La Dispute

La Dispute

Gouge Away, Slow Mass

Sun, April 21, 2019

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

UnionTransfer

Philadelphia, PA

$22.50 - $25.00

This event is all ages

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La Dispute
La Dispute
La Dispute has never been a band prone to settling. The five-piece from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is responsible for some of the most uncompromising, experimental hardcore music of the last decade. From their 2008 debut (in their current formation) Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, to 2011’s Wildlife, to 2015’s Rooms of the House, La Dispute have continually pushed themselves to find new ways to portray some of the most difficult and universally affecting subject matters. Casting a wide stylistic net that includes – but isn’t limited to – jazz, blues, spoken word, screamo and prog rock, La Dispute have developed a sound that, while constantly evolving, is unmistakably theirs.

A lot of structural change has taken place around the band since Rooms of the House that has forced them to adapt. La Dispute has always kept a tight grip on their own reins. Their first two records came out on Californian independent label No Sleep – trusted home to many of the bands they cut their teeth alongside – while Rooms of the House was released through their own label, a subsidiary of Vagrant records. After Vagrant was bought out by BMG in 2014, the band found themselves looking for a new home, ultimately finding one in Epitaph. Their fourth full-length, Panorama, is the first fruit of this new relationship.

Recorded between November 2017 and August 2018, Panorama is in many ways a continuation on a theme. It’s a highly ambitious and deeply affecting body of work that filters narrative storytelling through a personal lens, like a set of Joan Didion essays set to music. It’s heavier and weirder than previous efforts, taking the intensity of Wildlife and the patience of Rooms of the House and using them as pillars upon which to build something new. And, in doing so, they have broken through their own ceiling and set a new one.

Panorama has not been without its challenges, both creatively and practically. Only three members were living in Michigan when they started writing, with drummer Bradley Vander Lugt now living in Australia. Out of necessity, the incubation period for ideas began with back and forth over the internet, but the bulk of the writing had to be done together in their hometown of Grand Rapids. So, finding a time when Brad could make the trip with his family, they blocked three months off to write and rented a studio space to work 9-5 through the week. For over two months, they worked in separate rooms on individual tracks based on a rough concept and outline that Jordan had put together. They had around seven tracks finished when they came to the decision that no one was happy with them. With only the weeks before Brad was due to fly back to Australia left to work with, they scrapped everything and started all over again.

“In general, I think working apart when we were all there together was a waste, but I think we had it in our heads that there was a direction we should be going. That we needed to pick up where the last record left off and push further in the direction of quieter, more structured songs, but that never felt right,” Jordan says in retrospect. “Feels a bit silly to say, but when we started over we all more or less just went by instinct. What happened felt right, and that’s really where the record started.”

Panorama is the spiritual successor to Wildlife in that it takes a snapshot of the city Jordan grew up in. WhileWildlife darts in and out of lives like a news broadcast, telling separate stories that reveal a broader connection of human suffering, Panorama zeroes in on events that have taken place in a particular neighborhood. Rather than looking at the connection between strangers, as Wildlife does, or putting the connection between two people in a relationship under a microscope, as with Rooms – Panorama traces the emotional atmosphere of a place through its own history, like someone rifling through old archives of newspaper clippings. As if, by doing so, they will find the key that unlocks answers to questions about themselves.

Most of what happens on Panorama takes place on the route Jordan and his partner would drive from their home in the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids to the city of Lowell, where she grew up. Everywhere along the drive are places where, in varying degrees of recency, people have died: a pond where a man drowned walking home in the winter, multiple places where people crashed driving drunk or were killed in car accidents, and one place where years prior a city worker found a Jane Doe decomposed. Panorama is intended to be a wide angled shot of that drive, with the stories of those tragedies becoming focal points that create a larger narrative, but it’s also tethered to reality more than Wildlife or Rooms of the House.

While Wildlife and Rooms both saw Jordan playing the role of a fly on the wall – a detached narrator, creating

realistic fictions through which tragedies are explored – the writing process for Panorama found him inadvertently talking about his own life. The physical act of travelling through those spots every day, with someone else, inevitably caused them to take on their own significance. “The more I thought about the stories the deeper the relation to her life became, and to our life together, and the more personal the record became,” Jordan says.

