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...

Austra - Habitat Music Video
Directed by Matt Lambert, Austra's music video for "Habitat" weaves together three tales of human connection into one beautifully-lit cinematic narrative. Set in motel rooms that have been transformed into flowery love chambers, "Habitat" is a departure from Lambert's more sexually-charged works, but maintains a strong focus on casting and persona; with a deliberate eye, it captures the moments of first intimacy between forbidden lovers. Katie Stelmanis of Austra gives us some insight into the band's collaboration with the director.
Austra - Habitat Music Video
Natasha Kmeto Interview Photography by Patti Miller
Mystics throughout the ages have sought to express the relationship between birth, death, and time through all manner of ritual and philosophy. In Qabballah, we have the Supernal Mother Binah, who crystallizes Force into Form, thus making us subject to time and decay. In the ancient Greek religions, we have the story of Demeter, whose periodic descent into and return from Hades signifies the cycle of birth and death. And in astrological terms, we have the Saturn Return, which signifies the recurring point where the God of Time returns to the position he held on our chart when we were born. This last concept has worked its way into the modern Western lexicon to the point of cliché, but it serves the purpose of illustrating a point in our lives -- which happens around every 27 to 30 years -- when we are seemingly forced by some unseen hand into a state of brutal self-reflection. It is the mid-life crisis; the night journey; the start of C.G. Jung's path to individuation. Regardless of what we call it, this is an ordeal that most people are at least tangentially familiar with. Some event, possibly innocuous at first, becomes the source of friction that challenges us to engage our assumptions about who we are and what we are doing, so that we might make better use of our time on Earth. Now in her late 20s, Portland electronic musician Natasha Kmeto has felt the impact of her own Saturn Return and emerged from it all the better. Though not explicitly dedicated to the topic, her latest album, Crisis, is a highly personal record about love, loss, and longing that marks a maturation point in Kmeto's musical career. It has also lifted her from the status of popular local artist to internationally-renowned R&B singer and electronic music producer.
"It was my career that facilitated me traveling more and starting to experience different things in my mind, [so] that I kind of realized that the trajectory I was on was not the one that I wanted to be on. I kind of did a 180 and had to get really honest with myself and figure out what I wanted, because I wasn’t happy." - Natasha Kmeto
Pure Bathing Culture Moon Tides Partisan Records (2013) Moon Tides is dreamy atmospheric pop, swathed in romantic reverb, but what does this predilection towards cavernous sounds say about our current obsessions? Pure Bathing Culture reflect a number of themes of the indie underground like a crystal ball, that are easily missed or ignored with cursory reductive listening. There's more going on here. Moon Tides takes steps towards defining the spirit of 2013 -- or one manifestation of it, anyway. First of all, let's look at the fact that Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille transplanted to Portland, OR from Brooklyn in 2011, after playing together in the retroactive folk rock band Vetiver. This reflects the cultural shift away from industry and big business, as Brooklyn was the place to make it during the 2000s. This westward push shows a growing interest in mysticism, meditation, quiet simple enjoyment of life and of nature. It shows Portland's increasing role as a cultural mecca, for a particular type of person. No one has named this westward push, and as such, it still has interest and potency. Even though they haven't been there that long, Pure Bathing Culture are quintessentially Portland, and are a useful lens through which to notice things going on here in the Northwest. They are a gender-balanced duo, which is something you see a lot of here in the City Of Roses. They transubstantiate the mood of '60s mysticism (Moon Tides features themes about astrology, crystals, tarot cards), and place them in a modern context. You could interpret Pure Bathing Culture departing Vetiver as the culture leaving behind '70s psych folk wanderings, the freak folk of the 2000s, and stepping into the '80s. Moon Tides reflects what people like, what people are like, what we all gravitate towards.


At the start of Our Children, a young couple frolicks about, madly in love, over-the-top saccharine, full of wordless smiles and child-like naivete. Soon, an elderly doctor, clearly a father-figure in the young man's life, appears. He warns the young man against a serious relationship with the young woman, citing the cultural difference of her being Belgian and him being a Moroccan immigrant as a prime reason. This disapproval offers the first signs of strain, hinting that the young man is somehow indebted to the older man, though the reasons are unclear.


