THE VINEYARD GAZETTE
Publshed August 26th 2011
by Jonah Lypsky
“It’s not enough to be a songbird, this world will work you to the bone,” sings musician Dan Waters on Sergeant Sparrow magazine’s new compilation CD. The latest edition of the magazine, just out with the disc included, has taken up the plight of artists working in today’s business-minded creative milieu.
Sergeant Sparrow magazine and its eponymous record label were designed to create space for artists, musicians and writers to show their work regardless whether they have been shown, signed or published professionally.
The publication and label themselves are just-do-it startups that have not waited for someone else somewhere in the “real world” to call them professional before getting on with their work. Sergeant Sparrow Records and the accompanying magazine were founded by Angel Russell, who edits the publication with Emily Spykman and Spencer Thurlow. It emerges from, and is infused with, the spirit of a larger Do It Yourself, or DIY, cultural movement.
The fourth issue of the quarterly, color print magazine features interviews with musicians, visual artwork and photography, poems, short stories, essays and a compilation disc of the issue’s featured musicians. These interviews are interspersed with artwork and reviews. As the magazine is organized, no single art form dominates the material for too long.
Often insightful, the interviews together are an excellent example of how every artist is as different as one human being is from another. All the featured musicians have different musical roots, which becomes clear in their answers to the questions “What are your top 5 albums?” and “What were the first albums that you loved?”
Most of the featured musicians — including John Shade, Cameron Stenger, Phil, the Tremolo King, and Eastern Phoebes — are not residents of the Island but are a part of a greater independent music community into which Sergent Sparrow has tapped.
One who is from the Island is Dan Waters, former poet laureate of West Tisbury. He has been a musician since childhood; illustrating his interview in the magazine is a photo of the newly-eight-year-old Dan holding his first guitar on his birthday.
Many of the visual artists who are featured in the magazine also have ties to the Vineyard. There are photographs of paintings, of real life scenes, and interviews with visual artists included in the magazine.
Many creative projects have cropped up in response to the difficulties of breaking into the mainstream music, art or writing worlds, and several such projects are noted in the magazine.
The magazine’s literature editor, Spencer Thurlow, writes an historical account of an art gallery in Boston called Yes. Oui. Si., which is based on the same DIY principles. The new gallery is devoted to giving artists who have not broken into the mainstream art world a place to show their work, among many other things.
Another DIY-related project featured in the magazine is a book called Children of Mercy. It is a compilation of essays written by independent musicians about the independent music industry. In a short statement about the book, Mr. Thurlow writes a defense of the book rejecting some criticism elsewhere that the essays are not objective enough. “Of course they are subjective!” Mr. Thurlow writes. “Of course they are personal! For almost every one of the contributors, the life of Indie music was never a choice. These tales are willful.”
The DIY spirit of the artists represented in the magazine permeates its pages. Most of the featured musicians record their music on their own equipment. (Mr. Waters takes DIY to another level in that he owns printing equipment circa 1900 that he uses rather than modern technology.) The bones of the magazine itself are independently designed.
Ms. Russell, with the help of her ever growing staff, has raised the magazine from infancy to early childhood in one successful year. The magazine looks professional, the music on the CD is of a high quality, and the artistic contents and interviews are well curated. This fledgling magazine is a publication to read and to follow as it grows into the future.
You can pick up a copy of the magazine, CD included, for $12 at the Scottish Bakehouse, Citrine, Alley’s General Store, Midnight Farm, Thimble Farm, Up-Island Paint and Tool, and Above-ground Records. Or you can download a copy at a discount from the Web site at http://www.sgtsparrow.com.”
Kitchen Sessions Presents: The Swamp Angels Live
(Feature) Arman Augusto [Artist]
Written by Ron Trembath
Published: August 17, 2011
“In the music blogging business (if you could really call it that) some pretty sweet and amazing coincidences can occur. When you randomly come across an artist that becomes an instant favorite, you become instantly thankful for the random research you find yourself falling into. Arman Augusto is most definitely the epitaph for my findings over the last few years.
A dear friend of mine living in Portland, OR slyly recommended the works of this San Diego based experimental folk artist back in 2008. During the following year, Arman released his sophomore release under the moniker The Walking entitled Wanderings and Distractions on what would soon become one of my favorite record labels, Sergeant Sparrow Records. It became one of my favorite albums of 2009, and continues to be an album that can be played at any given moment of any given day (check out my 2009 review at Fensepost). His debut album (Manor/Model), and 2011 follow-up as The Walking (Sensory) would prove to be just as worthwhile. And in 2011, Arman and Sergeant Sparrow Records would showcase his full-blown experimental styling with a side project entitled The Old Lace. This is where we find Mr. Augusto experimenting in an entire electronic form, which is in turn, entirely wonderful.
And on August 16th, I found myself in awe of Arman once again. Our man has developed yet ANOTHER side project. But, this is unlike anything he has ever done before. I truly didn’t know what I was going to be getting into, and was actually sort of spooked when I first pressed play on track one of the Curse of The Black Widow debut EP of the same title. Here is Arman in a raw and somewhat malevolent form. Over thrash heavy beats and rhythms that crush skulls and spirits in a single strum comes the sound of a demon sent directly to the heavens to entice the calm angels of earth. This might seem like an extremely fucked up way to describe somebody’s artistic endeavors, but I will be damned if I couldn’t smell the blood of the non-believers flowing in a dark stream as I began hear what a folk artist is creating.
It’s actually pretty amazing to hear an artist who actually loves to experiment with new sounds, and not just saying they do. All three projects of Arman Augusto are entirely different and unique in their own way. Thinking of it now, Arman could very well be the American counterpart to fellow Trainwreck’d featured artist, Thom Carter of the UK.
All satanic symbolism aside, Augusto’s latest project Curse of The Black Widow is as compelling as his previous efforts. It is yet another venture into the world of one of today’s finest independent acts creating masterpieces that develop from within their own inner psyche, and from little other inspiration than what they consider personal and exploitive to their inner thoughts. Arman Augusto is an independent artist who stands really stands out among his thousands of peers creating today. Whether it be on his latest effort, or as The Walking or The Old Lace, this is definitely an artist you will want to follow.
Check out Curse of The Black Widow on the Bandcamp site. You can pick up this terrific 6 track digital EP for just $1. A sweet deal!
And check out Arman’s work as The Walking and The Old Lace from the Sergeant Sparrow Records website.”
Sergeant Sparrow Records [Label Spotlight]
Written by Ron Trembath at Fensepost.com
Published: 28 March 2011
“If Sergeant Sparrow Records rings a bell to most of you avid FensePost readers, that may be because the work they have put out has been no stranger to our little world. The label’s owner/operator/lady in charge, Angel Russell, has been featured for her solo work (of which is absolutely phenomenal) and teammate Arman Augusto has been noted as well for his project The Walking. And if these posts still don’t ring a bell, that is a shame. But worry not ye weary ones, there is still time to save your indie soul.
Sergeant Sparrow Records is quaint, but very full of life. Head honcho Angel Russell definitely knows her stuff. She has managed to take her San Diego-based label, move it to the east coast, and spark a bi-monthly magazine and a weekly radio show in her newly found home of Martha’s Vineyard, MA. And to top all of her successes, the whole damn thing is non profit. But what contributes to her triumphs and success isn’t just her own doing – she also happens to have some extremely brilliant acts attached to her label.
The fore-mentioned Arman Augusto is a man of which no words can really come to mind for some sort of description. He is simply incredible. Some artists develop their musical sensibility over extended period of time. Arman, whether as The Walking or his full fledged band Golden Red or his experimental project The Old Lace, is without a doubt the latter. The Walking’s 2009 album Wanderings And Distractions still leaves listeners in disbelief at how one man can turn generalized anti-folk music into a real to life freaking’ space adventure. The man is a damn genius. His third album Sensory has also been recently released, and offers up a few rearranged tracks that have been featured on Sergeant Sparrow compilations, as well as a some new records that, in Arman’s words, “reminds me of when I was younger playing a beat up acoustic guitar in my bedroom recording myself with one of those old hand held cassette tape recorders, uncomfortably leaning in close to its crappy built in microphones.”
Swamp Angels is another fantastic group sporting the Sergeant Sparrow brand. Our heroine Angel Russell also appears in this group wailing on the trumpet, as well as her beautiful guitar and vocal duties. Adam Lipsky provides beautiful piano work as well on the band’s most recent self titled release. Adam Howell, Niko Ewing, and Andrew Prouty round out this beautiful lo-fi project that should not be overlooked.
