In Perspective – Tom Alter Channels Society’s Creative Voices on ‘Poetry and Protest’

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Tom Alter explores the complex nature of the human experience on “Poetry and Protest.” Courtesy photo

Tom Alter deeply examines art and life from different perspectives.

The Fraser indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist candidly depicts the thoughts, feelings and challenges of society’s creative voices on his latest insightful album, Poetry and Protest.

“I realized that so much of what I was writing about were things based on what I had read or had come from memories that had stayed with me for a long time and made me want to write about them. That’s the poetry side of it,” said Alter, who produced, mixed and mastered his own album.

“And the protest side blends in with that because a lot of the poetry is coming out and speaking to important matters. The last song I wrote for this was (the title track), and that was after thinking about this collection of songs. I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of somebody who has a very different experience from me.”

Alter’s Poetry and Protest provides an enlightening narrative filled with bold tales about humanity, sacrifice, loss and compassion. It seamlessly ventures from the vast emptiness of space to the sparsely populated shores of Hudson Bay to the tightly packed streets of Hamtramck.

“The Poetry and Protest idea came from me being out on a walk and thinking about this collection of songs that I was putting together and realizing where the influences for them came from,” said Alter about his sixth album.

“There’s a song, ‘Four Blue Horses,’ that is directly from a Mary Oliver poem, and it comes from Franz Marc’s Blue Horses. She wrote a poem about that series of paintings, and she got so personally involved in the paintings. I just thought, ‘I want to write about this; it was as simple as that.’”

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Homegrown – Tom Alter Returns to Old Stomping Grounds Friday for Hamtramck Music Fest

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Tom Alter will perform an assortment of tracks Friday at Hamtramck Music Fest. Courtesy photo

For Tom Alter, this weekend’s Hamtramck Music Fest provides a welcome homecoming.

The Fraser folk rock singer-songwriter and guitarist will return to his family’s old stomping grounds to perform Friday night at the Polish Village Café.

“It feels pretty nostalgic to be playing in Hamtramck since my mother was raised there. She graduated from St. Florian High School. My grandparents lived in Hamtramck until they reached their 80s, and I have memories of visiting there when I was a child,” Alter said.

“Some of those memories are captured in my song, ‘Hamtramck.’ I grew up in suburban East Detroit, which was a very different environment. When visiting Hamtramck, my siblings and I were exposed to a very different culture, even with my grandparents speaking another language through much of our visit.”

Alter quickly revisits his childhood on 2018’s “Hamtramck” as sentimental acoustic strums, sunny electric guitars and ruminative bass repaint loving scenes from the past. He reflects, “Visit from suburbia/Dropped into this urban dream/It’s a new diversity/In the streets with rising steam/I feel this city claiming me.”

“I think that experience gave me an appreciation for the many cultures that make up our nation. I released the song, ‘Hamtramck,’ on Bandcamp a few years ago. Since then, I have played it as an acoustic piece, and I plan to release a new version similar to my live performance on a new album I’m working on now,” said Alter, who also performs as part of the soul-jazz-rock duo After Blue with Katie Williamson.

For Friday’s Hamtramck Music Fest set, Alter will share tracks from his thought-provoking 2020 EP, Songs for an American Hero, which pays tribute to the late U.S. Rep. and civil rights activist John Lewis.

“It’s been just about a year since John Lewis passed. I think the impact of the equal justice protests of 2020 still resonate today, but unfortunately at a somewhat lower volume. I want to continue to put a light on John Lewis’ life and that cause in my own way,” he said.

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Rise Up – Asklepius Shares Majestic, Curative Transformation on New ‘Relative to a Mood’ EP

Asklepius carries a soothing, restorative sound on “Relative to a Mood” as glistening elements of prog, post-rock, jazz, ambient, psychedelia and electronica revive the soul. Artwork – Joe Groppuso

Asklepius triumphantly rises to the occasion.

The Detroit experimental post-rock trio of Justin Groppuso-Cook (keys), Dave Alpern (bass) and Matt Smiley (drums) undergoes a majestic and curative transformation on their latest aspirational four-track EP, Relative to a Mood.

“Some of the songs that are on that album we’ve been playing for a really long time. Those songs themselves evolved over time, and then Dave jumped in, and the bass gave the music more heart and more life,” Groppuso-Cook said.

“When the songs started to evolve with Dave, and we started to write new stuff for fleshed-out, different ideas, I think that additional bass added this uplifting thing, and I think we just went with it. I don’t think there was this intentional way to make it like that, and I think in certain ways, it was weird for it to sound uplifting. The music we were writing at the time didn’t sound like that was the groove.”

Incidentally, Relative to a Mood carries a soothing, restorative groove as glistening elements of prog, post-rock, jazz, ambient, psychedelia and electronica spin into a silky, sonic cocoon. All four tracks invite increasing moments of euphoria, self-reflection, progression and enlightenment as listeners beautifully emerge from an inner sanctum.

Asklepius created their own inner sanctum last summer at Detroit’s High Bias Recordings with Chris Koltay. Groppuso-Cook, Alpern and Smiley spent several days recording different live takes for Relative to a Mood with loop pedals and later added layers of keys, guitar and tenor sax.

Jubilation to Ascension

Relative to a Mood slowly unfolds with the euphoric “Jubilation” as banging drumsticks, bright and lingering piano, proggy bass, glistening synths, steady drums, light cymbals and reassuring electric strums from guest guitarist Matt Romanski bring merriment and optimism. The track also eases the mind into a therapeutic seven-minute reverie.

“We just went into the studio and started with ‘Jubilation.’ We just ran through it 10 times to get the best take, and then we were like, ‘Let’s go to the next song,’ and then we would take a break for a couple minutes and listen to all the different takes and see which one was the best one,” Groppuso- Cook said.

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