REVIEW: Arthur Moon - Our Head

Kelly Kirwan

Lora-Faye Ashuvud describes the moment in which her musical moniker came to her in a dream, with an apparition from an admired artist’s alter-ego. If you're familiar with Marcel Duchamp, then you may already be aware of his feminine persona, Rrose Selavy, who was reincarnated in Ashuvud’s subconscious to offer this insight: her music came from her “inner Arthur Moon.” And when your mind’s eye gives you that kind of message, you listen.

So, Ashuvud adopted the pseudonym for her musical pursuits, which has led us to the here and now—more specifically, to her debut EP, Our Head. Rounding out her sound is vocalist Aviva Jaye, Marty Fowler on bass, Dave Palazola on drums, Rachel Brotman lending her voice and keys, and Nick Lerman offering support on guitar. Together, they create a world askew. In an interview with Audiofemme, Ashuvud described their music as disorienting and “pleasantly uncomfortable.” It’s a characteristic that reflects part of Ashuvud’s personal life: she suffers from migraines that induce aphasia, hindering her ability to speak. When these migraines take hold, Ashuvud’s words jumble into incoherent sentences. It’s an odd sensation, and one that’s trickled into other facets of her creative expression. Her lyrics are often inspired by splicing magazine clippings together, finding meaning amidst the scramble.

It’s no wonder, then, that art—particularly the surreal and abstract—serves as a recurring motif for Arthur Moon. The accompanying video for their single, “Room,” is an homage to artistic expression, featuring Ashuvud and a backdrop that doubles as a canvas. Deep reverb rumbles across the melody as the portrait bends and inverts, with both the visuals and beat in an ever-evolving, continually warped state.

The remaining four tracks that comprise the EP are equally idiosyncratic, but have a softer touch. "Wind Up" features a breathy soprano and soft, meandering instrumentals (at least at first). A male voice is interspersed, as if it were being played over an intercom, a blunt and monotone listing of society's harsh realities. We hear lines like, “The rat race is mistaken for productive work,” or musings on civilization's production of both “artifact things” and “artifact people.” Towards the end the beat surges, as the vocals, in their smooth, far-off pitch, take on a certain urgency.

The album then finishes with a cover of the Beatles classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which is simultaneously alluring and haunting. A slow, delicate simmer coats the lyrics, as a skittering synth swirls in the background. As it reaches the end, everything goes haywire. It’s raucous, like a record skipping and replaying the last ten seconds on a constant loop, this sense of crossed signals bringing us to a climactic end. It effectively sums up Arthur Moon’s aesthetic, evoking feelings of unease and then just as quickly a fleeting tranquility. Arthur Moon is out to rattle, and they succeed.

PREMIERE: Fauvely - Break

Laura Kerry

Fauvley is the project of Chicago-based singer-songwriter Sophie Leigh, who melds folk with dream pop and a touch of shoegaze in music that feels deeply personal. The title of her forthcoming EP, Watch Me Overcomplicate This, speaks to the confessional tone of songs that range from delicately self-effacing to hauntingly sad. Leigh cites Mazzy Star, Angel Olsen, and Lykke Li as influences, and the comparisons are apt; in her last single, the EP’s title song, and in her latest, “Break,” she combines the dreaminess of Mazzy Star with Olsen’s smoky sadness and Lykke Li’s fragile pop.

In “Break,” Leigh also follows the legacy of those three artists as she captures a large swatch of emotional ground with simple gestures. Beginning with a quiet duo of guitar and vocals, the artist is vulnerable as she sings, “I think I need a break from all these voices in my head.” As the song builds to the chorus with an increasing density of guitar strums, it picks up speed and momentum, eventually introducing a full band with an oscillating rhythm that simultaneously adds a sense of release and an added nervous urgency. Leigh’s words over this new rise are direct and strangely powerful: “Sometimes I feel too much / Sometimes I don’t feel enough.” As the song swings between animated refrain and sparse verse, it’s impossible not to feel along with Fauvely.

REVIEW: New Venusians - New Venusians

Laura Kerry

Sydney, Australia–based New Venusians has three jazz musicians at its core. Ben Panucci (founding member and the band’s guitarist) studied jazz with Andrew Bruce and Harry Sutherland (now the band’s synth players) at the Conservatory of Music in Sydney, and after meeting Christian Hemara and Meklit Kibret around the local music scene, the two singers’ voices were enough to push the musicians into the fluid realm of neo-soul. After adding two drummers, Jan Bangma and Tully Ryan, to mix, the New Venusians formula was complete.

Though the seven members have impressive resumes—including touring and session musician gigs with Chet Faker and Ngaiire, among others—their only previous release as New Venusians came in 2015, with the single “Keep Running.” Their self-titled debut is proving worth the wait.

New Venusians is a detailed and clever album that covers a large territory of genres, sounds, and moods. Though “neo-soul” is a convenient way to describe a work that contains many soulful melodies and slow but pronounced beats, the album refuses to conform to just one description. Some tracks drift further towards funk (“Keep Running...And Running”), some are more straightforwardly poppy (“Get Along”), and others represent the band’s jazz roots more faithfully (“I Wanna”).

Part of the difficulty of classification (a happy challenge, of course), is that even within well-crafted, cohesive songs, genres shift. In a couple of instances, they shift dramatically; in “Game Change,” for example, a break halfway through signals a move into a spacier, more abstracted version of what came before, and in “Keep Running...And Running,” a moment of silence towards the end leads to a completely different tone guided by a simple but hypnotizing guitar riff. In other songs, though, the mashups are more subtle. Jazzy seventh chords brush against funky basslines and ‘80s pop synths; dance beats underlie slow and soulful vocals; and psychedelic reveries conspire with earthy harmonies and earnest lyrics.  

One of the surprises on an album with such carefully calibrated nuances is the straightforwardness of the lyrics. While the instrumentals are often spacey and free-flowing, the stories they support are direct and of-this-world. “If you're willing to change / Then I will change,” Kibret sings on “Game Change”; “Has anything changed? / Still feel like I’m drowning in your arms,” Hermara sadly confesses in “Sea”; and in “I Wanna,” he expresses impatience with, “I’m swimming in the warmth of your mood / But we're still hesitating.” In an album of sliding sounds, the lyrics provide a graspable entryway.     

Above all, though, the lyrics allow focus to point elsewhere, to the range of meticulous sounds on the album. On the final song, “Here’s Hoping,” the listener can focus on the intimate soulfulness of Kibret’s voice as it skates through interesting phrases. In “I Wanna,” there’s space to spend time with the bright and inviting tone of the guitar, “Game Change” leaves enough room to wonder whether the harmony set against the vocal melody is guitar so warm it mimics the singer’s voice, and in “T.S. I Love You,” there’s time to sit with the tension contained in the sprawling arpeggios. The result of melding three jazz musicians, two soulful singers, and two drummers, New Venusians celebrates the sheer pleasure of sounds and the vibrant formations they can create together.

PHOTOS: Gillian Grogan and Nico Osborne at ThrdNight

All Photos: Brandon Bakus

All Photos: Brandon Bakus

Gillian Grogan and Nico Osborne playing ThrdNight at Topos Bookstore on March 15th,2017

ThrdNight is a monthly music mixer hosted by ThrdCoast. A night of cheap drinks, good music, and good people. The next ThrdNight event will be held April 19th at Matt Torrey's in Bushwick Brooklyn. With musical guest Square peg Round Hole, special secret solo set, and beer provided by the nice folk at Braven Brewery. Hope to see you there!

VIDEO PREMIERE: Arthur Moon - Room

Kelly Kirwan

Lora-Faye Ashuvud has slipped on the moniker Arthur Moon to propel us into a topsy-turvy landscape. The Swedish-born, Brooklyn-raised artist has found her niche in the off-kilter, those wobbly lines of a melody that send subtle shockwaves roaring through the speakers. Arthur Moon takes a mallet to preconceived notions, her music presenting itself in unexpected bursts. Her new single, "Room," off the debut EP, Our Head, is no exception.

The montage that accompanies "Room" is an uncanny representation of its sound. Arthur Moon’s rich pitch has a ragged touch, with a deep reverb that streaks boldly across the melody. The video features the artist herself against a white backdrop that serves as her canvas. At first it’s only the seeds of a portrait, unfleshed lines curving together, our musician also portrayed as an early sketch. Then the film flickers, as plucked guitar adds a folky tinge to the track, and both the artist and her painting are cast in a heavy filter.

Ashuvud’s croon swerves into a soprano, as electric guitars charge the atmosphere with a sense of lurking wildness and subtle sensuality. The music video then inverts, the canvas turning black with white brushstrokes giving hints of what she's feverishly painting. Her voice snakes its way between the ever-increasing frenetic energy, “I want to get out / Baby let me get out,” a line so easily delivered you don’t feel a sense of unease. Arthur Moon lets these dizzying elements align, as if deftly balancing spinning plates on each fingertip, leaving us enraptured and at a standstill.