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Archive for the ‘Son Lux’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SON LUX-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #200 (April 28, 2021).

Robin Hilton is a huge fan of Son Lux and it was his gushing that got me to check them out.

The band is absolutely incredible.  Ryan Lott started the band as a solo project.  He is the composer and singer (with an otherworldly voice and sensibility).  Guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, plays pretty melodies and then turns the same guitar into an instrument of noise.  Sometimes at the same time.

And then there’s drummer Ian Chang.  He is utterly mesmerizing to watch.  It’s not that he does things that other drummers don’t do–he just has his own sense of where beats should go.  And I love watching how he puts them there.  Ian Chang was supposed to open for Half Waif in 2019 and I wanted to go to the show mostly to see what Chang would be like as the main performer.

I had tickets to a Son Lux show and was really excited to go and then something came up and I was out of town.

But I can simply enjoy this concert.  And Robin’s excitement about it.

Watch this stunning “home” Tiny Desk performance from Son Lux and you might conclude the band members live together in an all-white universe without walls or boundaries. But it’s all an illusion. In fact, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, drummer Ian Chang and singer-keyboardist Ryan Lott, who started Son Lux as a solo project back in 2008, each shot their own, separate video with their iPhones, at different times, at their homes scattered across different states. So did the guest vocalists, Nina Moffitt and Kiah Victoria. Editor Evan Chapman then stitched all the videos together.  The effect is dizzying and sometimes disorienting.

 Together – and alone – they’ve perfectly captured the upside-down world we’ve been living in this past year, where the lines between what’s real and imagined are blurred, all sense of place fades into the ether and the normally predictable rhythms of life come undone.

“Prophecy” opens with a bass line (which is actually Bhatia playing  seemingly simple guitar line.  Lott starts singing and then throws in some synths.   Once Chang hits a snare drums the voices seems to descend like they are falling to earth.  And from there, the melody continues with little guitar notions and gorgeous (and surreal) backing vocals from.  An unfussy but complicated drum fill transitions t the second half of the song.

superimposed images flicker and warble over one another against Bhatia’s skittering guitar lines. Everything is bent and a little off – intentionally, not because of the production challenges – and nothing sounds quite like you expect it to.

Near the end of the song we see Bhatia’s guitars one on top of the of the from the same angle–playing different things.

“Only” opens with an operatic voice and Lott’s keyboard as images flicker in an out.  Chang’s drums seem to roll as he uses brushes (rolling the stick on the rim of the drum) and plays short sharp fills–following perfectly Bhatia’s guitar.  And with the bass drum hits Chang flashes on screen in time.

Watch Bhatia’s all-too-short solo on “Only”

It’s simple and almost all static but it adds so much to this unsettled song.  As it does a the end of the song when the guitar seems to try to take over with the noises he’s making.  It’s easy to lose the beautiful keyboard melody that Lott is playing underneath as he sings in a clear, deeper voice: “I need a different kind of love.”

[Watch] Lott as he walks his fingers over the keys near the beginning of “Vacancy.”

The sounds are otherworldly and don’t seem like they are made by human hands.  So when Chang’s drums kick in (is he hitting the microphone or his lap?) it’s a shock of reality.

The players fade out visually so that Kiah Victoria can come in and sing lead for a verse–her voice is perfect.

The end part of the song features Bhatia paying the main melody on the guitar while the rest of the music seems to float in and  out.

The setlist for this performance includes a song from each of the band’s last three albums, a trilogy released over the past eight months, called Tomorrows III and III.

There’s really nothing quite like a Son Lux song.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Old Enough”

The June 11 issue of the New Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

Like Miranda July’s essay, this one is about the author’s first film.  Although for Marisa Silver it’s a feature film.

She had broken up with her significant other and the day before she started shooting, she went to get her essentials.  She promised herself that she would not get into it with the guy–she would be cordial and quick.   But instead, she found her stuff in the garbage out front:

everything I owned overflowing the twin garbage cans that fronted my old building

(this including school report cards she had felt the need to bring with her). (more…)

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[CANCELLED: October 24, 2020] Half Waif / Ian Chang [rescheduled from May 13]

indexIt sure seemed like five months of lockdown would be enough time to beat this thing.  The experts said it wasn’t long enough for live music.  And they were right.

I looked up this concert recently and there was no mention of it on the venue website. I wrote to Nandi Rose (thanks Instagram) and this is what she wrote back

yes I had a tour planned for this fall but with touring off the table for the foreseeable future, all shows are on hold 😦 We are still waiting to see when will be the right time to reschedule and perform safely. Thanks for your patience, can’t wait to come back to Philly.

(more…)

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[POSTPONED: May 13, 2020] Half Waif / Ian Chang [moved to October 24]

indexHalf Waif is the project of former Pinegrove singer Nandi Rose.  I find her music very pleasing.

I only found out about this show recently before it was cancelled.  I had no plans of going to the show because I already had tickets to Bikini Kill (very different vibe) that night.  But she is someone I’ve thought about seeing.

A rescheduled date in October sounds wonderful.

Ian Chang is a drummer for Son Lux and a dozen other bands.  He is a phenomenal drummer, instantly recognizable and wonderful to watch.  The addition of him as a opening act makes the show a lot more interesting for me.

I’m glad to see that he is opening for the rescheduled date as well.

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SOUNDTRACK: AMONG AUTHORS-Tiny Desk Contest # 878 (August 9, 2019)

A lot of the time when I say I haven’t heard of a band, tons of other people have.

But I’m expected to say I don’t know who Among Authors is because as of this performance they are unsigned and self-managed.

They make a kind of artful indie prog rock. Two lead guitars, a simple drum kit, and piano.  All centered around pianist Ian Ketterer’s amazing voice.

Out of more than 6,000 entries to our 2018 Tiny Desk Contest, Among Authors was one of the most original bands I’d seen — so much so that we invited the group to perform as part of our Tiny Desk Contest tour in Seattle. I was even more impressed by Among Authors’ songwriting and keen, spare musicianship at that KEXP-sponsored event, so I invited them to play a Tiny Desk concert. By the time their big day came, nearly a year later, they were ready — nervous, but ready.

They play three songs, each one longer than the last.

“Radio Signals” opens with just piano and Ian Ketterer’s soaring falsetto–he sounds a bit like Ryan Lott from Son Lux.  After a minute and a half Patrick Brockwell adds some gentle brushed drums and both guitarists play different intertwining melodies.

Ian Ketterer sat behind our upright piano, partially hidden by his hair and hoodie. Patrick Brockwell’s clean look provided a stark contrast, and his no-frills, perfectly placed rhythms matched his appearance. The two guitarists, Jon Livingston and Jason Ketterer (Ian’s brother), played intertwining melodies, often lifting the songs from their dimness while embracing the mystery in the lyrics.

“The Overture” opens with all of them singing oohs–they have great voices.  The guitar parts are not unlike the slower parts of Explosions in the Sky–fast high notes in repeated melodies that interweave and sound amazing.

The blurb says that these songs aren’t catchy. And that’s true.  These aren’t earworm pop songs.  Yhey are intense and inviting.  I’ve listened to this Tony Desk more than many others.  It’s impressive when Brockwell hits his low drums (floor tom, I assume) how deep it is–there’s not a lot of bass in these songs so the low notes really stand out.  And Ian’s voice is really quite amazing–he gives this his all.

“Lure” opens with lovely intertwining guitar lines.  When the main part of the song kicks in, the thumping drums and fast piano really propel the song along.  It’s fantastic.  The song runs about 8 minutes with an extended instrumental outro that is dynamite.

Just to add some even more fascinating detail to this band

Nearly a dozen years ago, at 23, bandleader Ian Ketterer had open-heart surgery. Born without a thumb on his right hand and deaf in his right ear, he plays piano and sings.

I don’t know how hard it was to overcome any of that, but he (and the rest of the band) certainly did.  I’m going to have to look for this CD.

[READ: August 2019] Exorsisters Vol. 1

I saw this book in the store during an Image comic book sale.  I loved the title and was blown away by the art.  The whole premise seemed like a lot of fun.

I love the way the story doesn’t explain the set up for several chapters, it just jumps right in at a wedding.

As a pretty redhead is about to marry a handsome blond, dude, chains comes out of the ground and pull the man into hell.

Everyone in the audience believes that she was stood up, but she saw him get grabbed by a demon.

Then we meet twin sisters Cate and Kate.  Cate is prim and Kate is a rocker.  Lagacé’s artwork is perfect from the start.  They are distinct but similar.  Her whole style is almost like an Archie comic, but less sweet.  I love it.

The girls promise to investigate.

Meanwhile, we see a woman who proves to be their mom.  She bets a guy in a bar that she has done something worse than he has. We don’t hear what she has done, but she clearly beat his horrible tale. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LANDYLADY-Tiny Desk Concert #657 (October 6, 2017).

As I started watching this video I said to myself, Is that Son Lux’s drummer (Ian Chang)?  Look at the way he is drumming, it must be him.  And it is!

I had never heard of Landlady but I was instantly intrigued that Chang was playing with them.

The Brooklyn-based band’s songs are the initial creation of leader Adam Schatz, who observes the world with fresh, almost alien eyes.  Landlady is also a band of brilliant musicians who carefully craft their playing to serve the songs. Each player on their own might seem to be making quirky sounds or playing odd rhythms, but together they create head-turning tunes.

The opening track for Landlady’s Tiny Desk performance, “Cadaver,” has its origins in a friend of Schatz’s who went to medical school, and the years she spent examining a single cadaver over and over and even more specifically about a tattoo on that cadaver’s buttocks.

“Cadaver” opens with prepared piano sounds although the song quickly resolves itself into a kind of quirky Steely Dan vibe.  I love that Chang is using big soft bright blue brushes on the drums and that he even plays the desk and everything else around him during the slightly noisy middle section.

After the song, Schatz is very funny.  “Thanks for coming to work today I think a lot of us are actually very impressed by people who actually go to work.  Afterwards we’ll have all sorts of questions.  So know that while you’re looking at us wondering how do they do it.  Know that we’re looking back at you… wondering how do we do it.”

“Solid Brass” opens with some lovely guitars.  This song feels like something Gabriel Kahane might have constructed.  The chorus begins with just the piano and him singing “My voice is lower in the morning” over and over.  And then the whole band joins in on that simple sentiment.  That chorus melody is repeated but with other different simple ideas: “your legs are shorter in the evening.”  After that chorus, the guitarist Will Graefe plays some wildly distorted noises while the piano has stopped and only Ryan Dugre on the bass is there to keep it going.

For their Tiny Desk Concert they came in as a foursome but also recruited the Washington D.C. string quartet, Rogue Collective to flesh-out their sound on the third song, “Electric Abdomen.” That cut, which seems to be about being uncomfortable in your own skin, sounds like it came from a long-lost tape from The Beatles during a session for Abbey Road, full of wonder and, like this Tiny Desk performance, worth digging deep into.

Schatz introduces the quartet: “These are our new friends Rogue Collective.”  [Alexa Cantalupo (violin); Livia Amoruso (violin); Deanna Said (viola); Natalie Spehar (cello)].  One of them jokes: “Not Rouge Collective.”  Schatz quickly replies: “That’s us.”

He tells us:  “They learned all the music.  That was very nice of them.  This is hard.   You get nervous when you’re not used to being nervous.  So I thought I’d say that out loud.  A lot of people come here and they don’t seem nervous.  Top artists of today…  Who are some of the….  Like John Philip Sousa.  Guys like them they act all macho and they think they can just nail it.  But its hard and it puts us in a vulnerable place and I think that’s the point of this.

