COLUMNS

  • Pyre Festival

    WHAT IS A MUSIC FESTIVAL? Is it like a label, an overarching and visible marker of taste? Is it like group therapy, a way to guide and protect fellow souls? Is it a big money laundering scheme? The Kraków-based, internationally present Unsound offers some answers.

    Amazon is trying to artwash its hegemonic skid marks by funding a new festival called Intersect, slated to launch in Las Vegas this December with Beck, Kacey Musgraves, and dozens of other acts. Coachella soldiers on in the California desert every April, providing ever-shifting backdrops for TikTok tutorials and impromptu influencer

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  • Sentimental Duration

    WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, dreaming about New York and reading weeks-old issues of the Village Voice, the extended and even epic creative moments were the ones I most wanted to experience: La Monte Young playing the music he famously refused to release in recorded form; Lou Reed or Patti Smith performing multiple nights in intimate venues; spending a whole day at the Guggenheim watching Andy Warhol’s Sleep, 1963, or Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster Cycle,” 1994–2002. Before YouTube and file sharing, these adventures couldn’t be accessed secondhand; you just had to be there, which I wasn’t. I remember

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  • Jace Clayton

    Jace Clayton is an artist and writer based in New York also known for his work as DJ /rupture.

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    KODAK BLACK, “ZEZE,” FEAT. TRAVIS SCOTT AND OFFSET (Atlantic)

    This was a terrible year to be a person of color in America. In this sense, it was like all other years. Rap sonics bypass language to evoke this exhaustion in a form that allows for joy. Here, the sweet-sad beat crafted around a hesitant steel-drum melody underpins the rappers’ ambivalence regarding success under such conditions: “All my niggas locked up, for real, I’m tryna help ’em / When I got a mil’, got me the chills, don’t know what

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  • Polly Watson

    Polly Watson is a former entertainment editor for High Times. She currently performs with 1-800-BAND

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    PINOCCHIO, PINOCCHIO (Toxic State)

    Eno-tinged NYC art-punk weirdness characterized by janky guitar work and almost operatic vocals—courtesy of West Coast hurricane Mary Jane Dunphe—that is shockingly sophisticated in its naïveté.

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    THIN LIZZY STAMP

    Ireland is releasing two one-euro stamps in honor of the (contested) fiftieth anniversary of their hard-rocking native sons, one featuring the cover of the 1979 album Black Rose and the other a portrait of iconic bassist and front man Phil Lynott.

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    NASTIE

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  • Byron Coley

    Byron Coley is a music critic, a poet, the editor of the Bull Tongue Review, and a proprietor of Feeding Tube Records in Florence, MA. His most recent books are Defense Against Squares (L’oie De Cravan, 2017) and 1979 Songbook, coauthored with Joanne Robertson (Tenderbooks, 2019).

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    YOKO ONO

    While Ono released no music this year, she is still Number One. Why? Maybe it has to do with the boss commission she just finished for the newly renovated MoMA. Or maybe it’s just because.

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    THE FLESH EATERS, I USED TO BE PRETTY (Yep Roc)

    This double album, recorded by the 1981 iteration of a long-lived LA band,

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  • Sarah Hennies

    Sarah Hennies is an independent composer and performer of experimental music based in Ithaca, NY, and a recipient of the 2019 foundation for contemporary arts grants to artists award. Her new album, Reservoir 1: Preservation, is out now on Black Truffle Records.

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    DANIEL ROMANO, FINALLY FREE (New West)

    The absurdly prolific chameleonic songwriter—and self-proclaimed “gardener of the landfill”—returns with his ninth album in as many years. Romano recorded Finally Free after a long stint of listening to the Incredible String Band. Check out the breathtaking opening track, “Empty Husk.”

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    PANCRACE,

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  • Feeling Good

    I DON'T KNOW WHETHER THERE IS ANY HOPE FOR OUR FUTURE, but if there is, it might be in experiences like the apartment concerts that composer/performer Jerome Ellis recently hosted in his 240-square-foot abode, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill. 

    I became aware of Ellis through his work with the writer and musician James Harrison Monaco. The two collaborate as “James and Jerome” in lecture-performances that effortlessly combine esoteric history, ecstatic storytelling, virtuosic music, art, theory, theater, and improvisation. (Their new show, The Conversationalists, begins a run at the

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  • Audience of One

    THE MAJOR LABEL SOLO MUSIC CAREER OF PETER IVERS, a figure defined in the popular imagination less by his personal achievements than by his proximities to stardom, has largely been eclipsed by his participation in two prototypical documents of the West Coast underground-gone-chic. The first is his song “In Heaven,” penned in 1974 for then American Film Institute student David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) and lip-synched in the film by a disfigured-cheeked Laurel Near; the second, his role as the host of New Wave Theatre, a short-lived cable-access variety show centered around live performances from

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  • Fourth-Best Wins

    “WE ARE FOURTH-BEST note-for-close KISS tribute band from Volga region”: This is how the members of KISK introduce their act as they take to the stage, faces slathered in the original lineup’s familiar white paint with black Kabuki-like touches. “Demon,” “Starchild,” “Spaceman,” and “Catman”—all are present and accounted for. It was back in the early 1970s in New York City that Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley dreamt up these instantly recognizable, cartoonish avatars as the delivery vehicles for their ultra-catchy stadium rock. In this reprisal by the team of Tony

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  • Standard Deviation

    HOW WOULD YOU SING, if you wanted to sing? Would you want to sound alluring, get the kids to swooning? Patty Waters, at the age of seventy-three, has her own answers to these questions, and few of them are immediately apparent. Dubbed “Priestess of the Avant-Garde” by JazzTimes, Waters grew up in Iowa, then moved, while in her teens, to San Francisco and eventually to New York, all to pursue her singing career. She now lives in California, as she has for decades.

    Waters is best known for two albums released on ESP-Disk in 1966—Sings, a studio album, and College Tour, a compilation of live

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  • Another Blue World

    THE LATEST INSTALLMENT IN FRKWYS, RVNG Intl’s series of musical collaborations between different generations, serenitatem pairs Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile of Portland’s Visible Cloaks with two key figures of Japan’s late-century ambient movement, Satsuki Shibano and Yoshio Ojima. Following Doran’s curation of Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980–1990, out last February from Light in the Attic, serenitatem is not only a seamless collaboration between these two closely related duos but also a continued exploration of the varied influences that informed kankyō

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  • Open Secrets

    I FIND IT USEFUL to think of Félicia Atkinson’s music—soaked through as it is with traces of places she has been and imagined—as a series of landscapes. This is an approach that’s more or less in line with how one might listen to most ambient music, which is what Atkinson’s music sort of is. While it’s not difficult to be absorbed, transported by the elegant melodic terrain the French artist-composer-poet constructs from a mix of analog and computer-generated sounds (piano, Wurlitzer, a digital gamelan), the trail through these spaces can be elusive. Should we let Atkinson’s voice, an interjection

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