December 13, 2013

Quiet Lunch Video: Path Finder with Mark Dorf

Photo by Kareem Gonsalves/Quiet Lunch Magazine
QL:
Photographer Mark Dorf, from Louisville, KY, manipulates his 
images in a little white box in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He focuses on the wide-open spaces of nature and how they shift in an increasingly tech-first world. The environments he creates are bound with a sheen of lucidity. Continue to video at Quiet Lunch:
Photo by Mark Dork/Mdorf.com

December 11, 2013

REVIEW: "HAG" by Professor Divebomb


Professor Divebomb cuts and pastes together HAG

     HAG, the new album from psychedelic, lo-fi artist, Professor Divebomb, is a swallowing cave of loose and disgruntled sound. It’s noisy and harsh, but also hypnotizing and druggy. The 16-track album is 44-minutes of swelling sonic carnage and curving tunnels of dark noise. It’s unpredictable and experimental in the most far-fetched meaning of the word–a weird record of doomed psychedelia.
     HAG was self-released in October on Professor Divebomb’s Bandcamp. Three EPs, Bynes, Greyg V and V Ceiling, were released in the preceding months. Divebomb’s last full-length was Greengold Workshop in 2010. According to Bandcamp, “Divebomb…carefully manipulates the sounds discovered in a plastic PC mic and from broken down keyboards, drum parts, punk dishes, etc.” The project, in that sense, is very experimental. It’s not songs you’re hearing, but manipulated and compressed sounds threaded together. Sometimes they interlock in strange, haunting harmony, and sometimes they do not, and a ruptured note sparks loudly.
     The tracks on HAG are mostly made up of cut loops and scraps of found sound with a garnish of hasty keyboard and guitar. First track, “Bald Oattern,” stretches slowly out creeping along with bells freezing and ringing against a walloping low-end tide. It’s a calm, indeterminate wave to the beginning of a very off-kilter junkyard of an album.
     “Huge Tongue” and “Intestinal Track” barrage the ear canals. Fortunately, neither run over two minutes and work more as padding to the greater whole. HAG doesn’t flow like a stream, but more like a churning, stagnant swamp of sound. “Thread Of The Noose,” which sounds like a plank of metal slowly coming alive, is too warped for comfort. Divebomb’s lo-fi recording technique can, at times, show a few scars.
     When everything runs together in fluid embrace, though, it’s a drooling, incompetent experience. A prime example of this is “Saliva Of The Tooth.” Held down by a wonky boom-clap beat, the song is loopy with hypnotic guitar strands that summon until it drops off into a slur of syrupy sound trails.
     “Faces Of The Ceiling” rides low on a meandering down tempo beat until melting into another time frame. Wounded feedback circles around the brain on “Dark Penetrations” until an avalanche of rigid guitar limps into the abyss. The two together make up HAG‘s Bermuda Triangle. The raw vibrations make glossed-over eyes fall directly to the back.
     The recordings are sparsely peppered with cut-and-paste audio particles from muffled nobodies. The scrambled dictation offers the only phraseology on the album and it injects strange visions. The voices are lost, poking through the noise. On “Slow Tattoo” an echoed organ walks in the twilight, pierced with snippets of hooting and hollering. It’s two minutes of serene buzz before crashing and morphing into “Plastic Bag,” a collapsing structure of chopped noise and harrowing inverted guitar.
     The final track on HAG, “Blood Of The Hoof,” drips like morphine through an I.V. with a loop that freezes you in place. It’s a welcomed breather after an album of scatter-shot sound lacerations.
     HAG is available for stream and for download, with Art Of The Hag, at Professor Divebomb’s Bandcamp page.


Key Tracks: "Saliva Of The Tooth," "Faces Of The Ceiling," "Dark Penetrations," "Slow Tattoo"

December 10, 2013

Year 2013

Greatest Music Releases of the Year 2013

Year-end Feature from Independent Music Promotions

From a "supergroup" expanding to a rock-and-roll legend, read our picks of 2013's best records.

REVIEW: "Excavation" by The Haxan Cloak


The Haxan Cloak conducts waves of doom on Excavation

     The music of The Haxan Cloak could be the internal soundtrack in Walter White’s head as he runs around Albuquerque covering his tracks. It’s dark, foreboding and urgent; the monotonous heartbeat of waking demons.
     Excavation, released this year on Tri Angle Records, is a jet-black pack of drone and ambient suspense. It doesn’t really exist as a set of songs, but more as a lurching morass of chemical sound. There are metallic thrusts of bass and industrial-grade beats. The sound constantly moves in and out of place, mimicking the slow and steady breathing of external beasts.
     The man behind the blackened soundscapes is Bobby Krlic, of the UK, and one has to wonder what working on music of this nature does to the solid mind. His last full-length album was 2011′s The Haxan Cloak. Excavation continues his slip into the sludge. It rises very slowly over the opening tracks, until suddenly the sound is everywhere.
     The swelling strings on “Mara” create killer-around-the-corner horror movie suspense. Play this, unknowingly, in the middle of the night and anyone sleeping will surely wake suddenly, fearing an approaching death. It’s dramatic and horrendously climactic.
     “Miste,” halfway through, opens the record a bit, allowing some pale color to leak in. A slithering bass line creaks along as the speakers fill up with the noise of dark matter. A slight rip comes through the black tarp on “The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2).” As the track cranks up a little bit of sonic light pierces the veil with pitched swirling tones.
     The structures, at times, are reminiscent of the IDM brain-fuck lacings of Autechre, but with less bells and whistles, and an even bigger expansion of space. Silence plays as pivotal a role here as the noise. Krlic labors over creating something that mentally draws the listener into its grasp, then leaves them on the side of the road, bracing for the next creeping composition.
     “Dieu” pulsates darkly. It sounds like a bundle of leftover loops coming together and rebelling like the buckets and brooms in Mickey Mouse’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The final track, “The Drop,” defies most descriptors. I’d like to think there is an appropriate term to describe the song, but as it played over its twelve-plus minutes, I fell deeply into a state of psychosis and it’s debatable, yet, if I’ve pulled myself from it.

