nyc

Liturgy gets operatic with "Origin of the Alimonies"

If Freidrich Nietzsche were somehow alive today he would conceivably be the biggest metalhead in your local university’s philosophy department for there is no other musical genre in existence that so clearly and ably illustrates his theory of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. When it comes to the latter, heavy metal has long been notorious for its Dionysian side due to popular associations with primordial urges, raw power, and a fixation on subjects like madness and sex and unbound chaos. But equally true, if less acknowledged, is that metalheads are often unabashedly nerdy--enter the Apollonian side of the equation--and just as fixated on control and mastery and order as on sheer anarchic energy with said control expressed through disciplined instrumental and vocal mastery, elaborate lyrical conceits and album concepts, and a tendency to adhere to established conventions whether in death/doom/black/thrash/glam/power/prog metal at least until the next musical leap forward.

Speaking of philosophical concepts and musical leaps forward is perhaps as good way as any to introduce Liturgy’s latest release, a literal “rock opera” titled Origin of the Alimonies. Led by Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Liturgy established themselves out of the gate with their 2008 debut LP Renihilation (the title a neologism for the countervailing and balancing force to “annihilation”). By the time their widely lauded but also widely debated follow-up Aesthethica was released in 2011, Hunt-Hendrix had composed an elaborate manifesto on "Transcendental Black Metal" written for an academic symposium, granted one held in a nightclub and bar. This intellectualized approach to metal ruffled more than a few feathers, while the band itself stood accused of being “Brooklyn hipsters" by many in the ruffled-feathers contingent. So yeah there were some big words and big ideas in effect, and a sculpted beard or two in evidence, but does it really stop the rock? The music they put out and live footage from the time strongly indicates otherwise.

Fast forward nearly ten years and Liturgy has doubled down, maybe more like quintupled down, on their ambitious approach by releasing an album that comes accompanied with multiple YouTube lectures covering an assortment of musical, philosophical, and cosmogonical concepts relating to their new music with the promise of an accompanying full-on opera soon to follow. Building on their surprise 2019 release H.A.Q.Q., Origin of the Alimonies features a chamber ensemble playing strings and woodwinds, church organ and harp, that's just as heavily featured as the musicians in Liturgy. 

The notion of a religiously-themed opera couched in Lacanian psychoanalysis and Deleuzian philosophical concepts being released by a band that's in any way associated with black metal will come as a surprise to your average man on the street (gender choice deliberate) who likely associates the genre with church burnings and the physical desecration of deceased bandmates. The book Lords of Chaos has a lot to do with the familiarity of these images, based on some undeniably sensational real-life events, which have since sedimented into stereotype. But for a smaller group of initiates the music of Liturgy is in keeping with a New Wave of Experimental Heavy Metal (a clever play on NWOBHM) and the queering of metal and its boundaries advocated by Hunt-Hendrix and some others. 


Whatever one's perspective it's hard to deny that the music of Origin of the Alimonies effectively balances out its Apollonian conceptual grounding with some seriously Dionysian furor--as much in the quiet bits as in the guttural howling and seismic burst-beats which are Liturgy's version of blast beats. In its overture section Origin starts off not unlike that other staged musical work that got a riot going on with its depiction of "primitive" human origins, namely Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Both these works open with a vulnerable sounding solo woodwind (flute for Origin, bassoon for Rite) that's soothing for about a second but quickly becomes uneasy with its sense of lonely, aimless wondering. And then more unnerving still as more instruments enter the picture adding layers of tension-generating dissonance and you can just tell something "wicked" this way comes. 

And indeed it does when Liturgy enters the fray and by the beginning of the third track “Lonely OIOION” (you’ll have to watch those YouTube videos if you want to understand the titles, or just wait for the debut of the opera itself) we’re off to the races. Again this feels like a parallel to The Rite and the "Augurs of Spring" section in particular where likewise a few minutes into the ballet the whole thing gets blown wide open, and it does actually sound like an early 20th-century orchestral equivalent to blast beats. This is where the Parisians started really losing their shit supposedly and it didn't help that the dancers were stomping around like rabid orgy goers forming an ballerino/ballerina mosh pit on stage.


