May 13, 2010

Sleigh Bells

If you don’t know, now you know: Sleigh Bells are the latest product of blogosphere hype machinery, and at the risk of fanning the flames, I’ll echo everyone from my friend Sean (who has a nominal claim to their rise, since he booked their second gig back in October) to the New York Times in praise of the Brooklyn duo.


Despite Sean’s best attempt to get me to see them last fall, I didn’t end up at that show (I should have known better after his last tip on the Drums), but between CMJ and SXSW, Sleigh Bells blew up: they played to a sold-out crowd at Ridgewood Masonic Temple on Tuesday to mark the release their debut album Treats. I was lucky enough to have bought my ticket before M.I.A.’s unannounced guest appearance at smaller gig last Friday, which surely spurred ticket sales over the weekend.

The Sundelles’ surf/garage stylings was merely a diversion and I was curious about Cults, who are on the fast track to blowing up, but I was mostly looking forward to my first Sleigh Bells experience and they didn’t disappoint. There’s not much to the performance itself but it’s as good a time as one might have at a concert, and I completely agree with Matthew Perpetua’s excellent appraisal of Sleigh Bells at Tuesday’s show:

Like the music itself, the show is elemental and assertive, simple enough to be obvious, though novel enough to make you wonder why no one has ever really done it quite like this before.

–Matthew Perpetua, Devil Horns Best Friends, Fluxblog, May 12 2010

To Perpetua’s list of adjectives, I would add: visceral, immediate and cathartic; apocalyptic yet ultimately triumphant. It’s pop, punk and hip-hop, compressed to the limit of listenability, which somehow makes it all the more appealing… or overhyped, depending on your point of view.


As for the music itself, Alexis’s vocals strike me as more riot-grrl than M.I.A., though affinity is clear: those drum-machine-gun beats could turn a ghettoblaster into a Future Weapon, while Derek’s SG delivers more hardcore riffage than most indie kids would dare (he previously shredded for Poison the Well).

Even so, the sonic assault scarcely belies the sheer catchiness of the tunes, and Treats is the first party album of the summer whether you like it or not. Sleigh Bells are the band of the moment, and frankly there’s nothing wrong with that.

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May 4, 2010

Images: Super Deluxx Follow Up

More on the Images (below), as well as several new ones; as always, too much, too much. But seriously, how often do you see something like this.


Hyères, France, 1932 / Magnum

First of all, the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MoMA is really quite remarkable, and I echo Kottke’s rave review (he mentions the image above, which was the first of many that caught my eye).

What he excelled at was seeing things in a different way from most other people.

A Father of Modern Photography: A Hunter and His Prey, The Economist, April 15 2010

The retrospective has a personal resonance on several levels: I’ve become increasingly interested in photography, journalism and photojournalism in the past couple years; his photographs of early and mid-century China are vaguely nostalgic (probably because I recently spent a couple months living in Beijing with my grandparents, who lived through it); and I recognized HCB’s portrait of Sartre from a book cover.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Discovered while eating a turkey hoagie and contemplating the meaning of life at a roadside stand. Also, admit it: he’s cute as a goddamn bug!

–Mike Sacks, Famous Philosophers and How They Were First Discovered,
McSweeney’s, May 2010

(More on HCB at Vanity Fair via 3qd.)

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Liu Bolin at Eli Klein: an excellent show despite the blue-chippy crowd at the opening. It might be more of the same and it probably has a certain loaded cultural content that can only be appreciated as someone who has recently spent time in China, but I would still say that the pieces in On Fire are visually compelling even without the political subtext.


His works have been communicated via emails, blogs, magazines and journals on a massive scale.

Liu Bolin’s earlier Hiding in the City photography series, in which he paints himself into the urban landscape, was inspired by the Chinese government’s demolition of the Suo Jiacun Artist Village in Beijing in 2006. He drew attention to great landmarks in China, both old and modern, while highlighting the lack of recognition which was paid to the citizens that built them. He portrayed the tragedy of the increasing insignificance of the individual in China as the government focused on presenting a modern commercial and industrial image. Rather than trying to fight, people attempted to hide and adapt to these forced changes.

–Liu Bolin’s On Fire press release & additional images via Eli Klein.


Click images for larger versions.


索家村 – Suo Jiacun [Artist's Village] (apparently, Liu Bolin reps it); 中国当代 – Contemporary China


折 – fold, discount, break, bend, snap, lose, roll over, convert, rebate, twist, double up, be convinced, turn back, turn over, lose money in business, change direction, be filled with admiration, suffer losses (Google Translate)

Dude's shirt (bottom right) matches the photograph...

Dude's shirt (bottom right) matches the photograph...

