- Underground Hip-Hop Giants Share the Family Jewels
- Savages Provide the Perfect Dreampunk Backdrop with ‘Silence Yourself’
Briar Rantilla, like any artist, has always sought out the most innovative and original methods of creating art. Rantilla says he got this concept from the teaching of the Greek philosopher Plato.
“Plato wrote about art saying how it would eventually become a copy of something else. And because of that, I have always tried to be non-representational with my art so it can’t be interpreted as something else,” said Rantilla.
Rantilla got started at a young age, but it wasn’t drawing that caught his interest in art it was film.
“When I was nine, I would plan films to make with my uncle when he would visit with his camera,” said Rantilla.
When Rantilla went to KentStateUniversity for his art degree, his course work only allowed him to focus in oil painting. But Rantilla still found a way to better his film skills.
“The journalism department had cameras that we could borrow and editing software and stuff. And there was a professor there I used to hang out with and he would teach me how to use them,” said Rantilla.
After college Rantilla began experimenting with various styles with his painting. Never going fully abstract, but not really painting in a realistic style either. It wasn’t until he began thinking about canvas sizes that he had a breakthrough.
“I began wondering, ‘Why are canvases the sizes they are?’ That’s when I started reading about the Fibonacci chain and the golden ratio,” said Rantilla.
The Fibonacci chain is a mathematical sequence in which every number is the sum of the two numbers preceding it. When put into effect, a spiral is created by joining all the corners of all the squares together.
It was then Rantilla turned artistic music to geometric shapes and Euclidian geometry.
“It goes back to Plato and what he said about copying other artists, which I had trouble with when I was in college, and since these shapes are based in math and are known figures, you can’t copy them,” Rantilla said.
But Rantilla doesn’t use a specific mathematical property to begin an art project; he just goes with the flow.
“I don’t actively sit down and say ‘all right, I’m going to sit down and use this method for this piece,’ I just go ‘oh wow, this looks really cool, let me try this,’ and I just riff off of it,” Rantilla said.
One of the most used shapes in Rantilla’s artwork is the hexagon.
“I’ve been doing a photography project were I’ve been going around and taking pictures of gumballs in gumball machines. Because they’re all the same size and they naturally create a hexagon. It’s also a shape that occurs naturally in snowflakes, which is something I also like to photograph,” said Rantilla.
Rantilla also uses this style in his video work for his band Rebreather, which he’s working on new visual material for the bands performance in August. You can also see Rantilla’s artwork as a mural in Warren.
While art isn’t his full time job, it’s still a major part of Rantilla’s life. And although he doesn’t get to participate in a lot of art shows, he still has lots of project he’s working on.
“It’s become too much a part of my life for me to just stop now. It’s become a big part of my identity. But I’m working on a few paintings now, and I’m working on a stop-motion project detailing some of my art projects.”
The following are examples of Rantilla’s visual art:
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
2013 has undoubtedly been a good year for hip-hop and rap music. MCs have been dropping albums, in very non-traditional ways (thank you Yeezus) left and right, making the timing perfect for two of the indie world’s hottest MCs to drop a joint-effort bomb.
So what do you get when you take the master beat producing genius El-P and the twisted lyrical whiz of Killer Mike? The answer is one of the most deliberate and promising hip-hop albums of the year, (sorry Yeezus), Run the Jewels.
Recently released as a free download, Run the Jewels is a joint album between frequent collaborators El-P and Killer Mike. Recapping last year, both artists released revolutionary monster albums, El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure and Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, both of which failed to make a huge splash on the charts, but struck a chord with fans and along the underground, making several year-end “best of” lists. Interestingly enough both album’s were loosely conceptual, placing focus on the entire album, rather than just a handful of singles. Now, they’ve decided to put their creativity side by side, and weave another warped masterpiece.
Run the Jewels isn’t nearly as much of an attack as Cancer 4 Cure or R.A.P. Music of last year were. It seems as though the two artists had a good time hanging out and creating music. However, that doesn’t mean Run the Jewels is to be taken lightly. The pounding title track kicks off the album, taking the listener by delightful surprise, only dropping hints of what’s to be laid out across the rest of the album.
It then ascends into “Banana Clipper” featuring Outkast’s Big Boi. Certainly a standout on the record, the chemistry between the three MCs is absolutely unrivaled. El-P’s razor sharp flow can be best described as John Bonham’s approach to the drums: Slamming, off beat, yet and uniquely precise. Killer Mike’s approach of letting the tone of his voice send shivers down the spine, contrasting to Big Boi’s soulful old-school flow.
