The Windish Agency Party Featuring Tanlines, Dan Deacon, and Animal Collective

Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon is an outstanding composer. He is also a goddamned instigator. So while he made his Carnegie Hall debut this year, a few weeks later he was getting 10,000 people to do crazy dances at a massive Occupy Wall Street rally in Union Square. Deacon has always made trailblazing music that moves people to do things they wouldn't normally do. But on his new album, America, he takes that idea a giant step further. "I hope the people who take the time to listen to these songs enjoy them," says Deacon, "but I hope that anyone looking for anything beyond that can find inspiration to change the world for the better."

There's some alchemy going on here. Yes, the lyrics are full of bleak, even apocalyptic imagery, but the music is keenly hopeful, with beats that make you want to dance, teeming major keys that lift the spirit, and Deacon's voice hollering defiantly from the depths of his own joyous cacophony. Eclipsing its own despair, the music simulates the rush of being involved in something bigger and better than yourself.

Dan Deacon shows are renowned for the spectacle of hundreds, even thousands, of jubilant people doing coordinated movement, whether it's vast, swirling circles, long, snaking lines or just over-the-top dance contests. It's a sight to behold, but it's even more amazing to participate. And for Deacon, what is ostensibly just "fun" started to take on a profound dimension, of people uniting and claiming physical space in an ecstatic act of empowerment. He saw a metaphor in there, a connection with revolutionary movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. America is the soundtrack of that realization — like James Brown once said, "Get up! Get into it! Get involved!"

After 2009's Bromst, Deacon did a lot of touring, but he also worked a lot in the classical world. In 2011, he played his long-form piece Ghostbuster Cook: Origin of the Riddler with the acclaimed So Percussion as part of New York's prestigious Ecstatic Music Festival, and New York magazine named it of one of the top 10 classical music performances of 2011. In 2012, Deacon returned to that same festival and premiered the evening-length An Opal Toad with Obsidian Eyes with the NOW Ensemble and the Calder String Quartet. Canada's 50-piece Kitchener-Waterloo orchestra premiered Deacon's first orchestral works, "Fiddlenist Rim" and "Song of the Winter Solstice," in 2011, the same year of Deacon's first film score, for Francis Ford Coppola's Twixt. And then there was that Carnegie Hall debut, another So Percussion collaboration, in celebration of the music of John Cage. All of these became part of Deacon's rich tapestry, woven in with countless sweaty, grimy DIY shows in basements and lofts, viral Youtube videos, and even two comedy tours.

Deacon started out as a solo electronic musician, but after doing tours with the Dan Deacon Ensemble, Deacon began to embrace making music with large groups of people. And so for America, he resolved to do something he'd never done before: try things out in the studio with different players on different instruments. Again: community and people power. America is a study in density, a thick but nuanced mix of acoustic and synthetic timbres, a mix of Deacon's pop side (as in 2007's Spiderman of the Rings) and his more composerly side (Bromst). There's also dance music culture in the DNA of this music, but suffused with the top-to-bottom distortion and overdrive of noise music and the instrumentation and sweep of orchestral music. America has echoes of Steve Reich and Terry Riley for sure, but Deacon engages with minimalism in a maximalist way — dense and relentless, it's crammed with sound and joy, an overwhelming experience to immerse and dance within.

The opening "Guilford Avenue Bridge" is a vivid instrumental memoir about the early days of the Wham City art collective, when Deacon would throw parties and nervously wait to see if anyone would show up. You can hear his heart pounding with anticipation via powerhouse drumming by Dan Deacon Ensemble member Denny Bowen, then a lull that seems to suggest the empty loft waiting to be filled, and finally a triumphal reprise as people come streaming in for an anarchic night of serious fun.

