i see i hear

last thursday was the second set of performances as part of the video as an instrument program put together by jeremy slater at the tank. the two-week gallery exhibit and live shows turned the idea of video as sound accompaniment on its head; in this case, video signals were used as a source for sound.

several interesting video/audio loops ran on a variety of equipment downstairs. my favorite was the monitor mounted inside a giant block of wood, which invited people to hammer nails and become part of the work, echoing the visual and audio elements on the screen and speakers.

meanwhile upstairs, adam kendall and o.blaat's ambient atmospherics were mesmerizing but definitely not sleep-inducing (see above). the evening was closed out by a deliciously brain-hammering set by chiaki and david linton, which had me too enraptured and consumed with furious head-nodding to take pictures. the comparatively low-tech video software and analog/toy instruments melded with newer technology to form something that would make ant-zen and op-art fans salivate.

the title of this post comes from a song by the verve.


on a generous day

i was told that when stars like fleas was told about the trouble tonic was having, they said to just make their night a benefit night. i hope more musicians playing will do the same, because there's a lot of money to raise before they're out of the woods.

at least there was a good turnout this past friday for SLF and doveman, whom i had seen before. this time, shannon from SLF sat in on noise guitar, while the excellent banjo player (shown below) sat in on violin with SLF. both sets were good, but headliners SLF have now mastered the art of not stopping between songs, instead melting into a sea of experimental improv that actually makes sense as segues rather than sounding like filler. every show they play makes me anticipate their new CD more, as well as appreciate their last one more.

after the main show, we were all made to clear out and pay for re-entry to the event originally scheduled for the bunker at subtonic. there was apparently fear of flooding, so the show was moved upstairs. good thing it was, because it ended up being completely packed and sold out. i'm guessing this was due to the past associations the artists had with einsturzende neubauten and the orb, but i could be wrong. thomas fehlmann turned in an amazing set of music with his laptop (although he didn't do much if anything"live", in this case it was so good i didn't care). the DJs warmed up the crowd before him and got people moving and staying long after he left the stage. a long night, but totally worth it.

it looks like there'll be more good things to go to while trying to save one of the best alternative music venues in the city. this coming wednesday the interestingly named folktronica artist t. griffin coraline will be playing along with the dark alt-country/cabaret-sounding melomane. i'm sure i'll go see vincent gallo again, since i liked his show last year and i have both his albums on warp (which is a strange combination, considering what the music sounds like). but the big deal (and high-ticket) event is yoko ono and sean lennon playing together. i'm not even aware of yoko doing live music shows at all, at least not since john was alive, although she does continue to release albums and create conceptual art.

the title of this post comes from a stars like fleas song, and refers to the money i spent at tonic.


all about people like you

one of the greatest privileges employed americans enjoy is the ability to complain about their jobs and their lives. it could be a lot worse, right? we could be unemployed or even homeless. but raging against the machine has become so common as to have morphed into an inalienable right for generation x and beyond. some people have even turned this into an art form.

tristan a. farnon is one of those people. from 1999-2002 he painstakingly constructed a world called leisuretown. his stories are digitally-assembled photomontage, using background pictures of bland interiors or cityscapes.  the characters are brightly colored plastic toys, whose vacantly goofy expressions are contrasted with their hilariously caustic utterings. i learned of the site a few years ago while temping in various offices, and the peculiar type of anger, ennui, and off-the-wall, over-the-top humor was something that made perfect sense to someone enduring that experience. lest anyone think this is just some 3D-looking dilbert, i should mention that workplace humor accounts for less than 1/3 of the stories. a few are even unexpectedly serious and touching.

until today, i thought these brilliant but often lowbrow slices of life were lost, since the main page has been black for years. but a little digging turned up the "library" section, where all the episodes are archived. some of them are quite long, but worth it for the laughs. what else do you have to do at work, anyway? besides complain that is.

the title of this post comes from an episode of this comic.


motion picture soundtrack

when i found out that tonic, one of my favorite venues in nyc, was having financial troubles and benefit shows, the first thing i did was look at their calendar to see if there was anything coming up i wanted to see. one name i recognized was the winter pageant, who i've seen a few times, including new year's eve. this time was a marked improvement over their previous outings, chiefly due to a brand new bassist and drummer. i thought the latter looked familiar and i confirmed with him after the show that he was indeed the recent beatkeeper for on air library. i was a huge fan of this band's early live shows and first EP, and i was pleased they seemed to be following in the footsteps of their friends from calla and interpol in terms of recognition. however the sad news he told me is that that band is no more. and so their loss is the winter pageant's gain, with greater percussive restraint shown in order to allow the floating ethereal atmospheres more space. they also had their best visuals yet (see above), although as has often been the case live, the singer's voice got lost in the sea of instruments. those desiring to hear it more clearly can check out the clips on their website or just buy their new CD.

