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Here Today’s Albums of the Year of 2016

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We’re not going to spend time talking about what a brutal year 2016 was for music lovers. Regardless of what genre you favor, 2016 was a year that took someone away from you. And while that might be the most immediately enduring sentiment about the past year, it’s necessary to take strength in the incredible music that was released this year. In the past 12 months, we’ve been blown away by newcomers and watched artists we’ve been rooting for all along come into their own. We’ve welcomed back old friends and received beautiful goodbyes from heroes. It’s because it’s been such an extraordinarily, musically rich year that we’ve made it through at all. These are our favorites:

Angel Olsen Live in Copenhagen

Angel Olsen
MY WOMAN
[Jagjaguwar]

It’s two short years ago that Angel Olsen first captured our hears, but she’s come a long way from her minimalist, finger-picked solo guitar tracks. On MY WOMAN, Angel builds out her dreamiest moments into vast washes of rumbling guitar with vague memories of folk somewhere in the distance. This hasn’t stopped her from writing snappy pop songs or experimenting with synthesizers. Her vocals are just as moving as ever, but where quiet whispers were once her stock and trade, there is real evidence that Angel could be a leading rock vocalist of her generation.

And that’s what is so exciting about both Angel and this record: On MY WOMAN, she shows not only that an understanding of what she does so well, but that her own potential is limitless. More to the point, we can see now that she’s ambitious enough to follow that potential it wherever it takes her. — AF

Puce Mary (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Puce Mary
The Spiral
[Posh Isolation]

When Puce Mary released The Spiral, her third LP, she played a release concert at Mayhem, and the performance she gave is a serious contender to being the most intense of 2016. Stripped of the insane decibels, Puce Mary’s confrontational yet trance-like stage appearance, the lights and the smoke, The Spiral is still a captivating experience. The eight tracks on the album are very distinct, yet they blend together forming a whole that sucks you in as it progresses. Puce Mary is a master of contrasts, her music is brutal yet subtle, even fragile, and even though compositions are industrial, her music feels alive like an organism.

Last but not least:  It sounds amazing. The noise, the textures, the strange field recordings, the distorted vocals. The Spiral is an intense and demanding record, but also truly inspiring and in it’s own, complex way beautiful. — MAK

Mitski live Copenhagen Loppen

Mitski
Puberty 2
[Dead Oceans]

While it seemed as though she appeared from nowhere to make us get in touch with our feelings, Mitski has been toiling away for years now. Her fourth album, Puberty 2, perfectly combines her prolific efforts with a youthful perspective and energy and just enough life experience to make you believe her. The album is full of subtle bleeps and horn flourishes, but watching her play stripped back versions of the album was a highlight of the year.

It takes a good amount of self-awareness to call your album Puberty 2, and so much of its charm is her unabashed willingness to be awkward — which somehow also makes her the coolest girl in the room. You will feel like Mitski just gets you, and you’re probably giving yourself too much credit. We definitely understand the impulse, though. — AF

Kanye West
The Life of Pablo
[GOOD]

The Life of Pablo is a tricky, slippery thing of an album. Less of an album, really, than a saga, an half year long event tracking the evolution of an album. But really, it’s just a collection of some very good tracks by a producer who, whatever else he might be, is also touched by genius. From Nina Simone and Arthur Russel, via Chicago house, to Frank Ocean and Desiigner, Kanye’s sample palette is as diverse, crazy and unique as ever.

In 2013 Kanye West marked the death of physical media with the cover of Yeesus, an “open casket to CDs”. That was an album full of energy joyous destruction. It seems fitting that with The Life of Pablo, Ye confronts us with the direct evidence of the technical and emotional demands of the new dominant technology. Keep it loopy. — CC

Cate Le Bon live

Cate Le Bon
Crab Day
[Drag City]

There is a feeling of kinship that runs through Cate Le Bon’s music, that if you yourself have ever toed the line between interesting and just strange leads her to sound identifiable even in her most abstract images. Le Bon is a master of oddball pop songs, with her ramshackle style of guitar playing and many unique turns of phrase.

