John Perry
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John Perry

Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States | SELF

Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States | SELF
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There’s been much moaning and groaning about how the music industry has been going to pot in the last decade or so, with its decline being fueled by widespread illegal downloads, greed, shoddy product, the loudness war, listener fatigue, and so on. Apparently, Chattanooga never got the memo; there’s been a recent healthy flurry of local releases, demonstrating that the recording arts still mean something in this town. Sure, the music itself matters the most; call me old-fashioned, but there’s still something special and exciting about holding a new record or CD in your hand (and I fear the day when that is no longer true). And you haven’t lived until you’ve spent a late night with a select group of friends, going through a stack of great records. Here’s a rundown of several notable summer releases from our fair city.

Reeve Hunter (www.reevehunter.com) is a one-man band, serving up quirky, playful strum-and-sing pop songs with orchestrations of toys, 8-bit video game sounds, and a multitude of electronic beeps. John Perry (johnperry.bandcamp.com) is a kindred spirit, with synthetic dance-pop/hip-hop offerings and sonic eccentricities that keep you guessing. Hunter and Perry combine their solo EPs into a split album (or double EP, if you prefer), produced by Summer Dregs, the studio party brainchild of keyboardist Carl Cadwell of Infradig and The Distribution. Other members of The Distribution lend their talents, including drummer Josh Green on Hunter’s toy piano/accordion-accented “Most Boats Float” and soul-funk vocalist Michelle Higgins, tag-teaming with Perry on the relentless hip-hop number “In the Buff.” Partially recorded by Stephen Nichols at his As Elyzum studio, the 10-song release has an infectious spirit and a resolutely weird yet confident attitude that is endearing in a goofy way.

The self-titled, self-released debut album from Prophets & Kings (prophetsandkings.net) is packed with driving, fist-pumping, sonically dense electro with a bevy of distorted beats and roughed-up notes and samples; the approach is the successor of industrial and electroclash styles, substituting darkness with a buoyant mood that’s propulsive. Featuring the anthemic vocals of Stratton Tingle, guitarist and keyboard player Jon-Michael Brown, drummer Eric Lisica and bassist Travis Ringstaff, the album carries an urgent, dance-oriented manner, punctuated with complicated tracks like “Eunuch” which constantly transforms itself, from lo-fi strumming to synth-string soundtracks with blasts of static. “Misery Haunts” begins with relaxed, wind-swept vocals before shifting into electronic mode, amid bloops and artificial drumbeat fuzz. It’s a stimulating and restless album of pure kinetic energy.

On the other side of the electronic music spectrum is the new album from Slow Head (slowhead.tumblr.com) entitled Night Glitters on Disaro Records. These instrumental tracks are often deceptive, ranging from soothing, ambient mysteries like “Curtains” to amalgams like “The Glade Riot” with spacey atmospherics and time-warped, stuttering sound fragments. “Haint Circles” contrasts nursery room chimes with jarring beats and threatening synth notes, conveying a foreboding uneasiness, and “Cut Through the Mist with a Lantern” uses disembodied samples that cut in and out, among reverberating piano notes and reserved, minimalist hip-hop beats. It’s a good cool-down, 3 a.m. chill-out room electronica album, perfect to cap off a night of musical discoveries.

Big Kitty’s (bigkitty.bandcamp.com) previous release, the 7-inch single “Waterfall of Love,” was an enchanting bit of homespun folk-pop, but it was just a warm-up. The new 11-track album Florence, available on vinyl on punk/D.I.Y. label Recess Records, is a superb, fully realized effort with full band arrangements in a country-folk-rock fashion, brimming with details and flourishes like eerie singing saw glides and flute flutters. Front man and songwriter Clark Williams sings with his distinctive, earthy and nasal voice with an unabashed southern drawl, accompanied by musicians from Chattanooga’s folk and punk scenes. Cohorts include Williams’s partner Yuriko Hoshino, Daniel Binkley (New Binkley Brothers), Billy Joe Johnson and Cole Champion from Future Virgins, and multi-instrumentalist Amanda Cagle. Tracks such as “Decades of Trouble” and “Milky Way” serve up irresistible earworm melodies, while rousing stompers like “Reincarnival” and “Nibiru,” about an alien encounter, are representative of Big Kitty’s off-kilter charm.

Folk School of Chattanooga co-founder Christie Burns (www.christieburns.com) steps out with her debut solo album Wildwood Flower with a bouquet of traditional standards and three Burns originals. On her instrument of choice, the hammered dulcimer, she plays ringing notes with an easygoing, freely flowing style, and her vocal delivery is naturally pretty and clear, without affectations. Joining her are various local folk stalwarts, including Folk School partner Matt Evans on banjo and Lynn Wamp on upright bass, and other versatile talent such as drummer Bob Stagner (Shaking Ray Levis) and bassist Evan Lipson. It’s hard to quibble about these fuss-free numbers, pristinely recorded by Charles Allison at Spanner Sound, but actually, a few more Burns-penned songs would be welcome for the next go-around. The recipes may be simple, but the ingredients are fresh and flavorful.

