In a hallmark episode of Mad Men Don Draper said, "Nostalgia -- it's delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, 'nostalgia' literally means 'the pain from an old wound.' It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved."
Of course, for all of you out there who, unlike me, don't voraciously follow the AMC series, Don was pitching an ad for a slide projector (nostalgia, indeed) to a potential client. However, I like to think that this quote speaks of yet another rotary mechanism with equal validity, both practically and emotionally speaking, though there may be some folks who'd argue the dingus as obsolete. Well, my record player is still alive and spinning, taking me to new places as often as it swings me back, right 'round, home-bound again like a flawlessly sound-tracked time machine. I can offer no better example of this cyclical sentimental journey than the summer season I spent aboard my little hi-fi this year enjoying an endless rotation summer jams beginning with the fresh sun-soaked (and smog-stained) sounds of Ariel Pink's Haunted Grafitti, what with the extremely timely June 7th release of Before Today on 4AD, and, now that summer is winding down, rounding out the season with a mess of Carolina beach music 7" singles culled from the belly of the 45's bargain bin at Amoeba Music in San Francisco.
There may be many preshy "dream-girl" bands performing nightly under the radar out there, but perhaps none of them so bewitchingly swoon-worthy yet so storybook-ready to bear both fang and claw as Agent Ribbons. Tonight the trio, who have rightly been equated to sounding like Girls in the Garage doing the Three Penny Opera, will be appearing at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco (along with Girl In A Coma and Gringo Star) as they tour in support of their sophomore effort entitled Chateau Crone, slated for release on Antenna Farm Records this October 12th.
Since starting out as a duo in 2007, singer and guitarist Natalie Ribbons and drummer Lauren Hess have toured the U.S. tirelessly, playing with such noteworthy acts as Camera Obscura at the Fillmore Auditorium last year as well as sharing stages with bands like Cake and the Detroit Cobras. Their debut full-length release On Time Travel and Romance first hit the shelves at Amoeba Music in the form of custom-crafted CDs housed in handmade sleeves that showcased a tangible penchant for bygone aesthetics held together by found feathers, bells, lace, ribbons, glitter, glue and more than a little bit of stitch-witchery. Said debut has since been re-released on Broken Carousel and the ladies have collaborated with visual artist Dame Darcy on their limited edition candy-apple green vinyl release for Seven Inch Project as well as delivering a second 7", Your Love Is the Smallest Doll, released on Acuarela Discos in Europe and Japan, which marked the first appearance of Naomi Cherie on violin and cello. Originally from Sacramento, Agent Ribbons uprooted to Austin, Texas, which may or may not have something to do with their being banned in the U.K. in 2008.
At first listen Chateau Crone comes across as an album spurred by a strange arrangement of influences and genres, both musical and visual, yet every minute of it sounds threaded like baroque pop gems beaded concertedly in a triumph of heirloom costume jewelry. From the opening track "I'm Alright," which plays like a sunny Breeders/Elastica-esque summer beach jam complete with three-part harmonies and hazy, post-feminist allure; to songs like "Dada Girlfriend," what conjures up heady visions of languid, balletic graces akin to women as "green fairies" in Art Nouveau absinthe advertisements; to the plaster-cracking rocker-track "Wood, Lead, Rubber," that comes very close to capturing the shock of the missus Ribbons' live performance sound, the record seems to suggest gypsies canvasing the limitless expanse of a tannin-stained teapot (see track four, "I'll Let You Be My Baby"), or getting down in the Winchester mansion via a rabbit hole guest starring the Shaggs (see track seven, "Your Hands, My Hands"), or a possibility-ridden attic of functionally aged wardrobes (see track six, "Wallpaper of Skin"), or a displaced estate where one might escape to meet the Beales of Grey Gardens (see "Grey Gardens," track two) for sweet tea with Golden Girls on their banana-leaf steeped lanai (see track eight, "Oh, La La!"). It is, frankly, all that and then some, yet, nothing quite beats seeing these girls pound out their otherworldly girl-next-door compositions in the bare-footed flesh, as they truly give 200% of themselves on stage, balancing honest minimalism with theatrical rawness given what they have previously referred to as their "limited means" of musical outfitting (of course, that was said before Miss Naomi joined the band). I would say that with the kind of gumption these girls pack into a stage show, instruments other than their very presence are almost unnecessary!
Until they grace the stage in my hometown I'll have to make do with the latest imported Boris offering, Variations + Live -- a deluxe greatest hits CD of sorts comprised of several re-recordings and reinterpretations of thirteen well-loved Boris rockers featuring part/full-time axe-master Michio Kurihara on guitar and a bonus DVD of the band playing live in Japan. If Heavy Rocks and/or Akuma no Uta is/are among your most treasured Boris albums this'll have to be a must-have, as the newly recorded versions of "Korosu," "1970" and "Naki Kyoku" shalt surely melt ye face. Variations + Live is available now at Amoeba Music in San Francisco; act fast.
Like 100% Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup draped over a high stack of hot cakes, Canada is a hot mess. Blame Canada. Blame them for killing the Las Vegas showgirl with Cirque du Soleil and Celine Dion. Blame their precious Prince Edward Island for every time a little girl cries for a dress with puffed sleeves after viewing the Anne of Green Gables saga for the thousandth time. Blame them for the trainwreck of visual torture/pleasure known as the TV Carnage series, blame them for making you afraid to utter the words "I don't know" lest you be drenched in green slime. Blame Canada for Alanis, Avril and Mike Myers: schwing! Happy Canada Day, everybody! While all us dumb 'Mericans below you scramble to prime our potato salads and 100% all beef patties for the Fourth of July celebration this weekend, I want to write a little something in honor of one of my favorite Canadians, a man I'd like to bless Canada for on this, her supposed "birthday", a man who inspired many in his time and continues to inspire those with burgeoning nautical fetishes and a preference for salty folk songs that spin irresistible yarns -- Mr. Stan Rogers.