This? week? I? attended ?the Light? and? Architecture? symposium? at ?the? Kolding? School ?of? Design ?in ?Denmark. The event played ?host to? one of the forerunners in innovative Textile Design speaker ?Reiko? Sudo ?co? founder? and? director ?of? NUNO ?fabrics.??
The company have been granted numerous accolades and were recently given the Mainichi? Design? Award, viagra 100mg cure the Roscoe? Prize? and? the? Japanese? Interior? Designers’? Association? Design? Award.? The? talk? focused? on? NUNO‘s? last project?? designing? fabrics? for? the? Mandarin? Oriental? Hotel, side effects ? Tokyo.?
The? project? aim for the Mandarin Oriental was to convey? Japan’s? changing? seasons? and? is? inspired? by the natural elements? of? wood? and? water.? Reiko? explained how? they? applied? traditional? Japanese? handcraft? and fused it with unconventional? materials?. She? took? the? audience? on? a? beautiful? journey? of? Japanese? landscapes? through? the? forest? in? rainfall,? sunshine,? day? and? night.? All? elements? provide? inspiration? for? the? hotel’s? interior? design fabric?, from? the? root? and? texture? of? a? tree,? or? the? way? the? raindrops? bounce? from? leaf? to? leaf,? reflecting? rays? of? sunshine? across? the? forest? floor.? This? allowed? the? audience? to? visualise? the? source? of? inspiration? behind? each ?fabric? and? imagine ?the ?textural ?quality ?of? the ?cloth? without ?the? sense? of ?touch.?
After? introducing? her? inspirational? source for the fabrics, Reiko went on to? explain the methods of ?production.? For? example? to? recreate? the? beautiful? opalescent? sparkling rays? of? sunshine,? gold? embroidery? was? stitched? onto? transparent? fabric.
?The atmosphere? of? forest? at nightfall? was? created by? stitching? shiny? metallic? midnight? blue? against? ink? stained? handmade? paper.? This? extra? consideration? to? detail? brings? an ?experiential ?quality ?to ?the ?fabric ?emulating ?a? certain? ambiance.?
Reiko? was? a? truly? inspirational? speaker;? her? efforts? have? allowed? her? to? stay? true? to? Japanese? traditional? handcraft? whilst? experimenting? with? new? materials? to? create new? possibilities. ?This? visionary? approach? and? impeccable? attention? to? detail? project? an? original? yet honest? representation? of? Japanese ?culture.
Femke De Jong’s illustrations are multi-layered and intensively reworked collages, prostate they often explore the seemingly oppositional subjects of man and machine. She kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions and send us some lovely images to eyeball.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I am originally from the Netherlands and I lived in Amsterdam for about 10 years before I moved to Bristol 6 years ago. I come from a family of ‘makers’, especially my gran and my mum. I have always been interested in the visual arts, like all kids I spent a lot of time drawing and making ‘stuff’. I used to sit in the attic, reading old books, and especially loved the pictures in my dad’s science encyclopedias.
Also, I was kept back for a year in Kindergarten, the teachers there thought it would be good for me to play for another year.
How would you describe your work?
Surrealist collage, textural, playful, eclectic mishmash, a whiff of antiquety, whimsical.
What mediums do you use to create your illustrations?
A composition of drawings, collage (digital and hand-rendered) of elements and textures, layered up in the computer. I often scan hand-rendered drawings or textures in and work from thumbnails and ideas I make first. When inside the computer, I sometimes print out things again and then work into these prints. I try to keep that ‘organic’, hand-rendered feel in my work.
Collage is a strong element to your illustrations. What is it about using this technique that interests you?
Working with collage gives me a lot of freedom, to mix different elements and ideas, to get to a ‘concoction’. When I was little I wanted to be an inventor, and in a way I still ‘invent’ illustrations.
Would you say you have certain themes which you visit in your illustrations?
I have always been interested in science, and often include mechanical bits in my illustrations.
