Archive for September, 2010

Sightings: Dream Boat, “Young & Fine”

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Providence’s Sina Sohrab does not mess around. Dreamboat‘s Visions LP, out today on AMDISCS, is chock full of “horror scores for the dance floor” — a bit too unwieldy to actually get down to, but devoid of the baroque arpeggios and ’80s nostalgia that are swiftly turning contemporary dark wave into an academic exercise. Unlike dark wave, Dreamboat’s music is actually creepy, combining beats and disembodied voices into nightmare soundtracks that don’t hide under a veil of goth romanticism. Visions may remain in dialogue with the clichés that structure our understanding of the macabre — minor-key chorus, Addams Family organ hooks, arcane lyrics about visions that keep people up at night — but these are never ends in themselves. Just words in a language that attempts to contain the horror, but can’t help failing.

Dream Boat, “Young & Fine”

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Visions is out today on iTunes via AMDISCS. A physical release is slated for December.

Sightings: Big Surr, “Co Sine Tan Gent”

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Do you ever characterize music by which one of your friends would like it the most? I think about this a lot. I’ve come up with genres like “Liz-Fi” for the folksy stuff my girlfriend loves, or “Gallen-Fi” for the noisy jams my best friend and her bro play on repeat. The first sentence to catch my eye about beach-pop band Big Surr was enough to grant the band instant “Marc-Fi” status (that’s me): “Big Surr is a fun band made up of five babes who like to eat pizza and ice cream.” The slow-burning blend of guitar and fuzzed-out vocals on “Co Sine Tan Gent” certainly strengthen this conviction. Many artists try to sound “beachy” — usually by imitating other bands who have been described in this way — but Big Surr’s tunes make me believe they actually spend a lot of time soaking up the sun. Much of their free Miss You Most EP could soundtrack your next beach volleyball tournament, but “Co Sine Tan Gent” wants to ease you away from the sand. This song walks along the boardwalk with you and holds your hand as you march toward one last summer sunset.

Big Surr, “Co Sine Tan Gent” (Miss You Most EP, Self-Released)

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Sightings: Mater Suspiria Vision: Theme From Picnic at Hanging Rock

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

MATER SUSPIRIA VISION Theme from Picnic at Hanging Rock from Mater Suspiria Vision on Vimeo.

Peter Weir’s 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock tells the story of three young girls who go missing during a Valentine’s Day picnic with their boarding school classmates. The film is set in Australia in the year 1900, and is dipped in sensuous shades of pink and white. Much like Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of The Virgin Suicides, the film touches on the supernatural air surrounding a group of (white, blond) virginal girls in their adolescent years; this sort of magic is seductive, although ultimately sinister.

Mater Suspiria Vision‘s remix of the theme music from Picnic at Hanging Rock certainly explores the realm of the sinister. It underscores the light flute tone of the original score with deep, hypnotic synths, and a drum machine beat that sounds as if it is being streamed from a cave below the surface of the Earth. This could be the soundtrack of an electronic Pied Piper leading a flock towards their doom.

Cosmotropia De Xam’s video for the track features re-edited footage from the film. The opening shots feature a white cupcake with pink icing being devoured by ants. This imagery suggests the fragile nature of innocence, and how easily it is tainted and destroyed. While it is easy to assume that whatever is hiding in the rocks is responsible for the corruption of innocence, it seems as though this video and the original film suggest that it might be a liberating force. The video keeps returning to shots of the girls looking up at the sky with wonder, and shots of the girls dancing up on the rocks while bathed in light. These images suggest a feeling of spiritual unity, and suggest that the girls have access to a Shamanistic power. Though this power might lead to erasure from our world, perhaps they have found some source of freedom and power in another one.
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Sightings: Gunn-Truscinski Duo, “B38 Blues”

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Last year, Steve Gunn produced us a standout raga-folk record in Boerum Palace. That album was primarily a showcase for Gunn’s unaccompanied guitar, with a few memorable contributions on steel guitar from Marc Orleans. Now Gunn is back, this time recording with drummer John Truscinski, a later contributor to GHQ with Gunn and a member of improv trio X.O.4. with Bill Nace.

“B38 Blues” is one of three long tracks on their new LP Sand City (along with the brief closer “Outro”), showcasing their music at its most downbeat and ruminative. Truscinski’s percussive contributions are barely audible at first, like high-pitched background drones behind Gunn’s unfurling guitar passages. Dissonance begins to creep in as the song enters its second half, with Truscinski’s idiosyncratic percussion growing in volume as Gunn’s playing threatens to lose the plot. Just as it seems the song might collapse in on itself, both players pull back and Gunn’s playing slides into sharp focus. “B38 Blues” captures the appeal of the album at large, which feels both casual and tightly plotted. The offhand way in which Gunn and Truscinski build songs from a few gestures — the defining characteristic of Sand City, and the reason for its success -– can be put down to that oldest of musical virtues: chemistry.

Gunn-Truscinski Duo: “B38 Blues”

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Words: Max Burke

Sand City LP (+ download) is out November 2 on Three-Lobed

Sightings: Sebastian Tellier, “Look” (Laurel Halo Remix)

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010


Let’s face it. Sebastien Tellier‘s “Look” — along with the video that popularized it — is one of the sexiest things to come out of pop music in ages. And it’s not just for the most obvious reasons, which are really very obvious: the breathy, almost robotic restraint of Sebastien‘s vocal delivery; the animated image of a woman’s naked ass in perpetual motion, abstracted and degraded into a kaleidoscope of rounded geometries. (Many Americans would call this an “objectification” of the female form; Tellier’s fellow countrymen might describe it more as a “celebration”.) It’s the less-is-more principle that ties the whole package together; the only real ear-candy in “Look” is a single, cycling synth arpeggio, just as the only real eye-candy the video has going for it is a collection of lines and black shapes on a screen. It’s all just a lot of mind-numbing repetition; but it becomes exciting, voluptuous even, when our minds jump to fill in the gaps.

Enter synth babe Laurel Halo, and “Look” evolves from a song that leaves everything to the imagination (and has nothing to hide) into an elaborate striptease. Laurel passes the song through the aural equivalent of a fish-eye lens, amplifying and obscuring its signature riff, dressing it up in synthetic flourishes that derail its forward march, peeling back its skin to reveal structural elements we may not have noticed (the drumbeat). Video artist Josef Kraska, her roommate, takes what is perhaps most disturbing about the video and forces us to confront it head-on, substituting the abstract animation of a female with one in flesh and blood — and asking us to admire her while her back is not turned. Cloaked in the creations of designer Heidi Lee, the protagonist passes through a series of hyper-feminine pantomimes as she is alternately masked and revealed by a fantasia of virtual color. Again, the construction of feminine beauty reveals its own seams: just because we can see her now, doesn’t mean she is there.
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Sightings: Star Slinger, Emay, & Blackbird, Blackbird join forces on new Collaborations cassette

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Collaborations always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Artists getting together and combining their energies into something new and unique should always be celebrated. The new Collaborations cassette, out now on We Get By as the label’s first release, reminds us why. “Breaking”, below, combines the hip-hop of Canadian rapper/producer/poet Emay and Manchester’s Star Slinger with Blackbird, Blackbird‘s much blogged-about bright, neon soundscapes. His personal brand of dream-pop melds with Star Slinger’s steady rhythm in just the right manner to pave a smooth road for Emay’s deftly delivered verses. These disparate styles and genres work so well together that it’s hard to believe you don’t hear it more often– though I suppose we can be forgiven for not realizing chillwave makes for a great hip-hop hook. “Breaking” is just one example of the fusion of distinct sounds and talents that permeates the entire Collaborations compilation. It’s enough to give us all the warm and fuzzies.

Seeing Surge (Star Slinger/Emay/Blackbird, Blackbird), “Breaking” (Collaborations, We Get By)

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VR Vimeo: Metal Rouge Make a Power Triangle at Echo Curio

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Metal Rouge- “Ripe Century”- Echo Curio- 9/16/10 from Samantha Cornwell on Vimeo.

Metal Rouge are a trio of Los Angeles noisemakers. Apparently the band was originally formed in New Zealand, and somehow ended up here amongst the palm trees and Taco trucks. However this may have come to pass, I am happy to reside in the same city as them.

The trio play a brand of haunting, guitar-heavy drone that is the perfect soundtrack to a journey deep into the expanses of your mind. As a band, they have an unusual amount of chemistry. When they play, they situate themselves at three different points in the room, forming a triangle of musical power. In their performance of the song “Ripe Century”, their energy reaches an exhilarating high-point. Helga Fassonaki’s vocals cut straight to my Lydia Lunch-loving heart. They just completed a U.S. tour which included meetings with vampires and live sets on WFMU. Now they are coming down from it all in LA. I can’t wait to see what they do once they recharge their battery.

Video: Samantha Cornwell
Words: Samantha Cornwell

Sightings: Lawrence English, “Watching It Unfold”

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Lawrence English is a Brisbane, Australia-based musician, curator (Room 40 records), composer, and media artist whose work has appeared on labels such as Touch and Crónica. English’s artistic interests encompass an array of practices from sound art installations to painting. In 2009, Pound Ridge, NY abstract electronic label 12k released A Colour For Autumn, and the album was recently issued on vinyl just in time for its titular season by Foxy Digitalis in collaboration with Sweat Lodge Guru, a brand new label from the team behind the collectible vinyl blog OMG Vinyl. This recent reissue– and A Colour For Autumn‘s nature as the perfect accompaniment to Fall’s merciful reappearance after a long, hot summer — has made it a go-to record of mine for the past few weeks. The standout “Watching It Unfold”, brassy and bright, builds on subtle chord changes in a perfect realization of its literal-minded title. Elsewhere, contributions from Christian Fennesz and New Zealand’s Dean Roberts (Thela, Autistic Daughters) fill out the sound, complimenting English’s subtly integrated field recordings and analog sonics. A Colour For Autumn is the perfect soundtrack for those who enjoy the transformation of the weather to crisp and clear, the changing of the leaves, and the wait for the onset of winter and its interior indulgences.

Lawrence English, “Watching It Unfold”

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Sightings: No Demons Here, “Every Second Darker”

Thursday, September 16th, 2010


When somebody finally gets around to making a documentary on North Jersey slacker rock from the late 00’s a quarter-century from now, I hope they will get in touch with Big Troubles bassist Luka Usmiani and ask him to contribute a track for the exit music. Luka, who sings and strums under solo moniker No Demons Here, makes music to span time to — perhaps in the way that Vince Gallo once wanted to “span time” with Christina Ricci on screen, but probably more in the vein of looking back a bit jadedly over a span of time already lived. By some miracle of nature, Luka’s 21-year-old vocal chords sound like they’ve already passed through all the late nights and shattered dreams lived by Calvin Johnson, Jandek, and Daniel Johnston combined. “Every Second Darker” is not always in tune; it falls into place as if it didn’t really care whether it did or not, like something a dad might write in a fit of nostalgia for his rock n’ roll days when he’s drunk in the den after the kids have left the nest. Music that is timid in its sloppiness usually just sounds lifeless; music that confident in its sloppiness stirs us with the sloppiness of the heart.

No Demons Here, “Every Second Darker”

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Sightings: Coolies, “Ghost Baby”

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

How do you psyche yourself up? What gets your blood flowing? Do you stretch, do a few push-ups? Most importantly, what is playing on your stereo when you run through these motions? If New Zealand’s Coolies do not occupy space on your personal “GET PUMPED!” playlist, then I must insist that you slide them in. “Ghost Baby” is a grade-A romp through traditional post-punk territory. I dare anyone to put off a morning workout or stay snuggled in bed while guitars swirl and collide, drums stomp along, and that distant voice shouts at you with that heavy sense of urgency. If noise itself fails to pump you up, then certainly the haunting ambiance of “Ghost Baby” proves intimidating enough to scare you straight into your running shoes. The summer of “chill” is waning. Get loud, and get pumped!

Coolies, “Ghost Baby” (Master, Chapter Music)

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