REVIEW: Connections “Private Airplane”

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Connections, “Private Airplane”
Anyway Records, 2013

Take a quick glance at the cover of Connections’ debut LP and you’ll surely notice a hot pink biplane soaring across an empty sky. It’s a seemingly calculated piece of iconography that links this record to Dayton, OH, the birthplace of aviation and the ancestral home of legendary Ohio rockers Guided By Voices. Located an hour east via I-70, in the relative metropolis of Columbus, this group of local music scene veterans have managed to channel the same sort of energy that Robert Pollard and company began tapping into almost 30 years ago.

For singer Kevin Elliot and guitarist Andy Hampel, the association is far from superficial. Four track recordings made by the pair’s high school band 84 Nash found their way into the hands of Pollard, resulting in the release of their debut full length on GBV’s own Rockathon Records in 1998. Drummer Adam Elliot’s group Times New Viking toured alongside the recently reunited ‘classic lineup.’ And if their previous musical output is any indication, guitarist Dave Capaldi (of El Jesus de Magico) and bassist Philip Kim (of Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch) have definitely listened to Bee Thousand.

Private Airplane possesses a sort of polished scruffiness, echoing the lo-fi roots of some of its key personnel without assaulting your ears with distorted blasts of tape hiss. The thrashing chords of “Miller’s Grove” and noisy hooks of “Casuals” sound as if they were written in beer can-strewn basements and hastily recorded using equipment identical to that which birthed albums like Under the Bushes Under the Stars. By the same token, short, divergent interludes like “Sister City” and “Capital of Strange Cravings” might have been fleshed out over the course of a few smoke breaks. And while Kevin Elliot may not have Uncle Bob’s vocal presence, the band’s unison delivery shares the consistent aspiration of treating a Thursday night bar crowd like a densely packed arena.

That’s not to say that Connections are entirely derivative of their most conspicuous influence. From the woozy chords of “Cindy” to the earnest sentimentality of “I Can Fix Memories,” the group consistently finds new ways to wrap their thoughts into succinct, pop-indebted rock songs. There’s a visceral feel to the half hour of music presented on the album, divided into bite-sized pieces that, while easily digestible on their own, are enhanced when placed in the context of the record itself. It’s a testament to Adam Smith’s production work which along with Adam Elliott’s understated rhythms, help unify the LP’s 15 varying tracks into a cohesive whole.

Amid all the muddy guitar tones and muffled cymbal crashes, there’s a palpable sense of midwestern nostalgia that finds the group’s romanticized small town recollections clashing with contemporary urban realities. It’s a source of inspiration that easily lends itself to uncovering universal truths, much like those exposed by their elders down the road in Dayton. Boarding their Private Airplanes, Connections achieve catharsis through a very specific strain of concise musical expression, giving a salty salute to their forbearers while proving that the club is still open.

You can find this record at your finest local record store.

INTERVIEW: Times New Viking

Times New Viking is one busy little band. Last week, they released their latest record entitled Dancer Equired on Merge Records. Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s the band’s strongest work to date—a logical evolution of the vociferous rock and roll the group has been pounding into our eardrums since their inception. A few weeks back, just ahead of their European tour, Adam, Beth and Jared snuck down to Athens to headline a night of Blackoutfest at the Union. The Aquabear couldn’t miss out on a chance to sit down with these Ohio-bred noisemakers, so we cornered them in an alley and politely asked them to partake in an interview. They kindly obliged.

Aquabear: You folks have been jumping around labels quite a bit lately, your latest release will be coming out on Merge Records. What was the reasoning behind the move to this new label?

Jared: No one else wanted to do it. I don’t think…

Adam: That’s not true. (laughs) It’s just a matter of contracts, I guess. We had the chance to be on a different label so we just went for it.

Jared: We liked Merge’s logo a little better.

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16th Annual Blackoutfest Lineup Revealed

There’s a blackout in store for Athens just a few weeks from today, and fortunately it’s not the kind that will leave you reading by candle light. Rather, the 16th annual Blackoutfest will be taking place April 14-16, organized by the locally-based Blackout Booking and bringing bands from across the nation as well as regional and local favorites onto the Union’s stage for a weekend of wall-to-wall garage/punk-inclined rock and roll. Headliners for this year’s lineup include Columbus’s Times New Viking, who are preparing to embark on a European tour in support of their upcoming Merge Records release Dancer Equired. Also heading up the bill are Tennessee glamrockers Cheap Time, psychedelic devotees Buffalo Killers, Chicago power duo White Mystery and eclectic noisemakers Fergus & Geronimo.

Once again, Blackoutfest will be sharing the weekend with the annual Record Store Day, which means you’ll be able to start your Saturday off at Haffa’s before jumping across the street to the Union for some live music. Tickets are currently on sale at Haffa’s, at $8 a night or $20 for all three days. Doors open at 6PM on Thursday and Friday, and at 4PM on Saturday. Complete list of band (which we’ll update as we receive more information) after the jump!

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Times New Viking Get Back to Their Roots


In this latest promotional video for Times New Viking’s upcoming release Dancer Equired, the recent Merge Records signees traipse through the snow in their Ohio hometowns. The short film takes the viewer to the small towns of Troy, New Lebanon and Gahanna, Ohio—all the while being serenaded by cuts from TNV’s new record. If the songs sound a bit less noisy than usual, that’s because the band took to a studio for the first time ever to record these tracks. The album was recorded at Columbus Discount Records and the famed Musicol Recording Studio in Columbus, Ohio. Dancer Equired hits record shops on April 26. In the meantime, you can catch the band as they head to SXSWdates after the jump.

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Buffalo Killers + Chickenpussy + Hexnet + D-Rays at the Union 2/19

Perhaps you’ve heard, but Aquabear Legion and Blackout Booking have once again teamed up to present a jam-packed night of rock and roll at the Union this Saturday, February 19.

Headlining the evening will be Cincinnati-based psychedelic blues-rockers Buffalo Killers, who last appeared in Athens this past October. Over the past year, the trio has been hard at work on their next record, the follow-up to their Dan Auerbach-produced 2008 release Let It Ride. The latest finds the group self-producing and expanding their already rich sound—Kelley Deal of the Breeders even provides guest vocals on a track. The record should find its way out this year, but in the meantime the band has contributed a cover of “Scalding Creek” to a Guided By Voices tribute album that will be released on April 16th via No More Fake Labels.

Rounding out the night’s bill are Athens regulars Chickenpussy and Hexnet as well as newcomers D-Rays—a new project from Erick Coleman, formerly of the Speedknobs.

Doors open at 9 PM, so come celebrate the (temporary?) return of warm weather here in Athens with some blazing-hot rock and roll this Saturday at the Union!

Psychedelic Horseshit sign to FatCat

As if the recent glut of Ohio-centric record label signings wasn’t enough, you can add Columbus-based Psychedelic Horseshit to the list. FatCat Records, an independent English label most famous for its discovery of Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós, today signed the noisy Ohio collective fronted by the ever-opinionated Matt Whitehurst. Psychedelic Horseshit’s painfully lo-fi recordings—dubbed ‘shitgaze’ by the group itself—have formerly seen release through Columbus Discount Records, Woodsist and Slitbreeze.

FatCat will release the band’s latest record later this year. In the meantime, they’ve made last year’s cassette album Acid Tape available for free download. Additionally, signing up for the group’s mailing list will net you a brand new MP3 from the forthcoming record.

At this rate, you might want to consider placing your bets on the next Columbus-based band to get signed.

Times New Viking signs to Merge Records

This week, Columbus lo-fi noise rock outfit Times New Viking announced that their latest record, Dancer Equired, will be released on April 26 via Merge Records. The change in label is the latest in a line of switches, which have seen the group releasing work through the similarly reputable labels Matador Records and Slitbreeze Records. This latest signing puts the band in the company of contemporaries such as Superchunk, Spoon and Arcade Fire.

Concurrent with the announcement, the group released a video for their latest single “No Room To Live” which features hand-drawn frames from over 40 artists. Times New Viking will be appearing at this year’s SXSW—check out the video after the break.
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