As a result, Panorama is less lyrically direct than previous efforts. Tracks like “In Northern Michigan” and “You Ascendant” feel more abstract as he leans into the fantastic, otherworldly material that flashes throughWildlife. Elsewhere, more narrative tracks like “Rhodonite and Grief” and “Views From Our Bedroom Window” are interspersed with spoken-word tone poems that disrupt the perspective – viewing their stories through a prism, rather than a single pane.

This wandering lyrical approach is borne out of the music itself. When the band opted to scrap their initial material and follow their instinctive push rather than reason their way to the next step, the result was a desire to create something “more ethereal, layered, dreamlike, fantastic from a sonic standpoint” than before. You can see this approach demonstrated beautifully throughout, as the band delves into new sonic territories as well as expanding on familiar ones.

The spectral electro-leaning instrumental “Rose Quartz”, which opens the album, will perhaps come as the most surprising to long-time fans, while tracks like “Fulton Street I”, “Anxiety Panorama” and “You Ascendant” will feel a little more familiar as they drag the darkness of Wildlife into harsher places. Elsewhere, the relaxed, bluesy sound they dipped into on Rooms of the House finds new life in “Rhodonite and Grief” and “There You Are (Hiding Place)”, while “Footsteps At The Pond” is the closest to straight-up indie rock the band has ever come, evoking Brother, Sister era mewithoutYou.

Panorama is perhaps La Dispute’s most diverse album so far, carried by their strength as musicians both individually and as a unit. Bradley Vander Lugt’s precise, textured drum patterns; Adam Vass’ sonorous, driving bass lines; Chad Morgan-Sterenberg’s crisp, fretful guitar work – they all react to one another instinctively in a way that feels like a jam session in places, particularly on more sombre tracks like “In Northern Michigan” and “Rhodonite and Grief”.

Panorama is also their first album written and recorded with Corey Stroffolino, who has been a touring musician with the band since Rooms of the House, taking over from Kevin Whittemore. Their abilities fit together like a perfect parts of a puzzle, knowing exactly when to settle into the rhythm and when to pierce the foreground; when to build into a cacophony and when less is more.

Despite its intuitive feel, Panorama was a difficult project to start and to finish. Although recording for the album began in November 2017 and the music was done by April 2018, it took Jordan until August – including several separate solo trips from Seattle to the studio in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania – to finish writing lyrics and tracking vocals. By the end, he was sleeping in a spare mixing room in the studio, spending entire days more or less locked in the same room. At one point, producer Will Yip (Turnstile / Quicksand / Tigers Jaw) was taking naps on the couch in the control room while Jordan wrote and rewrote lines until he was satisfied, filling several notebooks front to back with different versions of the same few lines.

“It was… stupid,” he says of the process now. “I spent a lot of time trying to understand why I was having such a motherfucker of a time, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve arrived at the reason. Partly, I think, the music required more from me. The parts are more challenging, more outside of the box then the songs on Rooms in particular, and I didn’t want to short change the work and creativity of my band mates. There’s always the anxiety of falling short of them for me, but it felt stronger this time. There’s the general anxiety, too, of making something permanent. Of committing to a thing finally and forever and never being able to do anything about it.”

It can be difficult for punk and hardcore bands in particular to evolve and maintain momentum simultaneously the longer they stay active. At a time of economic uncertainty, and with the music industry not being lucrative as it once was, creativity and reality are often at odds with each other. In spite of this, La Dispute has maintained the same attitude they started with. They are a band figuring out, as we all are, how to live meaningfully while also trying to make meaningful art without compromise. Panorama, then, is another chapter in a discography that tells everyday stories in a remarkable way. It takes you deep within the heart of the world we live in, which may not always be a comfortable or comforting place to be, but at the very least it’s a reminder that we’re not there alone.
Gouge Away
Gouge Away
What started as an outspoken hardcore band around 2013, has mutated into an angular blend of sass and spitefulness. Taking cues from bands of yesteryear such as Unwound, The Jesus Lizard, and Fugazi, we find Gouge Away pulling no punches.

Vocalist, Christina Michelle, comes with a deeper introspection on struggles with mental health, not holding back with this incredibly personal outpouring. Guitarists, Mick Ford and Dylan Downey, bring a dissonance to their sound that separates the listener from what could be expected while the rhythm section made up of Tyler Forsythe and Tommy Cantwell aggressively keep the songs in place.

