Angelo De Augustine

Angelo De Augustine

Swim Inside The Moon LP
Out August 25th via Asthmatic Kitty Records

Swim Inside the Moon is a record by 24-year-old Angelo De Augustine. This second full-length of Angelo’s career captures a sound he’s been looking for since he started playing music a decade ago.

Shortly after the 2015 release of Spirals of Silence, his first record, Angelo toured extensively but caught whooping cough on the last show of the tour. The illness debilitated Angelo for months. He feared he might permanently lose his voice, or if it came back, it wouldn’t sound the same.

Unable to sing or sometimes even speak, Angelo instead focused on songwriting. “I wasn’t thinking much about making a record,” says Angelo.

This gave Angelo a lot time to focus on songwriting and sound. Although Angelo had previously recorded in studios, he felt like that environment didn’t capture the ambience he wanted for his music.

Angelo’s voice did recover, and this time he set-up his equipment by himself, in his home. In his bathtub.

Recording in a bathroom might sound odd, but it’s nothing new really; supposedly Jim Morrison recorded vocals for “L.A. Woman” in a bathroom and even took The Doors (lolz) off the hinges so he could talk to bandmates while he played, and The Beatles recorded some of their earliest work in bathrooms. In the 1940s, producer Bill Putnam engineered the first intentionally recorded reverb for a Harmonicats take of “Peg o’ My Heart” by putting the microphone and loudspeaker in a bathroom.

Angelo’s setup was similarly simple: a Shure SM57 microphone next to the wall of the shower and a cable back to an analog reel-to-reel in his nearby bedroom. He’d hit record, then run quickly to the bathroom with his guitar and sit on the edge of the tub and play and sing. For some songs, he played his mother’s 100-year-old piano in the living room, and on others he added synth and electric guitar. He kept it simple.

Recording the nine songs on Swim Inside the Moon took several months. Because Angelo was using an analog reel-to-reel machine with very little overdubbing, he was always recording live. If something didn’t go as planned, he’d start from scratch each time.

Some of the songs took only a few takes. But others took weeks; if a song wasn’t working on a particular day, Angelo would return to it the next day. Sometimes there were other interruptions: “Occasionally my dogs would bark on a really good take,” says Angelo. Other times Angelo kept recording anyway.“You might be able to hear them in the background,” he says.

The reverb, analog as it is, gives Angelo’s music a strong sense of place: this music existed as a soundwave that bounced off walls in Angelo’s bathroom, and then traveled over wires to the listener. The reverb amplifies Angelo’s songwriting, echoing a sense of heartache, loss, but also of joy and hope, and the comfort of home.

This freedom allowed Angelo to find the sound he was looking for: “A sound behind the voice,” he says. “I noticed that when you sing off a reflective surface you hear two voices. One is the representation of yourself and the other is similar to a shadow that follows the sound. I was compelled to isolate that voice and bring it more to the front of the songs because in many ways I feel more connected to and comforted by that voice following me.”

Besides a distinct sense of place and time, listeners might also hear Nick Drake’s intricate arpeggiated guitar parts, Elliott Smith’s pure vocals, or, at times, a likeness to the soulfulness of artists such as Vashti Bunyan, Judee Sill, Joanna Newsom, and Jose Gonzalez.

But it’s worth noting that these artists are fairly new to Angelo, whose musical inspiration comes more from his mom than from a playlist. “Because my mom’s career was singing, she would never listen to music when she wasn’t working,” Angelo explains. “The music that I did hear the most were her songs that she wrote at home.”

As to what these songs mean, well, that’s harder to say. “I couldn’t tell you,” says Angelo, though it sounds like he wished he could. He compares his songwriting to waking up after a vivid dream: “I get into this place, and then I wake up with a song instead of a dream,” says Angelo, “Maybe I’ll know what it’s about later. Or maybe I knew, and I’ve forgotten.”

Angelo De Augustine writes and records music in Thousand Oaks, California — a suburb north of Los Angeles, where he grew up. His self-released debut album, Spirals of Silence, and 3-song EP follow-up, How Past Begins, earned praise from The FADER, Stereogum, Vogue, My Old Kentucky Blog, and more.

“The sonic equivalent of a cracked porcelain plate—broken, but beautiful in its ruin.” – Vogue

“Crystalline and otherworldly… matching warm guitar figures with chilling whispers” – Stereogum

“Stunning is used quite a bit to describe music, but in this instance it rings true.” – My Old Kentucky Blog

Avi Buffalo

Embarking upon a sophomore effort can be a daunting task for any young upstart, and there’s no denying Avi Buffalo’s own bar was set quite high with 2010’s celebrated eponymous debut. Fear not, dear fans/family/friends/friends of friends/newcomers, there’s nothing in this tale about The Second Album—a.k.a. At Best Cuckold, due September 8th in Europe and September 9th in North America on Sub Pop—that even remotely resembles a slump; in fact, it would be entirely appropriate to say that this Long Beach, California, enterprise is getting better with age.

Ah, yes, age—much was made of it when Avi Buffalo’s first album hit the ground running, and for good reason: While their Millikan High School classmates were preoccupied with quaint and youthful pursuits, the musicians behind Avi Buffalo were busy making an off-kilter pop gem that eventually bowled over NME, The AV Club, Pitchfork, the BBC, and numerous other outlets on both sides of the Atlantic whose tastes are respected by the general public. Like a lot of kids their age, the Buffaloes celebrated the end of high school in Europe, but instead of visiting the Louvre and Buckingham Palace, their overseas journeys took them to the festival stages of Reading, Leeds, Glastonbury, the Pavement-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in Minehead, and beyond.

So is Avi Buffalo a he or a them? The answer is a definitive yes, as leader Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg has lent his musical nickname—bestowed in childhood by a pal who’d picked up on his friend’s inclination toward spicy chicken wings—to this full-fledged outfit that works something like a solo project in the studio and then builds into a band onstage. Not that he goes it alone when recording—to the contrary, many able-bodied compatriots, including longtime collaborator Sheridan Riley, have assisted with committing his songs to tape—but everything begins and ends with Avi, and after ending a year on the road in support of the first record, he decided to take his time beginning work on the second.

The creation of At Best Cuckold turned out to be a three-year journey; a stretch of time that resembles its predecessor. While transitioning from teenager to twentysomething and traversing the interpersonal wilds which accompany that age, Avi kept playing music (even picking up a new instrument every now and again), collaborated with and produced several friends (including Kevin Litrow’s N.O.W. project and Douglas James Sweeney’s Arjuna Genome), and even started DJing. He also wrote new songs, and by the time 2013 rolled around, it was time to begin capturing his latest sparks—with that, the band headed into the studio on New Year’s Day.

Two weeks later, the basic tracks for At Best Cuckold were recorded, having been captured at Tiny Telephone, the analog-friendly San Francisco studio run by John Vanderslice of John Vanderslice fame. The engineering was actually handled by Jay Pellicci (The Dodos, Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney), though during his stay, Avi had a chance to play with the head honcho when he was asked to contribute to JV’s tribute to Bowie’s Diamond Dogs. Needless to say, Avi has nice things to say about the place.

The “clean and tight” recordings from Tiny Telephone served as perfect skeletons for Avi to flesh out with his analog and digital overdubs, which were completed over the next year or so at various locations around Southern California. (“I’ve always had a lot of fun with overdubs,” says Avi. “Maybe my favorite instrument is overdubs.”) The result—which was completed and mixed with Nicolas Vernhes at his Rare Book Room studio in Brooklyn—is a quirky yet comforting set of songs driven by refined pop songcraft and sneaky moments of grandeur that stick in the brain. Classic-sounding melodies are delivered with a modern sensibility, creating an album that’s equal parts timely and timeless. Well-placed piano, sax, clarinet, French horn, and cornet further enhance the proceedings with a glorious orch-pop sheen.

“So What” gets things started with its understated charm and sing-songy goodness, however, it isn’t until the rollicking “Memories of You” that Avi lets his trademark falsetto fly. There are great pop moments all over At Best Cuckold, but Avi also excels at moodiness, exemplified in subdued beauties like “Two Cherished Understandings” and “Oxygen Tank.”

“I really like some of the ballad aspects of this record—it’s kind of my tribute to the ballad,” says Avi. “I predicted in an interview during the time of my first record what I was going to use in my next record, and I said a lot of major seventh chords, which, to me, sounded like laying down. And that ended up in the record, too.”

Lyrically, there are a lot of unsettled emotions on the album; a product of Avi observing the world around him and writing “about life, dealing with relationships and yourself, and trying to keep your head up and keep learning amidst whatever it is you’re going through.” Disappointment (“Thought we understood each other well / I was wrong as usual”) and anxiety (“Someone told me if I messed around / then my head would fill up with guilty clouds”) abound, though there’s also a feeling that everything is eventually going to turn out okay, even when everything seems to be falling apart during closer “Won’t Be Around No More.” If anything, Avi’s passionate delivery is the ultimate source of optimism.

At the ripe old age of 23, Avi Buffalo is ready to take on the world (again), armed with all of the experience he’s compiled over the past few years. And he’s made sure the second time around will be just as memorable as the first.

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