Archive for the ‘Horizons’ Category

Not SXSW #3: Artists Respond

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

I am still receiving very encouraging dispatches from all over the globe in response to my call for artists not attending SXSW. A few longtime Visitation Rites favorites with a slightly higher profile have also sent along some special videos and unreleased material. I took the time to briefly ask those artists about their thoughts on South by Southwest.

Trouble Books: “Dead Bee in a Golden Bowl” (Previously unreleased track from upcoming album Concatenating Fields)

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Visitation Rites: Have you considered attending SXSW in the past?

Keith Freund, Trouble Books: Actually, I’ve already played SXSW. I was there with another band in 2007, I think? I watched a middle-aged industry dude try to get two wasted teenage girls to go back to his hotel with him while some twee band played and the next morning I saw one of those girls as a completely annihilated zombie trying to hand out flyers to people walking by who threw them on the ground. Scorched Earth, TX.

VR: Do you believe at this point in your career “showcase” or industry events can help expose your band to a wider audience?

It really takes an over-the-top gimmicky live set to grab any attention at those things, so that wouldn’t work for Linda and I when we’re staring at our ‘tronics and mumbling into the mic in an empty tent at 2 PM.

Rivulets: “I Was Once A Handsome Man”


Rivulets is the recording project of Nathan Amundson who has been releasing music under that name for over a decade. His latest album, We’re Fucked, was released last year on Important Records.

Visitation Rites: Have you thought about or made plans to attend SXSW in the past?

Nathan Amundson, Rivulets: Once, in 2002. I didn’t enjoy it. I don’t have the sort of personality to schmooze people and I hate crowds. I can see how for a certain type of band or music fan it could be a pretty intense and concentrated blast, but it’s not for me.

VR: What are the options, besides CMJ or SXSW, for artists to promote their work on their own?

NA: Get on the road and in front of people who’ve never heard of you. I think that’s still the best, if not easiest, way to win new fans. Go places where no-one else bothers to go. I have a great bunch of fans deep in south-central Spain – not because I’m special, but because I care enough about them to travel all the way out there where most bands don’t. It’s rewarding to see these same faces time after time.

VR: Are there any particularly worthwhile or rewarding events that you’ve been a part of in your career – a moment where the dreamed about “breakthrough” or “connection” happens?

NA: The little personal connections– becoming friends with artists whose work you admire– that sort of stuff. Right now I’m stoked to be opening for Codeine in July. They were hugely important to me and I never thought I’d get to see them live, much less be playing shows with them.

VR: You’ve toured pretty extensively in Europe and all over the states. What are alternative networks that you have found to disperse your music and book tours, etc.?

NA: In Europe, I’ve worked with booking agents for most of this time, but I’ve been doing it long enough now that I know a lot of the promoters personally, so it’s not hard to drop them a line if I’m booking a run of shows on my own. I’ve never really had a booking agent in the US so I tend to do more one-off shows here than full tours. Much easier for me to wrangle than a US tour, which is logistical bananas to me.

For dispersal of music I dig Bandcamp, but I hope they keep it simple and don’t get too cluttered with it. It’s good to have your stuff up on iTunes and Amazon, too. People seem to like small handmade editions of things, too– and will still buy physical product if you make it unique.

Every band should have their OWN website. Not Facebook or whatever, but (or .net, .org etc). All of these services come and go over time, but if you plan to stick around you should have your own home that you are 100% in charge of.

Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier – “The First Forest (Edit)” (from upcoming LP A New Age of Wonder on Shelter Press)

Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier – The First Forest (edit) from Shelter Press on Vimeo.

Visitation Rites: Have you thought about or made plans to attend South by Southwest in the past?

Félicia Atkinson, Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier: SXSW is not that famous in Belgium or in France. Frankly, I heard about it only 2 years ago and it seemed like an exciting place to go! What makes it exciting is that It seems so far away from Belgium! I mean, Texas! It would be fun to take a little van from Belgium with some friends, take the boat in Antwerp until New York and then hit the road! We would bring Belgian beers!

VR: What does South by Southwest mean to artists outside America?

FA: I think it is a bit of a myth because we can’t just “go” to hang out. It is way too far! I imagine it is very crowded and there are a lot of kids there. So it might be a bit scary also: so much indie crowd! So many loners gathered, seems a bit like a paradox in a way! My friend High Wolf went to play there last year, driving with friends, and we were all very impressed, like, “How was it?!” The drive was impressive, too.

