Anyone who saw The Devil Makes Three live knew what all the fuss was about: here is a group that infused Americana traditions with an unabashedly modern energy that caused any ears within a mile radius to buzz with excitement. Anyone who heard the early Devil Makes Three records heard something more: a solid group that showed promise but didn’t necessarily light the world on fire. For so long, the trio of guitarist Pete Bernhard, bassist Lucia Turino, and banjo-player extraordinaire Cooper McBean hadn’t figured out how to translate their live shows into the studio, at least not until 2011’s Stomp and Smash and their 2013 followup I’m a Stranger Here.
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The music festival landscape, an event production universe in its own right, has changed drastically over the course of the past decade and a half, or so. What had begun some half a century ago as a naïve, albeit admirable attempt at youth liberté and rebelliousness, turned into a global-scale business undertaking some time in the ‘90s, only to, perhaps inevitably, become a gargantuan money-making machinery in the ‘00s, abandoning any semblance of ideology or topicality.
When renowned festivals make the ambitious business decision to expand their activities, namely by creating satellite festivals, there are only two ways in which this tapping into new territory plays out -– either the satellite festival is small, shoddy, cheap, and generally serves only to raise awareness about the queen bee event, or it becomes a rogue sensation in its own right, breathing a new life into the entire franchise and providing ace entertainment for audiences thirsty for new events.
It all started with a mix. Well, more accurately, it started as a remix.
For both Richard Norris and Erol Alkan, these two young Londoners started out, by themselves, as Djs, Alkan focusing more on dance and electronic music, Norris befriend Joe Strummer and playing on some of the Clash maestro’s latter-day creations. It wasn’t until 2006 that, after having rejiggered some tracks under his own name, Alkan began using the Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve moniker. Norris had joined in, and the group, gaining notoriety for productions of artists of both the underground (Midlake) and the mainstream (Franz Ferdinand, The Chemical Brothers) variety, started making the name for themselves. EPs and singles would trickle out here and there, but outside of 2008 compilation of their earlier recordings, nothing concrete.
What a joy it is, then, that The Soft Bounce is here, and goodness is it a mishmash of so many varied things. From the hippie-friendly go-go bounce of “Creation” to the ‘80s synth homage “Diagram Girl” to the ambient instrumental “Tomorrow, Forever” to the string-driven mod number “Door to Tomorrow”, The Soft Bounce encompasses so much but still originates from the group’s clearly-defined psych-friendly aesthetic.
Thus, to help celebrate the occasion, the two Wizards themselves answered PopMatters 20 Questions, revealing a love of truffle oils, an affinity towards author John Higgs, and some remarkably practical advice for handling life’s problems.
With so many greats in the world of music passing and so much new talent coming from the Internet for their 15 minutes, it’s fair to wonder who will be the ones to adapt to the times and stay around to make a life’s worth of music. With much of the ‘90s crowd broken up, re-branded or withered into obscurity, it may seem like Radiohead is one of the only to continue to put out records whenever they want, using whatever instruments they want and charging whatever they want. But they wouldn’t be alone because Beck has shown that he can go from country, to rock and roll, to funk, and create records that ebb and flow with the emotional current of tears (Morning Phase).