Brooklyn's Liturgy Continue to Think Outside the 'Black Metal' Box

Photo by Erez Avissar
When Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, the frontman of Brooklyn metal band Liturgy, penned a lengthy essay back in 2009 titled "Transcendental Black Metal" to explain new, more upbeat possibilities for the genre, the reception could be read as skeptical at best. Simply put, there are some metalheads who deem Hunt-Hendrix and Liturgy misrepresentative, posers, and fertile territory for Internet Tough Guy-ness over their status as a metal band. But "transcendental black metal" doesn't represent just another metal subgenre to Hunt-Hendrix. It is, rather, a much more vast creative starting point.

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Bodega Bamz Finds Strength in Ties to Tanboys and A$AP Yams on Sidewalk Exec

via SOB's
Bodega Bamz
"[A$AP Yams] knew where we wanted to take it, he knew the vision we had — we shared the same vision. Before I met Yams, I had work ethic, I had the talent, I had the vision, but I had no plan. Yams gave me a plan. Yams told me, 'Yo Bamz, this is how you gonna do it, this is what you gonna drop, this is what you gonna say, this how you gonna move, this is who you gonna meet.' Yams gave me a whole plan, and to this day we still use that plan."

Bodega Bamz looks ahead at the blank movie theater screen. The lights are dim, but I can still see his eyes glisten as he speaks about the late A$AP Yams, the A$AP Mob co-founder and his mentor. Now 30 years old, Bodega Bamz, born Nathaniel De La Rosa, is full of pride and loyalty. He's banked his career on those characteristics.

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The Milk Carton Kids Master the Open Road With Monterey

Photo by Ryan Mastro
Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan of the Milk Carton Kids
A place of worship doesn't give its keys and the code to its security system to just anyone, but the Milk Carton Kids were on a mission (though not a "mission from God"). While touring behind 2013's The Ash & Clay, the folk duo — Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan — made the most of their travels and spent every waking moment, both on- and offstage, on their music. Instead of metaphorically unplugging from the tunes they were playing before an audience across the country and the songs they were writing on the side on their days off, they opted to spend more time than required on the stages they crossed one state at a time. They recorded Monterey, their forthcoming album, out May 19 on Anti Records, in these venues in the hours before and after their performances on 55 of their national tour dates, and this approach, plus a week spent burning the midnight oil at Nashville's Presbyterian Church, led to a not-quite-live and certainly atypical folk record.

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J. Cole Receives Diploma at St. John's Concert: 'I'm Gonna Send It to My Mom'

Nicole Fara Silver for the Village Voice
J. Cole takes the stage at St. John's in Queens.
It's good to come home when you're J. Cole.

The rapper returned to his New York City roots with a special homecoming performance at his alma mater, St. John's University in Queens, on April 9. Billed "The Real Is Back," the sold-out show was presented by Haraya, the Pan-African Students' Coalition — Cole was, incidentally, the president of the org back in 2007 — for current students and alumni. "It's crazy. A full-circle moment," Cole explained to the Village Voice from inside Carnesecca Arena.

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BBQ Films and Rough Trade NYC Toast Twenty Years of Empire Records

via Monarchy Enterprises
Johnny Whitworth and Liv Tyler in a promotional still from Empire Records
Empire Records, the 1995 film about the teen employees of a record store struggling to stay afloat, holds a measly 24 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Created to cash in on the mid-Nineties alt-rock zeitgeist, it flopped at the box office after critics panned it as predictable and fluffy despite a terrific soundtrack and endearing performances from young soon-to-be stars. It was released on the brink of the music industry's collapse. Being doomed to late-night TV rotation seemed a fitting fate.

Gabriel Rhoads muses upon these less-than-auspicious beginnings as he sits upstairs at Rough Trade, the massive Williamsburg indie record store that opened last year. The founder and CEO of immersive film screening company BBQ Films is in the middle of planning the latest chapter in Empire's saga of underdog success: a twentieth-anniversary event celebrating its enduring status as an unlikely cult hit, rescued from obscurity by obsessive music fans who discovered and cherished it over the last two decades. Rhoads and his mostly volunteer crew of movie lovers are transforming Rough Trade into the film's titular location for three nights starting on April 8, the same date on which the movie's story unfolds.

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'Supermodel' Singer Jill Sobule Remembers Nineties New York

Courtesy of UMG
Jill Sobule
If culture moves in a twenty-year cycle, the current Nineties revival is right on schedule. Mini floral print dresses abound, as do grunge- and riot-grrrl-influenced bands. Obscure pop culture nuggets like the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan scandal are now the subject of adoration. People who grew up in the Nineties are feeling a collective pang of nostalgia watching their youth replayed in tastes of the currently young, and they often don't seem too happy about it.

One person who isn't complaining, though, is Jill Sobule. The L.A.-based singer-songwriter wasn't just there the first time around: She performed "Supermodel," the signature track of beloved 1995 movie Clueless, and in doing so became a quintessential part of the Nineties canon. The film turns twenty this year, and in celebration the soundtrack is getting a vinyl reissue on April 7: a picture disc printed with main character Cher Horowitz's signature black-and-yellow plaid. Sobule couldn't be happier about it.

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The Brilliance of Benjamin Booker's First (and Next) Big Year

Photo by David Goldman
Benjamin Booker plays the Music Hall of Williamsburg on 4/3/15.
What do you do once you've crossed off the last item on your bucket list?

Where do you go? Do you travel the world? Do you visit the cities you scrawled in a notebook somewhere, should you ever have the time or the money for a vacation? Do you dive into another pursuit, like photography, or film, or dance, or cooking? Maybe you put a stupid amount of cash down on a car, or a guitar, or another material thing you've lusted after but could never make yours. Do you simply make another bucket list, one that improves upon the goals and dreams of the last one?

Benjamin Booker is in the process of figuring that out.

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Fresh Blood Is a Family Affair for Matthew E. White

Photo by Shawn Brackbill
Matthew E. White
If you want to know what's been going on with Matthew E. White, listen between the lines. As can be heard in his pleading on "Holy Moly" ("Holy moly, what wrong with you, what's wrong with you? Don't you ever give me false hope/...Let's move on man, it brings me down") and lamenting for the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Tranquility"), White has some heavy matters to unpack.

The soulful Philippines- and Virginia-raised singer is cruising through the Black Hills of South Dakota on the way to his next tour stop. As Mount Rushmore fades into the rearview, he relates the truth of his second album, Fresh Blood. "Everything on there is a true story, basically. The love songs are real. And the serious songs...are real serious. It's nice to be able to do that."

If he wears his heart on his sleeve, the 32-year-old is also sly. Take the title of his first album, said out loud: Big Inner. He's green no more, thanks to the success of that much-lauded 2012 breakthrough and its more-than-worthy, no-sophomore-slump-here successor.

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De La Soul Sample Themselves on Kickstarter-Funded And the Anonymous Nobody

Courtesy of De La Soul
De La Soul
The ninth track off De La Soul's 1989 landmark debut, 3 Feet High and Rising, mixes and samples Sly and the Family Stone, Steely Dan, the Mad Lads, and that unforgettable whistled hook from Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." If "Eye Know" were to be released in the present day, the song would cost a fortune in royalties.

"Sampling is a great business, but it's not the Wild, Wild West [of] the early Eighties, where everything was under the radar and you could just kind of let it go," says De La Soul's Posdnuos. "We never took it upon ourselves to care about the fact that there's twenty samples in one record." But by 1991, De La Soul found themselves being sued by two members of Sixties pop group the Turtles over a twelve-second snippet used in the song "Transmitting Live From Mars." (The suit was eventually settled out of court.)

So while De La Soul's early record catalog is highly revered, its presence is missing entirely from streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes. This isn't by their decree. Posdnuos, along with fellow group members Dave and Maseo, are passionate about their fan base (even going as far as offering their entire discography for free online one day last February), but the red tape and legal woes that hover over these sample-heavy albums tie their hands.

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Joseph Arthur, Brooklyn's Protean Poet of Melody and Canvas

Courtesy of Kid Logic Media
Joseph Arthur
In a windowless, clandestine locale in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Joseph Arthur is kicking back in his living/studio space, an acoustic guitar on his lap. The instrument- and tchotchke-filled hangout reflects the myriad interests and talents of its inhabitant, a fifteen-year resident of the borough. Among the items populating the singer/painter's "Rebel Country" recording studio are a faux trophy, a stuffed lion, ornamental skulls, dozens of guitars, and Arthur's beloved 1912 Steinway Vertegrand piano, used to record his 2014 album, Lou, a tribute to his pal Lou Reed. There's no shower in the ad hoc space, but Arthur, affable and open, assures he bathes every day, accordioning his lanky frame into the old white tub. Spiritual and literary fiction books — not to mention dozens of Arthur's own paintings — line the walls, along with a platinum plaque for the Shrek 2 soundtrack, a project that seems at odds with the prolific singer-songwriter's reflective milieu.

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