Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Paul Slavens serves up treats on Alphabet Girls, Vol. II, varying from Spaz-Jazz to Prog-Pop, filling five lines of musical staff like some trippy Tetris.

 Award-winning host at Dallas NPR-affiliate KXT to celebrate 60th birthday with party (including cake!) this Sunday; Album out June 24 via State Fair.
 
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Paul Slavens as photographed by James Bland
 
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Dallas! Come out to celebrate the 60th birthday of Paul Slavens! Cake will be served!
 
“Fairly Intimate” presented by Friends of Fair Park and State Fair Records. Live performance, album preview, and 60th birthday celebration.
 
 7PM | $20 | RSVP | Tickets
 
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PLAY, POST & SHARE
 
Paul Slavens | “Queenie”
  

[VIDEO]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpNbwoRMoHI
 
“‘Queenie’ is just a blast of jazz energy. I gave four University of North Texas jazz hot shots my sheet music and told them to play as fast as they could.” – Paul Slavens
 
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Alphabet Girls, Vol. II by Paul Slavens (June 24, State Fair Records) is the crystallization and distillation of the Nebraska born, Denton, TX-based artist’s long, varied, and accomplished career, complete with all of the requisite breakthroughs and disappointments.
 
On record, Slavens’s endurance is a listener’s treat. Alphabet Girls, Vol. II plays like the product of a “been everywhere, seen everything” guru-type somehow fitting all of his experience and education onto five lines of musical staff like some kind of trippy Tetris.
 
Funny, but serious. Jazz, but pop. Quirky, but grounded. Alphabet Girls, Vol. II (the title isn’t a red herring, the “girls” of Vol. I showed up twelve years ago) is all of these things and more.
 
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Scroll Down To Read More About Paul Slavens
 
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Paul Slavens
Alphabet Girls, Vol. II
(State Fair Records)
June 24, 2022
  
 
Track Listing:
 
01. Naomi
02. Ophelia
03. Priscilla
04. Queenie (VIDEO)
05. Robin
06. Sadie
07. Trudy
08. Ursula
09. Vanessa
10. Wanda
11. X (On My Heart)
12. Yvonne
13. Zelda
 
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Paul Slavens | About
 
Alphabet Girls, Vol. II by Paul Slavens (June 24, State Fair Records) is the crystallization and distillation of the Nebraska born, Denton, TX-based artist’s long, varied, and accomplished career, complete with all of the requisite breakthroughs and disappointments.
 
On record, Slavens’s endurance is a listener’s treat. Alphabet Girls, Vol. II plays like the product of a “been everywhere, seen everything” guru-type somehow fitting all of his experience and education onto five lines of musical staff like some kind of trippy Tetris.
 
Funny, but serious. Jazz, but pop. Quirky, but grounded. Alphabet Girls, Vol. II (the title isn’t a red herring, the “girls” of Vol. I showed up twelve years ago) is all of these things and more.
 
But not.
 
“My goal was to make beautiful sounds,” Slavens said. “I am not too impressed with my singing or my playing. I am most interested in the compositions. That’s number one. I do not feel like I am a ‘songwriter,’ but rather a composer who sometimes works in song.”
 
A songwriter, but not.
 
Some other artists and their eras that Slavens names as touchstones include Burt Bacharach, early Kate Bush (“I always thought that she approached her music as a composer”), and later Scott Walker (“I love his unconventional use of orchestra”), adding, “I can’t downplay the influence that Chopin had on me.”
 
Opening Alphabet Girls, Vol. II with a reworking of the same piece that closed Vol. I, the instrumental overture “Naomi,” we are quickly whisked into a cinematic universe, which, like its predecessor, is an alphabetically ordered ode to women given their rightful place as rulers. Gentle orchestrations, deep sinewy cellos, plucked harp, and accordion contribute to this “sad waltz,” as Slavens calls it. Some will use the word “masterpiece” immediately, because how else to define work as detailed, studied, and mature as this?
 
But not. Not too mature.
 
