The Enduring Power of the NYC Vogue Ball Scene and "Paris Is Burning"

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A quick heads up: NPR just posted “The Music and Meaning of Paris Is Burning“, an article by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd that discusses Jennie Livingston‘s classic 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning and the legendary scene and songs that it celebrates.

In addition to providing an overview of both the documentary and vogue ball culture (both past and present) the NPR feature includes testimonies from Big Freedia, Light Asylum, Zebra Katz, Del Marquis, and many others. A quick, great read. It’s also exciting to discover that the documentary –which has been, for decades, fairly difficult to track down a decent copy of– is now readily available on iTunes and Netflix Streaming.

The realm of Paris Is Burning: resonant and radiant as it ever was.

BTC: Birdy Nam Nam

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If you’ve already experienced Will Sweeney and Steve Scott‘s animated psychedelic 2009 music video for Birdy Nam Nam‘s tune “The Parachute Ending”, look away. Or, hey, don’t. Because you know it’s trippin’ AMAZEBALLS and you probably won’t mind watching it again over a nice morning bowl of strawberries ‘n’ Special K.

Most Birdy Nam Nam-related things tend to be –in this blogger’s humble opinion– pretty thoroughly amazeballs. The BNN DJ crew is comprised of four fabulous Frenchmen known as Crazy-B, DJ Need, DJ Pone, and Little Mike. They joined forces in 2006 and has been steadily gaining notoriety ever since thanks largely to their novel and challenging style of music-making: they take thousands of samples gleaned from various sources, press all of the beats and patterns into towering stacks of vinyl, and then assemble/spin these kaleidoscopic collaged elements live. It’s bleepy bloopy bonkers brilliance.

Enjoy, and have a gorgeous day.

© Birdy Nam Nam / Steve Scott 2009

[Hat tip to Mr. Maps!]

Cornelius Boots Keeps On Rockin' in the Weird World

Edmund Welles, 2010 press photo. Aaron Novik, Jeff Anderle, Jon Russell, and creative mastermind Cornelius Boots in the foreground.

Confession: I’ve been meaning to write a feverish and swooning rave-up of Oakland-based musician Cornelius Boots‘ absurdly beautiful and strange and intelligent and mischievous and sincere and meditative and heavy-as-fuck bass clarinet chamber music group, Edmund Welles*, for years now.

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It certainly isn’t for lack of reverence for Boots or his compositions that I’ve lagged.  When suffering from blogger’s block, my editorial purview tends to be “when in doubt, crap it out.” But occasionally, there are those subjects that you can’t just casually hork up. You want so badly to do them every justice– to elevate and praise them to the highest and most lofty of misty, Middle Earth-worthy mountaintops. Boots’ ouvre definitely lives in that non-horkable category. Well, then! Having unburdened my guilty conscience…

Edmund Welles. 

Yes, Cornelius Boots and friends make music that I want throw a parade for. Or, alternately, throw my frilly undergarments at. While his group Edmund Welles definitely is not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s 100% my cuppa, and hopefully, it’ll resonate with Coilhouse readers who also love waaaay-off-the-beaten-path-no-srsly-bring-your-machete-cos-we-be-bushwhackin’ music.

Via their CD Baby page:

Edmund Welles […] has the distinction of being the world’s only original, composing band of four bass clarinetists, they invent and perform heavy chamber music. The bass clarinet has a five octave range and a huge span of tonal, melodic, and rhythmic capabilities.

Drawing virtuosic precision from the classical realm; innovation and texture from jazz; and power, rhythm and overall perspective from rock and metal, the quartet’s sound is characterized by a thickness of tone, a density of texture, absolute rhythmic precision, and the extreme use of dynamic contrasts: a dense, pulsing sound capable of expressing and reflecting the full range of human emotions.

They ain’t foolin’. It’s a massive, meticulously structured bass reed sound like nothing else you’ve heard. (Parallels have been drawn between John Zorn’s more recent works and Edmund Welles, for sure, but Boots’ steez feels simultaneously more West Coast and Far East-steeped.) Weirdest Band in the World‘s assessment is pretty spot-on as well: “The bass clarinet is an inherently weird instrument. Put four of them together in one group, and it sounds like a chorus of demon cats in heat fighting over a chicken bone. A demon chorus whose eerie caterwaulings just happen to occasionally assemble themselves into passages from Pixies and Nirvana songs.”

In 2005, they put out Agrippa’s 3 Books, which offers up original compositions by Boots that reflect his abiding interest in the occult and his talent for interpreting uber heavy spine-crunching metal. (Hilariously, Boots calls this stuff an attempt to create “Muzak for conspiracy theorists.” ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!) Additionally, there are Sepultura and Spinal Tap covers. Not to mention the most bewilderingly esoteric and brilliant liner notes you’ll find north of a Trey Spruance solo project. (Buy the goddamn CD. Seriously. No, seriously. Totally worth it.)

Edmund Welles’ second album is called Tooth & Claw, and it’s comprised predominantly of original composition that are as bizarre and heavy as anything Boots has ever written, but with more nuanced elements of avant jazz and modern classical woven into the dense sonority.

"Accoutrements Horse Head Mask" Customer Gallery on Amazon

Horse head customer photo, uploaded by Amazon user Mike.

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From the same site that brought you disgruntled reviews of A Million Random Digits comes this bizarre collection of photos. “This mask imbues the wearer with super-human abilities … the power to make everyone around you feel akward and uncomfortable being first among them,” writes one reviewer of this mask on Amazon.

The “Accoutrements Horse Head Mask” customer gallery shows horse-headed people going about their daily lives: reading books to children, playing Scrabble, passing out from too much booze, camping, spelunking, and more. [via raindrift]

“It’s a shame that you can still find this kind of discrimination in America.” Uploaded by Amazon user Michael Genovese.

Nicole Aptekar's Expanded Taxonomy

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This Friday, Devotion Gallery in Brooklyn will be hosting Expanded Taxonomy – an exhibit of artist Nicole Aptekar’s new paper works. Featured previously on Coilhouse for her first collection of paper art, Nicole has upped her game with this exhibition: the geometry is more complex, the pieces are bigger, and each one is composed of 40 sheets or more (whereas the previous pieces were, at most, half that size).

“Condense, diffuse, swell, and strike.” 

“The process of making these works is like hunting—traveling through all the possible shapes to find one that speaks,” writes Nicole in her artist statement. “Once discovered, this abstract form is held captive like a biological specimen. Shiny pins, screws, and hardware make it a part of this world, restraining it in its frame in a way that distances it from its platonic digital origins.” This exhibit also includes two collaborations: one piece with with Mary Franck that uses projection mapping on a large cardboard piece, and another with Ian Baker that utilizes intersections of vinyl that begin inside of the frame but branch outside of it.

The opening is this Friday, April 27th, from 7-11 PM. If you’re coming, I’ll see you there! More images from the show, after the cut.

“At the edge, leaning in.”

Yves "Jetman" Rossy and His Marvelous 10min Jetpack

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Yves Rossy, a latter-day Swiss Air Force fighter pilot and current full-time daredevil, has been working on this jet-powered carbon-fiber design with an engineering team for well over a decade. The most resent incarnation, seen above as the Jetman soars high above the Alps of his homeland, can “only” fly for ten minutes at a time. Pffftwhatever. This stuff is still nothing short of MEGA AWESOMEBALLS. (Incredible high-def footage, too.)


[via The Daily What]

Levon Helm (May 26, 1940 — April 19, 2012)

Levon Helm died today at the age of 71. Here’s a spectacular photograph of Helm that Siege made at the legendary musician’s studio, The Barn, in Woodstock (for Rolling Stone magazine) a few years ago:

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Photo by Clayton James Cubitt.

