Basemental: Why do we like live music anyway?
Nov08

Basemental: Why do we like live music anyway?

There are two reasons I like music. The first is that euphoric feeling you get when you see an amazing band (especially for the first time); the second is I like musicians and their stories. I enjoy compulsively consuming them. Gotta scrape the bottom of the Wikipedia references to get the fullest scoop (that is still incomplete and inadequate); also those glib Youtube interviews where the band is drinking beer and pretending to...

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Basemental: Landowner’s new release, Blatant, skewers consumerism
Oct26

Basemental: Landowner’s new release, Blatant, skewers consumerism

Self described “weak hardcore” band Landowner leaves few stones unturned in skewering today’s tattered state of affairs on their August album Blatant. Everything from consumerism and television to insecure men and elite self-congratulation gets a scathing treatment by vocalist Dan Shaw, who is an urban planner in Holyoke. Weaving together a tight and precise soundscape with sparse post-punk riffs, the band — Elliot Hughes, Josh...

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Basemental: Pussyvision Debuts Self-Release, Replicate
Sep17

Basemental: Pussyvision Debuts Self-Release, Replicate

Two years ago when I wrote a profile about Finley Janes’ project Pussyvision, the project was just getting started. A year prior, Janes wasn’t making music—yet. Pussyvision had yet to go on multiple tours, one of which took Janes as far as Mexico, and produce, record and self-release a debut album, Replicate, which came out earlier this summer. Coming up in the local experimental/noise scene, sharing bills with musicians spanning many...

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Basemental: The swampy grunge anthems of Owen Manure
Aug31

Basemental: The swampy grunge anthems of Owen Manure

Western Massachusetts is known for its rich lineage of foundational bands that have defined underground music from different eras. Of course Dinosaur Jr. comes to mind, not to mention Pixies. While the shadow of bands like that certainly looms large (“omg, Murph just came into the bakery where I work!”), it’s hard to deny the depth of talent that often seems endless — always appearing in musty basements when you don’t expect it: From...

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Basemental: Body/Head’s album could be a soundtrack for the end of the world … or capitalism
Jul26

Basemental: Body/Head’s album could be a soundtrack for the end of the world … or capitalism

The experimental guitar duo Body / Head — Kim Gordon and Bill Nace — released their second studio album, The Switch, earlier this month on Matador. The band’s 2013 debut, Coming Apart, skewed closer to traditional songs, at least in the abstract sense. Gordon, who, of course, played in Sonic Youth, honed her monotone-like singing over her and Nace’s guitars on that record. But, on The Switch, vocals take a back seat to more of a...

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Basemental: Wendy Eisenberg just wants to be a good person and make very complicated music
Jun15

Basemental: Wendy Eisenberg just wants to be a good person and make very complicated music

Wendy Eisenberg has made a name for herself in the amalgamated DIY, jazz, and improvisation scenes in New England and beyond. Coming via Rochester and then Boston, Eisenberg now lives in Amherst. Eisenberg has a variety of tactics in her artist’s toolbox. Among them are songwriter, teacher, improvisor, session musician, and heady writer on musical theory. She has played with the likes of the alto-saxophonist-and-jack-of-all-trades...

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Basemental: What Are You Afraid Of? Fred Cracklin’s Looming Spook
May23

Basemental: What Are You Afraid Of? Fred Cracklin’s Looming Spook

Local legend Thurston Moore — Sonic Youth, Chelsea Light Moving, one off noise sets all over the Valley — had a cameo in an adult talk show called Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Moore played a character called Fred Cracklin in a 1996 episode of the Cartoon Network show dedicated to jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock. The show got weirder as it progressed — evolving from spoof to surrealism. Adam Bosse and Max Goldstein have fittingly adopted...

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Basemental: Attention to detail sets new Taxidermists’ record ‘Tax’ apart
Apr26

Basemental: Attention to detail sets new Taxidermists’ record ‘Tax’ apart

Tucked away in an old house in Hadley live two musicians named Sal and Cooper, who collectively make up the rock duo The Taxidermists. The band has nurtured something of a cult following from DIY persistence and their 2015 record Honesty Box. One showgoer recently told me told me it was his favorite record of all time. Once associated with the now defunct Dark World Collective, Sal McNamara (drums) and Cooper Handy (guitar/vocals)...

