The Spacesuits: Finding Paradise with Karneef

20 Feb 2015 — Anaïs Duplan

Sun Ra and his Arkestra were known, amongst other things, for their elaborate space garb – the sequins, the ancient Egyptian symbolism, the face-paint, the full-length capes. These were spacesuits the band wore to accompany them on their mission to ‘travel the spaceways.’ So when I first began the project I called The Spacesuits, the plan was to construct a series of costumes, modeled after the garments of the Saturnalian people from which Mr. Blount claimed to have descended. I drew inspiration from the early ILC Dover spacesuit prototypes, crafted in the mid-sixties. I also drew inspiration from artist and Afrofuturist Nick Cave, known for his Soundsuits, large wearable sculptures whose bedazzling feathers and contours are meant to obscure the race, class, and gender of its inhabitants.

The Spacesuits, however, quickly became more about the music than about the costumery. The Arkestra’s outfits, after all, were only subsidiary elements of a larger mission; namely, that to restore race relations by re-imagining a future for blacks that quite literally transcended space and time. Sun Ra’s music was, above all, paradise music. It was music, which by the process of “telemolecularization” (a word coined and used often by Sun Ra), would transport its listeners to another dimension.

Thus began my own search for Sonny Blount’s contemporary musical descendants. The Spacesuits became a collective of musicians in whose work I heard elements of new utopias. I studied their bodies of work and searched for themes like apocalypse, reincarnation, the afterlife, etc. To each musician, I provided five ‘calls to action.’ I gave them prompts like, “Create a short book on how to communicate with stars. Do not use words,” (a prompt given to Stasia Irons of THEESatisfaction) and “Imagine the instant the world began. Create the corresponding soundscape,” (a prompt for Bryce Hample of REIGHNBEAU). The responses produced by the musicians in The Spacesuits collective will form the basis of a series of 8+ multimedia installations over the course of The Spacesuits summer tour, which begins on April 24th at Mengi in Reykjavík, Iceland and then travels across North America. (See the full schedule here.)

When Portals did a micro-feature of Montreal-based musician Karneef in April 2014, I knew I’d want him in The Spacesuits crew. The feature was succinct, if humorous. It read:

Montreal’s Karneef is a man that really, really loves his bass. The video for his new single “Swimming” finds him in some weird situations, most of which involve him in his underwear. Karneef keeps it cool with a lot of smooth strumming and awkward dance moves; occasionally hiding behind paintings so he can scope out a cute girl in the studio. She seems to be in her own world for most of the video, walking around aimlessly and dancing while Karneef serenades her in different parts of the studio.

It is true that Philip Antoine Karneef does indeed love his bass. But he’s also up to much more. Karneef’s 2013 album Love Between Us is, for me, an exercise in paradise music. It is, of course, tongue-in-cheek, but its sincerity is just as unmistakeable. In fact, over time, it has become clear to me that paradise music always plays on that tension between irony and sincerity. One of my favorite moments in A Joyful Noise, Robert Mugge’s 1980 documentary, is when that very subtle smile appears on Sun Ra’s visage as he advocates for governments to give constitutional rights to angels. The smile isn’t signaling that Sun Ra is, in fact, joking around. Instead, the smile says, “There’s a lot more going on here than you think.”

Read Anaïs Duplan's interview with Philip Karneef after the break. 

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Sea Change “Squares”

20 Feb 2015 — Andrew Darley

Sea Change is Ellen A.W. Sundes’s musical project whose debut album, Breakage, is due out February 23rd. Based in Oslo, the musician recognizes her own shyness as an impetus for this project: “I've spent so much time being too shy to show people my music or even actually write finished songs because of my own self-censorship. This project is about letting go and just being comfortable in this space”. The record’s title, Breakage, refers to her own desire to break away from old to create a new environment for herself. "Squares" reflects the heart and sound of the debut record. Entering with breathy vocals and a stuttering beat, she sings of escaping the trappings which hold her back. It broods in its sparseness, as she vows that her “feet will run all they can”. "Squares", much like the album, drifts between a melancholic and a rising spirit. Sea Changes’ Breakage is the sound of an artist transcending the anxieties which restrain her creativity and discovering her own voice.

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Swim Platførm “HVAL FALL 2”

20 Feb 2015 — Richard Greenan

After a chance meeting in Oslo, French composer Romeo Poirier and Norwegian writer Lars Haga Raavand agreed to collaborate. The result - which chronicles the death of a whale and its ghostly descent to the Atlantic seabed - is intoxicating. Poirier's palette is vast: a swell of strings and electronics plunging fathoms deep amongst the clicks and whirrs of creatures unknown. Discordant, Copland-esque brass emerges, like some menacing flotsam. A mesmerising tow of piano chords recalls the disjointed harmonies of Jonny Greenwood or Murcof. Then, to cement the trance, Raavand lilts and enounces delicately, before he too is swallowed up. The sense of bereavement and grief is palpable. I find myself hanging on every word, despite not knowing what they mean. You can read more and purchase Raavand's book, Hvalfall, here. Also be sure to explore more of Poirier's music, which is produced under the nom de plume Swim Platførm.

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NFOP Recommends: Farfara Live in Berlin

16 Feb 2015 — Johanne Swanson

I first met Etkin Cekin at his place of work, Acud in Mitte. Our editor Henning Lahmann and I were DJing at a show for the Dublin outfit Girl Band and, as such, played a loud scuzzy set of pop songs by actual bands with girls in them. It wasn’t once but three times that the bartender lit up and gave an enthusiastic nod of approval at the beginning of a track. This was Etkin Cekin.

It should then be no surprise that Cekin’s three-piece Farfara bring a similar eager pop sensibility that is all too lacking to Berlin. The fervor in their sludgy hooks is like being fifteen all over again, the adventure of fleeting innocence. It may be that Farfara have been able to hold on to this teenage feeling because Cekin first started playing music with Tolga Böyük between kicking around their skateboards in a suburb outside of Istanbul. Three years later, in 2004, the two met Eralp Güven while studying and first realized their potential as a trio. None of this is to say that Farfara is uncomplicated; their beachy guitars falter into mature realms of spontaneous psych drone.

Tonight, supporting Deerhoof, Farfara kicks off three live dates in Berlin before breaking in anticipation of a full-length release. We are featuring all three shows, as each set is sure to be different in the nature of their propensity towards experimentation and improvisation. 

16.2: Lido Berlin with Deerhoof
19.2: Urban Spree
27.2: Acud with Derdiyoklar

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STROMBOLI “Low Radiation” (exclusive)

09 Feb 2015 — Henry Schiller

Within the world of lapsteel ambient guitar music - admittedly, one that provides very small margins for comparison - STROMBOLI seems like a stylistic outlier. Rather than ponderous or contemplative, STROMBOLI's take on ambience is evocative of the synthetic fang-baring of Italian slasher-flick scores from the mid-60s. On top of that, STROMBOLI's uncharacteristically aggressive approach to rhythm feels more akin to a dance-punk act like Liars, kicking against the notion that ambient music cannot move at any pace other than 'glacial.'

"Low Radiation" is a track from STROMBOLI's upcoming debut EP for Maple Death Records, and it briskly captures an almost punk attitude to which STROMBOLI seems hell-bent on associating with ambience. A coarse, repeating beat, which sounds like small pockets of air eploding in rapid succession, gives "Low Radiation" an immediacy that is very atypical for a genre that is historically more aligned with ponderous journeys through tone and waveform than a fast-approaching horror. "Low Radiation" is an immediately graspable package that still manages to meet one of the most important requirements for ambient music: that it sounds accidental, having emerged from your surroundings through the blind luck of some uncontrollable natural process.

STROMBOLI's debut EP is available for pre-order through Maple Death Records.

 

 

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Teresa Winter “How Strange Are Bodies”

06 Feb 2015 — Richard Greenan

Here's a weightless number from the previously unbeknownst to me Teresa Winter, bubbling up from a forthcoming tape on Reckno (and one of the first vocal-laden albums on the mighty label, if I'm not mistaken).

Bouncing forever down a hall of mirrors, Teresa's featherlight vocals and braided synth flutes echo Vashti Bunyan and Geoffrey Oryema. The chorus lands a hook where no hook should stay – hanging like a glow-worm amidst a multiverse of voices. Meltier still, the gorgeous coda takes devotional singing, distant brass and a cascade of Ravel-esque piano – over all too quickly.

Teresa Winter's album Oh Tina No Tina is out soon on Reckno. A little bird tells us some advance tapes will be available at the Peckham Independent Label Fair in London this Saturday - get down there!

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Watch: Swahili “Vestal” (exclusive)

02 Feb 2015 — Henry Schiller

Swahili are a Portland based five-piece whose debut LP was by and large a fusion of industrial drone and distorted, naturalistic beats. Inspired by the paranoid futurism of Philip K. Dick's Valis, Swahili are now shifting more towards the bright, synthetic pummeling associated with Vangelis and the silver age of science fiction soundtracks that he helped kick off. The results have been something akin to a nerve-damaged Tom Tom Club: exquisite, funk-inflicted pop music fused onto boundless, synthesized landscapes.

“Vestal” is a single from Swahili’s upcoming album Amovreux, and the track proves that the group has the energy to show off discotheque charisma over the course of an unflagging, six minute rhythmic loop. Frontwoman Van Pham's voice has the force to keep up with the throbbing rhythm behind it, while remaining maneuverable enough to evoke an almost elegiac sense of spirited wonder.

In her video for "Vestal", Portland-based artist Vivian Hua has mapped Swahili’s rhythmic psych-pop to a swirl of psychedelic imagery, comparable to early videos produced for the Pink Floyd, and mildly evocative of the drugged-out paranoia associated with Dick's novel.

Amovreux is out March 24 on Seattle label Translinguistic Other.

 

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Rob Jacobs “Golden Flower” (exclusive)

30 Jan 2015 — Henry Schiller

The thing I love about someone like Scott Walker is how apparent his jarring experimentation is made by the fact that it's set against such a traditionally appealing voice. Walker is probably capable of making the most vile screed sound like a Gregorian lullabye, but he slaps it on top of some of the most uncomfortable music imaginable. Chicago's Rob Jacobs - who this post is actually about - works a similar angle from its opposite end. Jacobs' instrumentation has a lot in common with that of someone like Vashti Bunyan: it's soothing, intellectual folk music based around chord changes that skew slightly more towards awe-inspiring than obvious.

Jacobs' voice, on the other hand, is rather weird.

The result is a wonderful asymmetry between the celestial forest folk unwinding across the instruments and Jacobs' alien - though clearly practiced - ululations. Jacobs’ music has the feeling of a wonderfully ornate, brass-wrought antique which still serves some function in a contemporary setting (imagine, for example, if Leonardo DaVinci had invented a seven foot tall machine that performed all the same tasks as a MacBook Pro). Nowhere is the appeal of Jacobs' lilting, contemporary folk more apparent than on the beautiful “Golden Flower”, which you can listen to below.

Rob Jacobs’ new self-titled album is out February 7 on International Anthem.

 

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