Fuse Box 2008 Part II

Justin Follin
Inside the Dream Machine

I felt as if a toy box had been opened and I got to spend the week playing with everything inside. It felt surreal, no, sub-real; toying with communication and twisting conventions.

+ Part I

Fuse Box 2008

2008-04-24 -- 2008-05-03

Austin, Texas

Part II: Better than Wonderland, or: The Proximitator, Blue 60, Reggie Watts, Cape Disappointment

I have a story about Alice in Wonderland and Roy Orbison. In the second grade, I think, a live-action Alice in Wonderland movie came out. This was very exciting for me. I had always imagined Wonderlands, and cartoons didn’t look real like my imagination did. But this show had real people, and all of the crazy hookah smoking and mushroom eating looked much more possible. It was on television, a two-part series on Sunday nights. They showed Part I on Easter Sunday. It was transfixing, everything I could have hoped.

Dad and I listened to Roy Orbison together back then. We sang, “From the hut to the boat to the sea for Leee-aaaah.” I was little and he was my Dad and our voices sounded nothing like Roy’s. The Sunday after Easter Sunday, Dad had gotten us tickets to see the Texas crooner with a voice that sounded like an Italian’s. We could sing about Leah with the guy who wrote the song about her. I remember buckling my seat belt and I remember how excited I was to go to a live concert. We pulled out of the driveway and drove down our street. Thirty seconds later, I remembered it was the Sunday after Easter. Tonight was Part II of the live-action Alice in Wonderland.

Dad pulled back into the driveway. He tried hard to show me the error of my decision. But he was fighting the power of a giant chess game populated with real knights. I reached up to close what seemed like a giant car door to a second grader. I told him, “We’ll just go to the next Roy Orbison concert.” He drove off. He looked disappointed.

Roy Orbison died two months later. Part II of the live-action Alice in Wonderland was nowhere near as good as Part I. It was even a little boring. Ever since this tragic decision, I have been skeptical of Part II’s. This is Part II of my review of the 2008 Fuse Box festival. Better than Wonderland.

The story above has nothing to do with Fuse Box. However, it was a conversational story. You might have been sitting in my living room. We might have been drinking Lone Stars. I would have told the story, and the conversation could have spun off in any number of directions. In this way, the story above and Fuse Box have a lot in common. As I said in Part I, Fuse Box is a conversation. Sometimes the conversation feels absurd. Sometimes it makes little sense. Sometimes it tells a story without any story at all.

In many ways, though, the second of half of my week’s immersion in this odd canvas of off-kilter performances felt more cohesive, more straight-forward. The surprises of these shows hid less within bizarre experiments of form -- although formal experiments were common. The shows I saw in the second half generally stuck with the basic convention of stage and house: we in the audience remained the audience while the performers entertained. Still, the productions roamed and wandered and forgot their points and turned around again, and we forgot that they forgot. They were fun, and always a conversation of sorts.

The Proximitator

The Proximitator, if invented, would interlink the world’s population via a portable device or implant that uses physical proximity as an indicator of connectivity. It might work like an iPhone that uses BitTorrent technology. While BitTorrent technology was developed by an autistic savant in the silicon mines of Northern California, The Proximitator was invented by a horny New York businessman and his resourceful but equally horny secretary in the imagination of Michael Agresta -- a playwrighting MFA candidate at the University of Texas’s Michener Center.

An ambitious script, The Proximitator told three stories (and even more sub-stories) from 54 stories high in three physical locations on a high-powered block in Manhattan. Much like the play, the experience of watching the production could also be divided into three important components that made it unique to the Fuse Box festival. I will call these the beginning, middle, and end.

Let’s start with the end.

The End

After The Proximitator had reached its own ending, Agresta, his dramaturge, and his director lined three chairs on the stage and began a dialogue with those of us willing to stick around. What worked? Could you understand the conversations? What would you change? And here we had the opportunity to contribute to the future of The Proximitator. This had been a workshop production in the most literal of senses. It had been a fully blocked performance with scripts still in hand. It was the first time anyone had seen that play, and it felt like we had landed somewhere between conception and birth, just in time to see what the baby would look like. Now, its parents were asking us to help them make sure it would grow up a beautiful child. This seemed the perfect sort of installation in a festival intent on breaking that barrier between spectator and artist. It was also appropriate because the play itself was about creation.

