Tuesday, April 8, 2014
I've been a little absent recently due to the serious lack of GOOD new releases. There, I said it. Release more music, Milwaukee, or at least something worth listening to. But, hey! There's something new brimming to the surface besides Matt Pappas' blog, Mega Huge. It's the Milwaukee Record, run by former A.V. Club Milwaukee editor, Matt Wild, and former Milwaukee Magazine writer, Tyler Mass. Talk about the fucking A Team. These two have put together what they call a continuation of the (rest in peace, dawg) A.V. Club Milwaukee. I think we've all noticed a serious "lack of quality" in Milwaukee's entertainment coverage. That's just a really nice way of saying it's fucking sucked a mean one. There's been a void in the music/film/art/dance/media-in-general ethosphere since the A.V. bit the dust. But thank you Matt and Tyler for coming back to revive our cream-bricked, beer-guzzling city.
So in the past two days, the MR has launched as well as started a new list. The Top 50 Milwaukee albums of the 2010s (so far). I'm here to review their new little venture. Because that's what I do as a faceless, anonymous, bitchy blogger living in my (as one wonderful (also anonymous) commenter called a "shitty riverwest rathole.") But on to what Little Miss Thang, Bonnie No How, thinks of the site now that it's launched.
Three words: I love it. It's a simple layout with a rad logo. They have some video content that's soon to be a lot more from the Fatty Acids trumpeteer, Kurt Raether's company Honeycomb Productions. They start the week off with a bang: TOP 50 MILWAUKEE ALBUMS OF THE 2010s. Which, let's be honest, is way too premature but kudos to the hombres with big cajones. This shit's the jam. Daily content? Guess what I"m checking every day when I wake up. YOU GOT ME WILD AND MAAS. I'M A READER OF YOUR FUCKING WEBSITE. And the hits keep on comin'. They cover strictly arts and entertainment my dear Brew City residents. THE GOOD SHIT (subjectively). Keep it comin' Wild and Maas, Inc. And most of all, let's see who tops this crazy list.
CLICK RIGHT HERE.
THERE'S EVEN A FUCKING ARROW-------------------> http://milwaukeerecord.com/
-Bonnie No How
Monday, March 17, 2014
Since the October release of their Dat Cruel God EP, Dogs in Ecstasy have become a heavy-hitting local Milwaukee favorite; sticking their silly ironic tongues down our throats, caressing and licking our willing tonsils. With their latest internet-inspired single, "I Google Myself," the D.I.E. continue much down the same path as their previous EP...but hey, I'm not complaining.
Willy Dintenfass' buzzy guitar and lazy baritone, Molly Dvora's sawtoothy bass synth and over-inunciated vocals, and Tony Dixon's driving 4/4 beats make Dogs in Ecstasy's sound tight, clean and SUPER FUCKING FUN. But it's not only their brand of early 90's synthy power-pop that's made Milwaukee do a back flip over this band, it's their quirky lyrical content. "I google myself, don't act superior, you google yourself..." Yeah, I know it's a little on the dumb side. You might be driven to bust a smirk or maybe even guffaw and roll an eye, but BOY OH BOY can they write a fucking hook? Of the two songs, "I'm a Man" is definitely the weaker tune but hey "b side" amirite? There's a definite kudos to be given to the level of quality for this basement recording.
Thought. I would love to hear a Dogs in Ecstasy cover of Doug Funnie's "Bangin on a Trash Can." After hearing "I'm a man," it might have been my first or second thought. Click here.
- Bonnie No How
Monday, March 3, 2014
Judging their new release at face value, the cover which features lead singer (?) Scott Anderson's neck tattoos is...not gonna lie... pretty rad looking. As for the music, the teaser tracks included are "Feel My Cock" and "Mint." Wait, I'm sorry...hold on. "Feel My Cock?" Not to be a prude, but damn that's forward. Can't wait to hear the way they censor this one on the local MKE radio stations. "And next up we have Heartthrob with..."Feel my Sock." The shock doesn't end there, No How readers, because then I hit play. Scott Anderson's whiny girl vocals (that we've all come to know and love) are almost completely absent, handing over his duties to who I'm guessing is bassist Alicia Shatley and drummer Ash Goodwin. His vocals are certainly still there but are not even close to being upfront and sassy. Ugh...what? Is this even Heartthrob? Besides that stellar guitar tone and Goodwin's hi hatty new wave drumming, it sounds like the Throb are moving into unchartered waters. Should I say, "Shame on them" or "Shame on me" for expecting them to repeat themselves?
Before I explicitly state a like or dislike, I'm gonna sit on this one for a few days and give the Throb the benefit of a good hard listen. They are one of my faves so I have high hopes that I'll come back and say, "You know...I didn't like it at first but now I think it fucking slams." Either way, I'm gonna update this post in a few days after I let it sink in.
-Bonnie No How
After listening to these two songs a few more times over the last couple of days, I found some definite likes and dislikes with Heartthrob's latest single. It took a while to get used to the Kim Gordon-esque female vocal delivery on the two songs but I'm not sure that that was my original deterrent. I needed some time to mull it over and figure out what my honest opinion actually is.
In the end, the band's (what I'm guessing is an) anti-rape tune "Feel My Cock" just isn't a very strong song overall but I will say that the chorus is extremely catchy. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song by any means, I mean I was even singing it in the shower "I lost my heart in San Francisco too." But as a stand alone A side, it's not as strong as maybe another song on the still unheard album would've been. And the only problem I have with the b-side, "Mint," and I really hate to say this...but it's the same song structure-wise. I mean Heartthrob will always kind of sound like Heartthrob but both songs are even in the same key, both have similar guitar intros, both end in a long instrumental part; much like "BBR" on Love Efficient. I'm not gonna say the whole album is gonna be this format, but I REALLY noticed it with these two songs back to back. On a positive note, when Scott Anderson's voice comes in at the end of "Mint" I was like OH MAN! THERE HE IS! SCOTTIE'S BACK! Which did reinvigorate my excitement to hear the rest of AS IS.
All in all, I still maintain a level of excitement/anticipation to hear the whole album later this month and maybe how these songs fit into the whole. I'm not giving up on you yet, Heartthrob.
Friday, February 21, 2014
"Best rapper? No. One of the best musicians and performing artists to come as of late...soon enough, if not now."
-Klassik, when asked about greatness
If you are even the tiniest bit aware of Milwaukee's rap/hip hop scene, you've heard of Klassik. I can't even walk down the fucking street to buy tampons without hearing "Klassik, this...Klassik that." The man's won a WAMI for godsake, on top of his "Artist of the Year" win at the 2012 Milwaukee Music awards. Or, how can we forget he also nabbed the "Catchiest Song" award for his song "Anything?" (Yeah...it's pretty damn catchy) click here Let's face it, he's the MKE Rap Jesus, a classic in the making. Are there any other rappers in Milwaukee? Just joking, guys...I'm exaggerating. Sorry Dana Coppafeel, L&R, and the dozens of others...
Last December, Double K Klassik released his latest album Young Rising Phenom; the drool worthy followup to his kritikally akklaimed debut In the Making. At ten songs, Klassik kept it short and sweet with a smooth pop finish. YRP is almost half the length of Making, but at nearly 40 minutes it's by no means skimpy on content.
The album opens with the intro ballad "Haunts Me," a dedication to his late father. Complete with chipmunk vocals, it's a calm, low-key opening before the surefire hit "This is that New!" Which I'm guessing is Klassik's way of still being able to get radio airplay without dropping an "S" bomb. The big single, "Boogie," and it's accompanying video had the local music press ready to jump out of their drawers waiting for YRP to drop. Might be in the running for next year's "Catchiest Song" award. However, the only drawback to the album, in Bonnie's opinion, is Klassik's self mythologizing. "Thought to be the best that came out, until the best came out...that's me." After talking with the rapper/musician, it's clear he has lofty goals and ambitions and pushes himself to make the best music he can. You can't blame a man for knowing his shit is good.
Klassik is playing at Turner Hall March 5th for a South By Sendoff before traveling with about a billion other Milwaukee artists/bands to SXSW to perform on the Milwaukee stage. With the flurry of Klassik news and announcements, my Bonnie No How sense was tingling. I visited Klassik at his underground studio lair to talk album releases, SXSW, and what's next for double K.
BNH: Klassik seems to be an apt moniker for you and the music you make. You weave in a lot of different musical styles and influences, especially on your new album YRP (Young Rising Phenom). It's hip hop but it's also a clever pop blend of Prince and Michael Jackson. Can you talk about your influences? Or are you truly a Klassik "in the making"... making that new shit?
K: I mean that's what I like to believe haha. I grew up with a lot of Prince and MJ from my mom, and also a lot of 90s R&B (En Vogue, Tevin Campbell, Ginuwine lol). My father was a creative spirit; acting, dancing, singing. He listened to everything from Marvin Gaye and Parliament to Eric B & Rakim and A Tribe Called Quest. All of that was just ingrained early, and finding that my passion was music early on gave me an outlet for all of that. Once I started rapping 5 years ago, it further completed the transformation. Now that I'm experimenting with singing now too, it feels like it's coming full circle.
BNH: Speaking of your singing, I noticed that your new album is heavy on the hooks. Sung choruses and pop melodies. Can you tell me a little bit about writing/making/recording YRP and maybe how it was different than your last album, In the Making?
K: YRP was me taking the idea of In The Making, the air of positivity and quality, melodic compositions, and refining it. As I became more comfortable singing, while recording In the Making and after its release, I got more confident in my ear this go round. So the next one is even bigger, better harmonies, more orchestration.
BNH: You're already working on the next one?
K: Yeah, I started right after In The Making. I put it on hold kind of when I started working on a new batch of songs that eventually became YRP. Me and a couple buddies are writing a screenplay for it. I've recorded more than half the songs already haha. It's called Time Of Our Lives, about a group of vagabonds that live in a van called Time Of Our Lives, but it's a semi-autobiographical musical film.
BNH: That's pretty ambitious. Would you be working again with the man who helms most of your music videos, Xavier Ruffin?
K: Why, yes I am. This has been our pet secret project for the past year.
BNH: YRP is shorter than In the Making, almost by half. Would you say you were trying to trim the fat? Quality over quantity?
K: It actually wasn't purposeful. It was really just a few songs that I had started playing with while working on Time Of Our Lives, and then I added a couple more. Before I knew it, I was at an EPs worth of songs. In all actuality, YRP is still more of an EP idealistically and time wise, but by track number it fell outside of that, so it became an album. A really short album that was too long to be an EP. In The Making was as long as it was because that was my entire life's work, essentially. My first artistic statement, and I felt like I had a lot of arenas to venture into and perfect my craft within.
BNH: Speaking of life's work, you've been releasing music it seems since 2010, with the release of your first EP "Death of a Beatmaker." Can you talk a little bit about how you got started and maybe how your sound has evolved over time?
K: I started as a jazz kid playing sax since I was 11. When I was like 14 I started making beats on Fruity Loops. When I got to high school I started making beats for other people. I got to college and started rapping. Dropped out and made an EP during that time (Death Of A Beatmaker). That was my first experiment as a solo artist, so it showed a lot of traces of where I wanted to go musically, but hasn't yet found my voice within. In The Making, I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, and by that time was taking myself pretty seriously as a rapper and producer, with a decent singing voice. Since that, and releasing YRP, I've become focused in being a timeless performer. I just now have really become comfortable telling my story naturally through my music, and people feel and relate to that. Just trying to make good music people can vibe with for a really long time.
BNH: On the subject of people relating to your music, you've come a long way in the last four years, winning awards, getting huge amounts glowing press. Does any of this affect the making of your music? When you were making YRP, did you think about trying to top or follow up your last album, seeing that it was so well received?
K: I'm always trying to top my last thing. I push myself, sometimes too hard, everyday. I really am passionate about breaking down genre lines and spreading a little light through my music. It's pretty much my religion. I stay grounded and humble with the fact that this is a gift I was meant to share, and not in a religious way, but just a spiritual way. I'm very spiritual and very self-aware, and music is like my sermons, my guiding works haha. I feel like for something to feel this good to make, it has to make other people feel good, people want to feel good.
BNH: Speaking of genre lines...what is your opinion on the state of MKE rap/hip hop? And are you the best?
K: Best rapper? No. One of the best musicians and performing artists to come as of late...soon enough, if not now. But the hip-hop scene is awesome, it really is now. The support, the talent. The quality, the cross-promotion. I'm proud to be a part of this scene. It's a healthy dose of competitiveness and togetherness that's been great for the culture.
BNH: I want to talk a little bit about your trip to SXSW this year. You've played SXSW before last year. Was it what you expected?
K: SXSW is a monster of an event. I honestly didn't know what to expect when we went last year, and it was a bit overwhelming. However, we (me, my manager, and my DJ) made a lot of great connections since then that have been influential in the progression of this whole music career thing. Looking forward to this year because we kind of know what to expect, and know to plan better! We had 2 shows last year, and this year, with the Milwaukee home stage, I have either four or five. So I'm just excited to get back into the thick of things for those few days, and push further.
BNH: What are your hopes for after your SXSW performance this year at Cielo?
K: This year, I plan on continuing to network like we did last year; we ended up backstage at the Talib Kweli show. Met Chance The Rapper the first time down there, and now he's huge. There's real life action taking place at SXSW. It's scary, risky, expensive...all that and still worth it.
BNH: Besides SXSW, what's next for you? You mentioned you're working on another album and an extended music video/film. What else is on your plate? A tour, possibly?
K: Besides continuing to perfect my stage show, bringing in new musicians and set design, and writing and filming the movie, I would like to tour soon. A couple opportunities have come up, just waiting for the right time and right point in the scheme of things. The movie is gonna take a lot of time, and creative draining haha, so not much else besides continuing to craft really good records.
He's on the rise, boys and gals. Maybe the title "Young Rising Phenom" isn't egotistical, just the goddamn truth? Check out the album, and make it your fuckin' wax to go to the South By Sendoff at Turner Hall. It may be the last time Milwaukee can see Klassik until his big screen debut.
- Bonnie No How
"These days I mostly listen to Springsteen."
Milwaukee rapper Juiceboxxx has been releasing records and touring for the last decade, bringing his unique brand of rap to anyone who wishes to listen. His intense work ethic has brought him international success, a devoted fan base and even his own energy drink. So what's the lad been up to as of late?
Two summers ago he released the "Beyond Thunder Zone" mixtape, featuring a handful of production contributions from Kranky records experimental artist White Rainbow. What seemed like an unlikely pairing produced and even more unlikely result-stripped down and blown out tracks like "1-900 Juiceboy" and "Kick It Everyday". Together, the two brought it back to the basics-huge beats and loud rhymes. "1-900 Juiceboy" prominently features the backing track from the 45 King's classic track "1-900 Number", while "Kick it Everyday" sampled Billy Squier's "The Big Beat";
What was equally as impressive was "Broken Down", a track heavily based around the instrumental from P Diddy's 1997 hit "All About the Benjamins". Diddy (then referred to as Puff Daddy) was the Noel Gallagher of rap, notorious for his "rip offs" of popular songs from years past.
This past October, Juiceboxxx continued his journey with the 6 track "Front Seat of the Tacoma" EP, which is very accurately described as “…connecting the dots between Suicide and Public Enemy, Guided By Voices and Cypress Hill, Bruce Springsteen and Beck”. Juiceboxxx was kind enough to answer a few questions for us via email, where we briefly discussed samples, his favorite Milwaukee music and more.
SJ: You've been doing this for over 10 years now and have continued to make music that's interesting. Early on, did you ever think about the future?
JB: While I've certainly always had ambition, Juiceboxxx has grown and developed in a natural way. And by "natural" I mean really insane and frustrating and exciting and fucked up and unlike any other thing that exists in this game period no question 100 percent.