Liu Bolin
On Fire
Eli Klein Fine Art
462 West Broadway (near Houston)
New York NY 10012 [map]
212 / 255-4388
April 30, 2010 – June 4, 2010


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I didn’t make it to the Scott Campbell opening, but it made it into other “emails, blogs, magazines and journals on a massive scale”: TBWE has a nice gallery of the work and the opening; OC has a gallery of the work itself; HB recap; Interview studio visit via HB; Terry stays relevant.

I did make it to Faile & BAST‘s DELUXX FLUXX NYC opening (after stopping by Liu Bolin), but my photos didn’t turn out so well. Again, you can find more/better coverage elsewhere.

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Keith W. Bentley - “Cauda Equina” (1995-2007)

Keith W. Bentley – “Cauda Equina” (1995-2007)

The New York Times has an interesting article on the kind of organic art that is currently on display at the Museum of Arts and Design.


Jan Fabre – "Skull" (2001); Fabián Peña – "The Impossibility of Storage for the Soul I (Self-Portrait)" (2007)

Of course, people have always used natural materials to make their art, for the simple reason that until recently nature was all they had, said Ellen Dissanayake, a scholar on the evolution of art [who notes that] from the beginning, art demanded transformation. “Even in hunter-gatherer societies, they tend to make their stuff look not organic,” she said. “When they’re painting, they’ll use geometric shapes, make a row of triangles or circles, as though to show humans are more than nature.”

As Ms. Dissanayake sees it, when people make art, or “artify,” they follow several “aesthetic principles,” whether they know it or not. “They simplify, repeat, exaggerate, elaborate and manipulate expectations,” she said.

–Natalie Angier, Of Compost, Molecules and Insects, Art Is Born,
The New York Times, May 3 2010

– (2008)

Billie Grace Lynn – "Mad Cow Motorcycle" (2008)

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I didn’t particularly regret missing the Shepard Fairey opening until I saw this:


Animal / TWBE

More Shepard Fairey and many more after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

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April 20, 2010

Lunch: Meat Hooked Edition

I’m becoming one of them.


Monday’s lunch: Ridgewood garlic sausage (from Choice Greene) with caramelized shallots and garlic and sautéed kale rabe over tri-color orzo (a variation on a theme). The sweet/salty sausage + shallots played nicely with the slightly-overblanched-yet-still-delicious rabe (the stalks are pretty similar to the broccoli relative, while the leaves are more kale-esque), but I was disappointed in the pasta—it could’ve used more butter and maybe a bit of kick from a wacky spice such as cumin or even just some cayenne pepper. In any case, the dish would probably have been perfect with a liberal topping of shaved romano.


As per the title of the post, I finally managed to make it up to Williamsburg’s newest one-stop foodie outpost the Meat Hook last week, where my friend Lila happens to be produce manager. She hooked me up with said kale rabe, pea shoots and a mesclun mix from Lancaster, PA, while ‘rockstar butcherTom Mylan himself provided a nice chunk of fresh [pork] belly.


I consumed it in taco form, since I finally got my hands on a tortilla press (also from the Meat Hook… why don’t I just marry it, I know). Fucking delicious.


Bonus video:

via Pulp

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March 9, 2010

A Longer Music Post

As promised, a longer music post. First, three new(ish) takes on left(ish)-field pop:

After a couple weeks of typical major-label build, Gorillaz’s somewhat hyped Plastic Beach was released stateside today. Even though I’ve only listened to it twice through, I already like it more than Albarn & co.’s much-lauded previous efforts: the disparate styles are more complementary than ever, guest vocalists are on point and nothing really feels like filler.


No sophomore slump for Yeasayer: Odd Blood might be reduced to freak-folk meets new wave, a characterization that captures the odd listenability of the album, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a surprisingly refreshing (sanguine, even) take on psych-pop. Although I would say that certain songs are slightly stronger than the album as a whole, I still find myself listening to the whole thing when I want to hear 40 minutes of solid indie pop.

I’m struggling a bit more to place Hot Chip’s One Life Stand: I’m not sure whether it is their poppiest album or their danciest one, or maybe both or neither. It’s arguably their most soulful and certainly their most mature recording to date, a noticeable departure from the floor-ready hits of previous efforts: while The Warning always struck me as a singles album and Made in the Dark slowly grew on me without ever quite blowing me away, One Life Stand is by far their most coherent album. Similarly, I’m not sure if the new record makes sense of their Bugged Out Mix from last spring or if the DJ mix manages to make sense of the new album. (I should add that I rather like the mix despite its scattershot approach.)

I suppose the bizarro thug-funk of their semi-underground debut Coming On Strong, which came closest to transcending irony altogether, ought to affirm Hot Chip’s history of 45-degree turns from album to album, though I’d say that the fact that they manage to remain unpredictable is a testament to their brilliance as songwriters.


