Monthly Archives: April 2009

New Music: Death Knelly – “Ruff Demoz”

We are a part of a rhythm nation.”

It’s no great secret that lo-fi is becoming at the end of the decade what dance-punk revivalism was in the early 00’s: it’s ubiquitous, inescapable, and a seemingly free ride to the hyperbole-studded avenues of critical fawnery. No Age’s 2008 snooze parade Nouns, in particular, demonstrated how easily substance can take a backseat to style and still manage to hold the feelers of the blogosphere in an irrepressible  vice grip.

That being said, Ruff Demoz — the first collection proper from SiA-approved, one-man powerhouse Death Knelly — is not that kind of record. On one level, these songs are the “rough demos” they claim to be; still, there’s a sort of rag-tag cohesiveness here that keeps the tracks from feeling less like a haphazard throw-some-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks effort, and more like a collection that — while it may not favor the sort of narrative strategy of A leading to B, then B to C and so on — is irrevocably indebted to the tightly focused vision of its maker.

Considering the tongue-in-cheek didacticism of “White Tigers,” or the lyrical intimacy of “Ladies of the Lake,” Ruff Demoz is a refreshing example of an artist doing something for his medium, rather than following the example of the slew of bratty lo-fi bloghounds whose recording quality is their only discernible claim to relevance. More than charm, which this collection has in strides, it’s got soul.

DK’s Chase Jackson has an impressive knack for mutedly discussing big-top human complications in a surprisingly small amount of room: from the trifecta of love, lust and sexuality  (“Child O’ God”) to the power of narrative and storytelling (“Don’t Shoot Out the Lights”), Ruff Demoz does more than display a remarkably effecient economy of language — it reminds us why we listen to music in the first place.

[Download the album here.]

[Read Silence in Architecture’s interview with Chase Jackson.]

Jezy

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DVD Pick: “Old Joy” (2006)

Since Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (Will Oldham) has a great new album out (Beware) and is on the current cover of my favorite music magazine (Wire), I decided to finally get around to watching this movie.  Well, plus there is that whole beef with Wes Anderson*.  Old Joy is a simple meditation on growing up and growing apart that I guarantee will make you book a camping trip as soon as possible.

*And he does have a point.  I agree that American cinema has a tendency to use pop music as a crutch that the great European directors don’t seem as likely to rely upon.  That’s a different post though.

Chris

Concert Photos: Montu and Rad Shades

In this age of diminishing print media sales, blogging has snowballed into an ever increasing alternate source of information.  It kind of horrifies me to think that people look to blogs for, like, real journalism.  If you want further proof that bloggers just don’t quite cut it as fully legit journalists, consider this: I had every intention of documenting last Friday’s Montu/Rad Shades/Digital Beatdown show in a semi-professional manner.  However, when it became clear that I wouldn’t be required to drive that night, all hope of sobriety (and good photography…and totally coherent thinking) gave way to gin & Sprite.  And goofy dance movez.

Digital Beatdown got things off to a good start, from what I saw, but I have to admit that I was preoccupied with getting my order taken at the bar.  And my other order.   Bartenders rarely recognize my beauty and always seem to take orders from girls in short skirts first.  Whatever.

Montu actually played two sets, broken up by an intermission patrolled by Rad Shade’s beat dropping.  Brother’s is not a huge venue, but every spare inch of space was filled with sweaty, grooving collegiate body parts.  Montu’s dexterous, intricate instrumental fusion seemed even more on-point than the last time I saw them.  My friend Colby Cowart happens to be their drummer, so maybe I’m not completely without bias, but this is a group well deserving of bigger and better things in the near future.  They already appear to have quite a local following, and for very legit reasons.

Rad Shades is the DJing duo Miles Compton and Will Krause, two other friends of mine.  Before the show they warned me that they had thrown the night’s mix together about an hour prior, but to my ears (and my shaking drunk ass), it was a tightly performed set.  The crowd was completely won over by their charismatic presence and solid mixing abilities.  Even when Will’s laptop crashed to the floor with an Apple-smashing thud, momentum was quickly regained (and said computer seemed to recover from the tumble).

Fortunately, our friend (and expert artist/photographer) Zay Shaeffer was there to pick up the visual slack, capturing some dope shots for you cats.

Rad Shades (By Zay):

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Rad Shades (By Chris):

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Montu (By Zay):

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Montu (By Chris):

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Chris

Live Review: My Bloody Valentine

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I have been dreading writing anything about last week’s My Bloody Valentine concert, not because it was anything less than awe inspiring, but because I don’t have the verbal aptitude to do the experience any kind of justice.  What I’m about to say will come off as cosmic hyperbole to those not in attendance and bland understatement to those who were.

Loveless, as it was to thousands of others, was a touchstone in the development of my musical tastes.  Like The Velvet Underground & Nico, Daydream Nation, and Wowee Zowee, it was an album that completely shifted the way I heard music as a kid.  Having the opportunity to see MBV live was not something I ever considered to be within the realm of possibility.  Kevin Shields seemed like a man way too far lost in personal mythos and perfectionism to ever pick up where he left off with this band.  So when it was announced that MBV would be playing a handful of dates in the U.S., including Dallas, I was ecstatic.

While waiting for the show to start, a guy walked over to us and, with a look of clear anxiety, asked just how loud this thing was going to get.  We couldn’t tell him for sure, but any time the venue’s staff hands out complementary ear plugs at the door, it’s safe to assume you aren’t at a John Tesh concert.  The entire day I had a mixed feeling of genuine terror and fantastical elation.

To be completely honest, I was disappointed when I heard that there were going to be opening acts.  MBV are simply too monolithic to give anyone else a fair shot of not sucking by comparison.  Josh Pearson, formerly of Denton’s Lift to Experience, did a decent job, despite his obvious nervousness.  However, the choice to play a MBV cover was a bit of a head-scratcher.

In the spirit of charity, and since I like his band The Lilys, I’ll keep my thoughts about Kurt Heasely’s set to myself.

Anticipation was ratcheted to an unbelievable level as we waited (and waited) for MBV to take the stage.  The Velvet Underground’s narcotic “Ocean” evaporated into the onstage fog and would’ve been the perfect overture for MBV’s entrance, but instead we were forced to wait a few minutes longer.

As per their reputation, the group’s stage presence was entirely swallowed by their massive sound and eyes-on-the-floor mystique, being the very definition of anti-charismatic.  MBV have never been showmen/women; they are rock’s equivalent to the obelisk in 2001: A Space Odysey.

The sound at the beginning of the show was certainly rumbling, but as someone who has had his hearing damaged by Sonic Youth, it wasn’t quite to the notorious jet engine levels.  However, the decibel range slowly crept up throughout the night, and wearing ear plugs made it easier to distinguish the intricate melodies being frequency fucked onstage.  I was almost lulled into believing the infamous “Holocaust” section would be manageable.  Almost.

The Palladium is notorious for being one of the least sound-friendly large venues in Dallas, but the reportedly doubled P.A. system seemed to work magnificently.  For a band with such a brief but consistently brilliant discography (ok, maybe minus a few really early tracks), there were sure to be a couple songs sadly missing from the setlist, but the territory traversed was impeccable.  There were a few murmured complaints about the submerged vocals, but vocals are not the primary ingredient in this sonic stew, so I had no problem with that.  I was utterly awestruck by Colm Ó Cíosóig’s drum pummeling.  I was even more blown away to experience elements of the songs that are imperceptible when listening on a home system.  The sheer volume brought forth countless additional tonal layers. The hypnotic “Soon” could have spiraled into the abyss for an extra twenty minutes and I still would’ve been in a euphoric trance.

All of this lead up to “You Made Me Realize”, the climax for which we had been preparing ourselves.  I began to brace myself for the aural ambush around the corner.  All of the sudden I was hit with an indescribable wave of very real and very physical sound; we were in the belly of the beast.  This is where all words will fail to describe the truly surreal experience of the next fifteen minutes.  All sense of time simply evaporated as the crowd was thrust into an intensely hallucinogenic state of consciousness.  I traveled through all manner of feelings, beginning with a dopamine rush that eventually ceded to an almost oppressive fear that my body would simply be crushed by the force of the sounds enveloping us.  Then I think the entire crowd simply gave themselves over to catatonic bliss.  When the coda came crashing back in, it felt as if my body was lifted into the air, the same way your arms float skyward after pressing against a door frame for a few minutes.  After the song ended the entire crowd stood dumbstruck before any attempt was made to exit the venue.  For a few moments I wasn’t sure my legs still worked.

We stumbled into the night as zombies, our brains feasted upon by one of our planet’s most justifiably exalted rock bands.  None of us will ever be the same, and some of us will never hear the same.  We had just survived the greatest sound sculpture ever erected.

“To Here Knows When”

“Come in Alone”

“Soon”

“You Made Me Realize”

Chris

Film: Is The “Crank” series the grind cinema for our time?

I’ve spent the past 4 1/2 years studying film. This past year, my hard work was rewarded with a framed piece of paper that solidifies this. And pretentious babbling on our own blog is going to be the only way I use said degree.

One thing I took away from my studies is a new-found appreciation for, what is largely know as, trash cinema. How did I spend my past two Saturday nights? Why, the director’s cut of The Toxic Avenger and re-mastered edition of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, that’s how! Grind films are as horrific as they are entertaining to me. They present the kind of freedom/surrealism in cinema that Salvador Dali could appreciate despite the fact that someone like Frank Capra would be puking all over his shoes. Counter-culture films are how I like to see them.

