michael's white hands
last week there was another show in a great series of benefits to save tonic. this was the much-anticipated debut performance of the new incarnation of angels of light. angels is the loose ensemble built around michael gira, founder of swans.
this was also the record release party for both angels and akron/family, a band that has been bubbling under for the past year, playing lots of small shows while recording for gira's label young god records. this was one of the best shows i've seen them do. they ran the gamut from gentle acoustic minimal songs centered on ryan's soft tenor, to four-part harmonies and backwoods country singalongs, to post-rock soundscapes. one of my favorites is the song where they use static from a small tv onstage. they're great fun to watch and listen to because they're a true ensemble. my only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that they get so caught up in the joy of their amazing music-making interplay that they go on a bit too long, especially for an act opening for a prominent artist. the audience certainly got their money's worth though, especially the first 50 people entering who received promo copies of both new CDs (i was happy to be among them). you can't fault them for lack of enthusiasm or energy, since they have to play a second set as gira's backing band.
when michael gira takes the stage, it's with a presence that commands the attention of everyone in the room. this was apparent when he had to tell people they weren't actually about to play yet, they were just getting comfortable onstage. he had to set up his customary onstage beverage bar, which as near as i can tell, is cups of water, hot tea, and/or whiskey, which he alternates sips of between songs. contrary to his fearsome reputation and heavy music (especially from his former band), he's actually quite warm, friendly, and affable onstage (provided you don't piss him off). however, this pleasant and sociable side dissipates quickly as each song is wrenched from somewhere inside him. most of the new songs are comparatively sunny and poppy, in a late-60's so-cal way, but he still makes equal time for the dark stuff. particularly great was an amazing slow dark untitled and unrecorded song that had me wishing it was already 2-3 years from now so i could own it on CD. akron/family played well, reeling in their wildness respectfully for their new mentor's music. he in turn gave them respect by doing one of their songs for the angels' encore - a high compliment.
the title of this post comes from a great song on the new angels of light album.
gothamist reports that the proposed photo ban has ben suspended, partially due to public outcry. thanks to all the people who've been speaking out and attending the demonstrations. one man who flew the photoblog flag high when i couldn't was mad mod rabbit god (lurking in the gothamist picture), whose grumpymonk photoblog and evil conspiracy photography sites are full of great captured moments, some of which occur on the subway.
there's been a lot of debate back and forth on this issue, including from me. as a photographer who loves the subway as an ongoing source of rich imagery, i'd like to add that pictures like the one above (added this week to a new section on ocular spectra) would become all the more rare.
the title of this post comes from a song by underworld.
in the belly
two saturdays ago a select number of people experienced what was for me a dream lineup of local bands. other passengers, akron/family, and dirty projectors played the closing night party of the WBAR radiothon, a weeklong series of events to raise awareness and generate funds for barnard college's radio station. being against the stranglehold clear channel has on radio (among other things), i thought this a great opportunity to support independent college radio and see some great bands at the same time. it was worth braving the screwed up train service that weekend, even to travel up north to the thin air of columbia university.
other passengers (above) played with more than their typical wild abandon, probably due to the fact that there were no monitors for anyone to hear themselves, particularly the singer, bill. even i could barely hear him and i was in front of the speakers and 4 feet away from him. he sweated and shook with genuine neurotic energy, while the band just attacked everything, and it worked.
akron/family played a relatively truncated set (for them), but clearly impressed a lot of the crowd previously unfamiliar with them. among these were dirty projectors' dave longstreth, who thanked them for playing and declared them his "new favorite band". this band also benefits from being squeezed into a small, uncomfortable space. they fairly exploded out of the corner of the room, probably on this night in anticipation of their album release the following week.
dirty projectors also have a new album coming out soon. at the last show i saw, i likened the music to alternate reality versions of old disney scores. when i picked up the album slaves' graves and ballads, that assessment was made beautiful reality by orchestral arrangements in the first half. this time around it was more the "ballads"-sounding half, since the group were down by two string players. their voices projected above the inadequate sound system and evoked a lushness of their own that proved the soul is in the heart of the songs and performances and not dependent on instrumentation.
and all this for only $5! since it was a benefit and full of excellent musicians, they could have charged $10 and i'd still have been happy.
the title of this post comes from a song on the other passengers CDEP, which is also appropriate for the hot dank basement the show took place in.
i'm mad and that's a fact
that one of the most extreme noise musicians of all time, japanese artist masami akita, aka merzbow, is protesting against kentucky fried chicken is just a wonderfully unexpected thing. those who are even aware of the extreme noise underground often perceive its creators as uniformly fascist, humorless, mean-spirited people with no cares for anyone but themselves. you wouldn't think someone who makes such harsh, angry, violent-sounding music would care about the treatment of animals, or the health of humans eating them.
it's great when people turn out to be something other than the obvious.
the title of this post comes from the song animals by talking heads.
i was greeted with a familiar symbol when i opened up my new bluetooth wireless mouse yesterday. right away i recognized the bluetooth logo as a variation on the berkano rune, the ancient nordic symbol equivalent with the letter b. even the added parts of the logo appeared to be a bindrune with the gebo rune.
berkano stands for birth, general fertility, both mental and physical and personal growth, liberation, regenerative power and light of spring, renewal, promise of new beginnings, new growth, arousal of desire, a love affair or new birth. gebo is associated with gifts and good fortune.
i guess i'm pretty glad to have gotten this right now.
the title of this post comes from an early song by depeche mode.
return of the dragon
sooner or later, a lot of kids end up getting into death metal. fortunately for me, i had a friend who was already into the best death metal band ever, morbid angel. when i was finally ready to try some, i picked up their then-new album domination on the strength of a few interludes that made me think of
dead can dance.
at first i thought the ultra-satanic imagery was pretty silly, and the music way too detailed and over-the-top at the same time. but it quickly sank in and i was hooked. this is the heaviest, loudest, and most musical band of its kind. others may have more of one of their elements, but no one does it all at the same time anywhere near as well as they do. i did get to see them play live, but this was already the beginning of the end of an era, since vocalist/bassist david vincent left shortly thereafter. vincent is the best vocalist of any genre that primarily uses screaming as its signature style. not only does he sound utterly brutal, you can actually understand almost every word, a rare feat in a world of cookie monster soundalikes. i saw them again on the tour for their next album with new member steve tucker, but although it was good, it wasn't the same. my interest in both them and death metal waned, although i kept their early albums.
then recently i saw they were playing here in nyc, with vincent back in the band. unfortunately, i forgot about it until it was too late and missed the show. decibel magazine has an article about the reunion.
the title of this post comes from a bruce lee movie.
the action packed mentallist brings you the fucking jams
last friday i was hesitant to go down to rothko for a few reasons. first, i had something to do earlier in the evening. second, the cover charge was a bit pricey for a small club, especially considering the third reason, which is that i didn't know who anyone playing was, except for the headliner. fourth, even though i liked said headliner's CDs, would i be bored by yet another laptop-driven show?
fortunately curiosity and a need to blow off some steam won out. although i wasn't completely thrilled with the opening act, their "live drum'n'bass" was technically impressive and warmed people up a bit. i enjoyed the dj set by tommie sunshine, who apparently wears his sunglasses both at night and inside, one-upping corey hart. throughout the night the visuals by phoenix perry & c-trl were excellently done, psychedelic glitch stuff.
but the real reason i was there is what really made it worthwhile. kid606 promised an "acid house" set, but i can't say it conformed to that exactly. i guess my idea of that style is lords of acid's first album, which i love. regardless, it was amazing. he assaulted the crowd with beats and glitches, speeding up and slowing down at will. at one point he even took requests, and obliged those of us who yelled out for his track "ecstasy motherfucker". when normal artists would have stopped, he just kept going, changing things up and making our brains explode and our bodies move. then after we were totally worn out, sunshine spun a second set even better than the first, keeping us there until nearly closing, refueling with water to dance even after we were too tired and our sides hurt.
the title of this post comes from a totally insane underground album by kid606.