Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Watch List

1. Camera: A dark energy rising up from the Chicago suburbs.
2. Staff Benda Bilili: Straight from the Congo, this is like nothing you've heard before.
3. The Golden Filter: This is one of the hottest bands in the country right now. Listen to: Peter, Bjorn & John "Lay It Down" (The Golden Filter Remix) (mp3)

1. Kora Issue #1: Zachary C. Bush has his own journal, and it is called Kora. The first issue was great, and I'm sure he will follow it up strong.
2. Errands by Philip Byron Oakes: These are like no errands that I have ever run.
3. The House by Brian Smith: Great opening.
4. nightlightnight by Mark Cunningham & Mel Nichols: This is the latest free e-book from Right Hand Pointing.
5. Punishment by Caroline England: It's all about the things we do to each, and the things we want done.
6. Six Month Check-up by Constance Stadler: I think I've witnessed this very check-up.
7. Swansea Doesn’t Understand You by Dan Gee: This is a Polaroid picture that moves.

1. Mixtape Zine Issue #8 is now available for preorder.
2. Turntable Speaker Mixer: A tiny turntable the plays your music and allows you to scratch!

1. Dublab's "Enter The New Era" Calander
2. The Fake Fictions "Laugh Tracks EP": A new free ep from Chicago's fuzz pop trio.

1. "Under The Pines" by Bodies of Water
2. "Fell Out of The Sky" by State Shirt
3. "Peanut" by Quitzow
4. Youth:Kill's debut album is coming soon from Chicago's The Secret Life of Sound
5. Jenny Kanzler Interview at Studioscopic

Friday, January 30, 2009

Band of the Week

Benoit Pioulard

Thomas Meluch is fascinated by many different things, Polaroid pictures, nature, but most importantly he is fascinated by sound. From an earlier age he has been recording the sounds around him and the sounds that he has been able to create himself. His first appearance on a label was in 2004, at the age of 20, on a hometown label called Moodgadget. This also marked the first official appearance of the name Benoit Pioulard. After the release of his first ep Enge, Meluch signed with Chicago's Kranky Records. Releasing two albums and two eps in the next three years, he has continued to experiment with the way pop music sounds.

What makes the music of Benoit Pioulard so interesting are the various layers of field recordings and altered sounds, but what keeps your head moving are the solid pop melodies that lay just below the surface. There is a mystery and a distance in the sound that draws the listen in deeper. He makes you want to dig deeper and investigate the source of this complexity. So, I went straight to the source and asked Thomas a few questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Your latest release, Lee, was recorded just a few months after the passing of Lee Hazelwood. How did you choose “Sundown, Sundown” and did you consider finding someone to sing Nancy Sinatra's part?
Benoit Pioulard (BP): I’d had the notion in my mind for a while to cover a Lee Hazlewood song, and very shortly after he passed I put on the Nancy & Lee record; “Sundown, Sundown” asserted itself into my consciousness for the next several days and I found myself humming its melodies while the vocals rang through my head. To me the lyrics work on two levels – he’s either lamenting a nicknamed lost love or finding comfort in the beauty of things outside the interpersonal, both of which I have done. I didn’t want to replicate the amazing, epic arrangement of the original, however… I thought it best to be a little more interpretive while attempting to convey the same kind of ‘eyes to the horizon’ feel of the song. It did cross my mind to perhaps find a female voice for Nancy’s part, but I figured Trish Keenan would have said no.

OA: Lee was released on black and white vinyl. Do you feel your sound lends itself more to vinyl then say mp3 or cd?
BP: Certainly I have a fondness – even a preference – for analog, so it’s a great thrill to hear my little homemade things coming off of a record. Also I think a certain amount of demand for a vinyl version of the Précis album is what led to Kranky’s decision to release it (and Temper) that way, so it’s great to know people have that same affinity.

OA: Speaking of your sound, it walks a line between lo-fi and jangle pop. I have always wondered what your recording process is like?
BP: Some parts – namely guitar and vocals, usually bass as well – are done in a fairly regimented fashion after lots of rehearsal. But upon beginning to record something I really only have that skeleton in place, so the rest of any given song will arise during the few days that I’m making it, rolling around ideas in my head and so on. The instrumental pieces vary widely in their level of planning; some are assembled from a cache of field recordings and noises I find appealing, while others (“Sweep Generator”, for example) are mostly constructed in my head beforehand. I do my best not to fall into patterns that might yield boredom…this is a selfish project after all.

OA: Both Temper, your latest full-length album and Precis were released on Kranky Records, one of the most under rated label in Chicago. What has your experience been like with Kranky?
BP: From what I understand about the workings of most other labels, I couldn’t be happier to be on Kranky – Joel is the definition of no-nonsense and will never mince words, nor does he make anything even resembling a false promise. There are loads of good reasons the label’s been around for 15 years while so many others come and go. And what still stuns me is that I’ve actually managed to make a few dollars from the albums, which I thought at my scale was unlikely at best.

OA: Your framed Polaroid shot box sets are a great idea. Where did the idea come from and do you feel that fans are more likely to buy this box then the individual albums?
BP: I’ve been utterly fascinated by Polaroid since the first time I saw a shot slide from the gate of my grandpa’s old warhorse camera. Oddly I didn’t get one of my own until I was a teenager, but by the time I found what you might call a ‘voice’ in my recordings, it seemed natural to include some of my shots alongside the music since I’m such a visual person… At a certain point I had a few people asking whether any of the shots were for sale and realized there could actually be a niche market for them. I love the process of selling and sending things directly to people – to me the personal connection is invaluable, hence the handmade album versions etc. With the inconceivable amount of music floating around in the world, I take it as a huge compliment when someone gives any attention at all to mine.

OA: What next for Benoit Pioulard?
BP: I’m looking at a possible springtime tour with Windy & Carl, though there are no details to speak of yet. Around that time I’ve also got a new 7” with a couple of longish songs coming about on Blue Flea Recordings. I’m pretty happy about that one, actually.

"Ragged Tint" from Temper

Bonus Questions:
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?
BP: Werner Herzog.

OA: What was the last great book you have read?
BP: If by ‘great’ you mean ‘classic’, then probably Waiting for the Barbarians by Coetzee. If you just mean ‘awesome’, then it’s Psychogeography by Will Self.

