One of South Florida’s greatest contemporary solo musicians still criminally treading water down at the end of the United States to not enough global recognition is Jose Ferrer, a.k.a. Boxwood. The 34-year-old multi-instrumentalist and singer has just self-released his second EP, “Moon Garage.” We covered the release of his first one (Boxwood, a one-man wall of sound, releases “Sun Garden City” EP today). The man with the celestial obsession was casually introduced to me by another local musician, Alex Diaz, who also has been down in Miami, evolving as an artist for even longer (read my 1997 profile on that guy in the Miami New Times here and check out his soundcloud).
I had no idea what to expect of Ferrer’s music, but he was introduced to me by someone I trust. Though some will detect similarities in sound to The Cure, My Bloody Valentine or Radiohead, no one makes music like Boxwood. Though he performs solo, he layers parts, including percussion, guitars and vocals via loop pedals to create a lush, dynamic brand of music all his own. He does it live both on stage and in the recording studio. Over an open air dinner at the Vagabond Hotel in Miami, the slight-of-frame musician says, “A lot of the stuff that I come up with is because of the loop pedal. I’ll come up with a part to a song, and then I’ll kind of isolate the rest of a song, and I’ll let that part ring out.”
The flow of a Boxwood song’s construction comes across as strong as it does because Ferrer prefers to follow the resulting music in its hazy swirl of hooks and melodies and not force some strict construct. It seems counter-intuitive for a solo artist who has complete control over his work, but he says he prefers to follow the music almost subconsciously as if he was a one-man jam band. In fact, he would prefer it if all his songs came out blended together. “I’m always thinking that it will be cool if this song went into something else,” he says. “Like the last part of this song can go off, and I’ll see if I can write something to that, like a medley, and then I end up coming up with another song.”
Whereas collaborative musicians in a band jam with each other to create music, Boxwood feeds off inspiration from the looping parts he creates. It’s a process of exploring music that the musician finds liberating for his creative process. “I’ve also tried to play like just whatever and just loop it and then try to fill in the gaps to see what comes out of it, and that’s interesting,” he explains. “When you listen to some songs and then all of a sudden the drums come in not where you’d expect it, and the guitars are doing something that’s cool, so I try to do that not to throw you off but just for myself, and then songs come out of that, and then I change them around.”
Here’s one song he is streaming free on his bandcamp, “Let It.”
But a favorite he won’t give out for free is “Affected,” featuring pummeled drums affected by echo, an incessant buzz of electrified rhythm guitar and a catchy hook that sounds like it was made by an electric slide guitar. In the middle of the song the hook drops and three guitar parts stack up one by one. One is a simple repetitive plucking and the other two are call and response parts with slightly different shimmering effects. Though he speaks a bit low, Ferrer’s singing voice is something else, especially on this number. It’s bold and compliments the range of effects on his instrumentation. He’s not a neat singer, but it comes from a place of potency you will never find while talking to him over dinner. There are whines, growls and slurs that obscure the lyrics, which are sometimes filled with bitterness: “Good morning, here’s another shit storm coming my way, panicking heads, visual shit, audible waste.”
It’s a little scary, but Ferrer is quite an affable fellow in person. He’s also a new dad, having recently had a child with his longtime girlfriend. It’s apt that he plays his music under an abstract moniker because the man is certainly different from the musician.
His exploration of music began at a perfect time: his early teen years. At 14 years old he learned a few chords from a friend and the rest by ear. “I don’t even know the chords I’m playing,” he admits. “I never learned how to play guitar. I just kind of write. I’m not a player.” In fact he adds, “I wouldn’t call myself a painter or a musician or a carpenter. I like to make things.”
He may not call himself any of that, but he studied art at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan, focusing on illustration. So, like any good artist, he contradicts himself a bit. “I did a little bit of everything but mostly oil painting,” he admits.
Like his last release (see images here), he has made the physical version of his new EP a handmade affair. “It’s a wood casing with burlap seams and a random booklet inside taken from school text books,” he explains. “I work with wood at my job all the time. I have access to a shop and liked the idea of having a wooden CD case, with an organic feel and look. Something that was clearly handmade. And also, like the previous EP, no two cd casings are alike. This is probably also the last chance I’ll get to make a CD since they are quickly becoming more and more obsolete.”
Which leads one to think that maybe a vinyl release might be on the horizon. “I would prefer to buy vinyl, if getting music in the physical form,” admits Ferrer, “but Lord knows I can’t afford to press vinyl at the moment. Unique handmade packaging I think makes up for whatever format the music is in.”
* * *
You can read more of my conversation with Boxwood, including more intimate details on how a quiet guy like Ferrer finds such a powerful voice on stage by jumping through the logo of the Broward New Times Music section below. You can also stream another new song off the EP there. The same story that you’ll find after the jump also appears in print in this week’s “Miami New Times” music section:
Boxwood will take the stage in Miami at Will Call this Friday, April 3. Show begins at 10:30 p.m. with special guests Sigh Kicks. There’s no cover charge. Here’s the FB event page. Let us know if you’re going or even if you wish you could go in the comments below.
Wesley Eisold of Cold Cave talks camouflaging guitars, poetry vs. lyrics and vintage New Wave in ‘Pure Honey’
August 21, 2013
When I wrote about Cold Cave for “Pure Honey” magazine recently, I could have written about many aspects of the project’s founder and singular member Wesley Eisold. He was born without a left hand, which limited him in terms of which instruments he could play, but that never deterred him from writing and recording his own music. Then there was his recent collaboration with controversial musician Boyd Rice, mastermind of Non, which has released some rather stunning electronica works of noise, drone and synth music. However, Rice is also a known Satanist and has been sometimes accused of Nazi and white supremacist hate talk.
Instead, I decided to focus on the music of Cold Cave, which has many interesting aspects despite it being generated by mostly one man and some synthesizers (his favorite of which are vintage). His use of effects lend an abstract quality to many of Cold Cave’s songs. One of the more curious Cold Cave tracks appears on its 2009 self-released debut, Love Comes Close, and it’s the album’s title track. It features a jangling bit of guitar that’s catchy but so obscure you may wonder if it might have come out of a different instrument. “There is guitar on that song,” Eisold confirmed writing via email, “and a lot of guitar on ‘Cherish.’ Though, these days, I’m more interested in performing and writing purely electronic because when I play it that way I can play it all myself. I stumbled upon that sound by mistake. I was making noise, early crude industrial sounds, and then found song structures.”
Also interesting about Eisold’s working method is that he writes poetry as well as lyrics. Considering the sonics of Cold Cave’s sometimes dense music leaves lyrical content obscured to rather impressionistic levels, one wonders if Eisold does not mind if listeners cannot understand the words. The songsmith admitted that he indeed takes different approaches to lyrics versus poetry. “They’re very different because music sets a mood more than a blank page,” Eisold noted. “In poetry you have to create the feel on your own. You can’t hide or lean on sound. But then, you know, sometimes they compliment each other, and then you’ve made magic. Everything’s got to be intentional or passed as it at least. If someone can’t understand the words in a song, then that’s the implication I’m getting at.”
You can read much more in “Pure Honey.” Jump through the logo below to get to the article:
The article was written in advance of Cold Caves’s headlining appearance in West Palm Beach, Florida, at a music festival celebrating 26 years of existence for stalwart venue Respectable Street Cafe. It’s a free event with four stages of music and a total of 26 bands. One of those bands appearing is a local act, and also a singularly-manned project, Boxwood (read my interview with the project’s found here: Boxwood, a one-man wall of sound, releases “Sun Garden City” EP today).
Also high on the bill is another well-known local act making good outside of town, the Band in Heaven (see the group’s new music video as featured in Spin’s website). Finally of note, is probably Miami’s most popular indie-rock act of national renown, the Jacuzzi Boys. For the full line-up and more details see the graphic below:
December 30, 2012
As this year comes to a close, and I spent more time than ever having to watch movies, as a newly inducted member into the Florida Film Critics Circle (including Hollywood fare! Blech), I felt a bit slack about my longtime experience covering music. So I wanted some help with a survey of some of the best albums 2012. I asked musicians, DJs and general local music scenesters of South Florida (current and past) to share their top 10 albums of 2012.
