Thirty years ago (July 12, 1990, to be exact), Northern Exposure premiered on network television. The six-season series depicts life in a fictional small town called Cicely in the wilds of Alaska. It does not shy away from the spiritual nor the surreal, in employing extended dream sequences, fairy tale...

Photography by Claire FinucaneWe are said to dream on any given night, even if we fail to remember its contents. For the inaugural performances of Arya Davachi's immersive theatre piece, Rough Sleeper, a woman polls us before we enter the venue. Did we sleep well last night? Did we dream?...

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your dancing toes. This month, we rope in a lot of notable artists with new songs on the horizon... be it the Micachu-produced Tirzah, R&B vocalist Jessy Lanza, 18-year-old Brazilian-French producer Dream Koala, or the tried-and-true sounds of BRAIDS and Julia Holter. Also included are tracks by Foxygen member Diane Coffee and Arts & Crafts artists The Darcys.
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Jessy Lanza - "5785021"

As a hardcore lover of R&B in the '90s, I'm a fucking hard sell when it comes to the indie R&B revival that slinketh around these days. I need more than just a pretty voice; that helps, but a hook needs to catch me, and not in a shallow way, either. On "5785021", probably the best track on Jessy Lanza's upcoming release, Pull My Hair Back. Tender vocal melodies that slink and out of upper registries couple with background synths reminiscent of Art of Noise's "Moments in Love", without being actually derivative. Pull My Hair Back comes out September 10th on Hyperdub; stay tuned for a full album review.  

Tirzah

I can recall a time far, far away... back in 2009, when my musical playlist was dominated by tUnE-yArDs and Micachu and the Shapes, in their lo-fi heydays. Since then, Micachu has been back here and there in small doses -- though with nothing as earthquaking as the debut Jewellery record, I would argue. So it is with great delight that I stumbled upon the I'm Not Dancing four-track EP from Tirzah, which was produced by Micachu and features some of her distinctive drum sounds and general aural simplicity. The EP is out now on Greco-Roman. The Grant Amour-directed music video for "I'm Not Dancing" is also delightfully awkward and fitting for the album title.  
At certain times in the lives of those who listen, dreams, both in wake and at rest, can serve as a rich breeding ground of inspiration. Tapping into our subconscious can bring about flurries of sonic or visual cues from which to further develop ideas, and for artist-musicians like Christelle Gualdi of the solo electronic project Stellar OM Source, such a practice might even be the initial spark of a music video to a song you'd written. In describing the vision in her mind's eye, Gualdi explains:
"While waking up one morning, an image of a Japanese girl dressed in a kimono and walking along the edge of a swimming pool surrounded by fog appeared to me. This image became the inspiration point for "Polarity". I developed the abstract narrative arc from this conscious dreaming: the women, the kimonos, the water choreography and the reflective play of light. "As we shot, the pieces fell right into place. The set felt like an animated fashion shoot, exaggerated details in the exchange between the beautiful women of the water. A feel of mystery and expectation initiates the sequences. I needed a central character to direct the energy flow, and the girl in blue face became this. When she submerges underwater, we understand her role. The flashbacks explain more before the ballet begins. The object of their dance is revealed in the end: polarity as an exchange of beauty."
Gualdi's physical interpretation of this vision utilizes underwater cameras and minimal but rich abstractions, as if to capture the qualities of the subconscious in symbolic form. In the Q&A below, she further expands on this music video, both with regards to its concept, inspiration, and execution.

 

Liars continue to compel me to no end. Truth be told, with these days and their compulsive relentless onslaught of auditory information, I almost expect to get sick of a band after album four or so. So I downloaded Liars' new album when it came out, but only listened to it a few times before I found out I was going to be interviewing them again. I then decided I should probably rectify that and listened to it like six times in a two-day stretch. Holy shit! WIXIW is a freaking classic which finds them again refining their prime directive of reinventing their prime directive, which has always been their forte. Six straight albums of genius. Not many bands can pull that off. This one's more aberrant but still uniquely them. Basically, they use more computer beats and effects than usual – kind of what you'd expect a band to do circa now. Difference is, Liars were always kind of doing that, so it feels completely effortless. Oh, how it owns. I had the good fortune of catching them live a few weeks back and had my mind psychically ass-handed to me by the sound druids in the sky. Liars are one of the few bands I know that you can definitely say are better live than on record, that still actually make great records. There are plenty of bands that excel face-to-face but can't pull it together in the studio, ever. The way the bass amplifier worship reverberated through their new beat-heavy cuts brought a sinister vibe to sound, rendering the whole scene that much more exquisitely delicious. When they dropped into the punkier cuts from albums like Sisterworld and their self-titled third disc, there was more raw power per inch being blasted from the stage than most metal bands ever conjure forth in their faux demon-worshipping careers. A ton of acts are using pure volume these days as a way to mask underdeveloped songwriting chops, but Liars do it right. Frontman Angus Andrew talks about that and other fun shit like dreams below. Dig.

