Monday, April 04, 2011


ÜberDrivel has taken a backseat as I hibernate until summer. However, I am very proud to announce the launch of a new site for Real Estate Weekly (aka my day job), which you can check out at Might have to switch over to Wordpress myself one of these days.

See you when it gets a little warmer.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beach Fossils and Dinosaur Feathers Played Brooklyn Bowl, Feb. 11

Talk about a happy alternative. I had originally planned to see Javelin down at Glasslands on Friday, but upon arriving, I learned it was sold out. So I trudged over to Brooklyn Bowl, figuring the massive place would still have room. Thankfully, it did.

I fought my way through the crowd in time to see part of Dinosaur Feathers. The Brooklyn group had just returned from a jaunt to California and were happy to be back.  It was an exuberant set, full of multi-part harmonies - although they often were yelps - and a gaudy, piercing synth. That particular instrument was a bit much, overpowering the mix and obliterating more subtle melodies.

Check out their free EP here and their Daytrotter Session here.

I saw headliners Beach Fossils at the Seaport in what feels like an eternity ago - the weather was much warmer, for sure. That set was a jangly, open-air affair, but I found the record a bit too cold, the reverb swallowing everything. "Daydream," with its incessant guitars, was a highlight, but I kept the rest of the songs at a distance.

Thankfully, their live performance is a much more vibrant affair. Singer Dustin Payseur's precise guitarwork and restrained vocals are the band's melodic centerpiece, but the drummer and (shoeless, neckless) bassist were what propelled them to a head-nodding groove. While there's a certain homogeneity in the band's palette, it created a cohesive mood.

And for the last few songs, the band rocked out, dancing around the stage and flailing at their instruments. Payseur slowly unwound his mic and leapt into the crowd, shattering the detachment.

Beach Fossils has a new EP coming out. Grab two older tracks at RCRD LBL.

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Weekend In Dance: Ewan Pearson, A-Trak, The Twelves, Mister Saturday Night, Blkmarket, and Azari & III

Ewan Pearson
New York may be a rock town, but there is a stupendous amount of electronic music over the next two nights. One solid bet is ReSolute's party featuring Ewan Pearson, who brought his formidable production skills to the last couple Tracey Thorn records. He's also remixed the likes of Ladytron, the Rapture and has a particularly great rework of Cortney Tidwell.. The event will be going down at House of Yes, at 342 Maujer Street near the Grand Street stop on the L train. Tickets here.

A-Trak, known as one half of Duck Sauce and for being Kanye's touring DJ, will be playing at Lavo, a restuarant and bar. Resident Drek Martinez also plays. Not suer how admission works, but more info here.

FIXED's JDH and Dave P are going strong this week, bringing in the Twelves for a party at Good Units at the Hudson Hotel. Tickets here.

Saturday's stuff after the jump.

Josh Wink, Ezekiel Honig and Delsin Records Played The Bunker, Feb. 4

Good times as always at the Bunker last week. Ovum boss Josh Wink was on hand, taking over at the front room, but we were mostly in the back, checking a Delsin Records showcase. As usual, things were pitch black and moody, but I've been there so often that it's starting to feel like home.

Rest of the photos after jump.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Guitar Hero Is Dead. Long Live Guitar Hero!


Some sad news: Activision Blizzard has canceled the long-running Guitar Hero series, citing declines in the "music genre" (not to mention the music industry). The Journal has the company's stock numbers, which don't look great, but the publisher was still the top video game publisher in North America and Europe. Two huge titles from the Blizzard division boosted the company last year, but this cancellation speaks of the eroding interest in what has been a five-year marathon. In the end, Guitar Hero seemed to be supplanted by the more innovative Rock Band series, which sought to mimic real musicianship in its third installment.

I had many fond memories playing Guitar Hero 2 during college. I started out not knowing that you could hold down the "frets" while strumming, causing me to promptly fail "Message in a Bottle." But I eventually wised up and it was quite a thrill to beat "Free Bird" on Hard. Sadly, I would become more of a Rock Band fan when it was released, although I never did manage to beat "Green Grass and High Tides" on Expert.

