BlackBook Tracks #47: Sleepwalking

Isn’t it great how sometimes you stay up way past your bedtime even when you know you shouldn’t, and then you can’t sleep when you try to catch up? It’s been that kind of week. Here’s a tribute to various forms of nocturnal distress, though it does not involve any REM songs.

Radiohead – “Melatonin”
Does taking melatonin actually help you sleep? I can’t tell anymore. A few years ago, I would listen to “Videotape” by Radiohead every night before going to bed, but maybe I should have chosen “Melatonin” instead. Taken from the 1998 EP Airbag/How Am I Driving?, it’ll put you completely at peace in just over two minutes.

Flume ft. Jezzabell Doran – “Sleepless”
Australia’s vibrant dance scene has been getting more and more attention, thanks in part to the talents of 22-year-old producer Flume. His self-titled album is one of the sharpest debut albums of this year, and “Sleepless” is half dreamscape, half insistent insomnia. Next week, Flume will release a collaborative EP with Chet Faker entitled Lockjaw.

Young Galaxy – “Sleepwalk With Me”
There are way too many bands whose names involve some form of the word “Young,” but fortunately, Young Galaxy’s worth remembering. The Montreal indie pop quintet put out the LP Aquamarine earlier this year, and “Sleepwalk With Me” is its charming closer. The track layers frontwoman Catherine McCandless’ gently soaring vocals over cozy, synth-laden production, like throwing another blanket on your bed before going to sleep.

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Safety Scissors – “Somnambulance”
New York-via-San Francisco electronic producer Safety Scissors called his latest record In A Manner Of Sleeping, so of course there’s a tribute to sleepwalking on it. While the track is called “Somnambulance,” it sounds more like insomnia, glitchy and meandering. This may be for the kind of sleepwalker that goes some strange places and maybe starts eating a bar of soap with a knife and fork.

Beastie Boys – “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
It’s the weekend, so who needs sleep anyways? Even if you’re not partying eight days a week like the Beastie Boys in 1986, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” will make you feel like you can. You probably already know that this song is the equivalent of one of those adrenaline rushes that makes people lift up cars.

 

The Best of Radiohead and Atoms for Peace – Happy Birthday Thom Yorke

The Radiohead and Atoms for Peace singer turns 45 today, so to celebrate the happiest of birthday for one of our favorite lead-singing men, a slideshow of some of his best for your listening pleasure.

Not many people do a successful side project the way Thom Yorke did with Atoms for Peace. It doesn’t hurt to have Flea on bass from Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Ingenue, Amok

Nothing says college dorm room to me like Karma Police (and nothing makes me want to watch Romeo + Juliet more, either).

Creep, OK Computer

All I Need, In Rainbows

 

Let Down, OK Computer

 

Thinking About You, Pablo Honey

Fitter, Happier, OK Computer 

Like Spinning Plates, Amnesiac 

 

Paranoid Android, OK Computer 

 

Nude, In Rainbows

 

Motion Picture Soundtrack, Kid A

 

Exit Music (For a Film), OK Computer 

 

Idioteque, Kid A

Boards Of Canada Reveal Deadly Serious New Song

We had a feeling that Tomorrow’s Harvest, the hotly anticipated new album from Scottish electronic duo Boards of Canada, would be a dark affair—they’ve released strange snippets of creepy ambiance in a secretive, puzzle-ish way—and now “Reach For The Dead,” initially broadcast in Japan, confirms it. Almost by title alone. Below, hear the band’s first new music in seven years, set to a vivid short film by Neil Krug.

The visuals, like the song, attain a weird beauty that’s in part dependent upon a crucial absence: there are no people to see in these barren landscapes, and no vocals to hear in this sun-blasted desert of sound. It would seem BoC has gone more minimal than usual this time out: for the first half of this you get the impression you’re listening to an unusually subdued John Carpenter track. When the synth arpeggios and drums drop in, it’s more like John Carpenter end credits.

In other words, yes, it’s a bit spooky. It also seems to have quickly ignited a debate about who can claim responsibility for this type of moody set piece: over on YouTube they’re arguing about whether this rips off middle-era Radiohead. For reference, BoC’s Music Has the Right to Children was 1998, and Kid A the year 2000, so we’re pretty sure Thom Yorke was influenced by them rather than vice versa. Either way, an arresting new piece that promises to be but a part of a larger and masterful suite.  