Because at 60-years-old, it’s clear that Slavens has accomplished so much artistically and otherwise, that he just doesn’t give a fuck. As listeners, that’s the entire game. We’re better for that. To wit, the record quickly moves on from its delicate opening into “Ophelia,” a sorta nutso number made even stranger by how it was influenced by Slavens’s stir-crazy lockdown labor.
 
“I got into some kind of ‘state’ and completely reimagined and mutilated the recording,” Slavens remembers. “I was isolated, so I allowed myself to do some things I might not have,” he said of a song in which Prince Hamlet asks that the doomed Danish noblewoman “give a guy some slack” because, look, “I killed your Dad / I know, that’s bad / But there’s no reason / Why it has to drive you mad.”
 
If you’re not already completely on board with Slavens at two tracks into this journey, you’ll be thumbing a ride home for days, because we’re already far from civilization. Someone important in Slavens’s life who stood tall enough to ride this ride, and even in passing still looms large over the project, is Texas music icon, Trey Johnson, co-founder of Slavens’s label State Fair Records, and the man who was the main advocate behind bringing Alphabet Girls, Vol. II to completion.
 
“About three years ago, Trey started getting me gigs at (James Beard semifinalist and ‘Top Chef’ contestant) John Tesar’s steakhouse, playing standards,” Slavens recalls. “He was so helpful and the gig was sweet. As I got to know Trey, he heard me playing ‘Alphabet Girl’ songs and started encouraging me to finish the project.
 
“It was also Trey who suggested that I sing these songs myself,” Slavens continues. “Many of the vocals are first takes and the first time I sang the words, which is in stark contrast to the meticulous nature of the rest of the recording. It hit me really hard when Trey passed away. He was the one who believed in this project and made it happen.”
 
It is to Slavens’s credit that he endeavored to trust more “help” from the music industry. His highs and lows have been higher and lower than most of what passes as an indie-rock daydream.
 
The quick history that got Slavens to the good part sorta plays like this:
 
Formed a local band his mid-20s that went on to sell out the big rooms around town. Lost band members to more successful bands looking to climb the ladder. Re-grouped and hit it harder with more sell-out shows locally and record sales to match. Received promises and apologies from major players.
 
Slavens: “The first time a famous person made me believe they were gonna make me famous.”
 
Got desperate, signed a bad deal to make a “shitty-sounding” record of his best material, which the label promptly held hostage. Crowds dwindled. Lost more band members. Fired the manager. Changed their sound. Formed a new band. Made a record he loved. Got signed again.
 
Slavens: “That was the second time a famous person made me believe I was gonna be famous.”
 
That’s plenty to get the picture and likely more than Slavens wants to recall, so what about that good part?
 
Around this time, Slavens had a side hustle working as a commercial and voice-over actor. He had also started improvising in order to improve his auditions. Eventually signing with an agent, Slavens started working a lot while continuing to do improv with a group, and then began producing more than a dozen productions of his own.
 
Around this time, the Dallas public radio station KERA took an interest in Slavens, a relationship that has continued to this day, first at KERA, and then its music-based offshoot KXT, which has itself grown into a recognized, respected, and influential National Public Radio affiliate.
 
To date, “The Paul Slavens Show” has received “Best of Dallas” awards from the Dallas Observer in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Slavens also received the award for “Best DJ” from Dallas Observer in 2008, 2011 and 2014.
 
Even with his focus on his radio show, Slavens has continued music-making, starting a weekly residency at Denton venue Dan’s Silverleaf that is still happening. It’s here where he started getting into making up songs on the spot and where the genesis of what would become the “Alphabet Girls” project came to fruition, culminating with the release of Alphabet Girls, Vol. I in 2010.
 
Slavens: “Thousands of made up songs and a lot of whiskey.”
 
But not.
 
Alphabet Girls, Vol. II by Paul Slavens is scheduled for release on June 24 via State Fair Records preceded by the singles “X (On My Heart)” (May 20) and “Ophelia” (June 10).
 
