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LIVE REVIEW: Marissa Nadler, Lille Vega, 08.06.2016

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Marissa Nadler live at Vega

We’ve all been to the half-full show where the artist on stage begs everyone to come a little closer to the stage. If they’re very engaging, people come forward; if they’re not, the audience stays where they are and everyone feels awkward.

Marissa Nadler does not play these games. Instead she walks on stage at Lille Vega alone, picks up her guitar, and begins playing “Drive.” The audience immediately gravitates towards her.

There’s an uncommon amount of competition for musicians that night. Marissa’s audience have elected to see her instead of Muse or the Melvins who both have sold out shows nearby. This small crowd is dedicated; one person even corrects her about what album “Dying Breed” is on. It’s not surprising that they’re attention is rapt, nor to see them gently swaying as she sings. Even if you’re a newcomer to Marissa’s music, something about it makes you feel peaceful.

Her solo songs, all played on a semi-hollow electric — no acoustics, no 12 strings — highlight her voice more. To listen to her in this setting is to hear her voice as a separate entity from everything else happening. It floats not only over the music but over everyone else in the room. It’s the very evocation of “haunting.”

After a few songs she brings out her band, two of whom are openers Wrekmeister Harmonies (and highly recommended for lovers of vaguely droning rock songs and rich vocal harmonies). This portion of her set focuses on her new album, Strangers, released last month. Marisa’s voice melts into these arrangements, with guitar and viola or electric piano ready to swallow it up. It feels like a departure, and it’s only a small part of her set, but she proves that she can bring the same depth as when she’s on her own.

After this interlude she’s solo again, and focusing on older songs, because, as she said of Strangers, “a lot of you don’t know it yet, right?” She ends her main set with a cover of “Tecumseh Valley” by Townes van Zandt — which in her hands sounds as much a part of her catalogue as her own songs — and plays Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” for her final song of the night because she “came all the way to Denmark for one show [and had] to make it worth it.” It was worth it.

If you don’t really know Strangers yet or missed out on Marissa, never fear, she’s got plans to return to Copenhagen this year. No matter what else is happening, you’ve no excuse to make other plans.

PHOTOS: Fat White Family, Loppen, 24.05.2016

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Fat White Family

Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Fat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Fat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

-2300HOFat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Fat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

LIVE REVIEW: Kevin Morby, Jazzhouse, 10.05.2016

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kevin morby live in copenhagen

It’s not surprising that a musician who has released nine albums in seven years is an energetic guy. Kevin Morby, once of Woods and the Babies, tells the sold out crowd at Jazzhouse that he had a long drive from Berlin and only slept half an hour the previous night, but that doesn’t stop him from spending most of his set bouncing on his toes and shaking his curly hair back and forth. The main room is very hot, but while his backing band condescend to roll up their sleeves, Morby is committed to his gray suit and seems unencumbered by his sartorial choices.

Morby primarily plays songs from his latest album, Singing Saw, familiar enough to the audience now for “Dorothy” to be greeted with cheers from the opening chords. He treats the audience to a track written since the album, which bears resemblance to the more energetic songs on Singing Saw, as well as older songs such as the title track from his solo debut, Harlem River.

Jazzhouse is the perfect setting in terms of acoustics for Morby and his band. And his band is truly special. The grouping of two guitars, bass, and drums mean that some of the trimmings from the albums are stripped back. Where there were string arrangements or keyboards, now it’s just guitars doing their best impersonations, which brings out the bluesy aspects of the songs. The bass is very present but never intrusive, clear without registering a thud in your intestines. Morby’s guitarist and backing vocalist is very understated in her performance, drawing little attention to her fancy fretwork. By contrast, his drummer looks like he’s going to burst apart every time the tempo picks up. And it’s more apparent live than in his recordings how much Morby’s songs rely on these shifts; the subtlety of the album is a jolt of energy live. And while his band emphasizes this, it’s clear when Morby plays “Black Flowers” solo that he is capable of relating the same effect on his own.

A lot of that ability to relate in his music come from the ease Morby projects on stage. He is comfortable with his audience and even a little goofy, at one point requesting the house lights be brought up so he can take photos. It’s easy to reconcile that man with the man who bounces around the stage. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the whole package.

LIVE REVIEW: Sarah Neufeld, Loppen, 08.05.2016

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sarah neufeld live in copenhagen

Expectations are high for any solo violinist. When the stage she appears on is Loppen, there’s some dissonance between the instrument and the setting. Sarah Neufeld showed, however, that the musician herself was in exactly the right place.

The Arcade Fire violinist’s songs hint at a Celtic, traditional influence, but her arrangements are adventurous and abstract. This becomes clear when she’s joined by her drummer, whose nuanced and creative playing transports Neufeld’s songs beyond their atmospheric recordings to something unexpectedly energetic and intense. At times, he comes close to upstaging Neufeld and her circular song structures with samplers, shakers taped to drum sticks, and subtle electronic inflections.

The energy stands in complete contrast to the fact that a large chunk of the small audience remains seated for the whole of the performance. In absence of seats, many people directly on the floor in good view of the stage. But this audience, however small, knows Neufeld and her work and is held rapt by her performance. Noise travels very easily in Loppen, and the vibe would have been incredibly different if the audience hadn’t been completely silent, if the more muted notes were muffled by talking, if fingers tapping on a snare couldn’t be heard.

But the energy is in Neufeld’s style of performing itself, which is obviously influenced by years of being in a band versus an orchestra. She never stands still and often swings her legs around when she moves. There is strength and muscle to in her playing, regardless of how rapid and slight her movements.

The standout movement of the evening was an extended pizzicato solo that swept Neufeld away as much as any guitar solo could have. But again it was her accompanist that rooted the song in something too abstract to be rock’n’roll, and so much more divine because of it.

LIVE REVIEW: PAWS, Stengade, 06.05.2016

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paws live at stengade copenhagen

Glaswegian trio PAWS are a no nonsense, no frills indie rock band. They play crunchy songs with catchy hooks, and they’re the kind of band that’s buzzy in their native UK. But so far they’re flying under the radar in Copenhagen, and their show at Stengade marks only their second visit to Denmark.

Amidst the fuzz of their existing catalogue, PAWS introduce their new single, “No Grace,” the recording of which is produced by Mark Hoppus. Perhaps it’s just the mention of his name, but the song instantly takes on a Blink-182 vibe that the other tracks don’t have. This is magnified as their vocals live have less reverb than on their recordings. Their new album is out next month, so it will be interesting to see how much of an influence the pop punk frontman has had on their sound.

To give them credit, PAWS had the unenviable position of following a band of locals whose fans/friends came out in droves but did not stick around. This could explain why, amongst their generally pleasant chatter, the band ask repeatedly if the audience are dead or alive — it does eventually produce the results of getting a small group to dance in front of the stage.

And they give back what they ask for. PAWS’s bass player, in particular, doesn’t hold still for a second, and bops across the stage and back again, throws himself forward and back in spasming motions, and somehow doesn’t break a sweat. And that’s really what you’re looking for from bands like PAWS; yes, there are plenty of other indie rock bands with solid tunes out there, but when you can get swept up in their energy, it feels unique and special every time.

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.

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.

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.

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