 

Liars – WIXIW Teaser
"'Wish you' is a familiar and universal sentiment of longing and hope, but when misspelt becomes uniquely shrouded and difficult to interpret, which in many ways is representative of our music and the songs we wrote for this album." -- Angus Andrew, on the album title WIXIW

 

If you even remotely keep tabs on the news cycle these days, it's easy to get bogged down in horrifically menacing thoughts of the world falling apart at the seams. The American military industrial complex has nearly doubled in size over the last decade, and it was already a ridiculously bloated frivolity. We continue to rape the environment for our own selfish expansionary agenda of warped materialism, with little respite in sight. There are no spiritual leaders of any real consequence despite the obvious need. The stupidest people with the least resources continue to have the most children, and their billionaire overseers encourage them to take great pride in their own shameless ignorance. And each time I think I've seen the lamest lowest common denominator pop culture moment possible, all I have to do is wait five minutes and something else will creep up knocking my faith in humanity down a few more pegs. It can get worse than Jersey Shore, and does. What to do, then, with all this bleakness constantly lurking in the outskirts of our collective unconscious? A true mystic can take even the darkest of human plotlines and shine the impenetrable light of our higher spiritual destiny on them, illuminating the hidden beauty in the seemingly most hopeless of scenarios. Which is where an artist like Chelsea Wolfe excels. She manages to take the unrelenting horror of her apocalyptic dreams and effectively channels it towards transcendent catharsis. I caught up with the enchanting Miss Wolfe recently by e-mail to chat about how exactly she pulls this off so effectively as well as her admiration of Ayn Rand, amongst other things. Read on, true believers.

 

The dream-like figure paintings of Norwegian artist Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen have been so striking to me that the above image has been my Facebook profile picture for the past half year, at least. Uldalen's blue-tinged characters may be shaded like ghostly apparitions or bloodlet cadavers, but the weightlessness and lightness of spirit they possess seem to define serenity, even as they are being whisked off of buildings and freefalling in impossible positions. As Uldalen was born only in 1986, it seems fair to say that these oil paintings are only the beginnings of a whimsical artistic career.

 

In this compound post for Danish band Sleep Party People, we review the music videos for "Chin and "A Dark God Heart," and continue with an album review and full album stream for their latest, We Were Drifting On A Sad Song.

Sleep Party People are really trying their best to present their music as the kind for the moments between wake and sleep, and journalists lifting straight off the press release are certainly spreading this message along for no particular reason -- until now. This sleek and spacey video for "Chin" is certainly the best indicator of Sleep Party People's intentions yet, reaching true ballerina-meets-outerspace take-off about halfway through, when a succession of (irregular) hexagonal shapes remind you that you should watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos. (I've taken the liberty of posting a clip of that at the bottom of this post, because... why not?) This video, directed by Obscura and featuring dancer Caroline Baldwin, is just an all-around a delicious view, with its rainbow projections of space.

 

London-based indie rockers Post War Years have teamed up with amazing Philly director Tobias Stretch to create this muppet-filled blue-tinged world of weirdness. Stretch, known for his stop-motion animations and work with puppet characters, took the time to answer a few questions, which you can read below the video.

 

 

How was the concept for this developed? You and the band jointly? Mostly you? Mostly the band? The band presented me with an idea of an image, a playground swing descends in slow motion towards the head of an alien creature. From this powerful image I was able to create a world around it that also reflected the meaning of the song which dealt with the trials and tribulations of a young person trying to find their way in the big bad world.

 

This video feels and reads like a nightmare which then comes to show itself as light-hearted. Is there any truth in that kind of reading? Yes, nightmares can be quite funny at times despite the fear they usually elicit. Nervous laughter is the surest sign that an object of fear has now passed. To me, the celebration of life is also about being free of fear, even if it is only for moments. People who have endured traumatic events tend to have a blacker sense of humor, so the lines between humor and fear are always blurry for me.

