LIVE REVIEW: Guerilla Toss at Union Pool

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All Photos by Sarah Knoll

The New York based genre bending band Guerilla Toss established a month-long residency at Brooklyn’s Union Pool. Playing every Tuesday in June, residencies like this make me question how a band with such a high energy and stamina like Guerilla Toss could keep up with the same performance every week. However, attending the last performance of their residency on June 26th with opener Kalbells, Guerilla Toss did not disappoint.

Opener Kallbells is actually the synth-pop project from lead singer of Rubblebucket, Kamila Traver. Her jumpy and energetic presence was quite shocking compared to her chillaxed presence observed at the bar of Union Pool earlier in the night. With an army of synthesizers played by Kamila and two other band members, Kalbells seems like Kamila’s bedroom diary.

A collective of sounds similar to Rubblebucket but with their own flavor, Kalbells’ performance was one of extreme interest and sensibility, creating a dialogue with the audience and speaking to them in an open context about song’s meaning. Such as in the song “1,2,3,4,5,6”, Kamila ended the song saying “this song is about orgasms, multiple of them” The all femme band is one to not sleep on, the dynamic of Kalbells is one of mutual respect for each other’s individual talent that they bring to the table. This band is a great blend between the 90’s girl riot bedroom pop and the synth pop wave of our contemporary time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brooklyn based band Guerilla Toss was a band that has been hyped about for a long time. Their release of “GT Ultra” in 2017 was a sweet treat after their debut LP “Eraser Stargazer” in 2016. The band’s blend of poppy guitar riffs, intense synth parts and a complex bass line, the instrumentation of Guerilla Toss alone holds up to the band’s name. Lead singer Kassie Carlson sported an innocent look of overalls, but once she grabbed the mic, her vocals roared. Kassie does use some pedal effects to enhance her vocal quality to almost have an instrument of her own.

Her voice cuts through the heavy synth and bass and creates its own character to play a role in the narratives of Guerilla Toss’s sound. Playing songs off both of their releases such as “Betty Dreams of Green Man” and “Eraser Stargazer Forever”, the instrumental performance held far above the performance of the vocals. The vocals held their own means of necessity to carry the songs, but weren’t too memorable in comparison to the recordings. The small stage of Union Pool seemed to limit Kassie’s ability to be more energetic and dance around. Had there been more room, the band’s performance energy may have been higher. However, considering that this was week 4 of their 4-week residency at the Williamsburg centered bar and venue, it doesn’t come to shock that the energy was a bit lower than expected.

Maybe the band’s energy was a little low, but the crowd was anything but lackluster. A giant mosh pit formed almost as the band began their first song. It was not a friendly one though and made a lot of the show-goer’s uncomfortable. Shoving a lot of people whose faces from smiles turned to frowns. Even witnessing a couple who decided to leave the show from discomfort. Under no circumstances should a mosh pit be like that at all. It showed no respect and etiquette for the people around them, trying to enjoy the show. Swaying their bodies all across the middle of the room. It’s okay to dance, it’s okay to jump around, but for the sake of the other’s around, please do not throw yourself to start to engulf the whole middle of the venue. It was very unpleasant and put a damper on the show’s overall energy and safety.

Despite that, Guerilla Toss invited a bunch of brass players to play a couple of songs on stage. Making for a performance that sounded more similar to the recordings. Although it crowded up the stage even further, it did make for a more energetic performance just by the amount of sounds alone. Guerilla Toss definitely holds to its name but needs a push to translate the recordings to the performance.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

AUDIOFEMME PRESENTS: End of Summer Fling @ Baby’s All Right, 8/18

AudioFemme Presents

AudioFemme is having a party. Naturally, there will be a bounty of great music. Tuesday, August 18th at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right we’ll be dancing with some fabulous bands. To get you as excited as we are, here’s a preview of our favorite things about our delightfully odd musical guests. We feel no shame in bragging that we love all our events, but this lineup is particularly special. Tickets are $8 advance / $10 at door – snag them ahead of time here.

Abdu Ali

Abdu Ali

The well-dressed Baltimore rapper has the music blogosphere spinning after already securing icon status in his hometown. We love his “post-apocalyptic” sound that blends classic hip-hop beats as well as punk and industrial sounds you didn’t know existed. Keep close to this one, kids.

ZGRT

ZGRT

Brooklyn’s own ZGRT is already freaking people out. Their first single, “HARD POWER” is produced by Zachery Allan Starkey and DFA Records’ synth legend Gavin Russom, keeping LCD Soundsystem alive through his electric touch on the Brooklyn current. ZGRT creates techno, house, and post-punk beats that will make your booty shake and lyrics that will make your head spin.

