Creek & Kills- Unstitching

Creek & Kills- Unstitching

Creek and Kills (photo by Kate Hoos)

 

It’s always exciting and a little jarring to hear a record from an unknown-to-you band whose sound arrives fully formed and whose songs are not just catchy and well written, but transcendent. The latest EP from Creek and Kills, Unstitching, is a truly enchanting and essential listen.

 

“The Parade Now” opens the record, with some The Edge–like guitar delay effects from guitarist Marc Montgomery that quickly gives way to the powerful harmony blend of bassist/singer Kate Bell and drummer/singer Erin Harney. There’s a bit of an 80s college rock vibe to the song that is positively infectious, but not derivative or nostalgic. The whole EP also features touches of Americana and power pop, but filtered into their own sound that is fresh and distinctive.



The lead single “Swelter” demands the listener’s attention. Bell’s voice soars right from the start, above Montgomery’s jangly arpeggios and acoustic strumming. The tune hypnotically flows to and from various melodic passages, none of which act as an overt chorus, adding to the drama. 

 

Creek and Kills unstitching EP cover

 

In a previous life, Bell was a heralded New York City jazz vocalist and composes before moving into the rock realm. Also an accomplished bassist, her formidable skills are on full display on “Night Service,” with the opening bass line haunting as it grooves. Harney plays off the riff as Montgomery tastefully plays above the rhythm. The groove evens out into the chorus, Bell still driving it all, her bass providing as much melody as her and Harney’s vocals. An absolute highlight on a record full of ’em.

 

The cohesiveness and moody sound of Unstitching, which sonically recalls R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction, is as much of an achievement as the six stellar songs. A true pandemic record, each member of the group recorded their parts separately at their homes. Bell took on a crash course in GarageBand to put the tracks together, and engineer Danielle DePalma expertly mixed and mastered the EP, using the rawness of the home recordings to create a soundworld that is neither lo-fi nor polished, but compelling and a little mysterious.

 

The EP shows a band confident in its playing and songwriting abilities, somehow able to sound live in the room together when they weren’t even in the same place making this record. Accordingly, the band sums up its sound better than any writer could (or at least this writer):



“These are wild siren songs from far reaches of an urban estuary. Creek and Kills rock out like a mermaid party in a Superfund site…a little dirty, a little dangerous, a little sexy, luring you to sink in the dark water.”



Allow yourself to be lured by this entrancing and seductive band.

 

Creek & Kills performing at Parkside Lounge

Creek and Kills performing (photo by Kate Hoos)

 

Unstitching is out everywhere on Friday 8/20/21. The band will perform a release show that night at 18th Ward Brewing along with Groupie and Sweetbreads.

Phonodelica- Offerings

Phonodelica- Offerings

 

Cover art of “Offerings” with art by Seif Hamid and photography by Randa Jarrar

 

 

Donia Jarrar, the creative force behind Phonodelica, has dedicated much of her musical endeavors to uplifting and amplifying the voices of Palestinians and illuminating the harsh realities of their lives under brutal Israeli occupation.



“Offerings” is a stirring piano improvisation piece that is the first part of an upcoming project, “Into the Ether and Out of Our Anguish,” which will be a large scale collaborative effort of Jarrar’s solo piano improvisations along with a string quartet, field recordings, and testimonials from survivors of the latest Israeli assault on Gaza this past spring. The testimionials were collected by Shareef Sarhan and Rana Batrawi, both Gazans themselves. Jarrar plans to send these recordings back to people in Gaza as a form of healing. This brings to mind her previous project Seamstress which featured interviews with Palestinian women interspersed with her operatic compositions.

 

For “Into the Ether and Out of Our Anguish,” Jarrar was recently awarded the 2021 Palestinian Young Artist of the Year Award by the AM Qattan Foundation in conjunction with the Mosaic Rooms in London. The theme for this year’s award is “Divinations: The Art of Remembering The Future,” curated by novelist and writer Adania Shibli. It focuses on ways artists, academics, curators, historians and critics can work towards imagining a liberated Palestine, and is largely focused on process rather than outcome.

