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Friday, September 17, 2010

Images: musicSPARK Thursday Night at King's

musicSPARK Thursday night images at King's Barcade. Left Outlet headlined with Battlestar Canada and A Tin Djinn.


Left Outlet
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Battlestar Canada
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A Tin Djinn
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Kings Barcade
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tender Age in Bloom

The Old Ceremony Tender Age album art
The Old Ceremony Tender Age

“All at once I lost it,” Django Haskins laments during one of the more low-key moments on the The Old Ceremony’s fourth full length release, “the thread that kept me here…and then it reappeared.”

The sudden reappearance of a lost thread is apt enough to describe the experience of listening to Tender Age itself. The fourteen-song companion piece to last year’s Walk On Thin Air trades out the latter’s stadium rock ambitions for a breezier, more intimate approach, one better suited to the quieter moments off stage, beyond the reach of the floodlights. But much as Haskins worries in “All at Once,” it’s easy to lose Tender Age’s larger musical threads, particularly as so many ghostly sonic moments, which seem at once familiar and strange, appear quickly, fade away, only to resurface later in odd and delightful ways. Tender Age has many pockets to turn out, and while some prove deeper than others, the album avoids appearing in pastiche by relying on subtle detail (a plinking piano key at low decibel, an organ on a feedback loop, a squeaking door hinge) to create depth rather than simply cluttering the stereo field with shiny things to look at or, more precisely, listen to.

What’s more, the musical allusions that Haskins and Co. make here -- and there are many, ranging from Liu Mingyuan to Guided by Voices to Linda Thompson to the Tindersticks – have the happy effect of feeling earned rather than merely lifted from the source. On “I Don’t Believe It,” for example, the beautiful verse section lilts with all the sparse power of an After the Gold Rush deep cut (perhaps a knowing nod to “I Believe in You”?) before turning suddenly into a bright chorus that sends you scrambling to unearth your worn copy of Double Fantasy. And yet, in the final tally, songs such as the title track, “Ruined My Plans” and “Guo Qu” are all the more enjoyable for seeming to embrace rather than shy away from these quotations.

In keeping with the theme of slipping threads, however, it must be said that the album’s best cut – “Wither on the Vine, Part 2” – succeeds in a way quite unlike the other stand out tracks. Wither’s effortless charm is totally self-contained; it’s haunting sense of familiarity derives not from any musical antecedent but by its willingness to inhabit a kind of wistful but unromanticized melancholy that feels immediately lived-in and authentic. Although the least representative of Tender Age’s sonic character – the song is a lo-fi love letter to the easy interplay of guitar, banjo, and floor tom – Wither best exemplifies the essential character of the aesthetic here: playful, searching, at times prodding, but always and ultimately tender. --Hidden Tiger


The Old Ceremony will release Tender Age with a performance in Carrboro at The Cat's Cradle on Friday September 17th. Lifted Praise Gospel Singers open. Tickets are $10 advance or $12 at the door. e-tix link to tickets


The Old Ceremony Press Photo

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

SPARKcon Prevue, Battlestar Canada to Debut.

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There will be no rest for the Downtown Raleigh music subculture following a sold out week of Hopscotch as the arts festival SPARKcon kicks off Thursday 9/16 with musicSPARK, a one-hundred and seven act four day long music festival hosted on outdoor stages sprouted on Fayetteville and Hargett Streets as well as core music venues indigenous to downtown such as Slims, Berkley Cafe, The Pour House, and the newly reincarnated Kings.

musicSPARK, guided by the big-hearted love-everybody local promoter Mary Ellis, has built the most eclectically derived bill of local acts as can be brought together for one-hundred and seven performances over four days. At musicSPARK this season, big local rock and roll names like Tomahawks, Knock Out Roses, Bright Young Things, A Rooster for the Masses, and Once and Future Kings join forces with local grass roots hip hop like Inflowential, smooth as silk rap rap of MicSavvy, downtown Friday spinner DJ Haekmatic, and every possible in between like Celtic folk artist Gray Beard and hook-heavy Americana string trio The Sinful Savage Tigers. Speaking of in between, Durham experimental group Battle Star Canada takes stage on day one Thursday night at Kings with Left Outlet and A Tin Djinn.

If you are not familiar with Battle Star Canada, think back to May of this year when this duo's previous project, Scientific Superstar played their last show prior to reforming minus their charismatic lead Junko Berglund who departed to focus her attention on her new j-pop group Fujiyama Roll. Scientific Superstar was several years into the making of one of the most unique experimental groups in town having fashioned themselves a band who writes the music of a fictional comic book series authored by its members. Says Paul Gallant of Battlestar Canada, which yes, is a reference to the brilliant syfy channel remake of the original Battlestar Galactica, "The name change was a bit of a break," further explaining that while their style and delivery of synth heavy sub-dance rhythms and heavily vocoder flavored vocals has not changed, without Junko fronting it didn't feel like SS. Not missing a step, Battlestar Canada debuts four months later with fresh songs at musicSPARK this Thursday night and will announce intentions to release a split 7 inch "in the next couple of months."

The Raleigh Downtowner has published a splendid over all explanation for SPARKcon and you can download the SPARKcon full festival schedule with venues, activities, dates, and times...including the "experimental" here. --Carrboro Ninja

Friday, September 10, 2010

Album Review: Battle Not With Monsters

battle not with monsters album art

The Durham rock followers are delightfully accustomed with the two person rock group. Minimalist duos such as Beloved Binge, Sequoya, and All Your Science are the glacier which has shaped the mountain into a lo-fi DYI garage rock destination for the best part of the decade. Now basking in the twilight glow of 2010, enter Battle Not With Monsters...Durham's most recent incarnation of the two man band. With their complex studio arrangements and resourceful vocal production however, this duo is everything except minimalist. Two microphones and two guitars are layered for thickness throughout their debut self titled album and each track suggests a varying skill set on the strings ranging from off kilter banjo picking to brilliant coma inducing electric guitar. The album's lead-off track "J20" exudes interesting as the slightly off center echo melody engages the mind while the fearless acoustic Neutral Milk Hotel chord banging grasps the soul.

So prominently positioned in their music and so emboldened to step forth and be seen, their charged political message represents a third character in the band. Harking folk music to the turbulent sixties, Battle carries a poignant anti-poli scorn that chomps at all who war monger. The soberly penned "Song About Freedom" and "Send You To War" are delivered with the passion and purpose of early Stones and Dylan bridging the timbre of 2010 with what this generation knows only from videos and documentaries of a time when folk music was its own political party. Like any emotionally charged rock song, its means for persuading the listener to understand the views of the performer are bound tightly to how easy the tune is to like and on this album, Battle presents us with a collection of tunes that put the toe tapping first, and the firm message closely behind. --Carrboro Ninja


Battle Not With Monsters will perform at the Carrboro Music Festival at 7 PM on September 26 on the Armadillo Grill upstairs stage and at Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro on Oct 1st.

Their self titled album Battle Not With Monsters is available to preview and purchase from CD Baby here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/battlenotwithmonsters

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