Crab Day demonstrates the same dry vocal delivery that has always set her apart and given her music so much personality, but this time she’s pushed herself and her sound to new depths. She’s stretch her vocal range and brought a new emotional connection to her songs, which is emphasized in her commitment to her visual lyrics. She’s also introduced some legitimate guitar solos to her work. Album closer “What’s Not Mine” stretches to seven minutes of everything we find charmingly off kilter about Cate Le Bon’s music, which is to say, it’s perfect. — AF

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

Fat White Family
Songs for Our Mothers
[Fat Possum]

Few bands are able to channel hatred with the pure intensity and conviction of the Fat White Family. If this is their “difficult second album”, the difficulty lies more in their own physiological limitations, rather than in a lack of ideas or direction. Songs for Our Mothers promised to “dance to the beat of human hatred”, but little did we know back in January the degree to which that emotion would imprint itself in 2016.

Harold Shipman, Ike Turner, Goebbels: the gleeful offensiveness of the cast goes hand in hand with a deeper moral outrage, as the Family wrap themselves further and further in darkness, with only their humour and some wicked riffs for support. There’s no knowing what the next year will bring, but we can only hope the Fat White Family will be around, in some form, to rage against it. — CC

Jenny Hval
Blood Bitch
[Sacred Bones]

On the face of it, this is a synthpop album about female vampires. But anyone approaching Jenny Hval’s latest album with the expectation of a thematically-coherent concept album clearly hasn’t been paying attention. Jenny’s dark and aloof sense of humour are present in all her work, and particularly on stage, and this year’s effort manages to be a lot stranger than it promised to be.

Though there are undeniably some very lush synth pieces on this record, particularly in its two singles, “Female Vampire” and “Conceptual Romance”, we don’t necessarily rush to Jenny for her tunes, but rather for the oddities that surround them. A moment of creepy melancholy in “Untamed Region” (I told you she was funny) is punctuated by a clip of documentarian Adam Curtis talking about the helpless confusion that seems to characterise our era. Jenny Hval isn’t pretending to guide us out of that confusion, but what she builds upon it well worth the listen.

— CC

PJ Harvey
The Hope Six Demolition Project
[Island Recordings]

The Hope Six Demolition Project is the follow up to the Mercury Prize winning album Let England Shake, and PJ Harvey continues along the same lines collaborating with Mick Harvey, John Parish, Flood and documentary photographer/filmaker Seamus Murphy. But this time she has taken a more conceptual approach and adopted a role as a sort of singer/songwriter journalist reporting from her travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington D.C. This also applies to the recording process, that was framed as a performance open to the public. While some critics have expressed skepticism about the mix of music and reporting, we applaud her exploration of music as vehicle for change, and together with the albums distinct sound, musical quality and her impressive live performance this earns her a place on our list.

Honorable Mentions

Marissa Nadler – Strangers

Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree

Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

Kevin Morby – Singing Saw

Tindersticks – The Waiting Room

Danny Brown – Antrocity Exhibition

Lambchop – Fotus

Frank Ocean – Blonde

Factory Floor – 2525

Holy Fuck – Congrats

Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos

A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

LIVE REVIEW: Jackie Lynn, Jazzhouse, 8.11.16

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Jackie Lynn

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Behind iridescent projections of cityscapes stands a still figure with a guitar and cowboy hat. Dressed in gear that could have been purloined from Gram Parsons’ wardrobe, Jackie Lynn might be looking out into the candle-lit tables of Jazzhouse with a slight nod of approval. Hers is very intentionally loner, dive-bar music, a hybrid of lumpen proletariat country and Suicide-esque electronic minimalism.

We should be more precise: Jackie Lynn is in fact the avatar of singer-songwriter Haley Fohr, until recently best known for her doom-laden folk act, Circuits des Yeux. There is still plenty of darkness to Jackie Lynn, and Fohr’s distinctive low vibrato cannot be masked, but there is also an unmistakable playfulness to the very concept of this project. Accompanied by a carpet of lofi drum machines and bleepy synths, provided by members of the gloriously-named Bitchin Bajas, Jackie Lynn strums her guitar and tells her tale of love, coke dealing, and “jocks and their tiny cocks.”

For what sounds like a conceptually overwrought mix of country and electronics, the Jackie Lynn project manages to sound perfectly natural, a glimpse of an alternate world, a micro-culture just barely out of reach of the internet. The briefness of the album, under half an hour, adds to the mystery, but the real power of Fohr’s persona is felt when she is there before you, almost, but not quite, accessible.

Jackie Lynn live at Jazzhouse
Jackie Lynn live at Jazzhouse

LIVE REVIEW: Tim Hecker / Tyondai Braxton, Jazzhouse, 01.11.16

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Not too long ago, ‘being a fan of ambient music’ would be classified at around 7.8 on the Social Dysfunction scale, just below ‘owning seven cats and two human skulls’, or ‘commenting on news websites’. But these days ambient is rougher, darker, and louder than its predecessors. If it looks to Brian Eno at all, it is the twisted Eno that makes up much of Adam Curtis’s soundtracks, rather than the one who composes lullabies for air passengers. Ambient is also, it would appear, much more popular now. At least enough that one of its main ambassadors, Tim Hecker, can quickly sell out a medium-sized venue like Jazzhouse.

Not that this is all Hecker’s doing. The evening is a double bill with an altogether more eclectic character, Tyondai Braxton. Formerly of Battles, Braxton is the cerebral experimenter to Hecker’s romanticism. The difference is as much visual as it is audible: the projections behind Braxton glitch and fragment, the everyday nightmare visions of garbled technologies; Tim Hecker is instead surrounded by rather ecclesiastical rows of pastel-coloured LEDs.

But for all their care in creating compelling visuals to reflect their music, both acts appear to inherently question the need for us as an audience to be standing like this, all facing the stage as if expecting interaction or entertainment. The intermingling tracks from Hecker’s latest LP, Love Streams, positively pour from the speakers, reverberating through bodies and rattling the fillings of teeth. You’d do as well to swim through this than absorb it standing. It is the much-discussed vocal elements of Hecker’s recent work that add a little light to what would otherwise be an unremitting textural piece, and perhaps he is aware enough of the side effects to cut things short: after a pedantically-precise 60 minutes, the lights go up, and those of us who forgot our earplugs began to regret our life choices.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Eartheater, Loppen, 21.09.2016

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Photos by Victor Yakimov

On record, Eartheater is an eclectic mix of everything from spacey electronica to lo-fi freak folk. But live, Alexandra Drewchin’s solo persona is that of an uncompromising, confrontational noise artist. It starts with her reaching the stage by wading through the audience, towering above us in her 8″ Converse platforms. Some swift tapping on her laptop triggers an insistent low-frequency rumble, over which Drewchin performs a spoken-word piece, her voice drastically lowered by her trademark vocal effects.

Loppen is by no means packed out tonight, but if anything, this seems to work to Drewchin’s advantage. A significant proportion of her set is instrumental, aided by guitar retrofitted with a midi controller that triggers everything from pure white noise to the sounds of thunder, barking dogs and rainfall. Throughout this Drewchin wanders among the audience, staring them down one at a time, before drifting towards the bar, draping herself over it as if her spine were elastic. You sometimes hear of music being characterized as exploratory (typically standing for pot-induced jam sessions), but in this case the whole point of Eartheater is to test the space on a tactile level.

Eartheater 3

This sounds a little too facetious, the fault is mine. Drewchin is more than happy to cut the intensity of her set with moments of levity and self-effacement, and her physical contortions are as much joyful as they are pained. And as the set draws to a close, even the most bemused members of the audience look buoyed by the experience, or at the very least inspired to take up yoga.

LIVE REVIEW: Deerhoof, Jazzhouse, 13.09.16

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Deerhoof live Jazzhouse Copenhagen

Photos by Amanda Farah

It’s hard to think of a band as fun, weird and childlike as Deerhoof as, well, old, but 20 years in the business is a pretty significant amount of time. With around sixteen albums crowding their discography, the San Franciscan quartet’s unique brand of ultra-hyphenated, off-kilter art-rock has undergone endless refinements. If any band deserves to share that famous trope of the Fall, “always different, always the same”, it’s Deerhoof, a band that could record an album using nothing more than kazoos and still be immediately recognizable.

