Week in Pop: Bret Koontz, Rock Abruham, Shmu, Sour Notes

Sjimon Gompers

Talking bars & brews with Rock Abruham; photographed by Enoch the 7th Prophet.


The shamanic pop world of Shmu; courtesy of Ben Aqua.

Let the world rejoice, as Sam Chown has announced a brand new Shmu album arriving this summer titled Lead Me To The Glow via GTZ. The awaited follow-up to 2015’s beloved Shhh!!! album, Chown’s new record features new mesmerizing cover art from the inimitable Keith Rankin and a cast of players that includes principle guitarist Chase Dugan, bassist Joel Coronado, Grupo Fantasma’s Mark “Speedy” Gonzales on trombone duties, saxophonist Thomas Van der Brook from Minor Mishap) on saxophone, trumpet supplied by Derek Phelps from Black Joe Lewis’s band & additional vocals provided by Calliope Musicals’ Carrie Bickley. Expanding their audio aesthetics extensively with a full on talented group, Sam Chown described the new Shmu album with the following keen insights:

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I think the album is a unique piece. This record is post-internet vaporwave aesthetics—utilizing sampling techniques—as a backdrop to honest to God songs.

Presenting a first listen off the upcoming Shmu album Lead Me To The Glow, Sam Chown unveils the world premiere for “Hololeaps” that breaks through the solitary conceits of the internet age with a full band that propels itself both backwards & forwards at the same time with what we can only begin to describe as a fantasia for the senses. From infectious rhythms that ride along a spectrum wave patterned after the thrilling abandon of an amusement park ride, vintage & future pop tropes excel in a multitude of directions that makes for an all around thrilling (and arguably) out-of-body-experience. Chown & the new Shmu wrecking crew of characters shatter the virtual reality obsessions of the digital era with something that feels refreshing, tangible & visceral in nature. “Hololeaps” imagines the ecstasy & energies of entering into something like a holographic painting (or holographic world if you will) where still life objects are experienced as an alive environment of myriad dimensions & endless possibilities. The feeling of leaping into a seemingly static work of art takes on the feeling of something out of Last Action Hero where the audience becomes entirely immersed into a whole new world of wonder & fascination. Chown maintains the surreal & creative abstract trademark charm, but with a whole new collaborative edge that makes for the most eclectic & massive Shmu sound the world has ever heard to date.

Sam Chown shared the following exclusive thoughts on the expanded Shmu developments, as well as the stunning new single:

“Hololeaps” specifically, is about leaping from one holographic universe or hologram to another, which is based on the holographic principle, a quantum/string theory. It also could be referred to as quantum jumping.

The focus on the music is emphasized on softer & rounder shapes. One could say it is a meditation of the last 40 years of music collapsing in on itself & attempting to create a post-internet pop music, utilizing mid 80s pop and r&b sounds, early 90s vaporwave-esque muzak samples, mixed with some 70s psych/r&b & yacht-rock influences that are glitched out with modern electronics. Kinda sounds like an afro-electro vaporwave Steely Dan or something.

Chase Dungan (lead guitar) & Joel Coronado (bass) have been in the band for a year and a half now & have helped informed the sound & process of the songwriting. Joel performs bass on “Hololeaps” on the record & Chase plays lead guitar.

I wrote a lot of these songs shortly after the release of Shhh, so the main difference between the process this time & last is that the songs morphed and changed over time with the help of my band; Chase would also write a lot of his own parts which changed the nature of the songs as well as the vibe of the band, instead of me writing all the parts & teaching it to my band like in previous incarnations. So there’s more of a collaborative element happening on the record, than last time, which was more of collaborative effort than the record(s) before that [Discipline/Communication & Chroma Key]. I guess the more records I make, the more I have a desire to collaborate with other people & involve other people’s ideas into my music. I would also have a panel of friends who would be kinda like my executive producers & give me notes/thoughts along the way, which would dramatically change and alter the course of the songs.

The macro takeaway with how the process was different, is that I really wanted to shed my ego by letting go of having a set way of how things should be, and being open to making music that people outside of me would like, by involving other voices and opinions into the process.

I think it’s for the most part, quite a departure from Shhh musically. Most of the instruments you hear are still performed & written by me.

Lead Me To The Glow will be available later this summer via GTZ Records.

Listen to more from Shmu via Bandcamp & keep up via Facebook.

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