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Baz Luhrmann Wants to Remake ‘Hamlet’ With Leonardo DiCaprio

Whether your preference lies in Kenneth Brannaugh, Ethan Hawke, or Mel Gibosn, it’s evident than modern adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet are of a vast variety. But when it comes to those modern variations on Billy Shakes’ text, what’s important is to breathe fresh life into the work—even if the film may not be everyone’s precise cup of tea, the filmmaker must do what’s possible to bring the words to life in a way that we couldn’t simply gain from the words on the page. And although Brannaugh’s myriad Shakespearean revivals have been wonderful, the personal to really revitalize the genre was Mr. Baz Luhrmann himself, who gave us 1996’s masterpiece Romeo + Juliet.

Juxtaposing modernity with the antiquated text, Baz brought Radiohead and Garbage to Verona and crafted a fierce take on the classic tragedy that was as aesthetically stunning as it was emotionally potent. So with his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby waltzing into theaters this week, Baz has revealed to THR that he would like to next tackle his own version of Hamlet—starring his Romeo, his Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio. Be still my heart.

"To me, Gatsby is the American Hamlet. What else could we possibly do as a follow-up?" said Baz, although "i’s just a dream at this point." But as we all know, Leo’s performance as Romeo was one of the best he’s ever delivered—the third act of that film worthy of a closet full of Oscars alone. So with all hope this is a film that will actually come about. In the meantime, let’s watch some behind-the-scenes footage from Romeo + Juliet.

 

 

Thom Yorke Plays Unreleased Songs After Atoms For Peace Set

Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of Atoms For Peace performed in Berlin last night as part of their album launch for Amok and then did BBC Radio 1’s show Essential Mix, where Yorke played previously unreleased music.

In addition to playing Diplo, Blaqstarr, Aphex Twin, and other music, Yorke played the previously unheard Radiohead song Harmonics Loop and his own song Has Been. You can listen to the whole program streaming from the BBC’s web site here

Stereogum’s also got video from Atoms For Peace’s show in Berlin’s Berghain Club, which you can watch below. 

Atoms For Peace is performing in New York City at Le Poisson Rouge on Thursday, March 14, for their stateside album launch.

Email me at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Robert DeLong is an EDM Artist on the Rise

Seattle-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Robert DeLong has a flare for the alternative. In a good way. The 26 (soon to be 27)-year-old EDM mastermind, dubbed a Young Artist to Watch by MTV, has the music scene in his hands—quite literally. Indeed, among the myriad instruments he manages to maneuver during performances are Wiimotes and Joysticks, rigged like MIDIs and adding edge to his already memorable brand of booty movin’ tunes.

Seriously, though, this whiz kid’s got the chops and multitasks better than the best of us—in front of an audience, no less. He’s a one-man-band who sings, drums, and fiddles with game controllers and keyboards, sometimes going so far as to incorporate guitar, too. His live set is something to behold, a sweaty mid-twenties talent, hair slicked down in an exaggerated comb-over, putting every effort into churning out original numbers while keeping the beat.

“I’m always writing songs,” says DeLong, whose debut album, Just Movement, drops today. Makes sense, since he constantly rocked out in bands back in high school. Now he’s signed to Glassnote, label to the likes of Phoenix and Mumford & Sons.

Recently, DeLong released a video to accompany his catchy track “Global Concepts.” The visual rendition of this f-bomb laden rhythmic ditty features a foggy interior, warehouse-like, smoke somewhat obscuring the agile dancers in the background. Tube lights suspended from above flicker and flash whilst DeLong engages in various aspects of performing, most notably wandering around and gesticulating with Wiimote or drumsticks in hand, or hitting his steel drum to excellent tribal effect as he marches subtly in place. Towards the end, the space is overrun with revelers, morphing into an all-out party you wish you’d been invited to. (The platinum blonde mop you may glimpse amid the shadows belongs to talented dancer James Koroni, the individual responsible for my introduction to and fast fandom of DeLong.)

Another nuance unique to DeLong is his affinity for orange, which he wears with pride in the shape of an “x,” big and bold on a classic black tee, as well as painted with precision on his cheekbone in the shape of a lightening bolt. More on this defining aesthetic to follow.

