Monday, March 28, 2011

The Dirty Napkin

In another effort to shameless self-promote and also share my creative writing, I would like to call your attention to the current issue of The Dirty Napkin, a remarkable online literary journal. The magazine "strives to capture art in its greatest sense of urgency," and does so by selecting  exquisite prose and poetry that carry both weight and lightness. The site publishes new work in every volume, as well as audio recordings.

Their mission is: To create an active community of exceptional writers...We believe that writing cannot be separated from the voice, breath, and personality of the author. Further, we feel that if a piece of writing is separated from this literal voice much power is lost. Therefore, we seek to include this voice by providing recordings of each author reading their work.

I am honored to have my work currently featured on the cover. As part of the "dirty napkin" theme, which comes from the idea that sometimes art and thought is so urgent that one must grab the nearest napkin to start writing, I was asked to write as much as I could fit of my piece on a napkin. After doing this, I mailed it  and they arranged, photographed, and featured it amongst other "dirty napkins." Mine is the blue napkin;  give it a glance!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Song: "Communal Blood"

Having just performed new tracks at this year's SXSW, the Texas natives This Will Destroy You prepare to release Tunnel Blanket on Suicide Squeeze Records on May 10. Following up their 2008 debut, Tunnel Blanket will invariably present more of their high-tension post-rock that occasionally borders on cinematic.
Here's what the PR folk have to say about the forthcoming album: Tunnel Blanket delivers the epic-in-scope soundscapes that followers of its makers’ previous recordings are accustomed to, but presents them in new lights – where once the sun shone down bright upon immediate tropes and traits, now their work is better suited to distant starlight, casting changeable shadows across vistas of inspired, ambitious amplification. This is not an album to pick through in search of bold hooks and instant melodies. It is an ever-shifting, always moving work, which seems to evolve before the listener – spidery guitar lines feeling their way forth like vines scrambling up trunks in time-lapse photography.

An album, surely, that must be experienced from start to finish. Truth be told, I love writing to these types of albums and these types of bands; I find that their music perfectly encapsulates emotions and visuals without lyrics or other obvious devices to point you toward any one "meaning." The songs are long, orchestral, timeless, and they ebb and flow organically, but without any sort of "jamming" situation. Everything here is planned, and everything seems on purpose. 

The absolutely brilliant third track, "Communal Blood," off Tunnel Blanket, is now available to hear. I suggest sitting in the dark with a candle burning. I suggest you do nothing else but listen, as the song  slowly, almost violently builds.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A few SXSW photos

SXSW is over. Of course I'm still partially lamenting that I couldn't be there this year, but the spirit of new music and late nights lives on, especially in photographs of swaying hair, broken strings and raucous crowds. I didn't look too terribly hard, but here are great photos snapped at this year's festival, revealing that no matter how corporate SXSW becomes, the music will never lose its edge (or so I hope!). 

 No Joy
Gobble Gobble's set
JEFF the Brotherhood
 ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
 Atlas Sound

first 3 photos for Impose; Kashish Das Shrestha & Sahara Shrestha
last 3 photos for Brooklyn Vegan; Chris Gersbeck

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To the Moon...

What do a science-fiction film from 1902 and a '90s alternative rock band have in common? Well, you probably already know. The Smashing Pumpkins' music video for their ultimate lullaby, "Tonight Tonight," off of my favorite album of theirs, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, borrows from Georges Méliès' classic film, A Trip to the Moon. Méliès wrote, directed, produced, and even starred in the fourteen-minute film shot on 16mm. Groundbreaking at the time (it was made over one hundred years ago!), it's generally considered the first sci-fi film.