what really clinched my decision to go to tonic that night was what i read and heard online about the headlining band, dirty projectors. as intriguing as i found those scraps of information and sound, i wasn't prepared for what i was confronted with at the show. the backing band consisted of a double bass, two cellos, and two female vocalists. driving the songs forward was one man (shown above at a previous show), awkwardly cradling his strapless, left-handed classical guitar as he strummed disjointed jazz chords and plucked odd melodies. the songs never seemed to settle on a tempo for longer than a few bars, or rather paused frequently for breaths, melisma, and feeling the moment. his vocal delivery is from some completely internal space as well, indulging in swoops, yelps and polyphonic throat-singing. however at the heart of it, he has a really great soft tenor voice which holds it all together. it was intensely beautiful and strange at the same time. the closest musical comparison i can make is that i felt i was watching a band perform a score for an old disney animated movie such as dumbo or bambi, but in some weird alternate reality.

tonic is one of the few places in this town you can go to see and hear music like this, especially in a decent space with a good sound system. if you're in new york city, please go there this month and spend as much money as you can, or just donate through their website (they take credit cards and paypal).

the title of this post comes from the song of the same name by radiohead.


high and low

last thursday was one of those nights with almost too much going on. almost. i was excited to see long-time mutual admirer jon derosa's band aarktica open for low at bowery ballroom, so excited in fact i had bought a ticket as soon as i heard. aarktica's first album, no solace in sleep, has been a favorite ambient listening choice since i picked it up. even before that, i liked jon's prior projects dead leaves rising and the prehistoric fade. i never liked low much until i heard "(that's how you sing) amazing grace" and became an instant fan. i thought the two bands would be a great match. but i also heard that on the same night, my friend carlos (most people know him from interpol) was dj'ing a bi-weekly party which i'd been meaning to go to. so i tentatively planned to stop by the party after the show, especially after seeing the clever flyer spoof of the original poster designed by peter saville for factory.

the six-piece live version of aarktica bears little resemblance to the ambient guitar textures of my favorite album by them, but they're so good i couldn't possibly complain. what the two incarnations share in common are atmosphere and the looping textures of jon's guitar. a drummer, two horn players, a harmonium, and a second guitar player expertly built the ebbs and flows formerly achieved with multitracking. i was glad a crowd as large and appreciative as that at the bowery got to experience them. jon mentioned the new album bleeding light was a danzig reference, which amused me because i was wearing a danzig t-shirt underneath my multiple layers.

i sat out the next band's set at the downstairs bar, although annoyingly there's no escape since they pipe the soundboard mix down there too. but all was forgiven once low started. i read on central village that friday's show had problems, and the set dragged from their perspective. i was concerned about the same thing since i only really knew one album of theirs, and i can't say i love all of it. but i left the show thinking that a. alan sparhawk (pictured above at a prior show photographed by joe cunningham) is a very underrated guitarist, b. mimi parker's voice is even more beautiful than i thought, and c. i need to pick up some of their other records.

my slocore needs having been sated, i headed over to happy ending, the bar where the visions of the impending apocalypse party was happening. carlos wasn't there yet, so i decided to check my coat and go to the bathroom, since the lines for both were as frightening as they were necessary. this is not the kind of place you can just carry or throw your belongings in a corner, because it's fairly cramped even when it's not wall-to-wall people, which it was. while waiting for the bathroom, i spotted a leather-jacketed guy wearing another danzig tee. the man is ubiquitous i tell you. then i ran into my friend seze and her buddies, who made everything more fun. the music was good both upstairs and downstairs, though the upstairs was slightly better from what i recall, especially once carlos took over. he pulled out some great music that proved he knew the difference between "classic" and "overplayed", as well as a few "oh my god i haven't heard that one in years" (in a good way). i stayed a lot longer than i anticipated because it was fun, although i'm sure the two drinks on an empty stomach didn't hurt. the stylish and ubiquitous merlin bronques took pictures of people. as usual i tended to shoot more obscure images like the one above, and some that will probably end up on ocular spectra next week.

the title of this post comes from the song low by REM. though i should probably have picked something from a danzig song.


hey, aren't you richard simmons?

this store and its title stopped me in my tracks and made me laugh. that there would be a shop entirely devoted to selling spandex in all the most hideous colors and patterns probably shouldn't surprise me.

the title of this post comes from an episode of the family guy, talking about the bright spandex-clad exercise guru.


any thing done for the first time unleashes a demon

i chanced upon this east village grafitti on election day in iraq.

the title of this post comes from an issue of cerebus the aardvark, the first full issue after the title character becomes the pope, wielding more religious and political power than anyone else.