The Beginning

The beginning is about the location of the play: the physical location here in Austin. I think it’s noteworthy to mention that the theater is located behind a Goodwill job center. It’s hard to find because there isn’t a lot here. There’s a field across the street, and a railroad crossing. The Blue Theater looks like a giant piece of blue Bubble Yum stuck behind a bunch of tractor trailers that dispense disinfectant-smelling clothing to the phenomenal girth of thrift stores that speckle the city. Outside the box office, there were props from other productions that might have been thrift-store throwaways. These included a red toilet and an empty refrigerator that reminded me of a fifth grade video that warned not to get into one of these things if you found it at a dump.

But inside, a strong sound system, layered seating, and simple but effective lighting proved the space could rival smaller venues in much bigger cities. In that way, a tiny workshop production about a giant city with the biggest ego in the world felt right at home here in Austin’s most interesting permanent performance space.

The Middle

There is so much going on at once. In a yuppie apartment building, a novelist and her teenage daughter bicker like sisters while the younger one flaunts the sex life her mother wishes she had. Across the street, a pretty maid watches soaps and sleeps in a hotel room where one-night stands and bomb plotting terrorists enter and exit like snippets of drama in a voyeuristic dream play. And there is that business man and his secretary and their invention, not to mention their passion for adulterous sex with dildos. They all watch each other, each fabricating stories about the other while we in turn watch them. It’s like a twisted Rear Window, where all the characters talk over each other so we don’t really know where to pay attention. There is so much going on, it can be hard to follow the story -- until finally my mind settles in like it does when watching Shakespeare, and suddenly I understand how to follow all of it.

It is a story about disconnection in an age of technology. It is also a story about collective paranoia. Both are important subjects to tackle but are astoundingly complicated to depict. The Proximitator is working on capturing these phenomena, and with this workshop the play’s creators are doing it the right way: by connecting with the audience to hear how to do it better.

End Proximitator.

Begin Blue 60.

Blue 60

Blue 60 is named after the Blue Theater. It is put on by the company that calls that space its home. It was not performed there, though. It was performed in the Long Center -- Austin’s newest performance space that will host symphonies and ballets. The Long Center is surrounded by a lush, green park and fancy lights. If the other Fuse Box locales were garage rock, this space is classical.

Blue 60 has become a staple show of the Fuse Box festival. It is not one performance. It is 60. Each performance lasts 60 seconds. Each performance is like an unrelated sentence in an essay. A sneeze travels 100 miles in 60 seconds. What does a 60-second performance look like? One looked like a poet reading haiku. Another was a Mary Poppins lookalike who rushed around the audience giving us all lollipops with paper that said things. Mine said, “A sneeze travels a hundred miles in sixty seconds.” (A friend asked me how anyone could know that was true.) Another looked like a woman giving out cookies for us all to eat together. And another was a woman dancing to hair metal and ripping off her purple gown to show her breasts.

It all went very quickly. Some ran out of time. Some finished early. This usually resulted in awkward humor where the performer had to just stand there until the gong signaled time. It was also awkward when a woman with a maimed leg surveyed the audience, asking who had a gimp fetish.

The overall effect of this experiment was giddiness. It was like a high school talent show with actual talented people. There were hysterical moments and even a cheeseball made in a minute. There were sad moments -- like a video of a dying Grandma. And there were less than entertaining performances. Fortunately, those could only last 60 seconds. It was fun and weird and stupid and brilliant at the same time. And that was 30 quick sentences about Blue 60.

Reggie Watts

The next night, I came back to the Long Center to see Reggie Watts turn the same stage into at least 60 performances, all performed by him. Reggie Watts is Superman. This makes sense, because he tells a long story about his good friend Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Reggie Watts, like Iron Man, can do just about anything. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell which voice coming from the man’s throat is really him.

