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Soundcheck

Live performances and conversations in which artists talk about their work, their process, and themselves. Genre-blind but open-eared. Hosted by John Schaefer.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Live performances and conversations in which artists talk about their work, their process, and themselves. Genre-blind but open-eared. Hosted by John Schaefer.

Danish Chamber-Pop Group Efterklang Keeps Experimenting

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Efterklang is a Danish band consisting of the 3 childhood friends Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen & Rasmus Stolberg, although the band often expands when playing live. For over twenty years, they have been collaborating and experimenting to arrive at a sound that evades easy labeling, so we’ll call it art-rock-indie-folk-chamber-pop. They play new songs from their latest, "Windflowers," remotely for the Soundcheck Podcast.

Nov 11 2021

36mins

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Poet, Composer, Stutterer JJJJJerome Ellis Creatively Shapes Time

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Poet, sax player, electronic music producer, storyteller, and composer JJJJJerome Ellis is a stutterer. On his 2021 album The Clearing, he takes speech disfluency and considers how it affects one’s experience of time. JJJJJerome Ellis offers live performances of works from his new album and shares how to say “I stutter” in Portuguese. 

Nov 08 2021

39mins

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Paolo Angeli: Between Innovation and Tradition

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The guitarist, composer, ethnomusicologist, and instrument builder Paolo Angeli is associated with traditional Sardinian music and has co-organized an international arts festival in Palau since 1996. He has collaborated with Pat Metheny (who uses Angeli's guitar in Orchestrion), Fred Frith, Hamid Drake, Iva Bittova, Zeena Parkins, and Derek Gripper.

Paolo Angeli plays the prepared Sardinian guitar, a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument that looks like a guitar crossed with a cello, and has virtually orchestral capabilities. Angeli’s custom creation has been fitted cross-wise and lengthwise with additional strings: cello strings and drone strings, and has numerous other inventions attached to it, including hammers, pedals, and some propellers at variable speed. Then there’s his array of effects, controlled by both his feet and hands. These custom modifications enable him to become a crazy-awesome one-man band, as he draws on Sardinian folk music, jazz, flamenco, Arabic suggestions, post-folk and contemporary classical music in his compositions. 

Paolo Angeli strums, bows, and hammers the instrument, and adds traditional Sardinian vocalizing, in a stunning performance of music from his latest, JAR’A, for this remote session, filmed on the island’s northern shore. - Caryn Havlik

Watch Paolo Angeli on the Sardinian shore:

Nov 04 2021

59mins

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Angélique Kidjo: Building Connections and Living Her Passion

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Multiple Grammy-winner and longtime UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo pulls together multiple generations, collaborating with global pop stars Burna Boy and Yemi Alade among others, in addition to focusing on our connection to the natural world for her latest album, Mother Nature. Through a signature combination of West African music, jazz, and funk, and using her incredible voice as instrument, Kidjo asks us to honor Mother Nature, and hopes that one lesson that people might learn from the pandemic is how to better care for one another.

As she and host John Schaefer chat, Kidjo gives props to her collaborators, many of them from younger generations, and also speaks to being the vocalist in Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 12, (Lodger) based on David Bowie’s album. Even with no audience, Angélique Kidjo’s larger-than-life stage presence captivates as she talks about having the luxury of living out her passion. She performs live with her band, from The Greene Space in advance of a Mother Nature concert event at Carnegie Hall on Friday, Nov. 5. - Caryn Havlik

Watch "Africa -One of a Kind”:

Watch "Take It Or Leave It":

Watch "Mother Nature":

Nov 01 2021

32mins

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Squealy-Fuzz Pop Band Upper Wilds Throws Down Very Fast Love Songs

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Brooklyn trio Upper Wilds features Dan Friel (ex-Parts & Labor) on guitar, vocals, and effects, bassist Jason Binnick, and drummer Jeff Ottenbacher and is really exceptional at making fuzzy-noisy songs with big pop riffs, usually concealed within explosive sonic textures.  They’ve now released the third in a series of albums about the planets, Venus, and the band is continuing their way further out as they go, planning to release a seven inch when they get to Pluto.

