The arrogant and the villain*
– sometimes, often all in one –
I am just a means
for his pray
You don’t have Coke? you little nothing what should I do then with this lack of choice?
Improve your taste,
I would say.
*In this case I use “villain” to recall the Italian word “villano”, which corresponds to “boor”. Despite the different meaning I’ve decided to keep it this way, since the correct translation applies to the context, too.
Bar poetry is a collection born from my personal experience while I was working at night in a very old-fashioned underground music bar in Vienna. Each poem describes a different situation with the customers, often with a dialogue (spoken and unspoken) between them and me.
I don´t know-
I was caught in a dream!
A dream with red hair and blue eyes,
which left me shell-less, all the time.
A dream that
all the dreams come true!
Yet the rhythm, I don´t know, the rythm is
A song I composed for Alice,
to tell her “I love you,
I have no fear”.
Notwithstanding I am
Eternal loneliness in a vortex of life
you want the middle, you stand in line,
grasping parts and hearts
blasting hearts in parts
hiding with no seek
and still trying to find the bricks,
is it a mess, or the mess is fix?
Come to me sweet sensation
I need your careless inclination,
a pathway juggling on the crest,
I have you on my right,
I need you on my left.
The eternal nothingless:
for reason is a massacre;
or the only way to feel
There’s a band, who wanted to be (the) Verbena but someone else got the name first, and so became Verdena, not the divine plant anymore, just the name of the best rock band I’ve gotten to know. With a lot of personal affection in it, yes.
They started playing in 1995 in an old henhouse, just teenagers, two brothers and, couple of years later, a bassist. They started taking great inspiration from the grunge of Nirvana, publishing the first album, Verdena, in 1999, with the independent Italian Black Out, label born from the idea of promoting underground music with the means of a major, the owner Universal (and despite how it sounds, I would say it worked, considering also the other names supported).
Since their debut, and even before with their demo tapes, it is clear that Verdena have something special, a sound that is hard, melodic, complex, full of references from the greatest of rock, yet fresh and distinctive.
Verdena grew up with me (or viceversa): I discovered them with their third album, Il suicidio dei samurai, and immediately started to listen to everything from their past. The result became an ongoing addiction.
Their cultural background is impressive but not surprising: they are big fans of the Beatles (that, ahem, I personally don’t like… yes I know, but), Interpol, Nirvana, Flaming Lips, to cite some. And every album expresses a new side, or maturity, of their sound, always carrying their timber, yet always unexpected and magnificent. When you think they have released their best album, the next one will change your mind.
So, what happened? Verdena, the first album, was grunge. Clearly. They were just 18, with introverted personalities, rebel: Kurt was the muse, their first inspiration. Solo un grande sasso (Just a big stone), the second album, is a new story: psychedelic and ambitious, with long complex tracks. The dark melancholy started with the second album gets emphasized in the third, Il suicidio dei samurai (The suicide of the Samurai), and almost disappears with Requiem, despite the title, that brings back their grunge but grown-up attitude. Then the double album Wow, Endkadenz Vol. 1 and Vol. 2… I prefer to leave (personal) descriptions aside and suggest you some tracks to listen to and get your personal idea.
Since when I moved abroad, I’ve started to realize that, aside from the main genre, every country, even the closest ones (Austria and Italy, where I live and where I was born, for example), has a personal way to translate it, that implies that culture too. In my case, I am a big fan of the (old) Italian songwriters, I like that mix of tradition and sperimentation, that being politically engaged, poetic, idealistic; that decadent yet still brilliant flair of a brilliant yet decadent country. Lucio Battisti, Franco Battiato, Fabrizio De André, Rino Gaetano to cite a few. But I can also try (hard) to see it from an external point of view and understand that, together with the (indisputable) beauty of an execution, the emotional involvement plays a key role. That’s the best part of art.
As you may know, Vienna is a city that developed in the proximity of the Danube. A former arm of it, the Donaukanal (Danube Canal) delimits the city centre, and it is a cozy urban yet green place to hang out, especially during summer. Along its path there are free areas for making graffiti, public vegetables gardens, outdoor exhibitions, many small and bigger bars, and the most interesting clubs (for example Grelle Forelle, which I mentioned more than once previously). And many different music and art events take place here, free events where people can gather in a chill setting.