Stash Marina

Stash Marina

The avant-garde rapper from Masssachusets leaves you dazed with her heavy beats like thunder clouds ready to pour down poetic lyrics. “These fuck boys tryna get me but I can’t be fucking up,” she drawls on “Super Fragile,” which you can just play over and over until you’re hypnotized. Fuck fuck boys.

Leverage Models

Leverage Models

As complex as the stars above our heads and equally as beautiful, the New Yorkers (Jordanville) create intricate dance music about some very serious topics, ranging from rebelling against political authority to self-harm. Truly, something for everyone.

Enjoy a teaser video below from Leverage Models, filmed and co-directed by D. James Goodwin.

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Slim Twig

slim

We’ve all been a bit dizzied by Toronto song man Slim Twig lately. He’s been on a roll reissuing his pop-opera opus A Hound at the Hem, touring the mid and North Easts of the country, and never letting the creative juices run dry. We had a chance to catch up with Slim (or Max Turnbull if you prefer his mortal name)  to see what’s up next, and why being weird is always better.

AudioFemme: So you just finished up a tour; how did it go? Any funny stories?

Slim Twig: It went well. I’m still very much in the throes of building an audience, so there remains a certain amount of crowd fluctuation between shows. The important thing is that the band sounds great, and we’re able to win the attention of anyone who has shown up. Funny tour stories normally involve some element of band stupidity or (modest) debauchery, so I think those are best saved for personal conversation. I have a band like any other, we like to get in trouble from time to time. Mostly we’re alright.

AF: I didn’t recognize anything from A Hound at the Hem when you played at Cake Shop the other week…was the set you played the beginnings of a new record?

ST: It’s funny you say that. The songs off Hound are so densely arranged, it’s heavy slogging trying to arrange for rock n’ roll quartet. I was very pleased that we were able to perform two songs off that record in our set off this last tour… It felt like an achievement of some kind. They are of course re-arranged somewhat to suit what we travel as so if you had your ears perked up for those lovely string quartet moments off the record, you may have missed those tunes completely! It’s something of a point of pride to give an audience that’s come and paid to hear my tunes something that they wouldn’t have encountered on the record… What’s the point otherwise? I think I’m somewhat in the minority in this practice nowadays, many bands seem content to play faithful versions accompanied by backing tracks. To answer your question a little more directly, yes many of the songs you would have heard are off the forthcoming album which is just finished. Very excited to be playing this new stuff.

AF: Hound has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention lately because of the DFA reissue. It really is a fantastic record!  For a lot of us it’s a new discovery, but you recorded it a few years ago…what’s it like promoting something that you wrapped up a while back?  Do you see it in a different light now?

ST: It’s been an odd journey, but I’ve been very pleased with the reception of this older record. I’m prideful of the fact that the album is not easily pigeonholed, and I keep this in mind whenever my mind strays to why its path has been an unanticipated one. It has been an odd feeling of deja vu trying to engender excitement for something that is a clear product of my younger mind, especially for someone whose musical vision is constantly in motion as mine seems to be. In some ways this album marks a new beginning in my music making, so it’s logical that it’s the introduction for most people to my music.

AF: What has your relationship with DFA been like?  They seem to really believe in your work. After I bought the pink version of the Hound LP online Kris sent me a thank you email and put me on the list for your Palisades show. He said buying your album showed ‘discerning tastes.’ It sounds like you really won them over!

ST: In one of my first meetings with DFA, Jonathan Galkin (who runs the label along with Kris) told me to ‘keep the music as weird as possible.’ This was the best encouragement for someone like me, as I took it to mean ‘continue deeper into your own vision’… I don’t think many musicians are working under such a cushy pretext anymore. I suppose they knew what they were getting into being that I was drawn into the fold via a Black Dice connection. In any case, I’m blessed and right where I need to be.

AF: At your set at Cake Shop you introduced a song by saying: ‘This song is about not fetishizing the past.’  What do you mean by that?

ST: Especially in the rock idiom, there seems to be an assumption that all the best music has been and gone. I have a giant classic rock fixation, so I too am guilty of this train of thought every so often. I do feel though that it is this way of thinking itself, that prevents a context for new sounds to break through and seem as vital as the old sounds. Some of my music is concerned with this battle between mining the past for inspiration (the only concrete source of inspiration in a literal sense), and the desire to transcend those elements… I think contemporary rock culture could do with a good dose of killing one’s idols. The trouble is once having killed one’s idols, there’s a tendency to also do away with melody, structure, clever lyrics and a more ambitious approach to production. I have a fondness for all those elements that many punkier folk will simply do away with in an effort to not repeat the classics.

AF: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists?

ST: I can admire anyone who has their own vision, not to say that they can’t betray influences – but any distinct voice that rises through the murk is appreciated. U.S. Girls, Danava, Zacht Automaat, Jack Name, Jennifer Herrema, Ghost Box artists & Eric Copeland are some good examples of modern stuff I can go deep with.

AF: Can you speak about your artistic relationship with your wife Meghan Remy?  You seem to have a very crucial role in each other’s work.

ST: Basically we just have totally opposite creative sensibilities. Meghan is driven by a very deep emotional place in her music, where my process is a lot more cerebral (if you couldn’t tell by my longwinded answers). Not to say that those tracks don’t intersect, but often times we serve to widen each other’s vision. Obviously, there’s a great personal rapport that makes this process highly enjoyable and repeatable. It’s a good situation.

AF: Where are some places you’d really like to tour that you haven’t had a chance to visit yet?

ST: Italy. Italy. Italy. Have done much of Europe a handful of times, but never Italy. Japan too, though I hate to fly so it’s a bit of a tall order.

AF: From what I’ve read your whole family is creative. Did making art ever seem like an option for you, or was it simply a necessity?

ST: It’s just part of the culture of how I came up. It was never enforced of course, but it’s very natural to always have a project on the go. Any way of life that doesn’t accommodate constant creativity would seem awfully dull in my view.

AF: What’s up next for Slim Twig?

ST: Dragging an appropriation of rock ‘n’ roll kicking and screaming into a place free of cliche, sexism and trod on association. Wish me luck!

AF: GOOD LUCK!!! We’d expect nothing less from you. Keep that fire burning.

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LIVE REVIEW: Slim Twig + U.S. Girls @ Cake Shop

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Photo by Meg Remy
Photo by Meg Remy

All I want is a hot toddy, but the more patient half of me says now’s not the time to order one. Despite my polite efforts and hacking cough, something of greater urgency than a breathing statistic of flu season needs tending to.

The bartender zips along the length of the counter clamping a cordless phone between her ear and shoulder. Her bar back frantically cleans tumblers and disappears periodically. Meanwhile Max Turnbull and his wife Meghan Remy (aka Slim Twig and his wife U.S. Girls) are schlepping amplifiers through the front door of Cake Shop 20 minutes after opener Ryan Sambol-who is sitting right next to me-is supposed to start.

It’s been a rough night for everyone.

Things settle down. The bar is calm. I have booze; the warm, honey and lemon accessorized kind that allows you to be a lush and say “this is good for me!” at the same time.

I am now wedged between a Tinder date and a semi-bilingual French-lesson date (how you say, Tinder?) taking notes in my journal, which I’m sure doesn’t look odd at all. I might as well be chiseling a stone tablet and wearing badger fur.

Collecting cash and stamping hands for the evening is Cake Shop co-owner Andy Bodor, perched on a stool by the venue door. Ryan Sambol emerges from downstairs, despondently shaking his head:

“You know what man, I don’t even wanna play tonight.”

Bodor looks shattered.

“What do you mean???”

“Y’know, it’s just, I come all the way from Texas and I just don’t think….”

I realize that though the dust from earlier has settled, a whole new sandstorm is about to kick up; and then Sambol cracks a smile.

“I’m just kidding!!!” Bodor sighs: “Jesus man, you really got me there.”

Two warm alcohols deep I make my way to the show space. I’m met by a hush crowd politely watching the tricky Texan. It’s not easy to captivate audiences these days, and it’s even harder to do so with such modest and arcane things like a guitar and microphone, but Sambol seems to have this covered. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a good lookin’ boy from the Lone Star State with a voice like Nashville Skyline era Dylan.

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His stage presence reminds me of a less-tortured Jeff Buckley…a more lighthearted, plucky Buckley, if you will.  Buckleyness aside, Sambol’s ability to work a room makes sense: he’s been in the biz for over a decade. He helped form The Strange Boys as an eighth grader and subsequently toured with everyone from Julian Casablancas to Spoon. After Strange Boys dissolved in 2012, Sambol and co. reemerged as Living Grateful releasing two LPs in 2014.  I’ve yet to find anything about a forthcoming solo record from Sambol, but if one ever surfaces it will probably sound like his live set: sweet, melty and melancholy.

Sambol played a mix of originals as well as a few covers, announcing them with familial ease: “You can thank Sly Stone for that one.” And I guess we can thank Mr. Sambol for coming all the way from Texas and playing after all.

