Pere Ubu Lady From Shanghai Fire Records You'd expect to be thrown off a bit when delving into a new Pere Ubu record; discordant, unsettling rock n' roll has been the band's stock in trade for over 30 years. But on their latest, Lady from Shanghai, they take it one step further. Pere Ubu describe this record as an attempt at dance music, and the most obvious change is their new emphasis on beats and squealing electronics. While not a total success, between the steady rhythms and some excellent bass work, Lady is the foot-tappingest record in the Ubu canon.
ALBUM REVIEW CONTINUES BELOW

 

Last year, the NSFW video for Kirin J. Callinan's "Way To War (WIIW)" caught my attention with its punk rock Lars Von Trier visual choices. Just recently, the same director, Kris Moyes, released a music video for Grizzly Bear's "gun-shy" -- crystallizing what I would say is the best track from the band's latest offering, Shields, into a sputtering-in-time work of natural and "scientific" strangeness. Expect a compare-and-contrast interview with Moyes about both of these videos in the coming month -- but for now, relish in the animated .gifs and the video's delicious sleight of hand, tripped out subtle magic. Full clip inside, along with an initial statement from Moyes about the work.

 

Multi-faceted artist Saya Woolfalk is burning hallucinatory fires up and down both coasts the beginning of 2013, with dual shows in NYC and Portland. Three-dimensional or two-dimensional, still structure or moving image, Woolfalk navigates it all like a Play-Doh wizard gone haywire or a visionary artist on acid. Her latest solo show, Chimera, is a full-bodied, multi-disciplinary exploration of Woolfalk's fictional species of Empathics, who are genetic chimeras comprised of two or more genetically-distinct tissues. The series is sci-fi-inspired, with an underlying commentary about the transformation of identities through biological hybridization. Though these issues may seem foreign and otherwordly -- especially when tackled in the visually-striking way that Woolfalk has -- they may indeed have increasing relevance in our world in the face of scientific progress. Stay tuned for Woolfalk's in-depth interview with REDEFINE this upcoming month, and view the full post for more information on Woolfalk's shows and the Empathics.
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Dead Oceans' Sun Airway, comprised of Philadelphia's Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill, is are not only indie pop extraordinaires, but are musicians with an understanding of aural-visual relationships. The choices they make in selecting collaborators result in visuals richly sympathetic to their musical output and evoke the same sense of wonder and romance that their music does. The album cover for Sun Airway's 2012 release, Soft Fall, is adorned with a beautiful woman caught beneath a stringed web of falling flowers, porcelain china, and fine silver. It was painstakingly crafted by Japanese art collective NAM. In the bi-lingual Japanese and English interview and feature below, Barthmus and NAM's art director and designer Takayuki Nakazawa offer their perspectives on the creative process, as we further explore the work of both parties.
JAPANESE TO ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS BY MORGAN HARKNESS Takayuki Nakazawa (NAM): Our aim was to perfectly match the world of Sun Airway's music and take that world of sound and enlarge its image visually. I believe that the music and the cover visuals that go with the creation of an album have an extremely intimate relationship. Music and visuals have the power to overcome country and language to convey a message. Creating something so intimate between the US and Japan was an incredible experience, and most of all it was fun! We would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to Jon Barthmus for inviting us to this wonderful project. 私達が今回目指したのはSun Airwayの音楽の世界と完全にマッチし、さらに音の世界をビジュアルによってイメージの視覚的拡大をする事でした。アルバム制作における音楽とカバービジュアルは本来とても密接な関係性をもっているものだと思います。音楽やビジュアルは言語や国境を超えて伝達していく力があり、今回、日本とアメリカの間で密な相互関係をもって制作が行われた事は、私達にとって大変良い経験で、なによりも楽しかった!このような素敵なプロジェクトに私達を誘ってくれたJon Barthmusさんに、この場をお借りして感謝をしたいと思います。

 

MADNESS! is a recurring series of audio WTFs and head-twitching, spine-tingling experimental or chaotic fun (k-k+st-s-t+l-l)icks. Today, Aperiodic bring chaotic free jazz noise, and we pay slight homage to past sounds via Finland's haunting Paavoharju and post-hardcore classics The Jesus Lizard.
++ SEE: FULL POST + MADNESS POSTS or MUSIC COLUMNS

 

Aperiodic

Aperiodic's Future Feedback begins with "New West", a slow growth of jingling bells and static that bumps found sounds up against R2D2-type electronic beeping. Banging, off-tempo jazz drums and distorted guitar all grow in intensity throughout the duration of the 4-minute track, and one could suspect that the remainder of Future Fedback will be comprised of hardly palatable instrumental wankery. In a sense, one would suspect right, but this type of music always took a special musical ear to appreciate. Elements of musique concrète, free jazz, and noise are at the forefront of Future Feedback, which champions improvisation's most chaotic possibilities with a natural erratic twitch. Aperiodic have described themselves as "The Jesus Lizard disfigured beyond recognition", and it is the spirit of the post-hardcore band that shines through, not actual music parallels. The disfiguration comes in Aperiodic's cramming of heavier noise elements into a free jazz framework in absolute madness. Only on one track, "Amalia's Regret", does the band slow down to explore their more minimal side via creepy breathing and classic piano. You can rest assured, though; structure hardly plays a more significant role even then. The entire album is now available via Phratry Records, and you can stream its digital noise stylings via the Bandcamp embed below. Prepare yourself for all of the guitar distortion, manipulated samples, and pummeling drums you can imagine. And while you're at it, see the full post for a stream of The Jesus Lizard's full-length from 1991, Goat.

 

Scottish illustrators Kyle Noble and Jamie Irvine travel the world individually but remain tethered together through the constant exchange of twisted, fantastical comics. Emerging from their psychedelic landscapes -- some of which hardly resemble landscapes at all -- come floating heads with third eyes, praying mantises with Madonna streaming out of the top of their heads, fungal universes, and possible tractor beams. Noble and Irvine's collaborations are inspired by Exquisite Corpse, a Surrealist invention that serves as a mode of artistic interplay between individuals. Drawings are exchanged back and forth to evolve an image spontaneously and to create an organic, ever-unstable narrative. In the case of Noble and Irvine, this results in works that they describe as "unutterably absurd, sexually graphic and loaded with scientific as well as 'new age' theories" -- a natural output considering their respective influences. Noble cites interest in themes such as "the origins of man, Megalithic monuments, ancient civilizations, shamanism, psychedelia, cultural truth, skepticism, and spiritualism", and Irvine finds equal interest in "the exploration of the subconscious and the relationship with mind, sold, and body." Madness unfolds from there, to be seen in the batch images below. Some of Noble and Irvine's solo works to follow. (9 IMAGES TOTAL)

 

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of pop music highlights across a selection of styles. Brooklyn sister duo Prince Rama return with one of their boldest and most well-formulated conceptual spins on their own music yet with their latest record, Top Ten Hits Of The End Of The World. This post samples some tracks and goes into details about the bands and backstories they've invented, their Kickstarter-funded DIY film, their "So Destroyed" dance contest, and a shared recording with Sun Araw. SEE: FULL POST + ALL TOP POP COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS

 

Top Ten Hits For The End Of The World Tracks & Backstories

Prince Rama have long been about chasing the conceptual with their multimedia-encompassing theatrics, but their latest idea, Top Ten Hits For The End Of The World, takes our collective 2012 fascination with the apocalypse and turns it into a most playful collection of pop hits. In my opinion, this record, which is comprised of ten tracks from ten fictional bands -- all of which have extensive back stories crafted by the girls themselves -- is the duo's strongest to date. With Ariel Pink lo-fi vibes but with collation of genres both fictional and invented ("cosmic disco", "motorcycle rock", and "ghost-modern glam", to name a few), the model of Top Ten Hits... frees the girls from the binds of expectation and allows the to run free on all fronts. Rage Peace - "So Destroyed" (as channeled by Prince Rama) For the album's first single, Prince Rama took on the nihilistic protest band Rage Peace's violent-turned-pop songs. According to the press release, "Rage Peace formed as a small protest band in the early 90s and before they knew it they were the Bob Dylans of a whole generation of angry youth. They became founding members of the Rage Peace movement, based on the principle of nihilism as the only true order, and wrote songs with violent messages placed in seemingly saccharine pop structures. The band was notorious for staging organized acts of violence and destruction, burning cars and sometimes buildings in the name of chaos. When the end came, their bodies were found locked inside a limousine they had set on fire. The license plate read 'HEY U'."

 

In a three-part performance full of bizarre gestures and circular wording, a Japanese theatre troupe examines office politics in an off-the-cuff way. Performed completely in Japanese, everything in Cheltfisch is translated via a series of projected subtitles, allowing the subtle social dynamics of Japan to really shine through.
Part One: Hot Pepper
Three office temps sit around the table. Cue music -- and it is revealed that these three office temps are in charge of organizing a coworker Erika's farewell party. These three workers are organizing Erika's farewell party. As they discuss organizing Erika's farewell party in a roundabout fashion, they are offering very little information as they are speaking in circles. They are hardly saying anything at all despite spewing out many words, and while they speak, they are moving around the stage with exceptionally awkward gestures and positions. Their movements are completely erratic and unpredictable, quite unlike the words they are saying, which are constantly repeating the same themes in every short segment. Every few minutes is punctuated by awkward movements and repetitive text which says nothing but is humorous in its ability to say almost nothing despite their extended duration. Though the office workers spend an exorbitant amount of time talking about the same things ad nauseum, they entertain the audience with their body movements, which are much more erratic. Everything about their movements is stiff and intense, governed by no rhyme or reason, and all of the words they say harp on the same topic. Myriads of words are exchanged but little is said, just like in this paragraph. Everything about part one of Cheltfisch is about form and format and less about content. Movements follow a pattern of stilted spontaneity and words beat horses to pulpy, bruised death. Discussions about farewell parties, free monthly magazines called Hot Pepper, and motsu hot pot ("Motsunabe (もつ鍋?) is a type of nabemono in Japanese cuisine, which is made from beef or pork offal.", according to Wikipedia, which the performance itself in fact cites), offer little information, but somehow, part one never seems to stop being interesting. SEE FULL PERFORMANCE REVIEW

 

Tuesday's late night TBA fare began with a bang at Washington High School with Terrifying Women. The ambiguously advertised event promised "a video, comedy, performance, live, streaming, extravaganza" featuring Sarah Johnson, Kathleen Keogh, Angela Fair, Tanya Smith, Wendy Haynes, Diana Joy and Alicia McDaid. SEE FULL PERFORMANCE REVIEW
It's worth including an excerpt from the Facebook invite, which read:
A lot of people ask me "What do you mean by "terrifying?" And I say, "You know, like, kind of crazy but, like, good crazy? Most of the time?" Are you a terrifying woman? Or have you ever been terrified of a woman? IS TERRIFYING WOMEN FOR YOU? 1. Have you ever been told you are "too sensitive" or "too intense" yet often accused of being "too reserved" or "independent"? 2. Has anyone ever said, "You're crazy," or "What the fuck are you talking about? Can we please go to sleep now?" to you? 3. Have any mental or holistic health care professionals ever noted that "your moods seem to get in the way of your life"? or that "you feel a lot"? 4. Have you ever had an unsolicited spiritual experience? 5. Do you experience rage? Do you express it? 6. Have you ever confused love and sex? 7. Have you ever asked someone to "define obsessive"? 8. Have you ever habitually used any drugs or refused to take any drugs? 9. Have you ever been told that you vibrate at a high frequency or that you're "smart"? 10. Have you ever felt an overwhelming sense of love and joy that made you cry tears of gratitude even though you knew you would most likely experience gut wrenching pain and anguish at least one more time that day? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you should definitely come see our show. If you answered "no" to all of these questions, you're a liar.
("And liars should come to the show, too!!!!" adds Kathleen Keogh in response.) The official press release described the event thusly:
"It's the Vagina Monologues on nitrous oxide wearing strap-on penises. Don't be scared, be terrified."

 

Okay, so that was enough to pique my curiosity (and apparently the curiosity of many others; the auditorium was standing room only at start time). The festivities began with a group breathing exercise led by the bleached-blonde MC, Alicia McDaid, who then proceeded to pee -- or something like it -- onto the stage, perhaps setting the tone for an evening of absurd antics. She then led her audience on a self-depricating photo tour of her recent hair exploits before going on to introduce the rest of the all-girl cast, three of whom appeared via video chat, each repping their own persona. Diana Joy, most memorably, was clad in football shoulder pads, with Blade Runner-inspired Daryl Hannah hair (wig?), and freaky pitched down voice. Basically anything she said throughout the course of the night coasted on the hilarity of her hyper-masculinity. As for her other two on-screen counterparts, each was funny, or adorable and disappointing in her own distinct way. The effect was a sort of "choose your avatar" scenario for the audience.

 

Looking Through The Glass
When I first wrote about the work of Sydney, Australia's Mark Whalen years ago, I was fascinated by his use of bright pinks and blues in angular ways that can't possibly exist in "real life". Now, in 2012, Whalen has taken those same tendencies and brought them into a Homer Simpson-meets-3D-world level of trippiness, as parabolic three-dimensional grids cross with graph paper lines and shapes in various stages of dimension transformation. Lankier versions of the same characters Whalen used before traverse his far out illustrated environments in varying chaotic states. Some are being swallowed up by giant golden chess pieces; some engaging in ritualistic sacrifices; others falling down stairs and holding up basketballs on royal pedastals. More on Whalen soon. For now, enjoy these works, for a modern M.C. Escher-esque take on pattern and space, as swabbed in bright colors, humor, perversions, and rituals.
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