Couple of weeks ago it was Kunst am Kanal, Art on the Canal, organized by the club Das Werk in cooperation with its two art ateliers, Lichtbogen 334, the nest of the visual artists from the collective 4youreye projectionArt, and Dachsbau, a co-working space for artists to rent and exhibit their work. Das Werk means “the factory”, but also “the art work”, and that’s what this club promotes aside from music.
Contemporary art can be easily seen as snobbish, due to its hermetic messages and aesthetics, the high prices and the steered value, not necessarily based on pure talent (see my post about Roberta Sinatra and her study that analyses the trends in the art business). It’s the underground facet, instead, that can offer a glimpse of closeness to a wider audience and become part of a bigger context, integrating into the surrounding of music, drinks and good vibes. The final result is not individual anymore, rather a sum of different contributions, styles, perceptions, points of view; and the location, even if the same one, acquires each time a new unique appearance.
Moreover, these events can also give the possibility to minor and free-time artists, or simply creative talents, to express themselves: collaborations and projects can bloom, most likely not for decorating a fancy loft, rather for creating a collective experience.
The new huge graffiti of two hands exposing the teeth of a ferocious dog was mapped by the visualists collective 4youreye for projecting colourful visuals that gave a whole different feeling of it; at Werk a new exhibition space offered a solo from Noémi Kiss, an architect and philosopher (and woman that I deeply admire) who rose in the last six years as conceptual artist, using simple and poor materials (concrete, carpets as example) to give them new shape and purpose. In this occasion she presented five different reinterpretations of three-dimensionality recreated on beautiful antique Persian carpets hung on the walls, creating a door –or a window– for the viewer to look into.
And then much more is offered, involving all different forms of performative arts, and the music: live concerts during the daylight, dj sets at night, offering a wide range of styles and sound.
A special paragraph deserves Lichtbogen 334, with its dark ambience particularly fitting to the projections introduced: a “digital mirror” altering colours and movement, that I already mentioned in the post about the Playground Festival; a panel with two plaster cast faces emerging out of it, one happy one sad, lightened by changing shapes and patterns; two lysergic skulls decorating the shutters that divide the exposition space from the storage for the 4youreye equipment.
The Kunst am Kanal festival takes place once a year, but still there are many other events where lights, colours and moods mix together to create the special atmosphere that characterises this part of the Kanal. All this arty melting pot just opposite to the District Heating Plant designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a famous Austrian artist I will definitely talk about, and just adjacent to a complex of buildings ideated by Zaha Hadid, uncompleted due to financial cuts and changes that – rumors say – made the architect not satisfied anymore with the project to the point that she wanted her name dissociated from it. Still, these buildings are masterpieces here for us to admire and, thanks to these occasions, to rediscover in a different light.
sorry I am not a good blogger. I cannot produce constant content, I write only when something really catches my interest and my attention (and my inspiration too…). I write to promote good art, good music, good events. I overthink my writings, because I want them to be precise, well written, of high quality. On the Internet, as a blogger (although I don’t feel this label so much) among million bloggers, I choose quality over quantity. I choose to talk about what positively inspires me, I have no interest in openly criticizing something I haven’t appreciated, because I think there is already enough negativity and criticism around and I want to be on the positive side; maybe it simply wasn’t my taste, maybe I didn’t get it –therefore, I won’t recommend it to you.
This said (to slightly justify myself too), it’s summertime here, and I may have partially put aside my hunger for culture; you can still decide to scroll through the old posts and read about Mark Rothko, about the exhibition Beauty from the designers Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh, about the visionary architects and artists Lucio and Duilio Forte, about the interview with Electric Indigo. I am sure you will find something appealing for your taste.
I am taking this time also to rethink about my blog, about what I’ve learned, about what I would like to change or improve. It’s been a year now, and many things have grown!
I would like to conclude with a poem I’ve written some time ago (not yet inserted in my poetry page) that nicely fits to this post. It is still raw, sounds a bit like a song from a minstrel: and minstrel, rather than blogger, is how I feel.
