Note: $17.00 is the day of show price.
This year marks a significant anniversary for U.S. Girls, the protean musical enterprise of multidisciplinary artist, Meg Remy. 10 years ago Remy first used a 4-track recorder and a microphone to self-produce a series of spontaneous, starkly musical, ‘instant expressions’. These collisions of static, clang and sung melody seem in retrospect like a uniquely American display of minimalism, an unmistakably feminine counterbalance to Nebraska or Rev & Vega’s early sonic confrontations.
In contrast, her latest work for 4AD, In A Poem Unlimited, Remy’s 6th album and 2nd LP for the label, was painstakingly crafted in multiple studios by a creative cast of 20+ collaborators. Remy traverses an immediate and increasingly politicized vision over the course of this decade of work. And while U.S. Girls, denoting the plural, is no longer a misnomer, In A Poem Unlimited may be Remy’s most individually distilled protest to date.
Opening with a dark, conga-infused drum break, lead-off track ‘Velvet For Sale’ establishes a moody, distinctly mysterious feel. If Half Free (Remy’s 2015 4AD offering) trafficked in dusty, sample-based textures, Poem represents an inversion of that instrumental formula; the non-sampled rhythms are themselves eminently sample-able. The newfound grooviness speaks to a central element of the new album’s collaborative spirit. All tracks save for two were performed by The Cosmic Range, an accomplished instrumental collective from Toronto, Remy’s adoptive hometown.
Assembled by Matthew Dunn in 2014, The Cosmic Range is composed of some of Canada’s most accomplished improvisers, and includes longtime U.S. Girls producer / foil Maximilian ‘Twig’ Turnbull. The Range-whose eclectic combination of improvised psych, jazz, and propulsive dance music was first recorded on their 2016 New Latitudes debut (Idée Fixe)–is put to work here on a song cycle that is typically diverse for a U.S. Girls album. Remy is not content merely to establish a new sonic palette on successive albums. Instead she approaches each song as its own encapsulation, with the effect that her oeuvre is essentially genre-agnostic.
On Poem, the buffet of sounds comprises a dizzying variety: disco, employed as a protest vernacular (‘Mad As Hell’), as well as an unrelenting assault (‘Time’); Remy’s beat-driven impulse, extended via The Cosmic Range’s vamping on hip hop producer Louis Percival’s produced loops (‘Incidental Boogie’ & ‘Pearly Gates’); moody, slow-burning funk, on the Twig co-writes (‘Velvet 4 Sale’ & ‘L-Over’); and forming the emotional core of the album, two earnest synth anthems, written in collaboration with D.C. based instrumentalist, Rich Morel (‘Rosebud’ & ‘Poem’).
Ironically, the eight-piece band Sweet Spirit started as a solo project. Austin singer Sabrina Ellis was going through some distressing times: the band that she fronted for several years, Bobby Jealousy, with her then husband was disintegrating along with their relationship. Everything Ellis was working toward was suddenly in free-fall. She started Sweet Spirit to hone her ability to write and perform on her own. “It was supposed to be focused on me writing solo, and performing with the guitar,” she says. But it didn’t stay that way for long.
When Ellis started Sweet Spirit, she was still writing and performing with her longstanding garage punk band A Giant Dog. AGD Co-founder Andrew Cashen was intrigued by Ellis’ new emphasis on soul and country and pop music as touchstones for Sweet Spirit and quickly climbed on board the project. “I’m very comfortable doing loud and fast,” Cashen says, “so this is uncharted territory for me.” Together Ellis and Cashen began turning out songs at a breakneck pace. They assembled a core band of four more members, rehearsed religiously, and started playing gigs around town. Immediately they began turning heads and packing clubs.
Within six months they had gotten noticed by one of Austin’s most famous musical residents, Britt Daniel of Spoon. In October of 2014, Daniel asked the band to perform at Spoon’s “secret” tour kick off show at the cramped rock club Hotel Vegas for their latest record They Want My Soul, and Sweet Spirit was quickly thrown into the local buzzmill. As Austin accolades continued to pile up into 2015, Sweet Spirit was added as an official SXSW showcase act without a full-length record or ever having applied. National attention from Esquire, the L.A. Times and other outlets solidified their status as Austin’s “next great rock band” and earned them a spot as the opener on 12 Midwest and West Coast Spoon tour dates.
Meanwhile, the band released their full-length debut Cokomo, as well as a two-song collaboration with Daniel, receiving praise from Stereogum, Consequence Of Sound, SPIN, and other outlets, and leading to two more national tours. In between shows, the band found time to work with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Deer Tick) on their sophomore full-length, St. Mojo. The new record was released April 7, 2017 on Austin label Nine Mile Records and features a bigger, more dynamic set of songs. Lead single “The Power” has already become a fan favorite at live shows, while the Queen-esque track “The Mighty” and Prince dance funk of “I Wanna Have You” take the band is exciting, unexpected new directions. Guest contributions from members of Grupo Fantasma, Mother Falcon and A Giant Dog help expand the band’s already considerable sound.