March 21, 2010
2010 | Virgin
Massive Attack. The name brings massive creditability and respect from both their peers and the fans that have celebrated their music for the past 20 years. The production unit that signed a massive deal with Virgin and that always unveils a rotating cast of who’s who return with their first full length in seven years. Their first album as a duo after 12, the reunion is definitely dark as ever, but can’t seem to muster what once was pure brilliance both in and out the studio doors.
The album starts on a slow churning piano dirge featuring the vocals of Tunde Adebimpe of T.V. On the Radio. While the track builds to a climax, the falsettos of Tunde cannot save it from its pulsing organ aftermath and slow return from where it came, a circle dance-cum-séance. Strangely sequenced first, it’s the album’s weakest track, and the album begins with a false ascent into a somewhat former position of greatness that the group once held. That misnomer is led by familiar Bristol singer Martina Topley-Bird. While this is her first official collaboration with Massive Attack, starting with the 2nd track “Babel,” she is a former collaborator with Tricky, who appeared on both “Blue Lines” and “Protection.” She is now also touring with them.
“Girl I love you” is no false treaty and Del Naja and Daddy G return to the greatness that they achieved on “Mezzanine” due partly in fact to reggae legend Horace Andy’s turn on the mic (Andy the only singer to work with Attack on all 5 albums). With its driving bass, pinning underlying chimes and popping horn attacks, this song convalesces upon itself and reaches the meditative state that originally brought Massive Attack out from the dance floor and into the mind.
January 21, 2010
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Pioneering electronic artist Mark Van Hoen has seen and done a lot within the realm of music in the past 15 years. He started off in such groundbreaking acts such as Seefeel and Scala and went on to his own pivotal solo releases as Locust and under his own moniker, where he toured with huge acts such as Massive Attack and Orbital. Also an amazing producer in his own right, Mark’s work with Mojave 3 and Sing-Sing show his versatility and skill both in front of and behind the mixing board. Since laying low in the states after relocating to Brooklyn a few years back, Van Hoen now returns with a new album and an upcoming show at The Bell House opening for Ulrich Schnauss.
JM.com: When did you relocate to Brooklyn from London and for what reasons?
Mark: I moved here with my family in April 2008. I had always wanted to live here, and the opportunity came up through my wife’s work, so we took it. I had moved from London to Brighton (a small city on the coast of England) and that was really hard for me, being such an urbanite. At the same time, London seemed to have too many old memories, and so New York was such a great opportunity to live in a big city again, and start afresh.
More on Mark Van Hoen
December 16, 2009
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Sensual Harassment is a brand new project that reacts to the DIY ethos of much of the Brooklyn music scene by coupling this ethos with a blend of electronica, prog and professionalism that allows this three-piece to move into the dance-fueled party scene without losing any of its machismo. Though in some ways they’ve been preparing for years, Sensual Harassment has now surfaced with their first singles and a string of powerful loft parties throughout Brooklyn. JezebelMusic.com’s Gordon Sharp talked with Sensual Harassment’s frontman Todd Thomas about North Carolina, political commentary in lyrics, and his band’s New Years resolutions.
JM.com: You’re originally from the North Carolina area. With obvious differences in the amount of people in the talent pool, what do you find different in attitude amongst people in the indie rock scene?
Todd: There are so many talented musicians up here, the stakes are completely different. NYC is where bands come to “make it” so it can get a little catty because everyone feels like they are trying to compete and gather attention. On the other hand, I’ve also seen a lot of bands that are really inspiring and it’s happening all around you, so it can also serve to fuel you and challenge you to make the best music you can create. As far as attitudes go with the bands, it’s like most everything else in New York, in that everyone is so worried about themselves they pay little attention to anything/anyone else. We’re still new to the scene but in North Carolina it felt like we had a lot more bands we connected with in a fraternal way because the environment is so small. That’s one thing we miss.
JM.com: Regarding your live show, what kind of venues do you like?
Todd: Sensual Harassment is a new band to most people, but me and the guys have been playing music in bands forever. We’ve been exposed to every horrible live show situation imaginable so we’re at the point where we want to control as much as possible I think the plan for us is to keep our shows as DIY as possible for a while. There are so many bands in the city that are playing at a dive bar with five other bands and charging twelve bucks to get in, which seems completely ridiculous to us. (And more importantly no one is going to show up to see you). We’re also a band that has a lot of gear for a three piece and needs a lot of special attention as far as sound goes, so using our own PA is usually a good idea. New York is strange because so many promoters/bars don’t know how to put a bill together. You can go to a show and see three bands that sound nothing alike and that never really made sense to us. We would prefer to book the shows and control who is playing. All those stipulations mean that we make less money, but at this point that’s not really what’s most important to us.
