Friday, October 23, 2009

What To Do?

So. It's been a while.

I know this week is the CMJ Music Marathon and all, but schoolwork has prevented me from going to any shows. And really, I'm not terribly excited about seeing any of the bands, aside from Broadcast on Tuesday (sold out) and School of Seven Bells and the xx tonight (ditto). I guess I got burnt out on shows somewhere along there.

These days, most of my writing can be found here. Those of you in New York may have heard about a certain lawsuit in the last couple days, and I'm proud of my reporting in the last week. But yeah, these days my beat is more skyscrapers and apartment buildings, rather than indie rock venues.

That's not to say I've given up beats entirely - I'm still pretty excited about electronic music, and watch this space for a profile on an active local DJ.

I guess this will serve as a repository of sorts of my stories, other people's stories and occasional musical ramblings. You can also follow me on Twitter if you want.

PS - There's been a ton of spam in these parts, so comments are now moderated and require a word verification. Just want to make sure you're human.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Telephasic Workshop (06.12.09)

1:00 AM Sten "The Gate" The Essence (Kompakt) CD
1:08 AM Matthias Meyer "Tout Va Bien" Tout Va Bien / The Anger (Liebe*Detail) CD
1:16 AM Rhythim is Rhythim "Strings of Life" Strings of Life (Transmat) CD
1:24 AM Seefeel "Spangle" Artificial Intelligence II (Warp) CD
1:30 AM James Venturi "People (Microdinamic Remix)" People (Suara) CD
1:36 AM Heartthrob "Futures Past" Dear Painter, Paint Me (M_nus) CD
1:44 AM Marc Houle "Bucla9" Sixty-Four (M_nus) CD
1:52 AM Robag Wruhme "Wortkabular" Kopfnikker (Musik Krause) CD
1:54 AM Spektre "Deal With It (Kanio Remix)" Deal With It (Suruba) CD
2:01 AM Solead "Lili" Lili EP (Three Hand Music) CD
2:07 AM Daniel Dreier "Tapas For Two" Manhar EP (Supdub) CD
2:13 AM Javi Mula "Come On" Come On (Time) CD
2:17 AM Jon Cutler ft. E-Man "It's Yours (David Penn Dub)" It's Yours (Bargrooves) CD
2:23 AM Dave Aju "Crazy Place" Open Wide (Circus Company) CD
2:31 AM Patrice Bäumel "Javelin" Get Physical Presents The Full Body Workout Vol. 4 (Get Physical) CD
2:36 AM Efdemin "Back To School" Efdemin (Dial) CD
2:42 AM Dyed Soundorom "Tapioka" Tapioka (Tsuba Recordings) CD
2:46 AM Claro Intelecto "New Dawn" Warehouse Sessions (Modern Love) CD
2:52 AM Âme "Rej" Rej EP (Innervisions) CD

: Telephasic Workshop (06.12.09)
Download: Telephasic Workshop (06.12.09)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Telephasic Workshop (06.05.09)

Every Thursday night (technically Friday morning), I do a radio show at called Telephasic Workshop (like the Boards of Canada song). I play techno, minimal, deep house and IDM. You can listen live from 1 to 3 am, and the show gets archived immediately afterward, so you can stream and download it right away. Here's this week's show, enjoy.


1:00 AM Namito "Iran" Iran (Great Stuff Recordings)
1:08 AM Kate Simko "Soltera" She Said EP (Spectral Sound)
1:13 AM Alter Ego "Lycra" Minimal Techno (ZYX Music)
1:18 AM Nick Curly "Say Something" Series 1.1 (8bit)
1:24 AM GummiHz "Under The Sun" Under The Sun (Mobilee)
1:32 AM Martin Buttrich "Cruise Control" Stoned Autopilot (Planet E)
1:40 AM Stimming "Una Pena" Una Pena (Diynamic Music)
1:48 AM Polder "Bondage (D'Julz Remix)" Poldermodel-Rmx (Intacto Records)
1:54 AM René Breitbarth "Cooling The Plasma" With A Little Luck... (Treibstoff)
2:00 AM Lawrence "Teaser" Total 3 (Kompakt)
2:05 AM Sascha Funke "Drei Auf Drei" Total 3 (Kompakt)
2:12 AM Lauhaus "Casamance" Casamance (Arearemote)
2:20 AM Larry Heard Presents: Mr. White "The Sun Can't Compare" You Rock Me / The Sun Can't Compare (Alleviated Records)
2:24 AM Metalogic "Escape From Torresdale" Boxed and Warped (Hidden Agenda)
2:29 AM Metro Area "Miura" Metro Area (Environ)
2:34 AM Daniel Bell "The Butterfly Effect" Tresor Compilation Vol. 7 (Tresor)
2:38 AM Substance "Relish (Shed Remix)" Relish (Scion Versions)
2:44 AM Mihai Popoviciu "Motor Like (Maresh Remix)" Motor Like (Subconce Records)
2:50 AM Ricardo Villalobos "The Comtempt (Trip Tollsmix)" Please Please Please (Kompakt)
2:55 AM Djuma Soundsystem "Les Djinns (Trentemøller Remix)" The Trentemøller Chronicles (Audiomatique)

Stream: Telephasic Workshop (06.05.09)
Download: Telephasic Workshop (06.05.09)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Your Band Sucks"

Hopes were high for Summer Hymns on the eve of the release of the band’s fourth album, Backward Masks, in 2006. The quartet had already been exulted by Pitchfork Media, the premier indie rock tastemaker, for its previous albums, receiving 8.4 and 8.8 ratings out of 10.0.

“I was thinking, ‘Best New Music,’” says Lucas Jensen, the band’s publicist at the time, referring to the web site’s most prestigious seal of approval. “It could take them to a new level.”

But the fickle Pitchfork slammed the album with a 4.4. Despite acknowledging that the album echoed their acclaimed back catalogue, reviewer Jason Crock concluded, “This might be the most alarmingly tedious indie release of the year.”

The fallout was immediate. Jensen spoke to writers, all of whom mentioned the negative review and assumed the record was bad. When Gresham tried to tour, booking agents scorned him and audiences were tiny.

“I don’t necessarily blame Pitchfork for it. It’s more about people who like the record, and then read something on Pitchfork, and then decide they don’t like it. I think that’s more their fault than Pitchfork’s fault,” says Gresham.

But it’s everyone’s fault, really.

The music revolution that has left major labels liquidating and record stores crumbling has also sparked an overload of opinion. Music geeks have never been so able to smear their opinions across the Internet, and the exhilaration of hype has never been so fickle. But the breathlessness that comes with each discovered gem is tempered by the thud of abandonment, sometimes just months or weeks later, as the next buzz-worthy group emerges. The speed of decay is often outpaced by the viciousness of the response. Bands that are old news are ignored, or become punch lines. Careers are destroyed or created with a click. Backlash has become more than inevitable – it has become anticipated.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Interlude: Actor Out of Work

Scanning the riotous "Going Out of Business" signs, I found myself remembering.

It was just a few years ago when another behemoth closed, ten blocks downtown. I'm unconvinced that these were both illegal download-related fatalities. Real estate and economics played a role, surely, but so did mismanagement and greed. The Times Square Virgin Megastore, and its more familiar, Union Square cousin, are (were) highly profitable and always have (had) costumers. The story here isn't slumping sales, but rent. Vornado Realty Trust purchased the entire Virgin Megastore chain, and as owners of the two actual properties in New York, the company wants to get a tenant who will pay more.

I know times are tough and the bottom line is important, but what about cultural value? Virgin was, for all its corporate branding and big box disadvantages, a vivacious, socially vital institution. And nothing exemplified that more than in-stores.

Annie Clark, the petite maelstrom at the center of St Vincent, was a brave choice for the "last days," as she cheekily deemed them. Emotionally jittery, restless and evocative, Clark is a far cry from any norm, indie rock or otherwise. Laughing with a mouth of blood, as one of her songs go, needn't be a depressive state. While the subjects are gloomy, the music is cathartic and cataclysmic, with guitar-driven blasts and operatic vocals, at once regal and earthy. Alas, no old songs, but the new cuts off of Actor were much in the same vein, complete with horns, strings and fuzzy, violent guitar.