Sergeant Sparrow also brings in the likes of Matthew Sweet (a.k.a. Tourists On Horses) with his sweet melancholy “bleeding robot” melodies and sweet aftermath of experimentation, as well as the duo project of Angel Russell and Adam Howell (of the fore-mentioned Swamp Angels) where lo-fi recording meets melodies, guitar, and noise.
This might very well be one of the most solid rosters you could hear these days. But, what is most impressive about this label is the total force integrated sort of grassroots feel that it provides. The music is amazing and awe inspiring, but the story behind the project is equally amazing. It is the tale of one immensely talented woman, knowing her dream, and not letting a damn thing get in her way while she attempts to reach it. Even with a label, magazine, and radio show, it is safe to say that Angel Russell has not even begun to take Sergeant Sparrow to the limits. Not by a damn sight.
To learn more about and to Sergeant Sparrow Records, visit their website.”
Swamp Angels: voicing Vineyard angst
By Dan Waters
February 9, 2011
“There is a microcommunity of avid Vineyard songwriters and musicians who resist easy categorization. They do not make the rowdy roadhouse raunch, nor the soothing soundtracks of cocktail lounges, nor the dependable patter of street buskers. Instead, these composers — many young, most bred and schooled on the Island — struggle in private, and in deadly earnest, to write music they can play wholeheartedly and honestly. It is in this tradition that The Swamp Angels offer their first, and self-titled, album.
Misfitting is not just part of The Swamp Angels’ identity, it is also a recurring motif. An autobiographical song like drummer-vocalist Andrew Prouty’s “Good Friend of Mine” treats loss so intensely that wallowing in it turns into a kind of perverse celebration. Like other songs on the album, it sketches out a situation, then lets go of words altogether and relies on extended instrumental interludes to tell the rest. The suggestion is that you already know the story because it is universal and timeless — classical, even.
When this music is incubated in the few public venues on Martha’s Vineyard that tolerate experimentation, it draws a following of loyal fans who have gained admission to the music through prolonged exposure or through friendship with band members. To an outsider, the instrument-swamped lyrics and mumbled words can occasionally seem impenetrable. One song whose lyrics ring clear, however, is Adam Howell’s “Cold-Blooded”:
In the world you live in,
There’s something you’re always wishin’
There’s a place you’d rather be
So go on, don’t think of me
No one sold their soul so cheap
No one helped them in the street
There’s a wall of open doors
One that’s closed and you’re kickin’ and screamin’
For it to open up
The leaves begin to fall
Trees they all fall
How could such a small thing
Cause such a mess?
A lush chorus of trumpets, all played by Angel Russell in stunning harmony, follows this verse. “Cold-Blooded” is a nice showcase for the whole band, juxtaposing Niko Ewing’s and Adam Howell’s resonator and electric guitars, Andrew Prouty’s drums and Adam Lipsky’s synthesizer.
Not shy about conveying the experience and random spontaneous sounds of a live performance, the band also boasts a solid grasp of its material, born of years of rehearsal and working together. Those sweet riffs and dazzling ensemble moments are clearly no accident.
Fashionably lo-fi, the recording has a tinny, homemade quality. The sound arrives as if from a distant time and place, like the remains of a late night party left for early risers to find and wonder at. It is not advisable to listen to this CD while driving a car, where uneven dynamics, sudden eruptions and unexpected noises can trigger the brake-pedal reflex.
Does youth alone impart cosmic significance to private pain? Probably not, but youthful intensity certainly helps to put across a song like Andrew Prouty’s “Death,” whose doom-laden male choir is augmented by Milo Silva’s mournful Morin Huur, the two-stringed Mongolian horse-head fiddle familiar to anyone who has ever spoken with Milo.
Probably the strongest songs and lyrics on the album come from Angel Russell, who supplies her own razor-close vocal harmonies on “What Was I Like?”:
What was I like as a child?
Was I incredibly wise?
Did I forget to smile
Like I do now?
What was it like as a child
When you fell down?
You got up lifted off the ground
The way I feel now.
The Swamp Angels have put together a cogent if not entirely coherent experience of ten songs. Their CD is a landmark of sorts, a coming-of-age ritual for a generation of singer-songwriters weaned on the candlewax and velvet curtains of the dear departed Che’s Lounge.
