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.”

 

‘We Must Fight Against the Oppressors’! New Moby Single/Video ‘Power is Taken’ is a Call to the Barricades

Image by Jonathan Nesvadba

 

The last time we spoke with Moby (in early 2018), his state of mind was ostensibly one of restlessness and worry, as he lamented to BlackBook, “If you look at Adam and Eve being kicked out of Eden as a metaphor it makes sense: we are separated from the Divine, from objective knowledge, from spirit. We stumble around, scared and vicious and clueless, like motherless children.”

As 2020 dawns, however, it would seem a sense of panicked urgency has set in with the exalted electronic music icon. And his equal parts exhilarating and anxiety-inducing new single “Power is Taken” is the result, a rousing call to action, with the unambiguous mantra, “We who hate oppression / Must fight against the oppressors!”

 

 

It is a palpably affective work, with haunted atmospherics recalling Power, Corruption & Lies era New Order. But “Power is Taken” is at its essence a relentless electro-trance track, with a heart-racing BPM, fattened-up synths, and shiver-inducing incidental sirens wailing throughout – all creating a glaring sense of genuine exigency. The hyper-sensory accompanying video only serves to heighten the urgency.

“We are facing an unprecedented global emergency,” he rightly insists, “one of our own making. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown. This is our last chance and we are in the midst of a mass extinction. We are out of time. This is our Extinction Rebellion.”

The song is taken from the upcoming new Moby album All Visible Objects, set for release this March 6 via Mute. In the meantime, we strenuously recommend heeding his warning.

 

New Peter Bjorn & John Single ‘On The Brink’ Tries to Launch 2020 w/ a Glimmer of Hope

 

 

Peter Bjorn and John‘s 2018 album Darker Days wasn’t the cheeriest affair, with the band’s Peter Morén telling BlackBook at the time that it was inspired by, “Swedish winters, Trump, Brexit, Nazis forming the third biggest party here at home, and the possibility that we are getting near the end of the world.”

But perhaps they’ve rethought their strategy for confronting such bleak realities, as new single “On The Brink” comes with a decidedly more uplifting tone, evident from the first notes. Indeed, the opulent, Irish folk vibed track is awash in airy, Beatlesesque melodies and harmonies, with lots of joyful mandolin plucking, and lyrical professions like, “And these dreams / Sends us to the stars / And this life / Is the only one / And your love / Is my guide.”

It’s taken from their upcoming album Endless Dream, due out March 13.

 

 

“In line with most of the other songs on Endless Dream,” Morén explains, “‘On The Brink’ has a cautiously positive philosophical outlook on life and the shortcomings of being. It looks onward with a grain of hope and confidence.”

Considering all the talk of WWIII and the reality that an entire continent—Australia—is on fire, it is a noble thing for art to seek out hope and gift it back to the world. For our part, we’ve been playing it on repeat and letting it lead us away from all the grimness, if only for a few minutes at a time.

Morén continues, “It wonders what’s really important when everything comes to a head and the mind’s boggled with how extremely tiny we all are compared to the vastness of the universe. Maybe to live in the present with abandon and dare to dream—even endless, hopeless dreams—and gaze at the world with a wider and more allowing perspective.”

Peter Bjorn & John will be bringing those glimmers of hope to the States this spring, kicking off a North American tour at the Teragram Ballroom in LA on March 23. Remember to leave your cynicism at home.

 

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.

 

RuPaul’s New Series ‘AJ and the Queen’ is a Mad Roadtrip

 

 

Amidst all the insufferable narcissism and vapidity of our current cultural zeitgeist, the reality that RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a massive hit eleven seasons running is of not insignificant consolation. And now he/she (as he/she prefers to be called) is having a go at scripted television, with a new Netflix series appropriately titled AJ and the Queen.

In it, he/she plays drag performer Ruby Red, who has saved up enough money to open a new club, and “it is going to be MAY-jor.” Alas, someone close absconds with the dosh, and Ruby is left penniless and in need of a plan. Taking to the road is the only financial solution, and she brings 10-year-old neighbor AJ–played by Izzy G.—along for the wild ride, after the latter’s mother proves incapable of taking care of him (and the kid sort of blackmails him into doing it.)

 

 

Ruby subsequently snaps at AJ, “You’re like a Chucky doll, but not as nice,” further insisting, “I’m a drag queen on a cross-country tour. So unless you’re a pair of fake boobs, you really don’t belong in the back of my RV.”