Listen to: Sundown, Sundown (mp3) from Lee, Brown Bess (mp3) from Temper, and Triggering Back (mp3) from Precis

For more information on Benoit Pioulard please visit his website.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reader Meet Author

Mary Hamilton

In a city filled with writer's there has to be plenty of stages. This is where a writer can try out new pieces, and get instant reactions and feedback. Who better to set that stage but a fellow writer. They know how to let the reader to get the full experience. One of the more original series in town is called Quickies, and it is co-hosted by Mary Hamilton and Lindsay Hunter. What makes the series unique is its rapid pace brought on by time restraints and size of the pieces. It is a different type of challenge for the reader and that is what makes it so exciting.

Aside from her work with Quickies, Mary Hamilton's work has appeared at Thieves Jargon, decomP, Pindeldyboz, Word Riot, and many more journals. She writes with wit, humor, and a rhythm all her own. She is a strong advocate for Chicago's literary scene, and always wears the most fashionable glasses since she is an optician at Eye Spy Optical.
Recently, she was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): So how did the idea of Quickies come about? Are you happy with how the series is going?
Mary Hamilton (MH): The series is great! It's beyond all expectations.

We're pulling together our AWP Spectacular! right now. The readers are all booked and it's blowing my mind just thinking of hearing all of these amazing writers in one night. We always book a few months in advance. Even though my focus is on February, part of my brain is thinking about April. So thinking about the future of Quickies! is pretty invigorating.

Quickies! came about when my co-host and co-founder, Lindsay Hunter and I found ourselves really bored at readings. Not that we didn't love the authors, but I know I have a really short attention span and, as good as the work was, I was bored. So we set a time limit and got victims (er...readers) to join us. We also wanted a showcase for the beauty of very short fiction (I was really annoyed by so many people thinking short shorts were either practice for longer work or a sign of being a lazy writer). And, to be honest, we needed to practice reading out loud.

OA: As a co-founder of a reading series, what is your opinion of the lit scene in Chicago? Is Chicago a good place to be a writer, or does it really matter where you live?
MH: Chicago is an amazing city to be a writer. Not only is the lit scene here really strong and active, but there are so many other sources of inspiration in this city, it blows my mind. But lit scene, yes, very active and, most importantly, extremely supportive. In January alone I think I have 8 readings to attend in my calendar, and two more that I'll be missing because they've been booked on the same night as other readings!

OA: I've heard that some publishers strongly recommend that their writer's maintain a blog. Do you feel that blogging has become an important part of being a successful writer?
MH: I have a blog. I update it about twice a month, but I do enjoy the blogs of other writers and I wish I blogged more. I also think a blog is a fantastic place for a writer to make their work available, especially those of us who publish mainly online. It's a great one-stop resource to find expanded work. In my opinion, the point of writing stories is for people to read them, so why not tell the people where to find your work? Right?

OA: You have been published both in print and on-line, do you feel that one is more legitimate than the other?
MH: To be honest, legitimate is a gross word. My print work was back when I wrote music reviews and the print was freely distributed in urine-scented train stations so it may have really been less "legitimate" than my online work.

I think online journals are a place where writers can be free to experiment and where a huge population of readers can find work. Not all bookstores carry all lit journals but pretty much every Internet goes to the lit websites. This essay by Jason Sanford spells it out pretty well.

OA: Do see the Quickies reading series doing anything in print, an anthology perhaps?
MH: Maybe....

OA: What's next for Mary Hamilton?
MH: Well, I was just noticing that my inbox hasn't had a rejection in a while and then I realized that I don't have anything in the submission process so I guess I'll hunker down and send some work to the wolves. Other than that, I'm trying to pull together a couple of chapbooks (one is dedicated to Theodore Huxtable and the other is a long palindrome) and working on Quickies! which is constant work. I am also going to bake some bread after finishing this email.

Bonus Questions:
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with any other than Theodore Huxtable who would it be?
MH: I have several friends in many corners of the world, so I would like to get them all together for a big group hug. But let's talk famous people: I am sure that if we ever met in real life, Mos Def would realize that he loves me and so I would have to say Mos Def.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
MH: This is a dangerous question. It's like asking me to choose my favorite child.
I am going to make a list:
The Frames, Tricky, Josh Ritter, Girl Talk, Belly, Morrissey, Harry Nilsson, lovers, France Gall, Dr. Dog, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Dresden Dolls, Eric B. and Rakim, George Harrison (my favorite Beatle), Jason Anderson, King Khan, Prince, Mason Jennings, T.Rex, Mos Def, Say Hi to Your Mom, Akron Family, Big Digits, and Mic Christopher, Ted Hawkins and old Weezer stuff. I'm also not ashamed to say that I love pop music, bad radio-friendly pop music, so very much. My favorite band/musician at the moment is Soltero.

For more information on Mary Hamilton you can visit her blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Artist of the Week

Kari Kraus

It is one thing to be able to discover in life what you truly love to do, and have the ability and time to do it well. However, to be able to transfer that love and understanding to a student is a whole new set of skills that few possess. In a time when schools are cutting art budgets for sports programs, independent and city run programs are becoming increasingly vital for our youth and our culture. Just as we strive to support the independent artist with need to support the education of the youth on every level. When a child is allowed the opportunity to let their minds focus and create the benefits can be substantial.

In the Western Suburbs there are not too many opportunities for a young artist, but Batavia's Kari Kraus, and everyone at Water Street Studio and the Batavia Artists Association, is making a major difference in her community. In her role of Director of Educator for the center is able to pass down to joy for art to her students. In her personal work she uses fabrics and dyes to create intense patterns and installations. She takes an energetic and creative approach in everything she does, and the result have been incredible.

Recently, Kari was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Your work with dyes and fabrics are fascinating. Can you talk a little about your process?
Kari Karus (KK): I mix all my dyes from a powder form to create stock solutions, then from there I mix the dyes with other chemicals to prepare the dye bath. In terms of methods used when making my work, I use a lot of Shibori techniques. Shibori is a Japanese term that describes a wide range of resist methods for fabrics. The resists can include folding, twisting, stitching, binding, and compressing the fabric in different ways to create patterning on the surface of the cloth. A method that I use often is arashi. Arashi is a form of Shibori and it means rain/storm in Japanese due to the diagonal wave-like patterning that occurs. Traditionally the fabric is wrapped around a pole, but I do it on a much smaller scale since my pieces are smaller in general.

