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All posts for the month April, 2013

The icon "Dark Side of the Moon" cover art, designed by the late Storm Thorgerson.

The iconic “Dark Side of the Moon” cover art, designed by the late Storm Thorgerson.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Since it’s incarnation, Rock and Roll has spawned hundreds of stand-out, must-have records with diverse and eclectic sounds. But very few have served as a rite of passage for an entire generation like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

Released in 1973, Dark Side of the Moon began as an extended piece of music called “Eclipse: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics” that the band would play in the middle of their sets in the early 70’s. However, by late ’72, the band headed for the studio to lay down this epic conceptual masterpiece, not knowing they would change the course of history in the process.

After losing the genius of their original lead songwriter and guitarist, Syd Barret, Pink Floyd recruited guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour in 1968 and spent their next five albums heavily experimenting, trying to find a sound. They grew acclaim from the underground and rising progressive rock community and enjoyed modest success in their native England. But it wasn’t until Dark Side of the Moon, their seventh studio album, that they finally broke into the international scene and became stadium-sized rock stars, a status which they grew to resent.

Upon it’s release, Dark Side of the Moon became an instant hit. It’s a concept album, dealing with the pressures of entering adulthood, and viewing the world as such. It touches on themes of personal anguish, extroverted resentment and the reoccurring theme of lunacy throughout. By the time of the album’s release, the members of Pink Floyd were all in their late 20’s, approaching their 30’s. It has moments of angst, but filtered through the frustrations of an adult.

“And then one day you’ll find, ten years have got behind you. No one told you where to run. You missed the starting gun,” are the lyrics to classic hit single “Time,” penned by bassist and then-lead songwriter, Roger Waters. They serve as example of what not only the band, but much of their generation was feeling at the time: “What the hell happened to our dreams of changing the world?”

The album opens with the spoken line, “I’ve been mad for fucking years. Absolutely years,” before culminating into a series of noises leading into the spacey “Breathe.” From there, one of the first hints of what would become techno music, “On The Run” blasts off into sonic paranoia leading into the epic “Time,” featuring some of the best guitar work David Gilmour has ever recorded, and that’s saying a lot! Side One of the album closes with the haunting “Great Gig in the Sky,” featuring the a beautiful piano composition by keyboardist Rick Wright and chilling vocal shrills by female session vocalist Clare Torry.

Side Two begins with arguably the band’s most successful single, “Money.” Ironically, this anthem railing against greed and indulgence served as their ticket to stardom, breaking them across the pond in America and beyond. “Money,” which in it’s opening sequence featured an early form of the technique of sampling, is also a very unconventional rock hit. It’s 7/3 time signature, over a very English bass line, contradicts the bluesy vocals. Even more unconventional is the jazzy saxophone solo performed by the great Dick Perry before the song climaxes back into a traditional 4/4 rock time signature for another ripping Gilmour guitar solo.

From there, the mellower “Us and Them” and psychedelic “Any Colour You Like” continue enchanting listeners on this sonic journey, leading them straight into the beautiful and chaotic closing tracks, “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse.”

“And everything under the sun is tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon,” is the last line sung before closing with one last haunting spoken line, “There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”

After the success of Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd went on to continued growing success. Late 70’s punk did little to slow them down, as their 1979 album, The Wall, became another cultural and artistic benchmark and multi-platinum seller. After 1983’s The Final Cut, Roger Waters left Pink Floyd and enjoyed a successful solo career. Pink Floyd continued making records up until 1994’s The Division Bell, where they went into an unofficial retirement. Waters rejoined Pink Floyd for a brief 20-minute set at 2005’s Live 8 global benefit concert, and it was the last time the Dark Side-era Pink Floyd had performed together.

In 2008, Rick Wright died of cancer, and Pink Floyd was finally put to rest. Waters still tours, usually playing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety, and has been occasionally joined by Gilmour and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.

40 years later, Dark Side of the Moon is continuing to sell, with a cultural impact that has not weakened. It remained in the top 200 albums for 10 years, and is one of the top-selling albums of all-time, just behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The album featured a sound that was years ahead of it’s time, and became a must-have for rock fans of the generation. However, as the years pass, newer generations are falling in love with it all over again. Perhaps its subject matter, angry yet thought-provoking, is an issue that teens and young adults of all generations and all walks of life can relate to.

A documentary on the making of Dark Side of the Moon can be seen here.

The Knife. Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com

The Knife. Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

After seven years and a handful of lackluster EPs, Swedish electronic duo The Knife return to the scene with what may very well be their strongest effort to date.

Shaking the Habitual, the sibling duo’s fourth full-length release, is a hard-hitting slice of experimental ambient art-pop perfection. With quirky loops set to odd rhythmic structures, the double-album has moments of Skinny Puppy-like darkness and noise clashing with My Bloody Valentine’s pop-like vocal approach. What’s groundbreaking is the overall catchiness to the otherwise difficult-to-listen-to music.

“We use conventional instruments and play them in an unconventional way,” said lead singer Karin Östberg on a recent short film to promote Shaking the Habitual.