Curiously enough, the story is loosely based on the cult 1941 Preston Sturges film Sullivan’s Travels. But it’s given just the right dose of postmodern meta, with guest appearances by Drag Race regulars like Bianca Del Rio and Latrice Royale. It’s also surely the freakiest, most outré cinematic road trip since Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.

Best of all, it’s likely to send Mike Pence and his perpetually clenched ilk into ideological cardiac arrest. Bless!

 

N.B. –  For more RuPaul, his annual Drag Con will be taking place in London this January 18 + 19, and in Los Angeles in May.

 

The New Omar Doom / STRAIGHT RAZOR Single+Video ‘Iblis’ is as Creepy as You Would Expect

Image by Geoff Moore

 

 

Omar Doom might very well have the oddest acting career ever, with just six roles in a dozen years, four of them in Quentin Tarantino films. Most recently he was Donnie in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; but he’s surely most beloved for his turn as PFC Omar Ulmer in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds. (He also memorably played Stanley Kubrick in The Maestro.)

But his raison d’être would seem to be music, having been one half – along with Stretch Armstrong – of the electronic duo Doomington…and more recently recording and DJing under the nom de guerre STRAIGHT RAZOR. And as the latter, he’s just released a chunky-synth’d new instrumental single “Iblis” – which is an old Arabic word for wicked spirit or devil.

The thundering groove and eerie atmospherics are pure Nitzer Ebb, yet with just the right amount of Depeche Mode suavity. But it’s the unremittingly eerie accompanying video that has us riveted (in a car crash sort of way). It shows Omar standing near a rather menacing looking shoreline, as an ostensible battle for his soul ensues between the Grim Reaper and a blissfully angelic looking creature standing athwart.

It’s really not hard to guess who wins.

 

 

The Museum of Sex’s ‘Cam Life’ is a Cultural Study of Contemporary Voyeurism

 

 

Let’s be honest, there’s never been a time when human beings were not trying to steal a glimpse of something more than what accepted propriety would allow. In fact, we think we’ve actually seen peepholes amongst the ruins of Pompeii – or was it Persepolis?

Technology, of course, has accelerated the possibilities for voyeurism in a way almost unimaginable even just 50 years ago. And New York’s Museum of Sex has a revealing new exhibition, Cam Life: An Introduction to Webcam Culture, that seeks to explicate what it all means for modern society – especially those who tend to towards a bit – or a lot – of exhibitionism.

 

 

The titillating but edifying show brings together several contemporary artists known for integrating camming and pornography into their work, as well as content and interviews related to the escalation of digital voyeurism since the widespread embrace of the internet, and amusing interactive multimedia installations.

Provocatively, there are multiple webcam streams on display – CAM4, an international adult streaming platform, is a partner in Cam Life – and yet none of the subjects is at all aware of being a part of the exhibition. (Giving it a slightly Orwellian air.)

 

 

The show headily brings up questions of public display versus privacy, connection versus technological disaffection, and intimacy versus alienation. In mirroring the curatorial philosophy of CAM4, it also challenges any idealized ideas of pornographic imagery, by fully embracing racial, gender and fetishistic diversity, offering a truer picture of the current and all encompassing sexual zeitgeist.

Cam Life: An Introduction to Webcam Culture is curated by Lissa Rivera, in conjunction with the Museum of Sex’s Creative Director Serge Becker, and runs through May 31, 2020. That is, if you can manage to tear yourself away from your computer screen for long enough to see it.

 

Love + Physics: New Ava Max Single ‘On Somebody’ Offers Scientific Relationship Advice

 

 

Pop music taught us that love is a drug, and that it can also be the greatest thing…but rising star Ava Max is closing out 2019 by offering some rather clever new insight on the subject.

Indeed, with her utterly beguiling new single “On Somebody,” she turns to physics to illuminate the concept of one’s grasp, or lack thereof, on any given relationship.

 

“I see you moving side to side, side, side, side, side
Two hands on you that aren’t mine, mine, mine, mine, mine
You never know how much you’re on somebody ’til they’re on somebody else”

 

And it’s really quite true, if you think about it. What could possibly be more enlightening as to the soundness of one’s relationship, than calculating just how much of the other person is on you, and how much on someone else? The track itself is all slow, sultry grooves, and graced with a particularly soulful vocal performance by Ms. Max – who has earned recent praise from the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and, of course, BlackBook.

She’ll also be appearing on this year’s edition of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve – though we really do hope you’ll be out somewhere having too much fun to be watching television.

 

Hear No Evil: Sigur Rós’ Jónsi’s Debut Solo Exhibition is a Provocative Sensory Experience

Jónsi, Í blóma[In bloom], 2019 Photo by Jeff Mclan, Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles

 

 

If music is your religion, let Sigur Rós be your church.

