BlackBook Premiere: Listen to Pale Dian’s Synth-Driven ‘Pas De Deux’

  1. Photography: Raphael Umscheid

Having formed just last year, Austin trio, Pale Dian‘s supreme take on shoegaze has their sound rooted in the influences of Cocteau Twins, Lush and My Bloody Valentine. Their first single, “In A Day,” (released earlier this year) stacked layers on layers of swirling, fuzzed out guitars, architecting the perfect wall of sound. With their new track, “Pas De Deux,” the band strips down the pedals, brings forth their synth and creates an echoing atmosphere for lead singer Ruth Ellen Smith to vamp her vocals that are one part Liz Frazier and one part Asobi Seksu’s Yuki Chikudate.

“This song was my experiment with dub,” Ruth said. “The recording was all an idea that I had from a demo that just needed to be fine tuned with studio love. With the help of our amazing producer Alex Bhore (This Will Destroy You), we hashed it out. The recording has guitar only at the end, so we learned to play the song live later. [The live version] comes across much darker, which I’m pleased with.  I often write [songs] that are dissonant but somehow work out in a way that make your ears have to think. This is that song.”

Listen, below, to the BlackBook exclusive premiere of “Pas De Deux:”

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Pale Dian’s, debut album Narrow Birth comes out June 3rd on Manifesto Records. (Pre-order, here).

Weekend Trip: Six Romantic Getaways To Book Right Now

Even in the best cities in the world, there are times that escape feels so desperate a necessity that any borrowed friend-of-a-friend’s dilapidated cottage upstate seems like it would do the trick. From dreamy and not-too-far-away to dreamy and across-the-pond, these six romantic getaways are sure to get your imagination, and your heart (and libido) stirring. Book one now. You won’t regret it.

1. Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, Montauk

Just a quick Jitney trip away lies Montauk–which sheds the pretension of the neighboring Hamptons, but keeps the pristine oceanfront real estate. Thanks to a spa, salt water pool (with ocean views (!)), and yoga classes offered, you can get the perks of a tropically detoxifying retreat in just a 2.5-hour trip. End the night watching the sunset or sipping champagne by the fireplace.

Gurney's Firepit
Photo: Courtesy of Gurney’s Montauk Resort

Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, New King Room
Photo: Courtesy of Gurney’s Montauk Resort

Gurney's Property - Sunset Image
Photo: Courtesy of Gurney’s Montauk Resort

2. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, Palm Springs

For a west coast romantic getaway, look no further than Palm Springs: this desert mecca of mid-century modern architecture doubles as a hip destination for anyone who wants California weather, sans the glitz of L.A…and should you want for just a hint of glitz, The Ace Hotel might just be the perfect resolution. If it’s pure, unadulterated relaxation you seek, “The Feel Good Spa” offers couples packages–in fact, anything from facials and seaweed body wraps, to earth clay wraps and body brushing can be done in twosome form. And, since no vacation has ever felt long enough, couples can indulge in a personal massage lesson to learn inspired, professional techniques to use at home. Outdoorsy types can soak up the SoCal sunshine via bike rentals–even better–the hotel can arrange a private dinner on the stargazing deck, which overlooks the pool and mountains.

Photo: D.L. Thompson and Jon Johnson

aceps-spa-indoorroomPhoto: Douglas Lyle Thompson

Ace_Palm_Springs-OverviewPhoto: D.L. Johnson and Jon Johnson

3. The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell, Round Top, TX
Looking for a romantic American getaway that’s truly off the beaten path? Try Texas. Just 75 miles from ultra-hip Austin lies mecca, as told by the queen of shabby chic. Each cottage offers privacy and comfort. Couples spend time reconnecting with long walks and quality time spent together.  Trying to win some extra boyfriend/girlfriend points? Flowers can be added to the room for an extra special touch.

