HWGM's new album Be Small finds the band taking a smaller approach to production and finding more intimate soundscapes - from the live, expansive sound of 2012's A Different Ship, produced by Radiohead's 6th man Nigel Godrich, to Be Small's direct-to-board hom-recorded album - it hosts no less acrobatics of musicianship and a singular sonic ambition.
Whether it's someone searching or someone who doesn't want to be found, we can't help but be drawn to the drifters. Steven A. Clark is that next stranger to roll into town, a restless artist recasting R&B. He's a straight-talker in a genre filled with wish-fulfillment, whimsy and cliched beats; think the Outlaw Josey Wales raised on N.E.R.D. and 808s & Heartbreak.
Music For Dogs is a deeply personal album on which Gardens & Villa pokes, prods, and even strangely celebrates the zeitgeist of music commerce, pleasure culture, technological advances and the new home they've found in Los Angeles. The New Age and Eastern Religion sentiments that rippled across their first two albums (2011's Gardens & Villa and 2014's Dunes) have been swapped out with a new sort of zen pop- Nihilsm. What's Nihilism anyway but Buddhism with a fuck-it attitude? They've found a way to live on the firing line, a way to actually harvest creative energy from our sad Internet tendencies, the uncertain future. "My whole life fixation/See if we can make it underneath the radar," goes the respective call and response of primary songwriters Chris Lynch and Adam Rasmussen on "Fixations," a song about the beauty in bottoming out and then finding the false bottom. Lynch could mean living as a creative in the underground or living outside peripheral view of the NSA. Under the stewardship of visionary producer Jacob Portrait and with irreplaceable rhythm section Dusty Ineman (drums) and Shane McKillop (bass), "Fixations" -- and a great deal of Music For Dogs -- is really just Gardens & Villa doing what it has always done best. G&V creates Byzantine melodies and richly interwoven arrangements for synths, guitars and vocals that work incredibly well on a cerebral level, but wouldn't upset a late night Korean karaoke outing either.
The jaunty, jarring piano and bass that begin "Everybody" perfectly frame the song's anxiety-riddled themes of 21st Century voyeurism, surveillance and the turnstile of avatars intended to represent our true selves. "Everybody wants the new you/No one cares who you are," Lynch sings in a repeating chorus before the band collapses into a lovely out of time mall piano breakdown, which itself drops effortlessly back into the jaunty verse section. And the speedball ripper "Maximize Results" that begins the record is perhaps G&V's most ecstatic, vulnerable moment laid to record to date. It alone is worth the price of admission.
As Zach Yudin and his twin brother and bandmate, Ben, went in to create their new album, what it all came back to was something personal. While they now call Los Angeles home, they drew from the nostalgia of their childhood growing up in Davis, CA; the nostalgia in their music that is as much about a place they've never been as any actual experience. And it was that wandering imagination and a punchy California dream that eventually grew to become Dancing at the Blue Lagoon.
While their sun-drenched, jangly, sometimes melancholic sound is quintessentially Californian, the album very much their California. It's the sound of kids from the suburbs who fantasize in Technicolor, whose view of the Golden State is its own form of idealism. Dancing at the Blue Lagoon is all about a band testing its comfort zone and asking us to do the same. Zach and Ben would "create bands that were more like a musical idea," record a few songs, and then move on. Cayucas grew out of this period of experimentation. Cayucas has taken sound we thought we knew and turned in into something personal and complex.
Back in November of 2012 Suuns and close friend Radwan Ghazi Moumneh of Jerusalem In My Heart spent a week in a Montreal studio creating a collaborative album pulling in their two distinct sounds into one set of fluid and trippy recordings. These songs were not heard live until over a year later at Pop Montreal in 2013 which jump started both sides' efforts to finish this truly unique record.
More than two years later now we are proud to present the final product, a self-titled collaborative album from Suuns and Jerusalem In My Heart out April 14th.
