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A Grey Garden for All Seasons: Agent Ribbons Tour Their Chateau Crone

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, August 23, 2010 01:47pm | Post a Comment
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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.
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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 twagent ribbons live perofmance legs natalie lauren hess girl band cute red hair gabriel wheeler photography o) 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!

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Boris: Heavy, New and Noteworthy

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, July 7, 2010 01:03am | Post a Comment
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It may seem like Boris has been keeping uncharacteristically quiet of late, but get ready kids! This summer will be anything but restful for the tempestuous trio, what with a US/Canada tour kicking off in San Diego later this month and a handful of new and noteworthy releases, not to mention the latest news that Boris has surprisingly teamed up with the Cult frontman Ian Astbury. Merely imagining how frightfully massive Astbury's god-like vocal contribution to Boris' patent wall of sonic, hard-rocking excess could be on BXI --- their collaborative EP to be released by Southern Lord on CD and 12" this September --- has got this fan all in a fluster of anticipation. The audience-realness perspective of the video below aside, if seeing this new Boris/Cult thing unfold onstage via a cover of the Doors "This is the End" doesn't spark your fire then you ought to get your tinderbox checked.



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 thirteeBoris variations + live CD DVD import inoxia records greatest hits michio kuriharan 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. 

A Sailor's Rest: Celebrating Canada Day and the music of Stan Rogers

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, July 1, 2010 11:07am | Post a Comment

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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.stan rogers sings fogarty's cove

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Sandy Babes: The Sandwitches play Duck Duck Goose!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, June 30, 2010 03:50pm | Post a Comment
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There are many things to love about The Sandwitches and their latest release, the Duck Duck Goose! EP (on Empty Cellar/Secret Seven Records), serves as further proof that these ladies are not only gilding a most devastatingly alluring and emotional totem pole of a discography, but they are also among the very sagest of storytellers, which is, when you think about it, just about as artistically primal as witch's tit in a brass bra. It takes courage to create an album this dark for kids, yet it's not clear if the wee ones are really who the Sandwitches are lulling here. If storytelling, besides being the earliest of mediums in that it's the way cultural and familial values are communicated, parent to child, grants us a means by which we may overcome and deal with overpowering fears --- fear of the dark, fear of the unknown --- then there is nothing cowardly or immature about the eerie compositions that permeate this limited run, one-sided vinyl 12". Clearly the Sandwitches are not about to soften their punches, no matter how bewitchingly thrown.
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Duck Duck Goose! begins with the cooing, protracted "Stardust" --- a lush and dreamy original number that at once lives up to the descriptive "heartbreaking acoustic lullabies" label affixed to the record sleeve. In fact, it is a lullaby so heartbreaking that it seems meant to comfort a terminally ill child fearlessly into eternal sleep: "nothing to fear going into darkness/ we'll be nearer to each other." What follows is the first of two aural vignettes (the reprise closing out the recording, accordingly) wherein the echos of ghostly rounds of duck duck goose are played against the sound of nursery rhymes tapped hastily on a distant spectral piano, thus upping the spook-factor enshrouding the sessions captured for this EP, achieving an overall don't-even-think-of-exploring-that-abandoned-school-house vibe. Then "Rock of Gibraltar," a haunting cover of a Tim Cohen song that appeared as a bonus track to the excellent Two Sides of Tim Cohen album, segues into a impressionistic rendition of the bravest little Disney tear-jerker of all time, the Oscar nominated "Baby Mine" (check out the video below) . If you haven't settled down snugly into the darkness by now, or at least stopped the record to call your mom for love's sake, the Sandwitches' own "Song of Songs," another sweet 'n' simple ballad (yet less heavy than the preceding pieces), lights the night with its own slow burning wax and wick. It's enough to remind one of what it feels like to be a child, a young person guided though his or her terror by comforting voices and lilting melody. And when the ghosts appear again the heart is less anxious, the mind less afraid.sandwitches cat album cover jason faulkner artwork how to make ambient sadcake deput lp vinyl

Aux Catacombes: Documenting Art in the Belly of Paris

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, June 17, 2010 08:20pm | Post a Comment
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If it can be said that the freshest of the fresh artistic creations bubble up from "underground," then it should come as no surprise that the vast network of tunnels that comprise the coiled entrails of Paris' infamous catacombs has long served as a place where creative Parisians bent on escaping the trappings of society, hemmed in by signs and signifiers girding the city's surface, retreat to the "freedom" of the damp and hard-cut, cramped lawlessness that thrives beneath the streets, expressing themselves with dim-lit abandon. Veteran graffiti artist Psyckoze has spent more than 25 years traversing, tagging, sculpting and mapping the catacombs beneath Paris, a perilous proclivity that makes the documentary Dead Space infinitely watchable.