Key Tracks: "Miste," "Mara," "The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2)"

from: IMP

November 06, 2013

REVIEW: "Reflektor" by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire blow it on Reflektor

Arcade Fire don't know it yet, but they are currently in the throes of a creative death spiral. Reflektor, their fourth, is a bloated, disengaging, self-important yawn of an album.
The build-up to the record release was long and arduous with spray-painted logos on the sides of buildings, Saturday Night Live performances, self-effacing video promos, etc. The album, too, mirrors that lagging wait. The morsels of song goodness are buried in a sea of wafting production layers while the 'skip' button always beams in the eye corner.
The album, puffed out to 85 minutes and 14 songs, is split into two halves--a wise choice. The flatulent girth of Reflektor makes it a very tedious listen in one sitting. 
When every song is stretched out beyond it's intended structure the impact of brevity is lost. Every single song, even the two that clock in under three minutes, is a total slog. It's like quicksand to the ears. Each track gets stuck in its own groove, then remains suspended in said groove for an average of six minutes. There are no grand reconstructions mid-song, only a drawn-out, absorption of the same tired phrases and weak-as-hell rhythms. Little loops and tides wail along, but the groove remains. 
The only songs to actually benefit from this formula are "It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)," "Porno" and "Afterlife," but unfortunately they don't appear until the very end of the album, all in one clump.
Singer Win Butler tries out his best David Byrne impression and gets achingly close on "Normal Person." The song could be one the Talking Heads jammed for about two measures two decades ago, but promptly threw out. It's this albums' "Rococo" (from The Suburbs), as far as total meaningless lyrical overreach. "Is anything as strange as a normal person?" he asks before examining his own social reality. Just boring.
On "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)," Butler has the same pained quiver best used on "Ocean Of Noise" from Neon Bible. Here, though, light bongos put-put in the background and the break-down is so slight and lifeless, it makes this reviewer's head just want to roll right off its' neck. 
"Here Comes The Night" moves with a slow drip of senseless plucking piano until the drums show up and pummel the same exact chorus. "You Already Know" is limpid and pale beyond repair and "Joan Of Arc," which ends the first half, flat out sounds like shit. 
There are those good morsels, though. A nice low-down groove anchors "We Exist" and the rising chorus is more reflective of the group's sonic characteristics. The bass line rotates and the nah-nah-nahs are ethereal. The most quintessential Arcade Fire sound here is heard on "Afterlife," somewhat catchy and emotionally bittersweet, while "Porno" has a slick downtrodden buzz that is the brightest spot on the record.
The truly disheartening part of Reflektor is that it could've been whittled down to a strong, compact 10-song album and then it'd be worthy of the praise that's been wrongfully heaped upon it. Maybe this is what happens when a group wins Album of the Year after releasing two classics of millennial indie rock: Funeral and Neon Bible
The Suburbs, which won the Grammy and thrust them before a new, wider audience, ironically, started the group's current creative stagnation. That album and this new output lack the emotional urgency that made their first two so warm and sufficiently listenable. If this is the plateau Arcade Fire find themselves stumbling on going forward, you can count me out.

Key Tracks: "Porno," "Afterlife," nothing else

October 30, 2013

Eye of the Lou (1942-2013)

     The man was dressed in black head to toe. His head nearly touched the ceiling. If his back wasn't bent like a spoon, it would've crashed through the tiles. Before the houselights went down the tall figure I would come to realize was Lou Reed, ambled out slowly to the front row and took a seat.
The show was a preview of performance artist Laurie Anderson's in-progress play, "Delusion," hosted by MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. I was fortunate enough to have had a conversation with Anderson, Reed's wife since 2008, a week prior for an article in The Berkshire Eagle
When the play finished I expected a crowd to form around Reed, but to my surprise the audience only stretched and yawned in their seats. I marched down the isle to the front row, turned left and stood, face-to-face, looking upward, at the rock and roll poet and feedback maestro. He was standing straight, stretching his legs and somehow I found his eyes. 
"It's a pleasure to meet you," I said, holding out my hand. He shook it, mildly stunned, a slight confused, and replied, "It's a pleasure to meet you, too." Then the silence hung, his eyes fixed harder on mine, and I had to get out of there.
Lou Reed's exit from earth this past Sunday has been a slow, slimy shock. The man wrote "Walk On The Wild Side," "Perfect Day," "White Light/White Heat," "Heroin," "Ecstasy." God, the list goes on. He fronted The Velvet Underground, America's greatest rock band. He shot smack, did coke, kissed David Bowie on his lips, gave Iggy Pop his wings and inspired every musician who zonked-out to "Venus In Furs." He is every bit New York City's man. (Woody Allen, Jay Z, Jerry Seinfeld all take a backseat.) He exemplified every aspect of his home city--the drugs, the people, the hustle, the implosion of new music and art, the politics, the violence, new age thought--embedding it deeply in his work and his towering personae.  
When the first shrill sounds of The Velvet Underground leapt from cruddy amplifiers in the psychedelic Sixties, the basic pop structures for modern music would never be the same. No one else could ever meld the harmonic infatuation of doo-wop with the guts-in-the-oven sound collage of blind squelching guitar feedback, fierce like a kitchen knife slowly wedging into your ear. 
Reed was an abstractionist with the exact blueprints for The Song tattooed on his brain. He is at the helm of all things experimental in rock and roll. He taught the world that music doesn't have to be clean or have perfect tonal quality. The words don't have to rhyme, or even fall slickly with the beat. While most artists in the Sixties and Seventies turned to the surreal and psychedelic for their lyrical output, Reed was giving us the scuffed words of the street. The dead-pan wit of his lyrics are fraught with realism and touch on subjects other than the usual love and heartbreak. His tales are hard, low-down and dirty; almost too truthful to bear.
In the decades following the dissolution of VU Reed would release brave, unctuous, unapologetic albums, scattered across the spectrum of what music could be. Metal Machine Music (1975) is the sound of forty amplified guitars being taken apart while Hudson River Wind Meditations (2007) is the sound of a single breeze floating over the mind. In between the classic songs are too many to quantify. With Reed's passing, our planet has lost a legend. New York City has lost its reverent son. Poetry has lost its rebel of the street. Rock and roll has lost its godfather. He leaves behind the most daring catalog of music from an artist in any era, blowing out all preconceived guidelines for the following generations. 

Lou, Lou, Lou, it's the beginning of a great adventure. Rest in peace.


Lou Reed's Classic Albums
The Velvet Underground (1969)
Transformer (1972)
Ecstasy (2000)
The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
Coney Island Baby (1975)
Loaded (1970)
New York (1989)
The Blue Mask (1982)

September 18, 2013

REVIEW: "AM" by Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys walk past midnight on subdued AM

Arctic Monkeys newest, fifth album, AM, may be the best collection of songs to hear while walking in a big city after midnight. It's filled with an attitude of cool nonchalance and a tempo that remains mid-level throughout.
Out only a few weeks, AM has already been nominated for the Mercury Prize, the UK's gift for their home-bred favorites, and hit number 1 on the UK Albums Chart. These guys are definitely the best thing to come from England since Radiohead, but they lost themselves in the California desert while recording this one.
The songs are sparse and direct, each held down by a clopping, barely-there rattle of drum and bass from Matt Helders and Nick O'Malley. The first track, "Do I Wanna Know?," burns slow like one of those fat lavender candles. A sinister stomp marches in, while a dark foreboding guitar peels around the corner. Leader Alex Turner, now sporting a hard glint of tenacity in his eye, wonders if the one he sees romantically sees him the same, but, does he even want to know?
The catchiest and most familiar-sounding chorus is on a song released months in advance, "R U Mine?" Helders adds a pile of drums and his rising falsetto, something they explore at great volumes here. The vocals get real high, especially on "One For The Road," which feature Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age (he's on "Knee Socks," too).
"Arabella" is a weird mix of crunchy Seventies-era butt-rock with a guitar solo caught on meteoric fumes and a bass line like ice melting in a glass of lukewarm water. The best song, "Fireside," moves brusquely and steady like a locomotive through a tide of twinkling organ and rising guitar.
On "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" Turner really needs to drink a cup of water and get some sleep. It's a raw piece of smoking blues that walks right over your face. Turner still expertly weaves delicately worded phrases between his prudent guitar licks like he's always done. "I wanna pull your hair in deep devotion," he swoons on "I Wanna Be Yours." Slick as ever, but crumpled in a loveless gutter. Will somebody please love this guy?
The sweet chasm, "Mad Sounds," is a very dull hit single for mid-90's lite rock radio. Every band should find a place somewhere on a new record to tip-toe outside their comfort zone, but the ooh-la-la-las and the treading organs on this one just don't work. Similarly, "No. 1 Party Anthem," is the sappiest of Arctic Monkeys songs. The tempo cuts in half and in the background a piano hides, while Turner goes milky with the lyrics. It's certainly not terrible, but if any other millennial rock band released it, it would briskly be forgotten.
The closer, "I Wanna Be Yours," is a beautiful ode to a love deep as the Pacific Ocean and moves like a wave lapping toward the shore. It's a simple song that swells with a longing for desire but fades without alarm, leaving the listener wondering where the hell the new Arctic Monkeys album went. 
AM is not the tough, stoner-sludge rock record one might've hoped for with all the supposed Black Sabbath inspiration and Homme hand-lending, but it's definitely a mark worth celebrating for the Monkeys. The songs mirror the emotions of an endless night of loneliness and dread and intoxicated contemplation. They're waving goodbye to their early snotty selves and waking in a new disheveled morning.

Key Tracks: "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?", "Arabella", "Do I Wanna Know?", "R U Mine?"

from: Independent Music Promotions

September 14, 2013

Gender Infinity / Viking Moses / Roses at The Silent Barn

Gender Infinity, with Hunter (l.), at The Silent Barn. Photo by Eli Jace.
     Appropriately for a band called Gender Infinity, lead dude, Redding Hunter, traipsed around in the darkness of The Silent Barn in various states of drag. First came the wigs, then the fishnets, followed by mascara crayoned on thick. The necks of the boys in the room kept craning mistakenly, but it’s alright because it was Hunter’s birthday and he’ll scream, croak, and try to fire his bassist repeatedly if he wants to.
    Monday night, The Silent Barn hosted three bands. Hunter’s newest musical incarnation, Gender Infinity, [Read about his previous project Peter & The Wolf here] were at the tail end of a short East coast tour with Viking Moses. Roses, a band from Providence, RI, also supported the Brooklyn stop.
     The Silent Barn, which is run by an assortment of creatives who live upstairs, has been active since 2006. The venue has been held at its current space, at 603 Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, since January. They welcome all types of artistic excursions, even once holding a kindergarten class for six weeks. Walk through the corrugated metal door into a gravel pit and you’ll see a junkyard of discarded art installations. The giant half skull/half head of a Brooklyn Dodgers player greets you a few steps in the door. Inside is a smattering collage that, under the right circumstances, would have one feeling like a Looney Tune.
Three steps into The Silent Barn and this head is staring you down. Photo by Eli Jace.
     Viking Moses have been around since 2003 in alternating forms, with songwriter Brendon Massei always at the helm. Currently a three-piece band, they played powerfully and catatonic. Their walking mudslide blues shook the room. Massei’s voice was thrown in, slipping languidly off the trampling drum and bass. Their most recent release is last year’s The Conquest Night.
     The main act, Gender Infinity from Austin, TX, fell into position when they finally took the stage, just minutes before the lead dude’s birthday ended. Sound issues hobbled the first song, “Mr. Popular,” but they soldiered through it matching the disrupted tones with their rickshaw performance. Their sound is straight forward and sweetly marauding, held together by thread. Things at a Gender Infinity show are clearly not meant to be polished, or even well-rehearsed.
     Everyone wore a wig. Hunter went further, with the black fishnets and an intruding dick bulge of confusion, proving first and foremost that a man in drag can rock out with his cock (almost) out. When he performs, he’s barely there, in a stupor of his own faltering will. “I’m going to die tonight,” he slurred into the microphone at one point. His carelessness is a virtue and the rest of the group blended in properly.
Gender Infinity.  Photo by Eli Jace.
     Their songs are sloshed, end-of-the-night rock & roll tales, steeped in the scene they’re playing in. Hunter spills a mouthful of words on “Trainwreck Baby,” a humorous insight into the underworld of playing dark rock clubs. “International Calls (Written By Clemens Poole)” is about the gut-stricting discovery of loneliness in the big city, while “I Can’t Make Rent” gives details of the song’s title. They were as grimy as the floor they stomped on and rocked until their mascara ran and their wigs fell off.
     Gender Infinity’s 9 Lives EP is available for download at their Bandcamp site, or on a disc between two slices of white bread in the back of one of their shows.

August 20, 2013

REVIEW: "Paracosm" by Washed Out

Sunlight pours from Washed Out's Paracosm
  The music of Ernest Greene, or, Washed Out, comes at you in waves. The new album, Paracosm, eases the listener slowly into an aviary. The sounds of birds minding their business on a summer afternoon is the last thing heard before going under.
  On his second album, released Aug. 13 on Subpop, Greene crafts pretty pop jangles from the silk of sunlight. In his world the colors are always bright. The mood is revelatory and triumphant. 
  Songs are heavily layered with a sprawling drone and background snippets of field recordings and party scenes, plus more birds. Each progression dissolves into the next, leaving the listener light-headed and feeling a little nostalgic.
  The sound taps into everything dreamy about The Flaming Lips, but with a finer calibration. Paracosm consists of nine very well-fed songs.
  "Great Escape" is a funky Beach Boys jam sent frolicking in a field of daisies. The guitar twang on "Paracosm" unspools like the fishing wire from a fishing rod, while the prettiest harp loop flutters perpetually.
  "Don't Give Up" sounds like something the Avalanches would play behind all their samples. "All Over Now" and "Falling Back" could fit onto any soundtrack for any John Hughes movie. 
  On each track the drums plod along and they sound like sand is splashing off the drum heads. The guitars rise and fall on a continuous loop. Greene's voice is soft and pale and mostly forgettable, camouflaged in the mix. 
  The songs themselves don't sound much different than anything else that's been popular in music. They sound like they could fit into any time period since the Sixties. What bring these ditties their uniqueness is the incredible tidal wave of drone that heightens their emotional core.
  The traveling undertones are subtle, but all-encompassing, circling Greene's simple songs like an earth orbits its sun.

