Thursday, May 30, 2013

Elephant and The Moon @Rockmark 28May2013

I'm kinda slow sometimes.

In about a year since I've moved with my daughter to our own place I was bestowed by a sense of peace of mind and mental fortitude to suddenly enjoy life instead of just enduring it and there has been a monumental change in perceived multitude of daily options. Suddenly, it became apparent that the world is a veritable cornucopia of experiences and I chose to peruse  much of its musical section. In this exhilarating overabundance I sometimes lose track of stuff happening right in front of me.

Like with Elephant and the Moon.

I've met Petar some months ago, during one indie event at which we gave our love and support to Felon, Marshmallow and Lolita and we mingled in the same crowd. Since so many things were happening with the scene, things that would subsequently bring to the release of Bistro na rubu šume Vol1 (free download here) somehow I just neglected to make connections at that time. Time went by and gigs were attended and we met on quite a few of them but it always just stayed on nod of recognition and a bit of chitchat level until last week when we listened to Eddie Would Go featured during Žur at Spunk and in the pause Petar talked to my good friend about tour plans. I smiled and nodded and soaked in information and when he went away I asked her:

"What does he do?"

"What do you mean - what does he do? He's 21, he can do whatever damn he pleases." 

I laughed. "Not that - you crazy woman! [more laughter] - I mean: WHO is he?"

"Oh that!", she said, "He's Elephant and the Moon".

And then the clouds in my head parted and sun shone on the heart of the information. Two short days later I went to see him play live in Rockmark music bookstore.

I just love this indie crowd and organic tranquility bubble they produce wherever they reside.

As it was to start at 7 pm I could also bring my daughter along so she can see and hear and learn and enjoy. I love that there are more happenings like that every day in Zagreb and that they give an opportunity to show our kids both proper etiquette for social events and serve as a demonstration window how to be an artist with both pride for his craft and appropriate dose of humility to make the art and not the person center of attention. It was heaven-sent that Petar was the person to show this to my offspringess as he is true embodiment of both mentioned artist traits.

And then the magic started.

I've listened to Elephant and the Moon records earlier (and so can you if you download them here, free of charge) and they are nice and promising, lest technically not very good - but being here and listening to the same songs (and many more new ones) was incomparably awesome. I love how his voice completely changes from his youthful, casual speaking voice into a masculine and determined voice of storyteller when he sings.

It is a small and private space in Rockmark and the acoustic properties are wonderful. Crowd was attentive and beautifully quiet and it was pure pleasure to be there to tap into that beauty. There were a few musicians in the audience and some of them quietly sung backup vocals (I'm sure for Dunja Ercegović and I think also Ivana Lulić) and it was so touching and cute and the implication of them knowing colleague's songs by heart was just something that fills my heart with hope and pride to know these people and live in a society that contains them.

Elephant and the Moon also did some talking for us and he was so nice and funny and spontaneous it was great to be there...

... and the 10 songs he sung for us flowed by so quickly. I was glad I took notes because now I will not forget that my absolute favorite was "Driver Please" so I could keep and eye on its hopefully quick release.

As a singer and performer Elephant and the Moon is already persuasive and excellent but I feel that his stellar quality is that of a lyricist. His songs are already so vivid and his mental pictures so well chosen I feel age will further sharpen this ability, to act like a sword for cutting down and clearing the ambiguities of life.

The force is strong in this one. We'll see where it will take him.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

MIMO 7 - Surka and Bamwise - Night of Surprise and Sorcery

It is often said that one should approach life with open heart and without expectations - experiencing happenings instead of fulfilling prejudice. This sounds rational enough but I'm still wary of instant wisdom like this - how exactly do you approach something with no expectations?

Surprises come in various containers.

One of such containers was yesterday's MIMO. As you all already know MIMO or Media Inventory of Music Originals is a music enthusiast project in Zagreb that brings forth Croatian most original quality music through the (back) door of Croatian mainstream media. It happens every second Friday that they arrange concerts in MSU (Museum of Contemporary Art) Gorgona hall that are transmitted by online streaming on the Internet, broadcasted on Croatian Radio Sljeme and can be viewed and listened to live at Gorgona hall. I am almost home team for MIMO and someone would think that I know everything there is to know about it - but one would be surprised almost as I was yesterday.

It was better than card tricks and more pleasurable then getting biggest box of magic tricks for your birthday.

