We get so many signs and clues that inaugurate the start of something. When we see certain commercials we know fall is upon us and when we start to see the leaves grow we know spring is here. For the Hip Hop community when the 1st Sunday in June rolls around we know Summer is right around the corner, cause Hot 97’s Summer Jam concert says so!! [Read more…] about Summer Jam Is The Biggest Concert Of The Year
It’s a new year and yes we know new beginnings right, therefore it would make sense for us to inform everyone that January is Yoga Month. I could not imagine a better way to establish the new year than revitalizing your soul by practicing the many yoga stances that seem impossible. The art of yoga utilizes techniques to control the body and mind which allows a person to become more disciplined and focused when accomplishing a goal. [Read more…] about Celebrate Yoga Month in Budapest with Aria Hotel
It is hard to find anything in the music industry, as of late, with any type of substance or real talent behind it outside of the sugar gum pop that is dominating the airwaves today. It takes a special artist to really get our attention in the best way possible, that possesses the voice, looks, and overall charisma to really put themselves in the forefront of our minds and making us hit repeat over and over again on that one or two particular songs we love of them. That can be said about the incredibly talented and one of the bright new stars of this generation, Miesa. [Read more…] about One on One with Red Hot Recording Artist Miesa
One of our favorite bands in New York, Montgomery Streets, have had quite the busy couple of months. In late November, they did an epic performance at The Cobra Club in Bushwick to a rumbling audience, and also premiered their brand new song “Dapper Man”, a follow up to “Brooklyn Burning” which was released in July. Well, Montgomery Streets have now added the illusive video to their impressive resume by releasing one for “Dapper Man” which has already received thousands of views online.
[Read more…] about Montgomery Street’s Drops Amazing “Dapper Man” Video
If there is one thing New York City is known for, it is its endless amount of fantastic types of music scenes that one person can indulge in. In recent years, something that continues to be on the rise here in NYC is the EDM scene, as that particular type of music gels well with a huge audience, both on and off the Billboard charts. So it comes as no surprise that a huge live music event that is happening next week has a great EDM background with some fantastic performers to go along with. This event is called Maxximize, and it is happening at the world famous Hammerstein Ballroom next Saturday, February the 13th.
[Read more…] about Maxximize Takes Over Hammerstein Ballroom on February 13th
Similar Artists: Eluvium, William Basinski, Steve Roach, Brian Eno
Genre: Isolation, Solitude, Anesthetics
Label: Editions Mego
90% of the time that I’m listening to ambient music, or new age, or any kind of soothing instrumental music for that matter, I’m unconscious — lost in some empty space where only faint remnants of the music can actually reach me. It’s those faint glimmers of warmth that provide a cushion for my dream world though, and they form a rather heavenly landscape for my mind to sanctify in. It’s a means of therapy above all else, as it keeps me in a state of floatation during the nights, and away from any unrelenting demon lurking in my mind who’s seeking for a way in during my weakened state. But as much as this music does provide a sort of safe haven for my mind and is greatly therapeutic, it simultaneously keeps me away from the reality of things, each lulling wave and static frequency pushes me down beneath the surface and into a realm of nothingness. It’s a predicament that I’ve become torn by: do I let myself become haunted by painful memories, or do I live in a fantasy world that eventually leads nowhere? If only I could relieve myself of this ancient fear I possess — one of the afterlife, of death, of suffering — then maybe my mind wouldn’t be such an awful place to succumb to.
Fennesz is an artist who I’ve been living with — both consciously and unconsciously — for quite some time. Endless Summer, his 2001 breakthrough and certifiable electronic classic, ushered me into a new phase of music appreciation. Where it was not uncommon for abstract electronic artists from the time to conjoin disparate genres (in this case, sunshiny, heavily processed guitar and sharp, layered noise), Fennesz was able to make each genre melt into the other, and not in a shoegaze type of way (although that is a noticeable influence as well), but in a way where sounds which would be described as harsh and ugly in isolation actually emanated a resounding calm, and made you re-think the meaning of the word “beautiful”.
Bécs is the apparent sequel to Endless Summer, and since it’s the artist’s first solo long player since 2008’s shade or two darker Black Sea, it’s quite the reason for excitement from an ambient aficionado like myself… Or maybe it’s not, because there has been no real shortage of Fennesz-like music in the past 6 years anyway. Matthew Cooper, whose Eluvium alias gained comparison to Fennesz, and was even hailed as “the American Fennesz” at the start of his career, has released a plentiful amount of serene and intricate soundscapes in that timeframe (including last year’s excellent double album Nightmare Ending); not to mention Christian Fennesz himself has released multiple collaborative albums (often more than one per year), so its hard to say he has truly been missed. Also, it’s not as if the appeal/novelty of his earlier works has worn dry, as I still revisit the likes of Endless Summer frequently, so calling this a sequel which draws from the same sound palette doesn’t do much to further any excitement. Or maybe my slight hesitation in approaching this record stems from being afraid of what extensive listening to this music will continue to do to me, or rather, what it will prevent me from doing in the long term. Do I really need to hide away from the surface anymore? Haven’t I hidden from my anxieties for long enough?
The first thing one notices when listening to Fennesz is how beautiful and intricate and detailed the sounds are, and how they form a mystical, yet never contrived or predictable world. After that feeling has worn off, however, they notice that the feeling it prescribes is truly one of emptiness. This is a strange word for me to use, as Fennesz is an artist I am continually intrigued and fascinated by, but it is not emptiness by way of loneliness that I intend to speak of, but instead emptiness by way of numbingness, and a lack of awareness for the outside world. It is music to initiate the drifting mind; a solitary stoner’s paradise that thrives on antisocial behavior and eventually, a loss of love.
It’s worth mentioning that Bécs does all of this gorgeously, even if it is exactly what one would have expected it to be. Through the 40 or so minute runtime our ears are treated to heavenly guitar strums shrouded in elegant cinematic hues, bright tones and crumbling static that slowly massages the listener into a state of empty bliss. And the thing is, each track does do this in a wholly different way, quite expertly in fact. There is no simple trick at play here, and it’s one of the reasons repeated listens don’t do much to reveal the fogginess of these compositions. Fennesz can use sounds that in isolation are eerie, mournful, perplexing, or even terrifying, but when lumped together they transform into a collage of carefully treated beauty that is as grand to listen to as it is hopeless to live by.
I don’t know exactly what I’m getting at with this review, and it’s because I’m at the crossroads in terms of my musical identity. This is my first review in over 4 months, and while part of my absence has been because I’ve been terribly busy with both work and school, and another has been because of a little something called Dark Souls 2, mostly, it’s because looking at art objectively is not something I feel is possible for me anymore, as my opinion and its meaning changes from day-to-day, listen-to-listen. This means that I didn’t have the chance to write reviews on some of this year’s most notable releases, of which there have been many — including The Body, tUnE-yArDs, Wild Beasts, and The War On Drugs to name a few — but that’s ok, because I’m not sure how I feel about any of them anyway. I’ve expressed this concern before, but I’m now more than ever in speculation about the point of a critic in today’s flooded musical landscape where countless music is released daily that will seldom he heard by but a few ears. What I do know, is that music is not something that can be experienced in isolation from the rest of the world. Contrary to my previous beliefs, music — no matter how original or well-written or well-produced — cannot last without contexts (friends, families, locations, real-world scenarios) and for that reason, it unfortunately cannot be solely listened to on headphones to and from your way to work. It is an element that must be consumed fully and discussed in detail with a range of real life people at concerts, festivals, and bars — not just through nameless online entities. Like myself, music is also in a bit of an existential crisis, trying desperately to adapt to its new set of criteria without outwardly admitting to it. It will survive, undoubtedly, but for now we’re both lost in a sea of information, trying to claw ourselves out and numb the pain with anesthetics all at the same time.
1.) Static Kings*
2.) The Liar
4.) Pallas Athene
Album Highlight: *
Xiu Xiu: Angel Guts: Red Classroom
Similar Artists: Suicide, Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, Einstürzende Neubauten
Genre: Post-Punk, Industrial, Synth Pop
If you hadn’t noticed upon clicking this page, I’ve changed the name of my posts from “Album Review” to “Album Reflection”, and in case you’re wondering, the reason is because I don’t believe I’ve written what one would call a “review” in quite some time. I haven’t really even been talking much about music in general (at least in its concrete form). Upon this realization, I’ve decided this space is from now on going to be dedicated towards my personal experience with a piece of music. Questions such as “what is the color of this music” and “what does the music look like” are ones I will be looking to address. Still, it will all be taken from my personal perception of the music at hand, as well as the social and cultural environment I happen to hear it in. My goal is to see what intensive listening sessions to particular brands of music will inspire me to write, and interpret whether anything artful comes out of the other end.
This movement has spurred from my inability to explain why music sounds the way it does, or even what it sounds like in the first place. I want to learn how to paint the picture of my experience with an album as vividly as possible; and seeing how everyone hears music in different ways, I believe this is a step in the right direction. I will warn you that there may be some pretentiousness here, so if you’re not into that kind of thing then I suggest you spend your time elsewhere. While under some circumstances I may go back on my word to write an honest to god “album review”, pretty much, you’ll just see a mix of short stories, personal anecdotes, and narrative driven imagery from me from now on. Thanks to anyone who’s followed my writing up to this point.
A Confession/ A Love Letter:
Xiu Xiu were the band that saved my life, or rather, they were the one that brought me into my truest form. There were acts that preceded them and acts that followed them that all lie somewhere in the ranks of my personal importance, but right now, Xiu Xiu — along with Antony & the Johnsons — lie pretty high up on that list, and I’m not sure where I would be today without them.
Before 2008 — the year I graduated high school — I would say I was (and still am to some degree) an abnormally quiet person. Of course, this was because I was a closeted homosexual; something I would find out was also true about many of my similarly quiet peers years down the road. I remember freshman and sophomore year, walking the halls beneath a veil, screeching alarms firing off in my head to tell me what I should and should not do to assure I would blend inconspicuously into the environment. I was terrified of humiliation, afraid it would rip me apart limb from limb and throw me into exile, causing me to lose the few close friends I had. Like many other struggling gay teens, I first thought it would be a certain substance that would relieve me from my internal pressures, which led me to experimenting with an assortment of uppers, downers and hallucinogens. This process went on for years until I realized the escape it provided wasn’t for me. In fact, It wasn’t until college when I discovered Xiu Xiu — a band who embraced a startlingly bleak and confrontational blend of confessional singer-songwriter and manic post-punk — when I started to realize that maybe it was okay to be as fucked up as I was.
And that’s the thing; as much as mine was a generation more accepting of gays in many ways, I still felt I couldn’t fit into any of the archetypes society had carved out for me. I doubted that any sane person could find my personality to be commendable no matter how tolerant they were, because no matter how hard they seem to be trying, the media still isn’t doing a very good job of showing how tortured the soul of a gay person is. It’s why such a large percentage of gays hate gay themed television shows (Looking) and why almost all of them hate Macklemore. With Xiu Xiu by my side though, it seemed okay, and at times even cool, to have an ugly and disturbing side that I had yet to unleash. The more I thought about it, maybe it was okay to be lustful over one of your closest male friends and think about them erotically every night before falling asleep. Maybe it was okay to want something so bad you were willing to bleed for it. Maybe it was okay to have gender dysmorphia issues, and to have twisted thoughts pop into your head, and to fantasize about who would be at your own funeral. Most of all, maybe it was okay to hate yourself, and to hate everyone around you, including your own family.
I’m dramatizing a bit, to be fair, but in essence it’s all true. Xiu Xiu were a group that took the self loathing elements I always loved from acts like Radiohead and took it to a visceral and painfully honest extreme, somehow helping me realize that maybe being myself wasn’t so bad after all. When many people talk about Xiu Xiu, they talk about how comical certain songs of theirs are; the song “Fabulous Muscles” being the clearest example. When it comes down to it though, I don’t think I’ve ever related to a song as much as I have to that one, as it perfectly encapsulates our tendencies to worship guys we know will never love us back. Jamie Stewart is a lyricist who is capable of so much, and although his words are initially penetrable for their inherent shockingness, repeated listens reveal deep insights, even for non-homosexual listeners.
