Seth ran out of Christmas music a couple years ago so this episode really only qualifies as a sort-of-Christmas Special. However, he plays “Ice” by The Essence so there’s that…
This week: POM POM Listening Party with Ariel Pink!!
Listen to Ariel Pink’s latest record POM POM with us!! Interview with Ariel Pink featured throughout the show where important topics such as Antarctica, Monsters and Werner Herzog will be discussed between songs!!
TUES 18th Nov: 6PM PST (1PM wed in AUS/2AM U.K/ 9PM EST)
WED 19th Nov: 3PM PST (10AM thurs in AUS/11PM U.K/ 6PM EST)
THURS 20th Nov: 12PM PST (7AM fri in AUS/8PM U.K/ 3PM EST)
FRI 21st Nov: 7PM (2PM sat in AUS/3AM U.K/ 10PM EST)
Tune in here at radio.magicmonsterrecords.com or on itunes by selecting Magic Monster Radio under Alternative….
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Pasadena and an even longer time since I’ve been to church, but the otherworldly folk music of Wendy Rule is worth breaking through a few barriers. Perhaps describing Rule’s music as “otherworldly” only gives a facet of the tale. While these songs often give us a window into another world they also allow us to muse on the world around us and reflect on the world within us. Arriving to the show a few songs late, I find myself struggling with the church’s locked door, one of those mysteries of life, one of those barriers I’m willing to cross to hear some mythic folk. But it’s not until I let go of the handle that I realize I’m at the side of the church and I start my fool’s journey around to the front of the church and its wide open front door, hoping that nobody saw me losing a battle of wits with a piece of wood.
Rule is already afloat in her mysterious ether conjured by a hypnotic cascade of acoustic guitar and vocals that seem to transcend the dimensions. Her voice commands communion, leaving us adrift in her spectacularly spectral vesper, spinning a darkness we can trust. In the pews of this simple Pasadena church, we are together and alone, on a vision quest through time and space with Rule’s ever-shifting voice leading us like the moon jumping phases through a full cycle in the course of one song. But between songs, she is down to earth and engaging, making us smile so as not to be lost in riptides of intensity. Still, a quick glance around the church shows heads bowed in reverence, in tears, all but genuflecting to the entities evoked in Rule’s overwhelming acoustic tributes. Through plucked strings, secret whispers, mourning cries, and primal howls, the intoxicating lull of her nocturnal allure remains constant.
A brief intermission is called and Rule spends the time talking with fans before someone calls our attention to the rising full moon. It’s gorgeous in its pregnant pale brilliance, hazed by the clouds, much like that point of obscurity we walk through to eventually touch upon the answers to our deepest questions. It’s an obvious parallel to Rule’s music that playfully illuminates dark recesses with an effervescence celebrating mystery and encouraging us to find our own story through parallels with her experiences in worlds we may or may not know.
- Seth Styles
Photo: Veronica O’Neil
Los Angeles art punk minstrels The Deadfly Ensemble have just released a riveting new 7” featuring two brand new tracks available on heavyweight black vinyl HERE as well as a downloadable version at the group’s own bandcamp site.
Each song adds a completely new facet to the Deadfly Ensembly repertoire so that we’re left with visions of them rolling a 20-sided die to see what happens next. “Poison! Poison! Poison! Poison!” leads with a weaving, snaking guitar that breaks into a madcap recitation of sweeping, theatrical, otherworldly drama. It’s a spitting cobra of a song viciously hawking vitriolic venom all over what you’ve come to expect from the Deadfly Ensemble’s creative fusion of Batcave deathrock and folk-infused goth. Any remaining assumptions are easily disjointed by a revolving cast of chaotic phantom revelers backing the soaring power of Lanthier’s dramatic trademark vocal style. “A Thrilling Tale of Childhood” is just as mean, offering a ghastly coming of age vignette set to dark, wistful melodies. Imagine The Wonder Years as narrated by H.P. Lovecraft.
