Archive for March, 2011

(Editor’s Note: This piece, slightly edited, is on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here. Also, it is mentioned in Brooklyn Vegan’s write-up)

Midway through J Mascis’ set, the seasoned headliner invited Kurt Vile, opener and contributor to the former’s most recent acoustic album, Several Shades of Why, to accompany on the song “Make it Right.” As they shared the stage, a sense of mutual respect pervaded the room. Earlier, Vile, along with his touring band, the Violators, tore through his collection of guitar-based indie rock, dividing his focus between songs from earlier albums and his new one,Smoke Ring for My Halo“Hunchback,” a selection from Childish Prodigy, brought muscle, showcasing Vile and the Violators bent for deeply affected grooves. But armed with a simple, elegant acoustic guitar, Vile also found balance on Smoke Ring for My Halo’s “Jesus Fever”and “Ghost Town,” deftly matching his voice and guitar with the band’s tremendous sound.

Mascis, best known as the guitarist, singer and songwriter of Dinosaur Jr., followed Vile’s lead, intertwining his band’s recent work with quieter, introspective songs from Several Shades of Why. From a seated position, he occasionally glanced at a music stand holding a lyric book, but, most often, known guitar riffs took precedence over words. The live performance combined elements of Dinosaur Jr.’s sound, grungy distortion and piercing solos, parsed out of Several Shades of Why. But, with Vile’s help, Mascis colored the solo work, exploring the depths of each other’s songwriting and talent.

Additional pictures I took from the show after the jump: (more…)


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(Editor’s Note: This piece will appear, slightly edited, on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

Much is said of the “special relationship” between the US and the UK. We share history, culture, and, politically, it feels as if we’re each other’s last allies. But, perhaps most affectionately, we embrace each other’s music. Blues music from the Deep South inspired British rockers, from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin, and subsequently we’ve traded sounds, forging today’s pop landscape. One genre in particular though, which is being disproportionately received rather than sent, is dubstep, a form of electronic dance music originating in South East London. Many extol its greatness, few genuinely understand its properties, but most on these shores have come to regard James Blake, the 21-year-old prodigy based in London, as the poster child of the movement.

On Monday, Blake landed upon the Music Hall of Williamsburg, his first trip to and performance in the US. While some still have not caught onto the critically praised producer, the show sold out tremendously fast, leaving behind those with only casual interest. Such overwhelming support however continues to build from Blake’s string of EPs, released in 2010, to his newly minted debut album, the self-titled LP James Blake. The record showcases the soft-spoken 20-something’s soulfulness, matching his delicate yet emotive voice with sparse electronics and varied rhythms. But whereas his debut is the work of a single mind, last night’s concert featured Blake on keyboard and lead vocals, aided by schoolboy pals, Rob McAndrews (also known as UK producer Airhead) on guitar and sampler and Ben Assiter on drums. The cumulative effect both brought to life the solitary sounds on the album and revealed the wizardry of Blake’s production.

At the workday-respectable time of 10pm, Blake sat down at the keyboard, with band in tow. The three musicians, positioned closely to one another, barely communicated but, over the course of the show, their coordination brought complex studio arrangements to life, carefully and powerfully. The set began with James Blake opener “Unluck,” met with tremendous applause and, from there, the group used most of their time to explore the rest of the album. Blake’s craft, expert piano work and deft vocal manipulation, figured prominently, especially on his enthusiastically received single “The Wilhelm Scream” and “I Never Learnt To Share,” where Blake constructed three part harmony by layering his vocals. And, in addition to what was played, it was also fascinating to experience how the band used silence, creating minimalism with negative space. During one such pause, Blake rather comically took a sip from what looked to be a cup of noodles and grinned. This humble and affable attitude, crystallized in a breathtaking solo encore performance of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” endeared fans to Blake throughout the night. This looks like a relationship we ought to nurture.

Additional photos, taken by Diana Wong, after the jump: (more…)

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By way of introduction, we here at Playtonic Dialogues have tried to connect our readers to great music, produced both by friends and kindred spirits of the blog. It’s our hope that, knowing you, knowing us, you’ll trust our opinion and perhaps find your favorite new band. I mean, read a couple paragraphs, click on a couple links: what do you have to lose?  (more…)

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