While it didn’t hit me all at once like that explanation may have seemed, I do attribute the group to have provided me with one big push towards helping me be okay with the outcasted individual I was, and eventually, one that would be proud of it. In celebration of their new album, this is my dedication and love letter towards a group that I consider, quite inarguably, to be groundbreaking. No matter how many more albums Xiu Xiu ends up releasing, I will always listen to them, because as far as I’m concerned, they own my soul.
1.) Angel Guts:
2.) Archie’s Fades
3.) Stupid In The Dark*
4.) Lawrence Liquors
5.) Black Dick*
6.) New Life Immigration
7.) El Naco*
8.) Adult Friends*
9.) The Silver Platter
10.) Bitter Melon
11.) A Knife In The Sun
12.) Cinthya’s Unisex*
13.) Botanica de Los Angeles
14.) : Red Classroom
Album Highlight – *
Similar Artists: Zomby, Lee Gamble, Lukid
Label: Ninja Tune
It is now Tuesday, January 21st, 2013, the time is 4:25 PM, approximately 10 and 3/4 days since my initial voyage through Actress’ newest labyrinthine maze. While it’s no surprise that Ghettoville — Darren Cunningham’s 4th and apparently final album under the Actress moniker — is a strange and often confounding listen (considering the artist pretty much singlehandedly ushered in a new era of abstract techno) I admit that I underestimated the extent of his powers, and now, it seems I have befallen to them.
After incessantly listening to these 16 tracks repeatedly for 20+ hours, this marks the spot where I will begin my
third fourth attempt to write this review. At this point in time, I am unsure if I will ever succeed in accurately conveying the themes of this cerebral minefield, and if this entrapping well I find myself in now continues to grow darker, I fear I will never be resolved of my duties as a music critic. Despite the increasing toll this experience has had on my well being, I must continue to stand by my duties, as mine is a profession relied on by many to provide satisfaction. However, if by some chain of events I am lead to deem my mission as being impossible, I hereby claim to hand over my prided music-reviewing degree and cast myself into exile. Thankfully, that day where I give up will never come, as I have taken an oath to continue to dissect this bold and insurmountable work until I can see it with eyes unclouded.
To prove my seriousness, I shall allow no other album — no matter how highly anticipated and readily available — to meet my ears until I have conquered this one. No dark crevice or subtle texture housed between the walls of this release shall pass by me without being factored into the towering equation. No lesser track shall be left out of the larger picture to allow for a quicker analysis, and most importantly, I shall blame myself and only myself for believing a track could be any less than absolute perfection.
There is no denying the brilliance of Darren Cunningham — I have moved past all thoughts of those kinds at this point in my journey, as I now know those thoughts are only a representation of the inherent mediocrity within myself. The only thing I must use now is patience, for it is the sole device necessary in unfolding the true meaning of this masterwork. Or maybe, just maybe, I will never be able to understand the whole of Ghettoville. Maybe the answer is that I’m just not smart enough to. This conclusion is something that in the long run I am not against saying, as a brain can only handle so much brilliance without overloading and crashing within itself. Sometimes, when I get caught up in thinking about it, I even fear the truth may be that I’ve never actually understood and properly enjoyed a single Actress track to date.
This self pity doesn’t even matter anymore though. It doesn’t matter whether I will or will not ever grasp the underlying themes of this record, as this infatuation of mine is about something bigger than proving myself to the music world. I could care less about how many more hours I will undoubtedly spend waiting for a grand realization or epiphany to form in my mind, because there is simply nothing about my existence that bears any more of an importance anymore. I am addicted, yes, a slave even, though not from any discernible enjoyment that I get from the act of continuously listening, but from the unrelenting curiosity that haunts my mind during the moments when I’m not. There is a feeling of some true underlying importance buried within this record, and one I refuse to dismiss as a production trick. This is a feeling that has been harvesting within Actress’ catalogue ever since he debuted with Hazyville in 2008, but now the feeling has become unavoidable and cemented within the productions. There’s nothing else to do now but wait and listen, and I gladly will until I find out exactly what it is that makes this music so spellbinding, for when that epiphany finally does arrive, I’ll know I’d have spent my life well.
