Thursday, 31 March 2011

Band: Tense Men

Tense Men is the new project of Sauna Youth frontman Rich and Cold Pumas' guitarist/vocalist Ollie.

They've just started up a Tumblr with a few introductory tracks (titled 'A Gruesome Discovery', 'Tubular Swells' and 'Dawn Tourists'), all three looped, claustrophobic surges of brittle guitar and shocked drum beats that stack up to create a sound a lot larger than the sum of its parts. Very little is known about this new venture (just look what the Internet threw up on a chance Google attempt) but it looks set to be something very special indeed.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Event: Eagle Legs London / Shebang Issue #3 Launch

Today, the 30th March, has had a giant felt-pen ring around it in my diary for the past few months. And a little gold star sticker. And maybe a few huge exclamation marks around it for good measure.

I want to avoid too much self-promotion on this blog as I know it gets a bit tiring after a while (speaking of which, have you seen my Tumblr? Read my zine? Heard my band? Wanted to gouge your eyes out in frustration at yet another blog being one big MEMEMEMEME?). BUT today I can make a tiny exception as I'm too damn excited to want to write about anything else.

After two years (which passed terrifyingly fast) in the making, today the third issue of my zine Shebang will finally be in my hands, which have now turned slightly claw-like after two years spent typing and transcribing and emailing and subediting. It's being posted from Falmouth, Cornwall so should be arriving in five boxes at any minute. It feels like waiting for a first date, that weird mix of being crazily excited, and also terrified that you won't recognise them / they won't be how you imagined, or that they won't show up, which in this case would be slightly irritating, considering we've booked an entire night in London around the launch of the issue.

My friend Rushka and I run a night called Eagle Legs, and got Brighton dancing to riot grrrl and soul classics for a year before shutting up shop and moving to London last September. Tonight we launch Eagle Legs in London at the Macbeth pub in Hoxton, and have managed to rope in lots of friends to help out, including the Dance Magic Dance ladies, Wanda Whiskey, the band Colours, zine-fave and arts collective Off Modern, Charlot Webster and her Mixtape Exchange and Nikki from The Great Cake Escape scattering tiny cakes all over the place. Needless to say, it should be a lot of fun and a great way to welcome Shebang #3 to the world, as the majority of the friends involved also feature in the issue.

For full event information, have a look at the Facebook page.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Thurston Moore - Benediction

I was trying really hard to avoid another Sonic Youth-related post so soon after my last, but this song has fully taken over a small spot in my brain and isn't moving out any time soon.

'Benediction' is the first song to be leaked from Thurston Moore's new solo record, Demolished Thoughts, produced by Beck (check them out 15 years ago looking moody on the cover of Crossbeat):

Beck & Thurston in '96

A finger-picked introduction leads to a simple acoustic track with sweeping strings and a plucked harp, laced with heartbreaking grace and affection. As the title hints, there is a heavily religious essence to the song, with mentions of "Thunder demons swipe her halo / and then they run away", and "With benediction in her eyes /  Our dearest gods are not suprised". The lyrics carry the sentiments of gratitude, security and pleasure, but with suggestion of a devouring relationship; possibly with faith, possibly with a partner, but one that urges a level of caution to both sides, warning "you'd better tie your lover down, tie him to the ground... I know better than to let you go".

You can download the track now over at NPR. Demolished Thoughts will be out on the 23rd May (I can't wait).

Monday, 28 March 2011

Show: NODZZZ, The Mantles, Fear Of Men in Brighton

After being stuck in an office all week, the flagrent sunshine that shamelessly paraded itself through the window every day got too much to ignore, so I booked a last minute trip to Brighton to escape to the beach for the weekend.

Friday night was spent at new venue The Green Door Store, at Sex Is Disgusting’s NODZZZ show. Support came from Brighton scene freshers Fear Of Men, broaching their wind-swept indie love songs with wide eyes and a gentle manner. I think it was only their second gig (?) and their presence onstage was a lot softer than I was expecting, but they put on an intriguing performance and will be interesting to follow. SID also put out their debut cassette which is now sold out, but check it out anyway just in case a second batch pops up.

