September 30, 2008
Indian Jewelry, Mira Billotte, and Lau Nau @ the Knitting Factory, NYC | September 19, 2008
Having just missed Talk Normal’s set, I arrived at the show as Finnish band Lau Nau (Laura Naukkarinen from Helsinki with an accompanying string-player) were setting up for their simple, two-member act. Seated on folding chairs near the edge of the stage, the ground around them was littered with a variety of noisemakers and things that go click-clack. The dreamy, looped out vocals and the consistent twerp and chime of whatever small instruments the two-some were cupping near the mics made me feel like a toy inventor on muscle relaxers; very eerie and childlike but matured with the basic abstract-folk nature of their style.
Mira Billotte (of White Magic and Qui*x*otic) literally topped her keys off with pedals and knobbed boxes, playing over pre-recorded drum/piano/various noise tracks. After a few brief moments of technical difficulty, she began singing with her alternately deep and high vocals; at times beautifully improvised and wholly present. She completely held her own sans guitarist and in her satin kimono-esque garb complete with gold sparkly pseudo-cape reminded me of a poor man’s tired Elton John, playing moody ballads to shipwrecked wayfarers. Lau Nau joined her for an epic harmony session that morphed the women into sirens who in turn transformed the audience into a sea of jello’d space-heads. At one point, I was unable to focus on anything surrounding Mira on the stage. It was as if an aura encircled her that forced you to focus solely on her face and voice. Outside during a smoke break, my friend Mike commented that he thought he saw her levitate.
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July 27, 2008
This is Our Music
1990 | Rough Trade
Starting with an eerie guitar rift, a siren song that builds in volume and a sort of bittersweet electric needling, Galaxie 500’s final release, This is Our Music, is a musician’s album, a writer’s album and a listener’s album. It’s the type of work that can easily turn itself into background whispers and melodic creaking, like walking on porch planks that magically light the night with sound. Or it becomes the musical equivalent of drunken belligerence in the hull of some landlocked barge, all moans and lax backing vocals. It’s some kind of feat that for such a complex work, it also comes off as a completely lazy, half-awake, half-speaking-with-a-mile-high-cigarette-ash attempt; a true relic from the original alt/indie rock past and charming record of the budding attitude of an era.
And the lyrics make no grandiose claims either: “I wrote a poem on a dog biscuit/but your dog refused to read it/so I got drunk and looked at the empire state building/it was no bigger than a nickel.” How blasé, how utterly 90’s. The casual-talking vocals, a simple rumination or a conversation about the banality of modern life, sum up the entire mood of the record. Alternately heralded as their swan song and their let-down denouement, This is Our Music (appropriated from Ornette Coleman’s 1960’s free jazz album of the same name and later tweaked by the Brian Jonestown Massacre to And This is Our Music) presents a more cohesive, slightly less dream-pop drenched sound than previous Galaxie recordings and the outcome is at once intransitive and memorable.
The cover of Yoko Ono’s “Listen the Snow is Falling”, which beautifully highlights Naomi Yang’s voice, the voice that moved onto such prominence with her future act: Damon and Naomi, is actually the sound of winter, the sound of snow-covered sidewalks being pocked with boot-steps, no, it’s the sound of being in love, of snow angels, of finding the happiness in missing someone.
This is a great album and by album I mean a solid listening experience all the way through (a unique concept today). Now that we’ve got 20/20 hindsight on the myriad splits and genre fusions that began with alt rock and moved into the intellectual (all the members attended Hah-vahd) shoegaze/dream-pop movement, it’s easy to see how influential (see: The Shins or Band of Horses, etc.) and lovely this last go at guitar-centric haze tunes was.
by Erin Smith