Soundcheck Soundcheck, hosted by John Schaefer, is WNYCs daily talk show about music. Covering all musical genres, Soundcheck celebrates the musical passions of performers, composers, critics, and the public radio audience. Listeners enjoy intimate conversations with and live performances by leading artists from around New York and around the globe.


From WNYC Radio

Soundcheck, hosted by John Schaefer, is WNYCs daily talk show about music. Covering all musical genres, Soundcheck celebrates the musical passions of performers, composers, critics, and the public radio audience. Listeners enjoy intimate conversations with and live performances by leading artists from around New York and around the globe.More from Soundcheck »

Most Recent Episodes

Quiet and Sharp Story-Songs by Laura Gibson

Singer-songwriter and producer Laura Gibson was born and raised in the small Oregon logging town of Coquille but now splits her time between Oregon & NYC. She recently completed an MFA in fiction writing (Hunter College) and her sharp story-songs quietly and gracefully explore darkness on her latest, Goners. Gibson's storytelling is both raw and bold in its exploration of the depths of grief and other hidden feelings; the music hearkens toward folk traditions with unexpected arrangements, with each containing an alluring hint of the experimental. Laura Gibson and her band join us to play some of these songs, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Watch the session here:

Algiers' Postpunk Soul Music for Disrupting

Algiers is a mesmerizing band of musicians born in Atlanta, Georgia and now splitting time between London and New York. Their urgent, genre-resistant, chill-inducing, and fist-shaking music taps into and channels the frustration of locally-informed global citizens in these dark times - with a soulful and compelling roar. Their live sets feel spiritual and cathartic, but also might be for dancing. Then again - they also put out a music/zine series of somewhat more experimental sounds. 1st November 1954 by Algiers Frontman Franklin James Fisher is a multi-instrumentalist who might, at any point in their set, be stationed at the Rhodes, handling the samples. or wielding a guitar. (Read about his non-tour instrument on which he composes, Rhoda.) Ryan Mahan, ostensibly on bass, also handles drum programming, baritone guitar, and synthesizer. There's also the multi-instrumentalist stylings of Lee Tesche, on guitar, prepared guitar, harmonium, saxophone, and prepared piano. The 2017 record, The Underside of Power, was the band's first to include drummer Matt Tong (ex-Bloc Party) on hybrid drum kit, chimes, and percussion. (NPR has published this excellent in-depth article on Algiers, by Ned Raggett.) Algiers, in their press materials, cite a great breadth and variety of influences - Big Black, Wendy Carlos, W.E.B. Dubois, John Carpenter, Cybotron, The Four Tops, Portishead, Public Image Limited, Steve Reich, Miles Davis, and Nina Simone - which may or may not inform their (I'm going for it here) their postpunk-gospel-kraut-y-motown-rocking ferocious crooning resistance music by this "American experimental band." We're super-pumped to have them play in-studio. - Caryn Havlik

Piano Manipulator and Producer Kelly Moran

Pianist, composer, engineer, and producer, Kelly Moran takes pride in trying to "obfuscate exactly what the piano sounds like. The whole point is to make it sound different." (Tiny Mix Tapes) Moran, on her latest record, Ultraviolet (Warp Records), has also found a delicate balance of improvisation and structure in her expansive compositions. It'd be a reductionist approach to label her work merely minimalist or ambient music because it's also melodic cascades of these studiously prepared acoustic sources combined with synth wizardry, all washing over the listener in hypnotic and fascinating waves. The music is mainly produced and engineered by Moran herself - with a little help on this latest record from a friend, one Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never.) Kelly Moran has brought her baggies of screws and bolts, along with other tools, to expand the insides of our piano into a new sonic palette of thoughtful and provocative sounds - somewhere in the realm of a gamelan meets hammered dulcimer or qanun. She performs works mostly from Ultraviolet, in-studio. -Caryn Havlik Watch the session here:

The Welcoming Intensity of Incoming Met Opera Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Canadian conductor and pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the incoming Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, is taking over two years earlier than initially planned. In this interview with John Schaefer for the Soundcheck Podcast, he outlines his plans to welcome more folks to the opera and to make sure that routine does not become the norm. Yannick Nézet-Séguin's intensity is fueled by his boundless energy and his understanding of the legacy and the history of the Metropolitan Opera. He's the first new Music Director in 42 years and yet is optimistic that the Met can present itself as the generator of and ultimately a place for the creation of new operas, but understands that the large space does not lend itself to experimentation. Due to his unique placement as Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra as well as his new role with the Metropolitan Opera, Yannick hopes to be able to shepherd new productions to life. He also plans to go out of the theatre, in collaborations with BAM (in Brooklyn) and the Public Theatre with the aim of welcoming more folks to the Opera. Pointing out that opera is itself a unique combination of drama and music with ballet, theatre projections, and modern dance, Yannick Nézet-Séguin is eager to see more folks able to immerse themselves, and be challenged and nourished with stories and ideas in opera. He'd also like to let people in on the behind-the-scenes aspects as well as invite them into the glamour and magic of a performance. He's also an omnivorous listener himself - with singers as his main focus. Yannick (yah-NEEK) is currently listening to Janelle Monáe, Canadian singer/songwriter Daniel Caesar, Frank Ocean, and neo-soul of the early 2000's when not at work. He also dips back into classic singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. - Caryn Havlik

The Welcoming Intensity of Incoming Met Opera Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Emily King Supplies Warmth Via Retro Disco-Soul

Grammy-nominated chanteuse Emily King went into the family business via a different route, that of an R&B-influenced singer-songwriter. (She's the daughter of New York jazz vocalists who has moved to the Catskills.) Her latest record, Scenery, due in February of 2019 (on ATO Records), promises to be a clever mix of R&B, pop, and perhaps a little retro disco. A bicoastal preview tour brings Emily King and her band to our studio to perform some of her brand-new "retro-cinematic" tunes (NPR Music) before playing at the storied Apollo Theatre tonight. - Caryn Havlik Watch the session via Facebook here: Or via Youtube:

Noise-Fuzz-Pop from Upper Wilds

With screaming and blistering guitars, power-chord-like vocal harmonies (both clean and processed through an array of guitar pedals), and a rock-solid pummeling of drums, Brooklyn trio Upper Wilds, [Dan Friel (Parts & Labor), Zach Lehroff (Ex Models) and Jeff Ottenbacher], exploits all kinds of sonic textures for a cathartic, electric explosion of melodic and riff-driven noise-fuzz-pop. Expect distortion-filled, high-intensity songs with the "raw hopeful energy of DIY spaces" (Thrill Jockey) about being the first earthlings in deep space, getting struck by lightning, and colonizing Mars when Upper Wilds plays in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Watch the session here: Mars by Upper Wilds

Exuberant Psych-Pop From Australia's Pond

The band Pond hails from Perth, the Western Australian city referred to "as the most remote city on earth." They blend blissful and mind-bending psychedelic rock, with subversive strains of funk, synth-pop, falsetto, somehow both of the moment, and informed by the past. To illustrate, in a recent video, the band went shopping at Amoeba Music in Los Angeles, and showed off their haul: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Young Thug, Tokyo Psychedelic music of the 1990's, Tom Waits, Neil Young, 1980's dub from Scientist, "uplifting doom and gloom" from Spiritualzed, along with Yoko Ono and Plastic Ono Band, psychedelic soul from D'Angelo, Jean Michel Jarre, William Oneyeabor, Cocteau Twins, a Prince candle, and Wu Tang boxers. With their latest record, The Weather, they have achieved a synth-pop/guitar-psych balance in their West Australian self-reflective songs. Pond joins us in-studio to play some of these songs. - Caryn Havlik Watch the session live here:

Art-Indie-Rock Band Cloud Cult, In-Studio

The cinematic Minnesota band Cloud Cult is a creative collective who continually celebrates life and love, and catharsis through music and multimedia performances, usually involving painting from stage, and lately, film. Cloud Cult's emotive, melodic, orchestral indie rock is perfectly suited to the movies. Singer/instrumentalist Craig Minowa and his crew have scored shorts and documentary films, The Seeker, The Great Alone, and lately, Minowa has been working on a score for a National Geographic documentary on wolves (Pop Matters.) They're also independent musicians who are greening the music industry with environmentally-sound packaging, a geothermal-powered studio, and touring with net zero greenhouse gases. The studio is located on an organic farm. -Caryn Havlik Watch the session here:

Zen Ritual Groove Music by Nik Bärtsch's Ronin

Swiss pianist and composer Nik Bärtsch creates playful and carefully balanced works containing both space and riffs. There might be as much listening going on as there is playing, which points to a spiritual focus, trust, and discipline that comes from Bärtsch's avid practice of the Japanese martial art Aikido. In his electric group, Nik Bärtsch's Ronin (after the freelance Japanese warriors who served no master), there is slow-building, ever-shifting, sensual groove reductionism. With newfound freedom and flexibility, Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, now a quartet, meditates on repeating patterns, or "Moduls" as he dubs his works, in what he describes as "Zen-funk" and "ritual groove." Those repeating patterns have also earned the label "minimalist", but the quartet wanders freely between funk, jazz, new music, or Japanese ritual music. Pianist Bärtsch, reedsman Sha, bassist Thomy Jordi, and drummer Kaspar Rast play at all kinds of accents and subtle syncopations, shifting downbeats, interlocking rhythms, and hypnotic motifs which slowly evolve and build to dramatic effect. Nik Bärtsch's Ronin perform music from their latest, Awase (a term from Aikido which means "moving together, coming together"), in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Watch the session here:

Glimmery Electro Art-Pop by Arthur Moon

Arthur Moon is the moniker of composer/singer/multi-instrumentalist Lora-Faye Åshuvud. As Arthur Moon, she is the anchor who has gathered collaborators- including Cale Hawkins (Quincy Jones, Bilal, Wyclef Jean) and Martin D. Fowler (a composer for This American Life) and other folks. They trade demos and build on musical perspectives, which she then arranges and composes by way of experimentation and improvisation. The result is dazzling music that feels beautiful, affecting, and strange. Arthur Moon's electronic experimental pop takes advantage of all available sonic space, teasing around all kinds of textures and timbres: here a fat-bottomed synth bass, there some minimal sampled percussion, perhaps a sneaky guitar effect to connect them, all dancing around swooping vocal lines, combined with vocoder action – in something of a multi-layered collaborative musical collage. Yet, the grand thing is that this assemblage of electronic pop never feels heavy, or over-crowded, or falls into any traps of formulaic synth pop, rather – it's what Åshuvud calls "incorrect music" and it as perplexing as it is marvelous. Arthur Moon - Lora-Faye Åshuvud and her collaborators - join us in-studio to play some of these new tunes. - Caryn Havlik

Back To Top