Case in point: towards the end of their set, I am puzzled by an familiar, but unusually riff-heavy song. After a couple of choruses, straining my ears, I eventually untangle the words: “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” I defy you to go out tonight and find me another band worth their salt playing Def Leppard covers, but more importantly, to incorporate them into a set without it sounding completely bonkers.

Deerhoof live Jazzhouse Copenhagen

It helps of course that Deerhoof’s latest album, The Magic, comes closer to standard rock tropes than most of their recent records. But for every Ramones-channeling “That Ain’t No Life For Me”, there is still a piece of their patented balance of unhinged and deadly precise, a la “Kafe Mania!”. Unhinged is a fairly apposite descriptor of the set as a whole, with John Dietrich’s guitar losing strings every other song.

In these technical pauses, drummer Greg Saunier comes to the rescue. Channeling Crispin Glover and Steven Wright simultaneously, Saunier embarks on tortuous meditations on the heat in Denmark and how it might be affecting both the tuning and the life-span of guitar strings. A good portion of the audience is baffled, but I would be the first to buy Saunier’s HBO special should he decide to ditch the drums for a stand-up career.

For all their fun, there is a challenging element to Deerhoof, a wry art to their playfulness that can sometimes be at the casual listener’s expense. Returning to stage for an encore, flushed by a blistering set, singer Satomi Matsuzaki spends a good ten minutes teaching the audience a rhythmically-challenging call-and-response. Satisfied that we’ve got the gist, the band get going. The song lasts a minute. The band leave. Best ending to a set I’ve witnessed in a while.

LIVE REVIEW: Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts, Stengade, 08.09.16

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Jeffrey Lewis: the William Morris of early 21st century Manhattan. A rather bold declaration, and definitely a facetious one, but when confronted with the lo-fi multimedia roadshow that is Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts, you can’t help but react with gleeful exaggerations.

Let me follow that with another one: Jeffrey Lewis is one of the very few musicians you can enjoy without knowing a single song he plays. In my case this is almost literally true, since I had not followed Lewis’s career closely, beyond enjoying his musical histories of the Fall and punk on the Lower East Side.

The effectiveness of his lo-fi-dom, typified by the pickup sellotaped to his trusty and battered acoustic, is in the way that the music acts as context, a score for his intimate tales of existential befuddlement. Which is not to say that the music is unimportant, but rather that it is there to serve the lyrics, rather than having a bunch of words thrown on top of it.

Jeffrey Lewis live at Stengade 2016
Jeffrey Lewis live at Stengade 2016

They have the immediacy of novelty songs, but their wry observations, particularly in songs like “When You’re By Yourself”, give them the staying power of a short story that gets so close to your daily life that it is no longer a matter of fiction and more one of millennial phenomenology. The pretension is mine, not theirs.

And just when you are worried things might be getting a little to real for you, Lewis is there to help with a capella renditions of Nirvana songs accompanied by literal and hilarious depictions of the lyrics, not to mention a brand new installment of his long-running history of Communism.

The night closes with a Pixies cover, more Nirvana “music videos”, and profuse apologies from Lewis for not having time to play even more songs, giving us just enough time to buy a few (ridiculously inexpensive) copies of his comics before riding home.

Interview: Tacocat Talk Touring, Birth Control, and Powerpuff Girls

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tacocat band

Seattle quartet Tacocat have brought the raucousness of Riot Grrl back with a wickedly barbed sense of humor. The band, comprised of singer Emily Nokes, bassist Bree McKenna, drummer Lelah Maupin, and guitarist Eric Randall, rolls feel-good punk together with lyrics reflecting life for girls, whether that means periods, cat-calling, or childhood obsessions with horses.

The band records at a pretty steady rate. Their new album, Lost Time, was released on Subpop subsidiary Hardly Art in April, and it seems like the only interruption to recording is an extensive round of touring.

“We’re trying to figure out when we want to write some more songs before recording our next…anything,” says Lelah.

“You have to schedule the free time, too, so you’re not like, ‘Our next album is about what the back of the van looks like,’” says Emily.

Tacocat are as hilarious in conversation as they are on record. The three women have an energetic dynamic, often finishing thoughts and jokes for each other. Eric, meanwhile, chimes in occasionally, mostly quiet but clearly listening actively to fit in his own jibes. We sat down with them before their show at Huset back in May when, in addition to life on the road, they talked about ’90s TV reboots, emergency contraception, and why it can be okay to read YouTube comments.

You’ve been on tour for a month now?

Emily: This is actually our second. We had a US tour for a month, and then we were home for 24 hours just to take the flight to London. We’ve basically been on tour for two months.

Lelah: It’s becoming a little bit blurry. You guys were talking about Oslo this morning, and I was like, “Nope.” That was two days ago? I was like, I can’t remember two days ago. What was that?

But you give me the details and I’m like, “Oh yeah!” But you say “Oslo,” and I’m like, “No.”

What are some of the highlights?

Lelah: Every day there’s a highlight! Like Sweden was so incredible. We’ve been in Sweden twice on this tour. The people are wonderful to talk to and they treat you really well.

Emily: Shorndorf, Germany was really sweet as well, with food and nice people just being like, “what do you need! What do you need!”

Bree: It’s nice to be treated well when you’re traveling and so far from home.

Emily: The US is not like that.

Bree: The US doesn’t accommodate bands quite so well. It’s like, “here’s two drink tickets for bad beer.” Since we’re a little fragile from touring so much, it’s just nice to have. I think European culture is a little more respectful of art.

Lelah: We played in Geneva, Switzerland. We played this really big club that’s also a cultural center. Afterwards they were like, “Do you guys want to go upstairs? There’s a DJ.” There was a whole other club with a party happening. And I’m like, “Oh, a DJ. I know what to expect: Some dance music or electronic music.” Nope! We go to this club and the person DJing is 80 years old —

Bree: And he’s dancing like crazy to merengue.

Emily: They were merengue records from the 1920s.

Bree: It was exactly what you’d think of when you think of what an old man would want to party to. Everyone was dancing and having a great time.

Lelah: Yeah, it was amazing!

You write really hilarious, smart lyrics. For starters, “Dana Scully” —

All: Yay!

Emily: She’s my favorite.

Have you seen the reboot?

Emily: I have! Wasn’t that good. There were a few that were really good, I thought. Or just well-done campiness. They tried to cram too much weird stuff into the last episode, it’s like a movie.

Eric: That stupid Lumineer’s song.

Emily: Yeah, that was the most ham-fisted music I ever heard in my life.

Eric: Also, longer than the song actually is! They must have looped it.

Do you think it’s Scully or Gillian Anderson that’s the feminist icon?

Emily: I think it’s Gillian by way of Scully. Actually, I think that she made her like that, probably. Because I know that she was supposed to be a sex symbol, and even the very first episode of The X-Files there’s a scene [where] she’s running in the rain and you can see through her blouse. She’s an FBI agent and it’s like, “Hmmm white bra.”

Then both the writers for the show and I think Gillian Anderson were like, “Just make her smarter.” And she’s the smartest person on the whole show.

Bree: This is something really interesting that Emily told me about: The spike in young girls’ interest in science and law enforcement.

Emily: Yeah, it’s called the Scully Effect.

Bree: Because how many role models do we have that are like, “We’re quirky or sexy” — she’s just so straight.

Emily: They went into the hard sciences, and there’s a direct correlation to her character.

My sister wanted to go into the FBI because of Silence of the Lambs

Emily: That’s a similar kind of character, too. I feel like that sort of severe woman — or not even severe, she’s just not hysterical, which is usually how they put men and women together. Mulder is hysterical, she’s not.

Bree: I think that’s what made their dynamic so interesting: I know women with more Sully vibes, they’re always clinical about their thinking, rational, logical. That’s very much not represented like that.

A lot of your songs address serious subjects with a great sense of humor. How do you make a song about birth control like “Plan A Plan B,” for example, funny?

Emily: I think that’s just how we talk. All of our conversations about this kind of stuff are like — we’re not very serious about it together, or in real life, so it’s how we write songs together.

Bree: I remember, we were in class one day, and we were like, “Isn’t it funny that it’s called Plan B? What was your Plan A? Haha.”

Emily: It’s true! “Some guy who looked nice? I don’t know! Classmate?”

Bree: Plan A is, “He’s cute. Let me ask him out.” Then it’s like, “Plan B.”

Emily: You’re like, “There’s no way it’s going to be more than dinner — Plan B.”

That could be a really excellent advertising campaign. But then they tell you that you should just have it in your house, because shit happens.

Lelah: I feel like the only time it was ever in my house was one of my roommates somehow acquired —

Emily: Planned Parenthood would give you like 10 —

Lelah: I think she was going to make a mobile out of them. You know, one of those things you put above a crib.

Bree: There was a while I was going to Planned Parenthood and they were like, “Let me send you home with some Plan B pills.”

Emily: But they do it for every female, they give you two so if you live in a house with more than one woman you have like a gift basket of it.

Bree: But there was a while I was like, “My partner is a female,” and they were like, “Oh I’m just going to give you these just in case.” I’m like, “okay.” I’ve got so many Plan B boxes, I’m like, “Who needs ‘em? I got ‘em!” I’ve had people hit me up, though. I think they get burned out. They’re like, “You still got those Plan B boxes?” — “Yeah, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to go anywhere, just down the block.”

Emily: Dealer.

How did you end up recording the theme for the new Powerpuff Girls?

Bree: Some writers on staff at Cartoon Network were Tacocat fans, and then a lawyer called us and said, “Hey, the writers want you to do it.” He was really funny. They do mood boards, and they were like, “We want the theme song to be like Tacocat vibes.” He was like, “I didn’t know what that was. I looked it up and I found a meme of ‘Tacocat spelled backwards is tacocat,’ so I guess they want it to be like this vibe. I don’t really get what they’re going to do.” They’re like, “No, it’s a band.”

Emily: So we have a theme song now. It’s really funny.

Bree: It’s funny because their composer flew up and gave us sheet music, and we were like, “We can’t read that.” So we compromised. It’s a funny process.

Lelah: It was so weird. It’s the most professional thing we’ve ever done.

Bree: We’re a punk band. We’re not used to working with people who have composers giving us sheet music.

Emily: But he wasn’t used to us, either. He was used to studio musicians, so he thought we were going to be like — click track drums! It has to be exactly 30 seconds long!

Lelah: It’s the only time I’ve ever recorded to a click.

Were you fans of the show?

Lelah: Oh yeah. It’s a great show. It really is. We were in LA on tour, and they were like, “Oh you’re in LA? Wanna pop by?” So we met everybody and they showed us an episode before it ever aired. I cried.

Emily: Yeah, it was so good. It’s really well written.

Bree: I love the new show. The reboot is amazing, and it’s awesome to be a part of it.

Emily: We got to go around and meet every single person who worked on the show, which was nuts. There was one woman whose only job was to draw hands. All the different hands in different action poses of them holding things is all her. There was one person who does all the backgrounds, so she was just doodling, making a couch and a face. I can’t imagine how much work goes into that.

It’s all very high-tech, but they still had a ton of people on deck. I think that they didn’t want to disappoint the old-school fans either. There’s a couple changes to the way their hair ties are, the way their dresses are, and people were like, [gasp!]. It looks exactly the same to me, but as for those nerdy super fans —

Lelah: The day they released just the theme song, it was a YouTube video of just the intro, and we were like, “Oh my God, this is so exciting!” and we shared it, and we were looking at the comments, like you do — you’re not supposed to, but we did — and 99% of them were these really intense fans being like, “What’s up with that bow? It’s different. I hate the new bow!”

“Well, they don’t hate the song. This is cool.”

Bree: I was really surprised about the bow thing. People were losing their minds about these details.

Similarly, the outcry about the Ghostbuster’s reboot from people saying it’s ruining their childhoods.

Emily: You can have both. There can be an old one and a new one. You can choose and you can not even pay attention to it. You can not watch it.

Eric: But there’s women in it!

Emily: Women just aren’t funny.

Eric: Women ruin everything.

INTERVIEW: Greg Fox on Guardian Alien, Ex Eye, and Roskilde

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Fox Millions Duo live roskilde festival

Greg Fox (right) performing with Fox Millions Duo. Photo by Morten Krogh.

Drummer Greg Fox is the sort of performer whose name comes up in a variety of contexts. Though perhaps most often associated with Liturgy, the human drum machine is also currently playing with Guardian Alien — his one-time solo project, which is currently a duo including Alexandra Drewchin of Eartheater — and Ex Eye, a new band formed with Colin Stetson. He also has an ongoing pairing with fellow drummer Kid Millions of Oneida known as Fox Millions Duo.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising that Fox’s appearance at this year’s Roskilde Festival wasn’t limited to one set. But when you consider how exhausting a festival can be for a mere spectator, Fox’s three performances over as many days with as many bands is damn impressive. Unsurprisingly, Fox was difficult to track down between sets, but he answered a few questions for us via email after the festival.

How was your Roskilde experience?

I enjoyed Roskilde. It is a huge, overwhelming festival, so luckily the backstage area for artists was very hospitable. The food was great and it was easy to relax back there.

How do you prepare for three days of shows with three different projects?

Regarding preparation, there isn’t much to it, really. More than anything I try to prepare for presenting a full set for the audience. Seventy-five minutes is longer than most sets I tend to play, so there was some thought and planning given to what material to play and how to structure the sets. The nature of Fox / Millions duo and Guardian Alien involve more improvisation within a predesigned structure, so clearly outlining those structures was the main aspect of the preparation. For Ex Eye, it’s a matter of playing the material we have been writing, so not much to do before that set besides stretch!

How did you end up playing with Ex Eye?

Colin and I had been talking about doing a “heavy” project together for a while, both of us being fans of what you might consider various forms of extreme music. Shazhad [Ismaily] has been a longtime friend and collaborator, and one of my favorite people to play and travel with, so him being in the project was a no brainer, and Toby [Summerfield] is an old friend and collaborator many times over of Colin’s, so at his suggestion Toby came on board. That’s it really. We just wanted to start a new project, so we did!

Fox Millions Duo is a fairly unique set up. What inspired the project?

What inspired the duo is mainly just Kid and I really enjoying each others’ playing and company. We have a good time together. We were asked once to do a “drum off” as an opening act for a Lightning Bolt show, and instead we decided to come up with something collaborative. And it just went from there. I think we will definitely be making another record soon.

Guardian Alien has been through a few incarnations now. Is it going to continue to evolve?

I don’t know if i can speak to any kind of permanence regarding anything at all, so it’s hard to say – but I definitely enjoy the current duo lineup of Guardian Alien. Yes we have been working on new material, using new instruments and technologies, and we are very excited about what we have been creating together.

How is Guardian Alien different from your other work?

Guardian is different than other work that I do because Alex is my partner in the non-musical realm first and foremost, so the collaboration is obviously different than it is with other people. We know each other extremely well, for better and for worse, and we also love each other very much — and we share our lives with each other. So in many ways doing Guardian as a duo with her is really joyous and fun, and in other ways it can be very challenging. But I think that challenge makes for better creative outcomes.

VIDEO: First Hate – “Holiday”

in Blog/New Music by

First Hate will be embarking on Roskilde Festival exactly a week today when they headline the Countdown stage on Monday 27th June, as a summer treat they’ve released new single “Holiday”. The track plus the video for the track was composed and directed while on the road in China earlier this spring. Speaking about the single, frontman Anton Falck Gansted had this to say about the process of writing and directing.