I sometimes use it as an metaphore to emphasize the ‘clunky’ relationship between man and machine, or eg. the human doesn’t take responsibility for his/her actions, and acts as if he/she is programmed to do so. Themes like science, and environmental issues interest me.
Do you think that the fact that you were raised in the Netherlands has affected your work in anyway?
I think my view is from a more ‘Dutch’ angle. I moved here about six years ago and even though I dream in English, Dutch normality is still present in the back of my head. Dutch sayings and expressions often pop up, and I find them visually stimulating. I think they drive a lot of the ideas in my work.
I really appreciate the British sense of humour for it’s absurd and macabre satire, like Monty Python and League of Gentlemen.
Is there a Dutch and an English illustration style?
The Dutch love their very bright colour palette, which is a little too bright for my liking. My colour palette seems to go towards more muted colours.
A lot of illustration in the Netherlands seems to me to be direct, conceptual and design led, and more minimalist whilst British illustration seems to be more romantic and eccentric.
In England, there is a big affection and tolerance of the eccentric, whilst in the Netherlands there is a saying: ‘Act normal, you’re mad enough as you are.’
How do you like living in Bristol? Have you ever considered living in london like many creatives do?
I live with my boyfriend in a fairly central bit of Bristol. Bristol is a lively student city, there are always plenty of things to do here, as well I know a lot of fellow-illustrators here, like the collective ‘Hot Soup’. I’m actually thinking about living more in the countryside than we do now, so London would be a step in the other direction. Eventhough London is a very good place to be for creatives, and I have concidered moving there in the past, I now use the internet to plug myself, and visit London once every month/two months.
What are you working on at the moment?
This week I am working on a book cover, an editorial and an image that will appear in the book Lucidity.
What inspires you?
Many things. I’ve been called too eclectic before, but when a friend went to Amsterdam with me, she said: “I understand now where you come from, this place is like one of your collages”. Amsterdam is a melting pot of many cultures, colourful, lively and noisy. There’s lots of nooks and crannies, like an old curiosity shop.
In Amsterdam there is an independence in attitude, and the freedom to be expressive. I love walking around antique shops and flea markets, to get a feel of the old times.
Who are your favourite artists?
The Russian Avant-Garde constructivists like El Lissitzky and Rodchenko for their composition. Henrik Drescher, for his independent style and Paul Slater, because of his absurd and surrealist humour. Also Svankmajer, for his nightmarishly unsettling surrealities. I love Eastern European animation the grimness and absurdity they find in everyday topics. The world around us is sometimes unsettling and by depicting the world in a surreal way and making fun of it, helps.
How long do you usually work on one image?
It depends. For an editorial I usually work on the ideas and the roughs for a couple of hours, and then a bit longer on the finished piece.
When there’s a deadline, things always get done. When I don’t have the deadline, I revisit work more and things can take longer.
Have you done any commissioned work?
I have done are a book cover for the Bristol short story prize, which they used for the front cover of their quarterly mag. A CD cover for Furthernoise and some editorials for Management Today and Resource.
What would your dream project be?
In this order: A cover for New Scientist, to design a range of book covers, a series of books for older children.
Any project where I get a lot of freedom, eg. by working with an art editor who isn’t afraid to take risks.
Saturday saw a hoard of eager revellers descend on the Fym Fyg Bar in Bethnal Green for all the fun of the fair, this well vintage fair that is! You could tell news of the event had travelled far on the grape vine as bargainistas formed a snaking queue outside that, alas, fellow intern Sabrina and I fell victim to. After an exasperating wait we finally entered the vintage emporium, and it certainly was a visual feast as soon as you entered. The first sight to grab my attention was the stunningly nostaligic tea shoppe brought to us by the delightful ladies at Lady Luck Rules Ok! I couldn’t help being hypnotised by the endless array of cakes and beautifully clad tea ladies adorned in 50′s get ups! But determined to embark on my bargain hunt I managed to draw myself away from the alluring cupcakes and straight on to the stalls.
