own label, Open Letter Records (which also recently released the excellent The Violence, The Violence from Doom Ribbons, Perlowin’s more psychedelic side-project with multi-instrumentalist James Owen). He’s also finishing the mixing process for Ahleuchatistas’ still-untitled seventh album, which was recorded in June.  Without completely abandoning the energy that marked Ahleuchatistas’ earlier work — Perlowin says the duo is balancing the pure-sound meditation and kinetic momentum about equally — the new direction seems to have reinvigorated its players as much as its listeners. “It feels more intense,” he says. “It’s more emotionally involving for me to play, and I think for people to listen to. We’re just more wrapped up in it.” shuf12

“It doesn’t really interest me to play music that I wrote when I was 24 or 25 years old, when I’m constantly writing new music and moving in new directions” —Shane Perlowin

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Charlotte’s long-running surf rock heroes return with another big set of vintage originals

By John Schacht

S

urf comes in sets of waves, and over the decades so has surf rock. Now in their 15th year, Charlotte’s Aqualads were inspired by the first wave, a tad too young for the second, rode in with the third, and may stand on the crest of a fourth with their latest, and best, recording Treasures.  The original surf music grew out of raw-edged 50s rock and rockabilly, riding innovations pioneered by guitar-maker Leo Fender as well as the nation’s early-60s infatuation with all things Southern California. The British Invasion returned it to cult status in short order, as mop-tops were easier to procure than surf for kids in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The music stayed underground until a brief resurgence constituted the second wave in the early 80s.  And then came Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in 1994. The film featured Dick Dale and His Del-Tones’ snarling classic “Miserlou” in the soundtrack’s starring role, as well as a handful of other tracks from surf progenitors The Lively Ones, The Centurions, The Revels and The Tornadoes. All those first wavers helped spark the third wave, one that embraced bands as diverse as the wrestler-masked mystery men of Los Straitjackets, the space-age surf of Man or Astro-Man?, and the vintage sounds of the Aqualads.  Shortly after the third wave caught traction, two future Aqualads — bassist Jimmy King and guitarist Jeremy DeHart — first met haggling over old school surf LPs at a Charlotte vinyl show. “Jimmy asked me if I was going to buy them,” 24 aqualads shuffle Twelve

Photo by Wiley Stewart

DeHart laughs, “but I had to go to an ATM for money and then wound up getting lunch. By the time I got back, he’d bought them out from under me.”  DeHart went to see King and an early incarnation of his surf band play that same night — he also brought blank tapes to record the LPs he’d missed out on. King told him they weren’t any good, just sessions-musicians knock-offs typical of the era when labels tried to capitalize on the music’s national profile. But DeHart’s web-designing skills led to another meeting at King’s crib and an informal jam session a few months later. By the end of the day King had asked DeHart to join the band as its bassist.  King formed the Aqualads almost by accident. He’d recently moved back to Charlotte in 1996 from Arizona where he’d played in a rockabilly band, and was trying to put something similar together here. But King couldn’t find any good singers, and he and his bandmates — playing under the name the Big Swinging Hammers at first — began writing and playing instrumentals.  A series of lineup changes and instrument-switches followed while the Aqualads released their first three records, 1999’s Hot Box, 2000’s Revenge and 2004’s Surf! Surf! Surf! The current four-piece — King (now on bass), guitarists DeHart and Walsh, and drummer Darrell Ussery — has been together since 2007, and Treasures reflects the band’s tight interplay as never before.  Recorded at the Kudzu Ranch studio of Southern Culture on the Skids’ Rick Miller (no stranger to surf guitar licks himself), the 11 cuts hit most of vintage surf music’s


“ There are a lot of really good bands in each different wave, but we always come back to the first stuff.” —Jeremy DeHart

touchstones:  Single-note hot-rod flurries (“Snake Eyes”), Spaghetti Western dramatics (“El Borracho”), sinister big wave-noir (“Washout”), middle Eastern exotica (“Whirling Dervish”) and islands-sunset ballads (“Crystal Cove”).  What distinguishes the Aqualads from most of their era’s peers is a concerted effort to remain true to the darker, staccato-andreverb sound of Dale and the other first first wavers. Many of the Aqualads’ contemporaries wound up drifting into other trends or incorporating other genres — a practice that goes back to first wave acts like The Bel-Airs and The Ventures, who, for instance, converted popular songs or TV themes to the surf sound.  “There are a lot of really good bands in each different wave, but we always come back to the first stuff,” DeHart says of the “cleansounding guitars and amplifiers” that characterize the early sound. “The music really came from high school kids in Orange County going out surfing and then coming home and plugging in and trying to recreate that whole feeling.”  Treasures may be notable for its wide range of songs within the genre, but the knock on surf music has always been that it’s a limited sound-palette. DeHart cites The Lively Ones as an example of the “one dimension, one facet” sound. But that, he says, can be misleading, especially when you consider that that was the rap against bands like the Ramones, too. “There’s so much depth in the amount of recordings they have, but they really have one single angle that they’re shooting for,” he says.  King admits to being “sick of playing” standards like “Walk, Don’t Run” or “Pipeline,” but concedes that sometimes they have to because that’s their market. Likewise, DeHart says playing “Wipeout” and the other classics can get “pretty dreadfully boring.” That’s one reason King actually prefers the Aqualads to

be an opener rather than top billing — “Graduating to being a headliner was somewhat difficult because it does get a little bit monotonous,” he says. “I’d rather just play short, fast sets.”  The straightforward nature of the music shouldn’t fool anybody into thinking it’s easy. Like the sport that birthed the music, it’s nowhere near as easy as it looks. It may not require Yngwie Malmsteen chops, DeHart says (it also doesn’t suck to listen to), but melody-based instrumental music presents its own difficulties. Carrying a lyrical line on guitar is rarely done in bands with singers, so precision is essential no matter how fast-paced the tempo — “If you don’t, there’s nothing going on,” DeHart says. The two-guitar line-up — the Aqualads did a stint as a three-guitar line-up for a while — allows for shared melody lines.  “I like the interplay back and forth,” DeHart says. “The more complicated that is, the more enjoyable I find it. There are a lot of songs where one guy carries the entire top line, the other plays rhythm, and it all boils down to the dynamics of your attack for the entire band backing that person up. There have been times when I’ve been out there trying to play the lead and feeling like, ‘C’mon guys, I need some help here, I’m out here all by myself.’ But that’s what practice is for, I guess.”  Whatever they’re doing, it’s been working solidly for 15 years and shows no signs of abating. The song “Dangerous Curves” from Surf! Surf! Surf! was featured in nine-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater’s recent IMAX film, Ultimate Wave Tahiti, and the Aqualads remain poised at the forefront of another surf music swell.  At a summer-themed, multi-band bill two summers ago, the band tore through a 30-minute set — Walsh and DeHart trading licks and lightning-speed runs while King and Ussery pummeled the tempo — that left the uninitiated younger crowd singing their praises afterward. In today’s retro-everything world, that could just be the fourth wave looming on the horizon.  “Everything goes in waves, no pun intended, but right now we’re as popular as we’ve ever been,” King says. shuf12 shufflemag.com 25


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sh uffle Help Wanted Know your way around your local music scene? Shuffle magazine is looking for part-time sales/ market reps in the following areas: • • • •

Asheville Boone Spartanburg Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill

Prior or existing media sales experience helpful but not necessary. A passion for what we do, intimate knowledge of the local music scene and great relationships within it are what we’re looking for. Flexible schedule requiring a few hours a week making sales calls/visits. A great gig for someone already employed in the local scene looking to help us out and make some extra dough in the process. Interested? Email publisher Brian Cullinan: brian@shufflemag.com


The Rosebuds Loud Planes Fly Low Merge

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f there’s a follow-up to the Rosebuds’ exceptionally moody fifth album Loud Planes Fly Low, it should probably come with its own blister-pack of Zoloft. Since 2003’s The Rosebuds Make Out — which saw the newly-wedded Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp signed to Merge Records — the band has been ratcheting down its garage-inflected indie pop and blithely innocent ba-babas in favor of an increasingly reflective, melancholy sound that never fails to find hooks amid the heartache.  Crisp and Howard divorced following the release of 2008’s Life Like, and unsurprisingly, LPFL is easily the most downbeat of the once sunny duo’s output. Fortunately, it’s also their most sophisticated and moving. With its greater vocal input by Crisp, and with those sometimes overbearing synths replaced by tasteful strings courtesy of producer (and founding member of The dB’s) Chris Stamey, this is an album that signals newfound, hard-won maturity in a band that was always enjoyable, but rarely distinctive.    Those emotions driving the record are at their rawest when Howard sings “I wanna tear you out of me” on “A Story,” which could almost be a less queasy take on Radiohead’s “Dollars & Cents.” It’s

