Jim Jarmusch & Carter Logan’s New SQÜRL Track ‘Magic Hour’ is a Tribute to Cinematographer Robby Müller

 

 

It’s safe to say that Jim Jarmusch’s films would not have looked the way they do without Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller, who passed away in 2018, age 78. He worked with Jarmusch on such indie classics as Paris, Texas, Mystery Train, Ghost Dog, and Coffee & Cigarettes—but was also behind the aesthetic of the likes of Repo Man, Barfly and the Oscar winning Lars Von Trier film Breaking the Waves.

Another Dutch cinematographer, Claire Pijman, has just made a documentary in 2018 about Müller called Living The Light; and a new “inspired by” soundtrack, appropriately, has been recorded by Jim Jarmusch & Carter Logan’s project SQÜRL—to be released under the pithy title, Some Music for Robby Müller, out January 31 via Sacred Bones Records. In the meantime, we have the first track, the haunted, evocative and yes, very cinematic “Magic Hour.”

“It’s inspired by the fleeting periods of the day occurring just before sunrise and just after sunset,” Logan explains. “The light shifts continually, soft and warm, yellow, gold, sometimes pink, and the sky turns to a very particular and deep shade of blue, but only for a few minutes. Robby always loved filming during these brief ‘magical’ moments while the diffuse light continually evolves and eventually slips away.

 

 

Jarmusch tells of first meeting Müller at a bar on a boat in Rotterdam, during the city’s film festival (this year’s edition opens this Wednesday, January 22).

“Robby became my close friend, my collaborator and my teacher too. From him I learned about the emotional qualities of light, about telling stories with a camera, about artistic intuition, collaboration, and integrity.”

The soundtrack, obviously then was a deeply personal undertaking for the director, who enthuses that the music was inspired by Müller’s “perceptions, his wonderful presence, his mind, his heart and his twinkling, mischievous eyes—through which he communicated, and with which he surveyed the same illusive world still vibrating around us.”

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Melancholy New Lola Marsh Single ‘Hold On’ Was Inspired by Chaos & Confusion

 

 

Tel-Aviv duo Lola Marsh—singer Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist/producer Gil Landau—describe the inspiration for their new single “Hold On” as personal chaos and confusion. Yet those feelings could easily apply on a universal scale thanks to the current political, environmental, and economic climate. Still, when it’s happening to you, it can at least act as a good creative impetus.

“‘Hold On’ refers to a chaotic and confusing time for us,” explains Cohen, who bears a striking resemblance to Penelope Cruz. “We struggled to keep it all together—the band, our personal lives and our changing relationships.”

 

 

As has been proven again and again, from great pain can come great art; and “Hold On” is a particularly sublime example of just that. An opulent, melancholy track that’s part Sergio Leone, part Lana Del Rey, it starts with a moody piano riff, before exploding into an echoey chorus that never lets up.

Landau offers, “We truly believe that our greatest success is that we have been able to keep our music alive and overcome many challenges during these times.”

Lola Marsh will play Rough Trade in Brooklyn February 8, followed by shows in SF and LA, before embarking on an extended European tour that concludes at the egoFM Fest on March 28 in Munich.

 

The Swish New W Aspen Hotel Will be ‘the’ Cognoscenti Magnet this Ski Season

 

 

With the news earlier this year that Greenland ha lost 11 billion tons from its disappearing ice sheet, it’s time to just accept that things are not going to be getting any cooler. And yes, that probably means shorter ski seasons.

The only reasonable answer, surely, is it make those ski seasons as fabulous as they can be imagined to be. Thankfully, W Hotels are on the case – specifically in the form of the (pun-intended) swish new W Aspen, which opened its doors this August at the end of Durant Street, which was once home to the city’s infamous Red Light District. The hotel actually sits slope-side of the 11,000-foot-plus-high Aspen Mountain, which means coveted ski-in/ski-out access.

The hotel itself – the brand’s second W Mountain Escape, after the W Verbier – is an absolute looker, with its chalet-chic exterior, wildly patterned carpets and bold color schemes set against light, warm woods in the public areas.

 

 

Specifically The Living Room, the W’s social heart, is replete with clever design references to Aspen’s silver boom history (lighting fixtures are inspired by miners’ headlamps). For après-ski indulgences, there’s an outdoor fire pit, and a dramatically suspended DJ booth in The Living Room adds sonic fuel to keep the party going long into the night.

Back upstairs, the 104 guest rooms, suites and residences nod to bohemian Aspen, with cozy Alpine touches like rustic finishes and a fireplace inspired W Mixbar. And a first for W, some rooms are tiered, opening up more living space.

The hotel also boasts the 39° restaurant, a WET Deck rooftop bar with heated pool, and a 24-hour fitness room. And should you not be ready to come down from holiday partying, the Aspen Snowmass Wintersköl festival takes over the area from January 9 – 12, with fireworks, snow sculptures and a canine winter fashion show.

 

Kingston to Montego Bay: Vegan Eats, Soundsystem Parties & Coconut Oil Massages in the New Jamaica

Spanish Court Hotel

 

 

Repeatedly invaded, conquered, and enslaved, first by the less than accommodating Chris Columbus, and subsequently by the British, Jamaica finally achieved independence in 1962 after almost 500 years of turmoil. Having a rock (as the country is endearingly referred to) the size of Tennessee subjected to that amount of historical upheaval, however, has resulted in a national culture as deep, complex, and visceral as anywhere you’ll find.

These days, it’s almost impossible to overstate how teeming with joie de vivre Jamaica is; and on our most recent visit, our only goal was to meet every experience, and person, with that same spirit.

While the majority of tourists fly into Montego Bay on way to the island’s western beaches, our first stop was the southeastern capital city of Kingston, a San Francisco sized metropolis where we holed up at the charmingly refined Spanish Court Hotel. Long beloved as a civilized oasis in the heart of New Kingston, the central area known for its live music and arts scenes, the recently refurbished property boasted all the accoutrements we could possibly ask for, including a couple of pool bars, outdoor hot tub and luxuriously comfy rooms. Our first afternoon, we barely left the place.

 

Spanish Court Hotel

 

When we did eventually venture out, it was for dinner at the curiously diverse Reggae Mill, which was remarkably both a Greek/Jamaican restaurant and nightclub. Housed in the elegant Devon House complex, which includes a number of shops and cafes that have grown up around the celebrated eponymous mansion, it’s one of only a handful of eateries that serve Greek food on the island. While the atmosphere in the dining room was relatively sedate, we were told that in just a few hours, after packing up the tables and turning on the strobe lights, the place would be thronged with hundreds of clubgoers. And indeed, the growing line of exotically clad revelers outside suggested just that. Not quite ready for that kind of party, we headed back to the Spanish Court for a poolside nightcap.

The following morning we trekked up into the Blue Mountains for coffee at the Strawberry Hill hotel and resort, the fabled – and absolutely gorgeous – mountaintop enclave of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. After taking in the spectacular view, we marveled at the ubiquitous photos of visiting rock stars – Sting, Jagger, Marley – cavorting around the place in more free-wheeling and decadent times.

 

Strawberry Hill

 

Back at sea level we grabbed lunch at the thoroughly unique Veggie Meals on Wheels, a vegan restaurant with an ardent mission. Operating out of empty shipping containers in a nondescript strip mall, the place is an oasis of delicious food and good vibes that also caters music and arts events throughout Kingston, produces a weekly radio show from a tiny studio in the back, and runs an Airbnb in another container. Our lunch of tasty delights included brown stew tofu, tofu wrap with ackee and greens, veggie wraps, and ackee with sweet potato…with nary a beef patty in sight.

