Still Night, Still Bright: Au Revoir Simone

Everyone say hello to Angeliska Polacheck from Austin, Texas! Angel attended SXSW earlier this year to cover some of the festival’s more enchanting performers for Coilhouse. First up, an interview with Au Revoir Simone. ~Mer

A.R.S. in Austin, TX for SXSW, 2009. Photo by Angeliska Polacheck.

The keyboard-playing trio Au Revoir Simone makes dreamy, lo-fi electro-pop music with wistful lyrics and dulcet harmonies that Spin Magazine aptly describes as “make-out music for your inner android”.  The band’s name is a line from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, which makes them even more lovable! Heather D’Angelo, Erika Forster and Annie Hart have been together since 2003, recorded three albums, and recently completed tours with Air, We Are Scientists and Peter, Bjorn and John. Their latest album, Still Night, Still Bright, is the perfect late night/early morning soundtrack, filled with introspective melodies guaranteed to soothe a buzzing brain or keep one company at sunrise.

Chatting with the girls during SXSW last March, I was utterly charmed by their sweetness. Despite having played a whirlwind of shows over a handful of days during the festival (the Moshi Moshi Records showcase, the Brooklyn Vegan & Agency Group showcase and to a packed rooftop at Maggie Mae’s) they were remarkably serene. Peaceful respite from the hubbub was found in a hedge-maze on the haunted grounds of the French Legation, where we discussed kindred spirits, darkness, haircuts, and David Lynch.

A.R.S. press packet photo. Photographer unknown.

Coilhouse: I’ve been listening to your new album Still Night, Still Light a lot lately, and have fallen in love with it.  What’s the title about?

Erika: We just came up with it in our practice space. We were asking ourselves, “What are these songs to us?” and we thought about the feeling of 5am, and the sort of clarity that happens when everything is quiet around you, and the stillness. It was free association, and just yelling out words in the practice space. Pretty much everything happens that way for us –our band name, our song titles– everything always happens that way, where we just kind of throw stuff out. We look around at each other and as soon as we’re all smiling, we know we’ve found the winner!

Heather: It’s hard enough to get two people to agree on something, so getting three people to agree… it’s never a fight, but if somebody’s like “hmmm” then you don’t feel as good about it.

[Interview continues after the jump.]

A Fruity Bonne Bell-Flavored Mega Queef from 1984

California-born dancer/singer Heather Parisi isn’t a household name in the US, but some of our Mediterranean readers might recognize her. Back in the late 70s, an Italian producer discovered the flexible 19-year-old sunning on a beach in Rimini. Parisi was set up with the best thrustiest jazz choreographer liras could buy, pimped out in one seriously bedazzlicious wardrobe, and became an Italian TV pop sensation overnight.

There are so many transcendentally Stupid/Awesome aspects to this video for her song “Crilù”, it’s hard to know where to start. Just… enjoy.

Gyrations atop a giant Rubik’s cube? Check. Uber groiny, hardbodied ballet dancers in metallic bowler shoes? Check. Intimated BJ three-way with male Moschino models? Check. Glittering Mickey Mouse butt cleavage? OKAY NOW THAT’S JUST GOING TOO FAR.

Clip via DJ Dead Billy, thanks. More Parisi videos after the jump. Additionally, if you appreciate this level of Stupid/Awesome 80s kitsch, you may also like:

Jorge Colombo “Finger Paints” A New Yorker Cover

Ah, the iPhone, near ubiquitous accessory of the hipster elite and tech obsessed, it seems to be everywhere. When I first arrived at the Catacombs I expected to see the vile object somewhere in its vast warrens, and prepared myself to deal with people intently glazing the surfaces of tiny screens with their filthy finger oils, not bothering to make eye contact. I was not to be disappointed. In fact, one of the first sights to greet me upon my arrival was that of Miss Ebb. She was in an alcove off the main hall. The entryway had no door, but in its stead a yellowed and moldy sheet was hung. This was pulled to the side and I could see Zo sprawled upon a filthy mattress; a soiled nightgown, which at one time may have been white but had long ago darkened to a grimy beige, clinging to her emaciated frame. Her loyal servant girl, Jing Hua, knelt in stoic silence at her side, tending an enormous, ornately carved opium pipe. The odor coming from that alcove smelled of the drug and sweat and urine, all combining into a faint but unmistakable scent, like death.