The Florida born five-piece recently recorded their Deathwish Inc. debut with Jack Shirley at Atomic Garden (Deafheaven, Oathbreaker, Jeff Rosenstock) which was co-produced by Jeremy Bolm of Touche Amore. Burnt Sugar appeared on many Best of 2018 lists including those by Revolver, Stereogum, AV Club, NME, and Brooklyn Vegan.

Having shared the stage with bands such as Touche Amore, Ceremony, Culture Abuse, Drug Church, Daughters, G.L.O.S.S., Thursday, Paint It Black, and Russian Circles, the band has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
Slow Mass
Slow Mass
Slow Mass doesn’t sound like many other bands, and that’s because they work in a way precious few are willing to.

Formed in 2015 by Dave Collis (vocals and guitar) and his then-roommate Josh Sparks (drums), the pair began developing songs without a specific goal in mind. Soon, they’d be joined by Josh Parks (guitar) and Mercedes Webb (vocals and bass), and together they would craft the Treasure Pains ​EP, which showcased Slow Mass’ unique take on post-hardcore and indie-rock. The band toured hard in support of ​Treasure Pains,​ nabbing high-profile opening slots for the likes of mewithoutYou and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, making a name for themselves across the country while fine-tuning the material that would make up their debut album ​On Watch​.

Recorded with Neil Strauch at Minbal Studios, ​On Watch ​expands upon Slow Mass’s sonic palette. Recurring motifs segment the record, allowing it to feel like a cohesive work with clearly defined halves. Returning to Strauch was a no-brainer for the band, and not just because they worked with him on ​Treasure Pains​. “He’s the kind of producer where, for the time you’re in the studio, feels like they’re in the band,” says Webb. Collis adds to that, noting that what makes Strauch a perfect collaborator, is that he maintains a light, thoughtful touch. “The real important part of Neil’s process and his contribution is that his stamp is not prevalent,” he says. “I think he understands what makes most sense for that moment in time and for that band. He’s not trying to overstep in a way the benefits him. But with that in mind, he’s very good at pushing and pulling when the time comes.”

That push and pull is something the band embraced fully, allowing them to adapt naturally and organically to any new scenario. During the writing period of ​On Watch​, Sparks left the band to join Minus The Bear, though he still recorded on the bulk of the album. In his place, Collis’ longtime friend Dave Maruzzella stepped in, learning Sparks’ parts while contributing to the song “Schemes.” In doing so, he learned firsthand about how Slow Mass operates. “The motto, quite simply, is that there are no shortcuts,” says Maruzzella. “Your first instinct about what you want to do? Don’t do that one. Your second one? Don’t do that one either. That’s the easy way, that’s the common sense way, that’s what anyone else would put there. So our way is to do the tenth one, so you’re ten moves away from your initial instinct.”

“It’s about allowing yourself to be brought to that place,” says Collis, explaining how ​On Watch sounds united, but not predictable. Songs like “Suburban Yellow” and “Oldest Youngest” show the band’s ability to bowl you over with their propulsive force, while tracks like “My Violent Years” and “Tunnel Vision Quest” embrace experimental minimalism, putting drums to the side and allowing delicate layers and plaintive vocal melodies to carry them from start to finish. Then there’s a song like the “The Author,” which builds upon loping riffs, calming vibraphone—courtesy of Ryan Packard on vibraphone, who was also on ​Treasure Pains​—and descends into all-consuming chaos by its end.

When discussing their creative approach, every member is quick to use the word “collective,” driving home the point that Slow Mass works as a unit. “It really is a collective work,” says Parks. “It’s a pretty special thing. Most bands don’t act that way.” ​On Watch ​proves that, with every member making deliberate choices that never feel out of place. It also manifested by inviting some of their friends to contribute to the album, with Al Costis playing upright bass on “My Violent Years”, Sen Morimoto adding saxophone to “My Violent Years” and “On Watch II”, and Viv McConnell playing the flute on “Tunnel Vision Quest.”

The result of that communal effort is ​On Watch​, an album that expands beyond genre lines while retaining every bit of urgency found on the band’s debut EP. The album sits alongside such classics as ​The Argument ​and L​ eaves Turn Inside You​, becoming the latest in a long line of records that push a genre forward by never making a single artistic compromise.
Venue Information:
UnionTransfer
1026 Spring Garden St
Philadelphia, PA, 19123