St Vincent plays Webster Hall on Wednesday, May 20th.

MP3: St Vincent - Actor Out of Work
MySpace: St Vincent
Official Site: St Vincent

More photos at brooklynvegan.

Monday, May 18, 2009

While We Were Out

Three months. A quarter of a year. A lot of albums, and a lot of news.

I haven't been ignoring things - it's very difficult not to hear change when the ground is shaking around you - but it's fair to say that I haven't been broadcasting myself as much. My passion became a job, of sorts. Interviews started sounding the same. Shows were repetitive - or at least covering them became so.

But it's still exciting.

When I first started ÜberDrivel - almost three years ago now - I just wanted something to pass the time. I didn't really know where it would go, and it has completely surpassed my expectations. And I realize that's too much to just throw away. Too important.

So, ladies and gentlemen, to make it official: I'm back!

Here are some things that happened during the hiatus (mostly depressing):

-Blender runs out of juice. I interviewed for an internship there last year, and it seemed like a really cool place. While not always my style or subject matter, there was some good journalism in there, and some really good writers. It's sad to see yet another print publication go under, but at least there's still the website.

-Google pursues free, "legal" downloads in China. The fact that the major labels have bought into this means two things to me: business is so desperate that they're willing to pursue anything that might give them a market share and China is a serious deal, and potentially a huge chunk of the pie. I was born in Beijing, and it always discouraged me how little interesting music seemed to emerge from China, so hopefully that will change. (More on this later...)

-R.I.P. Etherea, R.I.P. Kim's, R.I.P. Virgin (soon), R.I.P. Sound Fix Lounge (maybe not?). Other Music, please hang on!

-Sirius and XM merge. Which would seem like a massive antitrust issue, but people don't really want to pay for anything these days, least of all radio. On a related note, I have a newish radio program on WNYU, called Telephasic Workshop. Deep house, minimal techno and IDM, enjoy.

-ÜberDrivel is on Twitter - free NYC concert feed all summer!

And, since it has really been a while, here is a musical treat. I dare you to not get it stuck in your head.

MP3: Gabriel Ananda - Babypunk

Friday, February 06, 2009

Interview: The Gyronauts

This feature appears in today's Washington Square News.

It’s showtime in a tiny venue on the Lower East Side, and Megan Heckard is worried about fire — specifically, twirling it around her waist, neck and limbs.

“I had to make a judgment call — you’re worried about your personal safety, but you’re even more concerned for the safety of your audience,” Heckard said.

With its low ceiling and a surface that hasn’t been fireproofed, the space wasn’t ideal, but she went for it and in the end, everyone left unscathed. Risk is perhaps what makes Heckard’s passion so appealing; what sounds like a potentially life-threatening proposition is actually a dynamic, lucrative act.

Heckard, a Steinhardt junior studying music business, is part of the Gyronauts, a hula hoop ensemble. The group is comprised of Heckard, Gallatin senior Natasha Kouri, Tisch senior Sean Stogner, Gallatin junior Daniel Darwin, CAS senior Anna Chazelle and Tisch senior Sarah Freeman, all of whom adopt various stage personas that invoke the glamorous and the futuristic.

In January, the group played a show at Highline Ballroom with NYU band Sea Foam and banjo player and yodeler Curtis Eller. Over a hundred people filled the available tables, leaving stragglers standing in the back. Although Eller has been performing for almost a decade and has toured in Europe, it was the Gyronauts that commanded the greatest turnout.

“We looked out and there was a sea of people,” said Kouri, who performs under the name Glam O’Saurus.

Heckard and Kouri manage the business side of the group. Heckard, who performs as Justina Flash, was able to put her marketing skills to good use in promoting the Highline show.

“We reached a whole new audience,” she said.

Versatility is also a major asset; the group has appeared in burlesque shows, corporate events, parties, religious functions, hospitals and abandoned warehouses.

“What’s great about our performance group is that we get to do a little bit of everything,” Heckard said.

While other local hula hoop groups exist, including Groovehoops and Ladycircus, none have quite embraced the relentless self-promotion and hectic show schedule that has made the Gyronauts so prolific.

“We’re probably the most active hoop troop in the greater New York area,” Heckard said.

Kouri also sells handmade hula hoops. Although she initially sold them in Union Square, the police took exceptional notice of the uncommon item and forced her to relocate.

“You’re allowed to legally sell art in Union Square under the first amendment,” Kouri said. But it was questionable what sort of category her hoops fell under. “It was functional. Art cannot be functional,” she said.

She argues that the opposite is true — that art is inherently functional. Hooping, for the Gyronauts, has become an artistic medium. It’s empowered these individuals, transforming them into spectacular, flame-evading, risk-taking characters.

The members of the group, however, are unsure what form the Gyronauts will take once their seniors graduate. Kouri is thinking about moving to California, which would make the group bi-coastal. Even now there is some tension over who could keep the now-acclaimed moniker and what group composition would allow them to stay true to their roots.

“I keep it in the back of my mind whenever I do an individual event. This could be short-lived,” Heckard said.

But for now, the Gyronauts keep spinning.


MySpace: The Gyronauts

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I, For One, Do Not Welcome Our New Ticketing Overlords

My first four shows in NYC, ever.

A week back, I was looking forward to a couple shows - the ArtBattles event at Le Poisson Rouge, and Modeselektor at Bowery Ballroom. I usually try to be prepared for an event - either having a ticket in hand or a guest list spot secured. But my plans were somewhat spur of the moment, and I took a calculated risk. In this case, the calculation consisted of the $6 surcharge for an online ticket, which I felt morally repugnant. Thus, I showed up for ArtBattles and it was sold out at the door. The next day, tickets for Modeselektor weren't available online, and I figured that one sold out too. In short, online convenience charges are a pain, but when a show is selling out anyways, you can afford to be a little greedy.

Today, the Wall Street Journal (registration possibly required) reports that the major culprits of the surcharge epidemic, Live Nation and Ticketmaster, are considering a merger. Cue the AIM conversation between myself and Jeff of the culture of me.

[13:03] MADLIBS04: it really going to change things?
[13:03] MADLIBS04: /shrug
[13:05] thatdudejeffwho: nope
[13:05] MADLIBS04: interesting
[13:05] thatdudejeffwho: now just one website to go get raped on

Perhaps a little facetious, but let's face it - these companies aren't in the business to promote good music. They're here to increase their profit, and all else comes second. It's one of the last fringes of the music industry that actually makes money, and it pains me to see it being perverted.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Disappearing Venue: Sound Fix Silenced

From IndustryDrivel, my new blog on music marketing.

It’s a frosty night in Williamsburg a few weeks ago, and I am getting squished. If there is any place on the planet where people would flock to see vaguely twee indie pop from Cardiff, Wales in subzero climate, it would be Brooklyn’s nexus of hipsterdom. But I type such a sentiment lovingly – I have similar priorities. The band tonight particularly loveable: Los Campesinos!, who have just released a new album, just a half year since their debut. It’s my first show in about a month, and while the wait makes my ankles ache, the payoff is just as visceral and satisfying as ever.

Live in-store performances have always been a happy medium between the full blown shows and listening to a band on your iPod. They're also fantastic marketing tools - free admission virtually guarantees a packed room in the densely attentive NYC, as well as other big markets. A live performance by a band might just induce that reluctant fan to fork over the $14.99 for the actual album, and no bootleg can truly replace live music.

Unfortunately, it will to be one of the last events in Sound Fix, adding to the venue body count. While the record store mainstay will be hanging on, the performance area portion, which features a bar and small stage, is closing in February, according to brooklynvegan. Follow the paper trail, apparently the performance area has been in trouble since last April, as reported by Brownstoner. The culprit appears to be noise complaints from neighbors.

Tonight, I’m probably off to Studio B, another troubled Brooklyn venue that’s had its fair share of noise complaints, for the Norwegian DJ Lindstrøm. The club has recently reversed its strict 21+ policy, and shows through April are 19+. The mantra has always been that alcohol sales fuel a venue, so this is a bit of an interesting (though personally gratifying) change – perhaps they think underage people will be quieter?

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