Monday, September 29, 2014

syro has landed!

So, it has been about a week since the long awaited Aphex Twin album SYRO dropped. After some heavy rotation at the Loya house, it's safe to say RDJ is definitely back. In fact, I'm loving the album, most of it at least, and while folks had certain expectations and assumptions of how it should have sounded, it's a real winner with both the critics and the fans. It also looks like the world is finally catching up to IDM (intelligent dance music), Electronic Listening Music, or as Richard D. James would like to say, "Braindance". Still, "Braindance" just doesn't quite sum it up, as the true intelligence in this record and much of RDJ's output is the amount of heart and emotion throughout. Not the sappy, forced, overly dramatic kind, but something simultaneously more genuine and mysterious. As a longtime fan, I have to admit to missing some of the rawer, fuzzier production style of earlier Aphex Twin releases, back when he was still a young buck hunched over his gear on his bedroom floor, however, the layers of melodies, harmonies, beats and rhythms can get so dense at times, anything less than clean could have resulted in a muddy mess. At the same time SYRO is by no means a sterile production, not even remotely.

Some highlights for me include the dark future-funk of opening track "mini pops 67", and the subsequent epic audio journey that is the beautiful and bittersweet "Xmas_Evet10". I still can't decide if the latter track could have used a couple of minutes shaved off of it's ten-minute plus running time, though there's something to be said for allowing a piece of music to evolve organically, allowing it to patiently run it's course, a rarity in this day and age. Other tracks I love are the last three, including the acid-tinged, melody-fueled Drum n' Bass mutations that are "Papat4" and "s950tx16wasr10" (tracks 10 and 11), both complex, emotional, tough-as-nails compositions, harking back to Richard's junglist-days, still sounding alive and fresh as ever. The final, minimalist and achingly beautiful piano track, "aisatsana", written for his wife, is a perfect ending to a highly-engaging and ultimately satisfying listening experience. Most of the rest of the album's tracks are pretty fantastic too, however, it would have been a perfect release if track 5, called "180db" was removed - a throwaway nod perhaps to his roots in the UK rave scene, but a somewhat annoying three minute waste of listening-space in my opinion. Then there is track 7, called "fz pseudotimestretch+e+3", a track whose title is far longer than the song itself. It starts out beautifully, developing into something quite special, only to end at under a minute! Honestly, I'm not sure what the reasoning was behind this, but it sounded like it had potential to be amazing, then poof, gone. Finally, the one track that would have made this a five-star album can be found on the Japanese-only import release, called "MARCHROMAT30Aedit 2b 96" (see/hear below). Why this wasn't included on the US and Europe versions again, eludes logic. I'll never understand the deal with even having "Japanese only import" versions.

So, in a nutshell, the king is back and in fine form. What is an 8/10 could very well have been a perfect ten with a few minor adjustments, however, either way, I'm just thankful to get another great Aphex Twin LP after all these years. What made me smile was seeing the album at number 18 on release day last week(I even took a screen shot on my I-phone) on the Amazon charts, for all music, amidst a lot of crap, leading me to believe there is still hope for great, intelligent and original music to thrive in the world.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

the funk ark previews man is a monster!

DC's finest, The Funk Ark return with a new album, set to drop on October 14th. Their album release party/concert will be at the Black Cat on Friday, October 10th, and will feature art from the Splotch/Asterisk collaboration between JJ Cromer and myself.  Below is another preview from the album, the title track from Man is a Monster, and wow, it sounds awesome! I feel the Splotch/Asterisk collaboration art (see accompanying image below) really fits well with the music, both busy and bursting at the seems with detail and subtle nuance, yet so well composed and poignant to the senses. Normally, I'm pretty wiped by Friday afternoon, and call laying down on the couch with a book and some tea my idea of a post-work week happy hour, but I wouldn't miss this show for the world.

Friday, September 26, 2014

own your very own splotch monster t-shirt now!

You can now own your very own Splotch Monster T-shirt, available through a company that supports artists called Mister Dress-up! The company, based in Canada, recently approached me about using some of my art to sale on T-shirts, for a limited time only. The shirt is available in two different styles and in a variety of sizes, for a limited time only (about a month from today).  Participating artists retain all the rights for their design and will be compensated a percentage of sales via PayPal, every two weeks. I'm more than thrilled to see this actually happening, so don't hesitate to grab up your very own T with one of my newer designs while they last. Click HERE to buy one now!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

world rhino day and autumn

Yes there is such a thing now as World Rhino Day (which was yesterday), as there should be. You can read more about it HERE. The image above shows a drawing I worked on last night to commemorate this very important day. If you look closely, the rhino is also offering a fallen leaf, to welcome in one of my favorite times of year in my part of the world, autumn (or fall). Yes, today also marks the official first day of fall. You can already feel it in the air around here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