Perhaps this decision will prompt some fans to pick up real guitars (from experience, I can say they aren't easy - I've since switched to trying to relearn piano), but we'll always have the memories.

Halcyon Hosts Bea Tricks and Tamur Agha

Head over to DUMBO record shop Halcyon at 57 Pearl Street tonight at 7 pm to catch free DJ sets from Bea Tricks and Tamur Agha. You can also catch a stream of the show at It's all part of a twice-monthly series called the Bandwagon. More info on today's show at Resident Advisor.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Profile: Drew Norton Goes Green Screen

Zandy Mangold

Last fall, Drew Norton set off to change the way music videos are made.

The filmmaker, whose credits include work for Phantogram and Micachu & the Shapes, was inspired by the emergence of British singer Darwin Deez, who used a green screen to catapult his single “Radar Detector” up the charts.

Norton reasoned that a green screen and some technical expertise provided a flexible template for up-and-coming bands, giving them a platform with the potential to go viral.

He saw the upcoming CMJ Music Marathon as an ideal opportunity to test out the theory, and rented out the Seaside Lounge recording studio in Park Slope, setting up Kino Flo lights and draping green on the walls. He dubbed the project Green Screening.

Norton used the website Kickstarter to raise just over $6,000 to fund the project, dangling goodies like mix CDs and other exclusives to donors. Thanks to the effort, he was able to shoot each band for no charge, while still managing to feed himself.

The end result was three video cameras and a battalion of helpers, including David Berman, Jake Kader, Michael Tai, Roy Nowlin, Zandy Mangold, James Wall, Matt Bockelman and Georgia Howe. The team completed interviews and photos shoots with each band.

By the end of production, each band will have an electronic press kit, a goodie bag of audio, visual and written content that publicists and labels pitch to music bloggers and critics. Although Norton had initially pitched the package to labels for a fee, they balked at paying for anything, leading him to pursue a more egalitarian method of financing through Kickstarter.

“People don’t understand how important they are,” says Norton, referring specifically to videos. “They don’t find you on MySpace, they find you on YouTube.”

Despite the early setback, the bands were surprisingly punctual and reliable, with only three of the scheduled 31 not making it. Fueled by booze and the frenetic energy of the week, the result was over a terabyte of recorded material, and limitless possibilities, thanks to the green screen.

“It exceeded expectations in so many ways,” says Norton. “It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever been a part of.”

Requests for video themes ranged from the ridiculous - a donkey sticking its head into a bowl of chocolate and shooting lasers out of its eyes - to the even more ridiculous. One band wanted to get shot out of a volcano, fly through the sky and eventually land on a “ginormous” private yacht.

Since that autumn week, Norton has been deliberately moving through footage, having released videos from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and Soft Black. He expects to spend most of the next year editing footage, and the Brooklyn band Friends is slated to have the next video.

Zandy Mangold

Norton grew up in Reston, Virginia, a planned community with a man-made lake near Washington D.C. Although it was envisioned to be a suburban paradise by urban developer Robert E. Simon, the town had issues with congestion and even endured an Ebola virus scare in 1989.

“He’s called it the biggest failure of his career,” says Norton, although Reston has since attracting companies such as AOL and Sprint Nextel to move into nearby office space.

Still, Norton knew that he didn’t want to follow the path of many of his fellow students, who went to nearby schools like the University of Virginia, James Madison University or Virginia Tech.

With encouragement from his father, who told him to expand his perspectives, Norton went to New York, still remembering the moment when he arrived, traveling up the West Village, along the Hudson River.

“It took my breath away, immediately,” he says.

Norton attended New York University, studying Spanish American Literature and Interwar European Politics. His interest in film came later, post-graduation, when he began working as a production assistant.

He worked at Michael Schrom and Company, doing commercial and television work, but his immediate passion was always music videos.

Georgia Howe

From the onset, Norton made it clear that his project would be a labor of love, rather than work. Although he had explored some collaborations, Green Screening is currently free of third parties, aside from the uniforms of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

“I think I would take a sponsor, but they would have to be unobtrusive and really care about young new music,” he says.

