Strap on your bleep bloops and fire up your bloop bleeps because the O.G. electro-pioneers known as Kraftwerk are playing at New York’s Museum of Modern Art every single day for the entirety of this week, Tuesday to Tuesday. The legendary German outfit will be performing Kraftwerk – Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, a sonic and visual exhibit of almost their entire catalog: one album at a time, one night at a time in the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium.
When they first came about in 1970, Kraftwerk was like nothing else on the radar. Their futuristic tunes incorporated vocoders and computer speech software, a far cry from the traditional guitar wielding troubadours of the time. Their practically prophetic ability to channel a world steeped in technology and expressed largely via keystrokes and split wires make them one of the most influential bands, ever. Today, their impact is felt in almost every genre, from auto-tuned love letters to Kim Kardashian by Kanye West to the always lovely bedroom dreampoppers Beach House to Kathleen Hanna’s multimedia electroclash outfit Le Tigre to sweeping synth warrior M83. In 2012, we are all the robots that Kraftwerk predicted four decades ago.
As Occupy Wall Street prepares for a warm-weather remobilization, three producers are putting the finishing touches on the movement’s first artistic endeavor. Occupy This Album, out this spring, includes tracks from nearly 50 artists and will use its proceeds to sustain the Occupy protests. Though the album was able to make headlines by securing stars like Yoko Ono, Tom Morello, and Crosby & Nash, the idea was inspired by the acoustic music protestors played in Zuccotti Park. “There are far more unknown artists on this album than there are known,” explains executive producer Jason Samel. “The original idea was simply to shine the light that so many big name artists already had in the palm of their hands on unknown, unbelievable artists.”
It seems natural for a grassroots social movement to seek support in the music world, but the landscape has changed since “For What It’s Worth” reached the Billboard Top Ten. “Most pop artists these days adamantly refuse to take a stand on real issues, because they are so deathly afraid that anything controversial will effect their income,” Samel notes. He and his co-producers, Maegan Hayward and Alex Emanuel, still worked hard to include a huge range of backgrounds and styles, from acclaimed veterans to international niche artists.
Quakers’ Ashley Anderson, AKA Katalyst, sits in his studio much like an astronaut in a space shuttle—except without the no-gravity floating aspect. Everything is within stretching reach, and just past that distance is the full expanse of Sydney, Australia, Anderson’s hometown. He might glance out of the window every once in a while, but Anderson seldom makes it out there—except recently. Anderson’s partner-in-Quakers, Geoff Barrow of Portishead (under his Fuzzface guise), brought his family to beach it in Australia, and Anderson went along for the rare experience.
It was an outing like this that brought Anderson and Barrow together a few years back. An annual escape from cold British winters provided the two with the opportunity to cultivate a working friendship. The association spawned their imprint, Invada Records, and birthed Quakers, which is rounded out by Portishead’s engineer, Stuart Matthews AKA 7-Stu-7.
The trio’s self-titled debut, which follows the music Quakers provided for Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop, is the record that global worshippers of American hip hop wish they could make. Put together like a mixtape are over 40 bite-sized, overlapping, shuffle-resistant tracks of inventive, fresh sounding beats. These are embellished by numerous layers of original and borrowed creatively shaped, scratchy samples giving each number a lot of texture that Anderson refers to as “rugged.”
At this point in their career, seven albums in, Amadou and Mariam have mastered a particular sort of contrast. Their lyrics touch on difficult political matters, usually issues concerning their native Mali, while their music is consistently joyful, catchy and infectious. At first listen, the juxtaposition between their words and peppy rhythms is jarring, but eventually the two elements integrate to form a new kind of protest music. The blind couple from Mali is rousing their listeners to action, urging them to carry the flame. To their contemporaries, the message seems to have gotten through, as many of them make appearances on their latest, Folila. “Dougou Badia” takes advantage of the crooning power of Santigold, while “Wily Kataso” gets a hand from TV on the Radio. Even Jake Shears, of the Scissor Sisters, sings backup on the soothing “Metemya,” as good a distillation of the band’s appeal as anything from Welcome to Mali. It’s fair to say that Folila, despite its lineup, sounds largely the same as its predecessors, but it’s also fair to say that’s a good thing. There aren’t many bands that know who they are as well as these two, and even fewer who can maintain such quality.
Instrumental albums tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is the hourlong symphony, in which a composer, usually a person used to working with a much smaller band, records a suite of songs with the aid of a roomful of musicians. The second is the medley of solo pieces, which depends on the composer’s ability to work well with economy and spareness. The first solo album by Gregory Rogove, Piana, sits firmly in the latter category. A collection of piano pieces written by Rogove and played ably by John Medeski (of Medeski, Martin and Wood), Piana fuses together a number of disparate song structures, each of which adds to a dominant mood of regret laced with hope for redemption. Veering deftly from tempo to tempo, from dirge to bolero to elegy, the album tracks the thoughts of a melancholic man who wants to know how to bury his mistakes. Upbeat tracks like “Jackyl” lend a manic edge to his musings, while eight-minute closer “Young Mountain” suggests his eventual resignation. All in all, it speaks to Rogove’s talents as a songwriter that Piana, despite its variety, communicates a singular loss.
Hugo Manuel’s vocals have never shown this level of precedence in Point of Go as in previous works, spanning from the lo-fi One Hundred Suns to the folk ambience of Sunny Casinos. Ever since joining Oxford’s Blessing Force collective, the members of Jonquil have not only reinvented their lineup and recording process, but they also seem to extend an unrevealed limb for pop in the gestalt of their songwriting. The electronic haze of “Getaway” is curtained precisely over simple, yet moody piano chords and mobilized percussion. Jonquil’s newest single, “It’s My Part,” boasts a stunningly gratifying catchiness from the first licks of electric guitar. The song’s lyrics may very well paint a picture of stage fright, which evolves into a self-realization arising as if spontaneously. Point of Go is a collection of jams more than suitable for driving towards a neon sunset, and should leave fans old and new eagerly speculating where Jonquil will end up next.
Photo by Kate Edwards
If you needed a melodic soundtrack for hiding under the covers and grinning at the ghosts under the bed, New York’s Caveman would be the perfect candidate. To be quite honest, it’s impossible to listen to their recently released debut album, Coco Beware
, without conjuring images of campfire harmonies and tribal drums leading a victory march for the musical macabre. It’s a sound born out of timing, break-up and five guys that simply inspire each other. After parting ways with their old bands, Caveman’s Matt Iwanusa, Jimmy “Cobra” Carbonetti, Stefan Marolachakis, Jeff Berrall and Sam Hopkins have joined together to create a record that glistens with pop nostalgia, hypnotic harmonies, and captivating enchantment. PLANET spoke with drummer Stefan Marolachakis to find out more about their inspirations, experimentation, and what happens when the lights go down and the music turns up.
This Norwegian producer has the subtlest of touches when it comes to dance music. Six Cups Of Rebel marks Hans-Peter Lindstrom’s fourth album and his most ambitious yet. Alternating between belching basslines and cathedral organs, the seven tracks on Rebel are in turns peak-of-the-night stormers and experimental prog-rock. “De Javu” is a rolling, bumping, hip shaker. With its swirling rhythms “Quiet Place To Live” could easily fit onto an episode of the classic ‘70s show Fame or with its honking beats in the center of a superclub. Hitting the mark in both cases, on cuts like “Call Me Anytime” and the title track, Lindstrom manages to blend both very disparate genres, and that works too. Alas, it doesn’t always work. On album opener, “No Release,” Lindstrom drags out the organ medley and on the album closer, “Hina,” overcooks the wordless blended soundscape going into the 10-minute realm, which can task anyone’s patience.
You may recognize this Danish group’s songs before you know who is performing them. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s “Around The Bend” has blasted repeatedly on iPod Touch commercials, and their music has turned up on television programs such as Mad Men. On their second album, Out Of Frequency, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s squeaky-voiced, arms-in-the-air combination of ‘60s pseudo psychedelia, indie immediacy, and big band brassiness pervades. Vocalist Mette Lindberg’s flowing locks are the physical embodiment of the group’s sound, which on tracks such as “Heart Attack” is at its fizzy, bubble pop, ebullient height. Solidifying the physical with the aural, Lindberg’s layered frocks match the many layers in Asteroids’ music. Case in point, on “Ghost On My Head” horn honks, handclaps, and massive percussion are in perfect matching band harmony. Producer and songwriter Lars Iversen hits his effervescent peak on “Fantasy Friend Forever” where organ swirls top off what is already a stew chockfull of funk flavor. Our Of Frequency dares you not to move.
All Photographs by Bruno Hadjadj. COUPLE AT CBGB SILVERPRINT EDITION OF 5
From 1973 to 2006 CBGB was the unofficial home of underground rock in New York City. The seemingly harmless acronym (which erroneously stands for Country, Bluegrass and Blues) was a symbol, the barometer of counterculture, a landmark of irreverence, and the Studio 54 of punk music. More importantly, CBGB set the tone for a new era of rock. The fabled club gave raw, untested bands like the Ramones, Misfits, Patti Smith, The Cramps, Television, Blondie and Talking Heads their start. Initially intended to feature the type of music for which it was named, CBGB became synonymous with the American punk movement and hardcore punk scene instead. Though the club sometimes moonlighted as a record store, or performance space/art gallery, the music always came first. Over the years, CBGB grew its rabidly loyal fan base, became more adept at blurring boundaries and unearthing talent, and changed the current of American punk rock as we know it.
On October 15, 2006, CBGB shuttered its doors for good. Patti Smith, Blondie, Bad Brains, and The Dictators were among some of the last performers to grace the stage, leaving hordes of fans, journalists, and musicians with something to blog about for years to come.