“When the apocalypse comes, you can race up to Canada,” muses Torquil Campbell. “It will be delayed by a week in Canada. You get an extra week.” Along with his fellow band-mate, Chris Dumont, Campbell is traveling through upstate New York while the two (and their touring band of friends) play shows as Memphis, promoting their third album, Here Comes A City, along the eastern seaboard. “Is that an esoteric question or a literal one?” Campbells replies when asked how long before Memphis reaches its destination. This roundabout way of looking at things, be it the apocalypse or a road trip, has guided Campbell throughout his musical career. As an active member of Montreal’s Stars, in addition to Memphis, the half-American half-British resident of Vancouver, Canada, makes band decisions as an excuse to hang out with friends.
“To be in a band with someone is a way of keeping current in their life,” Campbell states. “If you stop doing things with your friends, it turns into getting together and recounting the past twice a year over coffee. Your friendships turn into a series of memories and brief meetings and it gets increasingly distant. Every project I’m involved with is initiated by my relationship with the people in it.”
Listen to For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon’s breakthrough début as Bon Iver, before you listen to this, his self-titled second album. Those already familiar with For Emma and Vernon’s wounded falsetto, sung over sparse acoustic guitar, might be perplexed to learn Bon Iver takes a different approach. And yet, the two albums are not as drastically different as they seem. For Emma is so successful because of how it totally envelops its listener in Vernon’s sense of loneliness, experienced (as the legend goes) recording his songs in a secluded cabin, during the winter, while sick and getting over a breakup. Bon Iver communicates its feelings just as well, but things are more hopeful, here, like the thaw spring brings after winter. A rising drum-roll boldly proclaims itself on the Bon Iver’s opening track, “Perth”, making it immediately clear Vernon is venturing into new musical territory. The drums are soon fleshed out by horns and electric guitar, and create a rousing climax.
These New York experimentalists have followed up their much loved debut Mirrored without de facto front-man Tyondai Braxton. And while Braxton’s absence certainly makes for a different experience on Gloss Drop, the trio confidently marches onward with the aid of electro-rock pioneer Gary Numan, Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino, Boredoms’ Yamantaka Eye, and Chilean producer Matias Aguayo providing vocals. On “Ice Cream”, stilted guitars adorned with cartoon-y blips and beeps present a poppy revision of the group’s gonzo instrumentals from their earliest EPs. Meanwhile, Yamantaka Eye’s singing on “Sundome” marks perhaps the most surreal moment on the album — which is saying a lot, given Gloss Drop’s nonstop teeter toward chaos. Amid twinkling electronics, Eye’s almighty voice is digitally distorted to evoke a feeling that seems both deific and dystopian. On instrumental tracks, such as “Futura”, slick riffs befitting some spy film meet foreboding organs before giving way to tropical accents. The effect is both confusing and mesmerizing — a constant clash of sleek, sinister, and sunny moods that pervades the entire record.
Buy this at Other Music or iTunes. After the jump, check out the video for “Ice Cream”, featuring Matias Aguayo.
Moby has been a stalwart of electronic music for two decades, and there is no sign of him slowing down. This month he released a new record, Destroyed, accompanied by an eponymous book of photographs he has taken on tour. The book serves as a sort of a diary but also a way to turn a mirror on the world, which could be quite cathartic for any celebrity. Some of the photos are excellent, especially the one that made the cover. That was taken inside the La Guardia airport and is the last word in the cautionary sign, “All unattended luggage will be destroyed.”
In the introductory passage to the book Moby says that touring is decidedly unglamorous, that it is weird and isolating. Indeed many photos give off a sense of alienation and loneliness. They are taken at the airports, in hotel rooms, and at concerts. They are thoughtful and meditative and give off a certain sense of quietness. The pictures that depict concert audiences seem as if Moby pressed a pause button in the middle of the concert in order to reflect on his surroundings.
It’s a fitting name, Bing Ji Ling. Translating from Mandarin to “ice cream”, Quinn Luke’s stage-identity encapsulates everything about the treat: cool, sweet, the perfect finish to sunny days, and a romantic symbol of Americana. Led by opener, “Move On”, Bing Ji Ling’s third album stands out as one of the better Motown-soul revivals in an increasingly saturated field. Best known for his work in the Phenomenal Handclap Band, Luke brings together members of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Scissor Sisters, Antibalas, and, of course, PHB for Shadow to Shine. Glimmers of PHB’s funk aesthetics certainly show themselves here. But the overarching mood is more romantic than raucous, as soft acoustics and pacific horns accent the yacht-rock balladry and smooth blue-eyed soul on songs, such as “Sunshine Love” and “Hypnotized”. These days, Mother Nature’s bipolar ways may not be able to tell us, but with the breezy, breathtaking Shadow to Shine, Bing Ji Ling is ready to announce that summer is indeed here.
Buy this at Other Music.