OA: Is there any way to control the design or appearance of each piece?
KK: You do have control over the final product to some degree, however much of what I do does take on a mind of its own. The technique I use affects the level of control over the end product. For example, if I am stitching into the fabric, then I have more control than if I arashi the fiber. When dying, the type of fiber also affects the end product. Wicking is the way in which the fiber absorbs the dye by means of capillary action. So, basically depending on the fiber, the dye will seep into the resisted areas in different ways and rates that affect the design. I really enjoy that the pieces take on the characteristics of the fiber and that, in combination with my intentions for the piece, make a unique collaboration between artist and medium.

OA: Do you feel that living in a smaller town has hindered your career as an artist in any way?
KK: No, I love being a part of a smaller community. I was born and raised in Batavia, IL. I feel that my life here is so rich and I derive so much of my inspiration from my surroundings. I feel that living here hinders me in no way. Yes, I believe that there are other opportunities elsewhere, but with the Water Street Studios project and my roots here, I just feel really content and grounded. I feel that Batavia is a great middle ground that provides me with balance. Not to mention Chicago is a relatively short commute, it is less than an hour away so I can easily get to the city if need be.

OA: How did you get involved in the Water Street Studios project and what is your role there?
KK: Let me begin by giving a explanation of the goal of the project: We are converting an old industrial warehouse in Batavia into a 16,000 square foot art center equipped with 28 artist studios, classrooms, and gallery space. It will be a fantastic space for artists and the community alike to gather and share in a collective creativity and passion for the arts.
I got involved while attending the annual Art in Your Eye festival in Batavia and walked past a booth for the Batavia Art Center (before we had named ourselves Water Street Studios). At that time I was looking into renting a studio space or possibly partnering with them and the company I worked for at the time. I had been the Assistant Director of a non-profit art school and wanted to expand that brand to this area. After attending a few meetings, I found myself so energized and excited about the project that I wanted to be a part of it in any way possible. When it did not work out for my previous job to partner, I still continued to attend meetings and soon became so active that I was made their Director of Education. Like a dream come true, I was able to begin building our non-profit school of art from the ground up, as one of the founding artists on the project. I currently am operating the art school out of our temporary location at the 160 W. Wilson store. There I recruit teachers, create a schedule, coordinate all of the classes, handle payment and registration, draft the policy and procedures for the school, and market the classes to name a few of my duties.

OA: I’ve heard there is a certain tact and skill that goes into teaching art. The center has only been open for a few months, how do you feel the classes are going and where do you see the center going in the future?
KK: Our temporary location opened on November 25th, so we have only been open a little while but have had success in terms of gaining public attention and awareness. I see the school being quite a success in the future. There is a need in this area for the type of arts education that we will bring to the table. Classes have been going well at the store and we are beginning to gather some great students.

The most successful class for Water Street so far has to be Star Wars. I got the idea to teach a themed art class a few years ago when I noticed that we needed to reach a certain group of kids. I felt that if I could focus a class on something that children (especially boys) liked and were passionate about, then I could grab their attention and show them all that art has to offer. After taking my class, the student can walk away with knowledge of a wide range of artistic techniques. They have also created work about something that they love and enjoy.

OA: What is next for Kari Karus?
KK: I am entirely dedicated to the Water Street Studios project and will continue to work day and night to get the project completed and up and running. The center, which is scheduled to open in May, will be an amazing asset to the community. I would love to get back to making work on a more regular basis as well. The project takes up the majority of my time and that in combination with my regular full time job does not leave a lot of time for creating work, so next for me is making work again!

Bonus Questions:
Do you see the Fox River Valley as having a flourishing art scene? Besides Water Street Studios where could someone look to find it?
KK: I feel that Water Street will help the Fox River Valley become a focal point for the arts in this area. This project is the beginning of Batavia’s renaissance and promises to help put Batavia on the map as a center for the arts. Besides Water Street, there are many small galleries and individual artist studios to see in the area. There is tremendous talent in the Fox River Valley and the art center will begin to bring it all together in a fantastic package and really help generate this collective creativity.

OA: What types of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
KK: I really like and am open to a wide range of music styles and artists. I have to say that I really love classic rock, AC/DC and ZZ Top are two favorites from that category, and in addition to that I like, Frank Sinatra, TLC, The Killers, and Bjork.

For more information of Kari Karus please visit her myspace and for more on Water Street Studio please visit their site.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gallery Watch

First Things First - Group Show- 111 Minna Gallery (San Fransico)

Running all this month is a group show that I just had to mention briefly. It features both Robert Hardgraves (interview) and Ryan Bubnis (interview) among other intensely creative artists.

A fresh perspective on two-dimensional creations will be represented from the United States, Brazil, Germany, Slovenia and Australia and will encompass painting, collage, architectural design as well as street installations. Consisting of a provocative collection of new works by local and international artists.

Collection assembled by 111 Minna Gallery Curator Gabe Scott, 111 Minna Associate Curator Jay Howell, and Lainya Magana (former Upper Playground Associate Curator).

Advance Warning: Matthew Feyld @ Thinkspace Gallery (Los Angeles)

Matthew Feyld (interview) is one of the most unique artists I've interviewed. He found his unusual style earlier on, and has been able to continue to expand upon his odd shaped figures over the years. His upcoming solo show at Thinkspace Gallery opens on March 13th.

New Release Tuesday

American Football - American Football Ep
The Bird and The Bee - Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future Listen to: Polite Dance Song (mp3)
Cotton Jones - Paranoid Cocoon Listen to: Gotta Cheer Up (mp3)
Dan Deacon/Adventure - Split 12"
Lithops - Ye Viols!
Loney Dear - Dear John Listen to: Airport Surroundings (mp3)
Peasant - On The Ground
Winterpills - Central Chambers
Ethan Rose - Oaks Listen to: On Wheels Rotating (mp3)


Monday, January 26, 2009

Special AWP Reading @ The Book Cellar

In honor of AWP being held here in Chicago, Orange Alert is hosting a special edition of its monthly reading series on February 11th at The Book Cellar. With the great influx of talented writers that will be roaming the streets next month we were able to compile a pretty decent line-up. Here are the details:

Blake Butler (No Colony and Lamination Colony, forthcoming books on Calamari Press and Featherproof)
Barry Graham (Dogzplot, Paper Hero Press)
S. Craig Renfroe (author of the short story collection You Should Get That Looked At and the poetry chapbook Flirting with Ridicule)
Stephanie Kuehnert (author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone)
Jason Jordan (editor of decomP Magazine and author of Powering The Devils Circus)
John Domini (author of Earthquake I.D. and A Tomb on the Periphery)
Allison Eir Jenks (author of The Palace of Bones )
Molly Gaudry (Editor, Willows Wept Review, Editor, Willows Wept Press, Co-founding Editor, Twelve Stories, Associate Editor, Keyhole Magazine)
Peter Schwartz (poet, painter, author, editor, publisher, essayist, playwright, humorist, and musician)
Ben Tanzer (author of Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine and editor of This Zine Will Change Your Life).

This is a free event and it begins at 7:30pm. For a list of all off-site events related to AWP go here.

The Orange Spotlight

Joshua Michael Stewart Something To Do With Vulnerability (Self-Released, Jan. 2009)

"A wind tucks under his collar and his body tingles. He closes his eyes and these she is: cinnamon and nutmeg in the air."

There is always a level of vulnerability in all forms of writing. Even in the wildest forms of fantasy fiction there are pieces of the writer contained in the smallest of details. When working within the genre of poetry those pieces become chunks of tender realities. The poet can use the poem to get through the most traumatic parts of life and the most romantic all within a few lines of verse. It's a gift and curse, and leaves the poet open and vulnerable. Yet, it is in the raw chucks of words that we find the meat and blood and truth in humanity.

The latest collection of poem from Joshua Michael Stewart deals with one of the most difficult parts of life, the lose of a loved one. What keeps the 37 pages of this collection fresh and interesting are the various perspectives that Stewart is able to focus on. He speaks from the vantage point of a brothers, a son, a spouse, and in one of the most pointed moments, a child. It's a book of memories, and all of the tangible ways our loved ones return in moments of stillness. It is a rummage through the closet, and it has much more than just something to do with vulnerability.

You can order this book through Lulu, but if you order both this collection and his first chapbook Vintage Gray through his website you will save almost $5.

Thing-One You'll Be Fine (Rhythm Method Records, Feb. 10th)

I'm sure I'm not the first , and in fact The Loyal Divide eluded to it last week in their interview, but I am going to declare this the year of pop. What does that mean though? In my mind I see it as a genre of music that represents a pure escape from reality, but with a purpose of pleasure. You can escape with any type of music, but pop seems more innocent and free. It's the beat mixed with repetition that allows the mind and body to break free and dance. As it stands today, we are nation in need of an escape.

So there really isn't a better time to rerelease an album filled with electro-pop bangers entitled "You'll Be Fine" then right now. New Jersey's Thing-One is a four person collective that brings the funk straight to the dance floor in this seven track romp. It all kicks off with the bounce and pulse of "The Kid With Pointy Shoes". It's track with out much thought, but with a chorus and backbone that makes you move. This band has been compared to LCD Sounsystem, White Denim, and !!!, but I find them running closer the flash in the pan group Kasabian from a few years ago with a bit of Helio Sequence mixed in. In fun, contagious, and just enough to make you feel like everything just might be fine.

Listen to: Move It (mp3)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Valentine's Day Giveaway

Amanda Oaks (interview here) is running a pretty cool and generous giveaway for Valentine's Day. Check out the details below and be sure to visit Verve Bath Press and her shop pretty messes.


after going to either one of my shops: verve bath press or pretty messes, please leave a comment to this entry with one of your favorite items or which item inspires you most from either shop!

don't forget to leave your email address so we can notify the lucky winner!

you also have a chance to receive 6 extra entries... just make separate comments for each extra entry bonus, to get extra entries you can:

- receive 1 extra entry for blogging about this giveaway & make a comment with the link
- receive 1 extra entry for adding one of our buttons to your blog
- receive 1 extra entry for subscribing thru email to this blog
- receive 1 extra entry for following this blog
- receive 1 extra entry for following us on twitter
- receive 1 extra entry for following us on facebook

take a peek at our sidebar to carry out all of those as well!

if you already follow or are a subscriber thru email to this blog or are following us on twitter or facebook, let us know with extra comments if you wish to!

please remember to make separate comments for each bonus entry!

my apologies for making it complicated with having you make extra comments! i just want to be able to pull a random number & count down through the comments instead of writing down names & pulling out of a hat! my little one is waaaaay active for me to have the time to do that! :)
winner will be selected at random on MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2nd.

love to you all!

much luck!!

-Amanda Oaks

Orange Alert's Music Minute

Ann Arbors's Wild Years recently released a new ep called Where'd You Go?, and they are selling them for $3 each on their myspace page. The three song contained on the ep are dark melodic folk tunes that remind me of Page France or perhaps Bowerbirds. They are songs that will make you wish you could do as the cover depicts and lay in a field of grass. When you visit their site you can also find their first ep, A Million Songs, available for free download.

One of the hottest albums right now is the latest from Animal Collective so it is only fitting that the boys from Mexicans With Guns take a stab at it. The song chose to mess with in "My Girl" and they take it too the streets of San Antonio and completely tear it up!

Listen to: Animal Collective - My Girl (Mexicans with Guns Remix) (mp3)

On February 3, 1959 a plane carrying Buddy Holly, J.P. "Big Bopper"Richardson and Ritchie Valens crashed changing the history of rock n' roll. To celebrate and commemorate the way Buddy Holly changed rock n' roll, The Poison Control Center were asked by the Des Moines Register were asked to cover a couple Buddy Holly tunes.

Listen to: Well All Right (mp3)

With a mixture of circus freak instrumentation, booming bass and a mixed bag of samples, Bizzart is an exciting young musician. With his first release for Joyful Noise, "Future Stars And Small Wonders", Arthur Arellanes III (A.K.A Bizzart) combines his spiritual past with his love for beat construction and sound art. "Future Stars..." hits stores on Feb 10, 2009.

Listen to: Android Hearts (mp3)

I am still blown away every time I receive a new update on the colossal rise of Plushgun. Pins & Panzers is their debut full-length album for Tommy Boy Records due on Feb. 17th. Pins & Panzers features cover art by Patrick Smith (, and is the third Plushgun release to feature original credited work by an innovative Brooklyn artist; the other two were done by Yoko Furusho (single for “Dancing in a Minefield,”( and Beth Newell ( who did the self-titled EP art. He has three record release parties in the next few weeks and here are the details.

Plushgun Fanatics 2009 Revelers Agenda:

1/26 New York, NY @ Union Hall w/Kiss Kiss & The Gay Blades
2/18 New York, NY @ Fontana’s – Record Release Party
2/19 Boston, MA @ Harper’s Ferry – Record Release Party

Husband and wife duos have a certain stigma attached to them, but when the husbands name is Frank Black the possibilities seem a little brighter. Tuesday, April 14th, sees the release of 'Petits Fours', the debut album from Grand Duchy, aka Violet Clark and Frank Black (aka Black Francis). Featuring 9 tracks,'Petits Fours' is the joint venture between Clark and Francis, rather than a solo Francis project, and contains driving baselines, a healthy dose of synths and some excellent vocals from Clark,alongside Francis’s trademark guitar squalls.

Petits Fours (Cooking Vinyl Records)
1. Come On Over To My House
2. Lovesick
3. Fort Wayne
4. Seeing Stars
5. Black Suit
6. The Long Song
7. Break The Angels
8. Ermesinde
9. Volcano!

Reigns has always been a mysterious band from the UK, but I was excited to receive word this week about their latest album, their first on Monotreme Records, The House On The Causeway. A blend of hazy and dark atmospherics, they have recorded a nightmare in an abandoned old house. They tell the stories that they found hidden in walls and behind closet doors. The album will be released on March 17th, but we now have an ominous preview of what we can expect.

Listen to: Everything Beyond These Walls Has Been Razed (mp3)

A band that I thought might have been permanently gone has just announced it's return. Suburban Kids with Biblical Names have finished their first new release in over three years time. The glorious return comes in the shape of a four track EP named "#4" that will be released on February 4.

Listen to: 1999 (mp3)

Cadence Weapon is back and he continues to firmly establish his legacy as a pioneer in a passionate crusade to push the rap and electronic music envelope. Separation Anxiety is a new collection of exclusive tracks, remixes, and collaborations available only at his website for whatever price you deem worthy.

The 20 tracks brought together in a 70-minute collection include the Mixmag exclusive Hervé/A-Trak/Cadence Weapon collaboration “Roll With The Winners” and remixes of label-mates The Cansecos and Roots Manuva, and arguably the show-stopper; a remix of Kid Sister's "Damn Girl".

Annuals are on tour again and have teamed up with museum across the country for the "Such Fun" Tour with What Laura Says and Jessica Lee Mayfield. You can check out their tour date and museums involved here, but in the meantime enjoy redesigning their cover art.

Listen to: Confessor (mp3)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Watch List

1. Cas Kaplan: Newton Upper Falls, Mass, is home to this lo-fi folk bedroom composer. Cas is also a member of the band Daysleeper, but as a solo musician his voices creeps and echoes detailed melodies. You can download his free ep called "At Rest" here.
2. Strand of Oaks: Primarily the work of Pennsylvania's Timothy Showalter, Strand of Oaks just released their latest album Leave Ruin. Listen to: End in Flames (mp3)
3. Valentiger: We are fast approaching the time of year where the name Valentiger seems relavent. They are releasing a new album Power Lines to Electric Times on February 7th so we will be hearing more from them soon.

1. Caliope Nerve 18: Another jumbo issue from Nobius Black featuring work from Michael Lee Johnson, David McLean, Gary Beck, Andrew Taylor, and much more.
2. Tuesday Shorts Inauguration Double Feature: You have to read the piece by Molly Gaudry. You should read this one as well.
3. The Only Rational Colour for Mouthwash, or How to Loot by Crispin Best : Crispin is a strange fellow, but I like the way he writes.
4. THE NORMATIVE BUILDING BLOCKS OF MATTER ARE SOMETIMES VALID BUT NEVER TRUE OR FALSE by Colin Bassett: What are the building blocks of matter? Rocks, of course.
5. Crossed Eyed by Matt Maxwell: It's all about the eyes.
6. The Heart Breaks Down Like A Mechanical Device by Howie Good: An interesting concept that is well illustrated here.
7. The 4 Things I Do by Peter Schwartz: A poem about leaving a mark.

1. Dinosaur Jr. custom Toyota Yaris
2. Delirium is a Disease of the Night by Richard Wink: The latest chapbook from Richard Wink.

1. Juliet Cook "Horrific Confection": This is Juliet's full-length poetry collection published by BlazeVOX, and it is available for free.
2. AA Issue #2: A very cool art mag.

1. Qua "Circles"
2. Anthony and The Johnsons "Epilepsy is Dancing"
3. Loney Dear "Airport Surroundings"
4. Daft Punk vs. Adam Freeland "Aer OBAMA"
5. Joe Pug "Nation of Heat"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Band of the Week

The Loyal Divide

As a band begins to carve out a sound, play local shows, and release material, the priority is to gain exposure. It seems that the current trend is to allow buzz to take precedent over sales in hopes the sales will follow. In theory it is a sound plan even if the sales come from the next album or the album after that. The fact is that with a market is not only flooded, but dominated by a select few major labels it is increasingly difficult to sell cds. Why not allow fans to listen to you album first? If they enjoy it they may just buy or at least tell a friend, attend a concert, or buy a shirt. The songs themselves are no longer what is most valuable to a band, but merely a tool that can be utilized to gain a broader audience.

Chicago's Loyal Divide recently released a new ep that was over a year in the making. To build an audience, and to give fans an idea of their current direction they posted all of the tracks on their website for fans to listen to. They made it visually appealing, and hopefully left people wanting more. They also team up with the acclaimed RCRD LBL site to allow all of four of the tracks to be stream on their site as well. Labrador is an incredibly dense and danceable ep filled with electronic pop gems, but the question is how many people would have heard it without these steps being made? Loyal Divide is an example of what we can expect to hear coming from Chicago this year, not only sonically, but also creatively.

