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Open to Discovery: Plume Giant, September 21 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 05:11

Plume Giant

When I spoke by phone with Plume Giant’s Nolan Green last week, the interview was scheduled for 10 a.m. in New York, where the folk-ish trio is based. I can’t remember the last morning interview I had with a pop, rock, or indie musician, as those breeds tend to shy away from morning engagements. So what self-respecting musician is up at that hour?

“I’m ... currently booking a release tour and working like crazy on the PR for it,” Green said. “I was actually already at a different meeting this morning, at 8 a.m.”

This detail is not necessarily important or telling, but it illustrates that these May graduates from Yale are actively charting their course, including setting specific goals for sales. So while you probably haven’t heard of the band – unless you attended its December show at Rozz-Tox, to which they’ll be returning on September 21 – its members are working to change that.

Setting the Scene: “Hello Quad Cities – Volume 1” PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 08:34

The first thing to stress about Hello Quad Cities – Volume 1 is that as compilations go, it’s strong from front to back and varied without feeling scattershot. The challenging format tends to result in well-intentioned hodgepodges of second-rate leftovers, but the tracks here – from 12 area bands – are all exclusive, and most were written specifically for the compilation. More importantly, while you might not find all of them to your liking, there isn’t a weak link.

The second thing to emphasize is that if you’re curious about the project, you shouldn’t dawdle. The release is available only on vinyl, and a mere 350 copies were pressed. (Each album includes a download code, but there will be no separate digital or CD release.) And they’ll only be sold at a pair of record-release shows, by the featured bands, and at Ragged Records.

Elusive but Enticing: Blues Control, September 9 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 05:51

Blues Control

If you haven’t heard of the instrumental duo Blues Control, as an introduction let me try to describe the first two tracks from its Valley Tangents album, which was released in June.

“Love’s a Rondo” is a jazzy, piano-based tune with one of the keyboard lines often matched by a fuzzy guitar whose frayed edges serve as a gentle contrast. The rhythms are laid-back and slightly exotic, and there’s the feel of unhurried, purposeful improv.

“Iron Pigs” starts with beats followed by majestic, cheesy keyboards followed by scratchy, aggressive noise followed by a piano played on the left side. When it emerges, the lead guitar is expressive yet concise, and memories of that agitated opening quickly melt away.

The band will perform at Rozz-Tox on September 9, and, in an interview earlier this month, Lea Cho described its sound as “instrumental psych rock.”

That’s as brief a description as you’ll get, but it’s probably more instructive to repeat some of the more verbose attempts. wrote that Cho and Russ Waterhouse were “an anomaly to me for ages, and listening to their records only made things worse. Their particular mysticality is created with a deeply abstracted series of layers that end up feeling sublimely confounding alongside the various swoons and gritty feelings of transcendence ... .”

Getting the Band Back Together: The Deadstring Brothers, August 25 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 21 August 2012 14:40

Kurt Marschke of the Deadstring BrothersThe Deadstring Brothers never really went away. But in early 2011, singer/songwriter/guitarist Kurt Marschke retired the outfit as a band and instead performed alone under its name – singing and accompanying himself on drums, guitar, and harmonica.

There were several reasons for the change: the frustrations of keeping a band together and maintaining reliable transportation. In 2010, he said in a phone interview this week, he had three different lineups on the road with him and three separate vehicle breakdowns.

“I felt like an administrator,” Marschke said. “I didn’t feel like a musician. ... ‘Is there an easier way to present music to people, where I can focus on the craft as opposed to focus on filling a drum seat or a steel or an organ player? ... Can I be a musician and feel like I am?’”

And going a little further back, the decision of singer Masha Marjieh in 2008 to stop touring meant that the group lacked the harmonies Marschke loved so much. “2009 and 2010 were just strange, because she wasn’t around,” he said. “I’d sung with her for so many years, and not having another singer with me felt strange.”

So when the Deadstring Brothers perform at RIBCO on Saturday, August 25, it’s a bit surprising that Marschke will be leading a five-piece band. It’s a bit surprising to him, too.

A Concise Revelation: Jim the Mule, “You’re Gonna Regret Me,” and Sean Ryan & the Dawn, “All Time Low”; Performing August 24 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 16 August 2012 05:53

Jim the Mule

I’ve reviewed several recordings by both Sean Ryan (solo and with his band The Dawn) and Jim the Mule over the years, but the You’re Gonna Regret Me EP is the first opportunity I’ve had to hear Ryan as part of the latter band.

It’s a bit of a revelation, as Ryan’s voice, musicianship, and sensibilities are excellent complements to Jim the Mule’s sturdy country rock. With multi-instrumentalist/singer Ryan and guitarist/singer Tom Swanson splitting songwriting and vocal duties over seven tracks, there’s a natural variety, and the EP format feels like an ideal showcase for the different facets of the ensemble.

More importantly, each song is mature with a fully formed, distinct personality, yet they clearly spring from the same parents; their differences resonate as much as their similarities.

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