SJ: I can't think of too many people that have sampled P Diddy, but Its something I've always wanted to see happen. For a while there he was totally accused of straight up theft in terms of his choice of samples, so it's cool to see someone sample him. What made you want to do that?
JB: To be honest I wasn't thinking very conceptually when I flipped that particular sample of a sample. I just thought it would be cool to put some grungy guitar (Willy D) over "All About The Benjamins" and rap through a fuzz pedal. Diddy is a classic American hit maker and an inspirational businessman. Definite influence.
SJ: You've moved around a lot in the last few years, do you still consider Milwaukee to be your home?
JB: I consider myself to be a Milwaukee artist. I travel a lot. Most of the shit I made last year was just tossed off weird dirt style insanity from whatever room I was subletting or couch I was crashing on. I have a ton of other music that is unreleased. 2K13 sucked. I was not in a very positive headspace. These days, I mostly listen to Springsteen.
SJ: Your collaborations with White Rainbow are fantastic. How did you get connected with Adam? Can we expect more with him in the future?
JB: I met Adam at a music festival in Mexico. The day after our show, we went shopping for tribal guarachero CDRs at a giant flea market and a friendship was formed. Flash forward LA winter 2K13. Basketball. Sweatpants. Beastie Boys. $5 Footlongs. College Style DJ's. Maybe we will do a record together, maybe I will never rap again. Who knows.
SJ: You've always had the most unique taste in samples. Do you feel like there are just certain things one can't or shouldn't sample (legal consequences aside) or do you feel like there are no rules?
JB: I don't think there should be any rules, but it is often helpful to operate within a conceptual framework. Moving forward I am less interested in direct references and more excited about writing sample free American pop music that retains a classic essence while also moving forward. But there are no rules. Thunder Zone.
SJ: Milwaukee-based music writing has always been focused on just a handful of artists, and as a result, a lot of great acts tend to go ignored or largely unnoticed. Who do you think in Milwaukee is not getting enough credit for their contributions to the music scene?
JB: LORN is doing big things for labels like Ninja Tune and Brainfeeder but rarely seems to be part of the conversation. I could be wrong about that though, I don't read the local Alt-Weekly often. Eye.$ee.You are a promising young rap duo that needs more exposure. To be honest I'm very "out of the loop" but Dogs In Ecstasy are good and so are my old friends Holy Shit!. I think a lot of people take Holy Shit! for granted but they are just fantastic. I would love to see them do this for 20+ years, they are well on their way.
Check out Juiceboxxx's stellar live Tap Milwaukee performance of "Like a Renegade"
And listen to Juiceboy's "Beyond the Thunderzone" mixtape:
Friday, February 14, 2014
The first time I watched it, I asked myself "What the fuck is that weird effect on the camera? Oh wait...it's just a big fucking cloud of smoke." Weed? Cigs? Fog machine? Who knows...
Keep it gross from coast to coast. Press play and cruise.
-Bonnie No How
Thursday, January 30, 2014
|Apollo Vermouth (Alisa Rodriguez)|
I feel like I've been waiting around all January for some new releases to post about. When Polar Vortexes keep you locked inside your shitty little apartment, you have to do something productive after you've watched every episode of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Alf. All of the more established Milwaukee bands have already released new albums this past Fall (Klassik, The Fatty Acids, Sat. Nite Duets, Rio Turbo, Midnight Reruns) most of which I had a few things to say about. Then there were the up and comers like Blonder or Platinum Boys. But just like the cold Wisconsin air, things are a little dry this time of year. So either I wait around for somebody to release something new, somebody to break up/die, or something new to come along. I guess you could say, I chose the third.