All my gratitude if you have followed me through this, and my warmest welcome if you have just started to read me.
See you the next chapter.
How to avoid disappearing
I sit and listen to music.
Nothing more, nothing less.
I am wasting my time
because I technically do
Tic toc tic toc Time is running and you are not producing Tic toc tic toc Time is passing and you are still unmoved Wear your coat, get to work, don’t be absurd about live for love.
I am totally with you,
I need my dreams to come true.
Reality is tough, though,
even worse than
silence in ropes,
even if I change,
I can’t change.
Even if I change,
why do I?
Why do I?
Modify my shape
Shape my body
Get healthier, more active
I am still in awe about what happened last Friday. I was, as often, wandering in Grelle Forelle thanks to my sixth sense (aka Dead Sea Diaries together with Meat Market, the organisers of the night, which both are a guarantee of high quality music delivery); yet there was something new, something different in the atmosphere. I could only arrive when SHXCXCHCXSH started to play, but something went magical.
There is no way to find any common dancing move while listening to them: the bass is predominant, unpredictable, broken, visceral, the sound is cold, melodic, dark, magnetic; it is truly a whole new-level experience, for the ones like me who love deep and hard techno music; but also for people interested in new sounds, and with the right amount of emotional firmness… I cannot hide the obscure and gloomy intensity that soaks every track they produce (and only play during their sets, apparently), their appearance under a black hood resembling two dark knights, the repetition of the same loop like a growing mantra; but damn it feels so good…
They come from Sweden, and the comparison between the coldness of their sound with that of their hometown is banal…but reasonable. They debuted in 2012 with their first full-lenght album “STRGTHS”, presenting already their trademark sound with an opening (SLVRBBL) recalling something in between Gregorian chants and Irish fairy-tale music (Scarborough fair anyone?), then straight to a mechanical, vibrational strength. Surprising everyone with the second “Linear S Decoded”, still a powerful release, but introducing a different sound, more harmonious with respect to the first. SHXCXCHCXSH somehow remind me of Mark Rothko: the decision of not showing themselves, of being simply the means through which transmitting the music; and the unpronounceable name and choice for the last album “SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs”, the tracks named by increasing number of paired Ss. No wonder, though: there’s no need of titles, I would almost define it as a concept album, where every track is the prosecution of the previous one, in a growing pathos that ends up in a paranoid robotic sound that disturbs and doesn’t let go.
Darkness, it is often called; and darkness is, we are deep in the lowest frequencies here, out of any melody resembling a whatsoever musical instrument, in the core of the sound of the machine, yet reaching straight the most sensitive parts of the body. The music gets to its essentials, to the emphasized beat, to the most touching of its appearances. And not in a minimalistic way, on the contrary: the lack of high melodies is balanced by the richness of the middle-lower frequencies, the sound getting at the same time grounded and alien. It is repetitive, persistent, cold; and coldness was a strong feeling for me too, during their live set, while I was overwhelmed by the constantly changes in the bass, by the biting and hypnotic sound that opened a hole under my feet and had me falling in the hell of heaven.
Of course, I’m a writer, I (love to) tell stories, I try to reproduce with written words what I experience with my eyes and toes (eyes being the mind, toes being the heart when it comes to music, An). I do also think that techno, but I can say music, but I can say art, brings out the best of me. It makes me feel good, positive, hopeful, honest; it makes me think we can still experiment, discover, share, love.
The head image is taken from the official Facebook page of SHXCXCHCXSH. The title of the post is an obvious quote of the book “The unbearable lightness of being” from Milan Kundera, one of my most favourite (book and author).
She started with funk and jazz, then became one of the most prominent names in the techno scene. I met Susanne Kirchmayr, better known as Electric Indigo, after a little note I gave her last month during her great set at Grelle Forelle in her hometown, Vienna.