 

By the time the dust settles on Origin of the Alimonies you’ll have heard everything from violins played with screwdrivers to a very angry demon baby playing a piano (admittedly I'm taking some stabs in the dark here) to a trap music beat to a free-jazzy-ish interlude to a glitching CD player (neat trick since there’s no CD player in sight) to a fourteen-minute piano-and-metal-band adaptation of a work written for cathedral organ by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1932 (talk about literal heavy metal heh-heh-heh, sorry). In other words this opera is a great deal of fun despite the seriousness. And I figure God up in Heaven is grateful He’s finally got something new and kick-ass to listen to meaning that He can finally get rid of that Stryper cassette that's been stuck in His Walkman for the past several decades. 

One final note regarding the quite striking cover image to Origin of the Alimonies (strategically cropped in the YouTube video above) which is in keeping with the theme of binaries and their subversion in heavy metal and in life in general. This is best expressed in the words of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix herself as taken from a recent Instagram post alongside the uncensored album image in which she addresses the process of actualizing and ultimately presenting as transgender: “I came to terms with my gender over the past five years in part through the somewhat torturous development of this piece, and I was only able to turn it into an album and put vocals on it upon deciding I could play the role of the female protagonist. That’s the importance of having exposed breasts on the cover.” 

When one considers that the music of Alimonies is only one element of the overall Gesamtkunstwerk still to be unveiled, you had better prepare to have your mind blown all over again... (Jason Lee)

   

Climates cover version of Daria theme song

Daria - Could they make the holidays any more vulgar?
Jane - I hope so.
Daria - What?
Jane - The more debased they become, the less reason to celebrate them, and the less reason for my family to get together, until presto! I'm finally alone on Thanksgiving with a TV dinner

******

“Depth Takes A Holiday” (Daria S03/E03, aired 1999) opens with the exchange quoted above between our anti-social hero Daria Morgendorffer and her partner-in-sarcasm Jane Lane as they watch a TV ad for show-within-a-show “Sick Sad World” featuring a pitchman hyping a story about a massive Nativity scene constructed at the mall in the month of August. The half hour that follows is a surreal parody of the “very special holiday episode” (VSHE) that’s a fixture of TV-Landia around this time of year

The typical VSHE features a cast of characters—usually a biological family or a ragtag surrogate family—who together overcome a series of serio-comic misadventures on their way to a happy, heartwarming holiday celebration; or more typically for the 21st century, on their way to a disastrous, uproarious failure to meet the heightened expectations of the holiday season. Either way, what’s rarely questioned in these episodes is the sacrosanct nature of the holidays themselves, and their vision of an ideal world often based more in fantasy than anything resembling reality.

Daria, of course, breaks with VSHE conventions and parodies the heck out of them instead. A groundbreaking animated series that turned the Bechdel test on its head and set a new standard for realistic hot takes on high school (not to mention its fantastic soundtrack that'll never make it onto a DVD or Blu-Ray release) “Depth Takes A Holiday” departs even from the show’s own conventions with its wholesale flight into fantasy. Centered on an array of holidays in human form—Halloween is a goth rock chick, Guy Fawkes Day is a Sid Vicious lookalike, etc.—the plot revolves around several of them escaping “Holiday Island” through a wormhole behind a Chinese restaurant in search of fame as a hip-hop-punk-electronica band in the suburban purgatory of Lawndale. It’s up to Daria and Jane, with the help of an overgrown Cupid and a cranky Brit-baiting Saint Patrick’s Day, to restore the (very relatively speaking) natural order of things by ushering the errant holidays back to their island. Like I said, pretty surreal stuff.

True to form the episode’s Holiday Island turns out to be its own sick, sad world with its own sick, sad Lawndale-like high school chock full of weirdos and petty rivalries between the holidays. A bizarre, tossed-off seasonal affective disorder fable, “Depth Takes A Holiday” is also the perfect teachable moment for late 2020. The lesson being not to believe the holiday hype and that you're usually better off just staying the f*ck home. Besides to do otherwise is to risk the ire of a girl in a pleated skirt, combat boots and Edna Mode specs who's expert at tossing off withering disses delivered in monotone. (A question for another day: did Daria invent SoundCloud rap?)