"True Thrush" is about conformism, apathy, alienation, and just plain losing your way. Pretty grim, right? But it's a catchy, anthemic, fist-pumping summer jam, possibly the greatest pop song Deacon has ever created. Redemption and transcendence are baked right into the music. Rise above, people! "Lots" is another powerhouse, a rock song that harbors all the animating frictions of America: On the one hand, the narrator walks a dire, apocalyptic landscape, and on the other, he vows, "Now we stand upon a chance/ to break the chains and break the lance" — to break the cycle of oppression and war and build a new world.

The instrumental "Prettyboy" is an idyllic respite from the strife and clamor, just like the song's namesake, Prettyboy Reservoir Park, about an hour north of Baltimore. But then comes "Crash Jam" — what Deacon calls "a drum-focused vocoder barnburner" — about the timeless, healing power of nature. The song was inspired by a Dan Deacon Ensemble tour that didn't really gel until the band camped out in a state park in New Mexico and bonded over the campfire — another song about communion and the almost spiritual power a deeply united group of people can have.

The album's finale, the 21-minute magnum opus "USA," features 22 virtuosic players, many recruited from the prestigious Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore representing every section of the orchestra in bringing to life this epic cross-country sonic travelogue. As Deacon hurtled across the country on his many tours, he concluded that we've lost touch with the beauty of our own land, and spare few opportunities to despoil it. The words, as Deacon says, are "about the destruction of that land and the feeling of being disenfranchised, of having no connection to your home," but the exultant music of "USA" celebrates that beauty in all its vast and varied glory.

And so what to do? America doesn't pretend to supply the answers, but it does offer the energy to help us find them. As Deacon is fond of saying, "The future surrounds us. Let us begin."

Mixed Emotions is the debut album by Tanlines, a Brooklyn NY duo composed of Eric Emm (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Jesse Cohen (drums, keyboards, bass). Initially born as a production project based out of Emm's Brooklyn-based Brothers Studio, Tanlines has evolved into a deeply personal, unique electronic pop group.

But before there was Tanlines, there was just Eric and just Jesse, working in separate bands and projects until their paths crossed in 2008. Jesse's former band had recorded at Eric's studio; the two got along famously and struck up a friendship. "We have complementary qualities. It's like a lot of duos, I think. We have different personalities, but we just innately understand each other," says Cohen. The pair began making music together almost on a lark, deciding one night to remix a song for the band Telepathe, with whom Eric was working at the time, and put it on the internet that same evening for no reason beyond simply doing so. Suddenly, the song was making rounds on the web and being championed by various tastemakers. Their second song, "New Flowers," written for one of Jesse's friends' art projects, had the same reaction, resulting in excellent UK label Young Turks (The XX, SBTRKT) emailing the band to release a single in 2009. "It was at that point that we thought, 'Okay, this is a real project now,'" says Cohen.

Shows around the world followed, including amazing sets at the likes of The Guggenheim, The Whitney, the New Museum and more in their hometown of NYC ("Our genre was 'Museum House' for a while," jokes Emm), and an opening slot on Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas's solo tour in 2009. Effortlessly cool Parisian label Kitsune released a Tanlines single, while American label True Panther released the Tanlines' first EP in 2010. They booked a three week tour in Europe, excited from the exciting things that had been happening to them, only to play some of the most disappointing shows of their career. "It was eye opening," says Emm. "We realized we had a lot of work to do." The inspiration for said work came in the form of albums the duo brought with them to listen to while driving through Europe. "We brought R.E.M. records, skate punk records from the 80's, Born in the USA, stuff like that. Emm says, "listening to them, I became very aware of the lasting resonance of a good song. A good song transcends production trends. That's what we were missing, and I wanted to start making songs that would have a life of their own."

Upon returning from the European tour in the spring of 2010, Cohen and Emm returned home to New York to find an eviction notice for the recording studio that Eric and his brother (one-time trance producer Joshua Ryan) had built from the ground up eight years prior. The building had been sold and there were plans to convert it into a homeless shelter (...which was ultimately never built). For two years, the studio had been their figurative, and sometimes literal home (the spare bedroom often housed Jesse Cohen after late night sessions). With all of that change and uncertainty in mind, Tanlines began to work on their first proper album.