Fast-forward to 1996 when directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris got the idea for the "Tonight Tonight" video because Mellon Collie's album cover reminded them of early silent films. The resulting video, with the Pumpkins fancied up, flickering, and floating on clouds, plays with the themes and happenings in A Trip to the Moon, and also provides romantic, surrealistic visuals that perfectly suit the song, as well as the Pumpkins' evolving aesthetic. I love how the woman starts hitting the aliens with her parasol and when they blast off and fall into the ocean, all of which more or less occurs in the silent film.  The video was also filmed in the general style of A Trip the Moon, with painted backdrops, theatrical costumes, exaggerated expressions, and "primitive effects" to make it look antiquated. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Highlights from 2010 SXSW

So I'm still not in Austin, but here's a replay of some writing I did for last year's festival!

Grandchildren, Bill Murray, and the Green Owl Ranch
At their official Green Owl showcase in the Beauty Bar backyard, Grandchildren debuted a new aspect to performances. Setting up a screen between them and the crowd, they projected a series of moving images to correspond to each interlinked song. Created mainly by primary songwriter Aleks Martray, the projection turned their set into something purely magical and artistic, which aptly represents the band’s aesthetic and visual art origins.

Later in the night, after I saw Moonrats, ate some tofu (finally!) and also had a Bill Murray spotting (!!!), I ventured with Grandchildren in their trusty van to the ranch that Green Owl provided not only for the bands on the label, but also as a place where SxSW-goers could come late at night to hear music, away from the claustrophobic downtown streets. With the idea that “great music can be sustainable,” a brightly painted and converted school bus that runs on veggie oil was making trips, until 5 am, from downtown Austin to the 35-acre “Rockin Y Ranch” at 7600 Still Ridge, equipped with a pool, tire swings, goats, a barn for shows, and a slew of awesome people. 

BRM Rooftop Party
Outernational, from NYC, offered both a ska and Spanish feel to fighting songs and were purported to be, by Tom Morello himself, “a world-music Rage Against the Machine.” Pomegranates, from Ohio, were carefree and fresh-faced, churning out surfy, mildly psychedelic tunes that were harmless and easily digestible, but also very well constructed. Something about those boys and their songs just felt right, in all their youthful flurry.

consisting of guitarist Josh Carter and keyboardist Sarah Barthel, with their electronic music and evenly paced, mechanic beats, was quite a departure from most of the music I had been hearing at South by. Barthel’s voice glimmers and slides easily along synths and front-and-center guitar (“You Are the Ocean” is especially poignant, and their album, Eyelid Movies, is  emotive, electronic bliss). All the way from the UK, Lovvers, while somewhat awkward in appearance, performed punky, poppy songs that settled into your bones.

Fader Fort: Local Natives & Freelance Whales
On two separate days, I caught Freelance Whales and Local Natives, both on NYC’s French Kiss label. The former is a cheery indie band from none other than Queens, although their music seems much sunnier (and less cynical). Poppy and sugary-sweet, female member Doris Cellar (who also makes solo music) played a traditional wooden harmonium sitting on a drum seat, which she pumped and played while also manning a bass guitar. Freelance Whales makes use of a wide array of other odd instruments, such as a waterphone, bing carbon telephones, and glockenspiel, to create their humbly and charming pop songs, which they take turns singing, or sometimes emit together.

Local Natives are a very cool Los Angeles based five-piece with Afro-beat elements, soulful vocals, and a slight Paul Simon undercurrent, but they’re also very tuned into sounds emerging throughout the country’s indie underground…this idea of turning back time and becoming more organic, more inspired, almost tribal. Songs such as “Sun Hands” and “Airplanes” definitely stand out.

Primo's Showcase, on a windy day
Primo’s provided a steady stream of music, with bands performing both inside the bar and outside under the tent that threatened to fall down due to winds.

