May 29, 2014

REVIEW: "Upside Down Mountain" by Conor Oberst

Conor Oberst Finds Peace in the
Swirl of Sadness on Upside Down Mountain
     Sitting on a giant boulder in Central Park while the sunlight began to dim against the trees, I listened to Conor Oberst's new album Upside Down Mountain and was forced to confront the inflating story lines of my life. Oberst, known mostly for Bright Eyes--but also Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk, the group with Jim James, Mike Mogis and M. Ward, and other offshoots--has been singing his whole career about the full-fledged emotional toll that can weigh on one life.
     Like all important songwriters, they allow you to decipher the life and times of their own period, but offer the chance to see yourself in their story. On Upside Down Mountain Oberst painstakingly seeks a life without conflict or stress. Early into "Time Forgot," he sings, "I wanna walk in that howling wind 'til it scatters all my thoughts / Sit all alone on that riverbank 'til I forget that I can talk."
     "Artifact #1" moves like a single breeze through an empty canyon. "The only [question] that even matters is when I see your face again," Oberst laments, with the aching restraint of letting someone go, then never being able to find them. "I keep looking back for artifact to prove that you were here." If the words don't get to you, the shimmering guitar barreling into that untraceable tunnel to the soul, will.
     "Lonely at the Top" is a moper with brushes slowly falling onto the snare head just to get back up again. "There is no dignity in love," he sings, putting the prospect of one-on-one bliss into the air. "I'd trade every scrap to get some absolution," he continues, "'til then I'm walking out the door / 'til then I'm running through the airport / 'til then I'm waiting around for no one."
     The boy-wonder squall of his voice has not withered or hardened at all with his age. At 34 his voice can still fall on the microphone like a feather, but also shiver into a bark or an unwinding wail. His heavy heart still weighs on each line's delivery.
     For a guy actively making music since age 13, becoming a local hero, then quickly a national one, Upside Down Mountain starts to fully embrace some old-age, big-picture wisdom. There is a heavy dose of contemplation in solitude. Oberst finds comfort in a steady, unchanging home on, "Double Life." "You Are Your Mother's Child," possibly one of the sweetest in his discography, instantly pushes to the edge of tears.
     It's not all meandering, slow-simmering folk ripple, though. "Kick" blends heavy country-rock twang with a hillbilly romp. "Zigzagging Toward the Light," the first proper single, is lite alt-country pop with an unexpected psych-blues guitar torpedo at the end. "Governor's Ball" gets the full band out for a rollicking walk down the boardwalk. The horns barbecue and skittering piano keys spin through the headphones.
     Upside Down Mountain is Conor Oberst's best, fullest, song-to-song release since I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning in 2005 as Bright Eyes. (That's not meant to discredit the Monsters of Folk collaboration, or his first proper solo, self-titled album in 2008--both wonders on their own.)
     The recording sessions for the album returned to the Midwest--in Omaha, Nebraska and Nashville, Tennessee--and in turn, salted the sound with a little more country flavor. It is a subtle and more substantially mature album by Conor Oberst protocol. There is no throat-searing crescendos or guitar strings de-tuning and snapping. There are no screams coming from the bathroom floor after the blind consumption of pills and wine in the aftermath of some lover's quarrel.
     On "Common Knowledge" Oberst watches the unfortunate destruction of a drunken friend unfold before him. "She moves like a chocolate fountain / Pouring, spilling all around him / Makes him wonder what else she can do / How bittersweet is love's illusion / Feelings that cannot be proven." Oberst is the spectator, no longer the internal agitator. He's still heartbroken, somber maybe more so, but within these songs there is a sense of peace discovered, maybe not always attainable but; Conor Oberst is finding comfort with his lot in life even if the world around him is drenched in sadness.

Key Tracks: "Governor's Ball," "Common Knowledge," "Lonely At The Top," Artifact #1," "Time Forgot"

source: http://imp

May 23, 2014

Out of Sight

Summer shades in the series, "Invisible," by Vittorio Ciccarelli.  Photos from
Quiet Lunch Magazine | Ocular Heroin | May 23, 2014
     In photographer Vittorio Ciccarelli‘s series, Invisible, one looks upward into the summer sky and sees all of that blue, blue, blue. The squares succumb to the purest shades of sky. It becomes two-dimensional, all perspective falling away, and brings absolute comfort.
     Ciccarelli, from Naples, Italy, “conducts experimental research in the field of photography.” In much of his work there is a pining for wide and panoramic natural spaces.
     Invisible is very quiet, very still. The colors are polished by the sun at an unreal time of the day, a manufactured afternoon in some bright pastel summer dream.
     The sky hue is such a forceful and demanding backdrop. It gulps the cropped bits of buildings, streetlamps and other signage that dot each image–the famous Golden Arches cutely gleam at the bottom center of one photo.
     Ciccarelli has an architect’s eye. Each shot holds an agile symmetry. He carefully arranges the contrasting angles to jut and cut into the sky as it stretches untested across the frame.

