“Forward change can be such a scary thing / For the misty-eyed,” croons Will Walden on StaG’s “Too Late Now,” the coda to our second sampler compilation. When we launched Stereocure in August of last year, the mist in the air was as heavy as the excitement. Our goal was to create a real music community with a collective atmosphere and a common vision for artistic progress; the mist hanging over the excitement of the first day was the mystery of how we were going to carry out and sustain that goal going forward—and how we were going to stay a community while spread out over 2500 miles.
Nine months, a tour, and a slew of releases and artwork later, our community is tighter than ever. Musical ideals are shifting, new collaborations are forming, new artists are joining, new mediums are being explored, and forward change is in the air. What’s even more amazing to us is that the music is really reaching people’s ears, and the support we’ve received in response has been invaluable in helping us grow and develop as artists, musicians, and people. This compilation mix of new music from all of our artists is a testament to where we’ve been these misty-eyed nine months, looking inward for inspiration within our community, looking outward for new sonic horizons, welcoming the changes as they come.
Stereocure would like to welcome you to the myriad, enfolded, warped world of Conor Donahue and his art. Conor has contributed a lot of excellent work to our community, including posters for our Brooklyn showcase, many Art House Live events in Los Angeles, and a promotional drawing for Family Photo’s Nude Celebz. His work outside Stereocure includes a wide array of drawings, comic panels, graphic design, graffiti, and everything in between. Despite this diversity in the character of his work, it all seems to inhabit the same world of painstaking detail and alien visual phenomena: his characters revel in their own biological anomalies and mutated forms, and his visual narratives distill the familiar and the exotic into a melting microcosm of comical suggestiveness and ominous foreboding. Through his work, Conor has created his own unique iconography which is both self-referential and borrows from his influences, drawing on anime cinema, independent graphic novels, comics, and urban design.
What originally inspired you to become an artist, or to make the specific work that you create?
I’ve been drawing forever but my big influences in high school were Miyazaki (I saw Spirited Away in theaters when I was eleven or twelve), the Animatrix, Akira, and other dark anime movies. Eventually I became interested in indie comics and zene culture—a lot of my friends made zenes and printed my doodles next to porn stills and whatnot. At this point I’d say my broad categories of influence are anime, indie comics (Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware), street-wear, graff culture, and animation (Adventure Time/Pendleton Ward, David O’Russel, Mikey Please). Also the internet is cool, I guess.
What materials do you mainly work with, or are interested in working with in the future?
I discovered microns when I was in ninth grade and became obsessed with detail, I almost exclusively used 005 tips (the smallest possible) and would spend months on one drawing. Eventually I started using bigger pens and different brands (like Copic). I started doing graff in eleventh grade and proceeded to get into paint pens and mops. Now I’m trying to use brushes and ink more, though I still find I’m most comfortable with technical pens. In the future I’d like to experiment more with sculpture and 3D animation.
Most of my drawings attempt to achieve an immersive quality through an overload of detailed information. While much of the symbolism found in my work is personal, I try to include some icons that the viewer will recognize and use as a sort of atlas for deciphering the more foreign elements of the work. The idea is to construct a world that pulls equally from my personal experience and some broader, more relatable theme such as gluttony, industry, etc.
What’s your creative process from the blank page to the finished work? What kinds of things do you think about before putting ink/paint/lead/etc to paper?
My creative process varies between projects but for most drawings I start by filling up as many sketchbook pages as it takes for me to feel like I have a solid basis for a more intentional design. Even when working on what will be the final product, I try to allow myself room for impulse and exploration. I rarely draw out a complete image in pencil before moving to ink. Rather, I create loose pencil sketches with varying levels of detail across the page, then make the final choices while inking. While this process has definitely resulted in disaster because mistakes made in ink are impossible to undo, I stick by it because it allows me to feel like I am actively creating rather than following a script, plus, I’ve gotten pretty good at disguising or altering mistakes, sometimes they end up being the strongest elements of an image.
Head over to Palm Tree Palace, Conor’s blog, to check out a complete portfolio and full-sized images of his work.
Peripheries is a new feature we’re starting up to let people know about the creative activities that community members are undertaking outside the Stereocure bubble. Here’s what we’ve been up to:
Charlie Abbott and Myles Emmons: Cultivating Collectives and Culture - Japan
Charlie (RYV) and Myles (Kuh-Lida) have been working for months on a very special documentary project centered around the collective model in contemporary music culture, using electronic arts collectives in Osaka and Tokyo as a case study. Charlie just returned from a week of interviews and firsthand experience in Japan, and the two are currently in the process of post-production . Check out their kickstarter page for more info:
Charlie Abbott: JoyceBird Productions
Charlie (RYV) is part of a new film collective at Oberlin College called JoyceBird Productions, a group of film students dedicated to writing, shooting, editing, and finishing films within 48 hours. Check out their first creation and enjoy Charlie’s original score.
