DIY/Lo-Fi

Air Devi writes songs about moving and mosquitos

Air Devi is both a band and a person which is like a PJ Harvey kind of deal. And also like PJ Harvey, she's got some serious musical and songwriting chops. Air Devi, the person, is alternatiely know as Devi Majeske and she's a violinist, sitarist, guitarist, bass guitarist, keyboardist, and a fairly recent U. Penn grad who writes cool songs that come across pretty laid back at first but then get under your skin and into your heart and head. Like on the recent single “Mosquitos in the Backyard,” a song that floats by like a big marshmallow cloud and with images of “wash lines swaying” and “lush perfume hanging” to match. Except when you dig a little deeper it's not all strawberries and cream because the song appears to either be about contracting malaria and/or it's a pretty brutal take down of a pest and narcissist with lines like “you’ll feed on anything that breathes / you never loved anything." Another clever touch is how the choruses sound a little bit like a buzzing mosquito with the chopped-up guitar chords and circling bass line on the high strings so there's much to comtemplate here.

Air Devi draws from diverse musical roots ranging from first-wave punk to Bollywood soundtracks to bedroom singer-songwriter pop to folkie psychedelia but there’s one recurring motif to my ears in how she/they often combine a blissed out vibe in the music and vocals with lyrics that are a series of sharply observed slices-of-life and streams-of-consciousness--pulling from disperate stands of thought and stands of identity and even from different languages with code-switching into French and Gujarati on a handful of songs. 

The latter Indo-language is heard on “Move Without Place," a song that rotates gracefully between styles—the Gujarati comes at the end of a sequence that moves first from ambient indie pop to a syncopated baggy beat with a Bollywood-like vocal melody and then Air Devi wondering aloud “Am I colonizable? Capitalizable?” when everything suddenly stops for a split-second and a bell chimes and then it goes into what sounds like traditional Hindustani music complete with dholak drumming, which is simlilar to a tabla but double-headed, and electric guitar and entrancing ornamented singing but then it all unwinds down to a single repeated guitar note and then back to the syncopated beat with the amibient indie pop backing and back around again. The restless musical arrangement perfectly captures the theme of the song to "move without place [and] make my own space" even if one's skin and the whole world itself is "splintered" and "sensitive."

It's all equally visceral and heady stuff--a dialectic that can be applied to much of Air Devi's music in my humble opinion. But you can make up your own mind by listening to the two aforementioned singles and then 2020’s Swanning About EP above ("No Clearances" is a particuarly lovely statement of purpose). And if you need more you can check out earlier singles like "Standoffish" and "Alchemist" and the stripped-down DIY of 2018's Chicken Nuggies & Rosé EP with some of its contents later rearranged in full-band form on Swanning such as "My Landlord Is An Asshole!" and who can really argue with a sentiment like that. And then, if that's not enough, you can dig into Air Devi's Soundcloud page and find even earlier works like the anti-Putin diss track "Kremlin Bop" that doubles as a Ramones-like sing-a-long with the title perhaps even being an homage to said band. 


But hey let’s not fixate on the past because cheap nostalgia is so 2020. And plus it'll be even more interesting to see and hear what Air Devi does next. (Jason Lee)

 

   

Queen Mob bring on the "Pop Sickle"

Queen Mob are a two-piece from Psychedelphia, who as individuals go by the names Beth and Colin, and if they placed a band personals ad it'd probably read something like “freak-folk-shoegaze-vaporwave band seeks absolutely no one because we don’t collaborate and we don’t cooperate.” 

Over the past year Queen Mob have released one album and one EP (Easy, Liger and Against A Pale Background) and three singles (“Comeback,” “Sidecar,” and “Pop Sickle”) the last of which I’m declaring to be the best runaway-carousel/broken-calliope music I’ve heard since MGMT’s “Lady Dada’s Nightmare”. 

In their recorded work to date the band have already demonstrated impressive range by alternately sounding like an inebriated Beck, an inebriated Swervedriver, and an inebriated Jandek (so, just, Jandek). Or maybe instead of inebriated they're just experimental. It's not really our business how they get to that place. 

Beth herself describes the single above as “haunted dystopian electronic music” and that strikes me as pretty accurate for their lastest music. So hop on to the merry-go-round and hold to your horse pole becuase Queen Mob will take you on a ride. (Jason Lee)

   

Johnny Dynamite offers insight on them “Triflin’ Kids”

 Don’t let the name fool you. Johnny Dynamite and the Bloodsuckers sounds like it should be the name of a ‘50s tribute act that’d currently be touring the oldies circuit with Sha Na Na if not for deadly pathogens. But while their actual sound may diverge sharply from the Boomer generation, Mr. Dynamite does share a certain ethos with the early rock ‘n’ rollers in terms of emotive authenticity and sonic immediacy. He just happens to go heavier on the drum machines and the synthesizers than an old school piano pounder like Jerry Lee Lewis.

When he’s not busy hanging out with the Bloodsuckers, Johnny can be found pounding the non-digital skins for dynamite local bands like Whiner and Ashjesus or manning the boards on recordings by other artists. If you wanna know more check out this interview with Dynamite from shortly before everything went to sh*t conducted by Tom Gallo of Radio Free Brooklyn and Look At My Records! fame that focuses on the 2020 debut album Heartbroken.

So it’s just my own take of course but when I listen to Johnny Dynamite and the Bloodsuckers I hear traces of OMD’s groundbreaking electro artpop, the indie-defining delicate yet driving sound of Sarah Records, the wobbly synths and modern psychedelia of MGMT, and finally, the chilled out and washed out ambience of, umm, Washed Out—with said chillness represented lyrically in the refrain of “Touch Like This” (one of many highlights on Heartbroken) which asks repeatedly “Why are you lying on the floor?”