New Yorkers can catch DeLong in action on February 15 when, as part of a greater tour, he plays The Studio at Webster Hall. Festivalgoers will have several opportunities to indulge as well, from SXSW to Coachella, Ultra to Governors Ball.

Not long ago I sat down with the confident up-and-comer at The Commons Chelsea, one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, where over iced tea we discussed the multi-instrumentalist’s inspiration, interest in hacking HIDs, and what it all means.

What’s it like being dubbed a Young Artist to Watch?
It’s great. I grew up watching MTV, so it’s cool. Wild ride. Exciting. Surreal.

How have people reacted? Any super fans?
Nothing too weird so far. But, it’s definitely getting weirder. After the video came out, all of a sudden friends from high school started reaching out, sending messages. It’s fun to hear from people I haven’t heard from in years. But, it’s just funny.

I bet. Did you always know you were going to go into music?
Near the end of high school I knew I was going to do music. I started out thinking I was going to be in science or something. But, I was better at [music]. I think people knew I was a musician, but I don’t know if people knew I was into electronic music and that I was going to go that route.

What would you be doing if not this?
Since college, all of my jobs have been music related. I taught drum lessons, so that was my thing. If it wasn’t music at all, I guess I’d be going to school.

To become a scientist.
Yeah, I guess. [Laughs]

So, tell me more about this Wiimote rewiring…
You can hack [a] human interface device, anything from Gamepads to Joysticks, and turn it into a MIDI. Basically, the idea is you’re just sending information to a computer and can turn it into whatever you want. It’s the same thing as having a knob, slider, drum pad. It’s all the same if you can hack it and make it work for you. I found out you could do it, it seemed interesting and it’s cheaper than buying a bunch of expensive musical equipment. And it’s fun, people like it.

How many instruments do you have up onstage with you?
Three different electronic things, two computers, game pad, Joystick, Wiimote, six pieces of percussion, drum set, keyboard. Like, 15-20 things. Sometimes I’ll have a guitar. Oh, and two microphones.

Wow. That’s a lot for one guy to keep track of. So, are all your shows like the last time you performed in New York? No pauses between songs, stuff like that?
The show is always continuous and flows together. When I do a longer set, there’s more drumming. I play guitar sometimes, too. It’s high-paced. Jumping around doing a lot of different things.

I’m getting that vibe. You sampled Moby when you last played live in NYC. Have you been a long time fan of his?
When his album Play came out, I was probably, like, 12. That was when I first started experimenting with making electronic music, because it was kind of accessible, mainstream electronic music for the time. It was kind of something I grew up with.

Aww, an audible homage. Thoughts on our fair city?
I love this city, but Manhattan is a little terrifying. And it’s a little colder here. Do prefer the warm. Other than that, it’s beautiful. It’s awesome. Good people.

Who else besides Moby inspired or inspires you?
The songs on the album especially are an amalgamation of a lot of songs over the last four years, so it’s a wide variety of things. I grew up in Seattle, so there’s the whole indie singer-songwriter vibe that I kind of grew up with, like Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, Modest Mouse. I think you can hear that whole Seattle sound in the way I write melodies. As far as things I’m listening to a lot right now, I’m listening to Lucy and Sports. I also grew up listening to a lot of Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Talking Heads. Those are some of my constant jams.

Can you tell me what inspired the lyrics behind “Just Movement”?
“Just Movement,” the first track, is sort of the thesis statement for the album. It was written right after college, a time of mental exploring. Just movement: the idea that, if you take this reductionist perspective, everything we do is just atoms moving around. It’s all meaningless. But, once you break it down, where do you go from there? Just movement, the double entendre. Dancing, philosophy. Take it or leave it.

Have you yourself always been into dancing? I’m thinking, too, of “Global Concepts”…
I go out dancing a lot. Do a lot of jumping around on stage. I think that’s an awesome thing. It’s the oldest response to music that human beings had, so it only makes sense to think about that. For a long time I was in the indie scene and no one dances. Everyone looks at their feet.

[Laughs] Shoegaze. How would you describe the music scene in L.A.?
It’s actually pretty cool. There’s definitely a burgeoning DIY electronic scene in Los Angeles. L.A.’s big. There’s always something happening. You can always see new music. It’s good stuff.

So, how did the face painting start?
The whole thing was a group of me and my friends called the Tribe of Orphans, a bunch of people who hang out and go to dance events and stuff. It kind of just evolved over time. My girlfriend Heidi face paint[s] at shows.

So she’s your professional face painter. Does she paint in real life?
Besides face painting she does studio painting and stuff, so it’s great.

Why orange?
Initially? That’s the color paint that shows up the best under black light. It glows the brightest.

Has anyone ever said something to you about your “x” symbol? How it very much resembles the “x” symbol of The xx?
Yeah, people have said that before.

Does it piss you off?
It does a little bit. It doesn’t really. I didn’t even know about them, that that was their symbol. The “x” just was kind of an organic development. My girlfriend had painted it on my headphones probably three years ago or something, so it was before that first The xx album came out. It was just kind of a simultaneous [thing]. We both did it. And then they became famous first. It’s just an “x.” It is what it is.

Emblem wars aside, what’s the greatest challenge of all this?
I think the greatest challenge is to not get sick all the time from running around. But, I have a lot of energy and this is what I wanted to do, so it’s all working out. So far. I get to do what I love. I love playing shows. That’s what it’s all about.

Photo by Miles Pettengell

Your Thursday Listening is Jonny Greenwood’s Creepy-Lovely Soundtrack from The Master

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood has contributed the haunting scores to some of the most intense, indelible and occasionally disturbing contributions to modern cinema, from Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood to last year’s much-hyped We Need to Talk About Kevin. Now, Greenwood teams up with P.T. Anderson again to provide the music for his new World War II-era drama, The Master, in which cult leader Philip Seymour Hoffman seduces Joaquín Phoenix into his flock, and you can stream the soundtrack now for free.

As with the Blood, Kevin and Norwegian Wood scores, Greenwood’s soundtrack is an intricate and occasionally creepy affair deeply rooted in its sense of time and place, from snippets of torch-song piano (“His Master’s Voice”) to the violin stabs and imposing woodblock on “Able-Bodied Seamen,” which punctuates some weird piece of dialogue about shaved testicles. In keeping with the authentic sound of the era, lovely vintage appearances from Ella Fitzgerald and Helen Forrest make for a calming reprieve from the tension of Greenwood’s score. Newcomer Madisen Beaty gives a stirring a cappella rendition of Glenn Miller’s “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me).”

The Master comes to theatres Friday. In the meantime, have a listen to Greenwood’s soundtrack on Spotify.

Radiohead, Jude Law Will Make You Feel Guilty About The Polar Bears

Do you feel sad for polar bears? Do you feel sad for polar bears RIGHT NOW? No? Then Radiohead and Jude Law have a PSA they would like you to watch. It will have you feeling guilty right quick.

 

 

Greenpeace recruited Radiohead (for music) and Jude Law (for guilt-inducing voiceover work) for a clever yet depressing video about homeless polar bears. A fluffly and adorable wanders around some crap parts of London, scavenging the garbage heap for food and sticking his snoot in his exhaust pipe, which blows a load of exhaust in his face. Don’t stick your snoot in the exhaust pipe, stupid bear! It’s bad for you.

The message, you see, is that we must save the Arctic or else the polar bears will be homeless. And possibly lunching on small children at Charring Cross. (Although, let’s be honest: Sarah Palin would be aerial gunning the shit out of that scenario.) It’s just as depressing as it sounds. But, hey — Radiohead music!

Radiohead Performs New Track, ‘Full Stop’

Radiohead hasn’t released an album since 2011’s The King of Limbs, but the band, currently on a short tour of the U.S., debuted a new track, “Full Stop,” during a show in Arizona this weekend.

The group has clearly been building a catalog of new music. Back in February, you might remember, they performed two new songs, “Identikit” and “Cut A Hole,” during a show in Miami, and now this. It’s practically enough for a new EP.

And prior to that, a series of old demos were released onto the web although they’re quite old and were mistakenly identified as new tracks.

No matter, “Full Stop” has all the charm of our favorite Radiohead cuts and hopefully signifies more new music being on its way. It could be, considering while the band has only a few dates left on its current schedule, they noted that there would be “more to follow.” We can’t wait.