“Basically this album is about being in love, old American music, and Jesus.”
Continuing his ongoing quest to occupy something like 15% of my Top 20 Albums of 2012 list, Ben Seretan ’10 (I was going to write “of Duchampion fame,” but at this point I think “of Ben Seretan fame” is more appropriate) has got a new record on BandCamp. It’s called New Song, capping off a loose trilogy that includes last year’s New Music and 2012’s New Space, and it’s unsurprisingly fantastic, cycling through Americana-tinged originals, blues standards, and 48-minute boombox drones (okay, there is only one of those) with fluent ease. Between recording New Space, making a music video, dropping a collaborative LP with Portland band The Early, and materializing at Wesleyan to open for Oneohtrix Point Never in October, Seretan has stayed pretty busy in 2012. Somehow he has still made the time to take the audio of Grand Central with me next week. (Leave a comment if you want to join us.) (Serious inquiries only, please.)
Seretan recorded the album this summer, in a single afternoon (no overdubs), while in residency at the Wassaic Project. He wrote and rehearsed it in an old cattle auction barn. You’ll recognize a few of the originals from his performance on campus in October. According to Seretan, the setting strongly influenced the album’s thematic qualities:
“We all grew up listening to everything from Harry Partch to Radiohead to avant garde jazz to medieval music and I studied composition, played in weird rock bands, and also played with Anthony Braxton.”
Wes alum Asa Horvitz ’10, notably of Duchampion fame, is delivering musical tastiness in the form of recent project Point Reyes, a Brooklyn-based outfit that you may remember from a spring semester Eclectic set opening for Nat Baldwin. Earlier this semester Point Reyes just released Golden—a fun and quirky album that feels like it’s reminiscent of Duchampion but is much much more—on Big School Records.
This band is hard for me to describe. Not in the “we don’t really like to classify ourselves in a genre” kind, but in the way where I have to put in actual work to think of the words to describe it. They’re a complex indie rock band that isn’t afraid to dive into more complicated musical forms, and they experiment with things like vocal timbres. Plus, the interesting instrumentation of vocals, guitar, cello, percussion, drums, and vibraphone makes for beautiful and unexpected sound combinations. As TVD Cleveland wrote, “This band is an entity unto itself, enveloping its listeners in orchestrations comprising expansive vibraphone, thick bass, luscious cello, guitar, and eerie vocals that weave stories filled with whimsy.“
Check out more, including my favorite track “Redesert,” after the break.
“If you’re gonna talk during the songs instead of enjoying yourself, go outside.”
How To Dress Well’s performance at Eclectic on Saturday was not the best concert I’ve been to at Wesleyan, but it was one of the most memorable—and one of the most uncomfortable. It was one of the few times I’ve been embarrassed by an audience of Wesleyan students. It was also the first time I’ve seen a performer politely ask more than half of his audience to leave. Tom Krell’s request was ignored, and his performance was consequently hampered by loud, drunken chatter amongst much of his audience.
Let’s back up. The indie R&B maestro had three openers, and they ranged from a remix artist to a synthpop heartthrob to brooding, gorgeous post-rock. This was a packed bill. First up was pop-songs-on-Valium DJ Slolivia (Olivia Hauser ’14), whose aesthetic is pretty well captured by this YouTube clip of “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” Imagine the same treatment for “Call Me Maybe,” “Larger Than Life,” and a slew of other smash hits. You get the idea.
Eclectic’s ballroom was empty when Slolivia got started. By the time she exited, a moderate crowd had gathered for Bamenda, the ’80s-obsessed synthpop project of Lioness/Treasure Island hero Dema Paxton Fofang ’13, who made his live solo debut at the Prince Rama show last month.
When I arrived at the Ben Seretan/Oneohtrix Point Never show at Eclectic, it appeared through the windows that nobody was there. How strange, I thought: Oneohtrix is beloved by many ambient music fans at Wesleyan, as well as fans of Daniel Lopatin’s other well-known project, Ford and Lopatin, and Ben Seretan ’10 is an old friend to us, albeit an old friend who happens to be a very talented and prolific musician who was in beloved Wesleyan band Duchampion.
When I got through the door, though, the room was in fact almost full; everyone was sitting on the floor, legs folded, in contemplation of Seretan’s spare, guitar-and-vocals compositions. He has described his most recent solo album, New Space, as an attempt “to have the sensation of swimming in or being embraced by the sound of my guitar and voice, to feel its physical presence pushing up against my sides, the walls, and furniture.”
Back in February, I posted about New Space, a fantastic collection of measured guitar buildups and stirring drones by homegrown guitar hero Ben Seretan ’10. The Duchampion alumnus recorded the record alone in a friend’s Greenpoint studio during the Superbowl. There was no bass or drums, because who needs bass and drums?
If you need bass and drums, Seretan writes in about In Two, an unsurprisingly stellar collaboration record between The Early, a Portland-based indie rock outfit, and himself. The album features more masterful six-string arpeggios, more emotionally fragile tales of driving cross-country and sleeping on porches—as well as full-band noise flare-ups (“Drive to Michigan”), feedback-laden spoken word (“All Dogs”), and muted guitar pop (“Onion Boy”). Lyrically, its themes include “dogs, Parsifal, stairs, driving around and listening to music, sleeping in places and on things, intimacy, earth cracking.” It’s also a good bit more song-driven and instrumentally varied than New Space, if that’s your thing.
As the album’s press release explains,
Earlier this semester we posted about New Space, a fantastic new indie-rock-meets-ambient recording by Duchampion alumnus and all-around genius emeritus Ben Seretan ’10, who skipped the Superbowl and hung out in his friend’s Greenpoint studio to record the five tracks. “The whole thing was recorded with nothing more than guitars, amps, and delay pedals,” I raved at the time, “which is especially a feat given how freaking full and textured it sounds, like a loving tribute to the sheer layers of sound the instrument can produce.” (Am I a fanboy or am I a fanboy?)
Today, Seretan sends word of a new video he completed for “What Would You Do If You Were Me?,” his whopping nine-minute opener. As you can see from the embed above, it’s green and hazy and fuzzy and blue in all the right places—a mostly perfect visual counterpart to Seretan’s textured, slow-burning guitar compositions. It’s an all around Wes party, too: the video was directed and produced by Angus McCullough ’10, with mad help from Sam Jones ’10 and Josh Koenig ’09. Check out their finished result here, or scroll on for a very brief explanatory interview with Seretan himself.
What would you do if you were Ben Seretan ’10?
What a month it’s been for Wesleyan musical ghosts of semesters past. Prog/jam/funktastic homeys Ishmael reemerged with announcement of a new EP (later previewed on WESU) and a date at Earth House to boot. Mad Wow, back from its Last Show Ever, brought its distinctive funk-inf(l)ected strain of Mad Wow Disease to Alpha Delt just last weekend. Duchampion alumnus Asa Horvitz ’10 popped up in Eclectic Haus last Saturday, fronting new project Point Reyes just before Nat Baldwin took the stage. And now fellow Duchampion guitarist/singer/general ass-kicker Ben Seretan ’10 is back in action with a fantastic collection of sprawling, reverby, mostly solo compositions entitled New Space.
Seretan recorded the entire thing, mostly by himself, at a friend’s studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn during the Superbowl. (According to an entirely scientific, infallible Wesleying poll, at least a quarter of readers didn’t watch the Superbowl. If any of you freaks recorded anything as mesmerizing as “What Would You Do If You Were Me?” during that time block, I’d like to hear it.)
Not sure how to celebrate the fourth? Ben Seretan has the answer: Duchampion’s cover of “Born in the USA.” Did you really think we were going to let you listen to that video for the nation’s birthday? Nope. Here’s the text from the video’s Vimeo page:
Here is our cover of Born in the USA, recorded live in the Spaceman Sound studios during the “Purple Clouds” session.
If you would like a FREE copy of this song, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with “USA” in the subject line. Happy 4th.
Video shot by Dan Sullivan and Ben Seretan. Featuring Times Square in NYC and Ocean Shores, WA.We did not write this song. It is written and made famous by Bruce Springsteen, who we all have the utmost respect for. Also – RIP Big Man.
Happy Independence Day, from Wesleying and Duchampion.
It’s summer. If you’re in the market for hazy, reverb-happy guitar rock with a solid balance of melody and fuzz, you could do much worse than download veteran Wes-band Duchampion’s fantastic new EP, Purple Clouds. Recommended tracks: “Violent Death,” “City Mind,” everything else.
Duchampion, which most recently previewed these tracks (and more) at Eclectic in February, consists of Will Brant ’10, Jake Nussbaum ’10, Asa Horvitz ’10, and Ben Seretan ’10. This project was put together in one day:
One day in February, we went to Greenpoint and spent the day in the studio. All of the instrument tracks are taken live, together, with no overdubs. Vocals are generally whole takes, sometimes with Asa and Ben singing in the room together. This is our band at a moment.
Worth noting: anyone who buys the EP ($3) gets a discount on the vinyl. Buy or stream at the band’s Bandcamp page here. Sample “Violent Death” below:
Ben Seretan ’10, Asa Horvitz ’10, Will Brant ’10, and Jake Nussbaum ’10 may have graduated last spring, but they can’t seem to stay away long. Considering this means opportunities to see their sweet band Duchampion on campus for free, I’m not complaining.
The quartet’s triumphant 2011 return to campus, with Wet Nurse and School Collective, was tragically postponed last month. Last night the band finally brought its alternately noise-driven and sweetly poppy brand of indie rock to campus—and to a far more enthusiastic crowd showing than a Wednesday night would have brought. (Peace, Loving, instead of School Collective, opened, along with Wet Nurse.) As previously mentioned, you should probably check out their self-titled album here, and watch this interview with Method Magazine.
Maybe graduating college isn’t always the apocalypse after all. [Two more show photos after the jump, courtesy of Rachel Pincus ’13.]