Eclectic artist, DJ, feminist, producer (in no particular order), with her passion and determination she has opened the doors not only to herself in the new born scene that, guess what, was men-mostly, but also to all the different gender expressions otherwise very little re-present-ed. In 1998 she started a revolutionary network for female, transgender and non-binary artists in electronic music and digital arts. I start the interview with her exactly from this point.
female: pressure. How can an artist join the network? How has gender diversity changed in electronic music?
female:pressure is based on personal connections: there is no profile, no online subscription, rather you can join us by sending an email to email@example.com and then filling in a form about your music style and sector, which can vary from DJ and producer to academic researcher (concerning music studies, but also social sciences for diversity and feminism). Currently female:pressure connects about 2400 artists from 75 countries. It is not an agency, as many erroneously think, rather a powerful tool that can be used in different ways, depending on the interests: many use it for having access to the mailing list, an old-fashioned but efficient platform to share ideas, discussing, stay in touch; others simply use it for discovering new artists. I am the main manager together with other two assistants, at the moment only one, Death of Codes aka Meg Wilhoite (An: from California, to understand also the international management that is behind the project). Consumer Refund aka Sarah Martinus is the third one, temporary inactive. From the beginning of electronic music there have definitely been changes in female and non-binary artists representation, in the techno scene as everywhere. The Internet has become the tool to reach a larger audience and to spread your message, your music. This can be related as well to the music production: once it was much more expensive to get the proper equipment for playing, nowadays it is much more affordable. So on one side we have this big right-wing wave spreading again all over Europe; but on the other side people are much more aware and particularly care for themes like diversity and gender equality and freedom to live intersexuality. Which is, of course, reflected in the electronic scene too.
What are your biggest influences, in- and outside of techno, in your style and which artists do you like?
I’ve started playing funk, jazz and hip hop in a small club in my city, Vienna, soon realizing that, apart from the old records, I didn’t like the new hip hop releases so much anymore. I was into 70’s stuff and kept playing records from this time, as they were a guarantee. But contemporary music was missing. Then house and techno came, and it was an epiphany! These two styles may sound unrelated, but hip hop and techno do have many parallels, maybe not so easy to catch. I enjoyed immediately the new sound. Apart from this, funk has been always present in my style because it’s a genre that surprise you, unpredictable and fun! I am also a huge Beatles fan, in particular of the less common stuff: Number 9, for example, has been a big inspiration for me. I love trippy music, with long loops, monotonous sounds, because they can bring you on a different level, it’s almost like meditation.
You played last year for the celebration of 30 years of techno at the Funkhaus in Berlin a set that is in my opinion sensational (post-note: I had to say so, I just fell so much in love with it). Your career as a producer started exactly in Berlin, how has the time you spent there influenced your career?
I lived in Berlin from 1993 to 1996, starting to work at Hard Wax, the famous music store where the best names were passing by. This has been the shaping and most important time of my career. What I liked the most was the attitude of these people: while others were trying to make techno a mainstream genre and becoming superstars (Mayday, Love Parade, Sven Väth), the people from Hard Wax were part of the opposite tendency of staying behind the scenes, a big influence coming as well from the Detroit techno (see Underground Resistance, for example). Berghain, as another example, is similar in this attitude to Hard Wax, creating a mystery and exclusivity around itself. I feel in between these extremes, but I was fascinated by this perspective. In the early 90’s, I was friends with DJ Hell who used to work at Hard Wax and introduced me there. The boss, Mark Ernestus, remembered him as somehow chaotic and suspected the same from me. Actually, I’m quite the opposite of chaos and I was very determined to get a job there. Finally I got the chance to replace someone for a short time. Which was enough to show my reliability and become not only an employer, but also the responsible for purchasing from European labels. It was a great time that allowed me to make great connections and create new ideas.
What are your current and future projects?
At the moment I am working at a new audio visual project called “Ferrum”, first time performed this January at “Art’s birthday” at Funkhaus in Vienna. Ferrum is the Latin word for iron, and refers to the types of sound I am using for the piece, like the sound of metal objects that I recorded. I am developing a generative, reactive visual part of the piece, too, building from what I learned from making the videos for my last album. I followed a colour-and-light concept, playing with them. I’ve started to learn on my own, and when I was trying to blend gradients, this “mistake” resulted in a animation which comes from compression artefacts! For Ferrum I want to further develop this approach and make it in real time, not just triggering prefabricated videos like I do in my album show 5 1 1 5 9 3. I like very much audiovisual performances, and for Ferrum I need room for improvisation, but video and music should still go together in specific time frames.
