Tuesday, 30 November 2010

New Music: David Lynch.

Well, what can I say? David Lynch, author, practitioner of transcendental meditation, producer and beloved writer and director of classic films such as Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, Dune (I know it was critically mauled, but dammit, I liked it), and Wild At Heart, can now add "electronic music composer" to his long and admirable resumé.

For on the 26th of November Mr Lynch released through iTunes a catchy little piece of pop confectionary entitled "Good Day Today." And here it is, for your listening pleasure!

What do you think? I quite like it -- it's got a cheery and pulsing beat, a groovy early '90s trance vibe going on, and Lynch's digitally distorted vocals seem so ... Lynchian, if you'll forgive me for using that term. "Good Day Today" chugs merrily along, and makes me smile. There's real hope and wonder going on in this track -- I love it. Kudos to Mr Lynch; he really is a Renaissance Man.

Monday, 29 November 2010

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen.

11 FEBRUARY 1926
28 NOVEMBER 2010

Any reader who regularly checks into Second Drawer Up knows that from time to time we enjoy showcasing comedy. So today we would like to take a moment to fondly wish brilliant comedic actor Leslie Nielsen farewell. He died peacefully in his sleep in a Ft Lauderdale, FL hospital the 28th of Novermber, 2010 from complications with pneumonia. Rest in peace, good sir; you were always a class act, and were funny as hell.

Though he began his career as a dramatic actor (Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure are two thrilling films of his that will live on indefinitely in the annals of time), it was his scene-stealing comic turn as Dr Rumack ("I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.") in 1980's fabulously brilliant Airplane! that sealed the deal and caused his comedic star to soar. From there, he played the overly serious and deadpan Detective Frank Drebin in the woefully short-lived TV show Police Squad!, and its cinematic brethren, the Naked Gun series of films. Following those were a series of rather silly send-up movies such as Scary Movie 3 (2003), Wrongfully Accused (1998), and Spy Hard (1996), that -- while not as blazingly hilarious as his earlier comedies -- were still pretty damn good, graced as they were by Mr Nielsen's thoughtful, deadpan comic timing.

There will never be another Mr Nielsen to grace our slapstick comedies, and I look back fondly at the heady days of Airplane! and Police Squad! with a wistful smile on my face. So here are some of my favorite bits of his! Enjoy, laugh, and take a moment to thank Mr Nielsen for all the laughs he provided through his tremendous talent. Cheers, Leslie! I hope you're making somebody laugh right now, wherever you are.

And while we're at it -- how about an entire episode of Police Squad!?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

R.I.P. Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson.

It is with great sadness that we at Second Drawer Up have learnt that Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson, one of the founding members of legendary industrial band Throbbing Gristle, its reincarnation as Psychic TV, and part of experimental troupe Coil, has died unexpectedly in his sleep Wednesday night the 24th of November. He was only 55 years old. 

Many great things can be said about Peter. Alongside his stellar work with Throbbing Gristle, widely believed to have been the progenitor of industrial music, he is also credited with the first usage of a sampling machine onstage; which in itself is one hell of a fucking accomplishment. After the end of Throbbing Gristle, he and Genesis P-Orridge went on to form Psychic TV (whilst Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti went on their own for Chris & Cosey). A Throbbing Gristle fan by the name of Jhonn Balance joined Psychic TV and then, after a spell, Christopherson and Balance left and formed Coil - which, to this day, remains the be-all end-all of industrial electronica in my humble opinion. This partnership lasted over two decades, until the untimely death of Balance (who, ironically, fell off a second-floor balcony) in 2004.

Christopherson was also an accomplished music video director, responsible for videos by a disparate spectrum of musical acts, including Ministry, The The, Rage Against the Machine, Yes, Sepultura, Van Halen, and Paul McCartney (!).

No words I can write at this moment can completely convey how important Christopherson's contributions to the world of electronic music were. 55 years old?!?! That's just way too fucking young - no one in this dimension knows what else he could have done. So it is with a heavy heart that we here at Second Drawer Up HQ bid "Sleazy" a fond adieu. Rest in Peace, dear sir. You will be sorely missed.

