parodies by nacrowe
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their catalogue speaks for itself.
the BRITISH indie label CREATION RECORDS during its run had some massively seminal and influential bands, everyone from PRIMAL SCREAM, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, TEENAGE FANCLUB, RIDE, SLOWDIVE and THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN to SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, THE HOUSE OF LOVE, SWERVEDRIVER, SUGAR, SAINT ETIENNE and, of course, OASIS. culturally the label is very much synonymous with the two BRITISH INDIE ROCK exports of the period, SHOEGAZE and BRITPOP. and while all of those bands get their spot in the documentary UPSIDE DOWN: THE CREATION RECORDS STORY (DOCUMENT FILMS, 2010), the focus is on its founder all around INDIE ROCK pied piper, ALAN MCGEE.
the label is very much created in the image of MCGEE, who was a SCOTTISH punk who made his way down to LONDON with his band subsequently decided to put out music by his friends. and that tribal bond was basically the defining ethos of CREATION RECORDS throughout its run. in the film MCGEE even attests to the fact that he signed interesting, creative people and not bands. needless to say, thats an odd tactic but definitely describes the innovative people he brought into the fold including KEVIN SHIELDS, BOBBY GILLESPIE, GRUFF RHYS and NOEL GALLAGHER.
what i found interesting is how the story of CREATION RECORDS mirrors that of other artistic-minded labels in their peer group, many that came out of the existing POST PUNK scene of the previous generation like FACTORY RECORDS. these INDIE ROCK labels were seemingly fronts for producing great art rather than being a functioning business with longterm economic targets and vertically integrated efficiencies. CREATION RECORDS pre-OASIS was in a constant state of owing money to recording studios, printing presses and the like and was under constant threat of being eaten up by a major. its ironic that the period that saw the label at its mid-1990s cultural zenith, the period around OASIS' second record WHAT'S THE STORY (MORNING GLORY)?, also marked their fall into eventually being consolidated and sold to SONY. MCGEE during the entire OASIS period had hit a wall with his drug use and saw him through a long recovery which meant his non-presence at the label allowed for the implementation of structural changes which in turn weakened his hand. this led to the label being swallowed up by a major, who of course had no idea what to do with its idiosyncratic and eccentric catalogue.
but the fact that the label ended in 1999 doesnt reduce its impact. its arguable that the label nurtured the BRITISH INDIE ROCK scene post-SMITHS throughout the late 80s and 90s and laid the groundwork for what would be the last great global rock phenomenon in OASIS. once that genie is out of the bottle its arguable that their legacy was cemented and where do you go from there?
i dont know.
but growing up overseas this label's catalogue was essentially synonymous with my young adulthood, especially MY BLOODY VALENTINE and SLOWDIVE. i love the guy just for giving world those two bands. definitely check out this documentary if you have any interest in music history or ALTERNATIVE ROCK and INDIE ROCK bands from the 1980s and 1990s including SHOEGAZE and BRITPOP. thoroughly enjoyable and required viewing.
its always cool to see products utilized in context, and the ongoing EARTHQUAKER SESSION live performance series showcases mostly upcoming talent sweating it out in intimate venues with what are presumably EARTHQUAKER DEVICES pedals, though such are not explicitly shown (so who knows?). documenting bands for product promotion is nothing new, but where this series really elevates above the competition is the shear breadth and depth of acts involved, running the gamut from SHOEGAZE, R&B, SLUDGE METAL, FUNK and delicate INDIE ROCK to COUNTRY, CLASSICAL MUSIC and even experimental AMBIENT / PROGRESSIVE instrumentals. there are also non-traditional gear setups (including a violin rig) which is alway cool to see. it is also exquisitely professionally shot and the sound recording is mixed incredibly well (which is not always the case with similar series).
past participants include BORIS, SPOTLIGHTS, COVET, TIME CAT, RELAXER (featuring EARTHQUAKER DEVICES founder JAMIE STILLMAN), CHELSEA WOLFE, SUDAN ARCHIVES, MARCUS ALAN WARD and SAFE WORDS among many others. definitely worth checking out, irrespective of its company tie-in.
the doomed DARKWAVE atmospherics and POST PUNK angularity of PORTLAND-based SOFT KILL gets me right my sweet spot. i am a total sucker for bands that mix pop hooks with a healthy dose of SHOEGAZE-esque guitar layering and an ominous palpable sense of dread. obvious similar bands include DRAB MAJESTY, COLD CAVE and, of course, JOY DIVISION.
i am keeping an eye on this band and they are most definitely worth checking out.
as ive mentioned before at length, i am a unabashedly a huge sucker for anything SHOEGAZE adjacent. just thinking about SLOWDIVE makes me emotional. i absolutely adore the hazy textures, lilting single-note guitar melodies and just the pure swathing indulgence of reverb and delay that come with that immense layered sound.
and VANCOUVER INDIE ROCK band YOUNG PRISMS hits that sweet spot. can't recommend them enough. they are very much worth checking out.
i first came across SLOWDIVE while watching GREGG ARAKI films like THE DOOM GENERATION (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1995) and NOWHERE (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1997). their sound had this ethereal atmospheric quality with soaring waves of looped feedback winding and unwinding itself around a floating female/male singing tandem mixed way back in the mix. it was the perfect audio bed for films about largely centered around reckless young adults and their ever-evolving identities, attitudes and emotions that seemed to swell and dissipate. that was pretty much when i got interested in SLOWDIVE.