May 22, 2014

REVIEW: "A Letter Home" by Neil Young

Neil Young Peers Through the
Lo-fi Past on A Letter Home
     Before Neil Young tries to master the state of audio with his high-quality digital music service, Pono, he wants to remind us where we once were. His new album, A Letter Home, was recorded in one full take on a rare Voice-o-Graph instant vinyl recording studio--the type of antique only Jack White could get his grubby hands on. Young's 35th album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at White's illustrious record shop and studio fun house, Third Man Records.
     A Letter Home is a brittle collection of hand-picked, old-time favorite compositions of Young's. Most are folk and country standards like "Changes" by Phil Ochs and "Crazy" by Willie Nelson. Young strums tenderly on an acoustic guitar, sometimes adding harmonica, sometimes playing a piano just outside the booth. The vinyl spits and crackles as it turns. Every now and then notes melt in lo-fi dissolution.
    The songs are all decades old, with the newest being "My Hometown" by Bruce Springsteen, from 1985. On Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe" Young lumbers over the piano keys. A whistle wilts and haunts on "Needle of Death" by Bert Jansch and here we get that too-familiar til-the-final-breath Neil Young tremble. The original was an inspiration for Young's own classic, "Needle and the Damage Done," off Harvest.
     White shows up on piano and vocals on two songs, Nelson's "On the Road Again" and "I Wonder If I Care as Much," from The Everly Brothers. White spent 18 months or so refurbishing the phone-booth-sized studio, which dates back to 1947, and it has been a fixture at Third Man Records. Customers and wandering musicians can record themselves in it as they visit.
     Young really grapples the heart when tackling the work of his contemporaries at the top of the songwriting totem pole: Bob Dylan and Springsteen. He takes Dylan's "Girl From the North Country," a chilling ode to a lover gone astray, and adds the weight of distance Dylan hadn't yet felt (but soon would) when he wrote it in 1962. "My Hometown," from Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., is all chugging nostalgia as Young reflects earnestly on the changes that inevitably befall the place of one' birth.
     For Neil Young, that place was Ontario, Canada. Throughout A Letter Home, he speaks candidly to his late mother Edna. It turns the heart into warm butter. Young reached back to those days for songs that still resonate today and pieced together an album of seemingly stray covers, but made it all his own. It is still a thrill to hear a no-frills album with nothing but the integrity of a life long lived put to tape for the decades hence.

Key Tracks: "Girl From the North Country," "Needle of Death," "If You Could Read My Mind" (Gordon Lightfoot), "My Hometown"

source: http://imp

May 18, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Animal Photo Shoot Ends in Animal Brawl (Photos)

Brawl breaks out at Laurent de Salvon's animal photo shoot for new series opening in August.
     These prima donnas act like they came from the zoo!
     Photographer Laurent de Salvon had an easy enough time picking the animals for her new series, "Natural Animalia In A Neutral Color Cube," and shooting them individually went as well as she could have hoped, getting great shots of Crocodile, Camel and Tiger.
     What she hadn't anticipated, and certainly hadn't bargained for though, was the difficulty that would consume her important shot: the group portrait. Salvon's own personal Noah's Ark.
The group portrait from Salvon's "Natural Animalia In A Neutral Color Cube," Opening Aug. 1.
     The shoot took place at The Rick Santorum Auditorium of Boredom, a place with plenty of empty rooms. "I was naive to think these different animals would get along for the sake of art," Salvon admits from her high rise two days after the incident.
     Rather than mingle in the Auditorium, the animals chose to stay shut-in in their personal rooms, until it was their turn for the shoot.
     "I really was unaware of any tension between any of the animals," she claims. "As soon as I started trying to direct them into position for the shoot, it was clear there were some underlying issues between some of them."
       Salvon was only able to snap a few shots before the tension broke and the smiles on the animals' faces turned. They shouted insults in their native dialects at each other until the clash caused a collapse among them. Featured in the shoot was Camel, Cheetah, Chicken, Crocodile, Dolphino, Eagle, Baby Elephant, Baby Gorilla, Rabbit, Seagull and Tiger. With so many divergent species it was potentially a very dangerous moment. 
     "It was Code Red," Salvon said. She shot each animal, one by one, with tranquilizer darts, which she had on hand as a last resort, to quell the rising tide of anger. "It's something I hope I never have to do again."
     Camel, who stood by out of the fray said, "I'm not gonna say who, but there were arguments. Animals weren't happy with their placement, didn't want to stand next to such and such. It was all a bunch of nonsense, really."
     Chicken, blindsided by the melee, did not survive. The rest of the animals were transported back to their respective habitats by the Department of Homeland Security.
     None of the other animals could be reached for comment.
     "Natural Animalia in a Neutral Color Cube" opens August 1 at Parallel Universe and runs through the jungles of wild imagination.


PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: Natural Animalia In A Neutral Color Cube by Laurent de Salvon.
Baby Elephant 
Baby Gorilla 
The second, and final, group photo from "Natural Animalia In A Neutral Color Cube"

May 15, 2014

REVIEW: "Black Mask Nation Presents: #BLVKOBER" by NAPALM

NAPALM work to preserve
hip-hop on debut mixtape
     Some excellent hip-hop you haven’t heard. “So underground I raise my hand and touch a coffin,” from the song “Reigny Daze.” NAPALM is an upcoming collective of MCs making music in Connecticut. Black Mask Nation Presents: #BLVKTOBER, their debut mixtape, was released last Halloween on their Bandcamp. Then, the group was Black Mask Nation, but has since split to form NAPALM.
     Whatever the name, one thing is known, #BLVKTOBER is pure hip-hop. Sonically it could be from the early 90′s, with dusty beats, instrumental scrap loops, DJ scratches. There are no tricks here. Each song thrives on a stairstep beat with MCs Guererro, DHZA, IV Saint Laurent and Rellevance getting ample time and space to spew their guts. Internally, it is of the 21st century struggle. What stuck out most over these 7 songs were the lyrics. They’re tough, clever, intelligent and ready for the spotlight. You’ll hear things and have to play the song over to get the full weight of what was said.
     The introduction song, “Welcome to #BLVKTOBER,” draws the listener into a widening tunnel of lush loops and distant pounds. The drums that drop are empowering, setting the record in motion. It begins in the reflective, darkly. “Third eye visions, can you tell us if you did it? / Fuck a throne and crown, we leavin’ niggas beheaded from the slaughter.” The track is remorseless, with hell only a break beat away, but the heavenly sounds of strings are able to break through. Each MC find themselves in a battle within and against the powers of the world we live in. Rellevance looks for answers, but finds only lies. “Caught in the grease of Hell, but I refuse to let my spirit fry,” he pronounces.
     As the album continues, the mood does lighten up. “Lordz Of The Underground” and “Global Mind Control” feature rapper Cognition and start to pull the album from cracked earth. The hazy bubble of a bass rocks through a tough forward beat on “Global Mind Control.” Cognition is dealing with the demons that swim freely in his head, hiding in piles of weed.
     Among the darkness in the record, the one holy safeguard is always marijuana. #BLVKOBER is a terrific eyes half-closed, head-nodding hip-hop album for the deep thinking pothead. The last half rides that path. “Reigny Daze” is a drift of twinkling keyboards. Keep your eyes open. This is perfect for a midday freeway drive in a hot-boxed car. “Eden 2″ jumps over a beautiful harp loop with a small buzzing flute under a whomping beat.
     By “Y.D.K.” the weedsmoke has cleared out for a full examination of each rapper’s self. Built off a loop of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” (Dinah Washington’s version, I think?), the song is jubilant with a hard-edged, skeptical look at our world of evil and contradiction. A strange nirvana is attained. NAPALM, standing for New Age Peace And Love Movement, hold a clear defense of the world’s every individual and their right to find peace, by any means necessary.
     In their new incarnation NAPALM are Guererro, DHZA and Rellevance and they're readying new music. Hear a snippet of the song “Lost Notes.”

