Author Archive

Daniel Bachman

Jesus I'm a Sinner

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When I lived in Los Angeles, I felt extremely separate from the environment around me. A silver layer of smog hovered over me, separating my lungs from the air. I tried to hike as often as I could, but all the rushing people between errands and dogs taking shits distracted me, removing me many degrees from my purpose in walking. Just about every day one could expect it to be warm and cloudless. Some would think this is pleasant, and perhaps it is, but I found it tremendously disconnecting. It makes it difficult to consider the real whirling of the Earth. I wanted to be where I could feel it in motion. I always wanted to live in Vermont, and now I do. Here there are seasons, and here the weather changes every twenty minutes. In Vermont I can breathe, and it tastes like damp pine. Here I can take a walk in the woods behind my house every day and see nobody else. Here I am walking, between the trees, with the streams, squirrels and birds, and the little ones I can’t see. Here I am, with it as the leaves fall, crunch, soak, and the stream fills with water, and then dries. Every day I am surprised by it. Today it snowed for the first time, a kind and tiny snow. Soon it will be blanketed white. There is a simple exhilaration in this living. An environment is full of details which can never be exhausted.

Usually I walk without music. Still sometimes I’d rather be less in my head. Then, I’ll listen to music that reflects where I’m walking, like Daniel Bachman‘s Jesus I’m a Sinner. The album rambles around with me. Like in walking in the woods, each walk I find new details, as in each listen. The album is open to exploration. It doesn’t ask you to follow the trail, but suggests you build it with each step. As in the woods, there are many details asking for your attention. Whatever excites you determines the trail. Compared to Bachman’s previous albums, this album is a lighter walker, or instead reflective of less dense woods and milder weather. The album is in motion with what is in motion around it. It is attuned to the change in motion within it, living in the weather and the seasons, watching it change as I watch the woods behind my house transform.

It begins with “Sarah Anne,” a song about Bachman’s sister. It begins with ease, a sense of humble appreciation. As the picking picks up pace, it reminds me of the way siblings can have such easiness, walking around together, talking or not, either way glad to be in such easy presence. It goes on with “Happy One Step,” a similarly joyful tune. The repetition of it feels reminiscent of the simple grin that is carried through the day after a happy time on a sunny walk. Other songs, as other days, crouch under insistent clouds. “Under the Shades of the Trees” is beneath a sheet of drone of the cicada hatch in Bachman’s home, Virginia. The picking is Bachman walking through it, amongst it, drenched in it. Still, while being attune to it, he continues on in it. As through other more tempestuous, frustrated days, as “Leaving Istanbul (4AM).” What is going on in our heads can be wild and frantic. On those days I’ll walk, to think it through. Sometimes that can’t make a difference. What is overwhelming is exhausting and requires sleep.

Jesus I’m a Sinner makes contact with the real world, the real self. It is part of where it is, which makes it what it is. It recognizes itself as part of the whole, which is a whole made of parts, which are each whole. Walk alone outside with it, woods if you have them, and make a trail in it. It is as unpredictable as any day. Like the day, it will stamp impression on you, rather than you on it.

Jesus I’m a Sinner is out now via Tompkins Square.

Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa - Toropical Circle

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I think about my patterns; regular meal times of nine, noon, and seven, similar sleep, and recurring dreams, within miles of a city and with certain people within those miles, a sameness has been established. Simultaneously, we each create our own monotony, by habit if not intentional. Time and again our monotony transects another, my parallels your parallels, and our perpendiculars, fashioning some greater pattern across the surface of the world. Today, all of my friends are together in one space. Our monotony knows mostly each other’s monotony, our lines mostly each other’s. But soon similar existences will be separate ones, as we scatter and our sameness changes. While I’ll be in college living in a barn in rural Vermont, others will be in a cement block in New York, some in Chicago, others up the Western coast, and elsewhere. We’ll know new strangers, and be new strangers. We’ll all be everywhere rushing about.

I wonder what limitations my sameness has created. If pattern were stitched more loosely, and left unknotted, what lines could mine meet? In a similar sort of sameness, I fulfill sections of my satisfaction separately. Mentally, physically, socially, contentment is compartmentalized to create some monotony. But if defining outlines were to be blurred, what colors would show as the colors in between?

Toropical Circle is an album of the in between colors, of a holistic satisfaction. Trading shades, and shifting direction, the album is a consequence of Wong and Minekawa’s intersection, a pattern made by the exchange two, within the greater pattern of one. On “Windy Prism Room” we hear the walk of Wong’s guitar and sway of Minekawa’s mystery. As above so below, as in conscious so in the subconscious, as with eyes open or with them closed, there is an interior unity which exists as a crisscross of all contraries. Highways and trails alike cross paths, bugs and cars alike cross them. “Two Acorns’ dreams growing as One” rejoices in this unity. The swinging girl and the swinging blade of grass her toes pet on each descent, both swing beneath one afternoon. And the space beneath the moon and the space underneath the belly of the boat, both sit in shade. The flower on the wall and the flower in the garden, are both flowers as we see them. And the wave of the sea, and wave of electricity, are both unending. Through “Story of Hands and Roots” we hear the line of symmetry where this album lives. On one side the roots of its creators, Japanese and Chinese in origin, and the other the hands of them. A crossing, within a crisscross of crossings, within one quilt.  As we stand at the edge of tomorrow and today, time passes in some in between. And in that in between is this interior unity.

Here I sit in a present in between. In between a known sameness in space and pace, and an unknown shift in the two. In this in between, and all in between, exists an interior unity. I’ve sat with this album through graduating high school, through a hike and a picnic, re-launching Portals, days before friends disperse, and I depart, I’ve sat with this album, with quick hands, trying to slacken the stitches of my pattern, and unearth the ground which has ground itself down. Those my lines have become interwoven with, I may only be tangled to for some time longer. Our patterns will loosen as we scatter. And though we’ll be somewhere else, like all else, we’ll all be together in the same backyard of the world.

Toropical Circle is out now via PLANCHA.

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Julianna Barwick - NepentheTeaser

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Perhaps she knows something we don’t. Perhaps she knows herself better than we do. She seems to be in some cathartic state, perhaps above. While we may know some tiny daily miracles, illuminations—say, a match in the dark—it seems they are her constant. I would say that’s something to admire. And also, perhaps fear. For who is the solitary traveller to make her reply?

And here we are, making tiny chatter about the magnificence of this divine state, while somewhere below that divine state. We will chatter about into the summertime, until the day of August 20th when Julianna Barwick‘s Nepenthe will be released via Dead Oceans. Until then, we’ll wait patiently. Or rather, we’ll try.

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Takako Minekawa & Dustin Wong - "Party on a Floating Cake"

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The collaboration between Japanese artisan Takako Minekawa and Chinese/American craftsman Dustin Wong is surprising, and at the same time, not surprising at all. It’s something like the pleasure of seeing someone you dream to see at a party, now and again emerging as a dash of color in an open window, again at the top of a set of curved stairs, then slipping into an ambiguous car. Minekawa and Wong come together to create an album of this true magic, Toropical Circle.

The co-directed video for “Party on a Floating Cake” illustrates it best. Colors dart in and out faster than the blink of an eye, about and around in blur and focus. It is tenderly abstract and delicately minimal. It is a floating carnival, shrunk under the shadow of a tree—exuberant and tiny.

The 13-track Toropical Circle will be released via PLANCHA May 15th.

It is rain in my face. – “Running Away Again”

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This evening is the evening before my last day of high school. It was not as I expected. Saying so in past tense feels terribly strange. I’m far more content in it than I’d expected to be. I feel finished. I feel satisfied. Mostly, I feel present. Where usually I’d feel impatient, I’d ask “What’s next?” before “What’s now?” and “What was?” long before, I feel oddly patient. What is now supersedes what is next and what was before when what is now is feels full and fulfilled. I’m in no rush to run away, but I am ready to go.

“Running Away Again” is one of four on It is rain in my face.‘s January release, Languish in the Evening EP. Though it was released months ago, and I tend to look towards new It is rain in my face. material months ahead, I somehow hadn’t heard this EP until tonight. And I’m glad. Tonight, it is appreciated.

Column

Going Local - Berlin

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In this column, Henning of the wonderfully tasteful music blog No Fear of Pop guides us through the somewhat confusing and remarkably intricate roadways of the fast-paced Berlin music scene. If you’ve yet to explore the city, let this be your free access in.


Berlin. So. Well. Why not start with some obvious facts: It’s the city I live in, not the city I was born into, but the city I’ve been calling home for the last few years, and certainly the city I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. Yet though I very much spend my days in the belief that I am part of the larger Berlin music-related society, however loosely defined, I always find myself paralyzed when somebody asks me about the city’s actual “scene.” When I wrote an essay last year for the (forthcoming) first issue of Decoder Magazine, I used quite a lot of words to arrive at the neither very tempting nor terribly compelling conclusion that I can’t be sure, yet as far as I’m concerned, there’s probably none at all. One year on, I’d still stick to that assessment.

But now don’t get me wrong: I do not want to suggest that there is no exciting music emerging from this city, quite to the contrary: I strongly believe that Berlin is one of the most thriving metropolises on earth in this regard, I am simply not sure how all its diversity should in any way add up to a certain something we might want to deem a defining sound of the city. And I think it has always been like that—whatever we have called Berlin’s music scene at a certain point in time most likely appeared clear and well-defined only in retrospect: In the late sixties to mid-seventies, there was the highly influential Berlin school of electronic music that spawned krautrock and kosmische musik; looking back at the grey, dismal eighties, with Blixa Bargeld’s Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave’s significant presence in town, Berlin appears to have been dominated by rock and post-punk just before, probably most considerably till this very day, Berlin became one of the world’s principal hubs for techno and related strands of electronic music during the final decade of the last millennium. But the city certainly is more than just that, and I am also not sure if the talk of one coherent electronic music scene would’ve been justified at any certain point in the past.

So, what I guess needs to be done when thinking about Berlin is to take the plural form of “Local Scenes” literally: There has never been one Berlin music scene, nor is there today, nor will there ever be. Everyone has their very own perception not only regarding the musical history of this town, but crucially also in view of the situation today. What you’ll find below, then, can only be my personal and entirely subjective selection of a few “scenes” or rather mere projects that I find particularly exciting and intriguing, briefly introduced by their founders and members. For everything else—you should really just come and see for yourself.

I’d like to start with Noisekölln—originally initiated as a string of parties and concerts in the Neukölln district “on the fringe of the Berlin club and party scene,” with the focus “towards stuff that is not easy to classify,” in the words of my friend Michael Aniser, who founded it in 2010, “from pedal-fiddling harsh noise and unbearable frequencies to meandering ambiance and future pop things.” And though the so-called ‘tape revival’ never really reached Germany (aside perhaps from Hessen’s excellent Sicsic Tapes), Aniser and his crew recently launched offspin Noisekölln Tapes:

“Noisekölln Tapes is a label to collect and showcase all these artists and findings we came across on our journey. The first release was a split between the post-goth band Ill Winds and the ambient sound artist Moon Wheel. The second release will be the solo record Pagan Easter by Tomas Nochteff, who is the male half of Berlin via Argentina band Mueran Humanos. The third release will be a compilation of artists who are close to the loosely knit Noisekölln network.”

Get an idea by streaming the imprint’s first release below:

The second cool initiative I’d like to single out is a bit more elusive. Based out of the yet to be gentrified district of Wedding just north of the center, the New Wedding Avant-Garde is “a platform for independent art, regardless of form, medium, or style,” as one of the initiative’s principal members, Malte Jantzen, told me. Not exclusively focused on music, “we mainly organize exhibitions, concerts et cetera, but we also arrange limited releases of tapes, books, print art and stuff. We work together with friends who are artists or run labels, or with folks who we think are just incredibly talented, and who share our passion for DIY and underground culture.”

Jantzen’s own project S NDY P RLS (read Sunday Parlours) has gained some well-deserved attention in the past months, most significantly representing Berlin at this year’s edition of the AMDISCS-affiliated Creepy Teepee Festival in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic (nominated by No Fear Of Pop, I should probably add), where he was awarded “Emerging Creepy Act 2012” (we’re all still unsure what exactly that means). His music is an intriguing blend of drone-infused ambient and noise-heavy experimentalism, with occasional excursions into melancholic, bleak lo-fi musings on piano. “Rex” is Jantzen’s latest work, available on vinyl here.

Finally, another project that was launched by a dear friend, Michail Stangl, together with the other Berlin nightlife veterans DJ N>E>D, Barker, and Puzzle, Leisure System. Definitely the least obscure of the three projects, indeed quite the opposite: Leisure System has been a club mainstay since 2008, residing in the city’s most famous and probably still best venue, Berghain. However, counting the venture as a part of the Berlin “underground” is still appropriate enough, as its founders successfully disregard all traditional conventions of how a Berlin club night ought to look like. In the words of Stangl:

“Our aim is just to provide an interesting insight into the fringes of electronic music, without having to care for trends or functionality. We just do what feels good and what we think has not existed before in this constellation yet still works out. That means we often end up being eclectic, simply because we don’t want to listen to the same kind of music for ten hours straight. Of course that’s also complicated as it’s hard to pinpoint us: We don’t sell a lifestyle and we don’t organize that one post-rave or that one techno or that one bass music night, instead what you’ll get is a bit of everything. That however works out because Berliners are not just well acquainted with electronic music but to a degree even live it, so they are content to accept experiments. Within Berlin, in that sense we’re definitely a supplement to the rest of the city’s club program. At Berghain, we’re able to do things that wouldn’t work anywhere else.”

Last year, Leisure System additionally evolved into a label. The latest of the three releases so far, the 12” EP “Like an Animal” by core member Sam Barker (who by the way nicely exemplifies Berlin’s rich and ever-expanding expat scene), is among my favorite club records of 2012 so far, especially the track “I Feel,” which you should listen to below.

Together with partner in crime Andreas Baumecker, Barker furthermore pursues music that probably best illustrates what the world has come to know and love as the archetypical “Berlin sound,” meaning techno in all colors and shades, which is why it is perhaps reasonable to leave you with a stellar outtake from the duo’s forthcoming LP “Transsektoral,” out soon on Ostgut Ton, Berghain’s own famed imprint:

There is of course, as already pointed out, there’s simply so much more, and I can’t escape the feeling of falling short in many regards. Berlin, after all, isn’t easy to grasp exhaustively. On the other hand, that’s exactly what still leaves me fascinated and happy to be here, each and every day.

Visualized

Twin Sister

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Visualized spotlights visual artists in the music world.

Last year when I met Twin Sister at FYF, lead singer Andrea Estella opened up her majestic sketchbook to me, and within those pages was a world akin to that created in Twin Sister’s sounds. Her artwork shouldn’t have come as a surprise, the music of Twin Sister is crowded by mythical characters and stories that exist by day-dream. From then I listened to Twin Sister whilst roaming the pieces on Andrea’s Tumblr, and the worlds I’d created whilst listening had a little more validity.

Whether viewing Andrea’s art in person or online, we should all get to have our Twin Sister listening imagery made a bit more tangible. And if you happen to be Brooklyn grown, this opportunity is coming right to your doorstep. On August 2nd Andrea will begin exhibiting her artwork at Superfine (in Brooklyn). The space will be filled with “Mineral Men,” “Space Babies,” and Andrea’s dog Amelia. AVOXBLUE will be playing the night of the opening reception, and the show profits will go to fund Andrea’s co-directed short film, CELESTITE. Below Andrea shares with us all about her musical and visual ventures.


How did you initially get into art and music? Which came first?

Herb Hernandez, my uncle, opened me up to visual and musical art. We would make fun projects together when I was a kid. Everything we did was so creative, I wanted to be an artist just like him when I grew up. He is the one who got Twin Sister their first show and now my first art show. Visual art came first, I always thought I would be making cartoons or something. I feel a little psychic at times and I don’t know why I used to picture myself on a music festival stage, even though I never thought about being a real musician. I always loved music but didn’t think I would actually make any. So when music started happening to me, I just went with it. Eric, my guitarists is really the one who got me singing.

If there was one visual artist you could say you admire most, who would that be?

Jonny Negron, he has been a friend of mine for many years. I admire that he is able to focus on his artwork without any schooling. He is able to work for himself. His Illustrations still surprise me. He just keeps getting better.

Do you think that your musical art and visual art both come from the same place?

It does all come from the same place. I do think my artwork is my music visualized and vice versa. My show has a bunch of “Mineral Men,” which is a little play song we like to sing about. Hopefully it will be a real song one day.

