Reviews, April 2016

Music – BooksArt


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_32_Image_0003DANIEL ASH
Anyone who has ever darkened the doors of Hot Topic or coughed from dancing too long next to a smoke machine knows the name Daniel Ash. For most of his career he was the backbone of bands like Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love & Rockets—the unholy trifecta of goth rock. Stripped is his first studio album since the early ‘00s and his style is just as relevant now as it would have been then. There’s also something exciting about the idea of someone discovering Daniel Ash for the first time, present day. Maybe a teen in Kansas will hear this album on Apple Music and force his dad to listen to it in the car on the way to Arby’s one day, and the dad will be like “you’re just learning about him NOW?” as he flashes his Bauhaus forearm tattoo and sparks up a clove cigarette. Initial research into this album will reveal that it is very much in fact re-imagined versions of various hits from his career done in the style of EDM. You might question whether or not anyone really needs a dubstep “Slice of Life” or “So Alive,” but it kind of works. If you were already a fan of his, or have ever owned one of the Matrix movie soundtracks, this is for you. —Kelly McClure


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_32_Image_0004BORIS WITH MERZBOW
Gensho, the latest in a series of collaborations between Boris and Merzbow, is a double album. However, both discs are intended to be played simultaneously, on separate sound systems. The first disc will seem very familiar to Boris diehards, as it’s largely populated by new recordings of songs from throughout the band’s history. The only exceptions to this are a spare, but reverb heavy percussion experiment called Resonance, and a cover of “Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine, which Boris fans will probably be familiar with anyway. The second disc consists of entirely new soundscapes by legendary harsh noise mind-melter Merzbow. His contribution is sonorous and complex, and its atonal assault provides an excellent counterpoint to the sweeping drones Boris are well known for. Though their previous joint efforts, Megatone and Sun Baked Snow Cave, are a bit easier to get lost in for their long form and improvisational nature, Gensho is a triumph. A great bonus of the separations of the artists’ works is that one can ensure Merzbow is not buried in the mix, as he has been in recent collaborations with Thurston Moore, Mats Gustafsson, Balazs Pandi, and Full of Hell. Those well acquainted with Boris and Merzbow and new listeners alike can delight in these masters of their arts. —Corey Cruse


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_32_Image_0005CHARLES BRADLEY
Charles Bradley was a big standout at SXSW this year. His performance at NPR’s showcase at Stubb’s BBQ was goose-bump worthy as he sang his heart out to a reverent, packed audience. Falling to his knees, bringing the mic stand with him, he rattled the emotions of everyone listening. The same effect can be had spending time with his latest, Changes, which is the follow up to his second album, 2013’s Victim of Love. The album is dedicated to his mom, who passed away in 2014. Released on Daptone Records, a Brooklyn label that has also put out albums by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Changes is a refreshing return to the funk, blues, soul days of old. The album opens with a spoken word track by Bradley that pays homage to his tumultuous past working dead-end jobs and living on the streets, and then goes into “God Bless America.” Horn-headed “Nobody But You” is a good one to slow dance to while on your third glass of wine with the one you love. “Aint It A Sin” will get you revved up to finger wag at anyone who has tried to keep you down along the path to happiness and success. For an album released in 2016, this would have blended in just as well in the golden age of blues/funk in the ‘50s/’60s/and early ‘70s. Cut some fat in your record collection and give this some breathing room on your shelf. You’ll be coming back to it again and again. —Kelly McClure


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_32_Image_0006THE BODY
As grim and sorrowful as they are, like an abandoned dog on the side of a rainy highway, there’s a certain humor to the music of The Body. With album titles like All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood, I Shall Die Here, and their latest, No One Deserves Happiness under their belts, it’s all so dark it’s almost funny. My personal backstory with the band isn’t that funny though. I had tickets to see them perform on Halloween a few years ago in Brooklyn and had to miss the show because my dad called that morning to say my mom had died on the couch in the front room of their house. Coincidentally, the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Buffy’s mom is found dead on the couch of the Summer’s home is called… The Body. Did I win? Did I just out-bleak them? Regardless of the spooky details, this band is a special one because the way they mix soothingly angelic moments with pure shrieking terror is unique to them and them alone. Sure, other metal bands (not sure if they like being called that) mix eerie, soft vocals with screaming, but The Body gives it a special twist all their own. Adding a gloomy danceability to this release more than any of their previous, it may be their most accessible yet. “Two Snakes” is a good example of this, with its synthy center, as is album opener “Wanderings.” There’s no escaping the screaming, though. The ever-present screaming. (Cue screaming) —Kelly McClure


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_32_Image_0007DESECRATÖR
This is the first recorded output by local thrash metalheads Desecratör. Formed in 2015, the band consists of members comprising local hardcore acts Most Heinous and Short Leash. Party’s Over is straight-ahead thrash, mixing the sound of early Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax with the thrash titans of South America like Sepultura. Perhaps it’s just me, but the speed picking and chord progressions on “Tirania (Tyranny)” tips a hat to 666 Megatons-era Urn (Finnish black thrash). The vocals on Party’s Over, howling and indiscernible, sound nothing like they do live; bassist/vocalist Beto is noticeably refining his guttural growls at shows these days. Overall, this demo is a promising first impression. While Desecratör is still perfecting their sound and delivery, Party’s Over suggests the band’s potential for better precision and attack. Besides Six Pack, NOLA doesn’t currently have much to offer in terms of garden variety local thrash acts, and Desecratör aims to change that. The band is already receiving warm applause and impressive crowds. Their set at the Tahyo Tavern in Chalmette back in January descended into quite the memorable circle pit. —Dan McCoy


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_32_Image_0008TIM HECKER
Well-established droner Tim Hecker has made some of the most enduring and evocative ambient music in recent times for over a decade. His delay-saturated synth, piano, and guitar tones made albums such as Harmony In Ultraviolet and Ravedeath, 1972 instant classics. He has consistently raised his own bar as a composer with each album he makes, and Love Streams is no exception. What is very new to his work, however, is the addition of the human voice. Gorgeous choral arrangements take the aptly-named “Castrati Stack” and “Voice Crack” to blissful heights, while album closer “Black Phase” feels tense, in part due to a glitch meltdown, and in part thanks to mournful chanting. This is, aside from 2011’s solo piano work Dropped Pianos, Hecker’s clearest output. Sonic elements weave in and out of the mix seamlessly, and with plenty of space to breathe. Given track titles like “Live Leak Instrumental” and “Up Red Bull Creek,” his admitted thoughts about “liturgical aesthetics after Yeezus” and the “transcendental voice in the age of auto-tune,” the contrast between the album’s vocals and woodwinds and its digital manipulation makes great sense. Like his occasional collaborator Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Hecker is using music as a vehicle to vent frustrations and come to terms with a mass media-peddled hyper-reality. One can only hope that music like this will see greater popularity, so the masses can pause the hysteria, at least for a while. —Corey Cruse


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_33_Image_0003RAY LAMONTAGNE
It’s difficult to pin down Ray LaMontagne. Though he began his recording career with the folk-tinged Trouble, he’s gone in his own direction since parting ways with producer Ethan Johns, working his way to what is possibly his least radio-ready album to date: the wistful, occasionally heart-wrenching Ouroboros. The results of working with the members of My Morning Jacket, in frontman Jim James’ Louisville studio, show some serious inspiration taken from the more histrionic works of the Moody Blues and Echoes-era Pink Floyd, all brought back down to earth by the rough intimacy of LaMontagne’s vocals and lyrics. Though the instrumental arrangements are sometimes lofty, the songs themselves continue in LaMontagne’s usual veins of life, love, and loss, going far deeper where his previous album Supernova merely artfully scratched surfaces or play-acted. The album’s two parts dig deep into what it is to be human, the tug-of-war between wants and needs, and, finally, the aching to simply be in the world. Though there are some long tracks on Ouroboros, most of the songs come and go quickly, somehow managing to retain the feel of lengthy jams without the actual length. It’s a chancy move for Ray LaMontagne that seems necessary and right. —Leigh Checkman


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_33_Image_0004NESBY PHIPS
The newest record from hip-hop artist Nesby Phips lacks the usual rapping, but Phipstrumentals still features catchy hypnotic rhythms. “Rain Strips,” the album starter, has a pleasant keyboard rhythm that feeds into the flirtatious cadence behind “5 O’clock.” His beats flirt with trip-hop, but never quite reach the heights of game-changing progenitors Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead—artists who pulled from different genres to craft a new one. Phipstrumentals just doesn’t compete with the trip-hop it seems to be inspired by, especially in its lack of dreamy trance-like vocals. To be fair, the album is catchy, but it could have been so much more: if Phipstrumentals was as politically insightful and richly layered as the sample-heavy work Phips drew from, we might have had another fundamental genre shift on our hands. —Joey Laura


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_33_Image_0005IGGY POP
Not surprisingly, this Josh Homme-produced album fucks up an auteur aesthetic as obnoxiously as the 2009 Arctic Monkeys abomination Humbug (which is ironic, because the since-suppressed Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders provides utterly straightforward drum tracks on this bland record). The very first track, “Break Into Your Heart,” not only abandons the humanity of Iggy Pop’s most fruitful tracks like “Sister Midnight,” “The Passenger,” and “Home,” but also shows the stranglehold that Homme has on the overall sound of the album. Post Pop Depression reeks of the kind of sexed-up pathology that courses through the most problematic of the Queens Of The Stone Age records. This only reminds the audience of how limited Pop is as a front-man, considering that both The Idiot and Lust for Life owe more aesthetic credit to David Bowie than to Pop himself. So, at its worst, Post Pop Depression represents none of the curiosity that made the secularist-orthodox push-pull of Like Clockwork… the most intellectually complex QOTSA album ever, and none of the post-punk foundation that The Idiot laid for future bands like Wire, Public Image Limited, and Joy Division. The lyrics are as cynical as anything on Era Vulgaris, which shows that the focus of the album is more on the producer’s ego than the progression of Pop’s sound. —Joey Laura


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_34_Image_0002SHORT LEASH
Short Leash, the dirt punk four-piece consistently tearing up living rooms and bars across NOLA for the past three years, has finally polluted our turntables with their first slab of wax. This release sees the band having just returned from a mini tour of Texas, in addition to having ventured up and down the East Coast last summer. Indeed, last summer’s tour kickoff music video—featuring streaming urine, a raging garbage fire, and all-around punk tomfoolery in one of the many overlooked junkyards littering the cityscape—ought to have informed those who have not witnessed the band’s wasteoid shenanigans that these punks will be as crass, brazen, and spontaneous as they wish, with no qualms given. The band has finally committed some of their most well-known songs to vinyl with this 7” release; however, I was personally disappointed that they did not include their ode to “Little Boys” in the repertoire. The lyrics capture a sense of retribution and awareness, recognizing those no longer living, as well as inherent tensions in social interactions—not solely confined to the punk subculture. This is Joe Laubach’s (Medically Separated) first release on his label, Summary Execution. —Dan McCoy


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_34_Image_0003TACOCAT
For Tacocat’s third album, they focus on a few of the things that truly matter most: Dana Scully from the X-Files, the persistent march against mansplainers, and various aspects of internet culture. Their songs, more than almost any other band you could name, take specific scenarios that ring truest for graduates of the Janeane Garofalo World View University, and somehow make them accessible to the average Joe as well. That’s not an easy thing to do. There’s usually a very distinct line in the sand when it comes to music/ lifestyle appreciation that prevents a lot of intermingling from happening, but Tacocat is like that friend you had in middle school who was John Hughes-level cool but could organically appeal to everyone in separate, but very specific ways. Tacocat is the Molly Ringwald of bands. Though similar in style to their other releases, something about Lost Time comes across as more layered and complex, even when they’re just singing about bros ruining the weekend for everyone else, or dumping people before they get a chance to dump you. This album is as hopeful as a summer night and as deep as the deepest thing you could think of, in that it’s a snapshot of a life currently being lived. —Kelly McClure


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_34_Image_0004WE NEED TO TALK
Not to be confused with the blistering hardcore of WNTT from Baton Rouge a few years ago, this band is a product of Not Enough Fest, the sometimes annual showcase that features brand new bands and musicians. This cassette is full of mid-tempo pop punk songs with a sly sense of humor and feet in several decades. Lead off track “Sneak” gets an easy X-Ray specs comparison, not just because of the saxophone swaying along with the vocals, but the way the jilted ex-lover of the lyrics gets her revenge in the end. Poly Styrene would be proud. Raw and loose in all the right places, this cassette sounds like four-track heaven, including live snippets cut in between tracks and a long noise interlude that is either a recorded rainstorm or some really effective recreation. Every track has something to say, though “Party Spot” towers over this release, a doo-wop punk-pop mashup that feels timeless. I imagine it to be a real crowd exploder. WNTT thanks everyone from local dad punk Drew Stephan to Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Ritchie Valens, and Gloria Estefan in their liner notes, giving you a good idea of what to expect from this crew. In other words, all good stuff. —Dan Fox


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_34_Image_0006DERF BACKDERF
As a child, I idolized garbage collectors and I just wanted to hitch a ride on the back of a truck and cruise through town. The reality of that occupation is far less romantic and a little more sticky. Derf Backderf details the leaking bags and toxic cocktails beautifully in his new graphic novel Trashed. He draws from his own experience as a young man collecting garbage for a mid-sized Ohio city in the late ‘70s, but sets the story in the present to account for relative, if not minor, advances in trash and recycling technology. The story follows three young men who collect garbage for a small Ohio town and deal with literal and figurative dog shit: bureaucratic corruption, inconsiderate citizens, dogs, and, well, their bagged turds. Trashed is disgusting. Backderf ’s art carries the story with each piece of detritus and putrid liquid finely rendered to make you wretch. Each revolting vignette is framed by information about trash and trash management. Backderf steps away from panel storytelling on several occasions to provide the reader with what amounts to infographics about landfills, recycling, and waste statistics. By the end, both aspects of the book become equally disgusting. Although more clinical than Backderf ’s award-winning My Friend Dahmer, Trashed is an informative and wrenchingly funny read that will stick with you like so many discarded soda cans. If anything, you’ll consider double bagging the cat litter. —Andrew Mullins, III


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_34_Image_0005FABIAN RANGEL, JR. AND ALEXIS ZIRITT
Space Riders might be one of the most far out, unbelievable, yet engaging comic books to come out in the past six years. While most of the attention during that time for creator-owned comics within the industry was focused on Image Comics and their glut of hit-or-miss titles, Black Mask Comics has quietly emerged as a quality publisher of creator-owned works, including 2015 critical darlings Space Riders and a self-aware X-Men-like comic called We Can Never Go Home. Rangel and Ziritt’s Space Riders isn’t so much a space opera as it is a space punk song. The story is gritty, told at a breakneck pace with mind-altering artwork, and seems a little too short. It looks and feels like Mad Max told against a technicolor supernova instead of a monochromatic desert. Capitan Peligro is a member of the Space Riders, an intergalactic force of Good against Evil. Peligro is stabbed in the eye while floating in the vacuum of space, and suffers a mental break, losing his job and his beloved calavera-shaped space ship, the Santa Muerte. Finally cleared for action, his crew—a medical android and a deeply religious baboon named Mono— rescues Peligro from a bar fight and reunites him with the Santa Muerte. The crew zips through neon galaxies to save space whales from harvesters and flies into mind-altering red clouds where the art resembles 3D drawings viewed without the glasses. Space Riders is a rare, unhinged treat of a comic book, unmoored by overbearing narrative themes or fan and publisher expectations. —Andrew Mullins, III


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_35_Image_0002VICKI SALLOUM
As thrillers go, Candyland is a standout mainly for its main character, one Lazara Maria Soto, a teenager who aspires to pull herself out of the orbit of her drug making and dealing family any way she can, as long as it’s legal. She talks her way into a new job as secretary to lawyer Eric Hutchins, only to discover Hutchins’ young son has run afoul of a pair of murderous criminals—her brothers. She goes to warn Hutchins, but realizes she must take matters into her own hands, even though opposing her own family to this extent could mean her own end. Candyland is author Vicki Salloum’s first attempt at this genre, and it shows in many places: some minor characters seem more like caricatures and certain scenes seem clunky, but Salloum keeps Lazara burning bright with purpose and chutzpah throughout her tale of the seamier side of New Orleans, something that even the lawyer Hutchins cannot fail to ignore. It is that student-mentor relationship between the teenager and the lawyer that keeps readers turning pages, possibly laying a foundation for a series of Soto-Hutchins novels. Though it could use some polish here and there, Candyland is an intriguing, if raw, gem. —Leigh Checkman


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_35_Image_0003GROUP SHOW
You’ll never catch me kvetching about a group gallery show of entirely female artists, let alone local female artists. This is certainly true of La Femme at the New Orleans Art Center, although the show completely lacks any unifying curatorial theme aside from gender and location—not to mention the fact that the pieces presented number in the hundreds. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you came for: everyone from the DIY scene all the way down to Julia Street is represented. Artemis Antippas emblazons oversize briefs with sparkly applique patches in Undies; Guissel Giuliano photographs lonely broken plastic consumer pieces (the end of a rake, a snarl of balloons) in lush, suburban-looking greenery. Muffin Bernstein rearranges photographed butterflies and plants into kaleidoscopic medallions. Cherice Harrison Nelson lends her hot pink Mardi Gras Indian suit that she paraded in Muses with this year to the collection. Gina Phillips paints an utterly charming portrait of Mabel On Her Way To Mass in almost cartoonish commemoration of the characters of the Crescent City. The impetus behind La Femme appears twofold: first, to call attention to female artists in a man’s world, and second, to set up a flea market for arts patrons—though I can’t really say either of those are bad things. —Brooke Schueller


