Acoustic

PREMIERE

Slow Dakota - Creation of the World

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By Abigail Clyne

Don’t let the joyful nature of the track fool you–Slow Dakota’s new single, “Creation of the World,” is asking the big questions. The title alone hints to this track being more than meets the eye. PJ Sauerteig (Slow Dakota) is joined by Margaux Bouchegnies on vocals and Corey Dansereau on trumpet. Throughout the song, the duo ponders where their urge for expression comes from. “I can’t decide if I write from some Great hole inside,” they sing, and compare their way of creation to that of Christ, “If Christ spoke Mountain Ice all because His Life was flat and dry.”

Later, the pair wonders if their inspiration perhaps comes from a more positive place, “Or do I sing from some Great abundance, bubbling high.” In the end, much like the different expressions of God shown in the Old and New Testaments, it seems a balance has been struck. Creation, and therefore expression, comes out of both desperation and love. The constant plucking of the guitar and later addition of the trumpet allows for this self analysis to never become dour. We all need a helping hand to guide us through the weighty questions, and Slow Dakota makes it both easy and profound all at once.

REVIEW: Twin Oaks - Living Rooms

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Laura Kerry

Sometimes, doing less is harder than doing more. In quiet acts with one or two people, no one can hide; every sound, every word, every breath is exposed.

Twin Oaks thrives in this kind of exposure. A Los Angeles duo comprised of Aaron Domingo and Lauren Brown, they've released several albums worth of atmospheric folk and rock tinged with dream pop and shoegaze. On their latest EP, Living Rooms, the band adds another layer to their raw formula: they recorded the album live “in various open spaces using minimal equipment,” and the result is surprisingly precise and unsurprisingly beautiful.

Returning to their origins as a bedroom pop group, Twin Oaks has pared down. The songs primarily revolve around the dynamic between Domingo’s guitar—sometimes in tightly picked folk melodies and other times in a slow march of strummed chords—and Brown’s singing. With the exception of the eerie final song “Felt Like Dying,” Living Rooms leaves the singer vulnerable, full of reverb but without much instrumental cover. Armed with an evocative voice that sometimes resembles The xx’s Romy Madley Croft or Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, Brown is up to the task. She sings patiently and deliberately, milking each sparse syllable for all of its emotional worth.

Considering the words they form, those syllables are worth a lot. The lyrics on Living Rooms are intimate, pretty, and, for the most part, sad. In some songs, Twin Oaks conjure small but vivid fragments of imagery, creating a mood more than a story. “I'll watch them walk away / Light the flame and throw it down / Watch a kingdom burn,” Brown sings on “Collapse,” suggesting the outline of ruin without filling in the details.

In other songs, Twin Oaks writes in a more confessional and prosaic mode. In both “Rumors” and “Felt Like Dying,” they present their lyrics in paragraph form, each comprised of short, full sentences. In the former, Brown sings as if reading out of a journal: “I'll make sure to map out the ways from this old fucking town and I can't recognize myself. I don't see myself in any of the things I have,” she croons. Later, she adds, “Maybe I'm lying. ... Okay, I'm lying.” Evoking the feeling that she has reached this realization in the act of performing the song, the admission emphasizes the album’s sense of immediacy and vulnerability, already heightened by its live recording. With moments like these, Twin Oaks brings their listeners in close, inviting us into the room where they—and in turn, we—are exposed.

VIDEO PREMIERE: LUKA - You Can Tell Me Everything

It's rare that we find ourselves genuinely laughing out loud at a music video, and rarer still for that video to be as endearing as LUKA's latest, "You Can Tell Me Everything." It's a slow burn, spending nearly a minute and a half voyeuristically watching its protagonist mope around a sparsely-furnished room, play with his cat, and regard himself uncertainly in the mirror as a wistful acoustic guitar tune plays over the scene. If you didn't stick around, it'd be easy to think this was just another self-indulgently boring indie video.

And then, without warning, the man onscreen breaks into an understated, goofy, vaguely Napoleon Dynamite-esque dance routine. It's so far out of left field that we couldn't help but giggle, and while we could imagine that same scene playing out with some palpable pretension, something about its performance is utterly, irresistibly likable. The song itself is charming, and lends an air of earnest believability to the video—take a watch for yourself and try not to fall in love.