If you were to bundle your musical art and visual art under a single word or phrase, what would that be?

I would classify my songs and art under ‘fantasy.’

When you aren’t doing anything in particular, are you more likely to come up with a melody, a lyric, an image?

Its different every time…I guess the melody, which puts me in the mood for a story or a character that I can sing about.

Are the artistic principles you think about most in visual art similar to those you do in composing songs?

They are similar, I like to start with a fake story, then start inventing characters. I daydream a lot.

What importance does the art (cover art, videos) that accompanies your music have to you?

I like to play a big part in contributing to all the visuals. They really mean a lot to me. My drummer, Bryan is also interested in our visuals, so we collaborate on those sorts of things. I wish I could find an awesome photographer to take nicer photos. I don’t know many and it makes me sad to see us all stand in a line and take regular band photos.

Do you have a favorite Twin Sister related art piece?

I still love All Around and Away We Go. I loved animating and making all of the projections. The Color Your Life album cover was really fun too, it was my first miniature and my first real album cover.

If your in Brooklyn, be sure to explore upcoming Andrea’s exhibition beginning this Thursday, and if not, enjoy here.

Column

Generation Y Not

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Eloise Hess discusses the impact of current youth culture on  the music industry as a whole.


Punk bands like The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Television, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, and heaps more pursued the conviction that “if nothing gets challenged, nothing gets changed.” Punk culture of the 80s was the teenager opposed to the bourgeois—it was the outcasts and the isolated, the vicious and frustrated, the protective of their youth. Each youth generation opposes mediocrity; mediocrity is the explicit opposite of adolescent sentiments. Teenagers like myself are experiencing the affliction of discovering our identities, the pressures of conformity, and the trouble of expectations. A society of mediocrity feels fictitious. If the youth of the 80s popularized the opposition to the bourgeois, I wonder what the youth of the present is repelling.

Youth will always be defiant of the adulthood they are expected to enter; but there’s a hugely significant difference in the vocalization of that defiance today. The distinction is the identical vocal opportunity of the present. If I’m 16 and my blog has the same readership contingency as anyone’s, then what implication does that have on the 16-year-old musician? The most prevalent bearing of that opportunity is in resources. The 16-year-old musician has the equivalent music production opportunities as his seniors on a fundamental level. This makes debatably the most colossal impact on the beat scene. An immense amount of what’s blogged about on sites akin to Portals is sample-based, and in synchronicity with that, teenagers make an apparent portion of the music blogged about. In my mind, that doesn’t seem aberrant in the least bit. To me, it feels conspicuous—but only because I was born into the generation of the accessible.

The idea of youth having the same volume of expression as adults is hastily becoming less and less an exception to the norm. Less and less are we identified as young and held within the connotation that we’re atypical teens. Industries that fetishize youth and use age as a marketing tool are becoming less rampant in the music world—and more so in the blogging community where artists are discovered in the open playing field of the internet. And so if the voice of youth is becoming more and more received, I wonder if the youth of today is repelling mediocrity or if we’re becoming that commonality. This idea of becoming what you’re contrary to is something that bands like Nirvana spoke of. Kurt Cobain said that the mass recognition Nirvana received in the consumerist world was unequivocally what they contested. I wouldn’t say, though, that the prospect of adolescents and adults being comparable in the music world is carried with such a negative connotation. I’d say that it’s an inevitable fate.

Because of the technology operated sphere my generation was carried into, it would be unfeasible for youth today not to have the inclination to share themselves on the internet. If young artists were not blogged about, it would be obvious that those who steer the music community were deliberately disregarding a group that compensates for a vast portion of music. I think that the larger music sites are just now beginning to honestly ratify young artists. Smaller sites tend to cover younger artists more frequently, likely because they’re less steered by those of the industry. The influx of youth involved in music is immense—no longer solely as the consumer, but furthermore, as the creator. The question now is what qualifies the legitimacy of music? My response would be that nothing qualifies validity; the validity in music is as unrestricted as its distributor, the internet.

Below are 3 tracks by 3 artists who have been born into a generation parented by the internet:

Honeydrip — “I Know”

Caves — “1993″

XXYYXX — “Never Leave”