Kiev Band Interview
Bands navigating today's music industry are prone to micromanaging and deeply scrutinizing their every career move, but Orange, California's Kiev are not so cynical. Guitarist and vocalist Robert Brinkerhoff -- who introduced himself as "Bobby" at the start of our phone interview -- believes his band prefers a "slow burn" approach, with grassroots, hand-to-hand fan interaction. Kiev's grassroots tactics, which they're perfecting while promoting their debut full-length album, Falling Bough Wisdom Teeth, entail "sticking to your guns and making music you want to make, and knowing that it takes getting people in a room. It means playing shows to all different types of audiences, and hitting the road. It means doing things you love, which for us means making live performance videos, sharing them, and hoping that people get turned on to them in a genuine way and want to share them, as opposed to just being sort of click-bait or a sort of spectacle that gets popular really fast and then dies off really fast."
I went to the third Fuck Yeah Fest, in 2006, four months after I moved to Los Angeles. I went to the fourth one, too. At the third one, the still-ascendant local kids Silversun Pickups might have been the biggest draw, but clearly it was the punks' three-day weekend: The Circle Jerks, Erase Errata, and No Age all performed. It was Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris (Black Flag, Off!) who helped a bored 18-year-old Torrance, California upstart named Sean Carlson start the festival in 2004. In 2011, the FYF group -- by then four core people and a handful of part-timers -- partnered with promoting giant and AEG acquisition Goldenvoice. The FYF Fest I went to this past weekend bore little resemblance to the scrappy Echo Park gatherings of nearly a decade earlier. Sure, there were still enterprising sidewalk hot dog vendors outside the site, but this time there were 20 times as many -- literally, from two to about 40, beating out even the impressive number of informal-economy carts outside a Hollywood Bowl show on a summer Saturday night. This time, instead of the Echoplex's bar, there were multiple beer gardens, and booth setups by Bulleit Bourbon and Ketel One Vodka. And the bands' name recognition factor had shot up exponentially: headlining acts included The Strokes, Interpol, and Haim, all of whom the average hip suburban dad has at least looked up on Shazam. Some entities just shapeshift, and that's fine. Sting went from The Police to doing Renaissance lute music. Elton John transitioned from "The Bitch is Back" to "Circle of Life." If FYF Fest's sellout (let's call it what it is, not judge, and move on) means the playing field has re-opened to small, homegrown festivals with local reach, I look forward to seeing what the young promoters of tomorrow come up with.

 

Sunbathing Animal, for everyone who went mental over Light Up Gold: it doesn't cohere as well as its predecessor, in which all the songs flowed naturally and felt of a piece. Parquet Courts have been touring endlessly, and Sunbathing Animal often gives off the feel that the band has made songwriting less of a priority, and/or they had more than a few also-rans from the Light Up Gold sessions. Their 2013 EP, Tally All the Things That You Broke, was a mixed bag as well, but it had two of the most memorable songs of their career: "You've Got Me Wonderin' Now" and "The More It Works." If they'd been patient and held off until Sunbathing Animal's release to show those tracks the light of day, we might have a stronger album. The rave-up songs, seemingly inspired by the punk energy of their live shows, don't have as much personality as Light Up Gold, and hearken back to the lack of definition on their debut LP, American Specialties. Of the fast songs, "Vienna II" shows the most promise, taut and swaggering like Pink Flag-era Wire. It's also only a blink-and-you'll-miss-it length, at 1:02. Similarly, the instrumental "Up All Night" posits an alternate-universe Parquet Courts that grew up on Love Tractor and mid-period Feelies instead of early Pavement and 1970s downtown touchstones.
Owen Pallett - In Conflict Album Review
As lovely as the writing, playing, and production touches are on Owen Pallett's latest, In Conflict, it's his voice that may be the album's most striking feature. It's studied in the best way; the most accomplished singers, like the best figure skaters, can make an on-the-fly series of decisions seem natural, not hammy. Take Pallett's vowel sounds: where many North American singers nasalize the "ee," Pallett (a Canadian) is almost halfway to a resonant "ih," with some weight in the jaw and roundedness to the lips. Similarly, he backs out of his ending "r" sounds gracefully, not with the melodrama of a Broadway singer (who would finish the "or" more as "aw") but with just enough of the consonant to punctuate the word and let it go. His vocal phrasing is smart -- from his shaping of individual notes to the way he accentuates certain words or syllables in a passage to voice them like the natural flow of speech. Many contemporary pop artists, and even songwriters, don't have much regard for conversational lilts in lyrics -- not in the meanings of the words, but in in making those word-sounds more than just notes. Katy Perry probably wouldn't say "un-CON-di-SHUN-uh-LEE," so why would she sing it with the emphasis on those syllables?
Liars' 2012 full-length, WIXIW, dwelled in doubt and anxiety, pressed against a curtain of murky fragility. Even if one only looks at the cover art for the band's latest follow-up, Mess -- a robust mass of multihued string that looks like the Love Forever Changes hydra head grew dreadlocks -- it's evident that in 2014, the band is in a more positive, confident, and even silly headspace. Mess's stock in trade is industrial dance music -- and although Liars' beats are as primal as they've always been, their music is now a little too emotionally in-check to properly identify as synth-punk.
The recently launched Tumblr blog, Experimental Music on Children's TV, is the work of Mike Haley from the cassette podcast Tabs Out. Though the project features contemporary shows, the most fascinating entries are YouTube clips of earlier children's programming. We see Mister Rogers playing an ARP Soloist (the Pro version was used by Vangelis and Tangerine Dream); we hear a frenetic, minimalist Philip Glass mini-opera for geometric groupings of animated circles in a Sesame Street short. Advertising composer Suzanne Ciani, a protégé of synthesizer builder Don Buchla and computer-music innovator Max Mathews, appeared on 3-2-1 Contact in 1980, to demonstrate the use of an Oberheim OB-X and a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. REDEFINE chatted with Haley about the runaway success of EMoCTV and the inspiration behind it.
Experimental Music on Children's TV Blog (EMoCTV)