Björk + Iceland Airwaves to Stage Livestreamed Performance Series

 

 

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that venal politicians and assorted C-suite types manipulated the COVID-19 crisis for their own benefit and gain. But if there is anyone who can save us now, it’s one Björk Guðmundsdóttir, the Icelandic angel who always manages to operate far above the quotidian pettiness of our tiresome humanity.

And so it is that she has joined forces with Iceland Airwaves to present what is sure to be a magical, nay ethereal series of performances at Harpa Hall in Reykjavik, this August 9, 15 and 23. Notably, all will be in front of a live audience, as Iceland, like most of Europe, has decisively beat back the virus. Proceeds from the shows will benefit Kvennaathvarfid, a organization dedicated to providing shelter and improving the lives of abused women and children in Iceland.

The performances will all be matinees, and will be livestreamed to the rest of the planet. It’s worth considering a ticket for all three, as each will be utterly unique, promising to perhaps invent the genre of acoustic-orchestral, with specific lineups as follows:

 

Sunday August 9 – 17:00 GMT
björk with
Hamrahlið Choir,
conductor Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir,
Bergur Þórisson, organ

Saturday August 15 – 17:00 GMT
björk with
strings from Icelandic Symphony Orchestra,
conductor Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason

Sunday August 23 – 17:00 GMT
björk with
brass from the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra,
flute septet Viibra,
harpist Katie Buckley,
pianist Jónas Sen

 

“dear friends, i would like to invite you to some concerts,” Björk says in a charmingly stylized but earnest statement, “to honour folks who got hit hardest in the coronavirus and the black lives matter movement…and to honour how many icelandic musicians i have worked with through the years. and we are going to celebrate that we are all healthily exiting quarantine.”

Then she takes it a little further ideologically—as if we would have expected anything less of her.

“i feel we are going through extraordinary times. horrifying but also an opportunity to truly change. it is demanded of us that we finally confront all racism, that we learn that lives are more important that profit, and look inside us and finecomb out all our hidden prejudices and privileges. let’s all humbly learn together.”

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a better plan for moving forward.

 

Listen: The First New Track by A Certain Ratio in 12 Years is Slyly Cool

Image by Paul Husband 

 

 

Madonna opened for them at Danceteria in 1982 before anyone knew who she was. And in the film 24 Hour Party People, Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson refers to them as “Joy Division, but with better clothes.”

In fact, A Certain Ratio were Factory Records’ beacon of cool, five stylish Manchester blokes who played wickedly biting Anglo-funk, which was also rife with lacerating socio-political commentary. Indeed, “Shack Up” even went after the outmoded institution of marriage itself (“You can talk about the wedding ceremony / And I know its just a phony”).

 

 

ACR returned to live activity in the early oughts, eventually releasing the 2008 album Mind Made Up. But Mute Records began re-issuing their early records in 2018—ironic, since the label was an early “rival” of Factory, especially philosophically.

But at long last, today comes the announcement that the now trio of Jez Kerr, Martin Moscrop and Donald Johnson will release a new album of material this autumn, their first in a dozen years. And we have the first single, “Always in Love,” which layers their trademarked languid ennui over what could surely best be described as a classic Madchester groove. It would be packing all the most in-the-know dancefloors this summer, if there were actually going to be any.

A Certain Ratio’s ACR Loco will be released via Mute on September 25. Touring, of course, will be subjected to the new post-pandemic guidelines.

 

The Jean-Georges ‘Haute Dog’ Stand is Re-Opening at The Mark Hotel

 

 

 

When you’ve been in lockdown for three months, it’s funny how it really does become about the little things. After all, we’ve never seen so many people get so excited about simply getting a haircut—but such are these times.

A much bigger deal is the slow re-opening of hotels in New York, which not only welcome guests from around the globe, but also provide a central focus of NYC social life—especially for those of us who love chatting up a new foreign friend over a particularly well-made martini. The Mark is one of those hotels, still independent of all corporate interference, and an irreplaceable part of the cultural fabric of the Upper East Side. We’ve surely been known to while away no small number of evenings at its eponymous bar—and it’s The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges is one of Gotham’s most coveted dining experiences.

 

 

But getting back those little things, we were inordinately excited to discover that the exalted chef’s beloved Haute Dog stand will be returning, making for that ideal afternoon (sort of) meal after a morning of of taking in the art at The Whitney or The Met (The Mark is actually a most-favored bolthole for celebs attending the annual Gala). And they’re amazingly affordable, at just $6 each.

“It’s a New York City street food staple,” says JGV, “and it’s practical. I also liked that I could dress it up a bit to differentiate from the rest of the street ‘dogs. It’s the perfect bite for Mark guests and neighbors to grab before heading to [a museum] or Central Park.”