Key Tracks: "Paracosm," "Great Escape," "Don't Give Up"

August 13, 2013

REVIEW: "More Light" by Primal Scream

Primal Scream pack entire career into More Light

     Primal Scream’s new album, More Light, is the rock & roll musical equivalent of a very long, arduous, mind-bending trip. You will span time with this album. Whatever you are doing when “play” is pressed will be different than whatever you’ll be doing when silence finally returns.
     It’s been a quiet few years for the Glasgow rock band. Their last album, Beautiful Future, was released in 2008. Since Screamadelica‘s sun-dried, trance rock entered the world in 1991, Primal Scream albums have progressively grown more and more raucous and abrasive. More Light brings it all to a head.
     The opener, “2013,” is a nine-minute swirl of crescendos and drop-offs and horn squawks and loose endings of whatever crossed the microphone. “21st century slaves / A peasant underclass / How long will this shit last?” Bobby Gillespie sings in muted, maniacal whispers, firing up a revolution. The next song, “River Of Pain,” is built on an acoustic tremor and stretches way out into the bog of your mind. It travels downstream with little thorny bombs of noise floating about until slipping off the cliff into orchestral clouds.
     And it continues on like that. Each song is full, bulky with different shrieks, echoes, strikes of feedback, etc. gurgling to the surface. When Primal Scream pressed record they vaunted their instruments and got lost in the room. Most of the time that’s a good thing–a loose chaotic war zone of psychoactive rock–sometimes, though, it can be a drain. Clocking in at 68 minutes, the album does become a task halfway through, but that really could depend on the mood you’re in, or the drugs you’re on.
     One thing that’s certain about the songs on More Light, is they e v o l v e. The shortest song, “Goodbye Johnny,” is three-and-a-half minutes long, but most are between four and six minutes and in that time the structure gets dismantled, rebuilt and layered to the nines. Every facet of psychedelic rock is featured on this album. Bluesy acid-drop, spastic freak-out jams, funkadelia, hypnotic blacked-out drones all come roaring from the cannon.
     “Turn Each Other Inside Out” drops you in a highway scene painted by Ralph Steadman. It skids downhill with a driving, plunking guitar encountering hiccups and daydreams on the way down. The bass in “Tenement Kid” paces side-to-side in the background while the guitar summons extraterrestrials. “Elimination Blues,” quells the noise for a moment offering some panicked blues with Gillespie’s shuddering oooohs mingling with riotous backup singers. On “I Want You” the haze of Jefferson Airplane mixes with the slow-romp of The Troggs. "It’s Alright, It’s OK,” bursts back to ’91, while “City Slang” taps the energy of The Stooges.
     Gillespie and his minions are still wide-eyed, living on society’s fringes, squeezing every last drop from life like the sponge it is. When they sweat, you sweat. You might, one day, outrun a train; you can’t outrun More Light.

Key Tracks: "Tenement Kid," "Elimination Blues," "Goodbye Johnny," "River Of Pain"

August 06, 2013

Revisiting the RE-BLOG

from: Quiet Lunch
Photo by Eli Jace/Quiet Lunch
     Walking into Brooklyn's SIGNAL Gallery last Friday night turned every human face into a dark silhouette with a fuzzy lining of white light. The light splashed from two door frame-sized projections of revolving photographs. Photographs from the work of 200 artists make up the current show titled, BLOG RE-BLOG
     Copy and pasted together by Max Marshall and Paul Paper, the show seeks to reflect the oversharing of images online and present them in a physical setting. The goal of the exhibit is “to underline the way images are spread on the Internet, where the questions of authorship, curatorship and crediting become accentuated,” Paper explains.
     Each photographer was randomly paired up with another and chose one image from the other’s catalogue. “The photographers had free reign over what images they selected from the paired artists’ portfolio,” says Marshall. The results are a little drop from the massive collection of images that have become a swallowing vortex of the Internet.
     The two curators have been overseeing images, and also creating their own, with sharp focus for the past couple of years. Marshall has been in charge of the daily contemporary photography blog, The Latent, since 2010. Marshall respects brevity over total inclusion and so the posts have always been once a day, containing only five images.
     For Paper, “The more critical and conscious stage of my photographic practice began about 6 years ago.” The simply titled, I Like This Blog, has been his platform since 2009. A year later he started Sraunus, a traveling projected photography show in Europe.
     Paul picked some of Marshall’s work for the show and instantly forged a partnership. Marshall remembers, “I jokingly asked Paul, ‘When is Sraunus going to hit the States?’” and right then turned on the lightbulb above Paper’s head. Through their shared connections online, they were able to amass a large collection of receptive artists. “I selected photographers that are supported online or have a large presence,” says Marshall.
Photo by Eli Jace/Quiet Lunch
     The paired images are locked into a twenty minute loop, projected side by side, about fifteen feet apart. Unlike the average gallery where the viewer is given an unmoving piece of work to stand and contemplate, BLOG RE-BLOG is in constant motion. “I was interested in taking this cursory process online and exalting [it] into a physical exhibition, which you have to visit in order to experience,” Marshall says.
     Sometimes the two photos flashing would match lyrically, like when a serene image of a spider web went up against a dead rabbit hanging from some clenched fist. Sometimes the pairing would loosely create its own scene. The image of a starved white dog staring dead-eyed in the distance went next to a vibrant photo of what looked like a mango and lime. Other times the grouping would provide a total contrast, like the image of a sexy, black woman lined up against an old, soggy, white man walking into the ocean. The rest of the time the images may have passed too quickly for any conclusions to be made. The beauty of its randomness is the endless source of meaning each slide evokes. It’s like blindly surfing the web.
Photo by Eli Jace/Quiet Lunch
     “The Internet, as a social and cultural phenomenon, is fundamentally shaping the way we view, distribute and understand images,” Paper says. “We rarely, if ever, see an isolated photograph disconnected from other imagery; rather, it is part of some kind of ‘stream,’ ‘feed,’ theme or collage.”
     BLOG RE-BLOG is active through Aug. 11. SIGNAL is located at: 260 Johnson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206. The Gallery is open Saturday and Sunday, 1 – 6 p.m.

