NOTES FROM BARCELONA: CAPÍTULO CUATRO – RIDING THE SIDECAR | 29th September, MMXVII

Find here a Public Service Announcement relating to the present blogpiece.

———- NFB

September 2017 is a crucial month for the city of Barcelona. It’s not only the first time folks get to enjoy more liveable temperatures after the heavy heat of the Spanish Summer, but it’s also the month preceding the historical independence referendum vote for the Catalonia region, planned for Sunday October 1.

On that day the peoples of Catalonia will be asked to visit the ballots for a vote on a – still, at the time of this writing – unconstitutional and legally non-binding motion pledging for the sovereignty of the North-Eastern region from the Madrid-steered national government of Spain.

It was very much in this type of socio-political climate during a showery early September evening, incidentally just a couple of days before the National Day of Catalonia (September 11), that two big promises of the Iberian punk rock scene were due to perform at one of the most well-known venues for underground and alternative music in town, called Sidecar Factory Club.

The edgy, tight and claret-red 300-capacity bar/club resides in one of the four corners of the gorgeous and heavily touristic Plaça Reial (the Ramblas are only a mere two minute walk away), deep in the core of the historical Barri Gòtic in the centre of town.

In contrast to the other establishments found by the palm tree-filled square, offering various dining options, popular dancing destinations, and tourist traps of all sorts, the 35-year old club is instead known for its intense and prolific event calendar of DJ sets, theme parties and, of course, live music shows. Sidecar has hosted more than 5,000 concerts and is known for “rock, punk, indie, experimental music and all the styles that don’t fit in the mainstream.”

The two young and upcoming Spanish bands on the bill that Saturday September 9 were headliners Camellos and support act Medalla. It was interesting to find out that – in the midst of growing tensions between Catalonia and Madrid – Camellos were born and bred in the Spanish capital, whereas Medalla are Barcelona-based, creating an interesting thread between the two metropolitan poles for the evening. Yet at the same time, both bands are part of the same national underground scene, and both are among the most talked about alternative outfits in the country.

Medalla are still a young group and describe their sound as the perfect union of heavy metal, krautrock, pop and romantic epicness. The Barcelonian four-piece are composed of two guitarists (one of them doubling as periodical keyboardist), a bassist, and a drummer, with each one of them lending voices and harmonies to the finished product. The local rockers began their powerful set at around 21:45 for a little less than an hour. Sidecar’s internal structure and tiny basement concert hall helped the group funnel a potent and heavily reverberated sound throughout, with mighty guitar sounds and stomping bass lines as principal reference points.

Medalla’s set brought to mind sporadic stoner rock and noise-y influences, with their tight and raucous guitar sound that often took centre stage, and the multiple vocal harmony lines layered onto each other, resulting in a pleasant and surprisingly refreshing echo-y vibe. Furthermore, Marc Lòpez on drums stood out for his catchy and precise grooves and riveting patterns, frequently leading whole songs even from a riff-perspective despite a wide variety of song structures. The band are for sure a reliable Spanish reference for fans of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Royal Blood, and The Enemy.

Also worth mentioning was the excellent sonic production of their live show, and more generally the sound engineering in the room that night, contrary to what one might think when first getting to Sidecar’s minuscule underground concert space. This was a merit of the main control room, although in my opinion just as much thanks to an effective instrumental set up on the part of the band itself.

The Barcelonian youngsters’ debut is imminent, due for release at the end of September through Primavera Sound’s talent incubator record label El Segell de Primavera, founded in 2013 to help nurture the local music scene. Medalla are currently playing a restricted string of dates throughout autumn and will perform a highly-anticipated (and already sold out) hometown record release show on September 22 at local cultural association hub El Pumajero. Listeners can already get a taste of their new LP by checking out two of their extracts on their Bandcamp page.

Camellos were that night’s main course and punctually took to Sidecar’s carved stage at 23:00. The Madrileños immediately distinguished themselves for their peculiar, dirtier and more straightforward sound, showcasing much faster and shorter tracks in comparison to their support band, all very much in line with classic fringes of indie-garage or even surf punk. Think of a sound blending early The Strokes and Weezer with the attitude of Mac DeMarco, just with more ska texture embedded into it.

Displaying the same group formation as their fellow musicians on the line-up – albeit vocals only being provided by the two guitarists in this case – Camellos clearly flirted with fun and slacker-ish elements whenever they got the chance. This meant not neglecting their visual impact either, with one of two guitarists and the bass player wearing oversized and outdated football jerseys (Liverpool’s Gerrard and Boca Juniors, for those of you who want to ask).

Such an approach helped the Madrid band receive an even warmer and friendlier reception to the disputed Catalan capital, something that even a month from that evening might look very different indeed, depending on the independence vote’s outcome.

Camellos’ live delivery was well-oiled and confident, with a full string of catchy and immediate tunes. Nevertheless, they left enough room for improvisation and interactive crowd participation, finding great enjoyment in their Barcelonian crowd (reaching about 200 people that night). The whole thing resulted in an amusing musical party, completed by intermezzo-jokes and frequent interactions with the audience.

The Spanish four-piece and its basic punk sound is often described as being humorous and politically-incorrect, and they already have a handful of standalone singles (check out ‘Siempre saludaba’ and ‘Becaria’) and a 15-track debut album entitled ‘Embajadores’ on the books, which came out earlier this year under Madrid-based Limbo Starr.

Sidecar is yet another exciting live music venue in Barcelona, and a totally different pair of shoes to the previously introduced Razzmatazz, which not only hosts much larger gigs but also offers a clearer cross-genre booking choice with more electronic dance influence.

This club is by contrast small, intimate and very stylish throughout, and represents an ideal destination for underground and alternative culture, bringing popular nightlife to the heart of touristic Barcelona. The crowd is inevitably composed of both locals and foreigners, which is regularly met by an event programming that is remarkably eclectic, catering to a wide array of alternative music genres with the club being open six nights a week.

But the most remarkable attribute of Sidecar, in light of the litigious relationship between Barcelona and Madrid, is that for one night everybody agreed with each other, an optimistic consensus that celebrated quality indigenous live music.

Fins la pròxima vegada!