Myles Emmons: Sleep When You’re Dead
On March 9th, Myles (Kuh-Lida) carried out the culmination of over a year’s work with the performance of his stunning multimedia chamber opera entitled Sleep When You’re Dead. Watch the trailer here.
Family Photo: Side projects
February saw the release of two exciting new music projects from members of Family Photo. Zach Giberson (guitar, vocals, woodwinds) recorded a 6-track EP of solo covers under his own name, and also collaborated with Nathan Swedlow (bass) and Colin McDaniel (drums) on a few bizarre and beautiful re-imaginations of Dirty Projectors songs under the name Dirty Trio. You can hear both releases on Zach’s bandcamp.
Mac Welch: Frugal Father
Mac (Stag - guitar, trombone), has released his new electronic solo project into the world under the moniker of Frugal Father. The music is intimately synthesized, groovy, and heartfelt. Check out his new single here.
Adam Hirsch and Jordan Alper: Doek
Adam (Co-founder, Native Eloquence), and Jordan (Co-founder), are currently living in Amsterdam as students for the semester, and are spending lots of time working with an improvised music collective called Doek. Current projects that they’re working on include the production and promotion of the 11th annual Doek festival in May, as well as a five-week interactive music installation at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis. Check out the Doek festival website here.
David Bird: Performances in New York and Miami
David’s astounding work as a composer outside of his PEPEPIANO project has recently been given some great attention and performances on the east coast. In the last three weeks, four of his chamber and multimedia works have been performed/screened in notable venues in New York City as well as the ISCM festival in Miami. Check out his website for details and audio clips.
Paul Miller Gamble: New collages
Paul (visual artist) has recently added some new collage work to his website, featuring a milieu of delectable cutouts puzzled together with his own uncanny vision. Head over to his page and view in fullscreen.
“You have just heard another adventure into the unknown world of the future.” The opening moment of Kuh-Lida’s newest avant-pop undertaking thunders with the implication that something otherworldly has just happened, and is about to happen again. Whether in the realm of contemporary composition, pop songs, improvisation, or beats, the music of Myles Emmons never ceases to sound like an imagined future pulled out of thin air, blasting the listener with creative energy while whispering with tongue in cheek that it might all be a dream. The sense of a narrative taking place is especially present on his new offering under the Kuh-Lida brand: High Top Blazers, a collection of surreal beat experiments which, in Myles’ own words, explores his “fascination with the often reckless limits we can push ourselves to in pursuit of nightlife and parties.” The artist’s fixation on the draws and drudges of partying leads the listener through constantly changing musical landscape, mixing his own brand of production with hints of 80s R&B, Chicago footwork, swag-rap, boogie funk and beyond. The resulting music has the impression of a meticulously crafted sculpture that melts again and again into a neon stew of bass notes and bad decisions, swirling and hardening around a central figure that is going through a hell of a lot just to have a good time. Waxing and waning in a wilderness between musical indulgence and refinement, Kuh-Lida’s inebriated protagonist bounces with schizoid jump-cuts from spongy pop fantasies and visceral explosions of color. Obscure samples and vocal snippets pile high like beer bottles on a coffee table before getting flipped, chopped, and shattered in the wake of jittering drum breaks and glistening melodic overlays: the music belongs in smokey basements, flashy nightclubs, dusty cassette decks and concert halls alike. Wherever you are, Kuh-Lida offers these words of wisdom for your listening experience: “Hopefully what doesn’t kill us will make us wiser. Pour some drinks, light up, and bxxgie dxwn.”
Creating novelty—“something new, not previously experienced, unusual, or unfamiliar”—is nothing new for Faith Harding, aka Novelty Daughter, an integral member of the Stereocure family since day one. Her new self-produced single “American Dreams” arrives as new direction in her multi-faceted musical career, which has included formal piano training, folk songwriting, and singing in many different contexts from jazz and a capella to recent forays into modern pop experiments (e.g. Kuh-Lida’s “So Sweet”). Faith’s debut recording as a self-producing artist is simple and melodic yet filled with enfolded subtleties, reflective and personal while making a plea to the listener’s understanding. Twirling with an intimate jazz vocal style through a beautifully synthesized electronic backdrop, she considers what it means to encounter the mundanity of an approaching real life: “Everybody asks where my money’s supposed to go / I say I don’t know and fall asleep right on the floor / This was not the way that life was supposed to go.” The swaying curvature of the sound and words together is like a long, heaving sigh; not an especially painful one, but more like the deep breath you take before filling out tax forms or mopping the kitchen floor that gives you a little melancholy moment of self—a brief, private inhalation of meaning and assurance that you’re still there. Pendulating synth lines mingle with the low, pumping bass and crisp percussion, undulating like a slow respiration over and under the surface of the lyrics and repeating chord changes. We invite you to experience something unfamiliar in this music, the first of many new things to come from Novelty Daughter.