San Francisco’s The Mantles have been a regular name on my favourite playlist composer Andrea’s mixtape page for a while, and after earning their stripes as my long-time bus ride companion, being given the opportunity to catch them in person didn’t disappoint. Saving up some of the week’s rays for this brick-walled almost-basement, the floppy haired four-piece ran through their psyched out, rattling set with an energy suggesting this was the first (rather than the last) night of their UK tour; the swell of ‘Don’t Lie’ getting more than a few heads swaying in its breezy wake.

The Mantles performing Don't Lie

And NODZZZ serenading the beer-soaked smiling crowd was the ultimate finale, their songs over in the blink of an eye, but whipped out so fast you barely have time to mourn the ending of the last. I’d managed to miss two of their recent London shows (both roughly a ten minute bus ride from my house. Shame on me) so singing along to 'Good Times Crowd' surrounded by old friends made it all worth the wait. An encore with their home turf buddies The Mantles closed the show, with whoops and howls ringing long after the last chord was struck.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Film: Submarine

I have a bit of a problem with the genre of ‘indie’ films. Usually, if the words ‘quirky’ or ‘kooky’ get bandied about too much in reviews, I tend to shy away from investigating further, terrified of spending yet more disappointing hours pretending to enjoy a film that other people assure me I’ll absolutely LOVE. After Me, You and Everyone We Know won a place in my heart after a chance cinema visit in Cornwall and my love for Ghost World never wavered (mainly due to a slight obsession with Daniel Clowes), the slew of copycat types were pushed on me; 500 Days Of Summer and Eagle Vs. Shark being the most memorably painful. As well as raising the worrying question that maybe my friends didn’t actually know me that well after all, it also put me off any film that a) featured a knowing Smiths’ or other 80s indie band reference, b) starred Zooey Deschanel or c) relied on a lot of ‘cute’ illustrations in the trailer. I realise how much of prat this mini-rant is making me sound, but I feel it’s important to get things straightened out so that others don’t make the same mistake I ever so nearly did.

Submarine doesn’t feature Zooey Deschanel, but its trailer is pretty heavy on the typical indie flick set-up; pseudo deep and philosophical introductory narration by lost and awkward character (wearing an anorak), lots of alternating zooms and camera angles and Jacques Brel crooning over footage of a young couple running around an industrial estate, while containers explode like fireworks in slow motion. So far, so offputting.

BUT WAIT. The reviews said it was actually really good. I had an Orange Wednesday code in my hand and hope in my heart. And no other plans. So I decided to cast off my predisposed (and unfounded) snobbery and went and saw the bloody thing. And it was actually really, really great.

In a nutshell, Oliver Tate is our hero. A (fifteen year old?) teenage boy, living in Wales with his parents, who he fears are on the brink of an unusually calm divorce (aided by the new presence of a mulleted mystic), and so as a deterence tries to spy on them constantly. There's a love interest; Jordana, an inbetweener from school who wears a red duffel coat and DMs and enjoys flicking matches for no reason (she has enviably good hair). It's the perfect set up, but what really keeps Submarine from falling into the overflowing bin of other 'kooky' failures is the script. Written by Richard Ayoade (It Crowd/Mighty Boosh), the characters manage to be amusing without being too fictitious (although how many 15 years olds are that 'awkward' and yet come across as being totally self assured? Come on now), and the strong streak of humor that flashes through every plot twist and narrative never falters. Sure, there are a few cheesier moments when someone cracks out the Super 8 film, but generally the comic timing and sentiments exposed are actually quite touching and fun. Go and see for yourself.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Zine: Afterzine

Image from the Afterzine site.

I was on a book search last week in the Tate Modern book shop, and came across the first issue of new zine Afterzine. With a stark, black and white cover design and promises of submissions from the likes of Thurston Moore, Noma Bar and Peter Saville (the graphic designer responsible for many of the Factory Records' album sleeves, including the iconic Unknown Pleasures), it was an intriguing find and was hastily purchased (for the pretty OK price of  £9 ($10), considering that it's more like a thin book than your usual photocopied 12-pager).