Friel confides that he’s still learning how to be a singer-songwriter after starting with interesting and possibly noisy textures. He prefers using the open tunings of Glenn Branca, tremolo picking, and effects that can ring and chime forever. Friel says that the lyrics just write themselves, themed around the planet named for the god of love, which also happens to be a “backwards-spinning hellscape that melts every camera we send there…”

Hear through the noise to the melodies as Upper Wilds plays very fast love songs from Venus, remotely from their practice space. - Caryn Havlik

Set List: “Love Song #5,” “Love Song #3,” “Love Song #1”

Watch "Love Song #5":

Watch "Love Song #3":

Watch "Love Song #1":

Oct 28 2021

26mins

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South African Guitarist and Sound Technician Guy Buttery Plays With Possibility

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Guitar innovator and part-time sound technician Guy Buttery discusses the spontaneous recording session with two master musicians, Mohd. Amjad Khan (tabla) & Mudassir Khan (sarangi), called One Morning In Gurgaon. He plays Indian classical music-inspired tunes remotely from South Africa on a custom baritone guitar and improvises on Raag Yaman playing the surbahar (bass sitar).

Watch "Kya Baat":

Watch "Surbahar the Mule": 

Oct 25 2021

30mins

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Buffalo Nichols Is Bringing the Blues of the Past Into the Future

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Austin-based guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist Carl “Buffalo” Nichols wants to remind folks of the value of the blues as a cultural art form. “Listening to this record, I want more Black people to hear themselves in this music that is truly theirs.” The self-described music nerd considers Delta blues, Chicago blues, West African Malian guitar rhythms, and the African ancestry of the clawhammer banjo in his sonic experimentation and ongoing study of chords and riffs.

Nichols, who lived in Milwaukee for most of his life save for his overseas travels, is Fat Possum Records’ first blues signing in nearly 20 years and “is grateful to be part of the label’s legacy of blues music that also includes Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside,” (Austin Monthly). For his remote performances, Buffalo Nichols wields both a hollow body Fender guitar and a resonator-style guitar, as he plays tunes from his self-titled record. - Caryn Havlik 

Set list: “These Things”, “How to Love,” “Lost and Lonesome”

“These Things”: 

“How to Love”:

“Lost and Lonesome”:

Oct 18 2021

28mins

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Angélica Negrón Performs on Plant Art, Live at The Greene Space

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Puerto Rican composer/performer/educator Angélica Negrón, who writes tiny and big sounds for chamber ensembles, orchestras, films, plants, robots and drag queens, joins us for the Soundcheck Podcast. Angélica takes us into her sensory world, and explains how her overlapping creative adventures feed into each other – say writing for the Dallas Symphony or for drag queens, or for the dreambow band, Balún. She offers a live performance - triggering sounds via plant art, programmed surface poppers, and hidden computers into a sonic dreamscape. 

Oct 14 2021

29mins

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Lucero: Musical Ghosts and Memphis Soul (Archives)

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Musical ghosts haunt the Memphis band Lucero. The late Warren Zevon is evoked in one song, and the spirit of the late Alex Chilton’s groundbreaking Memphis group Big Star can be felt throughout the record. (Their 2015 album title, All A Man Should Do, is a line from a Big Star song.) Songwriter Ben Nichols uses a stirring blend of classic rock and Memphis soul, but maintains a distinctive voice. Lucero plays songs from All A Man Should Do, in-studio. (From the Archives, 2015.)

Oct 11 2021

27mins

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Indie-Pop Band Wet (Archives)

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The Brooklyn-based band Wet first turned heads in 2013 with an EP packed with 90s-style synth-pop goodness. New Yorker magazine critic Sasha Frere Jones referred to their song “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” as “completely perfect” and made it one of his songs of the year. In 2016, after a major label bidding war, they released their full-length debut, called Don’t You. Wet (as a trio) joins us to play some of those songs, in-studio. (From the Archives, 2016.)

