Wednesday, March 28, 2012

new painting for march, half finished

I'm a lot more excited about the current painting I've been working on (above) for my winter/spring grad class, compared with the last one, which I still don't consider complete. This is probably because this one's a lot more minimal and simpler, which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all. I had a bunch of photos to choose from and my instructor had a real positive reaction to the one I took in January, 2011, which was a complete, happy accident, where an enormous turkey vulture even appeared more enormous when flying around above me, as a small plane passed on by overhead. They ended up in the same photo, and it was an image I have always wanted to paint in a large, square format. So far I'm about fifty percent finished, and the nice thing is, there's an end in sight. My goal is to complete this by next week and get a third piece started, and hopefully finished by the end of the course. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

keep shelly in athens: "cremonia memories", "hauntin' me", "running out of you", "a tear in my i" & "in love with dusk"

Last summer I posted some tracks from the Greek duo "Keep Shelly in Athens", after hearing their music on Last FM. I was blown away at this relatively obscure band, now finally getting some more attention stateside as they're beginning to embark on their second, bigger tour of the U.S. in a little over a week. The track above, "Cremonia Memories" was a personal favorite last summer, and it'll most likely wear out the speakers again this summer. So far they haven't released a proper full-length L.P. though all of their earlier vinyl E.P.s, released on the Forest Family label have pretty much sold out. While I prefer the more lo-fi sound of their earlier material, they just put out a great E.P. on none other than Mike Paradinas' Planet Mu label called Campus Martius.  I could imagine the band more at home on the 4AD label, however musical lines continue to blur, especially in the world of electronic music, and it would be nice to see Mike P. put out their first official album on Mu. Whatever the case, I hope one is finally released soon (in CD format please!). Anyhow, don't hesitate to check out their music as well as catch them live when they pass through the states soon. They added two more musicians to the live set up, so don't be surprised if you're a long time fan and are wondering what happened to the duo and their more electronic sound. Still, it's going to be a good show and I've got my DC tickets for their late April stop at DC9. More dates are listed below!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

sense: "heading take 1" & "icyltap"

I first learned of the music of Australian electronic musician Sense, real name Adam Raisbeck, back when I was buying a lot of Merck music compilations several years ago. While he never released an album of his own on that label, I remember his compilation tracks always being a highlight in the mix. The track/video featured below, titled "icyltap" is a good representation of his more laid back, beat-laden sound, never short on emotion. Above is a track from a very limited CD release I just bought from the Psychonavigation label out of Dublin, Ireland called "Selected Moments Volume 1", and I've been enjoying it thoroughly, especially after a long, exhausting week of work. Early fans might not like the near total absence of beats on this album, but Sense more than makes up for it in layers of warm atmosphere, made to allow the mind to wander and spirit breathe. This may sound a bit New-Agey for some, but if you enjoy classic ambient stuff like Eno, then this should be right up your alley. Adam explained in an interview how these tracks are all personal reflections on life, and I personally find this album to be an ideal remedy for an overstimulated world. Here's hoping for a volume two soon.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

mouse on mars: "polaroyced", "entrotopy" & "slices interview'

Early this month I received the brand spanking new Mouse on Mars CD "Parastrophics" in the mail, and with the weather getting a lot warmer in these parts, the music on disc is starting to make even more sense to me now. Yes, M.O.M. are back, after a six year hiatus, and after nearly twenty years of making fresh electronic music, assimilating a grand buffet of sound, cultures and beats into what can only be described as, well, Mouse On Mars music. The duo, comprised of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma, have never been ones known for compromise as M.O.M., as well as with their solo projects and collaborations, and Parastrophics is no exception. After flirting with some hard rock and noise influences on their last album, with mixed results, the duo are back in top form, however even for seasoned listeners like myself, it can be quite a lot to digest in one forty-five minute sitting. That's why this one's taken a while to grow on me, with so much sound packed into one small package. While Parastrophics doesn't reach the musical heights of their late 1990s/early 2000s sound (think "Autoditacker", "Niun Niggung" or "Idiology"), at least in my humble opinion, there are some golden moments, two of which I included here, including the awesome vid for "Polaroyced", reminiscent of Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker" video, without the crass, as well as the track "Entrotopy", which sounds like a brilliant alien's take on Caribbean Soca music.  In the meantime, if you're interested in how the excellent album art came about, check out the blog post at Plastic Circles, who kindly used my Instagram photos for the post.