———- NFB

Still, I’d urge you all to check out the source feature article directly on Punktastic too, as it’s wonderfully wrapped in shiny and fancy designs as well as relevant music discovery embeds that massively elevate the final product. More generally, go show them some love and explore all the incredible articles and reviews they publish, as it’s by far a much better site than this one and you won’t be disappointed.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

Sidecar_Main

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HERE COME(S) THE G.I.R.L | 16th September, MMXVII

EMS started with absolutely no pre-conceived notion of editorial structure or journalistic discipline in mind, and to be fair if you’ve made it thus fair into its lifecycle I’m pretty much assuming you were able to realize this for yourself pretty quickly. Throughout about two years and a half the site has touched upon a wide variety of themes and topics, ranging from the more obvious and critically acclaimed “Alex Reviews Music”-column, to scattered and rather isolated notes and commentary on TV series, books, and even fashion brands. I guess the reason why I’m beginning this one with such a disclaimer is to try to legitimise my current inability to choose a single key topic to write about this time round, conflicting in conjunction with my lack of time and resources to split a list of different themes across multiple blogpost, as well as my very immediate need to bookmark what and why I want to say to this very specific timestamp. In fact, feel free to scratch the first excuse – as one can and ought to always find the time for the life domains he/she loves –, it’s really all about the necessity to make y’all aware of a couple things, so please be cautious that said awareness construction will materialise itself in form of a miscellaneous patchwork post.

Without too much further ado, in this writing I’d like to bring your esteemed attention to Los Angeles-based – yet universally addressing – independent lifestyle brand Gentlemen in Real Life, that has just recently released its second major run of products to the general public and boy, it’s simply wonderfully crafted. Brilliantly abbreviated in the catchy acronym GIRL to highlight its gender-neutral and boundary-less fashion approach, the alternative apparel and grooming brand was founded by former letlive. vocalist and principal gentleman Jason Butler back in early 2015, and likes to present itself to the world with the following:

“We believe the traditional definition of ‘gentleman’ is outdated. To us, it’s more than a refined look, or dapper presentation. It’s a lifestyle that transcends. Being a Gentleman is about taking the extra step to do what’s right. And we offer everyone a chance to be part of it.”

“We’re a small group of creatives and artists that make things we want to see made. And we’re committed to the fine details that we know they deserve.”

“The only way to truly endorse something is to create it yourself. That’s why we’ve made sure all of our products are designed, sourced, and manufactured in the USA.”

There’s really nothing else that should be added in my opinion to either spark or increase interest and concern for such valuable and especially honourable endeavour, which not only fully adopts and embodies the ethically/socially conscious values listed in the descriptions above, but also creates an organic and sustainable network of collaborations around their hometown of Los Angeles, CA, as documented on their extremely visually appealing Instagram page. Said manufacturing, productive, and marketing collaborators-ecosystem includes, for instance, the gorgeous graphic design brand Hate Street (H8ST) – which took care of the majority of the designs and visuals for GIRL’s latest drop – and the group of talented audiovisual producers that go by the name of Standard Issue Films, which enabled a series of promotional clips that were employed by Jason and GIRL when approaching their recent launch date on 1st September.

I hope it’s needless to say that I’m obviously not getting paid or in any shape or form compensated for writing this, for this enriching appreciation I feel for the brand truly stems from my complete alignment with both the mission and the cause of GIRL, besides clearly finding tons of delight and inspiration through the actual manufactured goods themselves. Thus, I’d simply suggest you all take even a quick look at what Jason and what he calls his family are doing with their company, as I fully believe it’s the minimum one could do when confronted with such praiseworthy and universally binding values as the ones brought forwards by GIRL.

As far as I’m concerned, at the time I got to learn about the overall GIRL project, it was an immediate no brainer for me to seek out means and ways to support what Jason and his crew were crafting, and for the record I have been doing so since the company launched their first online collection back in January last year. Furthermore, it should also be said that to me all things related to GIRL got significantly amplified by Jason’s artistic and especially musical undertakings that were going on at the same time (enter primarily letlive.), which I certainly strongly felt connected to and was able to rely on multiple levels on. Speaking of which, recent warmer months have brought back loads of excitement after letlive. tragically announced their break up earlier this April. Said excitement comes in form of The Fever 333, i.e. Jason’s brand new incendiary musical project kickstarted with the help of former The Chariot guitarist Stephen Harrison and impressive Night Verses drummer/digital percussionist Aric Improta.

The alternative-punk trio presented itself to the wider world via a memorable and unique unauthorised pop-up event in the parking lot of legendary drive-through landmark Randy’s Donuts on the last 4th July in Inglewood, Los Angeles. The band documented their incredible performance in a dedicated videoclip recalling the experience and explaining that the impromptu live performance was first and foremost:

“[…] an effort to demonstrate the power of assembly and protest. This particular event was in opposition to the displacement of citizens due to their race, choice of identity, or economic standing to remind ourselves that we are the largest piece of any community. Not politicians, not corporations, not the authorities, but US – the citizens. The people are what make communities successful. Before the release of any music we released specific pieces of information containing a location, a date, and then a message. In that message we called to those who wanted to see change and a reminder that it starts locally. On this day over 150 people showed up in a parking lot in Inglewood in support of an idea. That idea was to empower the people that serve as the heartbeat of their community.”

The Fever 333 has so far released two radically angry and raging standalone tracks (“We’re Coming In” and “The Hunting Season”), and have officially blossomed at their first “authorized” hometown live show that took place at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood on 31st August, with prestigious guest appearance/endorsement of blink-182 drumming God Travis Barker as well as A-list punk producer John Feldmann, whom the band has so far worked with for the release of its first two songs. It’s still unclear what’s next for the politically-charged protest punk outfit, although judging by the way they hinted and released both information and actual material in the past, it all seems to be predominantly short-noticed and revolving around the 333-digits hook, presumably originating in their underlying credo “B3 FR33. STAND UP. RESIST.”. Watch their space as they don’t stop repeating it: There’s a fever coming…

Before pulling the curtains on this multi-dimensionally inspired, Interweb-hosted essay, yours truly would like to consume a little more of this digitised ink to address the recent release of mighty Foo Fighters‘ new LP Concrete and Gold, out just one day before this writing on 15th September. I’m fully aware that in a recent (and upcoming) sea of hugely highly-anticipated releases, with new records out (either now or fairly soon) by the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, The War on Drugs, The Killers, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Stereophonics, and many more, there’s no way I could truly pay respect to any of those if not through a dedicated ARM-instalment (although nor am I promising this will actually materialise). Yet, very similarly to the aforementioned The Fever 333, I do like to break the rules and therefore allow myself the freedom of a couple paragraphs discussing the Foos’ recent massive album, trying to frame this discussing from a slightly different standpoint than regular ARMs so as to maintain a cautionary “apples-to-oranges” comparison basis.

The context surrounding the release of Foo Fighters’ ninth studio album contains in itself a number of fascinating insights, from the rather unconventional record producer’s choice (the bird and the bee‘s Greg Kurstin), passing through the addition of a sixth permanent group member in long-time touring keyboardist Rami Jaffee, to the juicy line-up of stellar fellow musicians who guest on the album, including Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, and Boyz II Men member Shawn Stockman. There is of course a fundamental, and arguably more important, musical layer to the whole aspect as well, with almost 50 minutes of brand new recorded running time spread across 11 different songs. Furthermore, one could also have noticed an hilarious and deeply informative radio interview touching upon a wide variety of topics with frontman Dave Grohl hosted by none other than Metallica’s iconic drummer Lars Ulrich on his Beats 1’s show It’s Electric!.

Yet, in spite (or precisely because of) all of the above highly intriguing and valid starting points for a genuine conversation on the Foos’ new album, what I’d like to stress out is an unbelievably fun, diverse, and effective promotional stunt utilized by the band. What I’m referring to is a promo video published in conjunction to the album release that tells the story of how Concrete and Gold was made in all its nuances, with more than worthy behind-the-scenes anecdotes and fun facts. By packaging a great amount of information relating to a process that lasted over multiple years in form of a 6-minute cartoonish, brilliantly animated clip, the Foo Fighters not only produced a promotional item that is quite unique and characteristic (especially for a mainstream act), but by processing the highest consumed format of digital consumption (video) they also managed to squeeze a great deal of valuable insights regarding the making-of the album that I’m sure would otherwise have been done through multiple separated elements that may even have not fit that well together. Hat’s off to the Foos thus, who to be fair have always flirted with the more comical and funny end of the spectrum when creating music videos for their songs. Pick any of theirs on YouTube to prove this point. Speaking of points, this was the last one for now, I promise. But remember to always B3 FR33.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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NOTES FROM BARCELONA: CAPÍTULO TRES – NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS & RAZZMATAZZ | 30th August, MMXVII

Find here a Public Service Announcement relating to the present blogpiece.

———- NFB

After a string of large and exciting open air festivals that have arrived with impressive regularity since May, it’s time to switch gears and turn to Barcelona’s smaller underground club shows. Larger, shorter, crowd-pleasing festival performances are rarely a match for the intimacy and artistic authenticity of a small venue gig. What better month to withdraw into searing and sweaty indoor environments in the heart of Southern Europe than during the hottest one of the whole year? Let’s get serious, agosto.

The search for urban entertainment and escapism seems more necessary than ever in the aftermath of the reckless and horrible attacks the city recently sustained. Whilst the live shows reported here all occurred before the terror attack on Las Ramblas on August 17, the relevance and importance of local live music establishments that offer collective enjoyment, help to restore serenity in town.

Barcelona and its surroundings offer a variety of interesting clubs and venues hosting live gigs, all generally active during the whole year, yet winding down a bit during warmer times to make space for mainstream festivals. The indigenous selection of concert halls range from the massive Palau Sant Jordi arena and FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium to bars-turned-venues such as Sidecar and Manchester Bar.

Sala Razzmatazz – explicitly honouring the track of the same name by britpop group Pulp and simply known as Razz to the locals – is a venue that, true to its name, has generated the most traction and noise over time. A self-declared “flagship of the culture and leisure scene on the national and international scale,” the 3000 capacity club has been going for about 15 years, and is located in a fascinating construction amidst the industrial part of town of El Parc i la Llacuna del Poblenou.

Over the years a wide array of artists have taken to the Razzmatazz stage, from big names to fresh newcomers, and a quick look at their programming calendar suggests eclectic and fascinating booking choices indeed. The hall mixes its own curated schedule of Barcelonian acts with different national and international promoters, as well as “culture agitators”. Interestingly, Razzmatazz was also the first club in the country to offer entertainment programming across five different spaces (The Razzclub, The Loft, Lolita, Pop Bar, Rex Room) every single day of the week.

favourable early August schedule allowed me to check out the venue in person and attend a one-two heavy combo of live gigs by Brazilian thrash metal trio Nervosa and US death metallers Obituary. This made for an excellent package to experience the club in its alternative glory and as a cultural reference for the city.

Floridian five-piece Obituary need little introduction, having been on the metal scene for over 30 years. But Nervosa, from São Paulo, were a fascinating novelty to me, despite forming back in 2010 and already having released two studio albums (2014’s ‘Victim of Yourself’ and last year’s ‘Agony’) under Austrian indie label Napalm Records.

Obituary took to the Razzmatazz stage shortly before 10pm on a warm Wednesday night, not long after impressive local opening acts Dejadeath and Assot took care of warming up the crowd with a dynamic yet coherent taste of drop-D tunes and growls in sludge-y sauce. Of peculiar enjoyment were the opening bands’ quirky and high-pitched Catalan/Spanish spoken intermezzos in-between set songs, in sharp contrast to the brutal and ugly vocal delivery typical of their type of sound.

The venue’s quite restrained logistics and interior design carry undeniable multi-usage and inter-genre attributes, leaning themselves quite nicely to a death metal-filled concert line up thanks to its dooming and compact stature as well as pitch black coverture. The overwhelmingly sweaty, long-haired audience in attendance for Obituary’s master ceremony was clearly of a Spanish-speaking majority, which made for an authentic and refreshing break from the city’s touristic wave invading the warmer seasons. At the same time, such a connotation surely helped cement Razzmatazz’s reputation as an authentic Barcelonian artistic and cultural point of reference.