But yeah, the whole pop music lineage given above is just a way of saying that J. Dynamite has his own thing going on if it takes this many reference points to describe his sound, and that he simply makes good solid pop music whatever the chosen touchstones.

Like on “Triflin’ Kids” the new single that perfectly synthesizes (pun intended) what Johnny’s got going on—opening with a woozy call-and-response synth hook that slides straight into a breathy seduction-minded verse, and when that doesn’t seem to work, a more direct appeal in the chorus that strips away the gauzy disco rhythms and the narrator’s loverman facade. 

And therein lies the twist in which the song’s unabashedly needy narrator takes the “bedroom” in “bedroom pop” pretty literally or tries to anyway—which acts as a musical tribute of sorts (full circle) since triflin’ kids are at the heart and the soul of so much of the most impactful pop music from the past to the present and god bless ‘em for that.

   

Save Our Wicked Lady

Having lived all over this city and its vicinity for a good number of years (Jersey Cit-tay!) this blog writer finally ended up in the borough of Brooklyn in 2019 and felt a sense of unrestrained joy at being in the middle of a live music mecca and seeing tons of shows at tons of venues. And one of the most special of these venues has been Our Wicked Lady aka OWL.

Ever since the pandemic first hit, OWL done everything right. They’ve sold food and delivered beer and bottles of liquor and sold shirts and other merch and even held an online auction. They've supported their staff and their customers by opening OWL's rooftop bar with safety precautions in place, and supported live music by hosting and livestreaming audience-less shows for anyone to stream, with optional donations, and even made those shows viewable in real time from the rooftop.

But despite their efforts there's one major catch. New York's regulatory laws for bars and nightclubs are famously complex and capricious--even under the best of circumstances--harder to discern and follow than it is to figure out what exactly is going on with Andrew Cuomo’s nipple rings or clamps or piercings or pasties or breast milk pumps under his form fitting polo shirts. So no big surprise then that a worldwide pandemic and the subsequent chaotic and disorganized response has only made things that much more difficult for small business owners, bars and clubs in particular.


Regrettably but understandably, the proprietors of Our Wicked Lady have recently come to the conclusion that they must shut down for the time being, and raise significant funds to continue on in the future. So please, if you can, OWL is a crucial venue to this borough and its inhabitants and its music, and all those who enjoy its music, and they deserve your support if you’re someone who reads this blog and if you have the wherewithal which, sadly and understandably, many don’t. But if you do, you can donate to the Our Wicked Lady go.fund.me HERE or buy sexy OWL merchandise HERE and also read more about the people behind OWL and their plight in a recent Reckless Magazine feature HERE.

And now for the personal testimonial part. Two shows in particular at Our Wicked Lady are extra vivid in my mind at this moment even in my quarantine addled state. The first was a packed rooftop show in late summer 2019 as part of Jonathan Toubin’s Sunday Soul Scream series. It was an interesting bill to say the least with its diametrical extremes between the two featured acts but they worked perfectly together, kind of like one of those McDLT sandwiches. Appearing on stage first was L.A.’s Warm Drag with their cool vibez and programmed beats and textured noise and waves of fuzzed-out psych guitar complete with reverb-laden male-female vocalizing kind of like a darkwave Cramps. 

 

And then next they were followed by the King Khan and BBQ Show which was just straight up god damn rock ‘n’ roll (referencing the Cramps again) something like watching a combination religious tent revival and illicit basement burlesque show led by a man inhabited simultaneously by both Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis but with less sense of restraint than either. (!) Truly it was one of those shows where it feels like the crowd turns into one big amorphous organism all moving and shouting and singing and dancing and jostling together--fully achieving a sense of pure ecstatic rock ‘n’ roll communion that’s sadly lacking in these covidly times. 

The other show that stands out at Our Wicked Lady was one of the last shows I saw period in March 2020, an indoor show that had more of an indoor feel to it--like a private party between friends, and indeed there were many friends and fellow musicians there, but with a vibe where anyone could join in and be comfortable. I won’t go into musical details on this one since there were four acts but I’ll list them off--Kino Kimino (see below), Vanessa Silberman, Catty, and Janet LaBelle--and this was another one of those “something kinda magical happening here” shows.

Thinking back on this Kino Kimino et al. show highlights something that’s only been reinforced by witnessing the recent outpouring of love and concern around the plight of Our Wicked Lady. And that's how OWL in its four or five years of existence seems to have created and sustained an authentic community among its regulars, musicians, and employees (categories that easily overlap) which is not the kind of thing that can be easily replaced or replaced at all. Also, during the four or five months that I’ve been the blogger for this site, it’s become that much more apparent how much OWL is a central hub for Brooklyn’s music scene, and certainly for quite a few of the individual bands I’ve written about, some of which I’ve never even gotten to see live so I have my own selfish motives here.

And finally, for any aspiring filmmakers out there, here a little tip: there’s a Decline of Western Civilization Part IV just waiting to be made at OWL alongside other local venues (I’m sure Penelope Spheeris will license the franchise no problem) (LA is over) (jk) so we just need to get these venues around the last lap of this thing and get some bands up on stage like maybe OWL stalwarts like Ash Jesus and Bipolar and Spite FuXXX (see above) plus some others and this’ll be ready to happen. (Jason Lee)

   

Smushie "Faxing It In"

Smushie has released a new single called "Faxing It In". This is the solo project of Austin Koenigstein of Berta Bigtoe, and this new single is a hazy, laid back nod to Psych Pop.

The single is accompanied by the fun, face paint filled video that Austin co-directed with Jackie Smook.