Zo was gazing languidly at her phone’s screen and it was several seconds before she noticed me. Slowly raising her head she looked at me through half-closed eyes and from her chapped and crusted lips she said, “I’m in Paris. I told everyone on Twitter that I was, so it must be true,” before her head lolled back and she let loose a loping, dizzy giggle. She stopped suddenly, as if she had forgotten what she had found so funny, and let the phone slip from her fingers. She then rolled on her side and Jing Hua, obviously aware of her mistress’s subtle signals, placed the pipe in her mouth, letting her inhale deeply. I turned as she exhaled a massive plume of thick smoke and continued on down the hall, the sounds of a dry, spastic cough echoing behind me, having gotten the distinct impression that this particular conversation was over.

As I walked I thought that there had to be something to Apple’s gadget, if even a spaced-out dope fiend could navigate its surface competently while in the midst of chasing the dragon. It was interesting to note, then, The New Yorker — that bastion of culture and obtuse cartoons — touting that the cover for this week’s magazine was digitally crafted by artist Jorge Colombo using Brushes, and recorded with Brushes Viewer so that we can all see how absolutely mind blowing and future-fabulous it is.

All sarcasm aside, I actually wish they could have filmed his fingers as he painted it. I can’t help but think that my own, clumsy digits would allow for lines too fat and globular for even The New Yorker’s Impressionist leanings.

Richard Beymer’s Twin Peaks Gallery

Actor Richard Beymer, who played Benjamin Horne in Twin Peaks, has a gallery of hauntingly beautiful  black-and-white photos from his time behind the scenes on the David Lynch show. Even if you never watched the whole series (as – full disclosure – I still haven’t had the opportunity to!) – the photos stand alone as an enthralling glimpse at the synergy that evolves around any special production between the cast and the crew. The photos read almost as family portraits, permeated by a sense of camaraderie and playfulness. Lynch himself is always a wonderful photographic subject – this portrait of Lynch and Isabella Rossellini by Helmut Newton is one of my favorite images of all time. In the Beymer photos, Lynch looks genuinely happy to be working on the series with the equipment and people around him. The grainy processing of the film adds another layer of nostalgia over every shot. See all 49 images here. [via Flesh World – nswf]

Men, Heroes, and Gay Nazis

In the wake of the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8, banning gay marriage, I found this 2004 documentary by Rosa von Praunheim about gay men in Germany who belong to ultra right-wing, nationalist organizations interesting, if only for the dichotomy it seems to represent. It may boggle the mind to imagine someone who, as a member of an oppressed group or subculture, would choose to associate with a group who champions a way of thinking that is so diametrically opposed to that individual’s well-being; a way of thinking that went so far as to sanction their extermination. That they themselves don’t appear to see this conflict of interests is strange, but that they would not sympathize with the groups that they speak against may strike one as stranger.

It is, I think, a blind spot for many of the more liberal minded of us. The quest for equality, as noble and necessary as it is, will always have a less savory side; for while we are all indeed the same regardless of skin color, or belief, or sexual orientation, we can also fear the same way, and hate the same way, and discriminate the same way. It seems that for many — many more than should be — equality does not apply to everyone and just because they deserve the same rights and privileges as “everyone else”, doesn’t mean there aren’t those lower on the totem pole who don’t deserve the same; those who can still remain quantified as “other”.

It is, perhaps, a cynical take on human nature but one that bears some truth. Hopefully in time it, like Prop 8, will be nothing but a sad and embarrassing memory.

[via poeTV]

More Star Trek Weirdness from Belgium

A few months ago, Mer posted some incredibly strange remixed ST:TNG episodes made by Jan Van Den Hemel and Andrew Hussie.  Since that time, many more little episodes have popped up on Gazorra, Van Den Hemel’s YouTube channel. Recently, the two creators were interviewed by MassLive.

The hits keep coming, and the new episodes are too good not to repost! Here are two performance-themed clips, with some more favorites after the jump, and still more new ones up on YouTube, the latest one having appeared just last week.

Secret Hobbies And Sorrowful Dolls

Considering this is my second post concerned with dolls one may have the impression that I am some sort of aficionado; an enthusiast; a doll fancier. While it is true that I may have a small collection of figurines, I would not take this as a sign that I am deeply embedded in the hobby. And while, yes, it is true that some of the dolls may have been painstakingly handcrafted by myself; requiring hours of meticulous effort under a dingy, sixty watt bulb this does not necessarily mean that I have any deep affection for the craft. And while these dolls may have been modeled after the curves and features of the otherworldly nymphs who are my editors, the clothes fashioned from the surreptitiously stolen threads of their garments, their hair being the same follicles so carefully and secretively trimmed and harvested whenever one of these heavenly creatures appeared at my desk to inform me that no, Ross, no one wants to read about your fantasies of being given a sponge bath by Norwegian nurses of Amazonian stature and maybe you should think about, I don’t know, perhaps writing a paragraph or two about the actual fucking thing you are linking instead of stringing a bunch of arcane adjectives together with commas and semi-colons into a long winded sentence concerning nothing but your own, sick little world — that doesn’t mean that I’m obsessed or odd.