Catch LUKA On Tour

08.19 Kingston, ON | Musiiki Cafe w/ Konig
08.20 Peterborough, ON | Peterborough Folk Fest (Solar Stage: 2:45)
08.26 Toronto, ON | Electric Fetus - Rooftop Show w/ Julie Doiron + Nick Ferrio
09.09 Montreal, QC | Mothlight (House Show)
09.14 Peterborough, ON | The Garnet w/ Ada Lea

REVIEW: Kyson - A Book Of Flying

Laura Kerry

If you know Berlin-based artist Kyson, it is likely under the guise of electronic music. And that wouldn’t be inaccurate; the composer, songwriter, and producer, who is Australian-born Jiam Kellet Liew, has exhibited all the hallmarks of the genre in his previous work—first and foremost, electronic instruments. His debut album from 2013, The Water’s Way, married analogue synths, acoustic instruments, and strange beat loops to create accompaniment for a makeshift living room dance floor, a gentler flavor among the hip-hop-infused electronic musicians dominating the roster at LA’s Friends of Friends Music.

Kyson’s newest release, A Book Of Flying, remains on the same roster and uses many of the same production techniques, but it pushes against the electronic music frame. Comprised of 11 gentle songs that are more tonally consistent than his last album, it pares down and warms up, filled with gorgeous and introspective vocal-driven songs. Sometimes, A Book Of Flying is folk music parading as electronic bleeps and blips—other times it is plain folk.

One of Kyson’s greatest strengths as a producer is his ability to seamlessly blend acoustic and electronic sounds. On “You,” a highlight of the album, he sets a foundation with acoustic guitar arpeggios, a trope throughout the album, that fade naturally into synth flourishes. The picking pattern, Kyson’s voice, and the melody all resemble classical guitar-wielding José González, but it comes as no surprise when the song switches entirely to electronic instruments after the first verse, then transforms back midway through the second. Acoustic guitar also leads the mix in “Flightless,” a song reminiscent of Kings of Convenience at their softest, as well as parts of the James Blake-like soulfulness of “Nice Circle,” the sparse “Black Dreaming,” and blends in other places, but it reverberates even when absent.

Kyson, though, does hold onto his electronic roots in his free-flowing structures. Folk typically follows a verse-chorus pattern, but, true to its name, A Book Of Flying has a floating quality. The structure is present in many places, but obscured by the ebbs and flows of different voices. That kind of movement is especially apparent on the entirely- and mostly-instrumental tracks—“As The Mind It Changes,” “Thank You For Everything Part II,” and “Latvia”—but it also dances along the repetitions in “Flightless,” the sporadic entrances and exits of voices on “Black Dreaming,” and the other quietly pretty songs.

Free from rigidity, A Book Of Flying is a celebration of beautiful sounds taken individually and in harmony. From the velvety tone of the guitar to the delicate bounce of synth blips, Kyson fills his music with food for the ears and soul. Even the lyrics—“All these feathers will make you fly with me again” (“Flightless”), “Let my brittle frame fall” (“A Song About The Future”)—revel in the satisfaction and bliss of small, pleasing noises. As Kyson moves away from the living room dance floor, he provides an exquisite backdrop for the plush carpet of a bedroom.

PREMIERE/INTERVIEW: Stone Irr - For My Friends

Raquel Dalarossa

Bloomington, IN’s Stone Irr—that’s first name Stone, last name Irr—first appeared on Bandcamp in July of last year. Now signed to Darling Recordings, the singer-songwriter is nearly ready to release his debut LP, which is slated to drop later this summer. His dreamy, guitar-centered pop makes an ideal match for the video project Acoustic War Machine. Led by videographer Zak Stoldt, AWM crafts intimate videos out of “take-away” acoustic shows, and Stoldt teamed up with Irr to produce a video for the song “For My Friends,” off of his upcoming album.