The first thing to know about Reggie Watts is that he has some of the world’s biggest hair. It is enormous. He was in the audience at Blue 60 the night before, and the person next to me muttered, “Oh my God, he better sit in the damn back row.” His afro, which is much more Sideshow Bob than ?uestlove, makes him look a lot like a tree in spring. It sways. Somehow, this is important to his performance.

He came out onto a blackened stage, picked up a microphone and began telling a story to the wall. He sounded like a professor rambling about the history of a small Texas town a hundred miles north of Austin and kept referring to “here in Denton.” Then he acted like he just noticed that his audience was to his left, turned, and his voice melted into an English accent describing the intricate features of the sound pedal on a stool in front of him at what he called “station three.” The long, British lecture became a wandering slew of monotonous topics unrelated to anything else he had been talking about. As if he’d just forgotten who he was and where he was, suddenly the long history of plantation farming in Jamaica was of utmost importance to the cultural leanings of the industrial sugar cane manufacturing known around the continent as plantasia. This phenomenon continued to grow a large cult following until the banana uprising of 1823 that sent a catastrophic earthquake down the center of Mexico. It was here that things began to turn ugly. He didn’t say any of that, but that’s what it was like: just a series of bone-dry improvisations that established the tone of “I am Reggie Watts and you motherfuckers have no idea what I’m going to do tonight!”

The next hour or so was one of the most fantastic, outrageous and creative concoctions of storytelling, comedy, and music that I’d ever heard. And he does it all himself. He’s like a hip hop Andy Kaufman, a comparison too straightforward to be fair, although he has won something called the Andy Kaufman Award. The guy breaks off into absolutely absurd tangents like the time he “decided to turn gay” and go to a club called the Manhole. Suddenly he’s taken us into a secret opening in the side of the building that reveals a time warp to some mystical cavern where the soundscape sounds like Peter Gabriel getting even more World Music than he already has. Except, the “soundscape” is Watts, looping his voice through a tiny effects pedal, making the sounds of animals, tribal beats, and an ethereal female voice that could beckon sailors to a deadly island. Apparently Reggie’s one of the few people on the planet who has a ten-octave vocal range, which he uses to create bizarre characters and sick, sick beats. He somehow slides from new age ambiance to a story about wizards to a head-bobbing German political battle rap in the same breath. And it’s all from his voice! (Did I say that already?) His encore finale had all of us in the crowd pretending to put a “shit” on top of a “fuck”, chanting “Fuck, Shit, Stack,” and it was hard to tell if we were a part of a joke or nodding our heads at a serious hip-hop show that could send Jay-Z and Rick Rubin running to their MPC’s to cop his style. YouTube this dude: he is the shit.

Cape Disappointment

Where Watts tells stories that go nowhere or to another planet, the last production I saw was as straightforward a play as something by Thornton Wilder. Except...there was no story: just the pieces that would be in a story if it were there. It’s tough to describe the Brooklyn-based Debate Society’s Cape Disappointment. Imagine hot summertime nights. Driving late at night with the radio on. Bugs hit the windshield. The seats are sticky. Imagine a pedophile and a little girl.

That’s a good enough setup for the play. It takes place outside of Detroit in a time when people dressed like farmers and used the word “jeepers” a lot. Imagine I’m using a Midwestern accent and sound a little like a Great Uncle telling you a story on the front porch. Maybe I’m telling you about the time the circus came to town. Except it wasn’t a circus, it was a manmade lake that was going to change the town’s industry forever. They built a lighthouse there. But the water never came, and now there’s a lighthouse and no water.

That’s Cape Disappointment. It’s like a series of nostalgic moments and suspenseful setups that never explain themselves. It’s four actors doing magical jobs becoming multiple characters who almost seem like caricatures from 1950s TV shows about the Midwest: they would seem slightly insane if they acted that way in real life. It’s thrilling, it’s twisted, and it’s funny, but it never actually tells a story. It makes you feel the way you would in a suspenseful play that has a linear plot; it just doesn’t have that line to hold on to. If Wilders’s Our Town didn’t have a three-act structure, it would be very much like Cape Disappointment. I certainly haven’t seen anything quite like this before.