 

“When working on this set of piano improvisations and eventually transcribing them, I thought of them not only as offerings for the Gaza Valley and the wildlife that has gone extinct due to the brutality of the Israeli occupation, but also as offerings for the visitors of anxiety and depression which come into your life during times of healing,” Jarrar said. “A non-linear and repetitive process, healing requires a spiritual sacrifice and cleansing.”

 

She went on to say the piece was “Inspired by the five elements: air, water, earth, fire and ether, the sonic space in a future where Palestine exists outside of the boundaries and politics of nation statehood and of earthly, material alliances. Ether is the space where we come together amidst the constantly changing environmental forces to adapt and change with them, a place where residents value the natural world, rather than being neglectful and incredibly wasteful of its natural resources”

 

Jarrar plans to tie the Palestinian struggle for freedom to other struggles around the world by featuring different non-Palestinian artists throughout the project to forge “transnational connections between intercontinental struggles.”

 

“Offerings” itself is part of 45-minute improvisation that she may release in full in the future.

 

“Offerings” is available to purchase directly from Bandcamp and to stream on all major platforms now.

 

Sensoren- Ejector Seat

Sensoren- Ejector Seat

A halftime show featuring a robot marching band, strutting in perfect formation. A future disco in which robots…do The Robot. A montage scene from a dusty sci-fi relic where we see our hero successfully building the vehicle necessary to escape their certain doom. 

 

The new single from Sensoren, “Ejector Seat,” evokes all these images and more. Supremely catchy and fun, this could easily be a club anthem if heard by the right folks (whoever they are). The beat pulses hard, with a relentless hook that remains the focal point as other synth sounds build and layer to a sustained, ecstatic crescendo. A cool call-and-response middle bridge allows the listener to recalibrate before the party resumes its fever pitch—but, then a twist. The mood turns slightly darker and goth-like before it suddenly stops, leaving a minute of John Cage–like structured silence to contemplate when exactly the party took a turn.

 

“Ejector Seat” is the third single from Sensoren, a new electronic music project from songwriter/producer Mike Sorensen. A versatile songwriter, he brings more indie rock vibes to his synth production under the moniker async await, which released new tracks in 2020 and earlier this year. With Sensoren, however, this release represents more of an immersion into full on electronic music experimentation. Without having to adhere to traditional rock structures and trappings, it has opened up Sorensen’s songwriting and soundscape possibilities. Definitely keep an eye out for what comes next from this project.

 

“Ejector Seat” is out now via Chameleons Risen and available for download/streaming from Bandcamp.

 

 

 

Hear Palestine, Free Palestine: The Beauty of Palestinian Music

Hear Palestine, Free Palestine: The Beauty of Palestinian Music

Oppressed, erased, ignored, vilified. The plight of Palestinians is one of the greatest injustices in human history, a seemingly intractable situation between an oppressed people and a colonial power backed by the full force and wealth of United States and Europe. For at least a century, Palestinian voices have been stifled by the Zionist state of Israel and, at best, ignored by the rest of the Western world. This is beginning to change, however. More people in the West are starting to question and critique the long-accepted, yet false, media narrative of Israel as perpetual victim and Palestinians as “bloodthirsty terrorists.” And more Palestinian voices are being heard in the United States and Europe, via social media and also within government—including in the United States, where congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (a Palestinian-American) and Ilhan Omar have been unyielding in their rebukes of Israel and their centering and humanizing of Palestinian people. A simple yet revolutionary act.

 

Increasingly, Palestinian voices are breaking through the Western media barriers. Part of that breakthrough is through music. There is a vibrant creativity coming from Palestinians both within the occupied territories and in the diaspora around the world. The music crosses genres as well as emotions—it’s not just angry or sad (though there is that too); it is joyful, funny, romantic, meditative- as varied and disparate as you’d expect any music to be.

 

Muqata’a Kamil Manqus 

 

Some artists have been able to enter the Western musical consciousness. One of the more popular and highly regarded Palestinian artists is Muqata’a, which is Arabic for “to disrupt” or “boycott.” He sees himself as a glitch in the system, a literal disrupter. Described in this The Guardian piece as the “godfather” of underground hip-hop in Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine, his latest record, Kamil Manqus, is a relentless exploration into the more glitchy realm of electronic music. Sound snippets pop in and out at a breakneck pace. Beats groove, then sputter and change direction. He uses samples of old Arabic records that he first heard from his grandparents’ record collection, as well as sounds of an Israeli checkpoint. These samples help preserve Palestinian culture and demonstrate the daily oppression Palestinians live under. There are layers of brilliance to discover with each listen.

