ruix #2, summer 2011 – take a look inside:
(Art by Carey Welch)
Rogue Collections Presents… Elements
Eronel, 285 Main St.
Sunday, April 21
6 PM (21+ after 9 PM)
$10 general admission
This Sunday Eronel will add a bit of stylistic flair to its diverse roster of events with the premiere runway show by Rogue Collections. An exploration of the four elements expressed through hair, makeup, and costume, Rogue Collections is the creation of Samantha Jones. An imprint for artistic expression through fashion, Elements is her first runway show at the helm, following her role as a stylist in last year’s Emergence of Spirit show at the Voices Warehouse.
Elements features interpretations of earth, wind, fire, and water by Jones and four other stylists: Paige Plath (fire), Laura Buechele (air), Hannah Nettles (water), and Capri student Colleen Dolehide (earth). Makeup artist Brittany Farber and costume designer Kim Theisen lend their talents, and the multimedia show also features paintings by Carey Welch, video projections by Trish Feldman-Jansen and music by Bob Bucko [ed. note - third person sucks].
Asked what drew her to fashion and design, Jones explains, “I always felt like I had a creativity in me that I did not know how to express, and thankfully, going to cosmetology school at Capri helped me find that outlet.” From her studies at Capri to her present endeavors, Jones has pursued her interests from the perspective of an artist. She notes, “From the beginning I approached [Capri] as kind of an art school. I definitely wanted to bring cosmetology to the forefront as an art [in Dubuque].”
Jones emphasizes the creativity through self-expression inherent in fashion, and the unique challenges of using live models. “Having the human body as a medium for art is so interesting. Being able to create on a person is a really intense process. You have to feel the person and make sure they are comfortable, while still getting your vision across.”
Capri College will be a booth vendor at the event, and metal work by Gene Tully, original artwork and prints by Carey Welch, and product from Fringe Salon will be raffled off following the performance. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Maria House.
The runway show begins at 6 pm, followed by the raffle and a meet-and-greet with the stylists and models. A dance party, with music from DJ Situps, begins at 8 pm. The event is all ages until 9 pm, 21 and up after 9 pm. VIP tickets are sold out, but general admission tickets are available for $10.
Thursday, March 28
9 pm doors, $5
As Expo 70, Justin Wright has traveled the narrow path for the past decade. While fitting into the cultural zeitgeist of the underground’s renewed interest in psychedelia and discovery of the drone, Expo 70′s prodigious output stands well above the typical limited-run cassette only New Weird Whatever stuff that gets thoughtlessly pumped into an overblown scene. Wright’s understanding of his sounds and their intended effect, and the quality control he exerts, even when putting out multiple releases each year, point to a single-minded dedication and focus that elevates his music into the cosmic realms it seeks to inhabit. In fact, in this world of every artist having multiple projects and alter egos, Expo 70 has been Wright’s sole public creative outlet.
Even within stasis there is change, however, and much as the drone evolves subtly over time, Wright has expanded Expo 70 from a solo operation to a three piece sonic trip on Virtually from the Unknown, the new album released under the slightly modified moniker of Expo Seventy. Subsequently, this new trio is presently on tour, performing their monolithic freakouts to a psychedelic visual backdrop. Expo Seventy stops at Eronel Thursday, March 28, en route to the their home base in Kansas City, where they will perform at the KC Psych Fest.
Midday Veil inhabit similar sonic territory as their tour mates, but incorporate a variety of external influences into their psychedelic excursions that make for constantly evolving and pleasantly confounding journey. Immersed in 20th century classical approaches as much as ’60s era psych – which not surprisingly melds seamlessly, considering both arenas’ exploration of drone and repetition – Midday Veil’s sound differs from release to release, yet forms a distinct identity, one that is paradoxically transitory and eternal.
Young Indian is four local jerks making music I don’t hate. As enjoyable as Ryan Werner is insufferable.
