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Reinvention or Reimagination: Sho Humphries Urges Us to "Dream Again"

Before embarking on his next great adventure, Austin ukulele sensation Sho Humphries made sure to bestow his loving local community with a parting gift. Sho’s debut EP Dream Again is a triumph of creativity, an exploration of sound and style from a young musician whose bravery surpasses even his immense talents.

In Sho’s nimble hands, the ukulele is transformed. Empowered. Liberated. He embraces the instrument as something far beyond its simplistic representation in public perception—more than a toy, more than an instrument for beachside celebration and casual singalongs, the ukulele is an embodiment of possibility itself. In Sho’s hands, the ukulele seems infinite, irrepressible. It breathes water and whispers fire and sings of a bright tomorrow.

The growth showcased between earlier releases and this new EP are striking. Sho’s 2017 instrumental album Making Summer Memories flirted with musical expressionism, pushing and pulling at the boundaries of expectation while staying firmly rooted in a larger framework for what ukulele music is and can be. Opening track “It’s Shotime!” is a notable exception, its near-frantic urgency and rock-and-roll aesthetic harbingers of both Sho’s sonic fearlessness and profound, near-brooding pensiveness. The rest of the album tends toward bright and buoyant, though the assertive percussiveness of each strike sometimes seem to belie an underlying (and typically teenage) impatience.

2020 single Love You! was the virtuoso’s first foray into electronic looping, his airy, math rock-y riffs given ample room to breathe and, in turn, breathing life into a lo-fi trend threatening to sedate swaths of the younger generation. The track showcases a young musician at peace with the process of finding peace — more patient, perhaps in love with the simple joy of making music. The chorus is endearingly heartfelt, and all the more powerful for it: “Breathe in, breathe in/Love out, love in.”

 With the Dream Again EP, Sho emerges more confident, more hopeful, that familiar sense of urgency appearing again but tempered now by faith in himself and the future. He is more accomplished than ever on the ukulele itself — every finger-picked run impeccable, every strum irresistible. But the sentiment underlying each song feels more profound, more mature, more complex. What might once have felt like emotional reactions are transformed into careful reflections and reimaginations.

The echoing, atmospheric emptiness of the title track slowly evolves, swelling with elegantly amplified ukulele riffs that complement, rather than overpower, Sho’s stirring baritone (on debut!). Tight songwriting and a deep appreciation for the power of empty space cultivate in a wonderfully distorted crescendo, with Sho’s direct poeticism lending a sense of urgency to Sho’s pleas for the world to “dream again,” to build a better future and to avoid our own mutually assured destruction.

A return to Sho’s sonic roots — hopeful, determined, vibrant — “Rising Hope” builds on that momentum. It is the song of rebirth and reimagination, the sound of grass beginning to grow again as a new sun shines a light on far-off horizons. There is a sadness of sorts underpinning it all, a recognition that new beginnings demand their own sacrifices — what once might have been innocent idealism is tempered by an acceptance of reality that makes Sho’s resolute optimism all the more impactful.

Vision and imagination, determination and dynamism — these are traits we desperately need in our younger generations, who we have collectively burdened with so much responsibility and expectation. Armed with his ukulele and a searching spirit, Sho Humphries is stepping into the world ready to make a change.

 — Adam Wood





World

Time: 
07:30 pm
Band name: 
Jeffrey Siegel
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.keyboardconversations.com/
Venue name: 
Scandinavia House
Band email: 
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World

Time: 
07:00 pm
Band name: 
Per Tengstrand
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
https://www.facebook.com/PerTengstrandPiano/
Venue name: 
Scandinavia House
Band email: 
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L'Rain "Find It" in mesmerizing live set

After lighting up a thick stick of incense Taja Cheek a/k/a L’Rain (by day Ms. Cheek is a curatorial assistant at the MoMA PS1 contemporary art center) turns to manipulating a number of electronic modules alongside her bandmates and their guitars/keyboards/drums/digital thingymebobs (taken together the collective itis also named L'Rain, try to keep up here!) as they ease into a musical piece called “Find It” weaving together a sonic tapestry that's built layer-by-layer starting with celestial washes of synth and other ambient clouds of sound eventually joined by percussion with brushed cymbals and tom rolls and then some guitar harmonics produced by hitting the backside of his instrument with a drum mallet and then some cresting waves of saxophone with its trilling tones fed through a swampy layer of echo—with the band enmeshed in a spider’s web of electronic gear, effects pedals, and wiring which they manage to engage in tandem with their more conventional instruments—and then five minutes into the whole thing of building up an entire sonic sculpture, L’Rain, the woman, not the band, leans into the microphone and sings a short vocal line going on to loop her voice in harmony with itself as she continues singing which creates a spinning/spiraling Spirograph-like pattern against which L'rain adds bass into the mix with a melodic winding line (all this twisting and turning is mirrored in the POV camerawork winding in and out of the individual players) and the opening lyric: 

“How did I collect these clouds / from rain that fell for days / feel bad just to feel sane / my mother told me / make a way out of no way / make a way out of no way” and that’s exactly what the musical composition itself does as it builds out its own structure from the inside out, starting from the barest bones and building to criss-crossing patterns of polyrhythms, like an bug spinning a cocoon from within before emerging fully-formed. And it this isn't the perfect musical representation of “making a way out of no way” then I don't know what is. 

And this is just the start of L’Rain’s mini-set, taped for Seattle's KEXP as part of their KEXP At Home series, recorded live in L’Rain’s own Brooklyn environs. The album “Find It” is taken from is called Fatigue and it was released late last month and it’s interesting to compare the two versions studio vs. live. But never mind that because you’ll wanna listen to the album in its entirety asap whether for comparative purposes or not because it’s a heavy, heady, head-spinningly immersive album co-produced between Taja and fellow L'Rainer Andrew Lappin). And it also contains “Two Face” which is the other song heard in the live set above. Returning to the notion of making “a way out of no way” the whole record is a sonic and poetic exploration of the struggle to make sense of the senselessness of the preceding months or years or centuries (take your pick) and to emerge out the other side with something of beauty that's ready to take flight. 

So whether you're already into SAULT or Solange or simply music that's both soulful and boundary-breaking in equal measure then here you have another one for the listening queue. And then for more L’Rain in audiovisual form you can check out some of the clips below, but most of all go listen to Fatigue in its entirety because somewhat contrary to its name it's a galvanizing ride even while taking listeners into the heart of darkness. (Jason Lee)





World

Time: 
19:00
Band name: 
BLKBOK
FULL Artist Facebook address (http://...): 
Facebook.com/blkbokmusic
Venue name: 
Rockwood music Hall
Band email: 
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