On heavy rotation today: “Up on Cripple Creek“, “The Shape I’m In“, “The Weight“, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“, various nuggets from Helm’s Midnight Ramble concerts, and, last but not least, “Ophelia“. (“Ashes of laughter / The ghost is clear / Why do the best things always disappear?”)

There’s never been a voice or a soul quite like Helm’s in popular music, and there never will be again. (He was, of course, a very generous and intuitive drummer, too.) Here’s a transcript excerpt from The Band’s concert film The Last Waltz, directed by Scorcese –a film which Helm later famously decried (though, comfortingly, his longstanding feud with bandmate Robbie Robertson appears to have been put to rest shortly before Helm’s death)– but the quote’s just too perfect:

LEVON HELM: Bluegrass and country music … if it comes down into that area and if it mixes there with the rhythm and if it dances, then you’ve got a combination of all that music …

MARTIN SCORSESE: What’s it called?

LEVON HELM: Rock and roll.

Pure and good and true. Thank you for that, Levon Helm. Rest in peace.


It’s hard to believe Dick Clark is gone. Is it safe to surmise that secretly, many of us kids who grew up watching him on the boob tube decided long ago that Clark (or, at the very least, legions of indiscernible vat-grown clones of Clark kept in a top-secret underground facility located a few miles beyond the city limits of Fresno) would be Rockin’ our Eves for centuries to come? Alas.

But the beat must go on. Perhaps… in hologram form?

In (somewhat oblique) honor of the departed (and because NO halfway decent excuse to feature the Mael Brothers on Coilhouse should ever be passed up) here’s a fabulous performance of “Pulling Rabbits out of Hats” by Sparks on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1984, followed by a unexpectedly sweet and silly “interview” between three very disparately distinguished gentlemen. SO GOOD.

Previously on Coilhouse:

Wrap Party / Sneak Peek of "The Narrative of Victor Karloch" (With Music by Mer!)

For the past two years, Kevin McTurk –a world-renowned cinematic effects artist– has been hard at work on a breathtaking personal project called The Narrative of Victor Karloch. McTurk describes it as a “Victorian ghost story puppet film”.

Featuring the voices of Christopher Lloyd, Elijah Wood, and Maurice LaMarche, Karloch combines bunraku style rod puppets, shadow puppetry, and an array of traditional in-camera effects to present a tale from from the journal pages of one Victor Karloch: weatherbeaten alchemist, scholar, and ghost hunter. This film, very much a labor of love for McTurk and his crew, was made possible by grants from Heather Henson’s Handmade Puppet Dreams Film Series and from The Jim Henson Foundation.

Photo provided by Kevin KcTurk.

As you can see from the above preview, it’s a stunning piece of workAnd did I mention that the film’s score was provided by Zoe Keating, Lustmord, and… our very own Meredith Yayanos? Yes!

This Thursday, April 19, at Meltdown Comics/NerdMelt Theater in Los Angeles, McTurk will be holding a sneak peek/wrap party reception. There will be a live marionette performance by Eli Presser (one of the film’s key puppeteers) and limited edition Narrative of Victor Karloch t-shirts (designed by comics legend Mike Mignola!) available for sale.

Congrats to all involved! Attendees of the wrap party are enthusiastically encouraged to report back in comments.

Karloch illustration and design by Mike Mignola.

Donald Duck Via Dogme 95

Welcome to the best worst thing you will see all week. Icelandic comedy troupe Midland, in a fit of horrible genius, has done what, no doubt, only a few severely stoned first year film students have thought of. That is, they have created the above trailer for a movie entitled Den Lille Grimme Aelling (The Ugly Duckling), a movie that interprets the world of Walt Disney’s barely comprehensible Donald Duck through the harsh, unforgiving lens of the Dogme 95 school of film making. What follows is nearly three minutes of childhood memories funneled through the unyielding, sadomasochistic vision of von Trier and Vinterberg (though, like von Trier and Vinterberg Midland winds up cheating a bit here and there.) So come along and follow Donald as he deals with his three children, a sizable drug debt, and the rich uncle who abused him as a child. Then maybe weep a little.