Monday, March 12, 2012

a creative collaboration with my wife

Today my wife Kris and I finished working on a little creative collaboration that only took us a few days and was inspired by a visit to a local art gallery here in Leesburg, Virginia a couple of weeks ago. I consider myself a very fortunate guy, 'cause in addition to my wife being the most wonderful person I could have met and married, she's a fantastic artist and all around creative individual, which is how we met in the first place. That however is an altogether different, and much longer story. 

About two weeks ago we visited the PDMP art gallery in the historic part of Leesburg, because I read they had some genuine Audubon and Hokusai prints there. I had never been to this place and the few times we tried to visit, it was closed. Fortunately, this time it was open, and the gallery owner (who simply went by Bill) was more than happy to share his fascinating story of how he got into collecting and dealing with historic art prints. The Audubons were beautiful and I would have loved to have bought one of the couple of Hokusai prints (one from his 36 Views of Mount Fuji series), but that was five-hundred bucks I didn't have at the time. Still, not a bad price to pay at all for a piece of art by one of the greatest artists of all time, period. Anyway, later that night, Kris and I were searching online for a film to watch on Netflix. This time it was my turn to pick, and while she picks stuff more along the lines of "chick flicks", which I sadly admit getting into more than her most of the time, I like the documentaries and art films. I noticed there was an Audubon documentary ("American Masters: John James Audubon: Drawn From Nature"), so in the spirit of our day, we ended up watching it not once, but twice, that's how good it was. Originally I had never been a huge "fan" of Audubon's art, and of course while it was very disheartening to see how many birds he killed to bring his incredible work to life, he was an amazing individual with a tireless curiosity, who later in life became something of an advocate for the conservation of nature. After the film, I had learned to appreciate his work even more than I previously had, and as a strange coincidence, a few days later, Kris wanted to go to a local bookstore we never go to, where I discovered and promptly bought a great book called Audubon's Masterpieces, for sale outside the store's door. 

Perhaps some of my interest in Audubon's work has been inspired by the birds I've been painting recently as part of my graduate painting classes, and the photos I've based them off of. This interest also led to the collaboration between Kris and I, which was her idea, after we finally got some new "grown-up" furniture (as Kris calls it, after years of hand-me-downs and futons) in the living room. As artists, about 95% of the stuff we have hanging on the walls was created by us, mostly Kris. The paintings she made that were formerly part of the living room ambience weren't really working anymore with the three piece sofa, loveseat and chair set we bought last President's Day, so we were racking our brains out trying to figure out what to replace them with. Kris suggested we do birds, riding on the wave of inspiration from Audubon and the grad class. Her vision was that one would represent the Caribbean, namely Trinidad, her home country, and one North America, in this case Virginia and the eastern portion of the states. So we ended up going with the Scarlet Ibis and the Blue Heron, which surprisingly didn't take too much deliberation at all, as far as choosing was concerned. Kris described how she wanted to see them on the wall, in some frames, then we went and quickly found some very good, inexpensive frames at the local AC Moore last Saturday. Later that day, I printed out some images from the internet, cut some paper to fit with the frames, then sketched the birds out lightly in pencil, later inking them in pen (see above images). The image searching, sketching and drawing took me no more than two hours, and later the following night Kris managed to paint and complete the Ibis in a little over an hour. Today she managed to work on and complete the heron, painting both birds using her watercolor sets (see photos below), which turned out beautifully. 

Normally I don't like the idea of art being made to fit somebody's decor, and perhaps the work we made would fall more under the category of illustration. Whatever the case, people who like art will hang it on their walls, for both themselves and others to see, and in this case, we needed something on that bare wall desperately, and who else could get the job done the way we wanted but us (see below photos).