 

Phonodelica Seamstress

 

Preservation of Palestinian culture, stories, and family histories is essential to upholding the humanity of Palestinians and to archive a history that Israel works tirelessly to eradicate. This preservation and amplification is at the heart of Seamstress, a beautiful and affecting documentary song-cycle from Phonodelica, the experimental sound project from composer, producer, and performer Donia Jarrar. With Seamstress, she compiled interviews with Palestinian women of all ages, both from Palestine and within the diaspora, some in Arabic, some in English. Interspersed between the interviews are stark musical interludes, incorporating operatic elements, chamber music, and the avant garde. It is a multimedia project that includes videos of choreographed performances, archival photos of Palestinian women, and interview footage. Per Jarrar on her Bandcamp page: 

 

“Song texts are adapted from the interviews, weaving together their different voices, perspectives and experiences in a way that challenges current existing media stereotypes of Palestinian culture and womanhood, providing a global context for Palestinian women’s narratives by focusing on shared universal themes of memory, identity, exile, displacement, femininity, and love”

 

In the oppressive, but also ludicrous, reality that is life under Israeli occupation, non-Palestinian musicians often become part of the Palestinian music scene by virtue of being rendered stateless. A prime example is the brilliant duo of brothers, TootArd. The Nakhleh brothers are from the Golan Heights, a part of Syria that was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in the 1980s. They are stateless; their nationality is officially determined as “undefined,” so they have no passports. They can only move and play within Israel and the occupied West Bank. Hence, they are considered part of the “Palestinian scene” since they have a similar lack of rights. 

 

TooArd Laissez Passer

 

TootArd’s music encompasses a wide range of influences and sounds. The band first gained notice with their 2017 record Lassiez Passer, which translates to “Let him pass” but also is the name of the document that stateless people carry. The album is rich with Tuareg influence, the African tribe and style of music (currently achieving international prominence via the genius of Mdou Moctar) as well as the Arab classical music the brothers listened to growing up. For their follow-up Migrant Birds released last year, TootArd proved to be a band of boundless creativity and endless musical curiosity. The album is a stunning musical shift in direction to disco, reflecting the brothers’ love of the Middle Eastern disco music they heard in the 80s. Their knack for fusing irresistible rhythms with relentless melodic hooks is on full display on Migrant Birds. It is an infectious party record for tearing up a dancefloor or driving too fast on a highway. 

 

Palestinian musicians living and creating under occupation face significant and distinct hardships. In this BBC News article, some musicians talk about how their status as literal second-class citizens prohibits their free movement. Musicians in Gaza face an additional obstacle of being hassled by Hamas, the Palestinian ruling authority elected in 2006 (In the West, we tend to only hear about their armed wing and the rockets they fire into Israel). Hamas is one of the most visible organizations waging armed resistance to occupation, but they are also Islamic hard-liners and Gazan musicians have had their shows canceled or broken up by officials within Hamas, whose stringent religious rules prohibit some forms of music.

 

Zalaam- Nocturnal Luster 

 

Clarissa Bitar- “Nada” single

 

The creativity and diversity of Palestinian music is truly a marvel. Nothing can stomp out the human need to create and to share art. From the relentless and delectable disco rhythms of TootArd; the spacious sound journeys of Akram Abdulfattah; Drink Sage’s insightful and incisive commentary on living and loving; Clarissa Bitar and her beautiful and expressive Oud playing; or the harrowing black metal of Zalaam— Palestinian musicians cannot and will not be silenced. It’s heartbreaking that Palestinians must make their art with their lives, land, and history in daily peril. But it is also life affirming that there remains a capacity for joy and exuberance amid all the pain and despair. 

 

Palestinians are speaking—have been speaking. We must listen.

 

 

My partner Lysa and I do a radio show every Wednesday on Radio Nope called Radiant Point. We devoted our May 19, 2021 episode to showcasing Palestinian artists, featuring the musicians mentioned in this article and many more. 

 

Verso Books currently have several books with more in depth history of Palestine, Zionism, and the Israeli state available at a discount.