The video itself treats us to a raw acoustic performance by Stone on his guitar, set against a blustery mountain backdrop. It feels tender, yet powerful; gusty winds seem to materialize out of Stone’s own emotional output.

As it turns out, despite how well it all came together in the end, the making of the video was a little rocky. We spoke to Zak to get more details about it, and Acoustic War Machine in general.

ThrdCoast: Can you talk a little bit about how Acoustic War Machine came about, and what you’re trying to achieve with the project?

Zak Stoldt: Sure. So Acoustic War Machine started off as a way for me to just do my own thing. I was in school and was kind of just coasting through my major, which was Telecom Video Production, and I happened upon a video one day by La Blogotheque. AWM is pretty much a tribute to that. They do acoustic videos and I was just blown away. For the first time, I really felt like, "I want to do this, I want to make videos." It sparked my interest in a way that nothing in my major had done yet, so that’s kind of how it started.

TC: Yeah, Blogotheque is definitely the OG takeaway show. What do you think it was about that particular format that spoke to you?

ZS: There are so many music videos out there and I think the takeaway show format just felt so honest to me. People are so used to music videos that are sharpened and made to present this really perfect image of the band or the sound or whatever, but I was amazed at how honest this was and how close it brought you to the artist. It was almost awkwardly intimate, and I liked that. It was a breath of fresh air from everything that’s out there today.

Acoustic War Machine is the same sound setup every time, [and it’s] one take straight to the audience, so it’s really vulnerable. There’s almost always a mess up in the video or in the song. And as a videographer that’s what I’m attracted to these days. I’m so tired of things that are so polished.

TC: Yeah, totally. So, the video for Stone Irr… is it pronounced "stoner?"

ZS: Yeah, that’s actually his name.

TC: Oh, wow, I thought it was just a play on him being a stoner.

ZS: I know, everybody thinks that! He’s a cool guy.

TC: He’s a friend of yours?

ZS: We more or less got to know each other through making this video. I’ve been acquaintances with him but yeah, we’re friends.

TC: So how did this specific video come about? Can you talk a little about your process of picking locations for each of your videos and that kind of thing?

ZS: The setting is usually just something that we think will be interesting. There’s no deep-seated meaning behind it. We just try to find a place that will look and sound cool. I guess there is a little bit of thought as to, does this location match the artist? But sometimes it’s better if it doesn’t! So yeah, it’s just whatever we or the artist think will be a cool spot. For example, with the one I shot with Spissy, they had recorded their album in a parking garage staircase, and they said they wanted their video to be there, so we shot the video there. But there’s no super serious process behind it.

TC: So for this particular video did you feel the location matched Stone’s aesthetic?

ZS: I don’t think I knew that it was going to. Cedar Bluffs is a really cool location and we headed up there, and we honestly thought the video was going to be ruined because it was so windy. We hiked up about a mile and it was getting close to sundown, so we had to kind of hurry. We almost ended up heading back because one of our cameramen almost lost a piece of his gear on the side of this ledge. I had to hold his legs while he reached for it.

TC: Oh my god…

ZS: Yeah, it was like something from a bad movie! But we hiked up and when we got up there, it was super windy and there’s really nothing you can do about that kind of wind. Stone started playing and right as he kind of got to the biggest part of the song, it was like scary amounts of wind. It started blowing so hard that the camera was shaking, the leaves were flying past the camera, and I think I looked over at the other cameraman and we kind of shrugged and thought “This is ruined.” But luckily we got back, and we apologized to Stone for taking him up there and said, you know, we’ll do another video with you, because by that point it was dark. But I listened through the audio and it actually wasn’t that bad. It actually really matched the song because for some weird reason the wind kind of just miraculously picked up at the same moments that the song did.

TC: You guys definitely did a good job, the video sounds great! Was the song something that Stone just wanted to highlight from his upcoming album?

ZS: Yeah. The way I view Acoustic War Machine is it’s hopefully something that’s useful for everybody involved. It’s a way to take videographers and to really do what they don’t get to do in their jobs, just go for whatever they’re feeling. There’s no restrictions, really, and the same goes for the musicians. It’s really about them picking whatever they want. And usually it turns out pretty good!