I grabbed a shovel and tunneled underground to the "take it or leave it" niche world of ambient/noise. I'm gonna quote myself and say "I've never really been a fan of (blank)." But regardless, there are more than a few experimental/ambient/drone/noise bands...ugh i'm just gonna call it noise. Some noise musicians/artists have beef with the term but let's be real...it's noise. Anyway, there are quite a few of these acts slithering through the veins of Milwaukee's underground. Unless, you're a frequent runner in the DIY house show circuit, you may not have heard of Plague Mother, Christian Science Reading Room, Lucky Bone, or Climax Denial. I'm sure there's a lot to be said about Noise as a genre and even more about Milwaukee's Noise scene specifically but as a newcomer I can only touch on what my small amount of research has uncovered. Using my vast web of resources (google...) I found out about Milwaukee art icon, Peter J Woods; founder of the label FTAM records, leader of Peter J Woods Free Jazz Ensemble, and curator of Milwaukee Noise Fest. Woods has been cultivating Milwaukee's experimental music scene and releasing music by a number of local acts on cassette and vinyl since the mid aughts. Along with Woods' FTAM label there's also the net label/blog, Noisy Arcade, started by Matt Baker and Taylor Cambell. Their label releases/showcases even more of Milwaukee's many noise/electronic/drone acts. I'm sure people like Baker, Campbell, or Mr. Woods could probably write a book on Milwaukee's Experimental Arts and Music Scene. But for the sake of this article, I want to focus on one artist in particular that I practically tripped over today while scanning the "Milwaukee" tag on bandcamp. Apollo Vermouth.
Alisa Rodriguez is one hip chick. She's been making music under the moniker Apollo Vermouth since 2010 and as far as I can tell she's released four full length albums, four EPs, one live recording at the Borg Ward and a split with fellow Noisy Arcade artist Skamp...woah. I know what most of the layman are thinking right now. "If it's just noise, of course you can shell that shit out. I could make three full length albums of my bathroom noises alone." (real mature Bonnie). But this is some of the most gorgeous, borderline melodic tones you can imagine. None of her music is harsh on the ears or plucks at the nerves. To be frank, it's noise that's almost...not noise? Each of her ten records display a mood or sound particular to that set of songs and all of her music has a certain finesse to it, a professional sheen that I'm guessing is entirely rooted in Rodriguez' equipment or just her plain ingenuity. Psychic Youth Rally (2010) has a psych-swirl feedback feel while Third Summer of Love (2011) contains minimalist songs made with just a few guitars. However, her last two proper, full-length albums, 2013's New Life and Sacred Flowers, (yeah...in the same year) have a much more cohesive, mature tonal blend. Both albums firmly place Apollo Vermouth on a level that transcends trashy bedroom noise maker. The music points toward a creator who's much more of a sonic sound texturizer, an aural architect. As a I said before, it's almost melodic, practically shoegaze. It sounds like the reverb that fell off of a My Bloody Valentine album.
After listening to a few of her songs on bandcamp, I quickly downloaded everything she's made plus the records that weren't posted on BC that you can only download from her website. I could go on and on about each of her ten releases but I'll focus on the one that first struck me, it may not be a new release but it's your gateway drug into all things Apollo V...Sacred Flowers.
Yeah, I know right. That album cover is the shit. Well, it's got the music to match it. Opener, "Rise from the Floor," begins with the sound of a stream before the "tone" overtakes it, giving way to standout second track, "Teorema," with it's pulsing electronic drumbeat and that FUCKING TONE AGAIN! I love it. The music is simple, it's not even supposed to be conventional music. It's a blend of tonalities...noise, I guess? (duh...) "Douglas Firs" incorporates a heavy dose of windy synth shades and subtle loops while "He's a lover" is 8 minutes of that shoegaze warble we all know and love. WRRRRMMMMMMUUUUUMMMMMMM The second half of Flowers features a sample of footsteps walking through a field underneath Popul Vuh-esque synth textures. The second standout track "It Could Be Worse" brings the guitar back into Flowers' swirling sonic tundra before closing track "Tomorrow," probably the most abrasive and shortest on the album; a wind tunnel of mushy chord changes and reverb. 7 songs; 40 goddamn minutes of sound. It's some pretty fucking beautiful noise, Milwaukee...even if you aren't a fan. Hop to it.
Apollo Vermouth is playing a show with Reverend, Greyscale, Mayfair, and Marcy at the Skram Dunk Arena (a house in Riverwest) on February 22nd. I expect to see all of you there.
-Bonnie No How
Here's Sacred Flowers for your enjoyment:
as well as the most recent EP:
and this song just rules: