- Trevor Hadley
Matt Starling's Music for Nina
There's no doubt that love is one of the single most inspiring emotions that musicians dwell on, and the same is true for local artist Matt Starling, who digs into the thrilling sensation of new love on his upcoming release Music for Nina. Starling is no stranger to meditation, as an experimental, minimal and impressionist electronic musician whose interpretations of music by Philip Glass and Terry Riley led him to found Salt Lake Electric Ensemble. Music for Nina is quite the unique recording, though, forged through a romance-hued night in which Starling's beloved challenged him to create music that sounded like what they were experiencing just then—the intimacy of deeply listening to music together. Despite her falling asleep, Starling stayed up all night recording the music, working with loops inspired by the techniques of Riley and Brian Eno. He finally landed on a generative system of song creation based on assigning his computer system to pick up at the end of each loop, and either repeat it or play a different one already in the system. "It was through the composition of the individual loops and the overall sound design that I was able to get where I needed to go," Starling says. "Life and love play out in uncontrolled and unpredictable ways. I'm not sure if randomization is a perfect metaphor, but it's awfully close... Close enough for me anyway." The looped tracks are minimal, sometimes ringing with crystal clear notes or brief, amber bursts of fuzzier synths like dying fireworks, always sounding like they're ending, but never ending. The songs' self-generating potential is best listened to long, and will be released in randomly differing versions via a six-minute "Radio Edit," a 55-minute "Meditation" and an eight hour "Sleep" version of each track on Nov. 20. These tracks all offer up peacefulness, both in their soothing form but also in their content. Music for Nina relays the warmth, magic and comfort of new love, but also its potential—to endure in some ways and change in others, always referencing an initial foundation, like a special night spent listening to music together. For streaming links and pre-order, go to mattstarling.com.
Spotify Gets Some Flak, Finally
Back in August, Swedish billionaire and Spotify owner Daniel Ek directed some incredibly offensive bullshit at the music industry—an industry which his company has pretty much single-handedly devalued. Music listening has in recent years become synonymous with "streaming," which mostly happens on his platform, or others like Tidal and Apple Music. And it makes artists pretty much no money, unless they're already famous and successful, and can craft deals with streaming platforms through their labels. Ek's response to those irked by the way his platform profits off of smaller artists, while those artists make literal cents off their hundreds or thousands of streams? Musicians can't "record music once every three to four years and think that's going to be enough." Likely, though, that would be enough if Spotify had better payment terms, and didn't privilege labels and management companies who literally pay for streams (that's a bad practice called payola). However, since that infuriating statement, and after months of struggling under an untouchable pandemic, it seems artists have had enough. The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers published last week a list of demands to the company, which asks not just for basic and easy changes like giving artists a cent per stream over their current pro-rata model—which finds successful artists keeping most of the stream money earned while those at the bottoms keep getting crumbs—but also the airing of closed-door contracts, and changes to the platform formatting to create transparency around all writers, engineers, producers, etc. who worked on a piece of music. As of this writing, more than 10,000 artists have signed on to the petition, from the new and indie to older, more established artists like Zola Jesus and Thurston Moore. There are rumored plans the Union has for if their demands go ignored, but in the meantime, artists and allies, visit unionofmusicians.org and sign that petition!
