Thursday, April 28, 2011

NY Weekend Culture: The Raveonettes & Tamaryn at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Punchdrunk's "Sleep No More"

This past weekend was full of the kind of cultural excitement that always makes me tremendously grateful to call New York home (for the time being at least)-- despite all of its less-than-perfect qualities. On Thursday, I went to see The Raveonettes with Tamaryn at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I’ve probably expressed my love for Music Hall somewhere on the blog before, but I must say that (at least so far) it’s my absolute favorite venue in New York because of its tri-level, wide-open space and the decidedly mellower group of people that frequent it (as opposed to Bowery Ballroom, which has a similar layout, but is smaller and more cramped-- much like Manhattan as opposed to Brooklyn, come to think of it).

A few snapshots I took at the show (Tamaryn would not get her hair out of her face, which made things a bit difficult, so these are just of The Raveonettes):

Tamaryn’s slow, dreamy, 90's-inspired psych-rock complemented The Raveonettes’ notoriously moody, bittersweet, 50’s and 60’s-inspired vocal harmonies, dark lyrics and hard-edged electric instrumentals. On the heels of their latest album, Raven in the Grave (released on April 4th), the prolific Danish duo, who cite The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Everly Brothers and The Velvet Underground as influences, put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The crowd was completely blissed-out (perhaps since it was the day after 4/20…) and I personally experienced no pushing or beer-spilling, which was a welcome change from most concerts-- it seemed as though everyone was in a music-induced trance.

Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes

Listen to "Forget That You're Young" and "Recharge & Revolt," both from The Raveonettes' newest album, Raven in the Grave, below (and if you like The Raveonettes, you should check out Sune Rose Wagner's 2009 eponymous debut solo album-- all lyrics sung in his native Danish)!!


Plus "Mild Confusion" and "Love Fade," my two favorites from Tamaryn's newest album, The Waves, released this past August:

On Friday night, I attended Sleep No More, an interactive/immersive performance based on Shakespeare's Macbeth by British theatre company Punchdrunk. The show, which opened in New York on March 7th and closes in early June, takes place in an abandoned, multilevel Chelsea warehouse that has been transformed into the "McKittrick Hotel" (made famous in Hitchcock's Vertigo) and is aptly described by the New York Times as "an environmental, stylized mash-up of Shakespearean drama and Hitchcockian noir." The piece had a very Eyes Wide Shut-meets-The Shining feel to it from the beginning-- we were made to hand over all of our personal belongings (including cell phones) to coat check, then ushered into a 1920's-esque bar lined with red velvet and mahogany where we were invited by a few charming, tuxedoed hosts to have a few drinks, then given masks to wear and whisked away in an elevator and let loose to explore the rest of the semi-abandoned "hotel," under strict instruction not to speak.

The dimly-lit, mazelike collection of over 100 rooms was so painstakingly detailed (hand-written love letters strewn around a bathtub full of bloody water, individual patient notes citing "violent nature" or "aggressive behavior" on the bedside tables of eight matching wrought-iron hospital beds, a darkroom filled with images of birds, an empty, fog-filled forest in which one can actually smell the pine, a cemetery complete with fresh dirt mounds and eroding tombstones, a laundry room hung with still-wet shirts, a doctor's office filled with menacing-looking silver utensils and hair samples, a detective's study stacked with books, files and shredded papers) that it was easy to forget we were audience members-- we were completely involved in the piece. The music faded in and out, from faraway, haunting strains of Billie Holiday and Chet Baker to a chilling, horror-movie-esque drone. Any desk drawer we opened, any file cabinet we rifled through had another piece of "evidence," a dog-eared family photograph, a full ashtray, a half-full glass of whiskey, a bible with certain passages underlined, a handwritten note. We could choose to linger in any of the environments or to follow any of the 25 wordless characters acting out scenes amidst us. I was witness to a few jarring "scenes" -- a man (Macduff?) being suffocated by another man (Macbeth?) in the midst of his nap in a luxurious feather bed, a bittersweet love scene in a tailor's shop, a silent argument in a hotel lobby phone booth, a ghostly waltz in a sweeping ballroom and a lavish banquet that ended in a bloody death-- but wished that we'd been given even more than three hours to explore, as I missed many of the rooms I'd wanted to see after reading a review on the piece. After the three hours were up, we were brought back into the 1920's bar where a four-piece jazz band was playing in full swing. All in all, it was a captivating, mind-blowing experience, and one I'd highly recommend. The masks granted us anonymity, concealing our identities, encouraging us to break established "rules" of the theatre (as Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle, directors of Sleep No More, intended) and lending us the freedom and boldness necessary to interact fully with the performance piece. My only qualm is that it's nearly impossible to investigate every aspect of the piece (and I wanted to!!), so I'd say it warrants a second or third visit. At $75 a pop, though, that's probably not going to happen on a student's budget...

