Let's get some things out of the way. WHY? is a band—three Cincinnati-bred gentlemen who've shared a whole lotta past together. Two of them are brothers. Yoni Wolf, who founded the project by his lonesome in 1998 is one of those (see also: cLOUDDEAD, Greenthink, Reaching Quiet). The other is Josiah Wolf, who first started hitting the skins at their father's synagogue during worship service. They like being in a band together so don't ask about it. WHY?'s third fella is Doug McDiarmid, a high school friend born to French teachers, discovered by the Wolfs whilst playing guitar in a Steve Miller cover band. These men are handsome and meticulous, especially when they do ugly and unwieldy things with words and music.
Like we said, the project started awhile ago. Really, with Yoni in the synagogue basement on a forgotten four-track, recording bad poems and sloppy beats that none of us will ever hear (again, don't ask). Flash forward through his monumental discovery of A Tribe Called Quest and his later untimely egress from art school and you'll arrive at the next most pivotal moment, when the punctuated letters W-H-Y-? graduated from an enigmatic tag loopily scrawled across various Ohio surfaces to something printed on tapes, fliers, records and CDs. As a founding member of Anticon, Yoni had one of the first releases on the label: the Split EP! with Odd Nosdam, WHY?'s half a kaleidoscopic seven-song suite of sweetly sour song-rap.
And then the albums began, with the cult-revered Oaklandazulasylum in 2003, documenting WHY?'s quickening march from an enticingly idiosyncratic outside-of-art, inside-the-bedroom experiment to the fiercely chopsy and wildly creative band of badasses they are today. (If you haven't heard their stuff, you should check it out. It's like pop-inflected psychedelic folk-hop, or chamber music imagined by the most lovelorn and death-anxious Beat Poet that never lived.) 2005's lauded Elephant Eyelash paved the way for tours (Silver Jews, Yo La Tengo, Islands), collabs (Danielson, Department of Eagles, Hymie’s Basement, Subtle) and more albums. Oh, and they lived in Oakland for awhile. (You remember that, don't you?)
Everyone comes into their own at different times. For WHY?, most agree that this happened across 2008 and 2009 with a pair of oddly engrossing stunners—the tightly rhythmic Alopecia and its quieter, kinda country cousin Eskimo Snow—which turned the oft-boxed music world on its hella gross cauliflower ear. High marks were awarded by the coolest of customers as the band momentarily swelled to five with the induction of Fog guys Andrew Broder (shred) and Mark Erickson (boom). When they finally came off of the road, WHY? set themselves to humbler tasks: turning out intimate tunes for lucky fans (via a Golden Ticket mail-order merch contest) and intricate beats for rapper Serengeti's praised Family & Friends LP.
Now, it happens to be 2012, so there's a new EP called Sod in the Seed and a new LP, their fifth.
From its first track, Dessa’s new full-length Parts of Speech announces itself as something different. The Doomtree veteran and inveterate wordsmith — having proved her mettle in the fields of creative non-fiction, spoken-word and hip-hop — jettisons all genre expectations on “The Man I Knew” and croons a heartbreaking lament to a disintegrating relationship at an explosively-building clip.
Dessa, born and raised in Minneapolis after her parents met at a Duluth music store, was valedictorian of her high school, eventually skipping a year of college and graduating with honors before she could legally drink. Armed with a philosophy degree, the intrepid Midwesterner spent her nights as a waitress and days writing reference manuals used by doctors in the implantation of pacemakers.
From this moment on Dessa proves she has truly coalesced as an artist, transcending the restrictions of genre to reveal an astonishing multi-platform voice.
“I wanted to investigate the idea that a cohesive record isn’t always made cohesive by having twelve songs that sound the same. I figured when you make a mixtape for a friend, you can get away with a range of genres and a lot of dynamic change. Why can’t I approach an album like that? The sequence has to be just right, and we worked hard to nail it, but the thing that holds this record together is the sensibility of the lyrics, rather than a uniform theme.”
An album that can boom out of a car window after its summer release, or soundtrack a November night in, Parts of Speech marks a highpoint in Dessa’s career and demonstrates the crossover power of the rising star’s burgeoning arsenal.
Most musicians wait a lifetime to share stages with their musical heroes. Hoping to accomplish such a feat while still racking up college credits would be considered nothing more than a pipe dream. But having performed with such esteemed artists as Meshell Ndegeocello, Talib Kweli, and Victor Wooten as well as serving as music director for such acclaimed artists as Bilal and Lalah Hathaway, it’s safe to say that 23-year-old bassist Kenneth “GIZMO” Rodgers has been living that dream for quite some time now.
With a wealth of experience that belies his years touting a vast array of musical influences spanning the realms of jazz, pop, funk, rock, Latin, and hip-hop, GIZMO is creating a sonic landscape for his generation.
This Berklee College of Music grad is experimenting with creating his own fashion of neo soul with elements of spoken word and layered R&B and hip hop.
Operating in their own microcosm, DVA have stood out with an idiosyncratic sonic lexicon – “pop for non-existing radios” or “folklore of non-existing nations”, as they say. The duo – it takes two “dva” in Czech, to tango - Bára Kratochvílová and Jan Kratochvíl, have carved out a niche with their rich musical landscape. Established in 2006, the Czech project have toured the world, playing at esteemed festivals including SXSW, Eurosonic, Fusion or OFF charming their growing global fanbase with smart sophisticated pop. In 2012, DVA toured the US twice and played more than 80 concerts in 10 countries. DVA's soundtrack for the computer game Botanicula scooped the main prize at Independent Games Festival awards in San Francisco last year, and was also nominated for the UK Sound & Music Awards.
"Why? switches from rhythmic delivery to naked singing, sometimes on a dime. The slight nasal quality of his voice sounds so awkward that he can't help but play it up-- "Dream on Costelyou" sounds so unmelodic you can't even believe they let this guy sing-- but witness the brilliantly jerked-out delivery on "Early Whitney", where he treats the syllables like a set of steps to jog over. The almost grotesque, overdubbed harmonies at the end of "Weak Moon" sound so warped that they bend your eardrum, but they're perfectly on pitch, and when he turns to a genuinely tuneful voice later on, it doesn't come as a total surprise." - Pitchfork