The tastes represented here are eclectic, and, as inspired by my first contributor, Emile Milgrim of Other Electricitiesand Sweat Records, include no music journalists who are pandered and marketed to by music labels. I therefore, humbly put my lists and thoughts at the end of these 12 notable personalities. Yet, I was pleased to find that within these varied lists, the one album I dared to call a masterpiece in 2012 appeared six times, far more than any other album (and the guy behind it laughed at me!)— hence the headline image.
I had attempted for a moment to survey a top 10 ranked list, but these people are not ones who follow rules easily, hence you can expect many albums ranked in no particular order and even albums from years outside 2012 and lists that did not care to limit themselves to 10 choices. I believe these are all genuinely beloved releases and should provide many intriguing discoveries for adventurous music-types.
Those included in this informal survey are all random people I know who responded to my request mostly via Facebook. I know plenty more people who could have provided intriguing lists, so if you feel left out… never fear, there is always next year.
Without further ado, on to the lists:
Owner at Other Electricities
Ten 2012 albums listened to most (in no particular order):
Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
Lee Fields – Faithful Man
Aesop Rock – Skelethon
Loscil – Sketches From New Brighton
Micachu & The Shapes – Never
Bat For Lashes – Haunted Man
Open Mike Eagle – 4NML HSPTL
Doseone – G is for Deep
Jeans Wilder – Totally
Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin – Instrumental Tourist
Honorable Mentions (note: my record label released some of these)
Holly Hunt – Year One
Bacanal Intruder – Do While, If Else
Motèl Mari – Eternal Peasant
Chelsea Wolfe – Unknown Rooms
Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II
Giulio Aldinucci – Tarsia
Dan Deacon – America
Serengeti – C.A.R.
Black Marble – A Different Arrangement
Orcas – Orcas
Reissues of Aphex Twin, Massive Attack, Stereolab, Califone, Sea & Cake, Tortoise, Crass, Codeine, Wendy Rene, Alvarius B., Destroyer, Blur, Sugar.
Sleeper hit of the year: Pepe Deluxé – Queen Of The Wave
I’m sure I’m forgetting something… It should also be noted that I probably listened to Belle & Sebastian more than anything. They’re my Beatles.
Member of the instrumental band Möthersky
Agent Side Grinder – Hardware
Excellent post-punk from Sweden. The aesthetics of Cabaret Voltaire, the fury of Swans, and the precision of Kraftwerk. Saw them live in Berlin this year, fantastic energy.
Raime – Quarter Turns Over a Living Line
A complete deconstruction of electronic music. Terrifyingly beautiful.
Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music
Zoned out super heavy minimalism from this Australian duo. Loads of atmosphere and droning mantras disguised as rock. Sounds like drugs.
Pye Corner Audio – The Black Mill Tapes
A collection of original analog tapes brought back to life on this double LP from UK label Type. Dark and desolate soundscapes built from vintage synths and drum machines.
Swans – The Seer
Another amazing full-length from one of the world’s most uncompromising and prolific bands. Hypnotic, cathartic and dynamic. Although I can do without the Karen O track.
Slug Guts – Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat
Another Aussie release. Nasty and dirgey rock ‘n’ roll a la Birthday Party. As if they dug up the bones of Roland S. Howard himself and slapped six strings on him.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Everything you would expect from a Godspeed record. Weird tape loops, slowly building phrases, crescendos, Middle Eastern flourishes, and tons of despair. Even some spacey Hawkwind moments.
Cult of Youth – Love Will Prevail
Dark folk with a good post-punk energy. See also Death in June.
Tamaryn – Tender New Signs
Lush, swoony, reverby shoegaze stuff. Tamaryn stays consistent.
Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
This made the list only because it is the worst thing I’ve heard all year and Scott is a genius for convincing the public to spend a shit on this record. Unlistenable. Piss taker of the year award goes to Scott Walker.