The lovingly crafted heavyweight black vinyl 7” features a gorgeous full color sleeve and labels. It’s hand-numbered and limited to 333 copies because songs this naughty only need half the number of the beast.
You can also snag a digital downloadable copy at the Deadfly Ensemble’s Bandcamp page at a name-your-own-price rate.
More About the Deadfly Ensemble:
The Deadfly Ensemble are barely recognizable from the duo that fused folk and post-punk to garner their debut as a coveted opening spot for neo-folk legends Death in June in 2005. Over the years, the Deadfly Ensemble has collected a full band of misfits and miscreants, like a travelling circus of ex-cons or a gallery of timeless villains. Founded by vocalist and guitarist Lucas Lanthier, who made a name for himself as the charming clown prince of flamboyant deathrock darlings Cinema Strange, and unsettlingly suave bassist James Rupert Powell, the Deadfly Ensemble has been fully fleshed out with the addition of prickly cellist Marzia Rangel, pounding percussionist Dizhan Blu, and gutter-haunt guitarist Steven James. This full-fledged incarnation of The Deadfly Ensemble creates a bristling bouquet of baroque punk, boasting as many stinging nettles as roses.
I arrive at the Echoplex at an hour so early that it breaks some kind of cosmic Los Angeles rule but to my surprise, there’s already a small crowd gathered at the foot of the stage in anticipation. I didn’t want to miss Kirin J. Callinan but until I’m at the door, I don’t even realize that there’s another act, Liam Finn, on the bill. Connan Mockasin is the main event tonight but having seen him just a few short months ago, I’m really hear to see Kirin J. Callinan whose name has been dropped a lot among friends lately though I still remain ignorant to his music. Rest assured, though his appearance in this review may be brief, Connan Mockasin was every bit the male Medusa he was when I saw him in January, freezing the audience in place with his stunning compositions and then thawing us out with torrid sexuality.
Liam Finn wastes no time in dosing the audience with his brand of pretty pop inflected with glitter rock guitar electricity. He may not look the part of a Mick Ronson with his bushy beard and unassuming dress, but those guitar riffs would have you believe otherwise. A full band supports him through his diverse pop forays that are often lush, fleshed out by backing harmonies, synth orchestras, and even some omnichord action. The sparkling gem of the set, like silver moonlight gently glistening upon undulating waves, is introduced as having been inspired by the mythic heroine of softcore porn Emmanuelle. But where those films cut away, Liam Finn delivers the money shot with gorgeous orchestral romance and gently plucked guitar that idealizes a fantasy behind a Vaseline-streaked lens the way Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer” did a one-night stand. Just last week, a friend had been telling me one of his own songs was inspired by an Emmanuelle movie so maybe softcore pornography has a place in our universal subconscious now. Maybe this is the stuff of legends.
Somebody up there likes us tonight because Jimi Hey is the DJ between sets. Tonight, he dazzles us with Australian and New Zealand-centric selections including John Farnham’s “Age of Reason” that sounds absolutely jawdropping as Jimi plays it at a slower speed.
Kirin J. Callinan sashays delicately onto the stage to Jimi’s selection of Australian Crawl’s “Restless”, miming along in flowing robes. Not knowing what to expect, I’m visibly shocked when Kirin unceremoniously rips through the structure of the Echoplex with the white heat of his opening guitar chord, looking like a tortured Hare Krishna pushed over the edge. He’s flanked by a drummer insistently pounding out purely brutal beats augmented by programmed rhythms and a synth player who soaks the sound in acidic washes and biting maniacal melodies. The drummer is dressed like an extra from The Road Warrior while the synth player barely moves, yet looks somehow sinister in a black turtleneck with sunglasses dangling across his chest. They break their stoic expressions rarely but when they do, it’s to sneer. Tim Koh, no stranger to music connoisseurs of Los Angeles, has the difficult job of anchoring the violent and emotional explosion before us with the bass responsibilities, but hidden in the shadows, he proves himself up to the challenge. By the end of the first song, I’m turning around expecting to see the audience looking a bit like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And just like that, I’m a fan. But the industrial-influenced prophecies and post-apocalyptic pop songs keep coming with Kirin’s majestic and powerful vocals shifting into raw damnations while he drags twisted lips across the microphone. Just when we’re starting to get scared of this guy, he awes us by throwing his spinning guitar into the air before catching it and immediately plunging us into crunchy chords of malevolence. But these aren’t really storm trooper dirges. It’s as if he’s trying to explain a painful truth for the greater good against his own desire. In reflective moments, his introspection becomes universal and inclusive, his lyrics ecstatic and celebratory even in the face of the truly bleak. There’s humor in the synth player cynically rasping “Springsteen” throughout a song about America, but Kirin immediately wipes the smiles off our faces with a voice that can sound as sublime as Marc Almond and, within the same sentence, as coarse as J.G. Thirlwell. But while Kirin’s compositions hint at a prophet spoon-feeding his people the most bitter of medicines, the audience tonight don’t want him to leave the stage and he’s left performing an a cappella song about being a toddler. He takes his shirt off and a friend remarks “Kirin’s got the Gummo haircut” and it’s strange how quickly he shifts from Hare Krishna to disillusioned youth. Through the laughs, we’re hearing his voice, naked and spot-lit for the first time, and it’s truly incredible.
This is the final night of the Connan Mockasin/Kirin J. Callinan tour and the bittersweet energy of fond farewells is in the air. By the end of Mockasin’s set, all band members from tonight’s acts are onstage in an encore that they don’t want to end. At some point, New Zealand-born pop star Daniel Bedingfield actually takes the stage and sings his hit “Gotta Get Thru This” and while a lot of the audience is baffled, it’s obvious that the bands don’t want to get through this at all.
Paying my immediate penance for underestimating parking in Koreatown, I walk into the sweltering First Unitarian Church to find Toy closing what I can only imagine was yet another blistering set. Where detail was muffled and lost in the acoustics of the venue when I caught them in January, every nuance comes through with precision and impact tonight so missing out on their set is that much more disappointing. Ignoring the negative, I take a seat and console myself with the thought that in the acoustics of a church, the Horrors will certainly sound incredible.
The congregation rises in sweat-streaked fervor as the Horrors emerge, nearly absorbed by swathes of red light. The insistence of a cascading synth line builds inertia through a mounting beat before we’re hit out the gate with the gloriously wasted “Mirror’s Image.” The guitar is notably absent as Joshua Hayward crouches in illuminated haze and as he searches for the problem, we’re left to fill in the blanks with our own memories of that crucial distortion, the sound of a VHS cassette being eaten mid-view. Technical difficulties aside, this is still the band teenage boys wanted to be when we picked up guitars and tried on our mother’s mascara. Sure, they’ve grown their hair out a bit and stopped wearing eyeliner, but we all remember what door they came in through and it’s as if its forever grafted onto them. Farris Badwan’s a gaunt wraith, holding onto the mic stand as if it’s the only thing keeping him corporeal, grimly declaring not so much prophecies as anecdotes of the human experience, his black clothes dripping off of him like shadows dragging him back to a place we hope to never find ourselves. Tom Cowan glances up briefly as if his synth rigs have detached him from the drama unfolding before us. While some of the show’s most climactic moments owe a huge debt to his synth work, his face never breaks its stoicism as he operates with clinical disconnect. Each beat delivered by Joe Spurgeon is primed for impact, giving him a different kind of disconnect in which his focus allows for no acknowledgement of anything beyond the task at hand. But time and time again, my attention turns to Rhys Webb, holding down every bass line impeccably while making it look more like a dance partner than a musical instrument. At any given moment, Webb isn’t simply holding the beat but locking into it so directly that you can actually see it hit back. That point of resistance is crucial in the Horrors’ music and it’s never been more apparent than tonight.