That album, Mixed Emotions, is a testament to the benefits and pitfalls of life's changes, getting older, and being pushed out of one's comfort zone. The band that was born out of a studio suddenly found themselves without a home base, forced to reevaluate themselves. Emm honed his voice, a confident and tranquil baritone, and focused on lyricism, something he had not done seriously in the past. Many of the songs on Mixed Emotions began as simple songs written on a guitar, with the band later adding their palette of electronic and organic sounds afterwards. "A great song can stick with someone for their whole life," says Cohen as a means of explanation. "As a musician, you have the opportunity to create that, and that is the thing that you chase. When we were forced to really figure out what we were trying to do with our album, our music in general, and our lives broadly, it was obvious." Emm attributes his newfound lyrical earnestness and immediacy more directly- "I just reached a point in my life where I wasn't afraid and didn't give a shit."

Emm sings stories about loss, the passage of time, and the lessons and warnings of accumulated knowledge gleaned by someone who has spent an entire lifetime in music. "Real Life," one of Mixed Emotion's most bombastic songs, has Emm countering with the searching lyrics: "For a minute I was lost / I looked away/ I was looking for a home / I was looking for a role." Emm, who by his own account has lived "an extremely unconventional life," quit school at 15 to play guitar and skateboard, joined his favorite band and toured around the world at 19, and built a studio that hosted some of the area's most notable underground acts in the mid 2000s, found the displacement both bittersweet and liberating. The lyrics that poured out of him reflect both earnest excitement and wisdom- they are about recognizing the sadness of a loss while still accepting that nothing ever really changes for good. On "Brothers" he sings "You're just the same as you ever were / You fight and you don't wonder why it makes no sense, I'm just the same as I ever been / But I'm the only one who doesn't notice it".

"This process," Cohen says, referring to the agita of recording in the midst of the studio loss and its subsequent, sudden adulthood, "felt more like making a movie than an album." Ultimately, the final step of mixing the album took them to an entirely different musical universe, the Miami-based studio of legendary mixer Jimmy Douglass (Timbaland, Aaliyah, Justin Timberlake, Television, Roxy Music) in whom the band found an unlikely kindred spirit. It was a journey that pushed the band to expand their sonic ambitions and away from the comfort of their previous experiences.

Perhaps that's why Mixed Emotions feels so vivid—sometimes painful, sometimes transcendent—a very precise labor of love. It obscures and blurs the lines between synthetic and organic sounds, real and fake, happy and sad. It is the sound of stadium pop in small spaces. Before deciding on the name Mixed Emotions, Tanlines' debut was called ;( (pronounced "winky-sad'), an emoticon of their own creation and the unofficial mascot of the band. A winky-sad is used to indicate something that is sad, but that you can still make a joke about. Musically, it is perhaps a happy-sounding song with melancholic lyrics. It's the acknowledgment that most things are many things at once. It is Mixed Emotions ;(

Hundred Waters

The quartet’s members Nicole Miglis, Trayer Tryon, Paul Giese & Zach Tetreault played together in various formations as far back as middle school, but it took until adulthood and 2012 for them to become Hundred Waters. Living under one roof meant the band had a communal mentality, yet each maintained their own distinct projects, borrowing here and there from each other. It was in interpreting a friends’ music together that they discovered the power of their combination, and they quickly fell to work reorienting their lives around an album. The music they found was a beautiful blend of contradictions, mournful yet colorful, introverted yet aware, and brought the tradition of songwriting to a strange future. Initially released by their local label Elestial Sound, their self-titled debut soon became seen as the sound of Florida, drawing loose comparisons to Stereolab, Four Tet, and Bjork. Soon it attracted the most unlikely of label bosses, Skrillex, who signed the band to his OWSLA label that same year and gave the album a full-scale release, with remixes by Araab Muzik, Star Slinger, and TokiMonsta. Since then the band has taken its live show around the world, touring with artists such as Grimes, Julia Holter, Alt-J & the XX.



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