Only a handful of days after the US death metaller’s fiery performance it was time for Nervosa. The trio was supported for the occasion by Italian prog metallers Reapter – opening for Nervosa throughout their whole European tour – and local heavy metal veterans Deldrac, composing an ideal line-up for the Brazilian ladies’ main course. Nervosa are currently on their World in Agony summer-long tour celebrating their latest release, which alongside a string of six Spanish dates takes them to Germany, Italy, France and Russia.

Barcelonian four-piece Deldrac, whose one-hour long kick off show was largely glorified by the significant presence of a local fan-base, impressed for both band dynamic and entertaining temperament. With a biting live sound just about rightly proportioned to the room’s dimension (this time a way smaller one than the main room employed for Obituary’s show), Deldrac enjoyed an intense crowd participation despite a rather unfavourable slot on the evening bill, making the most of the obvious perks of playing a hometown gig. A couple of standout track performances led me to savour their sole, slightly rudimentaly produced LP to date ‘One Day More, One Day Less’, a move I would suggest to anyone searching for a new solid thrash record with Catalan blood running through its strings.

Deldrac were followed by Rome-based Reapter at 9pm, who carried on the night’s dances to a suddenly half-empty room whilst the other half of the crowd enjoyed a smoke break. However, this didn’t influence the band’s purist thrash and tight delivery too much. With a live vibe indebted to early records from thrash metal’s Big Four, the Italians played for a little more than 45 minutes, showcasing both decent technical skills and frequent flirts with melodic sounds. Reapter’s performance was clearly inspired by fringes of prog metal and championed by a mighty 6-string bassist who more often than not had all the spotlights on himself. At times though, one could feel that something was missing, perhaps more than anyone from frontman Claudio Arduini, who seemed less comfortable with the songs performed live that evening.

As soon as the headliners took to the stage just after 10:20pm, the two nostalgic, sonic trips down metal memory lane that opened the show, got fiercely completed, and for the greater part replaced, by shock and horror elements. Nervosa’s show was an aggressive explosion of primitive drums and meat and potatoes walls of sound provided by an undoubtedly thinly composed line-up.

Main vocalist and bassist Fernanda Lira made sure her incendiary vocal cords and five bass strings vibrated like there was no tomorrow, appearing to ignore any rational dosage from song number one in an almost neurotic fashion very true to the band’s name (‘nervosa’ being the Portuguese word for nervous). With an exhaustive setlist and an outstanding performance by drummer Luana Dametto, the Brazilians clearly stole the show. The group alternated lengthy solos with experimental bits, extending songs to longer durations with frequent interactions to a pleased crowd. Virtually all Razzmatazz attendees looked like they had their money’s worth for the evening and took the most out of the heavy musical programming. Obviously headbanging, moshing, and circle pits were aplenty.

While it’s always hard to provide absolute statements about local cultural movements, my first-hand experience at Razzmatazz confirmed that it is one of the places to be for alternative music in Barcelona. This is true for both new musical discoveries and established acts.

These two concerts certainly set the bar high, and you shouldn’t miss this venue, with all its noise and appeal as an urban razzmatazz, off your musical to-do list when in the Catalan capital.

Fins la pròxima vegada!

———- NFB

Still, I’d urge you all to check out the source feature article directly on Punktastic too, as it’s wonderfully wrapped in shiny and fancy designs as well as relevant music discovery embeds that massively elevate the final product. More generally, go show them some love and explore all the incredible articles and reviews they publish, as it’s by far a much better site than this one and you won’t be disappointed.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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BOLTS ARE NUTS (OR: WHEN TYLER, CREATES) | 7th August, MMXVII

I’d have to admit that I’m not watching much TV lately, although to be fair I’m fully dedicated to a couple YouTube channels almost on a daily basis, which in 2017 does in fact mean that I’m watching TV lately, right? Well, by that I mainly mean that the global Netflix and TV series hysteria club that has been going on for about 34 years now has just fairly recently lost one of its least proudest members, partly because in my humblest opinion there actually aren’t that many good shows around at the moment, and partly because the fact that I recently moved country of residence implies that I’m now enjoying vastly reduced catalogues and streaming service offerings as opposed to what I was used to in the mighty United Kingdom.

What I haven’t stopped being into for even a single minute is music though, and in that regard I recently launched a fiery and incendiary ether debate on Twitter by asking the Interweb.com to compare Vince Staples’s latest album Big Fish Theory with the one of leader and co-founder of the alternative hip hop collective Odd Future, i.e. American rapper, record producer, and music video director Tyler, The Creator. Tyler’s fourth studio LP Flower Boy dropped a little more than two weeks ago on 21st July and has since been on heavy rotation on yours truly’s high fidelity FM. I thus have been fiercely flirting and battling with the thought of delivering another highly-subjectively biased hip-hop/rap ARM instalment for the good part of the past week, only to then find out that there was so much more going on artistically with Tyler, The Creator at the moment worth mentioning to say the least.

Besides launching his very own take on the legendary Converse One Star shoe model in visual conjunction with his newest record, aka the One Star X Golf le Fleur, Tyler also debuted as the host and main mind of a brand new TV show on Vice Media’s channel VICELAND called Nuts + Bolts, accompanied by the following promotional caption: “Tyler, the Creator explores the things he loves and the ways they work, with the help of experts and personal heroes”. Needless to say I was extremely captivated by whole idea of the programme, and realizing that it would all be steered by the raw, twisted, and inspiring mind of Tyler only made for an even bigger excitement on my part. Nuts + Bolts premiered on Friday 4th August with an episode called “Stop Motion” dealing with… stop motion (!) and the exploration of a specific sub-discipline called clay animation (Wallace and Gromit anyone!?).