Recently, The Loyal Divide was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): I recently read a feature story about you guys from 2007 and they
described your sound as Modest Mouse meet The Cure. It seems like a lot has changed in two years, including your address. How has your sound evolved over the last couple years?
Loyal Divide (LD): I think our sound has changed because of widened musical interests.
In retrospect it makes sense that our old songs sounded like Modest Mouse and The Cure because that's the kind of music we grew up with and internalized. Since our move to Chicago, I suspect that we've drifted towards dance music because it provides a convenient soundtrack for public transportation. It's music that you don't have to emotionally commit to. Even though I enjoy their music, I think it would be exhausting to listen to the Arcade Fire, or bands like that,
every time I put my headphones on and stepped on the El. Dance and ambient allow me to zone out, which is a nice option to have. Luomo's Vocal City, and more recently Thomas Fehlmann's Visions of Blah, have been circulating through the band, and I think that Vocal City especially has had a notable impact on our sound. It's a beautiful sounding album, and has taken my focus away from song structures and trained it on sound construction and layering. Hopefully that priority shift helps, rather then hurts, our future songs. Apart from musical influences, I think that the purchase of a sampler has helped to develop our sound. We use a Roland SP-555, which has a lot of cool filters. There actually aren't that many samples on the EP, but it's easy to take an original sound source and degrade the quality to make it sound like a sample.

OA: Your new ep, Labrador, is a great example of serious electro-pop. How long did you guys work on this ep and how did you decide to allow it to be streamed for free on your website and on RCRD LBL?
LD: It took a long time to release this EP, about a year and a half. In all fairness, though, we wrote enough material during that time for an entire album, so if all goes according to plan, we should be releasing a new EP every four or five months with those songs; it's just a
question of developing certain sections and tweaking details. As far as streaming the EP for free on RCRD LBL, that was an easy decision. I think that it's foolish to be too protective of your
music at this point in the game. We need exposure much more than we need money (even though we need that too). So it's really a no brainer to give people free access to our songs.

OA: I really like the design of ep, who designed it and how important is the look of the ep to the overall image of the band?
LD: I think that artwork, and especially cover design, is hugely important. It associates certain colors with the album's songs, which I think partly informs the listener's experience. I suppose a great example would be Loveless. Every time I listen to that album, I see red and pink, which for some reason enhances the tripped out sexiness of the music. I wanted something that looked slick and vibrant, so I spent a long time with my friend, Dave Kowalski, getting the spacing and hues just right; I think that a poorly thought out cover will work against a band trying to get their music heard, especially at this point of anonymity.

OA: You have played many of the venues in Chicago's and I'm not going to ask you to pick your favorite. However, do you feel that there is enough opportunity for a young band to find a stage in the city?
LD: We've never had trouble finding a gig in Chicago, and I think that's true for most bands trying to play out. If you have friends who will come see you and buy drinks, then you have many venue options. We're lucky enough to have a great and very devoted base of friends and fans who will come out to see us, even if it's 20 below, so we've been fortunate in that department.

OA: What your thoughts on the Chicago scene in general?
LD: I'm not really sure what to make of it, because we don't know many bands. My cousin's in Mass Shivers, and I like them a lot, but apart from that we don't know anyone. I'm not sure if that's a comment on the Chicago scene or a comment on how we've isolated ourselves. None of us live very close to Logan Square or Wicker Park, which is where I think any kind of scene might be happening. There's definitely a wealth of talent here, and it's curious to me that more bands don't get national attention. In any case, we've been going to a lot of local shows recently and trying to meet other bands, because when it comes down to it, we want to belong to a creative community that inspires us and fosters us. I suspect it's out there, we just have to
be proactive about finding it.

OA: What's next for Loyal Divide?
LD: We have a new EP coming out within the next four or five months. We are hoping to get picked up by a label, so we are going to devote some energy towards that, along with playing shows and trying to get the word out. I suppose the immediate goal is to quit our day jobs.

Bonus Questions:
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?
LD: Brian Eno; I think that he'd be up for a good conversation about music, which, when it comes down to it, it just about the only thing I'm interested in having a good conversation about.

OA: What was the last great book you have read?
LD: 'I Am Legend' by Robert Matheson. It interests me when a writer or filmmaker takes what's considered a unsophisticated genre and makes something artful out of it. I Am Legend is a novella about vampires, but it's really an engaging and wonderful book. Along with that, I
really enjoyed Chris Ware's 'Jimmy Corrigan...The Smartest Kid on Earth,' which is a graphic novel that takes place in Chicago.

Labrador Ep

Young Blades/Labrador/Lover I Can Tell You/Vision Vision

For more information on The Loyal Divide please visit their website.

Reader Meet Author

Kate Duva

For many writers, musicians, and artist, these creative endeavors are their passion, but not their full-time jobs. So there may come a time when a line has to be drawn between personal and professional, but where does that line begin and end? When do you stop being a lawyer or teacher or accountant, and start being a writer or artist? What is more important than what you called yourself and when you are known as that is how the things you publish and who it is seen by can impact your full-time job.

Chicago's Kate Duva is a writer, blogger, and collage artist, but she is also a teacher. I always find it interesting to talk with teachers about their creative output because they each seem to have a different take on the limits they may or may not be implied. Kate's work has been published at the2ndhand, Fugue and Flashquake, and she was kind enough to talk with us today.

Orange Alert (OA): Last year you had the opportunity to read with Elizabeth Crane and
Spencer Dew. What was that experience like, and do you enjoy participating in readings?
Kate Duva (KD): It was great. It's a challenge to read out loud, and pause and give weight to every word –you discover the truth about your piece, whether it's bullshit or not. You can hide on the page, but a voice never lies.

OA: Do you feel that Chicago is a good place to be a writer? Are there opportunities out there for writers? Does is it even matter where you live these days?
KD: I was born here – I have no concept of what Chicago is, just as I can't see my own bones. I will say that the cold makes hermits of us, which encourages getting down to work. And when you finally do get out, the fantastic variety of weirdos makes for good material.