From the fertile urban trench known as Glasgow, Scotland, comes a knight on horseback. He wears not the cloth of his more famous neighbors -- the Belle & Sebastians, Pastels, Arab Straps and Mogwais. No, this knight comes trotting out of camp with nary a stitch on his body. Bearded and weary, he's got the look of a convalescent after a long night of hard rain. This isn't your father's round table story. There's a new lord in town and his name is Alasdair Roberts. Most know him from the few beautiful records he's recorded with his band Appendix Out (THE RYE BEARS A POISON, DAYLIGHT SAVING and THE NIGHT IS ADVANCING). He also recently played a role on the debut International Airport full-length, as well as repeated appearances on Songs: Ohia records. On this, his debut solo album, he offers twelve traditional Scottish, English and Irish songs, unaccompanied by anything other than his voice and guitar.A word from Alasdair Roberts on THE CROOK OF MY ARM:When I began to gather together some of my favourite old songs with a view to making a record out of them, it didn't occur to me initially that most of them were love songs and ballads. I still don't know why I was, subconsciously or otherwise, drawn to such material. True, the love expressed in many of these songs is often unrequited or tragic (there are many deaths on this record), but they are love songs nonetheless: at times beautiful, at times sick, and frequently both at the same time.Moreover, it was only after the recording session that I could see how this record could be considered a "suite" of songs (although making a "concept album" in the conventional sense was not my intention at the time). With hindsight, the connections between songs became more apparent. It even seems as if the very same characters turn up again and again in different songs: is the Nancy of "Bonnie Lass Among The Heather" the same Nancy as in "Master Kilby"? Is the long-lost lover of "Standing In Yon Flow'ry Garden" the same young sailor feared drowned in "Lowlands"? The themes are age-old, the situations and characters universal, archetypal. They gain their power from the fact that we have all experienced the beauty and sickness of love; and so each listener breathes his or her own life into the phantoms which populate the songs. Similarly, the performer is charged with the task of reanimating their dark and ancient heart, and in this regard I am greatly indebted to the many fine Scottish, English and Irish singers whose interpretations of the songs inspired my own. For the most part, I have stayed fairly true to the songs as I first heard them, only occasionally modifying a tune or editing a lyric (and in the case of "As I Came In By Huntly Town", derived from the Aberdeenshire ballad "Bogie's Bonnie Belle", rewriting most of the melody). I also took the liberty of changing some geographical locations. Such tactics are, of course, likely to infuriate certain sections of the "traditional music" orthodoxy. On the other hand, underground rock music (a genre to which this record may or may not belong) places such a premium on the notion of artistic "originality" and "innovation" that many fans might dismiss the relevance of playing this supposedly long-dead music. In my own defence, I would cite Roland Barthes' point in "The Death Of The Author" that in some societies "the responsibility for a narrative is never assumed by a person but by a mediator, shaman or relator whose 'performance' -- the mastery of the narrative code -- may possibly be admired but never his genius." I would liken the subtle re- or de-formation of the songs in individual performances to the way years of footsteps gradually and imperceptibly wear down and remould a staircase.
Release date: 04/02/01
On a front porch in Philadelphia in early 2004, Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon sat with a guitar and a banjo and busily fingerpicked to keep their hands from freezing. After a few false starts they settled on a dirge in d-minor and began improvising lyrics about a labor conflict in a Western Pennsylvania coal town that their fathers had learned about from an old folk song taught in Quaker schools in the '50s. The principal heroes and villains of the story were lost to history and buried in mineshafts and unmarked graves, and the particulars of the outcome were primarily recorded on newspapers lost in warehouse fires and floods. Neither can believe that what started with just the two of them huddled on a cold porch would grow to involve a once-in-a-lifetime cast of collaborators. A decade after its conception, they are proud to present to the public their vision of a classic story of betrayal, pride and lost love.
TURNING - A concert film documentary captured during the critically acclaimed tour of Europe by Antony and the Johnsons and Charles Atlas during the fall of 2006, it explores the heart and experience of that series of performances. Through its synthesis of Antony's songs and unfurling video portraiture of the 13 beauties who performed on stage, TURNING creates an intimate and cinematic experience exploring themes of identity, transcendence and the revelation of essence.
Also included in the deluxe package is the full TURNING concert recorded live at The Barbican, London, Nov. 2006 and contains songs across the first three Antony and the Johnsons' full length albums along with bonus tracks never before released songs - "Whose are These" and "Tears Tears Tears". The classic lineup of Antony, Maxim Moston, Rob Moose, Julia Kent, Parker Kindred, Jeff Langston, and Thomas Bartlett can be heard on these recordings as Charles Atlas's projected portraits of the girls light up the stage from behind the band for the duration of the concert.
Antony and the Johnsons: CUT THE WORLD is a collection of live symphonic performances of songs from the band's 4 full length albums (SWANLIGHTS, THE CRYING LIGHT, I AM A BIRD NOW, S/T). Recorded in Copenhagen, DK with The Danish National Chamber Orchestra, CUT THE WORLD features arrangements by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, Maxim Moston and Antony.
Additionally the title track "Cut The World" is featured here for the first time. It is one of Antony's new songs for The Life and Death of Marina AbramoviÄ‡ directed by Robert Wilson and staring Antony, Marina AbramoviÄ‡ and Willem Dafoe.
CUT THE WORLD was recorded live on September 2nd and 3rd, 2011 at the DK Concert Hall in Copenhagen, DK and represents Antony's continued meditation on light, nature & femininity. Antony discusses his ideas on the track "Future Feminism", a speech he made during one of the concerts. Addressing the affects of patriarchy on the global ecology, Antony explores the possibility of shifting towards feminine systems of governance in a gesture to restore our world.
In the wake of 2010's “Swanlights,” Antony and the Johnsons will release the companion "Swanlights EP" for 2011's Record Store Day on 10" vinyl via Secretly Canadian in the US and Rough Trade in Europe and the UK. In addition to the title tack, the EP will feature 3 non-album tracks including originals "Find The Rhythm Of Your Love," and "Kissing Noone" as well as a haunting remix of "Swanlights" by Oneohtrix Point Never.
Antony and the Johnsons will release their new album, “Swanlights”, on October 12th in the US via Secretly Canadian. Abrams Image will simultaneously release a special edition of “Swanlights” which will include the CD inside a 144-page art book containing Antony’s paintings, collages, photography and writing. The album only version of “Swanlights” on Secretly Canadian will also include the song “FlĂ©tta”, a duet with Bjork. The album and book are a continuation of Antony’s work exploring environmental issues and his connection to the natural world.
While “I Am a Bird Now” was arresting in its simplicity and vision and “The Crying Light” is a masterpiece of austerity, “Swanlights” may be Antony's most wide-ranging emotional work to date. It is a record that is at moments excruciating and tender, and at other times has a wicked gleam to its teeth. Musically it’s the most maximal of his work to date. Whereas on “The Crying Light”, Antony paired everything back to its most distilled and essential, on “Swanlights” the vines have become overgrown and the sound palette has become more exotic, strange percussive elements, John Cale-esque string drones, heavily distorted guitars and symphonic voicings thread the song cycle together.
“Everything is New” opens the album with subtle piano and an insistence that each moment takes its own breath and is reborn. Strings and bursts of percussion carry the melody as it soars through a cacophonous wilderness. “The title track finds us navigating a primordial and seemingly amorphous plane of expanding guitar tones and an almost Eastern influenced melody, exclaiming the elusive, magical and perhaps ominous, even dangerous majesty of "the Swanlights on the water, on that shining face". On “Thank You For Your Love”, he repeats what at first seems to be a simple sentiment and infuses it with a gradually escalating sense of urgency, breaking completely from the 4/4, Otis Redding-esque structure of the song into much more intense. over.
The book is a collection of visual art, thought-provoking dreamscapes composed of paintings, drawings, photography, collage, song lyrics, and writings. Often fragmentary images, these pieces capture liminal states and elements of the unconscious. Some images are reclaimed and reconfigured in order to transcend their previous form. The intersecting mediums inform each other and create an interesting dialogue with Antony’s music, his creative muse, and personal mythology.
“Swanlights” is the fourth Antony and the Johnsons album and the follow up to the critically acclaimed smash “The Crying Light” which topped year-end best of lists across the globe in 2009. Antony burst into the international spotlight with his second album, “I am a Bird Now”, which won the UK’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
In anticipation of their new album, “Swanlights”, Antony and the Johnsons will release "Thank You For Your Love" as the first single / EP via Secretly Canadian in the US and Rough Trade in Europe and the UK. The EP will feature 4 additional non-album tracks including originals "You Are The Treasure," and "My Lord My Love" as well as a cover of Dylan's "Pressing On" and Lennon's "Imagine" in collaboration with experimental composer William Basinski. The CD will also contain the video for "Thank You For Your Love" made from archival Super 8 footage of Antony upon his first arriving in NYC in 1991, edited by David Boatman.
Antony and the Johnson will release the “Aeon”/”Crazy in Love” double A-side single in the US on August 4th on CD and 7”through Secretly Canadian and on August 3rd in Europe and UK on 7” through Rough Trade. “Aeon” is one of the highlights of the critical and commercial smash album “The Crying Light” which debuted at #1 on the European chart. The band appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman for the song’s television debut. Antony and the Johnsons’ earnest and impassioned cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”, a long time live favorite, is being released officially for the first time.
"Epilepsy is Dancing” — the second single from Antony and the Johnsons’ The Crying Light — is one of the reasons Spin is raving that the band’s new material is “scarily intimate and irresistibly beautiful". Antony and the Johnsons have again crafted a consummate single with the most unlikely of subjects. The B-side “Where is My Power?" burns slowly throughout hinting at its epic climax anchored by the voice Rolling Stone has called “a voice of singular majesty, an instrument of delicacy and rapture in which Nina Simone, Morrissey, and Joni Mitchell seem to inhabit the same breath”. “Epilepsy is Dancing" is available as a CD single and 7" on Secretly Canadian.
Antony and the Johnson’s breakthrough second album “I Am a Bird Now” won the UK’s prestigious Mercury Prize in 2005. The success that followed introduced many to a pioneering soul singer unafraid to explore themes that traversed darkness and light, life and death, male and female. Antony’s inimitable voice sparked the interest of artists ranging from Bjork to Hercules and Love Affair, resulting in a series of critically acclaimed collaborations. “The Crying Light” is the highly anticipated full-length follow-up to “I Am a Bird Now”. Here, Antony shifts the thematic focus and explores his relationship with the natural world. The intimacy of the Johnsons’ sound is enveloped by avant-classical composer Nico Muhly’s symphonic arrangements. The record’s centerpiece, “Another World” traces the singer’s dispair in the face of a vanishing landscape. Antony and the Johnsons’ music bridges the gap between avant-classical music and the blues, and the band’s sold out performances have resulted in standing ovations from Carnegie Hall to the Apollo. “The Crying Light” is a soul-stirring new work with its daring compositions and captivating vocal performances. Antony and the Johnsons have created a subtle and timely work that brings a magical and yet changing world to the forefront of our consciousness.
Antony and the Johnsons emerged onto the international stage in 2005 with their breakthrough I Am A Bird Now. The group were awarded the Mercury Prize in the UK and toured the world. Since then Antony has collaborated on tracks with Bjork for her latest album Volta, appeared in the Leonard Cohen documentary I’m Your Man, featured as vocalist with disco stars Hercules and Love Affair, recorded for the Todd Haynes bio epic of Bob Dylan I’m Not There, and collaborated with Charles Atlas on a European tour of their stage spectacle Turning. Now Antony and the Johnsons have emerged with a new album, The Crying Light, which will be released January 2009. “Another World” is the first single, and it will be released as part of thefive-song Another World EP which is being released on October 7. On “Another World”, Antony lists the things he treasures about the natural world, and then expresses how much he will miss them. “Another World” is hypnotic and affecting, as well as timely. The EP Another World also includes “Shake That Devil”. Part exorcism and part Shangri La, Antony calls out shape-shifting perpetrators, and banishes them one by one. Two other songs, “Crackagen” and “Sing ForMe” are pastoral and surreal. Finally the epic “Hope Mountain” closes the EP; an episodic narrative set after a flood; people gather on a mountain to witness the emergence of a holy girl.
Antony & The Johnsons breakthrough album I Am A Bird Now has certainly touched fans and critics alike. His second full-length - released in February - stands as one of the most globally acclaimed albums of 2005. The album’s latest single is the anthemic and heart-rending “You Are My Sister”, presentedas a duet between Antony and Boy George. Together these two vocalists climb to the highest peakof emotional vulnerability, providing for the listener one of the most touching and uncanny duets of thepast decade. It’s heartbreaking when Antony sings, “You are my sister / we were born / so innocent, sofull of need / there were times we were friends / but times I was so cruel / at night I’d asked for to watchme as I sleep”. With soaring and world-weary intensity, Boy George utterly commands the refrain: “Youare my sister / and I love you / may all of your dreams come true.” In “You Are My Sister,” the pair singfrom the depths of their hearts for the world.This extended single also includes three new, unreleased songs recorded during the I Am A BirdNow sessions. “Poorest Ear” is a harrowing and complex vision from the perspective of an alienatedchild. Responding perhaps to “You Are My Sister,” Antony sings of a girl who wishes to save her imperiledbrother in “Forest of Love.” Finally, “Paddy’s Gone” is a choral lament to long-lost man. Thesetracks all seem to support Antony’s recent assertion; “Recently I have been imagining that we contain afamily inside us... a mother, a father, a boy, a girl and a baby. I Am a Bird Now represents a dialoguebetween some of these figures.”The esteemed NPR program All Things Considered recently reviewed I Am A Bird Now injectingone of the most illuminate and apropos assessments yet, “This is a fantastic record. It’s thoroughly modernbut feels lived in, it’s got an old soul...”
On the second single from Antony & The Johnson's ? Am A Bird Now? Antony presents one of the strongest solo pieces in his staggeringly rich repertoire. The song ?ope There's Someone?is a rush of pure emotion, a true performance with every bit of hope, supplication, distress, horror, lament, agony, sorrow and accession, spanning the entire life-death experience. Pitchfork characterizes the song remarking, ?t starts all atremble with a disarmingly naked prayer ("Hope there's someone who'll take care of me when I die, when I go"). As the song progresses that someone changes shape, and becomes a spectral double, as Antony sings for and against himself; the hoped-for someone is both a loving companion and an exterminating angel.?The esteemed NPR program All Things Considered recently reviewed ? Am A Bird Now?injecting one of the most illuminate and apropos assessments yet, ?his is a fantastic record. It's thoroughly modern but feels lived in, it's got an old soul, and honestly for as often as the term ?oulful?gets tossed around like table salt on so many flavorless records, for once, for Antony and the Johnsons the term aptly describes.?Two of the three songs are previously unreleased outtakes from the ? Am A Bird Now?sessions. The single also contains a new video for ?ope There's Someone?by the up-and-coming NYC director Glen Fogel. The video, and cover art, features a captivating portrait of the NYC legend Joey Gabriel.
Release date: 06/06/05
There is a myth that great artists operate in seclusion. One need look no further than to the ten songs of Antony and the Johnsons' new album, I Am A Bird Now, to realize this is an utter fallacy. To be sure, with his androgynous features, the singularly named Antony is an original. Have you ever heard a voice like this, imbued with the transcendental emotion of the blues, yet deployed with an unadorned simplicity reminiscent of medieval music practice, and graced with a top note of childlike wonder? Or songs that blur distinctions of gender and identity, yet which still summon up such powerful feelings: longing, love, lust, loss? No. Because Antony is one-of-a-kind. But he is certainly not alone. We are proud to present you with a record filled with one of the most gifted voices heard in a long time. Antony's vocals are almost inhuman, coming together to compile a creature that's as beautiful and enigmatic as the Peter Hujar photo, Candy Darling on Her Deathbed, that graces its cover. The lead-off single to I Am A Bird Now, "Fistful of Love" is perhaps Antony & the Johnsons' finest work to date. It features a scorching horn section and subcultural icon Lou Reed on vocals and searing lead guitar. In the tradition of subversive soul classics The Crystals' "He Hit me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)" and Millie Jackson's "Hurts So Good," Antony sings this ode to getting the shit kicked out of you and learning to love every minute of it. The complex emotional undertow of this track reaches a cathartic roar by the song’s finale. Antony shifts from a tremble to a wail — a tempest of emotion. I Am A Bird Now also includes contributions from friends Boy George (duet with Antony on "You Are My Sister"), Devandra Banhart (vocals on "Spiralling"), and Rufus Wainright (lead vocals on "What Can I Do").
Conceived as an introduction to Antony & the Johnsons’ new full-length I Am A Bird Now (due 2/1/05 on Secretly Canadian), The Lake consists of three songs, including the lead-off single to I Am A Bird Now. The song is “Fistful of Love” and is Antony & the Johnsons’ finest work to date. Featuring a scorching horn section and the legendary Lou Reed on vocals and lead guitar, the song’s clear star is Antony. His lead vocal performance is bone-chilling. Reminiscent to that of the late Otis Redding, he sings: I accept and I collect upon my body, the memories of your devotion. I feel your fist. And I know it’s out of love. He shifts from a tremble to a wail — a tempest of emotion. Antony and Reed are no strangers to one another. As a member of Reed’s band, Antony accompanied him on his 2003 world tour as a vocalist. There Antony was featured as the lead vocalist on the Velvet Underground classic "Candy Says" as well as Reed’s solo classic “Perfect Day”. These performances are documented on Reed’s latest double-live album Animal Serenade. Antony also contributed vocals for Reed’s most recent album, The Raven.
The Lake also features two previously unreleased songs. Starting off with the spare "The Lake," on which Antony breathes new life into a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. An in-concert favorite, a live version of this song was also featured on Devendra Banhart’s Golden Apples of the Sun new folk compilation (Bastet) from earlier this year. Less orchestrated than Antony & the Johnsons’ self-titled debut (recently re-released by Secretly Canadian on July 20, 2004), it shows a confidence & maturity that many fans in New York City have grown to love in his work. Closing with "Horror is Gone," Antony plays his darker imagery against a backdrop of hope.
Antony and the Johnsons present chamber cabaret in darkest blue, creating music that is highly dramatic, emotional, and lyrical. Compared to everyone from Nina Simone to Lotte Lenya, Antony's voice is hauntingly evocative. The Johnsons, an ensemble featuring a string trio, piano, bass and drums, lay a foundation of lush yet minimal orchestral arrangements. Antony & the Johnsons is a reissue of the group’s debut album, which was originally released in 1998 on the London-based label Durtro, which is run by David Tibet of Current 93. It was followed by the EP I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy EP, which includes a cover of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti's "Mysteries of Love." Antony accompanied Lou Reed as a part of his band on his 2003 world tour, on which Antony sang lead vocals on the Velvet Underground classic "Candy Says". It, as well as several other songs on which Antony sings back-up vocals, was documented on Reed’s latest double-live album Animal Serenade. Antony also contributed vocals for Reed’s most recent album, The Raven.
Printed on American Apparel 'Summer Shirts'
Ativin is an instrumental group that formed in the winter of 1994 when guitarist Chris Carothers first met drummer Rory Leitch. Although originally conceived as a two piece, guitarist Dan Burton joined in the spring of 1995. The threesome began writing songs and touring in the Midwestern United States throughout 1995. In April of 1996 the band recorded the five song Pills Versus Planes CD EP with Steve Albini and Carl Saff. In December of 1996 Polyvinyl Records released the EP. Secretly Canadian quickly followed up the EP in February of 1997 releasing the "Modern Gang Reader" 7". The single showed the band departing from the aggression and distortion of Pills Vs. Planes and focusing more on rhythm and structure. During the summer of 1997 the band embarked on an East Coast tour with Seattle's Roadside Monument. In October of 1997 the band entered the studio with Andy Bryant and recorded the seven song LP German Water. Using added elements of organ, tapes and space Ativin has created an organic sounding album of shifting rhythms and tension.
Ativin's second full-length -- and first in 2 1/2 years -- is one ass-kicker of a record. Dan Burton and Chris Carothers have that rare chemistry which makes one question any auteurist theories, and in their stead seek out the magic that can come only with the process of collaboration. On INTERIORS, we get to watch as Ativin learns and then utters new languages, then reminisces with old. Yes, there are driving rock songs that have that signature Ativin groove, but they also have the more atmospheric moments which careen headlong into METAL MACHINE MUSIC territory and onward into campfire sing-alongs for dope-freaks. There is indeed some singing on this album, and thank goodness for that, as Carothers (who hasnĂ•t sung on record since the first Ativin EP PILLS VS. PLANES from 1996) and Burton (who also sings with his other band Early Day Miners) truly have something to say. Indeed, Burton and Carothers are two ships which pass in the night and annihilate weather patterns in the process. The album was recorded at Burton's Grotto Home Studio in the heat of the Indiana summer. Kevin Duneman (the Race, chiseldrillhammer) was enlisted as drum czar. INTERIORS is bound to tickle fans of everything from This Heat to Stars of the Lid to Zeni Geva.
An intentional homage to the world of horror literature and film, Night Mute is Ativin’s ten song exploration into the themes of death, hopelessness, and fear. On it, the band has created a concise and harrowing sonic vision rooted in their trademark foundation of dirge and repetition of the guitar/guitar/drums. With emphasis placed on deconstructing the music back to its barest elements, the band has pulled away from the "spacious" and cinematic side of the Summing the Approach EP and last year's Interiors. Song titles and lyrical content reinforce the notion that this could be a subtle, disconnected soundtrack for terminally ill patients lying in wait behind closed doors. Guitarists and songwriters Dan Burton and Chris Carothers relish in the deconstruction of their own music. “Night Terror”, “Drink This”, “Concentrate” and “Blood” are each meticulously honed razorblade attacks nodding to a return to the Ativin of yore — angular instrumental rockers like those on which the band waged war on earlier albums. The addition of expert, marksmen style drumming from Mark Rice (the Impossible Shapes, John Wilkes Booze) propels Burton's and Carothers' spiraling, schizophrenic guitar interplay into a nightmare space where few, if any, musical acts have gone before. Taking a look at Ativin's sordid past, one will see that there is more to their music then the late '90s post rock explosion from whence they came. In fact, Night Mute shows a stake in the divergent corners of the outsider canon. Echoes of Durutti Column, Unsane, Tones On Tail, Keiji Haino, and Organum can be heard throughout. Their sober take of the early Love & Rockets tune “The Game”, for instance, finds Burton front & center at the microphone, slowly reeling in on what feels like a Philip K. Dick gothic folktale.
Ativin have received a lot of shit for supposedly sounding like Slint. That's the truth. If you read all the reviews they have garnered, you may read the word "slinstrumental" more than once. But all that adds up to is lazy post-college scribes who just want to hawk freebies for those Dexter's Cigar reissues. Far from slintstrumental, Summing The Approach is more plain mental. More PÅ“rt and Gorecki than McMahan and Walford, the four songs clock in a smudge under 30 minutes and expand further out than their debut full-length from last year, German Water. Indeed more like a spilled bong, it stretches out into a blurry haze. But it's not stoner rock. Sure it has its spacy elements, but the Ativin guys are far too straight-laced to bear such a distinction. On Summing The Approach's four songs, guitarists Dan Burton and Chris Carothers sway their guitar drone back and forth over Rory Letich's drumming. The groove heard on German Water and their "Modern Gang Reader" 7" is still there, just submerged. Just like most of their Indiana friends who will crank up "Cy" as they burnout in vacant parking lots with shit weed. The trio recorded these songs back in March of 1998 with Steve Albini before slumming their way state to state on an exhausting tour. And the rumors about a split 7" with Roadside Monument are false. Stop calling about it.
The raw appeal and romanticization of their look and biography is now an afterglow. The audacity of their sound is familiar to music fans around the world. It's a new year and what we've got is the band back home in Johannesburg, steady gigging and gearing up for the performance at the opening ceremony at the world's biggest sporting event, taking place in BLK JKS' backyard. The World Cup. This is the sort of moment for which BLK JKS were built.
While FIFA may have already selected its theme song for the Cup, we'll let you in on a secret. The unofficial anthem — the song kids in Soweto are singing on their way to matches — is not something imported or made for the moment. It has lived there, waiting for the world to turn its ears to South Africa, just now. Secretly Canadian is stoked to present you with ZOL!, the new BLK JKS ep just in time for The World Cup.
Just a short time ago — in a last ditch effort to supply a borrowed van with wheels to make a club gig — the four members of BLK JKS took turns hand-over-hand pushing a tire through the darkened, kinetic streets of Johannesburg, South Africa's Soweto township. For bandmates Lindani Buthelezi, Mpumi Mcata, Molefi Makananise and Tshepang Ramoba it's a simple and tough philosophy: every gig, everything at stake. They have shared stages in North America and Europe with artists as celebrated and disparate as Femi Kuti, Santigold, Dirty Projectors, Michael Franti and Cody Chesnutt; they have played festivals like Sasquatch and Soweto Arts Festival; and Ramoba has been celebrated by Billboard as "the best musician" at SXSW. It's an inspiring juxtapose from that day when a Jo-burg gig hung in the balance. But to witness the frenetic energy and soaring celebration of a BLK JKS gig is to know that they have maintained that same ideology. It's been too long since anyone was able to bring this much soul and heartblood to progressive rock, a medium that has been left cold and dry by a misguided focus on technical show-offery. But by entangling the music they love — township blues, fringe jazz and renegade dub — into the DNA of prog, BLK JKS have provocatively pulled afro-futurism into a new century. After Robots has all the ingredients of a party record — young, joyous musicians; surging, afro-drumming; aggressive horn blasts (supplied by the cultishly famous HYPNOTIC BRASS ENSEMBLE) — but this is not party music. It's at times disorienting and overwhelming, but it always maintaining a cool, alluring mystique. It's in Mcata's patient, complex and enviable jazz chord vamping. It's in Makananise's from-the-pocket-to-the-stars bass approaches. It's in Buthelezi's blues-inflected phrasing and searing guitar leads. It's in Ramoba's super-polyrhythmic, flailing beats. In January 2009, BLK JKS set foot on US soil for just the second time, holing up with Brandon Curtis (SECRET MACHINES) in the quaint, spirited town of Bloomington, Indiana, to record the music that would become After Robots, their first proper album. Ten-hour days turned into fourteen as the band relentlessly exorcised their collective ideas and ideals about music. The process was an overwhelming sensory experience in its own right. To discuss certain musical passages for which there is no accurate English befit to describe, BLK JKS seamlessly shifted from accented English to their differing tribal languages. Then —giving up on words altogether — they'd dive back into a fine-tuned performance of a song. It is the band's tendency to work it out on the spot that is most impressive about their approach to recording and structure. After Robots triumphs on its own strange set of genre-ending rules, and BLK JKS are undeniably a band of our times, embodying the duality of our violent and hopeful new world, these days of mystery and wonder.
For this 12" release, Osborne — the MacGyver of house music — chimes in for an extended club remix of Johannesburg quartet BLK JKS's "Mystery", originally from the Mystery ep (released 3/10/09 on Secretly Canadian). In true communal spirit, BLK JKS covered Osborne's "Afrika Even More" (for future release) and called it fair trade. With the bass nearly bumping the needle off the record, we recommend you bust out your best moves early and often.
BLK JKS defy description. With a wrecking crew rhythm section, debonair vocals, and guitar concoction of one part shred and two parts soul, BLK JKS shoot an African music sensibility through the tenets of rock. On one hand it is easy to politicize BLK JKS; as seen on the cover of Fader, here is a band that is instantly young, black and fly even as they reclaim styles that have been stolen, watered down, and regurgitated for generations. And yet to get caught up in anything but their sound is to sell this phenomenon short, because as musicians--as artists--BLK JKS simply cook.
BLK JKS defy description. With a wrecking crew rhythm section, debonair vocals, and guitar concoction of one part shred and two parts soul, BLK JKS shoot an African music sensibility through the tenets of rock. On one hand it is easy to politicize BLK JKS; as seen on the cover of Fader, here is a band that is instantly young, black and fly even as they reclaim styles that have been stolen, watered down, and regurgitated for generations. And yet to get caught up in anything but their sound is to sell this phenomenon short, because as musicians—as artists—BLK JKS simply cook.