From The Desk Of M. Ward: Tempelhof Park, Berlin, Germany

M. Ward: When I finished my first record back in 2000, the first European companies to support my music were based in Brussels (62TV) and Paris (Le Disque Mange Tout). So I spent a lot of time traveling around western Europe playing music and trying to learn French, but also finding time to play le touriste américain. I feel fortunate that I’ve had the time to see some of the greatest museums and public spaces in the world. They have blown my mind too many times to mention.

Tempelhofer

Ward: From the p.o.v. of a lowly tourist (me), the whole city of Berlin now seems to be a huge symbol of what cities could look like in a post-war universe. And nowhere symbolizes this better than at Tempelhof Park: an old airport runway designed for troops that has been turned into a massive massive pubic space. My first experience was on the first warm day of spring—and it seemed the perfect place to do nothing; or if you change your mind, do something down a runway: skate, run, pull your kid on a tricycle, buy a coffee and hazelnut wafer from a Händler on a bike. And half a mile away in every direction: little clusters of people from all over the world—appearing no larger than Lego families flying kites.

Video after the jump.

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Film At 11: Cate Le Bon

The short film from Cate Le Bon‘s new album, Crab Day, is an artistic ode to the bizarre. To start off, a woman paces the hall, and it then heightens to dancing, a man drooling on himself and an extravagantly dressed female whipping a chair around. Check out the curious clip below.

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Live Review: Future Of The Left, Norwich, United Kingdom, April 16, 2016

FOTL

“I too once liked Metallica. It’s called puberty.”

And the crowd went mental.

Andrew Falkous, frontman of Future Of The Left, is storming the proverbial citadel, taking arms against the most sacred avatars of the Establishment: Narnians and their Christianity, Thatcher and her Evil, heavy metal and its dinosaurs. Fans of the U.K. combo—by virtue of being earnest and unkempt, if not secular and uncircumcised—are unwavering in their adoration of this iconoclastic band and its verbose vocalist. They bang their scraggly heads in perfect unison with the group’s pothole rhythms. They scream the absurdist lyrics verbatim as if reciting holy scripture. And they guffaw full-throatedly at the witty inter-song banter like penny-stinkers snickering at Shakespeare’s token dick jokes.

To be fair, their enthusiasm is understandable. Both venue and performers offer a unique experience tonight.

Playing in a 15th-century church converted into a punk club, FOTL burns with the white-hot intensity of Mclusky, the spectacular post-hardcore trio that Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone dissolved a decade ago. The “covers” of their former band’s “Gareth Brown Says” and “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” whip up a nasty indie-punk frenzy. “If AT&T Drank Tea What Would BP Do,” from new LP The Peace & Truce Of Future Of The Left, recalls the dissonance and ferocity of alt-noise heroes the Jesus Lizard. “Arming Eritrea,” “Eating For None” and “Robocop 4—Fuck Off Robocop” are as avant-garde, sharp-edged, and searing as the best of harDCore, without any of the insufferable self-importance.

Falkous himself is in typically frisky form. His vocals, when not as staccato and acerbic as a coked-up hyena or a Dalek performing at a poetry slam, can actually be quite melodic and catchy. In fact, despite their grating guitars and herky-jerky rhythms, “The Limits Of Battleships,” “Running All Over The Wicket” and “Miner’s Gruel”—all from the new album—are rousing, pub sing-alongs, and indeed the crowd does join in with gusto. A convivial ambiance settles in, facilitated by beer, sweat and laughter. Even the slam-dancing is—as Falkous remarks with approval—“energetic yet respectful.”

During the outro to set closer “How To Spot A Record Company,” the band slowly dismantles itself just as Falkous has dismantled society’s most cherished institutions throughout the gig. Bassist Julia Ruzicka retrieves an unwitting volunteer from the crowd to fumble through some awkward notes, Falkous methodically disassembles the drum kit while Egglestone is still playing, and the song spirals into madness. In this former place of worship, what better vaccination against the mainstream than anarchy?