The Icelandic band’s post-rock-orchestral-ethereal-angelic-atmospheric-avant-garde aesthetic has made them the world’s biggest cult phenomenon. Our devotion began with 1999’s  Ágætis byrjun, and they have rewarded that devotion with much sonic bliss.

Jónsi, the band’s enigmatic frontman, is continuously creating multiple entry points to experience their artistry beyond their seven studio albums and life-altering live performances. To wit, there was the interactive video installation with London’s Tate Modern in 2016, the 2018 co-launching of a new ambient album, Liminal Sleep, with popular mediation app Calm, the sound bath-meets-art installation at Neuehouse in Hollywood earlier this year…

 

 

Never mind collaborations with Doug Aitken, Olafur Eliasson, and Merce Cunningham, and his new project with Swedish composer Carl Michael von Hausswolf called Dark Morphin which the two chronicled and morphed their field recordings while aboard a research ship – and then performed it live at this year’s the Venice Biennale.

Now rising to new conceptual heights, on view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery Los Angeles, Jónsi has installed a series of three new works inspired by the Romantic poet Goethe’s fifth Roman Elegy. Goethe made the connection between the experience of a lover’s body and a classical marble sculpture with the phrase “I see with a feeling eye, feel with a seeing hand.” In Jonsi’s interpretative remix of this profound expression, he gives it a sonic update, encouraging those who connect with it to “hear with a feeling ear, feel with a hearing hand.” For Jónsi, the constant has always been, “hearing is feeling is seeing is being.”

 

Jónsi, Hvítblinda [Whiteout], 2019, Photo by Jeff Mclane, Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles

 

In Hvítblinda [Whiteout], the most powerful of the three installations, it feels as if you’ve walked into a Zero G, Futurist, ozone scented, sound womb environment, under light arrangements that pay homage to the Los Angeles Light & Space movement of the 1960s. What makes this experience unique is the 12-channel sound system of ten invisible speakers and two subwoofers, radiating recordings of Jónsi’s other-worldly voice, combined with field recordings of natural elements.

While inside the space, it’s a full 360 degrees experience, where the walls and floors rumble and vibrate. Your shoes must be covered as to (respectively) not bring the outside world in, your speech silent as to not interfere with the enveloping “5-piece act of sonic manifestations” – and two stark white cubes invite you to sit or lay horizontal and fully submerged in the audio phenomena. If ever there was a temple of sound worship, this would be it.

 

Jónsi, Svartalda (Dark wave), 2019, Photo by Jeff Mclane, Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles

 

Inside Svartalda (Dark wave), you are deprived of all senses except your hearing, which can be quite shocking after absorbing all that light. There is a canopy of eight ceiling panels that move in tandem like waves while hyper-directional speakers, with diffuse recordings of Jónsi breathing, whispering and reciting an old Icelandic poem about the sea. As you move through the darkness, the sound of his voice moves with you, and once you adjust, the faint scent of seaweed appears, convincing you that possibly, maybe the ocean is nearby.

While the other two rooms activate a yin/yang sensory exploration, Í blóma [In bloom] triggers more of an intellectual dive. Here Jónsi created a sound-based sculpture of 14 horn speakers designed to resemble a foxglove flower – which is described as being both highly toxic and therapeutic at once, a pleasure/pain principle infused into the theory of the overall installation. The blooming sculpture is enhanced with a series of butt plugs that provide a visualization for the fertilizing organ of the flower.

Jónsi, Í blóma[In bloom], 2019 Photo by Jeff Mclan, Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles

 

Through the speaker sculpture, we again experience a take on Jónsi’s recorded voice, layered over field recordings of Icelandic birds and Foxglove flowers, with a hi-tech recording device used capture the electric impulse of the flowers’ petals and stems. He then translated the electric frequency into a hyper-rare composition. There is a peculiar scent in this room, which is described as “a combination of dead animals and sperm – meant to evoke associations with bodily decay and pleasures.” The artistic goal was to create a sonic mating call between artist and flowers, to invoke notions of pleasure/pain while offering concepts of cross-species communications.

In the overall, with this first solo exhibition, it appears Jónsi’s intentions were to create spaces that evoke the power of sound and feeling, three mini portals for humans to step into and away from outside world uncertainty, and reconnect with themselves and with something possibly higher.

 

Jónsi’s eponymous exhibition is on view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery Los Angeles through January 9, 2020.

 

Jónsi, Hvítblinda [Whiteout], 2019, Photo by Jeff Mclane, Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles