Archive for October, 2010

yuk., “greenflash(ritual)”

Friday, October 29th, 2010

yuk., aka Chad Valencia, is a Los Angeles-based tape artist affiliated with the My Hollow Drum crew, as well as local web radio non-profit dublab. matthewdavid of Leaving Records recently passed me his A D W A cassette, which is jam-packed with visceral shamanistic beauty. None of yuk.’s music is composed on the computer; in its primal rhythms and lush, distorted ambiance, it exemplifies the “organic electronics” sound of the Leaving Records stable. “greenflash(ritual)”, below, starts out with a slow chant, then picks up the pace with a rhythmic call-and-response between some drum and vocal loops, bowing low to the high art of repetition.

yuk., “greenflash(ritual)”

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Second Sighting: Les Rallizes Dénudés, “Enter the Mirror”

Friday, October 29th, 2010

In America, we know them by the name “Les Rallizes Dénudés” — a Japanese word (“rallizes”) presented as a French noun, then qualified by the French word for “stripped bare”, or “unveiled”. In France, “Les Rallizés” becomes “Les Valises” (or “suitcases”), evoking pieces of luggage ripped open during a police search, or upended by their owners in the search for something lost. When the biographical details of a band are as hard to come by as the records they leave behind, the imagination usually jumps in to fill in the gaps; sometimes, it even blots out the things that we do know. For all the American psychedelic rock fans who struggle to pronounce their moniker with the proper French nasals, for example, few remember that when guitarist Mizutani Takashi and co. played their first gig at Kyoto University in 1968, they billed themselves as “Haddaka No Rallizes”; this, a Japanese friend tells me, simply means “naked and fucked up.”

Great mystery rock albums — like “Enter the Mirror,” a great mystery rock song — do not fall from the sky. They derive as much from their authors as from the efforts of the crate diggers and critics who pluck them from obscurity, hail them as forgotten masterpieces, and cloak their creators in the technicolor dream coat of the modern anti-hero. (The acid casualty Syd Barrett, after he lost his mind and left Pink Floyd, is one of history’s most well-known examples). The music, of course, must be in some way deserving of all this retroactive myth-making; but no great rock record becomes a great mystery rock record without a colorful backstory to boot– or better yet, bits and pieces of one.

In the case of Les Rallizes Dénudés, the hook is not insanity, but radical politics. Like contemporaries Amon Düül II in Germany, LRD made self-described protest music, planting their endless space-rock improvisations at the front-lines of the Japanese student demonstrations of 1968 — including the “Barricades A Go-G0” concert at Kyoto University, organized by a group of students who had occupied the school . LRD’s brand of militancy had almost nothing to do with words (distorted past recognition by delay, whatever Takashi happened to be singing about) and everything to do with sensory assault. In the vein of The Velvet Underground, whom they may not even have been aware of, their live shows combined extreme (even excess) volume with the visual disorientation of strobe lights and mirror balls. Eventually, they cranked up the gain so high that they alienated even the avant-garde theatrical troupes they had recruited to perform alongside them.
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Sightings: Lizard Kisses, “Sleep Talkin'”

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

An actual lizard’s kiss couldn’t possibly be as satisfying as “Sleep Talkin'”, a lo-fi, doo-wop throw-back that Brooklyn’s Marc Merza & Cory Siegler sent my way recently. I spent a long lonely hour in my car this morning, circling around in fog and rain through the blocks near my apartment, looking for a legal parking spot. The thoughts swirling around my brain during this city grid tour mirror the sentiment of this track. What could stop me from breaking toward the thruway and drifting far off in the opposite direction? Siegler’s crooning about escaping the final moments of a crumbling relationship might be the oldest songwriting cliché in the book, but that is no accident. Songs like this exist to remind us that all humans experience times like these. Some of these humans — like Lizard Kisses — get through it by writing a pretty and concise pop gem like “Sleep Talkin'”. Others–like myself–get through it by listening to these songs on repeat and writing about them. Whatever works, right? A lizard’s kiss is just a snake oil cure for heartbreak, but I could see this track and the entire Sleeping In EP finding FDA approval.

