Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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April 2016

LIVE REVIEW: Elder, Loppen, 25.04.2016

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Elder

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

What could be better on a cold, wet Monday evening than a bit of stoner rock at Loppen? A great deal of Copenhageners would have understandably replied “staying warm and dry at home,” but Elder, the headlining act this evening, certainly have their fair share of hardcore fans.

“Stoner rock” tends to denote a particular mentality rather than a well-defined genre. Of the three bands playing tonight, what unites them is a love for Black Sabbath, vintage equipment, and the endorsement (implied or otherwise) of the ‘erb. Openers Carousel tend towards the more traditional hard-rock end of the spectrum, but this is perhaps not the right crowd for that.

Elder

The Oakland-based, follicularly-gifted quintet Mondo Drag are another case entirely. Drawing from esoteric 70s prog, in the vein of Goblin, King Crimson and Camel, the band’s extended jams resonate much more with the audience. The Ozzy-esque vocals are there, as with basically every other band in the stoner category, but the band is at its best when they focus on keyboard-led instrumentals.

Elder

But as soon as Elder begin tearing through “Compendium”, the opening track of their 2015 LP Lore, you get an idea of how the genre can become more than an enjoyable romp through Black Sabbath’s major works. The influences are still there in the chugging bass riffs, but frontman Nick DiSalvo’s guitar can suddenly become ornate and melodic, riding the drums and bass like the foam on a rough sea.

Describing this as their billionth appearance at Loppen, the band clearly feel at home. And after two hours of waiting, the audience is fervently on their side. Beer splashes everywhere, and bassist Jack Donovan nearly beheads a few people in the front in his frenzy. A few obligatory technical glitches do little to dent the enthusiasm of either band or audience, and as the evening draws to a close, Elder proved they were definitely worth enduring the awful weather.

LIVE REVIEW: Morton Subotnick, Jazzhouse, 21.04.2016

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Morton Subotnick

It’s safe to say that we never anticipated the audience rushing the stage of an 83-year-old electronic artist’s performance, but Morton Subotnick has always been a man of firsts. The electronic music pioneer played selections spanning his landmark albums Silver Apples of the Moon and A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur at Jazzhouse in low-key, minimalist style.

Minimalist in terms of presentation, that is — in terms of gear, Subotnick has enough hard drives in his set up to run a major ticket-buying operation and enough wires to be a legitimate fire hazard. But otherwise he sits behind a table, brightly lit but with no projections (though it takes at least 15 minutes before we register this point), the flashiest thing perhaps being his neon sneakers.

This is one of those rare occasions where you could conceivably hold a conversation over most of the music, yet no one is. The sounds come in whispers and the odd wave of noise, but mostly maintain a serene, therapeutic level. These are not note-perfect representations of the albums, either, which in many ways comes as a relief. Working with laptops instead of primitive synthesizers, it’s far more exciting to hear the music reinterpreted with modern technology than to hear a facsimile of what it was. From a technical perspective, this means that the higher end, for example, is far less harsh sounding, which is a favor to anyone with tinnitus if nothing else.

Morton Subotnick

This modernization doesn’t take away from the intent of the original works, though. It is still clear that Subotnick’s work is unlike what we have come to know electronic music to be. Even contemporaries like Kraftwerk who embraced the machine aspect of electronic music still don’t have the Space Age quality of Subotnick’s work. It’s choppier, more robotic, and brings to mind the proto-electronic work of tape splicers like Delia Derbyshire more than any New Waver. To underscore this, and the evolution of his own compositions, Subotnick ended the evening with a newer piece that fits more comfortably with contemporary abstract electronic works than much of his catalogue.

After his set, Subotnick came out to take away his gear, but didn’t get far. People were already on stage, looking at the labyrinth of wires, and immediately cornered him into conversation. More people followed suit, filling Jazzhouse’s small stage. Maybe the fresh news of the loss of yet another music legend had made people more brazen, and the artist took it in good humor. It proves that the fascination with his weird sounds is as real now as it was nearly 50 years ago.

LIVE REVIEW: William Basinski, Jazzhouse, 07.04.16

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William Basinski

With a show at Jazzhouse sold out a week in advance, William Basinski’s place in contemporary avant-garde music clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed with the local audience.

Opening the night was Danish sound artist Lars Lundehave Hansen. His equipment was set up next to Basinski’s centre-stage desk, on a small round table covered with a sumptuous red lit tablecloth. Taking the place at the table dressed in a sleek suite and occasionally waving his hand through the air, Hansen gave away an impression of a magician. His music, however, did not quite live up to its magical setting. In spite of some interesting moments, the opening set was mostly made up of decent if slightly dull and rather conventional drone.

Having seen William Basinski perform a few times before, what first struck me as unusual (apart from his rockstar looks that one can apparently never get used to) was the absence of the projection screen. In place of sedative sea-like projections screened on Basinski’s previous tour, there were lights shining around him in different colours and patterns. Change can be good, of course, but bright, lollipop lights were hardly a match for the comforting ambiance coming from the PA.

