FEAST ON SCRAPS – AUGUST 2022
It’s never too late to look back to greatness.
NSK (Natural Soft Killers) is one of the most inventive groups in Romanian Electronic Music, bringing together three genre pioneers. The band made its first appearance in 1996, when DJ Vasile (rhythm, samples, vinyls, mixes) together with Alien Pimp and their Radio Nova 22 colleague, Cristian Stanciu (aka Matze – sounds, channels, frequencies), brought the ideas developed in the landscape of the local underground scene together. Fast-forward one year, and they appeared on stage for the first time, to celebrate the Assos Music Jungle Explosion event.
Silviu Costinescu (aka Alien Pimp) left the group after a short time and the band welcomed guitarist Cristian Ștefănescu (aka Electric Brother) to bring to life the formula that wrote the group’s history, releasing exceptional albums and winning first place at the 2000 edition of the RFI Nouvelles DécouverteEst competition, intended for the discovery of new talent. Afterwards, NSK gave concerts in Paris and Lisbon respectively and released the album București Paris Lisabona, which contains the live recordings of those two gigs. Outside the country’s borders, the Natural Soft Killers boys have also performed in countries such as Spain and Serbia.
There was also an extended formula, by co-opting vocalist Mara on the microphone and Ati De Chile on percussion live. Mara is their oldest collaborator, both in their solo and various other projects. You can hear her amazing voice recorded with Vasile, Cristian and Electric Brother on their classic song Totul Vine De La Sine (Everything Comes Naturally), from the album Trebuie Să Dansăm (We Have To Dance) released in 2002 via La Strada Music.
In the course of NSK’s activity, they also recorded other materials such as Once Upon a Time… (1998, United Artistes) and Green Project (1998, Phoenix Cultural Foundation). Classic style, oldskool House, quality live performances, a great success and lots of memories from a time in Romania when music clubs where more than just places to dance to loud sounds and crazy light-shows. A very creative trio that I now dream of seeing reunited.
Björk protesting the classical musicality of radio hits with this randomness that regular fans nonetheless instantly five-star on RateYourMusic. Inaccessible since 2007, yes. But I still wanted something MORE from the empress of Futurism in Sound. Maybe the past four albums (including, from what we’ve seen of it, the current Fossora) should’ve been compressed in a single LP?
I’ve listened to her recent line of podcasts about every single solo album she released – Sonic Symbolism – and it felt really cool. Then it felt weird to hear her talking about her own music so openly, even though she sadly doesn’t do it in other places, with new people. I’m mostly annoyed with how she isolated herself in her Guardian tower with the help of Derek from One Little Indian, her manager of 30+ years. These lyrics about CONNECTING are vacuous to me in the context of her refusing to talk to any other outlets. I am being harsh on a personal level because she meant everything to me, creatively, ever since I was a kid back in 1995, when I discovered her with the It’s Oh So Quiet cover on reruns of MTV European Top 20 on our Romanian national television.
It’s not about not being open to the experiments and darkness she’s currently exploring. Honestly, Bjork has been repeating the same themes over and over again since Vulnicura. I think I was in love with her producers, samples and style until Biophilia… Since that October 2011 release she is pretty much isolated in this hightower where she is preoccupied to be as atonal as you can get. Sometimes atonality works, but in this case it goes to unlistenable extremes very fast.
If you’re in your early twenties and this is your first contact with her… maybe your brain is fresh and you can take it as something “cool” and “different”. To me it finally feels obsolete compared to the textures she explored inclusively on Volta. Also extremely tired with her attempts to promote technology and the latest VR fads & visuals, forgetting more and more to focus on sound and lyrics.
Excepting Stonemilker & Future Forever, Vulnicura & Utopia were general disasters. And I’m saying it as a very openly gay man: Arca is overrated!
Maybe rest of Fossora is going to be better. Maybe she will make a comeback for us cynics in need of SOMETHING ELSE too. Or maybe it’s just time for the older generation of impeccable musicians to gracefully bow out after two decades of undeniably changing the world of Music.
TWO MUSICAL ALBUMS__________________
Trap conversions for a better world. Ross Birchard (now living in Los Angeles) returns for his first solo album in seven years, the third and probably the longest. He cites American decadence and the quintessential backdrop of late capitalism as an inspiration for this jewel that reunites grandiose strings and gospel choirs to form a new collection of wildly fractured beatscapes. I’m just searching for Freedom when I call out your name can be heard in the opening of Intentions…
Indeed, it is a journey of liberation through a carefully manufactured fusion of kaleidoscopic rave synths, cascading Trance melodies, Acid and (if we listen to Is It Supposed) even Balearic influences. If we remember the TNGHT period, his duo with Lunice, and how messy it felt to not get paid for your beats (one big industry drama right there) before releasing 2015’s Lantern, we can understand all these years of him being scared to associate with Rap or Hip Hop a bit better (even if you can listen how it haunts his spirit still in every fiber of this set).
But somehow his old love for Happy Hardcore resisted. In a profile for DJ Mag he once proclaimed that music like Happy Hardcore is very direct and pure, an expression of joy. Who the fuck is anyone to say that something that evokes the human emotion of joy is cheesy, or not cool?… Tracks like Stump reveals the sparkly-designed grand illusions and Vangelis-like immensities of which Birchard is capable at any given moment. Ross says he was influenced by apocalyptic film scores and soundtracks for this new LP and the material lets you feel that all the way. You realize again what kind of miracles Kanye West saw in Mohawke’s beats years back. A stubborn talent that knows how to express epic-ness.
