by Dave Segal
on Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 4:54 PM
With all the hype about Amon Tobin’s ISAM audio/visual mind-boggler, one thought the Paramount would be rammed to the rafters by the time opener TOKiMONSTA hit the stage. Not so. The LA beatmaker played to a sparse crowd, which in this expansive theater really must have sucked. Nevertheless, the Brainfeeder recording artist looked to be in good spirits as she delivered that sleek, SoCal hiphop ultra-modernism. But what was billed as a live set in the Decibel program seemed more like a DJ set (Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says”—albeit altered from its original—reared its ominous head at one point, as did a cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do for Love” and Max Romeo and the Upsetters’ “Chase the Devil”). What I really want to know, though, is what that track with the supersized guitar riff from Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” was—and who botched the spelling of TOKiMONSTA’s name on the huge screen behind her?
Next up, subbing for a reportedly ill Baths, Eskmo made us ponder whether dubstep producers who sing like emo-rockers is a good idea. In this case, conjoining these genres was ugly. His set was best when he let his nutty, oblong rhythms and unconventional percussion sounds (samples of opening soda cans, tearing paper, crack-addicts playing castanets, etc.) run along hypnotically, sans vocals. When he added demonstrative singing to the mix, things went sour. However, at one point Eskmo generated the most intense bass pressure I’ve ever felt, so respect for that.
The venue really started to fill up around 10:30, and the moment many had been waiting for began a bit before 11 pm: ISAM! The curtain dramatically opened on an odd-shaped, cube-intensive edifice, inside of which Amon Tobin worked the controls of his musical equipment.
From the start, the Brazilian producer generated a fucked-up Hollywood horror-thriller-soundtrack vibe, putting the fear of the Antichrist in you. It was kind of incredible that Tobin could pack out the Paramount with such dark, inaccessible sounds. Much of his set consisted of mushroom-trip-gone-awry aural madness and post-IDM sound design blown up to blockbuster production standards. There was one Residents-style warped pop tune (“Wooden Toy”) and one track that could presumably be danced to, but otherwise, this was mostly a soundtrack to writhe in your own sensory-overloaded dementia.
Of course, the audio had to go nuclear to compete with the visuals, which were vivid, surreal, and multi-dimensional. Constellations, old machinery, DNA strands, molecular models shattering and rearranging, white and blue smoke, myriad cityscapes, boxes upon boxes upon boxes, mysterious debris, lightning, fire, etc. flashed across the surface of the apparatus in retina-stunning succession. “Overwhelming” is inadequate to describe the extravagant surrealism. It was like being slammed in the eyes and ears by footlong, spiked dildos for over 80 minutes. I went into ISAM with a painful knot in my left trapezius muscle. When I left the Paramount, the pain had at least trebled. All that intensity sure tenses you up. The encore, though, deviated into the mellow, quasi-gamelan territory of "Night Swim," somewhat lessening the previous 70 minutes of shock and awe.
One got the sense that this show was history in the making—and the future of electronic-music performance. But what does it all mean? The biggest takeaway might have been: Ain’t technology grand? If you can discern any more nuanced meaning from ISAM than that, you were on better drugs than I was (I was straight and sober throughout—maybe a tactical error, in retrospect). Only DJ Shadow’s Shadowsphere really comes close to what Tobin and his conspirators are doing here. The scale is outrageously ambitious and escapist dazzlement is often its own reward.
Going to the Crocodile afterward to see Holy Fuck, I felt extreme pathos for that great Canadian band. The club was about half full and they were working with a piddling array of green and blue lights that scissored across the stage. Jesus, in this new post-ISAM world, everything else seemed anti-climactic and feeble—even the mighty Holy Fuck. But gradually their raw, rampaging, and Hawkwind-y cosmic dance rock gelled into something approaching precision chaos and grandiose discord, and it could be enjoyed for what it was. One just needed to recalibrate after ISAM. But it sure wasn’t easy.
