My Thursday night was spent in the beautiful St Giles-in-the-Fields Church, sitting in a pew and blissfully watching Oneohtrix Point Never performing tracks from his new record, Replica.
Oneohtrix Point Never is Daniel Lopatin (half of Ford & Lopatin, and founder of the Software label), and the music he creates is suited to a reverent spiritual setting; under the loops and textures, there are low, choral voices and ethereal and distant samples, summoning a presence that can go from pastoral to ominous in a few steps of sound.
On record, it's music that requires intent listening, filling silence with a metamorphosis of sound. In a live setting and accompanied by visuals, the music takes on an even more powerful and transfixing form, as fading cartoon images and three dimensional fleshy shapes rotate and diverge. It might sound like a strange thing to say, but something about the tone and atmosphere of OPN's music gives me the same creepy feeling that I used to have when I was really little, and would lie in bed at night trying to get my head around life and mortality and the things that still blow my mind when I think about them for too long.
I couldn't find any footage online that does the live show justice, so here are some videos to check out:
Since its release, John Maus' most recent album, We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves has stayed put through many an iPod clearout, and is a record I can't see myself ever growing tired of.
The album follows on from 2007's Love Is Real which is equally as unique and atmospheric, borrowing theme music aesthetic from 80s flickering VHS movies, medieval sounds and solemn, echoing vocals that float up from the depths to create something quite otherworldy. Though favourite tracks come and go (and there are a great many of them), 'Do Your Best' is a song that will always get my full attention. It's also no suprise that John Maus was old college buddies with Ariel Pink, and was in an early line-up of the Haunted Graffiti.
Last week London was given the chance to see these songs brought screaming (quite literally) into the live arena, as John Maus played three shows in a row. I couldn't make the Thursday show and so saw him at Heaven (as support to Washed Out, who were good but totally eclipsed by his short but striking set) and at a lunchtime Rough Trade show the next day. Thankfully Abeano has very kindly shared a video of his newer track 'Hey Moon', alongside slow-motion footage from the Tufnell Park show.
"Women should be heroes for everybody, not just for other women." - Amy Klein
Riot Grrrl has always been a tricky term to get to grips with, as it covers so much and yet is also an extremely precise movement in time, the timeline of which is slightly blurred. During its peak I was still playing Barbies and obsessing over Top Of The Pops, so I'm by no means in any position to provide a full history, but in my view, Riot Grrrl gave permission to women to be themselves, to eradicate dated attitudes of a woman's place in society and encourage women to speak out about their experiences and problems, and to support each other.
It was a movement that took place in gig venues, in social spaces and out on the streets, discussed in meetings and talked about in zines. It was the coming together of a group of people fed up with being sidelined because of their gender, especially in the so-called open minded punk community. It was the reclaiming of an individual's identity and a proactive, supportive outlook that empowered women and was another sharp attack on the sexism that still reared its head everyday, subtly or otherwise.
But as word of Riot Grrrl spreads further and further over time, the true meaning of the title can become skewed and altered, resulting in almost a caricature of its former self. Riot Grrrl is Bikini Kill and Heavens To Betsy, but it isn't a specific genre of music. In fact, it isn't solely a musical movement at all, but one that brings together the topics of art, music, politics, gender, sexuality, abuse and a host of other issues. And yet, female musicians are finding it harder and harder to shake off the tag.
By creating this 'other' woman, who doesn't fit the traditional stereotype, Riot Grrrl has become the badge placed upon them. And with it comes a stereotype all of its own. In my own experience, even the most liberal and open-minded of people have presumed that I'm a lesbian, just because a lot of my music collection is taken up with records made by women. This strange viewpoint also worryingly suggests that straight girls only listen to music made by men, which when you think about it, must mean that girls enjoy music only because they are attracted to the person making it... Don't get me wrong, I love The Pixies, but I don't feel the urge to jump Frank Black's bones, or to see Mark E. Smith in his birthday suit, thanks very much.
It's been on my mind for quite a while now, so I was pleased to read the 'Not Every Girl Is A Riot Grrrl' article by Lindsay Zoladz, published on Pitchfork a few days ago. In it, Lindsay discusses how nowadays, the comparison to Riot Grrrl can be detrimental to women, especially in music, because once again female musicians are labelled before they've even struck a chord.
Obviously being typecast as a Riot Grrrl isn't exactly the worst insult, but it's still lazily lumping an entire gender together rather than listening to the music being produced, and shows how limited our vocabulary for talking about women in music is. It was great to hear many women (including Grass Widow!) discussing their experiences with the term, and Amy Klein got it spot on, noting, "It shouldn't be sacrilege to say that a guitar player who happens to be female sounds like, say, J Mascis... And people should feel comfortable complimenting a 15-year-old guy, saying, 'Your playing sounds like Marnie Stern.' Women should be heroes for everybody, not just for other women."
When Fiona Campbell isn't beating the drums in Vivian Girls, she's half of the brilliant Coasting, making driving pop songs that rattle and sway through swarms of soft harmonies and echo, but with enough of a kick to keep things interesting. You're Never Going Back is the first full-length from the Brooklyn-based duo, and has just been released on the sublime M'Lady's Records.
I think I played it about 10 times back to back when Spin put it up as a 'first listen', and luckily it's still streamable on their site, so go and check it out now before someone realises and takes it down!
For the uninitiated, with a name like Prinzhorn Dance School, images of spandex and leg warmers are summoned; visions of glitter-clad kids all hungry for fame, leaping over vehicles and generally causing chaos. That was my first thought when, in 2007, the band appeared with their self-titled debut on DFA.
Thankfully, while the chaotic element may not be far fetched, Prinzhorn Dance School are far from obnoxious stage school kids. A collaboration between the musicians Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn, their name stems from Dr Hans Prinzhorn, who collected art by mentally ill patients under his care.
With post-punk sensibilities and jumping guitars, their music is a wonderful, skeletal combination of scratchy guitar and thudding bass lines, with spoken male vocals and shouty female cries that jangle the nerves. I always feel cheesy throwing around comparisons willy nilly, but sometimes it can't be helped, so here goes... Think along the lines of The Intelligence, Beat Happening, a rowdy Young Marble Giants, or even The Raincoats and you come somewhere in the vicinity of Prinzhorn Dance School.
They also have lovely handmade merchandise - at the recent DFA night at the 100 Club, their merch stand was covered in hand-stitched purses, and what looked to be some kind of jam or preserve in little jars. Way more interesting than the usual tshirt and vinyl selection.
They have just announced that a second album will follow their self-titled debut, titled Clay Class. Very much an album dealing with the topics of our time, Tobin says of the album, "Even though our band lives in two different places at once - Brighton and Portsmouth, a sense of belonging doesn't really happen in either. I think that’s a wider issue which probably affects millions of people in this country, and the empty spaces Suzi and I are interested in – fields; lakes; warehouses; the sea; huge, people-less car-parks, or even the gaps in our music itself – simultaneously amplify that feeling, and give you the room to ask questions about it." Keep an ear out.
Clay Class will be released on 30th January 2012. Explore more.
Real Estate have followed their lovely debut with new record Days, which sees the New Jersey gang of friends build on their laid-back and heartfelt sound. I reckon this could be my favourite album of 2011.