80’s Bands Time Forgot (Spotlight) – BEAST OF BEAST

Authored by Dale Nickey:

Beast Of Beast (Sex Drugs And Noise) 1982

Vocallist/Songwriter/Chanteuse Virginia Macolino paid her L.A. dues in spades.  While leading the Prog-Punk outfit Virginia And The Slims through an 18 month club slog,  she was poached by Orange County Euro-pop wanna-bees Berlin….. Not allowed to write for that group, she got fed up after recording one album and left the band only months before Berlin became international stars.  Her answer was to take back control of her muse and form the band Beast Of Beast.  The frustration she endured in her previous bands found expression in the spleen venting debut EP – “Sex Drugs and Noise”.  Dame’ Macolino’s ‘Persian cat on a hot tin roof ‘ growl paired perfectly with the serrated edge scrapings of  guitarist Roy Felig.  On the vanguard of noise-pop before it became mainstream; “Sex Drugs and Noise” carries a hefty price tag on the collectible vinyl market.

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Bjork + Biophilia + Bowl = Brilliant (Concert Review)

Bjork at The Hollywood Bowl – (06/11/13)

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More Bjork?..click>>>>  medullabiophiliaolympicsMatmos /bjork

Reviewed by Dale Nickey:

After three intimate in-the-round performances at the Hollywood Palladium, planet Bjork landed at The Hollywood Bowl Tuesday night for one last blast of the potent nature/technology/music cocktail that is her current Biophilia project.  One wonders if the Hollywood-specific focus of her efforts is, in any way, a statement to Tinseltown that there is more to Bjork  than the much ballyhooed swan dress that she wore at the 2001 Oscar ceremony.  Probably not.  She has never been known to give a crap about celebrity gossip.

No matter, the assembled multitude at The Bowl will only remember Bjork and Graduale Nobili (Icelandic ‘choir girls gone wild’) performing a generous, lavish set of outsider Art-Pop.  Bjork has recovered fully from throat surgery that forced date cancellations earlier in the tour.  If you’re worried about the state of her voice, don’t.  She pushed the degree of difficulty and stuck every landing.  And, if the adoring Bowl throng was disappointed at not hearing fan favorites “Isobel”, “Human Behavior”, or “Bachlorette”, they didn’t show it.  Give Bjork her props;  she held a canyon full of hyperactive metrosexuals and millennials spellbound with a set of brainy, complex, and (for the most part) downbeat selections from her latest album “Biophilia”,  as well as some eclectic offerings from her back catalog.

After the audience bestowed their patience on the sacrificial opening act, our heroine made sure we cooled our heals in the parlor an appropriate amount of time before she deigned to descend the staircase and receive callers.  All the while a curt text message appeared on the five massive video screens (in Spanish and English) informing us that her majesty did not appreciate bootleg recording or I-phone waving at the expense of her performance…tank yu…

Initially, this writer had some concern about the diminutive warrior princess getting lost in the vast expanse of The Hollywood Bowl.  Fears were put to rest quickly with the opener “Cosmology”. The video images were celestial and stunning.  More important, they were relevant. Bjork’s latest work “Biophilia” is an album length love letter to nature in all its forms and substructures. Deep space, moon, rock crystals and microscopic organisms. The resulting live show is equal parts multi-media rock extravaganza and x-treme power point presentation.

One small beef was that Bjork only appeared on the big screen once during her performance. That was on the second song “Hunter”.  It was a tease not to be repeated.

Sound was precise, full, clear and excellent throughout.  Sonic integrity was even maintained during the mega-decibel set closer “Nattura”, where Bjork and the girls let their hair down and had a collective spazz attack while flames engulfed the stage.

There was a scarcity of classic material on the set list.  However, when Bjork did lob a chart hit into the audience it was gobbled up voraciously like sharks to chum.  “Joga” (from Homogenic) was moving and poignant; an emotional highlight.  Also, “Possibly Maybe” benefited greatly from a post-modern makeover from her skilled and focused two- piece band.  Again, a shout out to Graduale Nobili .  Refreshingly free of spandex and danskins;  all of them sang their asses off,  all of them had a blast,  and all were real  flesh and blood beauties who looked like they didn’t mind eating a healthy meal.

In the end, Bjork rewarded our adoration with three encore pieces.  First off was a gorgeous a cappella workout by the girls titled “Oskasteiner”.  Then Bjork came out sporting some sort of spiked plastic head-wear. She then gave us a proper orgasm with “Hyperballad”.  When Bjork and band finally floored the gas pedal on “Declare Independence”, she had all the shiny happy people dancing in the aisles.

