Saturday, March 31, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Ugh, i started writing a straight piece here, and got cotton mouth and strep throat, as usual, trying to find something 'interesting' to say about this record, even though i have tons of interesting things to say about this record. Rothko were a British post-rock band that were active in the early 00s, mainly focusing around one Mark Beazley, and usually consisted of 3 bass guitars making fine, dreamy mood music; they were like a hybrid of Tortoise & The Chicago Underground Duo, the whole Thrill Jockey scene, and wicked shoegaze drone, like Windy & Carl or Labradford, or anyone else creating gigantic sprawling drifting opuses with guitars and stringed instruments. Using the bass as a drone source and as a melodic lead creates a really unique timber for this record; velvet rich and deeply sonorous, romantic and heartbroken. At times longing, at times plaintive, at times soothing and sweet. They dredged out the elements of what was going on around them, forged them together into something interesting.
I first got into Rothko around the time 40 Years To Find A Voice came out, when i was a slavish devotee to all things Post-Rock. I got this from Music Go Round on Belmont in Chicago, and listened to it in the evenings in my attic bedroom. I was like a ghost then, watching the light fade, Rothko's music creating some imaginary continent, and i would lose myself in its crags, stare at the sun. I hadn't pulled it out in a while, but i saw a super sweet Rothko exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art, spent the day in a daze from having played a show the night before, the city is blooming into fresh spring right now, the trees are blossoming with pink flowers, the light is soft as fur. People are tranquil, in a good mood, strolling - its like a hybrid of the American South and a Zen Temple here. I had chicken waffles for breakfast.
Rothko painted huge, colorful canvasses to create a mood, to express something, tone paintings, they are like poems in acrylic, and some of them are Really Fucking Big. To be in a whole room of them is an aesthetic over-load; you take it all in at once. Listening to 40 Years To Find A Voice is kind of like hanging out in one of those Rothko rooms; you can just BE in there, drift around and appreciate the subtleties.
Mark Beazley didn't seek to re-invent the wheel; he sought to filigree it. Polish it and put it on display. Forty Years To Find A Voice is a pleasant soundtrack to open windows and late afternoons. Worth a listen.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
He's been hosting a monthly event at The Vortex
, but he's decided to hang it up, in order to focus on the record label, which is good news and bad: good news if you want more and better records, bad news if you live in the UK. But he's decided to go out with a bang and a whimper, throwing a 4 day blow out at the vortex, one last hurrah. Last night was the first night, but there's still three left! If you happen to be on that side of the pond, sell yr watch and go! I'd give a gallon of my neighbor's blood to be there; i like to imagine drinking espresso with k-punk and johnny trunk, watching Cut Hands freak out the squares, but i'll just have to settle for the Oregon rain.
The Exotic Pylon posse - Johnny and Dolly Dolly and the head technician of Pye Corner Audio - run in the same shadowy circles as some of the more well-known hauntologists - Leyland James Kirby, aka The Caretaker, and Jim Jupp, evil genius behind Ghost Box and The Belbury Poly. They frequent sites like the Found Objects and argue about fonts. They collect mouldering scraps and scratchy vinyl. They have turned me on to more good weird horror movies than you can imagine.
To commemorate the Pylon's last hurrah at The Vortex, i have cobbled together a mix of my favorite cuts from all 6 Exotic Pylon releases so far, including a special treat - a surreal sound edit featuring some sounds from the upcoming Gentleforce
ep, out on 3.26, stitched together with some sounds from Ronny Juzzle's sounds from the Spaz-tec National Diploma in Horseriding 3" cd. I've titled it why are you so far away?
, i tried to stay true to the concrète punk of Ronny Juzzle's track, with Gentleforce's cosmic optimism. The end result sounds like some bad happenings on the Solaris spaceship. The mix really illustrates Exotic Pylon's eccentricity - garage psychedelia from Misty Roses, mournful Wicker Man folk from legendary weirdos Band of Holy Joy, radiophonic hip-hop from The Lord, and the missing link between grime and dubstep, from Infinite Livez.
I've also written a small essay, in a PDF, extolling the virtues of Mugwump, and of all the smoldering British weirdos.
You may have already missed Black To Comm, but you can still see Andy Stott, Cut Hands (William Bennett from Whitehouse with musicians from Haiti, the Congo, and Ghana!!!), Cindy Talk, Infinite Livez, and others.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
i submit, for yr consideration, an audio oddity - a postcard from a place that no longer exists.
Atomic Island Re - Order is the first in a series of guest mixes and recommendations, coming at ya from my buddy Nathan Dorsett. On the Atomic Island, Nathan tries to convey the feeling of wanting to go home, but yr home has been annihilated by nuclear weapons, forcing you to acclimate to the main-land where you've become stranded, becoming ever more feral, going underground, a stranger in a strange land.
Exploring the hypothetical hinterlands where Beck covering Leonard Cohen borders Oppenheimer Analysis, Nathan has created a unique and dreamy landscape on this record, alternatively warm and cold, slogging through downbeat Hip Hop, college rock, dub House, Dancehall Reggae. Going more for mood than a straight-ahead narrative, Atomic Island Re - Order is at turns tribal, at times sleek and futuristic, there is an omnipresent emotional undercurrent, a hidden intent, nameless and spontaneous. It only goes to show how adept Nathan is at making mixes, it is interesting to observe his track sequencing, how he draws musical correspondences that no one else would ever see.
The tracks on Atomic Island Re - Order are predominantly unlabelled, giving the sense of a bizarre radio program in the middle of the night; a tropical transmission drifting on a radioactive wind. Listen out for an unlikely Wilco song - an unexpected delight! AIR creates a realistic simulation of what it is like to actually hang out with Nathan, obscure sounds at unexpected times. I first heard this mix as i lulled off to sleep on a massage table.
I'm opening up the gates of j's heaven. I never intended to be an authority, to corner any markets. I'm surrounded by people with exquisite tastes, each with their own history, their own philosophy, their own values. It is staggering, no matter how much time one spends culture-trawling, every music junkie that i meet has an entirely different musical collection than my own. I have stopped competing, and i sure as fuck can't keep up! So any requests, recommendations, guest mixes, post 'em up! Leave me a comment, or send an e-mail to the address found in the upper right. I'd like to know what yr favorite records are. I'd like to know what makes you tick.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Here's a nice little noise-blast that i received in my inbox; 15 minutes of frenetic spazz from Austin's Y'all, the duo of Travis Franklin on gtr. and Andy Richardson on drums. They Say We're Only Dreaming is almost frighteningly similar to Lightning Bolt's Wonderful Rainbow, i get that same sense of adrenaline, testosterone, adventure; rushing towards the future, not pausing for breath. This is what it sounds like to be a young man, gotta prove yrself, gotta be tough, gotta fight! Hardcore 3.7, the sound of cliff-jumping and lion wrestling.
The guitars sound like a barbed wire fence made of cathode rays and the drums are like a kitchen shelf falling on yr head, if that shelf had 10000 pots on it. An unending onslaught. Other reviewers have made this out to be "charmingly lo-fi" and it made me realize how utterly warped my hearing and consciousness have become, because this sounds sparklingly clean to me. I mean, its not Sum 41 or nothing, but you can hear the guitar notes and the individual drums, you can tell the specific origins of each acoustic phenomenon.
These guys got it going on, they are a tight and dedicated band, worthy of yr support and attention. The only mis-step is the emo squawk vocals of 'Gum' - i wish you wouldn't do that.
Half of the world's listening populace is in Austin, Tx for SXSW, so while yr down there you should check 'em out. Y'all is exactly the kind of thing i love to support, here at J's Heaven. Thanks to Travis for getting in touch!
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
With this in mind, it is somewhat bewildering that he is not better known than he is. Sure, Codeine gets some love among the shoegaze faithful, and Come played with Johnny Depp on Kicks Joy Darkness, a tribute record to Jack Kerouac (a great record, btw, which i highly recommend.), but he has not attracted the same amount of adulation heaped on a Dean Wareham or an Adam Franklin. Its probably because his music is so non-assuming, steady and constant, like an unending tarmac highway, weaving its way through valleys, cornfields, and mist.
I've been appreciating the subtle, heartfelt beauty of his work for several years, so i was almost shocked and awed when i saw that my buddy Sean Hartman, co-founder of Already Dead Tapes out of Kalamazoo, Mi. had put out a cassette with Brokaw. I Ace Sociopathic King is a live document, recorded in Chicago, Il., and is split between two hemispheres; one electric, one acoustic. This is what Sean had to say, about the pairing:
His first release with us is a live c40 recorded in 2011. Sides are divided between electric and acoustic tracks. If you've never heard Chris's music before, this is a perfect starting point. He's been around the block and the songs have only improved with age."
The most notable diversion from Brokaw's other flood of releases and collaborations is the presence of vocals, he sings a lot more on this record than previous works that i have heard. What we are presented with is one voice, one guitar; sparse but not thin, just not hiding anything. He's shining, out in the open, no obfuscating gauze of hiss and trickery. Clear and plain-spoken, Chris Brokaw's shimmering songs stand up well in the foot-lights. He shows himself to be romantic, thoughtful, weary at times, hopeful. This is my favorite kind of music right now, to be honest, warm as a dying fire, as late afternoon. Not flashy and ego-driven, it is subtle and graceful and humble. The guitars tremble and purr on I Ace Sociopath King; the electric side has a classy, classic surf-twang to it, the acoustic side is dry and biting. The vocals are clear and comprehensible, showing that his lyrics are inspired as well.
Jesus, i'm blown away!
The whole package sounds fucking great on the cassette format, and Already Dead always have a keen design sense; this is a necessary addition to yr library. This label just keeps getting better and better! They only made 200 of these, so don't wait and have to find it on eBay.
For first-time listeners and long-standing devotees alike, I Ace Sociopath King is a necessary addition to Chris Brokaw's canon.
Codeine is reforming for a select few dates, starting in April, and Chris will also be playing in a new duo with Stephen O' Malley, of Sunn O))) and Khanate fame, so scope his page to keep tabs on yr new favorite artist.
Friday, March 9, 2012
This is the first fully produced record by Sharon Van Etten, an American Singer/Songwriter from Brooklyn. Folksy, but not revisionist; it seems to me that this woman sings the songs from her heart; heartfelt. On Because i was in love, it seems that Sharon Van Etten is getting over some complicated relationship, or perhaps in the midst of one - its the sound on one woman coping.
Because i was in love is a stripped-down affair, but not sparse, the sonic pallet is full, her jazz-like acoustic guitar and weathered voice fleshed out with subtle organs, tambourines, multi-tracked vocals; all the best bits of a solitary singer-songwriter working in the post- Elliot Smith landscape. She reminds me most clearly of early Cat Power, but Sharon Van Etten seems less broken, less neurotic; more mature, more confident.
I've been nursing a tattered heart for the last 6 months or so, reborn into the infinite now every moment of the day, holding on for dear life. Every day is so rich and conflicted, there is so much joy and beauty and sorrow and melancholy. It can't be fit into a particular genre or stereotype, i mean sure i'll put on my brave face and pull out my Mayhem records and pretend to be brutal as fuck for an hour, but i just can't get much steam on that level of posturing. The music that most closely matches my inner world is conflicted and confusing, romantic and sorrowful; full of blurred lines and collapsing boundaries.
I've just recently discovered Sharon Van Etten, digging around for quality down-tempo music, and Because I Was In Love, has been my favorite so far. I think the sparse production and arrangement suits her emotionally bare material better than the saturated production of Epic, her most recent, where every inch of the canvas is filled. Her voice sounds like an old fencepost, weathered but still warm from the sun. Her guitar is simple and deadly effective, jazzy and blue-sy. There are very little frills on this record, it is solid as a granite mountain range. It sucked me in and cast a spell on me.
'For You', the single from this record, has been my jam of the month, catchy as bubonic plague, i've listened to it obsessively. It works well in the morning, while having yr first cup of coffee, or in the afternoon, if you need to excuse yrself from the hyper manic pace of the present. Highly recommended, as is the rest of this album.
