NEWS ROUNDUP: Bikini Kill Reunion, Toto Forever, and MORE

photo by Tammy Rae Carland

Bikini Kill Sells Out Reunion Shows in Minutes

Girls to the front! Earlier this week, Bikini Kill’s original members – Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and Kathi Wilcox – announced three reunion shows: 4/25 at the Hollywood Palladium; 5/31 at Brooklyn Steel; and 6/1 at Terminal 5. The band has been officially broken up since 1997 (they played “For Tammy Rae” at a book release party for Jenn Pelly’s 33 1/3 Raincoats tribute in 2017) though Wilcox and Hanna still play together as 2/4ths of The Julie Ruin. Bikini Kill have been steadily releasing vinyl reissues of their back catalog via their own eponymous imprint, as well as archiving materials – zines, flyers, demos, artwork, merch, personal photos – from the dawn of riot grrl, a movement they basically invented. But the “tour” announcement was definitely a pleasant surprise.

The punk band drew criticism, however, because tickets were only available through AES’s ticketing platform AXS, which of course left some fans out in the cold, even as scalpers began posting tickets via secondary markets in excess of $900 (face value was just under $50 with service fees). The band immediately announced a second L.A. show for April 26th; it sold out just as quickly. It’s certainly possible that more shows could be announced (particularly in New York, Hanna’s homebase) but it’s always a bummer to have to hit refresh dozens of times to no avail. At least there are plenty of YouTube clips from Bikini Kill’s heyday.

Toto Forever

When Toto penned their only number one hit, “Africa,” released in 1981, they probably didn’t think about the tune’s longevity. Sure, it’s catchy, but no one could’ve predicted its late-exploding popularity as the lyrics made their way into countless memes and TV shows like Stranger Things and South Park boosted recognition. Now, thanks to Namibian-German artist Max Siedentopf, “Africa” is never going to go away – because he’s erected an installation in the Namib desert, in which six solar-powered speakers play an MP3 of the song on a constant loop.

Siedentopf told NPR that the installation was “supposed to be a bit like a treasure that only the most loyal of Toto fans can find.” Indeed, it could be anywhere along the West Coast of Namibia, as the desert stretches some 1200 miles along the coast. Being a desert, the area is “nearly rainless,” and its name is derived from the Nama language, implying “an area where there is nothing.” And while it isn’t one of the two specific African landmarks mentioned in the song (Kilimanjaro/the Serengeti), maybe the installation will finally put Namibia on the map for Toto devotees.

That New New

Panda Bear teamed up with Dean Blunt to create the video for “Token,” from PB’s upcoming LP Buoys (out February 8 via Domino).

James Blake dropped a new album with very little fanfare; stream Assume Form below.

Weyes Blood hasn’t officially given any details on her forthcoming record, but she’s shared its first single, “Andromeda,” which was produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado.

HEALTH is slated to release VOL. 4: SLAVES OF FEAR via Loma Vista Recordings on February 8 and have shared its blistering second single.


Dawn Richard (aka D∆WN) shared “sauce” from her forthcoming LP new breed, which is currently streaming over at NPR ahead of its January 25th release.

Experimental found-sounds duo Matmos celebrate the upcoming release of Plastic Anniversary (and 25 years as a band) with first single “Silicone Gel Implant;” they debuted some of their latest compositions at a Yo La Tengo Hannukah show this past December.

Swedish punks Makthaverskan are putting out a new 7″ and have shared its A-side, “Demands.”

SPELLLING shared “Under the Sun,” from forthcoming Sacred Bones LP Mazy Fly (out February 22).

Following a few sold-out reunion shows, San Jose art rockers Duster are back in the studio and have released their first single since 2000 album Contemporary Movement.

Xiu Xiu shared a disturbing video sequel to the equally disturbing “Scisssssssors;” both singles appear on Girl With Basket of Fruit, out February 8th.

Cardi B teams up with City Girls in a video for “Twerk,” which seeks to reclaim the booty-shaking dance move for black women everywhere.

Along with additional details about their upcoming collaborative album Lux Prima, Karen O and Danger Mouse shared the LP’s next single, “Woman.”

Lastly, we can’t get enough of this Leggy track from their upcoming LP and are super pumped about their January 23rd show at Baby’s All Right with Daddy Issues and Desert Sharks.

End Notes

  • Lana Del Rey, Jared Leto, and Courtney Love starred in a Gucci commercial released this week, soundtracked by Link Wray.
  • Cardi B posted an expletive-laden political rant via Instagram on Wednesday, criticizing the government shutdown. It’s already been remixed by the Autotune the News dudes. Belcalis Almanzar 4 Prez in 2o20!
  • Panorama Music Festival is going on hiatus as parent company AEG looks to secure a new location.
  • Sony has finally dropped R. Kelly in light of the disturbing allegations of his behavior toward women. Scrutiny has intensified for the artist since Lifetime aired their much-discussed Surviving R. Kelly documentary earlier this month.
  • Matt Daniels has updated his chart mapping the largest vocabulary in hip-hop, with Aesop Rock topping the list. You can toggle it so that it shows only members of Wu-Tang Clan, who clocks in at #5 (the GZA’s solo work is ranked one spot above, at #4).
  • Speaking of the Wu, there’s a documentary coming to Showtime in the spring that features the iconic NYC rap crew.
  • Bandcamp is opening a brick-and-mortar outpost in Oakland in February.
  • Gladys Knight has agreed to perform the National Anthem at Super Bowl LIII on February 3rd. The soul singer made some controversial statements about Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback whose police brutality kneeling protests left him a free agent. The halftime show will be headlined by Maroon 5, with special guests Big Boi and Travis Scott.

LIVE REVIEW: Matmos @ (le) poisson rouge

There isn’t really a noise, audible to human ears or otherwise, safe from the all-absorbing sonic stylings of experimental electronic duo Matmos, whose ninth studio LP The Marriage of True Minds is out on Thrill Jockey later this month.  On Monday M.C. Schmidt and Daniel Drew dropped into (le) poisson rouge, offering a rather psychedelic testament to their inquisitive and avant-garde creative approach.

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It’s hard to define the kind of person who’d be fascinated enough by these processes (not the mention the songs produced by them) to attend their live recreation, though to say fans of Matmos tend to be sort of geeky is probably an obvious start.  I never know what to expect in terms of set-up at LPR; the versatile venue sometimes offers seating, sometimes standing only, and the stage migrates throughout the club (my personal favorite set-up being in-the-round).  When I bought a ticket at the door seating was offered so I took it, figuring I’d be better able to focus if I wasn’t relegated to a table-less corner where I’d be subject to constant jostling.

Focus proved to be the best asset in truly appreciating the performances that evening, kicked off by Dana Wachs (who performs under the moniker Vorhees).  Wachs has been recording as Vorhees since 2005, but her live performances tend to be attached to projects other than her own – she’s soundtracked everything from short films to dance performances at PS122 to fashion shows for Rachel Comey, Imitation of Christ, Y & Kei, Wink, Sebastian Pons and Jess Holzworth.  It’s worth mentioning that her resume includes production work for Cat Power, M.I.A. and St. Vincent (among others), though in a way it’s misleading to group her with those artists.  The vision she seeks with her explorations in Vorhees is totally separate – a turbulent study in soft electronic loops, her hushed sing-song layered with washes of white noise, droning guitar and loops she creates in front of the audience, rather than relying on a laptop filled with pre-recorded beats.  The result is towering but overtakes the listener in subtle builds.  As the lone performer on stage, Wachs is a stark but mesmerizing character, releasing bursts of sonance in controlled fashion, giving each element of the track its own time to resonate before adding another airy strata.

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Horse Lords.
Horse Lords.

Horse Lords approach from almost the opposite angle, attacking the senses with an onslaught of dense guitar work and pounding polyrhythms delivered by not one but two live drummers, all members of the band performing with scientific focus.  That intensity revealed much about the intention behind their work in terms of both composing songs and performing them live; their material hinges on intonation tuning, in which note frequencies relate to mathematical ratios.  Even if that concept is a bit over the heads of most casual listeners (mine included) the essence of what it accomplishes is readily apparent.  Lead guitarist Owen Gardner actually had to add and painstakingly reposition his frets to accommodate the precise tunings, and the resulting uniqueness of the guitar sound is easy enough to perceive even without calculating algebraic equations.  Their work draws on disparate influences, incorporating  brass instruments and computers alike.  For all of the headiness, though, Horse Lords do not fail to offer something that seems vital rather than removed from itself.  If the music itself did not feel so immediate, it would be in danger of becoming obscured by its own elaborate nature.  That’s where Horse Lords really get it right – by keeping the music lively they’re free to explore, to take their most intricate concepts to their fullest expression, without losing accessibility.