- Jessica Heaton
Drive-In to see Roxanne Gray's PAIRS
The drive-in format sees yet another kind of unique new film screening, this time in the form of a cinema-tized dance performance called PAIRS by contemporary dance artist and choreographer Roxanne Gray. Though based out of Oakland, Calif., her Utah roots extend to the Covey Center for the Arts and The Underground Social Hall, but also to a notable member of the Utah music community who helped score her dance piece PAIR two years ago. Back then, the performance was destined for the Wasatch Contemporary Dance stage, but COVID-19 forced a pivot to film, in the form of a one-hour long experience featuring five different dance performances. Gray reached out to local artist and public library busy bee Ben Swisher about scoring it, and he notes that it felt like a "big league thing," though I'm sure he couldn't have imagined then that the performance would also then become a movie. Starting out with an unfinished song that was filled out well enough by pitched banjo and layered strings, Swisher would later make the decision to combine his distinct and rich style with the work of Provoite Alyssa Pyper and former local Luke Williams, to both create more music for the expanding work and to honor PAIR's theme of finding a mate in the animal kingdom. "I thought I could do it myself," says Swisher. "But that seemed less fun. Also, maybe counter to the idea of mating to work alone." Their collaboration was a free one, but also often virtual as they passed voice memos and folders back and forth, with Gray crafting choreography based on what they gave her, which is the reverse of how scores are usually written for dance. The musical and visual melee is finally seeing its fruition at the Water Gardens Cinema in Pleasant Grove on Nov. 5, with screenings at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $37 per car, which can hold "as many people inside the car as there are seat belts." Visit wasatch-contemporary-dance-co.square.site to snag tickets.
Covid's Doom Basement with the Jazz Jags
As the autumn season has come on, so have higher COVID case rates, so some of you may be reevaluating comfort levels around shows that you developed over the summer. But have no fear, virtual shows are here (again). Leading the pack in the transition from in-person to online shows are the Jazz Jags, members of whom over the summer played in bands like The 8eat1ful5 on a residential rooftop to sparse crowds for free. During non-COVID times, the Jazz Jags occupied the back corner of the Twilite Lounge every Wednesday night, and now they're moving the same set online Wednesdays and Thursday nights from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. via Twitch. They just kicked off their first one in late October, with an upload that's now up on the Rest 30 Records YouTube page. The hour-long video starts off with performances by the Jazz Jags as is customary, albeit with a green screen behind them this time, before shifting to a guest appearance from Timechimp, a local who is something of a performance artist, but also a musician-slash-exhibitionist, complete with an ape mask and a bath bomb obsession to round out his zany art. Timechimp's strange music videos—which pull from the aesthetics of many things, notably infomercials—are later followed by a set of his electronic music to close out the video and the night. While the coziness of the bar beckons for many as a swift Utah winter closes in, don't think it's the only way you can enjoy the great tunes and varied talents of our locals. Visit twitch.com/rest30records to watch the stream this week.
- Courtesy Photo
My Friend Zero Gets Pissy
Greatest Hits of the American Taliban is one hell of a shocking name for an album, but My Friend Zero's actually pretty approachable. The local band describes themselves as "piss yellowing the kiddie pool of Utah's local music scene," but on this album (released Oct. 27), they actually reference a lovably familiar sound that feels very warm in this troubling political moment. Following what seems to be a guiding hand from the heavens, My Friend Zero lives in the world of early- and mid-aughts indie, the likes of which are being referenced by more and more contemporary artists at the moment. Maybe it's nostalgia for the less glaringly awful Bush years (which were still glaringly awful), or a simple nostalgia for the sound of alternative indie music past, but My Friend Zero's take on the timeworn sound actually works for them. Vocalist Ian Sherer sounds like a version of the oh-so aughts Harvey Danger vocalist Sean Nelson, bratty delivery and all, though without as much of the pop lean, and at other times—like in the song "Western Man"—there's a tinge of old R.E.M. The album's single "Center of the World" is a pithy song which seemingly condemns egoism but is otherwise obscure in its complicated and tongue-in-cheek lyricism. However the sonically bygone, familiar qualities are touched on once more, with bouncing rhythms that sound right out of a '90s single that's been living in the back of your mind since birth. Come to think of it, they just might be pissy, but in a way that's almost a standard of a past time, and a past pissiness—lyrics describing Ralph Nader hopping in a pink corvette convey as much, anyway. These flavors of the past aren't a knock against them, because altogether this album is a solid rock album worth a listen—which can be done on Spotify, or on myfriendzero.bandcamp.com