Ages and Ages
217 E Houston St.
New York, NY, 10002
Doors 6:30 PM
This event is 21 and over
Ages and Ages
If Ages and Ages’ debut album Alright You Restless declared independence from the cynicism and self-consciousness plaguing a generation; and the follow-up Divisionary was an exercise in confronting change, conflict, and loss; Something to Ruin addresses the debris of our collective failures and asks whether we might be better off letting go and starting over. Recorded at Isaac Brock’s studio (Ice Cream Party), the band’s fourth album is still full of their infectious and joyful melodies while also reflecting on several serious existential themes.
Early on in the writing process of this record, band leaders Tim Perry and Rob Oberdorfer traveled to Central America and visited indigenous ruins partly engulfed by surrounding forests – a tangible reminder of the impermanence of human civilization and the resilience of nature. Back at home in Portland, Oregon, their community was being engulfed by something entirely different. Like so many other cities around the country, rapid growth and development were changing both its landscape and culture.
Something to Ruin came out of this reflection, exploring what it’s like to watch your surroundings implode in a frenzy of real estate development and lifestyle branding. Songs like “Kick Me Out” and “My Cold Reflection” describe an existence where almost everything is monetized and loses it’s meaning. The album’s first track “They Want More,” deals with the struggle to live an honest life in this type of superficial cultural landscape.
To set the stage for this narrative, Tim and Rob embraced synthetic sounds and artificial textures– a marked difference from the organic and documentarian approach on their previous albums. The record is also more groove-laden, with electronic experimentation pushed to the surface. Tim’s vocal melodies and the richly layered harmonies of Sarah Riddle, Annie Bethancourt, Colin Jenkins and Oberdorfer mirror themes about the power (and impotence) of the individual and the need for community.
Isaac Brock’s unmistakable, marbled baritone and guitar jumps out on “So Hazy” and traces of old Modest Mouse can also be heard in the discordant and mechanical noises that bubble to the surface on the album’s title track and “All of My Enemies.” If there is an anthem on Something to Ruin comparable to “No Nostalgia” and “Divisionary (Do the Right Thing),” it resides in the album’s final track “As It Is” which contains the trademark exultant vocals that endear the band to its fans.
What’s most perplexing about Ages and Ages is their ability to address themes of isolation, obscurity, and rejection of the well-paved path while still infusing their songs with an infectious hope and earnestness that brings even the most cynical listener into the fold. It could be why President Obama felt compelled to add their song to his personal reelection campaign playlist, or a high school choir in Burkina Faso posted a video of them singing an Ages song, and why NPR claims their music “could actually change your life.”
Skyway Man: An Introduction to the Wide World of James Wallace & Folk Futurism
“He says the sun came out last night. He says it sang to him.”
― Project Leader, Close Encounters of the Third Kind
“If you are not a myth whose reality are you? If you are not a reality whose myth are you?”
― Sun Ra, Prophetika Book One
For the last decade, James Wallace & the Naked Light recorded and released music from the fringes of Music City USA, touring all over with a singular vision and purpose. All the while, James Wallace’s name figured in as a trusted companion to a few scenes in particular: the Spacebomb sound coming out of his hometown Richmond, Virginia alongside old friends Natalie Prass and Matthew E. White; inside the new Nashville “underground:” where his bands’ magnetic performance listed them as a favorite among Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard; producing records, occasionally filling in on keys with cult-treasured Promised Land Sound; and roaming with the Oakland collective of songwriters centered around a converted school bus who travel under the banner “Splendor All Around.” But now the name is Skyway Man. Solo tours in Japan and China, a new batch of songs intertwined with his fascination with UFO religion, signaled a shift in direction. His inner mercury nudged him toward a new role, and the name Skyway Man rose to the surface again and again. Was it the trickster of mythology, the soul of some eternally missing astronaut, or the old singing storyteller trying to get through?
Wallace possesses a knack for getting caught up in outlandish events - discovering a trove of mysterious letters written by a Ufologist to a woman, describing the New Jerusalem and the 4th dimension, or months spent playing Mahjong in a smokey trailer behind Opryland, working as a Mandarin interpreter for Chinese Ice carvers in Nashville. This knack also extends to orchestrating outlandish events, getting interesting people on board in his endeavors–sweet-talking the flow of life into altering its course. Time for a new name and new record. Seen Comin' From a Mighty Eye is a dense undertaking, recorded in different locations, simmering influences, channeling all the correct energies, paying the people and spirits who need to be paid, finishing the work the right way over the slow course of time. He recorded the last Naked Light record in Matthew E. White’s attic, and returned to that revered spot to track this new psych opera about strange futures, haunted pasts, and the Mighty Eye in the sky. Spacebomb house bassist and composer Cameron Ralston provided the horn arrangements and Spacebomb house drummer Pinson Chanselle sat at the kit. Wallace sang, compiled and mixed back in Nashville. It’s the usual stew of B-movie scifi, cosmic American boogie, psychedelic folk and it’s apocalyptically good, focused and potent, an immersive fully realized song cycle and visionary sonic structure.
From his modest rancher in Bordeaux on the Cumberland River, the lights of downtown Nashville are visible at night, shining sweetly or casting a lurid glow depending on atmospheric conditions and the viewer’s mood. Music City is changing fast, but James Wallace is invested in its community and spirit–the true believers, auteur session aces and acid cowboys and cowgirls who need each other to survive the sweltering industrial music machine. Skyway Man transcends this landscape, tapping into an older, more spiritual commerce. Seen Comin' From a Mighty Eye offers the kind of music you would want on the radio for a first or last kiss, the incidental music from some forgotten Spielberg adventure, a soundtrack for the later (not quite latter) days of earth. If lightning strikes and the car radio explodes, it might just be part of the track. Music for driving along the skyway, and thank god the skyway is made of music anyway.