Listen to Kathyrn Mohr's haunting performance and interview on Lower Grand Radio
New music by Asha Wells, Chime School, Amma Ateria, Brontez Purnell, and Christopher Mallett performing early America classical guitarist Justin Holland
One of Kathryn Mohr’s favorite things about living in a city? Trash.
Last night the experimental singer-songwriter joined White Crate on Lower Grand Radio to perform a desolate, haunting solo set inspired by heartbreak, trauma, and the the ephemeral—and then stuck around for an interview where we talked about her musical influences from the Bay and beyond.
— White Crate
DRIFTING, MELLOW, BLUISH
“Mood Indigo” sounds like a classic folk rock song circa 1976. Is it, or isn’t it? It shares a name with a jazz standard by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard, but no, it’s as original as the rest of this mellow, bluish work. Water Words is the debut album by Oakland artist Asha Wells, who recently returned to San Francisco after traveling around Central and South America. The travels inspired them to “experiment with open guitar tunings and atmospheric textures,” which manifest in the 11 soothing, meditative pieces here. The album exists within a single tempo and tone—let’s call it “drifting”—but like any watery surface, this allows the artist to reflect and refract the infinity complexity of the world that surrounds them. A welcome place of rest. Now available on cassette and CD via Royal Oakie Records.
See Asha Wells play alongside Field Guide and Jack Van Cleaf on Saturday, May 6 at Bottom of the Hill.
— Ronny Kerr
A HIT OF SUNSHINE
From Chime School, project of San Francisco jangle-pop long-timer Andy Pastalaniec, comes a fun little single to follow 2021’s self-titled full-length—kinda like when you sneak back into the kitchen after dinner for another snack. The B-side is a cover of the Buzzcocks song “Love You More,” originally released on a tribute cassette and now available on vinyl for the first time. The A-side “Coming To Your Town” purportedly comments on social drama, but you wouldn’t know it by the sound. Like their full-length, it retains the upbeat glimmer of late ‘90s teen movie soundtracks to make a track you’ll want to spin again and again to get that hit of sunshine we’ve been lacking around here lately. If you can get through it without tapping your toes a little I’ll give you ten bucks.
— Jody Amable
DEEPLY VISCERAL, EVOLVING
Amma Ateria’s CONCUSSSSION I is an ongoing experimental sound project that explores the question: “How does one’s process of recovery from trauma in the present moment shift the effects of past / present stress, oppression, dislocation, and collective trauma?”
Stemming from Ateria’s recovery from a traumatic head injury in June 2021, the piece delves into the artist’s experiences of neurological disorientation, states of consciousness and unconsciousness, altered speech, and isolation, among others. This deeply visceral and evolving ambient composition was showcased at the SF Electronic Music Festival at The Lab in 2022, where I was lucky enough to witness how these sounds are carefully crafted, and her ability to imitate the construction and deconstruction of reality in real time. Released on Dragon’s Eye Recordings, you can now experience this incredibly moving and transformative work for yourself.
— Elise Mills
BLACK AMERICAN CLASSICAL
“Justin Holland was and remains an intriguing figure, largely unknown until guitarist Christopher Mallett came along; six of the pieces here are receiving their world premieres. Holland, born free in 1819, made his way to Boston and took lessons there from several guitar teachers, one of them Spanish. He may have been the first African American to play the classical guitar.”
— James Manheim (h/t Allmusic)
One of the fascinating misconceptions about classical music is that it’s all known, we’ve heard it all before. But the reality is that what most of us know of classical is actually a microcosm of all the music written and performed during older times. One of today’s artists and educators working to expand the conversation is classical guitarist Christopher Mallett (Co-Director of the California Conservatory of Music and Lecturer of Guitar, UCSC), who this year released Justin Holland: Guitar Works and Arrangements. Recorded at a recital hall at UC Santa Cruz, the album features Mallett’s solo guitar winding through originals by Holland (possibly the first Black classical guitarist in America) and arrangements across a wide variety of styles, including folk, sacred, and dance. It’s mostly easygoing music, and gives a nice taste of what one might have heard in mid-1800s America. Out now on Naxos.
See Christopher Mallett perform along with Robert Miller as DuoSF on August 26 at the St. Paul’s Concert Series in Walnut Creek.
— Ronny Kerr
GARAGE GLAM PUNK NEURON
Described in 2021 by the New York Times as “a restless, prolific artist in almost every conceivable genre,” writer-dancer-choreographer Brontez Purnell has returned to our favorite of the arts with a new entry in the eighth reincarnation of the Sub Pop Singles Club. Originally titled “100 Boyfriends” and written before Purnell’s book of the same name, “Jaboukie” is a stop-and-go garage glam punk ditty that worms its way into your neurons from the start. On the flip side is a heavy duty cover of Nirvana’s “Aneurysm,” a fitting choice given that the Seattle legend’s cover of “Love Buzz” was the first entry in the original Sub Pop Singles Club in 1988.
— Ronny Kerr
Our top show recommendations for the coming week:
[experimental] Kali Malone — April 7 at the Lab
[punk] 510 Grindfest ft. Habak, Hail of Rage, Happy Society, Aninoko, Mutate, Malicious Algorithum, Surge — April 7-8 at First Church of the Buzzard
[club] M0MENTUM ft. Technopagan, Chapas, Khavera — April 7 at Secret East Bay Warehouse Location
[rock] Analog Dog, Mild Universe, Peña, Grooblen — April 8 at the Golden Gate Park Bandshell
[club] Amor Digital ft. DJ Juanny, Yuca Frita, Lil Zé — April 8 at El Rio
[rock] Aroma, Livia Charman, Dylan Marx — April 8 at Working Name Studios
[hip hop] Cardboard People, Son of Paper, DJ Barbs — April 8 at Make Out Room
[rock] Aaron Space & his Terrestrial Underlings, The Breathing Room, I Am The Octopus — April 8 at Ivy Room
[pop] Christine and the Queens — April 13 at the Regency Ballrom
[pop] Yaeji, Jessy Lanza — April 13 at the Fox Theater