“Mirror’s Image” still evokes a strange romance in failure, the red throb of neon whores and the promise of dying in an opium den. But as the sound issues are ironed out and the band transition into “I Can See Through You”, we get our first breeze of hope; the point in which we see the stars from our own little space in the glowing gutter. Or maybe we’ve had just enough opium to think we see the stars. Either way, it’s this cinematic hope that runs as the theme for the rest of the show, juxtaposing a future imperfect, a cool blue answer to an addictive infectious red.
“In and Out of Sight”, the first track we get from new album Luminous, exudes the dance-influence the Horrors had hinted at but is refreshingly choked with emotion. Badwan’s vocals have never sounded so dynamic or sincere, reflecting new romance over an electronic backdrop. There’s definitely a ghost in this machine if not a beating heart as it rises to a climax that could easily close the show if we weren’t four songs in. But with “I See You” just a few minutes off, it’s as if we’re getting one cascading, crashing movie moment after another. The Horrors don’t seem put off by the heat at all. In fact, they’re giving us no time to catch our breath.
Amidst blue lasers and Webb’s mesmerizing spinning, Hayward’s guitars at once atmospheric then commanding a riveting lead, Cowan’s phasing and intoxicating synths, Badwan’s lofty yet somehow grave vocals, and Spurgeon’s drums giving a sound body to all of this electricity, it almost feels like we’re having a close encounter and realizing they’ve come in peace. “Endless Blue” shreds through the abstract with its directness while any audience members still seated are instantly ripped up by the opening krautrock dirge of “Sea Within a Sea.” “Still Life” seems like the fitting farewell until we’re treated to an encore of “Moving Further Away” which almost seems to tap into the same spirit of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” without sounding a thing like it. Badwan punctuates with banshee shrieks as he prowls the stage, amplified by the song’s building electricity. In the closing moments, watching Webb lock in every beat, holding his bass upright, it feels almost like the last minutes of Christmas or closing time at Disneyland. But with the anthemic hope coursing through the majority of the Horrors’ set, you can’t help but walk out feeling like you’ll see them again sooner than later.
- Seth Styles
I’d never heard of Café NELA prior to this tepid spring night, but the venue’s crowd is surging back to the door. Glimpses of checkered floors and red diner-style booths appear sporadically in momentary gaps of the crowd, but with the stage at the other end of Café NELA and a big black sea of ’77 punks awaiting performances from the likes of Human Hands and Radwaste, I’m relegated to the smoking patio to get some fresh air (or as fresh as I can get it). It’s hard to remember that Los Angeles is a big city, but as I’m introduced to people I’ve never met in familiar Bauhaus T-shirts, people that go to the same shows, listen to the same records, and do the same drugs as friends of mine, it’s pretty clear. But that’s not to say the night was predictable.
On the strength of a friend’s recommendation, some early demos and a phonetically pleasing band name, I’d been meaning to see Egrets on Ergot before they’d even played a single live show. Of course, this is LA, so since Egrets on Ergot didn’t play their first show within a week of my hearing about them, I sort of forgot they existed. Fast forward to this night and they’ve been through line-up changes, recorded material that almost nullifies those early demos, and built up a following. Needless to say, I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m relieved to secure a square of that checkered floor where I can actually see the stage.
But what’s really secure at a show like this? Within seconds of Egrets on Ergot’s taking the stage, I’m left to dive into one of those shiny diner booths, seeking refuge from the clumsy, swaying pit of flailing limbs that has eaten the audience from the inside out. It’s like a neutron bomb blast wave of no wave hitting a Johnny Rockets. From this point on, my visual of the band is occasional: a glimpse of the shaved dome of vocalist Adam Brooks aerodynamically weaving through crowd violence, nimble, striking, and confident like the hairless cat of Egyptian royalty. A glance to the right where the guitarist cuts through razor wire leads of jagged, saw toothed post-punk before transcending into a swooning melancholy Western slide that sounds pretty without compromising the charm of her ragged edges. Each bass line manages to be frantic and frenzied while working with the beat to anchor the quartet, resulting in a cool, collected visage against the manic, twitching body. The set is lithe and agile yet persistently abrasive.