Lizard Kisses, “Sleep Talkin'” (Sleeping In EP, Self-Released)

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Label Profile: Leaving Records

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Leaving Records is a Los Angeles based label run by Matthew David McQueen (also known as matthewdavid) and Jesse Lisa Moretti. The operation is based out of their pyramid, which is tucked away in the green hills of Mt. Washington. Their releases float in that immaculate space where the electronic meets the organic. I could throw a number of adjectives at you right now, but let’s go straight to the source, and get the story in Matthew and Jesse’s words:

Why did you start Leaving Records?

While I was working at dublab (for non-profit internet radio posse out of Los Angeles), there were daily encounters of untapped musicians from many scenes. I presented the label idea to my favorite artist Jesselisa, and she agreed to head all visual direction. We had been entirely dialed-in to the Los Angeles music and art scene at Florida State University, being head-on immersed in a wonderful art department and college radio station.

It was something that we started in our living room, cutting and pasting away at our new homie dak’s debut release. The silk screening, the tape-dubbing, it was all done as an art project. It wasn’t long until we realized the project was one we could let others see and hear through the pipelines of dublab, sort of re-injecting all of the amazing music we had come across through that very same community of world-wide listenership and art.

Nothing would have happened without the other, having complete confidence in Jesselisa’s craft and design being visual director of the label, and her having trust in my curation of unheard music, we began… It’s so valuable working closely with our artists to develop their first records, to develop the album art, it’s all an intensely personal experience for us, everything is seeming made together. we learned a lot from dublab, they exposed us to a lot of the artists we have and are currently working with.
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Sightings: Piiptsjilling, “Wurch ljocht (Tired light)”

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Piiptsjilling (pronounced “peep-chilling”) is a musical project centered around brothers Jan and Romke Kleefstra, Mariska Baars (Soccer Committee) and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), from Holland. Wurdskrieme is the quartet’s second album, just out on Experimedia. Piiptsjilling’s sound is an extension of the ongoing collaboration between the brothers Kleefstra. Jan provides the spoken word poetry and Romke, the accompanying guitar. Baars and Zuydervelt fill out the sound of Wurdskrieme, providing wordless vocals and processed guitar flourishes.

Record bins the world over are filled with stacks of collaborative projects by various international heavy hitters of avant-garde music and minimal electronics, many of them live recordings or one-offs. For every blazing session that comes together with a visceral, lightning-in-a-bottle appeal, there are probably four others of middling, overcautious noodling. What sets Piiptsjilling apart from similar projects is that the group plays as a unit, and that the project has an implicit focus — enhancing the appeal of Kleefstra’s poetry. From this basic dynamic, Wurdskrieme sucks you into its world, deploying haunting vocal passages alongside minimal dronescapes, difficult-to-finger ambient noise, and electronic skree.

On “Wurch ljocht (Tired Light),” Kleefstra’s Frisian-language poetry is played off of a deliberately unobtrusive background of electro-acoustic scrapes and casual guitar notes. Frisian is a Germanic language with only half a million speakers worldwide, scattered throughout Germany, Denmark and the rural Dutch province of Friesland (Fryslân) in The Netherlands, which has its own particular dialect. Understanding the words is secondary; the emphasis is on texture, not textual meaning. “Wurch ljocht” is the shortest, and one of the quietest tracks on Wurdskrieme, but it encapsulates the meditative appeal of Piiptsjilling, a modest project that doesn’t overplay its hand and rewards the quiet focus of repeated listens.

Piiptsjilling, “Wurch ljocht (Tired light)”

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Wurdskrieme is out now on CD and LP from on Experimedia records.

Tonight: Altered Zones Presents John Maus, Prince Rama, Greatest Hits, Teen Inc, Hippos in Tanks DJs, HTDW DJ at Death By Audio in BK

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Do Your Best, “Do Your Best”

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Prince Rama, “Om Namo Shivaya”

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Greatest Hits, “Danse Pop”

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Teen Inc., “Fountains”

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Horizons: How do New York’s DIY venues stay open?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The Market Hotel. Photo by Annie Escobar

Ask any 20-something indie rock lover in New York what they’re doing this weekend, and they’re bound to rattle off names of North Brooklyn concert venues that aren’t technically supposed to exist: Monster Island Basement, Secret Project Robot, Death by Audio, Silent Barn, Shea Stadium, Party Expo. Check the show recommendations in The Village Voice, The Times, and even The New Yorker, and you will discover these cartoonish monikers sprinkled alongside trusty Manhattan standbys like Bowery Ballroom and Webster Hall.

Semi-legal concert spaces in Williamsburg and Bushwick are evolving from niche attractions to popular above-ground destinations. And yet they seem to have everything working against them, aside from their underground cachét: no budget, no liquor licenses, NOISE, far-flung geographical locations, and the passionate belief that quality live music should be accessible to everyone — even those too young to drink. So how are New York’s DIY venues staying open, despite all the economic and legal obstacles?

Truth be told, not all of these venues do stay open. Market Hotel, a dilapidated old bank building in Bushwick that once attracted up to 600 concert-goers at a time, closed its doors to the public last April after being raided by cops two nights in a row. Over on the Williamsburg waterfront, Paris London West Nile shut down this summer when its landlords increased the rent; neighboring venue Glasslands, meanwhile, became so popular that its owners decided to purchase a liquor license, weed out minors at the door, and go legit.
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Sightings: White Mountains, “Bells”

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I think most people agree that life often goes from relatively normal to really crazy at the drop of a hat. During the time following these rapid shifts you struggle to find even ground again. It’s true that rapid change can liberate you, but it can also feel constricting. You want space to breathe, to collect your thoughts and make sense of all the new and exciting–yet often scary–things happening in your life. “Bells” by New Hampshire’s Peter James–aka White Mountains–will help you reach this space. On “Bells”, James creates a seemingly ever expanding void of empty space that slowly fills up with bright, electronic sounds. This track gently lifts you into your very own solitary room and then makes the sun rise inside of it. “Bells” provides an immaculate escapist fantasy through sound for the times you need it most.

White Mountains, “Bells”(Wilderness, Waaga Records)

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Sightings: Time, Place, and Lucky Dragons

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010


I often wonder where I would be as a music fan if I hadn’t spent the end of my teens and the first part of my twenties in Provdence, RI. The small New England city has a music culture that is both legendary and delightfully home grown. I completely owe my appreciation of and investment in DIY music culture to my time there. As I was finishing up my final semesters at Brown, it seemed like the identity of the city — and the vibrancy of the scene — were in sort of a state of flux. Spaces were getting shut down, and some of the more prolific bands were fleeing to places like Philadelphia and Oakland. It was sort of a sad note to leave on, but from what I gather Providence’s music culture still persists — although it might look and sound slightly different.

Luke Fishbeck and Sarah Anderson of Lucky Dragons were two consistent faces throughout my time in Providence. Luke was a grad student at Brown’s Electronic Music department. The band started off as his solo project. He would position his incredibly tall frame as low to the ground as possible and generate beautiful, expansive electronic sounds. Often he would flail about, as though in the throes of some sort of cryptic religious rite. Sarah, his girlfriend and collaborator, became a permanent fixture in the band later on. She was also incredibly tall. She sat relatively close to me in a seminar called “Middlemarch and The Sopranos” (yes, that was a real class). One night, I curated a film screening on the second floor of the visual arts building. What must have been one of the first Sumi Ink Club drawing sessions was happening down the hall. I remember being a little bit confused, but delighted by the loose, creative atmosphere of that particular gathering.
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