the documentary SOUVLAKI (PITCHFORK, 2015) is an oral history of the seminal SHOEGAZE band as described by members NEIL HALSTEAD, RACHEL GOSWELL, SIMON SCOTT, NICK CHAPlIN and CHRISTIAN SAVILL, as well as CREATION RECORDS founder ALLEN MCGEE, producer CHRIS HUFFORD and mixer/engineer ED BULLER. it reveals the process behind the development behind their transcendent SOUVLAKI (CREATION, 1993) album and how the recently dissolved romantic relationship between HALSTEAD and GOSWELL informed the record. pretty standard fair for music documentaries.
what resonated with me was how they describe the scene at the time, pre-GRUNGE and BRITPOP, when bands like THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, SPACEMEN 3, COCTEAU TWINS and MY BLOODY VALENTINE were playing small gigs in rural ENGLAND. when the sound was still underground. the band itself was made of the decidedly INDIE HALSTEAD, who grew up in a household where music other than CLASSICAL was verboten, and two local GOTHS in GOSWELL and CHAPLIN; all agree on THE SMITHS. knowing that i can definitely hear a POST PUNK thread in their sound from GOTH ROCK bands like BAUHAUS (i.e. DANIEL ASH), JOY DIVISION, BERLIN-era DAVID BOWIE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. they all used sound and looped effects to make deeply evocative music that resonated on both on an emotional and visceral level.
the documentary, like others in the PITCHFORK CLASSIC series, has the band members elaborate on standout tracks like "40 DAYS," "WHEN THE LIGHT HITS," "SOUVLAKI SPACE STATION," "DAGGER," and "ALISON." it also showcased BRIAN ENO's ability to serve as a catalyst for soundscapes that formed the basis for other songs as well. in ENO there is a figure that is purely interested in the creation of interesting sounds, period. he served as a catalyst during writing sessions with HALSTEAD, who hilariously and fortunately didn't know much about him at the time, and left. ENO's production techniques are fodder for another entry, so i wont go into that here, but needless to say his unconventional approaches and deep penchant for sonic experimentation is all over SOUVLAKI. it marks a new direction for the band which fascinatingly was influenced by DUB REGGAE and new AMBIENT acts at the time like APHEX TWIN. its all in there, you can definitely hear it.
in recent years the band has reformed and even released the stellar SLOWDIVE (DEAD OCEANS, 2017), but the SOUVLAKI record should not be missed by anyone. requisite listening for anyone interested in SHOEGAZE, INDIE ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK or even AMBIENT or ORCHESTRAL music. really just great music for anyone moved by emotionally affecting sounds in general. at least it gets me every time, right back to being a teenager living in KUWAIT, an oppressive country with little freedom or ability for self-expression or creativity.
NOTE: also, the post-SLOWDIVE band MOJAVE 3 is also worth your time, although they are a completely different vibe altogether.
anything SHOEGAZE or DREAM POP, especially when it is well-constructed and executed, hits me right in the sweet spot. whether it is LUSH, NO JOY, SLOWDIVE, JAPANESE BREAKFAST, MY BLOODY VALENTINE or BEACH HOUSE, i enjoy discovering bands that make ethereal, impressionistic, guitar-based music that use feedback as a means of washing over and smothering you to blissful oblivion. that is a sonic experience i am always game for.
i cam across TORONTO's TALLIES recently and i could not be more taken by their intoxicating jangly yet echo-and-reverb-drenched sound. and then there is that voice. guitarist and vocalist SARAH COGAN is someone to look out for in the future.
great promising young band well worth checking out.
MONTREAL outfit NO JOY is the emblematic of the emotive depths available within the restless, waves of feed-backed sonic bliss within the genre of SHOEGAZE. listening to them makes me relive my introduction to MY BLOODY VALENTINE and SLOWDIVE all over again.
definitely check them out.
watch HERE for our most recent episode of DEER GOD RADIO where the playlist is all the SHOEGAZE movement and all it's ringing, droned-out, reverb-heavy, fuzzed-to-all-hell glory.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
tonight's episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is SHOEGAZE with all it's ringing, droned-out, reverb-heavy, fuzzed-to-all-hell glory.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
there's something about JAPANESE BREAKFAST that really hits a sweet spot with me.
as i went on about before in my PATTI SMITH piece, i think women really have it difficult dealing with bullshit double standards regarding beauty when establishing themselves as artists in the music industry. what makes it worse is that there is a pressure EVERYONE feels in today's hyper-competitive digital marketplace to water-down your vision to the lowest common denominator, which is why you see many female pop artists resorting to tactics of being outrageous for the sake of getting attention, which only further reinforces the whole vicious cycle.
thats why it is always refreshing to come across female songwriters that have a vision and personality that doesn't feel group tested to death. i'd put JAPANESE BREAKFAST among a great lineage of female fronted rock groups that write their own material including that of WARPAINT, LA LUZ, GIRL IN A COMA, THE COATHANGERS, DUM DUM GIRLS, BEST COAST and LE BUTCHERETTES.
what separates this recent MICHELLE ZAUNER-led solo project to me is the vulnerability of her lyrics which deal with themes like loss and feeling inadequate, both topics i TOTALLY identify with. her 2016 debut PSYCHOPOMP was written as a way to come to terms with the passing of her mother and its a heartbreaking recording which painfully expresses the emptiness and detachment felt after losing a loved one. the album almost doubles as an effort to reconnect with her essence, much in the same way MASTODON did with their CRACK THE SKYE and THE HUNTER albums. her 2017 effort SOFT SOUNDS FROM ANOTHER PLANET finds her really delving into lilting delicate soundscapes that borrow heavily from SHOEGAZE that perfectly support her lyrics that concerned themselves with new beginnings and relationships, which makes sense given her recent marriage. she expresses the joy of new love as effectively as the sadness of sudden loss. all in all i can't wait to hear what she has next in store.
a dynamite songwriter that doesn't hold back from exposing her insecurities. how can you not be supportive of that?