Artist and SAIC professor Pablo Garcia (previously) has added an update to his previous take on the two century old Camera Lucida, an optical device that allows you to trace images and scenes directly from life. The new version, NeoLucida XL, is similar to its predecessor, however with a much larger viewfinder. The prism inside the updated analog device remains the same size, while the larger mirror and glass make it much easier to draw the projected “ghost image.” You can read more about the device on its Kickstarter page.
Two years ago smugglers managed to get 48,000 cans of Heineken into Saudi Arabia by disguising it as Pepsi. This is ironic because Heineken's latest advert, which has been described as the "antidote" to Pepsi's awful read more »
Poco più di un mese alla sesta edizione del NOS Primavera Sound, in programma dall’8 al 10 giugno al Parque da Cidade di Porto. Il festival nato “dalle costole” del fratello maggiore in versione spagnola, ma che con gli anni ha saputo costruirsi la sua identità, anche grazie alla cornice della città portoghese.
Esclusive di questo festival saranno i Justice, Nicolas Jaar e Richard Hawtin, non presenti al Primavera di Barcellona la settimana prima, ed anche la coppia Rodrigo Leao e Scott Matthews, che presenteranno la loro collaborazione. Una versione più “tranquilla” del festival spagnolo, ma che comunque non manca di nomi importanti come Bon Iver, Aphex Twins, Flying Lotus, Grandaddy, Metronomy, Sampha, Shellac, Swans, Run the Jewels.
Il festival è anche un modo per visitare Oporto, una città vivace e moderna, famosa per il vino Porto ma che ultimamente è stata riscoperta dal turismo come destinazione di interesse storico-culturale: da non perdere il centro storico (la Riberia) e la sua architettura dai tratti medievali, il fiume Douro su cui si affaccia la città e i suggestivi ponti, ed ovviamente una degustazione in una delle tante cantine della zona.
Giovedì 8 Giugno:
Cigarettes After Sex, Flying Lotus, Grandaddy, Justice, Miguel, Rodrigo Leão & Scott Matthew, Run The Jewels, Samuel Úria
Venerdì 9 Giugno:
Angel Olsen, Bon Iver, Cymbals Eat Guitars, First Breath After Coma, Hamilton Leithauser, Jeremy Jay, Julien Baker, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Mano Le Tough, Nicolas Jaar, Nikki Lane, Pond, Richie Hawtin, Royal Trux, Skepta, Sleaford Mods, Swans, Teenage Fanclub, Whitney
Sabato 10 Giugno:
Against Me!, Aphex Twin, Bicep, The Black Angels, Death Grips, Elza Soares, Evols, The Growlers, Japandroids, Lady Wray, The Make-Up, Metronomy, Mitski, Núria Graham, Operators, Sampha, Shellac, Tycho, Wand, Weyes Blood
There have been few historically-recognised artistic movements in the western world that have centered black people. The British Black Arts Movement, a radical 1980s political art movement inspired by anti-racist and feminist discourse, helped to secure the rise of artists such as Sonia Boyce and Donald Gladstone Rodney, but in the 21st century this type of mutually beneficial collaboration and platforming…read more »
It’s often said that only 30,000 people bought the Velvet Underground’s debut album, but every one of them ended up starting a band. With all due respect to the late Lou Reed and his band of Factory noiseniks, they were slacking: X-Ray Spex must have pulled off the same trick before they’d even played a note of theirs.
“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard but I think – OH BONDAGE, UP YOURS! ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR!” go the…read more »
In the face of their own imminent mortality, our greatest singer-songwriters have pivoted towards that darkness to deliver some of their most profound lines. “I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game/I don’t know the people/In your picture frame,” Leonard Cohen sang on last year’s swansong You Want It Darker. David Bowie portended: “Something happened on the day he died/Spirit rose a meter then stepped aside” on his final album, released two days before his own passing. Now in his early 80s, Willie Nelson too has his mind turn to the dwindling of days. “Well I woke up still not dead again today/The internet said I had passed away/But if I died I wasn’t dead to stay/And I woke up still not dead again today,” he deadpans on the boot-shuffling “Still Not Dead,” a sentiment to file alongside his 2012 collaboration with Kris Kristofferson and Snoop Dogg, “Roll Me Up.”
For all of the cosmic wisdom that Willie infused into the country music paradigm in the early ’70s, he now favors playing the cosmic joker in his twilight years. For God’s Problem Child, he took to swapping lines with co-writer and producer Buddy Cannon via text message, giving the seven songs they wrote via thumbs a casualness and looseness they otherwise wouldn’t have. “I’m writing it all down in this stupid ol’ song/I made a mistake Lord, I thought I was wrong,” he quips on “I Made a Mistake,” his feigned mea culpa finding him equate himself to Jesus, Elvis, and Robert Ripley. Approach the Tao of Willie for spiritual succor and you might get a puff of smoke instead.
At times, Nelson’s nonchalance makes some of the more topical concerns on God’s Problem Child feel a tad hackneyed. “Delete and Fast Forward” tackles the post-election malaise, but there’s little solace to be taken in “don’t worry too much/It’ll just drive you crazy again.” Coming from a man born during the Hoover administration, perhaps it is just one big circle to be fast-forwarded through, but it reduces the real world stakes for those affected by the election’s outcome. Though at song’s end, Nelson hints that there’s always a falling short: “We had a chance to be brilliant/And we blew it again.”