Grind films were the most prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s, then kind of got washed away for a few years. There were some cases that popped up in the 90’s (I would argue that some of Lynch’s films, ie Lost Highway, share some similarities), but for the most part, it had nearly dissipated. Thus, when Crank first appeared in 2006, a dim light had be re-ignited. Hell, Crank was so extreme, it flared up like a fire in Backdraft.

Sexploitation, class abuse, racial stereotypes, and top it all off with a bit of the old ultra-violence. It was an immoral, cinematic car wreck that had me calling “Shotgun!” I loved it! A true escapist film. A sympathetic hitman who, when poisoned with “The Chinese Shit,” is forced to keep his adrenaline up in order to stay alive…or at least long enough to get his revenge! It was the kind of film that hasn’t been seen in cinemas for a long time.

Crank was filled with send ups for a generation fueled by video games, blood-thirsty media, energy drinks and Google. A grind film in every way possible. Last weekend saw the release of it’s hellbent brother, Crank: High Voltage. After surviving the events of the first film, Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) returns to hellish streets of Los Angeles. This time, someone’s taken his heart, and replaced it with an artificial one, and he has to keep it electrically charged until he can track down his original ticker. For the next 80+ minutes, the film somehow manages to offend, entertain, and disgust more than the original.

Crank has kicked opened a door that was on it’s way to being dead-bolted. So, the question is, “What comes next?” I’m hopeful that another entry in the series is on the way, but what about the rest of Hollywood? With studios like Lionsgate and Rogue, true genre pictures have a haven, but it’s not a very lucrative one. In the wake of a water-boarding administration, can Americans seek refuge in the likes of characters like Chev Chelios and The Toxic Avenger? Or are we afraid that Jack Bauer is sitting two rows behind us?

-Chase

“Do You Realize that Oklahoma Is Home to People Other than Toby Keith and Garth Brooks??”

Suck it, Oral Roberts.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives doesn’t have a very impressive track record when it comes to progressive legislation, so it should come as no surprise that they don’t have very good taste in music either. Senate Joint Resolution 24, which would have immortalized the Flaming Lips transcendent Yoshimi cut “Do You Realize??” as the state’s official rock song, was defeated in the House yesterday by a vote of 48 to 39.

Mike Reynolds (R-OKC) took issue with the band’s “reputation for obscene language,” while rep. Corey Holland’s delicate sensibilities were offended by Michael Ivins’ pinko wardrobe.  On a related note, neither Holland nor Reynolds have ever heard rock music.

Luckily, Oklahoma governer Brad Henry (D) plans to sign an executive order next Tuesday honoring the will of his constituents, who voted overwhelmingly for the Lips in an online poll, and officially recognize that everyone you know someday will die:

“The music of the Flaming Lips has earned Grammys, glowing critical acclaim and fans all over the world,” the governor said. “A truly iconic rock n’ roll band, they are proud ambassadors of their home state.

“They were clearly the people’s choice, and I intend to honor that vote.”

[Courtesy of NewsOK.com]

I was born and raised in Oklahoma and, while it may seem insignificant, I truly feel a sense of real victory from a executive measure like this. It’s high time that Oklahoma rightly honor its significant creative voices. Oklahomans — and residents of the South, in general — have a hard enough time battling the stereotype that we’re know-nothing, uncultured rednecks with disdain for the “faggier” elements of society (i.e. the Arts).

The truth is that Oklahoma has given to the world the likes of Ralph Ellison, Woody Guthrie, N. Scott Momaday, Bill Moyers, and — of course — The Lips. These people have respectively made the world a better, stranger and more creative place; we should celebrate that.  Yet, if you were to walk the halls of any given public school during Oklahoma History Month, you’d think the state produced nothing but country singers and cowboys.

While most fellow Okies might not give the proper respect to the merits of Momaday’s House Made of Dawn or Ellison’s Invisible Man as opposed to, say, the staggering idiocy of Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” I for one am thrilled to think that symbolic measures are being taken to remind us all that artistry isn’t dead in the South.

Jezy

New Music: Sonic Youth “Sacred Trickster”

After reading those words, you may have just squealed like a 5 year-old girl.

I did.

Yes, Sonic Youth has released a track from their upcoming album (and Matador debut), The Eternal, which is due out June 9. By clicking on this word: WOOT!, you can listen to an album sampler that Matador has put up.

“Sacred Trickster” is the album opener. And like all SY records, this one sets up the pace and raises your expectations. Kim’s vocals sound fantastic and it moves fast, clocking in a blistering 2:11. The press release that comes with the song talks about how The Eternal will be a genuine musical follow-up to the 2006 cut, Rather Ripped. However, “Sacred Trickster” reminds me of a Goo B-Side instead.

Either way, the Earth is better off, right?

Oh, also be sure to check out The Eternal‘s great pre-order package through Matador’s excellent “Buy Early Get Now” program. Pre-order bonus!!!!

Enjoy your day!

-Chase