As the album plays on, key tracks “36” Chain,” and “Sea Legs” deliver the goods, with solid beats and insane rhymes. The trippy themes of “Job Well Done” and the raunchy “Get It” showcase the many flavors Run the Jewels has to offer, infectiously grooving and eye brow-raising, thought provoking lyrics. Concluding the album, are two of the best cuts, “Twin Hype Back” and the ironic “A Christmas Fucking Miracle.”
Run the Jewels is just about everything you’d expect from a collaboration between El-P and Killer Mike; sick beats, bizarre story-telling and innovation. One of the best outcomes of the album is that it comes across a complete piece of work, not just a bunch of singles woven through filler. This is a trend that seems to be infiltrating hip-hop right now in the likes f Kanye West’s Yeezus, Jay-Z’s upcoming Magna Carta Holy Grail and last year’s epic from Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. The idea of bring the album complete work back, especially in a more mainstream context, is never a bad.
Clocking in at a mere 33 minutes, Run the Jewels is makes its point without overdoing it, leaving the listener full. It doesn’t linger, as there aren’t any real weak moments on the album. The chemistry is undeniable as these two artists put their best feet forward, dropping a very good record with the whole resulting in being greater than the sum of its parts.
Could El-P and Killer Mike be the Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg of this era? Judging by Run the Jewels, one could only hope.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Album: Silence Yourself
Release Date: 5/6/13
Sweeping reverb-drenched guitar and bouncing fuzzed out bass is what you’ll get throughout Silence Yourself, the debut album from the female-led British post-punk outfit Savages. Not only does it burrow its way into your psyche with its lush hypnotic soundscapes, but it’s an ever-so pleasant and refreshing twist on the early days of post-punk and shoegaze.
Since first arriving on the scene with last year’s underrated EP, I Am Here, and furthermore with Silence Yourself, Savages have perfected the sound of “dreampunk.” By taking the post-punk of Bauhaus and Joy Division, mixing with a heavy dose of Hum-esque dreampop and Slowdrive-esque shoegaze, then sprinkle in the quark of Queens of the Stone Age and the Screaming Trees and you have Silence Yourself.
Propelled by the haunting vocals of lead singer Jehnny Beth, Savages’ debut is a hard-hitting collection of 11 perfectly-woven songs. Launching with the spastic “Shut Up,” Beth’s vocal chilling vocals atop guitarist Gemma Thompson’s droning dissonance, Silence Yourself firmly establishes itself right off the bat.
From there, the thumping bass line of “I Am Here” and the soaring guitar of “City’s Full” reel the listener in with the driving dissonance, and pulsating rhythms. “She Will,” “No Face” and “Hit Me” continue to roll the punches, drenched in effect-heavy guitars and growling vocals. However, slow burners such as the tracks “Waiting For A Sign” and “Marshall Dear” showcase the band’s range and potential. After repeated listens, these “slower” tracks eventually leave more of an impact than the more immediate and up-beat tracks.
All in all, Silence Yourself is one of the more exciting of the post-punk revival albums in recent years. It doesn’t feel like an attempt at the genre, but more a natural progression of the musical style. Fans of this year’s My Bloody Valentine comeback record, The Knife’s new record and anything from Joy Division and New Order will surely dig Silence Yourself.
By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)
If The Priest of Bards were one of the Tarot archetypes, songster of the honest, obscure and esoteric, Damien Youth would be him.
This cult hero has been recording and performing since the late 80’s. The New Orleans native lives in humility in his same hometown as many bards of old would have, observing and recording the hidden corners of the human condition of his culture. The 60’s and 70’s saw the re-rising of the song/poet in folk and punk artists and Damien Youth is reminiscent of such as Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Tim Buckley, Donovan, Syd Barrett and Lou Reed. (Some of the artists which he also features lovely photography of on his social networks).
In fact, this Gen Yer discovered him about a year ago as a Facebook friend due to posts devoted to such heroes and when I looked deeper at this vast ocean of human, I was pleasantly surprised he was a developed artist himself. His long career and amassed discography notwithstanding, this newer fan attempted to reflect the depth that is Damien Youth, and a career retrospective for my “Picks of the Week” on the Raw Alternative Facebook page attempted to gather the types of songs he writes in their most potent versions.
Older recordings (many of which are only available on cassette) reverberate with a reflective tape hiss that well, 80’s kids can appreciate and younger generations may find ethereal. Newer recordings (some of which are self-recorded) feel more intimate, like his live performances in coffee houses of his home state Louisiana, along with Pennsylvania, California, and other geographical pockets where he has accrued a small but loyal following.
All recordings in the discography are listed on http://damienyouth.bandcamp.com/ and may be purchased in digital format. Many records can also be purchased as CD or vinyl. Physical copies of works which are available and encouraged. The artwork and being able to have his words to read in a lovely befitting package shall not disappoint.
