by Chris Randle
The trouble with Nguzunguzu being so great? Their name is still hard to type. (Can we call this the Merrill Garbus Problem?) At least that mouthful of a moniker, inspired by carvings from the Solomon Islands, suits their whorled rhythms. The DJ duo have a monomaniacal side: their “Moments in Love” mix unites 20+ remixes and edits of the old Art of Noise single. But my favourite thing they’ve ever done is the recent “Perfect Lullaby” set, and it moves across a larger, more expansive canvas. Merging gauzy, feather-light reworkings of AAA R&B (Ciara, Amerie’s “1 Thing,” The-Dream) into a carefully assembled whole, the mix is 48 minutes of unrelieved loveliness.
Nguzunguzu’s approach to R&B diverges from the lo-fi, indie-friendly, highly controversial aesthetic of How to Dress Well or the Weeknd. The former sounds as if he’s recording inside a drainpipe, while the latter prefer their tracks listless, washed-out and Beach-House-sampling. But hey, I like a lot of songs that might have been captured on equipment found curbside, and not in spite of that. It’s just that the production of “Perfect Lullaby” better amplifies its borrowed vocals, remains sensitive to their emotional nuances.
In the Weeknd’s alienated lyrics, sex and its catalysts are oppressively constant, the bottle service of the damned. This transcendent Nguzunguzu remix of Ciara’s “Deuces” remix (more tongue-twisting) conjures up a different vision of the party’s end: Thought that it was perfect, hope that it was worth it / But I’ll be okay, no more stress, no more pain / I’ll be straight, I’m chucking up them deuces.
by Chris Randle
I was planning to write a real post this week, I swear. Then one of the people I wanted to interview for it came down with a nasty flu. Instead, like Carl last time round, I’m going to share a B2TW-friendly piece from parts elsewhere – my Toronto Standard interview with Katie Stelmanis. Here’s the intro:
“Many theological, mythological and esoteric traditions suggest that knowing an individual’s true name gives one power over them.
But the ancients never had to agonize over band names. Toronto’s Katie Stelmanis switched her stage moniker to Austra last year, and if that handle is less enigmatic than it seems — it’s just her middle name — the change corresponds with a greater musical one. The distorted keyboards and MIDI effects of her 2008 solo debut Join Us have given way to dark, atmospheric electro-pop on Austra’s upcoming Feel It Break, lushly produced and pledged to rhythm. […]“
The final result was a little more formal than I might prefer, but that’s magazines for you, and most of them wouldn’t couple the Q&A with 22 minutes of Austra performing inside an artificial cave. Yes, I’m excited about this Toronto Standard business. Carl will be writing for it too. In the meantime, I leave you with a bonus question, ’cause blogs don’t have no word count:
CR: I know it’s not included on the album, but what drew you to cover that Roy Orbison song, “Crying”?
KS: That song…Whenever I choose cover songs, I always choose songs that are really fun for me to sing. And I think, also, songs that are different from the songs that I write. That song is 100% about the words, and about the melody, and the words are just as strong as the melody. I often don’t listen to words when I listen to music, but in that song they’re so potent and so strong that it’s really enjoyable for me to sing. I feel like I’m telling a story, and it’s…it’s a really emotional and beautiful song, and I always take pleasure in singing songs that are telling a story, because my songs don’t really do that.
by Carl Wilson
Since I haven’t been able to do a full-blown post for a little while, I thought I’d share one of the pieces I have written lately in the B2TW spirit – my review for The Los Angeles Times of the new Britney Spears album, Femme Fatale. It starts like this:
“In the annals of radical art, there are ‘multiple use’ names such as Luther Blissett, Monty Cantsin and Karen Eliot that anyone is invited to adopt as noms de plume. They’re meant to assert a communal conception of creativity, as opposed to the Western myth of individual genius, and to let imaginations explore taboo territories under cover of anonymity. The name Britney Spears may be ready to join that anti-pantheon. […]“
I’d like to note that the headline is a little misleading: I’m not actually saying that this mindblowingly danceable album lacks “anything deeper” – just that the meaningful elements are on two levels that are not conventionally where people look for depth: First, in the actual textures and dynamics of the music, which are more experimental and have a wider range of reference points than a lot of people expect from a Britney record (although at least since Blackout that’s been a mistake). Second, perhaps more importantly, in the way that listeners bring their own meanings to her music now because of their own attachment to her death-and-resurrection narrative, her public passion play, so vague in its outline but so dramatic in its peak moments. This kind of extra-textual experience is often dismissed as illegitimate, gossip-level interaction with any kind of art – indeed, as if the amount of it available is inversely proportional to a work’s legitimacy as art. But we’re way past the point where that’s viable.
Hope you like the piece.