Tim Kinsella is a restless aesthete, a post-everything eccentric who has confounded expectation at every turn. His first band, Cap’n Jazz is regarded, in hindsight, as the high-water point of the over-caffeinated underage midwest punk scene that inadvertently birthed popular culture’s version of “emo”. Influential, yes, but short-lived – “we’re growing in different directions – that happens at this age, for boys” – three-fifths of the band morphed into Joan of Arc.
As much a concept as a band, the name Joan of Arc constitutes myriad reinterpretations and deconstructions of common themes, simple emotions viewed through the fractured lens of avant-garde cinema and experimental fiction as much as post-rock music. The band’s early albums played off the energy of Cap’n Jazz, but things quickly got weird. Live in Chicago 1999 is at once their transitional work and defining moment. Definitely a step to the side, Kinsella’s melodicism is obfuscated by obtuse musical strategies and liberal studio editing. Raising the bar and requiring a deeper investment, this is what some refer to as “difficult” music. Follow up The Gap further took the piss out of indie rock and risked alienating them from youngsters hoping to relive a moment they missed the first time around with Cap’n Jazz.
Absurdly prolific, releasing over 25 records this century, not to mention the dozen or so other projects Kinsella and other Joan of Arc-ers have going at any given time, Joan of Arc navigated that decisive moment when a band is forced to choose between playing for themselves or a (perceived) audience confidently and squarely on their own terms. While each subsequent album branches in a different, often divergent, direction, there is an underlying continuity to Joan of Arc’s output, an intangible subtext that is inscrutably personal, yet, like all good art, speaks to the universal.
On this tour, Tim Kinsella is performing solo as Joan of Arc. With a healthy body of work to choose from, including the recent self-titled album and the more experimental Pinecone LP, curiosity will be peaked, and expectations defied. Joan of Arc is playing Sunday, February 24, at the Lift. Locals the Glimmer Blinkken and Hedgerow open.
I. Houseless, Not Homeless
Thollem McDonas defies the conventional wisdom surrounding professional touring musicians. Driven as much by a need to connect with others as express himself musically, Thollem has cultivated an approach to being a traveling musician that sustains and enriches on multiple levels.
Thollem has an extensive background in classical music and improvisation, but abandoned the academy in his 20s to pursue direct political action. Eventually he merged these concerns, using music and performance at protests to draw attention to pertinent issues. Eventually he resumed his professional music career on own terms, integrating his heartfelt political ideologies into his compositions and performances.
Thollem interweaves his twin passions with precise balance. A marvelously disciplined musician, his interest in social justice issues gives him the impetus to perform. This balance is presented in visceral form by the song titles on his second solo album, Poor Stop Killing Poor, which read as “two poems intertwined with each other every other line”:
From Empty Came
Consumption Runs Rampant When
Something Else Again
Sleeping With The Puritan Guard
Relax Into The Wander,
Rich Eat The Free Lunch
All Is In,
And Mass Murder Starving Children.
The Bitter And Beauty.
Now Will Never Leave Now.
The Clown Of War,
Was Always Is And Never.
We Are Witness To The Collapse…
To Empty Went
Thollem states “one poem is overtly political and the other philosophical”, an illustration of how Thollem admirably blends high concept with down to earth action.
A self-described “perpetually traveling musician”, Thollem has no fixed address, but finds home in the myriad places he visits, and community in the people he meets. He talks about the reciprocity necessary to facilitate such arrangements, of gaining perspective and learning empathy. “Traveling speeds that process up”, notes Thollem. “Going into the unknown” forces one to adjust and exist in real time. This lack of routine necessitates empathy and promotes the understanding of people and cultures different from one’s own.
II. War is Terror
Tsigoti is Thollem McDonas’ most overtly political project. A freewheeling anarcho-punk group, Tsigoti serves as a literal mouthpiece for his activism. Thollem sings politically charged lyrics alongside his off-kilter piano playing. The group is rounded out by Italian musicians Andrea Caprara (drums), Jacopo Andreini (guitar), and bassists Matteo Bennici and Piero Spitilli.