Photo: Courtesy of “Rachel Ashwell Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures,” Cico books

Photo: Courtesy of “Rachel Ashwell Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures,” Cico books

Prairie Driveway Exterior
Photo: Courtesy of “Rachel Ashwell Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures,” Cico books

Prairie Exterior copy
Photo: Courtesy of “Rachel Ashwell Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures,” Cico books

4. The Berkeley Hotel, London 

Here’s one for the sartorially inclined couple. If you missed the jaw-dropping Alexander McQueen retrospective when it debuted at the Met’s Costume Instutute in NYC in 2011, fear not–the corsetry, the chance to be thisclose to pieces from the groundbreaking Highland Rape collection is just one reason to head to the UK. It’s now at the V&A–a British institution, if you’ve never been. (Plus, even if you’re going for just an extended weekend, a flight to England is a solid hour less than almost any other country in Europe and the same goes for the time difference). If the exhibit isn’t enough, revel in the quirky spirit of English fashion at The Berkeley Hotel (that’s Rachel Zoe’s favorite to you) where you can enjoy Pret-a-Portea–proper high tea that pays homage to McQueen favorites. Of course, The Berkeley is more than just cookies and tea sandwiches…there are the balcony suites overlooking Hyde Park, duos can enjoy treatments at the Bamford Haybarn Spa, and unwind from the buzz of London by the rooftop pool.

13_053Berkley Hotel30078 1-1
Photo: Courtesy of Maybourne Hotel Group

Treatment Room 028 copy
Photo: Courtesy of Maybourne Hotel Group

Berkeley Opus Suite_28-08-13_0207a
Photo: Courtesy of Maybourne Hotel Group

Pret-A-Portea, Spring/Summer 2015Photo: Courtesy of Maybourne Hotel Group

5. St. Regis Bahia Beach, Puerto Rico

Though leaving the premises of the St. Regis Bahia Beach would be, by no means, necessary, the couple who likes their vacation with a healthy mix of the highest-end luxury (think: a Jean-Georges restaurant on the premises) and a bit of authentic culture, look no further than this gorgeous Puerto Rican retreat, where the ocean is warm, the pool is massive and the cabanas are made for making out–but the charm and pastel colors of Old San Juan are just a short drive away. Kayak in the on-property lake, hike holding hands through the nearby El Yunque rainforest, or simply read by the pool, you’ll leave having enjoyed a restorative serving of both piña coladas and Vitamin D. Though adventure on and around the premises abounds, rooms come equipped with sun-drenched patios and walk-in showers. Even better, giant baths that are an insanely simple dial-zero to the butler away from filled with bubbly–in the bath and your glasses. Prepare for 24/7 romance.

St.Regis Bahia Beach Resort Puerto Rico
Photo: Courtesy of St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort

St. Regis Bahia Beach Pool
Photo: Courtesy of St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort

Suite Room
Photo: Courtesy of St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort

The St. Regis Bahia Beach private beach
Photo: Courtesy of St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort

6. KiCHIC Resort, Peru

Located on the edge of a traditional Peruvian fishing village, Mancora is fast emerging as one of the world’s best beach destinations (you heard it here first)! KiCHIC offers a unique hideaway where guests find call rooms, located between gardens of coconut palms and maye pepper trees facing the northern ocean breeze, home. For an especially romantic indulgence, spring for the Piedra room which has its own open-air bathtub on a private terrace made out of local flagstone, or the Himalaya. Should you decide (and no judgement, if not) to ever get out of bed, you can take your pick of surf lessons, kayaking, and outdoor movies every weekend.

Photo: Courtesy of KiCHIC

Photo: Courtesy of KiCHIC

357A0789Photo: Courtesy of KiCHIC

Photo: Courtesy of KiCHIC

What To Wear At SXSW This Week

Photo Credit: David X Prutting/

Austin is as cool a city as they come. The city is generally populated by a very hip crowd, but come SXSW (SXMusic kicks off today) it fills up with culture-makers from around the country. It’s around 70 degrees (ah!) in the city that prides itself on  the mission to “KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD.” The only people dressed up are celebrities–the general population is keeping it casual. At a festival that mixes film, music, technology, and is just adding fashion to the mix, it’s a perfect occasion to get experimental. If ever there were a time to let your fashion freak flag fly, SXSW is that time.


L to R Clockwise: Chloe Elsie crossbody bag, Frame Denim Button-Down, Cutler and Gross Aviators, Current/Elliott Striped Tee-Shirt, Frye Boots, Etro Printed Trousers, Saint Laurent Platforms, Soludos Leather Espadrilles, Adidas Superstar Sneakers, MiH Denim Shorts, Isabel Marant Wrap NecklaceFINDS+ Koza Elyse Fringed Herringbone Cotton Kaftan


Spandau Ballet Return To US for SXSW Premier Of New Film

It was an odd decision for the uber-European Spandau Ballet to pick Austin, Texas, a town in which they had previously never even performed, to launch a bid for a stateside comeback. But at SXSW on Wednesday, the new career-spanning documentary, “Soul Boys of the Western World” premiered before an enthusiastic crowd at the downtown Paramount Theatre, the film features footage of all the major players on the British pop scene of the time, including the three acts that Spandau songwriter/guitarist Gary Kemp viewed as their top competitors: Culture Club, Wham! and Duran Duran.

“Soul Boys” follows the fledgling five piece from their humble punk-era origins in London through several name changes before finally settling on “Spandau Ballet,” two words of graffiti scrawled in a Berlin toilet which referred to the death throes of prisoners hung at the nearby Spandau Prison. Once the band had a record deal in place, a Top 5 UK hit came immediately with “To Cut a Long Story Short,” a short, punchy number which captured the flash of the then-burgeoning and actually quite avant-garde New Romantic movement (which had a significant influence on the fashion world, and still does to this day). Numerous singles followed, with varying degrees of chart success, until massive international stardom arrived, as we now know, in 1983 in the form of “True”.

Film director George Hencken does a deft job of bringing Spandau’s heyday to life, paring down over 250 hours of material to only the choicest concert footage, Top of the Pops and MTV appearances, and ’80s-specific newsreels of Margaret Thatcher’s time in Parliament for context. The band were too busy living the high life to be overly concerned with politics, at one point in the film even admitting their concern over how the Falklands War would impact a single’s chart position.

After “True” where could it go but down? The scenes of the early days of the “True” world tour is pure youthful frivolity, with the lads parading their tanned chests and blond highlights poolside. But the pop treadmill has a way of wearing a young dandy down and soon members are being a bit too candid in front of the camera and the inevitable grievances about band royalties begin to cut away at Spandau’s solid gold armor. By the close of the 1980s, the band had split, and in 1999 various factions of the group were appearing in court, battling over royalties.

Following the premiere, the reformed band played a SXSW showcase at Vulcan Gas Company, trotting out classics like “Chant No. 1”, “Lifeline” and “Gold.” A full Stateside assault is also in the works.

The Best of the South By Southwest Bit Torrents, 2013

It seems like everybody crashed the music conference at South by Southwest this year. Iggy Pop played The Mohawk. Prince played La Zona Rosa. 50 Cent and George Clinton partied at The North Door. Justin Timberlake premiered his new album at The Coppertank. A whole host of other top-notch acts that will be headlining festivals over the next few years—from Fitz & The Tantrums to Kendrick Lamar to Alt-J—promoted their newest work on every stage possible.

And then there were all the other bands that we know little to nothing about. More than 1,500 of them, to be exact. Sure, a few may rise to the top a few months or years from now, but the point of South by Southwest—or perhaps what used to be the point—was to hear, promote and support these burgeoning new artists first, before they blew up or extinguished their dreams of becoming professional musicians.

One of the last remaining ways to really dig into the pulse of all the newest artists playing at SxSW is through the annual release of the bit torrents, which has a single track from most of the showcasing artists playing at least one set at the conference. Last year, I made a list for the best of each of the torrents as they were released: part one, which had fifty tracks, and part two, which had thirty-five, totaling a mere 85 out of the nearly 1,600 that were released in total. If you glance at the list from 2012, you will not only find songs you now recognize from your own iTunes library or the radio, but also an eclectic mix of sound from most musical genres present at SXSW.

