Writhing Squares | photo by Melissa Centurio | courtesy of the artist
The Skeleton Key: Kick off February with a ton of Bandcamp Friday suggestions, a Writhing Squares premiere, a Laraaji livestream, Moron Movies, and so much more
There’s something to be said for a routine. Not, like, a work routine – though that’s good too – but more of a cultural one. The idea of going to the same places and doing the same things with the same people on a very regular basis. I know my whole goal with this column is to expand your world and show you that there’s more going on in our fair city than you think but at the same time I totally understand that most people want that steady, familiar, and similar diet.
During normal times I would try and argue with that but right now, a year into a global pandemic that’s shut almost everything down, I’d rather focus on what we can do to support the things we love. If you’re reading this column I think it’s safe to assume that you care about music and the various scenes in Philadelphia. Without live gigs those scenes feel like a husk right now and while there have been many stopgaps over the past few months to try and mitigate that loss, none of them come anywhere close either physically or emotionally.
I miss a lot of things about going to shows but outside of the obvious I just really miss applauding after a set. I know that sounds a bit trivial to focus on versus everything else but there’s a communal nature to joining in a cacophony of claps and yells directed at the musicians that just completely blew everyone away that can’t be replicated while watching something on my computer, not by a long shot. It speaks to the fact that so much of the music community is the fans, the people in the audience, and not just the band on stage.
While that can’t be replaced, there’s something to be said for just telling bands just how much they mean to you. That’s something I try and do all the time. I mean, let’s be real: you’re reading my thank you list right now.
No time like Bandcamp Friday to do just that. That’s the once-a-month day on the popular music sharing website where all proceeds go directly to the artists. They started doing this back in March of 2020 basically as a one-off fundraiser and it went so well that they decided to continue doing them. It’s not like Bandcamp takes a particularly large cut on every other day but those first Fridays; the idea is more that this brings in additional support from fans.
There are so many albums that have either dropped in the past week or are coming out on Friday and it’s all very exciting.
Writhing Squares – Chart For The Solution
I want to start off with an exclusive preview from two piece prog punkers Writhing Squares off their brand new album Chart For The Solution that Trouble In Mind is releasing in March. “Epilogue” is the name of the song and it’s a stunner. So much of the Writhing Squares sound is heavily layered – between Kevin Nickles and Daniel Provenzano there are six different instruments on the record including sax, flute, clarinet, bass, synths, and drum machine – and this track showcases seemingly all of it with the added bonus of live drums from John Schoemaker and organ courtesy of Alex Ward.
The Fragiles – On and On
I’ve been a fan of David Settle’s music since he was coming through town semi-regularly with his old hardcore band Ex-Breathers from Tallahassee. If you went to shows at Golden Tea House or The Great Indoors you probably saw them play at least once. Fast forward a few years, Ex-Breathers broke up and Settle moved to the City of Brotherly Love. He brought the noisy Big Heet with him, which he restocked with Philly people, and started lo-fi indie bands The Fragiles and Psychic Flowers. He also does the very awesome Under the First Floor podcast which we’ve covered in these pages pretty regularly.
The most recent Fragiles tape On and On is coming out on the 12th via Living Lost Records and if the one track released so far is any sign – and it definitely is – we’re in for a treat. The album was mastered by Justin Pizzoferrato, someone who has worked with some of your favorite bands including Sonic Youth, Speedy Ortiz, and Sunburned Hand Of The Man. Or maybe those are my favorites? Whatever. This is all very exciting and I am definitely ordering a copy of the album and you probably should, too.
Superlith – S/T II
Bandcamp has made it very easy for bands to release stuff into the world. While not everything needs to be out there, I’m happy that option exists, especially when it comes to stuff that might otherwise sit in the back of the closet never to be heard. Such is the case with the “new” Superlith album, the duo of Dan Blacksberg on trombone and Julius Masri on a circuit-bent Casio SK1 keyboard. I put new in quotation marks because this was actually recorded way back in 2012, around the time the bands’s first album, Plasma Clusters, was released. No matter, it’s great, and I’m stoked to listen to these loud, buzzing, weird songs and hoping for a reunion when we can have shows again.
Toe Ring – Collapsed Mine // This is The End
Like a lot of musicians over the past year, Sims Hardin has been trying to stay busy. His band Dark Web just announced a new album, he has a wildly entertaining Instagram where he posts record reviews, and he has put out a number of really fun songs from various projects. The most recent is Toe Ring, a collaboration with his partner Leslie who you might remember from the amazing garage act Louie Louie. This is some very catchy, kinda krautrock-y post-punk and I hope they do more with it cause I’d love to hear a full album.
Club Soda – S/T
This is that stuff you want to hear at the warehouse party when the sun is coming up and you need that extra burst of energy to keep dancing. Techno/acid/feel good noisy beats that all sound like the soundtrack to a truly demented anime. I don’t totally understand what’s going on here but I don’t think that’s really what matters.