A few official images from Sleep No More below (I wasn't able to bring a camera into the performance):

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Untapped Glimmerance," or an 149-Page Acid Trip: Bob Dylan's "Tarantula"

"Things were running wild at that point. It never was my intention to write a book."
-Bob Dylan

I recently received one of the best (and most unconventional) Easter presents ever-- an original second edition of Bob Dylan's first and only novel, Tarantula. Dylan wrote Tarantula in 1966 at age 25, but after being injured in a motorcycle accident decided against publishing the book. Bootleg copies of the manuscript were passed around for years (much in the same vein as Mark Z. Danielewski's experimental cult novel House of Leaves) until the first edition was finally published in May 1971. The Surrealist-influenced (Dylan was allegedly reading Rimbaud and the Comte de Lautreamont at the time), Ginsberg/Kerouac/Burroughs-esque, stream-of-consciousness style of Tarantula is certainly not for everyone (case in point: in 2003, Spin magazine published an article on the "Top Five Unintelligible Sentences From Books Written by Rock Stars," with Tarantula heading in at #1 with the sentence "Now's not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns"), but it unquestionably showcases a different side of Dylan's unmatched poetic talent while capturing the turbulent spirit and rhythm of the 1960's. Journalist Mark Spitzer called the novel "An arctic reserve of untapped glimmerance dismissed in a ratland of clichés." Others have called it something along the lines of "an acid trip that Dylan decided to record while on the toilet and accidentally sent in to publishers."

Decide for yourself after reading the following excerpt:

Guns, the Falcon’s Mouthbook & Gashcat Unpunished

aretha/ crystal jukebox queen of hymn & him diffused in drunk transfusion would would heed sweet woundwave crippled & cry salute to oh great particular el dorado reel & ye battered personal god but she cannot she the leader of whom when ye flow, she cannot she has no back she cannot… beneath black flowery railroad fans & fig leaf shades & dogs of all nite joes, grow like arches & cures the harmonica battalions of bitter cowards, bones & bygones while what steadier louder the moans & arms of funeral landlord with one passionate kiss rehearse from dusk & climbing into the bushes with some favorite enemy ripping the postage stamps & crazy mailmen & waving all rank & familiar ambition than that itself, is needed to know that mother is not a lady… aretha with no goals, eternally single & one step soft of heaven/ let if be understood that she owns this melody along with her emotional diplomets & her earth & her musical secrets

the censor in a twelve wheel drive semi stopping in for donuts & pinching the waitress/ he likes his women raw & with syrup/ he has his mind set on becoming a famous soldier

manuscript nitemare of cut throat high & low & behold the prophesying blind allegiance to law fox, monthly cupid & the intoxicating ghosts of dogma… nay & may the boatmen in bathrobes be banished forever & anointed into the shelves of alive hell, the unimaginative sleep, repetition without change & fat sheriffs who watch for doom in the mattress.. hallaluyah & bossman of the hobos cometh & ordaining the spiritual gypsy davy camp now being infiltrated by foreign dictator, the pink FBI & the interrogating unknown failures of peacetime as holy & silver & blessed with the texture of kaleidoscope & the sandal girl… to dream of dancing pillhead virgins & wandering Apollo at the pipe organ/ unscientific ramblers & the pretty things lucky & lifting their lips & handing down looks & regards from the shoulders of adam & eve’s minstrel peekaboo…

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Poetics of Reverie: Uta Barth

“We all expect photographs to be a picture of something. We assume that the photographer observed a place, a person, an event in the world, and wants to record it, point at it…The problem with my work is that these images are really not of anything in that sense, they register only that which is incidental and peripheral to the implied it.”

–Uta Barth

Like memories blurred around the edges, German-American photographer Uta Barth’s haunting, ethereal images capture not only fleeting moments themselves but the sensations surrounding those moments. Barth’s oeuvre evokes nostalgia, longing, emptiness, reverie, stillness and quiet, fabricating an almost cinematic ambiance. As viewers, we are psychologically seized up and pulled into her soft-focus dream world; made to feel the warmth of late-afternoon sunlight on our cheek, to witness the slowly circling dust motes in front of a window, studying a blade of grass until it blurs in front of our eyes.

Taking an aesthetic approach opposite to that of the famed Düsseldorf school of photography, which stresses sharply objective, archival documentation of subjects, Barth captures empty, subject-free fragments of scenes, often out-of-focus, off-center or cropped—in an ephemeral study of light, negative space and time.

After ten years of photographing exclusively inside of her own home, Barth began to bring her camera with her on walking trips, “…to walk without destination and to see only to see.” These exploratory photographic promenades spun themselves into her most recent collection of prints, which were on view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Los Angeles last summer.

A few of my favorites below:

Born in 1958 in Berlin, Barth lives and works in Los Angeles. For more information, visit Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another rainy-day hodgepodge of image/product appreciation.

film still from Sophia Takal's Green, which premiered at this year's SXSW (Watch the trailer here.)

hand-engraved silver flask by In God We Trust (I actually just bought this as a gift for someone...)

