Wednesday Is For Lovers - Joyful Noises

Today we received the devastating news that David Berman was found dead, and a report from Joe Pernice indicated that he committed suicide. Berman was the longtime bandleader of Silver Jews, and had recently returned with a new project named Purple Mountains. His music was an often dark and unflinching look into the tortured terrain of his own psyche.

So many of the musicians who have been so foundational to my life have died by their own hands - Crowded House's Paul Hester, Vic Chesnutt, Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, and Frightened Rabbits' Scott Hutchison, to name a few. My PSA for the evening is this; please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 if you are in crisis. They're staffed 24 hours a day to provide confidential, no-cost support for people in distress and experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges.

I received an email earlier today about a surprise visual album from the band WHY?, the project from Yoni Wolf that has explored the sonic boundaries of hip-hop, psych-folk, and electronica. Titled AOKOHIO, the visual album features a contemporary narrative featuring Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany intercut with footage from the childhood of Yoni and his brother and collaborator Josiah.
Not unlike David Berman, Yoni Wolf and WHY? have never been shy about unburdening themselves via music. With past albums that included Alopecia and Mumps, Etc., as well as Yoni's well-documented struggles with Crohn's disease, music has served as both a creative and psychological outlet. AOKOHIO has elements of this struggle, Yoni's tongue planted firmly in his cheek as he tries to accept and rationalize relocating from the Bay Area back to his native Cincinnati.
Photo courtesy of Ryan Back

That said, AOKOHIO is a luminous experience, a truly transcendent moment for a an artist and a band that have long explored musical margins in search of new horizons. Yoni originally wanted to release the album piece-by-piece, but pivoted to exploring the concept visually when that idea was nixed by his record label. The album is structured in six movements, with some of the songs and visuals comprising each movement lasting mere seconds. It covers a vast amount of ground in nearly 32 minutes—the downtempo psych-folk and upbeat electronica of Animal Collective; the experimental and experiential hip-hop of Slug and Atmosphere; the gauzy California soul-pop of pre-POP ETC outfit The Morning Benders; the horn-accented experiments of San Fermin; and so on. Yoni's voice exists somewhere at the intersection of the growl of J Mascis, the breathy introspection of John K. Samson, and the nasal erudition of John Darnielle.

In case it's not abundantly clear, I love this visual album and look forward to the audio version due this Friday from Joyful Noise Recordings. These are dark times for many, and this album is a full-throated celebration of life in sometimes less-than-ideal circumstances. DC area fans can catch WHY? at U Street Music Hall on Sunday, August 25. Be real, be kind, and be present, both for yourself and for those you love.