Paul Slavens is available for interviews. Contact Josh Bloom at Fanatic for more information.
 
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Paul Slavens | Links
 
ASSETS : FACEBOOK : INSTAGRAM : TWITTER : YOUTUBE : BANDCAMP : SPOTIFY : APPLE : STATE FAIR RECORDS
 
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Josh Bloom at Fanatic Promotion | Contact
 
WEBSITE : FACEBOOK : TWITTER : INSTAGRAM : YOUTUBE : SOUNDCLOUD : SPOTIFY : BLOG : E-MAIL

Friday, May 13, 2022

Accomplished musicianship of instrumental bass & vibes duo CLIFFWALKER “delightfully teeters on the edge of chaos” with “Punching Clocks” single.

Cliff Hayes (Buellton), A. Walker Spring (Old Time Relijun) evoke 70s-era sensory experience ala Philip Glass, “The Holy Mountain,” Tangerine Dream.
 
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CLIFFWALKER (L-R): Cliff Hayes, A. Walker Spring. Photo credit: Cliff Hayes, A. Walker Spring.
 
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CLIFFWALKER | “Punching Clocks”
 
 

[STREAM]: https://Fanatic.lnk.to/cliffwalker-punchingclocks
 
“Delightfully teeters on the edge of chaos...” says music discovery blog Independent Clauses in its coverage of “Punching Clocks,” the debut single by Portland-based duo CLIFFWALKER, out today.
 
“‘Punching Clocks’ is the sort of thing that the word post-rock was made for. It’s rock put in the service of other moods. The interplay of the leads produces the experience of a spy-movie chase scene.”
 
Stream “Punching Clocks” by CLIFFWALKER at the link above or here.
 
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CLIFFWALKER
“Painted Gray Sky” EP
(S/R)
June 24, 2022
  

Track Listing:
 
01. Calm Sea
02. Painted Gray Sky
03. Reflected Sun (STREAM)
04. On Her Last Legs
05. Pulling Threads
06. Punching Clocks (STREAM)
 
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CLIFFWALKER | About
 

CLIFFWALKER is not just a cool name for a band.
 
The Portland, Oregon-based instrumental duo of Cliff Hayes (Bass, Keys) and A. Walker Spring (Vibes, Drums, Keys, Guitar) are just lucky to be named that way. To take the serendipity a step (sorry, had to) further, the sound of the pair’s upcoming “Painted Gray Sky” EP (out June 24, 2022) is also edgy.
 
We can dispense with the puns now, let’s talk about the music:
 
It’s like if a sexy Kraftwerk had joined in on the sessions with jazz legend Don Cherry and composer Ron Frangipane scoring Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “The Holy Mountain.”
 
Or maybe they picked up John Carpenter on the way to Tangerine Dream’s studio to make the music for Michael Mann’s neo-noir heist action thriller “Thief.”
 
The repeating riffs of minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Riley are also touchstones, and for those born more recently, Hayes and Spring suggest that the instrumentation on “Painted Gray Sky” is in the vein of Tortoise, but driven by bass lines a la Death From Above 1979.
 
Either way, the 1970s are coming in hot, no matter what!
 
Skipping forward a half-century, CLIFFWALKER came to fruition under the gray skies of the Pacific Northwest as Hayes was constructing a “library of bass riffs” (“Cliff’s Riffs!”)
 
“My toying with riffs started to morph into learning cover songs and then trying to cover these songs entirely on bass,” Hayes explains.
 
As it turns out, the “library of bass riffs” further morphed into “Painted Gray Sky,” as the melodic bass work of Hayes laid the foundation for Spring’s hypnotic vibraphone, guitar, and synth lines.
 
As well as playing in Portland’s beloved indie rock outfit Point Juncture, WA since 2004, Spring has co-hosted a weekly songwriting podcast since 2020 called “Honest Jams,” where she’s honed a diverse set of arranging skills, which are given free rein on “Painted Gray Sky.”
 
