Thursday, April 30, 2015

Todd Rundgren/Emil Nikolaisen/Hans Peter Lindstrom: Rundanns review – trippy and transcendental pop

(Smalltown Supersound)

It’s possible to view Runddans – a collaboration between Todd Rundgren, Serena-Maneesh’s Emil Nikolaisen and Lindstrøm – as a record that harks back to Rundgren’s mid-70s period, when the studio whizz formed the synth-prog group Utopia and filled his solo albums with four-part instrumental suites. It’s equally possible to accept that – like much of Rundgren’s back catalogue – this doesn’t really stand comparison with many things. Its 12 tracks essentially form just one sprawling 39-minute piece of music, featuring intermittent disco rhythms, blissed-out refrains and passages named things like Liquid Joy from the Womb of Infinity. The vibe is more often trippy and transcendental than indulgent, whereas even the most far-out moments fail to disguise Rundgren’s pop nous, most evident in the synth rushes of Put Your Arms Around Me and the electrifying soloing that follows it.

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by Tim Jonze via Electronic music | The Guardian

Django Django: Born Under Saturn review – wonder and dread on indie-electro band’s second album


If Django Django’s second album doesn’t quite have the same effect as their debut, that’s no reflection on its quality, just a recognition that such a distinctive sound – mixing surf guitars, spartan percussion, dance-music electronics and dynamics, and the vibrato-less harmonies of high psychedelia – isn’t such a surprise second time around. Still, Born Under Saturn shows no diminution in the songwriting: the single First Light is a startling, eerie, beautiful song that itches away at you, and might be the best thing they’ve yet done. Django Django sound like a musical representation of what filmmakers call “the magic hour”, when the light is suffused with gold, and lyric after lyric here refers to sun, sky or light: High Moon, Vibrations, Shake and Tremble, First Light and Giant all bring in that sense of wonder or dread at what hangs above. If there’s one criticism, it’s of its length – 54 minutes feels like 10 too many for an album whose impact is doubled when the songs punch their way into your attention.

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by Michael Hann via Electronic music | The Guardian

Dom Servini at The New Cross Inn (London) on 20/06

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Dom Servini at the Big Chill Bar (London) on 19/06

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Dom Servini + Diggers Dozen in London on 11/06

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Dom Servini at Bar 90 (Hackney) on 5/06

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Wah Wah 45s presents The Gene Dudley Group, supported by The Expansions + DJ Dom Servini in London on 3/07

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Allie X: 10 things you need to know about Katy Perry's favourite (Canadian) artist

Despite the geographic expanse of our country, Canada’s not the easiest place to reinvent one’s self. Twenty years ago, Alanis Morissette caught a lot of flack when she attempted to shed her teen pop image for something more of her own making. She found her freedom in L.A., just like another new Canadian breakout: Allie X.

After years toiling in the Toronto indie scene, she relocated to L.A. where she could deconstruct her identity and introduce that ever-elusive variable, X, which would afford Allie X the illusion of mystery and the luxury of an alter ego. The result is a beguiling, bewitching, avant-pop star whose aesthetic and creative approach is akin to David Lynch and Sylvia Plath frolicking in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery while Grimes DJs.

This week, as part of her artist residency at the Phi centre in Montreal, Allie X is presenting a 48-hour portal into the World of X, involving interactive installations, a live performance, a pop-up shop and an online experience for her fans around the world.

But who is Allie X, and why is she suddenly an international pop sensation? Here are 10 things you need to know about the musician behind the mystery.

1. Her real name is Alexandra Hughes and she is a classically trained pianist and singer who spent several years as an aspiring musician in Toronto’s indie scene, self-releasing records as Allie Hughes. All of her projects hinted at the ambitious and unusual scope of her artistry and sense of play, including this event trailer she made with Gentleman Reg.

2. In 2008, Hughes appeared on the Canadian version of the TV talent competition How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, vying for a role in Toronto’s splashy Sound of Music revival. She was eliminated in the second episode, where she performed Sarah McLachlan’s "I Will Remember You." Ultimately she called the experience "traumatic but thrilling."

3. Her previous domain, AllieHughes.com, is currently for sale for $895. Yikes.

4. Hughes moved to L.A. after securing a publishing deal as a songwriter, writing 200 songs between July 2013 and March 2014.

Editor’s note: adult content, maybe NSFW.

5. On March 6, 2014, at 1:43 p.m., Katy Perry changed Allie X’s life when she tweeted to her 51 million-plus followers that she was "obsessed" with X’s song, "Catch," calling it her "spring jam!" The accolades have continued to pour in: Billboard, Noisey, Pitchfork, Idolator and so many more.

6. Allie X’s debut, CollXtion I, was released April 21, 2015. It’s the first in a series, she tells Teen Vogue: "I feel excited and anxious about releasing my debut, CollXtion I. It isn't an EP or an album; it's a collection — a visual, conceptual, and sonic multimedia experience. I am also hoping to come out with a series of more CollXtions after that."

7. Much has been made about Allie X’s "mysterious" nature, what with her often choosing to obscure her eyes or her face. But there’s something wonderful about her decision to amp up the theatricality of her performative self, centering the conversation on her costumes and adornment, an expression of agency that de-emphasizes physical appearance and disrupts the male gaze. Performance has always been a key part of Allie X’s creativity. Even when she was performing as Allie Hughes, the album art for one of her self-released records featured her face hidden behind a twisted mask of party balloons.

8. But Allie X is ready for the pop stardom circus. "It’s necessary to believe in yourself to the point of delusion," X said in an interview with Noisey in April 2014. "If someone wants to make it as an artist you need to be able to project a fantasy that you’re working towards and to do that you need to believe that you’re good at it. I’m as insecure as I am delusionally confident. It really does go both ways. I think it’s 55 per cent delusional confidence, 45 per cent crippling insecurities."

9. Allie X cites Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh as a major influence: "I like his style because he has a whole career as a visual artist. I would say I'm equally a curator and a creator in the visual sphere. I have a very strong sense of what I like. The way I would define my sound is electronic theatrical dream pop with a little bit of d-tune. And the way I would describe myself is a girl on a journey to becoming her whole self."

10. Ambitious pop star and wild artistic vision? She knows what you’re thinking: "I’ve definitely gotten [the Gaga comparison] before, and I imagine I will for a bit. I mean, we’re both girls who started writing songs at pianos and had much bigger visions. I really relate to the grand scope of her vision — the creation of a world. But Lady Gaga is a lot braver than I am in a lot of ways. The intimacy that she shares with the world and her fans is something that I’d never be comfortable with."

But, Allie X is getting there. Her Wizard of X Tumblr feels like baby steps toward Gaga's level of fan interaction with her "Little Monsters." Her own site is also full of personal interactions between Allie X and her fans, offering up glimpses of the woman behind the sunglasses. Her favourite thing to do when she's sad? "Meditate then eat sprouted millet pancakes with tocotrienol flax oil syrup and watch Frasier." Though it also offers up utterly vague and confounding exchanges, like the one below.