Desolation Center's genealogy of anti-commercial sound takes us to West Berlin, where Einstürzende Neubauten (translation: Collapsing New Buildings) create a new musical lexicon around the use of heavy machinery. It also gives us a glimpse of the New York No Wave scene, where groups like...
Try as I might, it was hard not to see every artistic choice that surrounded the first Portland appearance by Body/Head as a reaction to the divorce of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore.
There was the steadily unrolling video - directed by longtime Sonic Youth collaborator Richard Kern - that accompanied the hour-long performance. The slow motion clips cut between a man (actor James Ransone, best known for his work as Ziggy in season two of The Wire) and a woman who draw closer and closer in the space of an art studio. At one point, Ransone is on top of the young woman, straddling her as he takes her photograph. But by the end, the woman is alone, making art of her own creation, spreading black paint on a canvas by way of a nylon stocking.
When Nicholas Bohac left behind the Midwest to pursue his artistic career in one of the most expensive cities in the country -- San Francisco -- the decision must have been both wise, for the connections and experience, and terrifying, for the potential financial burden. But thanks to a sympathetic landlord and a supportive wife with more gainful employment, Bohac lives in the SF's Outer Richmond neighborhood, within blocks of Golden Gate Park, and has a studio space that he shares with his landlord, free of charge. The garage studio is hardly one to lounge about comfortably in, but considering the skyrocketing housing rates of the city and its general shortage of space, Bohac is one lucky man.
Bohac is one of a small percentage of artists who has the rare luxury of working on art at his leisure. His leisure, however, is not one to be taken lightly; he estimates that he created 15-18 mid-sized pieces, 165 small pieces, and participating in eight shows in 2011. 2012, though, is a new year -- and with it, comes a new approach. He has taken the time thus far in 2012 to step back and reassess his work and his direction. He is learning to be more choosy and to expect more from his work, at the same time that he is reconstructing what he wants his outwards-facing image to be.
Upon first glance, Bohac's works are complex and psychedelic in nature, full of unnatural colors and shapes. But despite how obscured, manipulated and tweaked they might be, their very cores are centered around landscapes -- one interest that is deeply-rooted and enduring in Bohac's life. After all, it is landscapes which drew Bohac from the Midwest, where he had lived his entire life, to the West Coast.
"I came out here to visit a friend who had moved out here... [and] I just was like, 'Whoa, there's a lot of stuff out here happening that I've never seen before,'" he recalls. "I'd seen mountains and I'd seen oceans, but I think everything just coalesced together in this area, and it makes these really interesting landscapes."
To pay homage to his new surroundings, Bohac began with painstakingly rendered tempera paintings based off of photographs he had taken of the ocean. Ultimately, though, it was attending art school and taking in critiques from others that refined Bohac's style from mere imitation to reimaginings of everyday scenery.
"I think one of the best things anyone -- any instructor -- ever said of me was when I was making two or three of these collage paintings at once, and they were all at night and you could see the blue sky and the stars. He said, 'Why don't you make the sky this pink?' and that's all he had to say, and all of a sudden everything opened up a little bit more."
Underneath all the dingy guitars, waves of static, and unavoidable comparisons to '90s indie rock bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement, the self-titled, debut album from Yuck offers the simple beauty of an even earlier era when rock was made to be overtly fun. The...
While Argentina continues to sell itself as the home of tango and hard rock, there are a ton of artists there trying to make something interesting, often taking cues from seminal Western bands and legendary Argentine artists....
As we find ourselves suddenly thrust into the midst of the information/overpopulation age, some unsettling realities about the nature or our species' brilliant endeavors become harder and harder to suppress from our collective psyche. We know that our government starts wars solely to funnel money into the military/prison industrial complex. We know that we've sold out our political voice to those of inanimate corporate deities. Our excess is gleaned from the blackened heart of human exploitation and spiritual vacancy. These things have become increasingly obvious, and yet, your average person is ultimately powerless to change them on a grand scale. The overwhelmingly tragicomic trajectory of our collective plotlines can possess anyone with the urge to detach themselves from what some people still call "reality".
Spring 2010 Interview
But it's not all unsettling. There's a transcendent beauty lurking in the depths of our current art explosion. With increased technological advances, more people than ever can exteriorize their internal realms of consciousness for less. It's this desire to distance oneself in an alternate universe of creative information, combined with disgust at America's obsession with "power of positive thinking" mind rape psychology, that inspired Liars' latest album, Sisterworld. Following a string of brilliant full-lengths, Sisterworld finds the band continuing to challenge themselves. Some artists find their sound and pummel a pattern ad infinitum, but it's always more exhilarating to watch artists take serious risks -– which is something Liars have never shied away from doing. Combine this with a fervent dedication to the visual side of the project (the full-length DVD companion to Drums Not Dead is a lo-fi video art masterpiece), and it's not surprising that art rock megaliths Radiohead hand-picked Liars to open for them on their last tour.
On the verge of their latest release, Aaron Hemphill and Angus Andrew were nice enough to answer a few questions via e-mail. (Editor's note: All formatting from their responses is original!).
ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW
Liars "Scissor" from A Bruntel on Vimeo.
One of the underlying themes of Sisterworld is how people form their own worlds and social networks to deal with the continuing onslaught of our society brought forth by population expansion and new information technologies. Where'd the idea for this theme come from, and how do you guys personally build your own "sisterworlds," as it were?Angus Andrew: AARON AND I BEGAN TALKING ABOUT HOW WE OFTEN FEEL DISLOCATED FROM WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND US. SOME KIND OF LACK OF CONNECTION WITH THE MILIEU. WE SPOKE ABOUT THIS GENERALLY AS IT RELATES TO MUSIC AND CULTURE, AND THEN REFINED THE IDEA AS WE FOCUSED MORE ON LOS ANGELES. I THINK MUSIC IS OUR SISTERWORLD, BUT WE EACH HAVE LOTS OF WAYS OF CREATING THE SPACE WE NEED. FOR EXAMPLE WE'RE ALL PRETTY AVID GARDENERS.
Aaron Hemphill: IT WASN'T REALLY THE EVENT OF ARRIVING AT THIS IDEA, MORE THAT ANGUS' AND MY SUBJECT MATTER AND MUSICAL MOODS CONVERGED ON THE SUBJECT. THIS WAS THE COMMON SUBJECT... ONE THAT COULD UNITE A BROAD SPECTRUM OF SOUNDS AND STILL BE COHESIVE. THE MORE I LEARN ABOUT MYSELF, THE MORE DETAILED AND SPECIFIC THE WORLD I FEEL I FIT IN BECOMES... THIS ADDS A LOT OF FEAR AND PARANOIA AS TO WHETHER OR NOT A PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION WILL EVER BE FOUND.
I personally use information technology as a means to deluge myself with a constant stream of art, books, movies, music, blogs, graphic novels etc. in an attempt to exist in somewhat of a parallel dimension of my own design. On that note, what other bands would you recommend right now for someone looking for a good escape from the horrors of our times? What kind of other artists, regardless of medium, have you been geeking out on as of late?Andrew: I LIKE TO READ A LOT. FOR ME, A GOOD AUTHOR CAN TAKE YOU ELSEWHERE. LATELY I'VE BEEN REALLY INTERESTED IN FIRST-TIME NOVELISTS. TOM MCCARTHY, STEPHAN HALL, STEVE TOLTZ, JOSHUA FERRIS -- ALL HAVE WRITTEN INTERESTING NOVELS RECENTLY.
Hemphill: NDS: THE LEGENDARY PINK DOTS, SIGHTINGS, ONEIDA, PINK DOLLAZ, WU-TANG CLAN, KING TUBBY, CHOPIN, MORTON FELDMAN. ARTISTS: CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI. SADLY, ALEXANDER MCQUEEN'S DEATH HAS PROMPTED ME TO REACQUAINT MYSELF WITH HIS WORK.
Since your sound seems to vary so much from album to album but still retains a similar vibe, I was wondering how your songwriting process typically works. Does one person usually bring in most of the ideas or is it more collaborative? How does a typical Liars song come forth into the world? Do you conceptualize it beforehand or is it more of a spontaneous process?Andrew: WHEN WRITING FOR AN ALBUM, WE GENERALLY DISCUSS CERTAIN IDEAS OR MOODS WE'RE INTERESTED IN. THEN WE GO AWAY AND WORK INDIVIDUALLY ON CREATING SONGS THAT EXPRESS OUR OPINION OF THAT MOOD OR IDEA. ONCE A GOOD AMOUNT IS COLLECTED, OR ENOUGH TO MAKE US FEEL CONFIDENT THAT WE'RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, WE'LL LISTEN AND TALK A BIT MORE ABOUT THE MATERIAL. IN THE FINAL STAGES, WE DECONSTRUCT THE SONGS AND RECONFIGURE THEM IN THE STUDIO.
