Sunday, May 31, 2009

Postcards from Primavera Sound '09: Second and Third Day Highlights

Primavera Sound '09 is now over and as we prepare for the trip back home, let's take a brief look at some of the highlights from the second and third day of the festival.

The second day (May 29) had several strong performances, with Natasha Khan's Bat For Lashes offering one of the most enjoyable sets of the festival. Brooklyn was in the house in full effect, with some of its best new bands playing the Pitchfork stage: Crystal Stilts, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Vivian Girls. Shellac and Throwing Muses were, as always, excellent, while several new noise makers made their presence felt, including Fucked Up, Crystal Antlers and The Drones. We also had the time to fit in parts of the performances of Spiritualized, Art Brut, A Certain Ratio and Bloc Party who closed proceedings at the main stage after 3 am.

Magik Markers live@Primavera (May 28, 2009)

The last day of the festival (May 30) was the day of Sonic Youth and Neil Young who gathered the largest crowd of the three days at the main stage. On the other stages we mostly enjoyed Th' Faith Healers (who regrouped recently but managed to be just as explosive as they were in their heyday, back in the '90s), Gang Gang Dance (unfortunately they were playing at the same time with Sonic Youth so I only got to see a part of their amazing set) and El-P, who delivered a supercharged set at 3 in the morning. Deerhunter gathered a large crowd for their performance, but my feeling is that their sound needs a roof above its head for better results. Other bands that we managed to squeeze in during the 10 hours of the third day were Chad Vangaalen, Shearwater, Plants And Animals, Jesu, Oneida, Liars and Simian Mobile Disco.

More details for the three days of Primavera Sound '09, as well as photos and videos (selected from the several GBs worth of material that we have gathered) in our complete report, coming soon..

For now, we're signing off from Barcelona with the video for one of the best singles of the year so far, "Daniel" from Bat For Lashes, one of the stars of Primavera Sound '09:

Bat For Lashes - Daniel

Friday, May 29, 2009

Postcards from Primavera Sound '09: Day Two is on the way

The second day of the Primavera Sound '09 festival is starting soon. Among the bands appearing today we have Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Bat For Lashes, Art Brut, ex-Grandaddy Jason Lytle, Spiritualized, Crystal Antlers, Throwing Muses, Jarvis Cocker, The Drones, Fucked Up, Shellac, A Certain Ratio and Bloc Party.

The first day of the festival had a bit of an 80's (or early '90s) class reunion feel to it, with several bands from that era dominating proceedings: My Bloody Valentine headlined the main stage with a LOUD as hell 1 hour 20 minutes set culminating with three of their best tracks ever, played back to back - "Soon", "Feed Me With Your Kiss" and an extended "You Made Me Realized" which turned into a white noise fest. Earlier Yo La Tengo and Spectrum played the main stage, while across the other stages we had several bands from the '80s and '90s: the recently reunited Jesus Lizard were as wild and awe-inspiring as ever, The Vaselines were in high spirits and reminded us all their classic '80s pop tunes ("Son Of A Gun", "Molly's Lips", "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam", "You Think You're A Man", "Dum Dum") and The Bats brought back the timeless sound of '80s Kiwi pop (maybe it's about time for The Chills to reunite as well?). We also had time to see Magik Markers playing a charmingly shambolic show early in the afternoon, a bit of Phoenix, Lightning Bolt, Bowerbirds and Aphex Twin, and the night ended with the enticing psychedelic freakout of The Wooden Shjips from San Francisco.

More details, photos and videos from Primavera coming soon. Meanwhile, here's a clip from an older, typically explosive Jesus Lizard performance. One of the best punk bands ever is back in action and hungry for more mayhem!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Primavera Sound '09 is about to begin

As the city of Barcelona is still nursing a massive hangover from last night's celebrations for the Champion's League win, the first day of the Primavera Sound '09 festival is about to begin. C.M.C.'s team is on its way to Parc Del Forum and we'll be bringing you brief updates whenever we can. The festival is starting with Magik Markers playing almost simultaneously with The Bats and Spectrum. Among the many bands playing across the six stages today, we'll try to see The Vaselines, Lightning Bolt, Yo La Tengo, Bowerbirds, The Jesus Lizard, Andrew Bird, Phoenix, Wooden Shjips and, of course, main stage headliners My Bloody Valentine.

