July 9, 2016, saw another edition of The Red Party at Mercury Lounge next door to the old Bank on East Houston, where Manhattan’s SoHo meets the Lower East Side. Founding host and DJ, Sean Templar was joined by Jarek (The Raven) Zelazny and Valefar Malefic of Memento Mori. Their combined efforts, not to mention skills at the DJ booth, compelled the crowd to dance to the point of exhaustion into the early morning hours.
A special treat was an appearance by electronic Brooklyn trio Tiers, whose morose, minor-key and melodious set featured singer Jennifer Mears on synthesizer, Glen Maryansky on another set of keyboards as well as electric drums and Chad Dziewior on guitar. The audience was literally enthralled by the captivating and pleasurable melodies, particularly as sounded by the stunningly beautiful female vocalist. I would advise anybody with a taste for coldwave to check them out on Bandcamp.
Modest Mouse And Brand New At The Mann Center
On July 16, this cavernous venue was filled to overflowing with clean-cut, collegiate-looking youths for performances by dual headliners Modest Mouse, currently of Portland, Oregon, and Long Islanders, Brand New. Not more than a handful of black-clad Goth kids were to be seen amidst the freshly groomed, sandaled and cut-off clad throngs that filled every seat and lawn position plus stairs, balcony and a tiny upfront pit.
Mouse opened at 7:10 pm with “Satin in a Coffin,” the heavily cadenced, banjo-driven piece that asks the ironic question, “Are you dead or are you sleeping?” and answers it with, “I sure hope you are dead,” from Good News for People Who Love Bad News. The pace picked up with “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” from The Moon and Antarctica. They then reached back to the 1999 “Building Nothing Out of Something,” from Never Ending Math Equation.
Most songs were drawn from “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” (2004) and the freshly released “Strangers To Ourselves” (2015). Two complete drum sets and a third percussionist helped create a bombastic soundscape suited to lead singer/guitarist and banjo player Isaac Brock’s frantic and frenetic delivery. Brock was supported by the eye-catching vocalist, violinist and keyboardist Lisa Molinaro and the usual suspects of the current lineup, which included a second keyboard, ukulele, bass, and the occasionally popping up of a trumpet and a tuba. They played 15 songs for over an hour and ended—without an encore—with “The View” from Good News.
Brand New, led by vocalist Jesse Lacey and guitarist Vincent Accardi, opened with “Sink,” a heavily cadenced song that clearly reflects their professed admiration for the older and preceding band, Modest Mouse. They moved into the heartbreaking “Tautou” and the upbeat “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades,” playing in all 18 songs, emphasizing emotional-fragility, each performed in a bombastic, almost ballistic style. A traditionally wild mosh pit of enthusiastic punk-dancers and crowd surfers arose in the relatively tiny, upfront space allocated for it. Toward the end of the set they drew upon the latest album with the title track “I Am a Nightmare,” the spectacular and melodious anthem “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” and, finally, the explosive “You Won’t Know.”
Memento Mori, the monthly death rock-laden, deep Goth dance night at creepy Bedlam in Alphabet City, got sabotaged on July 28 when the proprietors locked out hosts and guests, necessitating a rapid-response announcement on Facebook and last-minute change of venue. This was accomplished thanks to some fast footwork and string-pulling by one of the three resident DJs, Mike Stalagmike, who managed to gain access to the downstairs party space at the Pyramid where he also hosts long-running Defcon. Fabulously attired and groomed co-hosts Malefic and Bela Lugosi Alex, greeted early arrivals and led their ancillary staff and attendees on the two-block journey across town from Avenue C to Avenue A, where quickly applied room decorations restored the morbid atmosphere. The musical selections remained true to Memento Mori’s pitch-black style, and the night was more than salvaged.
Fans of the eccentric industrial band Laibach filled the lecture space at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum on a Thursday night, August 4, to witness a presentation by Charles Lewis, diplomat of the “Avant Garde Art Collective and Virtual State” calling itself NSK, short for Neue Slowenische Kunst. Introduced by gracious events-coordinator Laetitia Barbier, Lewis gave a talk and slideshow presentation that provided an excellent recap of the history and the philosophy behind the collective and Laibach itself.
During the Cold War, he informed listeners, the conglomerate entity, Yugoslavia, was a Communist state similar to, but independent from and smaller than the U.S.S.R. Rebellious artists within the Slovenian branch of Yugoslavia got together and formed this art collective to subvert and undermine the official state narrative. In order to do so without incurring the wrath of the Communist authorities, however, they adopted a really weird and unique approach. Instead of overtly criticizing the ideology of oppression they—to use their own terminology—“appropriated” it.
Thus the fine arts wing of NSK, called Irwin, rehashed the Socialist Realism of Marxist and Nazi art fragments into enigmatic “appropriations.” German, the language of recent Nazi occupation of Slovenia during World War II, became the language for labeling their brand and their creations. Laibach, the band, “re-capitulated” (again, their term) a wide range of Western music—from the Beatles to Queen—in bombastic, nationalistic anthems, all the while wearing fascistic uniforms and surrounded by chauvinistic fanfare. They called this process “over-identification.” They drew attention to the contrast between the happy-face utopianism promoted by the state and the brutal oppression forthcoming from authoritarian governments.
As the Cold War drew to a close, the nation of Slovenia—perhaps in response to the unsettling effect of Laibach and NSK—seceded from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence in 1991. In no time, the entire conglomerate super-state, Yugoslavia, fell apart, and the Balkan Wars erupted, leading to the bloody siege of Sarajevo from 1992 – 1996.
Right in the middle of this, NSK declared itself a “virtual state,” issuing citizenship, currency and passports. They set up locations not only in Slovenia but in the heart of war-torn Sarajevo and in Moscow, and threw citizenship open to followers from around the world including Europe, the USA and even Nigeria.
Questions and answers followed and there was group discussion and the showing of Laibach’s inscrutable video of their cover of the Beatles’ “Across The Universe.” Everyone seemed to come away tremendously impressed with Charles Lewis’ erudite exposition, with the unfathomable NSK and with the uniqueness of the host of the event, Morbid Anatomy Museum.