Tickling My Fancy: Angels Die Hard, Steiner
Guest: Sean BW Parker interviews Dylan Ware and reviews Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Angels Die Hard ‘Angels Die Hard’ (Jezus Factory Records) – Available Now via Bandcamp.
Intoxicated on the Silk Road by a heady mix of pop sike, prog and krautrock, the inaugural Angels Die Hard soundtrack crisscrosses an imaginary map: from North Africa to the South Seas.
A collective who’s blurry ranks number band members from Antwerp’s underground alternative scene (Bad Influence, Black Denver, Gore Slut, Ow, Wilderwolves and already featured previously on the Monolith, the Strumpets), with a moniker nicked from some exploitative bikers on acid movie, the group set a psychedelic pace with the Les Baxter ritualistic oasis opener, ‘Blue Mambo’. Imagine a lounging Happy Mondays, holidaying on Monsterism Island, and you’d be half way towards conjuring up the sound this rabble of dreamy travellers make, as they venture languidly through theremin haunted woods (‘A Walk In The Black Forrest’), Augustus Pablo meets Cluster mountain ranges (‘Fruhstuckstelle’), and lamentable Hawaiian beaches (‘The Lonely Angel’).
We’ve been here before of course: the Moroccan hash trail, Byzantium wonder. After all this is a terrain both inhabited and visited by many travellers, but the Angels at least compose something worthwhile; their brand of drawn-out diaphanous drones and magical undercurrents can soar above much of the ‘topographic ocean’ debris.
Steiner ‘at or from a distance’ (Glass Reservoir) – 17th February 2014
With the baptism of //Fiocz ‘s field recorded electronic fog and nuanced static rippling Social Cognition last year, the Glass Reservoir label – erudite providers of minimalistic fizz, crackle and pop electronic – continues to release earnest and humble recordings from a cable of outsider composers.
So far confined to a limited run of experiments in the past, but making his debut for the label here, the next scheduled artistic ambient suite is from the mysterious Steiner, whose tentative ‘nocturnal’ city walks and impressions of Japan collection, at or from a distance, is a indolent, if meditatively calming and touching affair.
Sounding out a dreamy peregrination, inspired by both his interest in photography and extemporised recording, Steiner integrates murmurs of Eno-esque with Boards Of Canada like lingers of human interaction; crafted from his tool box of laptop, ‘eBox’ and guitar.
Sequenced or rather blurrily defined, each drifting soundscape bleeds into the next. Each one of the seven palatial sketches exudes a lovely melodic quality (a kind of mellower, more lush, Ambient Works II), and exudes a certain sensitivity.
Textures and layers are lightly connected and woven to create a suitable delicate balance with the experimental white noise symphonic hubris of that initial Glass Reservoir opener. Showing a range, albeit it nuanced one, in the scope of electronic minimalism that few labels can match.
Behaving himself long enough to be invited back, Sean BW Parker shares some of his most recent observations, musings and opinionated pontifications.
The Dylan Ware Interview
To start with the obvious, you have lived in Istanbul for over a decade. What brought you to Turkey in the first place?
I’m afraid it was all rather romantic. At around the time I finished university I was bored, lonesome, living ‘waaay’ too heavily, restless, and fired up intellectually and spiritually for some real freedom. NZ as paradisiacal as it is, is an empty land, and I simply decided to explore the greater garden of earth before the bastard scythe…so I travelled the country, hitch-hiking & busking for cash, and eventually found myself in Europe, which, after a stint and a romance in Germany, I roamed through fairly constantly as the wind blows, coming down through Eastern Europe, sleeping all over the place – in bombed out buildings, in bushes on traffic islands, in cemetery tombs, making friends, lovers, playing guitar & harmonica, and most of all writing & thinking.
I was extremely prolific in those days, and I had my 11 “reasons” for being where I was…I could list them, though they’ve evolved over the years. But the sheer boundless freedom was one of them, and filling the smoldering holes left by love and revelry was another.
It wasn’t escape, it was charging into the new…that much was certain. It was nice to disappear, though I found I never really did. When everything changes day by day – language, culture, money, food, people, and land – there’s only one constant, and that is you. It is delineating.
Anyway, I eventually made it out of Romania and Bulgaria and to Istanbul, which I really didn’t like much at first to be honest. I stayed for a couple of weeks, wrote ‘Black Star’ in the Star hotel, a song which I think captures the essence of the time fairly well, and headed south to the beach. I ended up working in Olimpos for three summers, all they asked me to do was stoke up the fire and play & sing when I felt like it. It was perfect, everything was free to do what I do anyway, and in those days Olimpos was magic, not much sleep, a lot of…hedonism 😉 a lot of night-swimming. Winters brought me back to Istanbul, and the many friends I’d made in the south, and eventually after a couple of years of the gigolo life, I decided I might as well set down, until it got boring…which Istanbul seldom does.
Your style has been described as ‘songwriterly’ classic acoustic rock in various reviews. Would you agree with this description?
Songwriterly is a nice word. Pigeon-holing has been railed against by artists for as long as there has been artists I’m sure, but at the same time I see the need to distinguish genres, it’s never easy, and never less easy than to do it with your own work. But if I analyse my “method” or the foundations of my inspiration, I’d say that when it comes to the song, I feel a great influence has been as a result of my enormous love for such songs as ‘Norwegian Wood’ and the early Paul Simon pieces, ‘April Come She Will’ and ‘A Most Peculiar Man’ etc…I always had a respect for concise, punchy, well-crafted, literate works that leave an impact on one’s thinking. So yes, I can see how this has affected what I write, and I do tend to spend the time to get a good set of lyrics down tight, and to have something to say.
What are your thoughts concerning how music is produced and consumed in 2014? Compare social networking sharing and vinyl…?
They still have vinyl? Well, obviously the music industry has to a large extent gone the way of the Roman Empire, relegated to irrelevancy through its own decadence, corruption and greed; which is why today it deals predominantly in porn and candy for children and those with the mind of one. Human culture has always had the tendency to gravitate toward inanity and shallowness, institutionally encouraged for obvious reasons, opposed by a horrified few, and for a while there the music industry was the last bastion, which is certainly not to say music has died out, more that the institution of “the industry” appears to be hugely less integral to those wishing to find it.
Actually sitting down and listening to an album from beginning to end is a lot rarer these days, and I think that has changed the game; people are going to need to dig you more before they’ll listen to your full set, because they simply don’t have to go out and buy your album to hear you anymore. The internet is an infinite juke-box, so people with a genuine interest in music have immediate access to pretty much anything they can think of, and free range for exploration. The artist’s challenge now is to be thought of, or found. It’s perfectly easy for an artist to completely bypass “the industry” today, and sell their music through proxy sites: reverbnation, bandcamp and so on. You may not become a millionaire, but that isn’t the point. Publicity remains the main hurdle, well, that and being worth listening to. It’s fantastic.
Your last album Wolfsongbird displayed exhaustion with recognised social systems, delivered in an emotionally lyrical way. How much weight would you say the concept of ‘Turn on, tune in and drop out’ has at this point in the 21st century?
Less weight as much importance. Maybe more. Everywhere you turn one sees the approach of THX. Little by little liberty is lifted away into the mother of all totalitarian societies. Little by little, with quiet, meek, naïve acquiescence they condemn us all; the idiots and the cowards, and the ignorant, for they shall inherit. I’m not suggesting it’s ever been any different, but with technology enabling evermore-intrusive surveillance and our only defences under constant, well-informed assault, I think the fight is still on. Again, as McKenna rightly points out, what is really required is a re-booting of the cultural paradigm on an individual, personal level. You currently have bastards and liars and abusers criticising the governments for being bastards, and liars and abusers. Difficult to see any real possibility for constructive change while this is the state of affairs. So I would say Leary’s little mantra there is as vital as it ever was. I thought Wolfsongbird was more about girls?
As a single, expat, artistic male, there is a fair chance you are exposed to a lot of attention from the female sex. How does this experience in Turkey differ from your time in New Zealand, and in your opinion why?
Fuck you, Sean 😉 Istanbul and New Zealand are different worlds. There are as many people living in my local neighborhood as there are people living in New Zealand. New Zealand however has around 40 million sheep. So one need never be lonely for long. I like living in Turkey.
There is an urban legend that you refuse to perform onstage in public. Is there any truth to this?
It is partly true. I love to play for people, but I guess I’m not so comfortable up on a platform, mic’ed up in the lights, with so much alien attention. I’m a bit of a recluse when push comes to shove, so I tend to write and record, and play informally, well lubricated, and in intimate surroundings. For me music is a deep feeling, and a passion, and if I’m not in the mood – or shoved into some arena I don’t feel I belong in, it makes me enjoy it less. It’s kind of like sex in that respect. I realise that irritates some, but you know, you can play the CD or buy me a drink anytime.
What did the Gezi protests of summer 2013 all over Turkey mean to you?
It was an exceptional time to be in an exceptional place. A very unusual state of affairs, and for ten odd days the centre of a major world city was under the control of the people, police-less…surreal. The gas, the graffiti, the over-turned busses converted into free libraries, the camping, the sense of leaderless community…it couldn’t last, and it didn’t get the chance to. Human nature is not so civilised without the stick, but briefly…but while it lasted it was quite a time to be around! I was interviewed on New Zealand’s National Radio a few times about it, giving various takes and background information. For me personally, it was a time of great interest, involuntary tears, some worry about the well being of my more “active” friends, and dealing with a rather unpleasant girlfriend.
The hardest question: give us a list of ten indispensable songs for you…
Well I wish you’d chosen albums, that’d have been mildly easier. I’ll make them from different artists, but any one of these artists could furnish more than a few “indispensables”, it’s very arbitrary…
‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’ – The Pink Floyd
‘Hotel California’ – The Eagles
‘Tomorrow is a Long Time’ – Bob Dylan
‘Lady Madonna’ – The Beatles
‘Leaves that are Green’ – Paul Simon
‘Bad Boy Boogie’ – AC/DC
‘Supernaut’ – Black Sabbath
‘Water of Love’ – Dire Straits
‘Starving in the Belly of a Whale’ – Tom Waits
‘Trouble’ – Cat Stevens
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on my third album, it doesn’t yet have a name, but the working title is The Infinity Chamber, which was some five-walled chamber of mirrors I wanted to build when I was a teenager for the purpose of girlfriends. I’m working with the producer Fatih Aygun, we’re only two songs into it, with ‘Nothing’ and ‘The Knife’ but I’ve got a good feeling about it. I’ve got a fair number of good songs to put on it. So, we’ll see.
What are you drinking?
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks ‘Wig Out At Jagbags’ (Matador Records) – Available Now.
Elongated, literary praying mantis Stephen Malkmus left his lazy, slacker, Dinosaur Jr-meets-Black Sabbath ‘perma-academic’, part-time, bandmates Pavement, around the turn of the last century. After releasing an album Stephen Malkmus, he started fronting The Jicks, who are in all honesty no different from his previous band – both units are vehicles for Malkmus’ idiosyncratic songwriting, with The Jicks being a bit more…well, better.
When it comes to writing about Malkmus, we are already in preaching to the choir territory. If you don’t know him/don’t have a higher education you won’t care about either this article or his songs; if you do, you already know that his style has not changed through about a dozen albums with both bands. Hey, if it never was intended to look like it worked anyway, why fix it?
Wigout At Jagbags (kooky title! Cool!) follows the exact same template as Wowee Zowee, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain or Pig Lib – the Malkmus songwriting machine is a benevolent, literary, comfortable, ambivalent, complacent, sloppy-sounding-but-far-from-it, punny-as-fuck, stream of consciousness, word association organism. The absence of emotional connection belies the Harvard/Oregon/Ivy-like wherever, within everything he does – yet still twists, turns, and surprises in the most surprising ways.
On this extension of life-as-permanent-album, tracks ‘Planetary Motion’, ‘Cinnamon And Lesbians’, ‘Houston Hades’ and the brilliantly anthemic ‘Surreal Teenagers’ stand out – tuneful, beguiling, surface-absorbing. The thing about SM is that he has hoodwinked the post-hair metal listening public who actually buy music (only 30% of people, truth be told), that they should lap up every utterance, word game, or lifted 70s rehashed riff.
Wigout at Jagbags is a fine album of fey, ambling guitar songs in the idiom that Malkmus has been mining for going on 30 years. ALL the albums have been good, if you like emotionally disconnected word play and photocopies of real rock. Personally I love it, and for a person like me it would take a chainsaw massacre to hate Stephen Malkmus. Wayne Coyne discarded his stage space bubble a while back – I wonder when Malkmus will get rid of his comfort zone.