a.k.a. Musician/DJ Alx Czo
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Peaking Lights – Lucifer
Soft moon – Zeros
Swans – Seer
Sad Souls – Apeiron
Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin – Instrumental Tourists
Laurel Halo – Quarantine
The KVB – Always Then
Echo Lake – Wild Peace
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
Notable 5 I couldn’t fit:
Brian Eno – Lux
Grimes – Visions
Gary War – Jared’s Lot
Mirroring – Foreign Body
Lust For Youth – Growing Seeds
Operations manager at Radio-Active Records
In no particular order:
Cult Of Youth – Love Will Prevail
Swans – The Seer
The Wake – Here Comes Everybody (reissue)
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Ceremony – Zoo
Chromatics – Kill For Love
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Moritz Von Oswald – Fetch
Gaslamp Killer – Breakthrough
a.k.a. Mr. Entertainment of the band Mr. Entertainment and the Pookie Smackers
1. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
2. Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat The Factory
3. Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben
4. Earth – Angels of Darkness Demons of Light II
5. Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
6. Ian Hunter – When I’m President
7. Kramer – Brill Building
8. Holly Hunt – Year One
9. Swans – The Seer
10. ZZZ’s – Prescription
Michael Chapman – Rainmaker
Captain Beefheart – Bat Chain Puller
Waiting for Sugarman – Rodriguez
a.k.a. Musician/DJ Ursula 1000
Poolside – Pacific Standard Time
Seahawks – Aquadisco
Fleetwood Mac – “Dreams (Psychemagik Remix)”
The Fangs – Vampire Vamp
Toy – Toy
Purson – Rocking Horse
Temples – Shelter Song
Boston Bun – Housecall
The Three Degrees – Maybe (reissue)
The Primitives – Echoes and Rhymes
Pocket of Lollipops
a.k.a. musicians Maite Urrechaga and Tony Kapel
The Kills – “The Last Goodbye” EP
Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
Crystal Castles – III
Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels – “Join My Militia”
Unrest – Perfect Teeth (reissue)
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Animal Collective – Centipede HZ
Jack White – Blunderbuss
The Ting Tings – Sounds From Nowheresville
Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
Santigold – Santigold (2008)
On heavy rotation at the couple’s home this year:
Sonic Youth – Destroyed Room
Versus – Deep Red
Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Modest Mouse – Building Nothing Out of Something
Pink Floyd – Umma Gumma or Obscured by Clouds
Bat for Lashes – Fur & Gold
David Bowie – Hunky Dory
Efterklang – Tripper
The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free
Managing Partner & Co-Founder Grand Central
Listed in no particular order:
The XX – Coexist
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
Tame Impala – Innerspeaker (2010)
Crystal Castles – III
Beck – Song Reader ( I haven’t heard it or attempted to play it yet, but concept alone is immensely brilliant)
Lower Dens – Nootropics
Tanlines – Mixed Emotions
Hundred Waters – Hundred Waters
Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (great fabrication of an artist)
Assistant Manager at Miami Beach Cinematheque
Listed in no particular order:
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben
The Soft Moon – Zeros
Peaking Lights – Lucifer
Swans – The Seer
Tropic of Cancer – The End of All Things
Tales of Murder and Dust – Hallucination of Beauty
The Limiñanas – Crystal Anis
Matthew Dear – Beams
The Blondes – Blondes
Starred – “Prison to Prison” EP
“Doer of Jobs” at (((SHAKE)))
Grimes – Visions
Beach House – Bloom
Holly Hunt – Year One
Traxman – Da Mind Of Traxman
Tnght – Tnght
Swans – The Seer
Mala – Mala In Cuba
Ryan Hemsworth – Last Words
Metro Zu – Mink Rug
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Guitarist (currently member of Atlanta-based MonstrO, but formerly of Miami greats Torche, Floor and Ed Matus’ Struggle)
Manray – Tournament (2011)
Order Of The Owl – In the Noon of the After Day
Kavinsky – Drive Movie Soundtrack (Even though it’s from 2011, I spent the whole year listening to this)
Melvins – The Bulls and the Bees
Biters – “Last of a Dying Breed” EP
Can we finish it off with albums I wished would of come out? I can even title them:
My Bloody Valentine – Eternal Wait
Aphex Twin – Beyond Babylon
Trans Am – Fluid To It
Melt Banana – Nude Mood
Danzig – Sangre Nuestro
Guiatarist of Gypsy Cat
Kurt Rosenwinke – Star of Jupiter
Elisa Weilerstein with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle – Elgar and Carter Cello Concertos
Dead Can dance – Anastasis
Lenacay – Ryma
Esperanza Spalding – Radiomusic Society
Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor II
Bomba Estereo – Elegancia Tropical
Brooklyn Rider – Seven Steps
Earth – Angels of Darkness Demons of Light II
My Bloody Valentine’s long awaited follow-up to Loveless
writer of this blog
Finally, my top 10 albums of 2012 (and I really feared I wasn’t going to be able to come up with one based on all the film reviewing I did this year [that list will be out tomorrow, by the way]. Another note, as you can tell by the contacts above, I am too partial and precious to my local music scene to pick out local artists, for fear of leaving someone out, but let my coverage this year of Holly Hunt, Boxwood and Spielberger stand for itself.):
Swans – The Seer
I declared it a masterpiece to the creator’s face, and I am happy to own up to it here. It’s a difficult one to listen to from start to finish, from it’s near 2-hour runtime to its sweeping range of emotions, and its dynamics between noisy indulgence and soaring symphonic qualities. I doubt most modern musicians have the kind of talent Michael Gira has and know how to use it as well.