The restaurant is already open for room service, pickup and delivery—but an opening date for Haute Dog is still imminent.

 

 

 

Aspen Has Re-Opened for Summer: A Report From the W Aspen & Sky Residences

 

 

Though the near future of travel remains a maddening riddle, it’s safe to say we’ve got a good six months to begin to tell exactly how the ski season will be shaping in a world still haunted by the coronavirus crisis. Colorado was not hit terribly hard (though nearly 1500 deaths have been reported), so expect an urgency for the major resort towns to get back some measure of normalcy—Aspen especially, which officially resumed business on May 29,

Last August, of course, we reported on the notable opening of the new W Aspen & Sky Residences, which quickly became one of the region’s hottest destinations, with its Wet Deck, Living Room, and 39° nightlife hotspots. As its first summer season approaches, the hotel has undertaken its post-pandemic re-opening, with restaurants and bars, of course, operating at 50% capacity.

To better understand how this was accomplished, we caught up with General Manager Greg Durrer for the lowdown.

 

 

What are the safety measures you’ve put into place for re-opening?

W Aspen & the Sky Residences at W Aspen have closely coordinated with the Pitkin County Board of Health, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Marriott International to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 cleanliness and safety plan for all of our overnight guests, residence owners, local customers and employees. We have extensively modified and elevated our cleaning processes and procedures prior to our guests’ arrival, during their visit and post departure. Upon arrival, we have installed protective plexiglass barriers at high contact spaces, including our registration desks. In accordance with Pitkin County Board of Health Guidelines, all guests wear masks when traveling through hotel common areas.

And employee / guest interaction?

Employees wear masks and, in some cases, gloves, as positions require. Currently, our pools, hot tubs and fitness center remain closed in accordance with published guidelines*. Overall, there is a heightened focus on employee training, cleaning, and following all social distancing protocols and providing our guests with peace of mind so they can truly enjoy their visit to our beautiful mountain destination.

What is different about the sort of bookings you’re getting for this summer?

As business returns, we have noticed that our drive leisure markets are returning first. We are also seeing a wide diversity in travelers from individuals and couples to extended families reconnecting as quarantines are lifted around the country and globe.

 

 

How do you feel the social experience at the hotel will play out in the coming months? Including bars and restaurants.

Guests are looking to escape and enjoy all that Aspen has to offer in the way of outdoor activities, fresh mountain air, a vibrant culinary scene and world class galleries and shopping. There is a high desire from travelers to see that restaurants are following all published safety guidelines and protocols and outdoor dining is in high demand. We have made significant adjustments to our dining spaces to ensure that we are able to accommodate every guest in a clean, comfortable and safe environment. W Aspen is very fortunate to have an 8,000 sq. ft. roof top WET Deck that offers stunning 360-degree views of the Aspen skyline and the surrounding Rocky Mountains. Our WET Deck is unparalleled in Aspen and offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Our acclaimed Executive Chef, Jackie Siao, prepares globally inspired and locally sourced cuisine. This fare, combined with our views, creates an unmatched mountain lux experience.

What do you think the Aspen experience will be like this summer? What will be different?

The Aspen experience this summer will be focused on the outdoor adventure and access to the magnificent spaces that surround Aspen. Breathtaking views, the abundance of outdoor activities and an opportunity to reconnect and recharge with loved ones, extended family and friends. Hiking Maroon Bells, Hunter Creek Trail, Sunnyside Trail or Ute Trail offer our guests the chance to clear their minds, while taking in natural landscape that has made Aspen one of the most desirable summer destinations in the world. People travel from all over the globe to take on some of the most challenging mountain bike terrain and these trails are all just steps away from the resort that sits in town directly at the base of Aspen Mountain. W Aspen & the Sky Residence at W Aspen is perfectly positioned to host guests looking to enjoy the clean, fresh mountain air and wide-open spaces that the Rocky Mountains offer to all of our guests this upcoming summer.

 

(*Update: Beginning on June 8th, the Pitkin County Board of Health has allowed pools to reopen with limited capacity and social distancing guidelines. We are glad to be able to make one of our most distinguishing features available again to our resort guests. Enjoying a crafted cocktail or glass of rosé while soaking in the sunshine on our rooftop WET Deck, poolside with 360-degree views & fresh mountain air, this is one of the defining moments of an Aspen Alpine experience.)

 

Watch: Stunning New Video for Jónsi Single ‘Swill’ is an Emotional Tumult

Image by Barnaby Roper 

 

 

It’s been a difficult few months, of course. And much as reality has allowed us a few glimpses of hope these last couple of weeks, it’s always one step forward, 3/4 of a step back.

So you’ll understand our excitement at the arrival of a mind-bending new video by one Jónsi Birgisson, otherwise known as the multidisciplinary artist and frontman of Icelandic musical enigma Sigur Rós. And indeed, the hyper-sensory clip for his latest single “Swill” is a fascinating escape into a hallucinatory world, where an emotional tumult plays out against a stark black background, an ostensible battle between beauty and anguish…no clear winner emerging. With direction by Barnaby Roper and animation courtesy of Pandagunda, the dreamlike imagery begs a thousand interpretations.

 

 

The hymn-like track itself is punctuated with jarringly visceral sonic dynamics, surely reflecting the ambiguity of the lyrics.

“I’ll go to war with me
You see me walking around in slow motion like a ghost
You’re right, of course, the blood in my brain”

The release comes on the heels of his first solo exhibition at LA’s Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in late 2019—and is a teaser for Jónsi’s first solo album in more than a decade. Due out in October, Shiver (XL Recordings) will feature guest appearances by both Robyn and Liz Fraser…so obviously we’re, um, shivering with anticipation.

 

Art Basel Switzerland Preview: Gagosian Virtual Gallery to Feature Gursky, Koons, Murakami

 

 

Art Basel turns 50 this year. But many would still be baffled by that statement—as its Miami spinoff first appeared in just 2002. Yet the latter’s extravagant celebrity bashes, with their glittering guest lists and oceans of sipped and glugged champagne (depending on the time of night) has become the media darling of the brand—with many unaware of the longer history.

But indeed, in the actual city of Basel (Switzerland, that would be), most of the rest of the year sitting charmingly and unassumingly along the Rhine—yet with world class cultural offerings always at the ready—the original happens every June. And it competes with Maastricht’s TEFAF for the title of biggest art fair in the world. Yet just as Art Basel Hong Kong was forced to go all digital back in March, so will the mothership, despite the big anniversary, as large gatherings (especially those with a tendency towards enthusiastic kissy kissying) are still forbidden, or at least strenuously discouraged.

Gagosian, no surprise, have already risen to the virtual challenge, crafting impressive online viewing rooms for each major fair (including also the recent Frieze NY), and launching a weekly Artist Spotlight program. But their efforts dedicated to this month’s Basel have turned out particularly extraordinary. And beginning June 14, the public viewing for their Gagosian Online and Art Basel Online collections will carry on until June 24 (Art Basel’s official VIP preview launches June 17).

 

 

The reward? Andy Warhol’s 1986 hand-painted Last Supper, a 1960s “soak-stain” painting by Helen Frankenthaler, an entirely new painting by Mark Tansey, and prestige-level works by the likes of Urs Fischer, Damien Hirst, Theaster Gates, Katharina Grosse, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, and Sarah Sze, amongst so many others.

But what most want to know is, how is this actually turning out, as opposed to the interactions at the actual physical fairs?

“We have witnessed more energy in our online sales as we get closer to Basel,” reveals Gagosian’s Director of Publications Alison McDonald, “and sense that collectors are excited. Our platform will offer access to artworks of the highest caliber, which is to say that we approached Basel Online the same way we would have planned our booth at the fair. When collectors are offered works that they desire, we’ve found that they are just as willing to buy online as they would in person.

For those who still prefer the in person buyer-to-dealer experience, Gagosian also recently announced the re-opening of their three London galleries in Camden, Westminster and Mayfair.

 

 

 

From Top:
TAKASHI MURAKAMI
Kiki, 2018–20
Acrylic on fiber-reinforced plastic
63 5/8 x 47 x 47 1/4 in
161.4 x 119.2 x 119.9 cm
Edition Unique
HELEN FRANKENTHALER
Orange Underline, 1963
Acrylic on canvas
55 x 71 1/4 in
139.7 x 181 cm
© 2020 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Robert McKeever
Courtesy Gagosian
ANDREAS GURSKY
Amazon, 2016
Chromogenic print
81 1/2 x 160 1/4 in
207 x 407 cm
Edition of 6
© Andreas Gursky
Courtesy Gagosian
ANDY WARHOL
The Last Supper, 1986
Acrylic on canvas
116 x 225 in
294.6 x 571.5 cm
© 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Courtesy Gagosian
JEFF KOONS
Balloon Monkey Wall Relief (Blue), 2011
Silkscreen on stainless steel with polychromed edges
103 5/8 x 119 7/8 x 1 1/4 in
263.2 x 304.3 x 3.2 cm
© Jeff Koons
Courtesy Gagosian

BlackBook Pride Premiere: New Ruth Koleva Single + Video ‘Candy Coated’ Celebrates the LGBTQ+ Community

Image by Lubri

 

 

Ruth Koleva has already won major fans the likes of Lianne La Havas, Mark Ronson—he called her voice “amazing!”–and Bulgarian ELLE (yes, that’s a thing), who even put her on the cover. Oh, and BlackBook, from the time we enthusiastically premiered “I Don’t Know Why” back in 2018.

She also notably found a devoted fanbase in her home country’s LGBTQ+ community, with her returning the love by actively supporting Sofia Pride, and Single Step, an organization whose mission it is to “support, motivate and empower” LGBTI youth.

And timed perfectly with worldwide Pride Month, her new single “Candy Coated,” which BlackBook also premieres here, is a groovalicious slice of slinky ’80s R&B, with the sort of lush production atmospherics as to recall the heyday of Pet Shop Boys. Sadly, Bulgaria is well-known for still refusing to legalize gay marriage; and the song is meant to honor the struggle that still carries on there and all around the globe. Appropriately, for the accompanying video, she enlisted gender-fluid director Joan Galo, and cast members from the local LGBTQ+ community.

 

 

She calls the song one of the most personal and important she’s ever done.

“I have been a human rights activist for as long as I can remember,” she explains, “and was the first musician to openly support Pride in Bulgaria, which is still facing major discrimination and homophobia. I was always the kid that didn’t fit in, I was harassed for being different, and the LGBTQ+ community has taught me love and acceptance; it helped me grow as a person and artist.”

With the pandemic having cancelled most public Pride events, do remember to take the time to celebrate it in any way that you possibly can.

 

Listen: Mrs. Piss Are Making Ominous Music For Harrowing Times

 

 

We’ve never made a secret of our love for Chelsea Wolfe, and her six albums of haunted, gothic blues. But her latest project, the unflinchingly monikered Mrs. Piss, finds her veering off even farther into the darker corners of the sonic spectrum and the human psyche.

A musical partnership with multi-instrumentalist Jess Gowrie, a full album, the eerily titled Self Surgery, will be released via Sargent House on May 29. But in the meantime, they’re teasing it with a pair of thundering tracks, that sound as if they had deliberately set about to destroy a roomful of amplifiers. The first, “Knelt,” is a menacing, funereal dirge, perfectly timed to the death toll wracking up all around us.

 

 

But the more ideologically titled “Downer Surrounded by Uppers” is high-speed-noise at its most harrowing and bone chilling. Indeed, with its galloping drums, distortion-drenched guitars, and Wolfe howling out, “I know you want it baby / I know you want it now,” it’s like a lost Sonic Youth gem from 1991, but with effects pedals borrowed from My Bloody Valentine.

“It was freeing to channel some wild energies that I don’t typically put into my own music,” she explains. “We tried not to overthink the songs as we were writing them, but at the same time we did consciously put a lot into crafting them into our own weird sonic vision. This project was a chance for us to do things our own way, on our own terms, and we plan to invite more women musicians along for future Mrs. Piss recordings.”

From where we stand, that can’t happen soon enough.

 

BlackBook Premiere: The Cuckoos’ New Single + Video ‘She’s Wearing Lipstick’ is Psychedelic-Disco-Goth-Pop Perfection

 

 

Sometimes a track is so far left of the current zeitgeist, that it’s a thrill just for that very reason. And Austin’s The Cuckoos have an utterly infectious new single, “She’s Wearing Lipstick (From Someone Else’s Kiss)”—from their forthcoming EP Honeymoon Phases—that has drawn to the surface a love of disco-goth-pop that we frankly never really knew we even had.

Indeed, coming on like an outtake from Long Live the New Flesh, it’s got it all: the galloping drums, the moody keys, the wah-wah guitars, and Kenneth Frost’s anguished, drama-laced vocals. And, of course, the big, ridiculously hooky chorus.

Frost also directed the accompanying video, which BlackBook premieres here. In it, the band is bathed in a sensory overload of psychedelic color washes—perhaps a metaphor for the emotional tumult of the lyrics. The singer explains that it was written, naturally, in the aftermath of a painful lover’s rejection.

 

 

“You can’t ever force somebody to love you,” he concedes. “Sometimes you’re just a quick stop on the journey of them figuring out who they truly are.”

He’s also quick to confirm the aesthetic touchstones of both the song and video.

“It was very heavily influenced by 80’s pop ballad/bops like Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’ and Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ We tried to convey that aesthetic in the video while trying to keep it in line with our own style. There’s a sincerity and a cheeky silliness to those songs and videos, so we just tried to have fun with it. The scene where Dave smashes his guitar into the mirror like Rick was the most fun to shoot.”

Obviously.