July 16, 2013

Closer to Nothing Than "Something"

from: Quiet Lunch

Courtesy of Alexis Vasilikos
     Photographer Alexis Vasilikos spends his summers on a little tear of land, the Greek island Leros, tucked away in the Aegean Sea. It’s a pinprick on the world map; an obscured place, not easily found. In his images the viewer sees little corners of everyday life, things right outside the line of sight and easily forgotten.
     “I’m not seeking to capture anything in particular,” the native of Athens said. Vasilikos, who has been shooting over 18 years now, has an eye fine-tuned to the artistic spontaneity of nature. “What I enjoy to see is a kind of energy that stills the mind.” 
     What he does capture are scenes the common man might be quick to shrug at–a dark stain on a flowered tablecloth, a mass of corroded pipe, the patterns of a shadow, the symmetry of a fir. They are mostly every day things that could be seen anywhere in the civilized world, but when seen through Vasilikos’ lens they become pregnant pauses in an unknown life.
Courtesy of Alexis Vasilikos
     If the images seem senseless, lost, without any historical underpinnings, that’s the point. “The seeing is present,” Vasilikos explains. “We don’t need to get into any kind of story to see.” As the viewer, you’re only given what you’re given.
     With Jerome Montagne, Vasilikos co-edits Phases, the site portal for defined and emerging photographers. The Nothingness of All Things is Vasilikos’ title for his portion on the site. His portfolio is divided into ten different galleries, each marked with a vague title, which somehow fits.
     “The titles give a conceptual orientation to the mind,” he says. “I’m aware most people, because of our education, find it difficult to see without adding some kind of concept.” He wants the viewer to stretch their mind over the photos and worry less about context and more about the actual scene within the frame.
     His pictures soar from a warm summer afternoon bursting with crisp color, to a shadowy winter vision of something unidentified. There are intimate close-ups and distracted zoom outs, flowing rivers, and dogs, plenty of dogs. You’re never quite sure where you might be, or where it was you just arrived. Some of the photos have an unintended humor in them. One shows the arm of a cactus protruding from the open zipper of a male’s pair of pants. Another shows an older woman playfully boxing a cardboard cutout of Evander Holyfield. “There is an element of humor in life itself, a kind of cosmic joke,” Vasilikos explains. “We are aware of this when we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Courtesy of Alexis Vasilikos
     Vasilikos, who now uses digital, takes a very loose approach to his photography. He wants whatever meaning is derived to stay elevated, changeable. “There is no self during the shooting. The pictures don’t come from intention, so much,” he said. “They are a form of dancing with the play of phenomena, a kind of improvisation with whatever situation arises.”

June 12, 2013

Review: "13" by Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath Emerge From Lake Of Fire

     13, Black Sabbath’s first studio record with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978′s Never Say Die!, starts off just as one might expect. “End Of The Beginning” punches through with a trunk-rattling dirge of murky low-end guitar guts. It then swivels away into grey as Osbourne ponders his placement in time.
     Producer Rick Rubin, the great conjurer of past inspiration, got founding members Osbourne, guitar demon Tony Iommi and bassist, and lyricist, Geezer Butler in the same room for the first Sabbath release since 1995′s Forbidden, and they don’t mess around.
     Sabbath has had a revolving cast of players over the years with Iommi being the one constant. A full-on reunion had been gestating since 2001. When sessions finally recommenced last year original drummer Bill Ward dropped out citing, lamely, a “contractual dispute.” It’s a shame that 13 isn't a complete reunion, but who better to take Ward’s place than the tough, militaristic Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine? The songs are given a harder edge thanks to his presence. You couldn't ask for better personnel to keep alive the name of Sabbath.
     This album is dense. The first two songs alone stretch out to nearly seventeen minutes. On “God Is Dead?” Osbourne sings of “blood on my conscience and murdering mind.” Voices echo through his head as he wonders on the current state of God. The question in the title switches to a pronouncement, then back again to a question.
     It’s clear Rubin was using past classics as a template for this excursion. There are a lot of familiar sounds. “Zeitgeist” could be the sequel to “Planet Caravan” off Paranoid with its bongo hits from the cave. Osbourne travels saintly through the universe. “Lost in time I wonder when my ship will be found,” he hums. At the end Iommi teases out the despondency of your soul with his guitar. The next song, and the heaviest, “Age Of Reason,” keeps the mind from drifting. It exists on many different floors and Iommi’s guitar collapses one after the next. Nobody slides down the neck in unison with the drums the way he does. The results crush your spine.
     The running motor of “Live Forever” kicks the listener into a metallurgical trance. The floor becomes the ceiling. “Damaged Soul” is heavy slow-groove blues, until Iommi lets loose a few lacerating solos. “I’m not dying cuz I’m already dead / pray for the living cuz now I’m in your head,” Osbourne warns.
     There are no mid-90′s Ozzy ballads here. He’s not trying to sing his heart out, instead relying more on his low-registered croak and quiver. Iommi slays each song with dark psychedelia, while Butler and Wilk maintain their rhythmic hammer.
     This is the metal that Black Sabbath created somewhere around the moon landing and this is the metal only Black Sabbath can masterly recreate in this fucked-up Internet age. Their music still has the tremors of occult, like you’re walking through a sixteenth-century forest with dark, hooded clans. The songs are long, drawn out and pulverizing and if you’re not used to that sort of thing, you may grow weary. If you are used to that sort of thing, then this is what your life has been missing lately.
     Old fans of Sabbath will be very pleased. The purveyors of black magic metal have returned with perfect timing. In a world riddled with pockmarked landscapes and hate elevated, Black Sabbath is needed. Miley Cyrus and Keisha’s electronic goat-fuck party anthems just don’t accurately mirror this world. Damaged souls need damaged music in which to drink and smoke to and 13 is the perfect embellishment.

Key Tracks: "End Of The Beginning," "God Is Dead?," "Damaged Soul," "Live Forever"

from: I M P

June 08, 2013

Review: "...Like Clockwork" by Queens Of The Stone Age

QOTSA get hard and soft on rock and roll classic

     God, it feels good when that first strike of sludge guitar hits on Queens Of The Stone Age’s new album, …Like Clockwork. First track, “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” travels at a lowly lurk, like carefully stepping through a graveyard at night. Frontman Josh Homme takes deep painful stabs on his downtuned guitar while distressed ghouls crank away in the background.
     It’s been a while since QOTSA have released new music. Since 2007′s mighty, bare-knuckled Era Vulgaris, Homme has been driving, red-eyed and burnt, through the California desert. He fronted the superb, eye-gouging Them Crooked Vultures with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and old pal Dave Grohl on drums and dropped a third Eagles Of Death Metal record.
     Now, Homme returns with old Queens’ players in tow, but has lassoed an army of friends, old and new. Grohl is here performing on a majority of the songs, founding bassist Nick Oliveri returns for one and Mark Lanegan, Homme’s wife Brody Dalle and Trent Reznor all contribute, while Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters, Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys and, yes, Elton John add their heft to the record.
     The tempo shifts from song to song. The second track and head-bobber, “I Sat By The Ocean,” is the most overtly Queens-sounding with those slithering, braying guitars. “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” slows way down, each measure strung together with ominous keyboard and fat synthesizer. At first “Kolpsia” throws the listener for a loop, sounding like a pasty dream, but then flaps open into a hotbox of feedback and 90′s riffage. A beautiful melody is pitted against Homme’s gnarled scowl and somewhere in the mix is Reznor on vocals, but it’s hard to pick him out.
     Homme’s drugged, careless snarl is in full effect on the record’s best song, “If I Had A Tail.” “I wanna suck, I wanna lick, I wanna cry, I wanna spit. Tears of pleasure, tears of pain, they trickle down your face the same,” he sings along to the bump. An undeniable boogie is at work here. It instantly picks the body up and soon you’ll be reaching for a bottle of whiskey and car keys.
     A great clamped-down energy controls “Smooth Sailing.” Homme finds himself at the bottom looking upwards, not giving two fucks about what comes next. “I’m burning bridges, I destroyed the mirage,” he sings, before offering a classic line only he could erect: “I blow my load over the status quo.” Lyrics like that, well, they just don’t come very often. The album then descends into the spectral “I Appear Missing,” where lost souls go hammering back into the dirt.
     It’s devastatingly obvious Grohl and Homme are on the same rhythmic wavelength. One of the greatest drummers playing today, Grohl, holds these songs down with his consistent punch and full force rolling crescendos that just fucking explode through the speakers. The results of these two rock and roll hemoglobins is achingly satisfying. As a drummer, it’s impossible not to air drum wherever you are.
     A steady, plodding piano from John finishes out the record on the title track. It brings out an emotional response heavier than any other Queens song before it. “Everyone it seems has somewhere to go,” Homme swoons, “the faster the world spins, the shorter the lights will grow.” It’s not all drug-taking, car-racing, lip-smacking, but down in the dirt reflection, too.
     As the title may suggest, this album is another chip off the ol’ Queens Of The Stone Age block. It begins and ends with the grave, with slight detours in the middle of spirits rising and circulating. Homme feathers his vocals a little more and soundscapes creep in, but once it begins to sound too pretty, there is an off-note, a pinged sharp, that uglies it. …Like Clockwork is a borderline masterpiece of swampy rock and roll.