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_35_Image_0004GROUP SHOW
It’s hard to resist such a fanciful title: Mardi Gras After the Apocalypse. Antenna Gallery joins forces with Big Class, a creative writing workshop for area youth, where local artists visually interpret the revel-heavy doomsday scenarios dreamt up by workshop participants. Some stories are dark, some are light, but most reference Katrina—directly or indirectly—as the apocalypse in question. In Charlacean Johnson’s riotously funny “The After Party of Mardi Gras,” aliens accidentally invite “the Government” via text message to come to their party at the Superdome (spoiler alert: it ends up with everyone falling asleep in their feather hats and sparkle shoes). Amelia Broussard’s The Survivors Were Heroes—a large sculpture of mylar balloons wrapped in grocery bags—is inspired by Kentrell Love’s “The Effect of the Storm,” in which he describes a small group of survivors hunting for supplies at Walmart and Save-A-Lot. Much lighter are Jacob Reptile’s pieces, You’re All Bacon, stemming from Alaila Young ’s story in which purple, green, and gold pigs take over the town. The narrator and her auntie leave for Japan, but return to find the pigs haven’t done anything. Thus they decide to make Mardi Gras-colored bacon. Reptile’s plush frying pan with purple, green, and gold glitter bacon hangs over a pile of glitter on the floor alongside an illustration of a grand dame ensconced in a Muses-esque shoe float, proclaiming: YOU’RE ALL BACON! The interplay between the artists of Antenna Gallery and the writers from Big Class is beyond delightful. It’s also a gentle reminder that New Orleans is the canary in the coalmine of an uncertain future—but we at least know that the apocalypse won’t stop Mardi Gras. —Brooke Schueller


The Aquarium Gallery and Studios is almost like an installation in and of itself, with a nautical front porch adorned with large-scale paper mâché pieces and an interior with at least three aquariums. Cutoff Jeans contributes to this kitschy immersive experience with video and an alchemical sand sculpture. In the dark interior room, viewers sit on sparse cardboard boxes and watch David Hassell’s video mounted on the back of a pallet partition. Chickens peck at a dark red lump of Jello covered in seeds against a green screen. It’s mesmerizing in that it’s suggestive of flesh—flesh-eating chickens—but then again it’s not. In another corner of the gallery, Childers creates some kind of magical sand mixture (that somehow approximates the texture of really soft playdough), and puts it in a mirrored box, where the images stretch on infinitely. Viewers are invited to play with the sand as they please. Headphones extend from one of the aquariums and broadcast the sounds of the bubbling tank. All of the pieces play with and subvert content and image. It makes for a fun stop along the Second Saturday route, even if it’s a far cry from the relatively sleek presentation of, say, Good Children Gallery or the Front, if not the galleries of Julia Street. But that’s why we like it, right? —Brooke Schueller


Antigravity APRIL 2016_Page_35_Image_0005VERONICA & NAT
What happens “when we shift our focus from that which clamors for our attention to that which simply exists?” Veronica and Nat seek an answer to this question in their performance piece, Cows, by incisively upending simple subject matter to comment on an increasingly complicated world. A large hole in a wall provides a window into an otherwise unremarkable room carpeted with grass, in which three women dressed in gray, shlumpy outfits mill around munching carrots. Their expressions are blank; their backs are slightly hunched. In a performance lasting three hours, the women plod around the room, diverting their gaze abruptly, with comically blank expressions, to any noise or movement within the gallery, much as, well, a cow might. The concept is simple: it’s not difficult to envision some chick at a bar, trolling Instagram (or crunching carrots, as the case may be), snapping her head up every couple of minutes to glance at passersby. Though I can’t imagine anyone waiting out the entire duration of the performance, they’re certainly not meant to: the original, theatrical version only lasted 30 minutes. Cows more or less compares modern humans to cattle, wherein the natural is used to highlight the decided unnaturalness of the technologically saturated now. What merits our attention in a society colored by banner ads and push notifications? Nat and Veronica’s conclusions aren’t altogether novel or even complex—but they are important, for better or for worse. —Brooke Schueller


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