In addition to the Picks of the Week recordings which begin to scratch the surface, here are a few live samples of the performer himself:
“Lies We Tell” 5/19/2012 lat The Grand Midway Hotel in Windber, PA for DraculaCon IV.
“Song for a World that Can’t Feel” 8/28/2011 at The Grand Midway Hotel in Windber, PA.
“The Fortune Teller” 9/17/2010 at Freaks and Wood Nymph Masquerade
Sanctuary Illuminarie in Covington, LA
By Jacob Alexander Brew
I had walked through
Through mire and sand
What I would wish for
Laden across this land
But the broken glass had lied to me
A statue of stone became weathered
Screams would follow suit
Deep seated lordship
Over dreams that I pursuit
Through mire and sand
I received scars of war
I could not go far
So long and far to fail
Chivalry was not dead in my heart
But the intolerance I held for fated misfortune
Made you look upon me with disdain
And so this regretful parasite would reign
I looked through mirrors
In mire and sand
I wanted to ask who
But my reflection would lie
Entrenched deep in a sigh
For now, nightfall sleeps upon the eyelids of serenity
Where flowers once bloomed
Now lovers mourn
I had drained the expectations of my forefathers
Triumph lay at the edge of consciousness
To where I no longer needed to feel
A delirium dissent
Demanding silently that I be who you want me to be
Yet your presence ensued
Yet you never said this
Only my mind spoke it
So far to fall
Confined in water
But drinking poison
But I cannot sleep with it spreading deep in my stomach
You beg me to sleep so that I no longer scream
Two lives promised in separation
So true was this lie
This failure legacy
It reaches the ears of whom I admire so deep
My love for you unyielding
My love for me withering
Incoherent speech came forth but crystalline thoughts were left unspoken
Two guardians stand over me as I fell
Morals and dignity broken
For what, I ask, be the purpose?
If all I wish was to be found
If mire and sand surround
By God or by Man
The shards of my reflection cut deep
There is blood in my past
Clinging to its mast
Dreamscapes through mire and sand
Now, it seems, they are damned
Can I float above this shifting ground?
Or will my dissent continue abound?
By Jacob Alexander Brew
I have scarred the nations
That were in
They cried out
I was victim to dream and damNation
By Jacob Alexander Brew
We made this oath on holy ground
You broke it
Trust we all had since the beginning
You betrayed it
All these promises we break
All this hell we wake
We plan and plan for weeks upon weeks
Only to break this off at last minute
Why do you cry when it’s clearly your fault?
You put this upon yourself
There’s no one to save you no one to stop the fall
You put this upon yourself you broke the oath
This oath was sacred
Forged in the dawn of time
Many have carelessly broken it numerous times
Nobody took heed to listen to these rhymes
My lines are cryptic but tell a good lesson
To always treat your lover with sweet affection
For those who don’t will lead a lonely life
Because no one will be there to heal your strife
By Joel Anderson (Art and Poetry Editor)
Lyrical abstraction is classified by free flowing, expressive, loose, and experimental and abstract movements. And those qualities are exemplified in the work of Dan Christensen.
Dan Christensen began his art career in New York City as an abstract painter in the late 60’s. A graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, Christensen rejected his realism training for the more expressive and freer abstract movement.
Christensen’s early work utilized spray guns. During this phase, Christensen created his “spray loops” series, which are still some of his most famous pieces today. The series is characterized by the look of someone who has been doodling on notebook paper with colored pencils. Christensen was one of the first American painters to popularize the technique.
Christensen’s art work wasn’t limited to just lyrical abstraction. Christensen also painted in Color Field, post-minimalism, and Abstract Expressionism; made famous by one of Christensen’s early influence’s Jackson Pollock.
Some of his most famous paintings from the color field era are his series of paintings called the “Plaid” series. In which Christensen used house painting rollers and window washing squeegees to produce the large square and rectangular images. The Spanierman Gallery LLC describes Christensen’s art as “original, surprising, and filled with joy, exuberance, and pleasure in the act of painting.” Art critic Clement Greenberg described Dan Christensen as “one of the painters on whom the course of American Art depends.”
And it’s not hard to see why. Through his art, and unconventional means of creating it, Christensen has laid the ground work for many modern artists to use the same methods in their own work. In particular, his lines from his spray paint era are clear in the modern computer graphic design from today.
In 2001, a retrospective of Christensen’s art was displayed at the Butler Institute of American Art, in Youngstown, OH. Christensen has permanent exhibits at The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington, DC., the Chicago Art Institute, the Nelson-Atkins Museum Kansas City, Missouri, Boca Raton Museum of Art and dozens of others.
Although he tried moving away from the style he pioneered, Christensen will still be closely associated with the spray paint art from his early career. It still leaps with excited exuberance from when it was created in the 60s.