If there are sporadic bows to the eternal heroes of angst-drenched, mopey songsmithing — Elliot Smith, Suzanne Vega and company — it’s completely in keeping with an album where Adam Howell declares:
I’m tired of the ache in
My eyes, the knot in my guts
And I will never be rich
And I will never be a father
‘Cause I know to do no child right
But I can love you.
Next live appearance: Sunday, Feb. 13, at the Oyster Bar Grill, Oak Bluffs.
Swamp Angels CD is available at Alley’s Store, Aboveground Records, and Island Music, or online at sergeantsparrowrecords.com.”
Children of Mercy Blog
Written by Ron Trembath
“And we are at it again folks!! Just as previously stated, Children of Mercy will once again be featured on the airwaves. The Sergeant Radio Show at WVVY 93.7 in Martha’s Vineyard will be spinning a few tracks from the COM compilation, as well as throwing in a few nice words about our project. Sergeant Sparrow Records/Magazine frontwoman Angel Russell has been very generous in her contributions, and she deserves a great big digital hug from everyone who is involved with or supports this project. Be sure to tune in tomorrow (Thursday, December 23rd) from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Time) to support this project, and Sergeant Sparrow Records. You can hear the show streamed online at the WVVY Website.
Watch for a bit more radio presence in the future. There are a few other big ones coming in the near future. Be on the lookout! ”
Assemble packages for Pakistan flood victims
By Sam McCoy
Published: September 2, 2010
“The devastating impact of the recent floods in Pakistan continues to be a challenge. While the disaster might seem distant, there is a local way to provide aid to those in desperate need.
Angel Russell, a year-round Island resident, is currently working with Mercy Corps, the Shahina & Aftab Foundation, and Pakistan International airlines, to put together emergency kits to help people in Pakistan floods. The emergency kits require little money to assemble, but contain items that were deemed most important to those in the field.
Mercy Corps is an organization driven by local needs and conditions that seeks to help equip people facing natural disasters with the resources and programming they need. The Shahina & Aftab Foundation, an organization based out of the UK, focuses on providing women and children in distressed circumstances with healthcare and education services.
“I think it is important that we not stand by ambivalently when there is much we can do to help, especially if the things that are needed are just sitting around our houses not being used,” Ms. Russell says in a press release. She is collecting the boxes and takes responsibility for bringing them to the nearest administration offices in New York. Pakistan International Airlines has said they will ship the emergency relief kits for free to Pakistan and the kits will be given to the Red Cross and the Army once there.
Ms. Russell is an Island artist who produces the nonprofit magazine Sergeant Sparrow Magazine. Items in need include: water, soap, non-perishable vegetarian items, clean sheets, toothbrushes and toothpaste, towels, shampoo, clean underwear and disinfectant. Boxes are available for pick-up from Ms. Russell at Up-island Paint and Tool, the entrance to Stony Hill Road in West Tisbury, and Up-Island Cronigs. For more information, contact her at 508-645-4380 or visit sergeantsparrowrecords.com. Money can also be donated at mercycorps.org/fundraising/sergeantsparrow.”
Music : WVVY airs it out
By Jack Shea
Published: April 22, 2010
Angel Russell [Feature]
By Fense at Fensepost.com
Published: 26 January 2010
“Angel Russell fits into an interesting and quite rare area of folk music, that being the realm of gypsy folk. The influences, like the lifestyle, are blurred between various cultures. You can hear it in Russell’s songs, like the seductive “Sail Away” and the Spanish “Reperar Mi Vida”. Gypsy folk is rare, but the artists that embody the description do so wholeheartedly — just look at Ramona Cordova. In this manner Russell has traveled; her family is from Mexico and she grew up in San Diego. She began recording her debut album in Seattle, continued it in Portland, and finished it in Massachusetts.
