Sunday, May 15, 2016

Kikagaku Moyo

Photo Credit: Kentaro
(New York) Kikagaku Moyo (translation: "geometric patterns") was formed in Tokyo in the Summer of 2012 by Go Kurosawa and Tomo Katsurada. Their music incorporates elements of classical Indian music, Krautrock, Traditional Folk, and 70s Rock. Kikagaku Moyo calls their sound psychedelic because it encompasses a broad spectrum of influence, but most importantly their music is about freedom of the mind and body and building a bridge between the supernatural and the present; improvisation is a key element to their sound.
The band released their first self-titled album in 2013 on Cosmic Eye Records / Sound Effect Records before touring Australia with the native Aussie band Dreamtime. By April 2014 Kikagaku Moyo had released Mammatus Clouds on cassette via Sky Lantern Records and recorded their second LP Forest of Lost Children which was released in May 2014 by Beyond Beyond is Beyond records. The band toured the U.S. at the same time sharing bills with Moon Duo, Eternal Tapestry, White Manna, Life Coach, and the Myrrors. They played at Austin Psych Fest and L.A. Psych Fest to high acclaim.

Their Self-titled record and Mammatus Clouds were later re-released on 12” vinyl by Captcha records in the U.S. and Cardinal Fuzz Records in the UK. The band toured the UK in the fall of 2014 to support these releases which ended up selling out in a matter of days. In 2015, Kikagaku Moyo released several split 7” records, the first with Kinski on God Unknown Records and a self-released split with Moon Duo. This was followed by a 35 day tour across Europe with sold out dates in Berlin, London, Paris, Porto, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Geneva. They appeared at Eindhoven Psych Lab and Duna Jam - the band has earned their reputation as fierce and captivating performers.

Photo credit: Maximilian Teucher

Like a long journey, House In The Tall Grass unfolds itself through many layers. Existing fans of Kikagaku Moyo will be comforted by the soft vocals harmonies and warm sitar, but what sets this release apart is the refinement of the band’s songwriting and their delicate execution. Side A begins with a pair of traveling songs where the interplay between the vocals, guitar, and sitar lift and suspend the listener on an unexpected journey. The patient listener is rewarded with tracks such as “Trad” and “Silver Owl” which demonstrate the masterful balance the band has between soft and loud; chaos and order, or being both cold and tender at the same time.

House in the Tall Grass, recorded between October and December of 2015 at Tsubame Studio where it was mixed, mastered, and produced by Yui Kimijima, takes the listener by the hand on a satisfying quest through destinations both familiar and unknown. It is a natural step forward for the band and perhaps the most refined example of their style to date.

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Athena lets the sunshine in for her first US album: Inspired, transformative, flawless talent.
(Los Angeles) If you were fortunate enough to be at one of Athena’s performances in Hollywood over the past year where she road-tested the songs for her first US-produced EP, Ready for the Sun, Part 1, cherish those memories because it will be a blockbuster and you were a witness to history.   One of the finest female voices on the planet and clearly one of the best songwriters, Athena lights up your ears with sunshine, pain and love in the new EP.

Both in her live performances and in her recordings, the Greek-English singer and environmental and children’s champion combines, honesty, vulnerability and confidence in every note, singing to you about  experiences and emotions that are simultaneously personal and universal. Produced by Ethan Allen (Sheryl Crow, Gram Rabbit, The Cult) at Santa Monica’s legendary Village Studios, Part 1 opens with the lilting and hooky  “You Bring Me Luck”, proclaiming that you are so natural/so magical, a good description for her uncanny ability to stretch her voice from a beaming smile to a soaring shout of joy.

Moving on to “Everything to me”, Athena warns of rain, her voice sailing as if driven by a solar wind. You are pulled along with her and  can’t resist humming the chorus. No wonder, when you consider the stellar talent she assembled to produce Ready for the Sun, Part 1: Deron Johnson (Miles Davis), Jimmy Paxson (Stevie Nicks), Michael Ward (Ben Harper) and Jonathan Flaugher (Ryan Adams).

Then the sun goes down and the stars rise with the song “Stronger”, where Athena can shoot for the stars as a lover lit up the night. A universal theme but a poignant chapter of Athena’s story, deftly shaped with her voice and Allen’s production. Then “Autopilot” takes a sharp turn both musically and emotionally, asking – no, demanding -  “Can you hear what you sound like/Can you hear how you complain, lamenting opportunities lost because of excuses and fear.  No excuses for Athena, as she moves the poetic lyrics along with a sophisticated muted drum beat and whistling between the chorus and the verse.  You tap your feet, but you also think about the message.

The final song, All of You,  illuminates her vocal painting skill, conjuring up images in lines like  I’m in love with your edges/Those cracks and your broken tattoo. She has found her love and she is crazy, as they’ll tell her.  But this is only Part 1 and we know the story will go on.

