Tuesday, October 30, 2007

an open letter to matt johnson & kim schifino

dear matt & kim -

i was at your show ten days ago (10/20/07 @ music hall of williamsburg), the show that was your last in brooklyn for the year, the show that cost five bucks and featured your buddies flosstradamus. i just wanted to tell you about how much fun i had, and how grateful i was that i had a chance to see you on your home turf, and on such a special night. i've never seen you perform before, but the day i heard that you were playing at music hall of williamsburg, i biked down to mercury lounge to pick up a pair of tickets. the guy that sold them to me was shocked that they were so cheap, but i was shocked when the show wasn't sold out. i suppose you had some competition, but i'd much rather dance to tweaked-out keyboards than thumping bass. in any event, i think MHOW ended up full the night of, and i hope i speak for everyone who was there in telling you how special it was.

i first heard of you last year, though i wasn't on the ball enough to pick up a copy of to/from. i had to content myself with reviewing s/t for my college radio station, which is about the time i fell in love. matt & kim was blaring in my headphones for weeks, and i secretly danced to it during my radio show, which featured songs from that album at least once an hour. as the concert director of my radio station, i even emailed you to invite you to play in maine, but that didn't work out, and i was very sad. i missed your show in vancouver by one day (i was there on vacation), and wasn't in town for your first MHOW show, and i began to feel that i would never get to see you live. but then this show came along, and i jumped at the chance. if i hadn't been in such pain at the end of the night (too many crowd surfers jumped on my face), i don't think i could've stopped smiling if i wanted to.

when i first saw the lineup, i was a little surprised; i mean, everybody knows how bitching your collaboration with flosstradamus was, but i never suspected that you two would appear in concert together. i've really gotten into party djs this year, so i was excited to hear what flosstradamus had to show for themselves. despite my love for art brut, i hadn't known that art goblins were a manifestation of eddie argos and jasper future (along with five or six other people), and once i found that out, i was really psyched to hear what they had up their collective sleeve. i wasn't, however, excited for the hood internet. i know they're gotten a lot of press for their free mixtapes (which you can download at their myspace), but the whole mashup thing is totally played out, and i never thought their mixtapes were particularly ingenious to begin with. but still, three out of four isn't bad, especially during the constantly-unpredictable cmj.

unfortunately, the show had a bad start. eddie argos's plane was delayed, which meant no art goblins. a rumor going around the pit was that they would come on after the hood internet, but, sadly, they never made it on stage at all, though they did have a brief cameo appearance later. that led to the hood internet appearing earlier than expected (and playing longer than i hoped). their live schtick was the same as their mixtapes - verse samples lifted straight from hot 97, paired with beats that were far too often indistinguishable. i managed to catch a bit of "my moon my man" and a bonde do role song, but the rest was rather plain, to the point of being irritating - i'd managed to live my life before then without ever hearing "don't cha" in its entirety, a life bonus that i no longer enjoy. what made it a great deal worse was that it seemed like most of the crowd wasn't really into it either. there was a lot of attempted dancing, but the hood internet's beats were either too abrasive or the songs too short to get much of a groove on. even when they handed out lightning rod-shaped glowsticks, the energy never really had much of a peak, leaving me (and the rest of the crowd) to alternate between trying to dance and standing still. the hood internet frequently gave the impression that they far from being skilled djs, fluidly mixing songs together, but amateurs with some nice software and a little imagination. i felt the biggest indicator of this was that they almost never used the turntables onstage - like in the picture on the right, the hood internet spent most of their set looking into their laptop, merely segueing from one pre-mashed song to the next, rather than getting their mix on.

such was not the case with flosstradamus, thankfully. it was instantly apparent that these guys had skill. it is a tribute to them that i barely remember their set - i was dancing far too much to focus on much else, as was everyone else. from the moment they came onstage, the entire tenor of the show changed. no longer was the crowd trying to dance - they were dancing with abandon. flosstradamus flawlessly mixed songs, ranging from the mainstream to the unrecognizable with nothing short of serious ability. flosstradamus was no one trick pony, either - their visuals were as much a fluid part of the set as their mixing, ranging from absurd pixelated ladies to teeth-gnashing sharks. also, they sampled "sandstorm."

there were two sincere highlights of flosstradamus's set, the first coming in the middle and the second at the end. when they announced that the next song would be the remix of "yea yeah" - matt & kim, i have to tell you - the place went apeshit. the pit hadn't yet turned into the pulsating mob that it would be for your set, but the crowd was seriously digging what flosstradamus was spinning. like i said, i can't remember most of it, but the ending was surely the night's biggest climax thus far. even as your stagehands set up your keyboards and drums, flosstradamus was leading the crowd in an amazing singalong to weezer's "say it ain't so," our voices not yet as hoarse as they would be after your set. as we stood there, singing along, i began to get a sense of the real connectivity and positivity in this space - and then you came on.

(before i write about how mind-bogglingly amazing and happy your set was, i want to apologize for the delay in this letter. i picked up a lot of work these past two weeks, and i've been struggling to keep up. also, i didn't go to the show to report on it; i went to enjoy myself. and lordy lord, i did. i hope you don't mind the wait.)

i know i don't need to tell you how amazing the show was. after all, you were there, and your excitement and joy fueled our passion, and it's because of you that i and everyone else who was there had a simply fantastic time. it was such a perfect end to such a great day - i started off seeing todd p's free show with islands, had dinner at a swell place in the neighborhood, and watched the red sox kick some serious ass, but, honestly, that paled in comparison to your performance. from the get-go, it was clear that this was going to be more like a house party than a performance - your modesty, energy, and overwhelming joy made the 750-person venue feel like a cramped basement (in nothing but a good way). maybe that was an illusion, because i was (literally) smashed in the front, but there was no distance between us - you even set up your keyboards and kit on the very edge of the stage, as close to us as possible. there was no posturing or pretension, just uninhibited joy, and we were right there with you.

the first thing that attracted me to you was the happiness and simplicity that was abundant in matt & kim, the same elements that made your live show so appealing. i'm smiling as i write, remembering how unique the show ten days ago was. no offense to you, matt & kim, but i have only the vaguest memories of your set - i was a little preoccupied with dancing my ass off, and saving my glasses from getting snapped in half! (matt, next time i'm taking my cues from you, and wearing one of those glasses straps.) some gig facts that i recall: kim got a mic for the first time ever, in over three years of performing; you're taking the winter off to record a new album, woop woop; matt introduced the song "frank" as being about kim's dad; the set ended with "silver tiles;" there was some dude in a mask who kept crowd-diving, all over my face; and matt read multiple excerpts from letters to e.t., which was probably the evening's best moment. we were all giddy with laughter and endorphins, and the fact that both of you kept talking about how happy you were, and how exciting it was to be playing to us in such a good space, for your last brooklyn show of the year, and how honored you were to be here with us, but, honestly, the honor was all ours. matt & kim, you played one of the best sets i've seen all year, which is no mean feat. i feel lucky to have been there.

