Tag Archives: London

Unearthing Burial

‘I’m a bit like a rubbish super-hero …” says Burial, shyly.

So began Dan Hancox’s exclusive interview with the dubstep musician known as Burial. At least, it was exclusive when it was published last fall. Now, the chase is on to grab hold of this (formerly) elusive musical force.

Burial

Burial

For all intents and purposes, Burial is (or was, depending on the context of your thinking) the closest thing that the music world could ever get in terms of a superhero. Although I had mentioned that prototypical “rock stars” were the equivalent of iconic superheroes (or the ideas of such) in an earlier post, Burial’s case is literally a comic book come to life. If the superheroes of comic books made soulful electronic, reggae-based pop music.

Will Bevan

Will Bevan

Will Bevan appears to be your average young adult. There’s nothing particularly out-of-the-ordinary looking in his profile. Hell, his online profile for the all-too-famous website Facebook is easily found at the click of a few buttons. At a quick, momentary glance, he just appears to be another kid from London. Like Peter Parker, he would appear to blend into the background to all but those who know him.

And then there’s this other side of him. The side that only a few know about. The side that gets held in higher-than-high regard among those who chomp down on dubstep plates, who consume music factoids at fast-paced speeds. The side that would appear to “save lives” through the serene sounds of soulful, calm, and altogether inventive dubstep – a bastardized combination of UK hardcore, garage, 2-step, electronica, grime, and just about any other electronic-based genre coming out of London. The side that gets pushed to the pantheon of great artists with a Mercury Prize nomination. The side that gets hunted by the tabloid media. Is it Untrue to think that Will Bevan’s alter-ego, Burial, really isn’t some sort of superhero in the music world?

Part of me wonders what will happen to Will Bevan, Burial and their combined musical output after his decision to unmask himself to the public. Done under such circumstances, when his alter ego was viewed with unheralded mythic-like proportions, its hard to tell what the final outcome will be like. Bands – or more importantly, the individuals behind them – get put on the grandstand, but it’s usually a gradual process that their entire beings are emotionally attached to. Even with the “OK Go effect” – where a former one-hit wonder suddenly storms to unseen popularity with the help of YouTube – involved something of a climb, albeit quite quick rather than gradual. But with Will Bevan, Burial was a mask to hide his individuality behind – and a great one at that. No matter what the music press or fans said, he could always physically and mentally distance himself (to what degree, who knows) from the magnetic image of his creation. What happens now will still be in control, but a situation that will no doubt contain momentous pressure.

With that, I have to call back to my main reference point: emo. As mentioned in various previous posts, emo, as a musical creation, is a genre based on normalcy – anonymity if you will. As Fugazi’s popularity climbed in time with the alternative boom, the band members continued to make the decision to separate themselves from the rock-star status that the media and mainstream were shaping the new punk acts into. The members remained, and continue to remain, your average member of society, a point that they strike home in Instrument, the documentary which showcases Fugazi’s blistering live sets next to images of them relaxing in motels, gassing up, and food shopping in supermarkets while on tour. Their rejection of the mainstream allowed them to stay – at least in their own realm – perfectly normal and did not impede upon their creative zest for powerful post-hardcore. And it worked. That same element, coupled with a general focus on regular issues in life that seem to be shared within the lyrics of most 2nd and 3rd wave emo acts, was carried through to the genre’s current incarnate. It isn’t until one faces the operatic stage-pandering of My Chemical Romance that you realize how emo, in some cases, has been absorbed within the mainstream.

My Chemical Romances live shtick

My Chemical Romance's live shtick

And so, Will Bevan is now faced with the first day of the mainstream’s possibly-fatal attraction. But chances are, he’s mighty aware of the consequences of his actions; the short note he left on the Burial Myspace blog has an air of assuredness that can only come from someone keenly aware of their actions. Bevan made the decision to be anonymous, and he made the decision to open to curtains. Although Bevan and Burial were connected as one in the same by NPR back in May and by The Independent before that, it wasn’t until Bevan did the deed himself that the blogs and press have actually begun to stand in attention. Clearly the power and all in Bevan’s hands. Chances are he’ll know what the best decisions are in his – and Burial’s – life.

Burial – Ghost Hardware (fan video):

Gas Prices Going Once, Twice, Again!

Not a day goes by that a handful of articles on rising gas prices are written by our trusted news sources (usually in conjunction with stories on the economy). It’s just one tale in a long line of “worst evers” that are plaguing our current society. I can’t say from personal experience if this is indeed a collection of the worsts in the world at any given moment, but it’s always good to keep a positive spin on things.

gas prices get worse and worse

gas prices get worse and worse

However, it’s times like these when one may feel the need to cast off from our society. In what may be the biggest stretch of my imagination, I can say that the current gas scenario reminds me of a little ditty called “St. Petersburg” by the UK band Dartz! It’s beyond the simple idea to flee society on a whim, but the mundane ideals that seem to construct our society that drive one to the point of leaving one’s life. And that’s all connected to gas with the following lyrics:

I don’t feel exalted driving Japanese cars

For some reason that line just jumps out and grabs me by the ear, screaming “this is brilliant!” in the way that only a select number of other artists and writers can do. That beautiful lyricism seems to capture the best moments of the band and stick in the back of my head, rearing themselves every so often.

Such as when I read news stories about the rising cost of gas.

A trio from a small part of the UK, Dartz! caught my attention when I saw them open for Hot Club de Paris over a year ago in London. I was immediately enthralled by their performance – this trio of gawky looking British kids bashing out hip-shaking, late 90s DC-inspired emo was immediately accessible. I didn’t know a damn word of any song, but I felt compelled to shout along to the lyrics… or try anyway. The band wears its influences proudly on its sleeve – their myspace page declares “Washington, DC” an influence, and you can certainly hear it – but they certainly have their own voice. Mixing a self-aware sense of “British-ness” (most noticeably contained in their vocals), cunning and observant lyrics, more angularity than a right triangle, and the nearest thing to math rock that emo knows, Dartz! are the UK’s Dismemberment Plan. But they’re also entirely their own, separate and unique entity.

Dartz! live

Dartz! live

And so, after being inspired to re-listen to Dartz! after a brief-foray into the doomsday news day, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the band had their own bit of news… and good at that. The group is set to release a mini-album, entitled The Sad History of the Village of Alnerique, this coming September. Who knows when it will be available stateside. But until then, I’ll be more than happy to continually replay their debut, This Is My Ship, and ponder any and all positive movements.

Dartz! – St. Petersburg video:

Art With Flavor

Giddy would be a great explanation for how I felt when I saw this news release from Jagjaguwar:

We’re proud to announce that PARTS & LABOR will be releasing their new album, “Receivers,” on 10/21/08 here in the US and 11/03/08 in the UK.

Brooklyn’s Parts & Labor has become one of my favorite bands in recent years, and it’s been simply wonderful to see them grow as an artistic entity and in the eyes of the music community. In a handful of years and successive releases, they’ve turned from an anthemic noise act of uncompromising creativity into the center of a vibrant underground music scene in Brooklyn. With the release of Receivers in October, there is no doubt they’ll continue on their trajectory of making outstanding music. From the sound of it, they’ve already managed to do that. Pitchfork released the track titled “Nowheres Nigh” today, and chances are, P&L aren’t far off from joining a number of their critically-acclaimed contemporaries. The song is pure pop, but still contains those elements that make Parts & Labor such an anomaly; the clashing sounds of electronic blips float with ease atop shoegaze waves of fuzz, while Joe Wong maniacally bashes away on the drum-kit in the background and BJ Warshaw exemplifies the poppiest vocal work to rival any previous track the band has made. It’s a change-up for the band, but it keeps to their mantra of pushing their own creative notions.

old Parts & Labor live pic

old Parts & Labor live pic

I’ve been lucky enough to see Parts & Labor grow in time with a bit of my own maturation. While interning at Rock Sound magazine in London, I introduced the folks at the magazine to Parts & Labor after throwing their then-upcoming release (Mapmaker) onto the stereo. The staff instantly fell in love with the band as I won a little cred in their books; pretty soon I was interviewing Dan Friel for an “Exposure” piece on the band, no doubt bringing them into the homes of many new UK fans. A year later I had the pleasure of putting on a show with the band at Brandeis University; I was involved in putting on a lot of great shows in Chums coffeehouse (the venue of choice at Brandeis), but the Parts & Labor show was one of my favorites. A month ago I treked down to Brooklyn for the After The Jump Fest, where Dan pointed out what acts to check out, which included a set by newly-acquired P&L guitarist Sarah Lipstate’s solo project, Noveller.

I’m more than happy to say that I will also be a part of the next Parts & Labor album. While they worked away on Receivers, Parts & Labor asked fans to send in audio samples, leaving four questions as guides. I sent in a little something, and although I have no idea how they used it, the band has decided to use every single submitted audio sample for their record. Now if that’s not the sign of an inclusive, open community I don’t know what is. Of course, those ideas go hand in hand with Parts & Labor; besides the musical influence of punk’s past, the ideological influence of the DIY, hardcore and post-hardcore greats that filled the 80s is especially strong in how the band runs everything. And community, as strong as it is within the lineage of emo (and I shall write no more on emo and community for this post), is an especially strong aspect of Parts & Labor’s existence and coexistence. Friel and Warshaw even went as far as to create their own record label – Cardboard records – in order to release material from bands that they felt a strong ideological, musical, and personal connection to. Just as, say, Dischord (ok, I lied a little bit about two sentences ago) became an epicenter for a small, DC punk community, Cardboard has become a connection for like-minded musicians across the country. Just pick up Love and Circuits, a double album compiling all the bands that Parts & Labor has shared a communal bond with, and you’ll hear a fraction of the bands involved in the American art-punk/noise/whatever you want to call it community. Just as a record label, a venue, or a town can become centers of musical and cultural scenes, in their own way Parts & Labor – as a band and an idea – have also become something of a meeting point for a community.

The Cardboard Family

The Cardboard Family

Parts & Labor will be performing at Siren Music Festival this Saturday and Whartscape this Sunday. Make it to the shows if you can.

Parts & Labor – Nowheres Nigh

Parts & Labor – The Gold We’re Digging (video):

Emotional About Environmentalism

Radiohead released the video for “House of Cards” early Monday morning. The video is not just a continuation of the band’s subvert-the-norm conceptualization through the use of the internet; it’s also a promotion of their inclinations towards positively affecting the environment. The video was filmed without the use of cameras as the band opted to use 3D plotting technologies to create the on-screen narrative.

Of course, you could read pretty deep into the visual concept of the video. Is the destruction of power-lines (outlined in red) meant to symbolize a sense of negativity directed at our society’s drain on the amount of available energy? Maybe yes, maybe no, but beyond the message of the “House of Cards” video and the method Radiohead chose to create it, the band has been a forward-thinking unit on the subject of the environment. As the world’s “biggest” musical acts were chastised for traveling to their various Live Earth performances last year, Radiohead were nowhere to be seen. Instead of joining in on critiquing their peers on environmental protection, Radiohead have taken the higher and independent road towards helping the environment. Using their status as one of the biggest acts in the world, they’ve done everything from getting fans to calculate their carbon footprint, to their green-friendly performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, to providing a major chunk of live material (in the guise of a performance by Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke) on the Artists Taking Action On Climate Change compilation. Cynics can call it a gimmick, but Radiohead have used their position in pop culture for an excellent cause.

Although certainly not as well known as Radiohead, emo act Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly has been a force in environmental action in their native UK. Or should I say “his” native UK. GCWCF was created by Sam Duckworth, and the rest of the band has offered more of a stage-presence than a recorded or creative force. Combining lo-fi indie and folk with the vocal stylings of third-wave emo (think acoustic Taking Back Sunday with even less screaming) and Dashboard Confessional-type acoustic underpinnings.

Sam Duckworth

Sam Duckworth

Although GCWCF may seem something not-out-of-the-ordinary to American listeners, his actions as a musician are certainly admirable. Duckworth is an ardent supporter and champion of everything from Free Trade to Love Music Hate Racism – an activist group aiming at subverting the acts of UK racist organizations. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that Duckworth would be an ardent supporter of positive environmental action; he’s done everything from DJing the World Environment Day Trust concert in London to conducting television and magazine interviews concerning environmental protection and green-friendly touring.

Sure, it may be a far cry from seeing numerous bands make albums filled with their own versions of “Burning Too” – the environmentally conscience song off of Fugazi’s 13 Songs. But, as Fugazi have been heralded for sticking their positive and political beliefs, it’s important to recognize the actions that acts take in order to ensure that they’re up to snuff with their ideals. He may not be at Radiohead’s level, but Sam Duckworth and Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly certainly make their ideas an important part of their image. And in the world of emo, where image has come to be more important in the eyes of the media and mainstream, there’s nothing wrong with a little positive change.

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – Waiting For The Monster To Drown (free download)

GCWCF – War of the Worlds (live, BBC 1):