As I already anticipated over on holy grail Twitter when the episode first aired, great TV in an age of abundance and overwhelming noise to me is when it can reveal you something you didn’t necessarily know before, which in this specific case was my discovery of how cool of a movie technique stop motion actually is. The amount of dedication, precision, and effort that go into producing a segment even as short as a rad and badass one minute piece like Tyler himself did at the end of the first episode is simply astonishing and admirable. Make damn sure you check out the first episode in full on VICELAND’s site by clicking here (or head over to good ol’ Facebook if you’re not currently living in a country under Donald J. Trump’s presidency). The segment literally turned me into a deep admirer of said practice, to the point that I’m now super willing to learn more and get informed as to how and where I could potentially materialise a project on my own. Yet I’m digressing, the whole point I’m trying to make is that Nuts + Bolts is shaping up to become both a very entertaining and truly informative modern-day TV series/doc, stemming surprisingly enough from a man at times as despised as society’s biggest villains.

The amazing aspect about the show is that a quick look at its trailer – first released back in June – reveals that in addition to stop motion an incredibly vast and incredibly cool list of topics will be covered throughout the programme, ranging from sneakers and go-karts to donuts and time-travel. I’m just in love with the idea that as far as content programming, anything goes in the series and nothing is too wild to be omitted a priori, as it’s quite clearly very hard to find a lowest common theme encompassing every episode’s focus. I guess the formula to describe Nuts + Bolts was actually cracked by the man himself, when during the main trailer he says that it “[…] is a show describing how everything that I think is awesome is made”. I’m voting for this one.

I guess the funny thing in all of this is that thanks to Tyler, The Creator and his trademark way of making even bolts go nuts I will soon indeed be watching a lot of TV again, with its tentacles permeating through every possible gateway of my digitally consumed life. Not that this might necessarily be a bad thing per se, not at all in fact if all TV I watch is as catchy and cocky as Nuts + Bolts, yet I still can’t help but always be a little bit worried about not finding enough time to do everything my instincts tell me to, especially when it comes to checking out new music. The fact that the whole reason why I got into TV again with this show was actually because of me checking out new music is kind of uber ironic, I do hand it to you. Yet in life most things do indeed get a full circle if one looks close enough. Pretty much like nuts and bolts and bolts being nuts.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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NOTES FROM BARCELONA: CAPÍTULO DOS – CATALAN INTERSECTIONS | 18th July, MMXVII

Find here a Public Service Announcement relating to the present blogpiece.

———- NFB

We all know that summer equals festival season and Barcelona is no exception. Kicking off with the prestigious and world-renowned Primavera Sound, the city’s warmest season punctually fills with a number of big and small live music events throughout its urban web.

Barcelona’s extremely favourable climate conditions, as well as its spectacular natural landscapes, combining a wealth of greeneries with hills and sea, do indeed allow for perfect festival settings. So it’s no surprise that during the whole late spring/summer period your agenda could easily get full with live open air music appointments, marked in red every week.

Obviously not all festivals in the heart of Catalonia are as grandiose and well-known as Primavera, yet you might be surprised by the global attraction of some of the other events too, such as Rockfest Barcelona, Cruïlla Barcelona Summer Festival, Be Prog! My Friend, or Barna ‘n’ Roll. This is without considering the even smaller, local, and neighborhood-bound ones that heavily contribute towards the construction of this region’s musical identity.

These smaller happenings normally take place in the surroundings of the ramblas of each barrio – i.e. the iconic main streets cutting each major neighborhood of the city in two – bringing substantial crowds together outdoors to enjoy live music, local food, flea markets, pop up installations, and much more.

My neighborhood alone for instance, the post-industrial Poblenou, has already hosted three major local cultural events since I moved here a couple months back. An absolute highlight so far, and Barcelona’s most heartfelt event, was the loud and chaotic Revetlla de Sant Joan, which takes place every year at the end of June celebrating summer Solstice. The amount of public artistic displays, street performers, and firecrackers was one I’d never seen in my life before.

That said, one the most highly anticipated festivals each year is Sónar, a pioneering cultural event launched in 1994 combining a deep creative technology focus, avantgarde programming, and heavy experimentation with newest trends in electronic and hip hop music. Its conference arm, Sónar+D, left me very impressed. The tradeshow deals with the relationship between creativity and technology through the showcase of cutting-edge discoveries in the realms of AI, VR and machine learning.

The four-day offering included workshops, market fairs, labs, and live performances, looking at pushing boundaries of interdisciplinarity. An unmissable event for anyone interested in arts and new technologies, at the same time crafting a big part of Barcelona’s artistic identity, regardless of the specific genre-focus of the festival’s musical programming.

Things got way more serious at Cruïlla, a multi-genre music festival now in its eighth edition that took place from 7–9 July on the seaside East of the Catalan city centre. This year’s headliners were The Prodigy, Two Door Cinema Club, Pet Shop Boys, Jamiroquai, and Die Antwoord, and more generally the overall lineup spanned a wealth of genres ranging from ska-punk to reggae and electronica. The clue is actually in its name, as cruïlla means ‘intersection’ in the local Catalan language, hence its not-so-hidden mission to present as varied and mixed a programme as possible.

As usual, the most exciting musical discoveries didn’t come from the mainstream acts headlining the bill, but rather from smaller, lesser-known bands that got to warm up the crowds from early afternoon onwards.

One of them are Murcia-natives Neuman, a post-rock/shoegazey band founded by charismatic frontman Paco Román about 20 years ago. Their minimalistic yet thoroughly catchy live delivery, accompanied by Paco’s hoarse vocals and an hypnotic rhythm section, truly stood out to me as one of the freshest sets of the whole festival.

Neuman have a brand new album in the making, which is currently being previewed by first single ‘All That Matters’ and is expected to drop later in the year. In fact, the English-singing trio have over time become a cult act in the whole of Southern Europe and can already count on three albums – among which the critically acclaimed ‘The Family Plot (2011)’ – and as many EPs in their discography.

Another fun one is La Raíz, an impressive 11-piece ska/rock/reggae band from Valencia who got to virtually pull the curtains of Cruïlla late into the night on the last day. The ensemble is considered to be an international leader in musical fusion and has just recently celebrated its first decade as career band with more than respectful numbers, for both their following and their music.

Their newest release ‘Entre poetas y presos’, out last year, follows four other records, with their debut ‘El Aire Muerto’ dating back to 2007. As one might imagine when a band counts 11 permanent members, their live appearance is widely colourful and energetic, alternating pure ska-moments with faster and more crunchy shades, throwing in Spanish-sung old-school rap verses more often than not. Check out their 2011 LP ‘El Lado de los Rebeldes’ as it’s a rather solid and representative introduction to their overall sound.