From Classical, through to Jazz and post-Rock, instrumental music is not novel. It’s not Pop either, but here, CLIFFWALKER manages hooks without the aid of vocals. This quality lets the natural rhythms of CLIFFWALKER’s songs shine without distraction.
 
And all of these references to musical genres count as influences in the CLIFFWALKER sound.
 
While Hayes was working to become a top-notch Jazz bassist in his early college years by “practicing a lot of scales and arpeggios and reading a lot of charts,” he was also immersed in all kinds of music as a record store employee, the guilty party in so many musicians’ burgeoning career paths.
 
“Nearly all my waking moments were spent playing, listening, or learning about music,” he remembers.
 
Hayes relocated to Portland in 2005 and some years later, via fleeting meetings at the gigs of mutual friends, found himself in a conversation about artificial intelligence (in 2014!) with a producer friend of Spring’s.
 
“I was discussing how AI could be created to produce music by feeding it a library of riffs to train itself,” Hayes says.
 
Soon after, Hayes started recording his riffs at home with this idea in mind, and eventually wondered if Spring might be interested in playing drums with him on some material.
 
“Before I left that first session, we had already started recording the basic bass, drums and vibes that are on the final EP.”
 
“Painted Gray Sky” by CLIFFWALKER is scheduled for release on June 24, 2022 preceded by the singles “Punching Clocks” on May 13 and “Pulling Threads” on June 3. Members of CLIFFWALKER are available for interviews. Contact Josh Bloom at Fanatic for more information.
 
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CLIFFWALKER | Links
 
ASSETS : INSTAGRAM : YOUTUBE : BANDCAMP
 
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Josh Bloom at Fanatic Promotion | Contact
 
WEBSITE : FACEBOOK : TWITTER : INSTAGRAM : YOUTUBE : SOUNDCLOUD : SPOTIFY : BLOG : E-MAIL

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Caitlin Cobb-Vialet tells MAGNET: “I write songs about the push-and-pull of being the first daughter of four lesbian mothers.”

Powerful music video for “Disco Ball” from young actor, pianist, songwriter’s stunning 26-minute debut album Endless Void, out now.
 
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Caitlin Cobb-Vialet as photographed by Lindsey Ruth
 
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PLAY, POST & SHARE
 
Caitlin Cobb-Vialet | “Disco Ball”
 
 

[VIDEO]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibY8pgCFvkA
 
[STREAM]: https://fanatic.lnk.to/CaitlinCobbVialet-DiscoBall
  
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“A voice that’s as malleable and conversational as it is riveting and unconventional... a surprisingly poised, brutally honest debut.”
 
Check out more from MAGNET Magazine in Hobart Rowland’s just-published interview with the 25-year-old Oakland-based actor, pianist, and songwriter, Caitlin Cobb-Vialet here. Bay-area weekly East Bay Express says that Cobb-Vialet is “investigating love and loss with a heart full of song,” in the headline of its recent feature story. Read the full article here.
 
In its coverage of Cobb-Vialet’s signature song “Disco Ball,” Glide Magazine says, “There is a Regina Spektor-type intimacy and honesty that pours out of ‘Disco Ball…’ that reveals a young artist able to remain composed while being vulnerable.”
 
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Caitlin Cobb-Vialet
Endless Void
(War Chant Records)
Out Now
 
Streaming Link:
STREAM FULL LP
 

Track Listing:
 
01. Not Enough (STREAM)
02. Joan To Catherine (STREAM | VIDEO)
03. Ask Me (STREAM | VIDEO)
04. The Reference
05. Collared Shirts
06. You Don’t Try
07. Useless
08. Disco Ball (STREAM | VIDEO)
09. What’s It With You?
10. Float
 
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Caitlin Cobb-Vialet | “Ask Me”
 


[VIDEO]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9WUSpY83mI
 
[STREAM]: https://fanatic.lnk.to/CaitlinCobbVialet-AskMe
 
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“There is something disarmingly real and genuine with her approach to the craft.” — SF Weekly
 
“The song finds Caitlin at her beloved piano, reminiscent of early Regina Spektor, as she plucks out rich chords to accompany her soaring, heartfelt vocals,” says music discovery site For The Rabbits in its premiere coverage of the music video of “Ask Me,” the new single by Caitlin Cobb-Vialet. “That feeling of closeness, described beautifully throughout the track... is punctuated by the feeling that this love is ultimately fleeting.”
 
