In The Local this week, Nooga.com spends some time with music from Kerchief, J. Flo and Bran Muney, Earth Builder, and Magic Birds. Who do you think should have a spot in The Local next week?
Kerchief, “Jack London“
For Ohio native/current Chattanooga resident Brittany Hill, music is a way of making sense of the world around us. She recently said that music gives her “a chance to connect with all those working so hard to make ends meet and make sense of life, and to remind them to cherish the moment.” The music she makes as Kerchief is vibrant, intense and utterly disarming-behind all the raucous riffs and pointed melodies, there is a sense that Hill wants to connect with her audience on a personal level. The music is simply her conduit to tap into our collective emotional sensations and experiences.
And with her recent single, “Jack London,” and its accompanying video, she explores the ideas of desire, anxiety and the need for companionship. The song finds her drawing on a well of apparently limitless strength and determination. Between shots of Hill working through her frustrations on her electric guitar, we’re given quick glimpses of lives in turmoil and how our reactions to certain events alter our perceptions of the world. Also, the song just completely shakes your speakers and makes you want to get up and move, no matter who’s watching. It’s rock music with a deeper upwelling of emotion and insight-so it’s exactly what Kerchief does best.
J. Flo and Bran Muney, “Charged Up”
Collaboration can either bring out the best in all artists involved or drown out what made each musician unique in the first place. For Chattanooga hop-hop artists J. Flo and Bran Muney, the idea of meshing aesthetics and voices seemed like the perfect way of bringing out the best in both-and, thankfully, that’s exactly what has happened. The two artists came together to record a track called “Charged Up,” and it is a minimalist wonder of meticulous production and crisp construction. Neither J. Flo nor Bran Muney one-ups the other-they circle each other in a spiraling series of gorgeous backing harmonies and vicious verbal tirades.
“Charged Up” isn’t a banger and definitely isn’t club-ready, but it does work its way into your head and refuse to budge. It slowly reveals itself over multiple listens, and only after you’ve completely sunk into its depths do you realize just how immersive it really is. A song doesn’t have to be loud or crammed full of booming beats to make its point. J. Flo and Muney have found a way to work within a narrow set of musical cues and still produce something so irrevocably distinct that you’re not likely to hear anything else like it this year. I had to run through it a handful of times before I completely understood what they were trying to do, but once it clicks, you’ll be listening to it for days.
Earth Builder, “Tellurian Genesis EP“
Earth Builder is the guise of Chattanooga musician (and Inherent Records owner) Bobby Rayfield, and through it, he produces some of the most fascinating and incredible ambient drones you’ll ever hear. This kind of noise is generally relegated to those people who have an inordinately high tolerance for repetition and static. But for Rayfield, this kind of music doesn’t have to rely on that kind of hiss and grime to adhere to the genre’s innumerable aesthetics. In fact, his lone recorded release, “Tellurian Genesis EP,” doesn’t even begin to resemble noise until about three and a half minutes in. Its sole track opens with some beautifully sparse piano work that brings to mind the work of artists such as Brian Eno and Harold Budd before gradually devolving into some spaced-out electronics and vibratory melodies.
Better than many of his experimental peers, Rayfield understands how these often-disparate elements fit together to form a curiously cohesive set of sounds. It’s not about how much you can stuff into one track-it’s about how every single piece fits together and supports the full weight of the track. And with this untitled track, he allows the music to swirl and form a ragged cinematic landscape within which he snaps circuits, cuts cables and creates a wonderfully evocative sense of spatial musical awareness. These sounds fill the air within the song, but the negative space is also perfectly utilized to create a feeling of foreboding and oncoming desperation.
Magic Birds, “The Music of Benjamin Bruce“
Chattanooga Americana duo Magic Birds (AKA Scott Bruce and Ben Ezell) was formed in 2012, but for their first few years, the pair only frequented open mics around town testing out new material and writing songs as the inspiration hit them. Toward the end of 2014, however, they were spurred on by friends and family to consider Magic Birds as something to be seen as worth the time involved. And with that mindset, Bruce and Ezell went into the studio with Kan Munson to record their debut record. The resulting collection of songs bears the name “The Music of Benjamin Bruce” and finds the duo pushing through their folk and alt country influences to create something that feels earnest and heartfelt.
The easiest comparison would be the albums that Wilco and Billy Bragg collaborated on to give sound to a series of unpublished songs by folk hero Woody Guthrie. There is an honest authenticity that keeps the songs grounded while also giving them a weightless sense of freedom. The band gives them the room to unfurl and expand into gentle and rollicking tales of life, love and everything in between. There’s an openness to the music that Bruce and Ezell seem to coax from every note without much effort; in many other artists’ hands, these sounds would feel flat and listless. “The Music of Benjamin Bruce” is captivating and endlessly compelling-the sounds are familiar, but the band makes them extraordinary.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.