For the genre-inclined, Egrets on Ergot are deathrock but not so dead, post-punk with a bit more punk, no-wave that says “yes” once in a while. So, yeah, it’s a bit hard to pin down. After the show, I hear comparisons to Television and Big Black, though the latter’s much easier for me to hear. The introductory saxophone wails immediately recall short-lived brass-brandishing tribal post-punk outfit Ritual, but that’s an easy comparison. Still, it’s hard to shake. Regardless, Egrets on Ergot are probably most interesting to those of us who see genres and comparisons as a hassle. With a name that references birds in flight and LSD, you get the sense that this is a band that doesn’t want to be restrained.
- Seth Styles
Director: Frank Pavich
Like a lot of documentaries, most of the audience for Jodorowsky’s Dune goes into the film knowing how it all ends. Tonight, excitement is easily trumping the impending tragedy. We’re telling ourselves that old adage that it’s about the journey, not the destination, but about halfway through the film, when we’ve seen how miraculously it’s all coming together, we realize we’ve been kidding ourselves. We wanted this movie and we never got it. Even with this in mind, tragedy’s rarely tasted so bitter. Yet, we remain hanging on to the charm of Jodorowsky’s every word, as if he’s going to surprise us with all 12 hours of the mythical movie and you don’t even have to ask if this audience would sit through every moment of it. Toward the beginning, the camera sweeps over boxes of Jodorowsky’s unrealized visions but instead of looking like miscarried dreams they appear as glimmers of hope. Are there fragments of film tucked away in those boxes hastily labeled Abel Cain, King Shot, and Dune?
Since this was not my first time exploring the unresolved peak of cinema that is Jodorowsky’s vast vision of Dune, I had assumed I’d seen every image and heard every tale. But Jodorowsky’s Dune delves deep into an enormous film bible that Jodorowsky and his team put together to pass out to interested film studios and we find ourselves, most of us for the first time, confronted with stirring images, detailed storyboards, and firsthand accounts of one of the most ambitious film projects ever undertaken. As if the filmmakers knew the audience would be wearing the grimace of things-to-come beneath our awed visages, they pepper the interviews with plenty of humor. Most of this can be credited to Jodorowsky himself who inspires with every word, exuding an intense charm that elevates him above the pity we’d have gladly given him for the dissolution of a perfect dream. We listen to accounts of his psychologizing the maddest of gods among men such as Salvador Dali and Orson Welles as well as the holy quest to collect the perfect spiritual team that not just followed his vision but fully became a part of it.
After following anecdotes fueled by faith, laughing at the concept of coincidence, we remember that this is the tale of a movie that never gets made. It makes us mad at life. It’s possibly the scariest movie you could show to a room full of artists and sitting here, in a Los Angeles movie theater, I can feel the romantics crawling out of their skins at each perfect moment, knowing that it’s all for nothing. There’s no way Jodorwosky’s Dune could end well. But as we sit there, trembling in our seats, dying our own artistic deaths in time with Jodorowsky, this documentary ends well in the only possible way it can. And that’s more than enough when you’re wandering through self-doubt and hopelessness. In that bleakest moment, amidst the only point when we see the endearing Jodorowsky crumble into human rage and frustration, we’re given the inspiration we need and more. We’re shown, in detail, that our deaths can have meaning, that our legends can be just as important (maybe more important) than our loftiest ambitions.
We made our exodus out of the theater at prime time for the blood moon. Some people are collapsed under the weight of the tragedy, never being able to quite make it beyond the obvious sense of loss that comes with this kind of documentary. But most of us are getting drunk on the blood of this eclipse, broadening our scopes, ready to die for our ambitions as many times as it takes.
- Seth Styles