Windsor’s creative class are making vast leaps in a technological direction. Pianists, painters, playwrights and poets are blogging, singers, sculptors and saxophonists are using Twitter, dancers, designers and drummers are online promoting their exhibitions, gigs, and creations. This is due in part to events like January’s ‘Teaching Tech to the Creative Class,’ a ground level, Apple Store-esque event designed to educate and expose artists to the many facets available on the internet with which they can further their art. The local presence on-line has exploded, even WAMM has launched a web version (you are on it). Perhaps this techno-savviness can partly explain the eruption of electronic music in Windsor.
A surge of new acts and reworked projects, both entirely electronic and those using electronic elements to shape their sound are taking the Windsor by storm in 2009.
Other than cross-over acts like Citywide Vacuum and NOT_digital, Windsor’s electronic music scene and rock scene have existed separately for years. But this year, as in the Run DMC/Aerosmith video for Walk This Way, the wall is being torn down.
Easily the most anticipated release of 2009 is the third release and first full length from Yellow Wood this June. Known and loved for their layered guitars and approachable indie-rock sound on their previous recordings, Yellow Wood have thrown caution to the wind and after a year spent locked in a studio they are emerging sounding almost unrecognizable. Their new LP Son of the Oppressor combines strange loops, vastly effected pianos and guitars and subtle break beats, achieving gorgeous tonal and textural qualities, while not overshadowing smart, deliberate song writing.
“I think if you want to do anything original musically, computers and sampling and the like have to be a part of it,” says front man Adam Rideout. “Not that only ‘original’ music is good, because a well-crafted song with a great progression and lyric is often not ‘original’ sonically but is still very valuable, more valuable than the newest strangest bleepy bloopy mind bender. I guess we’re trying to do both.”
Yellow Wood are no strangers to electronic music: Adam Rideout duels computers and midi triggers with Michou’s Stefan Cvetkovic in a side project dubbed St. Amra, while bassist Ryan Fields toils with electronics in various projects including Daily Associate, Fortnight and First Occurance. Yellow Wood even recruited NOT_digital’s guitarist/keyboardist Erik Ingalls for their 2006 tour.
Speaking of NOT_digital, since front man Erik Ingalls relocated to London, England, in July of last year, former bassist/keyboardist Stephen Hargreaves and drummer Bradford Helner have begun work on a new project set to debut March 6th at Phog Lounge. The pretentiously named Natural Sympathy Orchestra aims to create modern electronic music without the aid of looping, programming, sequencing or any computer equipment. In fact, the collection of analogue electronics Hargreaves is using were born before he was.
This vintage voltage trend is catching on. Huladog keyboardist Mark Calcott hoards a vast collection of analogue gear, Helsinki Go bassist Craig Maclachlan has been spotted with the much sought after Korg MS20, prodigy Johnny West introduced an Arp Omni-2 synthesizer to his arsenal of instruments, while guitarist Scotty Hughes has been building a collection of Moog Moogerfooger pedals and Windsor’s newest buzz band Vultures! features Kimberly Ann Kukoraitis, adding an entirely new dimension to the band’s output by tweaking the knobs of a Moog Little Phatty.
Covering the spectrum of electronic instruments from 1928 to 2008 is the electro-acoustic Two for the Cascade. Kevin Buckridan’s folky song writing takes on new dimensions with the addition of a Moog Taurus, a Moog Theremin and an iPhone. Yes, this year’s must have accessory is on stage too, via a couple of apps including a FM-based synthesizer, a Kaos Pad style synth and a flute (played with breath, no really) the iPhone takes the stage next to what is widely considered to be the first practical instrument, the Theremin. Developed in the 1920s by Russian inventor Leon Theremin, the Theremin is played without ever being touched, but by moving one’s hands in the proximity of two metal antennas, one determining frequency (pitch), while the other controls amplitude (volume), using the heterodyne principle. This may sound boring on paper, but under the spell of Two for the Cascade’s Holly Brush its sound is anything but.
While many of these acts have yet to spread their sound across the country, one local former punk bassist has. Sohail Azad, better know as Kero has quietly gained astonishing international success with his mix of IDM (intelligent dance music), experimental sound-scapes, bpitched and glitched up electro, and old school underground Detroit techno. With over 20 releases on some of electronic music’s most celebrated and innovative labels such as BPitch Control, Ghostly International, Downwards and Shitkatapult — as well as his own critically acclaimed Detroit Underground Records (detund.com), Kero has established a reputation for his unrepentantly brash, yet cultivated compositions and unforgettable live performances. 2009 sees Kero teaming up with legendary old-school Detroit techno producer Kelli Hand, and creating elektro/techno label kerohand.
Kero’s presence in the city has had great influence on many who chose the sampler over the Stratocaster. Royce Grayer Hill is one: “I was listening to [Kero] when I was learning how to make beats, his beats are so complex and complicated, but fucking dope.” Best know for the electroclash assault of Vex, and the equally impressive trip-hop of RollzRoyze, Hill along with friend and co-conspirator Stephen Surlin, a.k.a. Furs, regularly brought his sets to traditional rock venues, exposing new audiences to his unique brand of unpretentious electronica. That crossover begot much of the present electronic influence of rock bands, while at the same time influencing Furs’ sound. “I love 87 Things for the Future,” says Surlin. “If I didn’t hear some of his abstract electro sets at Phog I might be making trance-pop or something right now!”
As more artists travel down Electric Avenue, collaborations are born, including the union of Stephanie Copeland, alias Perielle, with Kero and Furs. Copeland called on the beat masters to contribute to her album, Fog Like This, due this spring. The collaboration made for a shake up of the Perielle sound, focusing more on percussive qualities, glitchy sampling and live instrumentation, with a minimalist approach that leaves room for Copeland’s signature vocals.
Rewind back to the mid 90s, when Windsor’s most successful electro-export Richie Hawtin (a.k.a. Plastikman) was changing the face of Detroit techno and receiving a massive reception worldwide; back in town, Citywide Vacuum was born.
Pat Petro joined former Luxury Christ/Butthole Surfer Trevor Malcolm in combining a collection of samplers, drum machines, synths and a trumpet. “The first time I plugged in and played music with Trevor Malcolm,” recalls Petro, “we started looping and repeating phrases, and within five minutes we had locked into the most generic techno groove. It was purely mathematical; it had no character. Then we stopped, looked at each other and laughed for a half minute of so. After that, we moved on to more interesting musical ideas. That’s how Citywide Vacuum was formed.” Since then, Petro and Malcolm have harnessed the competent metronome of drummer Liam O’Donnell and the familiar vocals of Luxury Christ singer Nancy Drew, recorded a full length CD Pact and have locked themselves in the studio again to emerge later this year with their second effort.
Just when we thought London Apartments’ Justin Langlois had given up on music to dedicate himself exclusively to Broken City Lab, he discreetly released Signals & Cities Are Forever, a spacey, glitchy, look at our industrial city and the contrasting surrounding countryside, that has already topped the CJAM charts. In keeping with the times, Langlois released the 9-track album as a free download, allowing anyone to share songs with friends and make copies legally, as long as you obey the Creative Commons licence.
Plug in, turn on, and pray the power stays on.
see full article in: WAMM March 09 | issue 11