OA: I've heard it is almost required by publishers that their writers create blogs. Why did you start blogging and do you feel like it helps you as a writer? Does it help you connect with readers on a different level?
KD: I did it purely for attention, but I can't keep up with it. Promoting yourself is such drudgery. I'd rather spend my time rewriting my stories thirteen times, until they sing. I'm too slow for blogs.

OA: You are also an artist. Is the creative process different when creating visual art as opposed to writing?
KD: I'm lazy about visual art, so it's less of a process for me than a splay that represents a single moment in time. But I think the process for everything is essentially the same, it just unfurls in
different rhythms. It all comes from the Lord.

OA: I've read that you are a teacher. Are you cautious about what you publish as a result?
KD: I'm not cautious about what I publish, but I am cautious about who I tell about my secret life. A century ago schoolmarms had to obey decrees forbidding them from keeping company with men, leaving the house after six p.m., or going out without their petticoats. I know a teacher whose principal "let her go" in 1968 for being pregnant – she was married and this was a public school – and she accepted it as protocol! That pressure to be meek and sexless remains in public
schools, it's just unspoken. So no, I do not bring to the teachers' lounge my stories about hermaphroditic chinchillas and threesomes with cabbies.

OA: What's next for Kate Duva?
KD: Radio! I've done a couple pieces for Vocalo and I'd like to expand on that. As a child I recorded shows with a toy piano, a gong and a cat – I squeezed the cat for sound effects. I'd like to play more with sound, although I have a tiny baby at home who is eating me alive. It's going to be a slow year.

Bonus Questions:
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
KD: I'd squat down to coffee with my ancestors. I'm fascinated with my ancestors. Or I'd choose my dearly departed dad, although he'd insist on cocktails. I'd take him to karaoke, watch him get sloshed and sing "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes."

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
KD: Balkan music, especially Turkish or gypsy-inspired: it's the best dance music on the planet! Motown, bachata, bhangra, monk music, and anything psychedelic and high-pitched and melodious. I can dig a little Neil Diamond, some Ol' Dirty Bastard. My children cry when I sing lullabies, incidentally, but are mesmerized by ODB.

For more information on Kate Duva please visit her blog.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Artist of the Week

Katy Keefe

The word opportunity is about as complex a word as you will find. With our nation's attention thrust in the direction of a man from Chicago, I think about opportunity. Is it something that we wait for? Is it something that leaders or politicians can provide for us? No, it is that window that we open for ourselves. It is that doorway that we build before we can walk through it. It is what we make that allows us to make something of it all.

Chicago artist Katy Keefe is not only creating intense and original pieces of art, but she is also creating many opportunities for herself. Since receiving her BFA from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, Katy has consistently shown her work in the many galleries around the city including two solo shows. Through experimentation in her work she continues to grow and learn and develop as an artist. She has a great deal planned for 2009, and it all got under way last week at Caro d'Offay Gallery and her two person show with Scott Cowan called "Sandusky".

Recently, Katy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): What can you tell us about your current show, SANDUSKY, at Caro d'Offay Gallery?
Katy Keefe (KK): Presented by a forgetfulness of Self within the mixed up feelings of freedom, hope, fear, and consciousness, Sandusky brings the distance of the historic past and the unimaginable future to one single point: the present. Artists Scott Cowan and Katy Keefe invite you to a multi-media installation that questions where the dark undercurrent of the political climate stem. In addition, Kelan Phil Cohran, the legendary Chicago space jazz musician infamous for his participation with Sun Ra's Arkestra, will play the Harp from 6-7 P.M.

Upon entering guests are faced with a monumental wall of Moai heads similar to those found on Easter Island dripping with paints of blinding whites and astro-black. The attention is then drawn to the colliding sounds of the intonnations of political speeches, droning frequencies, and the victory of guitar solos. The walls portray a landscape of imagined locations and galaxies, lined with the glitter of gold and silver trees. A rabbit skin tarp hangs above leading to a table of snacks that are free of charge.

As William Black stated, "If the doors of perception were cleansed then everything would appear as it is - infinite". As always, though obviously pressing in the current days of suspicion and anxiety, there is a greatness found in the strength of being powerless; in the dismissal of knowledge there lies the roots of wisdom. There is hope found in that which have the appearance of the absurd and also in a love that is grown with a distaste for self. Sandusky offers a thought on the expectancy of such a mentality - the visitor decides on how it should be carried out.

OA: Is your approach to a two person show different than a solo show? Did you consider the look of Scott's work or his approach in anyway?
KK: Yes, I approach a two person show much differently than a solo show, although this dichotomy is a key element to my artistic process. Where my solo shows are very intense introspective undertakings, these collaborative events offer the complete opposite. Here is where I can relax, experiment with new mediums and processes, but most importantly learn from my show collaborator. My decision to work with Scott was a result of a car ride in Kansas City, but mostly because of his approach to artmaking and the pieces he creates. We approach our work differently, that is true, and probably what allows us to work well together. Mainly though, he and I are on the same page subconsciously, and because we don't have to talk about it, collaborating is completely natural.

OA: Your pinhole photographs are amazing. Your description of the images says that they were "created spontaneously and without control". Can you talk about that process and how you came to work with a pinhole camera?
KK: I have been using a pinhole camera off and on for a few years now just as an alternative to painting, but really got into it this summer when I left the city and moved to Wisconsin; the landscape I was in really inspired these photographs more than anything. And the natural results completely, and for the first time, inspired my watercolors! When I reference creating these photographs spontaneously I am speaking of the camera itself. I literally have no choice but to fall victim to the device; I cannot control the shot since there is no viewfinder, the photographs overlap because the winding mechanism is screwed up, and I don't calculate the exposure time. So I guess its not totally the camera's fault, it is also my lack of knowledge with photographic equipment.

OA: You seem to enjoy changing your media and tools frequently. You have worked with watercolor, graphite and ink, oil paint, mixed media, linen, canvas, paper, and so on. Are you searching for the right platform or is this a certain set of tools for a certain mood? Do you have a preference or feel you work best with a certain combination?
KK: My constant experimentation with medium is both of what you say; I am always searching for a perfect combination of materials, but never want to stop with just one, and my moods and/or subject matter are better dictated through particular tools. For example, the watercolors I did this summer were very light and airy, resulting from work created in a state of complete elation and discovery. Right now the weight of building these bulky plaster heads against a dense forest of pine trees and painting large golden prisms reacts to the onslaught of winter. So yes, everything changes according to what is supposed to be made at that particular moment.

