It’s crunchy, dreamy, riffy, soaring–hope you love it as much as we do. We’d love for you to please post and share “Maybe It’s Best”, an (in our opinion) stellar track off Philly-based Sparta Philharmonic’s excellent “(Trans)migratory Birds”, which we’d also love to send to you for review. Hit me up, OK?


You know when you were a kid and someone told you: “You can do anything you want in the whole-wide world”? And you believed it. That world seemed as fantastic as a brand-new pop-up book, unfolding in front of you slowly but surely until sometime in your mid-twenties when it hit you; the people who told you that were full of shit. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and life ain’t fair. Well, brothers Greg and Alex Bortnichak of Sparta Philharmonic never stopped believing, and if their new record is any indicator, neither should you.

Following the release of their last full-length (2006’s Paper-Mache Mountains), NJ multi-instrumental duo Sparta Philharmonic spent the next four years tending to their songs like they were flowers in a secret garden. They built themselves a completely analog studio for under a grand, scouring craigslist, thrift stores, and garage sales for unwanted recording equipment. Then, they proceeded to carefully adapt their new music to their bizarre sonic bio-sphere, eventually honing their arrangements to include bits and pieces of hand-held cassette recorders, old-school 4-tracks, and one very resilient reel-to-reel machine. They brought in friends from their tight-knit North-Jersey music scene, and peppered their whip-smart oeuvres for cello, guitar, and drums with densely nuanced vocal contributions from members of The Metal Hearts, Delicate Steve, Future Future, and many other major players from their small but vibrant arts community.

All the while, brothers Greg and Alex kept their heads-on-straight, finishing college, completing three ambitious tours that they booked and promoted themselves (often performing with national acts such as Dirty Projectors, Matt and Kim, Man Man, Pattern Is Movement, and many others), and staying as active as humanly possible academically, musically, and politically. Greg made records with The Metal Hearts, Circa Survive, and Richard Cortez. He also wrote extensively on feminist and queer issues, publishing essays on men and feminism as well as contemporary political issues concerning the queer community in zines (Hoax), legit print periodicals (Voice-Male, Out In Jersey), and one rather thin anthology (Men Speak Out, ed. Shira Tarrant). Alex became a pilot, recorded country and folk music with members of The Metal Hearts, and worked towards his degree in Political Science while campaigning hard for progressive candidates and causes in and around Philadelphia.

For the most part, Greg and Alex Bortnichak lead remarkably separate lives for being the only two members of northern NJ’s most stalwart experimental punk band. Communicating mostly through email and the music itself, the brothers bring oil-and-water diversity to their strange brand of punk, folk, rock, noise, whatever you want to call whatever is that they do… And (trans)migratory birds soars as a result. Simultaneously confounding and catchy, lo-fi and layered, minimalist and massive, this record is essentially an hour-long homage to having it both ways. Lyrically, (trans)migratory birds explores multiplicity in much the same way. Most of the songs approach binaries like life and death, belonging and alienation, past and present, good and evil, etc., with a lack of judgment that seems to suggest that Greg and Alex get their mojo from tapping into the fluidity of it all.

Just as Sparta Philharmonic completed tracking for (trans)migratory birds, Greg and Alex were hit with a literal wave of tragedy. A dear friend and key collaborator on (trans)migratory birds passed away unexpectedly, and soon after, their PA studio (and much of their family home) was destroyed in a sudden, violent flood. Whether Sparta Philharmonic held on to the dream out of some dogmatic faith in human potential or sheer naivety, bless their souls. Their new record is one rare bird indeed, and if you can dig their mojo, prepare yourself for quite a flight…

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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