return of the splotch monster, opening reception at off-rhode studio, 9/13/2014

Yesterday was the opening reception for Return of the Splotch Monster at the Off-Rhode Studio gallery portion of Art Enables, in Washington, D.C.. It was a long time coming for this show, and after a year of knowing about it, it's hard to believe opening day has come and gone. So much work and love went into the show, my first "real" solo art show at a gallery. If you've been following this blog, you might remember the wonderful collaborative exhibit between myself and JJ Cromer here, back in February of 2013.  Since then, I've shown work here at a few more exhibits and fundraisers, but having a solo show can be a little more nerve-wracking, yet immensely rewarding. Thankfully my work was in very good hands and I tip my cap to Beth Baldwin who did a splendid job with hanging my art (and there was a lot of it!). I am also so grateful beyond words for all the good friends and folks who made it a point to stop by and take a look and also purchase my art yesterday. It is always such a pleasant surprise to get such a positive response from folks. Also, big big thanks to Mary Liniger for giving me this show, and to all the fantastic people who volunteer and work at Art Enables! Mostly, I'm especially grateful to my wonderful wife Kris, who put up with some general crabbiness, especially in the couple of weeks leading up to the show. In the meantime, I managed to grab some shots before the opening had officially begun. (see below)

It was great to see and hear the reactions of visitors to the gallery yesterday. I met a lot of nice folks who always have something interesting to share. Many of the people I talked to were artists, crafters and musicians themselves, and quite a few were simply fans and supporters of the arts. (see below)

Some of my larger works at the show sold on opening day, and I was more than delighted to learn that my piece Nemesis (directly below) sold to the always awesome Eric and Sara Gordon, who somehow managed to catch the tail end of the reception just as myself, Kris and some friends of ours were about to leave to grab a much-needed bite to eat. To know this piece will hang in Eric and Sara's home makes me so happy, and I'm glad I got to see them for at least a few minutes before leaving the gallery. Do check out their excellent blogs Vinyl Vagabonds and DC Creepers in the meantime!

The one and only Mr. Grey Carter and his wife Linda stopped by to have a look around and a chat as well yesterday! Grey and Linda are some of the kindest folks I've had the pleasure of meeting, and his knowledge of art, especially from his experience with dealing and collecting folk, outsider, self-taught and visionary art for nearly fifty years, is extraordinary. I strongly advise anyone to contact Grey for a visit and a tour of his home-based gallery Grey Carter Objects of Art. It is absolutely amazing. 

My friend David Modler (bottom pic, far right) made the drive all the way over from Shepherdstown, WV to see the show as well. Dave is an amazing artist himself who teaches at Shepherd University, and he's currently got a piece on exhibit at their faculty group show.  It was so good to hang out with Dave again, and such a nice surprise to see him show up!

What makes me most happy is that my work can be enjoyed by folks both young and old, and it always makes me smile to get a new fan! (below pic)

I have to admit, it's pretty cool to see a poster hanging up announcing I have a solo Splotch Monster show. This is something I've always dreamed of and as of not too long ago, never pictured ever happening in my life. I'm so grateful for the folks who helped me along the way, the good books and speakers and mentors, teachers and friends who gave me the confidence, the skills and the courage to make and exhibit art again. I'm also grateful to Arts Cow for doing such a nice job with my custom-made Splotch Monster shirt (see below), created specifically for the opening reception! Eventually I'd like to get some of this work on some shirts for sale.

After the reception, Kris, her friend Jess, her two little ones, Dave and I went out for a bite and a drink at a way cool place called Franklin's Brewery, just a couple miles down the street in Hyattsville, Maryland. We were thoroughly impressed with their food and I highly recommend their Twisted Turtle Pale Ale! I love the fact that this place also exhibits local art, changing it up every two months. While waiting for our food, we had some fun throwing down in their coloring books, as Dave collaborates with Leo (below).

I seemed to have had some influence on Leo's older sis Gwyneth, who made some mean monsters of her own, including this friendly banana monster! (below)

The exhibit will run through Saturday, October 4th, and as with any art show, is well worth seeing in person, as the photos don't quite do the work justice. On Saturday, October 11th, I'll be returning to Art Enables to do a Splotch Monster-making workshop, so hope to see folks there!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

chris guillebeau at one more page books in arlington, va 9/10/2014

Last night I was fortunate enough to see the always inspiring Chris Guillebeau speak at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA, to promote his new (third) book called The Happiness of Pursuit. It was almost exactly four years ago that Kris and I first heard of him and saw him speak at Barnes and Nobles in Washington, D.C., after getting a copy of his hugely influential book The Art of Non-Conformity. At the time I was just starting to get the ball rolling as an artist, and especially one who got their work out there in the world, as I was having a small art exhibit with about ten pieces on display at a little coffee house in Leesburg, VA. At the time, that was a huge deal to me. Four years later, I'm about to have my first real solo show at the Off-Rhode Studio in DC, with almost seventy works on display. It was good sharing this with Chris last night, as I thanked him for putting himself "out there" as well (never a simple task for us introverted types), and helping those of us who could use some getting fired up from time to time. Can't wait to start diving into the new book tonight!