UPDATE: Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti have written a lovely remembrance to their longtime friend and collaborator. You can read it here.

throbbing gristle
"valley of the shadow of death"
d.o.a: the third and final report of throbbing gristle

throbbing gristle
tg live vol. 2

love's secret domain

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Album Review: Sigue Sigue Sputnik.

Who knows what was going on in my mind yesterday when, whilst I was in the midst of doing some household chores, I thought to myself, You know what would be nice right about now? Sigue Sigue Sputnik. So, with me being a creature of instant gratification, I cued up their 1986 debut album Flaunt It and let fly! And I got to thinking, Hmm, does it hold up after 24 years? And the surprising answer is -- yes. Yes it does, and funnily enough, it almost sounds more apropos now as when it did back during the years of Reagan, the Cold War, and the burgeoning years of digitalism.

For here is an album that wears its star-fucking soul on its sleeve. It's no coincidence that the first time you hear Martin Degville's voice on album opener "Love Missile F1-11" he's saying over and over again, "I wanna be a star! I wanna be a star!" 

Founded by Generation X and Lords of the New Church bassist Tony James, Sigue Sigue Sputnik (named after a Moscow street gang, whose name translates roughly to "Burn Burn Satellite") was originally a concept borne from a desire to capitalize on the rampant commercialism on display in popular culture -- and make a killing while at it. Choosing the rest of the band pretty much based on their looks (vocalist Degville was a clothing designer whose retail shop, Ya Ya, was ransacked for the band's crazy outfits), the next step was to find a motto. "Fleece the World" seemed appropriate, and then the theme -- "Hi-tech sex, designer violence, and the 5th generation of rock n' roll." Thrown into the mix was a futuristic dystopian world run by multi-national corporations in which instant gratification could be yours with the touch of a button (sound familiar?), and everything was ready to roll!

Tapping Ray Mayhew and Chris Kavanagh for drumming duties, Neil X for guitar, and Martin's co-worker at Ya Ya, Yana on synths and "club effects," Tony James had finally all his pieces put together. Now it was time to put together an album and sell it to the unwashed masses!

Taking their cue from science-fiction films, exotic international locales, video games, sex magazines, high-design, haute-couture, Japanese manga, and the all-mighty dollar, Sigue Sigue Sputnik's sound was all over the map. Featuring heavy-duty rock guitars, heavy and intensive percussion, drone-y insect-like sound effects, vocal distortions, liberal usage of samples from films (Dirty Harry, Blade Runner, and The Road Warrior featured large), and even advertisements for products real and imaginary dispersed between the songs, Flaunt It was (and still is) a wild roller-coaster ride through the fevered imagination of a world in which anything and everything is for sale. Tracks such as "Rockit Miss USA," "21st Century Boy," and "Massive Retaliation" are prime examples of all these disparate influences at work at the same time, and frankly, are just a shitload of fun. "High-tech sex and rockets, baby," indeed, Mr Degville! Does Moscow rock your baby? It sure does.

Highly recommended after all these years, I cannot stress enough how fun this album is. If you haven't already, then check it out by all means.

sigue sigue sputnik
"21st century boy"
flaunt it

sigue sigue sputnik
"love missile f1-11"
flaunt it

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Album Review: Zola Jesus.

©2010, Sacred Bones Records

Wow. I mean, just ... wow. I really don't think I have the arsenal of words needed to describe this record and do it justice but, I'll try. 

The story behind Zola Jesus' revelatory Stridulum EP and its fleshed-out followup LP Stridulum II begins with a chance viewing of a rather obscure film from 1979 called "The Visitor." Known also by its Italian title of "Stridulum," this whacked-out movie is essentially an LSD trip recorded on camera, centering around a young girl with telekinetic powers who possesses in her both the seeds for good, and the seeds for a powerful force of evil that may spell the end of civilization. Directed by Giulio Paradisi and with a cast featuring the likes of Mel Ferrer, Lance Henriksen, John Huston, Shelly Winters, and Sam Bloody Peckinpah, it's a weird cult film that was, shall we say, interesting.

