Archive for November, 2010

Sightings: matthewdavid, “11042010”

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

I’m sometimes confused by songs named after numbers. Though they often reference time (The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979”) or some geometrical configuration (Manuel Gottsching’s “E2-E4), numerical titles can seem esoteric. When matthewdavid‘s first sent “11042010” my way, the title brought no real image to mind. Although its since been pointed out that the title might refer to the date, my initial thought was that it referenced some unknown data point. However, as the song began to unfold, a fruitful story grew in my mind. “11042010” may be the name of a baby robot in a metal womb on a space station. matthewdavid’s lush, contemplative cyber-jam is the sound of the infant’s heartbeat and mechanical breath via ultrasound. We know the child has plopped out when the song turns to fuzz, then silence. Though matthewdavid might not know of this android child, it’s an enlightened being, much like this epic track.

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matthewdavid just sent over this video for the track. He made it along with Jesselisa Moretti. Although its not an alien ultrasound, it certainly has a pulse.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

Sightings: Nightsatan, “Karelian Starmaster (Evil Lucifer)”

Monday, November 29th, 2010

While editing my recent interview with Gatekeeper, up today on Altered Zones, I stumbled upon a Finnish trio called Nightsatan, who seem like they would be equally adept at dressing up John Carpenter for a dark wave costume ball à la Liquid Sky. During said interview, Aaron David Ross provided an intriguing explanation for the band’s live set-up, which features a bombastic display of smoke, strobes, and neon lights (courtesy artist collective Thunder Horse), but very little actual playing — mostly because, the band’s members claim, their arpeggiated compositions are simply too complex to execute live. “There is something really romantic about having all the gear up on stage, having it playing itself,” he said, evoking the richly macabre image of a pipe organ spontaneously executing the first few lines of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. If electronic music is always a creative negotiation between man and machine, these Euro alter egos fall on the other side of the continuum, favoring live drum-pad percussion and hand-licked synth melodies over pre-recorded studio work. Not sure if I can hear the difference, or whether the distinction matters at all, but in both cases, a good part of the thrill resides in imagining where the automated ends and the human begins.

Nightsatan, “Karelian Starmaster (Evil Lucifer)”

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Sightings: Slow Loris, “We Were Never Alone”

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

As human beings we should all have a plan for dealing with disappointment. A strategy so that if the plaster walls you construct around your psyche crack and crumble you are in position with a nail and hammer. Occasionally we forget all about this blueprint. Instead of rebuilding, we come home from dead-end jobs that require a work uniform and pinned-on name tag and sit in silent brooding. Silent brooding, only because any music we might play to improve our rapidly degrading mood will only remind us of lost, happier times, or worse–a recent heartbreak.

Quietly sincere bedroom pop like that of Wisconsin’s Slow Loris exists for those of us stuck in this sort of rut. Tracks like “We Were Never Alone” provide friendship and warmth through soothing pentatonic riffs and slowly strummed chords. They provide the soundtrack for the otherwise frustratingly silent nights, and offer motivation to rebuild and move on.

Slow Loris, “We Were Never Alone”

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Co-Premiere: Excepter, “When You Call” Video

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

“When You Call”, off Excepter‘s Presidence LP from February, is a dubbed-out, subwoofer-friendly master mix of a number of live performances of that same song, arranged by bandmember Nathan Corbin, aka Zebrablood. This new video, also by Corbin, sets its snail-slow bass jaunt and molasses-stuck note-bends to images of the bandmates themselves — no longer walking in the sand, as we saw in last year’s Black Beach DVD, but stalking the treeless avenues and empty hipster bars of industrial Bushwick. Chiaroscuro flashes of smartly dressed humanity relieve us with the impression that we’re not the only people alive in this post-apocalyptic terrain — the chilling part is trying to figure out whether there’s anybody home behind these shallow grimaces, dark sunglasses, and perfectly timed needle drops. (Altered Zones co-premiere))

Presidence LP is available via Paw Tracks, and the band’s new Late EP is out now on Woodsist. A new cassette release, Maze of Death, is slated for Black Friday (November 26) via Dog Daze Tapes

Video: Speculator “Pure Ecstasy”

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Speculator- “Pure Ecstasy” Official Music Video from Samantha Cornwell on Vimeo.

Los Angeles’ Speculator, aka Nick Ray, continues to prove his true artistic range. Although I have come to associate his output with upbeat, celebratory rock — often centered around a well-selected sample– sometimes the darker side of his aesthetic makes itself quite vocal. The track “Pure Ecstasy” (a nod to the Austin, Texas band), is the most exquisite example of this that I can think of. When I was presented with the task of making a music video for it, I knew I had to produce something that did justice to its striking mood.

The lyrics to the song feature the words “my baby’s got a gun” over and over. This ominous phrase, along with the New Order-on-codeine vibe of the instrumentation, created an atmosphere of romance and danger. I hoped to bring out this feeling in the video, but I did not want to interpret the lyrics literally. When speaking with Nick about the piece, he revealed to me that for him the song brought to mind an image of a drive down the 110 freeway, shot on VHS. While I shoot the majority of my work on DV, I agreed that analog video technology would be the perfect compliment to the song. Recently I have been trying to avoid found footage in my work, so this meant procuring a camera. After some careful Craigslist sifting, I found a tube camera from 1985 being sold by a man in the city of Tujunga. From what I observed as we drove slowly through the hills, Tujunga is one of those San Fernando Valley cities that takes on an eerie, surreal vibe at night; you see few people out and about, and the ones you do see act as though they are all involved in some unsavory plot. That night drive through Tujunga gave me all the inspiration that I needed for the video.

What you are about to see is shot from the point of view of an urban outsider, perhaps Los Angeles’s equivalent of Travis Bickle. His main fascinations lie in the back-pages of the LA Weekly, although these explorations drive him further away from humanity. As trails of light melt across the screen, he drives further and further into the dark of the night…

Sightings: Kim Ki O, “Herkes Evine” Video

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

kim ki o – Herkes Evine (official video) from ekin sanac on Vimeo.

Kim Ki O means “Who is that anyway?” in Turkish. One listen to the duo’s debut Dans on impeccably curated Dutch label Enfant Terrible, and you’ll want to know that the group consists of Ekin Sanaç and Berna Göl, formed in 2006, that they have toured Europe with the likes of Jens Lekman, and that they have self-released two CD-Rs in addition to Vize. their contribution to the crucial French digital singles label Beko DSL. Dans is the first widely available material from the group, six tracks which navigate the tricky balance between dark synth leanings and propulsive, guitar-driven post-punk. The video for “Herkes Evine” perfectly illustrates that when executed with conviction and originality, this occasionally tiresome brand of genre revival can be irresistible. The video is excerpted from a longer project, Elope, currently in production from filmmakers Zeynep Dadak & Merve Kayan.

Sightings: Gala Drop, “Overcoat Heat”

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Those of us who write about music enjoy figuring out which adjectives best describe the sound of a recording. Obviously, right? Then along come Gala Drop from Portugal. This title track from their Overcoat Heat EP begs me to identify its psych-y soundscapes and shuffle rhythm. The pace changes and sudden flourishes of seemingly random sounds practically demand recognition in this write-up. But when I stop to imagine a conversation with someone about “Overcoat Heat”, I only hear myself telling this shadowy figure, “Yeah dude, this track sounds really cool. You should check it out.” Rather than have this cause some sort of music writing-themed existential crisis, I’ll just lay back with my arms behind my head and wear this song like the essential outerwear its named after. Sound cool?

Gala Drop, “Overcoat Heat”(Overcoat Heat, Golf Channel Recordings)

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Sightings: Sex Worker “Tough Love” Video

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Sex Worker – Tough Love from Not Not Fun on Vimeo.

The unstoppable creative team of Ben Shearn and Amanda Brown (Not Not Fun, LA Vampires) bring us yet another video exploration of desperate glamour. In this clip for the track “Tough Love” by former Oakland/soon-to-be-Brooklyn crooner Sex Worker, a group of dancers vogue frantically in a bare-bones space. Across multiple costume changes, their demeanor shifts between festive and horrific. The two female dancers, it would seem, are in competition for a trophy. Its not clear what the prize represents, but the dancers are willing to subject themselves to humiliation in order to claim it. The scene jibes perfectly with Sex Worker’s haunting, uneasy electro-tones. Much like the LA Vampires clips helmed by Shearn and Brown, the “Tough Love” video shows that glamour isn’t always pretty.

Portraits: James Blackshaw: An Interview by Max Burke

Monday, November 15th, 2010

James Blackshaw. Photo by Lynda Smith

Guitarist and composer James Blackshaw is a singular force in underground music. From his earliest releases on standard-bearing labels like Digitalis and Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, to the expansive, stylistically diverse sound of his two most recent full-lengths for Michael Gira’s Young God Records, Blackshaw has simultaneously explored the sonic possibilities of the guitar and the outer reaches of his own considerable compositional talent. The result is a discography defined by Blackshaw’s virtuosic playing, with each record a finely focused exploration of a playing approach or atmosphere. Blackshaw has just release his latest,All Is Falling, and has embarked on a brief North American tour in between stints supporting Swans in Europe.

Blackshaw’s tourmates are the accomplished electronic and processed guitar duo Mountains, old friends who make for a solid double-bill for interested punters. “Generally a lot of people are really interested in both even if they didn’t know one or the other beforehand, it’s a good match. Its been a lot of fun and I enjoy watching their sets night after night which I can’t always say. Even if you like something, it can be hard to watch people play sets ever night. Its been really good, though.”

Recent supporting slots for Swans have found receptive audiences in Europe and the UK, “Swans have quite a diverse fan base but I was concerned that a big chunk of people – if it’s not super loud they’d be like “What the hell is this folky shit?” – you know, this nerd up on stage. But they went really well. Generally speaking, it seemed like a lot of people who went to see Swans ‘got it,’ which is as much as I can ask.” Not all UK shows have gone as well throughout Blackshaw’s career, however. “I think UK audiences cans be really tough. I think I can say that as one of us. For years and years, truthfully, I didn’t massively enjoy playing London for example. Its gotten a lot better, I think people have become more receptive and interested in what I’m dong. I’m from London and I love London and I like Londoners but we’re not always the warmest people.”

Sightings: Monopoly Child Star Searchers, Bamboo For Two Promo Video

Friday, November 12th, 2010


Around the time Rose Quartz first mentioned Monopoly Child Star Searches on AZ, I remember running into Zack from Greatest Hits at a house party and asking him whether he thought Mr. James Ferraro was the man behind the latest hypnagogic mystery project to emerge from the OESB/Outer Limits/Pacific City gang. As I predicted, he said yes; Ferraro, also present, looked down at the ground and said he had no idea what I was talking about.

The first thing I learned from this new promotional video for Bamboo For Two, out this week on Olde English Spelling Bee, was that neither of them was really lying. MCSS is the brainchild of one Spencer Clark — aka. Charles Berlitz, Black Joker, and Vodka Soap, and 1/2 of the Skaters with Ferraro — but his new LP rallies together a supergroup of tape deck bandits including Dolphins Into The Future’ Lieven Martens, Orphan Fairytale’s Eva Van Duren, and Ferraro himself. The second was that Spencer Clark (or at least his new alter ego) is a bit of a wild card. September’s Make Mine, Macaw CD-R sounded like black metal on quaaludes; this one sounds like a monkey-romp through the jungle, and is presented as an ode to parrot love.