Which brings us, slowly but surely, to the work of Julien Martinez, whose highly detailed figures exude a different sort of oddness. Most of the people and creatures who inhabit his world are hunched, squat, and old, their swollen conjunctiva making even the children appear octogenarian. Indeed, even their skeletons are drooping, the mouths pulled down by massive, boned jowls. It’s striking that only two figures of the entire portfolio are what many would consider traditionally beautiful, Végalia, pictured above, being one of them with her delicate face protected by a fishbowl mask. Most resemble Melchior et Brutus, exuding a forlorn weariness tinged with ennui; beautiful in their own, otherworldly way.

Another Mr. Lizard: The Miracle of “Jam”

Two acquired tastes: British comedy, and the type of laughs that come within milliseconds of uttering the phrase “what did I just witness? That was so wrong.” If you’re allergic to either brand of humor, particularly the latter, stay back. Click away, because these clips will take you to a dark, dark place. To the rest of you assholes who think that dead babies are funny: welcome to the world of Jam, the most twisted sketch comedy series ever produced.

Jam is one of those great shows that’s been reduced to YouTube tatters due to music licensing issues. The episodes are interlaced with dreamy, ambient sounds by the likes of Low, Beta Band, Aphex Twin and Brian Eno. If you’ve never seen the show, let us begin at the beginning. Below is Episode 1, Part 1. It begins with “an invocation of sorts” (there was one of these at the beginning of every episode; here’s another opener), and leads right into “It’s About Ryan,” a sketch about two concerned parents asking their child’s godfather to gain the affections of a local pervert in order to keep him away from their boy (UPDATE: that video was removed by YouTube, so I’ve replaced it with a clip of “It’s About Ryan,” without the intro):

When dancing… lost in techno trance. Arms flailing, gawky Bez. Then find you snagged on frowns, and slowly dawns… you’re jazzing to the bleep-tone of a life support machine, that marks the steady fading of your day old baby daughter. And when midnight sirens lead to blue-flash road-mash. Stretchers, covered heads and slippy red macadam, and find you creeping ‘neath the blankets to snuggle close a mangled bird, hoping soon you too will be freezer drawered. Then welcome… blue chemotherapy wig, welcome. In Jam. Jaaam. Jaaaaaaam…

The show, written by Chris Morris (with occasional help from the cast) is a successor to Blue Jam, which ran on BBC Radio 1, and was described by the Beeb as “the funniest nightmare you never had.” In some ways, the radio show (which you can listen to here) went even further than the televised version. But since I love the look of the actors (particularly the crazy gleam in Mark Heap’s eye!), the TV version has always been my favorite.

Many of my most beloved Jam clips are now impossible to find online. They disappear, audio tracks get erased by YouTube. So watch these while you can! Type “Chris Morris Jam” into YouTube and enter a world stranger than you ever imagined. Below are some highlights:

I’ve included these videos (and some other gems) after the jump. Enjoy! [Many thanks to my friend Mildred for introducing me to this show]

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas: The Board Game

The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers . . . and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls . . . Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.

-Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The late, great Thompson’s masterpiece, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has been a favorite of mine ever since my father gave me his battered, paperback copy to read in high school. All these years later its magical lunacy is still just as powerful as when I first found Duke and his attorney in the desert.

No surprise then that I am enamored of Jonathan Baldwin’s Rauol inspired, narcotics themed board game. A worthy display piece for anyone with a yen for H.S.T.’s particular brand of mayhem.

[via jwz]

Shotgun and Paintbrush: Acker interviews Burroughs

Here is one of the holy grails of interviews, with visionary writer Kathy Acker quizzing the legendary William Burroughs.

They talk about many things: Word as Virus, Scientology, Jesus and the legion of apocryphal stories that followed Burroughs around like carrion crows. This took place in the late ’80s, and both had less than a decade to live, passing away within a few months of each other in 1997. We will not see their like again.

A particularly telling moment, at least to my eyes, comes early on when Burroughs talks about the power of “shotgun” methods — the cut-up method in writing or a spray blast in painting — that introduce a random factor. Yet at the same time, they don’t take away the importance of “careful brushwork.”

It’s an important point: it illustrates how false the line between inspiration and discipline is. Acker and Burroughs grasped that instinctually and their works put the lie to that division. I think many people wrongly draw the lesson from both that simply spewing up one’s subconscious visions makes for good writing or art, while missing the considerable craft they put into honing those thoughts into glistening brain-gems.

Lessons aside, the prime pleasure in watching this interview comes from witnessing two keenly unique minds in a fascinating conversation. The rest is below the jump. Enjoy.