The soundtrack of the day for me so far has been The Vaselines complilation "Enter The Vaselines". Here's a clip of them playing live the cult classic "You think you're a man":

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Set the controls for the heart of Primavera Sound

The countdown for the Primavera Sound '09 festival has begun. The Cool Music Central tireless R'n'R team has started its preparations for the Barcelona expedition and we expect to be there soon to attend the festivities and see the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Throwing Muses, Bat For Lashes, Crystal Stilts, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Magik Markers, Wooden Shjips, Vaselines, Shellac etc. up close and personal. You'll be able to read our report from the festival here at the beginning of June, but for now, just to get psyched, here's a couple of clips from two of our all-time favorite bands that we are looking forward to seeing in action:

Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot live (I know they have new material, but I really hope they play this)

My Bloody Valentine - Soft As Snow live (from 20 years ago - history in the making!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ladytron - Live @ Fuzz Club (May 14, 2009)

Sometimes you just get lucky. Ladytron was supposed to be the opening act for the Balkan leg of Depeche Mode's tour (modestly called "Tour of the Universe") except for the show in Athens. Luckily for Ladytron fans, the band came to play its own shows here (good news for me as I had no intention of enduring DM just to see the support), while DM's fans got the short end of the stick: they had to endure a 2 hour traffic jam to the get to the venue (about 40 km outside the city) only to find out at the last minute that the show was canceled! And then, of course, there was the 2 hour traffic jam to get back home.

No such problems with the Ladytron gig. Fantastikoi Hxoi (meaning Fantastic Sounds), the support one-man show, is on time, coaxing intriguing electro beats from a laptop, and soon enough, Ladytron take to the stage. The show starts with the excellent "Black cat", one of the best tracks on "Velocifero", followed by their cover of "Runaway". Problems with the mike and the venue's notoriously bad sound system combine to sabotage what could have been the perfect opening salvo. The mike issue is sorted soon enough, but the crappy loudspeakers remain - a problem that we'll have to live with for the foreseeable future of this venue. The band do their best to make us forget about the sound problems and they partly succeed with old favorites like "Seventeen", "Discotraxx" or "High Rise" and new ones, like their latest single "Tomorrow". With such an impressive back-catalog there are always going to be tracks that you'd wish they played (where's "Playgirl" or "Sugar" or ... - insert your favorite here), but in the end of the hour long set we have to make do with just one more song for an encore - another old favorite - "Destroy Everything You Touch". All in all, an enjoyable evening with one of the best electropop bands of this decade. And, thankfully, without having to drive for 2 hours to get back home after the show!

"Black cat" & "Destroy everything you touch" - The start and finish of a noisy, yet enjoyable evening with Ladytron (live@Fuzz Club, Athens, May 14, 2009)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Firewater - Live @ Art House (May 9, 2009)

Tod A's band, Firewater, has been around for more than 10 years, however Saturday night's performance at the intimate Art House venue was their live debut in Athens.

My initiation to Tod A's music goes a long way back. In August '92 I had the opportunity to see him live with his first band, the excellent Cop Shoot Cop, at the Marquee in London playing a deafeningly loud mixture of industrial rock and punk. The emphasis back then was on metal percussion, samplers and his mighty bass. After the band dissolved in 1996, he formed Firewater and changed musical direction by adding Eastern European melodies in the punk rock mix. And to complicate things further, the most recent Firewater album, "The Golden Hour", was recorded during Tod A's adventurous 2 year trip in India, Pakistan, Israel and Turkey (more information here) and incorporates the oriental sounds of these places. This exotic music that he recorded on his laptop with the help of local musicians, found its way on the new record and, after a long journey, finally arrived on the stage of Art House in Athens, the last stop of the current tour.

The oriental musical styles, very familiar to the Greek ears, met with gypsy melodies, latin rhythms, ska and punk energy. For an hour and a half the Balkans came closer to India and Pakistan, by way of New York, through the power of music, with main protagonists various percussive instruments, a manic trombone, sturdy bass and electric guitars played with a different logic to that of western rock. All these heterogeneous elements were mixed to perfection and led the majority of the crowd to crazed dancing - the pogo-tsifteteli was born! As expected, the set list was based on "The Golden Hour", with songs such as "Hey Clown" (dedicated to ex-president Bush), "Electric City", "Three Legged Dog" and "This Is My Life", the absolute highlight of the night. The most notable track from their past was "Another Perfect Catastrophe". The outbreak of the seriously contagious fun was impossible to contain and it soon spread from the stage to the majority of the small but lively audience!

Below you can watch clips of the excellent "This Is My Life" and "Another Perfect Catastrophe" as performed on this night, and we are also taking this opportunity to remember one of the best Cop Shoot Cop tracks, "Any Day Now" from 1994 and the album "Release":

Firewater live@Art House, Athens (May 9)

Cop Shoot Cop - Any Day Now


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Listening Habits 04.2009

After presenting our album of the month last week (Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ blitz declaration), it’s time to unveil all the fine albums and tracks that dominated the playlist of our cd/mp3 player in April.

Metric, who had already claimed the top of the March playlist, remain in the Top 3 as we haven't stopped listening to their superb “Fantasies” - this time around, from the cd that just arrived in the mail.

The third outstanding release of this month comes from Bat For Lashes, a.k.a Natasha Khan, who presents her sophomore effort, "Two Suns". We discovered her two years ago with "Fur and Gold" and the excellent single "What's A Girl To Do" and now it's time for her return with a superior work, where she collaborates, among others, with the legendary Scott Walker (vocals on "The Big Sleep") and members of Yeasayer. "Daniel" is simply one of the singles of the year, but really all 11 tracks on the disc are excellent and work seamlessly as a whole, creating a unique, mystifying atmosphere. Other highlights include "Glass", "Sleep Alone", "Two Planets" and "Pearl's Dream".

The Los Angeles scene is well represented in our Top 10 as we have selected three, quite different albums from bands out of the City of Angels: "A Certain Feeling", the 2008 second LP from Bodies Of Water (which, among other things, reminded me of the big sound of Arcade Fire with its impressive vocal harmonies and all its trumpets and trombones), "Take It Personally", the 2008 fourth LP from The Starlite Desperation (an ace, criminally underrated, garage-punk band that started making fiery rock’n’roll at the end of the '90s with great singles such as "Hot For Preacher"), and the brand new "Swoon", the second album from the up and coming Silversun Pickups, who follow in the footsteps of early Smashing Pumpkins. The band is scheduled to play here in Athens on June 24 and, of course, we plan to be there.

One of the most remarkable debuts of the year so far comes from Gun Outfit, from Olympia, Washington. We first encountered the band in the fine "Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture 08" compilation with the track “Your Will”. Their debut mini-LP is entitled "Dim Light" and is filled to the brim with the buzzing sound of guitars exploding in lo-fi. It brings to mind the heroic days of the '80s underground scene and makes me wanna shout "just gimme indie-rock!", as Sebadoh once did. It's released on PPM, a label connected to No Age. I hope they get bigger than Nirvana, as the good folks at Rough Trade Shops like to say.

The folk albums of the month come from our old pals Bill Callahan (ex-Smog) and Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Billy, stalwarts of the americana sound for the last couple of decades. With "Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle" and "Beware" respectively, the two singers-songwriters will not disappoint their die-hard fans, but they are not going to earn any new ones either.

And finally, a lesson in music history - the 4-cd collection "Factory Records Communications 1978 - 92" consists of tracks throughout the history of the legendary Manchester label, where next to Joy Division, New Order or Happy Mondays you can find a multitude of lesser-known or plainly forgotten names who, nevertheless, have contributed to the creation of the alternative sound of an era that has not ceased to inspire countless new bands. Never before or after Factory Records has the economic failure of a company generated such a spectacular triumph!

Top 10 Albums

1. It's Blitz! - YEAH YEAH YEAHS

2. Fantasies - METRIC
3. Two Suns - BAT FOR LASHES
4. A Certain Feeling - BODIES OF WATER
5. Dim Light - GUN OUTFIT
8. Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle - BILL CALLAHAN
10. Factory Records: Communications 1978 - 92 - VARIOUS ARTISTS

Top 20 Tracks

1. Sacred trixter - SONIC YOUTH
3. Daniel - BAT FOR LASHES
4. Gimme sympathy - METRIC
5. Under the pines - BODIES OF WATER
6. I want you to know - DINOSAUR JR.
7. Misfits & mistakes - SUPERCHUNK
8. Panic switch - SILVERSUN PICKUPS
9. Legal tender - HANDSOME FURS
10. Work experience - GUN OUTFIT
12. Idiot heart - SUNSET RUBDOWN
13. My friend - BILL CALLAHAN
14. I don’t belong to anyone - BONNIE PRINCE BILLY
16. Pop lie - OKKERVIL RIVER
17. Lisztomania - PHOENIX
18. Stillness is the move - DIRTY PROJECTORS
19 . Dressed in Dresden - THE HUNDRED IN THE HANDS
20. Supply and demand - FISCHERSPOONER

And finally, here's another addition to our Killer Tracks hall of fame: Gun Outfit's "Troubles Like Mine" from "Dim Light". The video comes from a show at this year's SXSW festival.

Gun Outfit - Troubles Like Mine