Dave Longstreth has one hell of a view. Slumping his lanky frame in a plush leather chair, the Dirty Projectors front-man has been given a room in Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel that has a massive floor-to-ceiling window, displaying the island of Manhattan in stunning panorama. The funny thing, as Longstreth points out, is that the accommodations are a bit superfluous. “I live just a couple blocks that way,” he notes.
Despite the junketed overkill of the meeting place, Longstreth can attest that time away from home can really clear one’s head for answers. Last year after touring behind his band’s breakthrough 2009 album Bitte Orca, Longstreth hid himself away, renting a house in upstate New York for the sole purpose of writing and recording new songs. Narrowed from more than 50 demos to 12 final tracks, the resultant Swing Lo Magellan is Longstreth’s attempt at concentrated songcraft. “This album, for me, is just about the songs,” he says, “this idea of a verse and a chorus and lyrics and melody.”
ALARM is back in print, and being the shameless self-promoters that we are, we’d love if you bought a print subscription. But let’s say that you have one of these newfangled “iPads.” Let’s also say that you like free things, particularly those that pertain to awesome music and cultural stuff. In that event, might we direct you to download ALARM #40 (Nov/Dec 2012) for free?
After relaunching for free this summer on the iPad, ALARM Magazine is back in print with more awesome shit. We’re psyched to have the mighty Soundgarden on the cover of our Nov/Dec issue, which includes interviews with and stories on Converge, Refused, Melvins, Dirty Projectors, Bloc Party, P.O.S, Squarepusher, Fang Island, and more.
You’re in a chair, wearing headphones, with white noise hissing fuzzily at you from either side. Ping-pong balls have been scissored in half and set over your eyes, with a purplish light beaming at you from just inches away. You can’t see. You are told that the experiment will last 30 minutes. It may not work.
David Byrne has one of the most recognizable voices in music, ranking somewhere between Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe. No doubt this is why everyone wants the former Talking Heads front-man to guest on their records. Dirty Projectors, Arcade Fire, Jherek Bischoff — they’ve all taken advantage of the static friction of that back-of-the-mouth tenor.
But Love This Giant, Byrne’s collaboration with St. Vincent, a woman who’s known more for her multi-instrumentalist abilities than her voice, is the first full-length he’s co-written with anyone other than Brian Eno.
Earlier this year, when Dirty Projectors offered a stream of the new song “Gun Has No Trigger,” it felt like the band was fending off fans, critics, and music blogs with a stick — keeping them at bay, buying more time to wrap up more songs. Ever since the release of its schizo-indie breakthrough, Bitte Orca, in 2009, the band has become a bearer of the “most anticipated album” tag, as the expectations for follow-up Swing Lo Magellan have swelled to ridiculous proportions.
UK-based dubstep producer Rusko (real name: Chris Mercer) released his latest album, OMG, on Mad Decent one year ago Wednesday. Since then, he’s been working with some of the biggest names in the music business, including Rihanna and T.I.
Collaboration is turning out to be one of his calling cards; he’s worked with Switch, Diplo, Yo Majesty, and Wiley, and has remixed artists like Adele and A-Trak. In addition, Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors is featured on “Hold On,” a single from OMG. Despite his myriad connections, Rusko needed only his equipment (and some snazzy stage decoration) to wow the crowd in a recent jam-packed show at the Congress Theater in Chicago. ALARM staff member Kyle Gilkeson snapped these shots of the thousands-strong dance party.
By the end of the 1960s, The Beatles had been absent from any kind of live performance for years. This supposed retirement from commercial concerts, however, never fully quelled speculation that the group could return to the stage in some way. Of the various conjectured shows, none held more what-if potential than a rumored collaboration between the Fab Four and German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.
According to a vague report noted in a biography by author Michael Kurtz, Stockhausen was said to have arranged a meeting with one of The Beatles at his New York apartment in 1969 to discuss a joint concert, but a blizzard ultimately kept the two parties apart. Between Paul McCartney occasionally citing a fascination with Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Junglinge” in interviews, The Beatles including a image of him in the cover crowd of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and John Lennon’s “Revolution 9” getting regular critical comparisons to Stockhausen’s Hymnen, The Beatles and Stockhausen maintained at least a shred of connectivity to make such a collaboration possible.
Though the rendezvous, like most hearsay, has been proven to be devoid of truth, fiction has never gotten in the way of inspiration. Such is the case with avant-garde ensemble Alarm Will Sound and its most recent work, 1969. Mixing musical composition, scripted acting, audio dialogue, and archival video, the group’s live production uses the myth of the would-be collaboration as a jumping-off point to examine a time period rife with political, artistic, and social change. ALARM recently spoke with the ensemble’s conductor, Alan Pierson, to discuss the new work, its combination of history and falsehood, and why the year of 1969 was such a big deal.
Let me ask you about 1969. How did this concept develop?
We had been working on this for a long time. In a way, it goes back to those composer portraits as one-composer concerts. Those sorts of concerts, we felt, were a really good way for us to be developing our reputation in New York. But at a certain point, we felt like we wanted to do something broader than that. What I liked about the composer portraits was that they were a way of creating a contemporary music concert that really felt like an event, rather than just a collection of pieces.
There was a really special kind of vibe that you got when you had people walking into a hall to experience an entire evening of Steve Reich or of György Ligeti. The question was “How [do we] create that kind of experience with a broader repertoire?” and “What is a way to bring together really different kinds of music in a coherent framework?”
We did a couple of things along those lines. We did a show called Odd Couples at Carnegie Hall in 2006, which I think was really successful. But as we started brainstorming ideas for concerts, one thing I started thinking about was this idea of doing music of a single year and using a period of time as a way to connect really different kinds of music. Nineteen sixty-nine just emerged pretty quickly in that process as a really interesting time to look at. In the process of looking at that more deeply, I stumbled on this story of the planned meeting between Stockhausen and The Beatles, and it just seemed like too great a story not to tell.