Super dreamy and almost trippy shoegaze, make out to Living Hour

Shoegaze. The term is one of many that recently has me thinking whoever names marijuana strains must also name music genres. Lately, it seems like music genres and sub-categories surface by the minute, whether they are new experimentations or nostalgic resurrections.
Coined after slow paced indie-rock bands that spend much of their set ‘gazing’ at their effects pedals, shoegaze is closely related to the sounds of dream pop, chill wave and psychedelia… see what I mean?

“When it comes down to genres those are all somewhat fitting but I think there are a few unique elements that wouldn’t necessarily fall under a specific genre,” said Living Hour’s Gil Carroll, before their set at Detroit’s Marble Bar on Sept. 20.

Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Living Hour released their debut full length earlier this year on Lefse Records (Portland, OR). The self-titled record featured songs that began as ideas in Carroll’s notebooks six years ago, as well as tunes that the quintet approached more collaboratively since forming two years ago.

“I think there’s new (genres) just because there’s so many different sounds you can make now with digital equipment and different instruments that there’s so many influences coming together that it forms different sounds that haven’t been heard before,” said guitarist/back up vocals Adam Soloway.
“It’s super hard to characterize that under indie-rock for example, but were also super dreamy and almost trippy at times so you kind of have to tell people that because they might think that we’re like Pavement but we’re more like Slowdive,” said Soloway.

Living Hour’s first ever tour was two years ago last week and with little time to showcase their comfortably noisy debut, their current tour includes dates in the states, Canada and Europe and the U.K.
Aside from their non-stop self promotion on Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets, the band attributes their respective niche style for garnering geographically widespread audience in such little time.

“I think we also need to credit the shoegaze community,” said Soloway.
“Just because it’s so tightly knit across the world that if one person hears something and they post something in an online forum or shoegaze facebook page, tons of people will listen to it and it doesn’t matter how big you are because people get super into it because its… shoegaze.

Living Hour’s Marble Bar set included slow outros that felt like sun-set glistening ocean waves crashing at your feet.
Female vocalist Sam Sarty’s soothing vocals filled the room like a cool September night’s window breeze. Her nurturing melodies directed the rest of the members as they swayed with eyes closed, joining the audience.
“We want people to make out to it… If they want to,” said Sarty.
“Sex music,” added Sarty.

And just like that… another genre floats to the surface.


Monty Luke and Black Catalogue

Monty Luke and Black Catalogue

Recently we got together with Monty Luke, owner and curator of Detroit-based electronic music label Black Catalogue. Originally from San Francisco, Monty moved here several years ago to work with Carl Craig and Planet E Communications.

We talked weather for a minute, winter’s like this can easily make someone think about goin’ back to Cali’. As I asked Monty if this was the most eff’d up winter he’s seen out here, he laughingly asked me (Michigander my whole life) the same question.
Yes. Yes it is.

Let’s get to the music.


How do you try to get your sound and message to the people? Does the music curation and artistic duties take up most of your time, or is it the marketing and everyday responsibilities of a running business?

“It could be a general music industry thing, it’s tough man. The whole game of PR and trying to get that publicity and awareness. There are so many other labels, and so many people making music, you got to get above the fold. It can be really tough, especially when so much of your day is trying to run the label, doing day-to-day stuff and talking to artists, especially when you’re an artist yourself, it’s a grind…”

“I have to set time aside for each aspect, otherwise it’ll never get done. If I have a remix that’s due, I have to focus on that. If I have a deadline for a release, I have to schedule studio time and finish that track. I have to set separate office hours aside to meet with designers, and production related stuff. If I don’t do that, something is going to fall by the wayside. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever done but also some of the most gratifying.”

Monty Luke

What’s going to be happening for you and Black Catalogue in the next couple years?

“As an artist myself, I want to push myself beyond my current boundaries. I want to help push the boundaries of Detroit electronic music. I’m really happy with what I’m doing with the label right now, but I want to focus on finding underground artists, not only from Detroit, but from all over the place. Finding someone really dope that you’ve never heard of before and makes you say “Damn! Who the fuck is this?” is something I want to continue to do. But in general, I really want to push myself to get better at music production, push what is known as Detroit techno, and house, further.

To me it’s all about progress. I think the history is amazing and great, and really rich, but it’s time to push this to the next level. I think the time to rely on the history of Detroit techno is over, it’s time to push this shit forward.

That’s what I like to focus on. If you come to my house, I have all the Detroit classics, all the hot shit, and I love all that stuff to death. But, it’s time to make some new classics.”


You recently released some tracks vinyl only, and digital releases weren’t released for several months. Was that by design?

