Saturday May 8, 2010: The High Line

The wind was gusting in New York all day Saturday, enough to nearly pick me up off my feet at times or push me out in front of an oncoming car- despite my typical inclination to avoid that sort of thing.

High winds signal a change in the weather, and those of a literal bent were not frustrated in their devotion to  cause and effect.  We got that weather change- 30- and 40-degree weather ensued to general consternation, to great elbow hugging and shoulder-hunched complaint in the fast lanes of New York leisure.  But I, being of a more metaphysical persuasion, took it as portent of greater changes afoot.  On the last big New York day and night my fiancée and I will take together before our move across country, as we embarked on one of those weekend days only found in a city that is bigger than itself, a day exploring new territory and never-before-discovered neighborhoods, sites, and restaurants, as we inadvertently took the rare cab ride through the sights we will not see together until we again visit this city as a couple, strong winds were blowing.  Many miles were walked, many blue-skied and alien views of the suddenly unfamiliar skyline were revealed to us.  Overlooked and out of the way street corners yielded the rest and repast and unexpected charm that is New York’s reward for the risk taken when you walk through a door on a side street with nothing more than a pasted up  menu to recommend it.  We had one of those Saturdays that made us both appreciate this city way back when we first met it.

From the high-end shopping mall that sprung from the site of industry and absolute human degradation that was the Meat Packing District, we walked the High Line to its current terminus. It can be argued the human degradation stands out today in yet sharper relief on this end of 14th ST where you can't buy a belt for less than $200.

The day ended at the Bowery Ballroom, where, alas, I took no shitty cell phone photos of Caribou astounding me with their ability to play an album live that I had thought had to have been entirely pasted together from loops and sequences in a DAW.  Their rendition of the first single off this year’s Swim was a bit too fast, causing the band to drop notes or lyrics here and there (the only time during the whole show), but overall the band played extremely well.

On the move.

St. George just killin' it.

Big changes afoot here in Igor’s camp.  All the forethought or lack thereof is now in the pudding, as they say, and the next six months are set to run by, changes in tow, at an almost frightening speed.

In the past 12 months these things have happened:

  1. My band wrote a handful of great arrangements.
  2. I applied to 6 PhD programs.
  3. My apartment building had a fire that meant me moving on short notice.
  4. I worked all the time.
  5. I published an article in the inimitable, indispensible culture guide HESO magazine.
  6. I bought a big sapphire.
  7. I got engaged.

In the next six months these things will happen:

  1. I will finish Crazy Talk’s record.
  2. I will quit my job.
  3. I will spend the summer in the task of recovering my Russian from the fog of disuse.
  4. I will get married.
  5. I will move to the West Coast.
  6. I will start my PhD.

Happy Easter.  Spring brings in changes carried light on the wings of a sweet wind, and I leave the arid chrome canyons of the myth of Manhattan behind me.  Out of Mordor, out of Mordor asmile.

Deerhunter Plays Williamsburg on Sunday

Free Soma

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I know that I talk ad nauseum about the band Deerhunter, and I know that my friends are also quite aware that I talk incessantly about the band Deerhunter when the topic of music comes up.  I have written a thing or two about Deerhunter, I have listened to Deerhunter records, Deerhunter, Deerhunter, Deerhunter.

So, how happy am I that they are playing the free JellyNYC show tomorrow afternoon at the East River Terminal Park in trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn?  That is a rhetorical question the answer to which is meant to be very obvious, but you are free to conjecture in the comments form.  A free Deerhunter show is free Soma.  Ford is in his flivver, as far as I am concerned.

I gushed about the band here in the recent past to inaugurate the release of the Rainwater Cassette Exchange, and I mean everything I say about the grand happy circumstance of having such a committedly new band hard at work providing the world new vistas to think on.