Until recently, The Knife have yet to break to a modest American audience. Popular in Europe, the duo have even won a Grammy award in Germany, to which they protested. The Knife have a reputation for being anti-music industry and tend to reject conventional approaches to being signed artists. Up until their last album, 2006’s Silent Shout, they did not play live. Their live shows now consist of what they refer to as “absurd aerobics” and “danceoke.”

With a handful of festival dates lined up through the summer, as well as an extensive American tour planned, The Knife are certain to make waves amongst the underground electronic, goth and indie scenes respectively.

The lead track and current single off Shaking the Habitual, “A Tooth For An Eye,” has already made an impression with the hipsters through the likes of Pitchfork.com and Rolling Stone. It’s kooky eccentricity is its charm, giving a proper introduction to the unexpectedness that’s to come.

From there, the album takes a dark turn as it kicks into the eight-minute “Full of Fire,” a track that sounds like it could have been recorded by Skinny Puppy 25 years ago, followed by the evocative and creepy “A Cherry on Top.” There are no verses and no choruses in any of the songs, just an on-going sonic ride with plenty of dangerous winding curves. Continuing forward, the album comes up for air with the lighter sounding “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” before getting back to the darkness on “Wrap Your Arms Around Me.” Disc one of Shaking the Habitual closes with the quieter 19-minute track, “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized,” mostly consisting of pure noise.

Disc two launches with “Raging Lung,” an early Nine Inch Nails-sounding track with a bit of a thump to it. This doesn’t continue for long and the avant-garde returns with “Networking” and “Oryx.” Shaking the Habitual concludes with two of its best offerings, “Fracking Injection Fluid” (Strikingly relevant to those living in the Youngstown, Ohio area) and the unpredictable “Ready To Lose.”

Both sonically and thematically, Shaking the Habitual is not exactly a feel-good album. Its primary influences are gender theory, feminism and queer theory, with lyrics that are just as thought provoking as they can be unsettling at times. However, they are metaphorical and introduce some interesting perspectives. Progressively thinking, the duo stated that among some of the socio-political ideas expressed throughout the album is that of the denouncement of the modern “nuclear family” idea, claiming it to be “an institution that conserves inequality, injustice and exclusion.”

“People would be happier sharing things and being much more of a collective rather than working from these neo-liberal ideas of just looking after yourself,” stated Östberg in an interview with Pitchfork.com.

Shaking the Habitual is not the most accessible sounding record and will most likely not be heard on mainstream outlets anytime soon. It’s not music you would want to put on in any kind of conventional social context either. Keep in mind, The Knife aren’t your typical musical act. A Radiohead for a new generation perhaps. And what they have crafted is a masterpiece in one of the most ambitious and intelligent pieces of music to be released in the past year.

Musically,  it’s top-notch. Experimental, yet pleasing to fans of electronic and indie. Lyrically and thematically, it’s a record that’ll make you think, and will take a few listens to fully get what’s going on. But that’s a good thing. Not often does and album litterally shake up the habitual predictable noise we’re all too familiar with.

An original painting by Salvador Dali.

Salvador Dali: A Surreal Renaissance Man

By Joel Anderson (Art & Poetry Editor)

Salvador Dali, an artist many associate with the Surrealist movement, was much more than a painter. He was a photographer, a film maker, a sculptor and an author. Indeed, one could say Dali was much like the Renaissance painter he was inspired by, always looking to new avenues and techniques to incorporate in his artwork.

Dali began his art career at the age of 12, when he began doing charcoal while vacationing with his family. And although his father was hesitant, Dali was sent to art school. Dali became involved in the Surrealist movement while in university.

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision,” said Dali.

Perhaps his most famous work from this period would be his The Persistence of Memory. With many people theorizing the melting clocks are linked to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

While he’s associated with the movement, he didn’t associate himself with all their ideologies, in particular their communist beliefs. But, one thing he had in common with the surrealist was the influence of Sigmund Freud in his work.

Many of his earlier paintings delved into the psychoanalytical studies of Freud and the subconscious. Dali created his own technique called the paranoic-critical method in order to bring in the concepts of paranoia and subconscious into his art.

Dali described the paranoiac-critical method as a “spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic objectivity of the associations and interpretations of delirious phenomena.”

Employing the method when creating a work of art uses an active imagination to visualize the images and incorporate them into the final art work. An example of the resulting work is a double image or multiple images in which an ambiguous image can be interpreted in different ways.

But by the 1940’s Dali and the Surrealists had parted ways and Dali had begun to concentrate on science; particularly physics and the atom, and many religious themes. He called this time his Nuclear Mysticism phase.

“We are all hungry and thirsty for concrete images. Abstract art will have been good for one thing: to restore its exact virginity to figurative art,” said Dali.

He would continue painting in this phase until the death of his wife in 1982. Once she passed, Dali all but stopped painting. He died in 1989 of heart failure.

It’s hard to overlook Dali in the world of modern art. Even if art critics want to downplay his influence due to his popularity, it can’t be ignored in the works of artists that have followed him.

Though his art was created over 70 years ago, they still look fresh and contemporary. And, much like Escher, Dali’s art can still be seen in the dorm rooms of colleges everywhere.

But there’s more to Dali than his art, there’s also his personality, which was so over the top and flamboyant, like his art, that he has lived on much like his art has.