Beach House – Bloom
Another album of bold declaration to the songwriter’s face. I told singer Victoria Legrand that no album has grabbed me with such immediacy since the album that topped my 2010 list. I feel obliged to own up to that and place it after the masterpiece of 2012. Though I interviewed several other musicians, as the coverage of Swans and Beach House on this blog shows, I feel genuinely lucky to have been able to talk to the artists behind some of the greatest albums of the year. To hear these two as much as I did and study them as deep as I did and not get tired of them, either, stands as testament to that.
Grizzly Bear – Shields
I wished I could have written as extensively about and talked to the artists behind this album, but no tour down here made it hard. I was skeptical about this release, as Grizzly Bear has only turned further and further away from its brilliant moody, abstract and atmospheric debut, Horn of Plenty with each release. However, Shields, it’s fourth full-length, had so much genuine soul, it swept away all doubts with each song.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
I had heard this man’s prior work, but was never blown away … until Mature Themes. It jumps genres with a glee I have not seen since I first heard Ween, 20 years ago. It even had progressive rock elements that remind me of very early Brian Eno. Anyone who can do that deserves props.
Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance
So, lead singer/guitarist Bradford Cox of Deerhunter often gets all the attention for the work in the brilliantly noisy Deerhunter, but I am partial to the band’s shy guitarist Lockett Pundt. His contributions are the band’s catchiest and most indulgent. It’s all on display here, his second solo album under the moniker of Lotus Plaza.
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
It’s been a long time since a Spiritualized album took ecstatic turns into blissful, noisy jams. This album has several of these moments.
Faust – 10
It may seem hardly fair to include an unreleased album on my list, but Faust is one legendary group, and it is damn sad that legal issues has kept 10 unreleased. A resourceful bootlegger manufactured two runs on vinyl, and I was lucky to have been led to a copy. The works on here are some of the best I have heard featuring founding members Jean Hervé Péron and Werner “Zappi” Diermaier since the original line-up’s masterwork Faust IV.
Diiv – Oshin
I was drawn to the wit and atmosphere of the album cover, something that has not happened to me in years. The contents did not disappoint! By tuns Krautrock-inspired droney to as catchy as the Cure, Oshin was one of the best blind-buy album surprises of my life.
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
It’s a sad shame that gossip rags/blogs seem attracted to hounding Apple. She is one of the most talented performers I have ever seen, and a brilliant songwriter, as well. Her raw delivery and energy are an impressive thing to capture on vinyl, and this was definitely one of the year’s highlights. Between her soulful growls and her resonating piano are brilliant, human insights few pop artists know how to tune into.
Just to off-set things, too, number 11 is an obscure honorable mention:
Birthmark – Antibodies
One of the great but little recognized albums I have heard this year comes from Birthmark. This is the on-going side-project of Nate Kinsella, formerly of Joan of Arc and Make Believe. It features the familiar deconstructive, yet still catchy approach of songwriting that defined his earlier bands. However, Kinsella brings together elements of classical instruments and electronics, and mixes them together to compliment and contrast each other to brilliant effect.