Key Tracks: "If I Had A Tail," "Smooth Sailing," "I Appear Missing," "My God Is The Sun"

from: Independent Music Promotions

May 29, 2013

Review: "KingMi" by Montana Maxx

Montana Maxx: Detroit's Dirtworker

     On “City Of Gods,” off the mixtape, KingMi, from Montana Maxx (or Mt. Maxx), the Detroit rapper explains, “I’m from a city where it’s god this and god that / but when we hungry it’s sell this or rob that.” No flash. No champagne. Just real life in America’s currently most disheveled city.
     On the horizon rapper, Mt. Maxx, brings along a few friends for this ten song mixtape, his second. The album comes unhinged with the opening blare of “KingMi Intro.” Maxx appropriately uses the operatic vocals from Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “H.A.M.” as his backdrop. “I’m not a god, but I work goddamn hard,” he spits. Maxx, not yet in the throes of fame, seats himself on record as the man in the midst of his ascent. He’s working hard to get to the top, but still living like the rest of us day to day.
     In today’s Detroit this is not always easy.
    The fourth and best song, “City Of Gods,” floats along on a lush guitar loop. It has a dead end mood. With Rockzamillion featured, the two Detroit disciples describe the tough love they share with their home. They illustrate the daily strife of living in the U.S. city hit hardest by our collapsed economy. A place with such celebrated musical history can eat away at your own motives and Maxx is all too aware of this.
     A lot of the tracks on KingMi are very heavy on atmosphere with a mood to match. “One Night Stand” finds Maxx trapped in the aftermath of a relationship that broke apart, playing Xbox and serial dating, to try and get past it. “You jaded ‘cuz you self-proclaimed it,” he reflects. Over a thawing drum beat and a whispering premonition from the chords of a female throat, he struggles to escape his internal issues without the crutch of drugs. Later, on “Cold Outside,” Maxx deals with the anxiety of meeting the expectations of himself and his peers, never finding solid ground. It opens with sympathetic synth flourishes like a sci-fi soundtrack, then falls into a straight-forward beat that makes you wanna close your eyes and breathe deeply.
     It’s back to living the high life, smokin’ and drinkin’, on “Kingshit,” featuring Pgrand. “We like touching dirty money doing king shit,” the two rap over foggy Bejeweled sound effects spewing in the background. ”Love You Momma” completes the mixtape with forceful odes of love to his mother. While the track sounds gloomy and Maxx is almost yelling, it’s filled with genuine admiration and a steep motherly love. He abrasively exacts the feelings he has for his mother. The honesty, for a rapper, is refreshing.
     Maxx doesn’t often drop obtuse material references like many others in the game. His stories are tales of daily life, deep in reflection sitting in the middle of the living room. He’s introspective, eager to turn every plot twist of his life into an aggressive rhyme scheme. His flow is similar to many rappers today. More lofty run-on sentences rather than quick rhyming jibes.
     Sonically, some tracks are fuzzy and too sparse, with nothing more than average, often used, drum beats breaking over some background noise. But, if a mixtape is simply a vehicle for your flow to practice driving, then Maxx has succeeded. He’s got a heart dripping axle grease. He’s gone past the point of simply dabbling in rap music during free time to living each verse day and night. KingMi is Maxx’s introductory roar.

May 11, 2013

Celtics still a force in the East


     The allure of history was an unmistakable force. No NBA team has ever hiked up the hill from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game playoff series. In general it's a rarity in sports. Fittingly, in 2004, the Boston Red Sox did it blasting back the New York Yankees for the upset.
     Last week the Boston Celtics looked poised to potentially overcome the New York Knicks when they Tarzaned back from the no-win hole to take Game 4 in Boston and Game 5 in New York. "We out here scrappin'," Kevin Garnett exhaled, spraying sweat onto the post-game reporter. "We out here scrappin'."
     Game 6 came and went. The sea of green in the TD Garden just wasn't enough to fuel the Celtics to another victory. It wasn't even really close and just like that the series was over, just another unturned page of history. Another offseason beginning for another team, this one, for the Celtics, just started a little early. Since the signing of KG and Benedict Allen in 2008 team green had always broke through the first round with ease.
     Now with post-game press conferences done and exit interviews complete, it befuddles me why talks of the modern Celtic greats disbanding are immediately thrown into the barking conversation. It makes no sense. I understand people talk and this season wasn't the greatest and trade rumors were bulbous near the deadline, but couldn't the same be said for a lot of teams? In a season that saw the loss of Rajon Rondo (ACL), Jared Sullinger (back), and Leandro Barbosa (ACL), all in quick succession of each other, it would seem the unfortunate circumstances are more of a temporary stopgap, rather than the unraveling of a cherished franchise. 
     Sure, they had their problems beyond the inconvenient injuries. Jason Terry and Courtney Lee proved not quite the eligible replacement hoped for in the aftermath of that guy who left for beach side property. Paul Pierce started to show his age. Brandon Bass and Jeff Green gave some incredible performances but were spotty throughout, never falling into a groove. But, my God, they're still a great unit with the league's best coach in Doc Rivers. And they exist in a pretty weak conference.
     I get it. KG and Pierce will be older next year, but so will most of the Knick bench. Why would Danny Ainge shuffle these legendary pieces around? Garnett, who, up to this point, leads the playoffs in rebounds with 13.7, is under contract through 2015 and he won't leave unless he agrees to the destination. Pierce is on the books for next season (though with a player option), as is Avery Bradley. Every other major player is signed, at least, through 2015.
     Furthermore, and most importantly, all evidence points to a Rondo return by the start of training camp. Even with missing the last third of the season he still lead in assists with 11.1 (Chris Paul was two steps behind with 9.7). The wiliest point guard to grace the hardwood will be back setting up an ace supporting cast. There's no lessening of Celtic energy here. Who says you have to make a splash in the offseason every offseason? A summer to recharge and a fresh training camp can only create great cohesion and produce a stronger core for next season. KG and Pierce need to spend some time with their feet elevated, ankles iced, letting the blood flow, but there's no doubt this team will still compete, as is, like gruff wildebeests in a season of cold-hearted revenge and bounteous redemption.

