Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Antony and the Johnsons - Cut the World

Antony Hegarty's band has always been self-described as baroque-pop. Normally that label is pretentious and meaningless but with them it fits pretty well. Baroque, when applied properly, signifies Phil Spector-ian walls of sound but of course less mo-town and more orchestral. Strings, oboes, trumpets etc. but this is normally combined with rock.

"Cut the World" takes the Johnsons from pop-rock with a generous amount of baroque flourish to full-blown opera. Every second of the album pulsates with crescendo and decrescendo, drama, and a complete abandon for the cool, detached, restraint that modern music normally employs. The weighty lyrics/themes hit listeners over the head in the same way; plenty of LGBT alienation and suffering, lamentation over gender roles, and an outright monologue about being persecuted ("Future Feminism").

It is beautiful and majestic but almost too saturated with sorrow and melancholy to listen to all in one sitting. Antony Hegarty takes himself very seriously here and if I were able to tell him that at times it sounds pretty sappy, he would probably come swinging. More than anything, it's the monologue that does it and the fact that all the previous albums have been equally depressive while saying all of the exact same things. 

"The Cripple and Starfish" is another example. "I'm very very happy, so please hurt me"? Too much, Mr. Hegarty. It would have been more satisfying to hear more of Antony the Triumphant instead of always Antony the Conquered. Enjoy this one in bite-sized pieces for full effect.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Purity Ring - Shrines

When I saw Gobble Gobble open for Baths last year I thought they were going places. Home-made  electronic percussion, day-glo synth-pop, and intensely interactive shows, how could you not draw positive attention even in this age of increasingly histrionic musicians? Well, I've heard little from Gobble Gobble since then but two of its members are making music headlines with their gothic trip-hop side-project: Purity Ring. 

I'd heard about their music from friends who'd seen them open for Neon Indian but after being unable to find any of their songs online I just kind of forgot about them. Well, their debut "Shrines" only came out on the 24th of July and it's receiving 9s and 10s from critics everywhere (and an 8 from Pitchfork which is almost better than a 9 or a 10 anywhere else).

I was nearly as enthusiastic when I first blasted "Crawlersout" through the speakers of my car (windows up). Throbbing bass, break-beat down tempos, castanet-timbered hi-hat rhythms over saccharine-sweet female lyricists; add bassy chopped and screwed backup vocals. However, as the album drew on it became clear to me that this had already been done before, stylistically anyway. It's called SALEM. And this is not as much of a dig as it sounds like. 

I really enjoy the music but since I know about the witch-house (invoking that pseudo-genre with tongue firmly planted in cheek) darlings SALEM, it doesn't pose as much of a paradigm-shift. Zola Jesus and Picture-Plane have also already charted this territory. Although, the sweet almost bubble-gum delivery of the vocals does bring something to the table that none of Purity Ring's predecessors have. Good stuff, just not as earth-shatteringly clever as some people might think. I definitely will try my hardest to attend a show the next opportunity I get.

Entry points: "Crawlersout", "Shuck", "Amenamy", "Fineshrine"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Place to Bury Strangers - Worship

This album hasn't received the greatest reviews and I can't understand why. I think that most critics (even the ones who beat up on APTBS as of late) will agree that "Worship" is far-better executed than "Onwards to the Wall".  Maybe people are upset that on this album there are still no follow-ups to "In the Shadow of your Heart" or the super-accessible "Exploding Head" but as far as an offering in goth or noise-rock genres, I don't see how you could be too disappointed with this album. 

The Pitchfork review had a quote of something to the effect that the band doesn't know their way around a pop song but newsflash, this isn't fucking pop music. With indie and twee and electro-pop being as important as they are right now in rock there seems to be an over-enshrining of rock based on pop structures of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Pop song-writing shouldn't be the standard by which EVERY artist's work is judged.

The is album is everything that people expect from the band: driving bass-lines, a constant presence of ambient darkness, and foggy, blurry, vocals at the back of the mix. Noise-rock is anti-pop. It shatters conventional musical organization and has no real chart-toppers to give it that mooring to pop.

Best songs are "Alone", the unusually quiet and controlled "Fear", and "Worship" which reminds me very much of Joy Division's "Dead Souls" and makes me want head-bang just as hard.

Friday, August 3, 2012

FoolsFest: donate by August 13th!

I got an email in my inbox a few weeks ago about something called FoolsFest and honestly,
 my first response was, “great, another Texas festival”. I love music and consequently music
 festivals but these days it seems like everyone wants to start their own and there are plenty
 of casualties: festivals you hear about one year and then never again. 
But unlike a lot of others,  Mark's event puts an unusually strong emphasis on community and a 
unified festival experience. And as an added bonus, it barely has no ties to imperious corporate
sponsors; if it works, it will be one of the world's first crowd-sourced festivals.

What exactly is it about those European festivals you attended that you
think created such a sense of community?

European & British style music festivals have at their core an amazing sense
of history behind them; Glastonbury (the largest greenfield festival in the
world) began in 1970, Roskilde (the largest fest in northern Europe) in
1971, Reading (officially) in 1971, and Rockwerchter in 1975; just 4
examples. What this has created is a shared history of music festivals. You
have so many music festivals that have existed for such a long time that
people have grown up with them and when you attend one of these events you
get to commune with people who have been going for years or decades.
The other huge piece of community is that 90% of the time you're camping at
these festivals. Most festivals are not in major cities and therefore your
fellow campers are your community...you're creating a village of music
lovers. Very few festival attendees stay in cities outside the festival; in
my opinion this is because of the ease of camping (many festivals offer free
transport and all that I know of offer free camping and parking) and the
friendliness of your fellow campers.
For instance...I went to the V festival just east of Northern Wales...I was
there by myself and set up my tent near a couple who looked nice enough,
shortly after a pair of girls set up their tent next to us. After we set
everything up we introduced ourselves and chatted about who we were
interested in seeing and discussed specific artists that we'd seen before
and what festivals we'd attended. Of the 5 of us, none of us had been to V
but all but 1 had been to a major music festival before. We related with
each other because we were all there camping for 4 nights. Being neighbors
we shared our experiences.
The 5 of us ended up spending most of the weekend together, adding
additional friends here-and-there during different times and separating from
the group when we wanted to experience something that the rest didn't. This
wasn't a onetime occurrence, every festival in the UK & Europe I've attended
I met people from different walks of life, whether I initially came alone or
with a group.

Festivals have been popping up all over the place for the past few years.
Some have come and gone (Houston's GhoulFest for example). What makes
FoolsFest something special enough to outlast other new festivals?

There are alot of events out there, and certainly in the past 3 years it has
become quite a challenge to keep track of them all. In my mind there are a
few really amazing music festivals in the US that are similar to the
European events, but there certainly aren't enough when you look at the
number of people in the country.
FoolsFest is not only an event but is an escape from every day life, the
mundane. The scene is set in the beauty of Texas ranch land in the spring.
It's a place where the only rule is to obey the laws of the land and leave
all judgments at the door. The sense of community, size and plethora of
unique entertainment sets FoolsFest apart.
FoolsFest is set in the country to allow for not only community but space.
The festival is built upon three times the amount of acreage that a typical
festival facilitating 80,000 people per day would hold. It is about movement
and freely being able to enjoy the environment and what interests each
individual attendee.
FoolsFest will have 6+ music stages with a wide variety and caliber of
artists. It's about showcasing some of the most popular bands of the time,
showcasing bands you have always wanted to see and never had the opportunity
and introducing you to new bands that have amazing talent, just haven't
found their place.
FoolsFest is equally about introducing the attendees to new forms of
entertainment & art. It is about having surprises and unique things around
every corner. Imagine walking to see one of your favorite bands and finding
a poi dancer or leaving the main stage to go to your tent at night and
seeing the sky filled with sky lanterns floating overhead.
The end goal of FoolsFest is to have people leave saying "I am so tired, I
can't wait to come back next year." I want to create an experience for
people where they're so exhausted from fun that they cannot wait to come
back. I've gotten to experience amazing festivals because I've made the
journey to the UK, for some people that isn't feasible.

This is a gigantic undertaking. How long ago did you start the
nuts-and-bolts planning of this event?
I've been working on FoolsFest for just over 5 years, however it has been a
lifelong journey with a career working behind the scenes in the
entertainment industry and fully understanding what turns an event into an
experience. It certainly is a gigantic undertaking, but I know it is worth
The amount of money that a festival like this costs is massive. Most people
cannot imagine how much some of their favorite bands cost...and when you get
10-20 major touring artists plus 75-100 smaller artists you're looking at
enormous expenses. The cost to put Foolsfest together is not only in the
artists, it is also in setting up an infrastructure and creating a whimsical
environment. To achieve such a feat does not come at a small price.
Have you encountered any haters yet?

Most people I've spoken to or have posted about FoolsFest have been positive
about the event and excited to have something of this magnitude come to
Texas. People have been shocked with the amount of money that I'm attempting
to raise (and that's the only negative that I've gotten). Lots of people
don't think it's possible. It definitely is a challenge and I'm aware that
the odds are against me, however I am passionate that FoolsFest is something
that is needed in the US. My passion is about giving people the European
festival experience close to home.
If you don't reach your goal on Kickstarter will the show still go on, at
least in some capacity?
I cannot say that I'll be creating a smaller version of FoolsFest if the
Kickstarter campaign doesn't reach it's goal. Part of the reason that I
decided to use Kickstarter to raise the funds for FoolsFest is because I
felt that if the festival was funded by people who were truly passionate
about music and having a unique experience that I would begin to create the
community feel that is so essential to FoolsFest. The attendees would be
able to come to the festival and say, "I helped to create this." These
people would begin the FoolsFest legacy and be essential to creating a
festival like those in Europe that stand the test of time.
In order for the true vision of FoolsFest to remain it needs to be created
on a grand scale. If the Kickstarter goal is not reached I still plan to
work towards finding the funding to create the vision and bring FoolsFest to

How can people donate to help make this festival a possibility?
For those who are not familiar with Kickstarter, it is a crowdfunding
website. The great thing about it is that people make pledges and in return
receive unique perks that are not available once the festival is funded. The
pledges don't turn into contributions until the festival reaches its funding
goal. So, no one who pledges will be charged until August 20th and they are
only charged if we reach our goal. Pledges range anywhere from $1 to
$10,000. People can go to Kickstarter.com and search FoolsFest to view the
One final thing I wanted to point out, is that we've gotten a great response
from one of our Kickstarter rewards. For a $50 pledge, the backer has the
opportunity to buy 1 FoolsFest ticket per year for only $100 (this is a
LIFETIME rate). These backers get their ticket reserved for them at $100
each festival year.