I caught The Name, a fun and engaging three-piece who sounded like Nirvana gone Brazilian; Beach Fossils, a Cali-tastic (but actually from Brooklyn) band of neo-hippies, the longest-haired member of which ecstatically banged drums to up the ante of their ’60s garage dreaminess; When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, a seven-member band of mostly bearded dudes in winter hats who are so grunge it hurts in the best way possible, and with almost everyone in the band on guitar; and DD/MM/YYYY from Canada, who were so hardcore about playing their punky-synthy-delightfully cacophonous music that one of the keyboardists literally smashed his face into the keys. And a saxophone was also a welcome accessory to the riot!

words&photos by a.dupcak.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SXSW Big Bag meets Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art

Molly Crabapple, co-founder and current owner of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, is the lucky artist who designed the 2011 SXSW tote bag, filled with goodies for all badge/wristband holders. As the SXSW website says: What's a Big Bag, you ask? It's the #1 accessory of the SXSW event! You'll see everyone carrying it around to tote everything from the program book to extra shoes and water. Extra shoes?!?!

Other festivals like CMJ offer a similar bag (last year I scored a messenger bag, as seen here on this guy), but I've never heard of free shoes. I wonder what kind! Anyway, Molly Crabapple's art seems to leap beyond the page, or bag, or canvas, etc. into her overall persona as an artist, and extends even beyond her own work to a wide-ranging alternative community rife with colorful, and sometimes dark, expression.

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School creates events wherein any aspiring creator can sketch glamorous underground performers in an atmosphere of boozy conviviality. So if you love drawing dynamic ladies and gents in corsets, leather, wings, pin-up or circus gear, and if you enjoy doing so with drinks in the company of other eccentric nonconformists, then it seems Dr. Sketchy's is for you. Molly Crabapple sometimes draws as part of a public performance, donning neo-Victorian and Gothic attire while creating new work under the gaze of spectators. While I have not yet attended an event, I know that Molly "performed" her art during a recent Dances of Vice.  
Now what is that? Well, according to their site: Dances of Vice incorporates a myriad of anachronistic and New Romantic influences in Dadaistic celebration of the liberating effects of beauty, fantasy and surrealism. It's a nightlife sensation which attracts a sordidly splendid menagerie of dandies, aesthetes, and dreamers who gather in shared enthusiasm for the music, fashion, culture, and beauty of times forgotten. 

So, if you love red lipstick, bob cuts, bowler hats, and those long cigarette holders (in other words, if you need a reason to wear something other than seven-year-old jeans for one night) you might just fit in with the classy dressers at these events. But I bet those folk won't be toting Molly's SXSW bag. Somebody grab me one, please!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SXSW Flyers

The concert flyer is an art onto itself, and one that I love to dabble in. Whether done by hand or digitally, whether drawn or photographed, whether stitched together with tape or glue, a good concert flyer serves an important role in both promoting the show and providing a visual aesthetic for the music, just like album cover art or music videos. Not all concert flyers are created equal; some only give basic information, while others burst off the bathroom wall with bright colors or bizarre illustrations. Check out some of my favorite flyers for various SXSW-2011 shows. How I wish I could attend some of these killer line-ups, too!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

If I were going to SXSW....

I wish I were going to SXSW this post and the next few will likely be dedicated to some SXSW-related things for all of you guys who are hanging or trekking there as we speak! Now, I'm fortunate to live in a city where the majority of bands come through on a fairly regular basis, but there's something special about seeing a band play in a fort, or a backyard, or a rooftop, or a barn, or a killer venue in downtown Austin. So, if you are indeed going, do me a favor and check out some of these bands....

If I were going to SXSW, I would see:
[in no particular order, * indicates that I've seen them before, at SXSW or otherwise, and can therefore vouch for their abilities...and please report back if you do go see these bands!]

Grandchildren *
Judgment Day
The Kills
No Joy *
Gold Panda *
Suuns *
We Are Hex
A Place to Bury Strangers *
Weekend *
The Black Lips
Bodega Girls *
Indian Jewelry *
This Will Destroy You
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth *
The Soft Moon *
Kurt Vile
Julianna Barwick *
Goes Cube *
Zola Jesus
Japanther *
JEFF the Brotherhood *
Phantogram *
The Joy Formidable
Screaming Females *
Esben and the Witch
Naam *

[picture of A Place to Bury Strangers playing SxSW in 2008 by a.dupcak]

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Experimental fiction can go either way, and I've certainly dabbled in it myself, occasionally without even meaning to. Electric Literature is a fantastic New York-based lit journal publishing five stories per issues and always boasting unconventional cover art that grabs your attention in the bookstore. Published bi-annually, they "select stories charged with wit and emotional gravity right from the first sentence." Recently, they held a 'Selected Shorts' contest, and the winning piece was published on their blog, The Outlet. The piece, written by Molly Tolsky, a Sarah Lawrence MFA student, really struck me, as much for its form and creative language as for its raw content. Do check it out, and maybe give Electric Literature some love while you're at it. 

"Gullet" <---click! 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Music Video: "Song Yet to be Sung"

Perry Farrell (real name Peretz Bernstein) has had some ups and down since fronting Jane's Addiction and organizing Lollapalooza. But, throughout all of his projects and albums, I've always considered him interesting and imaginative.

After fronting both Psi Com and Jane's Addiction, Farrell formed Porno for Pyros and Satellite Party, then put out a solo record called Song Yet to be Sung, the lyrics of which were inspired by the Kabballah. He delved into scarification, environmentalism, relief efforts, surfing, mysticism, and many aspects of underground, alternative culture, which all crop up in his personal appearance, music videos, album covers, and lyrics. 

The title track of his solo album, released in 2001, is perhaps my favorite Perry-creation, and the video  perfectly suits the song. Surreal and magical, it takes place in a desert, involves a wise, symbolic child, and then ends with fire poi, nudity, and members from the "Mystic Family Circus" dancing with a carefree Farrell. He's a great example of modern times coalescing with ancient philosophy and nature, and this song is bursting with life; I've been listening to it for ten years and, for me, it never gets old. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Album Review: Yet Cut Breath - Hinges

Anna Morsett provided gorgeous "ooh's" and "aah's" as backup vocalist/bassist for Drew and the Medicinal Pen, based in Brooklyn. But now, Anna has taken the reins on a new project for which she sings, writes, and plays bass and guitar. Along for the music-making ride, Yet Cut Breath consists of former Medicinal Pen member Missy Liu on  violin; engineer/producer John Swartz on cello; man of many bands (like The Kissing Club and The Stevedores) Jake Miller on electric guitar, banjo, and harmonica; and Yahote Kokayi on drums (for the recording). Live shows might reveal slightly varying arrangements depending on the day, but the beauty of Yet Cut Breath is always carried forth by Anna's stand-alone voice.

The band describes themselves as "a collection of acoustic thoughts that take place in the small spaces of morning, inside light fixtures and up against bathroom tiles. Turbulent and tender songwriting driven by cello, violin, guitars and a stormy voice that will leave you a little cut up." No description could be more apt. This seven-track debut, Hinges, showcases Anna's range, with songs that soothe and sadden amidst those that pack a fevered and glistening punch. Emotive songwriting is at the core of completely organic instrumentation, creating a muti-layered album worthy of a spot on any best-of list.

The album opens with "Kindness," for which David Sosnow directed a live music video where the members played their parts in separate sections of an abandoned hospital wing. Here, the violin and cello add a rippling texture to the long waves of Anna's vocals, and the whimsical song moves through carefully plotted moments of neo-classical elation. The strings go strong again at the very start of "Terrified," which is among the punchier tracks. Anna's voice is at its most vigorous layered atop a sweeping cello and subtle cymbals. The song ends with all of the instruments tripping over each other, falling apart until "Gate" tiptoes in. This track, and the finale "Sunday Dark," which was recorded live, are the album's most hushed, and Anna tends to perform them solo during live shows. But smack in the middle of Hinges, we've got the energetic and at times bombastic "Yet Cut;" perhaps the perfect example of the band's soft-to-loud, simple-to-complex dynamism. 