But for now, he’s managed to keep moving forward, although his focus on Green Screening means that he doesn’t have the time to take on paid projects. And while he’s hopeful that some angel investor will suddenly appear, for now, he’s committed to soldiering ahead on his own.

“I like the fact that everything will be given away for free,” he says. “I don’t want to get rich off other people’s material.”


Videos and mp3s courtesy of Green Screening and Drew Norton.

MP3: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - "Simple Girl (Live at Green Screening)"

MP3: Soft Black - "Lions (Live at Green Screening)"

UberDrivel Podcast 02

UberDrivel Podcast 02 by UberDrivel

This week, I talk about the Super Bowl, more on Egypt, Walmart, HuffPo and the Daily, along with your weekly concert calendar and music from Robag Wruhme, LCD Soundsystem, Destroyer, Azari & III, and Young Galaxy!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Citigroup Seizes EMI, Looks For Buyer

Citigroup's 399 Park Avenue and EMI's 150 Fifth Avenue, via PropertyShark

As the month turned over, Citigroup wasted no time in taking control of EMI. The move came as a surprise to former owner Terra Firma, which was expecting to default on its debt before ceding control to the bank. During the takeover, Citi wrote off $3.5 billion of EMI's debt, leaving it with $1.9 billion, but the improved balance sheet is unlikely to change the label's next step: being sold to the highest bidder. NPR compares the label to a house burdened by a subprime mortgage.

As far as potential buyers, Warner has been seen as the frontrunner, even as it considers selling its publishing division, which could, in turn, finance a bid for EMI's back catalog, the most lucrative part of the label. Another contender is BMG Rights Management, a partnership of Bertelsmann and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR), which has considered buying before.

Either way, the future of the EMI looks precarious.

Monday, January 31, 2011

UberDrivel Podcast 01

UberDrivel Podcast 01 by UberDrivel

I'm excited to announce a new project! Every Sunday, I'll be releasing an hour-long podcast, covering news of the week, upcoming concerts, and, of course, playing some songs. Eventually I'd like to incorporate interviews and more reporting. Stream it above, and click the arrow on the right to download.

I'm definitely eager to improve it, so let me know what you think! More information and links to the various stories mentions below.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kode9, Virgo and Mike Simonetti Bring the Beats

It's a big night in dance music! First off, Hyperdub boss Kode9 headlines at the Cove in Williamsburg. He was spectacular at the Winter Garden way back in 2008, and this night should be the same. The venue's at 106 North 6th Street (between Wythe and Berry), and entry is free before 11 pm, $5 between 11 and midnight, and $7 after midnight. The price is right!

A couple doors down the street, the Bunker guys will be doing their thing. Tonight's guests include Virgo, who play Chicago house, a genre that the Wall Street Journal (!) describe as "the most sinuous and irresistible" form of dance music. Also on the bill: Detroit's Patrick Russel, who has released stuff on French label Circus Company, sharing a label with the likes of Dave Aju, Seth Troxler and Nôze. Tickets are $20 at the door, but well worth it.

Fresh off a fantastic set at the Italians Do It Better showcase at Webster Hall, Mike Simonetti will be taking over the decks at the Standard Hotel's rooftop bar Le Bain, which has previously hosted Ladytron. The venue is at 848 Washington Street in the West Village, and there is no cover.

Other shows of note: Art Department, which had Resident Advisor's top track of 2010, will be playing at a secret location tonight. There should be tickets at the door, but no idea where it is. And tomorrow night, Omar-S will return to Mister Saturday Night.

Have fun and stay safe, people!

Tonight, Iron & Wine Plays Free at the Apple Store

Iron & Wine, headed by Sam Beam, will drop by the Apple Store in Soho for a free set tonight, at 7 pm. It should be a lot more intimate than the band's sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday, but will likely be packed. The store has been handing out wristbands for guaranteed entry since yesterday - not sure if those are still available - but my suggestion is, arrive an hour early if you want a good shot of getting in.

