marcopantella

———– Writer / Music re-views / inter-views / and my points of view ———– The GROUND Magazine / HungerTV

Month: April, 2013

IAMX / Animal Impulses Tour / Live in London @ Electric Ballroom

Read it on Hunger TV

Words / M.P.

PhotographyFabio Esposito

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Want to know how to survive in the nightlife?” The best thing to do is to pour yourself a glass of wine before kicking off a show. This is how Chris Corner welcomed his crowd at the Electric Ballroom in Camden for his London stop of the “Animal Impulses Tour” supporting his latest project as IAMX, “The Unified Field”. The alternative and former frontman from Sneaker Pimps is gaining popularity and acclaim with his fifth IAMX record and his loyal fans were treated to a strong and intoxicating cocktail of dark-electronica, synthpop, and raw percussions. “The thief came out in my London town”, he sings in “Volatile Times”, so he was up to steal our common beliefs and show a different way of making music.

The psychotic “Animal Impulses” opens the night and what we get to see of Chris and his band throughout the whole show is their shadows, sharply outlined and enhanced by the video projections behind them. This staging method creates a post-apocalyptic atmosphere where his profound and emotional voice guides and incites us like a prophet. Dressed in black with gloves and feathered hat, his face seems to float in the air because of the black paint on his neck and he looks doomed, possessed and full of “Sorrow” that is the title of following song. The new material don’t fail to exalt his quality song writing that dig into very secret and dangerous emotional areas but Mr. X has only just begun.

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Heavily focusing on his previous works, as to preserve his identity, the set list is energetic and pumps adrenaline in the room leaving his more melancholic compositions out. “Kiss + Swallow” causes excitement from the very first note and as the prophet approaches the part of the song where he speaks “Are you listening? No, in the narrowest sense. Are you listening?”, the rhythm is compressed before blasting out loud again. London is listening as we read on the screens “Love is just a blood sport”, a nice reminder of the Sneaker Pimps era. The IAMX victims are deep into his kingdom by now, he reaches out to touch a finger in the audience during “Kingdom Of Welcome Addiction” and he takes a wig from the front row to perform “My Secret Friend” and the sensual “Cold Red Light”. “My sister used to dress me as a girl, I never got over it. I kinda liked it” he confesses.

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Brand new “The Unified Field” brings us back to the present with a newfound dance-floor beat before the hypnotic “Walk With The Noise” followed by Chris’ own consideration on the music business through “Music People”. The lyrics are provoking, “I challenge you to think” he says to the makers of meaningless music and its finale is a pure rhapsody but as he says “it’s not enough!”, and synths kicks in to lead us towards “The Alternative”. Powerful, violent, and perfect to close the set before the encore that sees new single “I Come With Knives” with its German chant intro and a song that never fails to make it into an IAMX show: “President”. It is in between a military and a funeral march, it is compelling and meaningful like the words popping up behind him, “Love-Father-Mother-Enemy-Country-Happiness-Me”.

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“You have been exceptional tonight”, he states very clearly but the night can’t be over without “Nightlife”, a mantra, reciting over and over, the words “I want to know how to survive in the nightlife. The truth and dare of the drug for the first time. I click my heels and dance with the heat rise.” It creates a scenario from a Danny Boyle film and in pure IAMX style it is erotic, raving, and sinful. Their shadows on stage fade away after a show that looked like a visual art installation and rocked the crowd like an atomic bomb. A mystery is left behind, one we can all relate to, and after all the blood, sweat, and hormones his ultimate perversion is being one with the unified field of this reality. Being able to be one with your audience is a good way to start and his London town praised the alternative president X.

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Minute Taker / Last Things / Review

 

Minute Taker - Last Things

 

Read it on Chasseur Magazine

Crafting his talent in his parent’s basement, using an old piano, a PC, and various gadgets, Ben McGarvey managed to catch the spotlight on his acoustic melodies and hooks and now, straight from Manchester and from Ben to Minute Taker, his new album “Last Things” promises to be a debut album to remember. Narcissism is the inspiration behind some of the songs as well as the album’s artwork and we can’t deny that his work is a quest for an ideal sound.

What strikes our attention the most, right from the opening track and single “Merge”, is his Thom Yorke- style lyricism and those distorted beats that create a layered atmosphere just like in a Björk production. Pretty remarkable right? This sweet and almost evocative electronica is somehow accessible thanks to his modern songwriting and it aims to touch our feelings even in more abstract dimensions: “Wait For Me” reminds of Moby’s soul-altering beats.

