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YACHT, Islands, Elverum Bring Noodles to NYC

Now that you've had a little time to digest Worried Noodles-- the star-studded musical extrapolation of the words of artist David Shrigley which finally made its way to disc late last month from Tomlab-- you may be wondering where the unique project could be heading next. One hopes you've saved a little room for another course or two, as a pair of live Worried Noodles performances will be taking place over the next few weeks.

On December 5, Islands ("special pared down line-up"), YACHT, Phil Elverum of the Microphones/Mt. Eerie and Nick Krgovich (P:ano, No Kids), Tussle, R. Stevie Moore and Roger Ferguson, Christopher Francis, Tomlab DJs, and some super-secret special guests will take the stage of New York City's Knitting Factory. They'll perform strands from Noodles and regular sets as well. Shrigley himself will be in attendance at the gig, and proceeds from the show will go to Amnesty International.

It's going down this Saturday in Berlin, too, with Dirty Projectors, YACHT, Scarlet's Well, and a DJ set from Psapp celebrating Worried Noodles at Festsaal Kreuzberg. The event also benefits Amnesty International.

All of this follows on the heels of an October 14 show in London that featured Hot Chip, Max Tundra, and more.


Sonic Youth, Low Play Don't Look Back Down Under

Sure we're biased, but we think the folks at ATP are a reasonable bunch. And realizing that maybe Australians don't want their entire musical history judged on the merits of 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, the festival's organizers have decided to celebrate classic albums Australian and otherwise by bringing their Don't Look Back series to the continent for the first time next year.

In January and February, the series will feature Don't Look Back mainstays Sonic Youth doing their 1988 classic Daydream Nation and Low doing their 2001 gem Things We Lost in the Fire, in addition to a trio of Australian artists. Kim Salmon's Scientists will tear through their proto-grunge 1983 EP Blood Red River, post-punkers Died Pretty will do their 1992 album Doughboy Hollow, and ex-Saint Ed Kuepper will perform 1995's Honey Steel's Gold.

The full Australian Don't Look Back schedule, as it stands now, is after the jump. [MORE...]

Bright Eyes Guys Help Lightspeed Champ Cross Bridge

Sure, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge is Lightspeed Champion's proper full length debut. But what of all those improper full lengths that proceded it, hmmm?

Like the song-for-song take on Green Day's Nimrod he recorded "one bored night" in his kitchen? Or the one recorded in less than five hours with GarageBand? Or the one recorded while hooked up to a plasma-giving machine? Eh, maybe that one I just made up. But there are just so many!

No matter what came before it, Lavender Bridge will indeed go down in history books as the former Test Icicle's proper full length debut when it drops February 5 on Domino Recordings. The disc features production from Bright Eyes member/frequent Saddle Creek noisemaker Mike Mogis (but you knew that), packs string arrangements from Bright Eyes utility man Nate Walcott, and proudly displays other guest appearances by members of the Faint, Cursive, and Tilly and the Wall.

Though a full U.S. tour is expected to follow the album's release, the Champion will reign over the UK and France this fall. [MORE...]

Thao Nguyen Signs to Kill Rock Stars for Second LP

Photo by Cascade Wilhelm

Like a lot of Kill Rock Stars artists, Thao Nguyen is tough, so tough she can Brave Bee Stings and All, according to the title of her debut for the label.

We Brave Bee Stings and All is the Virginia native's second album, following her debut EP and full-length (2005's Like the Linen), as well as her appearance on last year's KRS compilation The Sound the Hare Heard.

Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, Mudhoney) produced Bee Stings, and KRS will release the album on January 29. "Bag of Hammers" is its first single.

Nguyen also has a handful of shows scheduled with her backing band, the Get Down Stay Down. The first is in Arlington, Virginia on November 4. [MORE...]