Off-setting things some more: Music documentary of the year goes to: LCD Soundsystem – Shut Up and Play the Hits
OK, so I haven’t seen the buzzy Searching for Sugarman or Marley documentaries, but I cried a tear the moment Murphy sang the lyric “this will be the last time” during “All My Friends.” So this is the way LCD ends, with a bang and a whimper. The documentary is brilliantly mixed by James Murphy himself featuring bombastic performances of the band’s final show at a sold-out Madison Square Garden interspersed among Murphy’s contemplative musings of why he ended it. The blu-ray release features the ultimate bonus feature, as it includes the entire three-and-a-half-hour MSG show spread across two blu-ray discs. LCD Soundsystem was indeed one of the most amazing bands of the turn of the millennium. They will also go down as one of the best live experiences of my life, which makes the dissolution of the band all the more tragic.
Jose Ferrer, aka Boxwood, is a bit of a deconstructionist. He showed up at Sweat Records in Miami a couple weeks ago to talk about how he puts together luscious, noisy, catchy, swirling sounds of noise pop as a solo musician using loop pedals, guitar and percussion instruments, with a box of hacked up vinyl records refitted as CD covers for his first EP, “Sun Garden City.” His idea of CD packaging is useless 12-inch dance records. “It’s serving a purpose,” he says of the vinyl records re-purposed as gatefold CD cases, adding that the records he butchered are around six years old and no one would care to use them on the dance floor nowadays. A DJ friend of his gave him a stack to sacrifice to a buzz saw. “We saved the good stuff,” Ferrer says, assuring that he still loves the vinyl format. Here’s an example of the EP folded open, outside and in:
The small, elfin musician is soft-spoken and looks 10 years younger than his 33 years of age. It’s hard to believe this guy has a 10-year history as an acoustic strumming singer-songwriter in New York City before becoming Boxwood, a creature far evolved from acoustic guitar and voice, now residing in the low-key suburbs of Hollywood, Florida. He does his best to answer questions about what lead him to his distinctive sound but often mumbles and stumbles for words. This is clearly a musician who prefers to have the music do the talking for him. “I hate promoting,” he finally admits. “You have to be on top of people. It would be easier if I had some kind of management or something.”
Of course, he is talking about setting up shows and releasing records and then having to deal with their promotion, but he might as well be talking about talking about life when the music stops. He perks up when asked about the experience of being in the music, be it on stage or in the studio. “The music comes first. I like performing … I like the recording process. I compiled a bunch of stuff from the time in New York, when I came here [in 2006]. I printed out a CD full-length of songs from a span of 10 years. It’s a lot of the singer-songwriter stuff. I made 1,000 and still have 980 but I forget to get them [they are sitting in storage somewhere in New York]. I’m gonna have them if someone is curious. It’s still me, but it’s not representative of Boxwood.”
He left behind that singer-songwriter sound a long time ago for something decidedly more original and distinctive featuring a treated acoustic guitar that sounds electric and a variety of percussion instruments recorded and looped through effects pedals. “I’ve been to so many open mics. At least in New York, there’s like a million singer-songwriters,” he says. “You get sick of it. I can’t sit and listen to it. It gets boring. Not that it’s not good. I just can’t do it anymore. I did a lot of it. The thing that draws me now [to music] is really getting a nice sound out of the equipment.”
By “the equipment” he might as well be talking about his voice as well as guitar and percussion, which he often buries and treats with echo, submerging it into the swirl of reverbing sounds looped through pedals. Boxwood’s sound recalls the dream pop of bands like My Bloody Valentine or the heavily affected recordings of Deerhunter. “I used to focus more on my lyrics. I was more of a singer-songwriter prior to getting into the pedals. It was very vocal, lyric-based, but since then I have been trying to get away from that to just make the music more interesting,” he explains.
He performs live using the pedals to create a wall of beats and melodies and captured it on his new EP with minimal, if any, studio tricks. “I wanted the same sound as I have live,” he says. “It’s all recorded from the same loops that I do with all my equipment. Nothing was MIDI. I didn’t add any other instruments. It’s just kind of what I do live.”
Upon hearing “Sun Garden City,” beyond the layers of guitars, the polyrhythmic quality of the beats standout. Being a teen in New York, the rise of hip-hop in pop music did not escape Ferrer. He says he was 12 when he started really noticing the presence of hip-hop artists on MTV back in 1994. “Hip-hop had so much personality back then,” he says. “Rhythmically, I like the sound of the drums, which are samples of old drums of funk and soul.”
The results are smartly constructed pieces of blissed out layers of melody and noise. “Balance” opens “Sun Garden City” with a beat composed of clicks, rattles and thudding booms before a guitar coats the fuzzy rhythms with quavering noise that seems so high in treble it occasionally squeaks. Then Ferrer begins his terse, breathy and occasional growls from what sounds like the depths of a well. It’s all tinny, catchy rhythmic din until the beats halt to highlight the quavering guitars and Ferrer repeats “untie me” over and over, as if on over-lapping loops. An inspired wash of soft, synthesized drone or hum glistens over the final seconds of the track, bringing it to another level.
“Palisade” follows, raising the dramatic dynamics to an even more exuberant level. Ferrer’s lyrics become a little less easier to understand, as he spews his words with a forced pressurized delivery. The percussion has been changed up to something lighter, sparse and more wooden but just as dynamic in its qualities as “Balance.” The guitars offer a prettier side to Ferrer’s melodic capabilities and there’s even a swelling sting of a drone. A demonstration of how he puts together the loops that make up the track can be watched on Boxwood’s YouTube channel, here:
From that humble beginning (and it is just a beginning), the results are amazing on record. Ferrer’s has offered “Palisade” as a free MP3 download here, so you can hear the difference. Across the six tracks of the “Sun Garden City,” which also include an atmospheric, rhythmic instrumental interlude, the music never relents. Boxwood is one inspired creature and proves there are not many limits to acoustic guitar and percussion.
November 23, 2010
Today, Nov, 23, Churchill’s Pub and Dangerfun will host The Bends: A Radiohead Tribute. Several local bands will take the stage to play their favorite Radiohead tunes. Among them Andy Christ, Lindsaybell, Ian Michael, Rebel, Xela Zaid, boxwood, Triple Gem, Gonzo Danny, Jackie Ransom, Joikels, Johnny OneTwo,
BadAss (edit: BadAss has cancelled due to illness, I am told by Churchill’s. Eric Schwartz will fill in) and DJ Saul Good.
The doors open at 8 p.m., and the show begins at 9. Those below drinking age will need to give up $5 to get in, and anyone over 21 is expected to drink. Here’s Xela Zaid’s take on “Paranoid Android,” which I love, only because it sounds so distinctly Xela-esque– only he can make an acoustic guitar sound so luscious and noisy at once, but if any of the songs are going to be as loosely interpreted as this, drink might help:
I might make it out to the show. I do love me some Radiohead. Actually, they have come to be one of my all-time favorite bands but totally by surprise. I never thought I would be a Radiohead completist (as far as songs go– not formats– those people are crazy), but it turns out I have all their albums on vinyl, including the fancy version of In Rainbows pictured below.
To top it off, I recently completed my new Radiohead collection of deluxe editions (the double CD+DVD versions). I wound up with practically brand new sets of Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief at reasonable used prices (just under $20 each thanks to wherehouse.com).
In the wake of these purchases, I had noticed an odd sort of backlash against the band, probably prompted by “Spin Magazine”’s Nov. 9, 2009 cover issue. “16 Rock Myths Debunked.” Well, here was the leading myth by Chris Norris:
Rock Myth No. 1: Radiohead Can Do No Wrong
Reality: Radiohead kinda blow
Now, I shan’t fault him for his view, nor all the others he invited onto his Radiohead haters bandwagon. His key argument is that they put him off because they behave so dang pretentious. I’ll admit the band seems to rationalize every release, looking for a purpose or reason to release an album. “So they’re a band, making records. Why all the newspeak? Does Radiohead’s every move have to be without precedent? Must they define a new music language?” he moans. Look, fine, I’ll go with that. A true artist will know humility and be happy with it. Yet, it does seem Radiohead strain to be vital with each and every release, sometimes quite self-consciously changing up their sound (most especially with Kid A and Amnesiac).
Whatever the rhetoric they may couch their logic for releasing an album, it does nothing to detract from how consistently interesting each of their releases have been since Pablo Honey in 1993. With every release, Radiohead has impressed me, but the band never won me over as a dedicated fan until Amnesiac. Now, don’t misinterpret that. As a college radio DJ, I was there in 1993 when the “Creep” single first made the rounds on college radio and later started appearing on heavy rotation on MTV’s alternative rock show “120 Minutes.” I also caught Radiohead live on Miami Beach opening up for Belly at the intimate Cameo Theater, where I also got Thom Yorke’s and Jonny Greenwood’s autographs*.
But I was a very casual fan then (my passion then was for Stereolab more than Radiohead. Ironically, I’m more interested in what Radiohead is currently doing than Stereolab). I went to their show with Belly only because the college radio station I worked for, Florida International University’s WUFI, then on 540 AM, had free tickets. I remember my date and I screaming “Lurgee” between songs, whenever we had the chance, as that was my favorite track on Pablo Honey. Still, they never played it that night. Even later on, when we clarified by yelling “I feel better,” the song’s opening line, Yorke just responded with “good for you.” Clearly, this is not the kind of guy who likes being told what to do or satisfy any expectations, even back then. After I met him and Greenwood, I asked Greenwood why they didn’t play “Lurgee,” he said, “I don’t why we didn’t play it. We usually do.”
Anyway, back then it was all just a freak encounter. I loved their layers of guitars, which back then sounded like an easier to digest My Bloody Valentine. It was all fun and interesting, but my interest in them was only casual. When it came to bands with layers of guitar noise, I preferred Kitchens of Distinction’s work (a more obscure band, I know, yet they did the lush layers of guitar noise as early as ’89) to Radiohead. Once again, I’m quite over the Kitchens’ now dated sounding work in comparison to Radiohead’s. In the meantime, Yorke became amused by the two pretty Miami girls hanging off him on either arm.
When OK Computer came out, critics began comparing Radiohead with Pink Floyd and Genesis and other prog rock artists of the early 70s. Probably most lazily due to the sound of the Mellotron on “Exit Music (For a Film)” and the lengthy, time-shifting “Paranoid Android,” which became an MTV hit at the time. I thought the Bends had been a strong follow-up to Pablo Honey for sure, and had bought that CD soon after its release. But OK Computer was the first of their albums to totally blow me away and feels like my favorite album.
Then came the two albums almost designed to push away the casual fan: Kid A and Amnesiac. I bought Kid A soon after its release. It was a curious departure as it melded the avant-dance-oriented break beats of Aphex Twin and rock. It wasn’t so much a new sound, as it harvested certain music schemes that came before it (it wasn’t too different from what Moby or even Brian Eno only a few years earlier). It wasn’t a perfect album, as only one song grabbed me immediately: “Morning Bell,” but it would casually grow on me over the years as amazingly atmospheric songs began to take shape like “Everything In Its Right Place” and “How to Disappear Completely.”
Then came a fateful trip on train, crossing the Czech Republic with a class from FIU, during my studies for a Master’s degree. It was an overcast day and the grassy countryside spotted with modest cottages zipped past my window. One student had offered to loan me his CD copy of Amnesiac, which I had not got around to buying, skeptical after Kid A‘s then seeming half-assed quality. Then, “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box” started up on its metallic beat. With my attention on the adventurous development of the song, as I stared out at the passing landscape, my love for Radiohead had solidified.
With every subsequent release, I was there as a fan, even if Hail to the Thief felt a little weak upon first listen. It did grow on me, much as Kid A had. Then came In Rainbows, which I downloaded for free from Radiohead’s website, since they said I could pay whatever I wanted. My experience with their prior albums merited that price. They would have to earn my appreciation and money. However, it only took a few listens before I knew I would pay more than $80 for the aforementioned deluxe version on two 45 rpm vinyl LPs in a hardbound case with fancy abstract art book and a bonus CD of outtakes, along with the CD of the album.
I have no regrets. I dare say In Rainbows, may finally be that Radiohead album that ideally melds their electro tendencies with guitar-oriented rock. It leaves me looking forward for the new album, which I hear they are close to finishing (see Greenwood’s post on their official site here).
*You’ll notice I handed Thom a notepad asking him a couple of questions, as my editor (a not-much-older faculty member) wanted me to write an article about the then rising trend of moshing (the small bits of research thankfully never amounted to anything more than this humorous autograph). It was noisy there in the alleyway outside the club, so I asked him just to fill it out. I saw that he signed it, so I just thought “what the heck” and handed the pad to Jonny, so he might autograph it. I now keep the autographs below the CD tray of my Pablo Honey CD, which I got for a few cents from the BMG club later on.