Rosebuds illustration by Taylor Williams

forceful, but also one of the more pared-down tracks on an album that builds to crescendo through careful application of new elements. Frozen organ drones or wheezing accordion are more likely to appear than guitar heroics or an unhinged vocal. When this layered approach works, as on album-opener “Go Ahead,” any lack of complexity in The Rosebuds’ three-note solos and straightforward progressions gets papered over by excellent arrangements that add depth without distracting from Howard’s increasingly Jeff Buckley-esque vocals.  Crisp takes the spotlight for the album’s strongest, most thoughtful track, “Come Visit Me.” “I need something happy now/Even if it fucks me up” she admits in a breathless lilt reminiscent of new label-mate Eleanor Friedberger (of the Fiery Furnaces). Howard’s “Waiting for You” is a fitting response, fleshed out by wood block and an eerie intro melody that disappears then emerges again, this time haunted by Crisp’s ghostly background vocals. Minus the context, Loud Planes Fly Low would still be an excellent record — maybe the band’s best — but with it, these 10 songs feel as poignant and riveting as sitting in on someone else’s therapy session. —Christian Williams

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US Christmas The Valley Path Neurot

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arion, N.C.’s US Christmas is a great live band, but its releases are a mixed bag. Records like 2010’s Run Thick in the Night go on far too long, with some riffs and themes revisited too often. So if you like a song, good news: it’s on the record three times. There’s the distinct impression that nothing was left on the cutting-room floor, that every track recorded made it on the record.  Yet there’s a rich history, under the enormous “stoner rock” umbrella, of bands that are repetitive but not tedious. Earth and Om will endlessly cycle a single riff, riding past the dozen-minute mark with tantric patience. And Sleep has perhaps the best-known example of a stoner record composed of a single track, the 51-minute Jerusalem. US Christmas’ latest, The Valley Path hews to that tradition.  Clocking in at 39 minutes, it’s just over half the length of the Run Thick marathon. But unlike that crowded record, The Valley Path communicates space: An expanse of lonely timbres infused with deep-woods psychedelia. Lengthy tracks are certainly in the band’s nature, considering Run Thick cuts like “Deep Green” and “In the Night.” But the central question to The Valley Path is: Has the band given itself too much space?  The track length is either a shot at the traditional LP length or an astute admission by this band that eight minutes really isn’t enough time to develop an idea. In the Internet age, vinyl-originated concepts

like the LP and EP are largely cosmetic. Meaning that a record’s length is no longer defined by the medium it’s inscribed upon. The impression I’m getting here is that ten or so minutes is too little time for US Christmas to fully explore a theme, but 40 is too much.  Most notably, this is more like a 32-minute song with seven minutes of fieldrecorded padding. Roughly every ten minutes, the track takes a breather. In these breaks we hear crickets, distant trains, bullfrog Moog decay. It’s an obvious move. Found sound, when used properly (see: Godspeed You! Black Emperor) feels like part of the song. Here, not so much. A mix of Druidic plod and rural murk is fairly evident in US Christmas’ aesthetic without these soundscapes. And when a band battling its way towards the 40-minute mark lets the momentum drop, it makes the song feel longer than it is.  But be sure to make it to the end, because the last ten minutes of The Valley Path might be the best thing US Christmas has put to tape. When the final, euphoric climax hits, it’s a fantastic payoff. The indrawn sludge turns around, and the song closes on heroic, decelerated fantasy metal. On the thunder of dual drumsets, punctuated by violin and guitar melodies, US Christmas takes us to the top of the mountain. It just might have been a bit more fulfilling if they hadn’t stopped so many times along the way. —Corbie Hill