Athena’s past albums, both in English and Greek, have  showcased  her voice and her sharp songwriting, but in Ready for the Sun, Part 1, she took the time and put in the work to go beyond those talents.  Athena creates not just music, but an intimate relationship with listeners.  You can almost see Athena’s voice emerging from your speakers wearing a smile of love, a frown of concern or a glow of joy. Ready for the Sun, Part 1 is her confession to you, a narrative of a piece of her heart that she gives you in confidence.

Artists from around the world flock to sun-drenched Los Angeles to mix with its talent pool, work with its producers and play in its many venues for its vast audiences. But only the best succeed. Los Angeles demands more than great singing and songwriting; it demands inspired, transformative, flawless talent. This is what Athena gives us in Ready for the Sun, Part 1. She is indeed, ready for the sun.

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LA. Correspondent
Patrick O'Heffernan
@Music FridayLive!

Kris Angelis

Kris Angelis: acting, music, and making the world a better place.

(Los Angeles) Kris Angelis is a high energy, hard working, super talented phenomenon. Her very first album, The Left Atrium, won the 2013 LA Music Critics Best Female Album Award – no mean feat.  She also acts in film and TV, raises money to rescue child soldiers, brings music to at-risk teens, and performs in venues on both coasts. She has toured with Songs & Whispers, opened for Tyler Hilton, performed at the prestigious New Orleans House of Blues, made the finals in the Belk Southern Musician competition, played at Sundance, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, SXSW and NAMM 2016. Whew. If that was not enough, she has just released her newest project, the Heartbreak Is Contagious EP. She took a break from her busy schedule to talk with us.

R360. So, Kris, do you ever sleep? I don’t see how you can, given all that you do.
Kris. Yes! I do, sometimes.  I find time.

R360. The new EP is a bit of a new path for you. You collaborated with a couple of songwriters. How did that come about?

Kris. I have known Morgan Taylor Reid and Alexander Cardinale (her co-writers and producers on the project) for several years. They are wonderful songwriters and Morgan is an amazing producer – he recently worked on a song with Jason Derullo. So we were talking and said we should do something – it would be fun.  We went into the studio and from the ground up we wrote these songs. The process took a couple of weeks with some time off in there because we were busy.  And now they are out on SoundCloud. I am very excited about the sound and the direction it is going. I was delving into things that are scary to me which is the only way to make good art.

R360. The title song has an urgency and determination about it. There is a razor edge sharpness to the lyrics and to your voice. Is that a personal story?
Kris. Yes. It is. It about some experiences I have had, one in particular.  When you are heartbroken, you can’t love other people and that can cause other people’s hearts to be broken and that is why heartbreak can be contagious.

R360. That song is different than a song like “Rust”  from The Left Atrium or “Chase Me”. You have stripped your music down.  Did you bring that to the collaboration or did it develop as you worked together?
Kris. I had this whole experience I had gone through and I want to write about it- sort of like songwriter therapy- and I had the idea of “contagious” and said  to Morgan and Alexander, hey guys what about this and they said it sounded cool and we ran with it.

R360. The “house” in the song “Built this House” is a stand-in for the space that two people build for their relationship. Although it is not as spare as “Heartbreak” it is more cutting – bitter almost. What is behind it? Did you write it?
Kris. I did write that song. I wouldn’t say bitter. Maybe it comes across bitter, I hope not. It is really about dealing with the sadness of that broken relationship. And like how it can become like you are trapped in it, like a beautiful thing that has now become prison --  like I sing in the second verse,  and how to keep out of  it, how to see yourself clearly through the smoke of this burning relationship.

R360. The arrangement – clap beat, the echo. Did that flow out of you  and your producer, or did you try different things?
Kris. That was all Morgan. He has a really great knack for the feel for the vibe of a thing. He had much of the production done before the lyrics were finished and it definitely influenced how I sang it and the whole feeling.

R360. That must have been a very interesting communication between the two of you.
Kris. Yes.That is what I meant about things that were scary to me. I have never written that way, coming from the music first , the vibe, like this is kind of song we want to write. It was a cool little dance we entered into.  I really enjoyed it once I got over being terrified. I learned to let go, a huge lesson I will probably be working on my whole life, but it was good..

R360. You went to the University of California at Santa Barbara like I did.  Had you started your acting and singing career while you were in college?
Kris. Yes. That was one of the reasons I went there – it was close to LA and  could drive back and forth for auditions between classes. I actually worked on films and commercials while I was at UCSB.

R360. Speaking of acting, you have been in three films, Sister Mary's Angel in 2011), Liquid  and Visible Scars in 2012. You released The Left Atrium in 2013. Was the album going on in your head while you were acting?
Kris. Oh yes. I was writing those songs for years.  Some of those were written while I making films. It is sort of constant.  I find that it flows out me when I am doing something creative. The more I am doing something creative, the more creative things come out. I am sure that I was writing music while I was waiting to go on the set.