The band's new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, came out this week, building on the full-band sound of 2007's Shepherd's Dog. It's been pretty well-received.

Check out a recent four-song live recording via NPR.

MP3: Iron & Wine - Tiny Desk Concert at NPR

Update: Other Music also has some live footage.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Katy B Is On A Mission

Add another eagerly awaited release to the 2011 list: Britain's Katy B will drop her first full-length, On A Mission, on March 28. It'll be 12 tracks, including previous singles "Katy On A Mission" and "Lights On," and judging from past work, she'll be incorporating elements of house, hip hop and (yes) dubstep.

Although she's been scorching the U.K. charts, Katy hasn't made an impact Stateside just yet, but judging from her fellow Brits Kate Nash and Lily Allen, she's poised to do just that. Now, we just need some local tour dates!

Preorder the album in three different ways at Video for the title track below.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Portishead and Jeff Mangum Play ATP in Asbury Park This September

Wild news tonight: All Tomorrow's Parties annual fall festival is moving from Kutshers in upstate New York to Asbury Park, N.J., and this year's show, dubbed "I'll Be Your Mirror," will feature Portishead and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel. That's Portishead's first show in the East Coast since 1998, which was, coincidentally the same year that In The Aeroplane Over The Sea was released. Portishead is also curating some ATP shows over the summer, and expected to be in the States around this time.

The change in venue was due to the deteriorating condition of Kutshers, and also the opportunity to sell more tickets in Asbury Park, the Times reports. Speaking of tickets, a three-day pass is $249, a ticket for Friday is $60, and tickets for Saturday and Sunday are $99. Only a three-day pass will let you catch Magnum on Friday, but you can also seem him on Oct. 3 for $35, which seems fair. Cults, the Album Leaf, Chavez and Shellac are also booked for the event, and another couple dozen will be announced soon.

Tickets go on sale on Friday at 9 am.

Portishead could potentially be playing some one-off shows in the city as well, but we'll have to see. Either way, pretty sweet.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Toro Y Moi Played Mercury Lounge, Dec. 19

Last Wednesday, I managed to catch Toro Y Moi at Mercury Lounge, which was even cozier than usually. The venue was packed stage-to-door by the time Toro's early set came around, bobbing to the woozy beats. Singer Chaz Budnick exemplified the laidback nature of his South Carolina roots, cooing into the mic and murmuring words of thanks in between songs. And although nominally a one-man band, Toro Y Moi live is definitely enhanced by Budnick's bandmates (including, it should be said, my friend Andy on drums), pushing the sound into that of a full-formed quartet, rather than the shy bedroom producer. It was a nice, if temporary, antidote for the miserable, frosty weather.

They'll be back in early April at Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg.

Here's live footage of "Still Song," off the new album, via Hippies Are Dead, and a download of the first song they played.

MP3: Toro Y Moi - "Blessa"

Rest of the photos after the jump.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Major Shakeups at Warner, Universal and Sony

Last week, the Times reported that Warner Music Group was, as expected, pursuing a bid for EMI, reaching out to the troubled label's debt holder Citigroup. But what was surprising was that Warner had also hired Goldman Sachs to seek potential buyers for itself, a strange "double or nothing" strategy. It appears that Warner's investors, who bought the company from the huge Time Warner conglomerate in 2004, are becoming impatient. They either want the label to expand, likely targeting EMI's lucrative publishing arm, or they want to dump the investment.

On Friday, the Times reported that the other two majors, Sony and Universal, are in a dance of their own. Universal hired Larry Jackson, who will join the Interscope Geffen imprints, after Jackson left Sony last October. At the same time, Universal cut 60 lower-level employees, citing the economy.

In other Sony news, Bloomberg reports that the label will begin rolling out the U.S. version of its Music Unlimited service, seen as an iTunes alternative that will allow the majors to gain a greater share of the profits. The move is compared to the successful video distributor Vevo, which runs off advertising, but Music Unlimited will have a subscription model, rather than advertising. “Free doesn’t make any money,” Sony executive Thomas Hesse tells Bloomberg.

He's wrong. The Vevo model works because it relies on attracting eyeballs, rather than wallets, giving viewers the minor inconvenience of sitting through ads for a relatively painless viewing experience. (Vevo is also pretty integrated with YouTube, a huge traffic booster.) But a product like Music Unlimited has to compete with rampant piracy, and charging a subscription is a big hindrance. If the majors instead explored an ad-driven, streaming service, similar to the television networks and Hulu, they would have a much better chance of reaping a profit. But they're pretty stuck in their ways, and no amount of personnel or branding changes is likely to change that.

Glass Candy, Chromatics and Desire Played Webster Hall, Jan. 14

In 2007, Chromatics released Night Drive, an evocative, nocturnal trip that was one of the most striking releases of the year. They visited New York a few times since then, but I never managed to catch them until recently, when they played the weekly Girls & Boys party at Webster Hall. Generally, it's a scene and venue I try to avoid - although Webster used to be a solid venue for relatively large indie bands, Terminal 5 has since supplanted it (unfortunately), and I hadn't been there for ages, generally opting for the more intimate venues.

But the night's lineup, which included Chromatics' Italians Do It Better labelmates Desire and Glass Candy, was pretty irresistible. They all follow the same general template of cooing female vocals, and each band has electronic maestro Johnny Jewel on the machines, making for a pretty consistent bass throb throughout the night. Italians' Mike Simonetti added in a diverse, thumping DJ set in between the bands, which was much appreciated.

Desire started off slow, but quickly hit a midtempo sway, and judging by the cheers, it was a sweet spot. Chromatics built on the vibe with a string of signature tracks: "In The City," "Night Drive," "I Want Your Love," and their heartbreaking cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," along with some new ones, suggesting that a new album is imminent. Ruth Radelet's voice was spectacular, and she even picked up the guitar. Can't ask for much more than that.

And then it was Glass Candy, which I only knew through the Balearic "Rolling Down The Hills" and a cover of Kraftwerk's "Computer Love," both from the great After Dark compilation. Thus, I wasn't really prepared for the balloon explosion that accompanied singer Ida No's very active performance. I couldn't help but think that it was more about spectacle, rather than sound, but it was pretty entertaining. See for yourself below:

Rest of the photos after the jump. More at The Culture of Me and Pop Matters.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tonight, See Matthew Dear DJ For Free in Brooklyn

This looks fun! Ghostly shapeshifter Matthew Dear will be DJing a free dance party tonight, in another bash from the folks at Beyond Booking. The venue's at 345 Grand Street, just off the Metropolitan Ave stop on the G, also known as the Lorimer stop on the L. The promoters also promise that the dance floor will light up.

More info on the party here.

Coachella 2011: Familiar Names, Hidden Gems

Coachella just announced its 2011 lineup, and there are the obligatory big names, but it's the smaller ones that really excite me. As it's such a massive festival, you can pretty much take a bucket and dip it into the current pond of indie bands and come up with a pretty good idea of who's playing, as the fake posters indicate.

Still, some cool stuff here. A Death From Above 1979 reunion is completely unexpected and awesome, and I'm crossing my fingers that they'll make there way to New York. Also, it's wild to see Mumford & Sons up there with Bright Eyes and Animal Collective - I should check them out at some point. The rest of the top half of the bill is solid, but nothing too jaw-dropping for me.

So on to the gems! The band that would most compel me to fly to Coachella would be Glasser. Through Philip Sherburne, I fell in love with the gorgeous voice of Cameron Mesirow, and if I had to redo my 2010 list, she could very well top it. I'm seriously kicking myself right now that I missed Glasser's gig last summer at Glasslands (what an appropriate venue!), and despaired that the band was only during European dates for the rest of winter.

This is my favorite song of the moment:

Other bands I'd like to see (and to this point haven't) include Phantogram, !!! and Klaxons. On the DJ front, I'd like to see the absurdly young Kyle Hall, Cocoon Recordings boss Sven Väth, dynamic duo Duck Sauce and moody, atmospheric Trentemøller.