Second single “Let It Go” explores the genre of “digi-folk” and even though it may sound like a safe choice compared to other tracks, it shifts from a Hudson-Taylor kind of song to a storming synth piece that balances the album and enhances his style. “Alkali” takes us to a darker yet dreamy place like now dissolved Belgian band Venus, and “Last Thing” becomes introspective, audacious like the motif of “Echo 2″ but always melodic and haunting until the end with songs like “Somewhere Under Water” and closing number “(A Homage To) Generation X”.

Minute Taker is a young man who takes his inspiration from the established and contemporary musician and channels it through sweeping melodies and dense vocal layering creating a piece of work that sounds honest, original, and most of all makes us wonder on his future. Pop is just a word we can use to express how easy it is to relate to this album for “Last Thing” is a passionate beginning that is not afraid to experiment in this ultimately conceptual album.

IAMX / The Unified Field / Review

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

 

“Kinder und sterne küssen und verlieren sich
greifen leise meine hand und führen mich.
Die traumgötter brachten mich in eine landschaft,
schmetterlinge flatterten durch meine seele in der mitternacht”

/

“Children and stars kiss and lose themselves
they grab my hand and lead me softly.
The gods brought me in a dream landscape,
butterflies fluttered through my soul at midnight”

A German chant opens the studio album number 5 of Chris Corner’s project called IAMX. The mind behind Sneaker Pimps has been producing records since 2004 and for the very first time this release sees him collaborating with producer Jim Abbiss (Adele, Arctic Monkeys, Temper Trap, Sneaker Pimps) instead of working all alone as he used to so far. IAMX has always been secretly underground and people who have been following him during these years are familiar with their sharp and almost perfect productions. New listeners on the other hand, should be ready to discover an accessible yet disturbing way of making music as Chris opens up to new dimensions without letting his loyal fans down.

In fact IAMXers played a fundamental role in this project; a fundraising project was launched via PledgeMusic to support the album and most importantly to involve the fans in this adventure set to spread the word on IAMX who is longly overdue an international recognition. “I swore to myself I won’t make an album alone again. It smashes me to pieces emotionally and has just become more and more trouble than fun.”, born in England and adopted by Berlin, Chris gives up his total control without losing his twisted identity and “The Unified Field” is an introspective and philosophical voyage that yearns to belong in a place where we are all connected. ”I am obsessed with the concept of a scientific theory of an underlying base level of consciousness” and from the core or the atoms to the one of the human souls, IAMX analyzes the truth behind the lies of this world and the strenuous struggle between science and spirituality that we are all facing.


IAMX – The Unified Field – Official Music Video

The album starts where all life begins: a womb. Single “I Come With Knives” explains the fetus on the album cover and the blood across it. The act of coming to life is our very first fight and a way for IAMX to kick off on a note he knows very well; agony and violence. This tortured soul leaves the safety of the womb against his will to breath for the first time, “I never promised you an open heart / I never wanted to abuse your imagination” and has no choice but to come with knives to protect himself despite the real intention is to bring love. It is an alarming art-rock song that runs into the equally dark “Sorrow”, a macabre hymn to anger, sorrow, and its positive aspects that introduces the paper-soul of fame with the line “Hollywood, coyotes crying”. Chris’ voice and the rhythm are exaggerated and emotional but a warm light is about to appear.

Title-track and first single “The Unified Field” has an unusual groundbreaking dance-floor beat. Its release puzzled everybody’s expectation on what to expect from the new IAMX album but if you worried about Chris going commercial to reach a wider audience, the whole album denies this theory and actually previous songs like “Kiss+Swallow”, “Sailor”, and “Nature Of Inviting” already had a strong erotically charged atmosphere that made you want to dance along their utterly sensual, sweaty, and aggressive lyrics. This time around though the focus is on a global share of pain, the acceptance of it is portrayed in the video like a symphony. “Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t feel / Just because I don’t feel doesn’t mean I don’t understand / We are one in the unified field” may sound like a weak piece of lyrics but coming from someone who has always been on the edge is not only a track where he take risks but a momentary celebration of our inner light.

“Quiet The Mind” is an exquisite pulsating ballad in a pure IAMX style, a stripped-down arrangement, and a paradox as the sweetness of the music contrasts with the lyrics “Sometimes I can taste my death like a candy bar / So sweet and complete”. In line with the album Chris allows a little amount of light inside it as to explain emotions, human intelligence and art “I create to keep my dog in my bearable door / I made holograms / In my egocentric universe of…” he sings, trying to see the hope behind the suffering joke of our existence. Through the use of the vibraphone, glockenspiel, Celesta and Harpsichord things gets more detailed and complicated, starting with “The Adrenaline Room” a place where you can’t get any lower or any more perverted “people kissing everywhere”, and “Under Atomic Skies” a reflection on those feelings that makes us feel so powerless when facing the possibility that the world could fall apart without us having any decision in it. Despite this, the two lovers in the song don’t give up “rejoiced in the hopeless / we loved under atomic skies”

Moments like “Scream” and “Come Home” may not be up to the same cinematography aspects that “You’re The Conversation, I’m The Game”, “White Suburb Impressionism” or “The Stupid, The Proud” had even though the lyrics of the first one are shivering but as “Animal Impulses” starts, the song that gives the name to IAMX’s tour, Chris becomes more powerful and unleashes his raw DNA as a singer and songwriter. Like Italian films from Neorealism this song is symbolic and creates a suspense that explodes in “Walk With The Noise” reminiscent of the energetic “Spit It Out”, and leads to the pearl of the album, the burlesque-and-Marlene-Dietrich-on-acid “Land Of Broken Promises”. Here his voice shifts from anger to melodrama just like broken dreams takes over the tortured soul of the beginning, “drink again ’cause everyone forgets in the land of broken promises”. It is sinister and ironic at the same time, and just like a folkloristic tale passed on to generations it narrates the story of the American dream and its empty promises that claim to gives us everything we desire. Is this something he longs for or something he’s distancing himself from?


IAMX – “I Come With Knives” – (Official Video)

In this endless battle the closing track “Trials” works like a personal moment of self-analysis like in “I Salute Your Christopher” from IAMX’s previous album “Volatile Times”. No more psychosis, negative sex, or identity crises because “I can only win in the end / My trials are my friends” and in the unified field of this universe this means shutting down the voice of the demons in our heads that wants us to feel useless and undeserving. This record is exactly what Chris needed at the moment, it is a question mark and a balanced one. He may have given up something to explore new structures and possibilities but after all He Is X, and that means ever-changing and never compromising. He himself doesn’t know and maybe that is the key to create something honest, deep and pure in this music business. “I get glimpses,” he explains about its identity and true nature, “the brave confident noisy leader, the fragile sensitive recluse. But honestly, I just don’t want to understand. The day I find out is the day the fire stops burning and the day I stop making music.”

David Bowie / The Next Day / Review

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

“There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy. They say he wandered very far, very far, over land and sea. A little shy, and sad of eye, but very wise was he. And then one day, one magical day, he passed my way, and while we spoke of many things, fools and kings, this he said to me…” Back in 2001 David Bowie together with Massive Attack rearranged Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” for the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge. After a long ten years break from his latest studio album “Reality”, these words sound like Bowie’s autobiography in the light of “The Next Day”.

Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, the Berlin Bowie, the New Romantic Bowie, the Neoclassic Bowie, in over forty years, there is no strange land or sea for David Robert Jones. He has seen it all through his multiple incarnations and eclectic personality managing to create a manifesto for generations to come out of music and experimentations with his image. He is the maker of his own iconic persona and brought to life different characters that sometimes had to be killed, as it happened with Ziggy live on stage during a concert in London on July the 3rd 1973, and sometimes had to be reinvented.

Always affected by this sort of multiple personality disorder, fashion and music wise, there may be no records for a phenomena like this before him, but the list of artists undoubtedly inspired by him is endless for all of his personifications “live forever”, quoting his latest single “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”.

When he heard Elvis’ “Tutti Frutti” he said he heard God, and let’s not forget that this is the same person whose fascination with the bizarre led him to study mime at Sadler’s Wells. Dancer Lindsay Kemp once said “His day-to-day life was the most theatrical thing I had ever seen, ever. It was everything I thought Bohemia probably was. I joined the circus.”

David Bowie’s career, and the one of his characters, became a true Commedia Dell’Arte made of masks, ambiguity, and that mastery of versatility that allowed us to experience music and its theatrical elements as one. Ch- ch- ch- changes that transformed the way of making and conceiving rock and pop music forever.

It would be interesting to know how many people keep in their wardrobes a T-shirt with Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” cover on it, yes the one with the thunder, but long-time producer since 1969 “Space Oddity” and Bowie’s recently named “voice on earth” Tony Visconti has something to share about this. He was wandering around New York City listening to the brand new recorded material in his headphones and as he spotted people wearing a Bowie’s T-Shirt he thought “Boy, if you only knew what I’m listening to at the moment.” Everyone will remember where they were when “Where Are We Now?” was released on his sixty-sixth birthday, a breaking news that shadowed for once Elvis’ birthday, born on the same day as Bowie, the eight of January. In the video his face, projected on a doll and reminding The Earthling Tour, comes back to us singing the introspective and romantic first single that recollects memories from his 76-79 Berlin era. Potzdamer Platz, Nurnberger Strasse, the “dschungel” / jungle, of KaDaWe Mall, the song breathes his life experiences in the German capital; it is classy, poetic and the best choice to break such a long silence. There is no reinvention, no struggle to fit into the music trends of the moment, it is bare-Bowie and he’s back to give us a pure rock and roll lesson. He wouldn’t bother otherwise.

Title-track “The Next Day” opens the album and it is simply addictive, sinful, and a well deserved auto-celebration, “Here I am, not quite dying”. There is a sense of profane running through the guitars and the string arrangement along the lyrics “Of his women dressed as men for the pleasure of that priest” and even though Bowie, through Visconti, said “we are not touring”, this would have to be the song to open the show. It feels just like John Lennon once described him “great rock and roll with lipstick on”. “Dirty Boys” follows next with the same atmosphere thanks to Steve Elson’s baritone sax narrating this dirty and dangerous story that smells of whiskey and gunpowder. Bowie gets personal and opens up about celebrity lifestyle in “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, a song whose video, directed by Floria Sigismondi, is a statement on how fame sucks you up like a vampire even when you try to lead a normal life like Bowie, who is seen shopping at a grocery store with his on video wife played by none other than Tilda Swinton.

“Stars are never sleeping, dead ones and the living” he sings as an androgynous celebrity couple, perfectly played by models Andrej Pejic and Saskia De Brauw, haunt and manipulate his suburban life. Topical controversial aspects of his career are explored like sexual orientation, ambiguity, loss of sanity and identity, “On stage I achieve emotions, off stage I am a robot” Ziggy Stardust once said, and being a celebrity is like being an alien. Few people in the world know this feeling like him; the myth and hysteria following your every move for decades even when you are not in the spotlight. He certainly deserves a break from this but at the same it is what he was feeding off from and “They are the stars, they are dying for you, but I hope they live forever” is a twisted yet profoundly truth reminder.

Bowie’s retrospective on “The Next Day” goes through the rock, soul, and funk of his early albums, to the pop-rock of “Hunky Dory”. “Valentine’s Day” is a story about a high school shooter with a retro-pop-acoustic approach; “Love Is Lost” has a haunting keyboard that goes together with Bowie’s vocals singing “oh what have you done?” The psychedelic “If You Can See Me”, is inspired by his reading of medieval English history and the up-tempo Motown beats of “Dancing Out Of Space” keeps the pace steady but unchanging until “How The Grass Grow?”. The military answer to this question would be “Blood! Blood! Blood”, and maybe he is the same soldier of the story about the Second World War in the jazzy and swirly “I’d Rather Be High”? Despite the answer this track has a phenomenal and catchy intro and outro à la “Changes” and contains a motif of The Shadow’s “Apache”. Bowie’s interpretation becomes so theatrical towards the end “There will be no tomorrow, then you sigh in your sleep and meaning returns with the day” before storming out again to confirm that this comeback album is “TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME.” like the instructions on the rear cover of the original Ziggy Stardust vinyl.

The curtain’s call is coming soon and towards the end he becomes abstract like his 1977 “Low”, described by Philip Glass “a work of genius”, and minimal like the other two albums that make up the Berlin triptych, “Lodger” and “Heroes” acclaimed as Bowie’s “Sergeant Pepper”. In “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” titled after a verse of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” he takes the acoustic guitar and its lyricism is a standout. His melodramatic interpretation is staggering with each “die-die-die” he sings and it gives the album a different vibe and a crescendo that brings the closing number “Heat” to a dimension of its own. We finally get to hear Bowie’s deep and sonorous voice in this theatrical monologue about a prison along moaning violins and a solemn guitar. I am not sure if “the songs of dust” and “the world would end” refer to the 5 years that Ziggy had before the end of the world as I am not sure if “my father ran the prison” relates to his dad who introduced him to the power of music, something that after 40 years became his world, his prison, his struggle with cocaine and the stage where he lost and found himself so many times. “And I tell myself, I don’t know who I am”, would he like to change the past or is he finally coming to terms with what he created? I think that singing about being the seer and the liar means acknowledging his own plots as a storyteller, a man, a hero if you wish. And maybe, you can’t get any more personal than that, especially with Bowie.

When shown the album cover, an adaptation of 1977 album “Heroes” obscured by a white square, Tony Visconti thought it was a fake fan made picture. The original shot by Masayoshi Sukita is now partially hidden by a white square to symbolize “forgetting and obliterating the past”. The album title in this white space is charged with a deeper meaning because let’s face it, “Heroes” is truly one of the best songs in the history of music, it is moving, utterly meaningful, shivering and its sound bears the spirit of a generation that is long gone yet so close to us because we are still here, trying to be heroes even when “nothing will keep us together”. It is a piece of history about love, the love of a King for his Queen. If “Space Oddity” has been Bowie’s first breakthrough as the Apollo 11 was flying off to the moon with its first man on it, “The Next Day” is coinciding with the return of “the man who wandered very far, very far” up to the moon, to the skies, and to the stars… So now he is certain, we are certain they live forever.

“David Bowie Is…” is not an easy sentence to end, not even for the curators of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, who chose this title for the very first exhibition on David Bowie’s memorabilia, costumes, including the iconic creations of Kansai Yamamoto for the Aladdin Sane Tour, lyrics and everything else coming out of his personal archives. On the opening night Tilda Swinton gave a remarkable speech noting “Here I am at surely the most eclectic of all the London branches of Bowie Anonymous. All the nicest possible freaks are here”. The tickets pre-sale has been breaking every possible record and this is just another historical moment in Bowie’s history that is partly ours as well because “it is undeniable that the freak becomes the great unifier. The alien is the best company after all for so many more than the few” Bowie was nowhere to be seen that night but as Tilda said, “Our not so absent, not so invisible, friend. Every alien’s favorite cousin. Certainly mine.” and I think that the Starman finally came to meet us and he was right: he blew our mind.

M.P.

The Joy Formidable / Wolf’s Law / Review

Read it on Chasseur Magazine Issue 4

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After “The Big Roar” they had back in 2011 with their debut album, the Welsh trio comes back after supporting Muse on tour with “Wolf’s Law”, an album rich in alternative rock music and titled after the scientific theory of Julius Wolff according to which the bones of our body become stronger in response to stress as a form to adaptation.

How is the band adapting to this new adventure? Using guitar-pop melodies to make each track accessible before storming out with a heavy rock production, sometimes distracting us from the dreamy voice of Ritzy Bryan, sometimes making it sound rebellious and anarchic. The intro of opener and single “This Ladder is Ours” may be delicate but soon enough the real intention behind the album is revealed: it wants to make the speakers blow.

Members Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas keep the pace up as strongly as possible, they sound fantastic and they are vital to the narration of The Joy Formidable’s lyrics about relationships on the mend and ultimately their reinvigoration. Sometimes “Wolf’s Law” steps too much into the borders of metal but it never loses its youthful and fragile attitude that makes retro elements and arrangements sound modern and enjoyable.

Unafraid and unapologetic in its quest for freedom, like in the single “Cholla” and “Maw Maw Song”, but also classy and polished when employing some acoustic and subtle touches in “Silent Treatment” and closer “The Turnaround”. They add up to this powerful and relateable album and even though it sounds excessive at times, after all, “We always write what’s close to our hearts” they say, “every lyric on this album means something – the same as the last record.” and this is formidable.

M.P.

Blue Hawaii / Untogether / Review

Read it on Chasseur Magazine Issue 4

Blue-Hawaii-Untogether

 

From the title to the cover and the opening track ‘Follow’, it’s quite evident that ‘Untogether’ by Canadian Group Blue Hawaii, is a work with a strong duality in it. Braids’ Raph Standell-Preston and Alexander Cowan have been recording the follow up to “Blooming Summer” apart, and the result is a kind of musical paradox made of soft, almost spoken words repeated on electro-pop and dance beats.

This dimension is a silent and intimate one, where a relationship’s break up is lived and expressed from the duo in two different ways but, coming together as lovers, the songs are not only about separation. There is the sensuality of love making in “Sweet Tooth” and the minimal sonority of “Yours To Keep” floats around the alluring lyric “and I can feel it all around, in my head”.

There is a staggering plain sensibility in “Try To Be”, where electro fuses with the acoustic guitar reminding of French producer Mirwais. Every minute of the album is a sudden surprise, you start off on a dance rhytm and before you know it, Raph’s voice shifts into repeat mode bringing a disturbing atmosphere to the songs. The evidence of this is in “In Two” and “In Two II” where the ethereal meets reality, creating a mind-loop in your head that goes beyond the electronic alterations featured in the album.

A little tropical warmth that characterized their previous work is still present and when the couple reunites, singing in “Sierra Lift”, another turn of direction leads us to a more introspective, layered, and almost paranoid world, and even though the pace of the album is broken for a moment, “Untogether” has the quality to continuously lift you up and bring you down in a non-linear mindgame that promises to make you feel that special something in the air.

M.P.