R360. Have you moved from acting to music or do you still have the itch to get back in front of the camera?
Kris. I do. I have focused on music for the past couple of years, but I have done some acting. I was with my twin sister in a Bud Light Commercial with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was in another commercial where I got to play 6 different character. Let me brag about my twin sister here. She is going to be in the Magnificent 7 with Denzel Washington that will be coming out around Christmas.

R360. Your song “Rust”;  I love the concept of rust in love. And I love the lines, I will keep myself intact and you can keep your pride, and then later so I waded in the water hoping you might throw me a line/all I got was soaking wet.  Did you write that in a rainstorm, or were you scraping the rust off of a relationship?
Kris. That is really an awesome way to put it. I used to date a musician and it is about that relationship. Most of the lyrics are in direct reference to the lyrics he wrote about me. Then he put out an album that references the lyrics in this song. I won’t say who and throw him under the bus...

R360. You are part of a fundraising drive to raise money for child soldiers.
Kris. It is called Project AK-47 by the Live Music Cares organization which goes into countries and rescues child soldiers and victims of sex trafficking and  helps them set up schools and safe houses.  So they not only rescue trafficked children, they build the foundations to stop the practice. It just stuck out to me – I hear a lot about it and how awful it is and I liked the preventative aspect.

Patrick. You were also part of the Extreme Tour for At-Risk Youth. How did that happen?
Kris. They contacted me and said they liked my music and thought I would fit in with the tour. I toured in California.  We would play in state  parks and schools and we got to meet these youth who were so amazing. Many were in communities with no arts or music funding that they were hungry for it…it made me realize the benefit that  music can have.

R360. And we will also see you raising money for a children’s hospital next week in LA?
Kris. Yes, on May 22 I will playing at the Love For Life Foundation benefit for Children’s Hospital of LA. On the day before that, I will be doing a fundraiser for the HARA Motion Picture Conservatory to raise money for at-risk youth music and film programs and they will make a feature film produced by children under 18.

Get social with Kris Angelis 

LA. Correspondent
Patrick O'Heffernan
@Music FridayLive!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Remote Places

(Philadelphia) Remote Places is the solo project of Justin Gellar from Pink Skull. It's like the soundtrack to a modern day remake of The Breakfast Club. Gellar says of "Places You Go"-- "It’s a song about someone who is tired of being taken advantage of by the free spirit they’re in love with. They're trying to deal with the fact that they’re not ok with being just a part time lover. It sounds like Ultravox or a happier version of The Cure or any 80s band that loves string synthesizer sounds."

Most notable for his work in Pink Skull. Geller co-founded the group in 2004 with Julian Grefe. What started out as a glitchy lo-fi house sound, later turned into electro house, and then morphed into a five-piece live psychedelic/krautrock indie dance band in the vein of the early DFA sound. Pink Skull released a few LP’s on RVNG Intl and remixed a number of singles for acts like HEALTH, Bear in Heaven, Architecture in Helsinki and Kasper Bjørke. Pink Skull DJ’ed in notable spaces like The Guggenheim and MOMA PS1 while the live band trekked around North America and Europe.

Geller and Grefe then disbanded the live band to become a two-man production group creating dark, primal acid house and released LPs and 12 inch singles with labels such as My Favorite Robot, Throne of Blood and Days of Being Wild. They also produced two ambient LPs under their side project, Clean Plate. After working in a duo for most of his musical life, Geller wanted to release some work in a solo capacity different from Pink Skull.

At first, Geller wasn’t sure exactly what the sound of Remote Places would be. By chance, a friend offered him an opportunity to contribute some music for an upcoming film. Geller sent over a song he was writing called “It All Comes Back to You” to the director, Ned Benson, and it ultimately featured in a 90 second scene in the film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain).  

The song’s inclusion was what Geller was looking for and gave him the inspiration to head back into the studio. Remote Places’ debut EP, “Nights and Weekends”, was co-produced and recorded with Jeff Zeigler (War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Nothing). Along with Ziegler, Sean McGuinness of Pissed Jeans came aboard to record drums, as well as Grefe (S PRCSS) on guitar, Mikele Edwards (Myrrias) on vocals/piano and Mike Hammel (The Ropers) on bass.  It’s the result of a lifetime of music obsession and a year or so of writing and recording. Mark Robinson of Teen Beat Records and Unrest/Flin Flon was contacted to see if he could help establish a visual direction for the project, and also signed on to produce the first video. Geller’s new sound gives a nod to the past, getting comparisons to classic alternative music like The Cure, New Order and, The Smiths, but also showing similarities to contemporary artists like The National, Washed Out, and Wild Nothing.

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