“Yes. I believe in that format really strongly. From a practical standpoint it’s more expensive, so I have to focus more on selling that more. The bottom line is I’m dedicated to that format, it’s a labor of love. They’re both beneficial; I’m not one of these people that don’t believe in the digital realm. Tangible art to me is real important.”


By the sound of your music, I can tell your heavily inspired by science-fiction. Just how deep does that run?

“This is gonna sound crazy. There is this Dutch organization called Mars 1. They want to send 4 people to Mars in 2022. Last year they had an open application process, you had to submit a 70 second video. I entered this, and out of 200,000 applicants I made it to the second cut of about 1,058 people. At the end of this year they select the next round, then it’s a seven-year training process. “I want to be the first brother to go to another planet” I actually put that in the video haha. It’s not a trip, it’s like a one way ticket, which is kinda wild. I haven’t told my mom yet, I don’t know how that conversation is going to go.”

Yea, Detroit was probably hard enough…


Stay up on Black Catalogue
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Education Sounds Like This

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I sit here in this brightly-colored classroom, as my teacher pulls up a file on his computer screen and suddenly he asks, “Do you see that big phallic thing at 200?”  My eyes focus on the projected image before me. “Yeah, we gotta get everything out of its way.”

That’s when I realized this was no ordinary classroom.  This was what the guys at FyouNK Collective in Royal Oak call a “Meat & Produce” session: an event in which musically-minded people come together to discuss the production process.  As the Facebook page says, “Producers of any genre are welcome – electronic, hip hop, pop, rock, etc., as long as you are open-minded.  Musicians, singers, and rappers who are looking to collaborate are also very welcome to join in on the fun.”  Essentially, as the men in charge state, “Anyone with a dedicated interest in music production is welcome to join.”  Such a vast invitation can properly explain the fact that when I walked through the doors at FyouNK Collective, the place was pretty nearly packed.  And rightly so.

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The professors on the eve of the twenty-first day of October were some of my favorite musicians in Detroit, so I simply could not miss my chance to explore this learning opportunity for myself.  This faculty included Detroit’s very own guitar-driven-bass master, OCTiV, the Detroit-raised beat manipulator, Freddy Todd, and the electronic mastermind/party-starter, ill.so.naj.  I was a little late for class and I dropped my pencil twice, but my teachers made me feel right at home and worthy of their profound lessons.

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First, OCTiV came up to the desk at the front of the classroom and told us all about the importance of equalization, or balancing sounds in music.  He summarized much of this tweaking mechanism, saying that what was most important was “getting unnecessary things out of the way of stuff you want.”

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He then explained that, though some sounds need to be made less powerful for the sake of more important ones, all is not lost in doing so.  In fact, often times those sounds that are diminished for the sake of others can still be felt in the song and have an enormous presence in the overall vibe of the piece. Thus, OCTiV showed the importance of knowing the difference between hearing sounds and feeling them.  As OCTiV revealed, however, extra sounds can sometimes be distracting.  “You need to make sure people can pay attention,” he declared, reminding composers to make cuts whenever necessary for the listener’s benefit.  Of course, it is okay to be sad about these cuts for a bit.  I mean, we are all still mourning for those sounds which were demolished by the aforementioned “phallic thing.”

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After OCTiV offered a new perspective on making positive changes to songs, Freddy Todd took the reigns.  The musician began by highlighting his philosophical approach to music, a quality which separates him from many of his composing counterparts.  Todd told his students that when you are creating music, “step one is your brain.”

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For Todd, focusing on one’s mindset is an essential part of what he called, “starting right and starting proper,” and it is a step in the music production process which simply cannot be skipped.  Todd then detailed what that meant for his own music, telling us that he needs to be inspired and in a clean room when he begins to create his sounds.  He encouraged students to develop their own rules for getting in the correct music-making mindset.

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Todd admitted that producing quality music, however, ultimately requires more than just a positive mental state.  “You can get inspired and write a whole track on your headphones, but typically if you want to put out an album you need a good pair of studio monitors.”  Thus, while the mind is the strongest tool at a musician’s disposal, it is also critical that he or she has the necessary tools available to them and knows how to use them properly.

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After explaining the process for beginning a song, Todd left the floor open for ill.so.naj to give some technical advice for the later parts of production.  The electronic artist focused his lesson on the idea of personalizing the musical experience.  He did this by showing students how to use programs, such as Ableton Live, to make improvised edits to tracks.  He encouraged everyone to take their iPods, iPads, or other beloved gadgets and “then assign them customized ‘MIDI mappings’ and touch screen layouts, creating unique ways to trigger effects or blend sounds.”

