FLESH & BONE
in the pursuit of artistic passion
HSIN-YAO TSENG - VAULTRY - ABSOLUTE MERCH -PAUL BENNETT
FLESH & BONE M A G A Z I N E
V O L . 2 5
Fl es h & Bo n e M a g a z i n e i s a b i - m o n th ly c rea ti v e a r ts p u b l i c a t i o n p ro d u c e d b y a r tists w ho a re c o n st a n t l y i n sp i re d b y o t h e r a r t ists. O ur g o a l i s to s h a re a n d i n t ro d u c e oth e r pe o pl e w h o a re i n te re s te d i n a r t o r i n th e pu r s u i t o f a r t to o t h e r c re a t i ve i n d i vi d uals. Ea c h i s s u e h i g h l i g h t s a r t i st s o f a n y a r t istic me di u m, w h o t h e y a re , wh a t t h e y d o , an d th e i r v i ew poi n t s o n t h e c o n s i s te n t l y g ro win g a r ti s ti c mo ve m e n t . _____________________________________________ FOUNDER & EDITOR
BRANDYNN L POPE
DESIGN & LAYOUT
BRANDYNN L POPE
ASHLEY ATLUS DONALD KIMBER JAMES LIAM WARD
ASHLEY ATLUS BRANDYNN L POPE BRITTNEY TAMBEAU
W W W. F L E S H B O N E M A G A Z I N E . C O M Al l ri ghts rese r v e d. No pa r ts o f th i s pu bl i c a ti o n m a y be rep roduce d i n wh o l e o r i n pa r t wi th o u t pe r m i s s i o n from the pub l i sh e r. T h e v i e ws ex pre sse d i n t h i s pub l i cati on do n o t re f l e c t F l e sh & B o n e a n d i t â€™s s t a f f but retai n to th e i r re spe c ti v e c o n tr i bu to r s.
F I N D U S ON
Fa c e b o o k f a c e b o o k . c o m / f l e s h a n d b o n e m a g a z i n e Tw i t te r t w i t te r. c o m / f l e s h a n d b o n e m a g I n s t a g ra m @ f l e s h b o n e m a g a z i n e
SU BMI SSI ON S & AD VE RTI SI N G
Happy 3 rd Birthdate to Flesh & Bone Magazine! We are so excited to celebrate three years with our readers, old and new! More than anything we want to thank the artists who have been a part of our volumes as well as have become readers. You all mean the world to us! As always, it has been a very busy time constructing this for everyone else. During the construction of this particular issue I happened to be on tour (and still am on tour) so itâ€™s been a whirlwind trying to make sure everything is finalized for you guys on time! I love this volume because I feel that it is sort of an artistic throw-back. Thereâ€™s a lot of beautiful classic artistry seen throughout and I definitely feel like there is even more artistic insight. After three years of doing this I am still excited to reach out to artists and show off what they can do and help people understand the artist in their element. Have a great summer everyone! Make sure to get out there and enjoy all of the foliage and inspiration that is out there.
I______________ N T H I S I S SU E
06 “THE GLASS WORKS” PHTG BRANDYNN L POPE
10 ARTIST REVISIT
ARTS JENNA NIEUWENBERG
60 ALBUMS IN REVIEW WRT JAMES LIAM WARD
PHTG BRANDYNN L POPE
14 DESCENDENTS PHTG BRANDYNN L POPE
18 BLACK SATELLITE WRT BRANDYNN L POPE
20 GIL ZABLODOVSKY WRT BRANDYNN L POPE
24 ABSOLUTE MERCH WRT BRANDYNN L POPE
30 ALEJANDRO GAUDINO WRT
BRANDYNN L POPE
36 NERVOUS STITCH PHTG BRANDYNN L POPE
WRT BRANDYNN L POPE PHTG GABRIELLE LARSEN
44 PAUL BENNETT WRT BRANDYNN L POPE
52 HSIN-YAO TSENG WRT BRANDYNN L POPE
Every day we are surrounded by functional art. Whether we fully realize it or not the designs of tools that we have grown accustomed to came from somewhere and had been crafted by someone. For example, we use glassware quite frequently, whether it is wine glasses, stylish coffee mugs, terrariums, or vases, they make their way around our houses. Here at Flesh & Bone we were able to meet up with one of the creative minds behind glass structures and show off a little bit of their working process. In the photos we can see artists, Mona and Ariel blowing glass, creating their own work. We were also able to catch up with Mona and get her to tell us a little bit more about her specific process in the hot shop.
Glass blowing in a nutshell follows the same basic rules/steps from the simplest forms to the most complicated. With what I typically make (rondelles; flat plates), it’s a simple process but made more complicated just with the specifications that I require for my work, such as colour applications. The main thing to keep consistent is keeping the thickness even. So starting with the first gather of glass, and getting your bubble in, making sure that goes in evenly will make or break the entire process. Especially since Rondelles are, round, the smallest bit of unevenness will basically make the piece look off, I found taking as long as you need allows you to be more intricate and precise with your pieces. After the initial bubble is put in comes the colour application, which makes the process a bit more complicated. To add complication, the colours I use tend to be completely different in how fast they heat up and how long they hold on to heat. Patience is the key to ensure to avoid frustration and mistakes. I typically use a colour bar that my partner will heat up and drop onto the clear bubble to cover it, then I cover that colour with a different colour but in a powder form (this will allow me to carve through one colour to expose the other once the piece is finished and annealed). Powder is applied by rolling the hot glass on the pipe into a mound of the powder. This takes at least three to four applications (sometimes more depending on the colour) to make sure it’s evenly covered. Once I’ve finished with applying the colour and I’ve gathered my final clear layer from the furnace (typically I use about three to four gathers), I start to focus on blowing out the shape. With rondelles, my ideal shape to blow out is a Smarty shape. I also don’t blow it out as thin as you typically would with other types of forms. I want to keep the shape nice and evenly thick so that when I transfer it onto a punty to open it up, it doesn’t go out of control and get crazy thin. Opening up the rondelles into the flat plate shape is the most fun part I think. It’s all about getting the right temperature and slowly first opening up the lip bit by bit just enough. The final part is all in the Gloryhole rather than at the bench. Keeping it turning slow at first then spinning it faster as the glass starts to move then spinning it as fast as possible so that the entire lip of the bowl shape whips out and flattens out into a disk. This involves my bench partner standing ready to open up the doors of the glory hole fast enough so that I can pull out the rondelle in time before it starts to fold in on itself. The final step involves my partner holding cherry wood paddles on either side of the rondelle while I continue to turn the pipe on the bench so that it stays as flat as possible.
I work with the human figure and looking at the limitations and strengths of the body. In a lot of ways glass transfers my ideas in the creative process more than anything. Blowing glass is a physically demanding process and it pushes you to extreme limits, which can be one of the best parts. Most of my art always starts off as a sketch; it’s typically where my ideas flow easier so when I come to the glass, it often means that whatever I make will involve some aspect of what’s been created on paper. Whether that be an actual image carved into the glass or the glass takes the form of the drawing. Process is such a huge thing in glass in general, but very specifically with my work it becomes a part of my finished piece. I take sketches that I’ve reworked multiple times and rework them even more to transfer them onto the glass. My pieces get abused with carving and sandblasting, it’s physically demanding for me with how much time it takes just to make the pieces in the hot-shop to later cold-working to manipulate them again into the piece I’ve already imagined. This all comes together in the finished pieces to show this balance of brutal process but a beautiful result; the beauty in brutality.
JENNA N. PHOTOGRAPHY REVISITING ARTIST
When we first met up with you, you were attending post-secondary for photography and design. Now that you are out how do you handle photographic projects? Since leaving ACAD (Alberta College of Art + Design) I immediately went into a job that gave me an opportunity to work with models and a fashion designer. Everyday I would go above and beyond and I grew a lot from this experience. Near the end of it I realized it was not what I wanted to do. The need to work for myself and have my own clients gave me more freedom to do things the way I wanted to achieve them. Now that I handle projects on my own I can grow in an entirely different way by making my own goals instead of being given them.
Do you find that you still have some of the best shots once improvised or have they become a little more posed? Before shooting, I at least have a loose idea of what I want something to look like, but in the end I feel like improvising pushing you to go outside of a box that you put yourself in. I am working on manipulating my client to get to the pose I want instead of just telling them. That way it feels more natural and its a better experience for both os us. For example, instead of telling them to pose a certain way I will tell them to do a certain action that makes them forget Iâ€™m there. Thus, my images have become more candid and I have the chance to take step back form the scene and think about the shot. I used to rush through my photoshoots and always had a regret of what I didnâ€™t do. Now I make sure to breathe.
What are some things that you have accomplished? I have met some amazing artists from different events and social media sources that have had such a big impact on my own style. Other photographers or models will message me just to meet up and shoot from social media. Being able to work with different people pushes me to challenge myself and everyone has been such a big support. I have also been able to look at my work and see a style that is mine from the help from
Since you first started your journey what have you realized about yourself in your work? Is there something that you find you have found a greater focus in? Absolutely, I focus on my personal work instead of just for clients. If I don’t go out and shoot just for the heck of it once in while I loose my inspiration and what started me into this career in the first place.
Is there any specific work that you have become more critical of as you matured as an artist? I will always be critical of my own work. That motivates me. I don’t know if that will ever change. One thing that I didn’t do very often is reshoot. There are a couple of photos that I was not happy with. Instead of being content with what I have gone out to do it again.
A hoard of fans gathered around the barricade as Descendents took on the final sound check. Many of them wearing alternative colours of the Milo t-shirts, and some even layering up with the Calgary limited edition Descendents shirt. Unlike most bands, when Descendents came on they kept the lights on, walked over to their part of the stage and brought themselves to face the crowd. Before kicking off into the first song vocalist, Milo, spoke up about how the world is at a strange place, how he was uncertain and allowed the speech to roll into their first song, “Everything Sux.” With the water bag backpack strapped to him he walts around the stage looking out towards the crowd, interacting with all of the excited fans. With a few people crowd surfing here or there through there favourite songs you could feel the genuine delight built up in the room. The group played an impressive set list of thirty-eight songs. Of course, with a lot of those songs maxing out under two minutes long it wasn’t that much of a surprise. They were able to touch base on some of people’s favourites such as, “Coffee Mug,” or “Sour Grapes” in their first encore and, “Spineless and Scarlet Red” as their final song.
Destinations the Great Sandhills Out in the middle of the prairie, beyond the fields of grazing live stock there is an unexpected and beautifully hidden landscape. After winding down gravel roads you start noticing that it becomes less rocky and instead sandy, then all of a sudden you are met with an end: a small parking lot. Just on the horizon you see this lump of white sand. As you make the hike up the hill to check out what this is you are baffled seeing the extreme difference between the wired prairie grasslands and the sudden change into soft white sand. Here’s the kicker to this all. This is not Utah, Nevada, or California. No, instead this landscape is up in the middle of Canada, specifically Saskatchewan. There’s no city for hours of travel and that’s what makes this landscape so beautifully untouched. In order to get there you really have to look or somehow stumble upon. When you take your steps into the sand, walk up the sand hills and then look back you can see that the gentle breeze is already erasing any trace that you had ever stepped up on the sand. This is the sort of landscape for those who have a wandering spirit and do not mind spending a larger portion of your day driving out to see the place than you would actually in the sand hills.
BLACK SATELLITE FACEBOOK - WEBSITE - INSTAGRAM
Black Satellite is an alternative rock duo based in NYC comprised of Larissa Vale and Kyle Hawken; inspired by all things unconventional and idiosyncratic. Black Satellite launched their first single “Valkyrie” from their upcoming fulllength album “Endless” in April 2017. “Endless” is thoughtprovoking, modern, and tastefully aggressive. This is especially showcased through Vale’s often haunting vocals paired with Hawken’s foreboding guitar riffs and instrumental. The band just released their follow-up single “Blind” on May 12th 2017.
When you two were first brought together and started writing music did you ever envision adding another person to the musical mix? How would you say that you function together making all of the creative decisions? From the very start, it was always the two of us. In the early days of our band we added a drummer and a bassist, and even rehearsed four times a week. We realized very early on that we had a concrete vision of where we wanted to go as a band and not everyone else had the same desires. We have achieved a unique dynamic as a duo, and figured out a method that really works for us. We are fearful that adding another person may disrupt the rather harmonious balance we have accomplished.
Who do you bring on stage with you when it comes to live performances? For our most recent performances we had our session drummer on the record play with us live, as well as our mixing engineer. Since we all had a part in making this record, we wanted to celebrate our work by performing together on stage. It was truly representative of coming full-circle in the creation of the record.
Visually speaking, what do you feel are important symbols for Black Satellite? We are drawn to a very monochrome aesthetic. The muted tones are representative of our strong sense of artistic integrity. This also goes hand-in-hand with our own personal styles, since we mostly wear shades of black, white, and grey. We also love the geometric and graphic nature of our logo, representing four offset rectangles. It’s the simplicity in things like this that define who we are as a band.
After writing together for six years is it relieving to see the release of Endless finally start to creep up? How long did it take you to construct something that would eventually be umbrellaed into this album? We are perfectionists by nature. Some of the songs on the record date back as early as 2012. There are even a couple songs that we have re-recorded three times over the years. This time we definitely got it right, and were able to work with the right team to deliver the sound we were looking for. Every song has been workshopped and meticulously crafted. We work in an almost obsessive nature, which lends itself to the overall tone of the record. When we opened up our old sessions again for this album, we were able to breathe new life into them and make them relevant to us again. When we decided to turn this into a full-length record we spent several 16-hour days over the course of a week-and-a-half demoing it all out.
What were the main themes and subjects that you tried to explore in this record? Are there any specific things that you want people to take away from the lyrics and musical experience of hearing your music? We play around with a lot of themes concerning particularly difficult experiences and states of being. We like the dichotomy of life and death, and figuring out what those mean in different circumstances; some of this is explored in “Valkyrie.” We like to challenge perspectives and showcase a visceral sense of vulnerability and authenticity. We hope that listeners also take the opportunity to reflect and be honest with themselves about the things that matter and the things that don’t.
What about “Valkyrie” that you felt was necessary to release as the first single from your upcoming record, Endless? We felt that “Valkyrie” did a nice job of summarizing our style and overall sound. It’s easy to digest and sets the scene for the rest of the record.
I can only imagine that there were a lot of songs that made the cutting room floor during your process. How did you come to decide which songs would comprise Endless and what do you think will become of those songs that you left off? In deciding which songs were going to be on the album we relied purely on instinct. If a song didn’t make us feel anything, or if we were forcing ourselves too much to come up with the parts, we simply left it behind and moved on. We have discarded a handful of songs, but also wrote six brand new ones for the record. We were able to write our new material so quickly, and already have some more songs in the works for future albums. It’s likely our older, forgotten songs will never see the light of day. We are glad this spell of creativity hasn’t worn out, and are definitely going to make the most of it!
Once the album is finally released what are your plans and what should people be looking out for? Our priority will definitely be playing out and touring to support the album. Stay tuned for more announcements on that later!
GIL ZABLODOVSKY FACEBOOK - WEBSITE
Gil Zablodovky, a multidisciplinary artist and designer in the filed of visual communication. Working with various mediums - Video Q Video Art , Graphic and motion design. also experience in interactive design. My bachelor degree is in education and visual communication design, so Iâ€™m also a teacher in my core basis. my master degree i finished last year in integrated design - in this studies i volumed up my installation projects.
When you first started as an artist did you feel that your artistic intent would lead you to a design-based life rather than a purely fine-arts driven career? What is it about the work that you do that you are most passionate about? I actually didnâ€™t know that I would be a designer or an artist in my life, I found that as a human being in society we need to find various ways to express ourselves. For me in the last 10 years, this is the language Iâ€™m speaking. Actions speaks louder then words and you donâ€™t need eyes to see your need vision. Phrases from music and songs are keeping me alive and give me a huge inspiration to continue and exploring new ways of artistic approach.
How did you come to fall in love with this practice? I guess that it was always in the back of my mind to be a an artist, someone who is making new ways of communication between people. You can feel things in your heart most of the time and know whether its right or wrong. After my bachelor degree and master degree, I realized that everything has its own way to be created and come together, and it helped me and my thoughts become organized. I still do the things I love in art and design but formal education is very important to make yourself a self understand where and who you are as a creator.
How do you find yourself taking on something like defining someones brand or even coming up with their logo design? It happens in so many ways. I do believe in the personal approach, when you talk to the person next to you and understand the story of his life, then you both discover together what is unique, what brings you to the point which is defining the brand and combining the personality behind.
What kind of disciplines have you had to teach yourself when it comes to collaboration with someone? The most important thing for me is communication. When you have good communication with those who you are working with, you can start to speak the language and understand their mind and bodiesm, positions and visions. From that point you can open up a new way of understanding how we can be more active and fertilized in every each project. You can go do down and experiment ways of expression.
When working on your own projects what kind of themes are you most excited about? Every time that there is a new point of view on the project I get excited on the project. It can be a new artifact, a new video ... From there I get inspiration from people who are around me. The little things you do in an ordinary lifetime is the best mechanism to explore us versus us and versus other people. The next thing is movement through the axis that i chose to see from, x and y, z and; x and so on â€Ś Another thing is sound which is very important to me. not like visual, sound is very subjective we can only hear it and that is an amazing way to change perspective.
What project are you currently working on that you are excited about? What is your main attachment to this project? My first solo exhibition! It is the first fime that Iâ€™m not a part of something, I create the whole picture, whom I want the vieweres to feel as a part of the space and they they can feel it as a vibration in their heart. Working together we as art curators and understanding the way that cuartors look at the creators. I feel it is very important to me when I can get to the mind of what is working together as a flow in exhibition.
How would you like to develop yourself as an artist in the next five years? Do you have a specific main goal for yourself as a designer? Most of the last year has been appointed to exhibit abroad in the whole world. Until now I have exhibited many of projects in Spain, Serbia, Holland, Israel, New Zealand, Texas, Germany and more ... My plan is to expand to many more countries and to be more active abroad and to start my Ph.D. in culture and design in the aspect of space in exhibition and how we as artists and designers make people excited in the experience their having.
ABSOLUTE MERCH w / B I L LY C H A N D L E R
FACEBOOK - WEBSITE - INSTAGRAM Noah Russell and myself founded the company in 2012 to offer a better solution for bands looking to expand their merch brands outside of the typical boundaries we ran into as artist managers at the time. Throughout the last 4 years weâ€™ve developed a market for a band merch/lifestyle fashion type fusion product where we think of our artistâ€™s merchandise more as clothing lines as opposed to band merch. As the company grows our goal is solidify Absolute Merch as the first lifestyle brand with roots in alternative music as opposed to a merch provider.
How did you first involve yourself with this specific music scene before evolving into the company that you have become? We ran an artist management company called Sight In Sound and had a few bands that became quite successful yet the one issue we always ran into was finding a way to elevate their merch more into day to day fashion space without having to go overseas to make cool and unique products. We eventually started curating items for them based more off of current fashion trends as opposed to typical band merch trends, and found ways to produce the items locally. As our bands’ profiles grew so did the attention around their unique merch and eventually other artists starting asking us to help make some items for them and it just expanded from there. I think our experience as artist managers really helped us figure out a lane and create an opportunity for this company to develop.
When you are collaborating with the artists, what sort of things do you constantly have to consider? There are a few important things but the first is really understanding the band’s identity. As odd as this sounds, people listen with their eyes. Many times people will have a predisposition to liking a certain band based solely on how the band presents themselves so it’s really important to portray the band’s identity through their visuals. The next step is also really understanding who their fans are and what are they into. The merch needs to connect.
What kind of process do you have for creating the merchandise that you do? Is there a certain material that you are more inclined to using and what about the materials that you are using are important to you to use for your brand? The first step in the process is figuring out if the items will create that “I need that” sort of engagement with potential buyers. Oftentimes we’ll put something together and we’ll look at the final product and say, “that’s cool but is someone really going to want to wear this?” We have to remember that the merch is an extension of who that person is and needs to represent who they are, etc…The next step is as simple as the “would I want to wear that” test. We always strive to make sure our items are on the highest quality and best fitting garments so that on top of being a great visual representation, they are actually items that people are stoked to wear…as simple as that sounds.
When you first started up Absolute Merch what were some of the goals that you had for the company? What do you feel that you have accomplished and what have you abandoned on the way? To be honest the main goal was to provide our management clients a better merch option but as things have grown we’ve begun to strive towards completely changing the way not only bands look at merchandise but the fans as well. Like I mentioned before, the goal here is to create a community around the company and be looked at as more of a lifestyle brand as opposed to a merch provider and I definitely think we’re on the way. Early on our goal was to literally work with as many bands as humanly possible…the more the better. Lately we’ve changed philosophies and realized at this point less is more. We want to focus 100 percent of our attention into a more select group of artists and creators and really create something great.
What was one of the first things that you started doing with your printings that was different from most other merchandise printing companies? What are, now, some of the more “normal” requests you get for prints? Printing wise, our biggest focus is just quality over everything. While I think our print quality is the best in the industry we’ve never really been focused on the actual printing aspect of the business. Anybody can print a shirt, it’s the whole process that takes place before the actual printing that we’ve really worked hard at perfecting and that really sets us apart.
What characteristics do you think best describes Absolute Merch? High quality and premium merchandise that you wont find anywhere else. That’s been the motto since day one!
What are you hoping to expand Absolute Merch into? Do you think that it will remain as a part of the music community solely or that it could evolve even further? We work with a few clothing brands right now and I’d love to expand more into the mainstream fashion world and continue to bridge that gap. We’re currently working out a few collabs between some of our artists and other fashion brands and really want to continue to dissolve the line between band merch and fashion.
Alejandro Gaudino INSTAGRAM - TUMBLR
“ My name is Alejandro Gaudino. I’m an illustrator
and comic author from a region located in Northwest Spain called Galicia. It rains a lot in here, which allows me to create and draw personal stories. ”
You have two very different looking sets of imagery, the vivid and colourful work as well as the bold black and white. How do you find that you approach your colourful work versus your black and white work? That’s a good question. I feel more comfortable working on black and white, as the limit of tones I can use helps me define the drawing. On my colour work I normally use traditional techniques such as watercolours, acrylics and colour pencils, What are the main tools that you use and it is the colour itself, not the lines, that defines the final imagery. I think this is one of in your work? the reasons why, when I try to bring together My laptop is my main work tool. Although both my black and white and colour work, my most of my work starts as a handmade black and white images tend to prevail above drawing in which I use traditional techniques those in colour, as they turn out to be more (pencil on paper, mostly) it is not until they are powerful and well-defined. digitalised when I start to compose the final images. What are the main themes that you
Do you have a formal education in the arts or is it something that you pick-up and take on your own terms? At what point in your life did you make the decision to pursue the arts? I’ve been drawing my whole life. I remember when I was a little child, my family and friends were tired of me scribbling on every paper in the house. As years passed by I didn’t picture myself working as an illustrator but despite I kept drawing, although only to myself. I couldn’t think of it as my way to make a living. However, when I had to finally decide what to study on college I took the leap and chose to study BA of Arts. I thought that if I didn’t study this I would never be passionate about my work as. I have already said, drawing has been my passion throughout my life and until now I have never regretted it.
like to pursue? How do you like to develop your different themes? What do you find is more successful in panels and what do you find is more successful in a single image? I think the most important feature of my comic work is the sequentiality, beyond the story or the text. I try to stablish a previous framework that allows me to play with the whole format so I can make two pages communicate with one another or two panels “talk” to each other. I use two different approaches to get this: either the imagery of the scenes is similar or I do just the opposite and the imagery does not look alike at all. Regarding illustrations, what works for me is to portray a problem, to draw an image who has a beginning and an ending, although they are not portrayed on this image, so the viewer can complete the rest of the information through his/hers own point of view.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
What kind of themes do you like to pursue in your different strips?
If we talk about comics, it would be a bit of contemporary and old-school authors. My first main influence were the 80s sci-fi magazines, like Metal Hurlant or 1984. More recently I have developed an interest on post-narrative comic books that try to decontextualize classic narrative. I like to think that my artistic work is influenced by these styles.
My work has, over everything, a pessimistic point of view of the world. It is the main recurring theme of my work, although it has not been voluntary. My work is about either a single person or a group (in general, an observant group) who lacks the capacity to deal with external elements, even when those elements aggressively attack him and therefore change him profoundly.
How would you like your work to be used in the future? Is there a main outlet that you’ve always fantasized using your work in?
Is there a project that you are currently working on that you are particularly more excited to work on?
On the one hand, my main objective is to publish my first solo comic book, although I wouldn’t mind seeing some of my illustrations displaying as posters or book covers. On the other hand, I would like to collaborate with an animation studio to see how my drawings respond to movement. Long before focusing exclusively on comic books, I did some animation works but on a very amateur level, so I would like to see how animation works on a professional level.
At this moment I’m working on my first comic book featuring a long story. I’m looking for a publishing house which might be interested on it. Besides that, it’s always exciting working on a new issue of the fanzine I have with some of my colleagues: it’s called Taiga, and we are now starting to work on its new edition.
Nervous Stitch JENNIFER MCHARDY WEBSITE - INSTAGRAM Nervous Stitch is the creation of Royal College of Art graduate, Jenny McHardy. Having a humorous slant Nervous Stitchâ€™s name comes from the emotional connection between people and textiles. Jenny is passionate about knit and keeping traditional skills alive while keeping these skills current and relevant for today. With this in mind Jennyâ€™s inspiration for the collection comes from things she loves and items she has collected over the years.
Do you have any formal background in design or the arts? When did you come to decide that you wanted to create these textiles on a larger scale than for personal use?
What sort of “team” of people do you have to help you in your process under Nervous Stitch?
Until fairly recently I designed and made everything myself, however I have expanded I started knitting when I was four years old, from homewares only to introducing a range for as long as I can remember I have drawn, of fashion accessories. made and created, its just what I enjoy doing I designed four scarves, I found a factory in and what i’m good at. Shetland that were willing to help me. Keeping I studied for a BA(hons) degree in Textile the manufacturing in Scotland was absolutely and surface design at Gray’s School of Art essential for my brand, the quality and finish in Aberdeen, followed by Masters degree in is excellent and Scottish knitwear is world Constructed textiles (knitted) at the Royal renown and now I can knit whilst I sleep! College of Art in London. My business Nervous Stitch began after I The other team member is my design assistant, knitted a blanket with rabbits on it for my my daughter Iona, who is 7 years old, she designed my best selling product when she daughter befores she was born. was 4 years old, a cat mint filled mouse made Has living in Scotland had a large from my scraps and home grown cat mint. I impact on the inspiration and input hate having textile waste and try to find ways to use up everything, I’m waiting patiently for of what you have created? her to come up with some new ideas I came back to Scotland from having spent almost 5 years in London in 2010, being back in Scotland gave me time without the financial pressure of London living, to experiment with designs and products. The light, colours and views in the surrounding countryside and the city of Aberdeen have had a huge influence in my work. I really look at colours and textures together and can get inspiration from the most random finds.
What materials do you use in order to create your textiles? Explain a little bit of your process to create your unique product? How long, approximately, does it take to finish one piece? I use Lambswool in my products, I try whenever possible to use Scottish and British wool. Bold colours combinations that clash make me happy and I spend lots of time working out my colour palette before ordering the wool. I always have a head full of ideas which I jot down in my sketchbook, I turn the successful ones into pattern repeats and then work out there placement on the product. I knit up samples until I am happy with how it looks, it can be a long process. Knitting the final design up is actually the shortest process, there is lots of hand finishing involved, if its a cushion iâ€™m making, after knitting the cushion is linked together, all the ends are then hand sewn in. The wool is very oily, so they have to go through three washing processes, after drying I hand sew all the labels on, so from start to finish a cushion can take 3-4 days to complete.
For you, what is the nostalgic aspect of your work? What do you often find that your work reflects on? My designs seem to provoke stories from people, about knitting, about the designs on them. the smell and feel of the wool can transport people back to childhood memories. My beetle design is based upon the victorians collecting and displaying insects, I was told whilst I was at the RCA that no one wants insects on their bedding, so I put them on hot water bottles, and called the range bed bugs, I have butterflies tooâ€Ś.I like it when it makes people laugh or squirm.
Compared to when you first started taking on knitting and working within textiles, how do you feel that your style has changed? Were they any themes that you first liked to use that you don’t really gravitate to anymore? I’m not sure my style has changed over the years it’s just evolved naturally, during my Masters however my way of working, knitting and finishing got far more professional. I have lots of ideas and drawings in my sketchbook which I start to work on but I edit, edit edit so my collection remains strong and true to my style. Other than the interior work that you work with what else do you like to do with your materials that are a little more fun and creative for you? I like to experiment with different yarns and processes, I also like to learn new techniques and skills, I have combined textiles with ceramics which I enjoyed, I have also began to work on public art commissions which are a real challenge, the scale is much larger.
Is there a favourite pattern of yours to use over any others? I began Nervous Stitch with the running rabbit motif and it’s still my favorite, anyone that knows me knows how much I love animals, especially rabbits, Our current house rabbit Where would you like to see your Grandpa Joe is very cute and cheeky and textiles in the future? keeps us on our toes, if you follow Nervous Stitch on instagram you will see him I would like to get my work into more galleries and into the new V&A museum that’s being You specifically use bold colours in your work. built in Dundee. Is there a specific palette that you like to play around in? What do you feel your design work I have ideas for highly decorative one off is best complimented by or with? Who would fashion pieces that I would love to see in you say your products are targeted towards? Vogue, but I have to make them first! I love colour, the bolder and brighter the better, I love patterns and colours that clash, but I have to consider my customers so I try to offset my love of bold colour with more subtle tones to create a slightly more muted range as well. I think they can be bought by both people who are confident with colour and people that are slightly more nervous about colour. If you own a dark grey wool coat, one of my bright scarves would look great.
VAULTRY WEBSITE - FACEBOOK
I can only imagine that the creation of Eulogy could be exhausting and wearing at times. How did you all approach writing the record? What were some key things that you really wanted to bring out in such an emotionally driven record? Many of the songs on Eulogy were written prior to our guitarist Chasen’s passing. Leith spent a lot of time writing with Chasen to make sure we would at least have something in case the worst happened. When Chase passed away, we were all pretty grief stricken, What do you feel is the driving force but we tried to keep as motivated as possible and goal behind working together as to make sure we got his legacy recorded the a band? best it could possibly be. We wanted to make We’re just a group of friends who likes to make sure the record sounded very akin to the music we’re passionate about and perform for groups Chasen listened to as a teenager (New Found Glory, Glassjaw, Blink-182, The Story people who want to hear it. Plain and simple. Our goals are just to be able to play music full- So Far, etc.). The lyrics also went through 2-3 time and to constantly reach new listeners who drafts each, and Leith was very meticulous about making sure the narrative between connect with our message. We’re all pretty songs made sense to a listener who hadn’t self-motivated people, so coming together as read about Chasen’s story. a group creates a really nice synergy.
What other kind of themes do you guys like to discuss and produce when you’re writing? Leith likes to write a lot about real life and social issues he’s passionate about. Our first EP Coven was pretty lyrically unfocused and we felt like that was partially because the band was in its infancy. That being said, the track that seemed to stand out the most “Walls”, is about domestic abuse. Many bands shy away from controversial non-political topics such as sexual violence, domestic abuse, grief, drug abuse, and corruption. We’re a band that believes in speaking the truth and we want our lyrics to reflect that.
Coming from a place like Victoria can be isolating. How has this hometown inspired your music or even the foundation that you have built for your band? What sort of moves have you had to make in order to extend beyond working and living on an island? We used to feel like the island was very limiting, but we’re very lucky to have a community of extremely passionate and dedicated acts in Victoria and Vancouver sharing the stage with us. We began hosting our own shows in our hometown recently and we’ve seen great success. Getting off the rock is always difficult but we’ve been in the process of booking a Cross-Canada tour and hopefully some US dates next year, so the steps are being made.
Even as an independent band you have achieved a reasonable following. What do you suggest to bands that are currently working in a similar, independent atmosphere? Look for publications and promotion groups who want to help you, ask your friend’s bands for tips, and work hard! Bands in their infancy are expensive and require a lot of love and devotion. Don’t expect all your problems to be solved with one message to a record label executive you have on Facebook. Sending update emails frequently to industry professionals that have shown interest in your band is another great way to keep a relationship going. In short, don’t stop working because you see a little success. A band looking for more than just weekend gigs requires 100% of your focus.
What do you hope that people are able to take from listening to you guys or even after seeing you preform live? We hope they have a unique experience that they remember for a long time after. We don’t expect to be a band that everyone is always talking about, but knowing we changed one night of your life means the world to us.
When it comes to the imagery that you use to portray yourselves what kind of visuals do you like to produce? Are there any symbols or motifs that you tend to carry with you What should people expect from that exemplify Vaultry? Vaultry in the coming months? Leith, our vocalist, is a graphic designer and artist, so he creates the majority of our visuals and tries to reflect the messages of our lyrics. We started the band with a very gothic aesthetic but have moved to lots of floral designs and vintage-looking imagery. But who knows where it could go!
We’re currently booking a cross-Canada tour for this summer that we’re announcing very soon and more international touring for next year. We’re also writing a new album and working on some singles for the Winter. We should also have a few new music videos come out before and after summer.
Paul Bennett WEBSITE - INSTAGRAM
With global representation, fine artist Paul Bennett specializes in contemporary semi-abstract seascapes and landscapes, abstraction and also distinctive portraiture. The three themes are very different in mood, style and perspective, but all endeavour to generate a sense of intimacy and isolation while leaving the subject open to interpretation. The intention is to create from memory to produce finished work that is abstracted and more expressional than representational. Paul’s work is in private and public collections worldwide. Paul’s main aim is to create work that is most definitely painted; an antidote to mass produced visuals we consume everyday. This is accomplished by using rich textures, multiple layers and brush/palette knife marks. Paul wants his paintings to tease out more than the eye can see, to draw people in and invite them to experience – not just consume – an image.
At what point in your venture as an artist did you decide to reflect memories in your work? How do you expose this process? Is it something that you have images of but then reflect on from the haze in your mind or is it simply something that come straight from your mind to the tip of the brush? I’ve never thought of myself as being great at copying or directly referencing the world as it is. For me, realistic portrayals of the world are an exercise in technicality. I can appreciate it and admire the skill, but I am rarely moved by it. It is far too constrictive and suppresses the freedom that comes with being creative. So, turning to my memories was the natural choice. It gives me all the freedom I need and makes the transition from mind to canvas almost seamless. I can take any direction I want and never know where the journey will end.
What is it about using oil that you like, especially while working with your landscape and abstract work? I think, like most oil painters, it’s the fluidity. I love the way the painting can move around the canvas. As there are long drying times, it can be manipulated over a longer period. I feel the finished result is also so much richer.
What is the process like for you creating your work, especially since working with oils can be a slower process? Do you find that you are often multitasking? What do you have in, or leave out of, your studio to get to work without distraction? I do multitask. I sometimes have four or five paintings going at the same time. There’s also the boring side of the job – Accounts, Marketing, Admin etc. I always have music playing and have turntables set-up in the studio. I can’t say that I really get distracted. Sometimes I have to take a step back from the canvas and let my mind occupy a different space. This gives my head room to let ideas develop and fall away.
When do you like to make the choice of adding / layering paint rather than keeping a smooth consistency? I always layer paint. It’s what I do. It’s my process.
How often do you find yourself creating your own work versus doing anything for commission, if at all? I would say that commissions make up for approximately 25% of the work I create. I like commissions, as they push you in directions that you may not have gone down, if left to myself. They are much harder to work on, though, as youâ€™ve lost some of the freedom. Although you still use oil paints in your portrait work you do mix it up a little bit. Explain a little bit about this process as well as how you like to approach portraiture differently than your landscape work. The Portraiture uses a completely different part of my head. Itâ€™s a whole different challenge, which is one of the reasons I work in multiple disciplines. It helps me keep things fresh and my mind sharp. The portraits are referencing photos, but only as a starting point. I still like to keep a relaxed approach when creating them, but they have to be more grounded in reality than the Seascape/Landscapes. The aim with the portraits is to take the polished imagery from mass media and give it a more visceral twist. To make it more real.
Continuing with your portrait work, who do you tend to look towards to get inspiration for with your portraits? What features do you want to remain in tact rather than abstracted? When I was at Art School I looked at Auerbach, Bacon and Freud. I love the work of Jenny Saville. Now, I look for no inspiration. I try to let the last painting I created dictate the next. It gives the work an organic evolution. I might only work on a few portraits a year and then not create another one for six months. When I come back to it, there is always something new that I want to incorporate.
What are your favourite sceneries to go back and create and why? I’m lucky to have travelled fairly widely and am always drawn to the sea and coastlines. I know its a cliche but light on the horizon and in the clouds are always fascinating to me. If I even capture a bit of some of the seascapes I’ve seen for real, I’m happy.
What memories or people do you prefer to keep to yourself rather than paint, if any? I don’t ever want to paint someone I know. I’d have to make it look like them.
What kind of feeling do you hope your audience gets when looking at your work? It would be cool if they just liked it. I’m not in this game to move people or change the world or perceptions. It’s not why I create. I think I just want and hope that people can appreciate that it is what it is.
What kinds of exhibitions should people be on the look out for you? Is there any new work that you have started on or are plotting out that you are particularly excited over? I’m in talks for a portrait show in London, in June and also a seascape exhibition in Dublin in July. I don’t really get involved with too many exhibitions now. The work seems to sell before I can get a collection together.
Explain a bit of the process you go through to create a single piece of a series.
You have gone as far as receiving your Masters in the arts. What brought you to the decision of taking formal education all the way through for your art form? Actually, when I was 5 or so my Aunt would take me to the train station where we would meet my mother. I loved drawing the trains and so I would say the trains were the first images that inspired me. I do remember admiring my cousinâ€™s cartoon sketches and still life drawings. He was an art student at the time and I imagined being like him one day. Therefore, I began attending some art classes at the age of 10 and starting learning still-life and landscapes using both watercolor and charcoal mediums. I had a really smooth path learning art. I went to art high school in Taiwan and then came to America to study abroad at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. There, I completed my BFA and MFA in Fine Art painting and Drawing.
How much sketching and preparation do you do before you go in to make a final piece? I usually do some thumbnail sketches to study the value patterns and composition design on most of my studio works before I jump into the final pieces.
To me, there is no limit or specific way to start and finish a piece. However, I often begin a series of sketches in pencil. These are simple abstract shapes executed as a two values study. I look for big shapes, rhythmic movement, and composition within the painting. Then I move on to my big canvas, I begin sketching in the general placement of the object, figuring out the proportion and perspective with a small brush. Next, I create a simple light and shadow pattern with a basic drawing. By carefully measuring, I continue establishing all the relationships between my figure and environmental elements and negative spaces. I loosely block in the shadow areas and unify the shadows with the same color as the drawing. Then I start painting from my focal point area, I would paint one area and slowly zoom out. I make decisions regarding design, value, proportion and edge quality based on my own artistic intuition. Moving forward I continue working the form and anatomy of the figures. At the same time, I focus on the soft, hard, lost and found qualities of the edges. Also, I keep my shadows transparent to emphasize the thin to thick approach. Next, I continue developing the rest of the work slowly but surly. In the final stages, I go back to the focal point, and work on improving the likeness or push some contrast. I stand back and look at my painting from a distance. From this vantage point I can determine where my sharpest edges will be as well as the edges I can soften most. Finally, I decide where I will accent my brightest high light and darkest accent.
How much traveling do you find yourself doing to create some of the images that you have produced? At least once a year or two for traveling along with my artistsâ€™ fellows or myself. I find it is really important to go traveling to see different places once a while to find my inspiration.
With oil paintings being a longer process how many projects do you find yourself sitting on at a time? I often have two or three paintings working at the same time.
When it comes to subject matter how do you approach working on landscapes or portraits differently from the other? The biggest difference for figurative works, I usually start working from my focal point such as the face and slowly finish area by area and zoom out to finish out the rest of the painting. For landscape/cityscape works, I often focus on the over all unity and the atmosphere. But I always keep the beginning always really abstractly and expressive, with nice brush strokes and mark making.
What sort of environments and themes do you find yourself attracted to creating? Is there any particular feeling that you are hoping to evoke from your work? I often find myself attracted by workers and figures relationship iteration. It consists of multiple figures in different environments that depict social relationships. The world has become unpredictable, high speed and is loaded with conventional imagery. I want to remind people of the simplicity of human morality through ordinary scenes that expresses the interaction between people in an environment. Music and movies have always been a major influence for me. Sometimes I would think of a song or just one shot from a film to create a mood or idea for my painting. Painting to me is a form of self-meditation.
Are there any other mediums that you like to play around in outside of oil? Watercolors or charcoal drawing.
UPCOMING SHOWS Art Renewal Center 12th ARC International Traveling Salon Exhibition, Salmagundi club, New York, NY, May 13th Fall Focus Show, InSight Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX , September 1st Two Man show, Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA, October 14th “26th Annual Small Works Group Show” Howard and Mandvale Gallery, Kirkland, WA, November ˇ33st Anniversary Show” Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA, November 18th “27th Annual Holiday Miniatures Show “ Abend Gallery, Denver, CO, December “ Holiday Small Works Show” The Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, December “Annual Small Works Show” Insight gallery, Fredericksburg, TX, December
Albums In Review C HARTS _________ TOP ALBUM RELEASES 1. Droptopwop Gucci Mane 2. Relaxer Alt-J 3. No Shape Perfume Genius 4. Slowdrive Slowdrive 5. Reflections of a Floating World Elder TOP SINGLE RELEASES 1. “Fool’s Errand” Fleet Foxes 2. “RAF” A$AP Mob 3. “Chase Me”
Feat. Run The Jewels & Big Boi
Dangermouse 4. “Big Fish” Ice Staples 5. “Steroids” Death Grips
BOW VALLEY WOLF PACK
Enter The Dragon
Self Released 04.20.17
Bow Valley Wolf Pack (or BVWP) is an experimental hip-hop trio from Calgary, Alberta. Their emergence onto the music scene has been a unique one, as the group was dropping weekly singles leading up to the release of their debut mixtape Enter The Dragon. All of the singles were fine, but the sister tracks “Coffee” and “Honey” both stood out to me in particular. These songs showcased hilariously obscene, entertaining and clever verses from vocalists Jared Herring and Matt Simon, as well as quirky banger beats from producer Taylor Richardson. I also enjoyed the lavish “Want It All” whose majestic vibe reminded me a bit of Hans Zimmer. It was clear from these singles that BVWP were quite versatile, so I was looking forward to seeing how their experimental blend of trap, R&B, and electronic music would be presented on Enter The Dragon. Taylor succeeds in giving each instrumental a unique personality, but these personalities can clash quite hard with each other, making Enter The Dragon run more like a compilation than an album. I do appreciate the variety this tape brings though; the pitch-shifted vocals worked into the beat of the title track and the psychedelic synth loops on “Separate” both sound great. A majority of Enter The Dragon consists of sharp, clever tunes but there are a few moments that feel like BVWP are going for a vibe rather than a coherent song. This leaves a few tracks in the middle of the record feeling a bit directionless. The two MCs have good chemistry together and I like that Matt and Jared have their own moments to shine as well; Jared delivers by far the best verse on the album with his performance on “Ketchup Interlude”, and Matt’s memorable lines all over “Love
Boat” make it one of the better ballads in the track listing. The hook on “Style” is undeniably catchy, but I don’t think the song justifies its length relative to the rest of the album considering how much of the song is just the refrain. It is awesome how ‘off the cuff’ some moments on this record feel though, particularly at the end of “Style” and on the bonus track. These moments add a lot of personality to the record and give off the impression that these guys aren’t taking themselves or their music too seriously, making it all the more enjoyable. The singing on this record is good, but it is not fantastic. The Wolf Pack’s vocals resemble the off-key charm of Kanye West over the melodic precision of Frank Ocean, which is one of the reasons I find myself casually returning to the bangers more often than the ballads on Enter The Dragon. The project’s ending is remarkably solid as well; “See The Light” is one of the hardest slappers on the record, “New Challenger” is a fantastic song all around and the lyrical concept behind “Future View” make it a satisfying closer. Overall I found Enter The Dragon to be incredibly consistent in quality, even if it wasn’t in vibe or concept. I look forward to the trio’s next release with the hopes that they drop a record that is more lean and focused than its predecessor. BEST TRACK: “Honey” WORST TRACK: “Snoflake”
FULL OF HELL
Profound Lore 05.05.17
Trumpeting Ecstasy is the latest album from prolific American metal band Full of Hell. I loved the band’s collaborative album with Japanese noise artist Merzbow, and I thought the auditory torture chamber they presented with
The Body was pretty good too, but I have been looking forward to the quartet creating an album that was simply Full of Hell. The band tends to mix a myriad of influences in their music, pulling primarily from elements of grind, sludge and black metal to create an abhorrent cocktail of filth presented ever so abrasively via Kurt Ballou’s fantastic production. I’ve always found that Full of Hell’s releases demand multiple listens because so many of their songs fly by in a blur of fury, and the more I relisten the more nuance I discover in the band’s songwriting. While I find it astounding that Full of Hell can pack so many memorable riffs and moments into forty second tracks like “Digital Prison” or “Fractured Quartz”, there are still a few songs that haven’t stuck with me even after multiple listens, prompting me to believe that there aren’t really any memorable ideas presented on tracks such as “Branches of Yew”. Considering Full of Hell work well with very little, I was disappointed with the few moments on the record where the band tried to play out a section for an extended period of time. “Gnawed Flesh” isn’t terrible, but I find the two-minute breakdown to be more boring than brutal, and Full of Hell definitely does not justify the length of their six and a half minute closer. There are plenty of great moments on Trumpeting Ecstasy however; the centerpiece of the record is the single “Crawling Back To God”, which features a killer main riff and absolutely destructive double bass kicks on the verses. I also love the tapping break on “The Cosmic Vein” that provides a moment of respite before plunging back into madness, and the guttural vocals on “Ashen Mesh” sound fantastically unique when paired with the song’s demented one-two groove. The title track is surprisingly the only experimental song on the record, pairing brittle looped guitars with the airy, haunting vocals of Nicole Dollanganger. I was expecting Full of Hell to really push the boundaries of their genre with this record, but outside of the title track, the band essentially just works well within defined boundaries. BEST TRACK: “Crawling Back to God” WORST TRACK: “Branches of Yew”
8.4 GUCCI MANE Droptopwop
In retrospect, this record couldn’t have been anything but a slam-dunk; both Metro Boomin’ and Gucci Mane are at the creative peaks of their careers and Droptopwop definitely showcases this. Even though I could have done without the closer I still think this tape is a total barnburner and one of the most consistent projects to come out of the Atlanta scene this year. BEST TRACK: “Finesse The Plug Interlude” WORST TRACK: “Loss 4 Wrdz”
Atlantic / Guwop Enterprises 26.05.17
The release of Droptopwop marks one year exactly since trap pioneer Gucci Mane was freed from prison. Over the course of that year, Gucci has managed to get clean, feature on a Billboard number one single, and release now four albums. I must admit he went for quantity over quality on Everybody Lookin’ and Woptober, but really hit his stride on the most recent tape The Return of East Atlanta Santa, which had tons of personality, memorable hooks and solid beats. I think it is fantastic that Gucci Mane has been in the game over ten years, yet he is sounding more fresh and exciting than most of the new artists in this genre. My hype for this project peaked when it was announced that the almighty Metro Boomin’ would be handling production on every track, essentially guaranteeing that Droptopwop would be a front-to-back slapper. I am elated to say that this collaboration could not have gone better; Droptopwop is a near perfect example of a ‘fire’ mixtape. Gucci and Metro have collaborated before and they truly are a perfect pair, delivering a tight project full of highlights. The moody melodies on “Dance With The Devil” are so appropriately spooky and the psychedelic sounds on “Tho Freestyle” made it an instant favorite of mine. Gucci remains entertaining throughout, delivering sharp hooks and solid verses – the line about a pussy rehab on the song “Helpless” never fails to crack me up. I also think it is hilarious that the introductory and interlude tracks are two of the longest and most memorable songs on the tape. Droptopwop is a satisfyingly tight ten tracks, although I could do without the closer, which feels more like a shitty bonus track to me than anything. Aside from Rick Ross on “Loss 4 Wrdz” I enjoy all of the features on this tape, particularly Offset who absolutely steals the show on the spacious slapper “Met Gala”.
Kendrick Lamar is one of the few artists of this decade with a near perfect discography. The man has reached an untouchable level of both critical and commercial success following the release of his albums Good Kid Maad City and To Pimp A Butterfly in 2012 and 2015 respectively. Now the Compton rapper is back (much sooner than anticipated) with his fourth studio album, DAMN. Judging solely from the in-yourface artwork and cacophonous lead single, I figured DAMN. would be a lean collection of veritable slappers. Although that isn’t close to what we actually receive on this new project, DAMN. still has plenty of material to be celebrated. “DNA” starts off the album with a Hell of a bang; laced with infuriating news samples criticizing Kendrick’s music and the hip-hop landscape, Kdot delivers an unrelenting flow over an apocalyptically heavy beat. It is truly refreshing to hear Kendrick Lamar on something so aggressive, mainly because he just sounds so good over instrumentation this destructive. The album quickly slides into the laid-back “YAH”, whose halfbaked presence is jarring yet welcome after such a devastating introduction. DAMN. is easily Kendrick’s most
diverse album yet, proving that he can once again reinvent himself with every consecutive release. The scattered nature of the album does not however, get in the way of what makes Kendrick Lamar albums so enjoyable in the first place. The gloomy introspective tracks like “FEEL” are present, “LUST” and “ELEMENT” prove that the man can still write a fantastic hook, and Kendrick’s performance on the final song is a perfect reminder of how remarkable a storyteller he is. Although I think some of Kendrick’s strongest songs land on DAMN., some of his most uneventful turn up as well. I enjoy the production on tracks like “LOVE” and “LOYALTY”, but the hooks on these songs aren’t very strong and the pitch shifted vocals on the latter track come off as a bit too commercial sounding for me. I was however blown away at U2’s incorporation into the record, flawlessly transitioning into a smooth jam to play out the back half of “XXX”. “FEAR” is the final song I want to mention, as it contains three of Kendrick’s strongest verses on the whole record, all of which revolve around the idea of fear at different points in his life. Over a spacious beat and smooth guitar line, the first verse explores the fear of discipline at a young age, particularly from a parental figure. I found this to be an incredibly unique and intriguing topic to write about, but not so much as the second verse, in which Kendrick contemplates different scenarios he believes he could have been killed as a teenager. The third verse ties “FEAR” and DAMN. neatly together, as Kendrick explores what scares him in the present while mentioning many of the other song titles on the album. “I’m talkin’ fear, fear of losing loyalty from pride ‘cause my DNA won’t let me involve in the light of God”. DAMN. has an incredibly strong beginning and ending, but unfortunately some of the tracks in the centre of the album are a bit forgettable for me. This man has set an incredibly high bar for himself, and while I don’t think this album holds a candle to Kendrick Lamar’s previous studio efforts, I still think it’s a great hip-hop record. BEST TRACK: “DNA” WORST TRACK: “LOVE”
8.3 A LOT LIKE BIRDS DIVISI
Equal Vision Records 05.05.17
A Lot Like Birds is a Sacramento post-hardcore outfit whose future seemed uncertain following the departure of vocalist Kurt Travis. Many groups can come back from a lineup change
of the songwriting, and I think the band’s successful transition will do nothing but attract a wider range of new listeners. BEST TRACK: “For Shelley (Unheard)” WORST TRACK: “The Smoother The Stone”
like this, but considering A Lot Like Birds was working with a dual frontman dynamic for so long, I was unsure whether Cory Lockwood would be able to confidently carry this new record himself. Fortunately, the lineup change resulted in the band’s bold exploration of new musical territory and allowed Cory to really prove himself as a frontman. Contrasting their previous albums, DIVISI abandons chaos and dissonance for melodic precision – a direction I had been hoping the band would pursue for many years now. The album’s introduction sets a dark mood with its droning strings and layers of vocal harmonies. The lyrics “Don’t we all arrive at the same place where we began?” are reprised for the album’s final moments, which effectively make DIVISI feel like a holistic experience. The record really gets going with “The Sound of Us”, a song full of urgent melodies and pounding drum hits, all of which build to an incredible crescendo at the end of the track. The relative absence of screams is not sorely missed (at least by me), simply because Cory’s melodies are so memorable and catchy throughout this record. I love the epic guitar line and descending pianos that kick off the heartbreaking “For Shelley (Unheard)”, and the swelling synths in these verses as well as the urgent violins on “Trace The Lines” make for two incredibly explosive choruses layered with fantastic sounding vocal harmonies. I have found something to love in almost every one of these songs; the impressive bass performance on “Further Below”, Cory’s gorgeous falsetto vocals on “Infinite Chances”, and the truly epic chorus on “From Moon To Son” are all great highlights. A Lot Like Birds also manages to expertly implement a number of unique instruments and sounds to give each track more of a personality, such as the horns on “No Attention For Solved Puzzles” or the buzzing synths on “Good Soil, Bad Seeds”. There are a few songs that pale in comparison to others, but the band manages to throw more than enough left hooks in their songwriting and instrumentation so that DIVISI stays fresh, engaging and entertaining throughout its entire runtime. I walked away from this record very impressed, primarily because this is the uncompromisingly gorgeous album that I’ve always wanted from A Lot Like Birds. I doubt many fans will be very upset about the lack of heaviness on this record considering the consistency and quality
This Old Dog
Captured Tracks 05.05.17
Mac Demarco is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and fellow Canadian who has just released his third LP This Old Dog. I’ve always admired his songwriting because you always know a Mac Demarco song as soon as you hear it – the man has a particular formula when it comes to creating a vibe. On a typical Mac Demarco record, you will find a batch of blissful, jangly pop-rock/indie tunes accompanied by Mac’s dreamy, laid-back vocals. Mac Demarco’s previous albums are quite enjoyable but usually just sound like a collection of singles, rather than a series of songs that build upon one another in a meaningful way. This Old Dog contrasts Mac’s previous efforts as it is by far his sleepiest and most introspective record so far, and he’s actually trying to write an album instead of a compilation this time around. A lot of the songs on This Old Dog have incredibly potent personalities to them, and the generous incorporation of analog synthesizers as well as the sparing use of drum machines is a big part of that. I love the descending synths that pierce through the mix on “For the First Time”, and the droning notes throughout the bleak “Dreams of Yesterday” that add a bizarrely unique character to the track. This album isn’t all synths though and there are plenty of tracks that sound like the Mac Demarco we all know and love; such as the peppy “One Another”, or the song “Still Beating” where Mac’s vocals trade off with a beautifully smooth guitar line. Speaking of beautiful, “One More Love Song” skips the synths almost entirely and instead features a stunning grand piano performance. It is important to note on this new record that Mac Demarco has matured lyrically as well as instrumentally. The lyrical
concept behind the opener “My Old Man” revolves around Mac realizing that he has become more and more like his estranged father. The album comes to a heartbreaking full circle as Mac explores feelings of sadness and indifference associated with his now dying father on the barren closing track “Watching Him Fade Away”. Pairing this final goodbye with the abrasive wall of spooky guitar sounds on the hulking, penultimate “Moonlight on the River” results in a hauntingly unique ending for a Mac Demarco record. I believe the album flows better when “Baby You’re Out” is excluded, and I find myself consistently skipping that track mainly because it is precedes one of my favorite songs on the album. All things considered though I think this is Mac Demarco’s strongest and most mature album yet and I hope he continues to focus on creating a holistic experience that is as rewarding a listen as This Old Dog. BEST TRACK: “One More Love Song” WORST TRACK: “Baby You’re Out”
6.9 NEW FOUND GLORY Makes Me Sick
New Found Glory is an American poppunk band that has been at it for twenty years now. Over the course of a two decade career, New Found Glory has done very little to change their sugary sweet rock sound, and the band’s ninth studio album Makes Me Sick is no different. Listening to a pop-punk band this out of their prime gave me PTSD flashbacks to blink 182’s abomination of a record last year, but thankfully New Found Glory are a bit more in touch with their roots on Makes Me Sick. I was surprised that the band actually brings the heat at the start of this record; “Party On Apocalypse” has a good bounce to it and “Happy Being Miserable” is a great lead single (sans the lame guitar solo). On the topic of surprises, I certainly wasn’t expecting this album to be as consistent as it is; I can usually pull a few solid tracks from each NFG record, but this time around I found myself
Personally, I think these old-school vibes suit Paramore quite well and vocalist Hayley Williams comes through with a ton of personality on these tracks. I really appreciate that Paramore still sounds like a band on this record; there are great basslines, funky grooves, and catchy guitar licks all over After Laughter, some of which are complimented tastefully with layers of synths, bells, and strings. I love the synth line and lyrical narrative behind “Fake Happy” and the reggae influenced guitars as well as Hayley’s vocal performance on “Caught in the Middle” are undeniably catchy. William’s lyrics are consistently somber and self-deprecating, which makes for a compelling contrast to these sunny, upbeat instrumentals. Excluding the bland closer, Makes Me The line “I just killed off what’s left of Sick has a solid ending; I love the groovy the optimist in me” is a great nod to lead guitar chords in the chorus of “Say It Paramore’s Riot, and the lovely acoustic Don’t Spray It” and the sentimental lyrics ballad “26” seems very reminiscent of the on “Short and Sweet” really make the band’s material on Brand New Eyes. This song live up to its name. I never thought track is clearly a service to the old-school I’d enjoy a New Found Glory record this Paramore fans, and I enjoy the song even deep into their career, especially since if it doesn’t exactly mesh well with the its been fifteen years since the band rest of the album’s instrumental palate. dropped a great project. Although the The song “Pool” has these awesomely tone of the vocals is this album’s Achilles peculiar percussive samples that sound Heel, I still think it’s a solid effort from the almost like wind chimes, and while I love band and likely one of the better popthe groovy verses I do wish this track punk albums to come out this year. and a few others towards the back half of the album presented some stronger BEST TRACK: “Say It Don’t Spray It” choruses. WORST TRACK: “The Cheapest Thrill” enjoying a majority of the album. The tropical flavoured instrumentation on “The Sound of Two Voices” seems very inspired by the album art and is a refreshingly unique centerpiece for the record. I also appreciate that New Found Glory has incorporated more synths and pianos, adding an occasionally cheesy yet enjoyable layer of character to these songs. I do have a love/hate relationship with Jordan Pundik’s vocals on this record mainly because I think he writes good melodies, but his voice sounds so sterile and emotionless. It sounds to me like some sort of lifeless pop-punk robot is whining his way through these tracks rather than an actual human being.
“Idle Worship” is perhaps the most urgent sounding song on the record, but I found the “la-la’s” in the pre-chorus to be quite silly sounding and break the tension that was built so well in the verses. “No Friend” is an instrumental continuation of the previous track and features a very muffled spoken word feature from mewithoutyou vocalist Aaron Weiss. The instrumental from the band is fine, but it may as well be only an instrumental considering I can’t hear 7.4 PARAMORE a single thing Aaron is saying, which basically defeats the purpose of the After Laughter entire song. For me, this album certainly Fueled By Ramen took some warming up to and I’m glad 12.05.17 I stuck with it because there really are some great songs on this album. I don’t After Laughter is the latest record from think After Laughter is Paramore’s best Tennessee pop band Paramore. Over record, but it is colorful, detailed, and the course of their thirteen-year career, very well produced. This new direction Paramore strayed further and further from may turn off some die-hard fans initially, their energetic, emo-tinged sound, which but the core elements of Paramore seem completely turned me off of their last to remain as the band is presenting good self-titled record. However, after hearing choruses, clever lyrics and an overall fun the peppy lead singles “Hard Times” vibe. and “Told You So” I was curious to see if Paramore could nail the pop formula with BEST TRACK: “Caught In The Middle” WORST TRACK: “Forgiveness” After Laughter. This new album is heavily influenced by pop music from the 80’s, synth pop, new wave, and likely bands such as The 1975 who are also bringing these retro sounds back into the mainstream.
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