Music fads have often stemmed from small, independent “scenes” – a group of musicians in a town or a region who interact to create a style (or attack on a style) that is uniquely their own. There have been a lot of successful music scenes that grow incandescent before fading out – witness Seattle's “grunge” scene in the early ‘90s that changed the face of hard rock music.
This week, you can catch a documentary about a lesser known scene – that of Little Rock, Arkansas. Towncraft examines the do it yourself (DIY) music scene of Little Rock as it began in the early ‘80s, pushed by a group of young teens who ultimately went on to form record labels, record stores, book their own tours, etc. The movie is being released on DVD with a 2-disc musical soundtrack of 40 Little Rock bands. But at the same time, it is also being given a one-night-only theatrical release in 20 cities. On the same night in each city that the movie plays, a Little Rock band will also put on a concert. The Chicago screening will occur at the Ferguson theater in Chicago at 7 p.m. on May 23 and the concert will take place at The Subterranean starting at 10 p.m. It will feature DJ sets by Steve Schmidt and Justin Sinkovich co-owners of File 13 records, Ben from Home Recording Project, and others are to be added. For more information on the movie, check www.towncraftmovie.com.
Auralgasms: Breath of Stars
Speaking of independent DIY music, the third compilation from the Internet radio station Auralgasms.com is now available. I've written about the station before – I've been a junkie of its perfect melding of ethereal female-sung pop, Brit pop and electronica for the last few years.
The station's latest sampler is, like the two preceding it, a gorgeous collection of “dreampop” -- songs that entrance and transport the listener to a beautiful aural space that's difficult to describe, but haunting in its impact.
The disc opens with Sleepthief, featuring singer Kristy Thirsk on “Sublunar,” a song from the band's debut album last year (one of my favorite releases of 2006.) Thirsk has a long history of voicing some of the most transcendant trips through techno-based tracks, and this one sounds like she's leading a veritable choir of angels atop the burbling synthesizer rhythm bed.
That's followed by Costanza's “I've Been Waiting For You,” a quieter, tenser song. Costanza Francavilla echoes the eerie, otherworldly tones of Cranes at the outset of the track, before delivering the more straightforward chorus of heartaching anticipation.
Halou provides “Albatross,” a song that starts out sounding like Poe, before graduating into Delerium territory with the heartaching lyric “there's no easy way out.”
In Flight Safety provides the first male vocalist of the compilation in a slowly building guitar track called “Lost (The March Song).” With reverbed guitar plucks and gentle piano strokes, the band starts with a whisper and slowly builds throughout the song until by its middle it's a pounding anthem, before it descends back to ambience again.
Kate Hinote leads Ether Aura through a similar song structure in “Crash,” as she sings almost solo at the start, accompanied just by an electric piano and subtle bass. But then the guitars and drums join in to break the mood open for the pounding emotional chorus. Hinote moves back and forth through the song from crooning to imploring as she sings about two people crashing “into each others hearts.”
Kirsty Hawkshaw Meets Arnold Toutain provide the disc's most driving song, in the techno danceclub track “Healing Angel,” which lets Hawkshaw glide and soar vocally, ranging from Sinead-like directness to angelic harmonies above a bed of pounding basslines, quiet piano and string passages, and Robert Miles-ish interludes. That's followed by Moev 's Depeche Mode-esque danceclub-ready “A Thousand Lashes,” featuring the entrancing Julie Ferris on the mic.
I could go on and on, track by track, through the 17 titles on this compilation, but while the songs don't sound at all the same, my reviews of each would – quite simply, this is a collection to dream to, filled with warm fuzzy guitar songs, rich ethereal synthesizer tapestries, astonishingly affecting vocalists singing familiar themes of love and loss that reverberate with timelessness. My favorite tracks come from the aforementioned Sleepthief, Costanza and Ether Aura as well as from the dreamy Honeybreath and Lou Rhodes and the rhythmic but heavenly Sky Project . But there are also great songs from Trashcan Sinatras, Neverending White Lights and Hotel De Ville (who provide what sounds like a lost This Mortal Coil song) and many more.
Breath of Stars offers some of the most entrancing music being crafted today, by artists who, at this point, remain largely unknown. Discover their mystery and buy the disc at Auralgasms.com.