Jupiter Blue – Dreams Of Future Memories
Jupiter Blue’s DM Hotep (guitar) and Tara Middleton (vocals) are both members of the Sun Ra Arkestra and while I wouldn’t call the band a side project, I also don’t think it’s fair to totally separate the two. This is especially true since on this new album, their first since 2018, they’re joined on cello and bolong – a type of percussion instrument from Guinea in West Africa – by Kash Killion, another Arkestra member. There’s obviously a connection here, though the songs on Dreams Of Future Memories remind me more of Arkestra leader Marshall Allen and his fascination with the space sounds of the EVI than anything the full band has done.
There’s a lot more coming out this week so keep an eye on your favorite band’s social media and be sure to support them however you can!
I’m surprised that Moor Mother hasn’t put out anything yet this year. In 2020 Camae was on a tear, releasing a ton of albums across the musical spectrum. One of the most talked about was Brass, her collaboration with rapper Billy Woods, and for good reason: it was one of the best albums of last year, and snuck in just under the wire at the very end of last year. Tonight Camae and Woods will be hosting a listening party and discussing their work. Find out more over here and also be sure to listen to the mix she and Kilamanzego put together for NTS radio. It is, not surprisingly, amazing.
On Friday night the Folksong Society’s Sori series, which focuses on musicians from South Korea, continues with a concert by violinist Joe Kye. The Portland-based musician has the keen ability to create intricate loops of violin and vocals and turn those into the building blocks of some very fun and catchy indie songs. While we’re on the topic of the Folksong Society, check out their recently-announced Cabin Fever Festival happening at the end of the month with sets from Bela Fleck, Keb’ Mo’, Valerie June, and a ton more.
While there’s no word yet on the full Philadelphia Folk Fest – like everyone else, I’m sure they’re trying to figure out what’s going on, if enough people will be vaccinated by summer, and so on – I don’t hold out a ton of hope for a normal, in-person experience. It is only February and as we all know by now a lot can change in six months. All the programming the Folksong Society has put together over the past year has been stellar and whatever happens I’m sure they’ll be making sound decisions with everyone’s interests in mind.
On Monday the 8th Vision Driven Artists and The Rotunda are hosting an online event called “Taxes for Artists” that is probably of interest to many of you, especially considering all the different ways the pandemic has affected income.
The next evening Erin Fox and Eleanor Two are playing the third in the Unprecedented Sessions series co-presented by The Key, Cherry-Veen Zine, and Power Cycle Productions. You can read more about that here. Also that night Penn is hosting an online event about “lesser-known musical styles of Jewish America” with an absolute dynamite lineup of musicians and scholars – Josh Kun, Galeet Dardashti, Shaul Magid, and Anthony Russell – speaking about opera, bluegrass, and the “Jewish cultural encounters and adaptation to the American context over the past century.”
Keep that spirit going Wednesday afternoon with a screening of the 2014 documentary “Flory’s Flame” about the celebrated Ladino singer and composer Flory Jagoda who passed away last week at the age of 97. That film is being presented by the National Museum of American Jewish History and will be able to be watched on their website, via Facebook, or on Zoom. After it’s over there will be a Q&A with Jagoda’s musical apprentice Susan Gaeta and Jon Lohman, the former Director Emeritus of the Virginia Folklife Program. Look for an more information about that and other programming being done by the museum in an article here soon.
On Saturday the 13th Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, the community and arts space in West Philly, is hosting an online concert featuring Serge El Helou on oud and guitar, Jay Fluellen on piano, and Hafez Kotain playing percussion. The trio will be doing a mix of jazz, classical, and Arab music. If you want less oud and more congas at around the same time The Rotunda is having a night of old school cumbia, salsa, mambo, and cha-cha-cha on Zoom with DJ Brujo.
My final two events for the next couple weeks are both on Valentine’s Day. Starting at 7 p.m. is the “Bittersweet Anti-Valentine’s Day – Charity Stream” with sets from DJs Baby Berlin, Wassup Gina, and Mental Healing as well as performances from Lovelorn, Total Rubbish, and a bunch more. It’s benefiting The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. At 10 p.m. head over to the Bowerbird internet for famed ambient and experimental composer Laraaji and his contribution to Liminal States, “a new series of late night, live streamed concerts intended to be listened to as you fall asleep.”
I don’t want to make this column any longer than it has to be so I’m going to stop here. If you’re looking for things to watch or listen to please check out the newest Cinepunx podcast because it features Hound’s Perry Shall talking about one of his heroes, the master of absurdist comedy Len Cella from Moron Movies. While Cinepunx obviously deals with film they do cover a lot of music-related stuff and I’d highly recommend just spending some time on their site digging deep. Another great podcast from that same group of nerds is the horror-themed The Evil Eye, which had a whole episode about the industrial band Coil and the movie Hellraiser.
Also, speaking of movies, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Questlove’s new documentary Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was just awarded the U.S. Documentary Competition’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance! No word yet as to when the rest of us will be able to see it but I seriously can’t wait.
See you in a couple weeks. If you have any tips, suggestions, complaints, or analog synth recommendations – I might be at that point in the pandemic – please reach out via Twitter at @talkofthetizzy.