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Thursday, February 27, 2014

What is Psychoacoustics Research & Development?

Posted by on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Last Thursday night, the unclassifiable instrumental band Malt Swagger, who were active around the Triangle in the late ’90s and early ’00s before quietly fading away, played at The Pinhook. But that blast from the past had nothing on a mysterious opening act, a dance-y indie punk band called Psychoacoustics Research & Development. Their web presence amounts to a single live performance video, edited for a video production course at Appalachian State during the 1991–92 school year and uploaded to YouTube in 2008.

Scenting the trail of a forgotten band from the glory days of local indie rock, we reached out to Malt Swagger vibraphone player Steve Carter for the backstory.

Carter, it turns out, was and is a member of Psychoacoustics R&D. To the best of his recollection, the band formed in Boone in 1987 before relocating to the Triangle around 1992, playing in the area for a few years before singer Karsten Schroeer moved away. “We used to tell people that our music was like a cross between Black Sabbath and Janet Jackson,” Carter says. “Well, more like Black Sabbath picks up Janet Jackson at some dive bar in Atlanta, and then they head back to Sabbath’s place for some wild, uninhibited sex. No, wait, this is it: Black Sabbath running over Janet Jackson in a custom van.”

The other members of the band—Carter, Lawrence Winn and Jeff Umbarger—remained in the Triangle and would occasionally reunite to play a show when Schroeer returned to visit his family. The musicians have connections to tribute projects such as Heart of Glass, which covers Blondie, and Garmonbozia, which covers the Twin Peaks soundtrack, as well as bands such as Marsha, Dirty Feather Boas and Aftertax. Carter says that Thursday night’s reunion happened simply because Schroeer was here for a month-long visit before returning to his “beachside palace in Bali.”

But what about that lone video, so redolent of the Archers of Loaf-era? “Memories,” Carter says. “You know, the excessive use of strobe lights have kind of scrambled those.” The video was edited at ASU by Charles Bowes, Carter’s best friend, who now lives in Toronto.

“I think some of the footage came from a house party we played in Boone,” Carter says, “and some from a show at Infinity’s in Greensboro. Hallucinogens were pretty big in Boone, and we really tried to play to that audience. Lights, fog, strobes, sometimes films from the ASU library: High-energy, danceable and loud. I’m getting a headache remembering all the fog. You’d get these boogers...but hey, maybe that’s too much information.”

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    The story behind the forgotten local band, Psychoacoustics Research & Development, that just opened for Malt Swagger at the Pinhook

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hip-hop producer 9th Wonder is the subject of another documentary

Posted by on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:37 PM

9th Wonder with Chuck D at Hopscotch 2010 - FILE PHOTO BY ABBY NARDO
  • file photo by Abby Nardo
  • 9th Wonder with Chuck D at Hopscotch 2010
Yesterday, director Kenneth Price and Grammy-winning hip-hop producer 9th Wonder released a trailer for a new documentary. The Hip-Hop Fellow chronicles 9th Wonder’s year as a teacher and research fellow at the Hiphop Archive at Harvard University's W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute.

During the fellowship, 9th Wonder (nè Pat Douthit) was charged with researching the samples and production techniques behind the 10 hip-hop albums that he deemed most influential to his career. The 78-minute documentary features interviews and commentary from Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, DJ Premier, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal and 9th’s former Little Brother bandmates, Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh.

While being filmed for The Hip-Hop Fellow, 9th also intermittently spent valuable time on the campus of another prestigious academic institution, Duke University, where he and Neal teach a course on “Sampling Soul,” as seen in 2011 documentary The Wonder Year, also directed by Price.

The Hip-Hop Fellow will be screened at locations across the country. According to the film’s website, screening dates and locations will be posted in April.

THE HIP-HOP FELLOW TRAILER from Pricefilms on Vimeo.

