Select Works in Music Journalism
You hear it constantly these days: “The rock band is dying; the rock band is dead.” Whether this outlook is simply a jaded gripe, a universal truth, or some combination of both, it behooves a band in the modern age to seek ways to define themselves as more than “just a band”. Spinning a mythology is one way — whether that mythology be underpinned by some sort of philosophy, an outlandish tale, or simply an ability to spread artistic wings wide.
Such mythologies are sometimes wholly manufactured — but for Montreal and Toronto-based three-piece, DOOMSQUAD, the mythology came naturally, through spontaneous growth followed by deliberate action. You see, DOOMSQUAD have an interesting tale from the outset, for they are a family band — comprised of multi-instrumentalists Jaclyn, Allie, and Trevor Blumas, two sisters and a brother — who never intended to make music together. Yet after pursuing their separate artistic interests in different cities across North America, they intersected in adulthood to discover that the fruits did not fall far from the tree, and somehow, the philosophies and musical tastes which came to govern their separate existences somehow made them the perfect collaborative partners.
“We basically forced ourselves to break out of time. We got rid of all the clocks and time devices, and we would force ourselves to stay up really late, and then wake up really early in the morning, to break out of the habitual practices that we had conjured from the city. We got in this weird state of out of time, and the only things we had to give the sense of time was the sun rising and the sun setting.” – Trevor Blumas, DOOMSQUAD
2014 has seen the release of Gardens & Villa’s second full-length record, Dunes — and while these same themes of life, love, nostalgia, and nature still resonate heavily with the band of brothers, months of relentless touring and eye-opening experiences have brought them to this current point, which is philosophically and musically evolved from where they were three years ago. They have matured — and this maturation can be found in the change from the barebones simplicity of the first to the layered complexities of the second, as well as in the lyrical content, which is now far more difficult to decrypt. Both records still contain much that is celebratory and have a similar thread of emotional honesty — but the difference is that on Dunes, what is honest, and what is real, feels less dedicated to enclosed emotions and memories, but more to how one interfaces with the multi-colored pastiche of interconnected human experience, on a larger scale.
“The second record is a lot more realistic, I guess, and there’s a little bit of melancholy in the record that kind of came out of so much time on the road and missing home. But there’s also some beautiful elements on both the records that also came out of that time. Basically, I’m trying to say that getting older and touring a bunch wasn’t all a bad thing; it was actually a good thing. It’s kind of us discovering how we’re going to do this and survive. The time on the road [was us] realizing our dream, but at the same time, seeing our dream as this long, arduous journey that’s not what we thought it was.” – Chris Lynch, Gardens & Villa
China’s Indie Music Scene: Transforming Contemporary Chinese Culture From The Bottom Up // 中国独立音乐现状剖析：从底层跃升并改变中国当代文化 (October 2013)
As in any developing country, China has become a breeding ground for new and often innovative ideas – and included in that are an increasing number of musicians searching for their own identities. Many of them are following and documenting their own creative impulses, thereby bringing some musical change to a society otherwise dominated by mainstream Asian pop.
如许多发展中国家一样，中国正孕育着许多新颖，极具创造力的艺术思想 – 这些思想都来自于那些努力发声，力求为大众所见的艺术家、音乐家们。众多音乐家正跟随记录着他们自己的艺术脉搏，运用着他们的创造力，努力为日渐单一、主流化的亚洲流行音乐市场带来不一样的声音及改变。
“The world’s image of China is that of a faceless factory worker, the tasteless new rich Chinese buying property everywhere, the 1.5 billion black dots in the horizon sucking up resources. It doesn’t realize that there are also 1.5 billion potential creative minds in this country as well. I think it will take time to make that true.” – Helen Feng, Nova Heart
“世界对中国的印象一直以来都是千篇一律，毫无特征的工厂工人，只有金钱却毫无品味的中国买家，以及用力耗尽资源的15亿人口。然而大多数人都没有意识到，这15亿人口也是15亿个潜在创造力。我想这需要时间去使其成真。” – Nova Heart (新星心) 的冯海宁
The Real Icelandic Music Scene: Interviews with Icelandic Musicians & MP3 Mixtape Downloads (March 2011)
In spring 2010, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, billowing an ash cloud so large it disrupted air travel in Western Europe for nearly a month. News stations scrambled to cover the event, and all eyes turned to Iceland, both praising it and admonishing it for its native geographic wonders. But once the ash settled, so did the attention. Once again, Iceland found itself inhabiting its own isolated region of the world.
Iceland is a small country with a reputation built upon a foundation of misinformation. Few people have first-hand knowledge of the country, but many think they do. They spread the myth that Iceland is frozen over by glaciers year-round, that it’s barely inhabitable during the winter months. They harp that quirky Icelanders have a widespread belief in the existence of fairies. No wonder a musician as eccentric as Björk would spawn from such a curious land!
These hastily-draw conclusions do not paint the whole picture.