More on Sensual Harassment
December 14, 2009
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
We all know it takes more than just good bands to make a local music scene thrive. The people on the periphery of the stage can often give us a whole different set of insights. During his thirty-year career within both the local bar scene – and its constituent counterpart the rock venue – New York native Rob Sacher has been around to see a lot of changes. From his beginnings in the bar business upstate to the ownership and management of such esteemed clubs as The Mission and Luna Lounge in the East Village, to owning indie music label Luna Sea Records and running Indie Pop Radio, Rob has easily shifted with the ebb and flow of the fickle world of nightlife. JezebelMusic.com’s Gordon Sharp sat down with Rob to talk about his many experiences within both the music industry and the bar scene and where business is headed today.
JM.com: Tell me about where you’re from and how you got your start in the bar business.
Rob: I was born and raised in New York in southeast Flatbush. I had gone up to New Paltz, which is about an hour and 45 minutes up the Hudson River, to go to college. I was a Communications Major in radio and TV and also studied music and history. Before I had been playing in a band locally but once I got to college I found myself working in a new bar. The year was 1980 and the bar was called Sanctuary. I started there doing a night DJing punk music – before they had played only disco – and by the time I took over as owner it was the only bar in the Hudson Valley playing punk and new wave music. In the meantime I ran a music magazine down in the city called “Concert” and Sanctuary also lead to the Sanctuary Music Hour program on WDST in Woodstock.
JM.com: After getting your start in New Paltz, when did you end up coming back home to New York?
Rob: Well, after the drinking age went back up to 21, I moved back to New York and started a bar called The Mission on Fifth St. between Avenues A and B. This was in ’88 and it was a goth and industrial bar and a dance club painted all black with only black lights used for illumination. Jesus and Mary Chain, Depeche Mode, Psychedelic Furs, the Sugarcubs all hung out there, and I have a lot of stories connected to that bar. I eventually sold it to my two DJs. The one DJ still owns it, and it’s now called Ace Bar, a staple in the East Village. The other DJ now owns a new bar up in Greenpoint on Meeker Ave. called Boulevard Tavern.
More on Rob Sacher
November 2, 2009
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Kalpana has been playing and releasing their music, which they like to refer to as their “boring stories of glory days,” in the city sporadically since 2004. With members split between cities, this four-piece collective has just recently released their second full length Teeth on the Wheel three years after the release of their last EP, This Dead Horse. Their debut LP, Hors de Combat was released in 2004. JM.com’s Gordon Sharp connected with guitarist/singer/designer Aaron Powers to talk about Kalpana’s new record and their development over time.
JM.com: Kalpana’s been playing in NYC for over 5 years. Tell our readers a little a little about the time before Kalpana. I know some of you are from upstate and now spread also to Philly, how did it all come together?
Aaron: The first Kalpana material came from a handful of experimental rock songs that Andrew, Blair and Michael put together for a school project back in 2002. The following winter there was this idea to bring me in, develop the sound further and start up an actual band. We spent a few months rehearsing in a basement outside of Rochester, NY, getting to know each other musically and rehearsing songs that probably made the neighbors wonder if robots were murdering each other next door. Following our first record in 2004, we all moved into an apartment together in Astoria and began life as a New York band where we have made some friends and played a bunch of shows, as you know. We live separately now, with Michael in grad school in Philly and the rest of us in NYC.
JM.com: Redder Records released 2006’s This Dead Horse. You’re now releasing your new album Teeth on the Wheel as a free download through your own label No Funeral. How do you reason with the fact that by making your record free to the public in an attempt to open it up to a wider audience you at the same time contribute to making digital music a worthless commodity?
Aaron: I don’t think we’ve ever viewed our music as a commodity, which is why we didn’t hesitate in making Teeth on the Wheel available on a donation basis (for the time being, anyway). We produced and mixed the album ourselves for very little money. So we consider it a gift to the folks who stood by us for the last few years, with the hope that some new fans might chip in and help recoup our modest costs. There are also plans for a physical version with interesting packaging because we realize the importance of being able to hold something tangible in your hands. And right, the new record was released on Kalpana’s own imprint, No Funeral. Redder hasn’t been as active lately because of key members taking on graduate studies at home and abroad. But there are some interesting things going on behind the scenes that they are excited about.