By the time this festival had ended I had become all too familiar with the feeling of walking away from a theater in a colorful stupor -- the feeling that something had just happened and my mind had yet to catch up. All of Fuse Box felt surreal, no, sub-real. Like it was just toying with the notion of traditional communication, twisting the conventions that our minds use to process information to shake down the unquestioned assumptions we use to interpret our reality. But maybe even that’s too deep. Maybe it felt like a toy box had been opened and I got to spend the week playing with everything inside. Now I’m telling stories about it myself, just another voice in the conversation taking place here in Austin. And that seems to be what Fuse Box is all about. Better than Wonderland.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

The Hall of Fame has been harshly criticized for some of its more inexplicable exclusions and for neglecting certain subgenres of music. Cynicism and negativity over the Hall's selection process and membership is fairly widespread. That said, despite the controversies and legitimate gripes, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still widely viewed as a career milestone. The Hall's stature feeds its surrounding controversies: after all, nobody would care to argue so vehemently about the merits of one artist over another if it wasn't important. Very rarely will a newly inducted artist miss the opportunity to appear at the star-studded ceremony to accept their honor.

The criteria for nomination is as follows: "Artists -- a group encompassing performers, composers and/or musicians -- become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock and roll." Specifically for performers, "This category honors bands or solo artists which demonstrate musical excellence. Such a descriptor includes (but isn't limited to) influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills."

These standards allow the selection committee wide latitude with their choices, and generating a list that would create zero controversy is an obvious impossibility. As for those deserving artists yet to be included, their time will surely come. There has purportedly been an emphasis on increasing diversity among the nominating committee and voters in recent years, and the list of contenders for the class of 2018 reflects this.

Radiohead, as expected and deserved, are nominated in their first year of eligibility, and there is little doubt they will be inducted. Other nominees include Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Rage Against the Machine, Nina Simone, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray and the Zombies. It's a strong and varied group.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the list, however, is the British duo Eurythmics. Even though they've been eligible since 2006, this is their first nomination. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox certainly deserve recognition for their important contributions to the musical fabric of the last 40 years. While Eurythmics have always been generally respected, they've never been darlings with the critics like some of their contemporaries. It's puzzling as to why. Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting and creative audacity. Lennox is second to noone as a vocalist, not just in her lead parts but also in the creative, often rhythmic way she uses her voice as an instrument. This nomination could boost the stature and perception of Eurythmics' body of work immeasurably.

Although Eurythmics are often consigned strictly to the synthpop genre, that designation fits only a portion of their repertoire. Each of their nine studio albums has its own unique vibe while retaining the duo's core identity. Eurythmics never repeat themselves, often taking bold risks and swerving in unexpected directions. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Eurythmics didn't "sell out" or compromise by chasing after obvious Top 40 hits. Even their most popular singles aren't commercial in the traditional sense, and they've always sounded like nobody else on the radio.

Despite the sudden emergence of their 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" as an MTV staple and international smash, Eurythmics are far from an overnight success story. Their story begins in London, 1975, when Stewart fortuitously encountered Lennox at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The Scottish singer had recently dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music, which she felt didn't suit her musical interests. Stewart and Lennox strongly connected over their love of music, and they quickly became a couple who were inseparable. Along with singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Peet Coombes, Stewart and Lennox formed a short-lived group the Catch. After one failed single, they added two members and renamed themselves the Tourists.

Coombes was the dominant creative force and primary songwriter behind the Tourists. Lennox and Coombes shared vocals on the band's dour and melancholy power-pop. The Tourists released three albums and managed a handful of chart appearances in the UK. Two of their singles, a peppy cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" and the hard-rocking "So Good T\to Be Back Home Again", made the UK Top 10. The band toured extensively, but their success was fleeting. The Tourists' third album, Luminous Basement (1980), tanked badly despite containing their strongest material yet, and the group dissolved shortly thereafter.

Lennox and Stewart also endured a painful ending to their sometimes tumultuous romance, but they recognized the power of their musical chemistry and decided to continue working together as a duo. They were a pair "who couldn't be together, and who could not be apart", as Lennox reflects many years later in the song "17 Again". History has shown that they made the right decision: Stewart and Lennox compliment each other intuitively through a shared passion for music, the thrill of experimentation, and the need for emotional release that songwriting and performing allows.

The name Eurythmics was derived from a technique used to teach music to children based on sensory and physical methods of learning rhythm. The newly-christened duo signed with RCA Records and in early 1981 headed to Germany to record their debut album with highly-respected krautrock producer Conny Plank.

Plank already had a long string of acclaimed albums to his credit, including collaborations with Neu!, Can, Ultravox, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno among others. The sessions for what would become Eurythmics' debut album, In the Garden, were held at Plank's studio in Cologne. He brought several of his regular collaborators into the proceedings, including bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit of avant-garde rockers Can, Blondie drummer Clem Burke and D.A.F. electronics whiz Robert Görl. Stewart has described the sessions as a learning experience that helped expand his perception of what pop music could be and how it could be created without following any rules, a perspective that served Eurythmics well.

Eurythmics' austere and hypnotic debut single "Never Gonna Cry Again" was released in May 1981. They filmed a low-budget video and landed a couple TV slots to promote the track, but the song's haunted nature did not translate to mainstream success: it barely scraped the lower reaches of the UK singles chart. A second single, the dreamy guitar-rocker "Belinda", followed in August but failed to chart.

In the Garden was finally released in October 1981, but without a hit to generate momentum it was barely noticed. Despite scant sales figures, the album's gloomy psychedelic guitar-pop makes for a rather strong debut. In the Garden exists in late summer shadows, densely atmospheric and shrouded in a veil of dread. Lennox's vocals are understated, subtle and lower in the mix than on subsequent albums. Sound effects, odd vocalizations and bits of sonic experimentation fade in and out like flashes of hazily repressed memory.

RCA wasn't eager to invest in a follow-up to In the Garden after its disappointing reception, so Stewart financed Eurythmics' second album largely through a personal bank loan. Faced with a minuscule budget, they worked in a London warehouse to avoid spending money on studio time. They were able to purchase cheap second-hand equipment for the sessions, including the basic TEAC 8-track on which most of the album was recorded. Adam Williams, former bassist for the ska band the Selectors, helped the duo learn the equipment while co-producing some of their earliest tracks.

The primitive set-up was the ultimate blessing in disguise. Since they were financing the sessions and self-producing, Eurythmics had the freedom to experiment with no oversight. As both Lennox and Stewart were enduring periods of deep personal strife at the time, the sessions evolved into an emotional and creative catharsis that helped shape the mercurial nature of the music. It was out of this environment that a classic was born.

Despite appearing only a few months after their debut album, the first single to emerge from the new sessions proved radically different than any of Eurythmics' prior work. Released in April 1982, "This Is the House" is a flamboyant, horn-driven spectacle on which Lennox belts out a vocal more confident and brash than any of her prior work. The song's odd mix of synthpop, R&B; and latin influences renders it completely unique, but despite its infectious ingenuity and beguiling loopiness (or perhaps because of it), "This Is the House" failed to chart.

The follow-up single that landed two months later is even better. Entrancing and soulful, "The Walk" exudes the anxiety, drama and innovation that became Eurythmics' hallmark. The vocal arrangement is ingenious, and Dick Cuthell (known for his work with Madness, the Specials, Fun Boy Three and others) lets rip a blistering trumpet solo. As in many of their songs, "The Walk" slowly ratchets up the tension through hypnotic repetition and the gradual addition of more layers of sound until it reaches a haywire frenzy. Although a brilliant recording, "The Walk" fared no better than its predecessor.

