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John Howie, Jr. & the rosewood bluff + Museum mouth + Wages + Young And In The Way

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Megafaun Page 10 Publisher Brian Cullinan Editor In Chief John Schacht Assistant Editor Bryan Reed

04 John Howie, Jr. & the Rosewood Bluff 05 Wages + Young and In the Way 06 Super Ape + Museum Mouth 07 RETURN OF THE CASSETTE 13 Reviews

Design Gurus Taylor Smith Patrick Willett Photo Editor Enid Valu Sales Vance Carlisle James Wallace Website CJ Toscano Contributing Writers Rick Cornell Corbie Hill Brian Howe Jordan Lawrence

JG Mellor Topher Manilla Fred Mills William Morris Chris Parker Ryan Snyder Jesse Steichen Chris Toenes Patrick Wall Contributing Photographers Angela Owens Bryan Reed Brian Howe Interns Richard Finlan Shuffle Magazine P.O. Box 1777 Charlotte, N.C. 28224 shufflemag.com 704.837.2024 All content Š 2010 Shuffle Magazine

Cover: Photo by Enid Valu This page: Megafaun at Pour House, Raleigh, Hopscotch Festival (Photo by Enid Valu) Shuffle magazine is not responsible for your music tastes, just our own.

Issue #9


John Howie, Jr. & the Rosewood Bluff Country Dreaming By Rick Cornell “This is really silly, but it’s kind of funny.” John Howie, Jr. is talking about the songs on his debut record with the Rosewood Bluff, and he’s got me at “really silly.” “I actually had a dream.”  It went like this: Howie, Jr. finds himself in the crowd at Carrboro’s Cat’s Cradle, and country rock legend Gene Clark is playing. Clark’s got the vest on, looks in great shape. As Howie, Jr. puts it, Clark’s “got this shithot country band behind him, pedal steel, the whole nine yards.” The band launches into a tune. But before Clark starts singing, Howie, Jr. wakes up — dream over. But he’s got the intro music in his head. As he sings it into the recorder that he keeps by his bed, he realizes that he’s ready to write the song. He gets out of bed, takes the recorder and his guitar downstairs, and writes most of what becomes “Watch Me Fall,” one of the rocking country highlights on John Howie, Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff’s debut, Leavin’ Yesterday.  It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Howie, Jr.’s been dreaming about country music for years; the outcome just isn’t always as fruitful. In 1992, when Howie, Jr. was in his early twenties, he started doing a radio show on Duke University’s WXDU called Heartaches and Hangovers, a celebration of Buck Owens and George Jones as well as lesser-known country artists from that same orbit. “I wanted people to be turned on to this music that I thought was so amazing and that I had turned my back on as a teenager,” says Howie, Jr., his basso profundo — which

4 Snapshots shuffle Nine

suggests, if not the voice of god, at least that of Bobby Bare — as striking in conversation as it is on record. “Once I got back into it, my dad took it upon himself to expose me to a lot of the artists. So it made sense for me to kind of further that cause.”  Howie, Jr. then went from playing country music on the air to playing it in area clubs when he formed the Two Dollar Pistols in the mid-90s. For the first six months, shows consisted of mostly covers surrounding a handful of originals. “I didn’t think of myself as a songwriter initially,” he offers. “I was more interested in showing people that Roger Miller was a god.” But he quickly grew into the songwriter role, complementing his natural band-leading skills. By the time the Pistols ended in 2008, they’d released five albums of high-energy country music, supplemented by an EP-length collaboration with Tift Merritt, a 7” single, and a horde of compilation appearances.  The demise of the Pistols led to some introspection. “I realized that, by the end of it — even though I loved everything that band did, especially in its last seven or eight years — I was writing songs for a perceived audience, members of the band, the record company. Pretty much anyone but me,” he says. “So when the Pistols broke up and I didn’t have a band, all of a sudden I’m just writing songs about how I’m feeling at that time or what I’m listening to.”  With this sense of freedom, Howie, Jr. returned to artists and records he adored when he was in his late teens: the Flying

Burrito Brothers and Michael Nesmith’s First National Band and the Byrds’ Untitled. “If there’s a country-rock element to what I’m doing now, it’d have to be because I finally got to the point where I felt like I had nothing to lose by having that come out.”  That element is certainly there on Leavin’ Yesterday, produced by Brian Paulson who was at the helm for the Two Dollar Pistols’ best and best-sounding record, Hands Up! It’s in the catchy intro of “Dead Man’s Suit,” a song that plays like it could have been Gene Clark’s next dream-show number if he’d packed a string section. It’s in the “Red” Rhodesand Sneaky Pete-inspired pedal steel playing of Nathan Golub. (Lead guitarist Dustin Miller, bassist Jesse Huebner, and drummer Matt Brown, a Pistols holdover, complete the quintet.) It’s even in the band name, which comes from the pages of David H. Meyer’s Gram Parsons bio Twenty Thousand Roads.  But when it comes down to it, for Howie, Jr. it’s all honky-tonk. He recalls a comment made by Pistols guitarist Scott McCall during a country music discussion. “Scott said, ‘Honky-tonk is like the blues. It’s a musical language. There’s just so much room to move.’ I agree with that. I think the possibilities are endless.” And the stuff of dreams, too. shuf9

Photo by Enid Valu


WAGES Earning Their Keep When Nick Campbell and his band Wages got together to record last November, the Asheville-based trio thought they’d try a radical new musical experiment: Entering the studio with songs.   Singer/guitarist Campbell, drummer James DeDakis and bassist Alex Hornbake had recently splintered from the Brooklyn band Arizona, where the modus operandi was informed by the anything-goes approach of acts like Of Montreal and the Fiery Furnaces. Arizona records were notable for lurching between styles — sometimes several — within a five-minute song.   With distance and time, however, stylistic fractures developed into aesthetic chasms, and Arizona broke up after three-and-a-half years. Campbell says it was amicable and done for all

“the right reasons.” But with Wages, he sought a more traditional approach.   “Arizona would just sort of show up in the studio without any plan, and that was sort of the point,” Campbell says. “It was fun for a while, but it got old eventually. With Wages, we were attempting an artistic exercise in keeping the songs really tight and simple — trying to find the pocket for each one.”   They brought in producer and ex-Whigs bassist Hank Sullivant to facilitate. While Wages looked to everything from Soundgarden’s Superunknown and MBV’s Loveless to early 70s Neil Young for inspiration, Sullivant pushed for the immediacy of 80s underground bands like the Meat Puppets and early R.E.M. The results? Wages’ compact songs emerge with a coherent sound — wistful janglepop tinged with occasional elements of Southern

Young and In the Way Crust Fallen Late into a Saturday afternoon behind the thin walls of a rehearsal space in Charlotte’s NoDa Studios, Young And In The Way is recording.  This is not an uncommon occurrence for the Charlotte band, which, since forming in 2009, has released two EPs and an LP of cold, harsh and loud music. They call it “blackened crust,” for its ties both to unrelenting hardcore and grim black metal.  “It’s never really been done before, so it’s kind of original,” drummer Randy Baucom says.  Today, the band is cutting drum tracks for a forthcoming split EP with Greensboro hardcore band Torch Runner. While Baucom blasts away, bassist Chris Nolen leans into the corner, reading