Photos: World Premiere of Sufjan Stevens' "BQE" [Brooklyn, NY; 11/01/07]

Photos by Kathryn Yu, words by Daphne Carr

Nostalgia for modernism + urban planning + indie rock + Brooklyn reference + orchestra = Sufjan Stevens' "The BQE"

Constructed between 1937-1964 as part of infamous city planner Robert Moses's master vision for New York City's social reality, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway rose as 11.6 miles of neighborhood-severing, money-eating, limited-access overhead highway grimness. The book about Moses's modernist cruelty and obsession with cars over human needs is called The Power Broker, a relentless, detailed portrait of one man's egomania in urban planning.

Which is part of the reason why, when Sufjan Stevens said he had written a symphony about the BQE, people got so excited. Maybe Stevens would, through the power of art, convey this bleak inter-borough piece of citywide dismay as something majestic, the way he had transformed Detroit or Decatur.

Known for his chamber-pop miniatures about humble white working-poor life, Stevens has become indie's populist orchestrator. But he's also enough of a fool to try his hand at large-scale composition, having boasted of writing 50 albums extolling the dignity of local culture. Fans who celebrate his outsider ("indie") ambitions to excel in academic forms clap for his being at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave festival regardless. Given classical's lust for young flesh and filled seats, the crossover of Stevens' rapt fan base into three nights of sold-out crowds already deems the event a success.

So how to judge such a thing?

Let's start with the music. The music was not a symphony in either the Classical or Romantic version-- let's call it a suite, an ordered set of instrumental pieces meant to be played together. Like Stevens' arrangements for his smaller tunes, these seven pieces were built with modular movements of melody and rhythm connected by fanciful scalar runs, mostly in the woodwinds. They were like minimalism, but not as subtle (not even as "subtle" as Philip Glass, his nearest comparison). Stevens has not yet learned that classical musicians cannot follow the energy of the piece to their own ends, but instead need expressive markings-- louds and softs, keys to accent, and phrasing that shapes each line in the texture of the piece. Because of this, the ensemble was static, unnuanced, and, in full-on mode, painfully loud.

Stevens has a gift for interlocking compound rhythms that sound joyously simple, and the movement from these grooves into other sections was full of playful writing that showed promise. Unfortunately, his sprightly rhythms were often articulated by an over-mic'ed trap kit, and thus rendered "rock musical," helped by occasional wails of guitar that reminded me of the scene in The Crow where Brandon Lee solos his Fender on the roof.

Stevens introduced tenderness through the sonic and visual metaphor of the circle. (See his musings on the hula hoop here.) Feminine, repeating, mystical-- the musical circle in "The BQE" also implied melody's constant return and rhythm's constant motion, at the sacrifice of Stevens's other gift: moments of free-flowing tenderness.

The orchestra's t-shirt logo was a stylized hubcap, a circle of unrepentant modernist motion fetish and part of a growing Matthew Barney-esque homemade masculine mythology system. Stevens did look pretty buff in his extremely tight white pants and matching black hubcap shirt. He sat at the grand piano, turned to the childlike celesta for color, and nodded to the conductor occasionally. He looked stressed out.

But we weren't supposed to be looking at him. A three-channel video screen split the stage in two, showing 8mm movies of the BQE and surrounding neighborhoods. Like minimalist artists, Stevens played with repetition. Deceptively close shots of windows and highways panned out to reveal their places, long glances at skyline and bridges messed into one of two central visual systems in play: kaleidoscope point repetition or mirrored symmetry. People were scarce and cameras lingered on "ugly" intersections, vernacular street elements, and the occasionally half-hearted whimsy of a giant inflatable gorilla.

The visuals were interwoven with still and film shots of hula hooping women-- those feminine circles again, mixed with mid-50s nostalgia-- in body-hugging raver costumes. They came out several times, accompanied by two male hula hoopers, to dance, hoop and toss in time to the music, first in slow, ballet-like daylight scenes, and then later in glowing nightclub abandon. The several minute-long uses of strobe on their lithe forms went from poetic to circus-like pretty quickly. Très "new music" spectacle.

