The music of Hand. Cannot. Erase., the new album by the English musician and producer Steven Wilson, is quite fitting for the big city environment. The record, Wilson’s fourth as a solo artist, is a concept album based off of the disturbing tale of Joyce Carol Vincent, an Englishwoman who was discovered dead in her London flat after two years. Remarkably, no one had missed Vincent during the two years in which her body lay rotting in her apartment; despite having family and friends, she had successfully “erased” herself, to use Wilson’s words, to the point that her presence could go unnoticed for two years. In various interviews for Hand. Cannot. Erase., Wilson points out that if one truly wants to disappear, she should, counterintuitively, go to where there are the most people: the modern metropolis, cities like London, New York City, and, perhaps, even Chicago. About ten minutes before Wilson and his band take to the stage, a projection showing long shots high-rise buildings sets the mood for the two and a half hours of music that follow. The buildings are not unlike the many that dot the nearby Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods.
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The same weekend NPR premiered the stream of Corn, a new posthumous collection from Arthur Russell, the Red Bull Music Academy assembled a live musical tribute to the “great genius” of New York’s ‘80s music scene. Held over two nights at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, “Red Hot + Arthur Russell” featured band leader Stuart Bogie and numerous musicians, including Sam Amidon, Cults, Lonnie Holley, Devonté Hynes, Redding Hunter, Little Scream, Thao Nguyen (of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down), Richard Reed Parry (of Arcade Fire), Rubblebucket, Jake Shears (of Scissor Sisters) and Grey McMurray performing songs from the late, great Russell. Many of those tributes were released as part of the Master Mix compilation from Yep-Roc last year.
Mavis Staples and the Flaming Lips were among the lineup for the 2015 Nelsonville Music Festival, an annual four-day event produced by Stuart’s Opera House, “a historic, non-profit theater located in Nelsonville [Ohio]”. Both acts returned to the festival after previous appearances in recent years. The Flaming Lips performed a memorable show in 2011, and Staples began to perform in 2013 before her set was interrupted by a thunderstorm. That both artists were interested in another visit to Nelsonville is a testament to the quality of the festival and its growing reputation as a place for music and art enthusiasts to enjoy eclectic programming.
Iceland’s Ólafur Arnalds continues to gain renown with his diverse solo and collaborative projects. His For Now I am Winter was well-reviewed, he’s done the soundtrack for the detective drama Broadchurch, and his neo-classical project with Alice Sara Ott, The Chopin Project is one of the most intriguing albums I’ve come across in 2015. Kiasmos, a collaboration with Janus Rasmussen, a member of electro-pop Bloodgroup, is a project that began in 2009. But the duo only released their first full-length album last year. Though I didn’t discover it till this year, I was fortunate enough to catch Kiasmos in New York on a rare tour—one that will wrap up soon with a couple California shows before a few European dates (listed below).
Memorial Day Weekend kicked off in style at the Boston Calling Festival. The three-day event, set beneath the buildings surrounding City Hall Plaza, received strong performances from headliners Beck, My Morning Jacket, and the Pixies, with a well-rounded supporting cast that included Tame Impala, St. Vincent, and TV on the Radio.