This film, particularly a scene in which "Goodness," personified by John Huston, comes down from the sky in a cascade of doves and light and attempts to "wash away" the girl's bad side (and the accompanying soundtrack), did not go unnoticed by a young woman in Phoenix, Arizona named Nika Roza Danilova. Known by her stage name of Zola Jesus, and with ten years training of opera singing under her belt, she was inspired to record Stridulum and, as it turns out, one of the best albums of the year, hands down. 

This is quite literally a thrilling album, deep and mysterious and full of emotion. From the opening number "Night" to closing time with "Lightsick," Danilova brings to mind the best vocal performances of Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush, splashing and dashing the flavour with sleek and dark synth brushstrokes and a mighty dollop of mezzo soprano classicism. Something dark and wounded in the night; a decision upon which balances the difference between success and failure; a heavy head, lost in the fog of confusion; and the blindness that careens from the deepest pits of despair -- this is not a happy record. But the music! And her voice! It soars and falls, like tendrils of the blackest smoke you've never seen ... it's a revelation to listen to. At times hopeful, at times bleak, and never, ever less than fascinating, Zola Jesus has created something strange and special -- something that, once heard, can change the way one listens to music. It's that damn good. Pay special attention to "Sea Talk." Like a funeral dirge backed by towering organs and a militaristic drumbeat, when Danilova sings, "Sick / I'm sick, honey / I don't, I don't got the money / Do you want a raincheck?" you can feel the raw emotion all the way down your backbone.

This powerful and emotive record is now officially a contender for Second Drawer Up's Album of the Year. Check it out, by all means. You won't regret it at all.

zola jesus
"sea talk"
stridulum ii

News From Röyksopp.

Norwegian duo and perennial Second Drawer Up favourites Röyksopp have, a few months after the stealthy release of their fourth studio album Senior, finally announced their dates for the United States and Canada on their 2011 tour. And here they are:

Friday 18th March : Toronto, The Guvernment
Saturday 19th March : Montréal, Club Soda
Monday 21st March : New York City, Webster Hall
Wednesday 23rd March : Washington, DC, 9:30 Club
Thursday 24th March : Atlanta, Masquerade
Friday 25th March : Miami, Ultra Music Festival

So there you have it! True, it doesn't seem to be much of a stay in North America (and they're not visiting San Francisco??? Crazy!), but you know how these things work -- at some point they'll add dates, and (almost) everybody will be happy. I recommend visiting their site often and checking out the news ... things do change. Before I sign off on this lovely Friday morning, I'd like to ask you guys: Have you heard Senior yet? I'm listening to it right now, and it's a lovely, lovely piece of electronic work. When Torbjörn Brundtland and Svein Berge announced the followup to 2009's exuberant Junior, they stated that whilst Junior had an "emphasis on vocals, accessible melodies, and harmonies," Senior, they promised, would be the "introverted, dwelling, and sometimes graceful counterpart." 

And how! Flowing nearly seamlessly over nine tracks and 48 minutes, this entirely instrumental work shines with a languid and chill-out beauty. Hypnotic, meandering, and in no hurry, Senior would make a fantastic soundtrack to an imaginary sci-fi spaghetti Western film with lots of dramatic silences and speculative ennui. Think of the best work of Angelo Badalamenti and Ennio Morricone (especially on the aptly titled "Forsaken Cowboy") run through a trance-y filter of smooth and haltingly gorgeous synths, and you might be close. This record is one for a nice night in -- light some candles, pour some champagne, snuggle up with that special someone on a sofa and gaze deep in their eyes ... yeah, you get the picture. I'd like to play for you now a special track off of Senior. Here is "The Drug."

"the drug"

Monday, 15 November 2010

Live On DVD! Depeche Mode.

Hey kids! Look what's out now at your favourite music/movie purveyor! It's the new Depeche Mode live DVD - "Tour of the Universe : Barcelona 20/21.11.09." I can't wait to get it - my girlfriend and I went and saw the show at the O2 Arena in London this last 15th of December, and it was bloody fantastic. Everything worked - the lights were engaging and colourful, the stage setup was fascinating, the video projections were nothing short of awe-inspiring, and David and Martin's voices were at their peak. I can totally say, without fear of self-contradiction, that this concert film is going to fucking rock. Get it, get it, get it.