Left to my own devices, i will spend default to listening to sad introspective folk music, listening to my breath my heartbeat while finger-picked guitars send prismatic goose-flesh up and down my arms; the soundtrack to washing dishes and staring out the window, twisting my Heidegger beard, going crazy and having wild epiphanies, over and over. The soundtrack to coping, to getting by, to combating ennui and the complex gymnastics of a hyper aware nervous system, dealing with emotions and eternity and the Self. Because I Was In Love is rich and layered, a perfect antidote to heartbreak and confusion. It just makes me feel better. Hopefully it will do the same for you.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
This evening's performance, at the lovely Lincoln Recital Hall, in the basement of the luxurious Lincoln Performance building, all gilded Corinthian columns and polished wood. One thing you can say for classical performances, even if you don't care much for the music, is you can usually count on the acoustics. The Lincoln Recital Hall did not disappoint in this regard - an intimate room that seats about 100. Most of the attendees were either performers or their families, making it a casual, non-imposing atmosphere, and anybody who knows anything knows that this is the setting in which inspired art can commence, in which song may take flight.
The University Choir were up next, a full 80 voices! Extraordinary, the fullness and richness, and captured and set loose in such a warm, inviting room. The University Choir is open to full-time music students and hobbyists alike, they have a severe work ethic while practicing but clearly enjoy themselves. The melting-pot of styles and motivations, not to mention the genders and age differences of the choir members, made for such a richly textured music. Some were clearly bored and looking for that easy credit, but some were burning with the holy spirit! They committed several of what i usually consider mortal musical sins.
- The Choral Rendition of a Pop Tune (And So It Goes, Billy Joel)
- Predominantly white choir doing ethnic music (Balia di Sehu, Aruba)
- Parading through the aisles, to exit the auditorium
The Billy Joel number was actually my second favorite of the evening, behind the holy choral music mentioned earlier. It tells a story of a person opening up the secret room of their heart, gifting the treasure of their heart to someone, to break as they see fit. The soloist Ariel Young clearly knew what she was talking about, singing in a smooth silky alto: pure, emotional, sincere - a rare gift when interpreting someone else's song. It left me raw and misty, dreading the coming Spring thaw and all its resultant loneliness, but the joy and purity of the evening's music would not allow cynicism to flourish in my chest, i left full of hope and possibility.
The Madrigal & University Choir's whetted my appetite for classical music, and reminded me of how much rich culture there is to be had out there, for those with discerning Eustachian canals.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
I came across Sundaze in a very random manner - i was looking for info on the recent Left Banke re-issues on the sweet archival label Sundazed Records. The first thing i noticed was that we shared a common enthusiasm for early, excellent shoegaze bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and A Place To Bury Strangers. I always get excited when i discover a new 'gaze band, especially when they're still active. Delving further, i noticed that we knew A LOT of the same people, and that they seemed to be acquainted with a number of the venues around Portland. Turns out they were playing in a couple of days at Kelley's Olympian, and they were nice enough to put me on the guest list.
Kelley's is a red neon glare in SW Portland. The southwesterly quadrant was bristling with early spring energy, everybody was out. I was quite adrenalized as i walked into Kelley's warmth, and to my pleasant surprise, ran into my friend Made as soon as i set foot in the door. Its always fun to have a conspirator; i love to pick people's brains, to see how they react to bands. She tends to be kind of close-minded, i was interested to see how she would react to the bands of the evening - she mostly prefers old school thrash metal. Sundaze were playing when i arrived, although it took me forever to figure that out. Two guys and a girl; two Fender guitars, a synth, and a drum machine, kicking out a cross between Spacemen 3's garage psychedelia, with their repetitive hypnotic synth organ lines and Oneida's pillowy wall of gravel and mist, toppling down on yr head. They'll make yr eyes roll up back in yr head, they'll make you see silver stars. Made observed they reminded her of The Cramps, which i found to be an interesting observation, but i could perceive the ghost of Lux Interior in Sundaze's quiksilver twang. They have the wistful romantic etherealness of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game, but without the melodrama and cocaine shimmer. This music is bruised, bleeding from the mouth, heart-rippingly passionate, fierce, and damaged. When they finished, i was disappointed; i wanted them to go all night. The tone was fucking out of this cosmos, truly some beautiful guitar wrangling happening, on this Friday evening, and the antiquated drum samples had just the right amount of grit, that beautiful analog CRUNCH! These guys live here, and have a whole bunch of live dates coming up, the next one on Thurs., 3.8.12, at Backspace, so check out their webpage for live dates, and go check 'em out. Its a pleasant surprise to find an excellent shoegaze band in the neighborhood, one that should not be taken for granted. They told me they were about to send the finished tracks for a new EP to be mastered, due out soon, so expect to hear more about Sundaze in the coming months.
