Archive for April, 2008

Black Moth Super Rainbow- “Dandelion Gum” 2xLP (Graveface Records, 2008)

Posted in music, records, Tom with tags , , on April 30, 2008 by criticalreviews

My first experience with Black Moth Super Rainbow was last summer, they played one of the first free shows that I got to go to after quiting my job at Whole Foods(I used to work all weekend). BMSR was opening for Fujiya & Miyagi at South Street Sea Port, and I honestly wasn’t all that familiar with either of them. BMSR played a really amazing set, and although I was too far away to really see them it was just nice to zone out and hear their wonderful music on a beautiful day. It took me until this past February to track down something of theirs on LP, and boy was it worth the wait!

Dandelion Gum was officially released in 2007 on CD, but the LP didn’t come out til the beginning of 2008 (both versions are on Graveface Records). I really didn’t know it was coming out, but it was magically on the shelve of Sound Fix! After I left the record store I noticed that my tote smelled sweet, and I was wondering what was in there. After further examination I found out that the cover of Dandelion Gum was not only beautiful, but also SCRATCH AND SNIFF…bubble gum scented (which is located as you can probably guess on the pink bubble)!

I have been buying records for a longtime, and this is the first time I have encounted Smell-o-Vision on an LP. I have seen skulls, buzz saws, hearts, just about every shape inmaginable, 5″s, but I have never had another one that smelled good. This was a great start to my first record purchase off of Graveface.

Once I got past the smell of the record, I found that the whole packaging was really nicely done. The LP jacket is full color and gatefold. The LPs themselves are pressed wonderful pink and gold splattered heavy vinyl (seen above).

BMSR making their own vein of electro-folk-psychedelica that can really can take you off into a dream world, and the art and smell of the record really add to it. All of the vocals are run thru a vocader with the result being constant distortion. Honestly the vocals kinda bothered me at first, but I find the more I listen to it they just blend into the rest of the music adding to the whole feel. Musically BMSR draws from late 90’s early 2000’s IDM like Boards of Canada and Air as well as psychedelic pop from the early ’70’s. They desribe themselves as:

“Led Zeppelin in search of the perfect riff, folk tales of western pennsylvania, [and] people who broadcast stuff from hidden places”

I could imagine that this record might be an alien transmission that is picked up from deep space satellites…it makes me think of breezy summer days with the windows open, laying on the floor with the sun shining onto my face (or better yet with my headphones on in the park…but that involves the iPod). Some people thought:

It’s almost as if the whole album is about drugs. But by drugs I don’t mean conventional drugs, I mean drugs as in how sugar has an adverse effect on young children and you should never feed them candy or else this album happens inside their minds.

While others were more positive:

Still, despite the occasionally folky melodic sensibility, Black Moth’s aesthetic is always spacey– they’re more likely to be scoring a laser show at a planetarium than busking on a street corner. Wherever these guys are holed up and whether or not they really call the drummer Iffernaut, Dandelion Gum is a nice surprise and a good example of why doing one thing very well is sometimes more than enough.

I have to say that Graveface Records is a label to watch out for. They seem to be doing really interesting limited edition records, and all of them done right. I am 99% sure that this edition of the Dandelion Gum is sold out (only 1000 made, 500 of which were hand numbered…I didn’t get one of the first 500), but there is a second edition coming out on black vinyl and it will still be scratch and sniff. But if you see it on the shelf at your local record store you might get one of the first press!

Black Moth Super Rainbow has a couple shows coming up (two of which are in NYC):

May 21: Cambridge, MA @ the Middle East*
May 22: Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s*
May 23: Manhattan, NY @ Knitting Factory*
May 24: Washington DC @ Rock n’Roll Hotel*
July 27: Brooklyn, NY @ McCarren Pool$ (This show is on a Sunday and most likely will be free)
*=w/ Subtle
$=w/MGMT

media (enjoy):

“Forever Heavy” (from Dandelion Gum):

a really fucking weird video for “Sun Lips” (also from Dandelion Gum) directed by Matt Dilmore

(Tom)

Ritter Sport Cappuccino (Germany)

Posted in candy, food, Tom with tags , , on April 29, 2008 by criticalreviews

So my adventures into European candy continues. After the last two being totally disappointing I figured I would go with a company that I tend to trust, Ritter Sport. I haven’t had too many candies by these people but the one or two others that I have tried are tastie, and the Cappuccino bar turned out to be the same.