Oct 07 2021

25mins

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Passenger's Wandering Heart (Archives)

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It's no small thing to command the attention of billions of people with nothing but the sound of your voice and an acoustic guitar. Ask British singer/songwriter Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, whose song "Let Her Go" became a legit worldwide phenomenon after its release in 2012. The song snowballed in slow motion, no instant smash, and wormed its way into ears and hearts one play at a time. Rosenberg brings his thoughtful and subtle songwriting to bear, playing songs from his 2016 record, Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea. in-studio.

Oct 04 2021

27mins

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Vijay Iyer Trio's Music Evolves Every Time They Play

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Pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey, wear their composer and collaborator hats simultaneously in new music by Vijay Iyer, who reminds us that “the most turbulent music may contain stillness, coolness, even wisdom,” (Uneasy liner notes.) They share the joy in hearing each other together in a room creating something collaboratively based on something put on the page.

The members of the trio talk about optimism and hope - in spite of it all, their decades of shared connections, and some of their separate creative projects. Vijay also speaks to his perceived reputation for making art about subjects no one wants to talk about, and believing in the craft of making an album – the shape of it and the journey. Vijay and the trio play music from Vijay Iyer’s 2021 record, Uneasy, for the first in-studio since early 2020, in The Greene Space. - Caryn Havlik

Set list: “Combat Breathing,” “Children of Flint,” “Uneasy”

Watch "Combat Breathing":

Watch "Children of Flint":

Watch "Uneasy":

Sep 30 2021

43mins

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Guitarist Hayden Pedigo Evokes Wide-Open Texas Spaces

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In Hayden Pedigo’s acoustic guitar playing one might hear the “loneliness and the space” of the Texas panhandle. The musician, composer, and former city-council candidate cites inspiration by guitarists from previous generations like Anthony Phillips (original Genesis guitarist), John Fahey, and Leo Kottke to sound very much like kickass fingerstyle guitarists of now, like Gwenifer Raymond and Toby Hay. Guitar nerds take note: Segovia is invoked, as are variations on multiple non-standard tunings, fingerpicks, and Leo Kottke’s masterful banter stories.

Hayden Pedigo’s latest record, Letting Go, combines ambient electronics, English pastoralism, pedal steel, and fingerstyle guitar on both 6 and 12-strings for really melodic pieces in hard-to-replicate tunings. Pedigo plays remotely from Lubbock, TX. - Caryn Havlik

Set List “Carthage,” “Some Kind of Shepherd” “Letting Go”

Watch "Carthage":

Watch "Some Kind of Shepherd":

Watch "Letting Go":

Sep 27 2021

31mins

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Rosanne Cash: Songs of Protest and Memory (From Live With Carnegie Hall, 2020)

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Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash curates a program exploring the importance of protest music as part of our shared cultural history. She talks of how the rich oral tradition of roots music embraces migration stories, loss, resistance, and how we are moving to something better, but that it might be painful. And ultimately, protest songs can show us a path to get there. (Originally from Live With Carnegie Hall from June 2020.)

Set list: Rosanne Cash and Leventhal plays Bob Dylan's "License to Kill" Lizz Wright plays "Blessed the Brave"Elvis Costello sings both "Big Stars Have Tumbled" Rosanne Cash and John Paul White sing "We're All In This Together Now"

Watch the entire Live With Carnegie Hall program Rosanne Cash - Present Perfect: Songs of Protest and Memory:

Sep 23 2021

25mins

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Farao: Implacable Outlier Pop (Archives)

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The Norwegian-born, London-based singer Kari Jahnsen records under the name Farao. Her 2015 debut album is called Till It's All Forgotten, and prompted comparisons with Tune-Yards, countrywoman Jenny Hval, and a few other musical outliers. But Farao’s blend of arty pop and unusual arrangements might actually fool listeners into believing they’re hearing something like conventional pop. They are not. Farao uses stately synthesized strings, big grooves with anxious bursts of drumming, and her own implacable vocals in songs that often take unexpected twists and turns. She and her band play, in-studio. (From the Archives, 2015.)

