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by Jane Jansen Seymour

22 Mar 2011


Natalia Yanchak is not just some woman in a band. She joined the Dears back in their beginning stages as the keyboard player, but also as an organizer and visionary. Her vocals add a sweetness to the strong, warm baritone of frontman Murray Lightburn along with a raison d’être for the romantic yearnings that are a hallmark of so many of their songs. They are now married with a young daughter, and the band is as strong as ever. The new release, Degeneration Street, was performed start to finish in a few live gigs last fall, and the group onstage looked like it was having a blast. Before heading out on tour again, Yanchak chatted over the phone from her home in Montreal to update PopMatters.

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When exactly did you join the band and tell me about those early days with the Dears?

I joined the band officially in 1997 or 1998. I had met Murray [Lightburn] at a bar—I was DJing at a local haunt in Montreal, the infamous Biftek, which [is] overrun by students now although it was back then also. That’s what they call a steak in French, biftek, but it’s not a restaurant so I don’t know why it’s called that. Murray had come in and he sat at the bar and for some reason he just poured his heart out to me. It wasn’t like it was love at first sight, I was kind of like “Oh, poor guy”. We had some mutual friends who introduced me to the Dears and to Murray so I went to see them play a show at this hole-in-wall kind of place called the Barfly. They were looking for a keyboard player but after I saw them I was totally skeptical. I was like, “It’s going to be terrible.” But it was amazing—I thought it was great.

by Daniel Ross

24 Feb 2011


The Acorn (Rolf Klausener, middle)

With their latest LP, No Ghost, Canadian folk-poppers the Acorn have done a strange thing: scaling down and de-glorifying their craft (after the immaculate Glory Hope Mountain from 2008), making it seem like a wonderful progression towards a woodsy, utopian breed of rock. There is an awful lot of joy in the record, as if time spent recording it in the wilderness—they retreated to an isolated cabin to piece the tunes together—was as freeing an experience as it should be, and the heaviness of Glory Hope Mountain had been lifted. Rolf Klausener was on hand to curtly and efficiently answer a few questions about No Ghost and shed a little light on its gestation.

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No Ghost—first things first, it’s not a concept album. In fact, there aren’t really any large themes drawing it together as such. Did you want to move away from the scale of Glory Hope Mountain?

In short, yes. The process of writing and recording No Ghost had little planning being it other than the location. Writing GHM was an all-encompassing affair which, creatively, dominated the better part of two years. For better or worse, we wanted No Ghost to be a lot less premeditated and commit to whatever came out of the cottage sessions.

by Steve Horowitz

9 Feb 2011


England’s VV Brown came out of the South by Southwest Music Festival smokin’ hot. Between her showcase performance at the Latitude 30 Club, several party appearances that included Perez Hilton’s One Night in Austin and Spinner.com’s Pop-Up at the Gas Pipe, and her gig on KGSR radio’s breakfast program, the word was out. Brown was last year’s SXSW most likely to succeed, following in the tradition of females songstresses of the past such as Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, and Nellie McKay.

Whether Brown will flame out like Winehouse, soar to superstardom like Jones, or remain a beloved cult artist like McKay remains to be seen. One thing for certain is Brown’s driving ambition. Brown sat down with PopMatters at SXSW and discussed her plans to conquer the world.

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How different is it playing festivals with artists different than you are versus your own tours?

I love it when I am with artists different than me. I stumbled upon a new band yesterday that I fell in love with called the Octopus Project. And I think it’s just so fun to mingle with other musicians. They challenge you and inspire you as an artist, and it’s a great feeling. It’s really boring when you hang around people that are similar to you or doing the same things as you because you don’t grow. And as an artist, I really want to grow so festivals like this are a platform for discovery for me as an artist.

by Rob McCallum

12 Jan 2011


Veiled. Mysterious. Masked. Call Nika Roza Danilova what you will. As Zola Jesus, she has certainly been a shrouded figure since her first release on Sacred Bones Records last year. Carving out a unique space—much in the vein of a young Kate Bush or Björk—to sit in since she shot to the forefront of the blogosphere last year, it’s hard to believe the operatically trained 21-year-old from Wisconsin is such a new figure in the music scene, as she presents a sound with a maturity way beyond her years.

There was an undeniable lack of expectancy for the transition she made from the solitary lo-fi of last year’s The Spoils to the all-enrapturing ethereal pop on this year’s Stridulum EP. It is a transition that seems to signal her ascendancy into the art-pop hall of fame as – backed by her new band – she embarks on a tour later this year with the Swedish songstress of insomnia, Fever Ray. Popmatters finds out more.

Zola Jesus is a stage name. Are you getting into a character when you record/perform your music?
No, that would be dishonest. Zola Jesus is too personal for that.

Do you still write/record all the music alone?
Yes.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

30 Nov 2010


Freekbass arrived at Moogfest in October with a different Headtronics trio than usual, which is just part of the footprint for the band. He’s a protégé of legendary funk bassist/singer/songwriter Bootsy Collins, and in Asheville, Freekbass was hanging out with another legend, the “Wizard of Woo” Bernie Worrell of P-Funk. DJ Spooky was enlisted to take the place of DJ Logic but this seemed perfect, since he’s the one who appeared in the Moog documentary along with Worrell. Every show is start to finish improv, all crazy funk with bass, electronic beats and keyboards—no matter who is playing the show.

Are you enjoying Moogfest? Is there anyone you want to see?

Oh yeah, definitely.  I want to actually see [DJ] Spooky’s own set. I’m also excited to see Dan Funk who is a Los Angeles DJ kind of musician and I love really where he’s coming from, his whole headspace and what he’s doing. So we’re just trying to squeeze in as much on this Halloween as we can, you know?

Tell me about your Funktronic sound.

Well we came up with that word.  There’s obviously the electronica music scene, which is huge, and then there’s the jam band scene.  So it’s combining that—a lot of people have been using “jamtronica” for a little bit. But we’re coming from the organic side, from a funk sensibility which is kind of where my roots are obviously. Bernie’s roots, that needs not to be said, and then you mix the electronic in with it too. We started playing a few shows and a little catchphrase started catching on—“funktronica—and I thought that’s a pretty cool word.  It seems to really match what we were doing.

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