Catherine Deneuve, photographed by Helmut Newton

Chet Baker and friend

I have no explanation for this and I'm not sure where I found it... it kind of scares me but I like it.

photo by Robert Mapplethorpe

photo by Ellen von Unwerth
drawing by Andy Warhol

photo by William Eggleston
bag by Céline (needs to be mine now, please).

photo by Timm Ulrichs

Friday, April 15, 2011

One Got Fat: Blast From the Past

Something interesting I noticed the other day while watching the relatively new music video for Canadian indie band The Albertans' single "The Wake" -- it looked a little familiar. Upon further inspection, I realized that it consisted of much of the exact same footage used for Boards of Canada's video for "Everything You Do is a Balloon."

Neither music video uses original footage-- in fact, the cycling children sporting oddly gruesome monkey masks come straight from a 1963 bicycle safety short aptly titled One Got Fat-- a synopsis of the story is as follows: a group of children decide to go for a picnic in the park and to ride their bikes to said picnic. None of them, save for one (incidentally not wearing a monkey mask) follow proper bicycle safety rules, and are subsequently killed off (yet, being 1963, this is only implied) one by one. The sole survivor makes his way to the park by the end of the film and commences a solitary feast-- hence the short's tongue-in-cheek title.

The decidedly disturbing public safety announcement has appealed to several other bands for sampling and has made its way into a few other music video-- namely, those of Lamps, Dr. Dog, The Black Spiders and Venetian Squares-- perhaps due to its intriguing classification by comedic writers Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy as "a concentrated dose of lab-purified nightmare fuel" which "makes monkeys more terrifying than they already are."

Watch the music videos for The Albertans' "The Wake" and Boards of Canada's "Everything You Do Is A Balloon" below, and the original 15-minute short One Got Fat here.

(I apologize, whenever I embed Youtube clips they tend to be partially cut off...)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Forget Coachella... Doesn't this look so much better?

Although I had an incredible time at Coachella last spring, I sadly won't be attending this year. However, I am going to be attending Austin Psych Fest, a three-day celebration of psychedelic rock (and experimental visual art) in one of its birthplaces-- Austin, Texas. There's something to be said about smaller music festivals, as they're exponentially less hectic, less expensive and much more intimate. In the summer of 2009, I took a road trip up to Lake Tahoe with one of my best friends to attend Wanderlust, a four-day music and yoga festival that took place against the gorgeous backdrop of Squaw Valley-- we took two yoga classes a day, rode the gondola up to the summit of a mountain where the main stage was set up, listened to Broken Social Scene, Jenny Lewis, Rogue Wave, Spoon and Andrew Bird live (I was actually close enough to touch his adorably awkward Chaco sandals) while bathing in natural lakes, and danced to GirlTalk under the stars. It was the first year that Wanderlust took place, so there were only about a thousand attendees, which was actually amazing-- no pushing past sweaty E-tards while trying to find your friends, meanwhile having no cell service because of the massive amount of people trying to use their phones in such a condensed space, no $2 water bottles being sold by manipulative people in ugly visors who actually tell you to tip them (yes, this happens at Coachella), etc.

The Black Angels

Needless to say, I'm more than excited for this year's Austin Psych Fest, which will feature both established and newly emerging psych-rock bands such as Atlas Sound, Crystal Stilts, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dirty Beaches, Crocodiles, Tobacco, The Growlers, Black Ryder, Beach Fossils, The Soft Moon, Pete International Airport and ZaZa, as well as established psych-rock cult favorites such as The Black Angels, Spectrum and Roky Erickson (of 1960's psychedelic band 13th Floor Elevators), among many others. And the best part is that I've been generously given a press pass and assigned to take pictures/report on the festival by Oliver Kupper, founder of Pas Un Autre! My follow-up article will appear on his wonderful arts & culture journal/blog.

Alta Real Pictures recently released Oswald James’ documentary of last year’s Psych Fest, which features performances from The Raveonettes, Spindrift, Pink Mountaintops, Warpaint, Spectrum and others. Watch the trailer below (and tell me if Psych Fest doesn't look amazing!!):

AUSTIN PSYCH FEST 3 TRAILER from oswald james on Vimeo.

Curated by The Reverberation Appreciation Society and Austin-based band The Black Angels, the fourth annual Psych Fest will take place at the Seaholm Power Plant in downtown Austin from April 29th-May 1st, 2011.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April Fool's: Can I Borrow Your Mixtape? #4

Photo by Ellen von Unwerth

Reasons to celebrate:

1) It is finally April... which means sunshine (or rain, if you're on the east coast), Easter, blooming flowers, picnics in the park and lots of music festivals!

2) I have finally learned how to make zip files... which means no more inane clicking!!!

But this mix really sucks, so you shouldn't download it.... APRIL FOOL'S! (I know I'm a day late, oops). It really doesn't suck. In fact, it's great. Find out for yourself: