B3nson Recording Company; Thrifty Albany Music Collective

Site Scavenger Series B3nson Recording Company is a collective doing it independently. They remind me of the early years of Saddle Creek Records. Omaha & Albany have some similarities. And like the newer model Wham City that has taken shape in Baltimore.  The B3nson collective of musicians’ artists, and writers are friends with benefits. They benefit by living, working, and performing in Albany? Rather than moving to Brooklyn, they are staying put with a plan. Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, the largest outfit in the collective book, shows in the tri-state area about twice a month and regularly plays in Albany and upstate locations. Many bands pass through Albany, and Dunbar has opened for Rock Plaza Central, Deer Tick, and Avett Brothers. Staying put does have some benefits. They work as a collective recording, booking, video production, web design, flyers, and handmade merchandise. Their creative skills complement an aesthetic approach that is consistent with their ideals. Their music and artistic directions have a thrifty aesthetic representing a lifestyle of choice and necessity. Living cheaply and creatively from the outset makes choices about gas for touring, housing, instruments, food, and clothing a given. Sometimes the most interesting things to look at and hear are authentically represented and not commercially misrepresented. In tough times people who stick together help each other grow. The crews all have big hearts and can share a big tent. Their open spirit is represented candidly on the B3nson Blog, where members contribute articles about other musicians they meet. It is cool to read about music from a musician’s perspective. Take talent, commitment, focus, and the ability to say why not. This is a collective well on its way to contributing to the music culture while creating its own viable movement. Interview with Alex Muro of Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned conducted via email, in which he previewed a rough synopsis and answered the following curiosities. 

OCM What is the upside of forming and being a part of a collective?
AM I think the biggest upside is having so many great friends. Our house lately has become somewhat of a collective hang-out with the recent increase in B3nson activities, and its simply fun to have people around all the time, hanging out, playing music, making things, and playing Tetris. It's a great environment to conduct any sort of artistic activities. Beyond that there is the great advantage of talent and equipment sharing. We are lucky to have some really talented people in the collective who are good at all sorts of things from graphic design to recording and mastering to video editing, painting and all sorts of other stuff. The fact that we all enjoy hanging out together makes using those talents feel less like work and has allowed us to accomplish a great deal over the last month or so. 

OCM Were there any concerns? 
AM I don't think there were any general concerns about collectivizing as far as I know. We recently sort of "officially" added a bunch of new bands to the collective, like Beware! The Other Head of Science, Swamp Baby, and the Scientific Maps, but there was already all sorts of membership blurriness and good friendships going on that made the transition seem kind of obvious. 

OCM There seems to be a similar music sensibility between all the bands is forging a singular band identity a problem? 
AM There definitely is despite the fact that some our music sounds quite different with bands ranging in styles from laid back soundscapes to folk to synth-spazz rock and lots of other stuff going on. I think the similarity comes from the fact that most of us have similar-ish backgrounds and have been in bands for a long time and listen to some of the same music. In general I'm not really sure how come the B3nson aesthetic works as well as I think it does, but it's pretty cool. I think people are really going to enjoy the B3nson Family Funsgiving Compilation for that very reason, it fits together like an album way better than it’s supposed to. 

OCM Are there plans for a large group tour like booking all the bands or some on one bill outside of the Albany area? Is that feasible? 
AM There currently are not. I think that would be awesome and there is no group of people who I would rather spend an extended stay on the road with. Wham City has been doing something like that with Round Robin tour where they set up all the bands you listen around a big room each band plays a song and they go around in a circle the whole night. I think B3nson is still in much earlier stages than Wham City in that regard, we don't have any bands with national recognition like Dan Deacon or Beach House that can bring out the people to the shows that are needed to sustain so many musicians on the road. Give us a couple years though and we would really love to do something like that. 

OCM What does being in Albany offer the bands? 
AM The real answer is nothing, there is nothing in Albany that there isn't in any other city of similar size, we just sort of ended up here and the reason we are staying now is because we have made it a fun place to be. We are hoping that eventually b3nson and other currently growing facets of the Albany music scene make Albany a destination for new musicians but I definitely feel there is work to do before it really becomes attractive as a "music scene".

OCM Do you have other ambitions for the future? 
AM I know that the members of Sgt Dunbar all want to be professional musicians and we would love to be able to quit our day jobs. We are working on a new album for release next years, working with some friends of ours to help promote it and planning our route to SXSW in for March. B3nson Records will also be releasing the debut record from Barons in the Attic in January and following with an album from Pinguinos hopefully shortly afterwards. For now though our ambitions are mostly concentrated on putting on a killer release show tonight for our 10th release the B3nson Family Funsgiving Compilation. 

OCM Does working together build moral and help with a positive outlook for the future? 
AM Working together sure is fun. I personally am not so concentrated on the future beyond March 09. It just seems like we have so much stuff to do between now and then. Working together on our current projects though definitely makes for a more positive outlook because the stresses and concerns are shared among such a large group of people. 
OCM Were you asked to be a part of SXSW or are you going renegade and hitting the streets? 
AM We got invited To SXSW by way of some good luck. I was doing my daily blog reading during CMJ and there was post on Idolater about unknown bands at CMJ and I commented about my feelings on the subject. It must have been a good comment because someone from SXSW saw it and invited us to the festival. We are really psyched to know so early that we've been accepted it would have been much more difficult decision to make if we had found out on Feb 1. It allows us enough time to plan a really good tour. We will certainly be hitting the streets like renegades once we get there though.
Pocket Concert Series featuring bands in the B3nson Collective.
Sgt. Dunbar and The Hobo Banned “The Weight”, filmed in an open field.
Swamp Baby “Lavender” Nick Matulis is joined by Jen O'Connor, Donna Baird, and Frances Quinlan (Hop Along, Queen Ansleis)
B3nson is: Barons In the Attic Beware! The Other Head of Science Blood Desperately Obvious Pingüinos Littlefoot Scientific Maps Sgt Dunbar & the Hobo Banned Stacey Gets Drunk Swamp Baby The Hoborchestra We are Jeneric


Deer Tick, The Felice Brothers; Spiegleworld

Deer Tick won over the mostly Felice Brothers crowd with the first song. You would never think the assembled crowd wasn’t 100% behind them. I loved their CD War Elephant, which displays John McCauley’s incredible gift for songwriting and melody. It has been re-released on a new label. But seeing is believing, and Deer Tick delivers just as much and more live. Deer Tick musicianship is evident. They rocked strong and tight at Spiegleworld. John McCauley’s gritty, raw vocals contrasted with the clear, almost pristine musicianship. A polished rawness was the result, a weird but unexpected dichotomy. This band can shuffle it up acoustically, sing classic-style country tales and tear it up with rock n roll.
Deer Tick’s outstanding lead guitarist Andre Tobiassen, was unleashed at many points during the set. John also has great guitar skills. Chris Ryan on electric / double bass and Dennis Ryan on drums were the perfect accompaniment. Starting strong with “Ashamed” / what a crying shame / what we became /. John McCauley put his metal fingers to string on acoustic guitar and did nice shuffle drumming during “Art isn’t Real (City of Sin).” A killer song and heartfelt lament was “Song about a Man” / tugging at your lips to make you frown / that integrated harmonica and stand up with a bow. For “Little White Lies,” John abandoned his acoustic for a baby blue electric. Baltimore Blues # 1 lead guitar was amazing. Their 10-song set concluded with a fancy 50’s classic and an encore cover of La Bomba. Standing up front next to me were two enthusiastic, newly initiated fans. They were so smitten they asked Dennis Ryan for a drumstick souvenir, and he obliged.
I'm looking forward to a headlining Gig!