As you already know, my blog is dedicated to contemporary art, whether it be literature, visual or performing arts. Besides music, which forms do you like and follow most?
Since my early 20’s, I’ve been always surrounded by art. At first, I wanted to study industrial design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, but I wasn’t selected. Still, most of my friends at that time were art students. In any case, I keep being surrounded by artists and people who have a great affinity with fine arts. My booking agent, Mo Loschelder, for example, studied under Gerhard Richter (An: one of the most important contemporary German artists). During my time as resident DJ at Flex – from 2000 to 2008 – a lot of art students and artists came for “my” nights. I also had the occasion to give talks and workshops in academies, both of music but also of fine arts. I feel particularly connected to architecture, design, fashion, computer art, graphic design.
What do you think about the techno scene in Vienna? What do you find most interesting in it?
Sadly, there is limited space for music experimentation, it is hard to find suitable places mainly because of the loudness. The scene is varied and split up. It seems limited because of this, but there are many small realities that makes it eclectic. When it comes to electronic music, my favourites in Vienna are the MEAT Market / Fish Market parties and the associated label MEAT Recordings, the Editions Mego label and the Hyperreality Festival.
Last week I got to know Gerald Wenschitz aka Gerald VDH, the founder and mastermind of MEAT Market, who deserves (and will soon have) a chapter aside. And it’s with the motto of his parties that I want to conclude:
No homophobia, no sexism, no racism, no discussion!
They are one of my first experiences with experimental music, the roughest, craziest, out-of-any-possible-box one. Their sound is dramatic, visceral, distorted, disturbing, sometimes an enchanted melody, sometimes a hammering noise. Xiu Xiu are the ever changing band of singer and songwriter Jamie Stewart, and represent, in my opinion, one of the finest expressions of aesthetics in music.
It takes an effort to me to go back in the days, where I was a virgin disc to fill with the most interesting music. Music was coming from friends, from friends of friends, from magazines, even the library had (and I think it still has) a nice catalogue that gave me the roots, my background, after long hours passed just listening to music. Xiu Xiu were at the moment, for me and my circle, the ultimate sound. It was their beginning too. I was already in love with Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Rós, Björk, Radiohead, and couldn’t help connecting with their music. It was in 2006 at the Teatro Miela, an experimental theatre in Trieste, that I finally met them.
The funniest thing is that I’ve been knowing them since their debut, and still I was literally spelling Xiu Xiu (for me, Italian native). When you just need to go on their (Italian) page on Wikipedia to read that the pronunciation is “Shoo-shoo”, written in an Anglophone way…
When I got to know they were coming to Vienna I decided to update myself, damn they are still active and great and I’ve forgotten about their music…(Please don’t get me wrong, they are definitely unforgettable but I also listen to a lot of music). I think Xiu Xiu are one of the rare examples that can leave you puzzled about their music and at the same time about your critical abilities.
Before the concert there is already an intimate atmosphere, that peculiar connection that you feel among strangers when going to a special show that few know. I get interesting feedback from the people around: some are seeing them for the first time and very excited about, some are big fans, describing every concert as a new experience, from extreme experimentalism to regular and plain execution. And it is undisputable that they are true performers: when they finally start under a blue light the audience is immediately captured. I am lucky, I get a full-on piercing and distorted live, where my euphoria is equally mixed with the intensity of the performance.
The songs are sweet and delicate, then getting harsh and sharp. Some people need to plug their ears, ’cause it’s too loud, or simply too much (but also for the small club Chelsea, thank you for having brought them to us!); meanwhile they play their hearts out, they dance like trapped in a state of trance (mainly Jamie, actually), they exchange, interchange the instruments, they read a poem: I am completely lost in the music. Sometimes I cannot even understand the lyrics; but the soft and tender, the shouted and violent, the simply passionate voice of Jamie Stewart brings me to a whole different level of communication. That’s the power of music, yes, but THAT is the power of Xiu Xiu.