If the minimal techno influence remains latent in Hot Chip, Bpitch & Kompakt acolytes might enjoy Pantha du Prince’s Black Noise. I can’t say that I’m always up on the whole genre, but I will say that Black Noise has replaced B6′s Post-Haze—one of my favorite albums, techno or otherwise, from last year—as my go-to electro chill-out album of choice. (Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him, he’s big in Shanghai (snap!) and he deserves a full post, which he may still get at some point.)

Similar but quite different: Kieran Hebden continues to craft some of the most accessible experimental music as Four Tet with his latest excellent electro-folk LP, There Is Love in You. It’s a warmer, more cerebral chill-out for sure, though the album’s strength lies largely in understatement.


Just different: Surfer Blood is alright, but they end up sounding just like Pavement, Built to Spill or Weezer as soon as someone points out that they sound just like Pavement, Built to Spill or Weezer. I like the 90′s shit and even the 90′s revival shit as much as the next Pitchfork-reader—Cymbals Eat Guitars and Japandroids were two more favorites from ’09; No Age can do no wrong—but Astrocoast just strikes me as artless in every sense of the word. Then again, if it’s nothing more than rock ‘n’ roll for and by kids, and there’s nothing more to it.

As far as (slightly) older stuff goes, I thought that the first highly-anticipated second album of the year, Vampire Weekend’s Contra, was good enough to warrant regular listening for a month or two, while I just couldn’t get into Spoon’s umpteenth LP despite semi-regular listening. The-Dream, Gucci Mane and Zomby also happened to dominate my listening history from January and February; I’ve been backlogged with older albums for a while now.

Other than that, I should probably listen to the new Beach House album more, it’s pretty good as far as I can tell. It might be hard to top my recent dubstep tip or to bump 36 Chambers (my current throwback obsession) from my top played, but new albums from Joanna Newsom, Liars, Ted Leo and Titus Andronicus might just do the trick.

So that’s my take on Pitchfork’s Best New Music (guilty as charged?).

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March 4, 2010

Pawel Althamer at "Skin Fruit"

The controversial Jeff Koons-curated “Skin Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection” exhibition opened at the New Museum this week.

Check out my review and additional pictures from my boy Stephen Wordie at Hypebeast.

Here is a selection of work by Pawel Althamer. Click for larger images.


Pawel Althamer - Nomo 2009

pawelalthamer2Pawel Althamer - Schedule of the Crucifix 2005

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February 25, 2010

The Lost Art of Inglourious Basterds

» Mr. Oizo – Nazis (Justice Remix) (3:50) – 7.3MB mp3 @ 262kbps

Munk One

Munk One

The recent Upper Playground × Inglourious Basterds poster collaboration inspired me to finally watch Quentin Tarantino’s latest masterpiece (six months late is forever sooner than never).

All images via Arrested Motion (full-size images available, since my web-optimized crops don’t do the artwork justice).


L: David Choe; R: Estevan Oriol

Like most of my postmodern peers, I’m predisposed to like anything that Quentin Tarantino has a hand in (I actually genuinely like Jackie Brown) and it was largely a foregone conclusion that I would enjoy his fifth feature-length film. Even so, I would say that Basterds is somewhat unique, not just as Tarantino’s take on a war flick—homage-y, genre-agnostic and immanently quotable—but even within his oeuvre: the film relies heavily on the absolute moral compass dictated by historical hindsight, operating within a framework of unambiguous good guys and bad guys. This isn’t the clusterfuck of Reservoir Dogs or, say, Vietnam: the eponymous team of Americans is fighting goddamn Nazis, a.k.a. evil in its purest form.

NB: Spoilers ahead.

L: Alex Pardee; R: Rene Almanza

L: Alex Pardee; R: Rene Almanza

With history on his side, Tarantino can afford to instill the Basterds with a measured, weirdly heroic, sadism: the American boys sent to terrorize enemy forces in Nazi-occupied France can do no wrong. Scalping, clubbing, scarring, it’s all good—it’s nothing compared to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, Basterds is relatively tame for the auteur who made his name by transcending senseless violence by depicting it for what it is: nasty, brutish and short. Seasoned film viewers have certainly seen worse.

But Tarantino is (and arguably never was) going for shock value, and graphic violence is but one of his calling cards: he’s at his best when he’s spins tension out of talk, typically between arch-enemies (knowing or otherwise), over milk, strudel, whiskey or fashionable pumps (T has always had a bit of a foot fetish). Tarantino further demonstrates his mastery of dialogue with the clever but unforced play on language: if English is the lingua franca, America is the punchline—cheap shots, perhaps, but all in good fun.