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This process allows performers to create their own unique set-ups, which cater to their individual needs and styles.  Ill.so.naj told us that, with these tools, he was even able to use a Guitar Hero controller to perform his songs on stage at one point.  The musician proceeded to play many of his own clips for the students to give them an idea of where improvisational tools might be applied.  Though he emphasized using the computer programs to be prepared for any show, he declared that:

Most importantly you gotta leave room for those happy accidents to happen. That’s where the magic is.

Here, the artist’s technical approach highlights both the immense dedication required to produce such music, and the importance of allowing for freedom in its performance.  Ill.so.naj showed us that even this freedom, however, requires much focus and effort beforehand.

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The three musician/producers took their students behind the scenes into many aspects of their artistic processes, and it was truly an educational experience for all involved.  The teachers were able to reach both the dedicated producers in the crowd as well as the beginners who had just fiddled with their friends’ computers during study hour.  In fact, each speaker made the intricacies of his musical processes seem approachable and comprehensible, even for any woefully ignorant music journalists in the building.

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All of that, of course, is to say that the environment at this Meat & Produce event was ideal for many different people with vast ranges of experience and interests.  Obviously October’s teachers brought a great deal of information to the table, and for that we were sincerely grateful.  But I know for sure that all other producers who take the time to share their wisdom in the future will do so just as admirably.  For my part, I know that I will be back at the FyouNK Collective often for more music education, and I am certain that the seats will fill just as quickly with musicians who are eager to learn.

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Saving R&B with B Williams

B Williams

While only in his early thirties, Grammy Award nominee Brandon “B” Williams has been sharing music with us for a while. As a direct protégé of super producer Michael J. Powell, Brandon has lent his production skills to many artists: Janet Jackson, Pharoahe Monch, Bobby Creekwater, Vickie Winans, Jadakiss, Lin Rountree, Anita Baker, Jay Electronica, Jeymes Samuel, Ryan Leslie, and Amp Fiddler to name a few.

As an artist, Brandon stays busy touring and gigging locally with his group, The B Williams Experiment. But the next big thing for Brandon is his upcoming debut solo project, titled XII. We just saw the first single released, “Stronger”, which has been climbing the charts and acquiring accolades. With the album  slated to drop in 2014, we caught up with the hard-to-catch musician/producer for an in-depth conversation:


  • Brandon, you’ve worked with producer Michael Powell and have been touching various artists albums throughout the past few years, accumulating Grammy nominations and other production awards. How have these building blocks been essential for producing your upcoming solo album XII ?
  • It’s been an absolute blessing to work with and be mentored by him. I’ve been listening to his music literally all my life, so I jumped at the chance when he asked me to collaborate with him on some music. I was actually very surprised. In my mind, I’m thinking… this is Michael J. Powell. The man who produced all of Anita Baker’s hits. He wants me to work with him? It’s been a great relationship ever since. Working with him taught me how to make records versus just making songs.
  • “is on a mission to bring back Classic R&B by any means necessary”. In your opinion what happened to Classic R&B? Why does it need saving and how are you planning on doing it?
  • I’m not exactly sure what happened, but it’s on life-support right now for sure!!

    Most of the artists people are calling R&B (Chris Brown, Trey Songz) are really Pop. You have Frank Ocean and The Weeknd around, but that’s a very different kind of R&B. I’m not a big Miguel fan, but he’s definitely doing it right now. Brandy, Usher, Brian McKnight, Tank, and some others are still around, but you hear much from them.

    Robert Glasper has a new album out that’s VERY R&B!! Brandy and Faith Evans are on there killin’. It needs saving because people miss that 80’s and 90’s R&B sound. People are longing for it. We miss groups like Blackstreet, SWV, Jodeci, Janet (Jackson), etc. I’m just going to continue to do music that “feels “ like that.

  • You do a great job of blending genres, like you do with your band , the B. Williams Experiment, citing influences from Coltrane, Dilla and Radio Head. Is XII going to showcase this side of you, or is XII going to be more strictly a classic R&B project?
  • Thanks!! XII is definitely not an R&B album. I don’t quite know what to call it because there are so many different genres on it. I’m a student of all music, and I’m influenced by it all. Soul, R&B, Jazz, Pop… it’s a wide range of music on the album, but it all still works together. If I had to categorize it, I would simply call it a “soul” album, because that’s where the music is coming from.
  • Tell me about your songwriting process. What do you start with? An idea, guitar lick, bass line? What’s the creative process like and when do you start thinking about which artists to include in your music?
  • Man, I start with any and everything. I remember one time hearing a succession of cars horns and that became a melody. Lol! I play multiple instruments, so I can write on them all. Sometimes I’ll be out and a melody will pop into my head so I’ll just record it into my phone until I can get back in the studio. Normally though, I start with either some chords on piano or a drum pattern.