Holding a primetime live slot on the smaller Movistar+ stage on Saturday was Viva Suecia, another Spanish post-rock group bearing heavy, self-acclaimed Nordics influences in their wide dark soundscapes. Signed to eccentric national indie label Subterfuge Records, the Murcian four piece is fresh from releasing their sophomore full-length ‘Otros principios fundamentales’ in February (produced by Neuman’s Paco Román), and are now gaining increasing traction on both a regional and national level.

Viva Suecia’s live performance at Cruïlla turned out to be a very elegant, strings-driven one, with big sounds acting as sonic boundaries for sharp and biting Spanish lyrics. I highly suggest you give these guys a listen if you’re into bands like Interpol, Mando Diao, Editors and similar. Standout tracks to me are the below ‘Hemos Ganado Tiempo’, off their latest LP, and the album’s raw and emotive lead single, ‘A Dónde ir’. Don’t forget to check out their self-titled debut EP too, which is still up on Bandcamp and found widespread appreciation catapulting the band into the major national music circuit.

Thanks to the festival I also found out about one of the most successful Latin American bands to this day, called Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and an iconic ska/jazz/rock act formed back in 1985 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These guys are a pretty big deal and have won numerous prizes and accolades over their career, including the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, who since their formation have released 11 studio albums and sold almost three million copies worldwide, took to the stage on Friday night shortly before 1am and all hell broke loose. Quite clearly an established fan-favourite down here, the band played for over an hour and a half, pleasing the audience with fast-paced grooves as well as intense stage presence. Their newest concept album ‘La salvación de Solo y Juan’ came out in 2016 and has awarded them with two Latin Grammy Awards. Not necessarily something I’d prioritize in my own iPod, but without a doubt one to be aware of and a major international export of Spanish-swayed rock.

My last suggestion is Deco Pilot, who are actually a Liverpool-borne indie-rock band relocated to Barcelona. The band kicked off dances on day two of Cruïlla with an overdose of noughties-inspired synth/rock, think of something in-between The Killers and Vampire Weekend with a lot of delayed guitars. Their still humble and timid stage presence is sufficiently compensated by a big production on their debut album ‘Midnight Glory’ (2016), a 10-track collection filled with very catchy cuts (‘Lion’, ‘You Are My Voice’) alongside calmer moments (‘Midnight Glory’, ‘Open Your Eyes’). Also interesting to hear is their take on Spanish singing on the closing two tracks, presumably an ode to their new home.

It is very refreshing to see how even bigger – perhaps at times commodified – music festivals in Catalonia don’t just opt for easy mainstream acts or international artists, but actually retain an essential slice of their bill for local and regional musicians.

There’s so much musical variety that stems from this land that it would be a massive sin not to lend these musicians an appropriate platform to shine, so kudos to them for using their power with responsibility. And while the Catalan summer festival season might not last forever, the quantity and the quality of new music discoveries stands as reliable proof that excellent live music is without a doubt an all year round business.

Fins la pròxima vegada!

———- NFB

Still, I’d urge you all to check out the source feature article directly on Punktastic too, as it’s wonderfully wrapped in shiny and fancy designs as well as relevant music discovery embeds that massively elevate the final product. More generally, go show them some love and explore all the incredible articles and reviews they publish, as it’s by far a much better site than this one and you won’t be disappointed.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

NFB2

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): VINCE STAPLES – “BIG FISH THEORY” | 24th June, MMXVII

It’s almost the end of June and therefore it’s time for another hip hop album review to be happening on these glorious ARM frequencies. (No don’t worry you shouldn’t have picked up the causal correlation between time and rap criticism in the previous sentence, simply because there is none). Some (who?) may say that this is a rather big deal, given that such an occurrence hasn’t happened too often in the meanderings of this site. In fact, if we’re really in the mood for a trip down memory lane, one could actually count on one hand the instalments scrutinising, discussing, and dissecting a hip hop release: first it was Kanye back in February last year, merely because noblesse oblige, then shortly after it was the irresistible and sexy Anderson .Paak, followed by a little bit of Chance The Rapper for a Summer music preview, finishing last with the mighty Bad Rabbits and their role as raconteurs of an American nightmare.

So, it was in this sort of stream of consciousness that 23-year old, Odd Future-associate Vince Staples’ recent album release came as a perfectly timed blessing. The sophomore LP by Long Beach, CA-based rapper goes by the title of Big Fish Theory and dropped on 23rd June under prominent and influential label Def Jam. The 12-track/36-minute long effort follows the widely critically acclaimed debut album Summertime ’06 (2015) as well as significant anticipation from leading news outlets and the whole scene more in general. I myself had been eyeing the MC for quite some time, although not necessarily out of a musical fandom calling – even though his most successful single off Summertime ’06 “Norf Norf” being an absolute gem – but rather because the dude, a very sharp-straight-edge-off-the-tabloids-vocal man in his early 20s who loves Sprite, seemed like a very interesting person to me. Therefore, when on 18th May lead single “Big Fish” truly grabbed my active attention (although Vince actually released an earlier first single called “BagBak” as back in time as 3rd February, though with no hint of a full album backing the track at the time), I made damn sure I wouldn’t miss the whole LP once out.

I actually wasn’t incredibly fond of the first track I fully devoted my ears to, i.e. “Big Fish”. Whilst I completely understand the song being picked as lead single as well as thematic frame for the whole concept of the album thanks to its forward-leaning catchiness and immediacy, the overall delivery results a bit too repetitive and empty, as if its main driving electronic sound and repetitive lyrics were the lowest common denominator Vince could find to fill that vacuum. A similar feeling is the one I get with reference to “BagBak”, at least as far as the instrumental track goes, nothing much than an simple, experimental base ending up being too hypnotic and unvaried to really assume he gave it a proper thought. Yet the song gains value when the lyrical delivery gets considered too, with aggressive, bold, and political elements all successfully intertwined (“Clap your hands if the police ever profiledYou ain’t gotta worry, don’t be scary ’cause we on nowAin’t no gentrifying us, we finna buy the whole townTell the one percent to suck a dick, because we on now“).