2.) Street Corp
Album Highlight – *
Steve Moore: Pangaea Ultima
Similar Artists: Zombi, Bookworms, Lovelock
Genre: Synths n’ Stuff
Label: Spectrum Spools
I originally intended for this review to be for L.I.E.S.’ Music For Shut Ins, as the compilation has been my revolving soundtrack for the better part of the last month. If you’re not cool enough to already know, just as American Noise was last year, Music For Shut Ins is an impeccably solid grouping of new and previously released tracks from the New York umbrella label that represents some of the most exciting experimental electronic music around. So it’s too bad that I eventually found the release to be too overwhelming to write a proper review on. Luckily, Steve Moore (an artist who released multiple 12 inches for the label), has just released his newest and arguably highest profile release to date, and with it consisting of 9 similarly produced tracks, it happens to be a much easier statement to digest.
Pangaea Ultima is Steve Moore’s first release on Spectrum Spools: a label curated by ex-Emeralds member John Elliott that has harnessed an ever-increasing array of talent ever since its inception in 2011. In addition to Moore’s plentiful amount of solo material, he has recorded as a member of Zombi, the bass guitarist for prog-rock outfit Titan, and has offered his multi-instrumentalist talents to groups such as Panthers and SunnO))). He’s also written his own film scores (mostly for low-budget horror films), proving he’s not only a skilled multi-instrumentalist, but a skilled composer as well. Thankfully, this prolificness isn’t a detractor from the quality of his work, as Pangaea Ultima emerges as only the most recent of this artist’s dense and masterfully coordinated projects. However, there is something about Pangaea that feels more assured and fully realized in comparison to many of the artist’s earlier solo ventures, and hopefully this means it will be the release to garner him the larger audience that he deserves.
The album itself happens to be a soundtrack to the theorized super-continent destined to re-emerge on Earth within the next 200 million years or so, and with track titles like “Planetwalk” and “WorldBuilding”, it’s no secret that this is representative of Moore at his most colossal. The tone here is dark, and admittedly, this tone changes only very slightly throughout the hour long running time. Despite the limited emotional and instrumental range though, the album unfolds masterfully — as you might expect from someone with the resume of a film composer. Furthermore, despite Moore’s electronic and even post-punkian upbringing, he pretty much strays away from anything that could be deemed danceable, and several tracks are even entirely beat-less.
While Pangaea Ultima is not entirely without a chugging pulse (“Planetwalk” and the title track are borderline techno), Moore is much more concerned with concocting a stable mood and ominous intrigue. This direction is not to be confused with ambient music though, as Pangaea Ultima is a work that is as engrossing to listen to in the foreground as it is to lay dormant in the background (I’ve also found that it makes for some killer tetris battle music). Similarly, although many tracks appear to be in the vein of minimalism (“Deep Time”, “Logotones”), they all eventually emerge as dense and extraordinarily epic; at the most intense moments it’s as if we can feel the weight of the continents shifting beneath our feet.
There are a lot of keyboards present at any given moment — all of them arpegiatting and oscillating onward into some infinite void — yet the pieces themselves are uncluttered and organically rich; of which I give credit to the superb mastering of Rashad Becker. The recordings of Krautrock pioneers Tangerine Dream are an easy comparison to Pangaea Ultima, and truth be told, similarly designed compositions have been available as early as the 60’s. More recently, we’ve had Oneohtrix Point Never, who thoroughly documented how gripping solo synth pieces can be with his extensive and career making Rifts compilation. However, while what Steve Moore is doing here may not be unique or even immediately ear catching, it’s far from artless, and shouldn’t be taken as a mere throwback LP. Within a scene of synthesizer fetishists who — with the more readily available recording technology of today — are capable of making monstrous sounding synth music on the fly, what makes Pangaea stand out is that it clearly isn’t the sound of some virtuosic talent recording a day’s worth of work, but a unified and wholly satisfying piece that’s filled with as much blood, organs and bodily fluids as the organism that made it.