‘Ask Me’ is a song I wrote inspired by the newfound feeling of safeness and understanding that I felt in my first queer relationship,” Caitlin Cobb-Vialet tells Adobe & Teardrops. “At the end of the song, I come to the realization that ‘even in love you’re still alone,’ alluding to the temporary nature of even powerful love.”
 
Americana UK states that the song “feels immediately familiar. A gorgeously tuneful but conversational style that feels like she is baring her soul to you.”
 
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Caitlin Cobb-Vialet | About
 

When Caitlin Cobb-Vialet sits down at her grand piano in San Francisco, it feels like you are sitting on the bench right next to her. The young songwriter and multi-instrumentalist creates immediate intimacy in the opening moments of her upcoming debut album. The songs are often fleeting (album opener “Not Enough” clocking at a slim two minutes, for example), but it doesn’t matter; Cobb-Vialet imparts so much feeling in such a small amount of time.
 
Discovered by visionary bay area producer, Jim Greer (credits include Foster The People, Macy Gray, Angelo Moore of Fishbone), Cobb-Vialet is, actually and truly, a discovery. It even feels like the songs must have been hidden from the songwriter herself, only being recognized and realized as they are being performed.
 
Cobb-Vialet’s studies at the Playwrights Horizons Theater School at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts could have something to do with the dramatic effect of that.
 
“The studio encouraged me to be a well-rounded artist who could write, direct, design, as well as act,” Cobb-Vialet explains.
 
Immersed in what she describes as the “busy-ness” of college, performing and composing as part of several productions at once, Cobb-Vialet’s musical theater background and love of the abstract art that she was exposed to in downtown NYC provided the experiences that she had been readied for as a child brought up in a progressive, blended home.
 
“I was raised by four moms,” she explains. “I had two moms, and then when I was in the fifth grade, they separated and partnered with two moms of kids at my school. So I have two moms, two step-moms, my brother, and six step-siblings who I’ve known since elementary school.”
 
As the oldest child, Cobb-Vialet was bound to be looked to in the household as an example (many of her siblings are also in the arts), but her insights hit home outside of her literal home, too.
 
Especially with Greer, who is effusive about their work together.
 
“At our first meeting, she played me a few songs, and right away I heard shades of so many songwriters I’ve always been a fan of,” he remembers. “Bits of Freddie Mercury, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Regina Spektor – the kind of artists that make their own universe and communicate wide swaths of emotion and beauty.”
 
Accessing for herself these timeless artist’s knack for accessibility is part of the inherent potential Cobb-Vialet’s songs have to connect and convey a unique young life that, even now, isn’t often represented.
 
“Besides love and heartbreak, these songs also explore queerness, consent, mental illness, friendship, and coming of age,” she says. “As an artist I would say I am non-linear, emotional, brutally honest, and relentless.”
 
The fleeting intimacy that takes place at the bench of Cobb-Vialet’s grand piano... It is quite grand indeed.
 
Endless Void, the debut album by Caitlin Cobb-Vialet, is out now via War Chant Records.
 
Caitlin Cobb-Vialet is available for interviews. Contact Josh Bloom at Fanatic for more information.
 
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Caitlin Cobb-Vialet | Links
 
ASSETS : INSTAGRAM : FACEBOOK : YOUTUBE : BANDCAMP : SPOTIFY : APPLE
 
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Josh Bloom at Fanatic Promotion | Contact
 
WEBSITE : FACEBOOK : TWITTER : INSTAGRAM : YOUTUBE : SOUNDCLOUD : SPOTIFY : BLOG : E-MAIL