    I just finished the last song idea for XII, and for that one, I had my keyboard player and good friend Tony Gordon over. I told him to just play some chords. I picked out what I want, then picked up the guitar and started going around those. Came up with a drum pattern, and BOOM! A song was born. It’s feels heavenly too.

    When it comes to picking artists for song, I normally just go with who would work best on the song. Like, for the new single “Stronger”, it’s has a stronger 90’s R&B feel, so, who better to pair with on that than Jean (Baylor). Her group Zhane was huge in the 90’s. All of their music felt great. I’m so honored to have worked with her on that song. Shout out to Marcus Baylor as well, who had a huge part to play in that song. He did her vocal production, and played live drums. It’s a great tune!!

The Big 3:
Detroit musicians that have inspired you, past or present:

• Stevie Wonder,  Karriem Riggins, Charles Wilson III

Other musicians that have inspired you, national or international, past or present:

• Joe Sample, George Duke, Ivan Lins

Ways Detroit has influenced you as a musician:

• Detroit has such a rich musical history. I’m simply inspired to do what I do from that. Lots of greatness has come before me, and I’m planning on continuing with that.

If I had to categorize it, I would simply call XII a “soul” album, because that’s where the music is coming from.


Stay connected with B Williams,

http://www.bwilliamsmusic.com/


New EP and video from Tiny Hearts

Tiny Hearts

Tiny Hearts, comprised of Waajeed (Detroit), Dede Reynolds (Wisconsin) and Tim K (Seattle, WA), formed within the inspirational confines of Brooklyn, return.

The new EP “Stay” continues to bring us deep and edgy beats, intriguing melodic configurations, and angelic yet haunting vocals that resonate through it all.

Director Aron Kantor has stepped to the plate to deliver a stunning visual for “Centerfold” that draws artistic inspiration from Dario Argento, providing a solid introduction for the uninitiated. There is nothing small about the sound of Tiny Hearts. Check the footage below to get a taste of “Centerfold” from Tiny Hearts.
Tiny Hearts


Robert Glasper Experiment Helping Detroit Sound Beautiful

Robert Glasper

If I would’ve been told in advance, I’m pretty sure I would have been skeptical on hearing a jazz rendition of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” at the recent Detroit Jazz Festival. But then again the Robert Glasper Experiment is known for providing an interesting spin on popular music, check out their “Smells Like Teen Spirit” cover if you haven’t yet. The Experiment kicked off the cover super-slowed up, with that melancholic charm and voice a la vocoder they incorporate so well. Genre defying music, jazz is of course the key component, but refreshingly gets edgy in all the right places. From Robert’s website, we’re given a little insight into Black radio 2, that will be dropping in late October, and among a list of killer guest artists, will also feature Detroit’s own Dwele.

“On October 29, RGE ups the ante with the release of Black Radio 2 (Blue Note), another genre-defying effort that takes the Black Radio blueprint and builds to even greater heights. The core remains the Experiment, as astoundingly versatile a band as has ever existed, featuring Robert Glasper on keyboards, Derrick Hodge on bass, Mark Colenburg on drums, and Casey Benjamin on vocoder and saxophone. Providing the vocals throughout is another jaw-dropping roll call of vocalists including CommonPatrick StumpBrandyJill ScottDweleMarsha AmbrosiusAnthony Hamilton,Faith EvansNorah JonesSnoop DoggLupe FiascoLuke JamesEmeli SandéLalah Hathaway, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.”

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Damon Warmack On Bass And Beyond

Damon Warmack

Chatting with born and raised Detroiter – “east side by the grace of God” – bass player Damon Warmack is always a good time. We get in depth with Damon about his musical journey.

Unsurprisingly, Damon had aspirations to be a jazz musician. So the Fender Precision bass he first received just wouldn’t cut it. Most of his heroes were playing the Jazz Bass, so making that exchange was the first step.

The humble beginnings, mentors and inspirations that paved the path along the way are far from forgotten.

Detroit is one of the bass player towns… so there’s always competition here… There’s always a ton of guys who can play, and play really well.

Detroit is this huge proving ground, as far as musicians are concerned. Playing with musicians from around the states and the world is only half the story. Check out the video for more…


Dial 81

Dial 81

DIAL.81 (blAiR fRench)
emcee turned producer + visual artist

Brief Background:
Composed the lo-fi score for the award winning documentary, DETROPIA with ‘Best Original Score’ from Cinema Eye Honors. Released on vinyl/digitally.
The release of ‘DETROPIA’ was followed up with “Luminous Stasis” feat. Paul Randolph, A Setting Sun, and Szymanski .

Upcoming Releases:
COSMIC HANDSHAKES – “the delicate details” (Todd Modes + DIAL.81)
DIAL.81 – “memory.fossils.”
(Available now for Free)