As a result of such a successful collaboration with my wife, we've been brainstorming lots of new and potentially exciting ideas which would result in further exploring this collaborative process even more. We'll see. In the meantime, I couldn't be more happy with the results.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

goth-trad: "departure", "anti grid", and hatcha tv interview

Above is the second track, "Departure" from Japan's premier dubstep producer Goth Trad's upcoming album release, "New Epoch". Below is the first official music video from that album, produced by The SRK. Taking the dubstep genre beyond it's limited boundaries and making this kind of music long before such trendy genre names were invented, I hear traces of Detroit techno, Aphex Twin and traditional Japanese percussion in his tracks. I think this guy's finally getting the recognition he deserves and I'm looking forward to the new CD this month, and to seeing where he takes his sound next. Also, check out the short, amusing interview with this humble sculptor of sound, brought to you by Hatcha TV, below.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

heron finished for now

Great Blue of Plaza Street
36" x 36"
acrylic on canvas

I took the photo of the painting above after work and before taking the piece to our first critique at the Spring grad class I'm taking. So we're over halfway finished with the class and this is all I've got done so far. It was to my relief that I wasn't the only one with one or two paintings to show, as I think folks who, like me, were in the previous class are also learning to slow down, focus and work more critically. I know that a lot of the reason it's taking me so long is the size I'm working with, though unlike with the last painting (the big turkey vulture), which was the same size, this one doesn't seem so large anymore. Still, I think the 36" x 36" dimension is about as big as I want to get for now. The painting itself is also, for now at least, finished, though I no longer consider a work ever quite finished, and I've got a feeling that in a week or so, things I haven't noticed before about this one will become painfully obvious, as far as touch ups, details, etc. are concerned, but I need to move on to the next one now and at least get two paintings done by the end of class (my original intent was to complete three, but that probably won't be happening).

I'm focusing now on the concept of how local wildlife adapts, survives and even thrives in increasingly congested, human populated areas, in this case, in the suburbs of Leesburg and Northern Virginia. I've amassed, over the last couple of years or so, quite a few photos of animals dwelling in both natural and man-made (and sometimes both) places in and around where I live. The heron was no exception, and it was something I would have missed if I had not been actively looking on my way home from work. One thing about painting and taking lots of pictures of your surroundings is that it causes you to look around more and mentally comprehend your surroundings more thoroughly. What was fascinating about this gorgeous bird was how it stood like an almost majestic monument to calm and stillness, in this relatively small patch of woods near a neighboring road, bustling with cars full of people in a rush to get to somewhere. I was really fortunate that it stuck around long enough for me to be able to get my camera (which I need to carry with me more), run down the street, cross the road and sneak up to it from behind, from about twenty yards away, where I got a couple of good shots before it quickly, gracefully disappeared into the trees. I knew right away that this mighty bird would be the first subject of my next painting, which for now, I'll call done.

Monday, March 5, 2012

ralph mcquarrie 1929 - 2012

I just found out that Star Wars concept artist and illustrator Ralph McQuarrie  passed away at the age of 82. I was familiar with McQuarrie's work as a young boy who avidly collected Star Wars trading cards. Getting one of his concept art images on a card was always a huge treat for me, and many times I found them even more epic and exciting than actual images from the films. Ralph McQuarrie was a true master before the digital age, and the man behind the scenes, responsible for the look of the Star Wars films. He will be missed but certainly not forgotten.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

grimes: "genesis" & "be a body"

A few days ago I got the long awaited Grimes CD "Visions" in my mailbox, with her now signature style of crazy, creepy black and white drawings gracing the cover art. Originally it was to come out January 31st, but big time indie label 4AD decided to sign her, resulting in the month-long delay.  The track "Oblivion" was offered for free months ago however, giving listeners a sneak preview of her newer, more streamlined, pop-oriented sound. Shortly after, the track "Genesis" was also offered as a free download, which has, so far remained a personal fave from the new album, with its dreamily ascending and descending synth melodies and rolling electronic bass line leading into a bouncy break beat, soon joined by some subtle industrial scrape n' squeak rhythms, as Grimes' lovely voice carries the track steadily afloat.

Some critics claim this one's better produced than her much "darker", denser, previous release Halfaxa, but I'd have to disagree. It's simply produced differently, and while I prefer the more maximal, gauzy layers of sound and vocals on Halfaxa, it's cool to hear the vocals more upfront and clearly on Visions. As for the pop direction of Visions, Grimes cited some very pop names as influences in recent interviews around the time of this album's recording, causing some concern for early fans, myself included. The good news is, this is pop music on Grimes' own terms, sounding as if a female replicant from Blade Runner got a hold of a busted up Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam cassette and found a way to assimilate the music into it's circuitry and pipe it out through its android vocal chords. I look forward to listening a lot more to Visions and discovering which tracks grow on me more with each listen, and there's no doubt Ms. Claire Boucher will have many more musical surprises up her sleeve in the not-too-distant future.