In true magazine tradition, Afterzine's first release has a theme; all content circles the notion of 'Negative Space', which in itself is quite an all-encompassing subject and a good jump off point. As the cover image suggests, some contributors chose to look at the negative space that can be found in sound (Thurston waxes lyrical about what it means to be a "true black metal warrior"), while others opt to delve into the theme within imagery, short stories or conceptual writing. A few submissions are stronger than others; Alexa Chung's underwhelming snapshots awkwardly raise the question that maybe her inclusion is more reliant on who she is rather than what she can do. But all content is beautifully laid out, presented as sharp images and neat text on a simple white or black background, each given the freedom to breathe and to be fully absorbed by the reader. My favourite pieces include the '10 Spines' photographs by Jessica Pigza, documenting the spines of rare books in the New York Public Library, with well-observed accompanying text, and a short tale by Andi Teran, entitled 'The Space Between Lines'. Lucy Martin's 'Negative Space Roundographs' are also stunning.

Image from the Afterzine site.

With a limited run of 1000 copies, this zine is likely to be snapped up pretty quickly, so be sure to order a copy now. And if you need any more encouragement, Afterzine also promises to donate $5 to the Red Cross in support of their Japan disaster relief efforts from every purchase made from this link, so you can do some good whilst treating your retinas to some magnificent imagery and ideas.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Bookmark: Studio Sweet Studio

For all those who are guilty of sitting on the top decks of buses and casting an occasional peek into other people's living rooms, or can't resist a quick look into brightly lit windows when walking down a dark street at night - nosey parkers, you are not alone. Maybe it's slightly voyeuristic, maybe it's slightly illegal and creepy, but brief glances of how others' live can be fascinating (just be sure to stop yourself before you start investing in binoculars - let Hitchcock's Rear Window serve as a warning).

It's rare to see inside the personal rooms of other people - usually some sort of relationship must be formed first. But Studio Sweet Studio, my buddy Tuesday and her friend Meg's new project, unlocks the secret world of artist's studios and answers the question, "Who lives in a house like this?".

Starting off as a zine (the first issue launched in Autumn 2010), Studio Sweet Studio has now launched online and is a visual feast, documenting creative folk's workspaces and considering how an artist's environment affects creative work and acts as an extension of an artist's “visual brand”.

The website is super cute, featuring Tuesday's signature illustrations and hand drawn link buttons, all set on a light peach and orange background. As well as photographic tours of artists' work areas, Studio Sweet Studio also offers a regular artist feature, 'how to' guides, step-by-step process instructions and an ideas section for those slightly lacking in light-bulb moments.

ALL + ETC in their shared studio (image from Studio Sweet Studio)

On the first studio tour, Tuesday and Meg showcase Annie Lee Larson's strikingly bright and patterned hand-made knitwear, in a studio that she shares with graphic designer Eric Timothy Carlson in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA). From the pillars of rainbow yarn stacked up on shelves to the drawers of multi-coloured buttons and a look inside their trusty cassette box (there's a lot of Oingo Boingo and Depeche Mode!), the photographs act as a visual guide of both artists' main influences and previews their work processes in action.

Already off to a strong start, Studio Sweet Studio is an endlessly fascinating look into the background behind creative endeavors, and a bookmark MUST!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Women of the World Festival

Things have been a little quiet here over the past few days as I've spent the weekend at The Southbank Centre, taking part in the Women of the World Festival. It was a total honour to be asked to get involved - I was helping out with the Zines event, run by London-based female arts collective Storm In A Teacup (check out their blog to see what they get up to!).

The whole event was really well organised; our area had a live music stage curated by Emmy The Great, tables strewn with paper, scissors, a typewriter, a badge-making machine (!) and other materials for those wandering in to make up their own zines (run by creative collective Soupa), and a long shelf with everyone's zine collections on display for visitors to have a browse.

(Photo by Reena from Nest)

A few of us also gave talks about the zine-related projects we run, which was both terrifying and also a lot of fun. My friend/artist Rushka and I spoke about our zine Shebang (I'll do a full intro on it later on), and talked about how we came to get into zine culture and all that it has to offer. Our Powerpoint that we'd prepped the day before wasn't compatible with the laptop being used so we kind of had to wing it, but luckily made it through without forgetting too much! There were also really insightful talks from Reena and Anna from Nest, and Ellie and Bex from VV Collective who all do great things to help promote female artists.