So the Ritter Sport Bars are all square with smaller squares carved out within the bar (think of how Hershey’s bars are, but with squares). I have had the RS with Corn Flakes before, and didn’t really know what to expect with the cappuccino. The corn flakes are easy, they are just dispersed through out the bar as a peanut or almond would be, but the cappuccino was much different. While the bar is divided into smaller squares, each is not filled with cappuccino flavor, rather the cappuccino is is a full layer throughout the bar.

When you break the bar, the pieces don’t break clean…rather the milk chocolate breaks in chards around the cappuccino filling. The bar itself is extremely creamy, and while not 100% natural (some artificial flavors…which I guess is my only complaint about the bar), still very convincing with the coffee flavor (some can taste fake, but this one does a pretty good job pulling off real coffee). I guess the closest thing that I can think of that this bar reminds me of is Ben and Jerry’s Coffee ice cream. While it is a candy bar it possesses the creaminess of the ice cream. The flavor is extremely intense, and I find that I can only handle one or two of the small squares at a time, but they leave me very satisfied.

(Photos from Chocablog)

(Tom)

Welcome To The Johnsons

Posted in alcohol, bars, Tom with tags , , , , , on April 28, 2008 by criticalreviews

123 Rivington St., Lower East Side, NYC

So Welcome to the Johnsons is a dive bar with a 1970’s basement theme, wood panels, pool table, old tv playing old shows, dark, dingy, couches with plastic covers, PBR, and one of those amazing video games that is also a table (which I have unfortunately never gotten to sit at). It definitely has a quirky feel, but at the same time it isn’t pretentious and just about anyone can be found in this place(very eclectic crowd probably drawn by the theme and cheap booze). I hadn’t been in a while , but we started what turned out to be a really late night there on Friday.

Happy Hour is from 3-9pm and well drinks are $2 and PBR $1.50 (some of the cheapest in the city). We got there significantly later than happy hour, and drinks were still reasonable ($2 PBR and $4-6 liquor drinks). The bartenders from my experience are attentive and quick.

So the music is a mix of everything over the bast 30 or 40 years, ranging from totally awesome (Built to Spill, Pixies, Dead Kennedys, and even some classic rock and ’80’s) to questionable (really bad 90’s rock ala Goo Goo Dolls or some shit like that, Rancid, and you name it it gets played). It’s a mixed bag, but suits the bar pretty well.

While this place gets really crowded but our significantly large group was able to carve out a comfortable portion of space. I can’t say that this is the type of place to go by yourself, or on a date, or anything short of getting really drunk (whether you are starting or ending the night)….but it is a good place to get cheap drinks with a bunch of friends. By the time we left (almost 2am, we started pretty late) it was hard to get from the front of the bar to the back. But still not to hard to get a drink. I can’t say it is my favorite bar, but it does serve a purpose…and it tends to be fun if you go with enough friends. And it is also a neat place to take people who are visiting the city from out of town.

welcome to the johnsons front window by AugustHeffner <via flickr>

plastic couches inside by Yorkshire4 <via flickr>

(Tom)

Destroyer and Andre Ethier @ The Bowery Ballroom. Wednesday April 23rd, 2008.

Posted in music, shows, Tom with tags , , , , on April 25, 2008 by criticalreviews

When Destroyer comes to town he draws with him friends of ours from all over the country, to see the show and crash on our couches…company is always fun, but that usually means drinks before the show and in this case missing Colossal Yes…but that was fine. We got to the show around 10ish and Andre Ethier went on right after we got drinks.

Ethier was backed by a full band (bass, guitar, drums, saxophone, flute, and keys), but it was easy to tell he was the leader. Musically they sounded a lot like Bob Dylan, and if you like bands that sound like Dylan you will probably dig his stuff. He was charismatic, and the crowd seemed to be really into him. Ethier and his band were entertaining to watch, but not really something that I would find myself listening to at home.

Destroyer was up next, and we made our way to the stage before he started. Since the show was sold out, and we were rolling deep (there were five of us), I never thought that we would get up as close as we did but we were able to stand just to Dan Bejar’s right and watch him do his thing. His backing band was a guitarist, bassist, keyboards, and a drummer. I had read this review of the show from the night before:

Understandably so, there is a tendency to conflate Destroyer and Dan Bejar, but in concert there is no question that they are a band, and not simply a solo act in disguise. Indeed, Bejar has an extremely commanding presence on stage with his floppy mop of hair, carefully crafted persona, and distinct vocal styling, but last night, he was frequently upstaged by Nicolas Bragg’s gorgeous renderings of his songs’ achingly romantic lead guitar parts, and Fisher Rose’s jaw-dropping performance on the drums…In lesser hands, much of Bejar’s work could collapse into self-parody and pastiche, but his bandmates hold it together, resulting in deliberately pretentious romantic pop ballads of uncommon grace. [Fluxblog] [reposted on BV]

And I agree that the band was really tight…but I have seen Bejar play with at least 4 or 5 different backing bands, and while they are all different I don’t think that any of them let his songs fall by the wayside. And if people are saying that this current backing band is upstaging Bejar, I would have hated to see what they had to say when he toured with Frog Eyes backing him (it was really crazy to watch Bejar and Carey Mercer ons tage together)… totally amazing. Needless to say I thought Bejar played great, and his band accompanied him nicely.

This set was about an hour and a half long (including a short encore), with the beginning consisting mainly of songs of of Trouble in Dreams, but about five songs into the set Bejar (who had been soft spoken until this point) said:

“this song is off of Your Blues, you probably haven’t heard it.”

It might be me just thinking about it too hard, but it made me wonder if this tour was the first that he had sold out, or headlined, a date in New York (please correct me if that is wrong)…I was wondering if Trouble in Dreams brought in a significantly larger fan base? After that song was finished they went directly into “Trembling Peakcock.” I recognized it right away (being that it is my favorite), but taking a quick look around the crowd very few people seemed as moved as I was by this gem off of This Night (hence my take that alot of the crowd were newer fans). They did not play anything that was older than This Night (which I kind of expected being that Bejar has a different band each time he tours). As mentioned the set consisted mainly of songs off the new album, a couple off of Your Blues, maybe one off of Rubies (not sure), “Trembling Peacock”, “Self Portrait With Thing (Tonight Is Not Your Night),” and finished the encore with “Modern Painters”. Seeing them play these three off of This Night really made my night, and I would have been totally happy if they would have walked off stage after “Trembling Peacock.”

Bejar carried his signature aloof persona, and let the rest of the band be a little chatty with the crowd. The band seem to be very good friends passing around a bottle of Jameson’s whiskey that Bejar brought on stage, and even sharing beers. I really enjoyed the show…it actually left me wondering why the Bowery Ballroom show sold out so fast, and the MHOW show didn’t sell out (I’m sure it was just as good, and they played “Crystal Country”)? I am excited to finally own Trouble in Dreams, they were selling copies of the 180 gram 2xLP that Merge put out! This show really makes me look forward the the Merge 20th Anniversary next year (Merge 15 was great! I hope they do another anniversary weekend). Oh Destroyer.

Listen to Destroyer Here.

(Photos by J. Russell <via flickr>)

(Tom)

Kids in the Hall @ The Nokia Theatre. Saturday April 20th, 2008. 10:30pm Preformance.

Posted in Comedy, Tom with tags , , on April 23, 2008 by criticalreviews

We had know about these performances for quite a while, but it was hard to commit to the high (but surely worth it) ticket price in advance. We saw on BV Saturday morning that tickets were still available, and after conversing with Leah we all bought tickets. There were tickets available for the three remaining performances, but we opted for the 10:30 Saturday show…in hopes that the Kids would be rowdier than the earlier one.

The Nokia Theater is a weird place. When I typically think of stadiums or theaters that are sponsored by a company it is just that…a sponsorship where the name is on the building (and maybe advertising here or there), but I have never seen anything like this before. When you walk into the lobby of the theater you walk into a shrine of the Nokia phone. The walls had shadow boxes, you know like in the Natural History Museum where they have thick plastic in front of stuffed animals, it was the same but there were phones instead of animals. It was the most bizarre thing I have ever seen. This was throughout the entire venue (when you walk in, by the bars, and by the restrooms), everywhere except where the performance was (thankfully).

I have never seen the Kids live before, but klk and I did get to see Mark McKinney do a one man play…it was called Fully Committed, and we saw him do it in Vancouver. The play was really wonderful, and extremely funny…I would pay to see any of the five of them preform, but I’m positive that nothing is like seeing them together.

The Kids came on right at 10:30 (maybe 10:40 but it was pretty close), and the performance was great. I would have been really sad if for some reason they didn’t meet my expectations (or if I had not went to the show at all). I had always thought that there was no way that they could be bad live….and I was right.

If going to see the show in another city you might stop reading here. I am not going to be explicit in giving away exactly what happened, just brief descriptions of some of the sketches.

They performed for over an hour and a half, and were just as funny and much dirtier than they were on the show. Classic skits were preformed including: Buddy Cole talking about Jesus, the chicken lady, the salesmen, and ending the show (an encore) with Mr. Tyzik, the head crusher, killing some members of the crowd and all of the Kids….the reason for the killings were the questionable acting choices that they made after the departure of Kids in the Hall (hilarious). Other skits included opening with the Kids talking about raping Kevin, drama between two gay couples, an evil baby, and Superdrunk, a super hero, among others.

They were in top form, and I would have loved to see them more than once…even if their set is the same each time. I don’t want to too say too much, but it was awesome! I’ll leave you with the introduction to the first skit:

and a you can watch a new skit on their myspace!

Photo from the NY Times

(Tom)

High Places, Ecstatic Sunshine, Cex, and Evangelista @ Market Hotel. Friday April 18th, 2008.

Posted in music, shows, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2008 by criticalreviews

I’m getting this up a little later than I had hoped…sorry about the delay.

So this was my first experience at the Market Hotel, and I have to say that I was really impressed. I had heard stories about how it was way too smoky, and whatnot, but they put an end to smoking in the room where the bands play…and it was over all really enjoyable. The space really great, and plenty of room for everyone.

We got to the show right around 10pm, and Evangelista (Carla Bozulich of the Geraldine Fibbers new band) started shortly after. So I picked the new album Hello, Voyager when it came out (klk had heard a track off of it on WNYU, and then TMT gave it a really killer review), and I really enjoy the album. I wasn’t familiar with her earlier work, but later picked up the first record, which was released as Carla Bozulich’s Evangelista, which was also really good (I am still unfamiliar with Bozulich’s previous bands, but I am throughly enjoying Evangelista). Evangelista played as seven piece on Friday night. Their set started off noisy and atmospheric, with Bozulich on the floor. This part of the set was really cool, and I wish so many people hadn’t just talked through it…it was really distracting during something that could have been extremely beautiful. Bozulich emerged from her slumber on the floor and the band began to rock…it was no longer easy to ignore their presence. Bozulich is an intense figure, a bit belligerent, and really fun to watch. She storms through the crowd dancing, and singing and intimidating people. The band was a bit more of a rock band than I expected…but now thinking back on it I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting it…Evengelista pretty much sounded like they do on record, only bigger and more in your face…grungy and dark. It was kinda crazy that they were the opening act (they can easily headline a show). We were going to go see Evangelista again the next night as well at Cake Shop, but opted for Kids in The Hall in stead. I’m glad I got to see them when they were in town, and I sure they were great at Cake Shop too.

Cex played second. It was pretty much an electronic/DJish set. People were dancing. This was my second time seeing Cex play (he has sounded extremely different both times I have seen him…the first time it was a hip hop set). I know some people really dig him, but it’s just not my thing.

Next was Ecstatic Sunshine. I was unfamiliar with them (except the bits and pieces I had heard on the internet), but I knew that they recently had a line up change (going from a four piece to a three piece). They play instrumental stonery psychedelic rock. So I know that string of adjectives can lump them in many categories, and I will try to elaborate. Live they were really loud and droney…very much a wall of sound…but on the recordings they appear to be much more intricate, atmospheric, and gentle. I enjoyed their set, but I wasn’t as fully immersed in the music as I would have liked to have been (next time I am going to try to be as close to the band as possible). Ecstatic Sunshine played a short set, but they were much harder than I was expecting from the recorded material I have heard (their record label even says that they are still a punk band at heart). I will definitely try to catch them the next time they come back to New York…I sense that there are even more interesting psychedelic things to come from these guys.

High Places headlined the show, and by this point I was kinda drunk. This was my second time seeing the band, and I was still as excited as the first. Their set was very similar to the first time that I saw them…they only played two or three songs off of the emusic download, and rocked out quite a bit. I know that since I started writing here I have been pushing High Places, but their music is truly wonderful. Rob really goes crazy while on stage, and Mary’s voice is just beautiful. Although the crowd wasn’t moving that much we were all dancing, until there was an abrupt stop in the music…something fucked up with the sound system. Before the slight technical problem High Places songs were long and great for dancing (I had read that they were trying to make it so the songs didn’t stop as soon as people got into it, and it appears that they have been successful in this)…totally fun…but after the problem with the sound they only played two more songs, and they were both short….still really fun though.

Despite the technical difficulties High Places were once again amazing, and so was the show over all. I’m really glad that I finally made it out to the Market Hotel (and hope to go back there again soon). Two comments on the venue…if coming from the L Train…make sure you know exactly where you are going (or be with someone who knows where they are going, not just says that they know where they are going)….and also the bathrooms at the Market Hotel are a bit rough (especially for girls)…they do not lock, and people can look over the door….it would be a great investment for them to install some simple latch locks on the doors (who knows maybe I will do it next time)…it would be a much better experience for everyone.

The great photos are by Georgai Kral (via flickr)! (click here or on any of the photos to go to her flickr)

(Tom)

Jammyland Records

Posted in music, record stores, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2008 by criticalreviews
60 East Third St. (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
East Village, NYC

So I know I just posted about Count Ossie and I my be bombarding you with reggae, but I feel that it is necessary to get this up before Jammyland is gone.

On Sunday, I found out that Jammyland will be closing come the end of May (I assume due to a rent increase or loss of their lease). This is a really sad day for reggae, and music in general in New York City. Jammyland has been a reggae mainstay in New York since 1993.

Physically Jammyland is a very long and very narrow store, and if there is someone buying something at the counter it is even hard to fit in the door. But it is loaded with all things reggae. They have the largest selection of reggae LPs, 45s, and CDs I have ever seen (and t-shirts too). My experiences in the store have always been enjoyable….the sweet smell of incense and trying to lean over the mounds of Jammyland t-shirts on the floor in boxes to flip thru records. The employees are always friendly…from making recommendations, to answering questions, and even sometimes putting records on the store stereo so that you can hear them before you buy. Occasionally you will even go in and a DJ will be spinning 45s to figure out what he/she is going to purchase to play in their set later that night.

The first time I went in the store it was the most overwhelming experience I have ever had record shopping. I was more comfortable in Hospital Productions, at least I knew a handful of the names on the shelf. For those who don’t know Hospital Productions is the noise/black metal store, that is located in the old Jammyland recording studio, that you enter by walking into the Jammyland store front…going to the back of the store, and then down a ladder in to the windowless Hospital Productions. I knew literally nothing about reggae the first time I went in, and although the guy working tried to help me I had no direction and no idea what I liked. On my second visit I picked up the Soul Jazz’s Studio One Dub, and after getting some advice I went back and purchased a big handful of LPs.

The first couple of times that I was in the store I was totally blown away…and that was for two reasons: 1) the store has a killer selection, and 2) I was starting on a new genre of which I literally owned nothing. While Jammyland didn’t always have what I was looking for they always had something to temp me…it wasn’t their fault…I realize when I am looking for albums that came out twenty or thirty plus years ago that they most likely will be out of print. But with Jammyland you never know…one day that record just might be there. Someone in Jamaica or England might have been clearing out a warehouse, and if a couple copies are found… they will end up at Jammyland (that is how I happened upon Grounation). Even if they don’t have that specific obscure LP you are looking for the collection of Greensleeves, Pressure Sounds, and Soul Jazz records should be enough to hold you over. Jammyland, from what I understand, even makes trips and orders directly from Jamaica to get Jamaican pressings of albums you typically wouldn’t see in the States (I have picked up random Linval Thompson, and Sly and Robbie records, as well as a Jamaican press of The Upsetters’ Return of the Super Ape).

Their prices are also hard to beat. I love being able to walk into a store, and if you look a little bit you can walk out with a rad roots or dub record for as cheap as $9.99 (I find it a rare occasion these days when you can get a new record for $10, but at Jammyland as long as your willing to look this can happen often). But as you can assume some records go up in price pretty quickly…it is just as easy to spend $25 on an album as it is to spend $10.

Jammyland is a bit messy and disorganized but so entirely unique that it couldn’t exist anywhere else (well maybe in Brooklyn). I sit here listing to Augustus Pablo’s Africa Must Be Free by 1983 Dub (the second record I ever purchased from the store) reminiscing on Jammyland…I guess it will never completely be gone as long as their mail order is still in action, but it is really sad to think that I will never be able to walk into this shrine to Jamaican roots music again.

While I was told that the store was looking for a new location there is no word yet of if it will happen/where/and when, and I guess this means Hospital Productions will also be looking for a new home too. This will be two tremendous (hopefully temporary) losses for New York’s music scene. I plan on making at least a couple more trips to these wonderful stores before they are gone…they are a great example of what independent record stores should be.

If possible show your support in the next month…I’m sure Jammyland and Hospital Productions will both appreciate it.

Photo of Jammyland from the NY Times

also related: my review of Hospital Productions.

(Tom)