Here is Depeche Mode performing "Personal Jesus" from that very same concert. Jesus (haha), can I say it rocks? Yes it does. It rocks. Hard. And then some.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Electro Classic Jukebox: Soft Cell.

Two years after the triumphant debut of their first album Non-stop Erotic Cabaret and its immediate followup Non-stop Ecstatic Dancing, Soft Cell (Marc Almond & Dave Ball) came back in dark form with their third release, The Art of Falling Apart. While NSEC had more of a playful mentality, singing praises and curses of the sleaziness of late '70s and early '80s Soho, London (think "Sex Dwarf", "Seedy Films", and the lonely doldrums of "Bedsitter"), The Art of Falling Apart found Mssrs. Almond and Ball in much darker territory. From the sadly dysfunctional family at each others' throats in "Where the Heart Is" to the excruciatingly savage and harrowing examination of a stripper's life in "Baby Doll", TAOFA was more interested in telling the stories of people who otherwise wouldn't be noticed by the average Londoner. Maybe that's why it didn't sell as well as its predecessor, but it could also have been the drugs that were beginning to plague the duo. But when I look at the work of Soft Cell during those first three years (their fourth album, This Last Night In Sodom was, to me at least, a mixed bag at best), I find TAOFA to be their most assured and seamless adventure. Almond's voice really reached a level of seedy cabaret brilliance, Ball's synths and drum programming were precise and warm, and their trumpeter John Gatchell delivered some pretty freaking incredible and soulful blasts of jazz into the proceedings. 

All that being said, my favourite track off this album is actually a B-side from the 12" release of "Where The Heart Is". It's a fantastic and really quite weird number called "It's A Mug's Game," and here we find Almond, Ball, and Gatchell delivering what is probably the funniest synth-pop song ever released, ever. This paean to practically the worst day ever has such a silly and incredibly vibrant energy to it, that it nearly explodes out of your speakers. Featuring horrible hangovers, food poisoning, venereal disease, unintended pregnancy, emergency visits to the chemist, money problems, and strict fathers, you've just got to listen to it to believe it. Best lyric: "Oh God, it's another disease / And you just got rid of the last / You were beginning to feel OK / And the friends you gave it to were speaking to you again."

Here's "It's A Mug's Game." Enjoy!

soft cell
"it's a mug's game"
the art of falling apart

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A 7 1/2 Hour Train Journey Through Norway, With DJs!

a tip of the hat to io9.com!

When it comes to traveling, there are fewer better options for us here at Second Drawer Up HQ than the train. Comfortable, hypnotic, great views, a decent bar car, and the soothing soundtrack of the rails trundling past, all whilst inclined in a nice seat, stockinged feet crossed in front of you, and iPod earbuds perched in your ears providing whatever soundtrack you desire. I've been in a lot of trains over the years, but have never been on the Bergen Line that traverses the Norwegian countryside. It sounds lovely, and now, thanks to the creators of a documentary called Bergensbanen, I can now experience it secondhand. Add to that the addition of 7 and a half hours of DJ music, invited by the filmmakers to provide the soundtrack to the entirety of the train's route, and you've got something very, very special indeed. Featured on Norway's NRK2 channel, it was watched by over one million people when it aired Friday, 27 November of last year. Needless to say, I thought I'd share all 13 parts of the video with you, my very, very special readers! Chill out, put these babies on full-screen, and crank the volume up as loud as you can. Sit back (or dance your ass off, or throw a party while you're at it), and check this shit out. It's fucking amazing.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

New Music: Grafton Primary.

Sydney-sider brothers Josh and Benjamin Garden, AKA Grafton Primary, have been very busy, busy bees this last year, putting together their sophomore album, tentatively entitled Sophomore and preparing for their new tour, which hits Melbourne tomorrow evening in St Kilda's wild Prince Bandroom. Should be a whole hell of a lotta fun, so Second Drawer Up highly recommends heading down there if you've wondered what's worth doing this weekend!