During the set, I couldn’t help but notice Meg Remy and Max Turnbull at the end of the bar. It made me wonder if it’s difficult to tour with your spouse. Do you bicker over who’s headlining? Take turns on merch table duty? Get jealous when your better half’s record sells more copies than yours? I guess it depends, but judging by the highly collaborative artistic relationship Remy and Turnbull have had, they seem pretty supportive. They lugged the gear together, and played integral roles in each other’s performances for the night.

U.S. Girls was up next. For those unfamiliar with Remy’s music, it is paradoxical in many ways. She goes by a plural, so you’d expect a full band, or at the very least a duo. You wouldn’t guess it was just her by listening to GEM, her FATCAT release from 2012, which is full-bodied, textural and pleasantly schizophrenic.

The self-sufficient musical project is far more achievable these days given the ease of home recording and distribution, but it does make for an interesting dilemma; how does one perform live?  According to Meg Remy: with a Moog and a microphone

It doesn’t sound great on paper, but it’s difficult to describe someone like Remy, who might be made of charisma. A bit dazed while performing, she is focused and calculated. Her body language and voice seem siphoned straight from the 1960s, and I wonder if she really is in trance-watching a mirage of Nancy Sinatra at the back of the room and mirroring her every shimmy.

An equally enigmatic musician, Max Turnbull recorded his sinister pop-opera A Hound at the Hem all the way back in 2010 as a contract fulfillment to Paper Bag records. Unfortunately Paper Bag deemed it too weird, causing Turnbull to shelve the LP and record Sof’ Sike instead.  Hound did have a limited co-release via Pleasance Records and Remy/Turnbull’s own imprint Calico Corp, but it was reissued last year thanks to New York’s own DFA records. DFA saw the album’s brilliance and pressed 600 copies-100 of them on Pepto Bismol pink vinyl.

Hound is a complex and beautiful record. It’s been called chamber pop, psych rock and garnered many other comparisons.  As an impulse evaluation I’d say there are heavy notes of Nick Cave and Van Dyke Parks throughout.

If you didn’t know the chronology of Hound’s lifespan, you might be surprised to see Slim Twig live.  On the album’s sleeve is a clean-shaven kid with a pompadour. Behind the microphone at Cake Shop was a mustached matchstick with long tangled hair. Ever evolving, Turnbull’s look wasn’t the only thing drastically different from his Hound days.  His set didn’t include any songs from the album, which I must admit bummed me out a little.

That’s not to say the music wasn’t exciting and well played, but it was much more straight-forward seventies rock n’ roll- a far cry from the bizzarro orchestra of Hound.  That being said, I can sympathize with a musician not wanting to play songs written five years ago.

Slim Twig’s set was both humble and satirically contradictory. “This song’s about not fetishizing the past” was an intro that struck me as aggressively ironic, since fetishizing the past is what millennials, including myself-are best at.

Though the set was more melodic than I’d expected, there was no shortage of precision and energy.  And fortunately, any deficit of strangeness was made up for by the little eccentricities that can only be experienced at a live show.  While introducing one song Turnbull curtly quipped: “This song is about Jesus Christ.”  To my left a middle-aged Hasidic man clapped and cheered in his seat, occasionally using his cocktail straw as a conductor’s wand; other times bringing it to his lips to take a long drag.

I guess the night was a success after all.

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VIDEO REVIEW: Slim Twig’s “Hover on a Sliver”

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photo by Meg Remy
photo by Meg Remy

Canadian shape-shifter Max Turnbull, the man behind the moniker Slim Twig, could never resign to making just a music video.

Given his pedigreed rearing in all camps of the art world-musical, celluloid, and illustrative-it’s no surprise that his most recent one is more of a scored short film than a formulaic MTV standard. In fact, the opening credits prove this as they read: “Repulsion Revisited-A video set to the music of Slim Twig’s ‘Hover on a Sliver’ from the album A Hound at the Hem.”

The text tells us a lot actually, namely that Turnbull is one lucky fella surrounded by a trio of talented women known as 3 Blondes and a Camera.  As it turns out, these aren’t just any ol’ blondes. Shooter/editor Meg Remy of U.S. Girls is Slim’s wife, director/producer Jennifer Hazel is his mom, and the star of the screen is none other than sister Lulu Hazel Turnbull, who has performed in a handful of U.S. Girls videos as well. All and all it seems like a pretty loving collaboration.

The short itself is less warm and fuzzy than the relationship between its makers would suggest. At first glance we see a projected eyeball squirming on the silk of a nightgown. It glares relentlessly and swooshes to the crescendo of robotic bleating. This opening scene connotes more of the climactic build one finds in horror films, which makes all the more sense when we finally catch sight of Lulu, who is all Hitchock heroine in a frosty coif and peach negligee.

Lulu sketches furiously atop a wall projection, smearing charcoal with the agitation of a stain-scrubbing housewife. These moments of creation are the only in which she seems impassioned and present; she traverses the rest of her life with a far off gaze and tepid neuroticism. It’s the kind of mental diversity one might need while listening to Slim Twig, whose sound ranges from schizophrenic noise to masterly crafted pop.

Enjoy the sweet and sinister video for “Hover on a Sliver” below:

 

A Hound at the Hem is out now on DFA Records.  Be sure to snatch one of the limited pressings on pink vinyl while they last!

 

SLIM TWIG TOUR DATES:

Thu. Jan. 15 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle w/ US GIRLS

Fri. Jan. 16  – Cleveland, OH @ Happy Dog (east location) w/ US GIRLS

Sat. Jan. 17 – Brooklyn, NY @ Palisades w/ US GIRLS, Bottoms

Sun. Jan. 18 – New York, NY @ Cake Shop w/ US GIRLS

Mon. Jan. 19 – Boston, MA @ Middle East Upstairs w/ US GIRLS

Wed. Jan. 21 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz w/ US GIRLS

Fri. Jan. 23 – Toronto, ON @ Silver Dolla

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LIVE REVIEW: Museum of Love @ The Wick

Museum of Love

Museum of Love

Even as it evolved from dance-punk singles played in hip clubs to the extravagant, sold-out MSG finale show with a multitude of guest performances, LCD Soundsystem was always James Murphy’s thing. Though Murphy enlisted a host of musicians to fill out his production and tour lineup, he remained its front-and-center icon, down to the project’s last 48 hours of existence in front of Shut Up And Play The Hits filmmakers. Co-founding DFA Records, the label that would become synonymous not only with LCD’s output but with the disco-infused punk movement the band inspired, only solidified Murphy’s prominence as the purveyor of those sounds. Longtime collaborator Nancy Whang found outlets as a DJ and producer in her own right, particularly in working with DFA cohort The Juan MacLean. In one way or another, the musicians who became fixtures on LCD releases either remained affiliated with other DFA-related projects or produced solo endeavors for the label, whose curatorial scope felt just as focused on sonic similarities as it was in fostering those familial connections.

Now, it seems, it’s Pat Mahoney’s turn to make a name for himself beyond the title of LCD Soundsystem drummer. His newest project, Museum of Love, has been releasing teaser singles since dropping “Monotronic” in October, and officially announced a nine-track self-titled EP slated for release this month. With Dennis “Jee Day” McNany (who’s also worked with The Juan MacLean) writing most of the songs and Mahoney penning the lyrics, sultry jams like “Down South” and the sunny, expansive pop of “In Infancy” promise that Museum of Love’s debut will be packed with expertly-constructed explorations in a variety of moods.

At DFA Records’ Summer Soiree last Saturday at The Wick in Brooklyn, the whole gang was in attendance; recent signee Sinkane opened with a DJ set as the sold-out crowd rolled in, followed by Whang, who spun records that melded almost seamlessly with the first blushes of Museum of Love’s live NYC debut. Mahoney and Whang hugged before he took his place in front of the mic, front and center this time instead of behind a drum kit. McNany sat beside him, walled in by various synths, and a guitarist and drummer rounded out the set-up as well, which was a pleasant surprise; one never knows how much of a band you’ll get when production duos go live. On two tracks, the addition of a couple brass players warmed things up as well – Museum of Love are not fucking around.

Mahoney, for his part, sounds a little like David Byrne, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. He’s a humble frontman, and seemed grateful for the opportunity to perform for such an enthusiastic crowd with musicians he respects and admires. They played what has to amount to the entirety of the record, and the songs are at once introspective and dance-worthy, unfolding beautifully and organically, as though they weren’t so much written and perfected over several months, but instead sprang into existence fully formed and ready for the exact moment in time you’re hearing them. Fans of LCD Soundsystem (and DFA in general) will of course embrace what Museum of Love has to offer, but there’s also a real possibility that MoL’s appeal could reach well beyond DFA’s immediate circle of devotees.

Though DFA has courted many acts outside its circle, there’s still the feeling that its roster exists inside a bit of a bubble, which can be seen as either shopworn nepotism or comforting familiarity. It’s not that Museum of Love bucks this trend per say, but what Mahoney and McNany do offer are a refreshing set of tracks that are fun and easily approachable. They aren’t taking DFA’s catalogue in a new direction, but they could bring a lot of new fans back into the fold.