One aspect that’s very interesting about Big Fish Theory, and one that my esteemed Twitter followers have already had the viewing pleasure to obtain, is that this is an album on which the opening track might actually be the best song overall. I find that too often artists tend to “sacrifice” the album opener either with a preface/prelude/intro which normally is too ambient-y anyway and doesn’t really add much to the overall musical frame, or with an annoying and unnecessary skit/oddity (this especially with hip hop/rap albums), really only contributing to boosting the track amount and nothing to the songwriting package. I’m actually a huge fan of openers and if I ever were to release my own music I swear I’d put my best song(s) right at the start of the tracklist, mainly to show myself the listeners what for. To me, this is what Vince Staples has done by placing the brilliant “Crabs in a Bucket” at number one on Big Fish Theory’s tracklist. The song, wonderfully co-produced and heavily influenced by Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon, is a dark and distorted backtrack with loads of experimental sounds and a pumping, near-to-perfect vocal delivery by Staples, refined and wrapped up by a thin, sensual, and necessary closure by Kilo Kish. The kind of song that immediately reminds me of some of my favourite rap tunes of all time.

Other album highlights include the sweaty and visceral “745”, which in many ways is that what style-related “Big Fish” and “BagBak” should’ve been, as well as the electric and vibey “Party People”, a song that despite its fun title deals in fact with deep self-search and overcoming of struggles (“Move your body if you came here to party / If not then pardon me / How I’m supposed to have a good time / When death and destruction’s all I see?”). The latter tune is also probably the only one that could’ve competed with “Big Fish”‘s radio-friendly character as main single, and in retrospect perhaps an even better choice for it. Last one to save is LP-closer and Ty Dolla $ign-collab “Rain Come Down“, a groovy G-funk cut with explicit leaning to auto-tuned, trappy sounds and the longest track on the whole record with almost 5 minutes of running time.

Unfortunately, the LP carries a number of less fortunate compositions, led by the purposeless skit “Ramona Park is Yankee Stadium” – I mean, come on, for once that an hip hop album is actually limited in its track listing one might as well just focus on the best songs, not least considering the fact that a skit’s main purpose is to let a 19-track album breathe… – and the not-so-dissimilar “Alyssa Interlude”, i.e. an isolated Amy Winehouse voice recording laid hand-in-hand with a sample of “I Wish It Would Rain” by The Temptations. I’m still looking for the whole point of those ones. In fact, I realized I’m not a fan of voicemail-turned-music trend songs at all, as none of the ones recently included in albums e.g. by Kanye West (“Siiiiiiiiilver Surffffeeeeer Intermission” on The Life Of Pablo), Frank Ocean (Blonde’s “Be Yourself” and “Facebook Story [Ft. Sebastian]”), or even Kendrick Lamar (outro on “FEAR.” in his recent effort DAMN.) really made any sense to me. The list of insipid tracks on Big Fish Theory continues with the one-two “Homage” and “Samo” at number eight and nine on the tracklist, where I simply find myself being completely indifferent towards them, mainly because the mood and genre adopted by Vince on those two songs is something that I find being not easily digestible.

Lastly, there’s one song which I’m still not convinced I truly dislike, or in other words, one that might as well end up among the ones I enjoy listening the most. That track is the mighty Kendrick Lamar and Laura Jane Lowther collab “Yeah Right”, and such a feeling stems principally from the realisation that the composition is a nothing else than a combination of parts that for me are hard to get (Vince’s industrial-rapping intro plus outro) and very positive and inspiring moments, such as the Lowther-sung refrain and Lamar’s powerful and delicious verse. If one thinks about it, this could actually sum up most of Vince Staples’ enigmatic and fascinating public character, both as an individual and in his musical persona, further amplified by the obscurity of the album’s title meaning and some of the rapper’s promotional statements, like for instance the genius move about labelling his record’s overall sound as “afro-futurism”, only to then to admit of not knowing what it really means but still enjoying “saying stuff about black people to white people”. How can one not be attracted to someone like this? My kind of artist for sure.

AV

VINCE STAPLES

“BIG FISH THEORY”

2017, Def Jam Recordings

http://vincestaples.com

VS_Big Fish Theory

NOTES FROM BARCELONA: CAPÍTULO UNO – SPRING INDUCTION | 14th June, MMXVII

This is a start of something that will hopefully last for a long time, namely a multi-instalment column called Notes from Barcelona in partnership with mighty Punktastic, which for those of you unfamiliar with it is an alternative rock / punk / hardcore / metal website, with news, reviews and the best in international new music. The feature will try to bring you the best (and the worst) from the local live music scene in the Catalan capital, which since a couple months also doubles as the place I now call home, thanks to a new employment I recently began down here. I’ll try and come out with one new blogpost every month touching upon a variety of topics, which I will lazily re-post on here 48 hours after the original publication over on Punktastic, sometimes with additional commentary or context here and there, other times through shameless copy-and-paste procedures deriving from the original source. Below is the first instalment, which had me attending glorious music festival Primavera Sound and reporting some of the best moments I experienced, all through a trademark Catalan reading lens.

Still, I’d urge you all to check out the source feature article directly on Punktastic too, as it’s wonderfully wrapped in shiny and fancy designs as well as relevant music discovery embeds that massively elevate the final product. More generally, go show them some love and explore all the incredible articles and reviews they publish, as it’s by far a much better site than this one and you won’t be disappointed.

———- NFB

Welcome to the first chapter of Notes from Barcelona, hosted by the Catalan capital’s newest expat: Alex Volonté. I’m honoured to be bringing you the most interesting and compelling aspects of the local alternative/punk music scene.

Since recently relocating here from London, I’ve been getting to know the musical pulse of the city and its region. Barcelona is in fact a rich and lively artistic hub. It has become increasingly attractive and forgiving to start ups and new creative businesses, especially in its modern, post-1992 Summer Olympics Diagonal Mar/22@ neighbourhood east of the city center. Furthermore, the city is home to major music festivals such as Sónar, Cruïlla, International Jazz Festival as well as global music trade conferences. It also lies just a short trip away from Cannes’ MIDEM, one of the world’s leading music industry events.