Having been formed in 2006, and with two EPs and their first album Eon under their belts, Grafton Primary (who tour with a live drummer and bass player) are willing and ready to unveil their new(ish) sound to the masses. "This tour's not so much a dusting as an absolute renovation," Josh told Inpress Magazine - and to my ears, it sounds like it's going to be a veritable shitload of fun. I love the sounds that burst from my speakers when I play Eon or the Relativity EP (which I'm listening to right now as I type this) - they're quirky, noir-ish, and clever. Take what's best from Jan Hammer and Harold Faltermeyer's 80's synth-soundtracks, Australia's "2nd wave of nu-rave" (whatever the hell that means), and indie-pop, throw them in a blender, and you might have something similar to the sound made by the brothers Garden. Keep an ear out for the new single, "The Eagle." Josh seems particularly buzzed about it, so I can only reckon it's going to kick ass.

So get your ass to the Prince Bandroom, already! Grafton Primary are going to be supported by Wollongong electronic pioneers Infusion; so it's going to be twice as fun as you thought. Serious!

Here's "Relativity" by Grafton Primary for ya - cheers!

grafton primary
relativity ep

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Man of Colours.

Well, it's a lovely Wednesday morning, and what should pop up on my playlist but "Man of Colours" by Icehouse? Taken from the 1987 album of the same name, I really have to admit that this track is a quintessential example of what can make Icehouse such a special band. "Man of Colours" tells the story of an old man in an upstairs room painting vignettes from his life and examining them with a mixture of pain and pride. The album itself, Icehouse's fifth release, also contains gems such as "Kingdom," a magical examination of a woman coming to peace with herself, "Sunrise," a scorching anti-war statement of epic proportion, and then, livening things up a bit, the biggest hit of Icehouse's existence, "Crazy," which is, quite frankly, a fun love song.

I'd mentioned before that Iva Davies was an accomplished oboe player - and on "Man of Colours," there he is, playing it to his heart's content. It's a mournful sound, laid over an achingly beautiful synth and a deceptively simple drum beat. It soars - it reminds me, in a way, of the sensation of flying through clouds. Towards the end, when Davies practically cries the lyric "And I can see, see through these tears, tears of a man, a man of colours," it nearly breaks my heart. And what's really nifty about the video for the song is that Iva Davies' father himself is the star, the old man upstairs. It's simply gorgeous.

With no further ado, here's "Man of Colours."

"man of colours"
man of colours

And, while there's no video for it, per se, here's the anti-war track "Sunrise." Listen for Davie's anguished scream towards the end as the crashing cymbals signify the end of all that's good in the world. "You'll never see the faces of the fishermen, but you may see their shadows burned against the wall." Damn, Iva - intense.

man of colours

Friday, 5 November 2010

Three Australian 80's Hits.

Well! I've now been in the land down under for just under a month, and it's been absolutely spectacular. Things are going great with my girlfriend, I'm getting some healthy color, and I've lost two and a half kilos (probably from all the fresh and organic food I've been eating) -- so all in all at this moment, I'm pretty tops. Still need to quit smoking, but I'm now under a pack a day, so we'll see where I'm at in another month, shall we?

So today I was thinking: How's about I put together a nifty little package of early 80's Australian music for you, my faithful readers, this weekend? Sounds like a plan, thinks I. So with no further ado, here's some 80's treasures that will, today, be on my humble blog!

From 1983, QED were a Sydney band featuring Jenny Morris, a Kiwi from discontinued band The Crocodiles. Wrapping up the rest of the group was Rex Goh (ex guitarist for Air Supply!) and Ian Belton on bass guitar. Featuring Amanda Vincent on keyboards (though for the life of me I don't know who's doing them in this video), QED evoked a sound that to this day evokes in me a tremendous feeling of nostalgia (because, really, what is this site but a musical nostalgia choo-choo train?). They only released one album, Animal Magic, before disbanding (Jenny Morris went on to great acclaim as a solo artist) -- and "Everywhere I Go" was their first single. And here it is. Love Morris' purple coat!

"everywhere i go"
animal magic

Yeah, yeah -- I know everybody on the planet knows who Men At Work are, and can probably sing "Down Under" line for line at the drop of a dime. But I don't care. I'd like to think of today's post as a bit of comfort food, if you will, and since I've started with the year 1983, I figured I'd stick with it. Think of it as something of a theme. So. Men At Work. From the southern Melbourne suburb of St Kilda (love that 'hood), they only released three albums: 1981's Business As Usual, 1983's Cargo, and 1985's Two Hearts. Today's track comes from Cargo, and personally I find it to be quite an effective anti-war song that still holds water. I'm speaking of course of "It's A Mistake," and here it is for your listening pleasure.

men at work
"it's a mistake"

Though best known for their (rather crappy) 1986 cover of Lipps Inc.'s "Funky Town," Melbourne's Pseudo Echo back in the day composed music that was extraordinarily similar to the output of fellow 80's stalwarts Ultravox. Their debut record, 1984's Autumnal Park featured many high points in early 80's synth-pop, but none rose so high as their hit single "Listening." I remember back in 1985 when I first bought the album (entitled Pseudo Echo in the United States) -- I probably bugged the shit out of my parents by having kept lifting the needle and going back to start this track over and over and over again. It's a great tune; I haven't heard it in a long time, but it's great to go back to a priceless pop gem. Here's "Listening" for your listening pleasure on this gorgeous and sunny Saturday afternoon. Cheers!

pseudo echo
autumnal park

Thursday, 4 November 2010

R.I.P. James Freud.

It is with great sadness today that I have to report that James Freud, the troubled lead vocalist of Australian band Models, has killed himself after losing his battle with drinking. He was 51 years old. Second Drawer Up extends its deepest condolences to surviving friends and family. It's only been one week since Models were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame; Mr Freud declined to attend the ceremony, citing "other commitments."

Based out of Melbourne, Models began in the late 70's, pushing forward an interesting hybrid of post-punk laced new wave music, with a touch of glam and a propensity for lyrics that veered towards the macabre. Then, in 1982, James Freud took over lead vocals from Sean Kelly, and with the release of 1983's The Pleasure of Your Company, the band began to experiment with more straightforward electronic impulses. Mr Freud stayed on until the band's hiatus in 1988; rejoining them for a brief spell in the early naughts, then in 2006 and, for the final time, in 2008. He'd always had a weakness for the bottle, and sadly the bottle has finally won out.

So R.I.P. dear James Freud. You've left a lasting contribution to the world of modern music, and you will be sorely missed.

"i hear motion"
the pleasure of your company

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Just Feel Like Some Kylie.

While I won't go so far as to call Kylie Minogue a guilty pleasure or anything that resembles in part a back-handed complement (really, what is a "guilty pleasure" anyway? If it makes you feel good, then just go out and fucking enjoy it without feeling guilty, already), I've got to admit that as far as music that's just flat-out fun goes, you really can't go wrong with Kylie. The pint-sized pop star is the perfect package for tunes that you really can't listen to without sporting a grin on your face. Her songs are catchy, perky, classy, cheerful, and are chockfull of an absolutely hummable energy -- it will get your ass out on the dance floor in a quick, and get you moving!

Last year, I had the opportunity to catch this glimmering princess on her first ever tour of the United States at the stately Fox Theatre in Oakland with my friends Lynn, Kimon, Andrei, and Summer. Imagine my surprise at the very beginning of the show when Kylie, descending on the stage perched on a gigantic mirrored skull, was accompanied by the ethereal countdown of my favourite Kylie track of all time, "Light Years" -- "Ten, nine, eight, seven ..." -- and the crowd went absolutely fucking apeshit. And for good reason. There's everything to love about this Australian chanteuse, and I will never forget the vibe in that theatre last year whilst Kylie and her dancers cavorted on stage in a flurry of fuzzy lasers, amazing technological effects, and a stage design that the handlers of wannabes such as Lady Gaga and Madonna can only dream of. And she's beautiful, on top of all that.

She's Kylie. And she's awesome.

Here she is in 2002 during her Fever2002 Tour in Melbourne, Australia. Nice splice of "Light Years" and "I Feel Love," that's for sure. Enjoy!