Key Tracks: "Reigny Daze," "Welcome to #BLVKTOBER," "Eden 2," "Y.D.K."

source: http://imp

May 09, 2014

REVIEW: Liars / Jana Hunter at Le Poisson Rouge, Manhattan, NYC

Angus Andrew swallows a microphone, May 8, 2014 at Le Poisson Rouge, NYC. Photos by Eli Jace.
Liars bring rainbow napalm
to Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan
  Liars thrashed and burned in psychedelic jolts in one explosion of a set at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan this past Thursday, May 8--the first of their two shows in New York. Their performance was quick, to the point, no fussing, no fawning, and now, in retrospect, nothing but a complete blur of colored yarn. The blur is a testament to the ferocity of their onstage antics, but also, my pre-game activities.
  The opening act, Jana Hunter, gave a sparse, calming performance. She sat mid-stage, guitar in lap, with a light cascading upon her silhouette as she sang subdued and vulnerable. Hunter, of Baltimore, and pals with Devendra Banhart, has a meadow-grazing, casual, but stern, sound. She was a perfect contrast to the lambasting sonic stranglehold of Liars.
Jana Hunter.
  Time was not wasted. Liars stepped onto the stage lit in the under-shadow of two bright video screens passing back and fourth intricately laced patterns; colors colliding. The seven-foot-something singer, Angus Andrew, with the top of his head nearly brushing the ceiling, stood head-to-toe in stained white, wearing a face-mask netted together with multi-colored yarn. The same string that's been seen in jumbles and strands in the promotional artwork, and on the cover of Liars' new, seventh album, Mess
  The three-piece was scattered into corners of the stage. New drummer Butchy Fuego, also in Boredoms and Pit Er Pat, sat all the way stage-left, while Aaron Hemphill was pushed toward the back right against a video screen. Andrew filled the center of the stage with the energetic force of his flailing limbs. 
Aaron Hemphill wondering exactly where he is at the moment.
  The show began with the pummeling space odyssey "Pro Anti Anti" off the new record, then went to "Mask Maker," the eerily deranged, but drunkenly funky opening track. By that point the crowd knew they had to submit to every vibration and convulsion emanating from the speakers. There just was no choice.
  The set-list was half songs from Mess, and the other half from their previous three albums. "No. 1 Against the Rush," off WIXIW, was a highlight with its cool down-beat and Andrew mumbling his aching soliloquy over synth-waves. 
  The finality of the set ended with a ravishing, hot wax-in-yr-earholes, trio of "Mess On A Mission," "Brats," and "Plaster Casts Of Everything," off Mess, WIXIW, and Liars, respectively. It was dangerous. There was no guarantee I wouldn't end up pierced and wailing in a graveyard by night's end. They bashed through "Plaster Casts Of Everything" with Fuego adding extra vigor to each snare pound. 
  Liars are one of the most exciting bands today to inflate, derail and splice rock & roll into new provocative, unnamed, fear-enducing and challenging subcategories. May their creative fire continue to blaze.


May 02, 2014

REVIEW: "Drop" by Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees Get Surfedelic
On Return Album, Drop
     The hiatus lasted four months. Last December Thee Oh Sees leader John Dwyer announced at a show on their home turf, San Francisco, they were taking an indefinite break. Maybe Dwyer's mind scales time differently.
     On April 19 Thee Oh Sees released their eighth album, Drop on Castle Face Records. It comes almost one year exactly since their last album, Floating Coffin. The album is a tiny nugget of surf rock psychedelia, or surfedelia, with the hypnotic buzz of Dwyer's guitar leading the charge. His riffs are jagged, monotone, restrained and cut right through.
     First track, "Penetrating Eye," erupts into a twin-guitar attack of heavy fuzz sounding like a looser, non-confrontational MC5. "Encrypted Bounce" is a spiraling take on UK garage rock and surf rock riding the waves of intergalactic inertia. The song ends with little morsels of guitar riffs washing up on the shore.
     Thee Oh Sees is the culmination of Dwyer's past solo experiments, starting in 1997. Since then, it's turned into a full band, under different names, switching genres and releasing an album a year since 2004 (two in 2011). Drop is the eighth album credited to Thee Oh Sees, currently a five-piece.
     The album is gorgeously lazy, like the band woke one morning in the garage, pressed record, and thirty-one minutes later, there it was, Drop. It's rock and roll at its wooziest. The drums on "Savage Victory" tick-tock like a metronome while a growling guitar lurks in every measure. The guitar on "Camera" is so dirty when I took my headphones off mud fell out of my ears. "Transparent World" two canals of feedback flow outward to the song's final tributary. The bass pokes along and Dwyer sings from the next galaxy over.
     Dwyer's voice takes many forms. At once sounding like a whip-it addicted Ringo Starr, or the androgynous Pat, or the boy next door. On "Put Some Reverb On My Brother" he's a nasally bee zipping through the song. The ninth and final song, "The Lens," finds Dwyer gasping in verses of melancholia. "We're both alive at the same time again," he sweetly sings. A lilting cello presses gently against fluttering drum rolls for a serene finish.

Key Tracks: "Camera," "Penetrating Eye," "Encrypted Bounce," "The Lens"

source: http://imp