I had heard mixed reviews about Marnie Stern’s live set. I was told it was either going to be her with a band or her with an iPod. I was praying for the former, and thankfully she delivered, performing with a band that provided the perfect backing for Stern’s optimum shredding. Her records have never completely captivated me, but she is one hell of a performer. Everything is secondary to her guitar playing, and you have to admire that. It’s easy to forget about the quality of song when you’re shredding, but Stern never forgets that if the song is no good, then people aren’t going to listen.
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Despite New York’s no smoking policy, Tobacco is ubiquitous at CMJ; seriously, this guy is everywhere. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you will soon. The Black Moth Super Rainbow member just dropped an album on Anticon, full of analog-drenched beats topped off with synth melodies. With pre-programmed tracks forming the basis of the set, Tobacco and a companion switched up synth lines and tweaked sounds to add a definitive human touch. The human element carried into the hilarious video accompaniment as well, which encompassed everything from ‘70s workout videos to ‘80s wrestling. But unless you were there early it was hard to catch a glimpse of what was going on—the unfortunate side effect of the intimate Cake Shop venue.
Despite the bright lights of the big city, harsh reality can quickly creep up on a band at CMJ. Lost amongst the flood of bands featured here (there are reportedly over 1,000 groups performing), Faunts failed to even tread water. Their early-90’s alternative/shoegaze style wasn’t bad per say—they had a really tight sound musically—it just never picked up until it was too late. At a festival like this you have to deliver in the first ten minutes or else you will be written off by the audience, who, in this particular case, were a rather uncompromising bunch—especially when a girl giving away free drinks showed up.
It’s so nice to see that someone like Shugo Tokumaru can still break into the musical market with a sound that eschews pretension and hype. His latest record came out of nowhere and is already one of 2008’s most highly regarded releases. There’s a reason for that. His hushed melodies and virtuosic guitar playing formed the basis of this low-key, but top of the line performance. Backed by a 3-piece band, and a vibrant mix of accordions, xylophones, bells, and whistles, Tokamaru not only left an impression, he left it in his native language (Japanese)—something not many people can break into the American market doing.
“This is the 4th performance we’ve had in three days, here at this venue, on this stage,” Women’s lead singer muttered into the microphone as the four-piece began their set. Really, I probably could have left then. The hype and subsequent overbooking that has surrounded Women at this year’s CMJ Marathon seems to have taken its toll. Throughout their performance, Women seemed tired and disinterested, and likely with good reason. Justified or not, their performance fell flat, sounding and looking more like a lethargic Interpol clad in thermals than the taut pysch/industrial rock they have come to be known for.
// Sound Affects
"On the elusive yet clearly existential sadness that adds layers and textures to music.READ the article