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    Following 2011’s The Wonder Year, director Kenneth Price follows 9th Wonder to Harvard for The Hip-Hop Fellow

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Torch Runner signs with Southern Lord

Posted by on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Despite its reputation as a stable for slow, pensive, exploratory metal acts such as Earth and Sunn O))), the record label Southern Lord has recently embraced the opposite extreme, signing some of the fastest and most pummeling punk-metal crossover acts around: Nails, Dead in the Dirt, Kromosom and All Pigs Must Die.

Southern Lord recently added another punk-metal exemplar to its ranks, signing Greensboro’s Torch Runner. According to a press release, the band is currently finishing its follow-up to 2012’s grimecore—their particularly nasty iteration of grindcore—masterpiece Committed to the Ground at Greensboro studio Legitimate Business with producer Kris Hilbert. The cover art will be created by Rock Hill, S.C. artist Fernando Pena, who also fronts the band Nailbiter.

Fitting a band that so capably bridges extreme metal and hardcore punk, Torch Runner claims that its forthcoming album will be its fastest work to date, focusing on “externalizing the anger and frustration that we all face internally.” Further album details and tour dates have yet to be announced. 
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    The Greensboro punk-metal band joins the arty metal label for its “fastest” work to date

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Art of Cool Music Festival replaces Robert Glasper

Posted by on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 5:33 PM

The inaugural Art of Cool Music Festival, which presents jazz artists throughout downtown Durham on April 25 and 26, suffered its first public setback when the Grammy-winning jazz/hip-hop pianist Robert Glasper canceled his scheduled appearance after running into a booking conflict.

But Durham’s loss may actually turn out to be a gain, as it didn’t take festival co-founder Cicely Mitchell very long to fill Glasper’s spot. In fact, with today’s addition of four jazz and soul acts, she made good and then some on her promise that Glasper’s replacement “will probably include more than one national act.”

Two prior Glasper collaborators—the stunning soul vocalist Bilal and the all-female L.A. soul trio KING—have been added to the festival, as well as the Berklee-trained bassist Gizmo and the Grammy-nominated trumpet player Christian Scott’s quintet. Mitchell also announced that the festival will feature a local hip-hop stage dubbed “R&Boom,” with all backing music provided by a live band.

In other Art of Cool news, PNC Bank has added its name to a long list of festival sponsors
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    Durham’s new jazz festival adds Bilal, KING, Gizmo, Christian Scott

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sylvan Esso announces new single; debut LP forthcoming

Posted by on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 2:52 PM

  • photo courtesy of Middle West Management
  • Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso, one of Durham’s most promising new bands, is the duo of singer Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and electronic producer Nick Sanborn (Megafaun). The folksiness of their established projects gives way to intricate, dynamic electronic pop that mines an unsuspected seam between the experimental vocalism of tUnE-yArDs and the acid house of 808 State.

Today, new song “Coffee” premiered on Stereogum. The stately track will appear on a twelve-inch single, backed with “Dress,” on March 25 via Brooklyn’s Partisan Records, which has previously released music by Mountain Man. Sylvan Esso’s 10-song, self-titled album, home-recorded by the band and mixed by BJ Burton, follows in May.

Chances are good that you’ve already heard Sylvan Esso’s double A-side 12” on Trekky Records, which features “Hey Mami” and “Play it Right.” The singles paint an accurate picture of the rest of the album, mixing atmospheric effects such as traffic sounds, Meath’s fleet and elaborately layered vocal runs, and Sanborn’s mammoth, squelchy bass synthesizers.

But there are some surprises stashed amid the consistent approach. “Wolf” adds in the faintest rhythmic background of acoustic strings; “HSKT” bends toward dub with its loose, tuned bass drum pads and delay effects; and “Come Down” finds Meath harmonizing with herself over abstract computer-music squiggles.

Most arresting of all is “Could I Be,” where Meath’s voice slides, like an electronic tone from a ribbon controller, over a warm and sticky haze of synth pulses. The perky music masks often-sinister lyrics about predatory courtship, supplying the effervescent surface with hidden depths. Sylvan Esso takes the new material on tour in about a week, beginning in Washington D.C. on Jan. 28 and rolling into Seattle mid-February.

