BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: New Retro-Modern Design Influenced Pilar Zeta Video for ‘Better Learning’

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One of the hallmarks of ’80s style was the Memphis Group design movement, which started in Italy and went on to monumental international influence. Noted for its colorful, provocative, almost kitschy modernism, David Bowie himself was an aficionado – and part of his collection actually was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2016, following his death.

So, imagine our surprise when this captivating new 3-D animation Pilar Zeta video arrived, paying a sort of affectionate homage to that very style.

Zeta herself is a wide-ranging virtuoso, a multi-media artist who is best known as the touring creative director for Miguel. She was also art director on Coldplay’s 2015 album A Head Full of Dreams.

 

 

Her first solo album, Moments of Reality, will be released via Ultramajic on October 5. And the advance single “Better Learning” (which BlackBook premieres here, along with the video) is a fascinating peek at what’s to come. With its lush soundscapes, twinkling synths, and jittery rhythms, it harks back to the electronic music experimentations – Brian Eno, Bill Nelson – of those same early ’80s.

“The song takes place within the imaginary ‘Moments of Reality’ world,” she explains, “where we initiate a binary sequence program to improve learning about different scents. This object is a special filter oil diffuser able to differentiate between thousands of different scents, as we believe the ascended human could communicate with subtle scents. The video showcases the first few pieces of the digital sculptures in choreography.”

Something to think about, certainly.

 

Maggie Gyllenhaal Joins the Autograph Collection’s ‘Screenwriters in Residence’ Program

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Despite memorable roles in blockbusters like The Dark Knight and White House Down, Maggie Gyllenhaal will always represent a particular sort of indie spirit, one that ever cultivates story over visual bombast and special effects.

So it makes perfect sense that she has just been appointed Independent Film Advisor to The Autograph Collection’s Indie Film Project. With a goal towards supporting not just independent talent, but specifically aspiring women, Gyllenhaal was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s 1929 feminist essay A Room of One’s Own, in shaping this year’s Screenwriters in Residence program.

It was all kicked off with a splashy bash at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Maggie pal Martha Wainwright took to the stage for an electrifying performance.

 

Martha Wainwright image by BFA

 

“I think the words of Virginia Woolf – written almost 90 years ago – still ring true,” observes Gyllenhaal. “We are at a moment, culturally, when people are hungry for stories that are emotionally true, rooted in diversity; and reflective of different voices. I am proud to support emerging female screenwriters in independent film, which has always been a place you can tell stories in an honest and authentic way.”

Those voices, as thoughtfully selected by the actress, include Sarah Jane Inwards, specifically citing her script for Jellyfish Summer; young documentarian Chiara Towne, whose most recent screenplay V.I.N. was featured on the 2017 Black List; and budding screenwriter Amanda Idoko, who is currently working on Central Park, an Apple-produced animated musical.

The Autograph Collection is a group of unique luxury hotels located across the continents, from Tokyo to Dubai, Berlin to Miami and beyond.

 

Hotel am Steinplatz Berlin

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Dreamy New I, Us, & We Single ‘Prism’

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Though their name sounds more like the title of a book on multiple personality disorder, I, Us, & We are actually three mystery-shrouded brothers – Jordan, Evan and Aaron Doverspike – from the wine valley California town of Temecula. They released a debut single, “Idol,” in 2017, which exhibited their way with lush, electronic pop.

This continues with the dreamy new track “Prism,” which BlackBook premieres here – and will be featured on their second EP of the same name, out later this fall. A stark synth-pop foundation is layered with opulent atmospherics and soulful vocals, anchored by a big, magnetic chorus.

“Prism is about going through crisis,” Jordan explains, “and finding that you yourself are stronger than you believe – but also that you can lean on others and make it through said crisis together.”

And we all need someone we can lean on…don’t we?

N.B.  “Prism” will be available on all DSPs this Friday.

 

 

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Rachel Eckroth’s Visceral Cover of Bowie’s ‘Love is Lost’

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Image by Shervin Lainez

 

Though she’s been the always-in-demand keyboardist for the likes of KT Tunstall, Chris Botti, and now Rufus Wainwright, Rachel Eckroth has carried on a successful parallel solo career since 2014’s Let Go album.

October 19 will see the release of her third album, the revealingly titled When it Falls. Indeed, she began writing it in early 2016, just after her father passed away – which happened to be the same time that David Bowie was lost to the world. Eckroth is married to Tim Lefebvre, Bowie’s bass player at the time of his passing.

The latter not only co-produced the album, but also suggested covering “Love is Lost,” from Bowie’s final album Blackstar. And here BlackBook premieres her stunningly realized version and its enigmatic accompanying video.

“In an attempt to capture some of the original production elements,” she recalls, “we kept the odd harmonies in the guitar part and the thick harmonies of the background vocals, putting together a choir of six people to achieve this. I wanted the end result in production to feel experimental, with elements of sci-fi, which I think were expressed with the effects pedals used on the guitars and synths.”

And as with most Bowie lyrics, she understood the possibility for “Love is Lost” to be interpreted in different ways by different listeners.

“I think there are a few interpretations of what the lyrics mean,” she explains, “but I was drawn to the lyrics because the story is sort of vague and mysterious. I like when a song gives room for the listener to come up with their own story.”

Eckroth will be touring for When it Falls this autumn, with headlining dates in October, and supporting Wainwright through November and December.

Listen: Lush, Moody New Evalyn Single ‘A Pill to Crush’

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Exactly a year ago, we enthusiastically premiered Marky Style and Guy Gabriel’s exuberant remix of Evalyn’s “Cherry Lambo” – and so we were excited to hear that the Venice Beach based singer had a new EP, Salvation, coming later this month (9/28).

An initial single, “Big Bad City,” has already been blowing up on Hype Machine. But we’re loving her latest, the harrowingly titled “A Pill to Crush.” With its lush, dreampop atmospherics, eerily flanged guitars and Beatlesesque melody, we’re genuinely hoping it’s pointing the way to what’s ahead for Evalyn.

And the lyrical subject is certainly an uncommon one: wrath.

“It explores the sin of wrath via love gone wrong,” she explains. “It’s about the romantic partner who you follow around love sick and hypnotized as if they’re your cult leader. It’s questioning the wrath in their heart, that they could let you crawl back over and over again and still treat you like nothing more than a pill to crush.”

A cautionary tale, indeed.

 

 

Listen: French Songstress Zaz’ Sensual New Single ‘Qué vendrá’

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Image by Yann Orhan

 

If you hadn’t heard, she’s actually the most popular French singer in the known world. So it’s always an event when Zaz chooses to grace us with new music; and as ever, the sultry, introspective new single ‘Qué vendrá’ (it translates to “whatever happens”) is full of surprises.

Indeed, the track has a distinctly sensual, South American vibe, with its suggestively strummed guitars, and Latin-inspired rhythms and piano riffing. And though it’s, of course, sung in French, the message is universal.

“To me this song is like a walk on the paths of life,” she explains. “The title echoes those last eight years I’ve spent on the road performing around the world, reminding me of all those encounters and learnings that ensued. To accept all our facets with their paradoxes is for me, a way to unite the polarities of our being.”

‘Qué vendrá’ is taken from her upcoming album Effet Miroir, which will be released November 16. If you’re hoping to catch her live, alas, you’ll have to wait until February – and also hop a trans-Atlantic flight. She’ll launch a 23-date European tour in Moscow on February 6, playing Paris on March 22.

 

 

 

BlackBook Interview: The Knocks Chat w/ Foster the People About Break-Ins, Kardashians and ‘Ride or Die’

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The Knocks image by Dusty Kessler 

 

When Foster the People had their breakout moment in 2011, the curiously infectious single “Pumped Up Kicks” seemed something of an unlikely hit. Yet with its languid groove, psychedelic vibes and Mark Foster’s oddly effected vocals, it propelled the LA quartet to genuine stardom (it’s since wracked up almost half a billion YouTube views). Their debut album Torches, and its 2014 follow-up Supermodel, both went top ten. A third album, 2017’s Sacred Hearts Club, was perhaps their most musically adventurous and ambitious yet.

Across the nation over in NYC, The Knocks‘ 2010 debut single “Make it Better” grabbed national attention when it was picked up for a memorable Corona commercial. The prolific DJ-production duo of Ben Ruttner and James Patterson would go on to release a string of excellent singles, collaborating with the likes of M83, X Ambassadors and Cam’ron, before finally birthing their debut album 55 in 2016. But back in 2011, one of their first high profile remixes was – you guessed it – “Pumped Up Kicks.”

 

Image by Mats Bakken

 

So surely it was inevitable that the two entities (The Knocks + FTP frontman Mark Foster) would creatively converge – which is exactly what happened in an LA studio earlier this year. The result was the awesome single “Ride or Die” (under the banner The Knocks ft. Foster the People), which has been picking up momentum since its March release, going Top 20 Alternative just last month. The song is taken from their eagerly awaited upcoming album New York Narcotic, to be released on the 28th, through Neon Gold / Big Beat (it will also feature a collab with Sofi Tukker).

Both had chosen to skip the summer festivals. But they will converge this Monday, September 10, for what will surely be an unforgettable appearance together on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. But for the full Knocks experience, catch them at their record release party at NYC’s Public Arts on the 27th, or at the Neon Gold X: 10 Year Anniversary bash at The Knockdown Center.

Foster the People will play 17 dates in North and South America this autumn.

In the lead up to the Colbert appearance, we sat James, Ben and Mark down for a chat about how it all came together.

 

 

What actually brought you guys together for “Ride or Die”?

Ben: We got together through a mutual friend Kenny Laubbacher, who went on to direct the “Ride or Die” video for us. I actually met him through a songwriting camp in Nicaragua called SOCAN.

Were you guys already fans of each other?

Ben: Yeah, definitely. As you know, one of our first remixes back in 2011 was of “Pumped Up Kicks.”

Both Foster the People and The Knocks were sort of unexpected successes, in that you didn’t fit any particular musical trends. But that was still a pretty exciting time in music, a time of possibilities. 

James: Yeah, the song has the feel of around 2010, which was a really good time for indie music.

What was the actual process? Did you actually wind up in the same room together?

Mark: I flew in…do you remember where I was coming from Ben?
Ben: You were coming from doing a radio show somewhere…
Mark: We basically had a day in the LA studio, since they had to get right back to New York. They already had the foundation for the song, and we got about 90% of it done that night.
James: I got in that day also, and we wrote the majority of it that night. And the whole thing actually ended with Mark getting his car broken into!

Wow, you mean right there at the studio?

Mark: Yeah, I had parked in a guarded lot. At the end of the session, the LAPD called my cell phone, “Hey Mark, this is Officer Johnson, why don’t you give me a call back about your car?” So we walked out into the lot, and my windows were broken. The stole everything I had from my flight, even my toiletries. It was such a low blow!

It doesn’t really seem to be worth it – why would you steal toiletries?

Mark: Desperate times, man.

I guess in Trump’s America, now you have to resort to stealing shampoo.

Mark: Bernie Sanders in 2020!

Were you genuinely thrilled with the final “Ride or Die” – is this the start of something more between Foster the People and The Knocks?

James: Yeah, I think so. After all, why do collaborations have to just be rappers and DJs?

It does seem like these days everyone is pushed to do these collabs to make an event out of everything. It’s like, “Rihanna and Keith Urban” – together for the first time!

James: Yeah, absolutely.

 

Foster the People

 

But this one didn’t feel at all staged. Was there a real sense of musical kinship between you guys?

Mark: You never really know what you’re getting when you go into the studio with other people. Artists are sensitive, and musicians tend to be lone wolves. But you’re all there for this common goal, which is to create something great. Music is a language within itself, and we quickly bonded, because we complemented each other so well musically.
James: And it’s not always that way!
Ben: We both came up around the same time, which I think also gives us a common perspective.

The music scene does feels like it’s become a bit polite and orchestrated now, no?

Mark: I think you’re probably right. That’s why The Weeknd and Post Malone have become so big, because they’re individuals and not afraid to be themselves. Marilyn Manson did that awhile back, of course, but time finally caught up with him. He was so ahead of his time.

He couldn’t be controlled by the music business. 

Mark: Like it or not, that’s why the Kardashians are the biggest thing on TV. They are so over the top, and just don’t seem to care what anyone else thinks.

This would seem to be a good time for artists to be speaking up about things that are more…urgent.

Mark: I would love to see more activism. But a lot of artists are afraid to make statements, even though they have the chance to make real social change. I guess they don’t want to, because they don’t want to risk losing any of their fanbase.

Making statements seemed to just be more organic to making music back in the day.

Mark: If you look at Bowie cross-dressing in the ’70s, everything that John Lennon did with Yoko Ono – it was all so radical.

If you had the chance to go into the studio with anyone right now, who would it be?

Mark: I think Kanye. But I think it would also be great to sign someone new, somebody that nobody knows about, and do something fresh and forward.
Ben: We’re trying to get more into artist development. We’re working with this new girl Blu Detiger, 20 years old, born and raised New Yorker.

Is there a reason you’ve chosen such a provocative title for the new Knocks album, New York Narcotic?