Magic Fades, i wasn't too impressed with; two white boys kickin' out some slick 80s club funk. Drum machine, bass synth, guitar, sweet vocals - all the elements were there, just weren't doing it for me. Probably had something to do with Made exhuding brooding contempt for these poor bastards. When she hates something, she really hates it. For me, the mood was too consistent, this same sex on the dancefloor r&b bravada, over and over. Too polished, too consistent, too easily ignored. In all fairness, i had spent all evening writing a review of the new Nite Jewel disc that's about to drop, and i think the 80s funk receptors in my brain had burnt out. I'd totally give them another chance.
I liked Sucker for Lights much better, a little bit of strychnine, to spike the sweet. Seemed like singer/keyboardist/beatsmith Olivia Voss seemed a little nervous at first, a little tense, she was like one of those Andy Goldsworthy icicle spheres, but quickly thawed beneath the stage-lights, revealing herself to be grandiose, cinematic, the heart of a lion. She reminded me of a Debbie Harry, a Kate Bush; a proper front-woman, while Bryan Brunt played the hell out of his guitar. There's some legit fucking guitar players in this town, so many beautiful instruments, so much thick luxurious tone. Brunt's reminded me of Will Sargeant from Echo and the Bunnymen, with a digital sheen, a prismatic shimmer. He scored some major solo points, throughout the course of their set. I would dare to call him a 'hotshot', even though he stared at his shoes with his hair in his face and spoke not one word. He is a man of gesture, showing rather than telling, and that is a fine quality in an instrumentalist. They've got a new EP out, that's available for download on their bandcamp, and they were giving away free copies at the show last night, so again, expect to hear more from this band, and go check 'em out if you go get a chance, if you like Blondie, Siouxsie, Soft Cell, Prince, Zola Jesus, Billy Idol, Madonna.
Thanks again to John from Sundaze for corresponding with me, giving me an EP, getting me on the guest list. I am a fan.
Friday, March 2, 2012
My favorite exhibit of the evening was by Vilem, a conjoined show with artist Kristina Koenig, titled “We can blame the Eskimos…They don’t have an army…”. Vilem's pieces were large, messy affairs, that reminded me of works by Basquait or Anselm Kiefer. One of the pieces featured the pink pegasus created by Basquait and Warhol for Exxon, flying over a serialist field of xeroxed oil wells; Vilem's not trying to reinvent the wheel, obviously, he is pondering and perfecting. A number of the pieces photo transfers from his own photography, glazed with homemade chemicals (don't tell Homeland Security), they sketchy dirty possibly fucked up, full of hidden imagery, layers buried in the fog. He was hanging around the gallery, talking about his various pieces, espousing on art, meaning, creativity, irish men and the origin of China Town. He didn't seem like he was trying to sell me some post-criticism, he's just doing his thing, making art that is trying to say something. Many of his pieces were LARGE and textured, they looked great hanging all together, creating a vibe in the room, you could get lost for hours. He said the exhibit was going to be up for at least another month at the fotoeffect gallery, 625 NW Everett St, #107. The pictures on the internet can't hold a candle to the objects themselves.
Many more interesting things were seen and heard, and i was bowled over for gratitude, yet again, to live in this town in 2012; my friends and i launched into all manner of speculation, heated discussion, agreement and argument, and all of our shores were slightly broadened.