The Felice Brothers can wow. 19 songs and counting and counting. They feed off of each other and the audience. Their crazy, rambunctious, loose, sloppy barn stomp combining the guitar, bass, fiddle, accordion, washboard, and drums is unforgettable. The Felice Brothers are in constant motion and rotation. So their show is equally interesting to hear as it is to watch. There were tender moments as well, staged to provoke interest. Especially strong was James Felice on accordion singing “Mary Don’t You Cry” and “Ruby Mae” with the earthy, rough vocal of Ian Felice. Frankie’s Gun was a crowd-pleaser. They introduced two new songs from their upcoming March release. Run Chicken Run was great, and the accordion intro to Coney Island song / here comes the rain pounding on Coney Island /. Song 19 was the best audience participation chant directed by Simone Felice. He was perched on top of his drum kit, directing the crowd, saying, “You must repeat dying people, watch for the signal.” Longest encore... This was exciting. The band's staging area extended to the ledge where our coats and drinks were propped. Things revved up considerably when Deer Tick joined them for what I thought was a grand finale. Little did I know that the Felice batteries just don’t die. I put my camera and notes away, and they played an additional 45 minutes of unbridled music. Seeing The Felice Brothers is like having a hangover without even partaking in one drink. But I was drunk with excess and woke up in a haze singing I put some whiskey into my whiskey. Can’t get this shit out of my head. Flickr Set Spiegleworld


Jamie Lidell; Crackerfarm / Volcanic Productions Public Assembly

Jamie Lidell
A Little Bit of Feel good goes a long Way! When I was sixteen, I must have listened to Otis Redding for an entire year. I still love really good soul music. Jamie Lidell, as DJ, can move a crowd. Bring that up 100 notches when he takes the mic. His music and vibe are contagious and something to catch. Diagnosis: flushed face, sore feet, revitalized soulful spirit, happy. 

The Crackerfarm photography duo and Volcanic Productions presented Partyfarm for friends, associates, and passersby, with DJ Bonehawk, guest DJ Jamie Lidell, and Vinyl Life closing the festivities. This was not a typical dance crowd, but slowly, they got their dance on during Bonehawk's set. By the time Lidell came on, they totally let down their guard. 

Take a little bit of Al Green, Otis Redding, Prince, and some Stevie Wonder and infuse Max/MSP digital tools, and that is Jamie Lidell. The man knows how to use his tools. As a one-man band, he moves the genre of soul forward. His vocal styling can elevate, reaching the peak of exuberance in body and soul with auxiliary percussion. His timing is impeccable, and can sing and strut with attitude. His vibe is friendly-cool with a loving desire to spread his feel-good around. 

By Midnight I had to make my exit but lingered a bit longer by the bar to catch the awesome close of Lidell's set. Unfortunately, I missed Vinyl Life, who always draws a big crowd at Public Assembly.  

The Crackerfarm team is headed to document Jamie’s European tour supporting Elton John for the next month. Wow, it is perfect when talented people find each other. Just look at the videos down under! Also, check out Jamie's NEW ALBUM 'JIM'
"A Little bit of "Feel Good" filmed by Crackerfarm

Jamie Lidell and Kevin Blechdom sing "Relieving Our Power" filmed by Crackerfarm


Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band; Terminal 5

Bad photo just to prove how hard it was to get a shot.

Terminal 5, whoops, I mean Terminal Hell. I will never go back. I only went because for the last 8 years, I’ve seen Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) at every venue in the tri-state area. This is a long Obsession that won’t quit. I endured and tried to keep a positive outlook, and I’m glad I did. Having wandered around the event to find somewhere within viewing range for Ben Kweller's upbeat and engaging performance of countrified pop was close to impossible. His fans were vast and even with the two-story balcony, I didn’t find one slight opening to fully appreciate the music. 

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band set started similarly. I stood by the WFUV Tables and had a side view for the first half of the set. Speaking of die-hard fans, standing next to me was a pregnant woman with her mate, lovingly hanging on to every word. I laughed and got such a kick out of watching Conor dance and lead the band in a new and out-there sort of way. Doing moves that seemed so unlike him. He sang and added sign language to outline certain lyrics in a pop-rap fashion. It was a hoot. I find it endearing after seeing so many shows with him literally shaking with fear. I still love those special shows and hold them dearly in memory. A very comfortable and very much in command Conor emerged. Maybe it was the hat. That always helps. It gave confidence to the new and unfamiliar persona of Conor Obeast.  