Ben: New York Narcotic is just a comment on how you get to a city like New York and it becomes like a drug – it’s basically about not being in the suburbs. It really does get to be like a high.

 

Exalting an NYC Nightlife Legend: ‘Susanne Bartsch: On Top’ Premieres in LA

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Just outside a movie theater on Sunset, there’s a spectacle brewing. The makeshift red carpet is rolled out, and around it grows a crowd of elaborate, jaw-dropping looks. One jeweled prosthetic leg here, a sky-high headpiece there, a man in a butt-baring purple leotard – down in front.

Everyone’s here for one reason, and one woman. Tonight is the debut of Susanne Bartsch: On Top, a documentary written and directed by filmmakers Anthony&Alex, about the namesake nightlife queen and fashion icon.

 

 

On Top spans the entirety of Bartsch’s storied life and career: her childhood in Switzerland, younger years in London, the New York City of the ‘80s, and today. In 1981, she opened a boutique in SoHo, stocked mostly with her favorite British designers. That led her to nightlife, parties, David Barton (the gym entrepreneur whom she married in 1995), more parties, and ultimately, her legacy in NYC and beyond.

“She was creating a safe space for us, where we could be ourselves,” party-goers echoed again and again. Everything outside was a construct – gender, sexual orientation – inside the club was where you could be whomever you wanted to be. You could just have fun, as long as you dressed up. Those were the rules of entry.

The film strings the decades together seamlessly thanks to a fortress of archival footage. We get to see Bartsch in her many public and private forms over the years: doting mother, loving wife, scenestress, visionary, and of course, hardwired perfectionist.

 

 

In one scene a hair stylist chases Bartsch around her apartment (she lives in the Chelsea Hotel) while trying to trim her wig. She’s visibly irked about the look, which she says isn’t working, but waves the stylist off saying “I don’t care anymore.” She may be picky, but her looks are a testament to her obsessive attention to detail.

As are her parties. Like The Love Ball in 1989, which took its cues from vogue balls happening in Harlem at the time (long before Pose did). Held during the height of the AIDS epidemic, the fundraising event took a year to produce, and brought together a veritable who’s who of New York nightlife/celebrity. Cindy Crawford, Madonna, Keith Haring, Kenny Kenny, Amanda Lepore, and thousands of others gathered to drink, dance, vogue, and bring awareness and money to those affected by AIDS. David Byrne even judged one of the voguing contests. He told the New York Times: “It was kind of confusing. I saw things I never saw before.”

 

 

Finally, when we think we’ve seen all that one woman could possibly do, the film brings us back into the future (or, 2015) where the Museum at FIT is holding Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch, a retrospective of her ever-growing couture collection. We watch as she runs around pulling designs from racks (Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen), sizing up the space (she appears nonplussed at first), and running a team of various artists and assistants, including makeup artist Deney Adam, who we see applying countless breathtaking looks throughout the film. As one can imagine, Bartsch spends a lot of time getting her makeup done, even in the movie.

And while yes, Bartsch may be outgrowing nightlife a tad (she’s 50 this year) the film reveals there’s always another project around the corner. And a party. Tonight it’s at The Standard in downtown Los Angeles, where revelers and filmgoers carry on late into the night. Bartsch is there, at the helm, kissing cheeks and saying her hellos in a gold jeweled unitard sprinkled with pieces of metallic armor. A gold horn wraps around her right eye. A bionic pop star? Goddess of the underworld? Whatever she identifies as, she’s always always the life of the party.

 

 

Watch: The New Culture Club Video for ‘Let Somebody Love You’ is a Fabulous Party in the Streets

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Last month, Boy George & Culture Club released their first new song in 20 years. And the infectious, reggae-tinged “Let Somebody Love You” did not disappoint, distinctly recalling their early heyday, and winning rapturous reviews.

Now comes the glorious accompanying video, which we just can’t get enough of. Directed by Howard Greenhalgh, it shows the Boy and the band amidst adoring fans, riffing on the great Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner tradition. Indeed, with its multifarious crowd, genuinely celebratory vibe, and its message of love and hope (“Love is revolution / Feed the hunger in your heart / Let somebody love you”) it flies very much in the face of all the ugly divisiveness flashing across our screens every day. And isn’t that what we’d always turned to George for?

It comes as the band are in the midst of a massive North American and European tour (with The B-52s) that will eventually take them all the way to Berlin on December 5 – before they take a well deserved holiday break.