Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Soundchecks: Zion I, Modern Skirts, The Mantras, Pierce Edens

Live music to check out this week

Posted by Sam Spence on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 4:00 AM


Hip Hop | Zion I
w/ Minnesota
Fri. Nov. 16
8 p.m.
$15/advance,
$18/door
Music Farm

Twenty-five years after the legendary rapper Too $hort first introduced us to the grim reality of his hometown in Oakland, Calif., — announcing, “I’m from the town called the City of Dope, it couldn’t be saved by John the Pope” — things haven’t gotten any better in Oaktown. The song remains the same. All you have to do is listen to Zion I’s new album, Shadowboxing, featuring the emcee talents of Zumbi and the turntable skills of DJ Amplive. Zumbi’s lyrics have been compared to the stylistic wordplay of emcees such as Q-Tip and Del the Funky Homosapien while Amplive’s production harkens back to the jazz-influence of early ’90’s hip-hop. On Shadowboxing’s standout track, “Human Being,” the duo embraces the futuristic beats and samples that match the album’s socio-political subject matter, and it doesn’t hurt when everyone’s favorite freeform DJ, Bassnectar, adds his touch to the track. —Kevin Young FRIDAY


Non-British Brit Rock | Modern Skirts
Sat. Nov. 17
8 p.m.
$5
Tin Roof

Teens go through growth spurts that leave them unrecognizable. Atlanta’s Modern Skirts enjoyed a similar chrysalis with 2010’s Gramahawk. Their first two albums — 2005’s Catalogue of Generous Men and 2008’s All of Us in Our Night — trafficked in the type of jangly piano-driven adult alternative pop that lingers in the background of television shows like Grey’s Anatomy. They were pleasant, but indistinct and forgettable. Even the band agreed. There was a sense — expressed in interviews subsequent to Gramahawk’s release — that they couldn’t go on like this. Meanwhile, Jay Gully, who shares songwriting duties with JoJo Glidewell, had became obsessed with analog synths, programming, and Japanese pop. Gully was the last to appreciate the quality of his songs. In fact, his bandmates had to talk him into sharing them, but that resulted in an exciting, careening album. The sputtering digital beats give Gramahawk a propulsive energy while the keyboards vacillate between moody washes and vibrant bursts that mix new wave with clattering indietronica. There’s a self-conscious theatrical spirit that recalls the Walkmen while its sonic imprint often suggests Caribou. Like an otherworldly UFO that lands on your lawn and extends a ramp, Gramahawk compels you to step in and look around. —Chris Parker SATURDAY


Prog Jam | The Mantras
w/ Mama’s Love
Thurs. Nov. 15
9 p.m.
$8/advance, $10/door
Pour House

The Mantras are a five-piece jam band that specializes in transformative sounds, blending together Middle Eastern, electronica, funk, rock, and metal to create a fusion of energy. Recently, they’ve been hitting the road hard and hanging with Umphrey’s McGee’s Jake Cinninger. “We have a good rapport with those guys,” guitarist Keith Allen says on his way to the Bear Creek Festival in Florida. Cinninger not only recorded two guitar tracks for the Mantras’ upcoming, as-yet-untitled disc, he’s also serving as the album’s engineer. The LP is also being recorded at Cinninger’s Boondock Studios in Michigan. The new album will hopefully drop in the spring of 2013. The guys will also begin planning their fest, the Mantrabash Music & Art Festival in Ferguson, N.C., which is set for sometime around Labor Day. —Katie Kimsey THURSDAY


Americana | Pierce Edens & The Dirty Work
w/ Jordan Igoe
Thurs. Nov. 15
9 p.m.
$5
The Royal American

“Modern music has moved away from acoustic music, which is kind of a shame. We are trying to bring back music that you could listen to around a campfire,” Pierce Edens says. After spending the last half decade touring with his band, the Dirty Work, Edens decided that he wanted to record a solo disc. When the time came to record, the Asheville, N.C., native decided to go back to his childhood home, knock down a few walls, and turn it into a studio. “On this album, we got to be a little bit more experimental as far as tone and atmosphere,” he says about the self-titled solo album. Winding through the tracks, you can hear exactly why Edens has been compared to Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. Take “Montana” for instance, where Edens’ smoky vocals declare that you should “just be happy, lonesome, and free.” After their Charleston performance, they’ll return to Asheville to prepare for a concert DVD that will be filmed on Dec. 6 at the Lexington Avenue Brewery. —Katie Kimsey THURSDAY

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