"Through my Teeth" begins in a fairly classic folk-rock fashion, but soon expands and spreads its wings, rising again and again. "Tied" might be a personal favorite, as it begins with a slightly less "pretty" coagulation of sound. Once again, Anna's voice commands attention, coming at listeners in an almost restless fashion as the strings and guitar explode and then linger in the song's final fifteen seconds. Comparisons to other bands, especially in Brooklyn, can't even begin to explain the  authenticity of Yet Cut Breath.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New Song: "Glass Jar" by Gang Gang Dance

It's not everyday that a band puts out a song like this: one-hundred-percent radio-unfriendly and wildly imaginative. Everything about this 11-minute swirling explosion of sounds and voices is enjoyable and satisfying. Always known for their experimental and worldly songs, Gang Gang Dance boast five albums for their ten years of being a New York based band (well, that fifth one will be released on March 9th)."Glass Jar" is actually the opening track of the newest album, titled Eye Contact.

Although I've known about Gang Gang Dance for some time, I'm not quite sure why I haven't given them more attention. Maybe it has to do the name; it sounds much more poppy-electro-clash (not that there's anything wrong with that!) than they actually are. I can say that I am now eagerly awaiting more songs like "Glass Jar," and currently seeking their back catalogue. If anyone would like to contribute to this endeavor, do let me know!

Here are some images I see when I listen to this song:
 [this one's a still shot from The Holy Mountain]

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Band: Yuck

All Impose Magazine's review had to say about the new album by Yuck is: "How much is Yuck paying Pavement for copyright infringement?" Seriously, that's it. I think the band deserves a little more credit than that! Hailing from north London, they're touring Europe and then coming state-side to play their tunes at SxSW and beyond. While I haven't yet listened to the album in full, I have been grooving to their songs, which sound delightfully '90s, or like a slightly poppier and even more lo-fi Sonic Youth. "Holing Out" is like a grittier version of an old Foo Fighters song, with a catchy melody that keeps you afloat even when the vocals get all muffled. "Rubber" also places the vocals secondary to very rough guitars, but the cacophony commands attention for seven whiole minutes. Then you've got "Suicide Policeman:" simpler, quieter, and actually very sweet. "Weakend" takes a vastly different approach, with a sense of longing in the guitar and vocals, which benefit from some reverb. "Automatic" is also quite hushed in a stripped-down fashion, with a piano to accompany even more woeful vocals. Something about these songs and Yuck in general sounds achingly familiar, like finding the perfect cassette in a record store during the earlier days of indie rock. And yeah, maybe they're influenced by Pavement, but honestly, I'd rather listen to Yuck.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

illuminated destruction

What is this...shameless self-promotion? Well, I do my part to promote bands and artists I know and adore (or don't know and adore), so I might as well promote my own work sometimes. Fringe is an awesome indie lit journal, with a killer manifesto. Here's what they have to say about literature:

We think literature is a place to safely explore controversial and unpleasant topics and unfamiliar points of view. Our special mission is to diversify the existing literary community, both aesthetically and demographically: We aspire to publish styles and genres that other journals eschew and we take particular pleasure in publishing voices that are not often included in the canon.

We worry about the state of modern literature. We worry that it’s too realist, monolithic, corporate, print-bound and locked in its own bubble.

That’s why we founded Fringe. Fringe is the noun that verbs your world. We publish work that is political or experimental in form or content and define both “political” and “experimental” broadly. “Political” can mean work that incorporates or comments on current events or it can mean literature and art that further personal dignity and advocate human rights. We regard “experimental” work as work that breaks with the canon, takes formal risks, or explores a strange or impossible point of view.

Enter my little story, which, much to my excitement, they decided to publish. They even had me write a blog post discussing the story, and why I wrote it (clicky here). Check it out, and let me know what you think!
illuminated destruction

…this couch is not the kind you’d want to fall asleep on. it looks like a giant band-aid, curing something self-inflicted.

max and i know, without knowing, each other. he is a bruise; a few shades darker than me and geometrically misshapen. i am a rat and he is the flashlight. i am the clap-clap-clap and he is the echoing microphone. i am in mono and he’s the distortion, cramming the room.