It’s actually quite simple to be an iconoclast. Irreverence, blasphemy, open mockery—these are dime-store virtues, though virtues they certainly be. The trick is to offer a sustainable alternative to the status quo.

Or, if you’re Future Of The Left, to be really fucking entertaining while driving the bus over the cliff.

—Eric Bensel

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MAGNET Classics: Ted Leo And The Pharmacists’ “The Tyranny Of Distance”

TedLeo

The making of Ted Leo And The Pharmacists’ The Tyranny Of Distance
By John Vettese

On their third day in the studio together, Ted Leo and Brendan Canty watched a reel-to-reel machine explode all over National Recording. “The tape shot across the room and whipped like a rope,” says Canty. “Like a bullwhip. You could see the magnetic particles flying off.”

It was February 2001. The song they were in the middle of tracking was “Under The Hedge,” a fierce meeting ground between the Pogues and Elvis Costello; the sessions were working toward The Tyranny Of Distance, Leo’s anthem-rich sophomore LP. The studio, nested in the then-desolate fringes of Washington, D.C.’s Mount Vernon Square, was owned by the band Trans Am—post-rock soundscapers and avid collectors of old recording equipment. In this case, a dusty Atari 16-track and an “ancient” Trident mixing board couldn’t sync up; it wasn’t possible to rewind on one and stop on the other.

And so a terrific take of “Under The Hedge” was lost. Everything so far was lost, actually. “Teddy looked at me and said, ‘I think the tape is fucked,’” says Canty.

But what could have been a crushing setback was taken in stride. The machine was recalibrated, the sessions moved on. Friends and fellow musicians in the neighborhood began to join in. Hearing Leo and Canty describe it 15 years later, it sounds damn near idyllic, a perfect nexus of creative productivity with a dearth of external pressures. The result was a bold collection of songs that goes in a variety of directions with confidence, thrash to folk to pub rock, while maintaining a strong central focus.

Leo likens the album to “a really good mix tape.” Canty praises his friend’s prolific songwriting. In a May 2001 Pitchfork review, critic Kristin Sage Rokermann enthused, “This album could have sounded like anything. As it turns out, it sounded like everything.”

Heading into the June 2001 release of The Tyranny Of Distance, Ted Leo was something of a free agent. He had been playing in hardcore bands like Citizens Arrest and Puzzlehead since he was a teenager; his biggest success came from D.C. power trio Chisel, which had parted ways four years previous. The interim was a mix of lo-fi four-track noise (his solo debut tej leo(?), Rx / pharmacists, released in 1999 on Gern Blandsten), bare-knuckled political punk (the Sin Eaters, a band with brother Danny) and indie-pop (a stint with the Spinanes). Though tapped-in people knew Leo, he wasn’t yet a marquee name in the indie-rock sphere.

Because of that, did he feel compelled to be more exploratory with his sound and style?

“It’s hard to say I felt compelled to do anything,” says Leo. “At that point in my ‘career,’ I don’t think there really were many expectations. There were probably a few lingering Chisel fans around who were looking for some good pop songcraft.” When that band broke up, it hit Leo hard. He had moved from Indiana to Washington, D.C., with his bandmates, and he took jobs based on his ability to tour. His eggs had very much been in the Chisel basket. As he recalls, “We had come to a real crossroads in terms of a future direction. I was feeling very punk, I didn’t want to sign to a major label. And we were diverging musically.”

Leo admits that he and his bandmates were neither making shit-tons of money nor feeling artistically fulfilled. When he left and began touring solo, his shows were aggressively unconventional—he set up an old tape machine onstage and performed to backing tracks, something that was at the time unheard of in punk.

“It was fun for me, but I look back and I realize I was kind of pushing for someone to come at me about it,” says Leo. “I would get heckled a lot. It was weirdly confrontational.”