With the duo's second album Sweet Dreams (are made of this) completed, RCA began a strong promotional push, issuing the opening track "Love Is a Stranger" as a single in November 1982. Lennox's dazzling vocal ranges from icy cool to fiery passion over a relentless electric groove bracketed by sinuous lines of synth. "Love Is a Stranger" rose to #54 in the UK, their highest placement yet, and momentum was finally building for the duo thanks in part to the single's provocative video.

The first significant chapter in a series of visually arresting promotional clips that Eurythmics generated over the span of their career, "Love Is a Stranger" showcases Lennox's dramatic presence and her innate ability to command the viewer's attention. She plays multiple roles, ending the clip with her red hair slicked back and dressed androgynously in a man's suit. Image was quickly becoming an important part of the Eurythmics' equation, with Lennox always compelling no matter which character she inhabits, and Stewart often appearing as her sort of mad-scientist counterpart.

Sweet Dreams (are made of this) hit the shelves on 4 January 1983, along with its title-track, a single that continues to reverberate through pop music nearly 35 years after its release. Suddenly everything changed for Eurythmics. An obscure British duo, barely managing to survive in the music business, soared to the top with one of the more unconventional songs ever to scale those lofty heights.

"Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" has an unusual structure, with no real verses or chorus. Lennox has described it as a mantra, and indeed it is. The lyrics, which Lennox rattled off spontaneously in a matter of minutes, are a simple but profound statement about the human condition: "Everybody's looking for something," the search for meaning and fulfillment, the ephemeral "this" of which sweet dreams are made.

Lennox begins the song with a single line of vocal, then starting with "some of them want to use you" at the 0:24 point it doubles. From there the song gradually builds intensity, with the vocals increasingly layered. A masterful finalé combines all the sonic elements before fading to black, the mantra repeating endlessly, the "this" still stubbornly undefined. The booming minor-key bass riff and the epic string-motif solo starting at 1:31 are played by Lennox on a Roland Juno-6 synthesizer. The main riff (improvised by Lennox while listening to Stewart working on a drum-machine pattern), is a simple two-bar arpeggio that loops throughout most of the song. Two parts were recorded separately and panned on opposite sides of the sound spectrum, creating a richly resonant effect. "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" is no dated relic from the early days of MTV burdened by the limitations the time. Its massive waves of synth flood out of the speakers with enormous power, as inexorably as the tide.

The music video, which became wildly popular on MTV during its heyday, is forever entwined with the song in listeners' collective consciousness. The iconic image of Lennox in her masculine suit and flaming orange flat-top helps to define the new wave era. Her forceful demeanor, nervy confidence and the subtle nuances of her facial expressions amplify the song's inherent tension. She confronts the viewer directly by pointing right in our faces at the 0:24 mark. At 1:56, she offers a sly half-smile with, "some of them want to abuse you", and at 2:15 she pounds her fist just as the song reaches its dramatic apex. Stewart appears throughout the video stoically pecking away on the drum machine he used in the recording of the song, the Movement MCS Drum Computer MK1 (except for that part where he and the cow have, well, a moment… It's all in the eye contact).

After a slow climb up the US pop chart, "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" was finally able to derail the Police's "Every Breath You Take" from its seven-week reign at the top during the week of 3 September 1983. It would be Eurythmics' only chart-topping pop hit in America, and it reached #2 in the UK. In the wake of Eurythmics' new-found fame, "Love Is a Stranger" was re-released, this time becoming a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album's deep cuts are every bit as strange and fascinating as its better-known singles. The ghostly "Jennifer" is a narcotic reverie of keyboard swells and spectral atmospherics. "I've Got an Angel" and "Somebody Told Me" are serrated neurotic fits, swerving dangerously off-the-rails from anything that would normally be considered pop music. A long and mesmerizing exploration of urban isolation, "This City Never Sleeps" is a powerful finalé. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) is an examination of the human psyche fraught with turmoil, a series of jagged recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks set to music that is soulful and experimental, melodic but eccentric, a stark electronic soundscape that bristles with horns and unexpected sonic jolts.

Next Page: Potent and Ferocious

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

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Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

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Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

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Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

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