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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Nine Things You Can Expect at a Reel Big Fish Concert

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 2:25 PM

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25 years is a long time. And it's an especially long time to be in a band.

But, it's also an anniversary — and landmark — worth celebrating. To mark the decade-plus time together, Reel Big Fish brought its 25th anniversary tour to The Fillmore Monday night to commemorate the band's many years together "doing the fish."

The So-Cal sassy, ska legends have always been about fun times and catchy tunes, and, as a result, have attracted quite an eclectic crowd. SF Weekly sent this journalist to cover the show and report back with field notes from the evening.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

8 "Newer" Snoop Dogg Tracks That Don't Suck Too Much

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 12:33 PM

Snoop Dogg has lost his bark.
  • Snoop Dogg has lost his bark.

Let's be honest, the caliber of Snoop Dogg's music has gone majorly downhill in the last dozen or so years. Snoop Lion experiment aside, his once-minimalist gangsta-funk rap has evolved (or rather devolved) into a tangle of genre-straddling tracks and albums that never fail to sound hokey and unoriginal. Seriously, listen to some of his recent stuff and it's like the guy has lost all creativity and originality. His songs have an uncanny sonic and stylistic resemblance to the kind of stuff that his featured artists would make, not what he would make. Case in point: His song X with Damien Marley is, whatdoyouknow, a reggae-esque jam.

Because of Snoop's willingness to let his collaborators dictate his music, he's done everything from hyphy, funk, soul, trap, pop, R&B, jazz, and crunk. And while breadth and variety are laudable traits for one's music, not everyone can pull it off (hence why they're so laudable when people do). The 45-year-old may have been great back in the '90s and early aughts, but his music is too schitzo and unpredictable these days. 

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Oakland Trio, Devil Makes Three, Shares Its Top Five Influential Songs

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 10:00 AM

ROLLING STONE/PIPER FERGUSON
  • Rolling Stone/Piper Ferguson
The Oakland trio, The Devil Makes Three, formed in Oakland in 1999 and consists of guitar, bass, and banjo, but, surprisingly, lacks drums. The band is known for bright, upbeat music that is best described as a medley of ragtime, blues, and gypsy swing, delivered with a punk-like intensity. Critics often string together long hyphenated lists of genres to define this sound, but there’s no handy catch phrase that really fits. “You’ll know it when we play it,” says singer and guitarist Pete Bernhard. “But I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what it is. It’s some kind of amalgamation of cowboy jazz and ragtime, built on a foundation of the blues.”

According to Bernhard, the trio is strongly influenced by other artists and bands, largely due to the fact that all three members grew up surrounded by music. In advance of their Friday show, All Shook Down spoke with the band about the top five songs that have influenced their musical style.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Hard Rockers, Steel Panther, Prove That Image Really is Everything

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2016 at 9:00 AM

DAVID JACKSON
  • David Jackson
Whether you like it or not, nothing can prepare the world for the tidal wave of dollar store hairspray, synthetic lipstick, and nauseating color schemes that's coming in 2016.

On February 26, Los Angeles mock-rock band Steel Panther will drop their acoustic record, Live From Lexxi’s Mom’s Garage. At its core, Steep Panther is Ralph Michael Saenz aka Michael Starr (vocals) who resembles a younger and much sassier David Lee Roth, Russ Parrish aka Satchel (guitar) whose tremolo has been known to make young girls cry and wet their panties, Darren Leader aka Stix Zadinia (drums) who plays to the beat of his own drum (and hands), and the ever-so important Lexxi Foxx aka Travis Haley (bass) who proves you can make loads of money playing a solid E or A string.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mike Deni of Geographer Shares His Favorite Cover Songs of All Time

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 at 4:30 PM

Mike Deni of Geographer - PAIGE PARSONS
  • Paige Parsons
  • Mike Deni of Geographer

San Francisco-based guitar and synth indie pop artist Geographer (a.k.a. Mike Deni) recently released an entire EP of covers called Endless Motion. The EP, which dropped in December, features remixed covers of tracks by artists such as Paul Simon, Felix Da Housecat, New Order and Kate Bush. Before hitting the stage tonight for their New Years Eve performance at "The Big One," alongside The Flaming Lips, Ratat, and Tycho, Geographer took a moment to share with us his favorite cover songs (of other artists covering other artists' songs).