The band was tight and explosive. Most of their sound is countryesque mixed with a solid rock and roll spirit, guitar leads, and bluesy piano riffs. The sound was loud and emphasized the muscle of the music but too loud to appreciate the nuance. “Moab” shined, showing off the great melding of vocals. They played quite a few new tunes. A very strong new song, "Ten Women," highlighted Conor’s gift for writing. He ended the set with “Milk Thistle” and returned with a strong four-song encore, including one with Ben Kweller. “I Don’t Want To Die In The Hospital” was spectacular. They ended on an experimental new song, "Breezy" that spoke volumes about future endeavors. It had atmosphere and strange distant scratchy sounds of what I thought was metal on guitar. Better Photos from Prefix

o'death: Broken Hymns Limbs and Skin review!

If music was a hard-on, then o'death's new release, Broken Hymns, Limbs, and Skin, is it. This is not a casual listen but a hard one. Listener Profile: Risk Taker The exhilaration and exhaustion that succumbs to experiencing o'death live is well known. The instruments, vocals, and power penetrate straight away. Their mix of punk, metal, and roots with Americana corner originality. Influences that morph, not mimic. On Broken Hymns, Limbs & Skin production tricks are not apparent. With the help of Alex Newport, they have captured the gestalt of their live sound and more. 

This recording highlights the robust sound of muscular instrumentation, stellar song structure, and composition, evoking a rollicking acoustic symphony. Every track is constructed with contrasting movements: mock speed, measured nuance, and scaffolding volume. I’ve always had an affinity for string instruments. Bob Pycior plays the fiddle like a lead guitar creating riffs that jolt and intone. The characteristic sappy sound of the fiddle can’t be found here, and good riddance. Greg Jamie’s vocals evoke a subtle swell, rise to a nasal pitch, and segue into guttural channeling that inspires his voice of distinction. Gabe Darling’s awesome vocal accompaniment, ukulele, and banjo playing are staples of the music. The foundational force of o'death's masculine sound is fueled by Jessie Newman’s beefy bass accents and David Rogers Berry’s psycho-punk drum auxiliary of chains, cymbals, and gas tanks. He rears them in with unbridled force. 
It is difficult not to highlight all the songs on this release because the penned words and striking music is alive with death. The intensity of “Fire on Peshitgo” about a historical lake fire where many died, sets the context for the remaining songs dedicated to an individual, Eliza. Her short life ended abruptly but is celebrated and mourned. / and robbing life of dignity / to every desperate end / alone / breathless air / lake on fire / land too /. The lamenting slow tribute “Angeline” is breathtaking in its beauty and honesty / the leaves have turned / your ways have burned / your naked flesh against the sun /. The concluding full-bodied chorus / Angeline / Angeline / all your friends on their hands and knees / tired of your tragedies / is like a joyous funeral music procession. The first track “Lowtide” starts with the ukulele plucking and continues to build in volume with the fiddle strong-arm enunciation. As the drums crash and burn, the vocals rise in pitch, and pathos ends on a pluck. / I plant the face in water / I held her broken feet / I taught the wave that caught her / now she is yours to keep / hang the hardship baby / we go to sleep and then we die/ is the choral interlude of “Grey Sun” and cries out like a folk epic with words that kill, literally. Greg Jamie’s Neil Young-like vocal and Darling’s harmonies are highlighted in “Home,” which slowly begins with the chorus of / home / home / the air I breath / and is broken up by a fiddle interlude scaffolds to a full orchestration emphasizing the urgent chorus. Greg Jamie’s vocal flurry is in nasal overdrive on “Legs to Sin” and catapults into a screaming metal-head. “Mountain Shifts” polka beat lends to the muscular masculine all-band chant that increases with a breathless pace in this experimental song arrangement. / Her hair lays violent / dead in the stream / I hope that she’s peaceful / wherever her body may be /. Bridging the fast to slow sounds of contrast that are brutal “Vacant Moan” combines slow fiddle interludes and chains-hitting cymbals. / I plant my feet / I left the ground / I sought the wind too / I fought this out /. Then adds the most intense fast rant chorus gone haywire. All my / all my / all my own / could have grasped a vacant moan / then the lush of violence / crushed the pride of naked wind / dance the dance of broken veins / by the hand of all attained / left before you all the same / broken from the start /. “Crawl Through Snow” has a rock opera structure, then it softly enters into a divine passage / and on that foggy night / the trees fired up / and grew endless / I held the beast at bay / grew tired / from the light fading /.... ending with an impressive finale of the full orchestration. With Broken Hymns, Limbs & Skin, o'death has moved the music culture forward, displaying their capacity to experiment with what is and evolve into what isn’t. In contrast to death, o'death's music is alive. It breathes and celebrates the importance of living and feeling everything fully. 