The musical heritage of Jamaica hardly needs an introduction; and there’s perhaps no one musical genre more universally embraced than reggae (along with its sub genres dub, dancehall, and yes, hip-hop). It all pretty much started at one place, specifically Rockers International Records, the veritable birthplace of reggae. After a quick stop to browse the racks in the tiny space, we headed to a more formal tutelage of the art form at the Bob Marley Museum, where our guide not only lead us through the groundbreaking artist’s home and studio, but also regaled us with personal anecdotes about the man himself…and even led us in a sing-a-long of some of his beloved hits. (Jamaica does have a way of letting down your too-cool-for-this guard.)

 

Bob Marley Museum

 

Full of good vibes, we then headed west to Kingston’s Caymanas Park racetrack to lose a few bucks on the horses, while downing a Red Stripe or two as the sun went down.

We settled in for dinner at the Spanish Court’s Rojo restaurant, supping on Rasta Pasta – penne with sautéed sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, baby corn, and zucchini – and deep fried crusted chicken breast stuffed with ham, bell peppers, mozzarella and parmesan, served with a garlic cream sauce. But not for long, as exalted Brit radio host and DJ David Rodigan was in town and performing up the road at the five-years-running soundsystem party Dubwise. So we conjured a third wind and headed out to party with the locals.

 

Rojo at the Spanish Court 

 

After two pretty jam-packed days, we headed west to Montego Bay, on the other side of the island. Previous trips to Jamaica made the thought of a cross-rock drive a little daunting, as some Jamaican roads are not really highly recommended. But thanks to a newish modern highway, the 100-mile-long trip was a zip, and we were soon ensconced in the fabulous new S Hotel.

If our time in Kingston was all about Jamaican culture, M’Bay was focused on sun and sand – and the S was the epitome of a contemporary resort cool. Its open plan lobby ushered us straight to the magnificent pool just steps beyond, and the beach was only a few more steps from there. Our room was rather enormous – something that happened in the conversion of the old building – and had a million dollar view of both pool and ocean. Taking advantage of the space, we actually unfurled the in-room yoga mat and got in an hour of vinyasa the following morning.

 

S Hotel Montego Bay

 

But before that there was more relaxing to be done, i.e. a cold-pressed coconut oil massage at the S’ Irie Baths and Spa. The S had more dining options than we could ever get to, but a prosecco at the Sky Deck Bar – beholding the glorious sunset – and a dinner of coconut curried shrimp and Jamaica braised oxtail at the hotel’s elegant Rocksteady restaurant were definitive epicurean highlights.

After a deep sleep in our opulent chamber, we made the most of the following morning before taking a 4-minute drive to the airport for the easy flight stateside. A dip in both pool and sea and coffee at the S’ airy Ska Café and we were off – with enough Jamaica memories to keep us warm through another NYC winter.

 

Top: S Hotel; bottom: Montego Bay

BlackBook Interview + Premiere: Alexa Villa’s New Single / Video ‘Own It’ is Seriously Fierce

 

 

 

We can imagine how a young film student might find inspiration in the story of Steven Spielberg. But a female rocker prone to flamboyant sartorial choices and high-octane Warped Tour shows? Yet that is indeed who Alexa Villa cites as one of the influences for her fierce new Zep-like track “Own It.”

The L.A. songstress elaborates, “I wrote it about taking ownership of a situation and taking charge of your life regardless of circumstance or pushback. I was inspired by the Spielberg story of how he supposedly got his start by sneaking into Universal and commandeering an unoccupied office.”

The track is from her upcoming EP, due out early next year – and BlackBook premieres the accompanying video here. For the occasion, we grabbed some time for a chat with Ms. Villa about everything from playing dress up to loving Los Angeles.

 

 

You mention all the right influences in your bio.

Yeah, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve listed there, but I always say Led Zeppelin. They’re my favorite band. I like to mix current influences with the old and hopefully make something new and fresh and exciting. That’s my goal.

I’m a big Lan Del Rey fan, you mention her. But also, Lady Gaga.

Oh, absolutely. She’s incredible.

This new track “Own It” is pretty succinct. 