China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station and vocalist Kable Lyall watches the process between bites of a vegan chicken salad sandwich. Guitarist Rick Contes shuttles across the room adjusting mics and fiddling with settings on his MacBook, taking time to find a sound he’s happy with.  “We don’t really worry about writing and recording stuff on a certain timeframe,” Nolen says. “I don’t think we try too hard. We don’t have any agendas or anything with this, except to have fun with it.”  But that doesn’t change the fact that in less than two years, Young And In The Way has recorded and released the early demo Newborn, the no-frills barrage of their blistering 7-minute Cloven Hoof EP, and the dynamic and expansive

By JG Mellor rock, shoegaze reverb couching pretty nu-folk harmonies.   The debut was primed for release when Echo Mountain pulled the plug on their label imprint this past March. In the aftermath, Wages decided to forego a full-length and release a series of thematically related EPs instead. Out now are In Sun and Drowning, and another is due in October. Campbell’s lyrics deal, in part, with the heart and soul they put into Arizona, and the gulf between success and making art for art’s sake.   “The whole record was like a cathartic writing about that,” he says. “‘Why am I attempting to do this? If I’m meant to do this, does it matter if I succeed or not?’ ”  Arizona tried it one way; now Wages will learn what solid, traditional songwriting is worth these days. shuf9 Photo by Andy Herod

By Bryan Reed Amen, which concludes with “The Becoming,” a frostbitten 14-minute epic that points to black metal explorers like Wolves In The Throne Room and heavy post-rock outfits like Isis, while retaining a gruff punk feel in Lyall’s vocals.  “That’s what keeps our roots as a crust-inspired hardcore band,” Lyall says of his vocal style.  For now, the band says, it’s going into something like hibernation, awaiting Amen’s vinylrelease and opportunities to tour. Plus, as Baucom admits, “We have such a terrible time writing music, and stopping, and then writing again.” But if Young And In The Way’s current output is an indicator, they won’t stay quiet for long. shuf9 Photoshufflemag.com 5 by Angela Owens


Super Ape Sonic Freedom Seekers There are already PLENTY of monikers for music made by a few drums and some guitars, but Charlotte’s Super Ape saw fit to come up with one of their own: “freedom rock.”  “We want to feel comfortable and free on stage,” says bassist Jason Michel. “We want everyone at the show to feel free, to be goofy, to dance, to sit there with their eyes closed and go somewhere inside their brains, to shake their ass.”  Not so much shattering boundaries as sweet-talking different styles into bed together, Super Ape creates concise instrumental jams that drip with beastly sensuality and a sharp sense of style. There’s animal lust in its heavily layered rhythmic attack; the beats are complex and reliant on intricate syncopation. There’s a barbaric curiosity in the way the band crosses

genres — a polygamist marriage of dub, indie, dance rock, and whatever other pretty sounds Super Ape encounters — that helps the band stake out a territory of its own with alpha-male confidence.  Their Shake Down and Ape Shit singles touch on ’90s electronic rock, Chicago post-rock, funk and dubstep. As rocking as it is dance-ready, the instruments-only collections manage to assemble disparate sounds cohesively and concisely into pieces that move with a pop song’s momentum.  It’s a sonic brew that makes sense given the band’s history. Super Ape’s members — Michel (bass and programming), Stephen Barrett (programming, samplers and turntables), Dirty Haire (drums, programming and samplers), Christopher Holston (guitar), and Scott Slagle

By Jordan Lawrence (keyboards, programming and samplers) — have logged time on the production end of various diverse projects for upwards of 20 years each.  “The balance of everything as we’re writing songs, just making all that sound good, sort of dials in to what we would do on the recording level,” Holston says. “You think about the end result as you’re putting it together.”  Having joined forces last year while working together at keyboardist Scott Slagle’s recording studio, the group has also created its own record label, Electric Mountain, which also puts out the band’s side projects, including Bullship, Dirty Drummer, and Jason Michel’s eponymous work. This is just one more effort to ensure the sonic liberty the band demands. shuf9

Photo by Shante Slagle

Museum Mouth Kings of the Beach “It’s kinda cool being able to say we’re the only band in Southport,” Karl Kuehn says over the phone, wandering the aisles of a Fresh Market in Wilmington.  Situated about 30 miles south of Wilmington, Southport, N.C. isn’t exactly booming with youth culture — or young people for that matter. “You’re either moving down here to get away from the city,” Kuehn says. “Or you’re too old to be in the city.”  Southport’s solitary band, Museum Mouth, would stand out no matter what it sounded like. Kuehn, who plays drums in Museum Mouth, had dabbled in other bands, but never really found the sound or the energy he was after. He wanted “a raw, stripped down punk band,” so

he enlisted longtime friends Savannah Levin and Graham High, and taught them how to play bass and guitar, respectively. “We ended up making more simple, noisy stuff because it was more in our playing range,” he says.  Over an enthusiastic and engaging EP, I Am The Idiot Of The Jungle, and a brief but compelling 10-song LP, Tears In My Beer (both of which can be downloaded for free at the band’s Bandcamp page), the trio cemented its aesthetic. Levin and Kuehn hint at harmony with their detached coos. High’s guitars buzz and lumber through simple but effective melodies and frayed chords. Kuehn’s drumming is skeletal — he doesn’t really consider himself a drummer, but somebody had to do it.  But paring the songs down to their agitated-but-

By Bryan Reed not-quite-boiling-over essentials is what makes them work. Museum Mouth’s approach may not be ambitious, but it’s plenty captivating. Their direct, sardonic lyrics suit the humming wash of guitars and the cast-off singing. In her most commanding moment on Tears, Levin declares into waves of power-chord roar, “when the going gets tough/I’m gonna go to the beach.”  The lo-fi production stems not only from an aesthetic choice, but also from the equipment at hand — which is how the band maintains, and maybe enhances, its fuzz-smeared sound on stage. “Live, we play kind of messy, or at least I do,” says Kuehn. “The recordings are rare glimmers of hope.” shuf9 Photo courtesy of Beartrap PR


By Topher Manilla

hen Odessa Records’ Paul Finn set out to release the debut full-length from Carrboro’s post-garage freakout unit Shit Horse, the band had but one direction for the album.  “Josh, the guitar player, handed me the master tapes and said, ‘Make sure this never touches a computer,’” Finn says. “The band actually demanded that their release be on cassette and wouldn’t allow me to release a CD version.”  The resulting tape, They Shit Horses, Don’t They?, is the very thing that belongs on cassette in this day and age: Beefheart playing early Joy Division, the sound of Nuggets melting (I’m actually calling this genre Fuggets), Gil Scott-Heron back on the sauce and fronting a Peel Session gone batshit.  “When I first started the label I thought I was going to be

That cheap piece of shit spooling out your car window is back in vogue

a cassette label,” Finn says. “I’ll still press CDs and LPS, but when Shit Horse asked for a cassette, inwardly I was like, ‘Oh, yes, finally!’ [The band] recorded their EP on an old cassette 4 track so they thought it made the most sense that it would be released as a cassette.”  They Shit Horses, Don’t They? is now in its second pressing of 200 cassettes.  Yes, music fans, cassettes are back (sort of), and every article you’ll read about the recent underground uptick in indie-rock cassette culture starts just like this:  You know, cassette culture never really went away. Nope, through nearly two decades of being blacklisted as a valid medium by 98.9% of music consumers, the tape has remained standard trading fare in the DIY punk, hardcore shufflemag.com 7


Toro Y Moi - Body Angles (Mirror Universe)

and experimental scenes. I mean, the old faithful of punk ’zines, Maximum Rock & Roll, didn’t just start running cassette reviews when Dirty Projectors and Deerhunter put out their full-lengths in limited-release cassettes last year.  And you know, it’s because of mp3 culture that tapes are back in vogue among the indie kids. Mp3s don’t get worn like vinyl and tape, like real life. The iGeneration needs to feel the warmth of life’s wear and tear on their music, feel it turning. Or maybe they just impress hipster chicks when they’re stacked up next to your stereo.  So before we go and declare the late-in-the-game Hail Mary victory of the cassette based on a couple handfuls of indie tape releases —albethey some really solid pieces of music of which I own a lesser handful — let’s do away with any sense of novelty or elevated notion of where this is headed. Because, let’s face it, they’re also popular because they’re 75 percent cheaper than vinyl to make. One hundred tapes, $100. Economical and ironic, with a healthy dose of nostalgia and outsider art aesthetics — that’s a golden formula.  “In the olden days of indie rock, bands pressed 7-inches because it was cheap,” Finn says, “And you could maybe sell them out and make your money back. These days, every time I press vinyl I could be putting a down payment on a house. I am able to press small runs of tapes and sell through them. We are currently on the second pressing of the Shit Horse tape and we changed the cassette color from a peaceful blue to a baby poo yellow. That’s pretty fun.”  That said, there are some tape labels in the Carolinas that are kind of killing it right now.  Most notable is Charleston, S.C.-based Mirror Universe, which over the last year-plus has released tapes from deservedly-hyped synth-poppers Washed Out, Columbia’s Toro Y Moi, and Active Child. Launched in March 2009 by friends Ben Ellenburg and Ryan Moran (who recently moved to LA, making Mirror Universe bi-costal), the label began collecting blips across the blogosphere last summer when it released tapes for Washed Out and Toro Y Moi. That all happened at about the same time those artists saw a quick rush of success as part of the hastily monikered sub-genre chillwave (see also: glo-fi).  “Nobody really paid attention to us until we put out Toro Y Moi and Washed Out,” says Ellenburg.  The coalescence of place, sound and media for those Mirror Universe releases just seemed all too cosmic. Nearby Folly Beach is the go-to beach spot for students at Columbia’s University of South

8 Cassettes shuffle Nine

Carolina, where both Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick and Washed Out’s Ernest Greene attended school. And the “chillwave” the two made was most often accompanied with nostalgic beach imagery and seaside signifiers. It also draws heavily from 80s synth-pop, something you might find on, say, an aged, overplayed cassette.  “Ryan’s just got the magic touch,” says the modest, always understated Ellenburg, who handles the logistic/production side of the label, leaving most A&R duties to Moran.  I may go one step further than Ellenburg and surmise that there’s more than magic at play here, something more poetic. The cassette may just be the physical and aural representation of where youth culture and indie culture stand. Like youth itself, the music of the moment (chillwave, et al.) is terribly fleeting. In blog years, Toro Y Moi is already middle-aged. So why shouldn’t the media the music is pressed on reflect that? A tape will last as long as the music is hip. It’s ultra-timely, not timeless. It’s being able to hold in your hands nostalgia for the moment you’re currently in — call it Nowstalgia.  While Mirror Universe has stayed true to its 100 pressings per first run M.O., Ellenburg says he’s not against making more tapes if there’s demand — which there has been for Washed Out and dream-pop act His Clancyness. It’s put them in a quite different position than when Mirror Universe was originally a noise label.  “People probably think, ‘Oh, these smug hipster assholes with their limited cassettes’,” Ellenburg says of critics who consider Mirror Universe the work of all-too-hip indie-elitists who get off on making excellent music unavailable for fans not in the know. “But they don’t understand that we work 8-hour jobs and that this is really just a hobby for us. It’s a hobby that I maybe can pay my water bill with.”  And while Ellenburg certainly appreciates the blog world buzz around Mirror Universe, he hopes to keep flying just under the radar of most indie press.  “If there are only 100 copies of a tape, I don’t want it reviewed on Pitchfork. We can’t take the PayPal link down in time,” he says. “We’re to a point now where people trust the brand. Some guy in Japan will just go to the site and click and order every release on the page.”  It’s this sense of discovery to which tape lends itself best, easily passed off at shows. And if it’s just music-as-artifact for these boutique labels, tapes just have more to offer than CD-Rs. Verbiage and packaging for tape releases feels more like a fan-tofan exchange than a label-to-customer transaction.  “A well-packaged tape is always going to look better than a well packaged CD-R,” says R. Davis, who runs the Charlotte-based, Shit Horse - They Shit Horses, Don’t They? (Odessa)


punk-leaning tape label, Statuestory Tapes.  Davis, who’s been putting out tapes for two years now, takes a too-weird-to-live/too-rare-to-die perspective on tape culture, noting their practicality for demos (Carborro-based Sorry State Records even lists its cassette releases as “demos�) and aftershow handoffs.  “The Grids tape I put out should never be on CD,� Davis says. “With punk, it’s discovery. You know that you’re never going to find that tape again.�  The Statuestory Tapes site is a great example of this “we’re all fans� ethos. See the label’s “marketing� blurb for Atlanta-based WYMYNS PRYSYN’s recently released tape, Tres Umbros:  “WYMYNS PRYSYN kicks a bunch of ass. They wear sunglasses at night. They wear leather jackets....year-round. They smoke lots and lots of cigarettes. They take their coffee black. They drink whiskey straight. They write songs about the weather, sugar-free red bull (sic), Henry Owings’ bbq...This tape KILLS. I couldn’t be happier to put it out. Because I slacked

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4RW^<^d]cPX]ATR^aSX]V â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;˘ â&#x20AC;˘

Paul Finn, Odessa Records putting this up, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pretty close to being out of print. My bad...â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x192;Davis even includes free Mediafire links for some new releases. â&#x20AC;&#x192;And like Mirror Universe, Davis is able to sell out of these limited pressings in a short period of time â&#x20AC;&#x201D; though the Statuestory Tapes site only allows money orders. â&#x20AC;&#x192;â&#x20AC;&#x153;I can get rid of them without using the Internet,â&#x20AC;? says Davis. â&#x20AC;&#x153;With punk bands, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s easy â&#x20AC;&#x201D; just being able to pass off tapes at shows. Now, I get cash in the mail (for orders).â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x192;Davis says there should be an intent to keep cassette prices low for fans as popularity increases. The low-low purchase cost is something thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s appealed to punks from the get-go: $3 for a super rare, handmade â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and even quite possibly good â&#x20AC;&#x201D; piece of music. â&#x20AC;&#x192;â&#x20AC;&#x153;Seven dollars is a lot to pay for a tape,â&#x20AC;? Ellenburg says. Mirror Universeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s catalogue goes for $5 per release. The label still presses its own tapes from computer files, and has a tiny team of friends who assist with design and collation. â&#x20AC;&#x192;So far, these labels are content to sling their goods from the Web and at shows. But there is a hope their tape releases will be taken seriously by distributors and indie record stores. â&#x20AC;&#x192;â&#x20AC;&#x153;The only problem with tapes is that they melt in my car during these hot North Carolina summers,â&#x20AC;? Finn says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I used to bring them inside and out every time I left the house but I started getting lazy. So I have lost some tapes. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s okay â&#x20AC;&#x201D; they are easy enough to replace. I think I have three copies of Rio by Duran Duran on tape. Every time one wore out I would go to Nice Price and buy another one. I hope that more stores will start to embrace having a tape section again.â&#x20AC;? shuf9

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Megafaun So Far

O

On the dashboard of Megafaun’s well-travelled and muchdinged tour van — actually a 2000 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, more suburban mall mule than rock band bus — you’ll find the following inventory: A Kobe Bryant bobblehead; fliers from shows; a program from a wedding the band played in Milwaukee; various toy squirrels, evidence of one member’s squirrel obsession; a necktie; artwork from friends and fans; Hopi Indian kokopelli dolls, most now hairless; a fan-constructed kalimba made from an Altoids tin which was traded for a CD; “a whole mess” of letters and notes; a checklist of places to visit while on tour, including the healing Sound Bath at Joshua Tree; and maybe the crown jewel, there since the band’s second show, a fan-donated neon-paper Star ball that has collapsed on itself and faded entirely to gray. These mobile gewgaws and keepsakes — the band members refer to them as exhibits in the Museum of Megafaun — are the detritus of road-life that many bands committed to their craft accumulate. But these sun-bleached deposits are also an early fossil record — the heretofore, if you like — of Megafaun’s rise from tentative, transplanted DeYarmond Edison spin-off to self-assured fulcrum of another renaissance in the Triangle’s fecund music legacy.

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 Megafaun members (and brothers) Brad and Phil Cook, and drummer Joe Westerlund might blanche at the idea of being at the forefront of anything, but they’re cognizant of their emerging ambassadorship for the region. It’d be pointless pretending otherwise. Since forming from the ashes of DeYarmond Edison (singer Justin Vernon returned to the band’s Wisconsin home base and launched Bon Iver), the trio of folk-rock experimentalists have released three critically well-received records — 2008’s Bury the Square, last year’s breakthrough Gather, Form & Fly, and September’s maxi-EP/mini-LP Heretofore — and in three years gone from playing house shows and thrift-store showrooms to headlining tours and selling out Cat’s Cradle.  “Yes, there is a renaissance here, but we’ve taken so much from the other bands here, stylistically, and been so inspired by so many other bands, some just as popular as us,” says Joe Westerlund, the group’s 30-year-old drummer. “So I don’t know if we’re at the forefront, but I think we’re definitely a key player as a band in that spirit of collaboration, the strength of the scene.”  That collaborative spirit infuses the band’s music. Megafaun songs include free-form adventures — both live and on tape — that demand the kind of ego-loosening trust inimical to the bandmembers’ jazz and experimental music backgrounds. But being musical sponges seems ingrained in their DNA. Megafaun,


Three years in, the trio of avant-folk rockers  lead a Triangle Renaissance By John Schacht

Brad says, is “addicted to learning from people” and other musicians’ processes; playing in the sets of whomever they’re touring with — and vice versa — seems like it’s written into their rider.  “We always, always have collaborative minds,” says 30-year-old Phil. “Part of the fun of being a musician is meeting and playing with other musicians.”  The informal fun often morphs into formal collaborations impressive for their range. Brad plays bass in The Rosebuds and contributed to the most recent Love Language album; both Cooks will be joining Mount Moriah on tour; all three ‘Fauners are integral members of Gayngs, Ryan Olson’s 10cc-inspired pop-soul outfit; and a one-off with drone maestro Greg Davis inspired the band’s Seamless Night of Music (featuring overlapping sets with Davis, Marissa Nadler, and the Jeb Bishop Trio, among others) at September’s Hopscotch Music Festival.  Most recently, Megafaun curated, performed and recorded their Duke Performances-commissioned re-arrangements of Alan Lomax’s seminal Sounds of the South. The three nights of shows at the acoustically exceptional Hayti Heritage Center in Durham featured Bon Iver’s Vernon, up-and-coming Brooklyn singer Sharon Van Etten, and Virginia-based jazz ensemble Fight the Big Bull. (A CD will be culled from the performances and released in

Photo courtesy of Hometapes Records

2011 on Hometapes, Megafaun’s label.)  But maybe the most telling anecdote of the band’s promiscuous curiosity revolves around their meeting with modern classical/ minimalist composer Arnold Dreyblatt. After listening to Dreyblatt’s conceptual record The Adding Machine in the minivan one tour, Westerlund decided he would send Dreyblatt an introductory e-mail. Within months the band was holed up for a week on an artists’ commune in upstate New York, writing compositions with Dreyblatt (who wrote a 22-minute piece specifically for Megafaun) and rehearsing for a brief tour that culminated with a performance at the 2008 Wire Festival in Chicago. Those recordings will make up the final disc in a Dreyblatt box set due for release later this year on Table of the Elements.  “It’s funny, people get drunk and amped up and smash mailboxes, or whatever, but our idea of drunken fun is to e-mail a German composer and see if he’d consider making music with us,” Brad, 29, laughs.  Testing their limits through collaboration is cousin to the live improvisation Megafaun does on stage, in that it keeps the band’s musical borders permeable enough for new ideas to flow in. And though there are plenty of avant garde sections on the first two records, the trio felt the care and time it took to produce and record them could use a jolt of that live spontaneity. So when

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the band spotted a rare six-week schedule hole in early 2010, the decision was made: Enter a real studio and release whatever comes out of the sessions.  “We are a band that calls ourselves spontaneous, and we do it in a lot of ways, but we haven’t been that spontaneous on our recordings before,” says Phil. “So it was really cool to live up to our words fully in that sense, because we really did wing it and improvised that whole record, basically.”  Megafaun recorded Heretofore between January and February at Raleigh’s Flying Tiger Sound studio with 24-year-old BJ Burton, who’d received high marks for his work on the most recent Love Language LP. The basic tracks, though, were laid down in six days. Naturally there were guest appearances, including baritone saxophonist Robert “Crowmeat Bob” Pence, Bowerbirds’ Mark Paulson on violin, Matt Watts of SeaLegs on electric guitar, members of labelmates Slaraffenland on horns, and a whole contingent of pals on backing vocals — but the general rule was a first-take, best-take approach.  Phil deemed it “nerve-wracking,” but, like the others, found the process exhilarating. “We had to make all these split-second decisions — ‘what should we add there?’ ‘Oh, let’s put a lap steel down,’ and I’d have to come up with a part literally while we would bang through it a couple times, and then record it.”  Paradoxically, perhaps, the 35-minute, six-track disc includes some of Megafaun’s tightest and poppiest folk-rock — the home-turf jamboree “Carolina Days,” the lazy-day country drift “Volunteers,” and the winsome banjo-and-slide sing-along “Bonnie’s Song.” The title track, one of the band’s finest moments yet, recalls the subtle roots-and-noise alchemy of Califone and frequent Megafaun tourmates Akron/Family, its cantering gait dappled with rays of electronics that fill the spaces between group harmonies. The loopy, stoner-bliss melody of “Eagles” breaks off into segments of improv that act as segue for the album’s centerpiece, the 13-minute avant-garde piece “Comprovisation for Connor Pass,” sculpted from the first 15 minutes of a 4-hour improv that shifts between folk-song shadows, sinister drone surges and free-form maelstroms.  Phil calls the record a great example of Megafaun “putting our feet down in every color of the Twister board.” But including the lengthy “Comprovisation” on such an otherwise brief record raised the question of whether what was good for the band would necessarily be good for the fans (to hear). In the end, the outcome was probably preordained. As Westerlund says, “we just realized that we wouldn’t be Megafaun if we didn’t include that as part of every record that we do. Never say never, but at this point I can’t

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imagine making a record that didn’t include something where we felt we were reaching a little beyond our grasp.”  That risk-taking unites them — the trust Megafaun has developed on stage, in the studio and even in the minivan makes the tightrope seem a little wider, and taking chances keeps musicians fresh. But it’s not something that happens overnight, or by birthright. It wasn’t until the self-confessed “tense kid” and sports nut Brad picked up a bass and joined “laid-back” Phil (who’d been playing piano since the age of 4) in their Eau Claire high school jazz band that the Cooks realized how much they actually had in common. You could say it took playing music together to make them feel like brothers.  Westerlund met Phil the next year at a jazz camp, where he met Brad the following year. They were soon going head-to-head in high school Battle of the Bands competitions — Westerlund was playing with Vernon at the time — and a few years later the four of them evolved into the short-lived DeYarmond Edison and moved to North Carolina in 2005. But after Vernon pulled the plug on the band and returned to Wisconsin (Bury the Square chronicles the tale), the three left behind then vowed that their new band would belong to all of them.  “We were very adamant that it would be three equal voices,” Westerlund says. “The fact that they’re brothers, well, it almost sounds foreign to me when people say it because I feel I’m just as much a brother in making the music, and also in our relationship. We go through the same emotional peaks and valleys together, and we each have our things that get on each other’s nerves, as well as the things that we love about each other and couldn’t ever imagine being without.”  In the upcoming months, Megafaun comes both full circle and enters unchartered territory. The band heads into the studio again this November with Burton in tow, only this time they’ll be going back to Wisconsin and the new studio Vernon built with the strong sales of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Agow. And the day after the band’s final Sounds of the South show, Westerlund packed up and moved to Los Angeles, where his wife is attending school at UCLA. The bonds, they say, are now strong enough to stretch that far.  “I think these five years we lived here together were really important in our growth,” Westerlund says, reminding me that they’d never written lyrics or much original material beforehand. “This is just kind of a new change that will definitely have its challenges. But I’m kind of looking forward to meeting those and seeing where they take each of us.”  Besides — think of all those new exhibits for the Museum of Megafaun. shuf9

Photo by Enid Valu


Reviews Listen to This Superchunk Majesty Shredding Merge

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gnited by a shock of escalating feedback and coiling guitar parts, a rush of delirious rhythmic momentum, and a hook so huge it stretches nearly back to 1989, Superchunk’s first LP in nine years wastes no time finding what opening track “Digging For Something” is really after: Renewal. The quartet that helped put indie rock and Chapel Hill on the map sounds as energized as the foolish kids who thought their “Slack Motherfucker” (and friends) worthy of a DIY cottage industry – one that now sits atop the indie label heap, by the way. But these 11 tracks don’t trade on the disheveled, smartass misanthropy and drunken-hookup/even-drunkerbreakup fervor of those youthful LPs. Instead they buzz anew with a more powerful urgency – the clock isn’t just winding down, it’s hauling ass. Punk-flavored assaults like “Crossed Wires” and “Learned to Surf” (both released in different incarnations recently) or the 153 nitro-seconds of “Rope Light” roil with that knowledge, guitars-drumsbass drafting and colliding in their rush to the finish line. The shape-shifting propulsion and six-string angst of “My Gap Is Weird” are most reminiscent of early Superchunk, only now the snark is leavened with an adult’s wistful learning: “Time and transition is a wave that will put you overboard,” McCaughan tells the corner youngsters. But despite how well McCaughan still channels his inner ‘Chunk, things like Portastatic and Here’s Where the Strings Come In happened, and certain tracks incorporate those elements – though without subverting the parent band’s aesthetic. The strings do come in, for instance, on “Fractures in Plaster,” but only to accent the guitar décor, which includes a marvelous fuzzy outro of Kirk Kirkwoodmeets-Ira Kaplan feedback. Elsewhere, the spiky guitar counterpoint and marching toms of “Winter Games” sound like a (beefed up) two-song Portastatic mashup, though hints of McCaughan’s now-shelved solo project waft in occasionally on other tracks – though they mostly serve as a reminder that this is Superchunk’s record. Still, it’s easy to miss young Superchunk’s endearing sloppiness and why-the-fuck-not risk-taking – think of the shambolic outro to Foolish’s “Why Do You Have to Put a Date on Everything?” But in Majesty we get the precision of a well-seasoned act that’s obviously still in love with indie rock’s spirit, even (or especially) if it’s sometimes fueled by cussedness - just ‘cause you’re older doesn’t mean life’s shit washes off any easier with that wisdom-soap. As McCaughan sums up on the poignant album-ending rocker “Everything At Once,” your elders need the rock, too, because however more complicated the problems, it provides the same life-affirming answer: “So here’s a song about nothing and everything at once/oh the minutes and the months/the feedback and the drums/oh the feeling noise becomes.” Well said, and well played, Superchunk. —John Schacht

Battle Beasts Werewolf in a Blender Self-released If Battle Beasts meant to represent itself as a reckless, high-energy, way-too-fuckingloud band, then Werewolf in a Blender makes the point with grand eloquence. This is a daring record by a bass and drums act not ashamed of its own chaos. Recorded and mixed improperly — intentionally — the instruments bleed all over each other and are distorted to the point of demolition. “On the Run” alternates seamlessly between skate video-friendly heavy punk and NES action game triumph. “Lord of Destruction” is defined by a call-and-response between a distorted demon voice and some kind of digitally delayed bird-person. The drums stutter and gallop under a wash of mercilessly distorted bass overtones. Yet it’s in these juxtapositions that Battle Beasts really holds its own. Making a noise rock record that honors the genre’s roots in 80s hardcore is something to be done right or not at all. And this duo did it right. Corbie Hill