28 Now Hear This shuffle Twelve

Appalucia — Appalucia (Appalucia Militia Recordings) Appalucia’s baked-and-sauced porch jams include highvelocity drinking anthems, outlaw tales of survival, and tohell-with-redemption laments, and they all pack a wallop. The all-acoustic Charlotte sextet is fronted by the gang vocals of songwriters Corey Ziegler (mandolin) and Andy Fenstermaker (guitar), as well as Wylie Buck Boswell (banjo); driven full-tilt and half-mad by the rhythms of Ian Stroupe (bass) and Kevin Hintzen (drums); and colored by the band’s secret weapon, Geoff White’s fiddle. Roughly hewn and more authentic than an army of alt-country wannabes, Appalucia is punk as fuck and above all a grand old time. (JS) Audubon Park — Passion (CyTunes.org) Recorded in one weekend last year when half its four farflung members were back in Carrboro, the follow-up to 2006’s Teenage Horses is a suitably sloppy nine-song set reveling in its 90s sound: Sebadoh’s fractured song structures, Malkmusian slacker observations on the quotidian, and guitars that squirrel and fidget over ADD rhythms like the offspring of Mascis and Pollard. Nothing ground-breaking here, but delivered with plenty of heart and so-well versed in the genre it could fit snugly beside the catalogs of any of its influences. (JS) Phil Cook & His Feat — Hungry Mother Blues (Trekky) Like his 2009 digital-only debut, this 20-minute collection of instrumental folk tunes was recorded alone, at home, during a storm. And like the debut, Cook plays it loose, letting space seep between his notes, and maintaining a warm pastime demeanor. Ragtime rollicks (a cover of John Fahey’s “The Last Steam Engine Train”) and layered, resonant tones (the vaguely José González-y “Juniper”) ensure Cook’s traditionalist ingredients don’t brew a stale outcome. Nothing on Hungry Mother Blues is overthought or overwrought, just 20 minutes of gliding melodies from acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, harmonica — and feet. (BR) Des Ark — Don’t Rock The Boat, Sink the Fucker (Lovitt) A long-delayed left turn for ex-Carolinian Aimée Argote, Don’t Rock The Boat is worth the wait. Des Ark has always been a soul split between two bodies — the spare, affecting Piedmont blues of Argote’s solo outings clashing with firecracker plugged-in sets that pulled hard lines on blues and math rock. But here, intimate storytelling benefits from rock propulsion and arenasized builds benefit from lyrics that speak at an individual level. (BR) Doom Ribbons — The Violence, The Violence (Open Letter) Billed as a lament for the folly of humanity, this debut from Asheville’s James Owen (vocals, percussion, electronics) and Ahleuchatistas guitarist Shane Perlowin could soundtrack an updated Koyaanisquatsi, the 1982 film that, through images and Philip Glass music alone, showed the world’s environmental peril. Things suck even harder now, so: Forlorn melodies drift through clouds of hissing oscillations and disembodied voices. Primal beats propel nervous guitar lines and tweaker keys. Guitar layers braid like vines until they vanish in a percussion detonation. If this is what End Times sounds like...fine: Bring it. (JS)


Small Platters Ghosts of the Great Highway — Wrestle It Down (Selfreleased) The music on this 10-song set, the second from Columbia, S.C.’s Philip Windsor, does a bang-up job reflecting the title its author records and plays under. The songs come in two basic flavors: sparsely arranged and languorous tempos where the passing miles recall the solo work of, say, Centro-matic’s Will Johnson or, yes, Mark Kozelek; and more fleshed-out arrangements (meaning banjo, keys, percussion and electric guitar) with a bit more gas pedal — these read like Sam Beam fronting Magnolia Electric Co. The LP gets flat toward the end, but until that point makes for good road-trip company. (JS) Hard Mix — Defaults (Dovecote) In the alt-pop landscape in 2011, between rows of ripe chillwave, and post-dubstep seedlings, Hard Mix debuted with the for-free digital album Defaults. Columbia’s Noah Smith has some of the same faded-photo sound-smears that were the foam on chillwave’s crest, but Hard Mix’s approach offers a more overtly dance-inspired result. It’s less Toro Y Moi than Les Sins. Smith’s cut, distorted vocal samples fall in line with rookie-of-the-year James Blake while bright synths recall the more recent output of the Italians Do It Better camp. Essentially, it’s a hipster Megazord. (BR) Soft Opening — Untitled (self-released) Soft Opening’s decision to leave its debut album, and each of its six tracks, nameless is either lazy or brave. The Asheville outfit’s music suggests the latter. The third (and, at more than eight minutes, longest) cut revels in stoner-rock lethargy. It’s a lumbering dirge that casts its gaze decidedly downward, shrugging boulder-sized chords into the muck. But its immediate predecessor is a driving less-than-5 minutes, flinging flares of obscured vocals and guitar feedback from an insistent Klaus Dinger beat. Between the two, Soft Opening has effectively married the heavy sprawl of US Christmas to Moon Duo’s stacking repetition, and in so doing, created a compelling heavy psych platter, much more involved in mood than message. (BR) Young And In The Way — I Am Not What I Am (self-released) The six-minute instrumental, “That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Lie,” a grim and tightening screw of ambient black metal, is one massive build before “And We Have Kill Him” drops its first neck-snapping blastbeat. In that moment (and the many like it on I Am Not What I Am), Young And In The Way is at its most powerful, drawing us deeper into its cavernous depths with torturous deliberation only then to deliver the monster’s startling reveal. It’s not unlike the painful, exhilarating gulps of air you might relish while being waterboarded. (BR)

Des Ark WXDU, Vol. 3 CD-R (self-released) She might’ve left North Carolina, but North Carolina hasn’t left Aimée Argote. The rolling flurries she gathers from her acoustic evoke the Piedmont blues’ ambling momentum. It’s a steady move forward for these songs’ characters, whose hurt feels redeemed if only by having their lives confessed by a songwriter so gifted. Great Architect Tantric Postmaster CS (self-released) Sampler experiments and free-jazz collide; lost-traveler space-age epics ensue. It’s a markedly different approach for the normally more-organic sounds of Great Architect, but it’s an intriguing one. Horseback/Locrian Split 7-inch (Turgid Animal) Locrian claims the more immediate side, dropping a dub undertow into ominous blackdrone. But Horseback’s warm, immersive flipside is entrancing, like sunlight splintered underwater. Mountain Goats All Eternals Pack CS (Merge) The sonic ambition shown on All Eternals Deck was more than welcome, but as this tape attests, not necessary. Darnielle’s songs need nothing more than him.

By Bryan Reed

Superchunk/Coliseum Misfits split 7” (Merge/Temporary Residence Ltd.) Coliseum’s darker, dirtier “Bullet” is a fun revision, sure, but Superchunk’s “Horror Business” wins simply by not trying to fix that which isn’t broken. Temperance League Ain’t Nobody Listening 7-inch (Like, Wow!) If the A-side doesn’t sell you on the Temperance League’s high-gravity brew of jangle, swagger, swoon and sneer, nothing likely will. Stephen Warwick Werewolf single (self-released) Warwick adds some heft to his whispery folk with electronic influences, which ultimately emboldens the sound, feeling more lush than cluttered. Yardwork/Andy The DoorBum Split 7-inch (Self-Aware) Yardwork’s side is predictably engaging — particularly “Hot Balloons,” which climbs as on stacked stilts to precarious heights. But truth be told, this split belongs to Andy Fenstermaker, whose two contributions, in heartbreakingly plainspoken fashion, melt regret into redemption.

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The nsider

How to Play Cultural Games For our inaugural The Insider, reedsman Brent Bagwell gives us the inside dope on the studio alchemy of his Charlotte free-noise sextet Great Architect...

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e recorded this record in one day. One afternoon, really. Fresh from a tour — the first after expanding to a sextet — we set up in the familiar confines of “the lab” and our main man Bo White (Kinnikinnik Records) captured the proceedings in his inimitable way. I recall we convinced him to wear a beautiful floral sash for part of the session.  The recipe goes like this: Play every song twice. Not twice in a row, but once down the list like a set. Take a break. Play every song one more time. Wait a few weeks. Listen to the mixes and choose the preferred takes. Order them. Press to vinyl. Serves 300.  Sometimes, people mistake this approach for slapdash, slipshod. It’s not. We just prefer ripping off a string of threepointers every night to carefully constructing a video sequence of us shooting three-pointers. It’s easier. It’s harder. Let the camera roll, we’re ballin’ tonight, anyway...  This approach has lots of appeal. Drawn from the jazz perspective, the players endeavor to embody the music on every outing. So, yes, the recording is a snapshot of how it sounded that day, but it’s also a culmination of what we thought about these tunes over the months that lead up to that day. It’s a good representation of how Great Architect would sound if we set up in your living room. Or in the lobby of the skyscraper in which you work. 30 Insider shuffle Twelve

Photo courtesy of Great Architect  

 We operate with a fairly high degree of freedom. The curious thing about this, however, is that we improvise much less than most folks might imagine. The freedom is in what we might suggest in the early stages of compositions. Or do when we start playing new material. What we intend. We’re scoring our own storyboard. It’s musical and it’s representational and it’s never arbitrary. Every song is about something.  Each member has contributed songs and every other member has altered each one for the better. Every tune has a back-story, movement, a plan. I was astonished to find that the two takes of each song for this record were always — always! — within a few seconds of one another in duration. It seems we have a collective notion about when we’ve almost overplayed our welcome. An unspoken understanding, measured more accurately by the flow of time and shared experience than by tempo and bar line.  So, this record... The Trickster took the bait and the trap is unsprung. One way to balance the equation of Cultural Games is to think of it like this: an invitation, a faux-fanfare, a long climb; an unexplored organic compound; a first ride home; a wall of roiling calm; an action scene, rich in suspense; an impossible challenge; a deus ex machina for the bullpen; a heartfelt, awkward dance; a lost world; the rattle of the Electra 10-E, the unanswered radio calls, the flat sea.  But why fence in the listener? He or she is the crucial Seventh Party in all this. The one who needs to listen and think in order for it to work out for us all. Make it something new. —Brent Bagwell Album above: Great Architect, Cultural Games (Kinnikinnik)



Shuffle No. 12