poster art by Laura Hartmann
It all started when Aaron Axelrod’s neighbor came up with “Fallopian Dudes” as an idea for a band name and decided to type it into YouTube. He was of course immediately directed to the PEPEPIANO track of the same name, from his 2011 album King. Axelrod, a Los Angeles-based psychedelic painter and visual artist, was gripped by the music of David Bird (the man behind PEPEPIANO), feeling an immediate connection with both his color-splattering, tripped-out aesthetic and his Angelino roots. After contacting David and discovering their shared affections for Animal Collective, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and N64, Aaron asked him if he would supply sound material for some of his artwork, and a collaboration was born.
The project for which David contributed an original score was something Aaron had already been working on for months. Melting Rainbows, a fluid journey through melting, dripping, and color shifting, takes place in real time on a unique canvas which Aaron himself created—he calls it the “rainbow melter”: a transparent, convex hemisphere which on one side receives and concentrically drips paint around its own curves, and on the other side records video of the whole process. The result is visually stunning: his specific combinations of pigments, minerals, and liquids take shape, fuse, explode, and dissolve outward like ripples, immersing the viewer in a fluid undulation of color and movement. Aaron created an eighteen-minute film consisting of two improvised performances on the rainbow melter: one in his studio, and one at a rooftop party in downtown Los Angeles. All the footage comes from beneath the transparent canvas, which allows the viewer to experience the creation of the artist and the creative process as one unified visual experience.
Introducing Robben T. Muñoz, a young Chicagoan auteur whose skill with a camera is as simultaneously refined and sprawling as his creative vision. Robben’s work came to our attention recently through Myles (Kuh-Lida, who scored one of Robben’s past films) and we were immediately struck by his seamless ability to merge focused, technical precision with a free-wheeling sense of color and movement. Imagine our excitement when a few weeks ago we found in our inboxes a surprise from Robben: a completely finished video for THiNK’s “Greedy Feet.” The world that Robben has created for the song presents a stunning contrast to the music itself: the sounds of synth washes and electronic drums reverberate through images of the open wilderness, and groovy sample collages provide the soundtrack for instances of extreme physical violence. Featuring beautiful cinematography by Will Roane, the video plays out in a slow progression of movements and images that are savage, brutal, demented, and yet somehow completely awe-inspiring. RTM’s artistry eludes both expectation and explanation. -A.H.
Check out more of Robben’s work here
Check out more of THiNK’s music here
Back in August, when we first tossed around the idea of a Stereocure traveling showcase, it seemed like just a naive fantasy—something that required an immense amount of energy and resources which we didn’t think we had or would have. Well, three months, seven amazing shows, about a thousand emails, one exploding fire extinguisher, and countless cans of soup and slices of pizza later, we’ve completed our first tour. The Fall 2012 Stereocure traveling showcase took place October 11th-27th, featuring nine of our artists across four different northeastern cities. This is what it looked like:
photos by: Jesse Sussman, Vanessa Castro, Nate Mendelsohn, Myles Emmons, Alex Pitta, Casey Baden, and Jordan Alper
Although Stereocure is a music-centric organization on the whole, visual art is essential to our process of presenting our community to the world and engaging creatively with each other in a realm beyond sound and words. We are lucky enough to have an original piece of artwork from someone in the community accompanying almost every piece of content we release—but of course this wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and creative energy of Canadian-born, Boston-based artist Paul Miller Gamble.
You might recognize Paul’s name from the artwork credits for Native Eloquence’s self-titled EP, Think’s Solstice EP, volume 1 of the Stereocure Sampler, and the poster for our showcase in Cambridge, Mass. Although Paul is an avid photographer and illustrator, the majority of his work is in the collage medium, collating disparate images in a bric-à-brac of textures and colors. All of Paul’s collages are made by hand, using just a pen knife, a box of razors, a cutting mat, a can of rubber cement, and mess of cut up paper from a variety of sources: magazines, advertisements, guidebooks, and anything else that strikes his fancy.
Page 1 of 3