May 09, 2013

Review: "Monomania" by Deerhunter

Deerhunter's sixth album is a solid square fitting into circle speakers

    Warning: Monomania by Deerhunter is not the album to listen to in the wake of a ratty hangover. It’s abrasive, snot-nosed, manic-depressive rock and as noisy as a traffic jam. There are few moments of calm. Your neighbors will not appreciate you blasting it, but their well- being is not of your concern and neither is it of Bradford Cox, the main force and singer behind Deerhunter.
     Monomania, released Tuesday May 7, is the group’s sixth studio album and announces the addition of new bassist Josh McKay. It also comes after their longest music drought with their last output being 2010′s Halycon Digest. They've been fairly consistent with releases since their 2005 debut, but Cox has upped the ante with his side project, Atlas Sound staying just as active.
     On previous Deerhunter albums there would be long dramatic drop-offs of noise washing over, scant ambient swirls, cymbals tinkering against each other, shots of whatever leftover noise just rattling on into infinity. This collection of songs is more straight-forward, focused, but still with a sloppy punk rock execution.
     The album begins with a line of drool slipping into the slow creep California jam, “Neon Junkyard.” Acoustic guitars lay on top each other while a moody synth gurgles in the distance. “Leather Jacket II” throws the listener into a pit of feedback and jumbled guitar twine. The same squawking lick writhes throughout until the whole thing crumbles at your feet. Thankfully, “The Missing,” pulls itself from the noise and reveals a hazy charm. It’s like a song from a 90′s backyard smoke-out beaming back to us on broken down transmitters.
     Cox slobbers all over the microphone. Each lyric is delivered with a repressed primal scream. His vocals are either enmeshed in distortion or floating, upside-down, in reverb. Most of the time it’s difficult to understand what he’s saying, but it’s clear that something in life is bugging him. He’s unsettled, impatient and before he lets it bring him down he’s going to burn out everything nearby.
     Lyrics are like chicken-scratch scraps from his daily journal. On the blustering “Pensacola” Cox yelps, “The woman that I loved, took another man. Nothing ever ends up quite like what you planned.” Later he plans a trip to that city, seeking adventure as a means of escape. He pleads on the following track, “Dream Captain take me on your ship, Dream Captain it’s my only wish.” His head is spinning and this guy wants out.
     He seems to be trapped by every emotional state known to modern man. He calls himself a “crippled coward.” His hair is falling out. He almost arrives at personal connection multiple times, but slips into a pit of despair. “If you need a friend,” he remarks on “Blue Agent,” ”then look someplace else.” Oh really? Then I guess someone else will have to use these two free Braves tickets I scored.
     That song is the first to finally offers some space in the mix, with tiny high-pitched plucks on the guitar. “Monomania,” which comes toward the end, assures the album doesn't completely go soft. It sounds like a motorcycle crashing into a van, spliced and looped, until the motorcycle drives off. Fittingly, the next song, “Nitebike,” offers a moment of contemplation on a cool night. Cox coos hypnotically over a limp acoustic ballad. “I was on the cusp of a breakthrough,” he spits before erupting in howls of moonlight.
     Cox and his quintet are picking up the pieces dropped by Sonic Youth and other noise-rock conglomerates. In their headspace a song doesn't ever have to be complete for it to be finished. Music need not be perfect or even comfortable. As long as you attack the scraps lying around with grit and desire, the audience will appear. Monomania is Deerhunter’s best album. It works, not for it’s songwriting and musicianship, but for it’s forced penetration and total onslaught to fill the speakers. Before you press play, make sure your door is locked.

Key Tracks: "The Missing," "Pensacola," "Dream Captain," "T.H.M."

May 04, 2013

Review: "Just A Machine" by Piqued Jacks

The cranks and gears of Piqued Jacks' Just A Machine

     Just A Machine, the newest EP from Piqued Jacks, opens with the quick crack of a distorted egg. What then dribbles out is the yolk of six fluctuating industrial rock songs that leave the listener scrambled.
     The title and opening track starts with a patient riff that falls right off a cliff. When it lands it bursts through with quick shots of modern punk. It rises high and wants you to wake the fuck up. The sound is very similar to Refused or early Mars Volta and the reader should take that as a high compliment and not a descriptive crutch. The energy continues on “Blackie.” Guitarist Pengulnsane keeps the track fuming with jumpy guitar, like John Frusciante on a good day. The instruments of each player are absolutely all over the place while E-King howls, “Don’t turn away, even if you’re afraid.” I am and I won’t. The group has a calibrated control over their own chaos.
     Formed in Pistoria, Italy in 2006, Piqued Jacks have been making their way through America using this year’s six-song EP as their launching pad. Each player has their own unique robot-like alias. Andrea “E-King” Lazzerettl sings and plays piano, Francesco “Pengulnsane” Cugla is on guitar and background vocals, “Francesco “Ilttleladle” Blnl takes the bass and Matteo “ThE dOg” Cugla beats the drums. The members are all parts and accessories to a tall-standing machine and it doesn’t run without each gear turning.
     When E-King belts he sounds frantic like Cedric Bixler-Zavala, of The Mars Volta; when he cools down he’s closer to the vocalists of the post-grunge era of a few years back. His lyrics hold a heavy surrealism that paints a picture of impending doom. “Nothing remains of the sun / Except cars’ headlights / Guard duty at the huts / Skinny dogs at the feet of empty slides,” he sings on the final track. Throughout Just A Machine there is a suffocating presence that keeps him on the run.
     The first single, “Youphoric?!,” finds moments of calm, differing from the first two songs. It could easily find a home on rock radio if radio still mattered. Pengulnsane lights it up with a crushing guitar solo as the tender voice of a female frees the listener from the song’s constraints. On “My Kite” E-King struggles in whispers over a lengthening distance and harrowing piano. It’s the slow-burner of the EP and develops like a tidal wave. “Amusement Park” is built around a guitar arpeggio that sounds extraordinarily similar to the intro to Jeff Buckley’s song, “Grace,” but no harm no foul. The song still kicks.
     The closing, “Tourist Of An Apocalypse,” is anchored by the understanding between bass and drum as they walk, linked arm and arm, through the track. The song transforms, twisting, turning and never getting back to where it once was. The final two minutes of the six minute song is an uphill climb as the guitar chops through drum rolls and E-King pleads mightily to, “Just make sure we save the Earth.” It’s a beautiful ending to a collection of songs by a band that shows promise to take up the mantle of progressive rock and roll in 2013 and beyond.
     Piqued Jacks have great attention to song structure and never linger too long in one moment. It makes for a very healthy listening experience. They have a sound that rock fans from every generation can latch onto. They can force you to jump out of your chair and lose brain cells, or, take a long reflective walk around the block.