““Icelanders are blessed with beautiful nature, lots of water, and space, and there’s great energy in the country. But I think that more importantly, the most successful Icelandic musicians have been led by their curiosity and put a lot of time and effort into their art, and as result, created their own unique musical world.” – Ólöf Arnalds
Select Works in Visual Arts Journalism
Julie Alpert Artist Interview: Following Forms (August 2015)
S p l a t t e r s – –
Freedom of form, in intuition…
Seattle artist Julie Alpert speaks in the language of colorful flourish. Utilizing a brilliant slew of found objects and textural materials to evoke a hard-to-pinpoint sense of nostalgia, her work unravels on gallery walls like word associations mined from subconscious minds. Site-specific, certainly, but “site-transformative” may be just as strong a term. Far from passive, Alpert uses art to make bold statements, and employs a combination of spontaneous and planned processes to actively encourage viewers to reevaluate their relationship to white wall installs.
“I certainly have patterns and systems that I use, and I have a cache in my mind of certain shapes that follow other shapes — but I’m totally working intuitively. I’m trying really hard to let my brain not get involved.” – Julie Alpert
To trace one’s own path from infancy to adulthood can sometimes mean ascribing new meaning to past events. It can mean uncovering moments that seemed innocuous at the time of their happening, only to discover later that they were, in fact, profoundly moving. Nature and ritualistic dance, two prime inspirations for Southern California artist Nathan Hayden, came to him down the pipeline of experience, in the form of significant life events he can now place importance upon as an adult. These moments, coupled with Hayden’s curiosities towards the world-at-large, make him an artist that is ever-synthesizing and ever-seeking, eager to experiment and follow his many multidisciplinary whims.
“I’m just trying to access the possibilities of other things, and in the same way that I look at art throughout history and nature for little pieces of those other realms, I’m hoping that I can be a part of that process and for people to get a peek into other realms by looking at my stuff, that might bring about stuff that I can’t even imagine.” – Nathan Hayden
Since creativity first sparked, whether with cave drawings, landscape paintings, or outdoor installations, nature and art have been intertwined in constant evolution alongside humanity itself. Now, with increased reliance on computer technology, comes naturalistic artwork such as that of multi-disciplinary artist Mark Dorf, who combines his life-long love of the sciences and geography with digital technologies such as 3D rendering and programming. The resulting works merge gradients, color blocks, and generated forms with photography, creating holographic spaces and manipulating existing ones.
“I see art as a reflection of our cultural environment — social issues and current events are inherently reflected in art. Whether we intend to or not, as creators, we react to everything that we come in contact with either consciously or subconsciously; we are a product of our environment. As a result, the more science and technology that is present in our everyday lives, the more and more I think it will become present in contemporary art. In the past few years, there has been an incredible amount of new art based around technology and the internet, which unsurprisingly reflects the incredible rise of technology and the omnipotent presence of the web that we have in our day to day experiences.” – Mark Dorf, on the merging of art, science, and technology
Select Works in Film Journalism
The Tribe – Плем’я – Plemya Film Review (Ukraine) (February 2015)
Calling to mind controversial films like Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible (2002) or Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997) and Kids (1995), The Tribe can be construed by some as a film of senseless depravity. Over the course of two hours, it is unrelenting as it bleakly follows the lives of an isolated group of deaf-mute schoolchildren that perpetuate a hierarchical system of bullying, violence, and prostitution within the confines of their school and its adjacent living quarters. The film boasts proudly that no spoken words and no subtitles are necessary to convey its themes of love and hate — and in this regard, The Tribe is, from the get-go, unlike any other. Bold and polarizing, it wordlessly pulls one deep into its trenches, fictionalizing teenage depravity in the cold, rough climate of post-Soviet Ukraine.
I Origins Film Review & Interview w/ Director Mike Cahill: Notes on Spiritual Subjectivity and Artistic Magnetism (August 2014)
Like many of my favorite movies (Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain comes to mind), I Origins is damned polarizing. It presently has 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, and reviews have critics gasping for air in both the blissfully astonished and offended, incredulous sense. Among the skeptics, one can see comments such as Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly‘s bitter remark of, “The movie’s musings are disingenuous at best and infuriating at worst, delivered with a hollow solemnity that the flowery story never warrants.”
It is clear that, as with many a metaphysically-minded film, the value you gain from I Origins depends on your relationship to the world at-large, which includes your spiritual sphere of knowledge and, perhaps, whether you think “flowery” is a good or bad thing. As a director, though, Mike Cahill also knows that the true purpose of art is not necessarily to please everyone.
“If they didn’t feel it, they didn’t feel it. No biggie,” says Cahill. “If three people respond to it, then I’ve found those three people that I want to have dinner with, and those are my like-minded spirit kind, like-minded peeps. And I’ll hang out with those people and engage with them with those ideas. We kind of live in cynical times, and that just comes with how it is.”