Leave it to DJ/Rupture and Matt Shadetek and their Dutty Artz label to be behind the scenes of this expansive collection of global bass music by New Yorker Adam Patridge (aka Atropolis). Oftentimes these hybridizations seem too trendy and disingenuous; however, Patridge substantiates his style with vallenato rhythms as well as the ever-present cumbia influence. Naturally, Colombia was on his mind. Vallenato, more reclusive than its rhythmic cousin, is similarly from Colombia’s Caribbean coast — the most noticeable difference being the time signatures.
As an ethno-musicologist, Patridge traveled to Colombia to document its folkloric music and record with its humble musicians, becoming one of the founding members of the Cumba Mela collective. Meanwhile, his background in music composition lends structure to his work as a DJ and producer.
The result is a studied and tantalizing Afro-Latin exposé. Whether rollicking accordions, shakers, or electronic sounds, Patridge pulls out all the stops to cultivate these tunes with a heartfelt sense of kinship. With pure instrumentals and tracks featuring the vocals of Uruguayan songstress Noelia Fernandez, the amalgamation of influences transcends the tribal to a multi-layered music extravaganza. Patridge shows that an element of surprise, when rendered with skill, can be awe-inspiring and daring.
On their fourth album, this Swedish collective — founded in 2005 by Emanuel Lundgren — never veers far off the course of sunny skies. Forever Today soars with the lightness of youth and wraps up before any understanding of suffering can take root. The new album follows 2010’s 27 Songs from Barcelona, which featured the prolific wunderkinds cooking up one solo per band member per track. As one of contemporary music’s more celebrated and fully functioning collectives, I’m From Barcelona commands the feel of an intimate group, and their magnanimous approach floods each track with inclusivity. Whereas other collectives of a similar ilk seem fine-tuned for promotional purposes, the ironic hipster trope is not to be found with this bunch.
“Sometimes I’ve got the jungle under my skin”, Merrill Garbus sings on “Es-so”, from the follow-up to her 2009 debut, BiRd-BrAiNs. There indeed seems to be a wildness within Garbus and her experimental music. Stylizing her stage-name as tUnE-yArDs and album title as W h o k i l l, Garbus’ disregard for standard syntax befits the haphazard approach to her songwriting; for a joyous madness certainly pervades the hodgepodge of raucous harmonies, spiking horns, rumbling rhythms, and jazzy bass (courtesy of Nate Brenner). The Afro-pop aesthetic and her swooning vocals can, at times, evoke Vampire Weekend — but only if the polished sheen of Ezra Koenig’s compositions had been cut up and obliterated in the midst of some spastic frenzy. On the single “Bizness”, Garbus yelps, “I’m a victim, yeah/Don’t take my life away/Don’t take my life away” — an urgent, desperate plea that is countered by its hypnotic, almost childlike harmonies and video. On W h o k i l l, Garbus serves up ten tracks that are defiantly bizarre yet still irresistible — a rare balancing act that heralds a truly original talent.
Some people are surprised when they learn Wes Eisold — the creative force behind the blackened synth-pop group Cold Cave — was once the vocal-cord thrasher of hardcore bands like Give Up The Ghost and Some Girls. But, for Eisold, who spent a childhood constantly moving from city to city, change is as defining a characteristic as his cryptically dark lyrics are. Eisold just released Cherish The Light Years, his second full-length as Cold Cave, and it’s a marked departure from the lo-fi bedroom production on which the band first made a name. In fact, it’s a fully-blown electronic pop record, one so committed to its mode that comparisons with decade-specific new wave is an unavoidable knee-jerk reaction. But, to consider Cherish The Light Years only in this context would be, for Eisold, completely missing the point. Currently on a European tour, Eisold spoke with us about his artistic evolution, album aesthetics, and, among other things, how he decided to completely commit to his music.
From my regular column in AnOther magazine.
It looks like another one of the city’s shadowy artistic demoiselles is about to take a turn in the limelight. If anyone is the talk of New York City at the moment it is Justin Bond. A tall, blond, transgender cabaret signer, Bond worked his way up through the San Francisco and New York performance undergrounds as part of a duo lounge act called Kiki and Herb. The act, which centered around Bond’s character Kiki, an aging, bitter, alcoholic singer who was as poignant, raucous and funny as she was tragic, developed a cult and critical following which led them to Carnegie Hall and a stint on Broadway, earning Bond a Tony nomination. Now he has a much-awaited debut album coming out tomorrow, and he’ll be performing his new solo show at the Bowery Ballroom to celebrate. Recently, Bond received a glowing critique in The New Yorker that called him the greatest cabaret artist of his generation. His act is witty, raunchy, confessional, political, and redemptive – just like good cabaret ought to be. It’s also full of personal tales of life, love, art, and identity that speak to the struggles of becoming fully human in this world, particularly if it’s not clear what invisible box you fit into, and that offer a cathartic peace and connection to many in the crowd. Last week, just a few days ahead of the release and show, I was able to ask Justin a few questions.