Rainwater Cassette Exchange is excellent, but the record I cannot stop playing to this day, that will not be removed from my iPod, is the full-length preceding it- Microcastle/Weird Era Continued.  There is no comparison between the production value of the the new EP, which shares a muddy chromosome with the recently released Atlas Sound single, and last year’s double LP.  What I am hearing when I listen to the increasingly degraded sound quality of each consecutive recording (Rainwater to Atlas Sound) is a band that is trying to play to a preconceived idea of what they think they should be doing instead of just doing those things that define their genius.

Atlas Sound is one of Deerhunter hetman Bradford Cox’s side projects.  The new Atlas Sound single, “Walkabout” (you can hear it at Pitchfork), sounds a lot like something off of The Russian FuturistsThe Method of Modern Love from 2001.  Below is The Russian Futurists “The Science of the Seasons” from that record.

The Atlas Sound aesthetic has always been something striving toward a lo-fi prettiness, and that is part of the problem.  Lo-fi is an affect.  Bradford Cox and Deerhunter find their strength precisely in their ability to synthesize their influences into surprising configurations- They please and surprise in those quiet moments when the plink of a piano reminds you so strongly of a Neu! song you are shocked that the mix of the vocals or the tempo of the guitars take you in an entirely new direction, not when they are giving a ready-made notion a 1-dimensional try.  Deerhunter has a works cited in the appendix of their catalog longer than the King James Bible, but, for the necessity of all that musical knowledge in creating their sound, it is only incidental to how they synthesize it into a new whole.

The new Atlas Sound single sounds lazy by contrast, almost as though it is more dependent on out-of-the-box Acid loops than its genre forebears from the beginning of the decade, as though striving toward a sound that they think they need to achieve is standing in the way of letting them use their tools to create the sound they want to play.

As an oblique strategy this can definitely unlock new potential for a band, but it shouldn’t take top billing on the Marquee of their creative output.

This concludes my critical moment.  Now back to leaping with anticipation for tomorrow’s show, crossing my fingers in hopes that the rain holds off at least until they’ve finished playing, however appropriate playing a show in support of an EP with rainwater in the title during a shower might be on a neat symbolic level.

Clearly in this Afternoon

Clearly we will have to turn and come home soon.

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Axolotl speaks: Hum is playing a reunion a reunion show on New Year’s Eve at Chicago’s Double Door.

I have my tickets.

In that emotional space between a good drunk and sobriety, I’m sitting here on this Sunday morning listening to Hum’s monument to perfection, 1997’s Downward is Heavenward, at the infinite and revealing mercy of every moment in that beautiful album that swept off the Illinois prairie and into my permanent regard.

I am particularly vulnerable to the band’s sound for reasons of my nativity, perhaps, with the spacey thunder of those guitars that imply infinity so akin to the endless flat expanses of Illinois fields over which the unbearable heat and humidity of summer shiver. This does not change the fact that this criminally overlooked album should qualify as one of humanity’s few fingertip brushes with G-d.

Poni Hoax at Studio B

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Last night at Studio B, Tigersushi’s Poni Hoax put on a little party for us. They sounded great, played with an austere setup of two keyboards, a guitar, and a backline, and their singer is balding and wore bad sunglasses. He also wore a bad suit. Or maybe it was a tux. Leaping around to his own band’s fantastic soundtrack, I remember thinking that I liked that my first reaction to seeing this guy performing was enmity, because despite any visually induced prejudices I may have wanted to bring to the table, there I was on the floor fully dancing with my friends in rapt enjoyment of music that a band was unabashedly good at making. There was no unimportant criticism you could throw at the act that would stick. Pretty Tall Girls and Antibodies off of Images of Sigrid, the new release, were the definitive highlights of the set.

The Synthesizers were far more audible and buzzing live than on the album, always the hint of a pulse wave or a saw buzzing at a low octave. The guitar was equally pleasing in its buzzsaw distortion and its position at the fore of the sonic field, driving ahead of the strings on Antibodies and adding a level of grit and immediacy to the show that the immaculately-produced album tracks don’t do justice.