Kid Icarus began in 1996 as the musical brainchild of wayward home-taper, Eric Schlittler. Over the years Kid Icarus has grown to include a number of collaborators, releasing albums of home baked lo-fi psychedelia and hi-fi indie guitar swing. At the time of this writing, Kid Icarus has evolved into a full band sporting the talents of Joe Marchegiani, Jeff Gilotti and Justin Marchegiani. The band is currently working a new EP slated for release sometime in 2013.
It all started with a mandolin, a rubbermaid tub, and a batch of songs written while shuttered away for a year in a Siberia shared between two friends to birth what is now known as Norwegian Arms. With just these simple instruments, the group was able to give body and weight to their earnest, upbeat and thoughtful freak-folk. Things have changed since then, they’ve moved beyond the rubbermaid bin in favor of a floor tom and added a wash of synthesizer, filling out the sound while maintaining their stripped down stage presence.
Although the two had been playing before mandolinist/vocalist Brendan Mulvihill was sent by the Fulbright program to Tomsk, Russia, it’s easy to see that the defining moment in this young group’s sound came after Mulvihill’s return, when he, along with Eric Slick (of Dr. Dog) would rehearse in the windowless depths of the Ox, seeking to refine their minimalist sound.
After an intense week of recording at Dr. Dog’s Meth Beach studios in October of 2011, the group is readying the release of their debut LP, Wolf Like A Stray Dog, comprised of eleven introspective songs written during Mulvihill’s year long fellowship in Tomsk, Russia, nestled in the heart of Siberia. Self-described as an “ember glowing in the distance of an otherwise frozen taiga”, Wolf Like A Stray Dog deals with themes of homesickness, discovery, frustration, and wanderlust.
People seem to find it difficult to classify the group, saying everything from ‘freak folk’ to ‘mando punk’ to ’minimalist psych folk’ to ‘elf rock’. But this isn’t an attempt to make the music more digestible, the group’s songs are instantly memorable, well crafted, and melodically rich. These are deeply personal songs, and it shows. People find themselves easily identifying with the constant themes in Norwegian Arms songs: a quest for self identity, a resistance to permanence, adapting to new environments, questioning one’s knowledge and perspective, and never being satisfied with what you know. It’s Wanderlust and curiosity, distilled and neatly packaged into sonic bursts of intense energy. Simply put, it’s apparent that Norwegian Arms constantly suffers from a chronic case of the human condition.
In the past two years of their activity, the band has been able to share the stage with talented acts such as Architecture in Helsinki, Here We Go Magic, and Future Islands, and have attracted an enthusiastic fanbase on the east coast.
To get Brooklyn band POINT REYES off the ground, Asa Horvitz suggested that percussionist Kyle Farrell and cellist Daniel Bindschedler join him in Warsaw, Poland (where he was working supported by a Fulbright grant) to spend four months writing, rehearsing, and giving concerts in a completely foreign environment. Farrell and Bindschedler jumped at the opportunity and in May 2011 the trio moved into a sunny attic loft across from the Vistula river. Throughout the summer of 2011, POINT REYES immersed themselves in Poland: they performed in towns where no Americans had performed before, rehearsed ten hours a day in the basement of the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music, studied Polish, swam in flooded meadows, became obsessed with Communist architecture, played festivals in Krakow and Berlin, collaborated with Polish musicians and theater artists, and wrote and recorded their debut full length album. The project was funded in part by the Fulbright grant awarded to Horvitz. (His compositions for theater director Michal Zadara were described by Jacek Cieslak in Rzeczpospolita, a major Polish daily newspaper, as “living minimalist music, impressive pieces of a larger work”, and he has been traveling to Poland to collaborate with Polish musicians and theater artists since 2007.) POINT REYES’ debut album is the culmination of their time in Poland. It will be released on CAKES AND TAPES (Portugal) in January 2012.
POINT REYES makes American music, unusual contemporary songs that combine a stunning list of influences; from Motown to mid-60s Miles Davis, from Charles Ives to Captain Beefheart to Joanna Newsom, from the New York downtown scene to Walt Whitman. The result is music that is very much their own: as BreakThruRadio observes, “Point Reyes has no propensity to emulate other artists.”
POINT REYES was founded by Horvitz in Brooklyn in late 2010, and released their first EP as a trio, Wetnurse/POINT REYES, in March 2011. BreakThru Radio called the recording, “A unique dichotomy between acoustic and electronic elements” and wrote that “what makes their music unusual is its obscure alchemy…. anything but lazy… Horvitz has the insight of a visionary.” Bolachas Gratis called POINT REYES “a great band from Brooklyn who deserve attention.” Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors commented “omg” on the download link on Facebook, and the band still isn’t exactly sure what she meant.
When Bindschedler, Farrell, and Horvitz joined forces to become POINT REYES they brought together an eclectic range of talents: individually they had performed at venues like Tanglewood and the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, with free-jazz master Anthony Braxton, and in indie bands alongside artists ranging from Nat Baldwin to Kurt Vile to Megafaun. Classically-educated Farrell had recently been reviewed as “sounding like a ’70s funk player who ditched their other band members, did acid instead of coke, and got ear infections from swimming in the funk.” Bindschedler was described as “the best baroque cellist in Brooklyn who will do a session at 2 a.m.” They had also composed award-winning music for dance, theater, and classical ensembles, led marching bands and experimental theater companies, sung medieval chant, and conducted ethnomusicological research in five countries.
Shy Mirrors is Chicago born, Stockholm, Sweden-based Mike Downey. In the late 90s and early 2000s he shared songwriting and singing duties in indie rock bands Wolfie and The New Constitution. After a string of genre-blending solo recordings he’s come full circle to a fully realized and fully fuzzed out guitar, bass, drums outlet.
Pop sensibility can go in a lot of different directions. In the case of Shy Mirrors it exists amidst a sonic wash of buzz saw guitars riding upon urgent, snappy tempos rarely reaching the 2.5 minute mark. Recorded at home on minimal equipment, it’s a testament to punky power pop with DIY aesthetics.