VR: Do you have a personal philosophy or plan related to your artistic work, and does something like SXSW fit into this or not? How?

FA: My philosophy in my artistic work is that I will always do what I want, never trying to fit especially to something ” a la mode”. I need to be free. I released 22 cassettes and records over the past two years. Some editions were only 18 copies, some were 500. In my artwork it’s the same, I don’t care of doing gigantic pieces that would suit perfectly for collectors. If I want to do small and complicated to understand, I will do so.

Does a festival has a philosophy? I don’t know…maybe we could just say that festivals have “tastes”. I like the ideas that they have a lot of different scenes and curators for the shows.

Also, I want my music shows to be unpredictable, not in terms of energy or seriousness but in terms of sound and type of vibes. Sometimes it is very noisy, sometimes very calm, it changes often. My concern is also the experience as a listener: do people go to SXSW just to have fun– or do they go to listen to music? I guess both? Are you allowed to do music that is not fun there? Maybe if I would go to SXSW, I would expect a feeling of positive uncertainty, a kind of thrill, from the musicians and from the audience.

Words: Max Burke

Not SXSW Round #1

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Since I impulsively put out a call to artists who were not involved in SXSW this year, I’ve received an overwhelming amount of stuff, and worst of all, most of it is excellent. I’m continuing to accept submissions for now at, so please spread the word and keep the music coming. If you have submitted and aren’t covered over the next week or so, it’s only the result of the high volume of material. I’ll be filing away all submissions for future inclusion at Vistation Rites.

Space Shuttle Oprah: “House Hunting with Osama Bin Laden”

Space Shuttle Oprah is the somewhat mysterious moniker of a solo guitar project out of Chicago. This video collage re-contextualizes footage of Osama Bin Laden and the Chinese company Next Media’s absurd computer graphic recreations of his capture with a hypnotic backing track of looping guitar. The simplicity of the artist’s approach recalls the relaxed pleasure of Mark McGuire’s earliest releases, and the noisy dénouement is a well-earned payoff. More Space Shuttle Oprah tracks can be found on SoundCloud. Follow Space Shuttle Oprah on Twitter and Tumblr.

Man-Made Objects: “Tricia with Color Bars”

Man-Made Objects is a three-piece group from Oklahoma City led by Grant Provence. The band is a throwback to slowcore and the poppier end of shoegaze, right down to their debut EP being produced by the legendary Kramer (Galaxie 500, Low). Their sound combines the swelling, reverb-soaked guitar of those groups and the naive pop sensibility of early Magnetic Fields or Beat Happening. You can download their EP on Bandcamp and check them out on Twitter.

breatherholes: “Let Me Go”

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breatherholes is Lew from Austin. Yes, breatherholes lives in Austin, and won’t be attending South By Southwest. “Let Me Go” is a previously unreleased track intended for a tape compilation that never materialized. His sound mines the rather unpromising “dude with a guitar singing pained vocals” territory, but there’s a genuinely oft-kilter– dare I say “Outsider”–  atmosphere to the recordings, spanning a continuum of influence from ur-weirdo (and fellow Texan) Jandek to the earnest songcraft of rediscovered legends like Bob Desper. Most startling is a willingness to flirt with banal singer-songwriter clichés before throwing a curveball of unexpected instrumentation or theatrically overwrought vocalizing. No small debt is owed to early lo-fi legends like Lou Barlow’s Sentridoh project and the starker moments of Guided By Voices, but breatherholes has a highly developed personal style. Previous tape release Give It To U is available on Soundlcoud, and a brand new tape is promised for this year.

Check back all this week as I add many more non-SXSW groups.

Words: Max Burke

Call For Submissions: Are You An Artist Who is Not Going to SXSW?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

As a kind of counter-programming to SXSW, Visitation Rites contributor Max Burke is putting together a series of features on artists who WILL NOT be attending the festival this year. He will be publishing the round-ups from Brooklyn over the duration of the Austin event, and is extending an open invitation to anyone who might be interested in submitting their work:

The entire music internet is about to descend on Austin for the next week. The hive mind/snowball effect of South by Southwest has become increasingly overheated in recent years, resulting in a non-stop slurry of hyperbolic tweets, “I was there!” Instagram posts and empty threats of hype, hype and more hype. As an antidote, for the next week or so I will be taking open submissions of bands and labels that are not participating in SXSW. Please send single tracks and videos with relevant background links . I can’t guarantee that all submissions will be written up, but I will make a good faith effort to listen to all of them with open ears.