that's it. kinda lame after ten days, sure, but like i said - i wasn't there as a blogger, i was there as a fan.

matt and kim, thank you.


mr. mammoth

matt & kim - "silver tiles"

the photos used in this post were taken by mr. mammoth and xiaoyi.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"hey joe"

i hope all your sunday afternoons are as lovely and bright as the one we're having in nyc right now. i've been very busy this week (hence, a scarcity of blog posts), but i need some time to relax. for some reason, though, i was thinking about the song "hey joe." though the best known version of it was performed by the jimi hendrix experience, theirs was just one of many covers of the original, which written at least six years earlier.

attributed to billy roberts, an "obscure" california-based singer/songwriter, who allegedly performed "hey joe" as early as 1961 (the hendrix version appeared in 1967). the first released version of "hey joe" was performed by the leaves, an american garage rock band, and released in 1966. i vastly prefer the leaves' version to the hendrix one, being far rawer, distorted, and edgy. it has a chugging aggressiveness and an obvious, endearing lack of skill (but not of talent), and frontman john beck sounds like he's singing through a paper bag. i think it's great.

the leaves - "hey joe"

the jimi hendrix experience - "hey joe"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


when i was living in edinburgh, i went to see hallam foe, the new film starring jamie bell. while the film hasn't yet hit american shores, there's no doubt it will, considering its favorable reception in europe (and excellent soundtrack). directed by scotsman david mackenzie, hallam foe was filmed entirely in edinburgh and the surrounding countryside, and, accordingly, has a very british soundtrack. the movie's ostensible theme, "hallam foe dandelion blow," is performed by franz ferdinand, but the film's best songs were nestled among edinburgh's closes (or alleyways, to us non-scottish folks). the nativist soundtrack, which won the silver bear award at the berlin film festival, was compiled by renowned u.k. indie label domino, and includes songs from psapp, clinic, orange juice, sons and daughters, king creosote, and u.n.p.o.c. those first names are probably familiar, especially that of king creosote, but who's this u.n.p.o.c. guy?

u.n.p.o.c. (the acronym) began life in the late 19th century as a mercantile abbreviation for "unable to navigate, probably on course," a phrase that was used by arctic explorers. once the fog moved in and their compasses froze, these intrepid men calmly, rationally, picked a course that took them into the deep unknown. perhaps it was their indefatigable spirit that prompted tom bauchop, an edinburgh singer/songwriter to adopt "u.n.p.o.c." as his stage name; on the other hand, it might well have been their joyous celebration of trespassing the limit of human ingenuity and going boldly into the mist. u.n.p.o.c. (the artist) plays fierce songs in glorious lo-fi majesty, looping and stacking guitar and vocal lines to create a complex infrastructure that yet manages to dazzle with simplicity. u.n.p.o.c. have only one album to date, the stunning fifth column, a recording that burns with a frenetic joy that hides bauchop's lyrical loneliness.

it is a testament to u.n.p.o.c.'s skill that "here on my own," the song that appears on the hallam foe soundtrack, was personally selected by director mackenzie. played at a pivotal moment in the film, "here on my own" aptly sums up hallam's overwhelming loneliness and isolation while never slipping into morbidity or depression. u.n.p.o.c. and fifth column are relentlessly optimistic, inspiring joyous wail-a-longs in spite of whatever lyrical demons bauchop conjures up. instantly hummable and engaging, fifth column quickly wends its way into brain radio, on repeat; there is an indescribable purity and earnestness to u.n.p.o.c. that makes your toes tap and mouth sing, whether you want it to or not.

one of the first things you realize, upon listening to fifth column, is that bauchop is clearly interested in destinations. though his travel fetish doesn't begin to rival john darnielle's, three of fifth column's songs are about faraway places - album opener "amsterdam," the relentlessly catchy "avignon," and album closer "nicaragua" - and "see you later" and "been a while since i went away" also fit into the traveling motif. what bauchop is trying to channel are "triggers," words that are immediately recognizable and that can spark mental associations between real-life and music. "avignon" itself is the product of a long flight sitting next to someone who kept rattling on about how "it's so good to be in avignon," which turned into the very words of the song's chorus. regardless of song titles, bauchop's lyrics tend to be more of the bizarre variety, as in "amsterdam," where he sings about kings, queens, paranoia, and aliens. but here, as in so many places, fifth column's logical content plays second fiddle to its song structure, which is impeccable. originally clocking in at over 75 minutes, bauchop has stripped over half an hour away, leaving fifth column tight, focused, and infectious.

u.n.p.o.c. isn't going to start its own sub-genre; bauchop will never be plastered on the cover of nme (barring a radical reversal for his next album, tentatively titled the artist paints), but his fierce pop makes listeners into converts. its beauty is in twofold; the songs, obviously, are frequently impeccable, song segments cut and pasted together flawlessly, complex songs built on disparate ideas placed back to back, but fifth column's production, quavering lo-fi, is as essential of an element. obvious influences are 60s harmonic pop, especially on the boisterous "jump jet friend" and the beatles-esque "beautiful to me," though u.n.p.o.c. steers clear of imitation, crafting his own compelling sound. though his inclusion in hallam foe has no doubt attracted more listeners to bauchop's relentless sound, u.n.p.o.c. still remains to be one of the fence collective's darkest horses, a situation that sorely needs to be remedied. fifth column is one of best debut albums you've never heard.

this hallam foe trailer features "here on my own" in its second half (check out the comments section);
alternatively, you can go to u.n.p.o.c.'s myspace and stream tracks there. buy sweet u.n.p.o.c. merch here.

photo taken by henrik dahlberg.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

all hour cymbals - first impression

okay. i bought all hour cymbals approximately 15 minutes ago, so i clearly haven't heard the whole thing yet. but no matter - it's fantastic. the same native american influences i heard at r bar are present, and even more pronounced on the record, though other comparisons may also ring true. in any event, it's already one of the most compelling debuts of the year, and may very well turn out to be one of the best albums of the year.

yeasayer is about to embark on an epic european tour.

yeasayer - "final path"

buy fine yeasayer products at their own store.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

scope out this caribou action!

daniel snaith is a man with a plan. and part of that plan is conquering the internet. i'm really exhausted right now, so i can't reveal the full details of snaith's machinations, or come up with much cleverness to tell you about this news, so i'm just gonna put it out there.

caribou taped a whole show at the pink room (wherever that is), and have put all the videos on their youtube page. their touring odyssey continues, and if they haven't played your town yet, they probably will soon. keep on keeping on, daniel snaith.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

radiohead on live week (from 2001!)

well, this might be a little late, but i hope it catches the radiohead boat. this show is from 2001 and is in headington, egland, the only uk stop on radiohead's amnesiac tour. as thom yorke cracks, "no pressure though." this is a radio rip (xfm broadcast the show), and the sound is really quite good, though there is a lot of crowd noise. the end of "dollars and cents" is also cut. regardless, an excellent show from one of the world's best bands.

radiohead @ south park, headington, england (thom yorke's hometown), 7/7/01
the national anthem
morning bell
packt like sardines in a crushd tin box
my iron lung
exit music (for a film)
knives out
no surprises
dollars & cents [cuts out before end]
street spirit (fade out)
i might be wrong
pyramid song
paranoid android
disc one

everything in its right place
fake plastic trees
karma police
you and whose army?
how to disappear completely
talk show host
the bends
motion picture soundtrack (bugger!)
disc two

brooklynvegan's showcase @ r bar, 10/19/07

after grabbing some lunch, i headed straight over to r bar for brooklynvegan's superawesome superfree showcase, featuring, among others, hype-heavyweights yeasayer and black kids, and my personal favorite, islands. unfortunately, i had to sit through a few rather less than excellent bands in order to see the good ones, but that's how it goes. islands deserves a full writeup, which they will get after their all-ages todd p show tomorrow, but everyone else in BV's lineup get theirs right here.

1. health - i arrived in the middle of health's set, and almost walked right back out the door. apparently, this is what noise rock actually sounds like. health = thrashy battles ripoff? gross. yet the place was packed, as it would remain to be throughout the day. when BV speaks (and offers free music), people listen.

2. mika miko - another strikeout - l.a. gutter thrash punk. watching mika miko, however, created three independent trains of thought in my head, though only one was worth following up. what i thought, and that you're welcome to comment on as well, was that punk really has no place in our culture. i mean, the ramones and the sex pistols and other seminal punk bands used their music to try and tear down the cultural edifice of complacency and acceptance - a musical revolt. and, for a time, it worked. it dramatically altered both the social and musical landscapes of great britain and the united states, and left an indelible mark on a vast majority of the music that has been created since punk's demise. and, argue this point all you want, punk is dead. hell, rock is practically dead, whatever that means. so why the hell is punk being played now? is it still a revolt? is it a dance movement? i don't know.

other thought trains:
a) this sounds like the kind of music the girls in the virgin suicides would have played if they hadn't killed themselves instead.
b) why the hell did i come so early for yeasayer?

3. yeasayer - they've been tipped as one of the hottest bands of 2007 for awhile now, and their cmj shows just confirm it. today was actually the first time i had heard them, though it wasn't at the show; fortunately, kexp had recorded a session with them yesterday, which i podcasted this morning. yeasayer live in person is even better than yeasayer live podcasted. i was initially put off by the "tribal" descriptor that kept popping up (mr. mammoth is no fan of "world" music), but the "tribal" people are talking about isn't the world kind. yeasayer, a band with three ex-choirboys (and we're talking gospel here, people), sounds like a group of shakers who channel nature spirits through volume. yeasayer's music is esoteric and engaging, drawing listeners in with deceptively soothing melodies then buttressed with, for lack of a better word, tribal rhythms. but instead of using african sounds, yeasayer incorporates native american sounds, giving their overall performance a levelheaded pagan feel. these aren't guys who worship trees, but they're clued into the magic of nature. yeasayer frequently reminded me of the black angels, in the sense that both clearly honor the native american musical tradition, something that sets both bands apart from the mainstream. in short, though, yeasayer were fucking fantastic. they have a record release party on tuesday for their first full-length at glasslands, and you can see them at glasslands tomorrow as well, right before they embark on a european tour.

4. black kids - as if they haven't had enough press already. well, here are my two cents: overhyped, overrated, and overwhelmingly mediocre. their lo-fi charm is very endearing, and very successful at hiding their real lack of talent. last time i checked, earnestness is not a substitute for skill. maybe i missed that memo. black kids were catchy, but totally juvenile, with all their lyrics having to do with middle school partying or childish crushes. reggie youngblood's voice is "distinctive," yes, but not in a good way. more in the "not a good singer" way. aside from the bassist, black kids seemed virtually unable to play a consistent melody, as most of the band dropped their hands during songs to sing along. r bar was packed, however, with a throng desperate to hear the young sensations; i wonder how many of them were as disappointed as i.

5. saturday looks good to me - slgtm played a blend of 50s and 80s pop with a midwestern sound, a la the team love crew. they seemed generally unexciting. the singer had some jeff magnum-esque melisma going on, and the bass was solid, but none of their hooks really caught my ear. anyway, i was too psyched for islands to really think of much else.

6. islands - full review soon after their todd p show today! islands go on around 6 at continental army plaza in brooklyn!

Friday, October 19, 2007

simian mobile disco @ the apple store, 10/19/07

the point of cmj is, basically, to hear music from bands whose names you recognize, but don't actually know anything about. such was the case at the apple store earlier today, when i went down to check out simian mobile disco. their name has been plastered everywhere as progenitors of a "new" dance music, so i was eager to check them out. plus, the apple store has super comfy chairs.

my rather relaxed cmj had been quite good, with lots of new discoveries (le loup, liam finn, yeasayer), but sadly, simian mobile disco neither shocked nor awed me. their beats seemed rather basic, especially considering the sweet assload of gear they had on stage. with all that electronic hoopla, surely they could've come up with some better sounds. they used only a few samples (one was ninja singing "the fantastic is the romantic; the romantic is the fantasic"), and resorted far too frequently to that dance music standby of letting the music trail off, waiting a beat, and then coming back in loudly. also, i caught myself yawning widely a few times, but that could've been the comfy chairs.

simian mobile disco did have some cool shit going on, but, unfortunately, it mostly had to do with their set. first of all, the lights. smd's eight freestanding LED blasters have become something of a trademark and are pretty cool, though they were so painfully bright that i was extremely thankful not to be in the front row. i have personal beef with LED lights, and find them very unflattering. the colors are always tinged with a really unnatural tint, and they don't illuminate people very well. that being said, smd's blasters were pointed at the audience, so it didn't affect them all that much. the second supercool thing about simian mobile disco's setup was the round table they used. all of their gadgets were arranged around its edge, eliminating any sense of exclusivity. both band members, james ford and james shaw, played everything on the table, despite ford's arm sling. there was a really tangible sense of fluidity in their performance, and it was fun to watch them scurry around the table, pressing buttons, flicking switches, and putting wires in sockets.

the music, though, is what counts, and it didn't excite me, to say the least. the ordinary beats, the typical crescendos; simian mobile disco's performance really confirms my hidden belief that most dance music isn't really good music, it's just fun to jump around to. the sad thing about simian mobile disco's set was that it didn't even make me want to dance.

simian mobile disco jam @ the apple store, 10/19

Now playing: Out Hud - How Long
via FoxyTunes

mr. mammoth's free guide to a nearly free cmj - day four!

this one, folks, is a doozy. you got iLIKETRAiNS @ r bar, part of brooklynvegan's awesome day party, starting at 12.45, simian mobile disco @ the apple store at 2 or illinois @ the gothamist house at 2.15, and then back to brooklynvegan for black kids at 4.45 (get there early! or don't bother leaving!) and stick around for islands and yo majesty, 6.15 and 7.15 respectively. if that ain't your thang, head to galapagos for an anti-cmj crashin' in party with cadence weapon, foals, a place to bury strangers, le loup and jay reatard. that's $5 before 6, $10 after. i'm gonna shill out $10 for the ernest jennings showcase @ union pool featuring o'death, since i haven't seen them this week, and this is probably the best time to catch them. again, if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, soundfix once again hosts a great lineup tonight, featuring the brunettes and georgie james.

art brut on live week!

yeah, i decided to ignore your requests, because i found this black session deep in the mammoth vault, and i know there's nothing those kids go crazy for like art brut. by the end of this year, the english quintet will have played (by my count) over six shows in nyc over the past year - an incredible statistic. though it's a bit complicated was met with rather less excitement than bang bang rock & roll, there's one thing about art brut that hasn't - their awesome live show. for their black session recorded back in june, right before it's a bit complicated came out, art brut pulled out all the stops. during "good weekend," art brut's classic set ender, there are three beeps in the recording, a sign that art brut had played over the hour accorded to them. they tore through an exciting number of old songs - more, in fact, than they had played earlier in the year! the show quality is good and art brut's energy is high, and who could ask for anything more?

art brut - black session @ maison de la radio, 6/25/07
intro by dj
pump up the volume
bad weekend
bang bang rock & roll
modern art
st. pauli
rusted guns of milan
late sunday
18,000 lira
i will survive
moving to l.a.
jealous guy
my little brother
post soothing out
emily kane
nag nag nag nag
direct hit
good weekend

download the entire broadcast here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

two for the price of free at live week!

the fratellis are an awesome band, even if they've been ruined for most of the world because of that damn itunes commercial. tearknee, mr. mammoth's roving scottish reporter, clued me into the fratellis' brilliance early in the year, long before said commercial and pitchfork's disappointing review, which effectively poisoned the fratellis' chance of indie success. looks like no one told their fans that. the fratellis played a show at roseland ballroom (one of nyc's largest venues) a couple months ago, and sold out back-to-back night at s.e.c.c. (scotland's largest venue) in a heartbeat. hailing from glasgow, that veritable spawning pool of talent, the fratellis play awesome pop rock with pronounced riffage and danceability. their debut, costello music, is fourteen tracks of nonstop smiles, and, if anything, the black session they played at maison de la radio in paris, is more energetic than the album itself. the recording isn't perfect - there are occasional scratches and pops, and the dj interjects in french between every song - but the songs are awesome. these guys have gotten a bum rap, as far as i'm concerned, and you owe yourself a listen, no matter what pitchfork says.

the fratellis - black session @ maison de la radio, 1/31/07
everybody knows you cried last night
vince the lovable stoner
creepin up the backstairs
ole black 'n' blue eyes
baby fratelli
whistle for the choir
chelsea dagger
got ma nuts from a hippy

download the whole broadcast here.

i also wanted to give away a live radio mix by kid koala. longtime mammoth readers will remember my double dose of kid koala back in the spring, and my guarantee that he is one of the best dj's around. none of that has changed. he's still working on his new project, having returned from his european tour safe and sound, but there's no release date as of yet. this is a 23-minute mix that kid koala recorded live on bbc breezeblock in 1997. this is a frequently traded and torrented bootleg, so not the rarest thing around, but, unless you're a hardcore koala fan, you might not have heard it yet. it's FANTASTIC. it's one of koala's first live recordings available, coming just a year after the overwhelmingly underground scratchcratchratchactch, the production of which was limited to 500 cassettes. already, however, the styles that make kid koala distinctive are present, and some of the samples he uses here are still in his set.

kid koala - live on bbc breezeblock

i need some input on what i should post tomorrow...too many shows, so little time. since cmj runs until saturday, live week will as well, but from this point on, it's up to you guys. here are some of the shows i have left:
radiohead - 7/7/01, headington, uk (only gig in uk on amnesiac tour)
radiohead - kid a bbc session
feist - black session
four tet - live 2006
cold war kids - live in paris
iron & wine - morning becomes eclectic
tortoise - live 2003
the polyphonic spree - morning becomes eclectic

leave your vote in the comments. if no one replies, then it's up to me.

london symphony orchestra @ avery fisher hall, 10/17/07

my plans to see cadence weapon & holy fuck last night took a detour when i was offered a ticket to see the london symphony orchestra perform mozart's requiem at lincoln center. mozart's requiem mass is one of my favorite pieces of classical music, and there was no way i was going to turn down a chance to see the lso perform it, cadence weapon or no cadence weapon. it was the opening night of lincoln center's great performers series, and also the 80th birthday of the lso's conductor, sir colin davis. as part of the festivities, david selected several of his favorite works to perform, of which the requiem is only the first. friday features beethoven's eroica symphony, and haydn's the creation is heard on sunday afternoon.

the all-mozart program last night was touted as "a banner year, and then the end," as both works (piano concerto no. 27 in b-flat major and the requiem in d minor) were written by mozart in 1791, the year of his death. the piano concerto was playful, as performed by imogen cooper, though, lacking the drama and violence of requiem, i struggled to pay attention. after the intermission, though, my senses were high-strung and anxiously awaiting the first chords of "introitus." this movement sets the tone for the whole work, a stirring section that communicates the fear and heartbreak of death. the dramatic tempo, tone, and key shifts, not only in "introitus" but throughout requiem, are enough to bring color to your cheeks and tears to your eyes. every moment was rapture, especially "tuba mirum," featuring darren jeffery. the bassist's voice was unbelievably rich, caressing every note like velvet. my favorite movements, "rex tremendae," "confutatis," and "lacrimosa," were resounding.

as any viewer of amadeus will recall, mozart died before his requiem could be completed. however, the mysterious visitor was not salieri, but an emissary from a nobleman, a rather poor amateur musician, who commissioned composers to "ghost-write" works for him. this requiem was to be a mass for his wife's recent passing. so, with the requiem incomplete and mozart in the ground, two of his pupils stepped in. requiem was eventually completed by franz xaver süssmayer, though it is really impossible to speculate at the level of his involvement, considering the amount of time he and mozart spent together, discussing the work, before mozart's death. in any event, the requiem has been edited and re-worked since the original süssmayer version was produced, though davis, a staunch traditionalist, opted for the süssmayer completion for his birthday celebration. and a celebration it was, at least judging by the massive cake sir colin received at the end of the concerto.

i don't claim to be a mozart expert, nor an expert on classical music, but i do find the requiem to be a little less impressive in its second half than its first, the part that süssmayer wrote after mozart's death. however, as i said, requiem is one of my favorite overall works of music, and lso's performance of it last night certainly did it justice. the soloists were especially good, though jeffery and soprano marie arnet quite stole the show. avery fisher's acoustics are incredible, and, though the music was at times faint (owing to my position in the audience), every note came through, clear as a bell. a fine performance, and a happy birthday to sir colin!

though these are not from an lso release, they may whet your appetite if you've never heard requiem before.

academy & chorus of st. martin's in the fields, conducted by neville marriner

mr. mammoth's free guide to a nearly free cmj - day three!

i hope everyone's wednesday was lovely, despite the weather. thursday's free/cheap show offerings are somewhat limited and a little bit disappointing, especially after wednesday's bevy. you can check out vampire weekend at an instore at other music, which starts at 11 am, and then going to wander over to the apple store soho for a performance by q-tip at 2 pm. there's not much until this evening after that - galapagos for beat the devil @ 9.30, and walk up to soundfix for o'death afterwards. then it's off to cake shop for a set from jay reatard at 1 am.

there are two outstanding pay shows tonight, the kork & biz3 showcase @ highline, featuring islands, enon, and ...and you will know us by the trail of dead, and club nme @ the annex with mates of state and black kids, but that's sold out.