I couldn’t wait to explore Barcelona’s musical heritage first hand and find out for myself. That began with the most important live music festival in Spain, and one of the fastest-growing internationallyPrimavera Sound.

The event, generally considered a strong incubator for the indie scene, and leading widespread efforts in pushing artistic boundaries with cutting-edge content programming, such as last-minute, real-time show announcements, took place this year from 31 May to 4 June.

Spreading out to a multitude of locations across the city, the festival was accompanied by its international trade conference arm, Primavera Pro, as has now become custom for the past seven editions. The main event was set in the astonishing sea-adjacent Parc del Fòrum, surrounded by a variety of aesthetically pleasing ornaments such as massive solar panels, elegant rafts, and beach strips, wonderfully wrapped up by a long perimeter of Mediterranean waters.

This year’s bill was headlined by Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, The XX, and Aphex Twin, and from an alternative standpoint presented a very tasty line up of world-class punk-rock and metal bands including Slayer, Descendents, The Damned, Gojira, Converge, Death Grips, and Against Me!. I immediately knew Primavera was off to a good start when the first live rendition I heard was the visceral ‘Warning’ – third single from their 2014 album ‘LOSE’ – by festival openers Cymbals Eat Guitars, which made for a pretty beautiful induction into the whole experience. Speaking of which, I suggest you all take some time to revisit that whole LP as it’s one of 2014’s best ones and quite simply a sprawling and kaleidoscopic listen.

Yet, what attracted me even more was the rich Primavera offering of live shows by regional acts, most of which unsigned or simply championed by little or precarious local indie record labels. In retrospect, I’m so glad I did, as boy did I discover a variety of quality local outfits over the course of the festival.

In fact, a significant chunk of Primavera’s musical programming is intentionally devoted to delivering a spotlight on local Catalan musicians, an initiative brought forward by Catalan Arts, the Catalan Government’s Ministry of Culture umbrella term used to campaign in favour of local music. The Catalan Arts brand, besides working towards amplifying artistic outputs from the region of Catalonia internationally, with its overseas offices in Berlin, Brussels, London, and Paris, promotes and supports a big number of musicians throughout different markets on a regular basis. I thus made sure to pinpoint all those artists spanning genres from pop-punk to metalcore beforehand, trying my best not to miss them performing live within such an important platform for Barcelona’s prolific alternative movement as Primavera.

The festival’s scattered locations, as well as the unavoidable but still annoying line-up clashes, made it hard to catch everyone, however I came away from the festival with a juicy selection of a handful new music discoveries.

First on the list is the post-hardcore four-piece It’s Not Not, who delivered one of the most convincing live shows of the whole event with a direct, fun, and scintillating repertoire. Their live delivery blazed fierce emo influences and heavier moments, yet all minimalistically glued together by unpretentious and thin string sounds just sticking to bare bone basics. Their irresistibly catchy track ‘We’re Gonna Get Out’, for instance, from their latest effort ‘Fool the Wise’ (2016), could easily compete for major international hit status, although the highlights in their rollercoaster of a repertoire aren’t limited to that song alone.

Another one to bookmark, worthy of a proper listen, is About Leaving, a power alternative-emo quintet born and bred in the Catalan capital. Their live experience wasn’t helped by the fact that they got to play in a rather surreal setting of close to complete darkness whilst outside temperatures were on their way to hitting 30°C, all squeezed into a remote ballroom during the Primavera Pro conference. An early Jimmy Eat World meets Texas is the Reason, their set marched through long atmospheric bubbles and reigned by giant, skilled guitars (three in total in the band’s line up) and heavy-hitting drums. About Leaving’s debut album ‘An Echo’ came out last year, whilst elsewhere in their discography one also finds a rather pleasant Death Cab for Cutie tribute release track with a cover of ‘Passenger Seat’.

Yet there’s many more outfits worthy of closer attention, such as the fiery and vibrant Montseny-based Les Cruets, who released their debut LP ‘Pomes Agres’ through the  eclectic, multi-genre Barcelona label Bankrobber. They offer an explosive punk assembly crafted with Catalan flair from start to finish, so make sure to check out album opener ‘Creure’ as well as the wild and relentless combo ‘Instantània’ and ‘Anem Perdent’ for a biting taste of what they’re made of.

Then there’s a personal favourite in Rebuig, a sludge metal quartet from the Barcelona underground scene, currently achieving noise and recognition on a national level with their filthy and experimental sound, instigating sonic fireworks somewhere in-between Slayer and Black Sabbath. Their latest EP ‘Mort i Futur’ came out in spring last year, and despite the predictably limited tracklisting it actually averages at a surprising album-like length, with the two opening songs ‘Penjat i Empalmat’ and ‘After al Pati de Llums’ both nearing the 10-minute mark. An instant grower for sure.

Finally, my last recommendation is Les Sueques, a girl-powered, colourful and rather lo-fi post-punk group who have been very active in the past half-decade and have just released their newest record ‘Moviment’ this past February under local label El Genio Equivocado.

One of the leading exponents of national garage indie, the electric and artsy four piece is also one of Barcelona’s biggest prides. Their latest, fully Catalan-sung LP seems to reaffirm their subtle flirt with big poppy vibes and it sounds just like it could’ve come out of the same writing sessions as Paramore’s latest ‘After Laughter’, for one. Don’t forget to give their oldest material a try too (2013’s ‘Cremeu les perles’ and ‘Educació física’ from 2015), as there’s no shortage of crunchy, blistering, and potent songs on those collections.

My personal baptism in the local music scene in Barcelona far from a disappointing one, with a rollercoaster of genres and emotions experienced during my first attendance at Primavera Sound. The schedule consisted of extremely long days, starting mid mornings at Primavera Pro and its live showcase programming lasting all the way through the night with last sets finishing shortly before the next day’s sunrise.

Whilst I couldn’t resist some of the bigger shows by more renowned acts – Cymbals Eat Guitars, Death Grips, and Descendents all in flawless form as far as I’m concerned –  I quickly realized that Barcelona and its socio-cultural imprint is so much richer than just the Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí, and FC Barcelona.

Fins la pròxima vegada!

———- NFB

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

PrimaveraNet