The Parisian catacombs have always held a certain fascination, whether it be a fear of the dark-generated late night creepshow vibe (must be because of all those skulls 'n' things down in there) or a more sensationalist ghost-hunters of "reality" television programming feel, the mere mention of the mdead space documentary dvd paris catacombs psychoze art artist graffiti undergroundysterious, bone littered underworld beneath the French capitol always stirs the imagination. In following Psyckoze on several adventures throughout the underground maze, documentary film-makers Marielle Quesney and Jean Labourdette nearly destroy their camera (they claim it was held together by duct tape by the end of shooting) and find themselves lost on more than one occasion while Pyschoze, or Psy, encounters graffiti and scrawls of years (sometimes hundreds of years) gone by, often stopping to update his own tags with the fresh designs of his evolved artistic style, and discovers a myriad of threats and claims laid bydead space documentary paris catacombs feature psyckoze psy art artist graffiti sculpture relief freehand candles stone various catacomb clans, gangs (like the Rats, who were prominent in the eighties) and wanderers who have at one time or another called the catacombs home. There is even a faction of preservationist catacombers who seek to stop taggers like Psy, arguing that the tunnels should be cleaned and restored to their natural sandstone tones (which is not unreasonable, really, when you consider the quarry origins of the catacombs, which were once used to mine and transport building materials as far back as 1000 years).

Shot on a shoestring budget over the course of two years, Dead Space follows Psy as he conducts a surprisingly cohesive tour of the catacombs below Paris (clad in his habitual rubber boots and mining helmet catacomb gear), stopping here and there to highlight several of the more famous subterranean hang-outs like "the Beach" (a large, sandy chamber with a huge painting of a wave --- styled after Hokusai's famous woodblock print --- where parties often rage underground for days) and revealing Psy's personal secret hideaways, including his "castle" --- a sprawling freehand relief sculpture of breasts, faces, battlements and turrets comprising what has to be Psy's ultimate psychedelic masterpiece, laden with personal significance (example: Psy carved a turret in the castle for paris catacombs dead space documentary psyckoze psy bones candle graffiti art every year his good friend and fellow catacomber spent locked up in a Thai jail, nine altogether). However, it is clear that most folks who venture down into the catacombs have something other than artistic creation and personal reflection in mind.
It would seem that those crazy enough to descend to navigate the dank and muddy tunnels of the catacombs have serious partying in mind and, apparently, those who do go down there to indulge in dark and lawless soirees get so completely wrecked that they usually lose track of when and where they are. In one room Psy laughs gleefully when he discovers a block of severely dried hash, speculating, while he makes ready to smoke it, how completely high and disoriented the owner who left it behind must have been. After all, there are but a few maps of the catacombs and it would seem that the ones that exist aren't that reliable. Perhaps that accounts for Psy creating his own map, or Plan des Catacombes. Even still, Psy himself often gets turned around and has, in his longest stint underground, spent over 72 hours in the maze.
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It was really lucky for Psy to find a thick, if aged, stash of weed in his underground haunt, because there are so many more unsavory things to be found in the vast blackness of the Parisian catacombs. The makers of Dead Space discovered and captured on film Psy encountering all manner of human elements from lost, sleeping and partying catacombers (and subsequent piles of puke) to tunnels riddled with the tea-stained remains of Parisians of years gone by. The "bone room" sequences of Dead Space are so jaw-dropping that this viewer could barely keep her trap shut. The image of Psy as he crawls carefully, stopping every six feet or so to light a candle and plant it in a skull or fixture of bones, through a tunnel way so stacked with human remains that he can barely fit though the open spaces is burned into my brain forever. This may look like Goonies, kids, but this is the real shit.

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