Yes, I was thinking even at the end, wow, that could’ve gone on a bit longer.

Did you intentionally want to make it quick and hard-hitting?

Yeah, I think because the song and the dynamic are very high voltage, I kind of wanted to come in, punch you in the face, and get out. I could’ve extended the last chorus. It only goes once. I could’ve repeated it. But it’s just and in and out kind of thing. It was intentional, yeah.

Is there something that you were trying to get across with this song?

I just hope the song encourages the listener to go for whatever it is they’re going for, it’s about taking any difficult situation – you know, life is hard – any struggle that you’re facing, and making lemonade, essentially. Just walking like you own it regardless of the situation. I want the listener to know that they have the power to make it happen for themselves.

 

 

What’s a great day in L.A. for Alexa Villa?

Oh gosh, every day’s a great day. I feel really grateful to be living in L.A. –  growing up I was in San Diego, and I always dreamed about living in Los Angeles. But I think a great day for me is – I get the most pleasure when I’m writing music. The most joy. I feel like a great day would be me going to a writing session and having a show later that evening. That’s a perfect day for me.

What’s your process like?

Every session for me is different. When I’m writing my own music, a lot of times, like “Own It,” I’ll do that alone. I’ll just sit with my keyboard and get my computer and just build it. If I’m doing a collaborative session, we’ll set a time to meet at the studio. A lot of times that starts the conversation – like sometimes I’ll sit with the person I just met and two seconds later, we’re diving into our deepest, darkest secrets, because we want to get to the meat and be honest with our songs. So it’ll start with a really honest conversation.

 

 

For the perfect day, where would you be playing (that night)?

Um…I really enjoyed playing the Peppermint, I thought that was a really great stage. They have a really awesome green room. So I’d probably play there again. I also really liked playing at the Black Rabbit Rose, just because it’s very intimate. The stage is very small, but it just seems intentionally that way.

I imagine you do some work on your outfits when you play.

Yeah, I love putting together outfits.

Playing dress up?

Absolutely. I see colors when I hear music, I know it sounds crazy. But I think that depending on the vibe of the show or what the set will be, I’ll kind of base my style on the music, if that makes sense. I’ll visualize what I want it to look like based on the songs we’re choosing to play that night.

David Bowie was famous for thinking in colors.

Oh, how funny. It’s a thing, It’s called synesthesia. Sometimes I even taste the music, depending on the song. It’s kind of trippy.

 

Psyche Rock Fix: New Smoke Fairies Single ‘Disconnect’ Actually Has Awesome Guitar Riffs

 

 

With rock and roll in its death throes, truly awesome guitar riffs are such a rarity that even the cliche-ridden Greta Van Fleet have been mistaken for not being terrible.

But the new Smoke Fairies single “Disconnect” is the real thing, with jagged riffs leading to thundering power-chord choruses, over haunted, psychedelic atmospherics – coming off like some magnificent intersection of Led Zep and The Pixies. The Brit duo of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies have, in just over a decade of existence, toured with Bryan Ferry, released music on Jack White’s Third Man label, and been lavished with praise by everyone from the Guardian to the NY Times.

 

 

They also have a podcast, Smoke Signals, that is more popular than those of Dolly Parton and Robert Plant. Also, a new album, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home, will be coming in late January 2020. And if “Disconnect,” with its stunning harmonies and lyrical exhortations of “Lost in your own world / You’re looking for no one / What the hell’s wrong with you?” is any indication, expect it to be their most visceral work to date.

No word on when they’ll be back in the States, but they’ll play eight dates across the UK in February, including Manchester, Oxford and London. It’s worth the trip.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Haunted New ASHRR Video For ‘All Yours All Mine (Darker Days Mix)’

 Photo by Jeff Forney

 

For all the positive vibes, wheat germ colonics, and celebrity yoga retreats, La La Land has always had a particularly dark underbelly.

