Matthew E. White: Big Inner
Like all of us, Matthew E. White was born into a constructed world. His unfolded out of the mingled sands of Virginia Beach and Manila, the youngest son in a family that raised him barefoot between the blurred racket of the Far Eastern jungle city and the backyard lightning-bug-hum of a trimmed Southern lawn.
On that day in August, when the earth shifted into the shape of Matthew E. White, there was so much to feel, already. The dusts of the Delta had swirled into Rock and Roll. King Tubby was dubbing. Terry Riley was overdubbing. Caetano Veloso had just turned 40. Muddy Waters was just about gone. Jimmy Cliff had had sung "Many Rivers to Cross". So had Harry Nilsson. White shared this common inheritance. He stitched his own flag out of it.
And so Big Inner begins, looking in, up, and over in its declarations of love. It's waking up next to someone. It's feeling the wood of the church pew on your back. You give me joy like a fountain deep down in my soul. You can hear him breathe in. The first time around, White only hums the chorus. Hums it. Plants it in your head as it blooms in his. You can call it soul music if you want. It's his soul and it's his music.
Ape School: Junior Violence
Junior Violence begins with a death rattle of the most optimistic sort. Half-synthesized and half-howled, the first song on Ape School's new album sums up birth, death, and the guilt you face as you drop the needle on side A:
Did you know you fucked yourself?
Everything is on the other side of that question. Answer it and you'll wonder why you're just now fessing up. Tell your truth and the Oberheim OB-8 will cascade like a waterfall. The bass line will try to feel you up. It's all foreplay for the anthemic "Marijuana's on the Phone" and the nine tracks that follow, adding up to the second album from Ape School, the flaming sigil for a man named Michael Johnson (see Holopaw, Lilys, Kurt Vile, and War on Drugs). Junior Violence is part confession, part blitz, part hangover, and part ascension.
Anna-Lynne Williams and Robert Gomez, nearly strangers, left Seattle and Denton and went to Marfa to make a record. As old loves bled out pink, the color of that month of February, the color of a long-setting sun, they platonically arranged their instruments in a tiny adobe house in the most dreamlike town in Texas. They made ten songs. They called it Machine.
The machine only works if all our parts give in. So goes the title track, nestled into side A, one of a dozen page-turning clues to what it was like for a man and a woman to live side-by-side, to finish each other's lines, to speak in chords, to read the paper in the morning, to write a song about it in the evening, and to build a world out of an experiment. "I'd never written lyrics with someone before," writes Williams, "we were writing the words to "Hold the Water" together and were actually passing slips of paper back and forth to each other. We were too shy to say them out loud."
Machine is as intimate as waking up to someone singing alone and as grand in composition, performance, and capture as the unfading records you might find yourself comparing it to: Emmit Rhodes' Emmitt Rhodes, Blonde Redhead's Misery is a Butterfly, and The Cardigans' Long Gone Before Daylight.
Matthew E. White: One of These Days
A languid, snaking beat. A glowing trail of strings. Rising horns. Mournful get-it-on vocals. "One of These Days" is your calling card for Matthew E. White and your first taste of Big Inner, White's debut album out this August. Backed with "Ain't That What Love Is" (an exclusive gem featuring Phil Cook of Megafaun on keys), this 7" single is also your introduction to Spacebomb, a brand-new-big-little record label in Richmond, VA and a new branch on the Hometapes family tree.
A gentle, musical polymath, Matthew E. White radiates a passion for the history of harmony. He's a vibrant, prodigious arranger. A hypnotizing performer. A guitar wizard. As a singer, White travels in the same pathways as Allen Toussaint and Randy Newman: modest, soulful, personal, and utterly confident. In these two magic tracks, you'll begin to hear his wide orbit through sonic history and the clues to Big Inner: New Orleans R&B, Curtis Mayfield, Terry Riley, Reggae, Sly Stone, Tropicalia, The Band, Harry Nilsson...Matthew E. White is his own timeline. Summer is coming.
Matthew E. White also walks the earth as the leader of lauded avant-garde jazz band Fight the Big Bull and has released albums on Clean Feed & Fat Cat, performed around the country and collaborated with artists like Ken Vandermark, Steven Bernstein, Karl Blau, Megafaun, Sharon Van Etten and Justin Vernon.
Ape School: Marijuana's on the Phone
'Marijuana called me on the phone a long time ago. I hung up. It left a message."
Began as a drunken strum into a tape recorder, 'Marijuana's on the Phone' is your forged hall pass for Ape School, the moniker for Michael Johnson and his prodigious musical output. Spawned five years ago in the wake of former bands Lilys and Holopaw (and while Johnson was playing alongside fellow Philadelphians Kurt Vile and War on Drugs), Ape School is on the cusp of sonic apocalypse with Junior Violence, the new album coming this August from Hometapes. 'Marijuana's on the Phone' is your first drag.
"I went to the studio with Eric Slick [Dr. Dog] and just ripped through a loose concept. Ended up using his first take drums. Went and found a couple of kids in the building to play sax and vibes. Ended up layering tons of Eventide guitars over it and jotted down a quick bit of lyrics. First take vocals all the way across. Beefheart/Barrett bastardization gone mudslide." - Michael Johnson on 'Marijuana's on the Phone'
Backed with "Blame Mark Griffey," the 7" features a full-color cover in a heavy PVC sleeve, plus two transparency masks by Freegums. The record was created in partnership with Needless Records, the Florida-based label home to Jacuzzi Boys and Woven Bones.
AU: Both Lights
Luke Wyland and Dana Valatka, the Portland, Oregon-based duo known as AU, embody remarkable, frantic energy. It permeates everything they touch. AU brings into question the moment and where you are in it.
Both Lights is their third album and the long-anticipated followup to 2008's acclaimed LP Verbs and still-memorable tours with Why? and Deerhoof. Wyland's soaring vocals and multi-tentacled performance on keys and guitar are fortified by Valatka's adrenalized percussion. Contributions by saxophonist Colin Stetson (most recently seen on stage with Bon Iver) and vocalist Holland Andrews take Both Lights into the stratosphere, where it shines as AU's finest work yet.
Wyland and Valatka reflect that light. The first single -- "Solid Gold" -- is a sweeping aural experience that captures not only the journey through the past three years of love, loss, and levity, but the voyage music can take us all on if we click play and just listen. "The back and forth, the tug of war for love," writes Wyland, getting at the root of "Solid Gold", in essence a love song, "exhausting, exhilarating, and so totally not sustainable." Like the best songs, in some way or another, we can all sing along to that.
"What's the band's name?""Megafaun.""What's the album called?""Megafaun."The trail discovered by 2008's Bury The Square, blazed by 2009's Gather, Form & Fly, and tended by 2010's Heretofore has run into a wide and rushing river. The band we know as Megafaun, born alongside Bon Iver in the ashes that rose from DeYarmond Edison (Brad Cook, Joe Westerlund, and Phil Cook's former band with Justin Vernon), has woven years of writing, touring, and living into a new sonic language. Critically-praised and publicly-loved for their ability to speak in the many tongues of American musical history -- all while blending it with their own energetic and personal form of Rock -- Megafaun has staked a claim. But the lay of that land they call theirs -- the hills, valleys, and caves beneath -- is just revealing itself in the sunrise. This is the band we know, but in a new light. This is Megafaun.