“So I want to say ‘Thank you, Bob and everyone for putting us in this compromising position.’

“I’d like to dedicate this last song to one of the most important pieces of Public Radio that was ever produced.  A program that changed the world and you can’t imagine the world before it existed.  So I’d like to dedicate this song and the rest of our lives to Car Talk, which basically raised me.  They were like to extra parents.”

“Electric Abdomen” opens with the sound of vibes and prickly guitar.  Then the strings fill in and the guitar sounds great and.  And, yes, it has s decidedly Abbey Road feel to it–the guitar sound especially.

I enjoyed this set immensely and watched it many times.   And I was only saddened to discover that Landlady (and Okkervil River) played a show in Philly the night before I watched this video.  Sigh.  That’s a lovely pairing.

[READ: January 24, 2017] “My Guilty Pleasures”

Many times in short New Yorker pieces, the jokes are topical, which means they don’t always hold up well.  And, sometimes, they get stuck in one thing and don’t really move beyond that.

George Saunders is usually pretty good at getting his topical jokes to move beyond whatever he is spoofing.

But he also likes to really hammer home one idea for a while.  Like this one, in which his guilty pleasure is watching reality shows (all based around The Bachelor). (more…)

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stitches SOUNDTRACK: SON LUX-Tiny Desk Concert #464 (August 21 2015).
sonlux
I really only know about Son Lux from NPR.  And the more I hear from them, the more I like them.

Recently Son Lux has become a trio (it was originally the project of singer/instrumentalist Ryan Lott).  But in this Tiny Desk, rather than staying small, Son Lux went big, adding off-duty, civilian horn players from the United States Marine Band.

I love the opening of “You Don’t Know Me” with the unexpected stops and starts amid the whole section of horns.  And then Lott’s voice comes in, it’s unusual, dramatic and theatrical.  While the horns are more powerful than everything else in this song, as it nears the middle, the guitar line comes in and is groovy and simple.  And then of course there’s the drummer, Ian Chang.  It’s a shame he’s stuck in the back corner because he is incredible.  The rhythms and rolls are tight and furious, but never overwhelming, they are like perfect accents.  And the accessories he uses–simple and effective—all on such at tiny kit. It’s amazing.  All of this goes on for half the song before Lott sits at the piano and plays along.  I love how the song drops out and leaves just the horns to play the end.

For “Now I Want” Chang plays piano.  He plays a simple set of notes moving the song along until he jumps back to drums and Lott takes over on piano (a much more accomplished melody).  There’s great guitar sounds by Rafiq Bhatia (who knew you could get a guitar to do that–he even has a dollar bill under some strings for some of the song) and more amazing drum work.  I love the way the song completely slows down for a gentle piano melody in the middle and the builds back up again.

Lott is a fun and charismatic lead, whether he’s clapping for his band mates, or encouraging people to sing along.

For “Your Day Will Come” some of the horns leave, with only a trio remaining.  Lott opens on piano, with some guitar sounds played over the top.  This song is primarily Lott’s as he sings his heart out (some really loud sections) as the music gently swells.

[READ: July 10, 2015] Stitches

I’m not sure what attracted me to this book, but as soon as I brought it home Sarah said she knew it.

This is a memoir of the young life of David Small.  His drawing and painting style is very dark, and the people he draws are pretty creepy–which just makes his upbringing seem all the more horrible.

His drawings of himself as a baby are unflattering.  And his mother and father both wear glasses so we never really see their eyes–just white where the glass is (their faces are a little darker, so the white really stands out).

He was born tiny and with bad sinuses and a bad digestive system.  His father was a doctor and did all kinds of technological things to him to try to cure him.  Which at that time consisted primarily of radiation.  His father seemed caring, but he was totally committed to his science and had little time for his family.

This meant that he sent most of his time with his mother.  And she didn’t speak very much.  She communicated by slamming doors.  Unless she was very mad and then the screaming began.
(more…)

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