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The Best Speakers of 2015

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 at 3:00 PM

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Whether playing back a symphony or heavy metal sludge, headphones such as the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless, Plantronics BackBeat PRO+ or Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless, all of which I wrote about earlier this week, make sure there is no murk in a concert for one. But no matter how lush or solid I found these options, they suffer from the same thing all headphones do: soundstage limitations. Every set of headphones, but especially closed-back ones, present music in a way that is intimate and narrow, unavoidably in your head. The best may put you in the front rows, but none can plant you in the center of the venue, spreading the entire song out and around you. This is where speakers come in. 

When it comes down to the visceral, as well as social, aspects of music, you still can’t beat speakers, which are integrating innovative wireless technologies for those that want to pull their music catalog through the cloud or push tunes to a crowd.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Striking the Right Cords: 4 Great Wireless Headphones of 2015

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2015 at 9:00 AM

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This year, it felt like I didn’t even have time to blink before retail went from pumpkins to peppermints and flurries of Beats By Dre discounts started showering across the Internet like so much white noise. There is no perfect answer to “what to get the music lover in your life?” but what snags my personal endorsement in 2015 are wireless headphones that dump the cords without dropping any notes. So, whether you’re looking to give a belated gift or just invest in some new gear, here are some standout options that marry convenience and conviction.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Top 15 Bay Area Albums of 2015

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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2015 was a great year for music in the Bay Area. Handfuls of debuts were dropped and longtime artists who’ve been in the game for awhile proved that they’ve still got it. We scoured both sides of the Bay to find the best albums (and in some cases, EPs) from all genres and chiseled the list down to the Top 5 for print and the Top 15 for online. We ended up with a varied batch, spanning multiple genres (just no country, sorry) that we feel is exemplary not only of the eclectic music scene here, but of the diverseness of the Bay Area, itself. It was a tough decision, but in the end, these 15 albums stood out from the rest because of their quality and consistency of good tracks. (Note: Albums are not listed in any particular order)



Indie Rock

Mind Out Wandering by Astronauts, etc.

If there’s one thing Astronauts, etc. frontman, Anthony Ferraro, knows how to do well it is balance an album. Mind Out Wandering, Ferraro’s debut album under the moniker, is a rolicking ride of human emotions. There’s sadness and yearning, excitement and regret. Rooted in soft rock, Mind Out Wandering has an undeniable ‘70s twinge to it, due in no small part to its many guitar solos and Ferraro’s vocals, which are reminiscent of something you’d hear from America. Granted, the songs are a bit more serious and contemplative than America’s, but that same dreamy, sun-drenched quality is there. Ferraro, who tours with Toro y Moi as their keyboard player, is a classically-trained musician based in Oakland who had to abandon his musical studies due to arthritis. Fortunately, he found a way to continue making music and has been churning out releases under the name Astronauts, etc. since 2012. Mind Out Wandering was recorded at the analog recording studio, Tiny Telephone, and, was based off of demos that Ferraro made from his basement in 2014, as well as a few from his college days. Jessie Schiewe



Techno, Electro

Homesick by Matrixxman

Before starting Matrixxman, Charlie McCloud was half of San Francisco production outfit 5kinAndBone5, purveyors of candy-coated bass music and hip-hop, who scored a hit with their brilliantly simple beats on queer rapper Le1f's breakout tune "Wut." But techno was always his first love, and soon after, he birthed Matrixxman, a kind of Lawnmower Man for global club culture. A series of devastatingly good 12" singles followed, then DJ bookings at some of the world's most prestigious clubs and festivals, and now, in 2015, comes his debut album, Homesick. Techno albums often feel superfluous, like cobbled-together collections of club tracks with no coherent theme. Homesick is no such album. Matrixxman becomes a fully-formed entity, displaying range well beyond the tightly engineered club tracks that launched his career. The record certainly contains numerous cuts that go off in the club, but they're interspersed with beautiful, moody ambient pieces ("Annika's Theme," especially, is a highlight) and overlaid with neon-lit cyberpunk sound design that makes the whole record feel like it's infused with noble gas. As a techno album, Homesick is superb, and as a debut record, it is a singular statement of purpose. Chris Zaldua



R & B, Club Bangers

The Cassette Playlist by Rayven Justice 

You might recognize Rayven Justice’s name because of his 2013 hit, “Slide Thru” or from any of the dozens of songs that he’s been a featured artist on. Of course, if you’re not into raunchy, R&B and club bangers, then you might not recognize his name at all. If that’s the case, then you can skip to the next album review because that’s precisely the kind of music that the 24-year-old East Oakland native makes. He’s sort of like the Bay Area’s version of Chris Brown, but with less pop and more bounce. The Cassette Playlist, Justice’s fourth project, is full of up-tempo, energetic jams that, for the most part, are about relationships and, well, sex. Justice’s most successful song to date, “Hit Or Nah,” (yes, it’s about exactly what it sounds like it’s about), which was played on radio stations nationwide, is a fun, boisterous song featuring Keyshia Cole and French Montana. Justice has a knack for selecting catchy, infectious beats, so even if you don’t agree with his mature subject matter (he has one song called “Mouth Piece”), your body will still want to dance to it. JS


Indie Rock, Garage Rock

Neapolitan by Hot Flash Heat Wave

There’s no one in the city that you want to party with more than the boys from Hot Flash Heat Wave. Comprised of four high school best friends, this San Francisco-based band can stand proudly behind their self-released 2015 debut album, Neapolitan. This album is packed with euphonious indie-rock melodies and playful surf rock guitar riffs that’s made Hot Flash Heat Wave one of the most enjoyable new acts of 2015. Catchy choruses with coming-of-age lyrics and melodic guitar and drum work are inescapable throughout this album, and, while listening to it, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the urge to dance. Tracks like “Homecoming” and “Gutter Girl” are filled to the brim with harmonious interjections and upbeat guitar hooks exposing the band’s California garage rock influences. Their sound has hints of the Beach Boys filtered through a post-punk indie rock canon, reminiscent of bands like The Drums (if The Drums had grown up with sunny Californian dispositions). Neapolitan serves as a representation of Hot Flash Heat Wave's commitment to making the move from local garage rock band to next-level industry artists. David Sikorski



Conscious / Chill Rap

Hella Good by Caleborate

On Hella Good, Berkeley’s Caleborate demonstrates that it’s possible to make a Bay Area hip-hop record in 2015 on your own terms and in your own style (i.e.: that isn’t hyphy). He started by collecting a handful of different producers to enact his vision, finding muses in 17-year-old New Jersey beatmaker Wonderlust and Belgian producer Willem Ardui. Next, he reached out to long-time collaborator Ian Mckee and HBK’s Kuya Beats, Drew Banga, and 1-O.A.K. This cadre of producers (and a couple others) created the slate for Caleborate’s unique sound and he took it all from there. Due to the melange of producers who worked on this project, no two tracks sound alike, ranging from slower raps paired with thick electric guitar riffs (“Kaytra”) to thumping, deep house beats flecked with nimble bars (“SMH”). The 22-year-old’s tongue-in-cheek, relatable lyrics are sprinkled throughout Hella Good, along with numerous East Bay references that make this project uniquely a Bay Area-production. Adrian Spinelli



Indie, Alt-Pop

Hyperlust by Bells Atlas

Oakland’s Bells Atlas roared back into the scene with a follow-up to their self-titled 2013 debut album, which was worth the wait. Singer Sandra Lawson-Ndu’s rich, velvety voice often steers the tracks, but Bells Atlas is far from a one-person show. Quite the contrary, it is entirely about the individuality of each person (and instrument) in the four-person band and how they all come together differently on each track. Percussionist Geneva Harrison infuses Hyperlust with a jazz-lean — whether she’s on the drums or xylophone — that builds the explosive punctuations of tracks like “Future Bones.” As the band names suggests, there’s also a heavy smattering of bells that chime next to (not over or under) the other instruments, giving the tracks a nice hint of folk and whimsy to go along with its overall soul-rock tone. The deeper you get into Hyperlust, the more dynamic the album gets. AS


Rap, Hyphy

Moovie! byKool John & P-Lo

HBK Gang members, P-Lo and Kool John banded together to create this light-hearted, party music album that is chock-full of features from local Bay Area artists. The record is about having a good time and the subject matter never gets too heavy or concerned with portraying a “tough guy” image. The slaps on this 14-track album are perfectly suited for the club, with their bouncy baselines and slap-heavy synths. Kool John’s “Blue Hunnids” is especially club-appropriate, with its trance-like backbeat and thumping 808s. Although fun is obviously the goal of this album, the beats are never lazy, offering a unique blend of classic Bay hip-hop and contemporary funk. There’s a smorgasbord of different voices on the project (thanks in large part to all the features), which keeps the songs fresh and interesting. Both Kool John and P-Lo are at the beginnings of their careers and it’ll be exciting to see what Shmoplife and HBK have in store for 2016. Hopefully, it’s as fun as what they gave us in 2015. Albert Neto Luera and Ben "So What" Sandoval


Ambient, Experimental, Techno

Mystique Youth by Lavender

If less truly is more, Lavender's Mystique Youth contains multitudes. Released on cassette tape (as well as in digital format) by nascent San Francisco label Jacktone Records, Mystique Youth is one of the finest ambient albums to come in years — a work of quiet elegance that sounds breathtakingly mature for a debut release. All tracks on the album (nine, not including two remixes) were apparently composed in a single take with little post-processing involved. The album as a whole feels ephemeral and hazy, as though it came in a dream. That's no qualm, I assure you — in fact, listening to it feels a bit like being in that liminal state between waking and dreaming, as small melodies waft in and out, leaving the listener to wonder if they were ever really there. Mystique Youth's magic lies in its immediate beauty; it is an eminently rewarding listen, full of delicate moments and heartbreakingly beautiful melodies. It is also full of surprises, like "Paper Planes," perhaps the album's standout, in which murky beats surface from below oneiric waves of sound. A more soothing listen was not to be had in 2015. CZ



Alt-Rock, Neo-Psychedelia

Bodies by Annie Girl and the Flight

Filled with dark and dreamy tracks, every single waveform within Annie Girl & The Flight's 2015 EP Bodies is pierced with profound, delicate vocals weaved seamlessly between powerful guitar riffs and commanding percussions. Lead singer Annie Lipetz provides a hypnotic voice that adds an alluring  and mysterious element to every song. Tracks like “Antidote,” demonstrate the true extent of the band’s deep layers with hypnotic guitar sounds slowly building to thunderous climaxes. The somber vocals on tracks like “Forms” and “Swans,” are reminiscent of artists like Mazzy Star and provide heightened and hypnotic undertones that puts any listener into a trance. In a music industry that's seeing more and more rock artists integrating hip, new electronic beats and bubblegum pop vocals, this band is the life support fighting for San Francisco's shrinking underground alternative rock/folk scene. Bodies truly marries the disparate elements of psychedelia, anthem rock melodies, raw grungy guitar riffs, and riveting vocals into one complete package. DS



Rap, Hyphy

Nef The Pharoah by Nef The Pharoah

This 20-year-old Vallejo native made waves this year with his breakout hit, “Big Tymin’,” an infectious slap filled with braggadocio lyrics and a theremin-esque backbeat. Within a month, it had been remixed by Ty Dolla $ign and YG, and the track has been played almost four million times on Spotify. The 7-track, self-titled EP is Nef’s first since signing with E-40’s label, Sic-Wid-It, and serves as an ample introduction to the new MC. Like “Big Tymin’,” the bulk of the tracks are bright and upbeat, falling into the categories of hyphy and club with a twinge of Southern rap on the fringes. Though none of the songs are as strong and infectious as “Big Tymin’,” Nef’s facile, flexible voice and quick rhymes give them enough legs to stand on. For a first release, this is a promising start for the young rapper. JS



Alt-Rock

Twelve Spells by The Stone Foxes

Armed with guitar riffs harder than anything the Black Keys have written in a decade, San Francisco rock stalwarts, the Stone Foxes, returned in 2015 with Twelve Spells. Full of stomping rhythms, screams, and Jack White-esque piano solos, Twelve Spells represents the band at the heights of their songwriting prowess. The album is also their most political to date, addressing Occupy and income inequality over 13 gritty blues-rock tracks. Led by brothers Shannon and Spence Koehler, the Stone Foxes’s fourth record never meanders away from the band’s signature sound, with single “Jericho” leading the charge sonically. Things slow down for the album closer, “Count Me as One,” a track that wouldn’t feel too out of place on a Dawes record. If you’ve lived in the Bay Area for the past decade, odds are you already know the Stone Foxes. While Twelve Spells represents a different view of the San Francisco band, it’s still the same Stone Foxes that we’ve grown to love and a record definitely worth multiple listens over a long road trip. Steven Edelson



Indie, Surf-Rock

Headcase by Day Wave

Headcase, Marine native Jackson Phillips’ debut EP, is the sound of summer. It’s hot and salty and sugar-y sweet, with a fine layer of sand between the cracks, a few blades of grass, and a ladybug or two. It’s that liminal state between sleeping and waking; that vantage point of looking out the car window when you’re lying down on the backseat. Call it California surf-rock with a little bit of dream pop and a sliver of chillwave, but whatever it is, it’s unique. The EP sounds like it was recorded in the middle of a cloud, with its muffled lyrics and overall fuzziness (spoiler: it was actually recorded in Oakland). Phillips, a graduate of the Berklee School of Music, has gone through many phases in his career as a musician. He started out as a drummer, heavily influenced by jazz, then turned to singing, and later joined a synth-heavy electro pop band. How he stumbled into the sweet spot that is Day Wave is unclear, but we’re grateful for it, regardless. Synths might be awesome, but amazing guitar riffs, the likes of which sound like something from New Order, are pretty hard to beat. JS