Sep 20 2021

24mins

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BRONCHO: Indie Pop Hooks You Can't Stop Singing (Archives)

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Some songs you love because they communicate deep thoughts or powerful emotions. And sometimes you just want a ridiculously catchy hook. BRONCHO is certainly capable of the former, but in the case of its song "Class Historian," it wouldn’t matter if the band was singing about filing taxes, you might still be bouncing in our seats with that infectious melody stuck in your head all day.

While the Oklahoma band has been banging out classic fuzzed-out sounds for awhile, the band got a spike of attention when the HBO series Girls used the song "It's On." That song, along with "Class Historian," ended up on BRONCHO's 2014 album, Just Enough Hip To Be Woman, which draws on garage pop and glam rock in exciting ways. BRONCHO plays some these songs in-studio. Apologies in advance if you've still got that tune in your brain the rest of the week. (From the Archives, 2015.)

Set List:

Sep 16 2021

22mins

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Amythyst Kiah's Roots Music Deals With Loss, Grief, and Pain

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Tennessee-based songwriter Amythyst Kiah loves both roots and alternative music; and her songs often clothe dark subjects - suicide of a loved one, a descent into alcoholism - in bluesy stomps and ecstatic rock. The singer, guitarist, banjo player, and scholar (she holds a degree in Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country Music Studies), has made records on her own and is a member of the formidable quartet called Our Native Daughters. On her 2021 solo album Wary + Strange, Amythyst Kiah sings of loss, grief, death, and hangovers and dealing with them all; she and her band play some of these tunes remotely. - Caryn Havlik

Set list: "Black Myself," "Firewater," "Hangover Blues"

Watch "Black Myself":

Watch "Firewater":

Watch "Hangover Blues":

In 2020, she also contributed a tribute to the Reverend Gary Davis for the online New York Guitar Festival:

Sep 13 2021

29mins

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Golden Suits Let the Joy In (Archives)

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The Brooklyn band Golden Suits is led by singer and guitarist Fred Nicolaus. You may know him from his earlier band Department of Eagles, or perhaps his duo with Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen. Fred released the first Golden Suits album in 2013 and has just put out the band’s followup effort, called Kubla Khan. It’s full of catchy, often literate, occasionally eccentric songs, which the band plays in-studio. (From the Archives, 2015.)  

Here's the dancey "Gold Feeling," where Nicolaus is out to prove that he has all of the right moves to his imaginary middle school dream girl.  

Sep 09 2021

26mins

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Becca Stevens Band: Powerful Voice, 'Perfect Animal' (Archives)

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Guitarist and singer Becca Steven's resume includes stints with the adventurous jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, electrifying trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and hip-hop inflected jazz vocalist José James. She’s part of New York’s new music scene, and has contributed to a compilation of Laura Nyro covers. So you might guess that The Becca Stevens Band would not be your typical indie rock group. And you’d be right.

The band’s 2015 debut record is called Perfect Animal, and it’s full of shimmering, strangely augmented chords; angular melodic swoops and dives; and rhythms that catch the ear but don’t settle where you expect. There are also breathtaking forays into pop and even R&B, including covers of songs by Frank Ocean and Usher. The result is a pulsing, personal experience, guided by Stevens' singular voice and vision, that is the most exciting entry on her resume yet. Becca Stevens and her band perform in-studio. (From the Archives, 2015.)

Sep 06 2021

28mins

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Jazz Pianist And Innovator Randy Weston Renews a Connection With His African Past (Archives)

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The late American pianist, composer, and “Legend of Jazz,” Randy Weston, stretched across history to forge connections to an African past, as he had done for decades.

On his 2017 recording, The African Nubian Suite, Weston took as his subject matter the very origins of humanity – the fossilized skeletal remains of “Ardi,” a hominid who lived around 4.5 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia. This "planetary music," as Weston called it stretches across millennia, looking to the Nubian empire (now northern Sudan/southern Egypt), African folk traditions, Sufi music, blues, and jazz. Randy Weston joined us in-studio in 2017. (From the Archives.) 

Sep 02 2021

28mins

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Incredible

By bermudajune - Jan 09 2019
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The most interesting podcast on contemporary music.

The best music interview show ...

By Yoko134 - Oct 27 2014
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Soundcheck’s John Schaefer is one of the best interviewers in the business.