Portraits I did for the Red Bull Music Academy Festival in New York this year. Many thanks to Gustavo Dao and the team at D&C and Jeff Jank, who stepped in to add a tiny Quasimoto for us. These pieces will be featured in the festival’s mural/print campaign in NYC in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out if you’re in the area! <3
Sonic Youth’s Letter from NYC marks the final publication in the Little Cockroach Press Series, a collection of artist pamphlets published and distributed free of charge by Art Metropole. Letter from NYC features personal documentation by the band and includes a picture of guitarist Thurston Moore as a teenager listening to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. This photograph provides an early example of the band’s interest in atonal music, which would be fostered in the early 1980s NYC music scene that included avant-garde composer Glenn Branca and musician Ned Sublette.
“Bought in Zurich, Switzerland. This was an impulse buy. The cover got me. Robert Longo produced what is essentially the best cover art of the 80s (and beyond, some would say). Mysterious in the religious sense, Renaissance angst dressed in Mugler. And on the inside … Well, what at first sounds like dissonance is soon assimilated as a play on the possibilities of overtones from massed guitars. Not Minimalism, exactly—unlike La Monte Young and his work within the harmonic system, Branca uses the overtones produced by the vibrations of a guitar string. Amplified and reproduced by many guitars simultaneously, you have an effect aking to the drone of Tibetan Buddhist monks but much, much, much louder. Two key players in Branca’s band were future composer David Rosenbloom (the terrific Souls of Chaos, 1984) and Lee Ranaldo, founding figure with Thurston Moore of the great Sonic Youth. Over the years, Branca got even louder and more complex than this, but here on the title track his manifesto is already complete.” David Bowie
Here is Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” covered by a 50-kid “rock orchestra.” It was not exactly what I went in search of - as with all hyper-compressed contemporary pop-rock hits, I yearn for a meaty but well-considered screamo cover - but man oh man am I happy it exists. It’s such a sharp song, full of discrete sounds, that it doesn’t really make sense for that many guitars and drummers, especially compared to some of their other selections like the already-smeary “Strawberry Field Forever” (though that one’s done by just a regular small combo). Dozens of guitars can’t physically produce the crisp on-off noise we’re hearing in the original. Instead, what we get is remarkably (but unsurprisingly, in retrospect) like a Glenn Branca noise, a toothy cloud of distortions, square waves piled on top of square waves until it becomes round. It makes the song more like the sensation it produces in your head as you hear it, the voice singing it and other voices singing along, the recording itself and all its other possibilities simultaneously. There are lots of other pleasures, too: the synchronized head-bang at the first chorus, the small surprises of the vocal solos, the killer but totally out-of-place Slash guitar solo. A wonderful piece of work.