James Blake Overgrown (2013) Universal Republic Few artists are as conscious of their position in the music industry as James Blake. Seemingly spawned from the hype of music blogs and the irresistible "Limit To Your Love" cover which made him famous, Blake knows how volatile and fickle the wicked cycle of fame can be. But such awareness is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it is what has driven him to be successful even when the situation was unfair. At the time of his debut album -- a record which he was pressured to piece together by his record label -- Blake felt cheated out of the ability to craft an album he could truly call his own. On Overgrown, however, Blake has crafted a world all his own. And it's as beautiful as anything he has ever created before. In setting the scene, it's important to note the kind of relationship(s) Blake has been in since his bedroom producer days. Much has already been made of his long term relationship with Warpaint guitarist Theresa Wayman, but it's an important development that even Blake has admitted to be an influence on Overgrown. In a recent Guardian interview, when asked about being in love and if it affected his process, Blake responded, "Yeah, it did. And the uncertainty also did. The uncertainty of the nature of the relationship. The uncertainty of touring. The uncertainty of the music industry, and the uncertainty of my position in it." It's an important shift in lifestyle that bears its weight on the whole of Overgrown, a record more grounded in soulful, downtempo electronica than the booming stretch of dubstep EPs he began his career making. Be it the sound itself or the record's lyrical content, Overgrown is the natural evolution of a brilliant artist in his early twenties.


Squalloscope Soft Invasions Seayou Records A little over a year ago, Squalloscope -- the second pseudonym of Austrian singer-songwriter-artist Anna Kohlweis -- released her debut album, Soft Invasions. The beautifully composed album, which features expert mixing by Martin Siewert, stands out most for its personal lyrics and its intriguing combination of smooth vocals, instrumental samples, and electronic sounds. A satisfying, if not somewhat melodramatic, introduction to the album is found in "Dust", which establishes the character of Kohlweis' voice and the album's personal story of loss and transformation: "bring me my packed suitcase and all our favorite words." Feelings of angst and frustration pervade and support the earlier part of the album, which emotively details a relationship's deterioration and brutally awoken aftermath. Kohlweis' voice ranges from smooth and silky to rhythmic and almost rap-like against contrasting bare instrumentals and industrial and electronic sounds. This musical backdrop intrigues while supporting Kohlweis' emotional lyrics -- but though angst drives the earlier part of the album, fluidity of genre and varied composition make each song relatively unique.


IN SHORT: "It's not your average Black Moth Super Rainbow Album."


In discussing early album reviews for Cobra Juicy, Black Moth Super Rainbow's de facto leader Tobacco called the album "the 1st bmsr I really got right." It's an interesting comment, especially for a band who pride themselves on the reckless nature of their sound and their presence on stage. And then there's the fact that Cobra Juicy simply wouldn't exist in its current state if it wasn't for crowd-funding the project on Kickstarter. Especially considering the latter, there are certainly extraneous expectations surrounding the long awaited release. See full album review


Most often when you are attending a foreign film at a film festival, you expect something dark, heavy, and pretty much non-American. For that reason, it is almost a nice breath of fresh air to see Fuck My Wedding at Seattle International Film Festival, as it is a traditional American...

Italy, for all of its romantic and historic wonder, is a country that often seems to be masquerading as a third world country. This is a country, after all, whose recent Prime Minister resigned after a sex scandal (his umpteenth one) that would make a soap opera love triangle seem...

With variation in degrees of shading and texture, the black and white watercolor and graphite pieces by Ottawa's Nimit Malavia seem to be caught in varying degrees of completion. The epic 26 Point Stag, above, seems like a page out of Greek mythology or a fantasy novel, while Arranged, below, bleeds and combines geometries like a page out of a manga or graphic novel. These pieces are showing now at Spoke Art (816 Sutter Street, San Francisco), through April 28th, 2012. See more colorful and poetically romantic images, such as the ones on the bottom of this post, on her website, along with more black and white whimsies.


At first blush, Grimes' latest full-length, Visions, may seem like a trendy dance-pop album. Go a bit deeper, and you'll see it's not that easy to describe. The Grimes wave was a bit slow to wash over me at first, but once it did, it engulfed completely, making me incapable of choosing anything else to listen to. Grimes is one of those artists that became an indie internet sensation before anyone (in the US) knew who she actually was, even though she had been quietly putting out records on Montreal-based label Arbutus for the past few years. The project of Claire Boucher, Grimes has developed from lo-fi home recording natural to a studio-production pro. Her layering of harmonies on top of harmonies on top of electronic-sounding keyboards might seem cold to some, but the vibe the music actually creates is warm and inviting. How is this achieved? Let's start with the intro: "Infinite ♡ Without Fulfillment" is a telling and perfectly designed entrée into the Visions world, both in music and lyrical content. A juxtaposition of both indie rock and dance music, it sets the tone of the record and leads perfectly into the beautiful "Genesis" and the mystical "Oblivion," a yearning dance song at its core. The rest of the album wobbles a bit but remains steady in its fun energy content. "Nightmusic," which features frequent Grimes collaborator Majical Clouds, has a steady up and down beat that surrounds Boucher's voice with a beautiful stage. The bass is often thumping in the background of Visions, like a racing heartbeat, true to the overarching romantic theme of the record.