At some points in the setlist, he’d put down his guitar and “basically karaoke to my own songs.” This carried on for a year or so until he realized the absurdity of “lugging this giant, constantly breaking piece of near obsolete technology around.” About the time of the 1999 release of the Treble In Trouble EP, gigs turned into 90 percent solo-with-guitar, 10 percent pickup shows with friends. His life at that point was very fluid, freewheeling and in the moment.

“What do I want to do today? I want to play a show. I need to pay my rent, I have to play a show,” says Leo. “I have a bunch of songs, I’m gonna record them. I don’t have any money, I’m gonna do it on a four-track in the basement.”

This outlook carried over to his writing.

“I was kind of careening back and forth—and I always am, in a way—between this desire to write beautiful music and this desire to write really repulsive music,” says Leo. “I think where I landed with Tyranny was a little bit more on the pretty side of things. But because there were no expectations, really from almost anybody, it was nice to make a record where the only thing you were worrying about was what you were doing at that moment, what it sounded like and whether you were into it.”

Tyranny may have been Leo’s first album released under the Pharmacists banner, but as he told the D.C. City Paper in 2011, it was recorded very much like a solo LP—complete with contributions from friends and fellow musicians whom he respected. Along the way, the band emerged (see sidebar), and a sound was zeroed-in on, though this in-process vibe was appealing to the team at Lookout! Records, which signed Leo on the strength of his home-recorded demos.

Molly Neuman, co-owner of the label, says she was a longtime fan and friend of Leo’s from the Chisel days. Where some were perplexed by his scattered, transitory direction in the wake of his old band, she found it exciting.

“Fans, or people who aren’t in bands themselves, get really obsessed with one track or one album from an artist,” says Neuman. “But artists have to continue to challenge themselves; they need to go off the rails. And creatively, there should be permission to do that.”

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From The Desk Of M. Ward: Tate Modern, London, England

M. Ward: When I finished my first record back in 2000, the first European companies to support my music were based in Brussels (62TV) and Paris (Le Disque Mange Tout). So I spent a lot of time traveling around western Europe playing music and trying to learn French, but also finding time to play le touriste américain. I feel fortunate that I’ve had the time to see some of the greatest museums and public spaces in the world. They have blown my mind too many times to mention.

Tate

Ward: A more obvious choice for this post, but still, I stop here every chance I get. I love where its situated across the Thames from St. Paul’s and overlooking the Millennium Bridge. A few floors are always free, but if you have the time, try to see at least one of the special exhibits. Best sights first time I was there: the Rothko room and the main entrance room, which is the size of an airplane hangar. Big discovery: Maya Deren.

Video after the jump.

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Essential New Music: Laura Gibson’s “Empire Builder”

LauraGibson

Since we last heard from Laura Gibson, the supple-voiced singer/songwriter moved from Portland, Ore., to New York City, enrolled in an MFA program and lost all her stuff in a gas explosion. You can look for all of that in the lyrics of Empire Builder, but this record’s got bigger stuff on its mind: growing, finding. Love looms large on this LP, but while Gibson is often humane, she’s not always gentle. The teeth come out on the solemnly insistent “Not Harmless,” while the moody “The Cause” pulses with a hip-shaking beat.

Standout track “Two Kids” captures all the frenetic diehardism of youth in elegant, moving verses that would’ve fit pretty snugly on Tigermilk. The kids “trade a roof for the open sky, living on luck, tethering our hopes to a pickup truck” before making the sort of declarations only the naïve and the doomed can make: “If we’re gonna die young, we’re gonna die with a love song in our mouths.” It’s just the loveliest fucking song on an album full of them.

—Patrick Rapa

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Essential New Music: John Kaada & Mike Patton’s “Bacteria Cult”

KaadaPatton

It’s been a long time since these guys have made material available to the public. Not so much individually—Mike Patton’s probably released two albums in the time it’s taken you to read this page—but a long minute has passed since Norse composer John Kaada and musical polymath Patton teamed up. Back in 2004, Romances was an homage to 18th-century classical music. 2016 is a much more fi lmic experience, as the pair has created a series of mini soundtracks to movies yet to be made.

“Peste Bubonica” and “Black Albino” were likely written after a two-day Once Upon A Time In America/Man With No Name-trilogy binge—a whole lot of Morricone drives these two pieces. In other spots, there’s a creeping air of spookiness tempered by an almost cartoonish playfulness that sounds like either a masked killer or a wily coyote is sneaking up behind you. Praise be to those albums that can aurally evoke emotion and vivid imagery.

—Kevin Stewart-Panko

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In The News: Deerhoof, Air, 10,000 Maniacs, Japancakes, Mumford & Sons, Death From Above 1979, Frank Sinatra, Richard Ashcroft And More

Deerhoof

Deerhoof returns June 24 with the release of The Magic! via Polyvinyl. The band will embark on a North American tour this summer in support … The 20th birthday of Air will be commemorated June 10, when Parlophone releases Twentyears, the band’s first-ever anthology. The two-disc set contains selections from the band’s catalog, rarities and previously unreleased material … Playing Favorites is a new album featuring 10,000 Maniacs playing their biggest hits and fan preferences live, due out from Omnivore on June 3 … 429 will issue the new Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemaker’s album, Rehab Reunion, on June 17 … On June 10, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor will release Piano, which features just him and a piano, via Moshi Moshi … Japancakes returns after a nine-year hiatus with a self-titled, self-released album on May 6 … Johannesburg is a new set of recordings by Mumford & Sons made with Baaba Maal, Beatenburg and the Very Best. It’s set for a June 17 release …. Third Man has announced the April 22 release of Death From Above 1979’s live EP … The debut solo album of Fountains Of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood, Look Park, is due from Yep Roc on July 22 … The centennial celebration for Frank Sinatra will continue May 27 with Eagle Rock’s release of four titles in The Frank Sinatra Collection … Harvest will release Richard Ashcroft‘s first album in six years, These People, on May 20.

—Emily Costantino

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From The Desk Of M. Ward: National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece

M. Ward: When I finished my first record back in 2000, the first European companies to support my music were based in Brussels (62TV) and Paris (Le Disque Mange Tout). So I spent a lot of time traveling around western Europe playing music and trying to learn French, but also finding time to play le touriste américain. I feel fortunate that I’ve had the time to see some of the greatest museums and public spaces in the world. They have blown my mind too many times to mention.

National

Ward: Maybe my favorite of all time: ruins of ships buried underwater for centuries. And, in the next room over, the souvenirs the ship was carrying. And, down the hall, the mariners on board and the gods they worshiped beside the funeral mask of the bearded king and the 15th century bc silver bull’s head libation cup. It goes on and on, times 11,000.

Video after the jump.

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Essential New Music: The Body And Full Of Hell’s “One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache” And The Body’s “No One Deserves Happiness”

Body

The Body might be a duo, but on records, they gather recruits to help them stretch and blur genre lines that a lot of metal bands wouldn’t touch, having teamed with Haxan Cloak, Thou, Krieg and the Assembly Of Light Choir, among others. They’ve got a couple new records out: One is a collaboration with grindcore extraordinaires Full Of Hell, and on No One Deserves Happiness, they once again worked with Assembly singer Chrissy Wolpert. Both are standouts in an already prolific discography.

On One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache, Full Of Hell pushes the Body to tempos that the doom-metal twosome rarely attempts. Noise is an oft-used tool in both bands’ arsenals,and it’s doled out liberally within the masterful cacophony here. And while there’s no Hole cover like the album title might suggest, there is a weirdo take on Leonard Cohen’s “The Butcher.” No One Deserves Happiness is even better. Touted as the band’s “pop” record, it takes forlorn vocals and obliterated 808 beats, filtered through the dirge for which the Body is known.

—Matt Sullivan

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