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Basemental: What happens ‘After the Gig’
Apr04

Basemental: What happens ‘After the Gig’

What happens after the gig is over, the room is reset, and everyone goes home? This is the prompt being posed by a new collective that is organizing a festival later this month by the name, well, After the Gig Fest. “We wanted to use the phrase ‘After The Gig’ in order to express that these values aren’t just about one weekend, or any kind of performative display,” the organizers wrote in a statement. Adding that “We want to encourage...

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Basemental: Tundrastomper Cleans It Up
Mar13

Basemental: Tundrastomper Cleans It Up

Before writing this column, I stopped by Tundrastomper’s band house near the border of Easthampton and Southampton. Bassist Andrew Jones was getting surgical with a vacuum in the suburban home’s awkwardly large bathroom. He then offered me a bowl of black beans, which he had prepared, and I proceeded to microwave them and then spill them on the floor in such a way that they splattered 20-feet, making a clear trail all the way across...

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Basemental: The World According to Moggie
Feb12

Basemental: The World According to Moggie

On January 20th, 2017, I attended (and also played) an anti-inauguration “bash” at the Flywheel in Eastampton. Everyone was reeling and processing — the whole day was harrowing and bleak. That night, for the first time, I heard Diana Davies (who goes by Moggie to people who know her) play for the first time. Her music transported me to a sound, a vision, and a world that was radically different than the one we were walking into that...

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Basemental: A country album for the 21st Century
Jan30

Basemental: A country album for the 21st Century

Elliot Hartmann-Russell, a local musician who has quite a big appetite for releasing lots of albums under different aliases and bands—including Sweat Enzo, Thee Arcadians, and Full Grown Cats—and Caleb Rosazza, who plays guitar in Lux Deluxe, have teamed up for a country album under the name Heartman & Russell — which doubles as a pun. This album, titled Kisses in the Wind, is based off a pretty simple concept: How many ‘70s style...

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Basemental: Songs about Surveillance
Jan16

Basemental: Songs about Surveillance

The fight to prevent additional police operated surveillance cameras in downtown Northampton has dragged on since September — over four months, two calendar years, and even through a municipal election. The Northampton City Council has voted 7-2 passing first a resolution and then an ordinance strongly limiting downtown cameras. But still, camera advocates insist that we must “compromise” in the spirit of “civility” and start this...

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Basemental: Love Sung EP is Calm, Tender, and Soothing
Jan02

Basemental: Love Sung EP is Calm, Tender, and Soothing

Listening to Northampton-based Izy Coffey’s new EP, Love Sung, feels like a warm sweater — one you were wearing when you were broken and then put back together again, and its thread the commonality between your disparate emotions. It’s calm, tender, and has a graceful and soothing forward momentum. While the songs may be about heartbreak, Coffey’s voice and pointed, well-crafted lyrics bring the authority and confidence to make them...

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Basemental: All I Want For Christmas is Lowered Expectations
Dec18

Basemental: All I Want For Christmas is Lowered Expectations

I am the Grinch. People who know me know this — my mom better than anyone. I scoff at Christmas songs and “holiday cheer,” wanting nothing to do with a holiday that is closely aligned with capitalism, patriarchy, and bad parties. But nothing warms my Grinch heart like a sarcastic and funny Christmas song. Specifically, the 2013 track “All I Want for Christmas is Lowered Expectations” by local awk-pop-slops-rock band Bunny’s A...

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Basemental: Hush is culmination of Kindling’s hard work
Dec04

Basemental: Hush is culmination of Kindling’s hard work

The joke about Eastampton shoegazers Kindling is that if they play a house show, some uptight neighbor might call the cops. There’s a reason for this: Kindling is very loud. Too loud for poorly insulated residential basements. When they play gigs, their three guitarists and bassist — Stephen Pierce, Gretchen Williams, Jeff Stevens, and Aaron Snow — bring a whole showroom worth of amps; probably equivalent to every member’s...

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Basemental: A Wikipedia Rant by Will
Nov20

Basemental: A Wikipedia Rant by Will

Last week my colleague Jennifer Levesque reported on musician and rock documentarian Tanya Pearson’s efforts to challenge Wikipedia edits. While trying to revise entries on the free encyclopedia, Pearson discovered that many edits and entries weren’t getting past male editors due to thin (often false) claims of “poor sourcing.” This effectively has marginalized independent female, trans, and nonbinary musicians from having...

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Basemental: Landowner’s Edgy Riff on the ‘American Dream’
Nov06

Basemental: Landowner’s Edgy Riff on the ‘American Dream’

When I heard there was a local band called Landowner, I thought: “Surely, they’re joking. This is satirical, right?” But punk is weird these days — everyone is on Facebook hoping companies will sponsor them — so I wasn’t completely sure. I started asking friends, “They’re not for real, right?” And no one knew. But what stunned me is that some not only took the name at face value, but thought it had merit, especially those who aspired...

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Basemental: New Tricks from the (not so) Young Tricksters
Oct23

Basemental: New Tricks from the (not so) Young Tricksters

The Young Tricksters have returned. After what felt like forever, the Amherst quartet have broken their quiet to give the people what they want: a full-length album. After releasing a couple self-recorded demos back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth (March 2013 to be exact), the group will be finally posting their magnum opus on Bandcamp this week, before joining And The Kids at the Parlor Room in Northampton on Oct. 27. The...

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Basemental: Smartyr Packs Political Punches in its Short Punky Songs
Oct09

Basemental: Smartyr Packs Political Punches in its Short Punky Songs

Stretched between Brattleboro and Northampton, a new band, Smartyr, has come on the scene. I kept running into Chad, the main singer, at shows starting last summer. He had left behind his New Haven, CT-based band, The Chore Boys, and moved to Northampton. Every time I ran into him — at shows or the grocery store where he works — he’d insist that this was the month he was going to get a new project off the ground and start playing...

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Basemental: Water Your Waiting For
Sep25

Basemental: Water Your Waiting For

Last Monday, I reluctantly went to a house show in Hadley. I was going ’cause my friends were going — probably, but I was also vaguely interested in seeing some band from Minnesota that was supposed to be good. Honestly, I had radically low expectations. I saw the Miami Dolphins — which “has no affiliation, sponsorship, or connection whatsoever with any sports teams, professional or otherwise.” Not only did the Minneapolis-based band...

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Basemental: The Ups and Downs of Touring
Sep11

Basemental: The Ups and Downs of Touring

I used to think touring was excessive, stupid, and generally felt existentially conflicted about it. Why should I leave the house and use fossil fuels to do anything that’s trivial? Why should we impose our music on these seemingly nice people when there’s so much better music out there to listen to? Why should we take up space — any space — when there’s more people far more deserving? Should we be investing in our community instead?...

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Basemental: DIY All-Stars: Experimental Audio Damage & Research Control Groop
Aug28

Basemental: DIY All-Stars: Experimental Audio Damage & Research Control Groop

I kept hearing that Ian (Thee Arcadians) and Androo (ex-Spirit Ghost, Nancy Drool) would disappear into different basements and jam on one chord for hours at a time. The roommates tolerated it (within reason), the neighbors were never “chill” to begin with. But that did not deter them. They were riding a wave — or something like that. It wasn’t long before a rotating cast of DIY allstars — including, but likely not limited to, Nina...

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Basemental: Nanny’s ‘Nowhere’ Reviewed
Aug14

Basemental: Nanny’s ‘Nowhere’ Reviewed

I first caught Nanny at the 13th Floor in Northampton this past March; one of my bands was sharing a bill with them. Earlier this summer, I saw them again and had that feeling I was starting to grasp the songs. It wasn’t long before I learned a debut EP was right around the bend, too. This weekend it will be released at a show to celebrate the accomplishment. This new EP, named for closing track six, Nowhere, recalls stripped down...

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Basemental: Nanny’s “Nowhere” Is Vulnerable Grunge Rock Not To Be Missed
Aug11

Basemental: Nanny’s “Nowhere” Is Vulnerable Grunge Rock Not To Be Missed

I first caught Nanny at the 13th Floor in Northampton this past March; one of my bands was sharing a bill with them. Earlier this summer, I saw them again and had that feeling I was starting to grasp the songs. It wasn’t long before I learned a debut EP was right around the bend, too. This weekend it will be released at a show to celebrate the accomplishment. Nowhere by Nanny This new EP, named for closing track six, Nowhere, recalls...

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Basemental: Young Musicians Deserve Pay, Too
Jul17

Basemental: Young Musicians Deserve Pay, Too

I’ve played in about a half dozen bands over the past seven years here in the Valley. I’ve played on the steps of my beloved Goodwin Memorial Library in Hadley (for free) and I’ve played The Calvin (for $250); I’ve played countless basements (including “The Basement”), colleges, and plenty of bar shows to boot. With the exception of the very occasional, yet lucrative, college show or an exceptionally good night at a bar, which does...

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Tundrastomper Are Good Musical Neighbors in Western Mass
Jul03

Tundrastomper Are Good Musical Neighbors in Western Mass

Tundrastomper, an explosive, chaotic, and notey rock band, formed about 10 years ago when Skyler Lloyd, Sam Brivic, Andrew Jones, and Max Goldstein were teenagers — about 13 years old each. They grew up in a town in Westchester, New York, called Ardsley. I looked it up on Google Maps and, well, it is what you might expect for New York City suburbs: the green space is evenly split between golf clubs and public parks, and the houses...

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Basemental: The Leafies are a Guerilla Band
Jun19

Basemental: The Leafies are a Guerilla Band

Some might describe The Leafies You Gave Me as a “band,” but that would be an understatement. At least in the musical sense. Yes, they are musicians. And yes, they make music. But they are a band more like New Oxford American Dictionary’s second definition of the word band: “a group of people who have a common interest or purpose.” It cites the example of a “guerilla band,” which does seem fitting for this 10-piece avant garde...

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Basemental: Dump Him’s New Record Is Really Freaking Good
Jun05

Basemental: Dump Him’s New Record Is Really Freaking Good

Editor’s note: Jaclyn Walsh uses they/them pronouns. Valley musician, student, and DIY booker Jaclyn Walsh wants you to dump your boyfriend so much that they named their band Dump Him. On the surface such a statement might charm the misandrists and queercore punks more than it appeals to standard bearing capitalist-hetero-patriarchs. But to only look so far would be to miss the point — or the attitude and ethic behind the band. Just...

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‘Ask a Punk’ Documentary on Western Mass DIY gives glimpse into growing music scene (w/vid)
May22

‘Ask a Punk’ Documentary on Western Mass DIY gives glimpse into growing music scene (w/vid)

Amherst College junior Brian Zayatz’s new documentary, Ask a Punk, opens on a dark basement. You can’t see much other than some hazy Christmas lights in the frame. Some very involved yet calming music — tritones soaked in reverb — plays in the background. This basement in Hadley, along with others throughout the Valley and beyond, could have been finished and furnished with a crisp flat screen, but instead its brick walls are being...

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Basemental: You Know Amber Wolfe Now See Her Arresting Video for ‘No Thorn’
May08

Basemental: You Know Amber Wolfe Now See Her Arresting Video for ‘No Thorn’

You may know Amber Wolfe. She fronted the “speakeasy, post-apocalyptic band,” O You Villain, books shows at Amherst Coffee, and is a veteran of the Institute for Musical Arts, where she found “some of the foremothers of local music.” Despite strong roots here in the Valley, last year, Wolfe went home to the Washington, D.C., area to record her debut solo EP, I Left the City. What followed was a full circle collaborative return with...

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Basemental: Bella’s Wild Rose Reviewed
Apr24

Basemental: Bella’s Wild Rose Reviewed

Editor’s note: Bella Ortia-Wren uses they/their pronouns. Bella Ortia-Wren, who goes by just “Bella” on stage, plays a blue Fender Mustang, a small-bodied guitar with single coil pickups, that sounds shimmery and crisp through a few hot-tempered distortion boxes. Decadent chords cut through creating a wild, untamed haze which is the foundation for Wild Rose , their new album to be released on Bandcamp later this week.  ...

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Basemental: From Northampton to Nashville
Apr10

Basemental: From Northampton to Nashville

On the road with The Sun Parade From the streets of Nashville I called Lynne Bertrand, who manages the Northampton band The Sun Parade. There was a problem. I had stopped by the venue earlier and noticed the sign outside said they were going first. This wasn’t going to fly, because the people the band had driven from Northampton to play for — an A&R rep and the president of New West, a Nashville based record label who is...

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Basemental: Umbral Made Real
Mar27

Basemental: Umbral Made Real

How a fictional psychdrone collective from Berlin took form in Greenfield In 2015, a real writer and real College of the Atlantic professor named Daniel Mahoney published a real book called Sunblind Almost Motorcrash. In it, he wrote fictional reviews of imaginary bands. The purpose of the project, he said, was to “investigate the distance between sound and how we use language to describe sound,” which is the crux of this racket we...

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Basemental: Hammydown and the Myth of the Millenial Slacker
Mar13

Basemental: Hammydown and the Myth of the Millenial Slacker

Pavement certainly planted some type of “slacker” flag in the 90s. Whether or not they were the original “slackers” — they weren’t — is irrelevant, but that label has often evoked that band. Today the same label, certainly a compelling angle for write-ups, is attached to acts like Melbourne, Australia’s Courtney Barnett, Boston’s Palehound, and now Northampton’s Hammydown because they make music that references “slacker rock.” But...

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