Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Attn: Poe Folks

As 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth, it's only fitting there would be a smattering of new releases on the author, (as discussed in yesterday's New Yorker article), and a film premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, Tell Tale, based on his most heart-stopping story.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Revel Hotel @ Wierd

A scintillating showing by hybrid cabaret synth rockers Revel Hotel reminded me just what new music can be. Frontman/pianist Johnny Quinlan, bassist/synth player/theremin master Frankie Teardrop, drummer Barrett Hiatt and new guitarist Robert Tahija coalesced to create an evening of high drama without any pretense. From start to finish it was riveting, inspiring, and full of feeling. A tremulous (and ominous) synth line began the set, and right away I found there were many new elements to absorb. Even though I had seen the band in previous incarnations,  something entirely new has come to fruition since then. One of my favorites, "Drink the Pain," was introduced jokingly by Quinlan as an ode to alcohol, but there was a certain dark, redemptive soul sucking melancholy within the melody that made it one of the most bittersweet tunes of the night. Quinlan's lyrics, from what I can make out, are never trite or obvious but rather dark and smart, which is even evident in titles such as "Terminission" or "Sheep in Wolves' Clothing."

Teardrop's standout performance must be mentioned as well: he wielded the spacey oscillations of his theremin solo with a control both convulsive and focused. It was quite impressive, as was Quinlan's powerful vocal bravado, which had little need for amplification. And while there are, of course, touchstones in the past with hints of Peter Murphy's solo work, the dark electronic aura of Violator, Marc Almond's erotic torch singing, and the fragility of chromatic piano offset by aggressive guitars as found in classic Nine Inch Nails, there is no anxiety of influence. All of these elements are part of the sinewy sonic bricolage Revel Hotel weave so adroitly. So when the synth line from the beginning returned to close out the performance, I was a little crushed, yet somehow reinvigorated by this new aural synthesis. Revel Hotel's debut album, currently in the mixing process, cannot come out too soon. I am certainly not the only one from the crowd last night who will be waiting with baited breath until then...

(Photo by Ms. Natalie Kocsis.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mongrel Vaudeville

A variety show in the truest sense of the word, Mongrel Vaudeville was flash and swagger with plenty of true talent offset by the obligatory oddities and awkward moments. The genderqueer event was held in Brooklyn at Freddy's Bar in the Backroom, and began with an intellectual bent as organizer Julian of Nowherr gave an etymological introduction. Hearing about the origins of the words themselves, particularly vaudeville as "the voice of the city" (in French), engaged me even before the show began.

What followed was the most disparate group of performers, including a kitschy adorable dance number to "Tea For Two" by cat people, Pussy Says What?, a psychic spoken word jam by the Paranormal Ventriloquist Chris Martin, and a dapper number by male impersonator The Dynamic Maximum Ion, who brought a contemporary (and, at times, comic) twist to 1930's torch singing. The second half was owned by impressive contortionist Jared the Conjuror - Nine Inch Nails blared as he worked his way into a strait jacket (don't ask me how) - and also included working class pie-in-the-face drag king Jonathan Bitchman, and the infamous "post punk pop diva" Jasper James. There were a few other acts that left the audience in stitches or in a strained silence, but I wouldn't have it any other way. This was an excellent melange of entertainment, and I'll be certain to catch the next one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Odds + Ends

1. The Dead Sextons @ Europa

Saw this strange, swampy band before The Hunt played a few weeks back. The Dead Sextons incorporate the croon of Nick Cave, the existential sleaze of Tom Waits, and the undead Elvis rockabilly quiver of the Cramps all steeped in the Delta blues. Not too hot on the outfits and the MySpace tracks aren't as down and dirty as most of the stuff I heard live, but I gotta give the singer props for incorporating blood into the set. All I can say is I'm determined to find out more...

2. Telepathe @ The Annex

Checked out the CD release for this electro duo's new record, Dance Mother. They've just been touring with Ladytron and The Faint, and if you listen to Telepathe's eerie synth stylings it's easy to understand why. Live, however, they were a bit uninteresting and the green and purple nylon hoodie/ponchos did nothing for me. Dig the record, though...

3. Goth Engine

Albeit somewhat ridiculous, this is a Google Custom Search Engine that is pretty self-explanatory. I'm also into the fact they have a nice Nietzsche quote on the page, (even if his last name is misspelled), so I figured I'd mention it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Throbbing Gristle @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple

In their first US performance since 1981, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's sound vision, Throbbing Gristle, captured an enrapt Fort Greene audience. I could only stay for the first part of the show, so you'll have to refer to my cohort's blog here, for a different perspective.

From the start, the integration of audio and video that was created as TG spun a live soundtrack to Derek Jarman's In The Shadow of The Sun was entirely absorbing. The film was made in 1974, and it was dated in the best possible way. Dated in the sense that it included imagery of Ancient Greece and Rome and across the Middle East with the perfect amount of distress and crackle to draw you in further. Reds, golds, blacks and whites brought bodies and faces forth, both ocluded and concealed - a woman's dress became an undulating landscape and a man's forehead dissolved into sky. TG's drone was both synthetic and organic as it swelled and broke apart while Genesis controlled the distortion on his headless guitar and Chris Carter and Peter Christopherson worked on two laptops.

At times, each would turn their head to glance at the film intently, as if the visuals were absolutely necessary to guide the extended improvisation. Vocal samples were few, but did add a sacred element to the burning effigies and fallen figures that oozed neat rivulets of blood onscreen. Aside from those who couldn't take it and left without haste, there were few faces not turned quietly toward the stage, entranced -- and those aesthetically-endowed audience members seemed to be lulled into a sonic stasis. TG's reverberations were powerful enough to to crawl up your spine and nestle in your chest. It was warm, primeval and beautiful. I left the Masonic Temple with a clear head.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dark Art Books

I found myself in Club Monaco (ouch) while shopping in Soho with a friend, and oddly enough came across the book, Black Paintings. It depicts the use of black in painting from the '3 R's' of the 1940's New York School: Rauschenberg, Reinhardt, and Rothko. Finding it amongst a sea of black, despite the overarching artlessness of the clothing around me, was quite heartening.

Then there was Hell Bound: New Gothic Art, which I saw whilst perusing the shelves at thee best Japanese bookstore in NYC, Kinokuniya. All kinds of contemporary artists are featured inside, most of whom I don't know, which is great...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Streaming Sounds of the Universe

The online version of the Dutch newspaper De Standaard has the entire Depeche Mode album streaming until the official European release on April 20th. Although it's already 'out' in the States, there's nothing like a free listen...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tamaryn: Weather War Video

Yet another hypnotic visual feast from Tamaryn. Shot entirely on a Blackberry, the "Weather War" video is directed by Mark Treise and features Liza Thorn. Preorder the WW 7" from Italian label Hell Yes! here. Enjoy...

Tamaryn "Weather War" from Mark Treise on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Siouxsie & the Banshees Remasters

The latest set of Siouxsie and the Banshees remasters released just this past Monday include A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, Nocturne, Hyaena, and Tinderbox. The project was overseen by Steve Severin himself, and the Banshees' bassist has a bit to say about it in a recent interview. For a song listing, including bonus tracks, live tracks, and tracks featuring Robert Smith, go here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Halloween of Bloody Nightmares

This compilation of darkwave, EBM, and synthpop stylings features covers and original songs inspired by – you guessed it – Halloween. While some veer into cheesy kitsch territory, a few tracks are actually quite listenable, particularly “Social Disease,” by my favorite socially conscious Australian EBM act, Snog, as well as Denim Venom and Nina Martine’s dark and danceable electro cover of the Misfits’ classic paean to a date with death. “Die, Die My Darling” is called “Do Do Min Kjaere” here, and it's pretty good saccharine fun.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Montreal's Xavier Paradis may have the French connection, but is actually a forerunner in the distinctly North American movement of minimal synth that has been seething below the surface since the 1990's. Paradis made music under the moniker Arnaud Lazlaud for a decade, and now his debut release as Automelodi presents us with an understated bouquet of spare, synthetic delicacies. The Fait ses Courses EP exudes a romantique moodiness akin to that of French cult classics from the 1980's such as Martin Dupont, Asylum Party, and Opera Multi Steel, and also carries a certain spark reminiscent of Visage or even early Italo Disco. Against the pulsing electronic canvas of Paradis' creation, guitars tremble and sway while his understated emotive vocals hover, sometimes in a whisper, over the dancefloor-ready sounds.

This Wednesday will prove to be very rare indeed, as it marks Automelodi's American debut at Wierd, the eye of NYC's coldwave and minimal synth storm. Following Wednesday's performance at Home Sweet Home, Automelodi will also share the stage with Xeno and Oaklander at an early show Saturday at The Annex.

For a more in-depth look at Automelodi, French minimal synth & coldwave or Wierd Records, check out a write-up on my other blog at BigTakeover.com.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Free Blacklist Download @ Other Music

I have been expounding on Blacklist's provocative chansons since 2006, so it is a pleasure to promote their latest machination. Other Music's free download of the week just so happens to be "Flight of the Demoiselles," and you can get it here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tobias Bernstrup: Midnight Blue Video

Ever since Halloween of 2006, when I walked into a bar ladies room to discover a man affixing a patent leather mantis claw to his forearm, I have been fascinated with Swedish performance artist Tobias Bernstrup. Since then I've seen a good many shows where he has poured himself into different shades and cuts of patent leather, and this new video by Stephen Musgrave certainly captures Tobias' presence for those who haven't had the in person pleasure themselves.

Tobias Bernstrup - Midnight Blue from WIERD Records on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Hunt @ Otto's Shrunken Head

At a tribute in honor of Lux Interior's untimely passing, bands came out to Otto's to play a quick set with a Cramps cover included. One of these groups happened to be The Hunt, with whom I joined on a brief jaunt to London, and without whom I could not get my NYC fix of post-punk tribal deathcore. The boys have recently been in and out of their Boston studio finishing up a new album, from which they played a new untitled track with lyrical content about an evening with mysterious mushrooms. Older classic material followed, such as "Set The Rising Sun" and their obligatory cover, "I Was A Teenage Werewolf," which singer J. Vigil howled and skulked through with a rhythmic creep conjuring up the undead Elvis. It was over almost before it started, but, as usual, they left me satisfied.

PH: Naomi Ramirez