Tag Archives: Lightning Bolt

A Beginner’s Guide to Brutal Prog

Koenji Hyakkei

Koenji Hyakkei

“It was hard to learn, hard to play, and hard to listen to.” That’s how Dave Stewart of the British band Egg described progressive rock, the high-minded genre that emerged in the late 1960s, and peaked into the mainstream—think Yes, Genesis, and Rush—in the following decade. As such groups grew to value technical prowess, extended suites, and fantasy narratives, prog became a pariah, part of the rock pomposity that punk reacted to.

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Kill Alters Find the Light in Working Through Trauma

Kill Alters

Photo by Kate Thompson.

No Self Helps, the second album by Brooklyn trio Kill Alters, may go by fast, but it makes an impact. Grinding together Bonnie Baxter’s authoritative bark, Nicos Kennedy’s flying synths, and commanding beats from Baxter’s drum machine and Hisham Bharoocha’s drums, the group’s aural attack summons the same catharsis as a sweaty workout, a devout ritual, or a raucous party.

If that sounds intense, it should. No Self Helps is a product of three ardent years of work, during which married couple Baxter and Kennedy spent 30 hours a week holed up in Gowanus studio King Killer. Invited there by friend Matt Kilmer (the music coordinator on Louis CK’s series Louie), they hammered out ideas through a 5000-watt PA and 18-inch subwoofers, filling up all the spare time their day jobs allowed. “We were in there nonstop,” says Baxter. “Just soaking it up because we knew maybe it wasn’t going to last forever.” Adds Kennedy, “[It got] to the point where my family was like, ‘You guys need to stop for a second.’”

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Strange and Perfect Connections: Mats Gustafsson at 50

Mats Gustafsson
Mats Gustafsson. Photo by Micke Keysendahl.

Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson is still somewhat embarrassed that a three-day festival—held at the Vienna club Porgy & Bess in October 2014—was essentially organized to celebrate his 50th birthday. The venue sponsors a few artist-in-residency projects each year, and it invited the Swedish native—who lives in Nickelsdorff, Austria—to participate. He mentioned that his birthday was nearing and that, perhaps, the residency could be connected to the occasion. “And then I immediately regretted it,” he jokes. “But I’m very happy it was done.”

Earlier this year, more than four hours of highlights from that extravaganza, which featured performances by the saxophonist with many notable collaborators, was released as a box set by Trost Records: MG50 Peace & Fire. It’s a spectacular collection of gritty, high-energy free improvisation jazz and experimental music from one of the most prolific and passionate figures in cutting-edge sounds of the last three decades. “It was still a focus on me, and I feel a bit uncomfortable when I look at the box sometimes,” he says. “But I have friends who convinced me it was a good thing to do.”

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Listen to the Death by Audio Live Compilation in Full

Ty Segall. Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Independent show spaces open and close across the country almost every month, but the shuttering of the Brooklyn venue Death by Audio in 2014 was a particularly painful sting. This is largely because the venue didn’t lose its lease to luxury condos or corporate chain stores, but to VICE, a publication that had, on its surface, long attempted to align itself with counterculture and the underground. A film about the venue’s final days, Goodnight Brooklyn, depicts VICE as tyrants and mercenaries, consistently making the venue uninhabitable in order to drive the founders out before the agreed-upon end date. The whole situation felt bitterly ironic: a large corporation that prided itself on a sense of cool actively working to unseat a venue that was, to many, the epitome of punk counterculture.

Two years later, the venue’s legacy still looms large. The triple-LP compilation Start Your Own Fucking Show Space, which we’re premiering today in full, collects notable performances from the venue’s final days, and comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve that unfolds to replicate Death by Audio’s interior, right down to the custom murals by local artists on the stage and walls. (The center panel is a picture of the stage, the left panel is the left wall, and the right panel is the right wall; if you raise the sleeve to your head, it feels like you’re standing in the space.)

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