Side Note: Jimmy Joe Roche's Packaging design is top-notch. Collage and handwritten lyrics are placed on pages in the likeness of an authentic artist's journal with pasted artifacts, scribbling, and photographs. Starting off organized and evolving into a living document. o'death website and blog!! Myspace


o'death MHOW CD Realease Show

Nothing can compare to the exhilaration and exhaustion during an o’death show. Seriously, I had blisters on my feet from jumping up and down and at one point was thankful that the guard was trained in CPR. The sound was loud and eruptive. o'death played most of their new release Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin, along with some old favorites like “Only Daughter” From Head Home. The familiar drew an insane bump in the pleasure factor, but the new material weighed in heavily, less rhythmic but more muscular. o’death’s original mix of roots / punk / metal transmits energy with a velocity that can rival any strong-armed metal band, but they do it acoustically. Fans of o’death are there for the music exclusively. They are listening and responding with kinetic movements to every bold crash of a cymbal or electric slashing of the fiddle.
Nothing drew more interestingly erratic movement than the polka-like eccentric time changes in the song “Mountain Shifts.” “Vacant Moon” drove the crowd to new heights with an uncontainable burst of acceleration, the slow moments lending to a needed recovery. There were tender and solemn moments when they sang the beautiful but beefy “Grey Sun” and the lovely harmonic “Angeline.” By the night close, the crowd broke out in a wave of frenzy. Each person claimed a wider and more open space, not holding back another minute, while others less risky had to accommodate. I’m always up front next to the stage. So it was fun sharing that time with o’death’s slew of friends. Meagan of the “Yeah Bob” contingent was on my right, and the affable Jessica was on my left. GPphoto passed me his card as I willingly gave up my spot for art. He got a great shot. 

Openers Hoots and Hellmouth did a short set. I enjoyed their set more at the Mercury Lounge, where the sound system showed off their acoustic instrumentation and soulful gospelesque vocals coordinated with a foot-stomp wooden platform. I was told that they really let go on their home turf in Philly by one of their most beautiful and adoring fans Kim.

Below is a video by Krolick Production of the following night at Johnny Brenda’s with o’death.

PitchFork TV, "Low Tide"

Flickr Set o'death Flickr Set Hoots and Hellmouth


Novice Theory Getting UK Love

Novice Theory accordian center stage

I met Geo Wyeth (Novice Theory) at a party and was impressed by his intelligence and articulate description of his music that I made it a point to go to the Trash Bar in Brooklyn to see him. I was overwhelmed and moved and wrote a review entitled "Novice Theory Extraordinary Emerging Talent." I believe that was his first review. A few months later, he did a headlining sold-out show at Joe’s Pub, and I wrote this review, "Novice Theory, The Magic of Delivery." Here in the states, we don’t have DJs on the radio with their fingers on the pulse of the music. We have barometers of taste at Public Radio, emerging Internet sites like Daytrotter, and many dedicated Bloggers giving great music exposure regardless of label status. No nationally televised outlets like Later With Jools Holland are devoted to creating a well-produced segment for the newcomer. I’ll never forget Willy Mason's debut. And now, this incredible debut of Novice Theory. All the musicians I have featured have been very well-received in the UK. The most ravenous example is Willy Mason. Langhorne Slim and o’death have been well received as well. I am grateful to those fans and say thank you.

At Obsession Collection Music, we have written about many under-the-radar artists. What has been satisfying is witnessing their exposure spread around. Novice Theory’s talent is ready for exposure. Here are a few of Obsession Collection Music's most recent UK connections. Drink Up Buttercup 7" Single coming 11.10.08 on Make Mine. Another cool connection is Peasant, whose song “Raise Today” was featured in the TV show “Bones" (premier UK episode). I'm proud of this association with UK native Alex Newport, engineer extraordinaire. read.