The Raveonettes’ sixth studio album, Observator, shares a common thread with its previous five: it’s ethereal, haunting, and dark, which perhaps is not surprising considering how songwriter Sune Rose Wagner went about developing the nine songs. “I [spent] four days in a Benzo trance, drinking, eating, talking, and soaking up the real lives of the people I encountered,” he wrote about his process.
The result, recorded over seven days at Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Sound, is a hodgepodge of disconnected emotion, soul, and — yes — observation. In charmingly Danish-inflected English, Wagner enthusiastically speaks about the making of Observator, adding a “gloomy” piano, and The Raveonettes’ status as an influential band.
Fang Island is laughing. Fang Island is constantly laughing. Jason Bartell and Chris Georges, the two primary songwriters for the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Rhode Island outfit, are sitting in the Greenpoint bar where they played their first show in New York. They sip Brooklyn Lagers on a muggy evening while wearing nearly identical jean jackets. The duo is discussing whether drummer Marc St. Sauveur would don the “Denim Daddy” attire on stage, ultimately deciding that he would refuse. Bartell and Georges giggle at the thought.
All Oliver Ackermann ever wanted was to make music. The Virginia-born, RISD-educated, Brooklyn-based guitarist has spent the past 35 years forcing his way toward that goal. The result: Death by Audio, the Williamsburg recording space / venue / effects-pedal company that houses the songwriter and assorted friends as well as his noise-rock band, A Place to Bury Strangers.
Anthemic rock quintet Fang Island described its self-titled debut as “the sound of everyone high-fiving everyone” — a statement that’s both accurate and destined to lead profiles for the duration on the band’s existence. Its sophomore effort, Major, builds on the theme. The release features more singing than the first album, which relied heavily on riffs, riffs, and more riffs. But the DNA here is similar: free and fun, with enough hooks to hang the audience’s denim jackets.
“In Norway, the cultural conception is that it’s a hippie color,” the 35-year-old visual artist and musician says. “A lot of middle-aged women are dressed in purple. So I think it was that association that ruined it for me.”
Instead of avoiding the color, Mokkelbost made a decision to challenge his preference. The result, “ION – Omni No. 6,” is a 90 x 60 cm paper collage that morphs from predominantly purple to blue to green as the viewer’s eye travels up the work.
In the end, the decision was simple. “I tend to design visual systems that include stuff I am ambivalent about,” Mokkelbost says.
Experimentation and fearless decision-making are themes that wind through all of the Oslo-born talent’s work. He constantly strives to improve his craft, whether he’s working on a new collage or playing in one of his many bands.
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The revolution may not be televised, but the Zombiepocolypse will be soundtracked by Wires Under Tension. The duo’s newest album, Light Science, meanders around the musical spaces between hopeful and hopeless, maintaining its taut excitement throughout.
Classically trained violinist Christopher Tignor brings the carefully orchestrated strings, while Theo Metz manages to organize the chaos with his syncopated rhythms. Loops, bleeps, and boops chime in from somewhere beyond the present. WUT never intended to make popular music, and it succeeded spectacularly. Between tour dates, Tignor was kind enough to answer a few of ALARM’s questions.
You discuss making music in a very intense, detailed, deliberate way. (“This violin technique, known as bariolage, makes use of high-energy string crossings to create melodic arcs which convey the very essence of the instrument.”) What formal musical training do you have, and how does that influence the sound?
Theo and I both grew up playing in rock bands and also [had] some classical training. As a violinist, that was the first way I began playing music, so dealing with scores is built in. As with discussing the music, I’d say we create music for an audience that isn’t interested in being underestimated and that would be excited at the prospect of bumping into new ideas. I think we’re in a unique position to do that, given our intense and varied musical backgrounds.
The first image that came to mind when I heard “Сказал Сказала” was the abandoned cityscape in 28 Days Later. The second thought was, “This is the soundtrack playing in my head when I’m lost in the Bronx.” What’s the connection between the album and the new neighborhood?
The neighborhood I live in the Bronx is Mott Haven. It’s a very down-to-earth residential place, in essence the antidote to hipster-dom. After living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for 13 years and seeing its changes, I find that quite refreshing. There’s a real urban energy tied up with risk and struggle that a place loses when [it] starts feeling more like an extension of some liberal-art college campus. Just like string instruments, without tension there is no resonance.