Discover more from White Crate
Madeline Kenney's new record is so good there's nothing to say about it, but we tried anyway
Plus glammy goth punk by Body Double, funhouse krautpunk by Non Plus Temps, angular industrial techno by Nihar Kirtidev Bhatt, and underground SF hip hop all-stars assembled by Afterthought of FNG
Thank you for opening this email. We’ve been at it for nearly three years… and?
We’re still reviewing all the best new music from the Bay Area every day.
We’re still hosting a monthly show on Lower Grand Radio.
We’re still throwing quarterly live events (and then some).
And there are even more exciting things to come.
Much love and, as always, thank you for giving a damn about music and art in the Bay.
— White Crate
Ya know, sometimes a record is so good you don’t really have anything to say about it. But out of respect for Oakland’s beloved Madeline Kenney, I’m gonna try: Her new album, A New Reality Mind, is an absolutely stop-you-in-your-tracks, bowl-you-over masterwork.
The first thing that stuns is how she’s able to keep topping herself. After a decade-long career in the Bay Area, you’d think she’d be tapped out. But A New Reality Mind showcases an incredible next step for the artist. The product of a breakup, the album sets its somber tone quickly, opening with mournful synth sounds and remaining emotionally stirring, but in a way that never feels tiring or overwrought. Speaking of synths, they’re all over this album, but that shouldn’t put off people who came to Kenney through her work that blended them with more traditional rock instruments like guitars, bass, and drums. She applies a light touch, constructing entire songs out of electronic chirps and swarms of sound but avoiding any sense of campiness. Rather than a cheeky nod to the past, it all sounds new.
It is an enduring taboo amongst music writers to use the word “ethereal” (that and “turn it up to 11”) so I will say this album is otherworldly, transporting, floats on air and will make you feel as such. Not that you ever would, but don’t take your eyes off Madeline Kenney. Astoundingly, she still has so much more to give us.
— Jody Amable
“Everyone is feeding on my energy
It could happen to you
Because it happened to me
Voice 2 Skull”
Candace Lazarou’s glammy goth punk quintet Body Double offers up Voice 2 Skull, an EP of five quick and grabby headrockers. In spite of their rage, fire, and noise, one of the most satisfying aspects of the band’s studio recordings are how they contrast crisp and clean minimalism (e.g. opening bassline on “Boil Down to Love”) with layers of crunch and instrumentation (e.g. last minute of Voice 2 Skull). Even better is seeing them live, and watching Lazarou like a demon fully embodying the music she writes.
— Ronny Kerr
FUNHOUSE KRAUTPUNK SCUM
Funhouse krautpunk scum scraped off the consciousness of six musicians and recorded on a little avenue in East Oakland, Dark on Harmon is the latest from shapeshifting Oakland group Non Plus Temps. Featuring members across a bunch of East Bay bands (Naked Roommate, the World, Famous Mammals, and Preening), Non Plus Temps concocts its alien sounds within limited but intuitive confines, committing to tape a moderately neurotic shuffle that sounds almost too tame for a completely psychotic world.
The band is donating a portion of proceeds from this release to Street Spirit, the East Bay newspaper that recently lost its funding after nearly three decades chronicling homelessness and providing an income source to the people who sold its print copies.
— Ronny Kerr
TWISTY METALLIC SYMBIOSIS
I have long been an admirer of Nihar Kirtidev Bhatt’s releases, DJ sets, and his esoteric techno label Left Hand Path, which he co-runs with Chris Zaldua. Squirrels on Film has also consistently showcased the best of Bay Area subculture, where avant-garde and experimental artists are free to explore the bounds of mind/body dance music.
Nihar’s latest release Machines (via Squirrels on Film) draws from a palette of darkwave, techno, and industrial sounds. Delving into twisty, dark, and unsettling places, it takes listeners on grotesque journeys through blood vessels and filaments, reshaping flesh into powerful metallic symbiosis, much like implanted cybernetic armor. As time slows and suspends, the body slowly knits itself together, with neurons firing and regenerating forgotten connections and memories, while simultaneously forging newer, stranger ones. All these elements pulsate together, forming a strangely familiar yet unfamiliar living entity—a pleasant hallucination for some; perhaps a nightmare for others.
Squirrels on Film aptly describes Machines as angular and geometric. Like a more intricate game of Tetris, let its angularity infiltrate every crevice of your mindscape.
— Elise Mills
A (CHOSEN) FAMILY AFFAIR
“The first step in healing is recognizing that you are not healed. Recognizing that you are hurt. Recognizing that you are in some ways broken.”
Ozer. Jada Imani. Ian Kelly. Marika Sage. The Jealous Guys. SundaY. Tongo Eisen-Martin. Stoni. Kaly Jay. Shy’an G. Will Randolph V. And on and on: Afterthought fully puts into practice the name and spirit of hip hop collective Family Not a Group on his new album Communal Healing, bringing together dozens of the best in underground Bay Area hip hop and R&B (whether still based here or not) to collaborate on 13 tracks about pain and suffering, community and connection, love and healing.
The album opens with “What Now?”, the only track where Afterthought performs alone. From there on it’s literally a (chosen) family affair, multiple collaborators riffing on personal stories, sharing learned philosophies, and describing the state of our society as well as its consequences on our individual and communal health. Midtempo to downtempo, fully conscious, celebratory as much as it is confessional—Communal Healing is a gentle bath. Step in, soak your soul.
— Ronny Kerr
Our top show recommendations for the coming week:
[jazz] 24 Hours of Circlesongs ft. Bobby McFerrin — July 28 at Grace Cathedral
[latin] Telmary, LoCura Trio, Chika Di, DJ Leydis — July 28 at the New Parish
[club] Fog City Pack ft. BETA with Bézier & WTCHCRFT — July 28 at Club Six
[jazz] Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa — July 28-30 at Silverado Resort
[classical] Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music — July 30 - August 13 at Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
[club] Seb Wildblood, Baalti, DevCloud, onemohit b2b Ryan Oh — July 29 at Monarch Gardens
[rock] Due South ft. Shannon & the Clams, James Wavey — July 29 at Jerry Garcia Amphitheater
[rock] Bob Moses, Neil Frances — July 30 at Stern Grove
[rock] Murvyns, The Goods, Night Court, Artsick — July 30 at the Golden Bull
[rock] Owen Adair Kelley, How Strange It Is, Babytooth — August 2 at the Golden Bull