It’s been a hot minute since Speedy Ortiz last hit Madison; or, more specifically, just a few months short of a year since they demolished Live on King Street, opening for tUnE-yArDs. The appearance felt like a bit of a victory lap after the release of 2013’s triumphant Major Arcana and 2014’s equally massive “Real Hair” EP, but it wasn’t the first time they had played the city.
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After months of escalating hype, CRASHprez—who’s slowly assuming the mantle of curator of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s quietly bustling musical underground—has finally dropped his more perfect. project, a sprawling magnum opus exploring the black condition in America as seen through the eyes of a particularly discerning and articulate college student-cum-artist—or do I have that backwards?
This is a transcript of an interview with local rapper Lord of the Fly. To read the story printed in the Spring 2015 Welcome Back Issue, click here.
Daniel Kaplan’s recording name, Lord of the Fly, may initially illicit some unsavory connotations. First of foremost is William Golding’s vicious 1954 “Lord of the Flies”—and maybe, in the throes of his self-titled single, Kaplan’s yelp of “Lord of the what, bitches?/Lord of the Fly” indeed stresses a demand of hierarchal restructuring, of reallocation of dominance in a scene as fresh and fertile as an uninhabited island. Then, there’s the monster at the heart of Golding’s novel, the literal Lord of the Flies; Beelzebub, the devil himself. And maybe that’s an accurate depiction of Kaplan’s character—not the split mouthed pig on a stick of the book, but something closer to Milton’s romantic Satan: the deviant, the naysayer or the ardent artist, completely dedicated to his craft.
“No hocus pocus, you simple suckers been served a notice,” Killer Mike raps on Run the Jewels 2 highlight, “Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1.” “Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Folgers.”
Nick Cave has never really been himself. In all his oeuvre, he’s always played the role of observational poet; his work, while sometimes intensely personal, is always marked by the unmistakable sense of voyeurism, of looking in at another’s life. From The Bad Seeds’ first venomous 1983 recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche” to the metatextual eeriness of 2013’s “Finishing Jubilee Street,” he has lived the necessary lie of the poet. Even his frequent artistic self-presentation, a product of English post-punk aesthetics and Southern gothic hellfire, contradicts the reality of his Melbourne upbringing.
I’m glad that I came out of this month’s Spoon show (you know the one) feeling so maligned, because it provides a perfect foil for the wonderful of Montreal show Sunday night at the Majestic Theatre. For those who don’t remember (or don’t care), I left Spoon’s set disenchanted with indie rock and its ethos; it seemed hollow and depleted and it was distressing seeing a staple band of the scene just going through the motions to an apathetic and cooler-than-thou crowd.
In 1997 The Dismemberment Plan wrote a song titled “Do the Standing Still” for their sophomore album The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified. Aside from being a showcase for Travis Morrison’s goofier proclivities, it also works as a sad monument for the gradual, sloping decline of indie rock.
It’s been a strange trip for Cloud Nothings, Dylan Baldi’s jangle-pop-cum hardcore punk outfit from Cleveland, Ohio. Their first two records—mostly unassuming; pleasant, if not forgettable—were generally kitschy little indie rock collections. Lo-fi, fuzzy and bubbling with an infectious warmth. It was a bit of a shock when 2012’s wonderful Attack on Memory threw it all away in favor of a raucous post-hardcore assault. It’s certainly the high point of the band’s career to date—even if this year’s Here and Nowhere Else is an absolute blast, it never captures the manic/depressive jitters of its forerunners, sucked dry of lead guitarist Joe Boyer’s interplay with Baldi’s chest-thumping rhythms. It’s almost been like watching a band slide backwards into the primordial ooze; texture, style and finesse have all given way to primal urgency. It’s been fun, but whether or not it’s the right choice for the group still remains to be seen.
Erika M. Anderson, former co-frontwoman of the apocalyptic noise-folk duo Gowns and current mastermind of EMA, is much less reserved than her music would suggest. Between her former work and her newer endeavors, patterns and motifs have emerged: isolation, alienation, violence, discomfort and so on. Over the phone, however, Anderson is talkative and forthcoming, eager about her art and the forces that mold it—even joking about Portlandia.
There are two sides to that old Danny Brown. One’s the madman—the cartoon embellishment of all of rap’s biggest tropes, the one who goes “dumb and ignorant when [he’s] on that clitoris”—and the other’s the sensitive introvert—the one who worries over girls who party all the time and who’s “smoking by [his] lonely, by his goddamn self.” The latter, for better or for worse, didn’t make an appearance at Brown’s sold out Majestic show this past weekend—he knew the crowd, knew what they expected, and delivered it in spades.
There’s a negative, knee-jerk reaction to country in certain circles of musical fandom. You know the one; the glib response of “I listen to everything but country and rap” immediately comes to mind. I can’t help but think it’s a gracious mix of regionalism and sour elitism—the term conjures images of overalls-wearing, beer-guzzling, sister-kissing bumpkins from the Deep South, crooning sultry ballads to their tractors. We refined city folk, we have more serious interests, like “House of Cards” and, I don’t know, The Wall Street Journal.
What’s immediately striking about the Real/Surreal exhibit is how effectively it sucks you into its domain. The gallery itself, located on the second floor of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), is as much an unnerving display of surrealistic tendencies as the art it showcases. When you first walk in, the room opens up into slanted walls displaying the pieces of the exhibit, all slightly ajar from the implied centers of the walls, and the viewer instantly feels slightly off balance.
A little while back my girlfriend went to a My Bloody Valentine show. I don’t know exactly what she was expecting (“I’ve never really listened to Loveless but it makes great study music,” she said to me a little while prior—not a wrong statement at all, though certainly not how I think of MBV), but what she got seemed to surprise her. She enjoyed it, but found the noisier aspects of the show a bit unnerving. Choice texts on the matter included “I wish I could wear two pairs of ear plugs at once.” When the band closed with their standard 30-minute take on “You Made Me Realize”—about 10 percent of which was actual song and the rest monstrous waves of 130-decibel feedback—she considered leaving early.
I recently read Death Grips’ now almost year-old interview with Pitchfork in which drummer and noise auteur Zach Hill demystified the big throbbing member on the cover of No Love Deep Web—which, at the time and considering the circumstances, seemed more like a giant and peevishly immature “fuck you” to Epic Records. “It really has to do with acceleration—culturally, on a world level—of sexuality in general, and getting past homophobia,” Hill said. “People should be able to look deeper into something rather than just seeing some dick. It’s also a spiritual thing; it’s fearlessness.”
Kevin Barnes is a remarkably soft-spoken individual, especially in contrast with the hyper-literate, vaudevillian bombast of his recorded output—never mind his band of Montreal’s legendary, super-saturated, super-saccharine live shows. Barnes, a staple of the indie-rock scene since of Montreal’s debut in 1996, has covered remarkable ground during his tenure, playing everything from twee pop to psychosexual meditations over extended passages of prog rock.
Arcade Fire is not a terrible band. There, I’ve said it. It’s not just the post-post-(post?)-irony speaking up in me either—I legitimately think, for all their cloying earnestness, poached influences and downright dumb lyricism, there’s a golden band buried somewhere deep under all the pseudo-intellectualism and indier-than-thou posturing. Funeral is proof; even now, some nine years later, it still mostly rings true, thanks largely to the now distinctly non-Arcade Fire lack of polish, as well as nostalgia that wanes on the far side of preachy. Maybe it’s just that death is a less furtive muse than how lame the suburbs are or, god forbid, the Bush administration.
First and foremost: Why Fire Retarded?
Can you elaborate on the origins of Sacerdote?