Black Congo, NC Live in Miami 1984 frequeNC Despite the name and title, Black Congo, NC, who are actually from Charlotte, recorded Live in Miami 1984 in the living room of the Yauhaus one day during Winter 2008. Yet it’s a bright, breezy hour of slowly expanding and retracting songs touched with African influences. The

guitars and percussion catch air currents, vocals remain a little bit behind the beat (just enough to turn you on), while sax and synths add heft to the arrangements without weighing them down. Just as “Dot” reaches the highlife, it floats gently towards earth before zipping heavenward. As the album progresses, direct references to African music fall away, yet the buoyancy remains. The album peaks at its center, with “If Your Heart” developing out of a haze into joyous, unstoppable momentum that only slows briefly before the insect-like percussion of “Persimmon Valley” buzzes and slinks into an even more cathartic peak. Live in Miami 1984 overflows with life. Jesse Steichen

Double Negative Daydreamnation Sorry State Restraint still doesn’t feel like a proper adjective for Double Negative, but control does. The band’s power over its own chaos is the one trait that betrays its members decades of experience. But because this band steers its maelstrom like Pecos Bill might a cyclone, doesn’t mean there’s anything held back here. Daydreamnation finds the band at its most dynamic, stretching buzzing chords like a slow recoil; stepping into stop-time riffs and buttressing Kevin Collins’ vocals with harmonic echoes. The sounds the band has wrestled from its instruments — Justin Gray’s throbbing, buzzing bass, Scott Williams’ shoegaze-dense and needle-sharp guitar stabs, Brian Walsby’s roiling percussion and Collins’ manic expressiveness — belie its traditional assembly. But since day one, Double Negative has been smarter than your average hardcore band. Now, they’re that and more. And as the three years

of tribulation leading up to this sophomore LP seem to be violently exorcised through these 13 cuts, the adage proves true; this was definitely worth waiting for. Bryan Reed

Gigi Dover & the Big Love The Avocado Sessions Self-released As a stylistic overview of the breadth (and wealth) of contemporary Americana, Charlottean Gigi Dover’s latest scans with a satisfying assuredness; there’s enough programmable potential to keep Triple-A radio types, both listeners and M.D.s, in clover. Such a cursory analysis, however, does Ms. Dover and her band of merry men — Eric Lovell, David Clark, John Spurrier, Jason Atkins — a disservice, for in The Avocado Sessions’ diversity lies not its ‘mersh appeal, but its aesthetic reason for being. From moments of quintessential twang (the funky, B3-powered “Love Stove”) and Memphis strut (“Future” — check the Jordanaires-like backing vox), to dreamy psychedelia (“Ode To Barry”; pure Tom Petty/Mudcrutch) and perky Western Swing as seen through Django Reinhardt’s eyes (the appropriately titled “Paris”), these songs literally breathe, like 3D characters coming right off the screen, with Dover and her sensual Rosanne Cash/Margo Timmins vocal chops in the lead temptress role. Existentially speaking, this avocado’s one tasty fruit. Chomp, chomp. Fred Mills

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Reviews (continued)

Filthybird Songs for Other People Holidays for Quince Southern Skies, the 2007 debut by Alamance County’s Filthybird, is complex. It’s piled with vocal overdubs and vibrant guitar haze. It’s gorgeous, but it blunts the power of the band’s greatest asset: the soaring voice of Renee Mendoza. Songs for Other People gives the singer her due. Built on bouncing bass lines, and guitar and organ that pierce rather than muddle, it’s filled with irresistible alt-country that’s as strong and clear as well-distilled moonshine. And Mendoza’s pipes, finally given the chance to shine, awe and soothe in equal measure. Starting quiet, her voice swells quickly to a rich warble, like ripples expanding on a pond. It’s a malleable tool that feels just as right chuckling through a “bless-your-heart” kiss-off (“Now I Know Better”) as it does navigating the existential puzzle of creation (“Mostly of Waves”). And with the band’s luxurious but relaxed backdrop, it all goes down smooth and easy. Jordan Lawrence

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby Lonely Avenue Nonesuch It may be too easy to say that Lonely Avenue, a collaboration between the Winston-Salem born piano-pop artist and the music-obsessed British author, sounds pretty much like what you would expect if above artist and above author ever decided to team up — but, well, they did, and, more or less, it does. Hornby has always embraced sound as art (see: High Fidelity) and even once penned a music memoir of sorts (Songbook), releasing

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it with a companion album (which happened to include Folds’ “Smoke”). Here, Hornby wrote the lyrics and sent them to Folds, who (with some current bandmates) scored, performed, and recorded it all, and then they did the inverse; the 11-song album has a deluxe edition featuring a 152-page hardbound book. And though the first single, “From Above,” is rather spry, Lonely Avenue has its share of classic Foldsian longing and melancholy. Despite Hornby’s presence, it’s Folds’ world after all. William Morris

Dylan Gilbert Pangaea Self-released Charlotte’s Dylan Gilbert has already recorded a small handful of albums and, at only 22, is clearly having fun doing so. To get to where Pangaea is, take Josh Ritter, put him in a studio (or maybe a high school homeroom) full of toys, instruments, maybe some pots and pans, some likeminded friends, some caffeinated beverages, and project some playful, memory-worthy home video on the walls. This isn’t to say there’s not some nostalgic longing here, but the mood (both lyrically and musically) is overwhelmingly childlike, with a nod to the simple, the breezy, the innocent. Still, though it feels like a wild attempt to grab youth and plant it in a soda bottle terrarium, it is decidedly open and hopeful. Add to his ability to pen a damn catchy pop song (“My Name is Arthur,” “I Feel Lost”) the willingness to experiment with genre, and you have a solid record that suggests there’s plenty more left in Gilbert’s tank (or terrarium). William Morris

The Honored Guests Please Try Again Breakfast Mascot The Chapel Hill foursome waited four years to respond to their Tastes Change LP, leaving many to assume the band had dissolved. Guest guitarist/ keyboardist Patrick O’Neill built his confident power-trio Aminal, while the rest of the band went underground. The patient, smoldering earworm “Talk Talk Talk” floated around for a while, but really The Honored Guests didn’t resurface under that banner until this year’s Into Nostalgia EP. This LP, then, could well be viewed as a second try. And the casual ease with which they’ve filled these resonant, breathy pop songs — not far removed from Band of Horses most of the time — is a welcome long-time-no-see. The album emerges as if the intervening years hadn’t, well, intervened, a small but unmistakable step forward in the band’s lush, melancholy indie-pop. This is a graceful showing, more casual and confident than its predecessors, and as engaging as any of them. Bryan Reed

Dan Melchior und das Menace Visionary Pangs SS Records Dan Melchior’s music often gets an unfairly simplified description. His method of sandpaper-smooth recording and guitar-snarl incorrectly sum up his work, clouding the interesting dialogue within (a recent record was actually named Obscured by Fuzz). Like the best lyricists, he observes the world around him, which has thus far included Surrey (outside London), New York City, and currently Durham.