If you don’t believe us, it has been astutely documented: John Fante, and his literary progeny Charles Bukowski, gave us reports from skid row; Christopher Isherwood and Brett Easton Ellis modern tales of drug fueled depravity and homosexual longing. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, David Lynch was always good for a reminder – i.e. Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway.

And of course, music, well…X and Jane’s Addiction.

ASHRR, an Los Angeles trio from the musical school of black-clad ennui, are continuing decisively down that line with their new single “All Yours All Mine,” a sinister synth and bass driven rumination on the existential sense of self.

 

 

“The song deals with confrontation of self and social anxiety,” offers singer Steven Davis. “We have no better foil than ourselves.”

The band have just released an exhilarating Darker Days Mix remix of the track, for which BlackBook premieres here the accompanying new Keith Musil directed video. It follows a solitary figure at home, who soon discovers himself haunted by doppelgangers, and it perfectly synchronizes with the unnerving nature of the song.

Davis continues, “The video’s about wrestling with yourself or different versions of how you perceive yourself.”

We’ve definitely done that.

New Doc ‘Gorillaz: Reject False Icons’ Will be in Theaters Just For One Day in December

 

 

Really no one could have known, least of all the perpetrators, that two decades after forming, the mostly unimaginable cartoon band Gorillaz would have sold more than 20 million records, and become a veritable cultural touchstone of their generation.

But when the unlikely pair of Blur’s Damon Albarn and cartoonist / Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett dreamt up their animated foursome in 1998, they were creating a fantastical world that allowed for a just as fantastical escape, even as they dealt with real world problems in their lyrics. And who could have possibly predicted that two middle class British blokes could exhibit such skills with a hip-hop beat?

 

 

Of course, with such legendary status eventually comes the documentary. And this December 16 – yes, one night only – Gorillaz: Reject False Icons will play in theaters across the globe to an audience eager to learn just how much of it will be about real people, and how much actually about Gorillaz animated members Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar), Russel Hobbs (drums) and 2D (vocals). Director Denholm Hewlett followed them around for the better part of three years, as fellow musical heroes – Vince Staples, Jean-Michel Jarre, Noel Gallagher, Jehnny Beth, Shaun Ryder – come in and out of their lives, and the band turns out two highly acclaimed albums, Humanz and The Now Now.

It promises to be “where the virtual meets the real,” which is fine for us, because that’s already where we spend most of our time.

Tickets for Gorillaz: Reject False Icons go on sale November 27.

 

BlackBook Interview: Disco Legend Gloria Gaynor is Still Surviving

Image by Alex Arroyo

 

 

 

A massive, era-defining hit song can be as much a curse as a boon to one’s career. Indeed, Mick Jagger famously said he’d rather be dead than sing “Satisfaction” at 45 (but guess it’s okay at 75); and commercial success was certainly partly to blame for Kurt Cobain ending it all at 27. Gloria Gaynor, thankfully, has no such issues regarding her 40-year old uber-smash “I Will Survive.”

Immediately successful on release, the ubiquitously disco-era empowering anthem was not only a platinum-selling #1 single, but also won a Grammy, and is included in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. Silver lining, all these years later, the song rings just as powerfully as it did back then (it remains an anthem of gay pride).

Still, it has been Ms. Gaynor’s boundless talent and formidable pipes that have sustained her over the decades. And while, she did take a decade and a half break from making music, since returning to the studio in 2002, nothing has been able to stop her.

Always outspokenly spiritual, Gaynor has released a number of religious albums – and her latest, Testimony, continues that trajectory in its repertoire of rootsy gospel. BlackBook checked in with the beloved icon between one of her many transatlantic engagements.

 

 

 

Your new album Testimony sounds so good. How nice it is to hear analog-sounding recordings, real recordings, the real sound of the bass. 

I had fun doing it, especially with all of the musicians in the studio together. That’s something that hasn’t happened in years. At least not for me.

I saw a little video footage of it. You did pretty much cut everything all together?

Yeah, a lot of it. Not all of the songs, but most of them. Yes, yes. I’ve always said, because I really believe it to be true, that the best recordings come when musicians are performing together and live.