OA: You seem to have had success, but do you feel that there is enough opportunity in the city for a young artist?
KK: There is always too much opportunity in any city, you just need to make it for yourself. In other words, it won't come to you.

OA: What's next for Katy Keefe?
KK: Alot is next actually. I have a painting/watercolor show at the Green Gallery in Milwaukee, WI in March. In April my collaborative/social activist art group will be hosting a Read-A-Thon at Co-Prosperity Sphere where participants will be sponsored to read for X amount of hours in an effort to raise money for Proximity Magazine in the midst of site-specific rooms created by various installation groups. Hopefully in the summer Scott and I will be creating another interactive installation at Golden Age where we will be building chandeliers and throwing a debutante ball. In September I will be showing those pinhole photographs at FlatFile Galleries in the Fotowerk 2009 exhibition. And then, hopefully I'll get into grad school. And probably some other stuff will come up...

Bonus Questions:
OA: If you could sit down to coffee with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
KK: I think if I could sit down and have coffee, specifically, I would talk with the person who discovered that you could actually brew and drink coffee and see how that came about. But I would want to have it with him/her in their time, not mine.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
KK: Music changes alot, not really though. I mean I like Bob Dylan alot, Sun Ra, Sam Cooke, Black Sabbath, Donovan, Beyonce's new album sadly enough. You name it.

For more information on Katy Keefe please visit her website.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Gallery Watch

Overdrive @ Rotofugi featuring Mcbess and Netherland - Jan. 16th to Feb 1st. (Chicago)

It was only recently that I discovered that Netherland was actually the alias of our very own David van Alphen. I have long been fascinated by his retro collage work. Here is the message from Rotofugi: Our next exhibit is a loosely rock and roll themed affair featuring UK-based illustrator McBess and Chicago-based collage master Netherland (aka David van Alphen, who just happens to be our gallery curator, and fresh off a solo show at M Modern to boot).
Sure, accuse us of a little nepotism, we don't mind, because this show will still MELT YOUR FACE. Period. Both McBess and Netherland will be at the opening. Please come on out and see our new larger gallery make it's debut!

'Misadventures' by Dan-Ah Kim @ Giant Robot - Jan. 10th - Feb. 4th (New York)

Brooklyn painter and designer Dan-Ah Kim creates a universe filled with a foreign but beautiful nature. Here is the note from Giant Robot: Giant Robot is proud to host an art show by Dan-ah Kim, a Brooklyn-based artist and designer who divides time between making art and freelancing in film and television.Of her recent work, the Pratt Institute graduate says she has found inspiration in everything from history and mythology to constellations. Kim mingles such stories and curiosities with her New York surroundings to create multi-layered, highly textured experiences and imagery of new worlds featuring female protagonists and fantastic creatures in heroic, colorful settings.

New Release Tuesday

The 1900's - Medium High Listen to: Age of Metals (mp3)
Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Anthony and The Johnson - The Crying Light Listen to: Another World (mp3)
Bon Iver - Blood Bank Listen to: Blood Bank (mp3)
Matt & Kim - Grand (video)
Blackout Beach - Skin of Evil Listen to: Nineteen, One God, One Dull Star (link) and Cloud of Evil (mp3)
A.C. Newman - Get Guilty
Or, The Whale - Light Poles and Pines
Pattern is Movement - All Together Listen to: Right Away (mp3)
The Naked Hearts - These Knees Listen to: Cat & Mouse (mp3)
Psychic Ills - Mirror Eye Listen to: Fingernail Tea (mp3)
The Republic Tigers - Keep Color
Cut Your Hands Off - You and I
Titus Andronicus - The Airing Of Grievances
Golden Bear - Everest Ep


Monday, January 19, 2009

The Orange Spotlight

Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal Still Human (Kendra Steiner Editions #122, Jan. 2009)

"I am the silence. I am the struggle."

I imagine you would call something a universal work when connections can be made regardless of intention, but perhaps it is just the times we find ourselves in. Up until a few months ago the idea of having to validate the fact that you are human was completely foreign to me. Since I lost job back in November I struggle to look in the mirror, to walk into a store, to get out of bed. I feel lost and forgotten, and the sideways glances, that are completely imagined, seem to twist and turn and drive me right out the door. Yesterday, I stumbled across a blog started this month by Chicago poet Raymond Bianchi called "My Great Recession". He also lost his full-time job, and tries to avoid the odd looks and the confused friends. He is looking for the anger and the answers.

Luis Berriozabal's "Still Human" embraces this cry, but is told through the eyes of a man trapped and rambling in a mental institution. His current state and surroundings make him feel the need to reassure himself and the world that he is still human. He has to prove that he still strives for love, for faith, for freedom, for acknowledgment, for trust, and for reward. He strives to let loose the colors of his blood, and rush free into the arms of security. It is a sentiment and energy that so many can relate to today.

Kendra Steiner Editions #122 was printed in an edition of 49 and I am holding copy number 22, so order your copy today.

Maps of Norway Die Off Songbird (Guilt Ridden Pop, Dec. 29th)

What could a songbird represent? Muse, freedom, a poet, a writer, an artist, a child compelled to invent an expression, all of the things that grow and thrive and die. I'm intrigued by the idea of the songbird, and clearly St. Paul band Maps of Norway is as well. Their second album on Minnesota's Guilt Ridden Pop, Die Off Songbird was released last month. The album features the incredible voice of Rebecca Leigh, who I find myself wanting to compare to a young Natalie Merchant, and it is her voice that carries this eclectic album.

Maps of Norway made their live debut in early 2004 in St. Paul, MN. Formed by drummer Jeff Ball and guitarist Eric Hanson, both previous of Vespertine and bass player Matt Helgeson, late of Unbelievable Jolly Machine, the group was not completed until the addition of vocalist Rebecca Leigh. With songs like "Caged Tiger" and "The Run Out", you can quickly get a feel for sense of urgency and energy contained in this album.

Listen To: The Run Out (mp3) and Strict Ritual (mp3)