Alt Pop

Air Devi writes songs about moving and mosquitos

Air Devi is both a band and a person which is like a PJ Harvey kind of deal. And also like PJ Harvey, she's got some serious musical and songwriting chops. Air Devi, the person, is alternatiely know as Devi Majeske and she's a violinist, sitarist, guitarist, bass guitarist, keyboardist, and a fairly recent U. Penn grad who writes cool songs that come across pretty laid back at first but then get under your skin and into your heart and head. Like on the recent single “Mosquitos in the Backyard,” a song that floats by like a big marshmallow cloud and with images of “wash lines swaying” and “lush perfume hanging” to match. Except when you dig a little deeper it's not all strawberries and cream because the song appears to either be about contracting malaria and/or it's a pretty brutal take down of a pest and narcissist with lines like “you’ll feed on anything that breathes / you never loved anything." Another clever touch is how the choruses sound a little bit like a buzzing mosquito with the chopped-up guitar chords and circling bass line on the high strings so there's much to comtemplate here.

Air Devi draws from diverse musical roots ranging from first-wave punk to Bollywood soundtracks to bedroom singer-songwriter pop to folkie psychedelia but there’s one recurring motif to my ears in how she/they often combine a blissed out vibe in the music and vocals with lyrics that are a series of sharply observed slices-of-life and streams-of-consciousness--pulling from disperate stands of thought and stands of identity and even from different languages with code-switching into French and Gujarati on a handful of songs. 

The latter Indo-language is heard on “Move Without Place," a song that rotates gracefully between styles—the Gujarati comes at the end of a sequence that moves first from ambient indie pop to a syncopated baggy beat with a Bollywood-like vocal melody and then Air Devi wondering aloud “Am I colonizable? Capitalizable?” when everything suddenly stops for a split-second and a bell chimes and then it goes into what sounds like traditional Hindustani music complete with dholak drumming, which is simlilar to a tabla but double-headed, and electric guitar and entrancing ornamented singing but then it all unwinds down to a single repeated guitar note and then back to the syncopated beat with the amibient indie pop backing and back around again. The restless musical arrangement perfectly captures the theme of the song to "move without place [and] make my own space" even if one's skin and the whole world itself is "splintered" and "sensitive."

It's all equally visceral and heady stuff--a dialectic that can be applied to much of Air Devi's music in my humble opinion. But you can make up your own mind by listening to the two aforementioned singles and then 2020’s Swanning About EP above ("No Clearances" is a particuarly lovely statement of purpose). And if you need more you can check out earlier singles like "Standoffish" and "Alchemist" and the stripped-down DIY of 2018's Chicken Nuggies & Rosé EP with some of its contents later rearranged in full-band form on Swanning such as "My Landlord Is An Asshole!" and who can really argue with a sentiment like that. And then, if that's not enough, you can dig into Air Devi's Soundcloud page and find even earlier works like the anti-Putin diss track "Kremlin Bop" that doubles as a Ramones-like sing-a-long with the title perhaps even being an homage to said band. 


But hey let’s not fixate on the past because cheap nostalgia is so 2020. And plus it'll be even more interesting to see and hear what Air Devi does next. (Jason Lee)

 

   

Starchild's recent live set from outer space

The first Earthly arrival of Starchild was mid-wifed from within George Clinton’s Afrofuturist musical universe (which I'll gladly take over the Marvel Universe any day, just take a look at the “P-Funk Mythology” page on Wikipedia) arriving in this world via the 1975 Parliament single “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” where our titular hero announced to Earthlings that “we have returned to reclaim the Pyramids” before introducing the “Swing down, sweet chariot” hook later sampled on Dr. Dre’s 1993 hit “Let Me Ride” which introduced P-Funk via G-Funk to Generation X.

Well the second coming has come. And Brooklyn is the lucky host to the reincarnated Starchild in the form of Bryndon Cook. Having travelled the universe and beyond before landing permanently in these parts, this Starchild keeps some pretty rarified company having logged time as touring guitarist for Solange and Chairlift and Blood Orange, while also collaborating with the latter as VeilHymn, before venturing out as front-alien for Starchild & The New Romantic—a project that melds Cook’s R&B and hip hop and indie rock ‘n pop leanings into one musical package and very effectively so on the album released last year called Forever.

And more recently Starchild was shot back out into outer space ET-style to perform a couple live-streamed sets on Elsewhere Sound Space, a monthly series broadcast on the über-äwesome nightclub’s Twitch channel, all originating from an undisclosed location aboard a spaceship marooned in a galaxy far, far away. And lucky for us the Starchild episode is still available to stream and you won’t regret the alien encounter because Bryndon Cook’s heartfelt musical vignettes set in the midst of some pretty trippy sci-fi visuals is likely to make your soul leave your body especially on his final number “Silent Disco,” a transcendent ditty during which Starchild’s soul does in fact visibly leave his Earthbound bodysuit behind and enter another dimension.

Based on the first couple of episodes of Elsewhere Sound Space with their eerie eye candy tableaux and occasional space lizard appearances combined with cosmic musical numbers interspersed with broad comedy segments (double entendre not intended) the overall effect is like a surrealist mashup of the movie version of Dune and the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special, except that the campiness found on this mothership is clearly neither unintentional nor apolitical (take that Susan Sontag!) and instead of Bea Arthur serenading the Cantina Bar you get Princess Nokia and Starchild and in the next installment this Tuesday Brooklyn rapper and NYC mayoral candidate Paperboy Prince serenading all of us pod people out here wandering aimlessly in cyberspace.

And isn't it about time someone presented a compellingly queer vision of outer space and damn if the team at Elsewhere Sound Space--fronted by the program's emcee Peter Smith who as "a music deity marooned in space" radiates warmth into the coldest reaches of universe, check out the profile published in the NY Times titled “Five Nonbinary Comics on This Moment”—haven’t done it. Because c’mon even your neighborhood quantum physicist knows that outer space is all about relativity and multi-dimensionality and the bending of timespace which all sounds pretty queer to me. (Jason Lee)

   

Patriarchy takes on the patriarchy with a Reverse Circumcision

The musical project Patriarchy excels at much of what the patriarchy itself hates and fears most—like when a woman chooses to express herself in a sexually uninhibited manner or insists upon her own agency or mocks the self-serving rules and taboos of the patriarchy through sharp satirical humor or creates music that signifies and demands the power and the privilege inherent in not giving a fuck.

Quoting directly from their song “Hell Was Full,” it’s this writer’s theory that lead singer/songwriter/stylist/director and actress Actually Huizenga—one half of the self-described snuff-pop duo—has taken on the proverbial role of “the apple in the pig’s mouth [that’s] trying hard as fuck to swallow,” bringing about the downfall of the patriarchal pig whom she compels to “choke, choke, choke, choke” on his own lust and greed and “on the words that you never knew the meaning of” where one of those words could be “patriarchy” itself since Patriarchy clearly has a thing or two to teach about domination and authority. But whatever the validity of this interpretation you can and probably should click HERE for Huizenga’s own compellingly clear-eyed view of the patriarchy and of Patriarchy.

Patriarchy is the nom de bande of Huizenga alongside co-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Means (3Teeth) and their overall vibe and sound is perfectly summed up in the promotional copy that accompanied their late-2019 debut Asking For It so I’ll just quote from it here (paraphrasing slightly) with the album described as “a work exploring themes of sex, power, subversion & death with what appears to be an intense interest in Ancient Greek Mythology & 80's slasher films, a heavy dose of Mulholland Drive, and a sound that is equal parts ABBA and NIN but leaning more toward the darker, heavier side of synth-punk/new-wave & industrial music.”

Skipping ahead to the present, earlier this year Patriarchy released Reverse Circumcision which true to its title adds new layers of transplanted “sonic skin” to songs first heard on Asking For It with individual tracks remixed and reimagined by a cavalcade of all-stars from EBM to industrial, darkwave to dream pop, ranging from key members of legends like Nitzer Ebb and Front Line Assembly and This Mortal Coil to fellow Angelinos like Drab Majesty (who adds a death disco sheen to “Burn the Witch”) and Geneva Jacuzzi (who turns “I Don’t Want To Die” into a pulsating electro-funk workout) and plenty of others who all combined will make you wanna “take your dick out and put it on the speaker” as commanded by Ms. Huizenga in the opening lines of “He Took It Out.” And don’t fret if you don’t have that particular appendage because everyone knows the phallus is nothing but a cultural construct so put your cultural construct on the speaker instead should you so choose.

One other neat thing about Reverse Circumcision is getting to hear different interpretations of the same track as we do for two Patriarchy originals. But the single takes are equally compelling, like the version of “Grind Your Bones” by Rhys Fulber (Front Line Assembly, Delerium) wherein he takes one of Patriarchy’s heavier riff-based numbers (“as the vultures tear / at your underwear / I’ll be there”) and surgically removes the riff and cuts up the song’s lyrics, transmutating the whole into a glitchy miasma of sound that’s either incredibly sensuous or cataclysmic or both, depending on your own ears, culminating with doomy ethereal synth chords and a distorted feral howl.

And if this gets your goat you can see and hear Rhys Fulber, along with Bon Harris of Nitzer Ebb, in conversation with Ms. Huizenga on Patriarchy’s recently live-streamed Bottom of the Pops (nice title) that first aired as a Christmas special (!!) featuring performances not available elsewhere plus some seasonally appropriate HSN style shopping segments. Just be forewarned this Xmas special is a long way from Burl Ives and not for the delicate of constitution which in our book makes it the best possible kind of Christmas special. 

And speaking of special, the follow up to Bottom of the Pops is on its way, slated to stream on March 20 at 6pm PST/9pm EST so check out Patriarchy’s Youtube channel and mark your calendars and while you’re waiting feast your eyes on some of Patriarchy’s existing music videos (plus Actually’s pre-Patriarchy body of work) because these self-directed clips tend to be visually lavish and gleefully transgressive and slyly amusing and overall something to behold. 

Which at last brings us (or maybe just me) full circle since I first learned about Actually Huizenga through the music visual dramatical arts—namely, her inspired performance in the likewise inspired Cody Critcheloe (aka SSION) directed clip for Lower Dens’ “To Die in L.A.” in which Huizenga commands the screen as an aspiring Hollywood screen siren who’s prone to waking dreams relating to bloody tooth trauma and buff pool boys and award acceptance speeches. (Jason Lee) 

   

Jake Hays is scary good in new single "Overcomplicated"

Jake Hays jumps into his new single “Overcomplicated” with sufficient swag: his vibrant vocals, glazed with reverb, strut to a sexy drum rhythm, and a pulsing bassline that adds a sweet caramel groove to that. Hays discusses in the song the complexities of bad first dates, their brevity, and vast potential for comedic/horrific stories - based on the Goosebumps tribute music video, perhaps it is the latter? With its bouncy choruses and continuous sonic edge, “Overcomplicated” keeps its appeal simple and its theme the perfect conversation-starter piece. Stream “Overcomplicated” below for a thriller-fun video and a song that is scary good. - René Cobar

   

Alt Pop

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