Highly reminiscent of a sweet shop rabble on a Saturday afternoon everyone was grabbing at the £5 a bag stalls, eagerly stuffing as much in as physically possible. There was a certain skill to this I established, you had to adopt a Tetris style approach to utilise the space to its full capacity. There certainly was enough to satisfy every nostalgic whim, I trawled through rows and rows of 50 and 60s aprons and pretty shift dresses, and then straight on to all the glamour and cabaret of the 70′s and 80′s in all their glittery excesses.
The Vintage Kilo stall, it has to be said, was my beeline and alas I was disappointed. I think most of Shoreditch had my idea so subsequently it descended into a cattle market, making it all too difficult to delve out those bargains. Maybe I am still a mere vintage fair novice; I think I was dealing with the pros.
The Jewellery was a real treat, I unearthered some stunning brooches, hat pins and charmingnecklaces, it really was a treasure trove of shimmery trinkets perfect for us magpies. There was also beautiful millinery ablaze with feathers and gems galore, taking us on a whirlwind tour through the roaring 40s to the swinging 60′s. I wished I could pull off some of the more flamboyant styles!
After more then sufficient vintage indulgence I decided it was definitely time to let my stomach do the talking and succumb to some well deserved tea and cake at Lady Lucks pop up tea shoppe. The décor was delightfully twee and had been consciously laid out to reflect individual decades spanning the 50s to the 80s. We were escorted right back to the 50s table which was brimming with vintage board games. The staples included Sorry, Bingo and Scrabble all definitive games from the era in my book! So after taking in the décor I launched straight into a hearty cup of tea and my delectable chocolate cup cake while my partner in crime went for the carrot cake.
So in all the consensus was a definite thumbs up for the affordable vintage fair, it’s safe to say I was vintaged out by the end! Keep your eyes out for the next one guys, it’s 25th April in Lincoln, well worth a visit!
Altermodern: Tate Triennial 2009
A multi media visual exploration of Altermodernism. Curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, there the co- founder of Palais de Tokyo in Paris, he describes Altermodern art as art made in today’s global context, a counter reaction to commercialism. The selection includes some of the best current British artist, alongside international artists who are working within similar themes.
Tate Britain Mill bank London SW1P 4RG
3rd Feb – 26th Apr 09 Daily 10am-5.50pm
BRIDGE 2 WORLDS
The launch and celabration of Indian modern art, curated by Radha Binod Sharma.
The show will feature works by 22 comtemporary Indian artist, some of whom have never exhibited outside of there own country.
Menier Gallery 51 Southwark Street London SE1 1RU
31. Mar – 9. Apr 09, free admission 11am – 6pm daily
The Mail Me Art Project
Run by Darren Di Lieto
The exhibition showcases a vast collection of artistic work sent in the form of mail by both professional and amateur artists of all ages from across the world as part of the 2007 Mail Me Art project. All of the work submitted to the Mail Me Art project is exhibited and available for purchase.
Red gate gallery
209a Coldharbour Lane Brixton London SW9 8RU
Friday 3rd to 9th of April 2009,
Gallery Opening Hours: Sat, Mon, Tues, Wed: 2.30 pm – 6.30 pm
Last day of Exhibition: Thurs 9th of April: 11.00am to 5.00pm
Through video, events and one-on-one engagement, Sock Exchange invites you to transforming your humble and odd socks into an exquisite art experience.
Also come sit and knit with other fellow knitters/makers. Show non-knitters how to knit their own sock and spread the sock appreciation.
Exhibiting alongside residents from Eyebeam’s Sustainability Research Group, Stefan Szczelkun, Melanie Gilligan.
Fact Gallery, Liverpool L1 4DQ
6th Apr – 12th Apr 09, Free admission 10-6pm
Crookes is an area of Sheffield popular with students and Joe Cocker pilgrims. One of wikipedia’s key facts about the area is that it is served by the number 52 bus. Be still, medications my beating heart.
But as I type a new band are causing something of a stir there ? it’s home to The Crookes: a baby-faced guitar wielding folk/pop/acoustic outfit. They deliver tender, more about sweet melodies and simple, stripped songs that are a good old fashioned treat for the ears.
They’ve played a handful of gigs in London recently and are picking up a steady stream of fans, with Steve Lamacq at the front of the line like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, harping on about them on his blog and radio show.
The Crookes have a great stage presence and ooze charisma – without the arrogance associated with a good few of their contemporaries. Hey, they’ll even join you off the stage for a couple of numbers and charm you with their raw, acoustic and unplugged talent if you ask nicely (or not at all, actually). They have an experimental sound, incorporating toy guitars, harmonicas and banjos into their gigs, complimented by lead Goerge’s dulcet vocals.
We caught up with George, Alex, Daniel and Russell at their recent Stoke Newington gig:
Hailing from Sheffield, people will compare you to it’s famous exports: Artic Monkeys, Pulp, Harrisons, Peter Stringfellow. Help or hinderance?
R: We haven’t been compared to Peter Stringfellow, as yet. The only comparison we’ve really had was to Treebound Story. We stole Richard Hawley’s drum sticks recently (he uses the same studios), though we don’t really want to live up to our name.
What was the last song you recorded and why?
D: By The Seine, which has a bit of a different sound. It’s about a pavement artist I saw who’s pictures kept getting washed away when it started raining. We’re going to be playing it at a live session we’re doing in Paris in the summer… playing there’s always been a big ambition of ours.
What have you got in store for the rest of the year?
G: We’re moving in together to give it a proper go. Apparently our future neighbor is deaf…so at least we can’t annoy him!
A: George wants to be a postman for a while.
Will there be an album?
R: Hopefully in the next year or so…but we want to take our time and make sure when we do it’s reflective of our best efforts.
What’s the best thing about Crookes?
D: It has a nice lake.
G: There’s a great chip shop called ‘New Cod on the Block.’ Actually, I’ve never been ? it might be pretty average, but I like the name.
Any band dramas?
A: Russell once vandalized the dressing rooms at Plug in Sheffield… he was making a cup of tea and pulled the cupboard off the wall..he then spent about 20 minutes trying to fix it before the house manager found out and refused to pay us.
Do you prefer to perform unplugged or do you prefer to present a more produced sound?
G: Either, really, but we are playing at the Holmfirth Festival of Folk at the beginning of May which is going to be an unplugged set…we’re really looking forward to it.
R: …And we’re going to play an acoustic set on Margate Pier in the summer sometime…we have a thing for playing interesting venues.
You supported Slow Club (friends of Amelia’s magazine). How was that?
A: We’ve all been to see them loads before, so it was great to be on the same bill. They’re one of the current Sheffield bands we really admire.
Which song do you wish you’d written?
A: And Your Bird Can Sing by The Beatles
D: Be my Baby by The Ronettes
What is the most embarrassing song on your ipod/guilty pleasure?
G: Forget about Dre ? Eminem feat. Dr. Dre
R: Mambo No.5 by Lou Bega!
So imagine the most idyllic and serene childhood dream, information pills what does it conjure? Fluffy bears, story tea parties and blue skies. Oh for the naivety of youth, before we all fall foul to the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Well never fear here at Amelia’s Magazine we are here to bring you back your youth, well a slightly revised late night television version! Via innovative new design collaborative Ground Zero.
Hong Kong based brothers Eric and Philip have bombarded onto the London fashion sphere feeding our senses with an explosion of graphics and colour, which makes you feel you are being catapulted straight into a Super Mario Brothers game.
Ground Zero’s A/W 2009 collection “Lazy Naughty and Sleepy” is epitomised perfectly by its title. It’s a whirlwind tour through apocalyptic nightmares and wistful daydreams embarking on a vivid tour of graphics and shapes. But don’t let me forget to add the abundance of Care Bears in rather compromising situations, some of the prints feature crack smoking and homosexuality, very controversial!
This brother duo has distinctive individual styles, having studied legions away from each other. With Eric studying Graphic Design in Hong Kong while his brother made the break to London to study Fashion at Middlesex University. These distinctly different facets of design unite perfectly within their work, fusing conceptual tailoring with bold graphic design.