Hemphill: TYPICALLY, ANGUS AND I PRODUCE FAIRLY COMPLETE DEMOS AND SHARE THEM WITH EACH OTHER. FOR THIS ALBUM, WE ALLOWED MORE TIME FOR EXPANSION AND REVISION DURING THE "SHARING" PHASE OF THE PROCESS.
The last time I talked with you was right before you went on tour with Radiohead. How was that experience as a whole? Are those guys really telepathic androids from the 5th dimension phase shifting through our time space in order to blow our minds, or are they fairly down-to-earth guys? If you had to pick one nugget of wisdom you took away from the whole experience, what would it be?Andrew: YEAH, THAT WAS A REALLY GREAT EXPERIENCE. AND THEY ARE EXTREMELY DOWN-TO-EARTH GUYS. I THINK ONE OF THE BEST THINGS TO WITNESS WAS HOW EACH OF THE MEMBERS IN THAT BAND CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH TO THE SOUND THEY CREATED ON STAGE. IT REALLY SEEMS LIKE EACH PERSON IS ABSOLUTELY INTEGRAL TO HOW THE BAND FUNCTIONS. THERE WEREN'T ANY TRICKS, EITHER; IT WAS ALL REAL.
Hemphill: GREAT. NO. THERE'S NEVER AN ACCEPTABLE AMOUNT OF PRESSURE.
You'd also mentioned before that you intentionally induce insomniac states as a means to bring about creative inspiration. Any such practices involved with the making of Sisterworld?Andrew: YEAH, REALLY, WHENEVER I HAVE THE CHANCE TO GET FOCUSED, I LOSE THE NEED FOR TIME. MY BODY CLOCK GOES OUT THE WINDOW, AND I LET THE WORK DICTATE REST. OFTEN I FIND MY IDEAS GET LOOSER AND MORE UNINHIBITED IN THE HOURS BEFORE COLLAPSE.
Hemphill: I HAD 2 SEPARATE INCIDENTS OF NERVE DAMAGE TO MY SKULL DURING THE WRITING AND RECORDING OF THIS ALBUM. WHAT THAT HAS CONTRIBUTED IS LEFT ANSWERED BY THE LISTENER, I SUPPOSE.
As someone who thinks in a more shamanic or magickal context, I think dreams are often direct communications with what some would refer to as a "holy guardian angel." With that in mind, what's the weirdest dream you've had in the last year or so, and what do you think it was trying to tell you if anything?Andrew: THE FIRST TRACK ON THE ALBUM WAS A DREAM. I DESCRIBE IT PRETTY LITERALLY IN THE SONG, BUT BASICALLY IT FELT LIKE SOMEONE CLOSE TO ME WAS DYING, AND I WAS INCAPABLE OF DOING ANYTHING TO HELP HIM OR HER. I WOKE WITH A HORRIBLE SENSE OF GUILT AND SOMEHOW FELT LIKE I WAS BEING REMINDED THAT I NEED TO BECOME MORE ENGAGED WITH MY SURROUNDINGS AND THE PEOPLE IN IT...
Hemphill: DREAMS FOR ME REMIND ME THERE'S A LARGE PORTION OF MY MIND I CANNOT CONTROL OR SUMMON. SCHIZOPHRENICS OFTEN RELATE THE LACK OF CONTROL IN A DREAM STATE WITH THE LACK OF CONTROL CONCERNING THEIR AUDITORY OR VISUAL HALLUCINATIONS. THAT BEING SAID, THE MOST HORRIFYING DREAMS I HAVE ARE FRIGHTENING DUE TO A LOOK OR DESIGN THAT IS COMPLETELY FOREIGN TO MY FAMILIAR TENDENCIES OR PRACTICES, YET OBVIOUSLY PRODUCED BY MY MIND. FOR EXAMPLE, I HAD A DREAM THAT TOOK PLACE IN A FUTURISTIC ENVIRONMENT WITH VISUAL ELEMENTS I WOULD NEVER CHOOSE, NOR IMAGES I WOULD INTENTIONALLY RECORD FOR MEMORY. THE FRIGHTENING THING IS THAT THERE IS A PORTION OF MY MIND THAT IS VERY ACTIVE, AND UNCONTROLLABLE.
It almost makes too much sense that Kinski would choose to do a live score to the experimental silent film, Berlin: Symphony of a City. The band named themselves after Klaus Kinski, the wonderfully insane sidekick to legendary German New Wave director Werner Herzog (whose...