Where hip-hop, folk rock meet
Almost a decade ago, when Elvin Estela and Christopher Gunst were in college and DJing at Loyola Marymount’s KXLU-FM (88.9), it would have been hard to imagine the pair carpooling, let alone collaborating.
Estela, under the name Nobody, went on to produce three albums of trippy, sample-heavy hip-hop that gained him cred in the L.A. underground. Gunst matriculated to the psychedelic jangle of California folk rock as guitarist in Beachwood Sparks and later, with partner Jen Cohen, to Mystic Chords of Memory.
With “Tree Colored See,” released in April on local indie Mush Records, Nobody and Mystic Chords of Memory found common ground. As Gunst says, “As we got older, our tastes grew to include each other’s music.”
The album sounds as sylvan as where it was written -- a house Gunst and Cohen were renting on a 24-acre ranch in Santa Cruz County. Acoustic guitar, electronic beats and gentle melody are married in Byrdsian harmony.
“It was really a big step forward for me,” says Estela, whose last album, “Pacific Drift,” leaned toward the psychedelic and featured Gunst as a guest vocalist on one song. “When I started, everything I did was sample-based and I didn’t really know about the interplay between melody and chords.”
For the first time, Estela says, he is writing songs on guitar. His next album, he promises, “will be where ‘Pacific Drift’ and ‘Tree Colored See’ meet.”
Tonight, those sensibilities will meet at El Cid, where Nobody & Mystic Chords of Memory are playing the third of the five-night Devendra Banhart-curated “Hypnorituals and Mesmemusical Miracles... " festival.
From Persian pop to hard rock
Like many musicians of their heritage, the members of Slow Motion Reign pay plenty of bills gigging, playing and producing in the robust market for Persian pop. Such work brought together the principals of the L.A. quartet, who set their sights on playing straight-ahead rock music. What they developed over the past couple of years is a sound that counterbalances aggressive, churning guitars against melody-rich piano lines.
Their music, largely the songwriting handiwork of singer-bassist Narek Pogosyan, caught the attention of System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, who signed the band to his own Serjical Strike Records and produced its eponymous debut (due Tuesday).
“It was great working with him,” keyboardist Erwin Khachikian says. “You imagine the lead singer of System of a Down being this really hyper guy, but he was very calm, all business. He’s the label president, but at the same time he was producing the album and at the same time he was a friend of the band through all the usual drama.”
The quartet, with Vigen Sayadian on drums and Rafik Oganian on guitar, plays tonight at the Troubadour.
Seattle quartet the Cops bring their convulsive punk rock back to the Southland next week (Monday at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach and Tuesday at the Scene in Glendale), continuing the build started with last year’s release “Get Good or Stay Bad.”
It’s a slow process, concedes guitarist Michael Jaworski, whose band (including John Randolph, David Weeks and Drew Church) will begin recording a follow-up album -- plus a split single with Cursive -- when they wind up a West Coast tour.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’ll still be punk rock,” he says. “But now that we’ve been playing together 2 1/2 years, we’ve grown a lot as songwriters.”
Suffice to say it will not be mall punk. “For some, punk rock is the way you look, the way you dress, that cool T-shirt you bought at Hot Topic,” Jaworski says. “For me, it’s more challenging the way people think.”
* Touts: Nine Black Alps, one of the British bands that delivered scorching sets at Coachella in April, plays Spaceland tonight.... The band that claims to be “rehabilitating soft rock,” the London/Sussex quintet the Feeling, plays Friday at the Troubadour -- in case you’re on the lookout for the next 10cc.... Jake Bellows, frontman of Omaha’s Neva Dinova, and Blake Sennett (Rilo Kiley/the Elected) play solo sets at Spaceland on Friday; Bellows was dynamite as an opening act on the Elected’s recent tour.... Julie Chadwick and Chris Zerby, principals in the underrated ex-Boston outfit Helicopter Helicopter, have a new project, Hello Dragon (playing tonight at Tangier).... L.A. trio Divisible celebrates its EP release Tuesday at Silverlake Lounge.
-- Kevin Bronson
* Download “Coyote’s Song (When You Hear It Too)” by Nobody & Mystic Chords of Memory at www.mushrecords.com/music.php
* Stream Slow Motion Reign’s “Isn’t It Time” at www.myspace.com/slowmotionreign
* Download the Cops’ “Negative Cutting” at www.mtfujirecords.com