There’s a mystery in the gloomy broken mixtape-like sounds of this album. A darkness hard to replicate. A sadness that secures your optimism. Almost fated to be average, just another The Cure/Beat Happening/Joy Division wannabes lost in Silver Lake music scene, The Movies created something defyingly genuine with this debut. Fascinating and intimate enough for Silversun Pickups to cover their dramatic Creation Lake that screams longing… There’re twenty-four parts in a day that divides me from you…
The piano-driven Right Equipment, the getting-bored-at-the-office anthem Secretariat, the intoxicating Scary Footsteps & Don’t Steal My Licks full of persisting drums and alarming keyboards, the irony of adoration in Autograph and the empathetic Pass The Music – they all manage to form a diamond of really good music hidden in a bunch of Post Punk red herrings.
After a revolving cast of drummers, original band members Stevie Treichel (drums) and Brian Cleary (keyboards) ventured to Los Angeles to regroup with Timothy James (vocals) & Jessica Gelt (bass). It was an adventure of three well-textured moody albums, ending with Based On A True Story and its disturbing and awakening messages: Missed opportunities are here again… Let’s do now what we wish that we did then!
The Movies stole a piece of my heart 10 years ago and I’ve loved them ever since, declared Silversun Pickups’ Nikki Monninger. I feel the same.
They broke up in 2008 and although their time came to an end, In One Era, Out The Other will always be a monument of reflection geared towards what matters most. I will regularly return to this one just to remember who I am.
TWO TV SHOWS_____________________________________
HACKS [HBO MAX]
Is it hard to do a comedy show in 2022? Almost… Yes. Women-led comedy? Not really. Another HBO Max original show to come up with a confrontation of the New with the Old, of the Rotten with the Newborn.
The plot is crazy: Deborah Vance, known as the stand-up Queen of Las Vegas, a veteran at the Palmetto Casino and with a home and a teleshopping business around “luxury” products, is faced with the looming threat of having to leave. The owner of Palmetto wants fresh blood like Pentatonix on the premises and Deb is forced to lose what is dearest to her: being on stage.
A few hundred kilometers away, in Los Angeles, we have Ava Daniels, who is discussing how to get her TV writer career back on track with her agent Jimmy (Paul W. Downs, Broad City), after it went careening into disaster because of a few uninspired tweets.
Bam! A chaotic but creative and fresh unemployed client and an artist on the verge of decline in dire need of something new… We have the perfect recipe for Deb and Ava to stick together in an adventure that will reveal all their wounds and all the truths about being a woman in the entertainment industry.
In the two seasons already broadcast, nothing ends in anything concrete. Because Hacks is about the road, not the destination. It’s a journey inside, where conflicts of all kinds collide only to bring to the surface the funniest situations you could ever imagine. All masks are off and all that remains is to put on a happy face.
American Horror Stories [FX on HULU]
American Horror Stories is a horror anthology show created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. The series serves as the third installment in the American Story media franchise and a direct spin-off from American Horror Story. It pretty much feels like AHS crossed with the format of The Twilight Zone, or Hulu’s Into The Dark.
The series features new stories with each episode (rather than every season) and the ogoing sensation is that everything happens too fast and and all that remains is the bitter taste of what could have been. It feels like the empty calories in diet coke. Good in the moment, still hungry for more and left with nothing after finishing each episode.
ONE VISUAL ARTIST__________________________
Curtiss enjoys associating humor with darkness, the uncanny and the mundane, grotesque shapes to vivid colours. The Brooklyn-based French artist works with ideas of narration drawn from her imagination to create psychological artworks that raise questions without proving an answer. Abnormal situations that deal with different aspects of the female identity as well as the opposite notions of Nature and Culture. The Dinner Party, published by Spheres Publications, is her book which, in collaboration with other authors, investigates the mysterious world behind her art pieces and how to transform the quotidian into the unexpected.
ONE LIVE PERFORMANCE___________________________
Nicki Minaj | Live at MTV Video Music Awards 2022
The VMAs are still a thing? Apparently… yes!
Video Vanguard winner Nicki Minaj performed a medley of her hits, featuring Monster, Super Bass, Super Freaky Girl, and more at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards. A bravura performance with stunning choreography, ten minutes of fierce nostalgia for an awesome era, from an artist who revived a genre and is still a powerhouse rap performer.
The Video Vanguard Award honors an artist’s impact on music videos and pop culture, and Minaj just blew through nearly a dozen of her most recognizable songs in a bedazzled pink getup, complete with giant bow. After a rushed beginning that didn’t give her career-making Monster verse its proper due, the rapper settled into a groove with crowd-pleasers Moment 4 Life and Super Bass, as she let loose across the Barbie Dreamhouse-inspired stage.
She also gave a touching speech mentioning her many rap influences: Lil Wayne, Foxy Brown, Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. She added a lot more names after she won Best Hip-Hop Video, including Salt-N-Pepa, Kid ‘n Play, Elton John, even thanking co-star Mariah Carey (American Idol wars) and Taylor Swift, “who had a huge part in the success of Super Bass” (after their mini-beef from seven years ago). She started tearing up at her next words as she honored both the late Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. I wish that people understood what they meant and what they were going through, said Minaj. I wish people took mental health seriously even for the people who you think have the perfect lives. Minaj ended her speech by thanking her fans the Barbz, calling them “her babies” and expressing her love for her newborn baby Papa Bear.
Everything changed (in Rap) since that confusing confusing fall/winter of 2010.
Featured Image is Entree by Julie Curtiss