Tsigoti began humbly enough. “Tsigoti started off as War Is Terror 5 years ago. I was in Nipozzano, outside Florence, in a house with a bunch of musicians and a recording studio. Andrea and I were just talking about how we’d like to make a punk album and we had 3 days to do it, so we did.
“I had written pages and pages of words about war when I was in Prague a few months prior, and we turned them into songs, recording, mixing, and mastering our first album, The Brutal Reality Of Modern Brutality.”
A cross-continental group based in Italy, Tsigoti’s output reflects both specific concerns endemic to the participants’ surroundings and the underlying universal tensions of class and place.
“I think there are benefits to this, and mostly it is the varying perspectives on politics. They are in a very different geo-political region than we are in the U.S., and Italian politics are quite different than ours in some ways. Also, musical sensibilities are varied as well, for the same reasons.”
There are also impediments to this arrangement, but the band transcends them by utilizing these limitations to their benefit.
“The drawback, of course, is that it is more difficult to tour together. We decided awhile back that we would make our albums on the spot, writing songs together in the same room and recording them as we do it. The spirit of the band is to not be too meticulous about our performance. We’re much more interested in retaining the original spirit and rawness of the band. So, we have made it work for the better all in all.”
The content of Tsigoti’s songs is directly informed by the group’s shared political concerns. “I’d say for the most part, we all share basic political perspectives in that we don’t want to be ruled by anyone, and we care about social justice issues, ecology, corruption, etc. I think we have been able to inform each other in some ways because we are coming from different parts of the world. Italy itself is quite varied, and the Italians come from different regions, which has also defined the way they see things.
“We often work directly from everyday topics from the news, looking into how these issues/stories are timeless and universal. We’re not interested in pointing our finger at any one government or corporation, but at trying to reach the fundamental properties of problems that have been at the root of human existence for thousands of years – ignorance, greed, corruption, authoritarianism, exploitation of women and workers, etc. So, if you look deeply into our lyrics, you might find hints of current news, but for the most part we don’t directly relate them. That’s what the news is for…”
III. Action is Necessary
“We have all these amazing technologies to communicate with people around the world in real time and so on, but there’s no way you can substitute real physical traveling across geopolitical borders and cultural borders – all these different types of borders we create in the physical realm. Obviously when you travel, you smell smells and you hear different languages, and you have to cope with people’s cultures and customs, and it’s a much different thing than getting online and chatting with somebody or hearing some music from the Serengeti or something.”
For Thollem, music is direct action. The engagement of senses and connections made between communities are integral to his mission. To this end, Thollem often focuses on free improvisation as a medium to communicate with people from other cultures. “An approach to musically being with another person”, free improv, according to Thollem, “is not a Western European construct” and “fits within many cultures and philosophical frameworks”.
In other words, Thollem enters into both musical and social situations in a non-imperialistic manner, a difficult feat for an American to achieve, or even be conscious of. Free improvisation is dependent on the individuals involved, and is thus the most equitable way of communicating openly and passionately with strangers.
Seeing beyond artificial, culturally-imposed barriers, Thollem observes that “when artists travel, we are non-governmental cultural ambassadors, representing ourselves, our communities, our countries, and art and artists and ideas in general.” This engagement is at the core of Thollem’s utilization of music to achieve change. Whether in the political screes of Tsigoti or the engaged cultural pluralism of the Estamos Project, in which musicians from the United States and Mexico collaborate in a multitude of contexts, understanding lies at the center of all his endeavors.
By engaging in direct action, by being constantly active, Thollem McDonas works to increase understanding between people, and to show how arbitrary the constructs we create around our differences are. That he chooses to do this in the most kinetic of forms, through musical expression, further illuminates our shared experiences and breaks down barriers between nations and cultures.