Putting the unanticipated visual component aside, Basinski’s performance was pretty much all one would expect it to be. That is not to say it can be described in terms of good and bad; it was simply true to the music he’s known for. With two portable reel-to-reel tape decks as his faithful companions, Basinski patiently highlights the gradual decay of sound. Short sounds from the tape are elongated in feedback loops washing over the space, drawing the listeners into meditation.

In a live setting, Basinski’s familiar approach and fragile sound forms feel even more tangible than on recordings. The general mood is rattled by the occasional look to the stage in all its light-show glory. Curiously, that only seems to underline the point – this is the sound of all things inevitably fading away, no matter how shiny they may appear.

PHOTOS: A Place To Bury Strangers, Loppen, 10.04.2016

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A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

Photos By Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

LIVE REVIEW: A Place To Bury Strangers, Loppen, 10.04.2016

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Brooklyn’s A Place to Bury Strangers have built a reputation based on their intense live shows and blistering volume. I’ll vouch for that reputation; this is a band I’ve seen more times than I can count on one hand. I’ve seen them in different venues with differently proportioned stages and different qualities of sound systems. I’ve seen them enough that people ask why I would go see them yet again.

It’s a fair question. When you’ve seen a band play enough, there’s a certain amount of predictability, even if that amounts to expecting something wild to happen. In addition to noise, there’s a fair amount of flailing and some acts of violence against musical instruments to be expected from this band.

In the case of APTBS’s show at Loppen, the unpredictability began innocuously enough, with them opening with “I Lived My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart,” a song that in previous years would be used to blast the audience apart at the end of their set. If that’s how you’re starting things, how on earth do you follow from there, never mind end them?

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

What follows is some fog from the smoke machine, a budget light show stitched together with strobes and projectors by a roadie constantly having to switch and reposition them (it’s impressive for what it is), and yes, plenty of noise. There’s a little instrument swapping, but not so much that it slows the pace of a show representing a good span of the band’s catalogue.

Halfway through the set, the stage grows completely dark. Drummer Robi Gonzalez leaves the stage, then bassist Dion Lunadon, leaving frontman Oliver Ackermann alone, barely visible in the faint light and smoke, producing a sound from his guitar similar to a thunderstorm. It soon transpires that they’ve set up on the floor a few feet away from the stage, surrounding gear that can’t be distinguished in between flashes of a strobe light, which proves dangerous when the neck of Lunation’s bass nearly makes contact with my face. It’s an unexpected diversion from the glimpses of thrashing bodies through strobe lights.

In answer to an earlier question, they end things with as much feedback as possible — Ackermann first setting his mic against an amp and when that doesn’t work throwing his guitar on the stage and flipping the amp over on top of it. Antics were anticipated, and delivered on, but not exactly as expected. And for that reason, I’ll be there the next time they’re in town.

Lust for Youth “Compassion” Release Party, Sigurdsgade, 02.04.16

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Although primarily conceived and promoted as a release party for Lust for Youth’s new album Compassion, the event that took place at Sigurdsgade on Saturday was much more than what could have easily been a headliner concert with support acts thrown in to fill the lineup. Actually, as the evening wore on, the most important performance casually turned into the least memorable one. But let’s start at the beginning.

The “Ny Dansk Romantik” duo Rosen & Spyddet had the ever-unrewarding task of opening another band’s big night. Fortunately they were wise enough to regard this as an opportunity – and promptly took it! It’s probably safe to assume that a good deal of the early-bird audience was not acquainted with their work, and (as always) some preferred to chat at the bar rather than to engage with music. But all those who cared to listen quickly found themselves enchanted by the duo’s soothing melodies. Rosen & Spyddet presented the recently released Drengen Ved Brystet as well as material from their beautiful 2015 album Fortuna, using warm synths and gentle beats to create a dreamy atmosphere moving you to a different place and time.

While setting up their gear, members of Orphan Ann brought some flowers to arrange on the floor. The Morrisey-invoking gesture couldn’t have been more misleading though, as the flowers were soon overshadowed by chains. Unlike the lush ambience from the romantics playing before them, lulling the audience into daydream is about the last thing Orphan Ann wanted to do. Their brief but intense performance amped up the volume and increased the ferocity of what many expected to be a benign synth-pop event. Those of us who don’t mind a little disruption and/or challenge found plenty to appreciate in the Swedish duo’s blend of concert and performance art driven by harsh electronics, rallying cries and narration in Russian.

After two gorgeous and demanding performances, it was easy to forget the reason why most people came in the first place. As the venue started to fill up, it seemed like the intimate underground gathering was over and all of a sudden it was time to party. Having previously shared the bill and/or label with the opening acts, Lust for Youth have clearly had a hand in the lineup selection. The decision to have what is very much an experimental band performing before their polished synth-pop, as well as the music they make with their solo projects, makes it impossible to write Lust for Youth off as some incidentally talented poseurs – no matter how much they sometimes tried to go for precisely that image.

