Archive for June, 2010

Sightings: Julian Lynch, “In New Jersey” Video

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

JULIAN LYNCH “IN NEW JERSEY” from OLDE ENGLISH SPELLING BEE on Vimeo.

Sigh. There is perhaps no better metaphor for growing up — and more fitting for this tenderest of odes to Julian Lynch‘s home state — than a young child discovering the most exquisite creature he has ever seen, then realizing he may have had a hand in wounding it. Stephanie Wuertz’ video is the thought that makes the grass in your parents’ backyard smell a little more bitter than sweet — the repressed horror of the time you crushed on your first lady bug without wanting to, cloaked in the uncertain costume of a dream.
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Sightings: How to Dress Well, “Ready For the World”

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Tom Krell calls his murky, lo-fi recording project “How to Dress Well.” So obviously when I saw that the cover art for his new Ready for the World seven inch featured a naked woman, I couldn’t help but laugh a bit. But maybe that’s the point. “Ready For the World” is not dressed well or gussied up; in fact, it’s unassuming and minimal in the best way possible, demanding your attention without you even knowing how. Some characterize How to Dress Well’s sound as “lo-fi R&B”; I suppose that’s a fair assessment, but it feels as if music like this should be described in simpler terms. “Ready For the World” is bare and spacious — just like the woman on the cover and the woods she’s standing in.

How to Dress Well, “Ready For the World” (Ready For the World 7″, Lefse Records)

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VR Vimeo: Puro Instinct Take Us On a Faerie-Lit Sea Voyage

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Puro Instinct- “Can’t Take You Anywhere”- Live- 6/19/10- Showcave- Los Angeles, CA from Samantha Cornwell on Vimeo.

When I first became aware of Puro Instinct, they were still called Pearl Harbor. It seems that this name change came to fruition very recently, because all the posters for the show where I shot this video still referred to them as Pearl Harbor. I guess it doesn’t matter what they call themselves as long as they keep making intoxicating new wave jams with a subtle undertone of Gothic rock. While editing this video, I took a break to watch the music video for “Brass in Pocket.” Something about Puro Instinct’s sound is really evocative of golden age Pretenders, and it probably has a lot to do with frontwoman Piper’s vocal stylings. Much like Chrissie Hynde, Piper’s voice has a quality that is both very feminine and very bad-ass. She’s the sort of lead singer who makes strong-willed little girls dream of starting bands when they grow up. In the very near future, Puro Instinct will be traversing the United States on a stacked bill that includes Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and Magic Kids. Check them out if they come through your town, and keep an eye on them in general. I sense something special brewing here.
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Sightings: C V L T S, “Corpus Dei”

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

I can think of many good soundtracks to the following quote, but for some reason this dispatch from C V L T S made me dust off my old copy of Air Guitar, which contains one of the most poignant passages on psychedelic art that I have ever read: “In my own experience,” Dave Hickey observes, “it always seemed as if language were a tablecloth positioned neatly upon the table of phenomenal nature until some celestial busboy suddenly shook it out, fluttering and floating it, and letting it fall back upon the world in not quite the same position as before — thereby giving me a vertiginous glimpse into the abyss that divides the world from our knowing it.” Hickey contends that psychoactive drugs formed the initial gateway between the ’60 generation and this divide, but that they were later supplanted by psychedelic culture, which tried to reproduce their effects in sight and sound — and eventually settled into recognizable tropes.

Are delay and bending frequencies, consonance and its confusion, doing the same thing with musical language that psychedelics do with words? As a celebration of cassette sound and its mechanical denaturing of what would otherwise be a solid tune, “Corpus Dei” comes a bit late to the game. In fact, one might even say that this warping has become the signature trope of our generation’s own psychedelia. The question can no longer be, then, whether an artist like C V L T S is doing something new; it’s the size of the vista that a song opens up to us, and the melting feeling we get as the foundation shrivels away. Here is one that zaps my own synapses into bliss.

C V L T S, “Corpus Dei” (LVST, AMDISCS )

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VR Vimeo: Leaning into Discomfort with Captain Ahab

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Captain Ahab – “Acting Hard”- Live- Sync Space- Los Angeles- 6/10/10 from Samantha Cornwell on Vimeo.

Los Angeles’s Captain Ahab played the last slot on the night that I taped Run DMT and Blissed Out. Before their set, we made our way down Melrose Ave to pick up some water. About a block or so away from Synchronicity Space, there is a gay club called Fault Line. When you walk past, you are likely to hear a persistent, loud disco beat. On one memorable occasion, we walked past and heard a Diva crooning loudly about all of the positions she was willing to try, and all of the places that she was willing to try them. Although I’m not quite in the target demographic for Fault Line, it seems like a place where someone could have the time of their life.

As we walked past the club on our way back to the show, we spotted a gentleman standing sheepishly by the entrance. He was very clean cut, and wore khakis with a military crewcut up top. His body language suggested that he was very apprehensive about entering, perhaps as a result of some sort of shame. This was further emphasized by the look of horror on his face when he saw us walk by. I wanted to hug him, and tell him that he should go dance his ass off without fear. Unfortunately, I had to hurry back to Sync Space before Captain Ahab’s set, so the hug never materialized.

While Captain Ahab was getting into the thick of their live show zone, I couldn’t help but think of my friend, the apprehensive Fault Line patron. It seemed as though what I was seeing and hearing was some sort of illustration of the fear and fascination that might be going on in his head. Let me explain: Captain Ahab is made up of two young men. When they play live, one of them sings over manic beats and warped samples, while the other strips down to a skimpy speedo, dances, and grinds up against the male members of the audience. By the end of the evening, both band members will usually have taken off their shirts. You could describe Captain Ahab as a party band, seeing as audience participation is a very big part of their act. But unlike other bands in that category, discomfort is a central part of the Captain Ahab experience. They serve up an interesting counterpoint to Blissed Out, whose sample-driven music evokes a utopian club experience. Captain Ahab, who have been staples of the LA scene for years, create a dance environ that asks us to embrace awkwardness and (often homoerotic) discomfort. It’s the kind of party you never forget. Next time I see my friend with the crew cut, I’ll tell him to check them out.
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Underwater Visitations Sunday Brunch Takeover #2/Episode 10: The Woodsman Episode

Thursday, June 24th, 2010


Heat can be pretty psychoactive. I have suffered through enough late summer DIY shows in this city to know that it can make you feel drunk when you are dry, induce dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision, tunnel vision — and, on rare occasions, even predator vision. It can dull your experience of the most bad-ass jam you’ve heard all year while heightening its impression in memory. I am actually pretty glad that I missed Woodsman‘s set at Monster Island Basement in Brooklyn last Friday because it don’t think I would have survived to tell the story. When they swung by Newtown Radio last Sunday, the station was probably just as cramped, but the free-standing air-conditioner wheezing dutifully in the corner lowered the temperature to a level that was pleasantly hallucinogenic. Each color and each sound was more saturated than usual, each beat went straight to the temple. Maybe it’s just that Woodsman is so percussion-heavy, but I couldn’t help feeling like was trapped inside my favorite Can video — minus the long and stringy hair.

“Underwater Visitations Episode #10: The Woodsman Episode

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Download the entire episode here

Playlist after the jump.
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Sightings: Fabulous Diamonds, “Track 3”

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Fabulous Diamonds II, the Austrialian duo’s second full-length, opens with drummer and vocalist Nina Venerosa yelling something unintelligible at synth player Jarrod Zlatic as he counts off the first bar; still, seemingly against all odds, they begin in perfect unison. Chapter Music’s Guy Blackman, who will be releasing the album on CD next month, informs me that this detail is somehow characteristic of their sound: Fabulous Diamonds’ minimalist kraut-nostalgic jams cut are razor sharp, searing with the white-hot precision of two musical hearts that have learned, over the years, to beat as one. But all that repetition wouldn’t do anything for us if it weren’t for what lies beneath. “Track 3,” one of the album’s shortest and punchiest, is haunted by a certain nail-biting tension — one that pushes up against this primitive skeleton throughout, granting it shape, granting it movement. I’ve only tested this out in my apartment late at night, but I think it may have the same effect on actual bones.

Fabulous Diamonds, “Track Three” (Fabulous Diamonds II, Chapter Music/Silt Breeze)

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Sightings: Shai Erlichman, “The Season”

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

It’s 90 degrees in Brooklyn today and “The Season,” a new self-released song by 22-year-old Shai Erlichman, had me hooked from the opening line: “The dog in the street cannot handle the heat.” I think on days like today we all sympathize with that dog. Either way, “The Season” is a pretty little gem of lo-fi bedroom pop on Erlichman’s new 4-song EP, Season of Increasing Light. Songwriting like this makes us 22-year-olds look good. With its slow crests and falls, the calming tones of Shai’s own voice, “The Season” could easily serve as aural air-conditioning on a day like today; it washes your brain, keeps you fresh and cool. The solstice was Monday, so technically the light has stopped increasing. But Season of Increasing Light could certainly keep your mind soothed all summer, and probably even into the fall.

Shai Erlichman, “The Season” (Season of Increasing Light EP, Self-Released)

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Sightings: Spirituals, “Every Head Bowed, Every Eye Closed”

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

The very first thing I heard about Portland, Oregon-based electronica act Spirituals was that they were based in Portland. As some of my favorite indie-rock and indie-folk bands call Portland their home, an idea of what they might sound like immediately materialized in my brain. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the electronic mash of Spirituals’ new self-titled debut album.

Spirituals is the brainchild of Tyler Tadlock, who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. Tadlock began recording and manipulating sound samples taken from local free jazz groups that played around his hometown. When he relocated to Portland, he started combining these sounds into songs.

Perhaps this song, “Every Head Bowed, Every Eye Closed,” isn’t the most representative of Spirituals’ first full length; but really no song on the album is. Because each is built from random sound snippets — of a type of music that is already random to begin with — they can’t help but sound a bit disjointed. But they certainly stand up pretty well within themselves, and “Every Head Bowed” is a case in point.

Tadlock starts with foreboding guitar riffs, then layers on a few flashy drum fills, followed by a steady stream of additional samples: a drum machine, a plucky keyboard line, a few horn blares, the occasional cymbal crash. The resulting mash is intriguing enough to block out everything around you. When he throws in a droney chant toward the end of the song, you’re too zoned out to notice. You’re head may be bowed. In fact, the whole experience is so exhausting that you’re eyes are probably closed.

Spirituals, “Every Head Bowed, Every Eye Closed” (Spirituals, Waaga Records)

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Spirituals’ self-titled debut is available now on Waaga Records.
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Sightings: Salem, “King Night”

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Pretty much everyone I know begs to differ, but Salem had me at hello. Between the smog machine, the Dimatapp-PM arpeggios, and the half-hearted white boy freestyle attempts, the show they put on at Pendu’s Horror Scores for the Dance Floor series in Brooklyn last January was too epic to be taken seriously. In fact, the spectacle was so over the top and ridiculous that I kind of wanted to believe in it, to abandon my heartbeat to the slow irregularity of the bass and bask in the sensation of my entire body slowly evaporating into the ambient B.O.. Other people just laughed at them, and that’s ok, too.

Salem premiered the song “King of Nights” on Gorilla vs. Bear this morning, and I’m afraid that it is even more debilitatingly overblown than the late night court they held at Glasslands this year. It is beyond the neon fantasia of Dark Side of the Moon, cheesier than a projection of Wizard of Oz catching on a beam of glittering narcotic dust in an empty password-only bar on the LES. I would even venture to say that it is more camp than the party that is raging downstairs when Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes meet by the fish-tank in Verona Beach — though there certainly some classical choral swells that sound like they were ripped straight off that racket. Is it possible, dare I say, that Salem is the 21st century’s answer to prog? If “King Night” is just the prologue to their debut full-length, I’m a bit frightened to find out what comes next.

Salem, “King Night” (King Night, IAMSOUND Records)

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King Night is out on September 28th on IAMSOUND Records.
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