After almost five years of hosting a non-commercial radio show, I’ve decided to hang up my headphones. This was my final show as “Duffy” on KSCU 103.3 fm.
The show’s bittersweet theme:
Melancholy, dark beauty with a playful wink. The painful edge of the sublime. Life as a series of small deaths. The wild-eyed freedom linked with the finite. Transcendence.
(Not that I take myself too seriously.)
In true college-radio form, the show touched on an abundant number of intermingling genres, careening between 60’s-influenced surfer pop (Tennis), downtempo electronic fit for a European lounge (Buraka Som Sistema), synthed-out psychedelia (BMSR), and Venezuelan acid jazz (Los Amigos Invisibles), all connected through some ethereal thread.
BEST COAST the only place – the only place Single from Best Coast’s just-released second album, slickly produced by Jon Brion… sure to be a staple at this summer’s sun-drenched, chlorine-scented BBQ’s. Bethany and Bobb, you’ve done it again!
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE hot fun in the summertime- greatest hits
WILD NOTHING live in dreams- gemini
ANDREW BIRD near death experience experience- break it yourself This morbidity-obsessed show wouldn’t be complete without this plucky gem from A.Bird’s 2012 release, “Break it Yourself”!
SUFJAN STEVENS futile devices (shigeto remix) A subtlety bass-inflected remix of Sufjan’s Age of Adz opener.
CAN vitamin c “Hey you!”
WILD BEASTS bed of nails- smother
MULATU ASTATKE yegelle tezetu 1970’s Ethiopian latin-tinged jazz…. talk about smooth.
COYOTE TRICKSTER pass well- coy Check out this funky fresh SF band on their bandcamp!
ALABAMA SHAKES you ain’t alone- boys & girls
BEACH HOUSE lazuli- bloom New Beach House…. guess I know what I’m playing on repeat for the next year! Keep an ear out for the secret song at the end of Bloom’s closing track “Irene”…
AUTOLUX highchair – K.V.Wong’s selection
BLOUSE into black- blouse
AIR so light is her footfall (breakbot remix)
BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW twin of myself- eating us This song/ video would be cool projected on a wall during a social gathering… just a thought.
GOLD PANDA you
BONOBO kiara (cosmin trg remix)- black sands remix
OF MONTREAL lysergic bliss- satanic panic in the attic Funny how in spite of all my woes, life could appear rosy and clear
LOS AMIGOS INVISIBLES ease your mind – Gonzilla pick
SUFJAN STEVENS star of wonder
A sincere thank you to all I have encountered on this radio adventure. Five years!
Objects (and people, and things) found on the streets of San Francisco and Berkeley; spontaneous moments of whimsy and intrigue. A song for each picture to capture the mood.
“Beware.” Woolsey Street, Berkeley, April 2012. Musical Accompaniment: “What Do You Expect,” El Perro Del Mar.
“Sprouting.” Arguello Street, February 2012. Musical Accompaniment: “Phone Call,” Jon Brion.
I’ve been M.I.A. on this here blog as of late- attributed to a sense of comfortable complacency, the antithesis of any creative venture. Oh, and I have been obsessively going to shows these last few weeks, to overcompensate for my lack of Coachella attendance. It started with a rapid-fire, trigger-finger purchase to see Radiohead at HP Pavilion on April 11. The justification was easy enough- Once in a lifetime opportunity! Can’t miss Thom Yorke (and his ponytail) live in the flesh! Things spiraled quickly, to a month filled with bleary-eyed mornings and overt amounts of of “woooo!”-ing.
Ian S. Port of SF Weekly’s music blog “All Shook Down” described “Faux-chella,” for those Bay Area residents who want to experience Coachella’s lineup without the desert pilgrimage.
Maybe you hate traveling. Maybe you’re broke. Or maybe you’re allergic to waiting in long lines under the hot sun while privileged pre-teens gyrate to David Guetta.
With this year’s double weekend format, there were even more possibilities for artists to swoop up to the Bay Area in the interim four days between festivals (April 13-15 and 20-22).
I made the trek to Coachella for the last three years, but with a full-time position, it didn’t seem like a feasible, or even desirable, possibility.When asked if I was attending the festival, I would reply with a grim, tight smile and that “I’ve had my time.” Now is the time for cubicles and being the target audience for the Starbucks-queue, for responsibility and self-sufficiency. I had my heyday of being a cool pseudo-music journalist, now’s the time to keep my head down and play the role of the respectable professional.
And yet… there is this niggling weirdo inside, the one that inadvertently starts humming loudly and skipping to some imaginary beat in my conservative J.Crew finery. I suspect that this is a common ailment of those creatures we call “adults,” and one of the toughest tasks is simply masking your eccentricities for eight hours of your daily waking consciousness.
The following is the month in review, my hand-crafted “Faux-chella” Roster:
Wednesday April 11: Radiohead at HP Pavilion
Although our seats were located in the area known as Nosebleedus Maximus, Yorke & Co. performed a mesmerizing set that reached every crevasse of the massive arena, with a sold-out attendance of 19,000. In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Yorke discusses the sheer feasibility of performing the heavily manipulated, looped songs of The King of Limbs live, and the unexpected changes that come with a performance of this magnitude.
“There is no way in hell we could have come up with what we’re doing now, live, if we hadn’t been sitting in front of turntables and samplers, piecing the record together in this method. There is no way it would have turned into this dynamic thing,” says Yorke, analyzing Limbs’ electronic composition. Radiohead appeased long-term fans and new converts with a two-encore set that featured gems like the robotic vocals of “Kid A,” aggressive guitar snarl of “The National Anthem,” and schadenfreude inducing “Karma Police”. Getting to see Yorke do his “Lotus Flower” convulsing-wiggle (clad in tight red pants) was worth the price of admission.
Friday April 13: Youth Lagoon and Porcelain Raft at The Independent
22-year-old Idahoan whiz Trevor Powers (aka Youth Lagoon) brought dream-rock at its twinkly haziest. Although the songs on his debut album The Year of Hibernation follow an easily recognizable pattern, that of reverb-heavy delicate vocals which give way to chest-pounding bass and eardrum-aching drum machine beats (referred to as “Dropping the Bass” in the evil twin dubstep version), it’s an effective musical technique. The smallest details shone in the live performance, like the delicate high plinks in “Daydream” (above) and the slight crack in his voice while waxing nostalgia about being 17. He brought a delightfully strange stage presence, chomping on a banana onstage and feeding it to his guitarist.
Monday April 16: The Black Angels and The Horrors at Bimbo’s
I came for The Horrors and left a Black Angels convert. The Austin-based band’s dark psychedelics were undeniably mesmerizing, a band whose album doesn’t hold a candle to the overall aesthetics and impact of their live performance. The Horrors’ tight performance felt like an under-water, goth prom… in a good way!
Thursday April 19: Wild Beasts at The Independent
My second British band of the week- Wild Beasts blew me away, possibly my favorite concert of the whole month. That undulating falsetto and dramatic vocal range, my god! Goosebump-inducing, groovin’ jams with just the right touch of theatrics. Best of the night was 2009’s “All The King’s Men,” listen above.
Friday April 20: School of Seven Bells at the Rickshaw Stop
A definite flop. A peculiar mesh of an unfriendly crowd that seemed like they came because they heard one of the band’s songs on Gossip Girl. Strange attempt at a flirtatious dynamic between SSB’s singer and guitarist that seemed contrived and uncomfortable. Left early to go listen to Bright Eyes’ Digital Ash In A Digital Urn in my apartment.
Tuesday April 24: Tune-Yards and St. Vincent at the Fox Theater
A joyous homecoming for Tune-Yards’ Merrill Garbus, who opened for St. Vincent at the gorgeous Fox Theater in downtown Oakland. Garbus mentioned that she last performed in the East Bay at tiny Mama Buzz Cafe, showcasing her rapid ascent since the release of 2011’s whokill. With her signature live vocal looping technique, Garbus performed breakout tracks like “Gangsta” and “Bizness” with an infectious exuberance. For her final song, Garbus brought on stage the kids from her new video “My Country,” who rocked it HARD. The kids are part of the San Francisco Rock Project, a nonprofit music education program. Tune-yards has an ongoing Kickstarter project to benefit the arts program… check it out!
Whew! I think I have satiated my obsessive musical tendencies… for now!
This show featured a cameo from Kellie of “Kellie’s Pop Rocks” infamy… short film project (shot during this set) in the works! Simultaneous filming, radio broadcasting, blogging… tech-obsessed multitasking reminiscent of Portlandia sketch “Technology Loop”. At least these laid-back shoegaze-inspired tracks provided warmth on such a drizzly day.
WILD BEASTS bed of nails- smother Wild Beasts are coming to the Indy on April 19… tickets still available!
SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS windstorm- disconnect from desire
BEACH HOUSE 10 mile stereo- teen dream
Beach House has a new song, titled “Myth”! Exciting to see how they will follow their breakthrough 2010 release, Teen Dream!
THE SOFT MOON circles- the soft moon Watch this video if you dare… hypnotic video heavily inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s 1926 film Anemic Cinema.
PILL WONDER restless- under peoples win Shoegaze-y Seattle band I stumbled upon via Spotify last night- I like this minimal video!
VELVET UNDERGROUND i found a reason- loaded
BLOUSE time travel- blouse
Check out the Yours Truly session of Blouse’s performance of “Time Travel” at Cafe Du Nord in SF on January 19th! A perfectly subterranean, cobweb-infested setting for this darkly enchanting track.
BONOBO stay the same (mark prichard remix)- black sands remixed
ISLANDS never go solo- a sleep & a forgetting
BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW forever heavy- dandelion gum
DR DOG that old black hole- be the void
HORRORS still life- skying
Disclaimer: I feel that I am playing INTO THE SYSTEM by even writing this post… the whole #creators phenom is a fantastic product placement marketing scheme for Intel and Vice, aligning their brands with a particularly desirable demographic (presumably affluent, tech-savvy urbanities). Nothing is really free, and by participating in an event like this (and by broadcasting your participation via Twitter, blogs, etc), you are providing advertising gold.
But you know what? They did a damn good job. If they decide to spend big bucks on an event that fosters creativity, innovation, imagination… there are worse values to promote. I appreciated the level of intellectual curiosity present at the Creators Project, the sense of elevated discourse, the understanding of the immediate, integrated nature of technology in our lives. Rather than separating “new media” as its own unique entity outside of everyday life, the event featured an acutely realistic perspective on the nature of human interaction in 2012.
James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem/ DFA Records), the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and Squarepusher were the headliners in the solid line-up, also featuring Shabazz Palaces, the Antlers, the Hundred in the Hands, and Zola Jesus.
In 2011 the Creators Project toured to New York, Beijing, London, Paris, Lyon, Sao Paulo and Seoul, and this weekend’s SF exhibit was the first full-blown West Coast festival. The Creator’s Project made its first splash at Coachella 2011 during Arcade Fire’s headlining Saturday set, with director Chris Milk’s interactive piece, “Summer Into Dusk”. I found Arcade Fire’s set undoubtedly one of the highlights of Coachella, an emotive experience that exemplified the collective euphoria that festivals strive to achieve. Take a look at this behind-the-scenes documentary about the preparation of “Summer Into Dusk” on Chris Milk’s site, really fascinating.
This was by far the most polite, mild-mannered free music event I have ever been to. Patient cueing for drinks, clean, well-stocked bathrooms, indoor heat-lamps… what is this! It seemed to be a fusion of the soft-spoken, negative-space art world with the unabashed psychedelia of Outside Lands, with just a touch of Burning Man whimsy thrown in. By making the Creators Project a free event (with pre-registration RSVP required), it minimized the classism that accompanies most major festivals ($400 Coachella ticket, I’m lookin’ at you).
Now, onto the exhibits! Stand-out piece by far was “Origin,” aka THE CUBE (shown above). This 40 foot by 40 foot aluminum structure entranced festival-goers long into the night… best viewed while laying down inside of the structure, providing full sensory immersion.
Loved “Meditation” by Minha Yang… feel the power!
“Strata #4” by Quayola was a soothing, engaging, fascinating integration of “old-world” and computer-based art.
Still attempting to process “Life on Mars (Revisited)” by David Bowie, Mick Rock, and Barney Clay. Another exhibit viewed while laying down on pillows, highly recommend! (Photo by MTV, as they did not allow photography inside of the exhibit).
Excerpt from “Song of the Earth: The Arctic Sound of John Luther Adams.” Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise. Originally published in The New Yorker, 2008.
At The Museum of the North, the composer John Luther Adams has created a sound-and-light instillation called The Place Where You Go To Listen— a kind of infinite musical work that is controlled by natural events occurring in real time. The mechanism of The Place translates raw data into music: information from seismological, meterological, and geomagnetic stations in various parts of Alaska is fed into a computer and transformed into a luminous field of electronic sound.
The Place occupies a small white-walled room on the museum’s second floor. You sit on a bench before five glass panels, which change color according to the time of day and the season.
What you notice first is a dense, organlike sonority; the notes follow the contour of the natural harmonic series– the rainbow of overtones that emnate from a vibrating string– and have the brightness of music in a major key. The moon is audible as a narrow sliver of noise. Pulsating patterns in the bass are activated by small earthquakes and other seismic events around Alaska. And shimmering sounds in the highest registers are tied to the fluctuations in the magnetic field that cause the Northern Lights.
For stellar audio of Adams’ complex, ambient compositions, check out his website and listen to his pieces, which he describes as “electro-acoustic soundscapes.” Here’s a video of The Place in action (albeit with subpar sound quality):
Adams describes The Place in his own words:
“I knew that I wanted to hear the unheard, that I wanted to somehow transpose the music that is just beyond the reach of our ears into audible vibrations. I knew that it had to be its own space. And I knew that it had to be real– that I couldn’t fake this, that nothing could be recorded. It had to have the ring of truth.
“Actually my original conception for The Place was truly grandiose. I thought that it might be a piece that could be realized at any location on the earth, and that each location would have its unique sonic signature. That idea– tuning the whole world– stayed with me for a long time. But at some point I realized that I was tuning it so that this place, this room, on this hill, looking out over the Alaska Range, was the sweetest-sounding spot on Earth.”
This week was a particularly eclectic set, an electronic amalgam of ambient, trip-hop, experimental influences. The only constant was a break from the traditional song structure while maintaining a sense of melodic listenability. A level of weird, the beauty of the mysterious undiscovered. The patron saints of this show were Can, Stereolab, and Radiohead… our sonic guides!
STEREOLAB cybele’s reverie- emperor tomato ketchup
GRIMES oblivion- visions
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG paradisco- stage whisper
VITALIC poison lips
Congrats Nick on winning tickets to Vitalic at 103 Harriet!!!!
BJORK all is full of love- homogenic
BRIAN ENO deep blue day- apollo (atmospheric, dreamy, exactly what a deep blue day feels like)
PICTURE PLANE gang signs- dark rift
PANTHA DU PRINCE stick to my side four tet remix
STEREOLAB metronomic underground- emperor tomato ketchup
RADIOHEAD electioneering- ok computer
PORTISHEAD roads- dummy
MASSIVE ATTACK paradise circus (gui borratto remix)- heliogold (wonderful fan vid featuring footage from jean cocteau’s film “blood of a poet”)