Horizons: Cymatic Theremapy

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Everything moves. Vibration runs through everything…

These ideas are central to Ron Rege Jr.’s Cymatic Theremapy performances. In a fusion of science, visual art, and sound, Rege (often with the assistance of Diva Dompe) creates a truly interactive, often magical experience. The set up is relatively simple: a liquid (usually water, or water and corn starch) rests in a plastic bed in the center of a speaker. When Rege’s theremin kicks into gear, the liquid gradually starts to vibrate as the sound waves coarse through it. Over time, these movements become more and more visible, and as the audio reaches its peak, the liquids often take on absurd shapes, giving them the appearance of living organisms.

While it is easy to fantasize that Rege is some sort of Frankenstein-like mad scientist in this equation, he often seems just as startled by the way sound morphs the liquids as we are. These performances, which have taken place mostly at small art galleries and bookstores in the Los Angeles area thus far, feel much more like participatory teach-ins than demonstrations. Participants are often able to pass speakers around as the liquids dance, their minds widening with wonder as they internalize the vibration themselves. While Rege has not reinvented the wheel with these experiments, he has brought to light the undeniable and often wondrous relationship between sound and motion.

Words: Samantha Cornwell

My Drone Year: Part 1: Consonance and Dischord

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Yellow Swans

As the year winds down, talk turns to year-end lists and best records, tracks, music videos, etc., etc., ad nauseum. Everyone from major publications to the avid music fan wants to talk about the year in music as an event that can be summarized and critiqued objectively. I feel an obligation to form well-reasoned opinions about records I could care less about even hearing. The new music I spent the most time listening this year was a specific brand of drone and contemporary experimental ambient music. This music appears on established labels such as Type and the vinyl division of the Foxy Digitalis empire, but also smaller outfits that only put out a few releases a year like California’s Emerald Cocoon, Massachusetts’ Barge and the charmingly low-key DNT Records have all made crucial contributions to my personal experience of new music over the past year.

The year began with the final missive of a duo who loomed as large as any over the preceding decade, Yellow Swans. Going Places, Yellow Swans’ final full-length released on Type nearly two years after the group’s disillusion set a very high standard for billowing, psychedelic drone with noise and electronic flourishes. It’s always easy to credit a posthumous release with more meaning than it might deserve in a different context, but Going Places is a near perfect swan song. A distillation of the group’s distinctive approach that combines harsh feedback with beautiful melodies and a judicious use of processed vocals. The record bridges the gap between trailblazing psych-noise veterans of the British school like Skullflower and Ashtray Navigations and the daunting legacy of defunct 00s operators Double Leopards while showing the way forward for some of the fresh-faced (and not so fresh-faced) drone upstarts I would spend the rest of the year listening to.

Richard Skelton

Also arriving on Type at the beginning of the year was Richard Skelton‘s Landings. This magisterial record, a tribute to the haunting terrain of Northern England, utilizes traditional string instruments, field recordings, and electronic processes to conjure a deeply felt atmosphere of strong, arch emotions. Landings is a classical record in certain formal aspects, but is immediately accessible to anyone with even a passing interest in drone, ambient, or deep listening music of all kinds. Both Yellow Swans’ and Skelton’s records demand attention and focus. The easy pull of pop music is absent, and in its place is a stark, subjective appeal. This appeal is rooted in the musicians themselves. Yellow Swans is a direct reflection of the chemistry that exists between Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman. Likewise, Landings puts some of Skelton’s innermost thoughts, hopes and longings to music (an artist’s edition of the record features a book of poems and essays by Skelton). Enjoyment of this music presupposes the desire for a genuine personal connection with the artist. I find myself drawn again and again to these records not just because of their sonic qualities, although they are uniformly compelling, but because the force of artistic personality comes through so strongly and creates a galvanizing feeling of affection toward the performers. It’s impossible to enjoy Skelton’s tour of the fraught geographical and psychological landscapes of Northern England without having a personal curiosity about it. When so much of indie rock, once revered for its thoughtfulness and sensitivity, feels like a po-mo put-on filled with recycled riffs, this idiosyncratic and occasionally pretentious music makes for a convincing antidote.

