INDIE | Chicago vs. Atlanta on a new cassette comp of local psych
Next month local cassette label ‘Spective Audio releases Vital-Sound I, a compilation that pits six psychedelic bands from Atlanta against five from Chicago. Each city gets a side, and the tape features mostly unreleased material—new tunes, B sides, alternate takes.
Label founder Nicholas Zettel got the idea this winter when Cyrus Shahmir—front man for Atlanta pop-psych act the N.E.C.—contacted him about a spring tour. “Basically, everyone that I’ve worked with is from Atlanta or Chicago,” he says.
Zettel roped Shahmir into the project to enlist the Atlanta groups. “Pretty much all of those bands are bands that I’ve played with or I recorded,” Shahmir says. “I could just call them on the phone and say, ‘Yo, wanna do this?'”
The Chicago side of Vital-Sound I includes drony foursome Implodes, trippy metal trio Killer Moon, and Zettel’s own band, the Leavitt Ours; Atlanta’s side includes the N.E.C., doo-wop pop group Sovus Radio, and noise punks All the Saints. Zettel and Shahmir hope the compilation will shine a light on both scenes. “These are, in my mind, world-class bands,” Shahmir says.
Zettel and an artist called Cinchel are each making big paintings with ink or watercolors, which they’ll cut up into unique J-cards for every copy; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to preorder. ‘Spective Audio hopes to release a second volume of Vital-Sound next year.
EXPERIMENTAL | A transformed Singer returns for a second album
A second Singer album didn’t seem likely in 2011: two of the band’s four members, Ben Vida and Robert Lowe (aka Lichens), have moved to New York, and a third, guitarist Todd Rittmann, has quit to start Dead Rider. But in April 2009, Vida was back in Chicago for a few weeks, and he holed up with Lowe (who hadn’t yet left) and his brother Adam at Experimental Sound Studio.
“We didn’t know if we were going to be a band anymore,” says Adam Vida, who’s a manager at ESS. “But it was really fun.” The trio version of Singer spent about two weeks writing and recording, creating the core of what would become the new Mindreading, which Drag City released July 19. Adam says they chose that title because they felt like they were communicating telepathically while they were working.
The band spontaneously built each piece around Adam’s drumming or analog synth patches Ben had developed, and the tunes on Mindreading are more fluid and songlike than the turbulent, knotty tracks on Singer’s 2008 debut, Unhistories. Lowe plays bass and Ben plays some guitar, like before, but the new album is dominated by synthesizers. Everyone sings, and the multipart vocals from the first album remain, accenting or even dominating the lead melodic voice. This time, though, they’re catchier and more organic sounding—on Unhistories they often felt like they’d been mapped out on a grid.
Alas, it’s unlikely we’ll hear this incarnation of Singer live anytime soon. The members not only live in different cities but stay busy—Lowe, for instance, will spend much of the next several months abroad, stopping in Lebanon to work on a commissioned piece and visiting the UK and Norway to act in a new experimental film codirected by Ben Russell called A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness. On top of that, because of the way the songs were recorded, the material would have to be adapted for the stage—and the band doesn’t see that happening unless, as Adam Vida puts it, there’s “a lot of love for the new record.”
MUSIC ON FILM | Parallax Sounds, a doc on Chicago architecture and music, needs your support
When I reach Giancarlo Grande, producer of the documentary Parallax Sounds, he’s waiting for a water taxi at Michigan Avenue and preparing for his next shoot with director Augusto Contento. “The city has been helpful as well as other sponsors, including the Driehaus Foundation,” Grande says. “But we expected to have more financial backing from the United States.” Described by its creators as a “feature that explores the intimate connection between music and urban landscape in Chicago,” Parallax Sounds wraps up filming this month; Grande and Contento, both Italian, are looking for a final financial push from a Kickstarter campaign (which closes August 29) as well as a fund-raiser on Wed 7/27 at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia.
The crew has been shooting since November. “We shot the wintertime, and now we’re shooting summer,” Grande says. “The structure of the movie is going to span two days in the city—morning, afternoon, dusk, and night in the winter. Then it will start with a summer morning.”
Chicago reedist Ken Vandermark is composing the film’s score in collaboration with the likes of John Herndon of Tortoise, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, Steve Albini of Shellac, and Damon Locks and Wayne Montana of the Eternals—several of whom will be interviewed on-screen. The talking heads will also include musicians who aren’t involved in the score, like Ian Williams of Battles. Bob Weston has been running sessions for the soundtrack since last week and plans to finish Friday; on top of the work Vandermark is spearheading, David Grubbs of 90s postrock heroes Gastr del Sol is contributing two songs.
“Augusto is using the Chicago postrock music scene as a catalyst to enter into the subject,” says Locks. “I feel they are letting the project grow organically with interviews and letting the information they get from people drive the narrative.”
The fund-raiser at the Hideout runs from 5:30 till 8 PM and features a 20-minute preview of the film—it will run around 90 minutes—as well as food and drink and a DJ set by Locks. Admission is $20. For more info, visit cineparallax.com.