Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Edwardian Ball @ The Regency Ballroom

San Francisco's annual Edwardian Ball is a fete of a different caliber. The beaux-arts architecture of the Regency Ballroom brimming with a sea of aesthetes approximating Edwardian realness set quite the surreal scene. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the ball that boasts an unbridled love of Edward Gorey featured a headlining performance by Rosin Coven where women became water fountains as the band played, and dancers wound their way across the stage. The croquet court downstairs made an apt setting for the fantastic spread of goods available from vendors from all over, and the absinthe cocktails, particularly the Gashlycrumb Tiny with a splash of cranberry, increased the illusory gloss on the evening.

I said hellos to Decimal (like the point) and burlesque performer/DJ Miz Margo (whom you can often find spinning at Wierd these days) while surveying the critical mass of finery on display. And although I was assured by an insider that the only reason this event reaches such aesthetic heights is due to its yearly occurrence, I still found it hard to believe anything like this could happen in today's New York. There are wonderful parties in town, of course, but nothing I've yet seen to match the grand scale of this ball. The pagan performance artist types that stalked the rooms, either miming or displaying crystal ball acrobatics, are not a fixture on the East Coast, and neither are those hybrid Turn-of-the-Century meets desert debauchery devotees that make up part of the Burning Man crowd. These guests imbued the event with a historical magick that's in keeping with San Francisco's peace and love past. It's a distinctly California experience, and, if you're not too entrenched in the bleak reality of NYC, yet another reason to visit SF more than once a year.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spring Studs + Spikes

Spring 2010 is very Mad Max-cum-Lady Gaga with Christian Louboutin giving studs to the guys, and Louise Goldin providing spikes to the ladies. (Although D&G did jumpstart the revival in 2007 with these beauties...)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Religious to Damn @ Wierd

Zohra Atash is a master of the non-verbal. Fronting Religious to Damn she's chilling and serene, serious and otherworldly using vocal sounds as much as words to ignite cold flames around us. The highs on "To Love The Machine" cut to the quick, and "Sunset" is stunning. Her vocals are controlled with as much precision as her measured hip sways and steely stares, but when Atash unleashes the full force of her voice and the drums, keys, and guitars crescendo, it's frighteningly good. Her power is lovelier when louder. Lace and beads and bangs coupled with moments of brooding Nicks and Buckingham in the back and forth between Atash and Strawn made the show a bewitching affair. Restlessly await the upcoming full-length.

PH: Naomi Ramirez

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Swans Revival

Michael Gira just announced his decision to revive Swans with a new album and tour in 2010.

One thing I want to point out right now: THIS IS NOT A REUNION. It’s not some dumb-ass nostalgia act. It is not repeating the past. After 5 Angels Of Light albums, I needed a way to move FORWARD, in a new direction, and it just so happens that revivifying the idea of Swans is allowing me to do that. I’ll be using what I learned in the last several years to inform the way this new material develops, while carrying forward from where Swans left off with its final album Soundtracks For The Blind, and in particular, Swans Are Dead. If you have expectations about how Swans should be, that’s your business, but it would be a disservice to both of us if I were to make music with your needs in mind, and the music would certainly suffer as a result. In any event, I certainly never thought this day would arrive, but it’s inevitable, it’s here, it’s fate, so I’m succumbing to it.

The complete diatribe is posted over at Young God Records.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Paint It Black: Apartment Therapy

A voyeuristic look at black boudoirs over at Apartment Therapy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Impromptu Exhibit @ Devotion Gallery

A new exhibit featuring the work of Benton-C Bainbridge and Phoenix Perry opened last night at Williamsburg's Devotion Gallery. This small show integrates stills and video that challenge visual perception through disassociating and inventive uses of color, light, and line.

Impromptu focuses on two artists who approach the creation of work with a spontaneous methodology. Combining a visceral reaction to form seamlessly with the internal act of seeing, these two artists create experimental visual landscapes.

On now through January 30th.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cruel Black Dove - The Myth and the Sum

Cruel Black Dove's The Myth and The Sum showcases a mature electronic slink compelled by moments of abyssal depth and seductive ethereality. A slick gloss of production combined with singer Anastasia Dimou's rich, charismatic vocals demonstrates the band's signature synthesis of electronic rock. The sonic drama present in Cruel Black Dove's previous output has been transformed into a seething restraint lurking just below the surface, and The Myth and the Sum is replete with this dynamism.

Read more at The Big Takeover and get a FREE download of "Isolation" at RCRD LBL.

Buy The Myth and the Sum today on iTunes and check out the record release this Thursday @ Mercury Lounge!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cocksucker Blues @ the Brooklyn Museum

Robert Frank's unreleased documentary on the Rolling Stones' 1972 tour of the US and Canada made a very rare showing yesterday in Brooklyn. Although the band sued Frank to keep Cocksucker Blues out of the public eye, the auteur was able to retain the right to show it in a museum setting in his presence. While Frank was too infirm to attend this event, he gave Gail Buckland, curator of the Brooklyn Museum's excellent RnR photography exhibit, Who Shot Rock & Roll, the permission to proceed.

While the debauchery shown in this artifact is by now infamous, there is nothing overtly shocking about the film when viewed in today's culture of pornographic proliferation and drug use. It was more the anti-narrative aspect of Cocksucker Blues that made an impact. With no discernible beginning, middle, or end, the scenes just kept rolling, from day to night and place to place. There was a low energy feel to much of it, the monotony of the road and heroin-induced catatonia prevailed except in brief moments of explosive onstage bravado: Mick Jagger shaking glitter out of his hair singing "Brown Sugar" or Keith Richards ripping into the opening of "Midnight Rambler."

The entourage and hangers-on that made appearances were equal parts lascivious and lost, emblematic of that stereotypical post-hippie generation. The archetypal figures were impossible to miss: the mom on LSD, the awkward journalist, the sex-starved roadie. These individual portraits throughout made Cocksucker Blues more like a collage of photographs strung together than a film. Such an approach is apt, as Frank is best known as a groundbreaking figure in that field.

While it may not live up to the hype, Cocksucker Blues still retains an impressive aura of its own. It makes for a voyeuristic glimpse into a bygone era, so catch it if you can the next time they allow a showing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Anthology of Requiems

To push the boundaries of music covered on Shadowtime, I asked a connoisseur of the classical milieu to compile a list of his five favorite requiems. Opera director James Marvel is best known for his radical stagings of classical operas. At the age of 26, he staged a mosh pit into his production of Gonoud's Faust for the Augusta Opera. The audience went berzerk and his career took off. Since then James has directed extensively throughout the United States and Europe, and has taught at universities like Juilliard and USC. He is a regular contributor to NPR and harbors an uncanny obsession with dark musical offerings, regardless of the century in which they were composed.


An anthology is technically a collection of flowers. And a requiem is a mass for the dead. And so an Anthology of Requiems is essentially a collection of Dead Flowers. This collection came about as a project to connect my taste in contemporary dark music with its classical roots. Often, friends and contemporaries with whom I share a considerable amount of overlapping tastes in modern music express an interest in classical music as well. There is much darkness to draw from in the pantheon of classical music. So, this will be the first installment of a small series of classical music recommendations for your listening pleasure. And what better way to start a thing than with a quick introduction to music written for your own demise.

There are Requiems by many famous composers such as Hector Berlioz, Johannes Brahms, Gabriel Faure, Benjamin Britten, and even Andrew Lloyd Webber. All of these deserve attention for fans of music written specifically for the repose of souls. Or fans of music written for dead people. But, I would like to call attention to my five favorites, several of which are lesser-known works.

1. Mozart

I’ll start the list with the most famous. Although he died before actually completing the composition of his Requiem, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart left many sketches and notes indicating the manner in which the other segments would be composed. Some artists do a self-portrait, Mozart wrote a self-requiem, as he admitted to his wife that he was writing the piece for his own funeral.

2. Verdi

No less famous and of equal interest is Verdi’s requiem, which was first performed in 1874 for the one year anniversary of the death of Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni, although it was originally conceived of and begun for the anniversary of composer Rossini’s death. Oh yeah, “Dies Irae” translates into “Days of Wrath.” The opening of this movement is the classical equivalent of Speed Metal. Imagine the same melody performed on guitars with bigger hair and enjoy.

3. Rutter

British composer John Rutter was born in 1945. His Requiem premiered in the United States in 1985. The early sections of the opening movement are as haunting as the later section is angelic. At once accessible and mysterious, the piece remains a favorite among professional and amateur choral groups.

4. Penderecki

Perhaps the oddest choice in the list, but by no means less impressive is Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s Polish Requiem. The piece is perhaps the most political of our offerings, as it was commissioned to commemorate those killed in the anti-government riots that took place in 1970. My apologies for the distracting hairstyles of the chorus members, but the eerie quality of the music more than makes up for any of the 1980s fashion faux pas. Even more embarrassing, it would appear that all of the chorus women showed up wearing the same outfit.

5. Arvo Pärt

Although it is technically not a requiem, and any purist would despise me for including it on this list, I would argue that the piece is written for a dead man and that all music is ultimately religious. So, purists be damned (and they will be), I am including Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s 1977 Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten on the list. Arvo Pärt was influenced by early chant music. And while this work is technically secular, Pärt is primarily known for his religious works. The silence at the beginning and the end of the piece is actually written into the score.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Hunt @ Home Sweet Home NYE

In a brief set just past midnight at Home Sweet Home, The Hunt revealed a mature transformation from pounding tribal maximalism to fully synthed up coldwave. While their first appearance in September had been more of an experiment, the NYE performance displayed a near complete transition into their next musical phase. The only songs played were an introduction, followed by an untitled track, "Set the Rising Sun," a cover of New Order's "Dreams Never End" and "1,000 Nights."

The band's biggest triumph was surely "Set," in which the anthemic track was driven freight train style forward with Christian Count's hammering synth groove. Although "Set the Rising Sun" had always seemed like such a straight up RnR song, unimaginable as anything but, this performance blew away the previous incarnation with its slithering synth stomp.

The New Order cover that followed was a solid choice for the evening, with the arrangement surprisingly lithe and true to the original. The Hunt's first hit ended the short and sweet set with a tease, hinting at what will come in 2010. It may be a whole different animal, but with the addition of new men and new machines, it has just as much bite.

(pix to come!)