(Photo by Clare from Soupa)

We also had a good chat with Katie from Fat Quarter zine, a female-friendly mag bursting with interviews, reviews and features to inspire and entertain. Definitely a new favourite of mine!

As with all zine events, it's great to meet other collectives and zinesters face-to-face to chat about what everyone gets up to and to share tips and encouragement. We also met tons of cool girls with an interest in zines but who weren't sure how to get more involved with the zine scene or how to get started, so hopefully even more new reads will start springing up as a result! The weekend was a huge success and I'm sure the Teacups will return next year to spread some more ziney joy.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Promoters/Label: Dance Magic Dance

Laura, Mireia & Annabelle

When Dance Magic Dance first sprang up, I was living in Brighton and a little out of the loop about the London club scene. I was approached by Mireia asking if I'd be interested in DJing at their night, and after doing some online stalking I discovered that DMD (also run by Belle and Laura) were fellow riot grrrl-lovers, and gave new meaning to the phrase Girls Get Busy! They never seem to stop - from putting on their favourite bands and DJing at friends' nights to taking trips across the ocean to give NYC some DMD love, releasing cassette comps and (as if that all isn't enough to juggle with full-time jobs) very soon will be releasing records too! With extensive knowledge of bands still in their infant stages, the trio have put on early shows by the likes of - get ready to start clicking some links - La La Vasquez, Pens, Divorce, Sweet Bulbs, Das Wanderlust, Cold Pumas, The Racket, Veronica Falls, Girls Names, Bo Ningen, MEN, Wetdog, Mazes and countless others.

Wetdog (photo by Laura Hernando)

MEN (photo by Laura Hernando)

 If you're in London tomorrow night be sure to check out how much fun a DMD night can be! The girls are putting on Prize Pets, Swanton Bombs and New Years Evil upstairs at the Old Blue Last. Doors are at 8.30 and entry is completely FREE. More here.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Wild Flag - Ask The Angels

I swear I'll do my very best to make sure this doesn't end up being an obsessive Wild Flag fan blog... but I'm not making any promises. Anyway, I just wanted to share their awesome cover of Patti Smith's call-to-arms anthem, 'Ask The Angels', recorded at a recent show in Philadelphia.


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Happy International Women's Day!

"Women have to steel themselves against so much, men constantly commenting on us, or against violence. It's feeling you have to leave your body because you can't take the pain all the time. I want to make music that, when women listen to it, they can be inside themselves again"
- Kathleen Hanna, Wire 2002

I've been out doing chores all day (mainly concerning this) so even though there's only 15 minutes left of today, here's a small celebration of a few of the brilliant female musicians who've been keeping me company over the years, standing up for equality and making a lot of girls of all ages feel good about themselves.

Bikini Kill - Suck My Left One

Bratmobile - Gimme Brains

Sleater-Kinney - Turn It On

Monday, 7 March 2011

Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High

My review of the new Dum Dum Girls' EP, He Gets Me High is now up on Bearded. Click to read.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Gang Gang Dance - Glass Jar

Most eleven minute songs result in the listener slipping into some kind of daydreaming coma, but the new Gang Gang Dance embraces this out-of-body quality and still calls for total attention; a delicately pieced collection of sounds that build towards dizzying heights with Lizzi Bougatsos' defined vocals cutting through the delirium. The spoken introduction of "I can hear everything. It's everything time" is the initial instruction, encouraging unhindered free form whilst encompassing intricate layering to ensure the resonating fragments all work in sync. A beautiful piece of work that hints at the great things to follow on their new release, Eye Contact (out May 9th on 4AD).

Stream here:

Friday, 4 March 2011

Wild Flag - Glass Tambourine

When Sleater-Kinney announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus in 2006, I'd just seen them live for the first time at Reading Festival a few weeks before, and the news was a horrible blow as I was forced to wave goodbye to yet another much-loved band (and a band I can safely say are my favourite band EVER, no exceptions). It looked as though all three members might be going their separate ways for good, never to share the same stage again. Janet Weiss joined Stephen Malkmus' Jicks band and put out another Quasi record, Carrie Brownstein created ThunderAnt (later to turn into Portlandia) and wrote a brilliant column for NPR called Monitor Mix, and Corin Tucker decided to go it alone last year with her solo record 1,000 Years. Although their individual bands and projects were hugely successful and enough to keep S-K fans going, there was still a large void left behind.

Hearing the news that Janet and Carrie have teamed up with Mary Timony (previously of Helium) and Rebecca Cole (The Minders) to form Wild Flag was unbelievably exciting, and since September we've all been patiently waiting to hear what the 'supergroup' have come up with, constantly bugging poor record shop employees to look up on their systems to find out if a release date has been set (Maybe just me then? Oh, OK.)

It's just been announced that their first 7” featuring the tracks 'Future Crimes' and 'Glass Tambourine' will be a special Record Store Day release (on 16th April), put out on Merge. The release was produced by Britt Daniel of Spoon, although the tracks will later be re-recorded with producer Chris Woodhouse for their debut album, so this really will be a very special record.

Ever good with putting sounds into words, Carrie told NPR that the track 'Glass Tambourine' exemplifies why she loves being in Wild Flag, describing it as starting off as “a warped pop song and then veers into something more psychedelic. There are melodies, harmonies, and then a fair amount of chaos. For this very reason, it's one of our favourite songs to play live. There is an improvisational aspect at the end, and we rarely know what's going to happen.”

The same can be said for Wild Flag, but whatever the outcome, it's bound to be awesome.

You can stream 'Glass Tambourine' on NPR here.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Thao & Mirah - Eleven (ft. tUnE-yArDs)

I've been looking forward to hearing some of the recordings that Thao and Mirah have been working on together, and the recent leak of their track with tUnE-yArDs's Merrill Garbus suggests that the pair have plugged into something great. 'Eleven' is an upbeat, joyous party of mismatched percussion and overlapping vocals, with their unique voices melding and dancing across bright beats and a menagerie of instruments, repeating "My love is love, it won't go away".

Thao (Nguyen, of my beloved Thao With the Get Down Stay Down) and singer-songwriter Mirah are both artists on the revolutionary Kill Rock Stars roster, and after teaming up for a tour last year the pair decided to work on some songs. The result of which, the self-titled Thao & Mirah, will be released on 26th April on KRS.

Thao + Mirah With The Most of All - When We Swam (Live at Northside Festival) from Big Ass Lens on Vimeo.

You can listen to 'Eleven' over on Pitchfork.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Sonic Youth - Lights Out (Simon Werner a Disparu)

To be honest, sometimes I totally lose track of Sonic Youth's output. It doesn't seem like a month passes without some kind of release from the band or many of their affiliated outfits, from the Ecstatic Peace label, Lee's solo work, Free Kitten, various collaborations, a tour, a show, another full-length. It's endless, but the standard is unshakably high every time.

Their soundtrack to the French thriller Simon Werner a Disparu (translation: Simon Werner has Disappeared) is the latest addition to their swelling body of work. After watching the initial rushes by director Fabrice Gobert last spring at their Echo Canyon West studio in Hoboken, New Jersey, the band took to the studio, recording short cuts to accompany the visuals. They later returned after a few months had passed and rearranged their pieces, forming a completed soundtrack that even works as a stand-alone record, removed from the movie entirely.

I haven't yet seen Simon Werner a Disparu, but after spending a few days with the soundtrack I'm interested to see how the two will fit. The record is a constantly evolving presence, devoid of vocals and saturated in their iconic scratching and ringing guitars, but lacking in their wall-of-noise aesthetics. 'Thème d’Laetitia' is the stand-out prevailing menace, rumbling and chillingly utilising the threat of silence.

If you're searching for another 'Kool Thing' then go and take your Goo tshirt elsewhere, but for a fully formed collection of ominous sounds that once again show off the group's capabilities, then look no further.