L: Sam Flores; R: Grotexk

L: Sam Flores; R: Grotesk

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January 17, 2010


» Autechre – Bike (7:58) – 9.2MB mp3 @ 160kbps

Mark Jenkins via Arrested Motion

Mark Jenkins via Arrested Motion

The mild weather in New York this weekend has been highly conducive to activities known as “getting out of the house,” especially with regard to my favored mode of transportation, biking. Since I returned to the NYC three weeks ago, I’ve taken to doing laps around Prospect Park for brief cardiovascular excursions, while my single-speed has taken me to various destinations around the boroughs—most recently to dim sum in Bay Ridge.

In retrospect, I regret not biking at all when I was in China. While the feasibility, practicality and efficiency of biking in Beijing were debatable—rentals were clunkers and I didn’t want to buy a bike for a two month stay—I grossly underestimated the ecstasy of cycling. At the most visceral level, I find it liberating: not only from the limits of bipedal locomotion, but also from traffic laws, which also become very fast and loose—to spite every other form of transportation—at cyclists’ own risk.

Apparently, free association also becomes very fast and loose at bloggers’ own risk:

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January 15, 2010


This detailed account of my Thursday is intended as a window into the life of someone who is currently “between jobs” (i.e. jobless—which is why I have all the time in the world to spend on my blog).

It’s pretty stupid and boring.

Honestly though, I don’t really know why I’m doing this—especially without photos, which might somehow justify the tedious and grossly underdeveloped prose. (It reads like something I would’ve written for a 9th-grade English class.) The closest approximation of a rationalization I can come up with is that I’d like to have some really terrible, shameful writing on the record to spite the rest of the content on my blog.

It’s also littered with hip NYC namedroppings and a cast of ancillary characters who barely qualify as devices. There is no symbolism or allegorical value to speak of. I’ve done my best to minimize foreshadowing… but that’s asking a lot and I’m not that good of a writer.

At best, it’s an exercise, an uncharacteristically intimate portrait of contemporary bohemia, largely unembellished albeit esoteric to the point of being skewed. At worst, it may be remembered as the first symptom of an otherwise untold descent into madness.

We’ll see how long it says online before I decide to delete it. (I’m tracking stats now so I’ll know exactly how many people clickthrough and read it.)

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December 10, 2009

Ai Weiwei or the Highway(way)

“To give a price to an artwork, no matter how high or low, is always absurd.”*

via the New York Times

via the New York Times

Ai Weiwei is invariably described as the quintessential contemporary Chinese artist, an outspoken persona and activist whose socio-political message is matched by his strong sense of form and history. His body of work, realized in every medium from architecture to photography, is a critical reinterpretation of traditional Chinese culture in an unambiguously modern aesthetic.


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November 25, 2009

Beijing Electro City

Well that didn’t take long.

I found the new Chinese sound…

…or at least a sound that I was new to me, by way of a Chinese artist.

But first the requisite tedium of time, place, overanalysis and a dozen other tangents:

After catching La Loupe last Thursday, I opted not to see Au Revoir Simone or Rahzel (playing separate concerts—Chinese people are crazy but they’re not that crazy) and take it easy on Friday because 1.) the shows were relatively expensive—150RMB [$22] and 100RMB [$15]) respectively, which sounds cheap but taking drinks and cab fare into account, would have made a relatively expensive night out; 2.) I was afraid I would go through another pack of smokes (a health concern, not a financial one; more on this shortly); and 3.) I was saving my energy, money and health for Saturday’s cryptically-titled “Great Beer, Bad City” concert, showcasing China’s finest electronic music talent, at 2 Kolegas, “Beijing’s Hottest Dive Bar & Live Music Venue” (according to their website).


You'll have to excuse the poor quality of my photos; low light, strobes, movement, inebriation and ineptitude are to blame.

You'll have to excuse the poor quality of my photos; low light, strobes, movement, inebriation and ineptitude are to blame.

Like D-22, 2 Kolegas has established itself as a legit venue since its founding by two expats a few years back, attracting indie acts from near and far (I regret missing YACHT’s Halloween show there). Also like D-22, it happens to be off the beaten path, but (unlike D-22) this does not work in my favor: 2 Kolegas is a 15 km / 25 minute / 45RMB taxi-ride away, in the northeastern reaches of Beijing… in the parking lot of a sketchy drive-in movie theater that I might have mistook for a carnival (further explanation is clearly necessary, but will not be provided.) As with most places I’ve tried to find in Beijing, I found it on the second try, after a 15-minute detour down a shady side street lined with empty cabs—I had hoped they were ferrying passengers to nightlife off the main road, but this was not the case.

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