Defying our preconceived ideas on the common practice for pyjama use. The design duo features our favourite comfy Sunday afternoon staple as an integral part of their collection. With cutesy oversized pj’s in an array of confectionary tones from candyfloss pink to parma violet purple. The emphasis on wearabilty is particularly apparent in this collection, with oversized jumpers, joggers, deconstructed macs and t-shirts.
Having featured in Selfridges, Concrete in London, Le Shop in Stockholm, Ships and And A in Japan, Bauhaus, and D-mop Seibu in Hong Kong. With such an endless array of suppliers it’s safe to saye their eccentric collections are well received in the fashion circuit!
There’s nothing quite like a nice little story to go alongside a musical out pouring. And there’s no better story than the story of love in the back of an organ donor van. With his ‘F**ken rock opera’; the moving story of Misty and Moufette, hospital Sparky Death Cap plays his beautiful Daniel Johnson/Jeffrey Lewis alt folk odes to love and loss and love again. Like the afore mentioned lo-fi heroes R Taylor (aka Sparky) is also an artist, and his illustrations are projected on to a whiteboard behind him as he strums his ukulele and loops slowly penetrate our ear drums. But the story, tell me the story (you may be saying?), well, briefly
Love is definitely in the air tonight (well maybe lost love) as headliner Dent May appears on stage singing “I love you more than I did when you were mine”.
A beautiful melody to an ex-girlfriend, sadly missed and from the way he sings it you can really feel the pain. But let’s not get too forlorn as on a brighter note we hear ‘Howard’ about a one man band from Mississippi and a heart-breaking and re-building rendition of the Doo wop classic by the Four Preps ‘26 Miles (Santa Catalina)’; “The first song I ever learnt on the Ukulele” he tells us.
Although the venue was downsized at the last minute the night is given a little extra atmosphere, it`s cosy and a real 1950′s lounge experience (complete with crooner) is created and gives us the opportunity speak to Dent one on one, nearly. Quite the personable fellow. With a new album just out on Animal Collectives’ label ‘Paw Tracks‘ it won’t be long before you all become acquainted with him yourselves. Make sure you do it sooner than later, eh?
When 4, online 000 people converged around The City of London to take part in the G20 Meltdown on April 1st, diagnosis and voice their concerns over the current economic and climate situation, many did not foresee that the protests would not become something altogether more frightening and unsafe. Not unsafe due to violent protesters (it is generally acknowledged that there was only a handful of rioters, who caused a minimum amount of damage), but because of the methods and tactics employed by the police force who surrounded us. Since that day, the general public now are more than familiar with the term kettling, and the protesters are all too aware of what it means to be kettled. The issues which arose from that day have centered on one thing: the British’s police’s misuse of power, and riot – inciting tactics for dealing with protests – however peaceful or non violent the protest may be.
At best, the day would have provoked a necessary dialogue between the general public, the media, and the police force. Unfortunately, events and actions of the police led to a devastating outcome. Ian Tomlinson, a 47 year old newspaper seller, collapsed and died outside the Bank of England. He had suffered a heart attack. Ian had not even been part of the protests, but was simply trying to make his way home. For the first few days, details of his death were sketchy and many facts seemed to contradict each other. Most reports suggested that it was a simple and unfortunate case of a man having a heart attack, perhaps brought on by the ‘rioters’ around him. Here is the Metropolitan Police’s statement issued a few hours after his death:
“A member of the public went to a police officer on a cordon in Birchin Lane junction with Cornhill to say that there was a man who had collapsed round the corner.
“That officer sent two police medics through the cordon line and into St Michael’s Alley where they found a man who had stopped breathing. They called for LAS support at about 19.30.
“The officers gave him an initial check and cleared his airway before moving him back behind the cordon line to a clear area outside the Royal Exchange Building where they gave him CPR.
“The officers took the decision to move him as during this time a number of missiles —believed to be bottles — were being thrown at them. ?LAS took the man to hospital where he was pronounced dead.”
The police can no longer hide behind these falsehoods. A video obtained by The Guardian Newspaper clearly shows the man being attacked by a large number of police. The event seems shockingly unprovoked. He is seen walking, with the police, clad in riot gear, trailing him. Hands in his pockets, he is unprepared for the assault. The video makes for highly upsetting viewing. If there was a representation of the police’s senseless and reprehensible treatment of the public on April 1st then this is it. The events in the video could not be more different to the account by the police.
This Saturday, 8th April, the original organisers of the G20 Meltdown will be leading a procession to protest the death of Ian Tomlinkson. It will assemble outside Bethnal Green Police Station at 11.30am, before setting off at 12 p.m. and laying flowers where he died, close to The Bank Of England. It is suggested that anyone marching wears black. Protesting the polices reprehensible behaviour is the only and best way to send a message to the British police force that their actions are not acceptable and cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.
(all photographs courtesy of Amelia Gregory)
Go to www.g-20meltdown.org for further details.
As I sit in the window of House, no rx for all of Camberwell High Street to exhibit, order sipping on a delicious much needed wake up cup of coffee, mind I am awaiting for the gallery below to open. House opened in 2007 and is situated in the little hidden gem of Camberwell. With the Arts College just around the corner, Camberwell is packed with creative and eccentric students most of whom are a credit to the art industry. This café come gallery expresses a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, describing itself as a place to provide artists with a public platform from which to exhibit their work. There is a strong sense of communication from this contemporary set up, as it opens up the chance for the artists to expose their work to the general art audience, and also the community.
The main thing that struck me about House (second to the scrumptious chocolate cookies!), was the encouraging attitude they embrace with regards to supporting emerging artists, whilst also welcoming established artists. Better still, all the profits that are made go towards local community projects that are linked with The Wells Trust. The Wells Trust community support and initiate many charities and projects around the Camberwell and Peckham area, House being there most recent project.
Upstairs in the coffee shop, House offer a wide range of tea with flavours from your typical English tea to liquorice and peppermint flavour to popcorn! There are old-style board games on hand if you fancy a game of scrabble or dominos, and a chance to find out about up and coming events and exhibitions from in and around the area with many fliers on display. The food served is all homemade, fresh and healthy and the prices are reasonable, reminiscent of the large student community based in the area. The presence is laid back, and the atmosphere is comfortable.
As I spiralled down the staircase to view the gallery, there was a list of the works guiding you around the small space. Despite being a small space the gallery is currently being occupied by 4 artists, by having the opportunity to give a taster of their work to the art critiques and other members of the population, this is a good foot in the door. The space downstairs for the gallery is very simplistic, nothing fancy, the same with the café. This reflects the fact that all of the profits are given to charity and no money is wasted on unnecessary decorating or purchases. The shop window offers an exhibition space also, which if your art is exhibited here; this offers good exposure, being on a main busy road and all.
Previous exhibitions at House have included the work of recent prints, installations and video works, done by four MA Visual Arts/Printmaking students in February 2009, the work of students studying MA Digital Art in December 2008, five recent graduates of MA Painting and Drawing Courses in October 2008. You can find details of other previous exhibitions at www.house-gallery.co.uk. House also offers a reduced rate of gallery hire for students, making this a more accessible opportunity for them.
Here are some examples of work shown in the gallery since it has been open:
Two coffees later and ready to leave, is when I notice that the quirky attributes of the venue even extend to the toilet, with a number of ‘Where’s Wally?’ posters stuck to the wall for entertainment. Or if you are me, disappointment, as I lost to each poster!
You can find more information on exhibiting your work in House or for up and coming events here. or you can also email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Calling all avid fashionista’s and artists across the Pennines! I bring you exciting news from Amelia’s Magazine HQ! As always we are not ones for neputism but when we heard news of our Music and Art contributer Simon Lords new project we just couldn’t contain our excitement any longer.
So without further ado I bring you news hot off the press of the launch of innovative club night Ecentrik. So prepare yourselves for a club night like no other, information pills these guys are preparing to bombard you with art, fashion and music all under the same roof!