Obviously, it’s a gospel record but not your first spiritual recording – you did a Christian record a few years ago as well?

Yeah. Gospel just means “good news.”

Is that what it is? I was going to ask the difference.

Gospel has come to be a genre that is basically the good news set to rhythm and blues music…

That’s a good way of putting it.

…where Christian music is the good news set to pop music. There’s another genre of quote-unquote Christian music that is set to country music. And that’s what’s from the south. So it’s all the same ideas with different genres, and as I said, the “good news.”

Did you always consider yourself pretty religious? 

“I have. But I didn’t become really serious about it until after ‘I Will Survive.’”

 

 

You include a Bob Dylan song “Man Of Peace” How did you decide to do that? Are you a Dylan fan?

It was totally (producer) Chris Stevens’ idea; but the moment he told me about it and let me hear the song, I was like, “Yes. You got an arrangement for that? Absolutely.”

I haven’t looked into it that much, but I wonder if that came from Dylan’s own Christian period.

I don’t know. I was wondering about that myself. I cannot wait for him to hear it and get some feedback on what he thinks of this, how we did it.

Dylan’s amazing, he’s still so prolific and active as a performer and songwriter 50 years on. Do you still feel a connection to your songs from so long ago?

Oh, yeah. Especially “I Will Survive.” I’ve come to…at points it was a double-edged sword, you know? People think it’s the only song I can sing, people think it’s the only thing I recorded. Others think it’s the only hit I’ve ever had. It has come to be the foundation and the core of my purpose.

At least you love it. It must be tough for an artist to have successful songs that they maybe don’t like, and they have to sing them for 40 years.

I know! Yeah. That can be rough. But I have to say, I never get tired of doing “I Will Survive.”

And the story around its recording and release is pretty epic.

[After falling from the stage at New York’s Beacon Theater in 1978] I was in the hospital with this surgery on my spine. My label sent me a letter saying that they were not going to renew my contract. They were just going to let it run out that year, and they were going around the company saying, “The queen is dead.” Then the new president came and decided that he wanted to repeat the success that he’d had in England with a song called “Substitute.” And he wanted me to do it, to record the song. He sent me out to California to do that and the producers had made a deal that they would record that song if they could write the B-side.

 

 

 

And gee, what could that B-side have possibly been?

When I asked them what it was, they said, “We don’t know yet. What kind of songs do you like to record?” I said, “Well, I like songs that are meaningful, that touch people’s hearts, have good melodies.” They said, “We think you’re the one we’ve been waiting for to record this song we wrote two years ago.” So I’ve always believed that God told them, “Sit down, write a song, hold onto it. I’m going to send you somebody.”

What was the process of recording Testimony?

It was three years in the making, because we were trying to get some duets – we were trying to get Yolanda Adams. We had finally decided, okay, enough. We’ve spent enough time on this album. We’ve got to put this out. Sorry we can’t have Yolanda, maybe another time. And just before we were about to master it we found out she was going to be in New York at the same time I was going to be in New York. We decided to have her come in and re-do “Talkin’ Bout Jesus” and remotely produce it from Nashville. She’s awesome. She brought the thunder on that ensemble, she did.

She does sound great. You live in New Jersey now – did you like traveling to and working in Nashville? Had you done that before?

No, I hadn’t. I’d only performed in Nashville once, in one day and out the next. But it was nice to spend some time there, get to know the people, figure out the lay of the land. I really love Nashville, love the atmosphere. People are very friendly and helpful. Love that it’s a music town.

I know you still are out there performing quite a bit. What’s the schedule like in the coming months?

Last night – no, not last night…night before last I came back from Dubai. Before that I was in Mexico. The week before that I was in Manila and Singapore. So yeah. I’m getting around, and I am loving every minute of it.

What do you hope for the new album?

I’m really hoping that this album inspires, uplifts, encourages, empowers people. And that there is more to come.