“I wrote the song and started producing it while we were riding on trains & airplanes across China. Driving through smog polluted valleys and endless forests of skyscrapers, it gave this odd impression of being in a parallel dystopic dimension somewhere in the future. The music was supposed to be the soundtrack of looking back to before the end of the world to times where mankind hadn’t already destroyed the planet. When we came back to Copenhagen and finished the track it ended up being about looking back at life and remembering the good times, times when you’re in a new relationship or for me just thinking back to the times when myself and Joakim first met and spent our first summer together.”

“This new track is kind of the warm up before we start recording our debut album, we did a lot of things differently this time, working with some good friends and talented people (Patrick Kociszewski & Bastian Emil) who recorded bass and drums for us. In the end it’s a holiday track and we’ve had to have fun making it.“

“The video is a bunch of homemade videos we shot while on our tour in China last month. Fused with some photo booth shots of me singing in front of the computer. It’s a way for us to be able to look back at these times and remember them once we’ve grown up.”

Live dates:
27.06.2016 – Roskilde Festival, Roskilde, DK
08.07.2016 – Le Point Ephemere, Paris, FR (Tickets)
09.07.2016 – SCP Festival, London, UK (Tickets)
21.07.2016 – Boomtown, Gent, BEL (Tickets)
12.08.2016 – Sodabar, San Diego, USA
13.08.2016 – Berserktown, LA, USA
15.08.2016 – Empty Bottle, Chicago, USA
17.08.2016 – Nothing Changes, New York, USA
14.09.2016 – The Waiting Room, London, UK
15.09.2016 – Wharf Chambers, Leeds, UK
16.09.2016 – The Lughole, Sheffield, UK
17.09.2016 – Jumpin Jacks, Newcastle, UK
29.09.2016 – Atlas, Aarhus, DK (Tickets)
30.09.2016 – Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DK (Tickets)
05.11.2016 – Cønjuntø Vacíø Festival, Barcelona, ESP

Watch the video for “Holiday” below:

LIVE REVIEW: John Carpenter, DR Koncerthus, 30.05.16

in Blog/Live Reviews by
John Carpenter performing live at DR Koncerthuset

Photos by James Hjertholm (jameshjertholm.com)

People really love John Carpenter. From those of us huddled high up in the gods (or as Americans call them, the nosebleed seats) to the chosen few with a front-row view, there is a buzz of real anticipation. The lights go down, a band walks on, and the applause begins. Not for the band, though. The applause is for Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, Escape from New York, Halloween, They Live. I bet a few nostalgics were even applauding The Fog (sorry, not I: even 12 year old me thought that enchanted mist appearing on radar was dumb, no matter how many zombie pirates lurked within it).

And at the center of it, the man himself: the trademark mustache, long white hair, black clothes and playful grin. Not many directors get to bask in such direct, wordless admiration as they revisit what amounts to almost their entire working life. Nor does he shy away it. You get the sense that John Carpenter is sharing his films and music with the enthusiasm of a fan rather than a creator. There is much impish fun to be had in horror, as he demonstrates when the entire band dons matching black sunglasses during their rendition of the theme to They Live.

There is a fundamental question lurking around the concert hall this evening: does the music stand up on its own? The large screen that acts as a backdrop for Carpenter and the band gives you something of a hint: the music is accompanied by clips from his films, but rather than functioning simply as support for the music, the visuals end up dominating attention. During songs from his Lost Themes albums, the screen remains blank, reinforcing the feeling that something is missing.

John Carpenter

Is that such a scathing criticism of Carpenter’s musical output? Or is it instead a testament to how well his music combined with his movies? My own problem with the Lost Themes is that they fundamentally misunderstand the appeal of his soundtracks. Yes, the trademark synth sounds are there, but at least in the live setting, the guitars and drums detract from the alien, inhuman quality that we admire in his earlier work. And when you do add guitar and drums to John Carpenter, you can either sound like Mogwai (great) or like, well, a John Carpenter cover band.

Perhaps the problem is exactly that his music has been so influential. We have seen it transmuted over the years in a variety of interesting ways, to the point that there isn’t much that he himself can add. But at the end of the night, despite some irritation with the guitar playing and the drum levels, the main thought in my head was that I need to watch a lot more of JC’s films.

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