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    “Coffee” b/w "Dress" 12” single out March 25 on Partisan Records

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Friday, January 17, 2014

The Hopscotch Music Festival returns to Raleigh

Posted by on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 8:08 PM

As was just announced on the festival’s website, the fifth annual Hopscotch Music Festival takes over downtown Raleigh Sept. 4–6. Though the lineup has yet to be announced, the festival promises to spread more than 160 bands from different genres throughout Raleigh nightclubs and performance spaces, surrounding the epicenter of a large outdoor stage in Raleigh City Plaza.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on Saturday, March 1, following a presale on Feb. 27 and 28 for Hopscotch email list recipients (sign up here). With tickets going on sale later than in previous years, when they were available as early as December, expect them move quickly.

Since its first installment in 2010, Hopscotch has been nationally noted for its adventurousness and diversity, from experimental music blogs all the way up to Spin and The New York Times. Formerly owned by INDY Week and co-directed, with Greg Lowenhagen, by INDY music editor Grayson Haver Currin, the festival now operates as an independent company. Currin recently stepped down from his role as co-director, with Hopscotch day-party coordinator Nathan Price replacing him.
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    Hopscotch tickets for 2014 go on sale to the general public on March 1

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sorry State to open record store in downtown Raleigh

Posted by on Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 1:30 PM

"There's four or five different places to buy records in Raleigh, but there's nowhere to hang out and talk about records and look at fliers for the shows that are coming up—just a place to be," Daniel Lupton says. "I want to do that."


Of course, he'll want to sell some records, too, when his Sorry State Records storefront opens in a few weeks at 317 W. Morgan St., next to The Borough.

"I don't have a date set, but I'm hoping to get it open before Nov. 1," he says. "I've managed to build all the shelves and do all the painting, so now it's just a matter of moving records in and pricing everything."

Lupton says the shop will initially open with limited hours during the fall, as he works as a teacher at UNC-Chapel Hill. He hopes to expand operations once his schedule opens up in the spring.

As the proprietor of the label Sorry State Records and its corresponding online shop, Lupton has already earned his position as a punk-rock vinyl dealer with an adventurous ear. But with a physical headquarters in Raleigh (instead of Lupton's Carrboro house, out of which Sorry State currently operates), the shop should further cement Raleigh as the perennial center of Triangle punk.

Part of Lupton's impetus to set up shop stems from a partnership he forged with In The Groove Records last year. Lupton would stock a curated selection of new punk records at the Glenwood Avenue store, and local punk fans would buy them from Greg Rollins, In The Groove's owner.

"Part of the reason I feel like it's tenable to start a record store is because of selling stuff at In The Groove and knowing that there's an appetite for it," Lupton says. "[Rollins] thinks it's smart for me to expand and keep moving forward. So at some point I'll take my records out of his store and move them into mine. Hopefully it'll be a symbiotic relationship."

Even as Lupton retains his punk-centric vision, the shop offers an opportunity for Sorry State to broaden its embrace, a prospect about which Lupton is particularly excited. "Some people say that it's a really eclectic label, and that makes me happy," he says. "But then some people really associate it with the whole early-'80s hardcore revival thing, and that bums me out. Anything I can do to shake that and broaden people's expectations, I think is a good thing."

To wit, he's already started buying up collections to fill the inventory with an eclectic (if rock-centric) offering. Only about half, he estimates, is punk.

As Sorry State broadens its purview beyond the hardcore, punk, post-punk and metal found in its distribution channels, Lupton imagines his shop will fill a niche for fringe-rock fans in the Capital City. "People don't really drive between cities in the Triangle unless they absolutely have to," he says, his own frequent commute notwithstanding. "So I definitely wouldn't be opening the store in the same town as All Day or Bull City. If there wasn't a third city that I felt was underserved, I probably just wouldn't be doing it."

For those across-town shoppers who don't want to make the trek, Lupton says opening the new shop will also coincide with an update to the Sorry State online store.

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    The punk label's brick-and-mortar outlet looks to open this month.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

IBMA announces its award nominees tonight, watch locally

Posted by on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 1:32 PM


And so it begins: The first official event leading to the International Bluegrass Music Association's conference and music festival in Raleigh in late September happens tonight. Three downtown Raleigh venues will host viewing parties for the announcement of the 2013 IBMA award nominees.

Though the awards themselves have moved, this year's announcement ceremonies remain in Nashville, at the Loveless Cafe. North Carolina native Jim Lauderdale and newgrass innovator Sam Bush will host. The festivities begin at 6 p.m., and they'll be shown locally at Irregardless Cafe, Tir Na Nog and the Lincoln Theatre.

The Long Rifle Bluegrass band will perform at Irregardless after the announcements, while Tir Na Nog will have a BBQ special to celebrate the event. Cindy and Terry Baucom will host a Q&A session about the festival. You can stream the announcement at Music City Roots.

The festival runs Sept. 24-28 in downtown Raleigh, with an industry conference taking place at the Convention Center alongside showcases and featured performances happening throughout various venues downtown. For more information, visit

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    Though the International Bluegrass Music Association awards have moved to Raleigh this year, the announcement ceremonies remain in Nashville.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tonight: John Vanderslice and Crooked Fingers play in Raleigh

Posted by on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Ol' chum: Eric Bachmann
  • Ol' chum: Eric Bachmann

Tonight, Raleigh's Kings Barcade will host a pair of extremely literate singer-songwriters. But John Vanderslice and Eric Bachmann—who performs with his Crooked Fingers—have more on their minds than penning pristine verses and strumming a guitar, which makes their well-written words that much more potent.

In addition to a slew of evocative, symbol-rich albums, Vanderslice is a respected producer, working closely with North Carolina's own Scott Solter to craft the sound of his last few solo LPs and helming a trio of albums by Durham's The Mountain Goats. Vanderslice's sense of sonic adventure finds one of its greatest expressions on 2011's White Wilderness, a collaboration with the experimentally inclined Magik*Magik Orchestra. Minimal but diverse, the LP finds him inhabiting ambient folk-pop a la Mount Eerie ("White Wilderness") and jazz-inflected ballads ("Sea Salt"). Proving his prowess, Vanderslice adapts seamlessly to each new environment.

Bachmann is most famous as the frontman for the recently reunited Archers of Loaf, and Crooked Fingers similarly benefit from the singer's unflinching intensity. Crooked Fingers favor chamber pop smolders over the Archers' explosive rock, but Bachmann brings a level of energy uncommon in his singer-songwriter peers. Whether he's sitting solo at the piano for a subtle and breathtaking rendition of a classic like "Chumming the Ocean" or striding through a stomping anthem from last year's Breaks in the Armor, Bachmann's presence is captivating.

Vanderslice and Bachmann are renowned for their songwriting, but there will be more than just pretty words to appreciate when they hit the stage tonight.

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Update: Casbah changes booking agents

Posted by and on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Last week, a blog post about a change in personnel at Durham rock club Casbah got a few key facts wrong. The article incorrectly stated that former talent buyer Steve Gardner had been fired from his position; he was laid off.

The article also quotes Gardner’s replacement, Elysse Thebner, saying that she plans to increase the number of local bookings. As Gardner points out, Thebner’s quote incorrectly represents the ratio of local and touring acts booked during his tenure at the Casbah. Attendance records produced by Gardner verify that at least 73 percent of his 2012 bookings came from the area. More than 230 area bands played the venue during that time.

“It seemed to be an article about how I was fired because I didn’t book enough local music,” Gardner said during a follow-up interview. “That’s just not true.”

Asked to clarify her assessment of the club’s previous booking, Thebner replied: “My evidence of that statement was purely anecdotal, from being an employee at the venue. I think [Gardner’s] statement is fair. … I’m going to take the work Steve has done in a little bit of a different direction.”

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    We offer a correction and update on last week's story about Durham rock club Casbah.

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