It is debatable whether an album release party is intended for the band and their friends to simply have fun, or if it’s supposed to be the band’s night to shine, and the experience of Lust for Youth’s Saturday concert would probably depend on your view on this. Having seen them perform elsewhere, I know this was far from the best they can do, and surely they know it too. Considering the technical issues that marked the entire first part of their performance, it’s somewhat understandable that things didn’t run smoothly and that the band was visibly annoyed. However, while Fischer and Rahbek made sure that the music continued properly blasting regardless of the issues, Norrvide seemed as if he couldn’t be bothered to sing, turning his usual fittingly deadpan delivery into careless shouts and sneers.

Sure, Lust for Youth’s anthemic synth-pop hooks still sound powerful over the PA, but on this particular occasion, it was kind of difficult to care. They should nonetheless get praise for putting together such a daring lineup, and for providing two amazing acts with a chance to gain some new fans.

 

DFI Musikfilm Festival 2016: Our Picks

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Copenhagen’s Cinemateket is back with another edition of Musikfilm Festival, a film festival dedicated to music documentaries, rockumenatries, gigumentaries and more neologisms we can’t be bothered to come up with right now. It’s a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes of the music world, as well as a celluloid window into some of the most mythical concerts of the last half century. Behold, our picks for the coming week:

Daft Punk Unchained (Saturday, 16:30)

The festival opens with the (free!) showing of Daft Punk’s odyssey from the brash kings of ‘French touch’ to the robot-headed, disco overlords of today. Expect lots of teasing about “the men behind the masks”, hordes of celebrities quite rightly, if self-servingly, gushing over them, and the burgeoning realization that Homework is still the best thing they ever did. CC.

Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle (Sunday, 17:30)

Kate McGarrigle’s death in 2010 was a major loss for folk music, and the musical family she left behind. Her children, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, have McGarrigle’s influence written all over their careers (sorry Loudon), which they drive home with this tribute concert from 2011. Brace yourself for added emotional intensity from personal photographs and anecdotes, and because no one does emotional intensity quite like the Wainwright/McGarrigle family. AF.

Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay (Tuesday, 21:30)

It’s all in the name, really. If you’re into brutalist architecture, the clanging of metal, and that peculiarly British sense of liberation through grimness, this is the film for you. Starting with industrial legends like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, the film looks at the influences and influence of the genre that bridged the gap between pop music, avant-garde art and post-modern theory. CC.

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Tuesday, 21:45 and Sunday, 19:15)

If you’re still feeling sad about Bowie, you can find one of a million rips of Cracked Actor on YouTube, or you can sit in on one of these screenings with a room full of other people sharing your feelings. This classic 1973 concert film is young Bowie in all of his technicolor splendor and still offers the right amount of weird more than 40 years later. We’re not saying we’ll cry during “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” but we’d appreciate it if you’d avert your eyes. AF.

The Possibilities Are Endless (Wednesday, 19:00)

Edwyn Collins is the former Orange Juice frontman, Postcard Records founder, and the guy behind “A Girl Like You,” which his been licensed a million times. His role as respected indie stalwart was nearly destroyed after a brain hemorrhage left him paralyzed down his right side and only able to say “yes,” “no,” his wife’s name, and “the possibilities are endless.” Yet Edwyn is still writing and recording music today, and this is the story of how. AF.

Mavis! (Thursday, 19:15)

Mavis Staples is surely one of the perfect subjects for a documentary film: a lifetime of music, civil-rights activism, and a never-ending string of collaborations with the great and the good in American music (her latest album includes songs written for her by Nick Cave, Neko Case and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon). Take a gander and find out just why everyone wants to work with Mavis, and why Bob Dylan wanted to marry her. CC.

Hot Sugar’s Cold World (Thursday, 21:15)

After splitting up with his girlfriend, field-recording musician Hot Sugar goes hunting for new sounds in Paris. It sounds more like a Tao Lin novel than a music documentary, but if you didn’t convulse with rage while reading Taipei you can probably take this too. But I will admit that this film first sparked my interest because I was not expecting to read the names of both Jim Jarmusch and Neil deGrasse Tyson in the blurb. CC.

The Amazing Nina Simone (Friday, 19:15)

Look, the forthcoming Nina Simone biopic is a trash fire that’s already started smoldering. Forget it exists and look instead to this  semi-authorized documentary about Simone’s incredible work as a jazz singer, a protest singer, and a civil rights activist. It won’t downplay the controversy the music or the person; Simone was a complex character of the sort Americans could take inspiration from in an election year. Let’s not let that be upstaged by a controversial casting decision. AF.

PHOTOS: Puce Mary | Damien Dubrovnik | Internazionale | Mats Erlandsson, Mayhem Kbh, 30.03.2016

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Puce Mary (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Internazionale (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Internazionale (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Mats Erlandsson (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Mats Erlandsson (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Damien Dubrovnik (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Damien Dubrovnik (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Damien Dubrovnik (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Damien Dubrovnik (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Puce Mary (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Puce Mary (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Puce Mary (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Puce Mary (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)

 

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