Mouths! Photo by Flickr user Palbo
I’ve been sitting on this theme for a while, and I’ve decided it’s time to go ahead and pull the trigger. (As per usual, with not nearly enough lead time. Sorry everybody!) Ball of Wax Volume 44, Spring 2016, will consist exclusively of the human voice. You can do whatever you want with it: sing solo, talk, rap, loop/multitrack, sing in a big group, chop and cut and paste the heck out of it . . . you name it, just nothing but voices (or, okay, other mouth sounds).
So send in your submissions! Spread the word! I want to be amazed and delighted and overwhelmed by voices.
Deadline: Please have submissions in by April 24th. (As always, earlier is great and later is probably doable too, just get in touch.) General submission guidelines here.
This Ball of Wax thing has been fascinating over the years I’ve been involved. One key figure in the shaping of this project has been Jon Rooney, who matched wit and energy with Levi Fuller to grow the presence of this project. Of the many aspects of his character reflected in the site and project—Jon was the first of us to become a father.
This week, Jon and his band Virgin of the Birds set out on a US tour, bringing with them Storm the Palace from the UK. (They complete their tour on Saturday, March 12 at Conor Byrne Pub in Seattle.) While many contributors to this project are touring musicians, this seems like a milestone for a man who usually puts intelligence first and foremost. I asked him for his perspective touring as an otherwise sensible father, husband, and blogger. Continue reading
Ebullient praise. I am able to contribute less and less frequently to Levi Fuller’s amazing project due to life, rent, etc; however, there are moments when you discover a great band or record, and you realize that you can at least provide a spark of recognition. I now have proof that at least one band we featured appreciated the write-up.
About a year ago, I wrote about a fascinating band in this blog. Now, almost a year later, Storm the Palace is leaving the UK to tour the US. They’re bringing with them a new EP, and they’re traveling with Ball of Wax’s Jon Rooney and his band Virgin of the Birds. Continue reading
Though Seattle producer and MC thad wenatchee makes his Ball of Wax debut with “Last Letter,” he’s a prolific member of the Seattle hip hop community, with connections to everything from the Hollow Earth Radio folks to the Filthy Fingers United collaborative project. “Last Letter” pairs wenatchee’s double-tracked vocal delivery with a swirling, throbbing backing track, courtesy producer OK. It’s an immensely well-constructed, exciting song and a great way to close out Volume 43. Let’s hope to hear more from wenatchee on Ball of Wax, and set aside some time to dive into his deep, wide body of work.
. . . and then sometimes you just want something simple and beautiful. Vermonter Thomas Pearo‘s looped guitar piece “We’ll Be OK” makes for a lovely bit of musical sorbet (and I mean that absolutely as a good thing) after the rich, giddy noise of the preceding couple tracks, easing us into our initial descent to the end of this volume (to horribly mix and torture a couple of metaphors). According to Thomas, “We’ll Be OK” has its origins in a sad and dark period of his life, but he’s taken that darkness and turned it to light with the easy, loping, peaceful nature of this piece. It’s almost enough to make you think, despite the ample evidence to the contrary, that we will be OK. Almost.
Finally, some tasty retro ’60s freak-out pop on the Ball of Wax. I’m not going to burst my own bubble by Googling band pictures, but in my mind the members of Terwilliger Curves all sport Prince Valiant haircuts and wear striped turtlenecks. Perhaps they all play Vox teardrop guitars and wear Roger McGuinn granny glasses. Nevertheless, “Doubles the Rainbow” is filled with freaky psychedelic goodness. I’m hoping that Terwilliger Curves (that’s how one names a band, Karaoke Hottiez people) splits the geographical difference between their apparent home bases of Portland and Vancouver and plays a show in Seattle. That would be rad.
If I were better at ever writing album reviews or composing year-end lists of favorite albums, you would have already heard me singing the praises of The Vardaman Ensemble, the skronky post-rock-and-jazz-in-a-blender side project of The Harvey Girls’ Hiram Lucke. Their 2015 EP Unthank Park was an unexpected delight, a blast of cold water to my ears’ face. (Sorry, I’m a little sleep-deprived at the moment, I realize how incoherent that sentence was but I’m leaving it.) There is guitar, there is saxophone, there is a Gameboy, there are tons of effects pedals and herky-jerky stops and starts; it’s all a wonderful burst of controlled chaos – and hey, it’s free/name-your-price! Get the whole EP right here.
I’m hoping The Vardaman Ensemble and Terwilliger Curves (the next track up), both being based in Portland, will play some shows together soon. If they do, you should go and give them a Ball of Wax high five.
Luna Moth main man Mark Schlipper is a devotee of drone, ambiance and the hypnotic beauty of expansive repetition. Whereas the Moth trades in heavy guitars, bass and drums, Schlipper’s other project, Perish the Island, works with more subtle soundscapes. “Loose Blood” is an entrancing set piece contrasting slow waves of sound (a synth pad? guitar through a ton of effects? I can’t tell) with a smattering more percussive elements, like some sort of drum/dulcimer loop thing and the blunted attack of underwater bass gurgles. As the previous sentence attests, I have no idea how Perish the Island made this piece (I’m more of a jangly guitar pop lunkhead), but I REALLY like “Loose Blood.” Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.
This is Candice Rose‘s first contribution to Ball of Wax, but a couple familiar names show up in the credits for this track: Christopher Hydinger of The Music of Grayface and his frequent co-conspirator Bobby Wayne Ingram. Candice gave me two versions of this song to choose from, and it was a tough choice: the other version was a guitar and vocals demo that more clearly featured Candice’s vocals and melody, but lacked the thick, beguiling sonic treats of this more produced version. Ultimately I decided that this version, while perhaps a more challenging listen, was ultimately richer and more rewarding. Either way, it’s a compelling tune that gets under your skin and I’m very pleased to include it on this volume of Ball of Wax.
Candice will kick off the festivities at the Ball of Wax 43 release show this Saturday. Perhaps yet a third version of “Fraud” will be born that night? Join us to find out.
Ok, so there’s the band name. Karaoke Hottiez is just brutal. It’s another in a growing trend of jokey pizza-fart-punk rock-ish names that seem to be all the rage in this town, evoking 8-bit ’90s Olympia backwash posing as transgressive bricolage. That being said, “I Don’t Care, It Don’t Bother Me” is a pretty little slice of lo fi bossa nova pop, more aligned to the sublime catch-iness of Herman Dune or the great, underappreciated Pet Politics than any number of Value Village No Wave bands this region is crawling with. It’s a charming little tune with heart, brains and style, further proof that one shouldn’t judge the proverbial book by the proverbial cover.