The founder Simon Lord nurtured Ecentric from a mere pipe dream, inspired by the lack of outlets for emerging artists in Manchester the tag team came up with the concept for a trans-functional club night to bring together artists from various facets of design. Granting them a platform to showcase their work while encouraging artists to embark on collaborative projects within the community.
The next event will be taking place on Sunday 12th of April at the Sandbar in Manchester. With a myriad of events going on under one roof it’s hard to know where to start. First off there will be a catwalk show set to the tantalizingly beats of hip local DJs which will showcase the crème de la crème in fashion design in Manchester! One designer showcasing that I am particularly enthused about is environmentally conscious design collaborative JUNK. Utlising recycled materials the brand create original and quirky pieces of vintage inspired clothing. The brand are no strangers to success and are already enjoying a wealth of followers from there Manchester based shop granting them a cult following in the underground fashion sphere. Along with Junk, independent boutique ‘Love Me Again’ will also be gracing the catwalk with their new A/W collections.
Lord is keen to promote and nurture the use of sustainability in both fashion and art, so environmentally conscious design is a theme that resonates throughout the event. Alongside the Catwalk show their will be exhibition space playing host to a whole array of fine artists, photographers and video installations from artists such as Scott Lockhart, Dick Vincent and Dan Amos to name but a few.
So if you thought London was the epicenter of cool then your definitely mistaken, these Manc boys are hot on our collar! Where else would you get a club night for a mere two pounds!
The California four piece are walking a seldom used road with their follow up to the unexpectedly huge success of their 2006 debut Carnavas. They take a path between rock and indie, find in almost exactly the same way The Smashing Pumpkins did. Swoon is the perfect title for this record, as it’s what anyone familiar with the band will no doubt do. Rather then re-writing the predecessor, the band has spread out the dynamics, treading into fresh water at either end of the loud/quiet scale without thinning either end.
There’s no secrets this year opens the record with a big cut of distortion swathed rock not unfamiliar to everyone who has heard the first album. The production (again courtesy of debut producer/mixer combo Dave Cooley and Tony Hoffer) is lush and inviting. There are enough layers for you to ponder what’s what in origin, but with a crystal clarity that lets vocals soar, lead guitar slice through, drums to ring and strings nuzzle at clouds overhead. “You better make sure you’re looking closely, before you fall into your swoon” croons Brian over a body of strings at the opening track’s finale, setting the tone for the rest of the album. A smooth Valkyrie of beauty and aggression. Did I really just say that?
Moving along, the blend of strings and distortion leads into The Royal We, the first track to properly show their new found awareness of their dynamics. The sparsely used strings add just enough without being distraction, the underlying song in itself may be the heaviest they’ve yet to commit to tape. It’s obvious a large lump of the year spent recording this was devoted to making sure the softer songs were just as strong as the heavier ones and that the ones not lacking in volume also didn’t lack in melody.
Later on tracks like Panic Switch and Draining only help but show the depth of songwriting skills available to the band and how the strings form part of the songs, rather then feel sprinkled on top as an afterthought. However it’s on stand out track Sort Of that the band crank things up another notch. The song hits middle ground of the album in terms of light/shade, but has a relaxed approach with it. It’s easy to contrast it to an updating of one of my Bloody Valentine’s works. At one point during this six minute epic the band glide into a middle eight section, over a blending bed of guitars and keys lead guitars ring in a fashion comparable to The Wildhearts at their best.
The only issue the album raises is the albatross of the Smashing Pumpkins comparisons. As good as Swoon is both on it’s own and as a step up from Carnavas, it does highlight that Silversun Pickups are quite a two dimensional band. They have pushed both ends of their sound with Swoon, but it leaves me with the impression we now have a full wine rack of their sound. The Pumpkins were famous for their steps into various styles and semantics, Silversun Pickups apparent desire not to step from what’s become routine could well mean by album three they’re starting to sound tired. Only time will tell, for now we have a follow up worthy of their debut to enjoy all summer.
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