Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blacklist - Midnight of the Century

Today marks the release of Blacklist's Midnight of the Century on New York City’s Wierd Records. It is an album equal parts pornography, poetry, post-punk and politics. From my introduction to the band in 2006 when singer Josh Strawn prefaced a song with commentary on the mainstream American media’s biased representation of Palestine, I knew that Blacklist’s medium was a message not only of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, but of geo-politics, socio-cultural dynamics, and revolt. Clever and earnest dissections of issues taking center stage around the world are situated side by side with affairs of the heart.

Deeply penetrating and perhaps, most importantly, perpetually groove-y, it’s difficult not to invoke The Sisters of Mercy when discussing such an intersection of politics, romance, and post-punk. Like Andrew Eldritch says of his band, Blacklist’s music is “allusive rather than illusive,” with so much to unpack in the lyrical content -- one could indeed speculate for hours...

Continue reading my in-depth look at the album on The Big Takeover, and for a different take on the subject, check out my cohort's review on Post-Punk.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Opticks @ Anthology Film Archives

Outlined in the exemplary program for Liz Wendelbo's film Opticks is her definition of "Cold Cinema": filmmaking that "predicates resistance to cinema as a virtual medium." Wendelbo's latest 16mm piece, which premiered yesterday, expresses alienation, anxiety, and metaphysical dread yet somehow veers away from frigidity borne of an emotional void. On the contrary, the chilling space Wendelbo purposefully injects into her "reel time" film provides just enough "philosophical space" to allow the viewer to project his/her own interpretations onto the experience.


The film was initially inspired by Wendelbo's fascination with Isaac Newton's principles of color, which he wrote about in his 1704 study also entitled Opticks. She gives us 14 short films that incorporate a re-occuring optical grid, linear movement, and absolute body control as exemplified by a ballet dancer and a military officer. Interspersed are experiments involving stock footage of WWII tragedies and triumphs, all of which feature a masterful synth-driven soundtrack provided by Wendelbo's Xeno and Oaklander bandmate and Martial Canterel founder Sean McBride. The ominous sound, at times dissonant, minimal, and foreboding, has been "purposefully disconnected from the original footage," she explains in the notes, "so as to depart from the 'Mickey Mouse Effect', whereby sound follows image."

What occurs, then, is 50 minutes of optical illusions, allusions, concealment and revealment. Favorite sections include the melancholic ballerina en pointe in black ballet slippers and a German Expressionist visage, and the piece entitled "Columns." The latter takes a voyeuristic look at the shapely obelisks used to construct ornate furniture. The masked workman and the caress of the camera moving slowly up the carved pieces of wood hold a chilling and strangely stark eroticism.

Catch the next showing at the White Columns gallery this Tuesday evening at 6pm.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

True Blood Soundtrack

The soundtrack for HBO's much hyped vampire series, True Blood, was released yesterday. Haven't yet had a chance to catch the show, but if the soundtrack is anything to go by, they are doing something right. From the swampy New Orleans R&Blues fusion of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint to the glam slink of Cobra Verde and the gritty rockabilly of Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers, there's really nothing in here that screams spooky cliche. Go here for a full track listing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Big Takeover 64

...comes out this week. The Decemberists are on the cover, plus Devo interview inside and a bunch of reviews by yours truly, including Legendary Pink Dots, Jobriath, Semi-Precious Weapons, and Mirror. Thee most comprehensive mag covering "music with heart" out there - I mean, Jack Rabid is going on 29 years with this tome - so despite the fact I got my start writing for him I can still say as a reader of BTO that it really does the trick...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hiroaki Umeda @ Japan Society

A stunning synchronicity of light, sound, vision, and dance defined Hiroaki Umeda's debut at Japan Society last night. He performed a modified version of two pieces: "Adapting for Distortion" and "Accumulated Layout." The first captured his mastery of projections. Infinite permutations of linear graphics cloaked his form in crossections, imbuing him with the otherworldly appearance of a CGI graphic. Umeda became an avatar of himself, and each tiny movement, whether his chest rising from breath or his shoulder swaying ever so slightly, distorted the lines and patterns across his body, which fit seamlessly with the distorted minimal synth noise that played concurrently.



The second piece was more about body and sound than light, and it showed Umeda to be a master of minutiae. To begin, he controlled the tempo and movements of each tendon in his hand with an unreal precision, manipulating the manic energy that pulsed through his lithe form. The stuttering stop start of break beats in the background mirrored his body from moment to moment. Where he had dressed in white in the first piece, the second had him in all black. In each performance, he moved between the negative and positive space, between light and shadow with ease. The multi-sensory experience induced by the synergistic interplay Umeda created onstage is difficult to define in mere words, so catch his next two performances if you can on Friday and Saturday. As a solo artist at the creative helm of every aspect of his multimedia productions, Umeda is a force to be reckoned with.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Gypsy Genre

Just in time for the party honoring NYC's 5th annual Gypsy Festival this Friday at Le Poisson Rouge, I've written a brief exploration of 'gypsy' in popular music over at The Big Takeover. From the "gypsy wave" of Tamaryn and Religious to Damn to the "gypsy punk cabaret" of Gogol Bordello and the "Balkan soul gypsy funk" of Slavic Soul Party!, it really runs the genre gamut. Here's a little taste:

The most obvious conclusion to be gathered from this cursory look at 'gypsy' in genre, is that it is almost invariably a stand in for another more specific term. If you must strip it of its ethnic implications and direct connection with the Rom people, gypsy most often just translates as ‘hybrid’ - East meets West with a splash of the unknown – which surely makes a band’s music seem more magical and radical. “Gypsy is a word that cool sticks to and no one wants to throw it away 'cause it really sticks good and it’s just too handy. It’s like the superglue of marketing,” Slavic Soul Party's Matt Moran jokes...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Delilah Noir

As someone who finds the Blythe phenomenon completely baffling and yet strangely intriguing, I couldn't help posting the following item. Apparently, the 2009 Doll of the Year award (yes, such a thing exists...) was bestowed upon Delilah Noir, an "honor student by day and shadowy siren by night." Basically, she's a 16" strung vinyl ball-jointed blonde schoolgirl doll that also comes with a black wig and a Victorian-tart-cum-gothic-lolita set of clothes. The little black velvet waistcoat and purple and black lace knee highs are quite precious, I'll have to admit. The best part, is that the word 'goth' is nowhere to be found in the description of Delilah, so it's harder to pigeonhole or damn this little hellion with the usual rhetoric. Just look at what the dark doll intellectual has to say for herself, equating the shadowy recesses of night and her elegant costumery with freedom. :le sigh:

"The night excites me. There is something about the darkness that stirs my soul. I can't explain it. The street lights are lit, the stars peek out and the rays of the moon glow through a cloudy sky. I find comfort in the embrace of a buzzing city night.

The cool air that bites at my heels makes me want to dance. Stiletto lace ups are my passion. Corsets and coattails are only some of the clothes stashed away in the back of my closet. Red velvet, black lace, purple silk take my breath away.

Only the twilight can see me this way.....where my spirit can dance to any beat. My friends of the dusk feel as I do. I trust them, I love them, they are my soul mates. We live, love and laugh. They keep the secrets of my heart....and give me freedom to be me....if only just for a little while
."



It's impossible not to smirk at this, but nonetheless, Delilah Noir takes up a positive position as a promoter of dark culture even as it is appropriated and marketed by the mainstream toy industry. Place your early orders here, before Delilah's official unveiling in June. And I'll be keeping her in the blonde wig while she stalks the night scene, thank you very much ;/

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Patrick Wolf @ Le Poisson Rouge

In a sold out solo acoustic show, Patrick Wolf spun an oneiric evening of bittersweet ballads, dirges and shanties. He stepped onstage with all the sartorial signs of a New Romantique Cinderella, sporting pantaloons, pearls, and an oversized ruff, his white blonde hair swept up rakishly in an asymmetical pompadour. He began on piano, before inviting out a violinist to accompany him as he meandered through his back catalog, sans setlist, switching between guitar, piano, viola, ukulele, and dulcimer as the songs demanded. Audience members would shout out suggestions for tracks at his request, and in an open and disarming fashion, he joked back and told stories about each song, invoking laughter and cheers at his anecdotes. Wolf spoke of his family, particularly in regards to a new song, "Damaris," which he wrote whilst researching his family tree about a gypsy girl who died of a broken heart. (Later, he even had the crowd join him in singing "Happy Birthday" to his cousin seated in the front row.)

Wolf repeatedly revealed his love of Joni Mitchell, whether expressing his joy at playing a gig on Bleecker Street, which she haunted in her hey day, performing her song "Tin Angel," or telling tales of his early career, where he'd sing for his supper in a pub using Joni's songs with a few of his own thrown in. The cold chimerical beauty of Wolf's work was deepened by the warmth of his tenor and his charming and quaint storytelling. It was an extremely intimate and inviting evening, one in which Wolf claimed his place as a talented multi-instrumentalist, a weaver of tales both otherworldly and real, and, above all, as a 21st century chanteuse dandy, able to express a wealth of emotions, from the blackest to the brightest. The androgynous boy who sang "I used to say just follow your dreams, but my dreams always led me to murder," has so very many sides to him: cynical and sweet, sentimental and serious. Patrick Wolf is undoubtedly one of the most darkly enchanting singer/songwriters of today.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Today's CD Releases

Although I spend a lot of time focusing on bands in the shadowy recesses of NYC and beyond, one can't forget the dark culture heavyweights. Today marks the release of three new albums: Fischerspooner's Entertainment, the New York Dolls' Cause I Sez So, and Peaches' I Feel Cream. Each artist brings their own dusky edge to electro pop or trashy garage glam, so it seemed worth mentioning. Didn't get a chance to pick up any promos, so if you have an early opinions on these, please comment!



Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weather War 7"

Just got Tamaryn's new 7" in the mail direct from Italy. (It's released on Italian label Hell Yes! which was exactly my reaction upon tearing apart the newsprint wrapping to discover a glittering gold cover.) You can't get the limited edition ones cuz they're sold out now, but as the song itself is really the point, a standard version is still very much for sale! Oh, and the previously posted video for the "Weather War" single can still be found here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May 1st

The first of May is endowed with myriad connotations, both pagan and political. From the otherworldly bonfires of Walpurgisnacht that harken the arrival of Spring to the impassioned marches of Labour Day that attempt to engender solidarity amongst Leftists, Socialists, Anarchists, etc., this date is ripe for inspiring dark art.

Two sonic paeans to these disparate festivities can be enjoyed here: Mendelssohn's Die erste Walpurgisnacht and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 3. The former is based on a Goethe text detailing arcane druidic rituals, while the latter is based on a rousing May Day poem by Russian writer Semyon Kirsanov.