Ladies and gentleman - Ante Prgin Surka!

 Even when you know there's gonna be a magic act you cannot help but hang your jaw in awe!

This is a magician of highest order, arch-chancellor of applies physics, eight son of eight son, incarnation of magic - a sorcerer!

MIMO hostess Jelena Balent gave a brief introduction and Surka went on stage and thanked her and said: "Now I don't have to explain it a bit - you said it all." and he begun with his craft. Surka is a musician described by his musician friends as "Rhythm machine, injection of adrenaline." and he is a multi-instrumentalist, producer and music innovator. Even if you know what he does and how he works it does not take away but adds to the magic of the fourth dimension - time. His music comes together in front of the audience's eyes and it is patched together from different sounds and beats and loops and he thinks it up and decides and plans and implements and makes music from scratch right there in front of the audience and it is wonderful and alive and dancing and completely new and damn pinnacle of sound engineering. I've seen it and I have a hard time believing it and I think I'm gonna go and see him play again whenever he'll be in town. Until then do check out his YouTube collection of live videos.

On some songs he had help from female string quartet and I found out later chatting with the organizers that this is just a recent development and that they just started to play together and I am impressed over the legal limit. I can hardly wait when MIMO videos will be uploaded to see and hear and be amazed again and again and keep your eyes on MIMO Facebook page so you can check it out too.

And then there were Bamwise...

... 6 musicians and one visual artist got together on this project that sounds and plays so professionally - effortless, liquid, relaxed - it is hard to believe they get so little mainstream media space. Dub/Reggae really is not my cup of tea as I find it extremely difficult to listen to it for prolonged periods of time while my music experiencing is not being facilitated by alternative states of consciousness but I suppose I could work on it by listening more of it at home so it becomes more familiar.

Their visual expressions were lovely, hypnotic and somehow really connected to the music and musically they were excellent with crystal clear sound (Gorgona hall acoustics just wonderfully accentuated it) and impressive taste of professional skill not spoiled by over-satiety of routine.

I was especially moved and overjoyed with a fact that I see few of band members regularly on various gigs and I even think their bass is sound-master in Attack! where I go to most of my punk gigs and this is a kind of "secret" I did not see coming. Heartwarming and intellectually stimulating - my favorite experience blend.

You can sample their music here, on their Myspace page and if you're up for more fun take care to attend last MIMO of the spring season, on June 7th 2013 at Gorgona hall of MSU Zagreb.

See you there!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Music Thursday - Piece Full Coexistence

I have already written in a previous Musical Thursday here about my nomadic position in a society of musical tribes and now I would like to talk a little bit more in this direction. I'd like to describe and maybe think aloud about sharing life space with another person with her own set of preferences.

Until now, during my lifetime, I had a few changes of living conditions.

First I lived with my parents as their child, along with my brother. They had their preferences and I had mine and we functioned under rules on non-engagement. We could all object to music somebody else chose to listen and we could try to agree on a record or a radio station we could all tolerate. If no agreement was achieved there would be no listening for any of the involved parties. This worked better with my parents than my brother whose tolerance for diversity is tiny and we would be hard pressed to achieve any agreement except "we agree to disagree". Good thing is that he never listened to any kind of music to enjoy it but his choices fulfilled other, mostly social, agendas. That is good because when there were no agendas to meet he did not request for any radio/TV use time.

After that I shared a flat with a flatmate during college. This did not pose a problem since each of us had a separate room and enough common decency not to play music too loud. Beside him being the best flatmate ever fate would have it so we shared musical tastes (post-rock) and we often attend same gigs today and exchange opinions on new music.

Next step was (short lived) marriage: Mr. Ex had narrower musical preference (mostly metal) than mine so I could listen to almost all of his music  and he could listen to a small portion of mine but we rarely got into conflict over it since we did not spend much listening time together. When we went out together he would often complain on music at  clubs/bars and said I was too lenient, but the matter of the fact was that I was not complaining because I liked other choices, not that I was too hesitant to complain as he perceived it.

Today I live with my daughter and she is almost nine and she is great to live with and to listen to music with.

How is it like?

Ever since she was just a bundle of cells in my insides we listened to music together. First it was Linkin Park. We listened to a lot of Linkin park before she was born and when she arrived she loved listening to it as it soothed her. As she grew we had our share of differences - worst time is when they adore repetitive TV tunes - but we time-shared if we could not compromise. She is very strong-willed and she likes to form her own opinions and I love that we can work with that.