“I Got Lost” tells a story both figurative and literal when a bus driver warns “watch out for the black hole downtown.” The narrator in “Intelligent Design Part One” ruminates like a reluctant existentialist — grudgingly — on life and his true, morbid feelings. Not that Melchior minds spitting bile, one of his more focused talents. With the title, “Mere Pseud Blog Ed,” the album’s final track riffs on The Fall’s violently fierce song name in a spoken attack on today’s armchair critics. Whether he’s tearing through or thinking deeply, Melchior leaves the door open for grace to walk in through the haze. Chris Toenes

Mount Moriah The Letting Go Holidays for Quince With Mount Moriah’s anxiously awaited full-length debut still in limbo, we’ll have to content ourselves with this limited edition 12-inch for now. On paper, it sounds awfully slight: The title track, a demo, and a live cut unfurl over twelve unassuming minutes. In reality, it’s startlingly ample. Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller are both better-known for other projects, but Mount Moriah exceeds the sum of its parts: It’s more bella than fea, and it isn’t accessible by Horseback. McEntire’s and Miller’s predilections for bruising distortion and ambient overload, respectively, fall back to reveal pastorals of piercing simplicity. The “Reckoning” demo tweaks the classic “mama don’t cry” theme to allow for a religious mother and a gay daughter, arriving at a spiritual posture both gracious and defiant. The title track polishes up the folksy vibe with beautifully decaying piano keys, and “Telling the Hour (Live at the Earl)” is a capstone of roiling rock music for Bellafea fans. It’s a scrumptious amuse-bouche portending a feast to come. Brian Howe

North Elementary Southern Rescue Trails 307 Knox Records North Elementary has crafted a natural sequel to the acclaimed Not for Everyone, Just for You with its sixth full-length. At its zenith, Southern Rescue Trails captivates with a pull as irresistible as it is hypnotizing; see “Sharp Ghost Mind,” with its repetitive, trance-inducing guitar riff and John Harrison’s haunting, slightly unintelligible vocals. Harrison (whose voice carries shades of Damon Albarn) sounds too hushed and grainy to be a focal point, and instead contributes to texture. Compressed guitars and eerie keys smolder atop each other, giving the listener little to hold on to and little choice but to get lost in the spacey orchestrations. While their bread-and-butter remains power pop, North Elementary takes a pleasant detour with “Southern Elevators,” trading overdriven guitars and laser synths for a humble banjo-andfiddle duet that glimpses into the southern upbringing that inspired this album. While a bit dense for casual listening, SRT stands as a cosmic, late-night trip worth taking. Richard Finlan

Pykrete Liber Novus FrequeNC As Pykrete, Chuck Johnson uses homemade, interlinked analog devices to build cathedrals in the interference between competing signals. A former NC resident, Johnson moved to California to complete a fancy music degree at Mills College, and the four vinyl sides of Liber Novus sound like a master’s thesis on intelligent noise. Rife with


Reviews (continued) corrosive timbres and primal rhythms, it’s uniformly visceral, though each side betrays its own deeply considered approach. Side A purrs and judders like a muscle car bombing down a rumble strip, while side B is muttering and austere, like a rudimentary creature learning to speak. Side C breaks up the shorter pieces with an 18-minute epic of ceremonial intensity, and D shifts gears to minimal techno, literalizing the continuous beat tortuously submerged in the first three sides. A noise record of rare breadth and depth, Liber Novus keeps working its magic even after you turn it off: You hear a truck’s air-brakes shrieking on an overpass and think, “Where is that music coming from?” Brian Howe

The Small Ponds Caitlin Cary & Matt Douglas Are the Small Ponds Last Chance Records This debut EP from The Small Ponds — primarily Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown, Tres Chicas) and Matt Douglas (Proclivities) — is the sound of orchestral rock and symphonic pop. The neat trick is that the record’s minus an orchestra and sans symphony. They pull it off with sympathetic production and inventive arrangements where handclaps can fill in for a horn section and space is made for Douglas’ piano, organ, and xylophone. And it works exceptionally well when two rich, compatible voices are among the instruments, with Douglas handling the low end and Cary providing string-section lushness. The collaboration clicks lyrically too, as across the five songs the co-writers offer their take on wedding fave 1 Corinthians: 13. Love is as crazy as a horse on a bus, and it surfaces even in the agony of August when “plows can’t cut an honest track.” It can be lonely. And, as depicted on the riveting centerpiece “Bleeding Heart,” it can be a brutal dance. But what gorgeous waltz music. Rick Cornell

Dylan Sneed Texodus self-released In 2007, Dylan Sneed quit his corporate job to make music full-time; a year later, he left Texas and eventually settled in Hartsville, S.C., where he’s made his living as a songwriter ever since. Indeed, the opening couplet of Texodus, Sneed’s own Odyssey chronicling his journey, sets the scene: “City lights at the back of me/distant as eternity,” he sings in a tender tenor over a simple-yet-elegant fingerpicked guitar pattern, “From where I’m going, from where I’ve always been.” Though he hails from central Texas and has always possessed the erudite literacy of Cat Stevens and the timbre and temper of a clearerminded Townes Van Zandt, the quaintness of the Carolinas suits Sneed just fine. Recorded in a tiny house in even tinier Ehrhardt, S.C., Sneed assembled a cadre of friends to flesh out his earnest Americana tunes; what Texodus lacks in polish, it makes up for in heart and wisdom, and firmly establishes Sneed as a strong Americana songsmiths. Patrick Wall

Toubab Krewe TK2 Nat Geo Music Last issue Toubab Krewe percussionist Luke Quaranta outlined how the Asheville band’s new album was built from the ground up in the studio rather than relying on road-tested material. Indeed, TK2 displays the free-wheeling nuances of a group seeking out a singular “moment of inspiration,” as he put it. The group’s African blues/ surfing-the-Sahara sound still

surfaces in tracks such as the slide guit-fueled “Sirens” and the trance-inducing, Ali Farka Toure-meets-Mermen “Area Code.” Yet one moment the Krewe can be heard pitting a grand piano against a kora (“Afro-baroque,” anyone?), with unlikely results; the next, a ska-like beat gradually morphs into a highlife rhythm and then into a subtle Velvets choogle while myriad stringed things chatter in a cacophony of twang. And those are just a couple examples of the sense of exploration on display here. A physical groove is present and persistent throughout, but in truth, it’s the psychological impact of the larger journey that’s intoxicating. Fred Mills

The White Cascade The White Cascade Self-released If nothing else, this Raleigh trio possesses a wholly appropriate name: Alternating waves of waterfalling white noise and twinkling, crystalline pluckings build and release, developing a sonic swirl reminiscent of shoegaze progenitors My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. But music of The White Cascade is less aimless post-rock meandering than it is indebted to Brian Eno’s Ambient series, with “Fine As Usual” invoking The Plateaux of Mirror’s eerie calm and “First Moments Upon Entering the Time Capsule” imbuing On Land’s dark drones with sun-scorched psychedelia. While “Anything U Want” is mostly throwaway C86 slowpop, “Sunblind” righteously cops some of A Place to Bury Strangers’ Big-Muff-thoughRoland-JC120 bombast; not coincidentally, it feels like the most complete song on the EP. But you get the sense that’s not the modus operandi of The White Cascade, which seems content to trade structure for sheer sonic space. And when it works, as on “Fine As Usual,” the results are pretty magical. Patrick Wall

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Reviews (continued)

Featured Review Megafaun Heretofore Hometapes

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hose familiar with Megafaun are likely to already be enamored with the trio’s free-music excursions, folk extrapolations and omnivorous synthesis of sound. For these, Heretofore offers much. The sprawling “Comprovisation for Connor Pass,” which serves as the epicenter from which the rest of the record diverges, could be the most clear distillation of Megafaun’s experimental extremities, reaching from spare, patient melodies into building drones and amassed improv; from folk into rock into jazz. “Crowmeat Bob” Pence joins the song for a surge of reeds-and-guitars skronk, before the lush sounds recalling bands like Efterklang and Slarreffenland dot “Connor Pass”’ conclusion. But the diversions Megafaun explores and experiments with on Heretofore are some of the band’s most adventurous and risky – because they veer so sharply into pop. If “Connor Pass” shows Megafaun’s bent for breaking formal restrictions, “Carolina Days” shows its affinity for the simplicity of a structured pop song. In Megafaun’s most deliberately and completely pop-minded cut, the trio sticks to a jangly, joyous verse-chorus cycle, broken only by a guitar solo about two-thirds of the way in. Mostly, though, Heretofore sways between these poles — between gorgeous, casual folk-pop heavy on hooks and harmony, and a search for new contexts in which to place nontraditional timbres. The title track might be the best exemplar, as its coaxing triune voice and breezy melodies coast above electronic bubbles and shrieks, and bristly drones. The pop-attuned instincts keep a steady backing and keep the song from losing momentum while guiding the listener through its divergent pathways. But those sounds are there, no less foreign than in any other context, just more approachable. Indeed, Megafaun’s music has often been considered a sonic bridge between the past and the present. But, really, it’s more of a gateway to timelessness, where the sounds of Piedmont blues and minimalist composition and classic rock and free jazz can commune, and where there’s an audience as familiar with Albert Ayler as with Phish and Charlie Poole. Here, the trio inspires aspirations for that aural omniscience without demanding it. This isn’t about using the avant-garde as a means to make pop more artsy, but to use pop to extend an invitation into the wide world of sound listeners can find if they follow Megafaun into their rabbit hole. —Bryan Reed

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Transportation Amusement Park Odessa Records Transportation writes about two things: girls and, well… okay, these are all songs about girls. With gently overdriven Americana textures distinctively blended with a soft rock vibe, this album could have come out any summer since 1972. “Pool Parties,” the best of their mirrorball ballads, plays like R.E.M.’s “Night Swimming” as rewritten by Comes Alive-era Frampton. But with lines like “your bathing suit was white,” they’re rooted — if not a little stuck — in a soft focus-take on the 80s. There’s almost zero aggression, even on the six rock tracks. What upbeat influence does manifest is more in line with The Police’s dancehalllite or The Raspberries’ power pop. One deviation, “Let it Out,” is effectively “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in double time. So maybe Amusement Park is an appropriate title for this optimistic overview of 70s and 80s pop rock. And you can’t fault Transportation’s positivity. It’s enviable, if nothing else. Corbie Hill

US Christmas Run Thick In The Night Neurot US Christmas doesn’t welcome impatience. Opening with the 13-minute “In The Night,” a dense, slowly developing piece is the Marion psych-rockers’ gambit. There is no warm-up act, the blues dirge we hear later on “The Leonids” or the heavy, murky swirl of “The Quena” is all in here, layered like a Cliff’s Notes of the album to follow: a summary to be expounded upon later. At one

time, USX was much easier to pin down, but here, the lineup has expanded to include guitars (lots of ‘em, both acoustic and electric), synthesizers, two drummers, bass and violins. At one time, USX was easy to claim as a lighter Neurosis or a gang of Hawkwind disciples. But now, as you’re well aware before you reach the second track of this consistently rewarding collection, US Christmas has found its voice within its smoldering tempos, ominously chiming chords and mournful, meandering melodies. Bryan Reed

Wretched Beyond the Gate Victory Records Wretched, a thrashing Charlotte metalcore band, carry a name that promises repugnance. And while the lyrics (“A backwards creature writhed in guts, in pus, in a mass of putrid flesh”) often deliver, the music is actually pretty unsullied. Between grinding outbursts that pack just enough fury to get your attention, the band’s two guitarists tangle with incredibly intricate leads. But they make their living off clean tones and sprawling guitarmonies, things that aren’t scary or disgusting at all. Hell, one of the most arresting things here is an uplifting orchestral transition. It’s not that the band doesn’t pack a wallop; they often thrash about quite forcefully. But it’s always calculated, almost cold — more a well-choreographed dance than a hysterical outburst. Wretched boast jaw-dropping instrumental proficiency and a surprising knack for melody, but their impact is more technical than visceral. And they suffer for it. Jordan Lawrence

Young And In The Way Amen Self-released Amen is a battle waged between opposing, if complementary, influences. With its foundation rooted in bass-heavy bulletspeed hardcore, Young And In The Way’s predilection for expansive, brittle and chilly black metal makes for a captivating contrast. The percussive battery that provides the bulwark for this 7-song 12-inch is the bridge between sides. Frontman Kable Lyall denies black metal’s banshee shrieks in favor of a strangled, throaty howl, pulling the band back into hardcore. But between lumbering, muted riffs, guitarist Rick Contes litters crackling shards of top-string tremolo, widening the band’s perspective. Fittingly, the A-side’s concise bursts give way to the single-song B-side, “The Becoming,” whose grim 14-minute panorama unspools into a three-way tug-of-war among of dark-hued post-rock, frostbitten black metal and crust-flinging hardcore bile. This is a well-formed work, both divergent and consistent. And still, its collision of sounds offers great promise for further exploration. Bryan Reed


yuB lleS In conjunction with Moogfest,

Shuffle Magazine is giving away a number of TICKETS, WEEKEND PASSES and other Moogfest swag.

Stop by these participating partner locations on the following nights to grab the magic keyword and text to win the goods! One full set of prizes to be given away each night! (each keyword to be announced at 8 PM and available via your bartender throughout the night)

cs ,AIBMULOc eunevA adulaS 347 4546-977-308

moc.stp5ycnandnadis.www

Friday, October 22:   Growlers Pourhouse Saturday, October 23:   Snug Harbor (Moogfest artist Tara Busch performs live!) Sunday, October 24:   Soul Gastrolounge (Scott Weaver spins!)

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ARCADE FIRE THE SUBURBS “The Suburbs makes the promise that hope isn’t just another spiritual cul-de-sac.” —Spin Magazine

SUPERCHUNK MAJESTY SHREDDING “…puts the pedal to the metal with youthful abandon.” — Time Out Chicago

SHE & HIM VOLUME TWO She & Him is Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. Volume Two is bolstered by rich harmonies, sweet-as-sugar melodies and Brill Building choruses.

SPOON TRANSFERENCE “Transference is the most exciting album Spoon has ever made.” — Nylon Guys

WWW.MERGERECORDS.COM


Shuffle No. 9a - Megafaun