from: Independent Music Promotions

Review: "City Of Wonders" by Off Orbit

Let Off Orbit take you for a quick ride on City Of Wonders

     Off Orbit may be from Miami, Florida, but their sound comes straight from the Texas desert expanse where plenty of psych-blues bands have called home. Their three-song debut EP, City Of Wonders, is a quick snapshot into their developing sound.
     Opener, and first single, “Vice City,” kicks off with a jumpy guitar intro then evolves into a hippy shake. Moises Jimenez leads the four-piece with scratchy rust-coated vocals. It’s fun and loose and would be the perfect first song to play on a long road trip through the country.
     In addition to his gruff vocals, Jimenez plays bass and splashes the recordings with keyboards. Marcos Jimenez mans the guitar, erupting with spacey solos at times appropriate and inopportune. The meat of the songs is due to Jonathan Colorado, on drums, and Angel Cerdeiras, who adds popping Mexi-Cali bongos to the background.
     Second song, “Pretty Little Things,” comes in with a rollicking bass line and mimics the party-vibe alertness one experiences right as the drugs start to take hold. When the rest of the instruments slide into the mix everything just feels right. The song is stitched together with elongated effects, but they never overtake the song itself. There is a perfect mix of pedals and instrumentation. It’s easy to hear that the players in Off Orbit are true musicians first, who dabble in atmospherics, and not the other around. That formula will take them far.
     The EP concludes with “Interlude,” which is just that. It swims along with layers of instruments, builds up, then drops and leaves the listener very interested to know what comes next.
     City Of Wonders is a time-traveling trip to a place when hearty rock’n'roll mattered to the world. There is a druggy soul to these songs, each one anchored by a blues stronghold, something like Billy Gibbons joining Spiritualized for an all night jam session.

April 24, 2013

Review: "Mosquito" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Hot Blood of Yeah Yeah Yeahs is all Drained on, Mosquito

     The 3D Toy Story-from-hell cover art for Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ new album, Mosquito, shows a crying nude baby getting pinged by the blood-sucking insect. It’s jarring, uncomfortable and makes one feel itchy all over. Unfortunately that depiction doesn't quite match the mood of the resulting set of songs on the New York City band’s fourth album.
     With TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek (and James Murphy for one song) working production, there is a much heavier emphasis on atmospherics as they float further from their scorched rock roots. Many of the bands to rocket out of Brooklyn and reach maximum fame in the early 2000s have had difficulty regaining their creative footing. YYYs are no exception.
     After the very promising and end-to-end catchiness of Show Your Bones in 2006, the YYYs phoned it in three years later for It’s Blitz. In the years since, the members took an unofficial hiatus working on various projects, soundtracks and other artists’ records. It was almost a surprise that they came back with new material at all. These days it’s better to fade away than burn out, I guess.
     The album starts off strong and at first insists on being a classic. “Sacrilege” is a perfect first single and instantly works its way into the listener’s brain. Drummer Brian Chase clamps down on the bell of his ride cymbal while Karen O blurts about forbidden love. It rocks and swivels. It exudes the sound they were destined to arrive at once their punk spirit drifted: full of life, poppy, hypnotic and daring. Ending with the buzz of a soulful choir is the curveball they should be taking by this point in their thirteen-year career and it works to the fullest. Regrettably, the song stands erected at the top of a pyramid and the album only dribbles to the bottom from there; each song less and less inviting than the one before.
     Mosquito was recorded in a few new locales for the band, including New Orleans and Texas. Seems they miss their homeland. On “Subway” Karen O loses, then seeks to recover love on a New York City subway car. It’s a slow motion ride through lonely underground tunnels of the Big Apple. It has a late night/early morning sobering effect. The openness of the track is strung together with ghostly train track rhythms and waves of synths slowly crest, then drown Karen O out. “These Paths” is all looping electronics and by the end devolves into a tame Crystal Castles track. The guest rap by Dr. Octagon on “Buried Alive” comes from nowhere while the band fades two levels back into the mix.
     A few songs do line up with that authentic YYY’s attitude and no doubt they’ll bash them relentlessly live and hype the crowd. If you can beef up your set list with a few new songs for each touring cycling, that’s all that really matters. They’re still one of most exciting acts to witness today. “Mosquito” is the band’s first attempt on the album to bring themselves back to 2003. Against Chase’s foot-down pound, Karen O shouts about life as the beady-eyed prick bug. For “Under the Earth” Karen O sought a roots reggae sound. “Down, down under the earth goes another lover,” she sings, uncaringly, to a pretty sweet groove that glides along with incoming and outgoing noises, plus the knock of a wood block. This could be the blueprint for a future sound. Guitarist Nick Zinner and Chase work well together on “Slave” as it opens awash in echoed effects then slams into a tough, bombastic romp.
     Karen O’s voice still has those same exuberant Billy Corgan-levels, going from soft sympathetic nance, to whiny, misunderstood girl, to a tough beer-soaked bark. She is still one of the best female vocalists of this generation, but she doesn’t bleed and sweat for her main act anymore. The songs lack a lyrical depth. There is no single mood for the album and the bottom-half is bogged down with overly saturated love songs. Most the songs start off promising with a pummeling guitar lick and Karen O erupting in spurts like a banshee, but it seems the band creatively didn’t know where to take the songs and just wound up lathering them up with effects.
     In the end, the album just doesn’t hold up. It’s not down on its knees begging the listener to come back for multiple listens. It doesn’t make one want to punch out a plexi-glass window or rip their shirt down the middle. Their earlier records relied on pure energy to make it through the track list. Record now, think later. That is no longer the case. 
     Yeah Yeah Yeahs appear to be going more for a sonic onslaught of sound these days, possibly to fill in the gaps of their weak songwriting. It’s an obvious path for a band that grew up fast with snotty, punk-spit intentions, and surely it’ll afford them new rabid fans, but, one only wishes they busted out a few more basement burners like Fever To Tell, before moving on. Mosquito could be the album that comes halfheartedly, but then fuels the next definitive output that pulls them from the bog, but only time will tell.

Key Tracks: "Sacrilege," "Under The Earth," "Slave," "Mosquito"

from: Independent Music Promotions

April 18, 2013

Beautiful Boston.

These are from a series of photo fragmentations I did of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, while attending Boston University for summer classes in 2006. The city cracked open my skull and blew away the desert dust. I was shown what real American cities are supposed to look and will be forever grateful. Click the images to view fullscreen. 
View from a window in Boston University. Boston, MA. 2006.



City Hall. Boston, MA. 2006.

Through the Charles River running path. Boston, MA. 2006.

Overlooking the highway outside Fenway Park. Boston, MA. 2006.