Thursday, December 1, 2011

Boris Interview

Chatted with founder/drummer Atsuo at Irving Plaza before Boris' gig with locals Liturgy and Asobi Seksu...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Anasazi @ Saint Vitus

It was the Christian Death and Resurrection show at Anasazi’s Saint Vitus appearance on Saturday, with a lineup featuring former members of New York’s now deceased post-punk band of brothers, The Hunt, (J. Vigil on bass, Christian Count on keys), and a performance that brought the brooding, vicious creep of Southern Death Cult to life.

Back in 2006-2008, a cadre of bands in a similar vein played weekly across the city, often in lineups that evoked every sonic and aesthetic aspect of 1980’s post-punk to a point where it was commonplace, if not a bit tired. But as Cinderella says, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone, and all bands have since broken up, putting a spiritual cramp in our style and forcing us to seek DJ nights and not live shows in which to hear the sickly drag of sepulchral synths and guitars with reverb ringing steady beneath stern, funereal vocals, braced with a smash of bombast to emphasize the punk behind the post. Witness the second coming of this sound in the clip below, as Anasazi frontman Chi Orengo draws out the drama, stance sturdy and threats real enough to snap bones and slice leather. "Deceive me once, shame on me, deceive me twice, you'll pay with your life..."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pendu Disco: Mascara, Myrrh Ka Ba, Zombelle

Blackened and blissful synthscapes, visceral neon visuals, and (as ever) a crowd well worthy of aesthetic attention made last night's Pendu Disco an ecstatic occasion. Mascara opened the show with seething distorted sounds and beats viscous and vicious: the duo's psychedelic electro grind had the expertly attired audience totally raved up. The impassioned full body commitment of the vocals inspired an infectious materiality, dispelling that whole electronica-as-the-province-of-inert-abstraction thing. There was nothing but presence and physicality in Mascara's performance. The room became an aural hothouse, with nothing but hot house, bleeding prismatic feeling bolstered by the charmingly odd technicolor jungle gym installation in Secret Project Robot and the avant evil video art on the walls by Lee Jackson. Pure synesthesia.

(Apparently I was too out of it for proper video taking, but you get the idea...)

As the night progressed, each act introduced elements that changed the sonics while the space remained electrified with the infusion of new energies. By the time the oh-so-fly Zombelle and Myrrh Ka Ba played "Pumpkin Pumpkin," their collaborative spin on Kreayshawn's "Gucci Gucci," my mind was officially blown. "One big broom, full of black witches," Zombelle rapped as she stalked across the stage, blue hair and sunglasses glowing in the lights. The mix of humor and straight up spooky baddassery of the track is still confounding. With a veritable who's who of witch house in the audience (according to Todd Pendu), along with the infinitely groovy scene of the evening, it was definitely one of the top parties of my summer thus far...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Interview: The Raveonettes

I wrote the following for a publication at the invitation of Ms. Hilary Beck, but as it wasn't printed, thought I may as well post it here...

With their fifth full-length, Raven In The Grave, The Raveonettes take their sunkissed sonic spaces to more morose territory. Danish duo Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo certainly aren’t strangers to darker lyrical themes, (over their ten year career sex, drugs, and death have always been fodder), but on this record, they create walls of sound that smolder with post-punk sturm und drang.

The album opens with “Recharge and Revolt” as cinematic synths add texture behind guitars ringing above a propulsive bassline. “Forget That You’re Young” has a similar Joy Divisionesque sound with the addition of synthesizers that inject an early Depeche Mode brightness towards the end while bassist Foo sings innocently about the age of a potential paramour. Despite their turn toward gloom, Wagner dismisses any attempt to label this record the band’s Disintegration. “I think it was just what we felt like doing at that particular time. We always do different albums because we’re in different stages of our lives, so this was just what came out of this one. It wasn’t intentional.”

The murky mood on Raven In The Grave gets sadder and sweeter on “War In Heaven,” which brings on the balladry, offering chimes to offset dissonant guitars and a synthpop beat driving the melancholy sprawl. Chords ascend and descend until they waste away into white noise at the end of this delicate gem. Later, the romantic dirge “Summer Moon” finds Wagner and Foo spinning winsome harmonies. “Most of all I can’t let go, this perfect thing is dying,” they lament, giving off an attitude of woeful resignation laced with laissez faire lightness that permeates the rest of the record. The song has the sonic simplicity of a decaying music box tune, and highlights much of what the band does best: deceptively simple yet infectious songs for daydreams.

When pressed further about any conscious choices of sounds or themes in the songwriting for this record, Wagner again rejects the insinuation of premeditation. “Nothing is intentional,” he affirms. “You just sort of try all kinds of stuff and then all of a sudden you hear something you like and then you end up using it. You don’t plan anything. I just write a lot of songs and record a lot and whatever we think sounds good, we’ll just use. It’s not like we have a grand idea behind it or anything. We just like to do spontaneous music. We know when it works, ‘cause we both like it.”

In many ways, not much has changed. Wagner still lists teenage rebellion movies like 1983’s Bad Boys with Sean Penn and Ally Sheedy as an inspiration, and describes the lushly morose “Evil Seeds” track as being based on the tried and true topic of all great 60’s pop: “loving and holding on to something that you love.” Despite the band’s shadowy veneer, the fuzzy 60’s psych by way of 80’s shoegaze still pulses beneath the surface. Once you dig on “Let Me On Out” with its perfectly tripped out groove and “My Times Up,” which is surely a theme for a surf rock prom, you’ll question whether The Raveonettes have really strayed very far at all.

In fact, listening to the band’s more classic sounding songs in the context of recent buzzed about bands (Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles, Tennis), it’s pretty clear that Wagner and Foo were way ahead of the curve. Their revival of these sounds obviously began far before the current resurgence of atmospheric garage rock. When asked about this phenomenon, and how he views the The Raveonettes’ influence on this new cadre of noisemakers, Wagner agrees that they’re forerunners of the revival. “It’s flattering that we can inspire bands, you know? It’s always nice to give something back, and to help people to carry on,” he says. “I think that’s really flattering. I like it.”

Undeniably a force in this new post-Raveonettes breed is Tamaryn. The San Francisco duo of Tamaryn Brown and Rex John Shelverton is making waves with their brand of languid, Siouxsie-soaked noisepop, and were handpicked by Wagner to open for their current tour. Of frontwoman Tamaryn he explains: “I’ve known her for almost ten years. We’re good old friends. It’s the perfect tour. It couldn’t be better.”

While on tour Wagner says that he doesn’t have any hard and fast pre-show rituals, but certainly doesn’t shy away from imbibing a bit. “We usually just go out and eat and drink some wine and then we go back and drink some vodka and then we go on stage and have a blast. We always have a fun time. We do a lot of promo during the day, early, when we do shows, so we can get sleep. We don’t have time to do much. At night we just hang out with friends. We’ll hang out with friends tonight since we’re in New York. This is where I live so I have a lot of friends here.”

Along with a great opening act, Wagner excitedly mentions their new setup of two drummers and “the best sound guy we ever had [and] the best players we ever had.” Wagner’s excitement about this current lineup and tour extends to his upcoming stint in Europe and his hopeful return to the States next Fall. However, lest we think his happiness hinges too much on their live show or their record’s reception, Wagner reminds us that in the end the band is just for two.

“I only make music for Sharin and I. That’s the only two persons I make music for. They’re the only ones I really have to impress. If people like it, wow that’s great, but if they don’t like it, I couldn’t care less either.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Witch Haus of Gaga

As it's a bit boring to indulge in the virulent whirlwind that overtakes those trying to assess the validity of Lady Gaga's monster fame, let's talk music. On her latest, Born This Way, "Bloody Mary" snakes forward as the darkest, most musically modern track on the album and deserves a closer listen. The song undeniably incorporates genre markers of clubland's foggiest darling, Witch House. A known champion of genderfuck, Gaga even does drag vocals as her mezzo morphs into deeper reaches with a ghoulish pitch shift. Syrupy beats drive slow and sinister synths that churn beneath her mournful Mary Magdalene homage and you just gotta wonder, has she heard her old tracks chopped and screwed in those horror-laced Mater Suspiria Vision mixes?

LADY GAGA - Alejandro (ℑ⊇≥◊≤⊆ℜ of Mater Suspiria Vision ZOMBIE RAVE REMIX) from Mater Suspiria Vision on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Concert For Japan (Ryuichi Sakamoto Interview)

A clip from my Ryuichi Sakamoto interview last month!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Concert For Japan (Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn Interview)

Japan Society’s Concert For Japan was a 12 hour marathon of improvisational noise, j-rock, somber balladry, pop punk, and world fusion funk. Artists ran the gamut from Ryuichi Sakamoto, Philip Glass, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and John Zorn to Ethiopian singer Gigi and up-and-coming Japanese acts like Hard Nips and The Suzan. This moving fundraiser for Japan somehow managed to retain a spark of ingenuity while deftly balancing emotionally wrought themes and a spirit of carefree fun. 100% of the proceeds went to Japan Society’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, which has raised over 3.5 million dollars since March 12, 2011.

I was lucky enough to be granted a group interview with Philip Glass, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and John Zorn. All dressed in black (much of it weathered leather), the avant-old-guard of experimental music sat across from me as I asked them about their performance choices and experiences in Japan. Reed reverently described a three hour train trip in Tokyo to pick up one of the first computer calculator watches (of which he nabbed the last one) and his perceived connection between his own creative predilections and the Japanese minds that could dream up such cutting edge technology. He’s felt a kinship ever since, and frequents Akihabara (the electric district) on each visit to Japan.

Here's an edited version of the interview:

A full write up on the event can be found online at the NYT.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reconsidering Chinese Democracy

An exacting and erudite case for reconsidering Axl Rose's Chinese Democracy has just been posted over at Decibel. Author Shawn Macomber systematically debunks the mythology mucking up the album's aura and asks us to actually listen to the music. He couches refreshing insights amidst incisive snarks such as: "[Chris] Cornell hasn’t been qualified to carry Rose’s sweat-soaked bandanna since Badmotorfinger" or "Appetite for Destruction was the result of a set of very specific, unsustainable, unrepeatable circumstances. (Just ask Buckcherry.)" BURN!

Whether you love it or hate it, a formalist approach to Chinese Democracy seems most useful. But regardless of how the tides of public opinion may turn, "I.R.S." and "Shackler's Revenge" will still stick it out on my playlists...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TWSS: The Ultimate Feminist Gag?

Garth: Hey, are you done yet? I'm getting tired of holding it.

Wayne: Yeah, that’s what she said.

(Wayne’s World, 1992)

Thus launched the most recent wave of what may be the greatest oral gag of our time. It’s the little black dress of the joke world; so simple and yet so functional that barely an exchange exists that cannot benefit from an unexpected injection. Whether repeated ad nauseam by Michael Scott on The Office or by your 15-year-old brother, That’s What She Said has penetrated pop culture to the hilt. But while it seems on the surface to be a misogynistic tool predominately the province of men, there’s a dynamic, female-centric undercurrent to the gambit that has been thus far overlooked.

First and foremost, That’s What She Said gives power to the woman who speaks. Who exactly she is may be unclear, but depending on context, she’s a virginal coquette, a wayward ingénue, or a seasoned cougar. What’s constant, however, is her sexual appetite: we always relay what she has to say in a sexual situation, and most often in an encounter with a man and his appendage.

As Freud proposed, psychosexual development revolves around the phallus, so whether you have it or lack it, the presence of the penis is felt deep within our psyches. Yet in spite of the phallocentric world in which we live, TWSS has supplanted the dick joke as the ultimate in sex humor for the early oughts. Last summer, The Huffington Post published a link to an early version of That’s What She Said from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 film, Blackmail. Back then, the phrase was “As the girl said,” but the effect was indeed the same. “Come here, stand in your place, or it will not come out right, as the girl said to the soldier,” Hitchcock tells a giggling blonde. He dominates the conversation with his imposing, masculine figure and delivery, but still speaks for the girl getting hot and heavy with a man in uniform.

Going even further back into history, one can find a similar sentiment delivered in English Edwardian times. “As the actress said to the bishop” was the line, which author Leslie Charteris of The Saint series later put to good use in the late 1920s. Fast forward to 2010, and we’ve got dozens of iPhone apps on the topic, YouTube mashups of Michael Scott’s best uses of the phrase, and even a website, Many may have tired of its ubiquity by now, while others are just coming around.

In any time period, and in any That’s What She Said, the man is the mere object of the joke and a ‘thing’ to be commented upon. She is always the subject - the acting, speaking subject with sexual agency, so whether the TWSS joke is told by a man or a woman, the listener is receiving a woman’s point of view. It is for this reason I posit TWSS as a feminist phenomenon that has harnessed the willing participation of countless men, who unwittingly objectify themselves with every slip of the tongue. That’s What She Said subversively promotes female sexual empowerment by giving voice to her actions and desires, and thus, the gag always has a woman coming out on top, regardless of in whose mouth it originates.