Speaking of Daria in the present day, the Daria-loving four-piece who go by the name Climates recently put out a cover of the show’s iconic opening theme song “You’re Standing on My Neck.” It’s perfectly suited to the Brooklynites’ self-designated “glitter grunge” sound, “Seether”-style harmonies (sounds like the Breeders) and feminist politics. Their cover version can be heard on SoundCloud and on Spotify or purchased wherever records and tapes are sold (yeah better stick to streaming for now). It's lucky for all involved that Splendora bequeathed to the world those five “nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah-nyah” notes that ring out Close Encounters-style at the start, and bridge and the ending of “Standing On My Neck”--a clarion call to tribes of disaffected kids, and to girls and young women in particular who appreciate the “strongly layered female characters” on the show.

Once you’ve had time to fully take in the Climates version of the theme song and it’s source material you may want to check out this article on Splendora. Another Brooklyn-spawned-all-female band, led by two sisters who today work in Manhattan’s high powered publishing industry, they never quite received their due and disbanded soon after Daria hit the airwaves and cable boxes of America, languishing in no small part due to limited resources dedicated to the promotion of female bands at the time. It’s a shame as their one and only full album release from 1995 is a solid piece of work. One can only hope that better is in store for Climates--despite some minor obstacles like a pandemic that makes it impossible to practice or a band member relocating to Seattle--because even with just a handful of songs on record so far they’ve already proven some serious songwriting chops and an ability to command a stage. This interview with Climates from Chez Nous highlights some of the challenges still faced by female-identified bands but they appear prepared to power through. 

And finally, after ingesting every recorded version of “You’re Standing On My Neck” and watching the five-season run of Daria in full, you would be well advised to check out the Climates’ single below released earlier this year. “Super 8” is a song that has some interesting things to communicate about the nature of fantasy and reality and the porous line between the two--the throughline to my ramblings here if you're being generous--with lyrics revolving around the idea that our lives are at their most "real" when our lives feel most like we're living in a movie. Super 8 film is a consumer-oriented motion picture format that spawned the home movie explosion of the ‘60s and ‘70s--you can hear the sound of an old-style film projector in the intro of the song--technology that led directly to the videotape boom of the ‘80s and ultimately to our current show-me-your-phone-video-or-it-didn’t-happen social media era.

Maybe it's overreaching but I'm putting it out there that this song speaks to a transformation in our collective consciousness that's still taking place today where we continually narrative our very own “very special episodes” 24/7 to an adoring audience, or an ignoring audience, but who can really tell the difference half the time. Either way the song is a moodily seductive banger that’ll mash up your mind with its killer earworm chorus: “big things get in the way / we’re filming away." 

Although admittedly I sometimes hear that first line as “fake things get in the way" and don't know which is correct but maybe this sense of ambiguity and uncertainty is the realest thing of all. (Jason Lee)

 

 

“Picture this in glitter and smoke
hold the camera steady
Candy-flossed clouds, who’s the boss now
sugar on the lenses and the roses in the ground”


 

   

Bambara performs "Live on KEXP"

The band Bambara is something like a good marriage. A decade in and their music keeps getting better and better, while still remaining reliably Bambara-ish, fully basking in its tent-revival-post-punk glory. On their most recent LP Stray these Georgia transplants (ok so the Bambara boys moved here nearly a decade ago, but still let's all give a big big-up to that most swingin’-est of swing states) locked themselves in a windowless Brooklyn basement (pre-pandemic mind you) and worked out a new batch of death-rattle songs that’ll make you wanna go out and grab life by its naughty bits so be sure to listen in its entirety if you wanna get that uncanny life-and-death-drive-all-at-once feeling.

Here’s the real reason for this writeup: Bambara is known to absolutely tear it up live and in March they taped a live set just under the lockdown wire which was posted online a couple months ago and which this writer just happened to come across recently. So we need to know, do you miss live music? I mean, do you really miss it? Do you really really miss it and really really need it? Well do you? Yeah? How bad? Ahhhhh ok, I see! Well allow the DELI to be your plug then because this scorching four-song set with interview intermission, taped by the good people at Seattle’s KEXP over on the other coast, captures Bambara’s raw intensity in all its intense rawness. And they seem like really nice guys, awww.