We listen to radio a lot and when she notices a song she likes she always asks what it is so she can write it down and we can get/play it again. At school they sometimes listen to music and she comes home with scribbled notes of songs and performers she liked - latest being Impossible by James Arthur (Shontelle song) - and then we browse through YouTube (she types and I cook dinner) and listen to different versions. This was the best one - AND in the process we found a performer we did not know of and is great (Runaground):

She's not afraid to roam through genre - emulating my listening habits at this point in time - liking diverse styles of Pasi and Pink and Drowning Pool and PSY and Yip Deceiver - and at this time it looks like this is fully internalized desire, but we will see. I like how, even now, she gets into situations at school and among friends or adults when she defends her opinion and she defends it rationally and firmly. She fell in love with Yip Deceiver "Sadie Hawkins Day" last year and even though I rarely remember to play it nowadays she frequently plays it and requests we listen to it.

At one point we made a mix-tape of our favorite Japanese songs and she knows lyrics of many of them by heart. Like this one: Sid "Ranbu no Melody":

She is also not afraid to criticize. Few nights ago I browsed through YouTube and there was an add linking to Vampire Weekend clip directed by Steve Buscemi and I played it to see what the hype is all about and she asked, listening from her room: "What is that crap you're listening to?"

To be able to share and mix and piece together the puzzle of our music cohabitation gives me great joy, even if we have to work on appropriate language some more.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Life of "Why?"

It is almost midnight on a Monday night, I had awfully busy day and I'm tired and beat and having a hard time to keep my eyes open but I was so moved by a small encounter/experience with a distant friend over social network and that lifted my spirit and I remembered I had a story to tell you... more of a short sketch really, but a funny story nevertheless.

I'm still very depressed and a lot of my daily expenditure of effort goes straight into mood management. I read a lot and try to keep myself appraised on many social things I don't usually bother to do and to follow and some nights ago I read a tweet pointing to the article on different kinds of tears. Later on I noticed that asapSCIENCE had made a video on this and you can check it out here. Among other things, it says that even though more research is needed it seems that one of the functions of emotional (psychic) tears is release of tension, discarding of excessive amount of stress hormones and a way of ad hoc image management.

And as I already noticed that immersing myself in particular narratives gives me chance to attain some stability through crying my eyes out I peruse this knowledge with fierce intent.

I watched Life of Pi movie yesterday.

I was reluctant to see it because I read the book and I loved it and the book is so tightly packed with visions and meaning and information I had a hard time convincing myself that movie will be anything like the book. So I waited until an opportunity to bring this before myself when I'm not paying attention presented itself.

Strangely enough, I loved the movie. It swerves a bit but it mainly stays true to the story and it is bared down a bit but they managed to streamline rather than cannibalize it.

I watched the movie and cried and stared and was touched by heavenly cast and wonderful viscosity of the scenes and illuminations of the true (integral) story delicate warp.

In a few places I was mesmerized with what director chose to showcase as a synecdoche and one of that places was Pi saying how Richard Parker leaving him unceremoniously broke his heart. They have been building on that foundation stone of goodbyes and letting go and leaving behind for quite some time in that moment of the movie and it was clear they're going to make a point with it. Moments later, alternate story is revealed and the Writer says to Pi:" ...and you... are the Tiger." and everything just falls into place. What Pi says when he says that Richard Parker leaving him so unceremoniously broke his heart and that:

"You know, my father was right. Richard Parker never saw me as his friend. After all we had been through, he didn't even look back. But I have to believe that there was more in his eyes than my own reflection staring back at me. I know it, I felt it, even if I can't prove it."

... what he really is saying (since he - i.e. his predatory, survivalist, murderous side - is the tiger) is that he had to do what he had to do and he found another side/person inside himself that was not his friend and one he had to lose completely if he ever wanted to be human again - AND he just tells us he misses it. The hotblooded happiness, the lust for life it had, the power of predatory, animalistic simplicity of life. Still, even now, sorely misses it.

If I wanted to be human again the tiger would have had to go. Unceremoniously. And that broke my heart. - is exactly what he says. And that speaks in a sentence what all that religion talk from the story could not in volumes.

Later on, I climbed on my bicycle and went for a ride and I thought about that heartache and that schism and society and of fairness and introversion and functionality and some 8 km into my route I noticed a small girl and her father flying a kite in the fierce breeze by Sava and as I approached they smiled and waved and I smiled and swished by them and I looked up and their kite

was a tiger.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

MIMO 6 - Irena Žilić and Radost! @MSU 10May2013

Yesterday night it was again time for MIMO (Media Inventory of Music Originals)  at Gorgona hall of MSU Zagreb and it this time it featured Irena Žilić and Radost!. As you already know (but I feel it should be endlessly pointed out and repeated) organization was impeccable, and there was online streaming for international audiences as well as broadcasting on Radio Sljeme. I was looking forward to this MIMO incarnation the most (compared to past events) because I'm a fan of Radost! for quite some time now and I know every performance they give packs a powerful punch to the stomach of routine and pervasive Babbitt lifestyle so it gives me greatest pleasure to see them displayed for wider audiences.

As for Irena Žilić, I had to meet her for the first time live last night and I was not at all dissapointed.

Irena Žilić is a singer-songwriter active for about a year and you can check her official page here and download great EP Days of Innocence (2012) from her bandcamp page. I first heard about her around New Year's eve and shortly after that Pavlov wrote on Potlista lovely and engaging article on her work and EP. She has had quite a bit of gigs this year but somehow I never got to see them and I was not happy with this as I really enjoyed her recorded music. Finally MIMO brought her to me, just as it should be with best Croatian contemporary independent performers.

Attractive and kind, with an uncanny feel of someone who genuinely enjoys making music and making it so it conforms with her internal auditory standard of excellence, she is quite a sight to take in and enjoy. It was both beautifully endearing to see and hear her perform for us as it was exquisitely interesting; "fresh" performers always look so cute and genuinely human going through new experiences right before the audience eyes - they play for the crowd that is right in front of them (seemingly forgetting radio audience), they ask things like one human being asks another (not like a star would ask his target group/fan base), they are vulnerable and wonderful in their trust - and Irena was magnifficent at all this.

After few songs she asked us, the audience in Gorgona, to help her greet her international audience:

"Can I ask you something?" she said. "Don't worry - you won't have to sing or clap or anything like that." she laughed and paused...: "Since I know some people outside Croatia are watching this streaming on the Internet I would like you to help me say hello to them. I will say 1,2,3 and we'll all say "Hola!" OK? Will you help me do this?"

... and we laughed and we were endeared and we helped...

1, 2, 3,... Hola!

... and it was engaging and beautiful.

 She played her songs in slow succession, adjusting the sound of her guitar before each new song and it felt lovely and organic and just as it should be for someone who enjoys her craft. In some songs Luce (her friend who we should thank for getting Irena to step up and perform publicly) came to the stage and sang back vocals and they were both marvellous.

 And after a short break in which our lovely MIMO hostess Jelena Balent talked with Maja from U pol 9 kod Sabe and Aleksandar Dragaš...

... stage was re-set and musicians assembled so Radost! could overtake the party. Just like every single time I've listened to them live, and I have seen them 10 or so times live, they have again met my expectations and effortlessly exceeded them. Seriously, until you've seen flamboyant and expressionistic peformance Branko and the gang give you cannot appreciate their music in the real light nor give credit to ridiculously over-the-top obscenities used in their poetics.

Since I feel my enthusiasm with last night's performance is such I would likely describe and tell verbatim everything that happened in chronological order and that would be just too much information I will limit myself to few short sketches:

Most of the songs they played are quite new and most from their latest selfreleased album Radost! jede svoju djecu (Joy! eats its young) that you can download here from their bandcamp page but there were few oldies but goldies from their previous albums.

I loved how their sound is now full, vivacious and interwoven with jazzy and orchestral arrangements - the transition from almost bare spoken word, firm rock guitar and rare real funkiness of funky style from their begginings in 2006 is ginormous - bearing true mark of maturity, both musical and personal for band members and it is a wonderful, comforting sight and acoustic picture.

They performed my absolutely favorite song Kako je divan, oh, taj Gorski Kotar with changed lyrics. Since the song is full of obscenities and it was now being played live on Radio Sljeme they have, in honor of their hosts and of Museum of Contemporary Art, changed all obscene and doubious words to names of Croatian contemporary atrists, including Gorgona group (since gig is held in Gorgona hall) and some more artists because Gorgona group was too small to cover all of their... needs.

They had help from U pol 9 kod Sabe girls on coulple of songs (including Raslinje and U biti, nisam izašao iz jajeta) and it was a great sight. It was even more scenically and emotionally appealing then Bogunovic brothers and band doing it alone since girls bring wonderful chemistry to stage and also seem to genuinely enjoy Radost! music.

This time, I had foresight of expectations so I arranged everything in my favor meaning I found myself a cozy dancing spot so I can enjoy this to the maximum while enjoying perfect sound of this theatrical space with immaculate acoustics.

And lastly, I cannot believe that they managed to go through their whole set, including encore, and that noone from the audience yelled "Mišo!" (their wildly popular drummer).

I can hardly wait to see what alse MIMO has prepared for us so join me Friday May 24th in wonderful Gorgona hall at MSU and see how Bamwise and Surka will fare. See you there!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Music Thursday - Ship in a Bottle

I was recently scolded for not watching enough music videos so I thought to give few of them a go and in the process I seem to have stumbled upon a curious, heartwarming puzzle.

It was like this:

I have been down lately. I am so depressed I dream in rich, over-saturated, overwhelming color and action sequences are so poignant I can hardly function at all when I wake up. I stare at my hands on the keyboard in silence for minutes on end and I let thoughts drown before my mind's eye rather than putting them to life by writing them down. I lie awake in the middle of the night as the Moon slowly drifts by my window, I lie frozen in sadness because where I knew something important and dear to me once was there is just silent and awkward emptiness. And it feels like a barren void where pulled tooth once was feels when you probe it with the tip of your tongue.

It feels like it shouldn't be empty but it is and that's the fact.

For weeks I could not listen to any music with vocals at home. I listened to radio at work and in my car and I've attended concerts where I see live people pouring their stories into songs but I could not manage to listen to lyrics at home. It just felt wrong to feel foreign story inside myself because mine was so persistently silent.

And then this talk about music videos came and I went and opened YouTube and sat there for ten minutes thinking what to search for. As I sat there I remembered driving home from work one day and hearing Brandon Flowers say:

Don't want your picture
On my cell phone
I want you here with me

...and it felt so familiar and so intimate.

It felt... it felt just like this passage from Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium:

Mr. Edward Magorium: [to Molly, about dying] When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He's written "He dies." That's all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is "He dies." It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with "He dies." And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it's only natural to be sad, but not because of the words "He dies." but because of the life we saw prior to the words.
[pause, walks over to Molly]
Mr. Edward Magorium: I've lived all five of my acts, Mahoney, and I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I'm only asking that you turn the page, continue reading... and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest "He died."
Molly Mahoney: [starting to sob] I love you.
Mr. Edward Magorium: I love you, too.
[picks Molly up, sighs heavily]
Mr. Edward Magorium: Your life is an occasion. Rise to it. 

It felt like: "He dies.". Like a perfectly non-ceremonious summation of a sadness bigger then life.

So I typed in the words and this video appeared. Take 4 minutes and 57 seconds to see it.

Tim Burton directed this one and it features two professional actors incarnating professionally a story that mostly, but not entirely, shows the story from song lyrics - and I love how Mr. Burton chose to interpret vague bits prone to poetic license.

It is made in rich, over-saturated, overwhelming color and action sequences are so poignant I sat there dumbfounded with tears the size of gooseberries rolling down my cheeks.

I love how it shows that a person falls in love with an unknown. With his own interpretation of a mystery inside a secret. With a thing that is not in the other person but in his own self.

I love how it shows that for some of  us love is not a matter of settling for but of a meticulous, vigilant search for something we already know is valuable even without us and we'd like to participate in and increase its value, not own it.

I love how it shows that unorthodox and painful choices must be made by our own selves, choices that cut into our own personalities to make us willingly more approachable and that the worth of a man is not appraised only by the knowledge he has but also the knowledge he has and chooses not to use.

Well I saw you in a restaurant
The other day
And instead of walking towards you
I ran away

And I'll keep on waiting for you
Till you'll come around
Come around and say

And then  I love - the most! - wondrous surprise at the end, where wicks are lit on both of the characters - the perceived active and passive (isn't it always that someone must lead for someone else to follow) of the story and only then the variable of TIME turns their existence into life.

Because without burning candle is just an awkward dead stick.