I tried to replicate that again this year. To be even more thorough, I had some help from friend and music aficionado Aaron Albrecht, aka Active Listener, who has managed a respectable underground podcast covering South by Southwest and a wide variety of musical genres for the past few years now. We attacked the exhaustive task of listening to all this year’s 1,200+ bit torrents in this fashion: listen to each song once, for at least a minute. Pull your favorites, none of which could have made my list last year or are well-established artists (sorry Zion I, we still love you though). Then do the same thing with your favorites until you have narrowed the list down to around 60 or 70 tracks. Then we compare our lists, include the tracks that match and campaign for our other favorites through repeat plays, extended BBQ meals, shots of bourbon, and bouts of yelling.

The 20 best that we ultimately agreed upon have made the Active Listener / BlackBook podcast that can be streamed or downloaded here, so you can hear them for yourself, immediately—along with some commentary from us as we climbed out of the SXSW bit torrent trenches. These top 20 tracks from the podcast are also listed on the subsequent pages in no particular order, along with another 43 tracks listed alphabetically by artist who didn’t make the podcast, but that were my personal favorites from the bit torrents for 2013. Enjoy the music!

Podcast Listing:

  1. “Try My Love” – Roxy Roca
  2. “Firecracker” – Michael Bernard Fitzgerald
  3. “Runnin’” – Sinkane
  4. “Sunsick” – Fort Lean
  5. “La Marcha” – Campo
  6. “What UP?” – Hector Guerra
  7. “Rhyme O’Clock” – Wordburglar
  8. “No Rest” – DJ Buddha
  9. “Turn Up” – Gent & Jawns
  10.  “My Activator” – 100’s
  11.  “Shake, Shake, Shake” – Bronze Radio Return
  12.  “Did We Ever Really Try?” – Delorentos
  13.  “State Hospital” – Frightened Rabbit
  14.  “Full Circle” – Half Moon Run
  15.  “Wet Summer” – Bondax
  16.  “Sleepless” featuring Jezzabell Doran – Flume
  17.  “Vehl” – Kidnap Kid
  18.  “Holy Moly” – Dame
  19.  “Change” – Churchill
  20.  “Love & War” – Wolfgang Gartner


The Other 43 Blackbook Bit Torrent Tracks, Alphabetically Listed

  1. “Steam Dream” – Andy Clockwise
  2. “Oh Honey” – The Audreys
  3. “Slipping Away” – Barcelona
  4. “Touch” – Battleme
  5. “Guttersnipe” – Bhi Bhiman
  6. “Up!” – The Black and White Years
  7. “Unbroken, Unshaven” – Budos Band
  8. “Doses and Mimosas” – Cherub
  9. “Pillars and Pyre” – Christopher Smith
  10.  “Coal” – Curly Castro
  11.  “Lake Charles” – Dana Falconberry
  12.  “By Surprise” – Gemini Sound
  13.  “Dark Again” – Gold Fields
  14.  “Sunrise” – Grandchildren
  15.  “I Can Rejoice” – Greater Voices of Calvary with Warrior Gospel Band
  16.  “Bright Stars” – Hey Marseilles
  17.  “Won’t F Us Over” – The Hood Internet
  18.  “Peaches” – In the Valley Below
  19.  “Don’t Matter to Me” – Kail Baxley
  20.  “L’Amour” – Karim Ouellet
  21.  “Two Times” – Kid Karate
  22.  “Switzerland” – The Last Bison
  23.  “Sarah” – Le Matos
  24.  “Yes He IS G-Mix” – League of Extraordinary G’s
  25.  “Aujourd’hui, ma vie c’est d’la marde” – Lisa LeBlanc
  26.  “When I’m Alone” – Lissie
  27.  “Overdose” – Little Daylight
  28.  “Buried In the Murder” – The Lonely Wild
  29.  “Ghosts” – On and On
  30.  “Inside My Head” – Parkington Sisters
  31.  “Till We Ghosts” – Petite Noir
  32.  “Bassline” – Reverend and the Makers
  33.  “Blue” – Royal Thunder
  34.  “Trouble With Boxes” – Sarah Hickman
  35.  “Beauty” – The Shivers
  36.  “Dick & Jane” – Sidney York
  37.  “Terracur” – Social Studies
  38.  “Ya Never Know” – Terraplane Sun
  39.  “Remembrance Day” – Tory Lanez
  40.  “The Golden Age & The Silver Girl” – Tyler Lyle
  41.  “Gold” – Wake Owl
  42.  “Television” – You Won’t
  43.  “Knot In My Heart” – The Zolas

Tumblr, Vimeo Founders Talk Creativity At SXSW Brunch

Want to brunch with Tumblr founder David Karp? Split an omelette with Vimeo founder Jake Lodwick? Have an espresso with the lead singer of OK Go? Yep, so do I. And maybe someday we will, but for now, we’re getting the next best thing: a video from GE’s two-hour Brilliant Brunch at SXSW, when eight leading creators of all things tech, media, & music came together to dine on waffles, sip Bloody Marys, and tackle how they got started, what challenges them, and how they stay on top.

In this video, the innovators discuss their “Path to Creativity.” Check out the full list of videos, sit back, grab a coffee, and get instantly inspired. Or at least hungry.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

I’m Not Going To SXSW, So Stop Asking

Hey, man: self-promotion is tough. And if you’re the PR point person for a few different bands, that’s even tougher. Toughest of all might be trying to generate PR buzz for all eight of the bands you represent, all of which are performing twice at SXSW next week. Unfortunately, I can’t help. You see, I’m not going to SXSW. Not to see films, or hear music, or gawk at new technology. None of it.

“But,” you will interject, “aren’t you a pop culture writer? And isn’t SXSW, for the briefest of moments, going to be the undisputed epicenter of American pop culture?” Yes, exactly: who could stand to be in such a place? And I’ve seen Slacker enough times (once) to want to avoid Austin, Texas, for completely separate reasons.

I’m really sorry, though: I know a lot of you strangers had your hearts set on “meeting up” or “getting together” or “checking in,” mostly because you keep emailing me about it. I’m not entirely sure what we would do once we made contact—stand on line outside a crowded bar and wait to get arrested for blocking a fire lane, I’d guess—but it’s just not in the cards. Maybe next year. 

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Burning Man Documentary Sort of Like Burning Man Without the Dehydration

In most cases, people who regularly talk about Burning Man generally fall into four camps: people who have attended Burning Man and are obsessed with the transformative experience of the thing, people who went to Burning Man and hated it but still want to remind everyone that they went to Burning Man, dreamy-eyed college students who reeeeeaaallllyyyy want to go to Burning Man but, like, just need people to go with, and people who have never been to Burning Man but write eye-rolling blogs about it. But, whether due to the inherent weirdness of much of the experience, the intense visuals or the chance to exploit people on drugs, people also really love making documentaries about Burning Man. And you, too, can see the latest salute to the neon-and-nudity fantasyland at South By Southwest when Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter (Who Killed the Electric Car?) premiere Spark: A Burning Man Story, a behind-the-scenes look at the festival, focusing on organizers and repeat participants, and how their ideals and festival perceptions have shifted over time. One woman describes how the festival compelled her to learn how to weld; a gentleman with a beard extols Black Rock Desert as "a great venue to build giant stuff and blow it up."

This is hardly the first documentary that has gone behind the scenes or given outsiders a look at the gonzo civilization of Black Rock—Damon Brown released Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock in 2005 and followed the organizers, artists and participants for 18 months, from first-drawn plans to the final ember. But Spark, at least from first glance, not only has time and the dramatic increase in magnitude of the festival over time to contend with, but seems more about the physical, emotional and artistic toll putting this strange cultural camp together can have on a person. It’s a complicated piece, indeed, but looks intriguing, even if the thought of Burning Man makes you roll your eyes and also vomit. Spark premieres at SxSW on Sunday, March 10th, and you can check out a trailer below. 

[via LaughingSquid]

Ten Great Austin Bars to Hit During South by Southwest

It’s time once again for that annual festival of everything creative and cool, South by Southwest. Austin will soon be packed with hipsters and those who love them as they groove to funky tunes, watch cutting-edge films, play with the hottest new gadgets, and get marketed to by a zillion companies that crave their young, sexy, opinion-leading dollars. Need a break? Drop by one of our favorite Austin bars, where the escape you seek can be found at the bottom of a whiskey glass. Continue to our list of 10 Essential Austin Bars and start drinking (responsibly). 

[Related: BlackBook Austin Guide; BlackBook Top Lists]