Pure Bathing Culture
It's a rare and beautiful thing when a band emerges fully formed, but it makes perfect sense in the case of guitarist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist Sarah Versprille's Pure Bathing Culture. Having backed folk rock revisionist Andy Cabic in Vetiver, the New Yorkers partnered up and moved West in 2011, settling in Portland, Oregon. Building off their past experiences as musical collaborators, in a short time the duo have created a sound that is undeniably their own: soaring synths, chiming keyboards, and shimmering electric guitars move in lockstep with bouncing drum machines. Sarah's crystalline voice floats on top of it all with divine purpose. It's a sound that looks back momentarily for inspiration — Talk Talk, Prefab Sprout, Cocteau Twins — but then fixes its gaze firmly on the present.
Further developing the sound of their acclaimed four song, self-titled 2012 EP, at the start of 2013 they set out to record Moon Tides, their first full length album. Again, they chose to work with producer Richard Swift at his National Freedom studio in rural Cottage Grove, Oregon. Throughout 2012 Swift had called on the duo to help him with other studio projects (Versprille sings on Foxygen's latest LP and Hindman adds his sprawling guitar work to Damien Jurado's excellent Maraqopa) which only helped to cement the threesome's musical partnership. For Moon Tides they continued where the previous EP left off, bolstered by Swift's belief in the duo's artistic vision and their unique sound, "From very early on, Richard was the person telling us that what we were hearing and wanting to do musically (which at times could feel a little strange or embarrassing to us) was ok and valid and that we should pursue it."
Like the earlier sessions for the EP, they worked quickly in the studio and improvised parts around the basic song structures that they'd carefully composed up in Portland. Dan explains, "Pretty much all tracks (vocals and instruments) are all first or very early takes. Richard is kind of a stickler about this and I actually don't go in with a clean, pristine idea of what I'm going to play on guitar or any other instrument for that matter, so there's actually a lot of improvisation as far as performances in the studio go." The results, like the earlier EP, are astounding: the arrangements feel fresh and imaginative, the melodies are unforgettable and the finished songs, most importantly, feel intensely human and deeply spiritual.
It's this compassion and warmth in Pure Bathing Culture that set them apart. The music is uplifting. It invites self-reflection. It never feels alienating. This, confirms the band, is no accident: "Concepts of spirituality, self actualization, mysticism, new age symbolism and pretty much anything that has to do with humans making sense of why we're all here are all deep, deep muses for us." To that point, even the album title Moon Tides alludes to self-discovery: "We are deeply inspired by the relationship between the moon and the tides. Particularly in the sense that the tides and the ocean are comprised of water and the element water is often associated with human emotion." While these heady themes can be difficult to explore in a pop song, Pure Bathing Culture makes it feel effortless. "Pendulum" is a perfect mid-tempo album opener that pulses and shines. Other standout tracks from the album — "Dream The Dare", "Twins", "Scotty" and "Golden Girl" — are slices of reverb-drenched, soulful, danceable electro-pop, that musically and lyrically tap into an introspective worship of the natural and psychic mysteries that surround us. Pure Bathing Culture's debut album Moon Tides is optimistic modern music for souls who seek to explore the infinite.
Mary Alouette has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about her, and just might be New York City’s best-kept swag songstress secret.
Her first year as a solo artist is off to promising start after releasing her debut EP, Midas, in April 2012.
She shows serious vocal and musical talent, as her voice bears both tone and control earned through opera training and the emotional connection of a jazz and soul singer. Also a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Mary has laid the groundwork for a fresh, distinctive, and unforgettable sound.
Her songs, full of infectious melodies and dangerous rhythms, blend floating, jazzy vocals with poignant lyrics. Manipulation of electronic beats, synth pads, acoustic bass lines, and glitchy textures shapes a modern orchestration under the gypsy jazz guitar’s hot rhythms and haunting acoustic licks.
Born Mary Kavalauskas, she adopted the name Mary Alouette in part as a pseudonym so she could sing without a visa in international jazz clubs, but moreso as an homage to her favorite singers, namely Maria Callas, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone, who also performed under stage names. Other influences include Kate Bush, the jazzy hip-hop grooves of Hiatus Kaiyote, the raw, emotional beats of Burial, and the cool of Berlin’s Modeselektor.
Currently, her band is one of New York City’s most original acts, with a compelling musical experience that places her in a spot all her own. She performs in music clubs in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and in Brooklyn, while songwriting by day in her Bushwick loft.
Her gypsy jazz performances have warmly welcomed sold-out crowds in venues throughout the Washington-Baltimore area, and seasoned NYC gypsy jazz players call her to lay down vocals for their latest albums.
Alouette presently works as an assistant audio engineer and producer at ishlab, a music studio in Brooklyn. She started the position in an effort to brave her naïveté when it came to music production and to further explore her love for electronic music. After practicing mixing and recording techniques, she was quickly offered the opportunity to work independently on projects and assist in sessions with platinum and major label artists.
In 2011-2012, Alouette held an Artist-in-Residence position at Strathmore Center for the Performing Arts in Maryland, among a select handful of rising young musical artists. This provided her the opportunity to work with national and international musicians, as well as industry professionals. She recently concluded her residency with performances on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and at Strathmore Hall.
The blazing tempos and exotic melodies of Django Reinhardt’s 1930’s gypsy jazz lure Mary, especially after working on a vineyard in the South of France and growing up singing from the American songbook. She has lit up festivals along the East Coast with various gypsy jazz ensembles in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Montreal, Canada.
Performance has always been a part of Mary’s personal expression, nurtured by her childhood in musical theatre, choral performances of Mahler and Beethoven at Carnegie Hall, and singing the National Anthem for the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. The decision to pursue opera at McGill University in Montreal, then and in Austria and the Italian Alps, began as a motivation to build her voice. She also soon immersed herself in Montreal’s diverse, lively, electronic and world music scenes and worked with digital composers while at McGill. Mary also taken to street art, bombing stencils as a visual representation of her music. An authentic vision has materialized and it’s made a strong impression.
Alouette won Washington Area Music Association’s New Artist of the Year 2012 and Debut Recording 2012 (Midas). Her song, O, Be I Your Bluebird, placed as a finalist in the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Competition.
Presently, Mary Alouette is working on a new album to be released in Spring 2013.
Former Light Pollution main man James Cicero has hit upon something special with his new solo project, Jimmy Whispers. He sings sincere songs about love and loss with just a chintzy organ recorded straight to an iPhone, and what the music lacks in fidelity it more than makes up for in unself-conscious heart, blissful melodies, and enchanting hooks. He's finished an album, but you can't get it just yet—a proper release is in the works. Cicero plays out often enough, though, that the tunes will stick with you till his next show—and you can still walk away with a copy of his Summer in Pain zine. It builds on themes that also turn up in his music, in his stage banter, and in the crude "Summer in Pain" street art he's plastered around town: there's a collage about Chicago's gun violence, a letter to a woman selling a wedding gown via a flyer, doodles of sharks, non sequiturs about finding inspiration in sadness, and an image that superimposes Cicero on a photo of Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen. Summer in Pain is pretty scatterbrained and not always easy to understand, but it feels entirely earnest—which makes it a great companion to Cicero's songs.
CHICAGO READER BEST OF 2013 ISSUE
Tiger Dare makes atmospheric dream pop in Brooklyn. Formed when Mike Zorrilla and Henry Freedland discovered a shared affinity for music with in-headphone intimacy and spacey, shimmering guitars, the band has grown to include the talents of bassist Michael Kirby and drummer Pete Hilton. Debut record Wires Over, Wired In translates slowcore, shoegaze, psych and indie pop influences to offer up hushed vocals and intricate arrangements, unburdened by gravity or friction; a dream-machine in motion. These are subtle anthems for the open-hearted, peering into the lost and found of looking-glass time and endeavoring to find some simple, off-screen truths in a weird and wired world.