1.) Endless Caverns
3.) Deep Time
5.) Pangaea Ultima*
8.) Endless Mountains
Album Highlight – *
The trailer for the new Coen brothers movie was a surprisingly dry tease. With stilted, almost Mumblecore dialog in desaturated imagery over Bob Dylan’s folk chords, the trailer sold the movie as any other 20-something inspired indie flick. To frustrate the viewer further, it cuts to black before the audience even hears Llewyn’s first acoustic strum. Upon unwrapping, however, Inside Llewyn Davis proves to be a box stuffed full of the Coen brothers’ best working habits, complete with amusingly dysfunctional failures of characters, dialog that variously nips and bites, and for what it’s worth, the best folk soundtrack for a movie seen since… well, the Coen brothers’ other folk-inspired Odyssey, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Oscar Isaac takes up the role of a couch-surfing New York folk singer in 1961, who is also a physical amalgamation of early Bob Dylan and his colleague Dave Van Ronk (the latter comparison is revealed explicitly by the cover of Llewyn’s new solo album Inside Llewyn Davis, which remakes the cover of real life album Inside by Dave Van Ronk). The movie begins in media res with an answer to the cutaway of the trailer, by settling right in to a concert at The Gaslight in Greenwich Village (again, Van Ronk’s old haunting grounds). After a pleasant introductory song you get used to the smoky enchantment of the place, rendered by new(ish) Coen brother collaborator Bruno Delbonnel (Roger Deakins was busy shooting Skyfall, so the brothers hired the director of photography from their Paris, je t’aime short). Once the piece is over, however, events quickly turn brutal, as Llewyn apologizes for hitherto unknown drunken actions of the night before to his barkeep friend, and then gets kicked and beaten outside the bar.
It turns out that the beginning is a bookend device and the background to these events are strung out from there. Llewyn Davis is feckless at best: sleeping in an unending circle of his friends’ couches, dropping his equipment off hither tither, and trying to run away from either some crushing responsibility or inner demons, it only becomes clear later which. He’s the existential and dramatic counterpoint to a slapstick hero, his thoughts always one step behind his own actions, resulting in a cascade of negative consequences.
Within the first couple of scenes he loses his upscale professor friend’s cat and is chewed out by Jean (Carey Mulligan), girlfriend of Jim (Justin Timberlake) for possibly getting her pregnant. Situations never really settle from there. As Llewyn Davis traverses the lonely New York City landscape, staving off fatigue and rolling over his debt against time into higher interest rates, we get further insight into the nature of his base circumstances. It turns out that he’s being left behind as Jean’s and Jim’s careers start to blossom, the folk scene starts to crystallize, and Llewyn has to make a decision between finding work and dedicating himself to his art. Thus the odyssey starts, as Llewyn seeks a way to get cash from his agent, the cat back to the Gorfeins, and the attention of record executive Bud Grossman, not to mention come to terms with his defiantly hidden feelings for Jean. This journey will bounce him up and down Manhattan’s west sides and between New York and Chicago, while running him into a variety of Coenish characters such as John Goodman’s appearance as a batty and overweight jazz musician.
As a central character, Llewyn can sometimes be difficult to stomach. With an abrasive personality, caustic attitude, and a constantly burning frustration, he’s every deadbeat mooch you’ve ever been friends with, except slightly more parasitic. Nevertheless the Coens actually manage to not only provoke sympathy, but actually all out empathy for his character. For all his screw-ups he doesn’t have much of a choice, and ultimately his inner motivations come down to things and people he’s lost well before the movie started. The trip he takes doesn’t operate quite like a Hero’s Journey, but rather is the medium through which we gain insight into his past. Thus the movie elegantly lives up to its name.
Whether audiences will muster it will be a different question. Inside Llewyn Davis is inverse O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Where the latter is colorful and fun the former is drab and so dry it crackles. Where the O Brother sold its soundtrack, the soundtrack sells Llewyn Davis. And rather than adapting The Odyssey with folk music, Llewyn Davis structures folk music history around an odyssey. The result is the exact type of movie that excites critics but depresses audiences.