It’s nice to know that in this dystopian, Duck Dynasty world, it’s still possible to enjoy an alien visitation. In our time and place, Bjork is as close to an extraterrestrial as we’re likely to get. Seeing her live should definitely be on your bucket list.  Because, like the snow leopard; when she’s gone, that’s it, show’s over. There won’t be another coming along to replace her.

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Lost Treasures – Bjork’s “Medulla” Revisited

There’s a huge difference between viewing the video of a baby’s birth and witnessing the squalling, chaotic, fluid spewing event up close and in person.  Bjork’s Medulla peels off some layers and allows us to move a little closer to the act of creation. Missing are the  lush orchestrations she usually employs to frame her muse. Bjork maintains her aesthetic despite the fact she takes a 180 degree turn away from orthodox instrumentation. Medulla gives us a record equipped only with the most primal tool of human expression; the voice.  Not just an a cappella exercise, Medulla (in typical Bjorkian fashion) redefines the voice’s function as a musical delivery medium.  Many artists before have tried their hand at the ‘all vocal’ album. But, none have succeeded as Bjork has on Medulla.  Her mission is to not just celebrate the voice, but to subvert, distort and manipulate it into a third entity.  Part human, part synthetic, and 100 % unique . Even the drumbeats on the album are produced by vocal slight of hand.

Before Medulla, the trajectory of her studio work was admirably logical. Every album was a consolidation and advancement over the one previous. Post (Bjork’s brilliant second album), took Debut’s fusion of organic and electronic elements and pumped up the drama by accenting  the electric and eclectic.  On Homogenic (Bjork’s third album), the Icelandic String Octet shared  the spotlight with massive electronic beats to help define a new genre (Icelandic Neoclassical Soul/Pop).  When Bjork followed up with Vespertine, the strings had expanded it’s role to a grand, orchestral scale augmented with a full female choir; the big beat replaced by a shower of skittering micro beats buzzing around the stereo spectrum like flying audio insects.  After Vespertine Bjork was at a crossroads artistically.  She chose to roll the commercial dice and challenge her audience.  There are some remarkable highlights on Medulla.

“Where Is The Line With You” is the most ‘off the wall’ track on Medulla. For me,  it carries the benign menace of a 50’s science fiction movie but manages to do it with a smile and a wink.  It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know what she’s carrying on about.  It’s a meticulous cacophony.  The joy of noise for it’s own sake. Special mention to Faith No More frontman Mike Patton for adding extra menace and color to this amazing track.

“Oceania” is the prettiest track on the album.  A female chorus swirls around the main melody like glissando piano runs.  However, the result is otherworldly. On this track–like most of Medulla—you will hear sounds you’ve never heard on a record before .Bjork – Oceania

“Triumph Of A Heart” is the closest thing to a commercial single on the album.  It’s catchy and wacky.  Japanese vocalist Dokaka is allowed to have his way with TOAH and leaves his indelible mark on the track.  And like any strong seasoning, a little Dokaka goes a long way.watch toah 

“Mouths Cradle” is an ambitious piece.  More than any other track, “Mouths Cradle” seems the most comfortable in its skin.  Both extremes of Medulla merge seamlessly on the track; the organic and technological.

At times the performances on Medulla are so raw and immediate, you get the feeling the writing process ended mere nanoseconds before the record button was pressed. At other times it seems you’re eavesdropping on an artist in holy communion with her muse.  If you want to hear the true essence of Bjork, this is the album to own. It’s hard to call this album her masterpiece. The overall excellence of  of her early period is hard to dismiss.  However on a purely creative level, Medulla may well be Bjork’s greatest achievement.

R & R Hall Of Shame (Spotlight) – Brian Eno

You hear his music every day of your life. Eno composed the six second startup sound for Microsoft. Brian Eno started out in the early 70’s as a sound sculptor and keyboardist for Prog-Glam crossover band Roxy Music. He soon left to carve out his own unique and highly intellectual niche in the rock and roll firmament as a solo artist.  He used idiot energy, random cut and paste methodology (before computers), unorthodox production techniques and the best musicians of the day (Robert Fripp, Phil Collins, John Cale, Robert Wyatt, Percy Jones, etc….).

In the mid-seventies, Eno crafted four totally left-field, free-radical solo rock albums that were eons ahead of their time. Then he went cold turkey on rock music and singlehandedly brought the word “Ambient” into the rock vernacular by releasing a string of pioneering and successful albums embracing the virtues of quiet, space and environment ie…”Music For Films”, “Discreet Music”, “Music For Airports”.  The ‘New Age’ genre and ‘The Wave’ radio format can be traced directly to Eno’s innovations in sound and compositional approach.  Eno co-wrote (with David Bowie)  the greatest Emo-rock anthem yet written “Heros”.  Oh yeah, he introduced Devo to the world by producing their first album.  Oh wait…..yeah… that’s right, he took the production helm for U2 at the precise moment they crossed over from standard issue arena rock gods to sociopolitical Mega-Stardom.  Produced Talking Heads during their most commercially and critically viable period.  However, Brenda Lee gets in first because…ah…well,….I don’t know why the fuck Brenda Lee got in! Eno is such an amorphous artist, it’s hard to post a definitive video or “live” performance in the traditional sense. He’s producer, writer, artist, collaborator, videographer and musicologist all rolled into one. However, the ambient instrumental “An Ending (Ascent)” is surely one of Eno’s most beautiful pieces of music. Here we have a remix version with a stunning video superimposed on top. Coolest thing I’ve seen or heard in quite a while.

Brian Eno:

Lionheart Revisited (Kate Bush album review)

Reviewed by: Dale Nickey

Ok, here’s the party line on Kate Bush’s second album Lionheart. It was the “difficult second album”, rush released too soon after her stupendous debut, The Kick Inside. The material was under cooked, it was recorded hastily. It was a commercial disappointment. Lionheart has always been viewed as the gawky, homely sister to The Kick Inside. It languishes in the same purgatory asFleetwood Mac’s Tusk and Michael Jackson’s Bad. Those were all albums  tasked with following up a monster critical and commercial smash; too much to expect of any mortal record.

However, what if The Kick Inside had never existed, and Lionheart had been her debut? Take away the baggage, and the job of reviewing becomes a little more interesting.

Lionheart is not a perfect album yet it’s still a staggering achievement. Had it been the opening missive in Kate’s discography, jaws would have still dropped  at the innovations of Kate Bush and her audacious voice, charisma and songs. It may not have conferred upon her the instant mantle of “Icon” (as ‘Kick’ did), but that might have been a good thing.

Sure, “Lionheart” could have benefitted from more time in the bottle. Or… maybe not. Kate had all the time in the world to worry over The Dreaming. Was it a better record? I’ll let you know when I get around to listening to it as many times as I have “Lionheart”.  Lionheart is a grower that is unique in her canon. Every track earns and rewards repeated visitations.

The song “Wow” is a wonderful confection of fantasy/pop. Equal parts torch ballad and bubblegum, it was a smart and successful single that could turn the heads of tabloid writers and music critics alike. And “England, My Lionheart” is quite simply one of the most beautiful and unique  melodies ever written. Usually in pop song-craft you can hear echoes of the familiar; even if the artist is stealing from him/herself. This song exists on a different plane. That the lyrics are penned by a teenage girl is stupefying and magical. Why this song hasn’t been declared Britain’s national anthem is beyond me. It still might someday.

The epic “Hammer Horror” could be the subject of an entire review unto itself. By 1978, the term “Rock Opera” had become devalued currency. “Hammer Horror” was definitely a rock opera (albeit a tightly compressed and edited version of the form). Kate whispers, wails, moans and rumbles like both a siren and natural woman. She’s got some burr in her saddle in the form of a stalker, ex-boyfriend, ghost, or some unholy permutation of the three. Whatever happened, it’s now an ever-present nightmare of the soul. The tinkling piano ending turns the neat trick of being pretty and dissonant at the same time. The delayed reaction gong crash signals a melodramatic end to a brilliant and melodramatic record. And the cover art will rock your world.

Elsewhere, things get more eclectic and esoteric. “Coffee Homeground” courts Cabaret and Broadway and elevates both forms. Lead track, “Symphony In Blue” evokes a heavenly cocktail mix of Carol King on ecstasy and helium. On this album, even more than The Kick Inside, Kate takes her voice to its full, death-defying, four octave limits. Many argue it takes listeners to their limits as well. Like Dylan, Kate’s voice is her signature, money-maker, and albatross all rolled into one. One must come to the party prepared to marvel at her athleticism and then dig deep into the music itself. The rewards are there. Kate Bush is not a passive listen. We’ve got Sade for that. No, “Lionheart” is a three-ring circus of emotion, estrogen and technique. And you know what? EMI put it out at just the right time. I’m glad we got two albums documenting Kate’s eloquent, teen dream genius. Soon our little girl would all grow up to be a woman. “Lionheart” didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just a matter of the paint on her masterpiece hadn’t quite dried yet.