Drawing influence from acts such as Neil Young, The Flaming Lips, and My Morning Jacket, the five-piece outfit The Velvet Hand (www.facebook.com/thevelvethand) shows more ambition than your average rock band on its self-titled debut album, with material that has been in development since the group formed six years ago. A sort of concept album with an astronaut/cosmic exploration theme, it sports an expansive rock approach (think early-to-mid-’70s Pink Floyd) with multiple diversions along the way, suggesting unfettered weightless voyaging; the key inclusion of a saxophone in the instrumentation helps to distinguish the band’s sonic identity, with an earnest post-post-“Baker Street”-type jazz-rock balladry. - The Pulse Chattanooga


If John Reuben had guested on Self’s “Gizmodgery” album, it might have sounded like this. If those references are too obscure for you, think infectious white boy rap backed by a bevy of musical friends contributing beeps and boops, rockin’ beats and flawlessly placed bass, guitar, keyboard parts. I just wish there was more of it. Even a double EP of this stuff is not enough. - Nooga.com


Eighteen months after his first recording as Summer Dregs, Carl Cadwell has dished out a dual EP featuring two of Chattanooga’s lesser known but extremely talented and ridiculously entertaining songwriters, Reeve Hunter and John Perry, whose names serve as the EP’s title. The two flex their creative brawn with five songs each, exploring genres and weaving styles together against the backdrop of Cadwell’s aesthetic.

Cadwell’s distinct artistic touch is as pronounced in Perry’s and Hunter’s songs as it was throughout Gold to Green, his first Summer Dregs album. With this latest recording, however, Cadwell was not involved with the initial writing of most of the songs, and he shared the driver’s seat with Hunter and Perry as they brought their own unique styles to the EP.

“I have found that for me collaboration is the most rewarding type of musical project,” said Cadwell. “In my experience, it has also yielded the best results. The greatest thing for me about this recording was how fun it was to just be with Reeve and John doing music. It was just plain fun and I believe this came through in the recordings.”

The EP is definitely fun, and a big part of that is how different Hunter and Perry’s styles are.

Perry is a six-foot-something guy you’ve likely seen around town sporting slicked-back hair and awe-inspiring chops matched only by his vintage threads. Perry has the EP’s two rap songs. One is a throw back hip-hop piece called “In the Buff,” in which Perry’s comical lyricism is heightened by the backing of Cadwell’s band, The Distribution. The other is a rap called “The Announcement” and features guest rappers JWOL and Reeve Hunter.

Along with his ‘80s style electro-pop tune, “Wet Dog,” and his modern dance number called “Run the Countdown,” Perry rounds out the EP with soulful, rustic and Cohen-like poetics in the song “Man Down,” which recounts the tragic fall of Adam and Eve.

“I don’t think I’d be satisfied writing only upbeat lyrics or introspective, contemplative ones, or listening to just one or the other for that matter,” explained Perry. “I would probably be able to write more happy songs if I got more sleep.”

While Perry’s songs are diverse, Hunter’s are consistently ruminative, with shifting patterns and disparate instrumentation, including whirly synths, overdriven guitars and triumphant horns.

Equally fresh and inventive, Hunter’s songs are the product of years of home recordings. And though his aesthetic vision is lucid, Cadwell and local producer Stephen Nichols, who helped record and master the EP, brought polish and listenability to Hunter’s songs, which were previously unreleased.

“I’ve always just made music with whatever I had in front of me,” said Hunter. “More out of necessity than from some sort of music ethic. A lot of times the stuff that sounds the most interesting to me is the stuff that combines electronic and organic elements together in an unusual combination. Also, I used to play a lot of Nintendo.”

Hunter’s masterful amalgams of glitchy rhythms and earthy vocals lend his songs to Cadwell’s fondness for electro-pop arrangements and synth keyboards. This is especially noticeable on Hunter’s fourth track, “Soon,” which Cadwell remixed. And on the EP’s fifth track, “We Beneath Us,” Hunter’s distinct style also serves as the transition into Perry’s five songs.

With the differences between Hunter and Perry’s styles, the EP not only achieves intrigue but also a sense of wholeness.

“Reeve and John are masters at mixing and hopping genres,” said Cadwell. “But there is never a question as to whose song it is; they make every style their own, and it’s fascinating to hear this happen.”

Cadwell calls it “genre absorption,” and it’s obvious why. But between Hunter and Perry’s sensibilities, Cadwell’s contribution – whether glitch beats or searing keyboard chops or a remix – helped cement these 10 songs.

In fact, Summer Dregs provided the catalyst. Both Hunter and Perry were working on an EP with Cadwell separately, but neither could easily afford a release of their own. After hearing Perry perform some of his songs, Hunter initiated the idea of a double EP, which made financial sense.

And like Cadwell, Perry and Hunter explain that the project was about having fun.

“I think what ties it together is that we are a couple of guys who are making music that we like because it’s fun and we want to do it,” said Hunter.

Perry aptly described the album’s completeness as “Fiscal responsibility. Hand claps and arpeggios. And stone cold rhymin’.”

For Cadwell, this project was like his first Summer Dregs recording; it’s about collaboration.

“My main goal for the future of my music is that I continue to be able to work with people I trust and respect, and frankly, those I enjoy being with,” Cadwell said. “That is what happened on this project, and that’s what made it worth it. And of course it’s a good album I’m proud to have my name on.” - Chattarati.com


Discography

Reeve Hunter + John Perry - Double EP
http://johnperry.bandcamp.com

Photos

Bio

Weary from the bleak outlook that John Perry had on life due to his onerous day job with the state government, he set out to record some life-affirming jams to learn the people something about how to keep it real in the town of Chattanooga, TN.

Armed with old-school rhymes and cheap synthesizer beats, he teamed up with fellow Chattanoogans Reeve Hunter and Carl Cadwell to release a double EP set to placate a population growing ever restless with the current state of the nation. Because John Perry sees his rhyming as a public service when you're seeking release or need escape. You may be uptight or stressed or nervous, but you'll feel brand new when you hear his tape.

Influences: anxiety, guilt, lack of sleep, Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Beastie Boys, Belle and Sebastian, Pookey Blow, The Sex Pistols, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams