Best of the Year: trash talk | charlotte gainsbourg nicolas jaar | das racist Yuck | dirty beaches
(and who s next)
and factory floor
Editor-in-Chief / Publisher Andrew Parks, Pop Mart Media firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director / Deputy Editor Aaron Richter (M.R.S.) email@example.com Managing Editor Arye Dworken firstname.lastname@example.org Staff Photographers Shawn Brackbill, Nick Helderman, Travis Huggett, Caroline Mort Contributing Writers Ilirjana Alushaj, Robert Ham, Cassie Marketos, T. Cole Rachel, Luke Turner Contributing Photographers Samantha Casolari, Jessie Craig, Emir Eralp, Michael Flores, Jimmy Fontaine, Jenny Hueston, Kyle Johnson, Silja Magg, Bryan Sheffield, Elizabeth Weinberg, Geordie Wood Advertising, Submissions & Other Inquiries Andrew Parks / self-titled 685 Metropolitan Ave. #1 Brooklyn, NY 11211 718-499-3983 email@example.com
Display through forever—we’re digital, remember? Published by Pop Mart Media. All self-titled content is property of Pop Mart Media. Please do not use without permission. Copyright 2011, Pop Mart Media. —
Azealia Banks cover photography Michael Flores The Men cover photography Jimmy Fontaine Factory Floor cover photography Jessie Craig
Photographer Michael Flores is a West Coast native now living in NYC. Although he misses the Los Angeles sun, beaches and taco trucks, he’s enjoying the subways, streets and falafel of the Big Apple. Michael, who shot Azealia Banks for this issue, contributes to publications such as Spin, Nylon and Flaunt, and while image-making is his first love, he also enjoys baking pie and searching the city for the best late-night sweet treat.
— Michael’s five favorite songs of 2011 Cults, “Go Outside” Kurt Vile, “Jesus Fever” Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Murder to Excellence” Jai Paul, “BTSTU” Lykke Li, “Jerome”
T. Cole Rachel is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. In addition to his cover story on the Men for this issue, his work has appeared in Interview, V, OUT, Numero, Purple and the New York Times Magazine. His books include Surviving the Moment of Impact and Bend, Don’t Shatter. Cole is also a parttime bartender and collector of ceramic cats. Needless to say, he was thrilled when we told him a cat would be featured somewhere in his Men story.
Luke Turner is an editor of The Quietus, and also contributes to The Stool Pigeon, The Guardian, Dazed & Confused, NME, the BBC and National Geographic Traveler. Aside from excessive working hours, Luke—who wrote about Factory Floor for this issue—enjoys being a failure at fishing, attempting to acquire gout through diet and thirst, and various nautical pursuits.
— Five bands Cole is excited about for 2012
The Fall Toy Wise Blood Perc Laurel Halo
Caveman Beige Expensive Looks Lower Dens (sophomore album!) Vorhees
CONTRIBUTORS Icelandic photographer Silja Magg shot Charlotte Gainsbourg for this issue. Silja, who lives and works in New York City, was honored this year by being selected as a part of Photo District News’ prestigious list of 30 new and emerging photographers.
— Silja’s favorite things of 2011 song: Jailbait, “Fresh Young Thang” Album: GusGus, Arabian Horse Movie: Midnight in Paris ST—009
— Five bands Luke is excited about for 2012
My Five Favorite Songs of 2011
350 WORDS OR LESS From the Editor:
The Black Lips, “Mr. Driver” Factory Floor, “Two Different Ways (Original)” John Maus, “Head for the Country” Peaking Lights, “Birds of Paradise (Dub Version)” The Rapture, “How Deep Is Your Love” — Check out more of our top 2011 tracks on spotify
compiling an issue that looks toward the year ahead (as well as recollects the year that’s passed). Of note: Our 14th issue is the first time we’ve The question of “Why not?” came up a lot while turned around a stack of pages in two months, creating this issue—like when a 2 a.m. set from rather than our usual quarterly schedule. If you The Men left a self-titled photographer with dig the idea of self-titled going bi-monthly, please a cracked camera and the rest of us thinking let me know. Either way, we’re proud to present we should really thank the band with a cover three artists who’ll be debated and devoured in story. Or the moment we realized a second cover 2012, right alongside lots of artist-curated Best might be necessary, despite the fact that Azealia of the Year lists and a grip of features, including Banks had yet to released a proper record. (Sure Das Racist reviewing the year’s biggest songs and enough, Banks is now working with Paul Epworth, Gavin Russom (the man behind The Crystal Ark, the producer responsible for Adele’s “Rolling in Black Meteoric Star and James Murphy’s synth the Deep” single and Florence + the Machine’s collection) sharing tales of self-immolation, entire Ceremonials album.) And then two covers twisted magic tricks and stepping into the light. turned into three (or make that five, actually), This is also the first issue of self-titled to feature after DFA dropped Factory Floor’s “Two Different songs streaming on nearly every page. There’s a Ways,” a next-step single big enough for us to lot of music to discover in here, even some stuff send The Quietus co-founder Luke Turner to the we’d never heard of ourselves (thanks, Not Not trio’s London rehearsal space for some answers Fun), so enjoy it! Until next year. about their album on the horizon. These are just some of the reasons why running a digital magazine feels totally liberating— particularly our ability to take genuine risks when Andrew Parks, Editor-in-Chief / Publisher ST—011
Sacred Bones Records 2011 sacredbonesrecords.com
Best of t
featuring trash talk veronica vasicka m jeff the brotherh dirty beaches falty zola jesus woode the rapture canyo soft metals chelse charlotte gainsb nicolas jaar gavi nothings emerald
k yuck ben chasny machinedrum earth hood not not fun ydl peaking lights en shjips liturgy ons emika tom vek ea wolfe das racist bourg the field in russom cloud ds alan howarth
best of the year — albums
Photography aaron richter
Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther Sounds) I’ve been following this band for a while. There’s so much going on in this record. It feels like they completely leapt over the bar. It’s catchy as fuck and blows my mind every time I hear it. It’s crazy to think that we write all these songs that are, like, a minute and a half long, and they are composing these seven-minute jams with a choir and everything.
Juicy J & Lex Luger, Rubba Band Business 2 (self-released mixtape) That’s my party record of the year. When it’s time to push it to the next level, that’s the record you put on, and the whole place goes off. I feel like that’s probably in the top five records that everyone in the band listens to. It’s just the kind of brain-dead stuff that you need sometimes.
MellowHype, BlackenedWhite (Fat Possum) Probably my favorite Odd Future offshoot. Left Brain’s production is just crazy, and Hodgy is my favorite rapper from the group. It’s the kind of music that me and all my friends can rage to.
Whirr, June 7-inch (TeePee) My friend sent me this EP, and it is hard to believe it came out this year. It sounds like it could be 20 years old. It’s this perfect shoegazing, droney record to put on when you go to sleep. It’s great driving music, too. It’s awesome that they put it out on this stoner rock/ metal label.
Joyce Manor, Joyce Manor (6131) This is my favorite punk band that I found out about this year. It feels like early ’90s Weezer mixed with Hot Water Music—just the catchiest punk rock. I was at a house show they did in Long Beach, and there were 250 kids there just screaming every word at the top of their lungs. They are one of those bands that have found their own niche and are just doing it right. ST—016
best of the year — albums
Bill Callahan, Apocalypse (Drag City) He’s always the best. Some of the songs on here are my favorite songs he’s ever made.
Pure X, Pleasure (Acéphale) From start to finish, this album is perfect. It reminds me of Galaxie 500. I love [Nate Grace’s] voice, the lyrics and the mood.
Grouper, Dream Loss and Alien Observer (Yellow Electric) I couldn’t stop listening to these. She’s such an inspiring artist beyond her music, too.
Fanzine’s various songs and EPs We’ve toured with Fanzine over the year, and they keep getting better. Loads of their songs have blown me away. I can’t wait to hear an album.
A Grave with No Name, Lower (Boiled Egg) I loved his first album, Mountain Debris, and this is a really beautiful follow-up. The songs are short, and they alternate between classic melodic, stripped-down moments and brief textural interludes—all memorable and instantly poignant. ST—017
Daniel Blumberg of
From left: Max Bloom, Jonny Rogoff, Mariko Doi, Daniel Blumberg
Photography bryan sheffield
best of the year — albums
ben chasny Photography nick helderman
United Waters, Your First Ever River (Arbitrary Signs) Brian Sullivan from Mouthus released the pop record he’s always had inside him. It sort of sounds like if Mick Fleetwood worked on some field recordings of miners digging for a music box that had a loop of Lindsey Buckingham’s “Trouble” playing so he could smash it to pieces.
Jakob Olausson, Morning & Sunrise (De Stijl) The Swedish King of Robitussin® jams returns. Jakob’s a little more awake on this record than his last one (Moonlight Farm), but he’s still got that syrupy vocal delivery that just kills it. I can’t figure out how he writes songs that are so damn good. It’s pretty rare that music actually makes me feel positive, but this is one of those records that fully delivers on that level.
Carlos Paredes, Movimento Perpétuo / Guitarra Portuguesa reissues (Drag City)
Jessika Kenney & Eyvind Kang, Aestuarium (Editions Mego/Ideologic Organ) Aestuarium is the most beautiful record of the year. It’s a reissue of a CD released back in 2005 and could be the best microtonal, monophonic duo record you’ll hear for quite some time. Eyvind has recorded with a ton of folks, including arrangements for Sunn O))), and Jessika appears on the latest Wolves in the Throne Room album, so you know they aren’t skimping on the heavy, either. ST—019
Paredes plays with lightning ability but has the guts to throw the whole thing into the saddest tunnel of minor chords that few solo guitar players could handle. It’s criminal how unknown he is outside of Portugal. Hopefully these records help fix that a little.
Rafi Bookstaber, Greener Pastures (Humito) Total weirdo and awesome sun-blinded acoustic strumming, with a bit of K-Salvatore or Sun Ra thrown in for good measure. Since Jakob used up all the cough medicine, all this dude had left were whip-its and some brandy left over from last night’s party. And that’s why it sounds so good.
Bruce Gilbert, This Way with the Shivering Man (Editions Mego) One of my favorite albums by former Wire guitarist Bruce Gilbert was reissued this year. It appears to be an abstract, experimental record, but Gilbert’s sensual approach to cold industrial sounds and post-punk reveal themselves.
Sympathy Nervous, Automaticism (Minimal Wave) Recorded from 1979 to 1981, most of Automaticism remained unreleased until now. Yoshihum Niinuma’s influences result in original works characterized by a dystopian eeriness. In the Japan tsunami, Niinuma lost his recordings, his studio and equipment, and, worst of all, his home. Proceeds from this LP go directly to Niinuma.
Steve Summers, Mode for Love (L.I.E.S.) The sound is reminiscent of ’80s Chicago legends Phuture, Mr Fingers and Steve
Poindexter, but it goes beyond nostalgia. “In the Mode for Love” hooks you with its deep, sleazy bass line and creeping melodies, creating the soundtrack for a walk through the crime-ridden, graffiti-laden NYC of 30 years ago.
Karl O’Connor, White Savage Dance (Downwards) White Savage Dance is Karl O’Connor’s early recordings as Sandra Electronics, which have the rawness and immediacy of punk, the repetition of triggered analog electronics, and are intensely dark, drone-like and brooding.
Various Artists, Danza Meccanica: Italian Synth Wave 1981–1987 (Mannequin) Some highlights are “Way of Life” by Sons of Science and “Harry Batasuna” by Musumeci. The latter is a timeless, arpeggiated, hard-edged proto-industrial track, and Sons 0f Science [is] along the lines of what Oppenheimer Analysis would sound like if they’d been Italian.
Photography emir eralp
Veronica Vasicka of
minimal wave ST—020
best of the year — albums
m ach i n d r u Africa Hitech, 93 Million Miles (Warp) When I first heard Africa Hitech’s “Blen” in early 2010, I got really excited and anxiously awaited whatever was coming next. There was something about the use of African-inspired polyrhythms that appealed to me, due to my years in a percussion ensemble. I anticipated something game-changing, and they really came through with this one. Every tune speaks to me in a different yet unifying way. ST—021
Chelsea Wolfe, Apokalypsis (Pendu Sound) It’s refreshing to hear someone still making music like Chelsea, a nice blend of stuff I grew up on. It’s as if Sonic Youth started a goth-rock band with PJ Harvey. When Apokalypsis came out, it was cool to hear well-executed higher production values. Typically when a lo-fi artist goes hi-fi, it yields mixed results, but this album did not falter. There’s something soothing yet incredibly haunting about Apokalypsis.
such an insanely technical yet fun approach to playing the bass. “Is It Love?” is probably one of my favorite songs from this year. It’s infectious melody and pop structure combined with complex chord changes and phrasing keep it on repeat on my iPod. The album itself is like a story, replaying the ThunderCats theme that plays in the intro in different songs.
Various Artists, Bangs & Works 2 (Planet Mu)
Photography caroline mort
Thundercat, Golden Age of the Apocalypse (Brainfeeder) Continuing with the apocalypse theme, Thundercat comes through with an album different than anything that came out this year. Golden Age is an refreshing modern jazz/ fusion record that harkens back to ’70s-era Jaco Pastorious, Herbie Hancock and even Stevie Wonder, at times. The production from Flying Lotus places it nicely in a 21st century context without sounding forced. Thundercat has
I’ve been fascinated with the Chicago juke/ footwork scene for years. There’s something about the rawness of it that is undeniable. It’s a new sound to the rest of the world, but the scene has existed in Chicago since the late ’90s. The reason it’s taken so long for the rest of the world to catch on is the fact that the music isn’t made for clubs or home listening; it’s purely a tool for dance crews in Chicago. The producers seem like they couldn’t care less what everyone else thinks about their music, as they’re just making it for the “circle.” Bangs & Works 2 is Planet Mu’s carefully handpicked selections of the most forward-thinking footwork tunes from today.
John Maus, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (Ribbon Music) I used to be obsessed with Ariel Pink six years ago. His songwriting was very freeform and playful, yet had a haunting effect. Soon after discovering Ariel, one of my friends told me I should listen to John Maus, who was playing in Ariel’s live band at the time. I was instantly hooked. His use of lyrical repetition and his perfect blend of humor with an otherwise very melancholic sound made me want to follow everything he did. It’s like watching a dark comedy. Every album is sonically consistent and doesn’t really deviate from his previous work without it sounding “same-y.” We Must Become... is no exception. All of the songs are well-crafted and perfect for either rainy days or moments of needed motivation. ST—022
best of the year — albums
Photography kyle johnson
Dylan Carlson of
“I hope there’s good music on the other side, or wherever it is I’m headed.” My year-end list is rather short in the record department. There are only three, and one is a reissue from 1971. Non-musical highlights are mostly books, a DMT experience, and the cities Newcastle; Helsinki; Mexico City; and Cullman, Alabama. I guess I will get to the records:
Sandy Denny, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (A&M) I missed out on the huge Sandy Denny box set last year, so I had to make do with this reissue. It contains my favorite version of “Blackwaterside”—the one with the awesome accordion drone and the distorted tremolo guitar of Richard Thompson. It’s my favorite guitar sound ever—what Strats should sound like. The cover was done by the artist who did the first Sabbath record and Zeppelin’s Four Symbols/ IV, or whatever they’re calling it these days. The other songs are her more melancholic, pianooriented, invoke-the-spirit-of-water stuff. Perfect for when I am wallowing in Piscean despair or having a quiet gray morning.
The Smoke Fairies, Through Low Light and Trees (Year Seven) Had the pleasure of seeing them live this year; the only unfortunate aspect being that they were opening for those cod-corseted cello chumps Rasputina. The song “Summer Fades” is on almost constant rotation as I waft myself to sleep on the wings of my headphones. “Devil in My Mind” invokes the real London and mirrors the
way I feel every time I play [it]. I also love the piano-oriented song “Dragon”—brutal in all the best and most seductive ways.
The Unthanks, Last (Rough Trade) I love these sisters’ Northumbrian accents and their choice of material. Last is the perfect soundtrack for 2012, if it is really going to be the end of the world. They are the only band that I have heard that has a drummer as slow and expressive as Adrienne [Davies] is in Earth. They cover one of my favorite King Crimson songs, “Starless”—one of my favorite songs, period. “Canny Hobby Elliot” should have been a hit, seeing as it reflected the eternal state of rich douche bags and maids (Conan Schwarzenegger, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Berlusconi, etc.). “Gan to the Kye,” “The Gallowgate Lad” and “Close the Coal House Door” are also some of the bleakest songs I’ve ever heard. “Close the Coal House Door” is of particular appeal to me since the Scottish side of my family was coal miners. (My great grandfather was killed in a mine at 35 in 1933.) Well, I hope next year is beautiful and bountiful for all of you, and that the rich and powerful hiding their wealth in Dubai receive vicious beatings at the hands of the rest of us. And if Dec. 21 is really the end of the world, it has been fun, and I hope there is some good music on the other side or wherever it is I’m headed (Elfhame, Under the Brugh, the Other Lands, Agrace, Fields of the Blessed, the Highway to Hell, Perdition, the Abyss, Hyperspace, DMT/DPT dimensions, etc.). ST—024
best of the year — albums
Jake Orrall of
JEFF the Br
Photography aaron richter
Destroyer, Kaputt (Merge) I haven’t gotten sick of this album yet, even though I hear it constantly everywhere. I think that’s probably just because it’s so good. It’s got a real fresh sound, and I really like all the sexy sax.
Colleen Green, Cujo (Art Fag Recordings) I don’t know when this is actually coming out, but I think it’s genius. Super-grungy power pop with great melodies and harmonies, and her voice is awesome.
Com Truise, Galactic Melt (Ghostly International) I don’t normally go for this kinda stuff, but I love all the
vintage sounds. I can’t really think of any appropriate time to listen to this album, though, besides driving on the highway through Tokyo or, I guess, just laying in bed alone.
Dam-Funk, Adolescent Funk (Stones Throw) This is a comp of early recordings. I have to get everything this dude puts out because it’s all genius, and honestly, he’s one of the best performers I’ve ever seen live.
Puro Instinct, Headbangers in Ecstasy (Mexican Summer) I’ve been diggin’ hard on all this dreamy, synthy pop shit lately. Really good production on this record, though a bit confusing at times. I think the confusion works. It messes with your head.
best of the year — labels
not not fun Kosmisk Vag Scandinavia in general seems predisposed toward healthily hermetic creative methods (maybe something to do with the long lightless seasons), but Sweden in particular just breeds great occult-skewed electronicists. There’s a long legacy of great Swedish labels, but right now Kosmisk Vag is a heavy fave. Run by Andreas Malm and Henrik Wallin of the amazing minimal ST—027
pulse duo Skeppet, the label has put out 18 releases—all tapes. The art is thoughtful, varied and printed on interesting paper stocks, and the roster is weird and ragged, just like we like it. Highlights include gems by Sand Circles, Body Awareness, Innercity, Foxy Music, etc., but there hasn’t been a dud so far, which is a real miracle. More, more, more, please.
Photography bryan sheffield
Brunch Groupe There’s a bit of a personal bias in this selection since label head Peter Berend’s solo UFOlounge project, KWJAZ, has released a record on Not Not Fun, but too bad. His cassette-only San Fran imprint specializes in excellent ghostzone ambient projects and tape-warped tonal/ electronic hybrids, releasing EPs and long-forms by Radiant Husk, KWJAZ, Rangers and Invisible Path. Each tape is artfully constructed, and usually Peter is able to siphon the most deepfocus entry in an artist’s discography, which is a testament to the specificity of his ears.
L.I.E.S. As far as awesome curatorial underground dance labels go, L.I.E.S. (an acronym for Long Island Electrical Systems) is right up there with Future Times as a peak aesthetic universe fully worth supporting and believing in. Run by Ron Morelli (who also releases music as Two Dogs in a House), L.I.E.S. has put out great 12-inch singles by crucial hypno-house/synth figureheads like Legowelt, Steve Moore, Maxmillion Dunbar, Malvoeaux, Willie Burns and more—all in blank sleeves. The degree of “chilledness” versus dancefloor readiness varies pretty widely, but that’s part of what keeps this imprint dynamic and unusual.
Future Times Everything on this astutely curated, inner circle–style dance 12-inch label from DC has been excellent. Best known for feel-good summergroove group Beautiful Swimmers, Future Times also put out EPs by Maxmillion Dunbar, Rhythm Based Lovers and Protect-U, all of which capture that magic hybrid between sideways hypnotic electronics and legit art-house house jams.
Joachim Nordwall’s iDEAL label has been around since ’98, mainly focusing on heavy experimental and noise (lots of stuff by Wolf Eyes, Prurient, Kevin Drumm and Nordwall’s own band, the Skull Defekts). But 2011 saw the label leaving some of that male harshness behind in favor of more hybridized/less definable bizarro projects like Dungeon Acid, the Magic State and its sister group, Ectoplasm Girls, which gave the label (and the Gothenburg scene in general) a much needed injection of true weirdness and unpredictability. — Check out Not Not Fun’s favorite albums from these labels, and hear an exclusive mixtape of Not Not Fun artists. ST—028
best of the year — stuff favorite film:
This one really hit home for me. Loved all the night-driving sequences.
best late-night eatery:
Duffin’s Donuts (Vancouver)
Twenty-four-hour donuts, Mexican, Chinese, fried chicken, bubble tea, milk shakes, burgers, cigarettes—what more can you ask for in life?
Located in a beautiful old Portuguese neighborhood, this building (from the 1800s) is run by artists, and they’ve worked out a rentfree agreement with the government under the condition that they maintain and put work into the building. It is preserved beautifully and hosts a three-floor gallery, a rooftop terrace, two bars and a venue for shows, with an eclectic choice from Lee Ranaldo to Swans to U.S. Girls. It also hosts artist-residency programs. I’m gonna apply next year.
Making Time @ Voyeur (Philadelphia)
Club Social (Montreal) After being to Italy, I’m convinced that when it comes to food and coffee, the Italians do it better. Not only is the coffee amazing here, it is run by four Italian brothers in a nice neighborhood with an amazing location: close to Jewish bagels, a Portuguese chicken rotisserie and a Polish eatery.
We played to a packed three-floor gay club that had a open bar until 10 p.m. on a Friday night. Needless to say, everyone there was shit-faced. Anika played an amazing set with her band, and Factory Floor melted my face off during their set. Great crowd. Great staff. Then we went to WAWA and got some hoagies. Great night.
dirty beaches Photography aaron richter ST—029
The first half of the year was all about techno LPs for me, and 2562 made me feel loved with an album of both subtle moments and harsh chaotic movements of chance. What I mean is, I don’t think he rolled a dice in this production, but there is a rawness to the samples that really chimes with my day. It’s fucking lush.
Photography aaron richter
F A L T Y D L
2562, Fever (When in Doubt)
Cosmin TRG, Simulat (50 Weapons) There is voodoo in Cosmin’s bass. I play these tracks out, and the bass knob is at 10 o’clock; never at midnight. I played at a festival in Pittsburgh and pushed the entire audience back 10 feet in a second. The magic in this album is undefinable.
Kuedo, Severant (Planet Mu) Severant is an incredible look into the mind of an artist. Where an LP is often just a collection of tracks, this plays like a snapshot of his life over the past few years. I wish I could delve into my psyche half as much as this; it’s so honest.
Machinedrum, Room(s) (Planet Mu) Travis Stewart has been making electronic music since most of us were in diapers, and he is not as old as many of us. You figure it out. He seems to just rinse any genre or style with such ease. He can do nasty while sounding sleek and sweet. I need to really harsh up the
vibes and distort my samples to sound aggressive. Machinedrum can sneak in your back door as polite as possible and wreck your living room with his sexy smile. Dope.
Sepalcure, Sepalcure (Hotflush) I played for Sepalcure at a party two years ago and was on the dance floor with Travis [Stewart] as Praveen [Sharma] dropped one of their first collaborations. He said, “Oh, shit, this is a new one by us.” The fact that I remember that now says something. If you know me and my shitty recollection, then that is indeed amazing. I’m in awe. These guys make it sound easy. ST—030
best of the year — crate-digging finds
Aaron Coyes of
peaking l Len Boatman, “The Land of Milk and Honey” / “The Lighthouse” (Deep Sea, 1971)
A deep downer 45, it’s one-of-a-kind outsider folk from Gary, Indiana. The only information I’ve found on this is a press release in BMI magazine from 1971, where Boatman announces he’s going to start his own label.
New World, “We’re Gonna Make It” (Polydor, 1973) A rare, good ’70s funk tune. There’s a real [Curtis] Mayfield feel to it, with killer hand percussion.
Julian Bahula, Sons of the Soil (Tsafrika, 1982) An awesome jazz LP from South Africa—all the tracks are tight, smooth groovers. I found out about this from a mixtape.
Raymond Samuel, Unknown LP A Syrian disco LP from the early ’80s—far-out rhythms, super groovy.
Mississippi Nightingales, Mississippi Nightingales (Hub City, 1974) Excellent gospel! Killer cover! All deep cuts; all totally heartfelt. I think it’s pretty obscure, but not an impossible find. ST—031
Photography caroline mort
Photography Bryan sheffield
The top five movies Zola Jesus watched this year
1. Wise Blood (1979) This movie opened my eyes to Brad Dourif’s genius.
2. The Skin I Live In (2011) The only new movie on this list, but I left the cinema feeling rather proud of 2011 and of [director Pedro] Almodóvar. 3. World on a Wire (1973) [Rainer Werner] Fassbinder’s epic take on sci-fi. Clunky in places but well worth the three and a half hours. 4. Valley of the Bees (1968) Even though it was made from the leftovers of Marketa Lazarová, it definitely stands on its own two legs. 5. Hider in the House (1989) I’d like to think this is a documentary and Gary Busey really was living inside this family’s house. ST—032
best of the year — reissues
ripley johnson of Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips
Photography kyle johnson
Erkin Koray, Mechul: Singles and Rarities (Sublime Frequencies) One of my favorite guitarists. Culled from Koray’s own stash of rare vinyl, it’s a perfect introduction for the uninitiated.
Shin Joong Hyun, Beautiful Rivers and Mountains (Light in the Attic) Shin Joong Hyun seems to have had his hand in nearly every good rock record out of Korea. This touches on the different aspects of his early career and is just the tip of the iceberg. I’d love a collection of just the epic psych jams.
Jim Ford, Harlan County (Light in the Attic) When I come across someone like Jim Ford, it’s like discovering an author whose characters inhabit a very personal universe. It’s a little funky, kind of country, with a bit of soul and not really of any particular genre.
Kourosh Yaghmaei, Back from the Brink (Now-Again) We went to the record release for this in L.A., not knowing the man or music at all. It was at a fancy restaurant, and we drank too many strong cherry gin cocktails in the middle of the afternoon—a strange, perhaps perfect, introduction to an artist that blends nearly every rock/pop style of the ’60s and ’70s with Iranian musical elements.
Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (Sony) It took me a while to find a way into the albums of Miles Davis’ “second great quintet”: Miles Smiles, E.S.P., Sorcerer, Nefertiti. So it’s wonderful to have more live material from this era, to hear the young legends (Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams) work out the newer material and Miles classics. ST—034
best of the year â€” stuff
Photography aaron richter
Hunter HuntHendrix of
Ryan Trecartin’s Any Ever exhibition at PS1 He deserves all the hype, and then some. His work is truly game-changing in a way that makes me feel optimistic about the future of human culture. I’ve never experienced such a pure, concise instance of expression/creation/reality.
Photography shawn brackbill
Krallice, Diotima (Profound Lore) Krallice is the best band around. This record didn’t hit me as immediately as Dimensional Bleedthrough, but the weird rhizomatic way the record has grown on me resembles the twining and wrapping of the riffs themselves.
Chelsea Wolfe, Apokalypsis (Pendu Sound) Chelsea’s music is haunting in a way that is both otherworldly and personal. Plus, her earnestness and lack of pretension are two features one does not often find in musicians these days.
Graham Harman’s The Quadruple Object What I admire most about Graham Harman is his courage. It’s great to see an American making a genuine, original contribution to the continental tradition, building a metaphysical system. People have been excited about speculative realism for a few years now, but of the people associated (or formerly associated) with that movement, Harman is the most original—the least indebted to Deleuze, Badiou and so on. His system is both elegant and bold, devoid of any obscurantism or bells and whistles.
Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life Hard to know what to say about this movie. There’s a scene where a velociraptor or something steps lightly on the head of a baby dinosaur of a different species, without harming it, and then walks away. Probably one of my favorite cinematic moments ever.
My favorite books I read this year, by The Rapture’s Gabriel Andruzzi The Telling, by Ursula Le Guin An anthropological Taoist fantasy set in an ultrahygienic capitalist police state. Yup, I said it. Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teaching, by A.G. Mohan I’m always curious to see how people learn and teach, even more so when the subject is something close to my heart. Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl, by Daniel Pinkwater Even though you can only find Pinkwater’s books in the children’s/young-adult section, I still read and reread his work. Shame the Devil, by George Pelecanos His characters and tales of a noir District of Columbia and suburban Maryland got me hooked. It helps that these stories are set where I grew up. The Music Is Here, Right Now: The Story of Jimmy and the Chicks, by Steven Hurwitz I don’t read many music books, but this covers the fall, the rise, the second fall and then the inevitable ascension of one of the world’s greatest bands. ST—036
best of the year — DJ staples
Photography Carine Thevenau
Leo Thompson of
canyons Chicago Damn, “Hold On”
This record came out last year on Mark E’s label, Merc. “Hold On” is the jam. It’s really understated but at the same time seriously heavy. What’s cool about it, too, is it’s hard to distinguish exactly what’s going on musically; ST—037
everything sort of melts together, which is kind of unique for a house track.
Mick, “Macho Brother” This came out on DJ Nozaki’s new label, 10 Inches of Pleasure. Such a great tune—one of
Doug Hream Blunt, “Gentle Persuasion” This is some crazy music! Not sure of the exact original release date—according to an online interview, he recorded it sometime in the ’90s—but thankfully it was reissued at the start of this year. “Gentle Persuasion” instantly captivated me with its deep, repetitive groove and the combination of crappy keyboard sounds and scrappy guitar solos. The fact that it’s hard to place when this record was made just makes it more awesome. It kind of sounds like it’s from the mid-’80s. If it was released tomorrow, it would still blow your mind.
Tumblack, Tumblack LP A mind-bending combination of percussion, phased drums and chanting. Although I don’t condone the act of bootlegging, I did purchase a bootleg of this album because I can’t afford the original. (Not that the money from an original would get back to the artist anyway.) Pretty much all the members of Voyage and Arpadys played on this record, along with a bunch of other crazy musicians like Wally Badarou, so you’ve got a pretty good idea the music is going to be heavy. And if people can’t dance to this, then you know something is wrong (with them).
Ted Lucas, Ted Lucas (The Om Record) LP This could possibly go down as one of my alltime favorite records. Reissued by Sebastian Speaks, Ted’s music has a haunting and melancholy mood, while at the same time manages to be totally positive and happy. His voice has such an incredible timbre, and his lyrics are really touching and easy to connect with. If I’m in a mood I don’t want to be in, this album will pretty much always set things right.
Photography Chris Leung
those records that people often come up and ask about while it’s playing. That’s the way we found out about it, and many people have since then.
Emika’s top five favorite songs of 2011 1. Photek, “Sleepwalking (FaltyDL Remix)” Amazingly cool hi-hats, a totally awesome vibe, decent lyrics and a sexy groove. I am addicted to this tune and go back to it again and again. 2. Tommy Four Seven, “Armed 3” This is from another universe. Nothing compares. 3. Marcel Dettmann, “Translation Two” Marcel is my muse; I love the energy in his music. 4. DVS1, “Evolve” DVS1 is one of my favorite techno artists. He is freespirited, soulful, deep and always playful. 5. Soundhack, “Vintage” This track is so fucking brilliant! It is a record that makes me green-eyed jealous. ST—038
best of the year â€” songs
m k Photography Jenny Hueston
Lana Del Ray, “Video Games” I don’t understand the attraction of computer games. I remember when HMV’s Oxford Street store [put] DVDs and games on the ground floor and music in the basement, and I thought that was some kind of sign at the time.
Blood Orange, “Champagne Coast” Dev [Hynes] and I were briefly in a band in 2006 called Naked Babes. We had songs called “Iron Not Irony” and “Centurion Hard On.” It was around the time I was getting my MySpace CSS hacking down to an art, and I remember having to make a repeating background out of an illustration of pubic-hair stubble.
Bombay Bicycle Club, “Shuffle” Hours after Steve Jobs’ death, some journalist in The Times had written a column about how all the Apple products he’s owned have developed faults, including his iPod nano, which would “randomly change tracks if dropped.” It made me think, if you are too stupid to realize that it has a “shake to shuffle” feature, then you don’t deserve to experience their pioneering product design. Plus, you are a total asshole.
Teeth, “Flowers” The Philips Sonicare Airfloss HX8111 utilizes microburst technology to apply a quick burst of pressurized air and micro-water droplets to clean deep between teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. It removes up to 99 percent more plaque between teeth than brushing with a manual toothbrush alone.
Cookies, “1,000 Breakfasts with You” Internet advertising is at another level these days. If I click an ad of something I like, then every page is covered in images of this product. And the thing is, I already own the product, so I feel no advertising pressure. I had this premonition the other day that ATMs will start blasting you with a personalized ad right at the point of you grabbing your cash. Then again, I guess [digital] payments are the future. Maybe that means that all muggers have to do is brush against you in the street to clean you out. ST—040
best of the year — songs
Xeno & Oaklander, “Italy” Patricia Hall: I love the way the arpeggios jump vast spaces across the keyboard in a complex and happy melody. The slightest bit of portamento here and there is such a nice touch. The noisy synth swells and the danceable bass line tastefully bring together two important elements of electronic music that I love—the combined use of sequencers and live playing, man and machine. This song seems different than their others. The sonic palette and production comes off a bit more contemporary, but it’s still their sound.
HTRK, “Synthetic” Hall: This song is beautiful, sexual, masochistic and androgynous. The music and vocals have a dreamy effect that bring to mind the feeling of relief you get after you’ve been crying into your pillow for hours to the point of exhaustion, mixed with extreme sexual tension ending in selfabuse, and the physical feeling of having swum for hours in an overly chlorinated pool.
Bronze, “Wits” Hall: The soft, warm buzz of the analog synths is pleasantly hypnotic, enthralling. The vocals soar intently and solemnly in a purple haze, much like those of Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane more than 40 years ago.
Jeff & Jane Hudson, “Pound, Pound” Ian Hicks: The noisy guitars, driving 808 rhythm and male/female vocals of “Pound, Pound” combine into a catchy, forward-thinking track from my favorite reissue of 2011 [Flesh]. Listening to the album mentally transports me to the ’80s—Liquid Sky–era NYC.
Steve Moore, “Zero-Point Field” Hicks: An interesting flirt with dance music not usually heard from Steve Moore. The characteristic evolving horror-soundtrack textures are still present, but there’s more motion due to the four-to-the-floor rhythm. The sound is colder and more futuristic than his other work.
Photography caroline mort
soft metals ST—041
Photography samantha casolari
c h e l s e a w o l f e for driving:
Ty Segall, “California Commercial” I liked driving around San Francisco to Ty’s album [Goodbye Bread]. It puts me in a chill mood and reminds me of listening to David Bowie.
Water Borders, “Feasting on Mongeese” This is something someone like me can dance to, with the right feeling and timing. Usually I can only dance to, like, Tricky or Fela Kuti.
Wolves in the Throne Room, “Thuja Magus Imperium” It could be the score to a Game of Thrones episode. I hold TV as a luxury since I don’t have one myself, but I love it, and I think there are a
lot of really great shows around right now— Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy, Parks and Recreation. Oh, and I love Metalocalypse.
Trash Talk, “Awake” [Frontman] Lee [Spielman’s] voice is so sweet. This [Awake] EP always ends up on the record player when I have people over. I saw Trash Talk at CMJ in New York and thought I could hang up front by the stage, but in, like, 20 seconds shit got crazy, and Lee got dropped on my head, and someone threw beer in my face. But they rule.
The Chemical Brothers, “Container Park” from the film Hanna This movie and soundtrack are beautiful, and this song has a lot of my favorite elements to it. ST—042
best of the year â€” songs Interview Ilirjana Alushaj Photography elizabeth weinberg
The Brookyn trio reviews 25 of 2011’s most talked-about songs. 1. Kreayshawn, “Gucci Gucci” dapwell:
lot’s happened since the last time self-titled spent an afternoon with Das Racist, exploring the Queens neighborhood where MC Heems and hypeman Dapwell grew up. For one thing, the Brooklyn trio—rounded out by Kool A.D., possibly the only rapper we’ve ever seen rocking a pair of Zubaz pants—finally released its first proper album, Relax, a record that rightfully earned the group a Spin cover and the tagline “hip-hop’s smartest smartasses.” Relax has also kept Das Racist on the road for the past few months. So rather than grill them about their role in underground rap or what it was like working with members of Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer and El-P, we asked the group about 25 of 2011’s most talked-about tracks.
I like this song. It’s awesome. I heard she got the beat off Twitter. heems: That dude who made the beat is from Staten Island. dapwell: I also heard from potentially reliable sources that all the lyrics were ghostwritten—not that I care, or that it matters. kool a.d.: I just ran into this dude that I went to high school with, at that titty bar in Portland. Remember that guy, Sean? He used to kick it with Kreayshawn. I guess she went to Island High with a few friends. dapwell: Is that the last resort high school? kool a.d.: Yeah, when you fuck up, you go to Island High. Oh, and we first heard that song in Switzerland, too. That’s important to know.
2. A$AP Rocky, “Palace” heems: Rocky is a good dude. We have the same engineer—our boy who me and Dap have known since high school. I would be in the studio with him, and Rocky would roll up at 2, 10 deep. dapwell: When you were recording your irrelevant music? heems: When I was making my solo shit no one is gonna hear. kool a.d.: Same exact thing for me, too. Both on separate days. heems: Making our bad shit separately.
4. The Weeknd, “House of Balloons” heems:
From probably my favorite album of the year. dapwell: I like this song, but one thing that fucked me up is that I thought he produced all this shit. I withheld my judgement, and then I found out all he did was the vocals. Fuck that guy. heems: I met this kid in Toronto once when we played there. dapwell: R&B is for women, and rap is for men and women. kool a.d.: Nah, rap is for men. dapwell: I am tired of going to parties with women there listening to Wu-Tang, singing the words to each other. kool a.d.: This is probably the only new record that I listened to more than once and liked that isn’t a friend of mine. heems: This is creepy music. I like it. He played the “Rainbow in the Dark” video on the computer as I was talking to him, I think to be like, “Who is this dude?” It was just him and 15 kids in this crib. kool a.d.: I think I was asleep, as well as when y’all was onstage. Missed three calls.
5. Terius Nash, “Wedding Crasher” dapwell:
3. Azealia Banks, “212” kool a.d.:
Oh, shit, is this the video with the boxer? heems: Yeah, this is cool. dapwell: When I am driving my brand new Scion. kool a.d.: She kinda sounds like Bart Simpson. So does Kreayshawn, actually. The first lesbian rapper was Bart Simpson. heems: That’s a cool song. She is from New York; that’s cool. dapwell: Cool, dope. ST—045
I think this dude is a great musician. When I listen to this, it doesn’t hit anything. It doesn’t resonate. heems: I like this song. It’s cool. dapwell: He dresses like a dude who isn’t fat. I love that.
6. Drake, “Lord Knows” kool a.d.: When
is he gonna do the ahhh? He doesn’t do that in this song. dapwell: I don’t really like large sweeping songs ’cause I am a dude. Not that I can’t feel things larger than what happens outside of my everyday heems:
life. Drake’s verse is too long. kool a.d.: There are two, right? dapwell: Nah, just one long-ass one. That album is big. kool a.d.: Like a big movie. dapwell: A big, bad movie. kool a.d.: It’s like Conan and the Barbarian in 3D. Actually, it is kinda like Drive—the black Drive. dapwell: Half-black Drive. kool a.d.: No, three-quarters black Drive if you tally it up. Actually, wait... dapwell: Whatever, Drake sucks.
Frank Ocean, “Novacane” dapwell: This
song is mad awesome. kool a.d.: This is R&B, Dap. dapwell: I never put the track on at home, but if it played on the radio, I would be like, “Oh, I am not annoyed.” At least it’s not Drake. heems: I like this song, and I like that song “Thinking About You.” He is good at writing songs. kool a.d.: Cocaine for breakfast? Yikes. heems: Yeah, that is a great line. dapwell: That shit is dope. heems: The best moment in this feature is that “yikes.” A bit more of that. kool a.d.: Also, who would sing the word bong?
it does sound familar. It would be probably cool if I still smoked weed.
11. Youth Lagoon, “Cannons” heems:
Outta rap. It was nice enough. heems: Pleasant song. dapwell: Wasn’t bad. dapwell:
12. King Krule, “Portrait in Black and Blue” dapwell: This
shit is bad. kool a.d.: I heard a song of his I liked. dapwell: This shit is dope. kool a.d.: Like a Slick Rick kinda thing. If Ariel Pink was Slick Rick—so, better than Drake. Second worst song ever, I think.
Tyler, the Creator, “Yonkers” dapwell: This
song is incredible. That’s it.
Childish Gambino, “Bonfire” heems:
This is good and very fun. kool a.d.: I really like Donald [Glover’s] performances in Community. dapwell: I hope this shit takes off because that shit got cancelled. heems: I saw a clip of him rapping on TV. dapwell: He is a good guy. heems: He is super talented, too.
Zomby, “Things Fall Apart” kool a.d.:
Dubstep [laughs]. heems: Oh, this is with Panda Bear, too. dapwell: I did listen to this album once, and I was somewhat disappointed. Is he the hidden dude? But as far as this song, I don’t like this song. kool a.d.: This part sounds familiar. Mini Korg? ST—046
“First lesbian rapper was Bart Simpson.” 13. The Rapture, “How Deep Is Your Love?”
17. James Blake, “Wilhelms Scream”
If I was drunk at night and that shit was on, I’d be feeling it. I’d be putting down quite a bit of stuff. The Rapture is quite useful music. heems: Like in 2004, we’d be listening to “House of Jealous Lovers” on repeat. kool a.d.: Useful music? That is a hella legit word. Sorta like the Tyondai Jackson of hanging out.
14. M83, “Midnight City” dapwell: Yeah! This
shit is so cool! Satisfies! And he is a Latino fellow, isn’t he? heems: Like our tour manager Florian Felix. But this song is awesome. kool a.d.: How would you describe that hook? dapwell: A shrill synth, I would say. heems: It is the Korg Shrieker. The Shrieker 3.
15. Iceage, “White Rune” kool a.d.: They
are from Holland? It is blood music. dapwell: Like a good version of that type of music, which I would never listen to. heems: I’d go see them live. dapwell: Shout out to Joe Fink. I used to be in band with him till my dad made me quit. He used to bang the microphone on his head and roll around in glass. He fixes cars with his dad now. With his head. heems:
16. Fucked Up, “Queen of Hearts” kool a.d.:
Kinda like classic rock ’n’ roll. It’s a really happy-go-lucky guitar tone. It is too clean and clear. kool a.d.: As far as token hardcore bands, I’d fuck with Trash Talk more. dapwell:
is this, D’Angelo? kool a.d.: This a dude? dapwell: I don’t like this shit. kool a.d.: I like that song where he talks about not talking to his sister. That is a tearjerker. dapwell: Yeah, that is a good one. heems: Experimental. I like how he is playing with sound. dapwell: His EPs were amazing, but this record kinda bored me, and when I see him live, I think it is equally as boring. kool a.d.: It’d be cool to watch him if you were sitting at a table with a bottle of wine. dapwell: Honestly, I wanna see an old black dude playing. You seen this guy? Pretty little white dude. kool a.d.: He could do a club circuit. dapwell: People got so excited to see him play, but I don’t get it. heems: I think it is interesting because he is on Universal Republic. kool a.d.: What does that mean? heems: ’Cause he is on a big major label making more experimental stuff.
18. Bon Iver, “Calgary” dapwell:
Never heard his music. I think I’ve heard this song before. Falsetto. Prince does a good falsetto, but used only sometimes. dapwell: Because he has content. kool a.d.: James Blake does a falsetto all right. heems: This is very beautiful, but enough already. kool a.d.: If a girl put this on to have sex, it would be, like, really? kool a.d.:
19. Real Estate, “Green Aisles” heems:
I like rap music, but I saw them play. They’re nice boys, and this is nice. dapwell: It’s good in that ’90s music style. heems: Extremely pleasant.
20. Girls, “Honey Bunny” dapwell:
“Hellhole Ratrace” is a good song. kool a.d.: I like how this record has a few hella different songs next to each other. There is almost a Sabbath-y one. dapwell: Really? kool a.d.: Yeah. heems: Fun music. dapwell: I find it very hilarious, like he looked at his boy and said let’s make a song like this. And then made it.
21. Zola Jesus, “Vessel” dapwell: That
[my former band] Boy Crisis. two are the best. kool a.d.: Then he fell the fuck off. dapwell: Those
23. John Maus, “Believer” heems:
I like this song. He sings like this all the time? This is awesome. heems: That is a certified banger. kool a.d.: Certified. dapwell:
24. Ford & Lopatin, “Emergency Room” heems:
I did a verse for this album. There was a plot I didn’t fully understand for the album: about a boy...something like War Games, the video game. Anyways, this shit is dope.
25. Lana Del Rey, “Video Games”
blonde chick? Everyone who has heems: This is Lana Del Rey? Wish you had seen her whose taste I trust says I should see her. Cass McCombs on this list. I’ve always wanted Awesome. I like it. I will probably, in two minutes, to hear him. download it on the other computer. dapwell: Oh, that is a dude? But this shit? This shit sucks. And I am not just saying that. I heard 22. St. Vincent, “Surgeon” someone playing it before I even read about her. kool a.d.: I’ve been surprised; a few times I’ve And I was like, “What is this shit?” Ugh, this song heard a song I liked and found out it was her. sucks so bad. I hate this feeling. heems: Never heard her music before. heems: That song was created in a future world. dapwell: I don’t like orchestral arrangements. dapwell: Where everything sucks. heems: I like that type of shit. heems: That is fake, plastic and manufactured. dapwell: She is on some super-music shit. kool a.d.: When I first heard her, I thought she kool a.d.: Yo, this song is like that James Bond played music like Amy Winehouse. song “You Only Live Twice.” heems: Wish you played Cass McCombs. dapwell: Whatever happened to Martina Topleykool a.d.: But I guess she makes something Bird? different. kool a.d.: Shit, yeah. Whatever happened to dapwell: It’s cracker, white, dumb, fake nostalgia Tricky? throwback shit. It’s kinda like, “What do you dapwell: Oh, man. think about me punching you in your intellect?” kool a.d.: Bummed out he’s not Matthew Barney! kool a.d.: She’s a’ight. She has a cute, flirty way dapwell: Tricky is awesome. about her. She’s playing dumb. kool a.d.: Tricky’s great. The dude that codapwell: I want to stick “contrived garbage” in produced Tricky’s first few albums co-produced there, too. //
“Whatever, Drake sucks.” ST—050
best of the year
THE SELF-TITLED INTERVIEW
charlotte gainsbourg Words cassie marketos Photography silja magg
harlotte Gainsbourg enters the room to a collective intake of breath. Towering and effortlessly composed, she seems built from elegant steel, an impression in no way belied by her polite, soft-spoken manner. Through numerous gritty film roles—her unhinged housewife in Antichrist still gives us nightmares— and high-profile musical collaborations (Air, Beck, Madonna), the 40-year-old daughter of French singer Serge Gainsbourg and English model Jane Birkin has carved her own creative path. Now, with Stage Whisper, a Beck-assisted double album of live and unreleased tracks, the distinction only sharpens. Charlotte invites us onto the balcony— her hotel room at the Jane proving to be too crowded—and with privacy and a cup of tea, we settle in to talk life, music, pleasure and learning what it means to be worth it.
self-titled: You’ve been rather shy about performing live, but your upcoming album has an entire disc of live tracks. What changed? I was very shy at the beginning and didn’t think I was worth it. I was so troubled by a lot of questions, questions you don’t have when you’re 20. You’ve got the power of life then, and you’re certain you’re worth it; you’re there for the music. I was shy because I didn’t really want to be considered an “actress going onstage,” even though it’s not that big of a deal. When I released the album with Air [2006’s 5:55], I started rehearsing a little bit, and then I was too scared and backed off. I think I forgot that there is a crowd. I was only thinking about what I was going to be able to do and maybe being judged too much. I forgot that if people come, they’re not there to put you down or throw tomatoes at you. Do you feel like you’ve overcome your fear of performing live? Yes! I’m not happy with everything I’ve done, but the experience was so thrilling and new. Some dates were very special and some were not good, but it’s still a process. Sometimes when you feel the show was so-so, the people love it. And sometimes you feel it was really nice, and the people were a bit more tepid. It’s great to be my age and discover all this. Usually it’s when you’re 19 or 20. ST—052
How is performing a show different from making a movie? It is very different. I felt it after my last show, in Europe at a UK festival. You build an ego to be able to go onstage because you can’t go hiding, you know? And then the next day, I had to go to Sweden to shoot [Lars von Trier’s latest film] Melancholia. The difference was huge: to go from something wild and noisy and over the top and eccentric to something very quiet, like a film crew—something very studied, also. You’ve got the script, so you get into a different character. My biggest pleasure onstage was to sing “The Dinner Song” because it’s like a story you tell. There’s something that’s really linked to being an actress in that. Because you’re improvising? No. I hope I’ll get better and a bit freer, but for the moment I can only be myself. It’s not like my [film] characters; I can’t do that. Getting a lot of pleasure, that’s what I learned. Before it was a question of being able to do it, just pushing myself to do it. But then after that, it was really a question of getting a lot of pleasure.
What pleasure draws you to the recording studio versus a film studio? Working on a script is very personal when you put yourself into the character, but the goal is still to play the scene in front of a lot of people. Everything is also written down and planned, so you have to find your own freedom and invent little stuff. But still, the basics are there, whereas with music you have the impression that you can go anywhere, that nothing is planned. I don’t have a lot of freedom because I don’t write the lyrics [to my songs], although I’d love to try. Each time I push myself a little bit more, but I’m not there. I have difficulties with the language, and I don’t really want to write in French, so all of that is a bit complicated. And I don’t write the music, so I can get a bit frustrated. But with artists like Beck, I feel completely free because he gives me that ability to go anywhere. Do you hope to write more in the future? Or do you enjoy that sense of collaboration? I love to collaborate because I love working with people I admire. And I don’t admire myself enough to... I think I’m not an artist enough, in
the sense. There’s not something visceral that needs to come out with the writing. With the acting, yes; with the singing, maybe; but not with the writing. I’ve always felt that a real writer was somebody that couldn’t refrain from writing. You seem loyal to your collaborators, as if you find figures you like and attach yourself creatively to them. It is a dream for me to be able to meet Lars [von Trier] again. We might be working on another project, so I’m still crossing my fingers that it’ll go through. I find it wonderful when you admire somebody. It’s the same with Beck, this idea of something in progress. There’s still more to show and explore. I feel privileged that he might think there’s more to explore inside me. A lot of actors are lucky enough to be able to work with the same director, like De Niro and DiCaprio [with Martin Scorsese]. It’s a collaboration that goes on. It might happen with other actors in France, but I’ve never had that. To be able to have that with [actor/director] Yvan [Attal], my partner, and with Lars, it’s wonderful. It feels like you’ve built a special creative world where you can thrive on your own terms. Yeah, but I don’t have the confidence. I’m a little bit shy in saying that I hope that I work Lars again, but he’s still in command, you know? He’s asked me, but maybe he’ll change his mind. It’s still his power. But I like serving someone. With music, I have less of that relationship. Serving is an interesting word. Not that it’s negative—it seems like something difficult. Yeah, I like that. I really like that. I like to have barriers. Inside a scene, I like to feel...maybe a little imprisoned? Then I find it’s easier to find a certain freedom inside that. If I were completely wild, I wouldn’t find that interesting.
I’d be completely lost. So it’s nice to feel like I’m serving someone. But then it’s very selfish because I find my own pleasure in that. You think that’s selfish? How come? Because a lot of that has to do with my own pleasure. It’s a luxury to be able to have a job, to receive scripts, to be able to say, “This one,” [or] “I don’t want to do this one,” and it’s not a question of money. I can really take what I want. It’s a great luxury, and it’s very selfish in the sense that I think about myself. All the time. ST—054
You still work quite hard for what you have, though, even if you have that choice. Sure, sure. I like the effort. I think I’m a little masochistic because there’s always a little bit of pain inside, but I like it. It’s like giving birth. A difficult creative process can be validating. And even with the album IRM, people gasped, “So negative!” But inside the torture and the pain, there was something very exciting. Did you find it cathartic? No! I felt that it was energetic. And I felt that those sounds would energize me. The tracks that ended up on Stage Whisper were from that session. Why did they end up on this album instead of IRM? The four songs with Beck? “All the Rain” was supposed to be on the album, but we were never able to finish it in time. “White Telephone” we ST—057
had started and didn’t think it was worth it at the time. We revisited it, and I really loved it, so we put it back. For “Paradisco” we were just having fun. It wasn’t a part of the album; it didn’t fit in. This time it’s funny because anything can fit in. And the real new one, “Terrible Angel,” I was very happy to do because it was like a new energy. I told Beck how fun it was to have some upbeat [songs] onstage. It’s more energetic, and there’s something easier about singing those songs. So we started that one. And then I [asked] if I could sing in a different way, try and be a little louder, a bit bolder, so we tried that. Next time, I’m thinking maybe I’d like to go back to something very quiet. I still don’t know! This step was new, but I’m not going to try to be a “rocker” [laughs]. Does the mood of your music usually fit in with some narrative in your life? I think always. Even if the words are written by Beck, or [Conor O’Brien] from the Villagers, you
still make them personal. It’s as if you could have written them, and when you sing it, it reflects that moment in time. I hope I can always be personal without boring people, but I think it’s nice when you can hold on to what you’re feeling. It doesn’t mean it’s interesting, but it’s who you are. So there is something real, honest and spontaneous there. You included a live cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.” Bob is a big name to tackle. I didn’t really think about it! I did it live because I had done it for the Dylan film I’m Not There. I had already covered that song on the album. I had a choice of two or three, and I picked that one. So then it became very obvious to try it again and revisit it onstage. I was going to sing two of my father’s songs. I wanted to sing them, but I didn’t. You’ve seemed interested in trying to distance yourself from your father’s career. It’s not to distance myself. It’s just because I keep comparing myself to him, and that’s why it took me so long to do this first album with Air. Without my father, I thought I couldn’t do it. It’s just a question of being a grown-up and always having him in my mind but trying to not justify myself. If I wrote in French... Well, maybe I will! I hope I will one day. And I hope I’ll be really bad. Beck said you have to just start writing and write a terrible song, and that’s the way to do it. [Laughs]
So I hope I’ll be able to write in French, but as soon as I write a sentence, I’m attracted to something [my father] already wrote. One of the words. I have this in my mind constantly. He was so brilliant; it’s difficult to feel that you’re worth it. What’s the difference between writing in French and writing in English? I get more freedom in English, but when I sang those two songs in French that my father wrote, the pleasure was great because it is my language. And there’s a huge difference when you speak words that are very intimate, that you’ve grown up with. There’s something more visceral. There’s an understanding that’s completely different. But maybe it’s also because those songs, I can hear my father’s voice singing them. It’s not really emotional, but they have a real weight, those songs. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s only in French. In English there’s something new, and I can have more fun in English because I’m more in an unknown territory. You have a habit of putting yourself in uncomfortable spaces. Do you think you’ll continue working with Beck? I don’t know! I’d love to. We still have things to do. So maybe? Maybe not? I don’t know. You’ll figure it out as you go? Go with your gut? Exactly! //
“My father was so brilliant; it’s difficult to feel that you’re worth it.” ST—058
best of the year
Photography GEORDIE WOOD STâ€”059
RECORDING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Axel Willner explains what really inspired his 2011 album, Looping State of Mind. Becoming a father It’s quite a fantastic thing and very inspiring! Spending time with your child and seeing the development blows your mind, and during all of this, I got a lot of ideas and feelings building up in me—not to mention the doubts a new parent might have, which is reflected on the record.
feeling new to it is great! Berlin is good in a lot of ways like that. There’s so much history in this town. It’s ever-changing—always new yet old. Coming home after travel has also been quite important. It’s always been a special feeling, but nowadays—as things are slightly different—it has had a big impact on me.
Cooking Stirring a risotto does wonders for your mind and helps you develop a lot of good sketches. Cooking is my main interest. Even during our sessions in the studio, it was good to have cooking breaks to clear the head and regain power.
Living in Berlin
I found my friends very important to this album as well—what they’ve gone through, how they’ve been, and so on. Also, since many of my friends are still in Sweden, the distance made the talking between us quite important and inspiring—kind of like how having a long-distance relationship has that same effect on you.
To me, it’s still a bit unexplored. Getting to know new streets, houses, bars and restaurants, and — read other installments of Recording under the influence with Veronica Falls, Explosions in the Sky, Anika, Kylesa and more. ST—060
best of the year â€” 2012
Words T. Cole Rachel Photography Jimmy fontaine
pproximately two seconds into the Men’s live set at makeshift Brooklyn music venue/party garage Shea Stadium, we’re knocked to the ground by a man dressed as a giant slice of pizza. It’s 2 a.m., just a couple of days before Halloween, and the tiny indoor venue is packed with early costume-wearers who are moshing, brazenly chain-smoking both cigarettes and weed, and openly sipping from flasks. Despite only being a few subway stops from the middle of Manhattan, this venue—and tonight’s billing, in particular—feels like the kind of messy hardcore house show at which many of us over the age of 30 spent our formative years. It also feels miles away from what constitutes an average rock show in NYC these days, which means it’s a pretty perfect scenario for seeing one of the city’s best, loudest and generally most no-bullshit bands. It would be easy, though inaccurate, to describe the Men as a hardcore band. The bulk of their music is cacophonous—ear-splittingly loud, screamy and played either sludgily slow ST—063
or at breakneck speed. Yet it’s also something altogether more complicated. On Leave Home, the Men’s 2011 release on Sacred Bones, songs vacillate between grinding fuzz and melodic, distorted instrumentals. Building on the energy of the band’s first two albums (plus a handful of cassette-only releases), Leave Home is equal parts sonic bombast, jittery post-punk and death-metal power-riffing—post-hardcore that can be both punishing and beautiful, often at the same time. While “metal” continues to gain momentum as both an increasingly less codified genre and a critically lauded medium, Leave Home is particularly prescient, a marriage of brawn and brains. The Men practice in an old Brooklyn industrial building, and though the complex is crammed full of tiny rehearsal spaces—a honeycomb-like maze of rooms with a different band banging away behind every wall—it’s easy to find where the Men are playing: Due to the volume being created behind it, theirs is the door that vibrates. Outside is a freakish October snowstorm, but inside the Men’s tiny room, all four band members—Chris Hansell, Nick Chiericozzi, Mark Perro and Rich Samis—are covered in sweat. Another group waits outside for its turn in the space, and Samis changes from a skimpy pair of drum-kit-appropriate rehearsal shorts back into jeans. “Other bands always make fun of us for playing with towels draped over our heads,” says bassist/vocalist Hansell. “I don’t know any other bands who sweat so fucking much.” The Men are, for all intents and purposes, a quintessentially New York City band. Three of the guys grew up in Long Island, but none of them knew each other until they moved into the city and threw themselves into the dual pursuit of making rock ’n’ roll and paying their rent. The band has officially been together since 2008, but Perro and fellow guitarist/vocalist Chiericozzi have known each other since college, playing in several short-lived bands before connecting with Hansell. The Men functioned as a instrument-swapping three-piece for more than two years, until Samis was promoted from roadie to drummer while touring Leave Home. “In the past we’d all take turns playing the drums,” says Chiericozzi. “But now, having two full-time guitarists really changes things. The sound can be even bigger.”
“Everything’s become a ST—065
a lot more real somehow.” ST—066
Before Leave Home, the band’s burgeoning fan base was primarily hardcore-loving kids and adventurous metal fans. “We all grew up in punk rock, “ says Hansell. “It made sense that our band would come up in that scene. We played almost exclusively with hardcore bands early on, so almost no one outside of that scene even knew we existed. We played house shows or places like 538 Johnson. We weren’t playing at Union Pool or [independent promoter] Todd P shows or anything like that, so our fans were mostly punk kids, even though we weren’t really playing hardcore punk. We never thought of ourselves in that way, though I guess that was our world.” According to Hansell, Chiericozzi, Perro and Samis, a concern for what the band actually is seems to be fueling their creative tank. It’s also building the anticipation for their upcoming 2012 release—a just-completed collection of songs tentatively titled Open Your Heart. Although the Men assembled previous records at breakneck speed, the new album—recorded throughout five sessions this past July—allowed the band to finesse what has thus far been a generally blunt ST—067
sonic palette. “This record is kind of reaction against Leave Home,” says Chiericozzi. “We didn’t want to willfully make an ‘opposite’ kind of record, but we wanted to move away from the chaos a little bit.” “The new record is still very loud, but there’s a lot more layering and subtlety to it, a lot more dynamics within the songs,” adds Perro. “This record feels a little more under control. Once a record is done, we always have this feeling like, ‘Okay, fuck that now. Let’s move on.’ This is us trying to move on.” Perro seems comfortable assuming the role of ringleader for the guys, who, at this point, still handle management and press obligations themselves. He’s the most well spoken of the group, with a tendency to reference obscure music, while Hansell is more of a boisterous punk-rocker. Chiericozzi is a metal-head with an encyclopedic knowledge of Black Sabbath, and Samis is a classic long-haired, always-smiling goof of a drummer, who, more than anything, simply seems totally stoked on the band’s current success, even if the transition from house shows
to larger rock venues—and the attention of bigger audiences—is still a bit weird. “We spent a lot of time in the past year deciding whose turn it was to take a nap in the van,” notes Chiericozzi. “We slept on lots of floors in houses of random people we didn’t know.” “We also slept on the dirt floor of what was basically a warehouse,” adds Samis with a laugh. “I wouldn’t trade that experience, though. No matter what happens to us after this, there will always be something worse to compare it to.” Leave Home’s accolades have also left the band cautiously optimistic about what’s next. “Me and Nick quit our day jobs so we could go on tour,” says Perro. “Everything’s become a lot more real somehow. The band’s become more real. That’s the only way I know how to describe it.” Before their pre-Halloween show, the Men promise us that they’ll be trying out at least a couple of songs from the forthcoming record (which, at press time, no one had yet to hear), and amid blistering tracks from Leave Home, the band lets loose with several new jams, each intensely melodic, momentously loud and more
than a little messy. Hansell dons a blonde wig, which a crowd-surfer promptly snatches from his head, and amid the rowdiness, it’s difficult to get a handle on the new music. At a certain point, everything dissolves into a miasma of noise and feedback and costumed bodies flinging themselves from the four corners of the room. And just 30 minutes later, the show is over. Our ears are ringing as we leave, and we can’t help but wonder if seeing the Men play such a small bootleg venue might soon become a rarity. “We definitely don’t know every single person at every single show anymore,” says Hansell. “At a house show, if someone lands on your pedal or crashes into the amps, it’s not a big deal. It’s just a part of the show. Now, in these bigger rooms, the crowd is further away from you. It becomes about focusing the energy to what’s happening in the band. We’ve learned to focus what’s happening onstage between the four of us.” “The goal is just to keep on going,” says Perro. “That’s always been our only goal, really. We just want to tour and make another record. And then another record. Nothing else really matters.” // ST—068
best of the year
nicolas jaar Photography shawn brackbill
FREE ASSOCIATION break from studying a Gabriel García Márquez book at Brown University. (The 21-year-old is a comparative-literature major, fluent in Spanish, English and French.) “It can mean the space in music, or silence. It can mean the galaxy, or it can mean the spaces we live in. Noise also has a lot of different connotations, so as a whole, those two things—space and noise—become very loaded when they’re put together.” Laid out like a seamless DJ set, Space Is Only Noise sees Jaar sifting through 70 tracks and “curating” his past to tell a story that’s both personal and open to interpretation. In the following track-by-track breakdown, the artist discusses “about one or two percent of what it’s actually about.”
hen Nicolas Jaar was still learning how to crawl, his father, worldrenowned installation artist Alfredo Jaar, took a picture of the infant New Yorker in a barren area between East and West Berlin—a striking blackand-white image that looks as if it’s captured a baby who’s been left behind on the moon. This past year, the producer found himself revisiting this photo as he worked to complete the woozy dream world of his truly bizarre Space Is Only Noise LP. “One of the album’s main ideas is that ‘space’ can mean so many things,” says Jaar, taking a
The intro to the album was made right before I turned it in. It began as one track called “Être”—which means “to be” in French—and was cut up completely in the middle. I just took the “Ê” out in the second part. The water sound comes from a Vito Acconci sound piece. It appears throughout the album. It wasn’t as simple as looking at the tracklist and putting the water wherever I wanted, though. It came in thematically, not out of necessity.
“Colomb” I had some strange imagery that I wanted to give in the beginning of the album—this idea of arriving in a strange land by boat. I took the voice of a woman from this film called Mouchette. In this one part, she sings about Christopher Columbus coming to America. [Mouchette] is a complicated, tragic movie, but it’s basically about a girl who’s incredibly lonely and has no one to turn to. She’s singing about Columbus in a class, but she’s not doing it well, so I Auto-Tuned her.
“Sunflower” The whole album’s about love, to tell you the truth. Most of it’s about a girl I met at Brown ST—070
who had already graduated by the time I was finishing the album in the fall of 2010. When I make music, there’s always desire inside me, whether or not that translates to love. In this case, I made beautiful music for the girls I love.
“Too Many Kids Finding Rain in the Dust” This is the first song with a groove. I was watching a lot of Twin Peaks and had just gotten back from a long tour in Europe, where I started to understand how some people see club music—as the devil’s music. So I tried to make a sinister club song, sinister but beautiful. The most important contextual reference for this is disco, and how people hated it primarily because it was done by blacks, gays and Latinos. I’m Chilean, so sometimes I feel like I’m part of this in a sense. I moved [back] to New York when I was nine, so I was still listening to Queen when I lived in Chile. [Ed. note: Jaar was born in New York but spent his childhood in Chile.] I started reading about the history of DJing and disco when I was 14. I never went to a club to hang out. I’ve only performed at them, so I have this weird, mediated experience of club culture.
“Keep Me There” I was living in the Marcy Hotel for the summer [in 2009], kinda being stupid and rebelling against my parents. The Wolf + Lamb guys were touring, so I was sleeping in an inflatable bed in the middle of the dance floor, making music in that same room and living with my then-girlfriend Josie. That’s her laughing in the middle of the track. I was recording and caught it by accident. We were laughing about how the bed is more like a balloon because we kept sinking into it during the night. It’s a beautiful place to live, but there were rats everywhere. This cat would bite their heads off throughout the summer, then vomit all over the Marcy. It was pretty amazing. My mother saw me play there once. She said it was an “interesting” place. ST—071
â€œI like the idea of turning life into this miniature thing.â€?
“I Got A” This track is me at my most laid-back. I was making hip-hop for a while, and I stumbled upon a Ray Charles sample while working on some beats. I didn’t even realize it was Ray Charles at first; I was just looking at it as another instrument. My buddies and I were making a lot of hip-hop beats around the time my Clown and Sunset label put out the Ines compilation. I’ve integrated that sound into what I do now, but it’s a bit different.
“Problems with the Sun” I was watching a documentary about bugs. It said that if they looked at the sun, they’d die. I thought, “Oh, that’s funny; that’s cute,” and I wrote a track about it while working at the Marcy. It was near the end of the summer, so I was just starting to get into that hip-hop vibe. The lyrics are very tongue in cheek; it started as a whimsical idea and went from there. That’s more beautiful than trying to write a treatise on love. If you find something really special in a tiny story about bugs, it could have a much bigger meaning than that. I like the idea of turning life into this miniature thing. That’s exciting to me.
“Space Is Only Noise You Can See” Throughout the album, I felt like I wanted to go from an ethereal place to this disgusting, horrible one—from the sky to the earth, and from the earth back to the sky again. This is the centerpiece of the album, the moment where you’re landing and the most on this planet as you could possibly be. I usually don’t write [lyrics] for a song. It’s not supposed to be dissociative or stream of consciousness, though. It’s a process. The line “grab a calculator and fix yourself” is tongue in cheek. I like ambiguity and esoteric things. The idea of magic is something that appeals to me. I like stars.... I’m very up in the air in that sense.
“Almost Fll” This represents the struggle of slowly leaving the earth, of getting out of that rational, ST—073
commercial space. This song is very dear to me. One of the artists on my label, Nikita Quasim, kept telling me how much she loved it, so it became very mythical to me. She helped me develop what I was going for with that track. It’s a pretty hard one to pin down.
“Balance Her in Between Your Eyes” This track is about my mother. It’s very personal—what I felt at the time and what I still feel now. I did this song the day before I turned the album in. I knew the album was missing something, and I eventually realized it was my mother. I wasn’t expecting to make another track; this one just came out of me in 20 minutes—the music and everything. I just did it through my computer speakers.
“Specters of the Future” I made this song in the train going from New York to Providence, and finished it at Brown. It’s this idea of ghosts being from the past and the future. I believe in ghosts, 100 percent; I make music for them. Whenever a ghost goes into a song, it’s just so much better for it. I kinda like the idea that you could be traumatized now by things that’ll happen in the future—like one day your wife of 20 years suddenly cheats on you and part of you was already traumatized by that [event] when you were 19. Making music is toying with time to begin with, so I’m very interested and fascinated with the idea of the future being as much a part of the present as the past is.
“Trace” I like the idea of deconstructing a record, so this was a weird meta moment that basically says, “Here are some of the samples I used.” It’s showing my cards to a degree.
“Variations” This was also started on a train and finished at Brown. It’s the final moment before you go back to this ethereal land.... I’ve never been into science fiction. I’d say I’m incredibly religious in a genre-less way—and that making this music is truly a religious experience. //
“I believe in ghosts. I make music for them.” ST—074
best of the year
g a v i n russom
Interview andrew parks Photography aaron richter
LCD Soundsystem’s synth guru on how he went from being a Providence hardcore kid to one of DFA’s most valuable players. My father’s side of the family is very musical. He plays piano now; he played the guitar when I was growing up. He’s actually an academic who studies poetry. I think he got into playing music because he was a jazz fan growing up. There’s that connection between improvised elements. When I was a little kid, I remember getting a tape recorder for Christmas and that being incredible. I loved recording sounds, making little radio shows and using it as an instrument. My parents also had an old reel-to-reel, and by the time I was a teenager, I realized some cool stuff you could do with that, like echoes and slowing shit down. I was always in bands. That’s one thing that’s cool about [my band now] the Crystal Ark: I played in bands as I was growing up, and I did my own recordings, but those things never met until now.
I was in a radical post–John Cage program at Bard. It was called Music Program Zero. I took it for two and a half years, but I ended up graduating in the art department because I was doing installations with sound and visuals. If I had stayed in the music department, I would have felt boxed in. A lot of people go to college to figure out what they want to do. I always had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. When I was studying music, it got to this point where I thought, “I want to make music, but I don’t really care about this stuff.” I was more interested in healing, energy and magic than music in its purest sense. Did you see that Ramones documentary End of a Century? Well, there’s one part where Joey Ramone talks about having OCD and how listening to the Stooges calmed him down when he was a kid. I don’t have OCD, but I got into music because it really does something for me. ST—076
It makes me feel different; it helps me deal with reality. I think that’s true with a lot of people. That first Bad Brains record had a major effect on me. And when I was just a kid, I listened to bagpipe music all the time. I loved hypnotic things like that.... That’s why they used bagpipes in wars—because they’d hypnotize people, then clobber them with hammers. My uncle’s this amazing guy. He was a sailor, so he never really had his own place. He’d leave his records with us, including some great psychedelic ones. I learned a lot through that. I’d stay up all night listening with my headphones on. And then when I started going out, I’d see punk and hardcore shows. That felt like a ceremony, too. It just made sense to me.
I was the singer in a straight-edge hardcore band called Square One. That feeling of screaming your head off was incredible. We’d practice in my basement sometimes, but we’d also break into RISD’s rehearsal space. Nobody ever bothered us there. I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, and then I moved back to Providence for about six months. That’s when I met Brian [Chippendale, now of Lightning Bolt]. We hit it off. I’d go over to his studio all the time, and we’d record everything we did. I have some tapes of it. It’s good—definitely really repetitive—but then he moved to Texas for a little while, and I went to Bard. I remember buying my first set of turntables. They ended up being really shitty—these early
“I don’t remember a lot, b ST—077
Gemini knock-offs—but I learned on them, so when I finally got in front of some 1200s, they seemed easy. Making music was always the main thing. I’d be like, “This record is great, but I can do this, too.” I wanted to get out of Providence. It’s an amazing place, but it was run-down and fucked up when I was younger—genuinely dangerous and strange. The downtown was mostly abandoned, and stores would still be selling things from the ’50s. One sold nothing but Chinese throwing stars.
performance. I just wanted to create this ecstatic feeling for myself and the people watching. Things evolved from there. Delia [Gonzalez] got involved in some of the magic shows, and we started doing other projects together. We came together around the idea of this stuff having a spiritual aspect to it and this lifestyle where we just hung out all the time. Our rent was nothing, so we didn’t work. We just did stuff. I started making musical instruments around that time, too. It was this really seamless thing
I didn’t know what to make out of art school. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I just couldn’t get it together. My parents were always supportive, but it was definitely scary to them that I had this intense drive to be a creative person from a young age. I liked hip-hop because it had electronic music in it, but it wasn’t nerdy like Kraftwerk. I started getting into hip-hop again five years ago. A lot of the [new] Crystal Ark record is influenced by ’90s hip-hop. I started using a lot more samples and using an MPC heavily. I never use a computer to produce tracks. I’d rather use a tape deck, or synths, drum machines and sequencers. I was really into theatrical performances when I first moved to New York—like, I would do magic shows. Not with actual magic, though. It was just fucked up. I’d light a bunch of firecrackers or wear an outfit and sing songs. It was basically insane. Not for the sake of spectacle, though; for the sake of moving lots of energy around. I was putting all of my early shows together as if they were one piece of music. I’d make all of this stuff—everything, from the props to the costumes—and it’d all get broken. I don’t remember a lot of it, but I’d light myself on fire. And there’d be different characters to each
but I’d light myself on fire.” ST—078
for me—how this crazy thing coming out of an electrical socket can kill you and create sound.
6 in the morning on Monday, where somebody incredible was DJing in a park.
We did this film screening and performed after it, and the DFA guys were there. I was already working in their studio—building some stuff for James [Murphy] in the very beginning of LCD [Soundsystem], stuff that was bought off eBay or whatever. They asked us to record something.
Right before I moved to Berlin, I’d go to these parties where someone would DJ hip-hop until 3 or 4 in the morning; then there’d be vogue balls with house music and incredible performances. That was a big thing, too— something with a shit-load of energy that made sense to me.
I was living in another world at that time. I wasn’t going out at all. I was just at home making stuff all the time. Our apartment was just covered in beautiful things. So connecting with DFA was this bizarre thing, like, “Let’s make a record.” Delia and Gavin was misunderstood from the start. I was disappointed that everyone made these “cosmic music” references, like German synth music from the ’70s. I can see why people would make that comparison, but it doesn’t have to do with that. We were listening to lots of Afro-Latin drumming, a lot of spiritual jazz, a lot of Terry Riley, a lot of acid [house]. I wanted to take that part in later European disco where everything in the track is going totally fucking crazy, to take that moment and have it always be there. It’s great that people are still discovering that record, especially at a time when most songs are forgotten after six months. I mean, that album came out six years ago.
We moved to Berlin together. One of the reasons we left New York is we felt like it was coming to an end, and there was so much pressure here to make it work. We felt like we had to start over. I had this fantasy of making all the tracks in my DJ set. That didn’t quite happen. I mean, that’s just insane. I was spending a lot of time by myself, hanging out in dark places. I was loving it, though. If I acted that way in New York, someone would have grabbed me and said, “Hey, man, are you okay?” But I never hit a wall in Berlin. I lost my mind for a while. I was an actual crazy person. I eventually got tired of being crazy. The Crystal Ark is all about coming back into the light.
That time was a real moment—music coming out of a special situation. It always seems a little strange to try and replicate that. But who knows? I try to keep an open mind.
Not to get too mystical about it, but that idea of having a beard and long hair was really important to me. I wanted to live in the darkness. I wanted to be reduced down to almost nothing. That’s what I loved about [the Delia and Gavin album] Days of Mars: It’s very pure in a way.
Bush had just been reelected, and I was like, “This is fucking terrible.” I felt like I was being watched all the time. New York was being smothered, and I was feeling really dark and angry. I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t want to be here anymore. Berlin felt really alive. I didn’t think I’d move back to New York.
Walking back into the light also meant integrating different parts of my life into my creative process. Even my old hardcore band is in there; the spirit of that lives on in some way, as a thread—which is remarkable: going from total darkness and having something else happen on the other side.
Berlin’s when I really started going to clubs. I heard a lot of people DJ and saw a lot of really weird shit—like you’d end up going to a party at
I remember my plane landing in JFK and feeling like I was home. Which is funny. I never had that feeling before in my life. //
“I lost my mind for a while...
I was crazy
actual person.” ST—080
best of the year â€” 2012
Words arye dworken Photography michael flores Makeup Tsipporah Liebman Hair Takeo Suzuki
n the breakout video for her single “212,” rapper Azealia Banks beams an eager, everpresent smile and dances playfully in front of a blank-canvas brick wall. Her pigtails draped over a Mickey Mouse–adorned sweater, she spits blush-inducing verses like an R-rated Pippi Longstocking. Banks is confident, care-free and, most of all, undeniably intriguing—a girl you feel like you want (need?) to know. This isn’t, however, the Banks we meet near Central Park. The Azealia Banks we’re chatting with is genial but quite reserved—a slight 20-year-old in pink patent-leather platforms who isn’t afraid to remind us we’ve “already asked that question.” And has no qualms about telling our photographer where she wants to do our photo shoot: near her high school, Fame’s LaGuardia Arts—not at the Harlem neighborhood where she grew up, as we’d previously planned. But none of this should be surprising. After all, Banks has flourished on her own terms for more
than a decade. “By the time I was eight, I was really mature and got a key [to my mom’s house],” says Banks. “Catholic school was around the corner, so I would go home with some soda and some chips and use that time to sing out loud.” Since then, she spent years as a vocalist and developing actress, at one point getting props from Diplo and earning an ill-fated development deal with XL owner/M.I.A. impresario Richard Russell in 2009. Now, thanks in part to “212,” Banks is enjoying somewhat of an early-career do-over, turning heads as an MC with a machine gun for a mouth and even topping (yes, topping) NME’s annual Cool List for 2011. She’s planned to spend time in London to work on music with producer Paul Epworth (of Florence + the Machine and Adele fame), and anyone paying attention to Banks’ Twitter can only assume that she’s days away from announcing some sort of big label news (“I’m about to be rich,” she Tweeted on Nov. 11, followed by, “I love having secrets,” and “The music industry is a battlefield, and I’m ready for fucking war”). Clearly, 2012 belongs to Banks. “I really feel like I’m going to change the scope of pop music,” she tells us. And Banks is stone-faced serious when she says this. self-titled: You’ve been recording on your own for years, but your MySpace page said you were signed to XL at one point. What happened there? As soon as I started putting out tracks, I was getting attention. Diplo kept talking about me, and that’s when XL hit me up. They flew me out to London, and the original idea was to have me work with Richard Russell, and I got signed to this development deal. Richard was cool, but as soon as I didn’t want to use his beats, it got real sour. He wound up calling me “amateur” and shit, and the XL interns started talking shit about me. It just got real fucking funny. I was like, “I didn’t come here for a date. I came here to cut some fucking records.” I got turned off on the music industry and disappeared for a bit. I went into a bit of a depression. What happened during your depression? The reason I started rapping was that I was acting before. I had an acting manager and an agent, and I felt like, “Damn, I was working ST—082
hard since I was nine years old. When does this happen?” I got really depressed about that, and rapping was my own way of reassuring myself that I was still talented. I kept trying different things, and it wasn’t working. I was thinking maybe I should just go back to school, and I was working as a barista. Basically, I was quitting. At one point, I was pretending like I never even had a deal. And I broke up with my boyfriend. I felt like I hit rock bottom. And I’ve never really done any drugs—I mean, I smoke weed—but I ran away to Montreal and recorded some stuff up there, and shit started happening. What did you think you were going to find in Montreal that you couldn’t find in New York? Peace of mind. I didn’t have a boyfriend. I didn’t have a place to stay. My manager had dropped me. I needed something different. What was it about acting that initially connected with you? I spent a lot of time alone when I was kid. My sisters were both much older than me. We’re eight and 13 years apart, so I would barely see them. Did they go to art school? No. Was that your choice? I’ve been doing this since I was 10. I got that flyer [for the TADA! Theater], saw that it was free, and was like, “Mom, I need to do this.” Do you feel more comfortable as a rapper or as a singer? I feel more comfortable singing because it just feels more natural. Sometimes I cringe at myself rapping on old stuff like “Give Me a Chance.” You get this sense that I’m trying too hard. Now I’m feeling more mature.
It’s jarring hearing a young girl say “cunt” so often, as you do on “212.” I didn’t know it was that offensive. Really? I feel like “cunt” means so feminine—like a gay guy says, “That’s so cunt. That’s so feminine. That’s so good.” It’s in the vein of, like, voguing. There’s a lot of sexuality in your lyrics. Where is that coming from? From having sex? It’s not something we often hear from female musicians, though. Not to get all deep and shit, but my dad died when I was two. And there’s always been this part of me that’s super curious about men. Even when I was little, I was always getting in trouble for, like, kissing boys. I’ve always been a very sexual person. When I started having sex, there was this piece of me there that I needed to unlock. It is weird to play these songs for your mother? No. Sex is fucking sex. We wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for sex. Do you find that people think they know you based on your lyrics? For sure. I just think of my rap songs as my own monologues. For the same reason, I can pick up fucking Titus Andronicus and read Tamora, and the same reason, I could pick up fucking Raisin in the Sun and read Beneatha. You know what I mean? Like, who fucking cares? It seems like you have these different characters in your songs, like you’re channeling different sides of yourself. They’re not people. I haven’t named them. I really just honestly get a beat, and whichever the beat makes me feel is what the song will be.
“Sex is fucking be sitting here if
Who’s the character in “212”? She’s this coked-out, overly ambitious bitch. That bitch is struggling, and she wants whatever she can get. That’s the bridge—where she knows that she’s better than what’s happening and she needs to refocus and re-center. The Guardian wrote about you back in 2009. You were even going by Miss Bank$ then. Did you graduate high school? I left senior year. I went to school for my drama block, and that was it. I was living with my sister, so I would leave early in the morning and go hook up with some dude, smoke and go to school, [then] be an actress and go on two auditions a day.
sex. We it wasn’t
Did you have friends in school? Yeah, but I was always in my own world. Not to toot my own horn, but I was the most talented kid in my class. The entire school knew who I was, and sometimes girls would really want to be friends with me. And just because I wasn’t expressing the same enthusiasm as them, they’d be like, “Azealia is such a fucking bitch.” But when I came around, they’d be like, “Hey, Azealia, let’s hang out.” It was so mad fucking fake. How did you make friends then? On the street. I like to think that I have a lot of spiritual assistance from the outside. I worked at Starbucks for a long time, and some girls would
wouldn’t for sex.” ST—084
come in there. I’d meet some people in Harlem. Now that your career is taking off, who do you think you can trust? Myself. I spend a lot of time alone. I live in my own world. And I enjoy being in my own world. What brought you out of your depression? I was on the brink of fucking losing it.... I thought, “If I don’t figure this shit out, I will be dead by the time I’m 20.” What was that day like? I broke up with this guy who I was dating for a long time, this guy who was married. When I got with him, he told me he was divorced. Then he told me he was working on the paperwork. Then I find out that they’re not even fucking separated, and when he goes back to L.A., he goes back to his wife. And at that point, I’m really in love with this guy. I was basically his punching bag for a while. I was 18, and he was 43. And I was like his emotional sponge; he would use me to soak up all his misery. It didn’t make sense to me until after we had broken up that he was making me depressed. You know, when you’re having sex with someone, whatever is in that person’s subconscious mingles with your subconscious. He had substance-abuse problems. I mean, I don’t do drugs—I smoke weed every once in a while—but I’ve seen what that shit does to people and what it does to your creativity. I get depressed, but life isn’t that bad. He convinced me that I had all these problems I didn’t have. He convinced me I was a drug addict because I liked to smoke pot. He convinced me that I was a sex addict because I was begging him to come into town. It’s like, “No, I haven’t seen you in a month and a half.” It was a really abusive relationship. You don’t seem like the type of girl who would be easily victimized. But when you have daddy issues like I do, it’s inevitable. Strange that you’re so aware and willing to diagnose yourself like that. Whenever you’re trying to lie to yourself and deny something, you’re creating more bullshit. Look, we’re human beings. We get sad; we get ST—085
happy; we do bad shit. I haven’t harmed any children or animals. My conscious is pretty clear. Life is probably pretty hectic now. Yeah, but I could be doing worse things. Where does your drive come from? Someone your age is rarely this driven. I grew up by myself a lot. If I wanted to eat, I had to get up and go make myself breakfast. If I wanted to go get my hair done, I would have to save my $5 allowance a day and go to the hair salon on the weekend. And the thing is, on top of that, my mom was really abusive, like really abusive. If you go into the system and type my name up, there are mad [child-services] cases. We’re talking both verbal and physical abuse? Verbally, physically, mentally. And you’re still in touch with her? Yeah, of course. She’s my mother. You only have one mom. Is this, like, seeing a kid get slapped on the street by her mom for crying? No, my mom would, like, brawl with us. She would, like, throw shit at me. You ever see that movie Precious? Yeah. My mom was like that. She was always stressed out, always overworked. The only man she ever loved... She got with my dad when she was 14, and he was 47. She had three kids by the time she was 32. And he just died. Natural? He had pancreatic cancer, but he liked to drink a lot. And my dad was a fucking pig. He had kids with other women, and she was fighting for his attention for so long. By the time I was born, she was finally starting to get some back from him, and he just died. And that crushed her. A lot of that anger came out throughout my childhood. Every little thing that was wrong was asswhoppin’. Like, “You little bitch!” Has being raised like that been something that scared you straight? It actually scared me into the arts, you know?
Did you audition for LaGuardia? Yeah. I started as a vocal major and transferred into the drama department. When you were attending LaGuardia, what were the kids like? Privileged Upper West Side kids. There were kids from the neighborhood that were broke. We didn’t give a fuck. We all shared everything. When kids had parties, there was no one who was like, “My family has more than your family.” Who’s got the best jokes and the best clothes? That’s what it was all about. What’s informing your lyrics the most right now? Where’s your head at? A little less in the gutter. When you hear my mixtape, you’ll hear more pensiveness. You’ll hear a girl who wants to stay focused and be happy and doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Maybe she’s over her daddy issues a bit. She’s secure about her life, and she’s done asking, “Why me?” Now it’s all about me. ST—087
In the video for “212,” there seems to be a happy girl with no worries. Yeah, because I was chilling with my friends. We were eating chicken sandwiches on the streets of Montreal. What’s the story behind the legal complications behind the song? Lazy Jay is a producer from Norway. He has a string of songs from a few years ago, like “Float My Boat,” “Honk My Horn” and “Bing My Rell.” I thought those songs were brilliant. But I really wanted to rap on “Float My Boat.” We hit Lazy Jay’s label up seven months ago, and they didn’t say shit. They were like, “You can license it,” and they didn’t even listen to the song. People who have legitimate fucking careers are not after me. That’s Broke Nigga Syndrome. And the only way to get rid of that is you work. I’m already ready for “213.” We can make “212” disappear; we can make Lazy Jay disappear; we can make all this shit disappear. It’s real sad because his manager tried to be all funny—cc’ing
all these Sony execs, saying we were damaging his client’s name. I just did more for your client than you have ever done. Ever. Lazy Jay needs to shut the fuck up and send me some more beats. On top of that, “Float My Boat” is old. “212” is on rotation on BBC1. Like, what the fuck are you doing? Europe responded to you before America did, right? Yeah, it’s way more progressive there. How’s the label stuff working out? It’s going good.
denied myself artistically and was like, “Okay, I’m an amateur.” That hurt your feelings? Oh, yeah. It really hurt my feelings. Especially coming from a dry English guy. When XL found me, I did like three or four tracks. I was an amateur. A part of me feels that Richard Russell was enchanted by me, like, “Who’s this girl? I want to sign her.” But I’m not sure what else there was.
Are you close to something? [Whistles]
What’s more interesting to you: pop and the mainstream, or blog love from the underground? I want to make money. [Laughs] I definitely want to fucking make money.
How personal are your songs? Very personal.
How far are you into the mixtape? Probably a third of the way done.
Is there room for making them more personal? For sure.
You’ve covered Interpol, and you’ve rapped over a Peter Bjorn and John song. I don’t come from the hip-hop world. I come from, like, Broadway. Of course, I listened to Hot 97, but my little CD collection was, like, the Annie soundtrack, the Aladdin soundtrack, Barney’s Favorites, Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child.
Do you draw the line somewhere? When I’m writing, I don’t like to think about shit as much as I just want it to come out.
How did you get introduced to alternative music? I would watch MTV. I loved No Doubt because Gwen Stefani was so weird. I watched Clueless, and I would wait for the end to see the credits. I was always into my own thing. We got AOL when I was 10, and I would go online and download songs. I would read the names on the CBGB posters, or in the Village Voice. If they looked cute, I would download some of their songs. Where do you see your career going? Who knows? I don’t like to anticipate stuff like that. When I deny my own ideas, a lot of bad things happen in my life—like I lose my boyfriend, and I can’t afford my rent. When I deny myself artistically, I lose out. What would be an example of denying yourself artistically? When Richard Russell told me I’m an amateur, I
Where do you see yourself a year from now? I see myself being a very, very key player in the music industry. I really feel like I’m going to change the scope of pop music. Pop music only means “popular,” ya know? I feel like the age of the manufactured pop artist is done—like, I feel like Rihanna is the Last of the Mohicans. I love Rihanna, but she’s the last one to get signed and is given songs. People are figuring out what’s real and what’s not real, and they’re becoming more interested in the process, the ability. What if Dr. Luke calls you up with a song? Of course I would work with Dr. Luke. But we’d work on something new. Why would I make something that already exists? There’s already enough of that. Why would I open a McDonald’s next to a McDonald’s? What is the one thing you’re determined to accomplish? I want to get this fucking mixtape finished because then people will finally fucking know what I’m saying. I’ll be validated to everyone. // ST—088
best of the year
Photography EMIR ERALP
THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES THE RECORD THAT MOST REMINDS ME OF MAKING ATTACK ON MEMORY Polvo, Exploded Drawing (Touch and Go, 1996) I had the chorus of “Feather of Forgiveness” stuck in my head the entire time we recorded Attack on Memory. We walked a mile to the studio every day, and that song was on repeat in my brain on the way there and back. Polvo don’t seem to get quite as much love as some other ’90s guitar bands, but they’re one of my favorites.
THE RECORD THAT GOT ME READY TO SCREAM MY LUNGS OUT IN THE STUDIO
f Dylan Baldi had to pick his favorite music released in 2011, “90 percent of it would be the Men,” he insists, nodding to the self-titled cover stars. So instead, we asked the singer and multi-instrumentalist of Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings—whose Steve Albini–engineered Attack on Memory arrives in January on Carpark Records—to highlight his life of listening for the past 12 months.
THE 2011 RECORD I WISH I’D MADE The Men, Leave Home (Sacred Bones, 2011) This is one of the only records from 2011 that I’ve heard, and I’m just gonna say that it’s the best record of the year. I don’t even like all of the songs, but the songs that are good are amazing! Been trying to see these guys live for a minute now, but I’m always on tour when they come through Cleveland. Being in a band is the worst.
The Wipers, Youth of America (Park Ave., 1981) If you listen to Greg Sage sing and don’t feel inspired to sing your own songs, you aren’t cut out for making music. The guy is just cool. His voice is cool; his guitar playing is cool; his songs are cool. Cool is such a lame word to use to describe something, but there really is no other way to say it.
THE RECORD I BOUGHT SIMPLY BECAUSE IT LOOKED COOL Burl Ives, The Wayfaring Stranger (1944) Burl Ives looks like a cross between Satan and Howdy Doody on the cover of this thing. Howdy Lucifer Doody. There’s an ongoing joke in Cloud Nothings where we put “Lucifer” in the middle of famous peoples’ names: Randy Lucifer Jackson. Inspector Lucifer Gadget. It’s not really that funny, I guess.
THE RECORD THAT GOT ME THROUGH LONG STRETCHES ON THE ROAD Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge, 2010) This is the perfect album to listen to if you’re in the van but not the driver. Why? Because you fall ST—090
asleep two minutes into the first song! I couldn’t even tell you what this album sounds like; after those first two minutes, I am sleeping like a baby. Audio Ambien. Doctors should prescribe this album to insomniacs.
THE RECORD I’LL STILL BE LISTENING TO IN 2012 Various Artists, Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label (Numero Group, 2004) Easily the best Eccentric Soul compilation I’ve heard. This record features my favorite kind of songwriting—tracks that, at first, seem fairly pedestrian, and you can see why no one paid attention when they were originally released. But the more you listen, the more you notice tiny little details (a cymbal crash here, a measure of 6/8 there) that make the songs absolute classics. It really doesn’t get much better than “Row My Boat” by the Four Mints.
THE RECORD EVERYONE IN THE BAND CAN AGREE ON Michael Hurley, First Songs (Folkways, 1964) It’s difficult to find a record that everyone in the band likes, but if one fits that criteria, then this is it. I’d been familiar with Michael Hurley but just came across First Songs in the past year, and it blew my mind. I’m not a lyrics kind of guy,
but some of the stuff he says on here is amazing. “I’ll conjure up a leprechaun to dance upon the steam.” What is he talking about? It’s brilliant!
THE RECORD THAT WAS COMPLETELY UNDERRATED The Holy Modal Rounders, The Holy Modal Rounders (Prestige, 1964) This came out in 1964, but I’ve got a feeling it still qualifies as underrated in the grand scheme of things. These guys were like an interesting and actually talented version of the Smothers Brothers, full of insane lyrics and more countrystyle fiddling than you can shake a stick at. They took things pretty far out there on subsequent albums, but this one tends to stick to slightly reimagined versions of folk and country standards. Their version of “Reuben’s Train” gave me goosebumps when I first heard it.
THE RECORD STEVE ALBINI TURNED ME ON TO Dead Rider, The Raw Dents (Tizona, 2011) I asked Steve if U.S. Maple was still up to anything, and he mentioned that [guitarist] Todd Rittman had started a band called Dead Rider. Right after we finished recording, I went to Reckless Records and bought this album. It sounds like some sort of future-funk Captain
“Audio Ambien. Doctors should prescribe this album to insomniacs.” ST—091
Beefheart—insane song structures with a hint of that signature Chicago rock vibe. The overdriven guitar sounds on this record are the best I’ve heard in a long time— absolutely menacing.
THE RECORD THAT’LL STILL BE RELEVANT 10 YEARS FROM NOW Parasites of the Western World, Parasites of the Western World (De Stijl, 2011) The records that will be relevant in the long run are records that didn’t get their due when they originally came out and, in the case of this one, when they were reissued. I didn’t see this get talked about too much, which is a shame because it is fantastic. Screwy, creative punk music that should really have a much wider audience—there are ideas in here that will still sound fresh in 10 years and for quite some time after, too.
“Cleveland architecture lends itself to a guy scre crusty, in-the ST—093
THE 7-INCH THAT WAS WAY BETTER THAN ANY FREE MP3 Dow Jones & the Industrials, “Can’t Stand the Midwest” (Family Vineyard, 2011) This is timeless but probably sounded a little too wild for the masses when it originally came out, hence the fact that these guys never really escaped Bloomington, Indiana. Plus, this 7-inch just made me use the word hence. That alone should qualify it for any and all kudos it receives.
THE RECORD THAT REMINDS ME OF MY TIME SPENT IN CLEVELAND THIS YEAR Aghast, Blood Opinion (PRGNT, 2011) Cleveland architecture just sort of lends itself to a guy screaming over crusty, in-the-red punk. It’s hard to listen to the Shins while you look at a bunch of vacant, blown-out buildings, y’know? Actually, it’s hard to listen to the Shins any time.
punk records. This one is the cream of the crop. I don’t know where they found these guys, but thank god they did. Perfect, ramshackle, Swell Maps–y beauty. The first song is slowly becoming one of my favorite songs ever.
THE RECORD I REDISCOVERED AFTER NOT HEARING IT FOR YEARS Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch! (Blue Note, 1964) I used to be really into jazz. I almost went to college to study it. But after Cloud Nothings started touring, I kind of stopped listening to most of the jazz records I had. Jazz made a comeback for me this year, though, and it started with Eric Dolphy. He’s pretty much the man. He’s made and played on so many amazing records that it almost feels pointless to describe what his playing sounds like. There are so many beautiful examples out there. Just go listen to one. //
THE REISSUE THAT HELPED ME APPRECIATE AN ARTIST I’D NEVER HEARD BEFORE The Happy Refugees, Last Chance Saloon (Acute, 2011) Todd, the guy who runs Carpark Records, also has a hand in a label called Acute Records. Acute reissues amazing and obscure ’80s punk/post-
e just sort of eaming over e-red punk.” ST—094
best of the year — 2012
Words luke turner Photography Jessie craig
factory floor T
he members of Factory Floor live and record in a building in Seven Sisters, a part of London that’s seen better days—just about a mile from where the London riots ignited this past summer. It’s down a road of semi-derelict offices that have been converted into lively African churches, and self-titled enters through 20-foot-tall steel gates and walks into a yard packed with giant trucks from Romania ST—095
and workers unloading fabric into what you might call a sweatshop. Steam pours from a pipe, and sewing machines rattle as we climb a rusty staircase to reach a reinforced gray door. Factory Floor set up its base behind this door in May 2010, shortly before it began work on “Two Different Ways,” the band’s third release and first for DFA Records. Within the group’s cavernous, decrepit warehouse space is a tiny studio. Gabe
Gurnsey, the group’s drummer, lives in a small room adjacent to the space’s live room. Nik Colk Void, who plays treated guitars and electronics while delivering Factory Floor’s digital mantra vocals, sleeps up a ladder in a lofted area. Dominic Butler, an electronic maestro who tames and conducts the group’s sinuous arpeggios, has his own home in London but says he’s found himself spending more and more time here. The normal routine of a London band— turning up at a studio a few nights a week to kick out the jams—was never going to work for Factory Floor. “We’ve always been separate from anything else,” says Void, noting that the group once had a room in a sprawling, fashionable dive called the Premises, then home to bands like Bloc Party and Lightspeed Champion. “They all hated us,” Void continues, “and we got kicked out because we were too loud.” Seven Sisters’ relative chaos is a better fit for Factory Floor’s all-hours labor, even though the living space feels, according to Void, like being inside a Russian doll (“We can hear each other going to the loo,” she notes). “But we’re bloody lucky to have this place,” Void says. “The crossover of all the sounds are really interesting, the preaching and the singing, the live bands they have on in the churches. It’s definitely intense.” “There’s no difference between these sewing machines going all day next door and the fucking things going in our studio,” adds Gurnsey. “It gets switched on at 10 in the morning, and it gets switched off at 10 at night, just this repetitive noise going on.” Throughout the past few years, Factory Floor has earned a reputation in London and across Europe for stunning live performances. On US shores, recently, the band performed at All Tomorrow’s Parties in Asbury Park, NJ, and Swans bandleader Michael Gira had nearly climbed atop a speaker to enhance the intensity. The previous night, a club gig in Philadelphia ended with two women grinding against Butler as he tried to pack away his gear. Early concerts in London were remarkably different—exercises in brutality that would see tracks like “Lying” (featured on their first, untitled EP for the Blast First Petite label) evolve
“They all hated us. We got kicked o u t because we were too loud.” not into walls of noise but the sound of Jericho falling on the audience’s heads. Rumor was that Factory Floor struggled to find support slots because bands were afraid to play after them. Yet that volume wasn’t just industrial assault tactics; the band maintains that it arose from genuine honesty. “Early on, the gig situation was quite fresh for us, and a lot of our nerves and fears ST—096
were coming through,” says Butler. “We were on a real edge at that point.” “In real life, we’re all really nice people,” says Void, “but when it comes to playing, that’s when our personalities... We wouldn’t necessarily have a conversation like that, but that’s when it all comes out.” Factory Floor has garnered such admirers as Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle, as well as New Order’s Stephen Morris, with whom the band has collaborated. “In the tracks, I could hear something which reminded me of the spirit of New Order in the early days,” Morris told the Quietus in 2010, “not musically so much as the way they are doing things, something that I felt even more when we saw them live. They were raw, chaotic, fantastic and different—everything I’ve ever liked in a band.” “[Their] approach is very similar to ours,” Tutti added in a separate story. “The motivation is central to what they do; it’s not about presentation or reception.” Or as Carter put it, “They have a take-it-orleave-it attitude, which I really like.”
Watching Factory Floor perform—their music blending the euphoria of acid house with the power of techno (minus any clinical nihilism)— we get the sense that the band can accomplish more than simply playing its songs. Factory Floor is a psychedelic electronic group for a troubled age, when daily struggles are intensifying. “It’s got to cause escapism while you’re playing,” notes Gurnsey. “The best gigs are the ones where you feel like you weren’t actually there.”
But how will they transfer all that energy into an album, as everyone expects them to do in 2012? “It’s like pushing an iron elephant up a hill,” says Butler, half joking, of Factory Floor’s ongoing recording process. “You have to freeze this oil on water and make it static. When you’re trying to capture it for recording, the moments when you’re not actually chipping away at something are as important as the moments that you are. We’re not writing the music and then all playing it; we’re molding it as we go, tearing bits off and putting new things on.” “We’re having to try to discipline our way of making music,” adds Void. “One of us has to be in the studio for eight hours, one of us is out here working on sounds, and the other person is going mental in the corner. It’s all about the choices we make, pushing and not repeating ourselves.” Closing Factory Floor’s gray door behind us and walking through a cold November night, we glimpse the church signs on buildings around us. On one: “Raising Disciples, Doing Exploits!” Another proclaims itself a “Center of Manifestation,” occupying its time with “Raising Joyful Citizens.” The music of three praise bands bleeds through the broken windows and out across the dark, trash-strewn streets of North London. Perhaps Factory Floor, as it seeks salvation among the grim, actually has quite a lot in common with this neighborhood. “We’ve controlled Factory Floor in a way. We don’t channel it; we harness it,” says Gurnsey. “Sometimes it just pops out of a track, and then it’s like, ‘Fuck, that’s what Factory Floor is.’ Even if we were all playing banjos or something, we’d always get to that point where it was the Factory Floor sound. It’s that fourth thing that occurs.” //
“The best gigs are the ones where you feel like you weren’t actually there.” ST—097
best of the year
Photography shawn brackbill
t was my birthday, so we were drinking a lot backstage,” recounts Emeralds’ synth cadet Steve Hauschildt about the night he met sound designer Alan Howarth, best known for his work on the iconic film scores of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China and They Live—not to mention sculpting sound effects for Gremlins, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the first six Star Trek flicks. “Alan and I ended up arguing over whether a soft synth is any different than the one it’s trying to emulate.” “I walked into the middle of it,” adds Emeralds’ John Elliott, “and [the band’s guitarist] Mark [McGuire] was like, ‘Dude, this guy did the soundtrack for Escape From New York!’ ” After this chance encounter at Poland’s Unsound Festival, Emeralds learned that Howarth grew up in their same Cleveland suburb, and the four stayed in touch, eventually collaborating earlier this year, on a performance at Unsound’s New York edition. Before that gig, we tracked them down to discuss the deeper meaning of electronic music in an age where everyone seems to be exercising their inner Eno. self-titled: You’re all from the same neighborhood? john elliott: Literally, like some of my dad’s friends were in bands with [Alan].
straight into the sun. [Emeralds] do the same kind of thing—solar jams. elliott: Like [the 2008 Emeralds album] Solar Bridge. So you were a little out of your heads on that one? mark mcguire: That’s a loose way of putting it. howarth: If you really want to break it down, quantum physics says we are in a very perforated area. There’s space between every molecule, and once you reach a state of collective consciousness outside that, there’s all sorts of other levels to it. How you get there doesn’t matter. The astral plane is the astral plane. It’s outside these dimensions either way. You have to be surrounded by the right people to do that though, right? Otherwise you could go to a very dark place. howarth: Exactly. [My friends and I] never had bummers or anything. It was just a great time. Who knows what it’s like now, though. Back in those days, we knew we were getting the real stuff. elliott: I wish I was around for that. Did early Emeralds stuff start with improvisation? steve hauschildt: It was mostly improvised, yeah. elliott: A lot of it happened at the same age for us as it did [for Alan]. howarth: They’re on a similar journey, only I did it 30 years earlier. It’s funny that they’re finding value in the original analog synthesizers and we’re having a dialogue about how machines are imperfect, how those imperfections are what makes them exciting.
Every time you turn them on, they work differently. howarth: Up until ’77 or so, there was no programming. So if you wanted to achieve the same sound twice, you needed to have a certain skill set. In a lot of ways, that was good because you were always going some place new. You had to know your instrument. Otherwise, the instrument was playing you.
Was it an unspoken connection right away? howarth: Yeah. We’d take a journey to space, flying
Were a lot of your film sounds accidents in a way? howarth: Yeah, but you could save your settings and go back to the same sounds. That was crucial. The first movie I did was Star Trek, and I was the first guy to show up with a machine that could get the same sound two days in a row. They liked that.
Back when he was doing acid jams? alan howarth: This was earlier than that, when we didn’t even smoke dope yet. Can you explain the whole acid-jams thing? It was a project we called the Pi Corporation. We’d get together every night, and in order to stimulate different kinds of jams, we’d do different kinds of illegal substances—literal acid jams.
sounded like noise to some people sounded like music to Alan.
How did you get Hollywood to trust you? oddest of circumstances. I have to give credit to a big, burly biker friend from Cleveland who got me work on the first Star Trek simply by saying, “Hey, I have this friend Alan who has a lot of synthesizers and plays with this group the Weather Report.” And they’re like, “The Weather Report? Is that the one at 7 o’clock or the one at 11?” It was all blind luck. I did something that was purely creative, and it got me in the door. The next movie of the editor from Star Trek [Todd C. Ramsay] happened to be Escape From New York, so he introduced me to John Carpenter. John came to my house, and there were lots of synthesizers in my dining room, so I asked him if he wanted to play them, and he said, “Yeah, sure, let’s do it.” It was really casual, not like, “What’s your educational background?”
Things must be more by-the-books now. was less competition then. Now it’s much more formalized, though these guys [points to Emeralds] don’t give a fuck. God bless them for that, for finding their own way.
Has staying in Cleveland helped you take risks? elliott: We were aware of that beginning, but things have changed a lot in the last couple years. Now you can record to GarageBand one night and sign to Mountain Dew Records the next day. What are some artists that you all bonded over? howarth: We all agree that Pink Floyd is god. They hit it out of the park already. It’s done; that space has been carved out.... They were in their own discovery mode before Dark Side of the Moon. That’s the same head space we’re enjoying now. elliott: There’s also bands that weren’t as big as Pink Floyd and did similar kinds of exploring. howarth: Like Kraftwerk. hauschildt: We’re really into them. But it’s funny; we had to seek those records out later, and Alan got to see them from a present-day perspective. How did Kraftwerk sound when they first came on the scene? howarth: They were one of the first acts with that
definitive German sound—that robotic, hard stuff. The other big one for me was Tangerine Dream. hauschildt: All of these artists not only made great records; they were also able to do something truly new in a live environment. It took them places their recordings didn’t and showed their virtuosity with the instruments. You’re all using analog instruments, too. elliott: Well, a lot of the stuff we do now can be programmed, but there’s so much wiggle room. Every instrument has its own character, and there’s a glut of new gear coming out now—so much more than when [Alan] first started making music. It’ll be 20 or 30 years before all of those sounds get figured out. howarth: In order to have a personality as an artist, you need to create “your sound” instead of whatever presets you got from the music store. hauschildt: You work on it every day, until it’s a part of you—an extension of your personality. elliott: And the differences between similar instruments—like Mark’s guitars—can be drastic. You can mess with something to the point where it’s not even clear whether the signal is a guitar anymore. mcguire: A lot of what I do uses delay loops on the guitar in the same way you would play a synthesizer—with repeating, shifting sequences. It feels like a similar process. A lot of what you’re saying sounds like Fripp & Eno’s classic albums. howarth: Absolutely, and King Crimson. The other side, for me, was the Moody Blues. Them and Yes were the first ones to make [synthesizers] popular. The imperfections of these instruments are what makes them so important. hauschildt: Another overlap that came up when we were rehearsing with Alan was jazz. Alan, didn’t you know Alice Coltrane? howarth: Yeah, I did an album of spiritual jazz with her before she passed away. It hasn’t been released yet. The lyrics were Sanskrit and optic words from prayers, but the music was singalong jazz. That’s the beauty of music today—this collage of musical styles. And it’s all valid to me, as long as it’s done well. Crap is crap. — Read the rest of our interview with Emeralds and Alan Howarth. ST—102
Coliseum’s Ryan Patterson created this illustration while listening to Clams Casino’s Instrumentals and Rainforest. Coliseum’s Parasites EP is available now through Temporary Residence Ltd.
Published on Dec 13, 2011