That leaves plenty of space for the other veteran songwriters to slip Nelson their own meditations on aging. Veteran Gary Nicholson pens “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” an ode to fellow outlaw Merle Haggard, who departed last year, his most famous titles embedded in the lines. Longtime Kristofferson sideman and “Breakfast in Bed” writer Donnie Fritts, who’s “Old Timer” is given a tender reading by Nelson. A song about late-stage heartbreak and the reality of watching the people you’ve known in your life slowly bowing out, it explores the divide between a failing body and still acute mind. “You think that you’re still a young bull rider/But you look in the mirror and see an old timer,” he sings, subtly drawing out the “ooo” for heart-rending effect. It’s a sound echoed by the elongated tones of Mickey Raphael’s harmonica, a solemn prairie wail that’s accompanied Nelson since Redheaded Stranger.
The title track is penned by Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White, the former keeping the outlaw country banner high, the latter best known for the swamp-rock standard, “Polk Salad Annie.” White’s worn-leather baritone joins Nelson and Johnson, as does the late Leon Russell, making his last vocal appearance. For all of the convened voices, its Nelson and stirring guitar solo—eloquent in still-spry bursts—that speaks loudest.
And Nelson and Cannon’s ballad “It Gets Easier” details one of the real tragedies of growing old, the ease in which one can withdraw from loved ones and social living. “It gets easier as we get older to say go away,” he sings, save for the last line, where he sings of withdrawing wholly from the outside world yet still missing his love. It’s the sort of soft-spoken phrase that cuts through all of the smoke and finds Nelson detailing these twilight years in his own peculiar way.
Michael Gira was just two years away from pulling the plug on his band Swans when it released The Great Annihilator in 1995. Well before then, by the late 1980s in fact, it was clear that the shape-shifting experimental outfit had morphed into something quite far removed from the brutishly loud, grinding repetition of its early efforts. The difference was most glaring on its surprisingly faithful covers of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” From there, though, Gira and company re-calibrated their ability to bastardize pop music for a sound that was anything but conventional, even when they opted for seemingly traditional song structures and arrangements.
The Great Annihilator documents a configuration of Swans that wore pop, country, and lounge stylings in a way that no longer clashed with the malevolence of the group’s spirit. By this point, Swans weren’t imitating pop music so much as swallowing its features to create something monstrous. And although the album suggests that Swans were still far cry from the orchestral ensemble Gira assembled when he relaunched the band in 2010, that was only the case on record. Swans Are Dead, a live album that covers The Great Annihilator era, shows that Swans circa ’95 had grown much closer to their present-day state than one might expect.
On its own, The Great Annihilator doesn’t offer a complete picture of what Swans were truly capable of at the time. For fans who got onboard early in the band’s career, the album might lack abrasion; on the other hand, compared to the oceanic aural depth of the latter-day albums, The Great Annihilator is relatively thin. Nevertheless, the album does offer crucial perspective on a band whose versatility has basically known no bounds. Doug Henderson’s remastering for this deluxe edition gives Martin Bisi’s mix room to breathe where it had been flattened before, and the inclusion of Gira’s solo album Drainland sheds additional light.
After a brief instrumental opener laced with mystical overtones, airy chants, and the sounds of laughing children, The Great Annihilator gets underway in earnest with “I Am the Sun.” Even the uninitiated will get the irony as Gira and frontwoman Jarboe sing the refrain “I love everyone”—an irony further highlighted by the band’s leaden live rendition and Jarboe’s horrifying 2012 solo remake. But The Great Annihilator actually benefits when the band dials-back the heaviness. Jarboe, whose full range extends from jazz elegance to sugary pop to demonic growling akin to Diamada Galás, brings a sense of playfulness to the original “I Am the Sun.” At the end of the song, her voice is multi-tracked with handclaps to sound like children on a playground.
Gira too restrains himself from laying it on thick. These days, Gira tends to sing nakedly from the heart. On much of The Great Annihilator, he leers as if doing a self-consciously evil take on Johnny Cash. On “I Am the Sun,” with his straight delivery of the lines “when the light goes out/I kill another child,” he proves that his imagery requires no affectation in order to sting. On the contrary, the song’s vocal styles, bright harmonic makeup and manic drive all make for a rather fertile study in contrast against the words. Song titles like “Killing for Company,” and “My Buried Child,” now paired with Drainland’s “Why I Ate My Wife” and “Low Life Form,” suggest that Gira’s preoccupations hadn’t changed all that much.
But the opening sequence on Drainland—a recording of Gira demanding that Jarboe support him while she protests his excessive drinking and drug abuse—throws his words into relief that no longer feels comfortably distant as theater. More droning and abstract than The Great Annihilator, Drainland imports Jarboe and multi-instrumentalist/drummer Bill Rieflin from Swans, suggesting that if it isn’t a Swans album in name, it shares the same disposition. Again, Gira and company play up contrasts by using acoustic guitar, found sounds, and wide-open space as vehicles for immersive negativity.
Ironically enough, in some ways Drainland makes a more powerful impact with a comparatively gentle attack, especially without the artificial-sounding gated snare that dates The Great Annihilator. The two albums are conjoined by songs that share the same lyrics, “Where Does a Body End?” and “Where Does Your Body Begin?”—which suggests an internal call-and-response between Swans and Gira’s other creative pursuits. He would go on to make just one more Swans album—the far more experimental Soundtracks for the Blind—before putting the band on ice for over a decade. For all The Great Annihilator is missing, it is nevertheless pivotal as Swans’ final pop-leaning release. It also leaves no doubt about Gira’s lifelong dedication to breaking the mold.