Part I: Now Age Manifesto And Q&A

TEXT BY THAD MCKRAKEN; Q&A BY VIVIAN HUA; MANIFESTO AND ANSWERS BY TARAKA LARSON The fundamental nature of time itself wasn't something I'd contemplated at great length until roughly a year ago. I think what turned it around for me was when I accidentally summoned what classic occultists would refer to as my Holy Guardian Angel. Out of nowhere in the summer of 2010, I started performing sigil projection exercises which seemed to be coming from somewhere else. I felt strangely and unconsciously compelled to envision myself in third person, as an external character wearing a sleek black suit. I was confronting my demonic persona -- the part of me that longed for frivolous shit like wealth and power -- or something to that effect. Who am I kidding, I had no fucking idea why I was doing this, but the further in I got, the more the scenarios played themselves out in my head; they had me shaking hands with the world's elite and proceeding to haunt their unconscious. To make a long story short, this version of myself that I'd been unwittingly focusing on actually showed up in my room one night. I will confess that I wasn't fully awake. I was in a hynagogic sleep state that a lot of mainstream psychologists would refer to as sleep paralysis. I taught myself how to do this by experimenting with astral projection years earlier; it fucked with my head forever. But it's what "I" told myself that's relevant here:
"We are the beings from the Sirius star system that were communicating with Robert Anton Wilson. We are the grey aliens. We are death. WE EXIST OUTSIDE OF TIME. That's why it's difficult for us to communicate with you."
They then projected a telepathic communiqué into the depths of my spirit. My reality became this video-like demonstration which oscillated between perspectives, drawing connections to something I'd also randomly started contemplating months prior – the Gnostic concept of the Holy Trinity:
  • The Father (or Holy Guardian Angel) – the me who is eternal and exists outside of time;
  • The Son – the me who exists inside what we refer to as human reality;
  • The Holy Spirit – the conjunctive tissue which binds us all into one coherent plotline; time itself, shown to me like a glowing orb which I existed inside of, though apart from my cosmic overmind persona (it/I watched from outside as if floating motionless in outer space).
Sounds completely nuts right? Well, it does until you realize you're one of about a billion people throughout history who have had this type of shit happen to them. Unfortunately, these topics are usually relegated to the easily disregarded world of "New Age" literature, ensuring that anyone who believes a half-man half-God walked the earth 2,000 years ago will laugh them off without a second thought. The term "New Age" has been so intentionally co-opted throughout the years by military and religious interests that even I hate it. Luckily, writer Daniel Pinchbeck has been trying to rebrand the neo-psychedelic evolution of these concepts as "Next Age." And here, we have the multi-talented Taraka Larson of Brooklyn's Prince Rama putting a much needed artier spin on ancient New Age ideas with The Now Age Manifesto. It's a work about the importance of intentionally transcending so called normal space-time perception and entering what Larson and English philosopher John G. Bennett refer to as Hyparxis, a hypertime dimension that has a timeless quality noticeable to human perception. In a way, these experiences and mind states kind of have to happen to you before you'll take any interest in them – but The Now Age Manifesto details concepts that will help you get there if you try. The entirety of Larson's manifesto can be viewed online at www.now-age.org.

The Now Age Manifesto: Introduction

The Now Age seeks to reconnect the current dislocation between time and space and resurrect the symbolic power of music by means of UTOPIA. NOW AGE = NO AGE Somewhere between Time and Eternity lies a dimension called Hyparxis**. Hyparxis is defined as an 'ableness-to-be'. It does not indicate a change in time, or a manifestation of eternity. Instead it refers to transformations in 'inner time'. Hyparxis combines what is actual with what is potential, thus creating a 'present moment' based on the internalized experience of external temporal events, past, present, or future. Thus, the Now Age refers to no age at all, but instead describes an elemental quality of being. UTOPIA = NO PLACE The word UTOPIA by definition signifies "NO PLACE". It is neither here nor there, of this world or transcendental to it. Its existence as a non-existence can be seen as a singularity, but within this "no place" exists an infinity of space. Thus an invisible "space between worlds" is created that acts as a medium between the real and the ideal environments. This aspiration for a space within a pre-existing place is vital for distinguishing the utopian impulse from the transcendental impulse; whereas transcendentalism seeks escape from the "real" world in exchange for an ideal one, utopia instead seeks a deeper connection with this world in the form of tapping into its inner potential, a REALIZATION of the REAL. It is here that the musical environment lives. Sound in and of itself is a tangible example of "no place". It is pure vibration, a shifting of air particles, and is thus (by sheer virtue of its nature) wholly meta-physical. **John G. Bennett, The Dramatic Universe