More on Kalpana
October 12, 2009
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Aa (pronounced Big A Little A) began in 2002 as an evolving rhythm experiment based out of Brooklyn, NY. Their thunderous live show has taken them from hundreds of different basement and warehouse shows to sharing the stage with high-profile bands such as Sonic Youth and TV on the Radio. Aa’s debut full length gAme was released in 2007 on Gigantic Records and doubles as a DVD showcasing their animated music videos. JezebelMusic.com’s Gordon Sharp sat down with founder Aron Wahl to discuss the history and inspiration behind Aa’s evolving experimental project.
JM.com: I know that you do all the drawings that represent the visual imagery in the band. Tell me about your artistic influences and who/what you draw inspiration from in your work there. What does the elephant with the human hands represent.
Aron: For me, drawing is an outlet for the kinds of ideas that I can’t quite put into words, so it’d be tough to describe what any individual picture represents. I guess I think of my drawings as ornate one-liners. When I design an album cover for Aa, I’m really just trying to add another dimension to the sound. The visuals for bands like Black Flag, Crass, and Black Dice do this really well and have definitely inspired me over the years.
JM.com: In your video Thumper, I see your drawings animated. Did you animate these yourself or who did you work with on the video?
Aron: I animated it myself and it took forever! The video is basically a three-minute long animated GIF. I’m looking forward to learning faster and better ways to animate my drawings.
JM.com: Tell me about the reasons for forming Aa. You appeal to a big underground audience – was this your intention? What are your overarching ideals behind your band?
Aron: We didn’t start out with any lofty ambitions. We just wanted to play awesome shows and record albums and travel. Our sound and instrumentation has evolved over the years but we’ve always tried to emphasize the rhythm and make electronic textures that feel fresh to us. In terms of live performance, we always prefer non-traditional venues, to set up our equipment in the middle of the crowd, and involve our friends whenever possible.
More on Aa (Big A Little A)
September 21, 2009
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Autodrone is a dark, sonically driven band that has been bringing their surging style to Brooklyn since 2002. After self-releasing a few early EPs, the band released Strike a Match on Claire Records last year. JM.com’s Gordon Sharp sat down with Jeremy Alisauskas (Guitar) and Angel Lorelei (Keyboards) to talk briefly about their origins, influences, gear and the future.
JM.com: Tell me a little about the band, how did you guys form and for what reasons?
Jeremy: Autodrone formed around 2002 after receiving a mix tape from an ex-convict who Angel was working for. The tape contained the song “One More” by the band Medicine. I had never heard anything like it before and we were immediately taken with the sound. About 200 lineup changes later, we stabilized around the one which you can see/hear today. We had always been inspired by darker sounds, so keeping that kind of aesthetic, we explored the use of noise in our music. It was years later that I heard My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive for the first time. Initially I was really inspired by bands like Bauhaus, (early) Christian Death, Einsturzende Neubauten, and Sonic Youth. When I saw what at the time was beginning to happen in the NYC indie scene with bands like Interpol, The Rapture and The Liars, it was really exciting for me and I was attracted to that energy, I wanted to be a part of it.
More on Autodrone
August 3, 2009
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT NYC
Flashmen are a new, if somewhat nostalgic electro band. Their mash-up stylings draw from sources as diverse as the Bee Gees to the bleeps and chirps of your old Nintendo 8-Bit. A combo of NYC’s Bradley D (of Famous Friends) and Chicago’s Daniel E., they embrace both east coast and midwestern mentalities, a mixture which has widened their appeal. The latest of their new singles is the “Flashmen Theme,” which features drilling basslines, vintage keyboard weavings, and Bradley’s sublime vocal repetitions. It’s a smooth trip down (memory lane), reminding us of a time when synthesized dance music first found its way into the hearts of the general public. Their other single “Little Wildkat” has Daniel switching over to vocals and taking on a New Wave vibe, silky horn sections toping each other off, while the racing beats shred down an electronic freeway. These two tracks are part of their Spy Hunter EP. Flashmen have honed their persona down to a T. Their neolithic computer designs by French artist Zonders perfectly compliment their sound. Now SXSW alumns, they are aiming at bigger audiences, and will be performing this year at the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival down at The Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn. There, they’ll share a bill with Juan Maclean and Young Love.
by Gordon Sharp