Hyphy, Gangsta Rap

Tears of Joy by J. Stalin

J. Stalin has been releasing a steady stream of albums, mixtapes, and compilations since at least 2006 —- so many, in fact, that there’s mixed consensus on the number. Tears of Joy, Stalin’s latest album, was released in October, and there’s something about it (The production? The samples?) that makes it stand out from J. Stalin’s other works. This is hyphy at its best, with thumping 808’s and heavy bass lines, and it never gets too dark or gangsta. The  23-track album (!) starts off strong with “What’s My Name,” a smooth slap that seamlessly blends synthy beats with a high-pitched chipmunk voice sample. Next is “Selling Crack,” a raw, candid song about J. Stalin’s childhood profession that, despite the grave subject matter, manages to be both catchy and upbeat. The album is heavily sprinkled with features from local Bay Area artists, such as rappers Iamsu!, The Jacka, and Mistah F.A.B., and R&B crooners Rayven Justice and John Hart. For someone who has churned out as much music as J. Stalin has, you might expect his music to be stale and rote, and yet, Tears of Joy is anything but. JS



Rap

Foreign Pedestrians by Jay Stone and Monster Rally

Gold Robot Records boss Hunter Mack recently left the Bay to run his label from Boston. But before he took off, he introduced Oakland rapper Jay Stone to LA-based producer Monster Rally, and shortly thereafter, Foreign Pedestrians was born. The album is eclectic, with jazzy undertones and experimental instrumentation that melds well with Jay Stone’s elastic, rubbery voice and quick-fire bars. Stone’s whimsy is littered throughout Foreign Pedestrians with punctuations like “Eatin’ cannabis souffle / sippin’ on an IPA / I’m the pharaoh of the Bay!”  “Lake Merrit,” the album’s opening track, is a smooth, piano-laced and horn-punctuated song that contrasts nicely with the next song, “Permeate/No Cilantro,” a tinkly whimsical track with lighthearted lyrics about how much cilantro sucks. If one didn’t know better, they might be tempted to misname the project as an Odd Future collaboration due to its funky, overall weirdness and the thick layer of analog fuzz slathered over every track.AS



Dream Pop

Pathology by Trails and Ways

Oakland quartet, Trails and Ways, met while students at UC Berkeley in 2011 and are known for their knack of singing in Spanish and Portugese (before they met, two of the future band members had traveled abroad and Brazil and Spain). have a knack for singing not only in English, but in Spanish and Portugese, too, Pathology, their fourth release, but first album, is infused with dreamy pop lyrics and saccharine, slightly Latin beats. It's their first project since signing with Barsuk Records earlier this year and the production quality is top-notch. "Downtown," featuring Oakland-singer-turned-Los-Angeles-resident, Harriet Brown, is one of the strongest songs, sporting an upbeat, bouncy dance track that's heavy on the drums and reverb. Although it might be trite to label an album as "happy," that's exactly what Pathology is. This is feel-good, groove music that would fit right in at a house party. JS





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Monday, April 29, 2013

Rolling Stone Names the Fillmore the No. 2 "Big Room" in America

Posted By on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Inside the Fillmore: hallowed ground.
  • Inside the Fillmore: hallowed ground.

Damn fucking straight. Weeks after Rolling Stone embarked on the mother of all music clickbait projects with a five-part series about the best venues in the U.S. -- and named S.F.'s Great American Music Hall the No. 6 club in the country -- our fair City by the Bay has been handed another honor. In the second installment of this project, "The Best Big Rooms in America," Rolling Stone declares the beloved Fillmore No. 2 in the country.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boobylicious: Five Insanely Breast-Centric Stage Outfits

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 9:20 AM

Boobs. Everyone loves 'em -- even gay men. So can we really blame pop starlets for coming up with outfits that push the appearance of their breasticles to cartoonish levels? The answer is: Yes. Yes we can. Not only are there small children watching, but presenting breasts as cakes and/or flamethrowers just seems a little overblown, no? Here are five degrees of boobylicious stage outfits.

The Madonna

madonna_cone.jpg

As with many things lady-pop-star-related, Madge was the first to do it. Her Jean Paul Gaultier cone bras, made for the 1990 Blond Ambition tour, were both controversial and a breath of fresh air for women everywhere who wanted to let their assets speak loud and proud. Madonna has never been one to hide her sexuality, and she's been a vocal proponent of female strength since, well, forever. So if she was gonna put a corset on, it had better make her baby-feeders look like weapons. Mission accomplished! 

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"