11 am - vampire weekend @ other music
2 pm - q-tip @ apple store
9.30 pm - beat the devil @ galapagos
10 pm - o'death @ soundfix
1 am - jay reatard @ cake shop

all free.

the brunettes @ the delancey, 10/17/07 (cmj)

i was happy to catch the brunettes at the delancey earlier, since i've been grooving to structure & cosmetics, the new zealand band's third LP, pretty much since it was released. their brand of post-modern pop is particularly appealing, the sugar-coated melodies a delicious antidote to an overabundance of lo-fi rock. drawing much of their inspiration from brill building stars and spector assembly-line groups, the brunettes are sweet and overpoweringly schizophrenic. "her hairagami set," one of the songs in the brunettes' five song set (and an outstanding cut on structure & cosmetics), is probably the most obvious example of this; here, the brunettes abruptly switch from a bouncy piano and angular beat to shimmering vocals and effervescent white noise. "her hairagami set" is perhaps one of the most telling points of departure between jonathan bree and heather mansfield, the brunettes' founders and songwriters, though not the only one. the two often combine their disparate songwriting styles into the same tune, creating the schizophrenic effect that characterizes their music.

without a doubt, "brunettes against bubblegum youth" is the best song on structure & cosmetics, breezy prog-pop that builds from its wind and brass foundation, adding a guitar and chorus part so infectious that it practically dares you not to dance. for their u.s. tour, bree and mansfield have recruited four additional bandmates, all of whom multitasked, like when the bassist did double duty on triangle or the drummer broke out the occasional saxophone riff. one of the brunettes' strongest points is their instrumental diversity; between the six people on stage, there must have been at least eighteen instruments, from the mundane (guitar) to the unique (maracas). one thing that sets the brunettes apart is their inimitable supply of noisemakers, props that many bands would leave in the studio. but the brunettes are clearly devoted to replicating their sound as honestly as possible in a live environment.

you can catch the brunettes at soundfix tomorrow or opening for band of horses @ bowery ballroom as part of a sub pop showcase.

i should also mention that i'm 99% sure daytrotter was at the show, since i saw a guy sketching in the distinctive daytrotter style, and the set was being recorded. so look for that whenever it goes up.

the brunettes - buy structure & cosmetics from sub pop.

"brunettes against bubblegum youth"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

elliott smith rocks live week!

the man may have passed (rest in peace), but the tunes remain. this is a rare full set gem from smith's 2000 sxsw performance at la zona rosa. the show is over an hour long, leading me to conclude that smith headlined the show, which came less a month before figure 8, smith's last album, was released. the 19-song set is drawn mostly from figure 8, although there are some older songs in the mix as well, including the ever-popular "between the bars." the dialogue is spare and reserved, smith's comments mostly about how all the songs are new. though recorded before his well-publicized spiral into heroin addiction and death, this show finds smith playing well.

elliott smith would be 38 this year.

again, if anyone would prefer this show in .flac, please contact me privately.

elliott smith @ la zona rosa (sxsw), 3/17/00
son of sam
junk bond trader
pretty mark k
everything means nothing to me
stupidity tries
in the lost and found (honky bach)
still here
cupid's trick
wouldn't mama be proud
color bars
can't make a sound
between the bars
easy way out
ballad of big nothing
independence day
waltz # 1

it's great that so many of you are downloading these shows! i'm glad you enjoy them. however, it's put a rather large (and, honestly, unexpected) strain on my free file server, and i don't have enough bandwidth to offer individual mp3s anymore. however, you can download this show here. the rest of the week's shows will also only be available as .zip files. sorry for any inconvenience.

mr. mammoth's free guide to a nearly free cmj - day two!

well, i hope you all had a lovely day yesterday, whether you saw le loup, st. vincent, the OM showcase and james murphy or not. today is a hectic mix of everything - it's got some of cmj's most hyped shows, some anti-cmj shows, and one show that probably couldn't care less about cmj. i'm going to kick the day off at cake shop, located at 152 ludlow street. starting at 1 pm, xl recordings is hosting a double bill of vampire weekend and jack penate. you can get to cake shop by taking the F/V to 2nd avenue or the F/J/M/Z to essex street. after that, you can walk up to houston and catch the M21 bus across to broadway and walk a block south and west to 103 prince street, where the apple store soho has a 2 pm performance by thurston moore. i'm only sticking around for 45 minutes though (don't know how long the show will last), because the brunettes go on at the delancey at 3 pm. now, it's not easy to get from 103 prince street to 168 delancey - it's a crosstown trip, so your best bet is to walk, briskly, or try and catch the M21 bus to essex or suffolk street and walk two blocks down to delancey street. then again, if you're walking up to houston, you might as well take the F train to essex street and walk to the delancey from there. or, you could go see o'death at the gothamist house at white rabbit at 145 houston. they also go on at 3 pm. i'm gonna see o'death later in the week, and i'd rather catch the brunettes. there are a lot of places you could go for the rest of the day - there are day parties everywhere, but i'm gonna take a break until 8 pm, when i'm heading back down to galapagos for an insound party featuring oh no! oh my!, holy fuck, and mr. mammoth fave cadence weapon. this is the only show that costs money; it's 5 bucks at the door. galapagos is located at 70 north 6th street in brooklyn, which you can walk to from the bedford avenue L stop, if you go west until wythe, go one block south, and continue west.

the highly touted options for this evening are deerhunter and dan deacon @ bowery ballroom, the walkmen and mates of state @ avalon, the after the jump showcase @ music hall of williamsburg, featuring yeasayers, cadence weapon, and a place to bury strangers. those all cost money though, and at least one is sold out.

so, today's free-or-cheap schedule looks like this:
1 pm - vampire weekend @ cake shop
2 pm - thurston moore @ apple store soho
3 pm - the brunettes @ the delancey OR
3 pm - o'death @ the gothamist house

8 pm - insound party @ galapagos

total cost for wednesday, oct. 17? 5 dollars.

st. vincent @ other music, 10/16/07 (cmj)

i wasn't really in love with what i heard of marry me, st. vincent's debut album, released over the summer, but i decided to stick to my strict "free music" regimen and catch her instore at other music. good thing i went straight there from soundfix; by 8 pm, the line was around the block, and some people even got turned away at the door. annie clark, whose "superhero name is st. vincent," took the block (stage would be too generous of a word) for an acoustic performance that clark likened to a campfire ring. explaining that she usually performs with "a ton of pedals," as she did for the national show recently, clark decided to go acoustic for this instore and create an intimate, homey vibe. and she did. her songs were each intensely different, borrowing from genres as diverse as southwestern folk and jazz, concluding her set with a husky ballad, a tribute to john coltrane, instantly evoking images of smoke-filled bars of the 50s.

the best word to describe st. vincent is quirky, in both her music and persona. she chatted up the crowd, telling stories about her sister's recent wedding and making lighthearted banter between songs, all of it tinged with a distinctly odd vibe. not in a bad way, but in a sincere and honest way; you know clark is being herself. no stranger to the stage, clark repeatedly called the performance "superfun," and appeared to have a great time. her music is still not something i find particularly appealing, but the show was pleasant (and free), and who needs more than that?

st. vincent - buy marry me from beggars.

"paris is burning"

le loup @ soundifx, 10/16/07 (cmj)

though the d.c. scene is often a little too hardcore for my taste, it does have an overarching and commendable DIY ethic that virtually every band that emerges from d.c. shares. le loup, one of the district's newest exports, certainly has that in spades. the seven person army (any band with more than six members if henceforth an army) wielded three guitars, a french horn/keyboardist, and a banjo/singer/programmer, in addition to bass and drums. le loup's origins are as true to the d.c. DIY ethic as anything; frontman sam simkoff recorded a collection of songs solo, then posted on craigslist, looking for bandmates. the full band coming together less than a year ago, yet the cohesion they displayed was remarkable. with the kind of sweetness shared by fellow armies los campesinos and you say party! we say die!, le loup played songs from their impressively titled debut album, throne of the third heaven of the nations' millenium general assembly. le loup was energetic and infectious, four out of their five songs rambunctious and exhilarating, causing near-universal toe-tapping (a serious dance move in a sit-down venue). too ramshackle and fast-paced to worry about anything as pedestrian as harmonies, all seven members sing (loudly) and in boisterous unison, bellowing into their mics with joyous abandon.

highly hyped, le loup has been tipped for five additional cmj shows this week, including a brooklynvegan party tomorrow afternoon at 1.30 pm (at pianos), two separate sets at galapagos, and a highly exposed spot as openers for band of horses at bowery ballroom. you would do well to catch them there, or on their upcoming tour with georgie james. this is a band that beats expectations.

le loup - buy throne of the third heaven etc. from hardly art.
"outside of this car, the end of the world!"

"i had a dream i died"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

the postal service on live week!

on may 6, 2003, the boys (and girl) of the postal service took a trip to the kcrw studio to record some songs and an interview with nic harcourt, dj of morning becomes eclectic. the bootleg of that performance has been traded and retraded, winding its way around the internet, and made its most recent appearance on the music slut on sunday, though that was only one track. well, lost treasure no more - here is the full performance, including harcourt's introduction and interview with the band, who performed with jenny lewis. the postal service has a follow up to give up in the works.

mr. mammoth's free guide to a nearly free cmj - day one!

this day is rather low-key, what with it being the beginning and all. most of the serious bands won't have arrived yet, but things are off to a good start around 6 pm. that's when amorphous d.c. experimento-rockers le loup take the stage at soundfix records, 110 bedford ave. in williamsburg. then you gotta hop back on the L, transfer to the F/V at 6th ave and take it to 4th street to see st. vincent at other music at 8 pm. other music is located at 15 east 4th street. you can also get there by taking the L to union square and transferring to the 6, getting off as astor place. from other music, it's just a short walk to the lion's den, where OM records is having their early showcase, featuring zion i and the grouch. from other music, simply walk west to sullivan street, and a block and a half down. if you hit bleecker, you've gone too far. the OM showcase is free with an rsvp at going.com. that starts at 10 pm. if OM ain't your thing, james murphy (of lcd soundsystem) and dj annie mac (of radio 1) are spinning at the hiro ballroom come 10.30 pm, located at 363 west 16th street. if you're in the mood for a walk, you can stroll up to 16th street and over to 8th (hiro is between 8th and 9th avenues); otherwise, hop on the A, C, or E at west 4th and take it one stop to 14th and 8th, then walk two blocks up and one over. this show is free with a going.com rsvp before midnight, including a bass ale open bar from 10.30 -11.30 pm. after midnight, the show is $5.

so here's the schedule:
6 pm - le loup @ soundfix
8 pm - st. vincent @ other music
10 pm - OM showcase @ the lion's den
10.30 pm (doors) - james murphy @ hiro

total cost: free, or $5 if you arrive at hiro after midnight

Monday, October 15, 2007

welcome to live week! starring built to spill!

to celebrate cmj, which i am mostly not attending since i didn't care to blow x-hundred dollars on a pass (more on this here), we here at mr. mammoth are bringing you a collection of great live recordings all this week. it's as simple as that. now, since i am either a) practical or b) a heathen, i've crossed the line that live show purists live by, and converted all the files to mp3, to make it easier to download. all week, we're gonna be running the gamut from live show to radio sessions (i suppose that's less of a gamut and more of just two options), so buckle your seatbelts and keep your ears peeled.

kicking things off in fine style are built to spill, a band that i can pretty much definitively say i've liked longer than any other band i still listen to (got it?). a friend gave me live way back in 2001, and they've never failed me. their live show is stupendous, an easy mix of serious guitar work and heartwarming vocals, and this show, recorded november 6, 1998, is no exception. touring between the release of perfect from now on and keep it like a secret, the show is just another built to spill show - played easily, without a hint of ego, dragging up old songs and making them sound like new. the sound quality is really good, even as mp3s, and the setlist is really impeccable, especially the cover of vince guaraldi trio's "linus and lucy" from a charlie brown christmas, "joyride," and "twin falls -> some." enjoy!

note: if you are a frustrated live music purist who wants this show in .flac or .wav, get in touch with me, and we can work something out.

mr. mammoth's free guide to avoiding cmj and seeing tons of nearly free music

cmj: who needs it? all it means is that a million billion people with these fancy badges will be strutting their thing on the streets of new york, flashing their pass and getting into any show they want. bastards. but it's okay - i'm really not bitter, because i happen to think that the cmj lineup is mostly crap. don't care about m.i.a., band of horses are crap, don't like deerhunter. but what cmj is doing for me (and my fellow cheapskates), is creating a sub-culture of free shows that cop off cmj's popularity, of which there are, approximately, a whole fucking lot of every day. my goal for this week is too see as much as i can without paying more than $50 (not counting an unlimited metrocard), which shouldn't be a problem at all. using the handy show calendar to your right and a walking map of new york (and brooklyn), you should be able to see at least 3 shows a day. obviously, mr. mammoth is interested in some bands more than others (o'death, cadence weapon, the brunettes), partially cuz they rock!, but also because they are among the bands that are going full fucking throttle, and playing at least 6 times over the week, often for free/cheap. cmj proper starts tomorrow, but that isn't stopping o'death, who kick the week off in style tonight at death by audio. keep checking mr. mammoth daily for a best way to see cmj fo' cheep, including directions from show to show.

tomorrow, let the games begin!

why? @ knitting factory, 10/14/07

with cmj coming up (and all the trappings of free music that go with it), frugality is definitely in vogue. but why?, the oakland folk-hop trio, played their hand wisely: instead of getting lumped in with the torrent of music that commences on tuesday, the shot their load early, playing a surprise show just for new yorkers. the nearly free ($1) show had been announced late on friday, but word got around - why? played to a full house earlier, an interesting mix of stingy voyeurs, hardcore fans, and, yes, every blogger in nyc (or so it seemed with all the flashbulbs exploding). a one-off show to build excitement for their new ep, the hollows, why? rocked, soothed, and then rocked again in what turned out to be a bummer of a short set, though the trio played many old favorites as well as exciting new songs.

opening for why? was the parisian quarter neimo. the post-wave imitators sounded more like their age-old enemies from across the channel than they might comfortably admit (especially with france's home-turf upset over the weekend) as they postured and strutted through their set. in town for cmj and clearly out to make an impression, neimo played with universal dance-punk energy, singer brunojoedallesandro (probably not his real name) throwing himself on the floor of the stage at every possible opportunity. even though they sounded like every other band on radio 1, neimo played well, cranking fans at the foot of the stage into what could pass as a frenzy in new york. sounding dreadfully alike, most of neimo's set blurred into sounding like one long song, though single "hot girl" stood out for two reasons, the most notable being its abysmal lyrics (the chorus was "hot girl hot girl!"), but also because neimo dropped a couplet from "daft punk is playing at my house" right into the middle of the song, jerking me out of my rather vacant daydreams. unfortunately, neimo's set dragged on and on, hitting at least the forty minute mark, but seemed to take much longer, thanks to brunojoewhatever's penchant for talking way too much. obviously, neimo isn't for me, but, hey, if you like athlete - take note.

half an hour after neimo left the stage, full of gallic cheer and thanks, why? was barely halfway into their setup. as frontman yoni wolf joked once their set had gotten underway, we had gotten the chance to see the behind the scenes footage - fifty five minutes of shifting drums, keyboards, mics, and all of why?'s other gadgets, of which there seemed to be at least four hundred thousand. by the time they were finally set up, utility fielder doug mcdiarmid's station was cluttered with an array of indescribable music thingys, with just enough wires and antennas to broadcast the entire concert on a ham frequency. despite the mess, the men of why? played with a happy efficiency, though they never ventured out of the few feet of space they had cleared around them.

highly idiosyncratic, why? were just as stylized as subtle had been a week ago, albeit in entirely different ways. doseone and yoni, brothers in cLOUDDEAD, obviously used wildly different tools to forge their individual sounds. incarnated as a three-piece just two years ago (why? operated as a solo yoni wolf project for two albums), mcdiarmid and the two wolf brothers performed together flawlessly, and (more commendably) equitably. while there is no doubt that yoni fronts this band, why? shared vocals, both harmonies and melodies, across the board. they worked together with an almost unrivaled fluidity, each man sticking to his own instruments, but drawing no such lines musically. i was often impressed by the license josiah wolf took on the drums - his crashing assault of skins and cymbals, to say nothing of the dexterity with which wolf intertwined his xylophone parts with his regular kit, frequently upstaged his brother on vocals. yoni was the only contributor of the raps that blur why?'s definition, but both mcdiarmid and the other wolf occasionally took lead vocals on choruses, and yoni and mcdiarmid traded leads on keyboards, bass, and guitar with a casualness that belied its uniqueness.

why? is firmly an anticon band, but their music frequently strays from the collective's mold. only a few new songs reflected the anticon aesthetic of sinister monotonic verses and eerie harmonic choruses, backed by offbeat drums; why?'s general attitude was one of positivity. wolf's lyrics rarely communicated emotion, but the group's music often sounded nearly twee, though without the cutesy connotations. the mind-boggling number of gadgets why? employed were used to make their sound cheerful, like a roomful of r2d2s whistling with pleasure, instead of thundering with anxiety.

why?'s set was nearly perfect - yoni candidly joked and interacted with the crowd, but never at the expense of the music, which was succinct without feeling quick. i found the new songs to be more appealing than why?'s older ones - more dramatic climaxes and electronics - but both were performed, and received, well. the night's probable highlight was a guest spot from james mcnew, who is probably more famous for his work with yo la tengo than as a why? coverer. credited as dump, mcnew's cover of "yoyo bye bye," from 2005's elephant eyelash, is set to appear on november's the hollows, and we were treated to a sneak peek of what it would sound like. basically, it's why? without yoni rapping. but mcnew did the song justice and the crowd was obviously thrilled to have him there, though his introduction by yoni was nearly drowned out by repeated calls for "stockholm syndrome."

there's no publicity like $1 publicity, and why? definitely earned themselves some earlier tonight. they delivered a solid, to the point set, to a crowd that came to hear something new. not an avowed why? fan before tonight, i will certainly pay more attention to this band in the future, and why bother with anything more than that?

buy all why? releases directly from anticon.

why? feat. james mcnew - "yoyo bye bye"

Friday, October 12, 2007

red sox w. the indians @ fenway park, 10/13/07

avoiding free music always kills me (oneida @ southpaw tomorrow night), but i've got a hell of an excuse tomorrow: i have two tickets to see the red sox whip the indians at fenway. now that the yankees are out of the way (cheers, cleveland) and my man beckett kicked serious ass tonight, carmona is the last serious challenge to the sox going to the world series again. i couldn't be happier. tune in to the game tomorrow at 8 to see curt schilling perform. check back in here on monday for a full week of live music posts, which kicks off on monday with a built to spill show from 1998 as well as some overdue reviews and a new artist from the leaf label.


fate is a funny thing, if you believe in it. chance occurrence, random happenstance, the bizarre and wonderful sense that the universe is colluding in your favor - a belief in fate can give a life direction and purpose. perhaps, if you believe in your destiny strongly enough, it can take you from a strict mormon upbringing to a life as a performer. i don't know if jesca hoop believes in fate, but her fairy tale-like history, as well as the title of her debut lp, kismet, certainly suggests that she does, and is grateful for its blessings.

an anglicization of the turkish word for portion or lot, "kismet" carries meanings that synonyms like "fate" do not, a sense of exoticism and mystery. "fate" and "destiny" have real-world application, but "kismet" is a concept firmly rooted in the preternatural, ethereal realm, a world where genies grant wishes and beggars become sultans, a world where the only limitation is imagination. kismet summons these ideas from the beginning, songs swirling and twisting, two, three, four disparate melodies all seamlessly crammed together. early album highlight "seed of wonder" is grounded in a seesawing cabaret guitar line, upon which hoop adds a m.i.a.-esque chorus and a harmony-heavy bridge, while internet fave "intelligentactile 101" is defined primarily through hoop's athletic voice part, an unexpectedly dynamic bass line, and a cascading harp. kismet is astoundingly diverse, building upon elements from handfuls of genres without ever descending into a mold.

hoop's history is important to understanding her music, borrowing, as it does, from styles ranging from reggae to folk and everything in between. hoop's mormon parents raised her on a steady diet of 60s folk, mainstream radio, and church hymns, though her teenage rebellion led her to artists like tom waits, kate bush, and bjork. fleeing her strict upbringing to california, hoop was offered a job that undoubtedly changed her life: a nanny position for the waits family. impressed by her precociousness and obvious talent, waits gave a demo to kcrw, and the rest, they say, is history. hoop likes to say her style is a natural result of her skewed musical upbringing, and that "when you strip down to raw elements, you actually can conjure up an original viewpoint," and she has nothing if not that.

kismet is both an amalgamation and a creation, a collection of songs so startlingly different that one nearly wonders whether hoop is schizophrenic - there are far too many ideas in these songs for one person to think up alone. though kismet's production does add a great deal to its ingenuity and mystery, its best quirks are hoop's own, whether it is the hushed scatting emanating from the left speaker on "out the back door" or the shape note harmonies on album opener "summertime." more often than not, her songs are illuminated by tangential guitars and ethereal choirs, to name but a few of the tricks up her sleeve, especially on the absolutely stunning "money." "money" is also one of the few tracks on kismet with understandable lyrics; hoop, more often than not, tends towards lyrical non sequiturs, preferring to value the rich sounds of vowels and consonants over any cogent sentences.

though at times disappointingly hit-or-miss, kismet tends to err on the side of brilliance. hoop's "mad music," as she calls it, is a bizarre and wonderful collection, tantalizingly abstracted and complex, imagined by a mind unhindered by conventionality.

jesca hoop - "out the back door"
purchase kismet from a fine local retailer.

jesca hoop w/ the ditty bops - live on kcrw 9/19/07
1. summertime
2. intelligentactile 101
3. enemy
4. money
5. seed of wonder
6. love and love again

Thursday, October 11, 2007

subtle @ warsaw, 10/5/07

this show was a new experience for me, the first time i went to a gig purely to see an opening band. but what an opener! subtle, "the alpha band of doseone & jel," the masterminds behind mr. mammoth faces 13 & god, cLOUDDEAD, and themselves, brought their twitchy, spastic rap-rock to warsaw last friday night, supporting seattle's minus the bear on their national tour. still touring in support of last year's for hero: for fool and yell & ice (their upcoming remakes and remixes collection), subtle may also have dropped some songs from the forthcoming exitingARM. i was worried that subtle would have difficulties adapting their studio sound to the live environment, but they navigated those waters most successfully. fronted by doseone, a charismatic rap maniac, subtle ferociously tore through their forty-five minute set, doseone's rhymes blasting and the music churning.

i was (and remain to be) sincerely perplexed at subtle's spot on this tour. the college-rocking post-emo popsters in minus the bear bore no musical semblance to subtle's sound, and, were it but for subtle's far-too-infrequent touring schedule, i imagine most of their fans would have skipped this show. bookended by ela, a band that can be best described in the words of one audience member ("i think you're ok!") and minus the bear, subtle's inclusion in this tour can only be called bizarre. i got a chance to talk to doseone after the show, and he said he really appreciated the chance to get to meet new people, and, indeed, i overheard a passerby asked "who is that?" despite for hero: for fool's brilliance, it's critical reception was lukewarm at best, and subtle's desire to branch out is justified and understandable. however, minus the bear? i couldn't understand it at all.

subtle opened the show by paying suitable homage to brooklyn, to which the crowd reacted with expected positivity. while brooklyn is home to every other band in existence, it seems, and crowds enough to match, few expected the guest who came onstage for "deathful," a leaked track from yell & ice. maybe doseone needed to introduce tunde adebimpe, since so few people cheered when he announced the tv on the radio vocalist. adebimpe appeared and disappeared without a word or a wave, but their collaboration spoke volumes.

subtle's mystique is all-encompassing. from the eerie skull bust (painted with black and white stripes) at the front of the stage to doseone's velvet sash of plastic forks, subtle is stylized. enigmas permeate their live performance, their recorded work, their artistic presentation. yet, despite their seeming inscrutability, subtle (especially doseone) were accessible and friendly, chatting with fans before and after the show and manning the merch table, filled as it was with a half-dozen subtle releases, three or four solo efforts from doseone (including a book of poetry), and a solo album from jel. so rarely has prolific seemed such an understatement. killing time, i flipped through doseone's poetry, finding an image of the fork there as well. doseone was happy to explain the significance of one of subtle's most universal props, a piece of iconography cherished by fans. "the fork is the spirit animal of the american consumer," he explained, after having pelted the crowd with fistfuls of the utensil.

subtle's black and white aesthetic is visually profound and arresting, visible on both for hero: for fool's cover and doseone's chest (and, of course, the skull). less complex than the fork mythology, doseone explained subtle's preferred color scheme in a typically enigmatic fashion, calling black and white "the only real colors." though patently untrue, the stark juxtaposition of the two accentuates and emphasizes their aural dissonance. the skull is said to be of hour hero yes, a character who appears on both subtle LPs.

necessarily different from their studio work, due to the crippling injuries programmer dax pierson received several years ago, subtle's live performance is nonetheless captivating. with the exception of cellist alexander kort, every player in subtle multitasks, whether it is jordan dalrymple's triple duty on drums, guitar, and vocals, or marton dowers' mix of synth and sax. it was exciting to see subtle trade instruments every few minutes, let alone every song, but what was most compelling about the show (unsurprisingly) was doseone, and his seemingly endless array of props. the forks were really only the beginning. he frequently interacted with the bust of hour hero yes, going so far as to mime cutting its throat with a knife during one song. he toyed with a set of false teeth, another skull (this one resembled yorick), and a handful of other toys and gadgets too small for me to see. doseone twitched with an energy that could not be human - even cokeheads aren't this spastic. his veins standing out on his forehead, doseone continually vaulted from one side of the stage to another, rapping with incredible energy. in fact, getting pictures proved to be something of a challenge, as he rarely stayed still long enough to get a shot off.

subtle is art. you can disregard the mystery, the enigmas, the self-wound mythology, and you'd still have a fantastic band, but it would be only half of the band. subtle traffics in appearance - they really put on a show, an act for the viewer. it winds its way around your head, asking questions and posing hypotheses that are as much a part of subtle as their music. the live performance should always give you something more than a copy of an album; that's why you bother to see a band live. subtle brings everything they have to the table, throws it at you (along with a fork or two for good measure), and let you work it out. subtle is as much a visual and intellectual stimulation as an aural one, a provocative aesthetic they vehemently believe in. it's not a stretch to say that subtle stands alone - the only bands that sound like them have subtle's own members in them. if this tour is directed at new fans, and i don't doubt that it is, then subtle certainly deserves them.

subtle (feat. tunde adebimpe) - "deathful." buy all subtle merchandise direct from their store.

subtle - "f.k.o."