That said lead extemporizer Reid Bateh performs throughout with a street-preacher-foaming-at-the-mouth-level intensity to the point where by the end of this brisk 22 minutes there’s a good chance you’ll be converted. Plus his energy level is matched by the band’s playing and we promise you that barely two minutes into the first song when touring guitarist Sammy Zalta goes all Travis Bickle on his guitar you will damn well wanna go out and massacre a den of pimps yourself. Stay cruel for me, baby, indeed. (Jason Lee)

photo credit: Daggers For Eyes

   

Kate Davis pays tribute to Daniel Johnston

The Deli isn’t sure how many résumés include qualifications like “adolescent jazz prodigy who shreds on double bass and who holds a degree from the Manhattan School of Music”, “live gig played with Jeff Goldblum", “appearance on a U. of Miami musicology panel alongside Ben Folds”, “taking a left turn into indie rockdom with a widely-praised debut LP in the format”, and finally, “co-writing a hit song with Ms. Sharon Van Etten”. Based on these credentials, if you're ever competing with Kate Davis for a job whatever it may be, we'll just go ahead and wish you better luck next time. 

In case you’ve not seen nor heard the music video for the Von Etten/Kate Davis collab the song is a lovely aching ode to adolescence (Rachel Trachtenburg plays Sharon’s younger doppelganger in the video) and on the visual side it's a lovely aching ode to NYC independent music venues--past and present, living and deceased--with full knowledge that the city plows on as always steamrolling its past and building who knows what in its place.

Back to Kate Davis. Her latest release dropped yesterday--a sneak preview single from her upcoming full-album tribute to Daniel Johnston (1961-2019) who was an OG of what some people call “outsider music." Johnston launched his music career by handing out cassettes of his homemade music at the McDonald's where he worked in Austin, Texas ("would you like some fries with your free copy of Songs of Pain?") and then crashing the stage when MTV was in the city filming a special on "The New Sincerity" which hardly anyone remembers anymore. Now that’s DIY. Also those photos you've seen of Kurt Cobain wearing a t-shirt that says “Hi, How Are You” that’s Daniel Johnston

Back to Kate Davis, really this time. Kate says "when I first heard Daniel Johnston I was struck by the directness and clarity in his writing. I wanted to gain perspective into that directness." See below for her stirring rendition of “Oh No” and see below that for Ms. Davis discussing the bond she feels with Daniel Johnston--his unique gift for songwriting and his lifelong struggle with mental health issues.

Strange Boy: Daniel Johnston 'Retired Boxer' Cover Album is being released in conjunction with the Hi, How Are You Project, an NPO formed by Daniel Johnston’s family to raise awareness around and remove stigma from mental illness. You can pre-order it on blue vinyl whoooooa like how much more blue, none more blue! But before the album drops in early 2021 you'd be advised to check out her already-existing one called Trophy. Kate's music casts an intimate glow but it can be muscular too case in point being the title track. This song has what we in the industry refer to as an arc. At first it sounds like it just needs a hug but by the middle it’s trying to seduce you and then by the end it’s ready to throttle you but consensually no doubt. (Jason Lee)

photo up top by Erica Synder

   

Marissa Nadler livestream

Tonight at 8pm Baby TV presents Marissa Nadler live alongside Hilary Woods who is a sound and visual artist from Dublin. Rumor has it that a fog machine has been acquired especially for this gig so you know they mean business. (Jason Lee)

It’s been said elsewhere that Marissa’s music “is deeply unique music rich in atmospheric harmonies and ambience paired with songs that evoke a surreal, hypnagogic versions of reality” and we here at the Deli heartily agree. Just don’t call her or her music “haunted” or “haunting” because she kinda hates that according to an interview a couple years back (we luv ya anyway Pitchfork).
 

Plus, Ms. Nadler recently covered vocal duties on a cover version of an early Journey song (“Of A Lifetime” see above) with the Two Minutes To Late Night guys (hello Saint Vitus!) and it’s heavy as hell. Anyway tune in tonight and decide for yourself or just check out her music in general.