But this is all pretty hypothetical - it's highly unlikely I'll actually make it this year, and pretty much all bands have or will make it to the city. I would, however, love to attend SXSW and find out if you really can do it without a badge, if anyone's road tripping to Austin from New York.

Oh, and one thing that intrigues me is the Creators Project partnership noted at the bottom of the page. It really demonstrates that Vice and Intel are committed to that brand, which is a good thing, and I'm curious what they'll add to Coachella. Update: Creators have outlined their plans on their site.

Let me know what artists excite you, and if there's anyone on that list that I overlooked.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stream Broken Social Scene At Terminal 5 Tonight

In about an hour, at 9 p.m. EST, Broken Social Scene will play at Terminal 5. Instead of wading into the massive crowd there, you can stream the show at Bowery Presents' YouTube page.

Although their last effort, Forgiveness Rock Record, didn't grab me as hard as their previous albums, BSS live is quite a spectacle, and they're bound to be play some of those classics.

Oh, and opener Here We Go Magic is pretty good, too.

Trish Keenan of Broadcast, R.I.P.

Some really sad news last week: Trish Keenan, the beguiling voice behind the British band Broadcast, passed away due to complications from pneumonia. She was only 42.

While Broadcast was never my favorite band, they encapsulated one of my favorite styles: pretty indie pop, flecked with electronic textures. Keenan's voice was sublime, a melodic anchor even as the band branched out into increasingly avant garde styles.

I'll always regret never seeing them live, but their four-album legacy will always be memorable, with Keenan as its human core.

"Succumb to the line
The finishing time
The long distance runner
Has stopped on the corner
But I won't give up
Although I've stopped too"


Monday, January 17, 2011

The Bunker's 8 Year Anniversary With Donato Dozzy and Optimo, Dec. 7

Eight years, wow. I actually had no idea that techno mainstay the Bunker had been around that long, defying the tail end of Giuliani and becoming one of the last sanctuaries for fringe electronic music. According to its history, the party started out in subTonic, which was inevitably shut down, before springing for its current home at Public Assembly, formerly known as Galapagos. Serious props to the folks behind Bunker for continuing to book amazing DJs and for keeping it true to underground roots.

For the very special night, they enlisted Italy's Donato Dozzy to hold court in the back room and British duo Optimo to take over the front. There's a very particular vibe to these events: dense, dark rooms and, for the most part, completely unrecognizable music (someone did play "Rej" once, which was great). For me, it's more about general atmosphere, and on this night, it was really special. There's often a relentless minimalism, but instead, we were treated with melodic, relaxed beats, and even when things peaked, there was a lovely sort of restraint. It was definitely one of the best Bunkers that I've been to.

The next Bunker is on Jan. 28.

Check out RA for an illuminating feature on the dark wave of Italian producers following Dozzy, and more crowd shots at the official site. Rest of my photos after the jump.

Anamaguchi, Lionshare and the So So Glos Played the Knitting Factory, Jan. 6

A couple weeks ago, Anamanaguchi played to a feisty, sold-out crowd at the Knitting Factory. They've been called 8-bit and chiptune, a style marked by the bleeps and bloops of a Super Nintendo, and often dismissed as a novelty. But unlike the Dan Deacons and Crystal Castles of the world, 'guchi are grounded more in rockist melodies than (just) electro-induced seizures, using video game synth as the topping, rather than the meat, of their sound.

The brunt of their music is composed of the more standard guitar and drum (there's generally no singing, although they pulled off a walloping cover of M83's "Don't Save Us From The Flames"), forming a backbone for the electronic effects. While much of the show was at a frenetic, jump-in-place pace, things got pretty interesting when they slowed down. The highlight was a new song, "UNME," which built on a twinkling hook that morphed into a churning, almost housey blast. They're not quite shoegaze, but the sweeping ambition was a proud successor, and they seem like the perfect candidate for soundtracking the video game version of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Openers Lionshare were an absurd rap bunch, complete with nonsensical lyrics and meow samples. It was mildly entertaining, but not really my thing. Alas, the So So Glos went on early (apparently they had to be somewhere), and I missed them. Next time!

Head over to nyctaper for a full recording of the , and check out "UNME" below.

Rest of the pictures after the jump.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Watch Speaking In Code, With Modeselektor, Monolake and the Wighnomy Brothers

Head over to during the next couple days to check out Speaking In Code, a long-gestating documentary by Amy Grill that chronicles the lives and dreams of techno musicians lovers around the world. It's an ambitious film, spanning years of footage and transporting the viewer from crowded lofts in Boston to the enormous stage at Barcelona's Sonar Festival. It's a study in contrasts: German standards like Berlin and Cologne are easy includes, but spots like Jena, the pastoral home of the Wighnomy Brothers, are real eye-openers.

Along with the Bros., the camera centers on Modeselektor, the mischievous BPitch duo; Monolake, Robert Henke's influential minimalist project; and Philip Sherburne, one of the sharpest electronic scribes out there. Along for the ride is David Day, Grill's husband, an impassioned Boston promoter who dreams of transforming the city into another techno nexus. Although each major character is consumed by music, Grill seeks to illustrate the very human side of its subjects, revealing their aspirations and motivations in striking interviews.

Interspersed with the main stories is an exhaustive who's who in techno, with genre pillars like Reinhard Voigt of Kompakt and Ellen Allien of BPitch Control, which give macro views of their respective labels and cities. But it's the deeply personal narratives that drive the film forward, and Grill's relationship with Day adds another layer of urgency and tension. As the credit bills stack ever higher, the two become increasingly disconnected, both fleeing into their own worlds.

The central theme of music as a form of escapism isn't particularly revolutionary, but Speaking in Code is designed as a gateway into the world as techno, rather than the last word. The nature of the music industry has made any commentary ephemeral, and already, the world has moved on since the last cut, with Modeselektor gaining global prominence with the blessings of Thom Yorke, while the Wighnomy Brothers have split into individual projects. In retrospect, the film captures that delicate moment between obscurity and stardom, a terrifying yet exciting time.

But most of all, it's about passion, and if you're reading this blog, you probably care about music to some degree, and in that case, you should watch this documentary. And if you like what you see, support the artists and buy the DVD. Immerse yourself in music.

Also, check out some bonus footage from local promoter Spinoza, who puts on the always awesome Bunker.

Monday, January 03, 2011

James Blake Played the Boiler Room

We knew James Blake had a fondness for indie pop, but it turns out, he's into pop, period. In a spectacular DJ set at the Boiler Room, he goes from Burial's "In Dark" into a remix of Outkast's "Ms. Jackson," Beyoncé's "Videophone" and D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)." Whoa.

You can download the set at Platform Music (via the Fader) and check out video footage below. My only criticism is towards the guy who keeps interrupting.

Blake's self-titled, full-length album comes out on Feb. 8.

Listen to New Geotic, Baths' Side Project

Will Wiesenfeld, who had our 39th most favorite song of last year as Baths, spent his final week of 2010 working on a new record, Mend, for his ambient side project Geotic. He's put up the work on his website, which has free downloads of all of his songs as Geotic (via Prefix). On first listen, it's more placid than his exuberant work as Baths, but there's still plenty of woozy synths and such to keep us happy.

Stream the first track, "Unwind," below.

Hear the New Decemberists Album On NPR

Two weeks before its release, NPR is streaming the new Decemberists album, The King Is Dead. The album was recorded in a barn outside Portland, Or., according to the station, and features guitar-playing Peter Buck from R.E.M.

The Decemberists will play Beacon Theater for three nights at the end of the month. Tickets for their Jan. 24 show are still available.

NPR is also streaming Wire's new album Red Barked Tree and saxophonist Joe Lavano's Bird Songs.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Top 50 Songs of 2010

2010 was quite a year. It was a rebirth, a reaffirmation of my love of music (and writing about it, and taking pictures of it). I still feel as if I'm catching up, but the end of the year provided a great opportunity to revisit what I loved and seek out what I missed.

This is a list of the songs that mattered to me. Please share your own in the comments.

Happy New Year

But we're not quite done with 2010. Something big coming very soon.
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