Posts Tagged ‘Damon Albarn’

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Define A Transparent Dream

The Olivia Tremor Control and The Music Tapes at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s not especially unusual for bands active in the ’90s to be doing the reunion thing these days – it’s more unusual when a band who had any kind of following 15 to 20 years ago to NOT at least feel out the market for a comeback – but an extra degree of excitement is warranted when you’re talking about the Elephant 6 collective. Now granted, when you’re talking about a scene as broad and loose as E6 was/is, it can be argued that it never went away and sure, Of Montreal and Elf Power and myriad side-projects and less high-profile acts with ties to the scene continue on – albeit without the curly “E6” logo on their releases – but most of the first wave of bands who emerged from that generation of Athens, Georgia bands faded into myth before the end of the last century with really, only Robert Schneider’s Apples In Stereo continuing to plug along.

And while most of the attention in 2011 has surrounded the return of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum from the wilderness to the stage, by rights there should be a comparable amount of buzz around The Olivia Tremor Control’s return to touring. The melding of experimental found soundscapes and indelible pop classicism of their two albums Dusk At Cubist Castle and Black Foliage are basically a clinic on creating a unique and vivid world out of just sound and how to bend one’s mind with melodic hooks. It’s unequivocally great stuff and on Friday night, it came to Toronto for the first time in who knows how long (six months if you count the OTC-heavy Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise tour that came through in March, but for argument’s sake let’s not).

Opening up was Elephant 6 stalwart Julian Koster, who since the disbandment of Neutral Milk Hotel has been operating as The Music Tapes. I’d never seen him before, but reports of his highly-developed sense of whimsy were widespread and happily accurate. His stage setup involved as much thrift store trinkets and gewgaws as musical instruments, and between he and his two bandmates, there were a lot of instruments with Koster focusing on the singing saw and bowed banjo. Songs were offered in about equal quantity as stories and skits and sometimes the two were one and the same, as with their marching band expedition into the audience. It was all wholly entertaining – you didn’t notice the hour go by – and it was nice to realize that for all the stuff going on around the songs, the band were talented musicians and arrangers. And as for the stories about the carnival performers pulling cities out of their mouths or the great uncle who turned his shadow into an elephant – I don’t expect that there was any truth to them but oh I wish there was.

Much of The Music Tapes stage clutter was cleared out before The Olivia Tremor Control took over, but it seemed that every piece of set dressing that was removed was replaced by a musician. Though it’s Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart who are the key figures in that band, they numbered eight and sometimes nine, including two-thirds of The Music Tapes and Scott Spillane of The Gerbils (which also made for half of Neutral Milk Hotel, but the E6 family tree is really more of a wreath and not worth dwelling on).

As implied earlier, listening to Olivia Tremor Control records is an immersive and occasionally disorienting experience, though generally in a good way. I can now say with first-hand knowledge that the live show does a pretty good job of reproducing this. It probably would have been relatively easy to extract the proper songs from their recordings and perform them as such without complaint from their fans, but it wouldn’t really be Olivia Tremor Control without that anarchy, would it? Accordingly, their 100-minute set was like a primordial soup of sound created by a pawnshop orchestra – guitars, keys, samples, clarinets, saw, percussion – from which they would pull out both beauty and chaos – sometimes at the same time – with only occasional breaks for tuning, drinks or chatter. It wasn’t always tight or pretty but if they wobbled a bit on the straightaways, they took the corners like a pro and nailed every key hook and those Doss-Hart harmonies – when not occasionally lost in the mix – sounded glorious.

It’s funny, as happy as I was to see and hear OTC live, they weren’t one of the bands that I’d always held out hope would get back together and take it on the road. I attribute that to the fact that their records were such fully-formed worlds unto themselves that the idea that these songs might exist in the real world, outside of the context of those albums, was like trying to imagine cartoon characters as flesh and blood. Yet here they were, sounding great and playing with a sort of chemistry that made the fact that they hadn’t performed regularly as a unit in so many years hard to believe. That the band is working on new material – NPR premiered the first new OTC song in over a decade a little while back – is good news for all, and maybe we’ll start seeing that E6 logo on some records again.

Exclaim also has a review of the show.

Photos: The Olivia Tremor Control, The Music Tapes @ Lee’s Palace – September 16, 2011
MP3: The Olivia Tremor Control – “Hideaway” (live in Athens, GA – April 15, 2005)
MP3: The Olivia Tremor Control – “NYC-25” (live in Athens, GA – April 15, 2005)
MP3: The Olivia Tremor Contro – “Jumping Fences” (live in Athens, GA – April 15, 2005)
MP3: The Music Tapes – “Majesty”
Video: The Music Tapes – “Majesty”
Video: The Music Tapes – “For The Planet Pluto”
Video: The Music Tapes – “The Minister Of Longitude”

A couple of unreleased Neutral Milk Hotel songs which will be appearing on that box set that is being released on November 22 is available to stream.

Stream: Neutral Milk Hotel – “Little Birds (Unfinished version 2)”

Magnet talks Obscurities with Stephin Merritt.

Sigur Ros have finalized details on the release of their live Inni film/album; it’ll be out on November 8 and be available in either double-CD or triple-LP formats, the former coming with the option of DVD or Blu-Ray and the latter only with DVD, or digitally-only if that’s your thing. There’s also a super-fancy limited edition box set which you can read about at Exclaim. One of the live tracks is available to download and Toronto screenings of the film begin October 28 at the TIFF Lightbox.

MP3: Sigur Ros – “Festival” (live)

The Line Of Best Fit chats with Barry Burns of Mogwai.

Emmy The Great has released a second video from her second album Virtue.

Video: Emmy The Great – “Paper Forest (In The Afterglow Of Rapture)”

Also with a new video are Arctic Monkeys, for the title track of Suck It And See.

Video: Arctic Monkeys – “Suck It And See”

And Manic Street Preachers have a clip for the single off their forthcoming best-of collection National Treasures, out October 31 – it’s a The The cover.

Video: Manic Street Preachers – “This Is The Day”

The Von Pip Musical Express reviews Ladytron’s latest Gravity The Seducer and talks to vocalist/keyboardist Helen Marnie about it while The San Francisco Chronicle talks to Reuben Wu. They’re at The Phoenix on November 5.

Arcade 44 talks to Greg Hughes of Still Corners. Creatures Of An Hour is out October 11 and they play The Drake Underground on October 25.

Clash lists off ten things you didn’t know about Damon Albarn.

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Different Gear, Still Speeding

Beady Eye at The Sound Academy in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf it were possible to discuss Beady Eye and their debut album Different Gear, Still Speeding based strictly on their musical merits and not their backstory, then it would be a fairly short conversation: alright-enough Brit-rock, hardly re-inventing the wheel. But taking into account that the band comprises 4/5 of the final lineup of Oasis, less chief songwriter Noel Gallagher, extra scrutiny is unavoidable. Which is unfortunate since despite the band’s – well, Liam Gallagher’s – insistence that they’re going to be the biggest band in the world, they don’t aspire to much more than solid, meat-and-potatoes rock’n’roll. And in that, especially considering the younger Gallagher’s rather unspectacular songwriting efforts in Oasis, Different Gear is surprisingly decent, with a good dose of swagger and energy and thankfully fewer than expected cringe-worthy lyrics. After all, Liam has never pretended there was a poet underneath the gruff exterior; Noel was the sensitive one.

While Beady Eye have hardly set the world ablaze with their debut, they found it worthwhile to bring it across the Atlantic for their first North American tour starting this past weekend in Chicago and landing in Toronto’s Sound Academy on Monday night. It would be the first time Liam would take a stage here since Oasis’ final assault-interrupted performance at V Fest 2008, and clearly the faithful had been waiting – the giant Union Jack flag waving from the balcony and random chants of “Liam!” a few of the signs that the band were on friendly turf. And really, it’s a rare sort of crowd who sings along en masse to The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” over the PA, isn’t it? When the lights dimmed a few minutes later than the scheduled start time – it wouldn’t have done to not let the final bars of The Stone Roses’ “I Am The Resurrection” not ring out, after all – the cheers went up and out strode Liam Gallagher in appropriately ridiculous Union Jack topcoat and his more conservatively dressed compatriots and we were away.

Opening with “Four Letter Word”, Gallagher in his familiar nose-on-the-mic, arms-behind-his-back post and picking lyrics off a teleprompter, the first thing you noticed was that they were loud. More specifically, Gallagher was loud – heinously so. It was as if his monitor mix was being fed into the house by accident, so much louder were his vocals than the band that it was like hearing someone singing at the top of their lungs to music playing on their earphones. Thankfully within a few songs it was sorted somewhat – or fleeing to the back of the venue made the difference – and the remainder of the set was entertaining in a steady head-nodding sense. Each song from Different Gear as well as a couple of non-album tracks and one new composition was aired out, each with its own staging and adhering closely to their studio versions. And while it obviously wasn’t the context I’d ideally like to have seen, it was good to see Andy Bell back on guitar and taking a few solos in person.

Without that much material on hand and a sworn oath to not delve into the Oasis songbook, it wasn’t surprising that the main set was over in less than an hour, closing with “Champagne Supernova”-like psychedelic slow jam “The Morning Son” before returning for a two-song encore that brought the show to a respectable length. Throughout, Gallagher conducted himself with an interesting combination of confidence and humility, as though he still believed that he was fronting the best band in the world but understood that he had to prove it; this solid showing was a good start. Will Beady Eye, as their song declares, “stand the test of time like The Beatles and The Stones”? Not likely, to be honest, but at least they’ve bought themselves some of that time to get there.

Metro, The Grid and Shortlist have typically entertaining interviews with Gallagher and his bandmates. Chart, and JAM also have reviews of the show.

Photos: Beady Eye @ The Sound Academy – June 20, 2011
MP3: Beady Eye – “The Roller”
Video: Beady Eye – “Millionaire”
Video: Beady Eye – “Four Letter Word”
Video: Beady Eye – “Bring The Light”

Loads of new videos making their way across the pond over the last few days. Let’s sum up.

Amor de Dias has a new clip from Street Of The Love Of Days. Alasdair MacLean and Lupe Núñez-Fernández are also playing guest editor this week at Magnet starting with a Q&A and submitted a guest list of inspirations to Critical Mob.

Video: Amor de Dias – “Wild Winter Trees”

The latest single from Anna Calvi also comes with a video.

Video: Anna Calvi – “Desire”

The previously mailing-list-sign-up-only video for the new Slow Club single is now available for all to see. It comes from their second album Paradise, which is out September 12 – NME has details.

Video: Slow Club – “Two Cousins”

Friendly Fires have confirmed their Fall North American tour which includes the make-up for the cancelled Toronto show, now taking place October 23 at The Phoenix. The Georgia Straight and Black Book have interviews with the band and oh yeah, there’s a new video from Pala.

Video: Friendly Fires – “Hawaiian Air”

Yuck have a new, kind of disturbing clip from their self-titled debut. RTE has an interview with the band.

Video: Yuck – “Shook Down”

The new clip from Noah & The Whale’s Last Night On Earth is appropriately slick and cinematic. And nice dance moves, Charlie. Creative Loafing has an interview.

Video: Noah & The Whale – “Life Is Life”

The Joy Formidable’s Big Roar has yielded a new video, which proves their affection for ’90s alt.rock extends to video aesthetic.

Video: The Joy Formidable – “A Heavy Abacus”

It’s not a proper promo clip, but people will still want to see this live video of Radiohead performing a new, non-album track. It’s taken from their upcoming From The Basement webcast, which I believe will be aired on July 1.

Video: Radiohead – “Staircase” (live)

Some news from components of Blur; Clash checks in with Graham Coxon on the state of his next record while The Guardian has a feature on the many projects of Damon Albarn, including an opera about John Dee and a tease about possible North American Blur dates next year – hello Coachella?

Summer Camp have turned to Pledge Music to garner financing for their debut album, and have put together some very neat and entertaining rewards for various pledge levels. The real reward, of course, will be a record of wonderful pop music like the track “Nobody Knows You”, which they’re trading for your email address, but if you want to walk away with Jeremy Warmsley’s bass guitar, well that can happen too. Clash talks to Elizabeth Sankey about the new album and fundraising efforts.

Clash quizzes Emmy The Great about this, that and the other thing.

Laura Marling has announced the September 13 release of her third album A Creature I Don’t Know. She talks to Spin a bit about what to expect and The Line Of Best Fit has more specifics. The record is already available to pre-order.

Bella Union has announced details on the debut album from Newcastle’s Lanterns On The Lake, who rather beguiled at SXSW. Gracious Tide, Take Me Home will be out on September 19 in the UK – the first MP3 from it is available to have and the hold now.

MP3: Lanterns On The Lake – “You’re Almost There”

The Quietus talks to The Horrors and gets a track-by-track breakdown of their new record Skying, due out July 12. They play Lee’s Palace on September 27.

Spinner, HitFix and The Mirror talk to Guy Garvey of Elbow, finally coming back to town for a show at the Sound Academy on September 28.

Pitchfork filmed a short James Blake film at Primavera last month; Blake is at The Phoenix on September 30.

The Daily Record asks Glasvegas frontman James Allan where he’s living nowadays while Rab Allan talks to Metro.

Spin is streaming a second preview track from the new Ladytron album Gravity The Seducer, due out September 13.

Billboard, BBC and The Quietus talk to Patrick Wolf about his new record Lupercalia while The Fly has an acoustic courtyard session with the artist.

Interview interviews Kate Bush.