Next up: The sound galaxies of Emeralds and Expo ’70

Yellow Swans, “New Life” (from Going Places)
New Life by _type

Richard Skelton, “Noon Hill Wood” (from Landings)
Noon Hill Wood by _type

Horizons: Dave Hickey on Rock-and-Roll

Friday, November 5th, 2010

“The Delicacy of Rock-and-Roll.” Sometimes it’s the most counterintuitive statements that point us to what we’ve been intuiting all along. “Delicacy” is not a word I would ever use to describe what critic Dave Hickey calls the “dominant art form of this American century”– his, the 20th.  But in its playful untruth, its insouciant “fuck you” to anyone who ever said rock was just a question of amplification and cheap chord changes, the title of his 1997 essay is rock-and-roll enough to grab anyone who really cares. The song Hickey sings here isn’t just about rock music; it’s about the relationship between art and politics, and it’s sweeping and ambitious and convoluted enough to recall the quixotic excesses of prog. It jumps from memoir to critical commentary, words like “contingency” to thoughts on why “order sucks”. It touches on everything from experimental film to the abstract expressionists to jazz, and it doesn’t satisfy with a melodic resolution until the last page or so– when Hickey actually starts talking about rock.

But his language is so grounded in the everyday, so free of virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake, that Yes and King Crimson would probably be insulted. If “The Delicacy of Rock- and-Roll” locates the political character of art in a certain will to freedom, and tries to show how different types of art embody that will in different ways, Hickey speaks from the place where that freedom begins, and probably also ends– from the heart of the individual subject, recalling a particularly memorable encounter with art in a particular time and place. The essay begins with a story from his college days in Austin, TX.  The young Hickey is attending “Underground Flick Nite” at a local YMCA; he is a member of a left-wing political group that meets there that same day, and he and his comrades are hoping for an evening of explosions and group sex. What they get is anything but earth-shattering: an abstract montage of colors by Stan Brackage, and a film by Andy Warhol, consisting entirely of a static shot of a man getting his hair cut.


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.

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.

Horizons: What The Social Network Is Not Telling Us About Facebook

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

As of Tuesday, October 5th, The Social Network has 47 thousand Facebook friends and counting. Director David Fincher’s dramatization of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise from Harvard computer geek to Silicon Valley billionaire, the promotional posters inform us, is not only the “movie of the year”; is also “brilliantly defines the decade.” Whether we agree with Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers or not, we do not need him to tell us that the story behind the world’s most popular social networking site smacks of the generational. Facebook is a product of the millennium generation; along with Gmail, Twitter, and MySpace, it is bound to play a starring role in the history of a communications revolution tied to a specific time (the early 2000s) and place (the Web). But Travers seems to confuse history with its representation: is it The Social Network that is “definitive” of the decade now drawing to a close, or the flight of dorm-room inspiration it depicts?

In his choice of subject matter alone, Director David Fincher gambles on two basic assumptions, both asking that we suspend disbelief. First, he presumes that it is possible to recreate the past foibles and feuds of public figures — individuals who are still very much alive — and somehow resist the dual pitfalls of biased storytelling and historical inaccuracy. (According to Zuckerberg and other witnesses, he failed.) Second, The Social Network departs from the premise that it is possible — even desirable — to take stock in a massive social and cultural transformation when that transformation, to date, is still in its infancy. Mark Zuckerberg’s accidental brainchild may have a whopping 500 million friends and counting, but its ultimate impact on the quotidian of its subscribers — like the Facebook interface itself — remains as open to determination as it was in 2003, when the idea took seed.

Horizons: What, If Any, Are The Ethics Of Music Blogging?

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Tomorrow at 5 p.m. ET music bloggers and writers convene at Newtown Radio in Bushwick, Brooklyn to discuss blogger ethics and by extension, the future of music writing.

The discussion is taking place during an episode of Underwater Visitations and features Chris Cantalini of Gorilla Vs. Bear/Forest Family Records, Ryan Schreiber, founder of Pitchfork Media, Michael McGregor of Chocolate Bobka/The Curatorial Club, Mark Schoneveld of Yvynyl/Trig Club and Sam Hockley-Smith of the FADER/Group Tightener. Emilie Friedlander of Visitation Rites, myself and Ari Stern of Underwater Peoples will also join in.

We encourage you to listen and call in with questions and comments! 347-725-4163.

Below is a basic outline of the discussion put together by myself and Friedlander of Visitation Rites. Questions we want to address come after a summary of why we are talking about this.