When it was all over, Stevens got a standing ovation. He came out hula hooping and made a joke about the audience's civic pride in looking at the grand project of the expressway. It revealed either discomfort in the reach of his metaphor, his choice of subject, or his attempt in general. Yes, yes, yes, he did fail to find something more human, redeeming, or majestic in that pile of overhead concrete that socially divides his home place. Insteady, he visually fetishized its nude ugliness and the noble poverty of its surroundings, and sonically rendered its nearly unquestioned modernist motion metaphor.

The only moments of discord were mere traffic woe, not the larger psychic wounds of the road's construction or the crush of oil-dependent vehicles on it. It was as if Stevens had not attended to many of the messes his sounds and visions were making, their ignorances and inconsistencies. It's a lot to ask of a newcomer, but not too much. He joked that it took him "the length of a pregnancy" to put "The BQE" together-- it took Moses longer and it wasn't all right either.

For the second half of the performance, the orchestra stayed, Stevens' band kicked in, and he played songs from his albums. Starting with "Seven Swans", the set juxtaposed Stevens and his instrument (banjo, piano) against the full force of all the instruments. It was crashing, banging, big-budget cinematic Romanticism, like gut-wrenchingly melodramatic John Williams or frivolously busy Danny Elfman. The intimate moments were best, when My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden harmonized with Stevens' falsetto while a sax scrunched or when, on "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.," the ensemble sat out and he played piano with spare acoustic guitar accompaniment.

Pathos was lacking almost everywhere else. When, in the final cadences of the show, Stevens kicked back his piano stool while banging out two hands of block chords, I felt like I was watching indie's own Franz Liszt-- a Romantic virtuous showboater treating formerly human-scale vernacular melodies with egregious pompousness. When Stevens-- called "boy wonder" or "wunderkind" by the press in spite of his man age of 32-- came out to speak, he did his best return to sheepish "gee whiz" indie guy by thanking "my friends, my band," and then with that Mephisto smile, "... my orchestra." [MORE...]


Dominik Eulberg to Issue Bionik in December

Bionik isn't just German producer/DJ/blipmaker Dominik Eulberg's third LP; it's his second disc of the year, following this spring's field recording-inspired Heimische Gefilde.

takes things back indoors this time out, gathering ten cuts melding pure techno with elements of house and trance. Analog junkies and digital diehards alike, take heed: the LP and CD versions feature different tracklists and running orders, though everything on the LP also appears on the CD (which gets three extra tracks besides). Whatever your pleasure, Bionik is out Stateside December 11 on Cocoon Records.

While you wait, you can hop a plane and catch the Bionik man on any one of his current string of European dates. [MORE...]

Dirty on Purpose Decide They Like Bees on New EP

What's like bees? Wasps? Hornets? More bees?

No, silly: Like Bees is the next EP from the shoe-glancers of Dirty on Purpose. Like Bees manages to pack in four originals, a cover of Aussie new-wavers Real Life's "Send Me an Angel", and guest appearances from the Jealous Girlfriends' Holly Miranda and New York folkie Jaymay.

You can net Like Bees when it emerges January 15 on North Street Records.

Having recently wrapped a spate of shows with those Fujiya & Miyagi gents, the Dirty dudes have but one gig to their names at the moment. It's not one to be slept on, however: Tomorrow, November 3, they play an all-night "Takeover" party at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (post-Sufjan) along with Be Your Own Pet, Antibalas, Heartless Bastards, and the Exit.

Once rested up, the band plans to record some new tunes (four, apparently) to be released through RCRD LBL next year. [MORE...]


Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks Name New Album
Also diss Stockton California

So that Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks album that's coming out in March on Matador now has a title. And it is...drumroll please...

Real Emotional Trash

That's got a nice ring to it.

Looks like they're going to tour the United States in the spring, and then Europe and Asia. Right now, they've only got two shows scheduled: December 19 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco and on December 21 at the Doug Fir in Portland, Oregon. Both shows feature Blitzen Trapper opening.

All of this was posted yesterday on the band's website, along with a strange rant against the city of Stockton, California that involves Todd Haynes' new Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There. (As you know, Malkmus contributed to that movie's soundtrack.)

* (FYI, Matador Records hasn't confirmed any of this information yet, so don't be too surprised if the album title changes.)

UPDATE: It's confirmed!

Full rant below. And thanks to Colin Loustalot for noticing it! [MORE...]


Photos: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists / The Pogues [Los Angeles, CA; 10/31/07]

Photos by Akmal Naim

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists joined their spiritual brethren the Pogues on Wednesday night for a Halloween show at Los Angeles' Wiltern. Shane McGowan, reunited with his classic crew, assumed the guise of a mariachi band in celebration of the holiday, while Leo and the boys dressed up as, um, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Great costume, guys!

More photos and tour dates below.





Everything You Wanted to Know About Sufjan's "BQE"
Sort of

Right at this very moment, an opera house full of some very lucky New Yorkers is taking in the premiere of Sufjan Stevens' orchestral piece "The BQE" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The rest of us are patiently waiting to find out what the hell "The BQE" actually is.

Lucky for us, the Asthmatic Kitty website posted today a tractor-trailer-load of information about the piece.

Want a brief overview of Sufjan's fascination with the hippest highway in indie rock? Go here. How about Sufjan's thoughts on how the hula hoop is related to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway? There ya go. Or a list of things Sufjan and the NYPD found on the side of the road? (Choice quote: "4. Your cane. Why walk, when you can drive the BQE!") The official bird of the BQE? The House Sparrow, of course.

What about, you know, the actual music thing? Oh, that. Here's a list of everybody who's performing with Sufjan. Looks like My Brightest Diamond, Marla Hansen, and members of Crystal Skulls, Clare & the Reasons, Antony's Johnsons, and many, many more.

So what did we learn here? Well, Sufjan is a very good writer. And a funny guy! Also, we should all move to Brooklyn.


Chamberlin Sick, Pumpkins Reschedule Dates

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Another cancellation today? Nah. It's just a postponement for the Smashing Pumpkins, who've moved a handful of dates on their current tour due to the illness of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. Experiencing chest pains, Chamberlin was taken to an Atlanta hospital Tuesday where he was diagnosed with a partially blocked artery. He was released yesterday, but due to his recovery, the band was forced to shelve their last two shows and the next three, all of which have been moved back a few weeks starting November 11. All tickets will be honored for the rescheduled dates.

Quoted on the band's MySpace blog, Chamberlin says, "the good news is that my heart checked out. No damage. Basically a small build up of plaque on one of my arteries. This combined with stress, fatigue, and all of the other good things that go along with being on tour was the cause of my pain. So obviously we had to postpone the end of the tour while I recover. It should only be a week or so until JC is ready to rock again." For a full message from, um, JC, go here.

Just to recap: Jimmy Chamberlin refers to himself in the third person, by his initials. This band, I tell ya. [MORE...]


Daniel Johnston, Lightning Bolt's Chippendale Show Art

In ten years on planet Earth, Philadelphia's Space 1026 gallery/venue/cooperative/ gathering place has pretty much seen it all. Diplo, Lightning Bolt, Daniel Johnston, Mirah, Bahamadia, and Need New Body have all played there. Plastic Little call the space home. MF Doom laid a bunch of tracks for the Viktor Vaughn Vaudeville Villain album to tape at 1026, and a nascent Man Man recorded in the space as well. And that's to say nothing of all the art, some of which looks pretty damned awesome.

So in tribute to ten solid years of creative mayhem, Space 1026 will dust off some of its finest work and put it back on display for "Never Forget! Do It Yourself With Other People". The exhibit, which opens November 2 and runs through December 20, gathers pieces from the musician/artist likes of Johnston, Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale, Brendan Fowler (aka BARR), and Plastic Little's Jayson Musson, plus Dischord affiliate Cynthia Connolly, OBEY/Zeitgeist guy Shepard Fairey and tons more.

In conjunction with the celebration, there will also be an art auction on December 7. Here's to ten more inspired years, guys!
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