IV. The Future is Now
With recent collaborations with William Parker & Nels Cline and Mike Watt & John Dieterich (as The Hand to Man Band) still fresh, Thollem continues to push forward, releases a handful of diverse recordings in 2013. Alongside another Dieterich collaboration and a record with Jad Fair (Half Japanese) and Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), are the new Tsigoti album, Read Between the Lines… Think Outside Them, and People’s Historia, by the Estamos Trio. A continuation of the Estamos Ensemble, in which Thollem collaborated with Mexican musicians, including a children’s orchestra, the Estamos Trio is completed by Carmina Escobar (voice, electronics, field recordings) and Milo Tamez (extended drumset).
Both Read Between the Lines… and Tsigoti’s 2012 album, The Imagination Liberation Front Thinks Again, are available from Post-Consumer Records. Relative Pitch Records will release People’s Historia in June.
Thollem is, as always, on tour and will play Monk’s Kaffee Pub in Dubuque on March 26, performing on a Fender Rhodes electric piano to the short films of Tuia Cherici.
- Bob Bucko
Chance in Hell
Friday, December 14
9 pm, $5, 21+
Saturday, December 15
9 pm, $5, 21+
A fistful of regional metal at Off Minor this weekend:
The Horde brings OG Viking metal to Dubuque Friday night. Not some bullshit metal core crossover, dude’s are legit in their passion and knowledge of the form. Fire up the Z28 and head over to 17th and Elm for D&D epics and an unabashed love of the NWOBHM.
Iowa City’s Chance in Hell open, performing their brand of crossover thrash. Local gadflys Dredge also perform. Expect a new album from them soon, and hear some new songs live in the meantime.
Saturday night features local dickheads and David Lee Roth fan fiction writers Legal Fingers, along with area delay pedal enthusiasts Pilgrem and Des Moines shredders Dark Mirror.
Time and Temperature
Bob Bucko Jr
Monday, December 3
Monk’s Kaffee Pub
9 pm, 21+, FREE
John Bellows came to my attention via a CD-r he recorded in 2005 (Moniker Records reissued the album on vinyl in 2010). An excellent example of ADD-affected 4-track home recording brilliance, Clean Your Clock bounces across genres and emotions with scattered intensity. From country-tinged indie-rockers to the raucous noise of the wonderfully titled “(You Just Got) Motherfucked” to the tearful lament of childhood’s end, “Imaginary Friend”, Bellows constructs an airy, playful backdrop over which he lays down life’s bitter truths.
Time and Temperature is new on my radar, but Val Glenn’s songwriting is quickly becoming a personal favorite. Cream of the Low Tide is full of sad love songs delivered with pathos and passion.
These two artists are presently on tour together and will be playing Monk’s Monday, December 3.
Hear In Now
Monk’s Kaffee Pub
Friday, November 30
9 PM, FREE, 21+
And now for something completely different… Monk’s Kaffee Pub is hosting the string trio Hear In Now tonight. Combining composed forms with elements of free improvisation, Hear In Now’s highly communicative interplay blends aspects of classical and jazz to create vibrant instrumental music. Their prodigious technique and impressive pedigree – they have worked with heavyweights like Anthony Braxton, William Parker, and George Lewis, and collaborated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the Black Rock Coalition – lays the foundation for avant-garde music that retains an emotional pull. Come to Monk’s and hear the sounds unheard:
On Saturday, November 10, Boone, Iowa hosted Zeitgeist 2012, a thirteen artist experimental music festival. In true DIY spirit, a large crew of musical misfits from across a broad geographical area (Iowa artists ranged from Dubuque to Des Moines and beyond, plus one brave soul who made the drive from Albert Lea, Minnesota) worked together to make this thing a success. Dubuque was represented by three individuals - BOAR (Alex Nowacki), Aural Resuscitation Unit (Randy Carter), and myself.
Tremendous thought and preparation went into the fest, which was recorded for posterity by Matt Dake, and a healthy handful of folks contributed to making it happen. A lot of the musicians met each other in person for the first time, and tons of recordings were swapped and sold. One of the greatest effects of Zeitgeist was to bolster a collective profile and create a sense of community across a broad group of diverse musicians living in different towns.
The Centipede Farmer wrote an excellent and comprehensive assessment of the day on his website. Included are links to music and video by all the artists who performed that day.
If you want to check out the live sets from the fest, you can stream or download them at the Zeitgeist 2012 bandcamp page.
Some outgrowths of the festival include a split label release between Warm Gospel Tapes and Personal Archives documenting two of the performances from that day and the first issue of the incipient All Iowa Noise Insurgency Zine. Other things, including another festival, are being discussed. Everything really is happening now.
Cedar Falls and Waterloo are a mere 90 minutes away from Dubuque, but their scene is mostly a mystery to me. I did have the good fortune to play with and meet the Teddy Boys back in 2008, however, which clued me in to the indie rock end of things in the Cedar Valley. Four years later, the Teddy Boys have splintered off into several other, equally rewarding, groups, one of which, Twins, recently released their first album. Des Moines music freak The Centipede Farmer joins the ruix family with his review of Funny Faces:
The indie music scene of the Cedar Valley, such as it is, is currently in the thick of the Sires dynasty. See, from the mid-1980s until around 2000, we had the Wilsons — Matt, then Mark, then Steve, Mike, Ben, with their various bands and projects, defined by noisy experimental punk and eccentric outsiderisms. But then the Sireses came into ascendency as brothers Joel and Harper and their band The Teddy Boys began plying their brand of breezy 1960s-inspired guitar pop. Eventually cousin Dylan was pulled into the orbit on loan from his own band The Venom Electric, making the Teddy Boys a raucous whirlwind of melody and jangle fronted by no less than three startlingly talented singer-songwriter-guitarists, each specializing in their own variant of the pop songcraft that they make look so effortless that hacks like me would be inclined to hate them for it if they weren’t also such insanely likeable guys.
Somewhere along the line since my move to Des Moines, the sad news reached me that the Teddy Boys were over with. But then came news that Sireses were still in the business of tunes. First there was Dylan Sires recording as a solo artist and performing live with his power trio The Neighbors (rhythm section made up of both the former Teddy Boys drummers, one of them on bass). Then came Twins — Joel and Harper together again, joined by another Sires I hadn’t even heard of, the gregarious Luke, on drums and public relations; new Sireses just keep popping out of the woodwork, it seems. And now Twins have an album out on CD, Funny Faces.
I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat: one gets the feeling that all the Sireses grew up together listening to and absorbing the same Beatles records as kids. When Twins describe themselves on their Facebook page as “lo-fi Wings” they’re only being halfway cheeky. I’d also wager that some dust particles from the Brill Building got embedded in the Sires DNA somewhere along the way, given their instinct for a catchy tune. You can throw in a little bit of early Big Star while you’re at it.
Compared to the output of the Teddy Boys I’d place Funny Faces as confidently looser and brasher in performances than Love After Dark, while the songwriting more closely resembles Songs For Swingers but with the hyperactive tempos eased up a notch. The production, and arrangements of guitar tones and instrumentation are some of Joel and Harper’s most polished yet, inching towards Dylan’s territory but still keeping it simple. Harper, the quiet one, takes on most of the lead vocals, or so it would seem; it can be hard to tell the two voices apart, but Harper is the more quirkily off-key one, a quality that works much better here than it did on Love After Dark, giving the songs a certain friendly everyman appeal.
For the most part, Funny Faces serves up a series of relentlessly sunny gems in the signature Joel-and-Harper style, each as infectious as the last. What dark clouds do appear are confined to the occasional lyric, still backed with bouncy guitar hooks and vocal harmonies, as on “My Old Ways.” A few songs in, one could complain of it getting a little samey if it weren’t still so darn much fun; yet it’s still a treat when we get to the quieter acoustic moment of the folky “If I Had a Song”. Album closer “Sound The Alarm” even gets a little bit Badfinger with some delightful moments of gooey chorus tone on the guitar.
It’s maybe a bit of a shame that this disc didn’t make it out a few months earlier, as these are quintissential summer jams, but as we head into the twilight months, Funny Faces may be just the thing to chase away seasonal depression. For that matter you may as well make a point to keep it within arm’s reach for next spring too.