It’s pretty obvious why a duo like Matmos would be interested in taking Horse Lords under their avant-garde wings (in fact, Horse Lords will continue to open with the band as they embark on a US tour, and Gardner makes a guest appearance on the new record); one can just imagine the hours of music nerd shoptalk going on without end.  One can also imagine the collaborative thoughts flying, oddball concepts for albums of the future taking shape, philosophies being debated and debunked, weird noises coming from nowhere or everywhere.  It’s easy to imagine because everything Matmos does is based on divine collaboration – with each other, with other musicians, and with objects in the surrounding world.  Sometimes that takes the shape of recording an album composed of sounds culled from liposuction surgeries.  Sometimes it’s about making a recording in a cow’s uterus and dedicating it to someone who inspired them.  And sometimes it means rounding up test subjects, putting them on their backs on a table in a room with with soft red lighting, covering their eyes with two halves of a pingpong ball, and pumping white noise into the headphones they’re wearing while telepathically projecting the concept of the album into the “percipient” brain.

And naturally, that’s exactly what Matmos did, encouraging these newest collaborators to hum or sing whatever sounds or melodies played through their empty, sensory deprived psyches, to describe objects or ideas that did the same.  Conceptually, it explores the Ganzfeld effect as much as it attempts to prove or disprove the validity of extra-sensory perception.  Sonically, Matmos take a wide berth in interpreting the data they collected and translating it to music.  The most obvious difference from their previous work is the appearance of predominant vocals from a slew of guest artists (Dan Deacon, Angel Deradoorian, Jen Wasner to name a fraction) as well as from the members of Matmos themselves, harmonizing on record for the first time in their twenty-year career.  But all the quirky sound collage Matmos is known for provides the backdrop – amplified rubber bands as bass lines, sloshing water, sirens, bells, and telephones, tap dancers dancing across a concrete floor.  The shuffle of these myriad textures creates a ceaseless movement that makes it easy to forget it was conceived using sensory deprivation.  “Teen Paranormal Romance” is ecstatic and burbling and awkward, less like the Twilight saga and more like the aural equivalent of two adolescent spectres fumbling in the dark.  “Tunnel” drops out at its most frenzied moment to a creepy whispering, then speeds off again into some mysterious light, all ragged guitars and pitch-shifted synths.  The album closes with a schizophrenic cover of The Buzzcocks’ “ESP” and the words “So… think”; the vinyl version has a locked groove of white noise to allow its listeners time to do just that and see what visions come along.

In a live setting, Matmos couldn’t possibly go to all the trouble of recreating the experiment, and if any ticket-holders had been asked to listen to nothing and just envision a Matmos concert, a good portion might have asked for the money back.  Instead they opened with an expansive, lysergic iteration of “Very Large Green Triangles” replete with incantatory instructions on how to meditate.  There were, of course, hallucinatory projections flickering across the screen behind the musicians, containing visions of, yes, green triangles.  There were also mystical hand gestures.  This went on for roughly thirteen blissed minutes during which I was exceedingly grateful to be sitting in a chair.

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The rest of the set was truly a retrospective of some of the band’s most playful moments, including material that went as far back as 1998’s Quasi-Objects, during which Schmidt blew up a pink balloon and manipulated its surface and the air within it matter-of-factly, as though it were a more conventional instrument.  A song from 2001’s A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure featured some queasiness-inducing projections of someone’s insides, yet somehow retained a potent danceability.  Despite the fact that Matmos have made a name for themselves as diligent sound collectors as much as musicians, they don’t take themselves too seriously.  It was delightful to witness such creative music-making, and easy to laugh along with with their stage banter.  One particularly tender moment came when Schmidt realized he was missing an adapter; Drew produced one from his pocket, and Schmidt quipped that it was a dream come true to have a boyfriend who kept such necessities so handy.  Up to that point, I’d never considered that the two were a couple, but now it’s easy to see them as insatiable cohorts, conspiring to dream up their lofty album concepts and outlandish recording techniques, and working fearlessly together to share those visions with the world.  In that way, The Marriage of True Minds could double as a title for the group’s autobiography as well as its latest record, their perfect synergy and avid curiosity being the impetus for their ground-breaking, genre-defying output.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]