Yup, it's the Misunderstood, they're the greatest American band to have ever come from the UK. Seriously, hands down, the best.
Of course they were actually from Riverside, CA, but moved to London after being prompted to by John Peel. Even for all the hardships on moving and living there, if not for their stay in the UK and the addition of English guitarist Tony Hill, they would'a maybe, prolly have been just another '60s garage footnote.
Okay, this is the last week that my life will be consumed by taking things out of boxes and placing them in different parts of a new house, so YCT should be back (on Tuesday) with a whole new installment. Until then, here are some random (& some awful) videos to have a look at.
Remember: If you're not now, you never were.
New York Hardcore - 1986 on the Regis Philbin Morning show ABC:
Straight Edge New York Hardcore Record Collection 1987-1995:
What is "Straight Edge?":
Ray Cappo Documentary:
Matéria Sobre Straight Edge - Better Than a Thousand:
Chain of Strength - Live in Connecticut, USA (1988):
My favorite flyers in the town are those black & white portraits of Seattle producers playing Vermillion's Beats showcases. The pole by the bridge on Denny, near the Orion Center, has 'em all up, in a shiny, laminated cluster halfway up its length. The biggest one yet, though, is for tonight's Beats Extravaganza, featuring Hideki, OC Notes, EarDr.Umz, Dick Furari, Specs Wizard, Suttikeeree, Wizdumb, A Madman, and Al Nightlong. The visuals will be courtesy Dumb Eyes. The set times are to be seen here.
"Fabulous, so it’s proved then? We truly are the champions": Brian May, upon hearing that We Are The Champions has been declared the catchiest song of all time by science.
Today's Video Dare: NME has the exclusive video for Korn's new single off their upcoming dubstep album. Meanwhile, James Blake is somewhere tenderly boohooing.
I Will Never Know the Difference Between a Real Flaming Lips Headline and a Fake One: Wayne Coyne plans to release a 24-hour-long song encased in human skulls.
This Holiday Season's Elmo Is Ready to Rock: Let's Rock Elmo!, brought to you by Randy Jackson, is the epitome of Rock n' Roll with a tambourine, bongos, and stylized thunderbolt t-shirt. Skip to about 1:20 on this video to see Elmo rock out and meet the product designer, who herself looks like an adorable Hasbro creation.
New Video From Ty Segall: It's for the title track from this year's killer Goodbye Bread. It's NSFW, due to gratuitous fun and boobs. If you missed his show at the Crocodile earlier this summer, he's opening for Stephen Malkmus on October 11th at the Neptune.
We regret to say that due to visa problems, Ulrich Schnauss has had to cancel his performance at the dB11 : OPTICAL 1 : SINE YOUR NAME ACROSS MY HEART showcase. We are however happy to report that we've lined up perennial favorite Tycho to perform an A/V set featuring new material off his forthcoming release Dive on Ghostly International. Mountains and Simon Scott (ex. Slowdive) will be performing A/V sets as well.
Finally, a quick note. We now live in a post-ISAM world. Amon Tobin's performance last night at Paramount sounded, looked, and felt like a game-changer (probably the first and, I hope, the last time I'll use that annoying phrase). It's made almost every other musician's live show seem paltry. More thoughts on ISAM and other day 2 Decibel action to come later today.
Kim Virant, Carrie Clark & the Lonesome Lovers, the Half Brothers
(Columbia City Theater) Kim Virant writes grown-up music. If that sounds like a dis, it's most certainly not. This Seattle vet radiates a calm, clear confidence that shines like sunlight off of highly polished wood, exuding an effortless, classy, and relaxed vibe that infuses her music with warmth and hard-won wisdom. While life certainly doesn't get more ideal the more time passes, there's a perspective and grace that comes with growing up and replacing angst with acceptance. If you haven't been fortunate enough to stumble across Virant's album, Songs from a Small House, it's only because the unassuming singer seems allergic to self-promotion. Do yourself a favor and hunt down a copy—or better yet, go see her play. BARBARA MITCHELL
Dude York, Chastity Belt, Tender Hips, Pleasure Beauties
(Josephine) Dude York fuck with pop-culture audio samples, which immediately calls to mind Japanther, but aside from the appropriately muddy production, the similarities end there. Dude York are ramshackle, tuneful, poppy noise/punk. In "Kerry," off Satanic Vs. (available at www.dudeyork.bandcamp.com/album/satanic-vs), they drop in a sample of Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" right in the middle, then the harried guitar cuts back in, and all is right in the world. Dude York are definitely one of the most interesting bands to spring up around here in a while. GRANT BRISSEY
by Josh Bis
on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 5:47 PM
There's this fantastic little interlude in last year's (Oprah endorsed!) Freedom where Jonathan Franzen sends his protagonist Walter Berglund and his aging former rock star friend to a Bright Eyes show at Washington DC's 9:30 Club somewhere around the turn of the century:
He was the real deal, a boy genius, and thus all the more insufferable to Katz. His Tortured Soulful Artist shtick, his self-indulgence in pushing his songs past their natural limits of endurance, his artful crimes against pop convention: he was performing sincerity, and when the performance threatened to give sincerity the lie, he performed his sincere anguish over the difficulty of sincerity. Then the rest of the band came out, including three lovely young backup Graces in vampish dresses, and it was all in all a great show—Katz didn’t stoop to denying it.
What I love most about that section is that it lets me imagine Franzen going to one of the shows on that tour (or more likely, the one before it from the set-up) and having his inner skeptic grudgingly lose an argument against his the earnest believing angel on his shoulder.
That is, there are plenty of reasons to convince yourself not to love Conor Oberst and all of his loneliness and outrage, but (for me, at least), there are so many more reasons to love him instead. (Obviously, the screaming kids agree, but so does at least one other thoughtful fellow at the Awl). First among them for me is his ability to turn out compelling album after compelling album, but there's also the way that he's grown from a sad shaky kid to a guy who's maybe gotten over some of his inner demons and can consistently put on a really great show that still throws some politics and social justice to the kids without seeming grating. When I arrived, I thought that I'd hang out with the early-arriving all-agers at the front long enough to snap a few photos and then retreat back into the crowd. While I didn't join the surge to rustle his hair or touch his hand when Oberst hopped off the stage to sing to the front row, once the show really got going with a songs spanning most of the band's recent discography, I couldn't bring myself to leave until he'd gratefully acknowledged all of the members of the band (it was the end of their tour) and finished the encore with People's Key closer "One for You, One for Me". I may have inadvertently sung along to more than a few of the songs along the way, too.
More photos, including opener Kurt Vile (who was also great!), after the jump.
by Dave Segal
on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 3:42 PM
The eight annual Decibel Festival kicked off for me with DJAO at HG Lodge—albeit after a 20-minute delay. The local producer/DJ (aka Alex Osuch, set up in the club’s back corner booth, accompanied by a flannel-shirted guitarist [grunge acknowledgment!]) made the wait worthwhile with a set that freshly integrated shoegaze, ambient, and future-bass elements. Using a keyboard hooked up to a big desktop computer and a microphone, DJAO generated an oneiric ooze (enhanced by lushly layering his own vocalized “ooh”s), which benefited from his guitarist Zuri Biringer’s Emeralds-like spangles. At times, the woozy, glassy tones coasted over stolid, earth-moving beats, forming a kind of hauntological hiphop. At others, DJAO crafted quasi-pop songs so warped that they turned into smeared mosaics of melody. Keep a close ear on this guy.
DJAO @ HG Lodge's Dropping Gems Showcase
At Re-bar, Jon McMillion was in the process of loosing some low-slung tech-house noir. At first, it seemed as if the ravishing details of his recordings were not translating to the live arena, but gradually things came more into focus and McMillion’s subliminal dance tracks coalesced into some sublimely weird baby-making music.
Atom™ (aka Uwe Schmidt) came to the club looking dapper as fuck in a three-piece suit, black shirt, black tie, and slicked-back red hair. His severely Teutonic demeanor (all those years living in Chile didn’t exactly loosen him up, I guess—or maybe it’s all an act) contrasted with his understatedly madcap techno. Atom™’s tracks came festooned with squelches, twitches, and whimsical textures, which at times moved into the sort of IDM that flourished in the late ’90s, yet somehow it sounded un-retro.
On the two screens behind him, one exposed his control guidelines in green-on-black type, for maximal demystification of the music-making process; the other occasionally showed Schmidt at home or playing music, for maximal demystification of the personality behind the music-making process. Ever poker-faced, Atom™ would sometimes walk off the stage or simply stare stoically in the distance. “For a German guy, he sure has a British sense of humor,” cracked one local DJ. What wasn’t a joke were Atom™’s exacting, staccato funkiness and Perlon-esque way with minimal techno. Do the robot jitterbug…
Sylvia Vanterpool was already a music industry vet by the time she, as Sylvia, hit it big with the sexy "Pillow Talk."
However, Sylvia Robinson helped change the world, as founder of Sugar Hill Records, the label that literally brought hiphop to the masses with "Rapper's Delight." (You can count the Fatback Band song "King Tim III" if you want, but nobody cites that song as the moment their nose got open on the culture.) Robinson's label also brought the world hiphop's first social commentary, the immortal Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five song "The Message." Robinson is the mother of what we know as hiphop music. Rest In Power.
The Stranger printed a review I wrote of a then contemporary musical group, from Cardiff, Wales, Four Letter Word.
Four Letter WordA Nasty Piece of Work (BYO)
If’n this bands LP’da come out back in ’82 they’d been laughed outta “the scene” or, at least, completely ignored...how come, well, basically they a Jock-o, chugga-chugga metal band..., but NOT inna “good” Corrosion of Conformity “crossover” kinda way, they mo’ like NYC ’87, straight’n alert...ah, “thrash”, with a l’il finger stuck inna Dag Nasty pie, circa Dig Out at Wenkos LP...oh, and I bet they wearin’ ’em “biggy” denim shorts too. Great...so like the only four letter word Four Letter Word makes me think of is L-A-M-E.
OUCH!! Today, however, I offer a correction. On recent review of their jams they are N-O-T some "NYC 87 Jock-o, chugga-chugga metal band," rather they are merely a humble pop punk group. For some reason, at the time, the NYC/HC dig seemed to fit. Four Letter Word guys, I'M SORRY...seriously, I'm a JERK. And, in 1982, you would'a been, well....I dunno, but not laughed at, maybe just considered influenced by the Adicts/Buzzcocks/etc.. All that said, I STILL stand by the Dag NastyDig Out At Wenkos ref, and would also add a reluctant nod to FLW's jams being alined with Dag Nasty's quite lame Field Day LP.
So, hear for yourself, HOW WRONG I WAS, Four Letter Word is totes pop punk.
Turns out, I don't have the CD any longer so, I re-opinion-ed based on A Nasty Piece of Work clips posted on Myspace™, yup, they still have a Myspace™ page! Good luck getting that shit to load in a timely manor tho', natch.
When the clock strikes midnight this Friday night, Karl Blau's Kickstarter will expire and only one of two things will happen: Blau will have raised $16,000, or he will have not.
I feel like it's hard for me not to know of anyone that hasn't caught wind of this in the 28 days since the campaign started. If you didn't, here's the deal: Karl Blau is raising money to finish his KLAPS series, which is his music subscription club, which stared in 2003. It may seem like an excessive amount of money to some but when Hollow Earth Radio's Garrett Kelly and I were chatting recently, I shared a link to the musician Steve Moakler's Kickstarter campaign. That guy was able to raise way more money than his initial goal just to produce and release one record of his bad/boring pop music. After discussing this further, Garrett made a good point: "$16,000 is what a person working minimum wage would make in one year."