Gypsy folk artists incorporate highly infectious melodies with obscurities such as knee-slaps and foot stomps; then there’s the various accompanying instruments. Seduction and story are typically the themes, and Angel Russell is a master of both – her lyrics tell sultry stories of passion and lust, and the theme carries through in her vocals. Her latest work is a homemade LP titled Sunken Ships And Parlor Tricks, available now from Sergeant Sparrow Records. Within you’ll find the aforementioned genre at the core, backed by a latin feel, hints of jazz, and even slight traces of punk and pop. ”
Music : Read all about it: New music mag
By Gwyn McAllister
Published: January 28, 2010
“Angel Russell, a multi-instrumental musician, artist, photographer and writer, has recently added a few new skills to an already impressive resume. In order to distribute her band’s debut CD, she started her own record label, Sergeant Sparrow. Then, as a burgeoning music producer, she was determined to help other musicians market their music. However, she was hindered in this effort by a lack of funding for distribution, and hatched the plan of issuing an indy music magazine that includes interviews and a compilation CD of songs by the featured artists. This marketing plan will give upcoming artists some exposure and introduce music lovers to new music and musicians.
Sergeant Sparrow, Martha’s Vineyard
The first issue of the magazine, also named “Sergeant Sparrow,” features five artists and acts. Ms. Russell’s band, Iridescent Pheasant, and Milo Silva represent local music. Two other artists were recruited from among Ms. Russell’s many friends from her native San Diego, and from her years as a touring musician. The other artist is someone who found out about her enterprise through her MySpace page. The venture is nonprofit, with proceeds going to the artists. The magazine, which sells for $6, went on sale last Saturday, and is available at Aboveground Records, Conroy Apothecary, Che’s Lounge, and through the website sergeantsparrowrecords.com.
An ambitious 28-year-old, Ms. Russell has other plans in the works. She is renting the space above Che’s Lounge, which previously housed l’atelier boutique, to use as the office for both Sergeant Sparrow enterprises. She is also working on transforming part of the space into an art gallery/performance space. Currently she is busy constructing moveable walls, with the help of her boyfriend and bandmate Adam Howell.
Ms. Russell hopes to provide a showplace for up-and-coming visual artists, as well as for performance artists. “I’m really supportive of performance art because I think it’s an awesome genre that deserves to be seen,” she says. “I’d like to have a place where people can do that.”
She also hopes to feature installation art, and, as if Ms. Angel isn’t busy enough, she is working on her own installment piece called the Cycle of Life. Ms. Angel describes her overall mission, “My main focus is helping out artists and musicians – to promote them, and help people discover them.”
In the true DIY spirit that seems to be pervasive in the indy music scene, Ms. Russell recorded her band’s CD on her computer, taught herself desktop publishing in order to produce the magazine, and would some day like to run her own printer to keep everything in shop. She has done all the writing for the first issue, which includes the interviews, music reviews and a spotlight on Mike Barnes, owner of Aboveground Records. Ms. Russell also supplied many of the artistic photos.
The energetic arts entrepreneur notes that producing a magazine was a learning process and the project took longer than she had anticipated – about three months. She had to master new software and experiment with layout in a trial and error process. Her innate sense of graphic design is evident in the attractive, professional look of the magazine.
Although so far, Ms. Russell has virtually done it all herself, she actively encourages contributions by artists, writers, and photographers. Her primary aim, in all of her endeavors, is to support local talent. She is also anxious to introduce new musicians from all over to local audiences. She notes that every issue will include at least one local musician. She is actively soliciting new acts, she welcomes suggestions, and hopes to find new artists through her website.
Last Saturday, Ms. Angel hosted a launch party for her new venture that featured performances by Mr. Silva and Iridescent Pheasant. She plans to hold a show each month with music by the acts included in the most recent issue. She says, “In the beginning I’ll focus on the Island. I want to promote what’s around, so people know what’s going on in their community.” Her purpose is twofold, however, as she explains, “I want to bring new music to the Island so that people are exposed to other artists.”
Music : Local talent turns Che’s into music mecca
By Gwyn McAllister
Published: December 24, 2009
“On Friday evening Milo Silva performed, joined later by Nina Violet on violin, Angel Russell on trumpet and Andrew Prouty on acoustic guitar. This unlikely ensemble turned out a virtuoso performance held together by the hypnotic, plaintive strains of Mr. Silva’s long necked two-stringed Morin Huur.
. . .
Work is underway to turn the upstairs area, formerly occupied by the boutique l’atelier, into a gallery and performance space. Mr. Woodford plans to feature a rotating art show, host performance artists, and screen art films. The space is also home to a music label, Sergeant Sparrow, and new music magazine with the same name, run by musician Angel Russell and scheduled to debut soon.”