The first question that filmmaker Don Hardy, Jr. was inevitably asked whenever he told people that he was working on a documentary about the legendarily mysterious Residents was, “You’re going to reveal their identities, right?” In most minds, any film purporting to tell the four-decade story of the anonymous Bay Area weirdoes had only one possible ending: the unmasking of those top-hatted eyeball heads.
It’s not really spoiling anything to reveal that Theory of Obscurity, which will have its Philly premiere at International House for a single screening on Wednesday, Jan. 27, doesn’t go so far as to put faces and names to the Residents. As always, the band is spoken for by Homer Flynn and Hardy Fox, co-founders of the Cryptic Corporation, friends of the band who’ve managed their careers and maintained their public faces from the beginning. The true story of the reclusive creators is left to be glimpsed between the lines of their ever-evolving mythology.
There was an ominous silence at the International House earlier this month as Joe Jack Talcum of Dead Milkmen prepared to play “Railroad Bill.”
On Jan. 15, the International House in Philly screened the documentary The 78 Project, a film in which New York-based folk music and field recording enthusiasts Alex Steyermark and Lavinia Wright traveled the states capturing performances by various musicians in gardens, bedrooms, and other non-traditional locations.
After the screening, the 78 project team did a live recording and pressing of Philly-based Joe Jack Talcum playing the Bob Dylan cover on acoustic guitar and harmonica. Continue reading →
Beginning tonight International House Philadelphia (IHP) is presenting the first in its newly conceived speaker series: Wayfaring: Conversations on Travel, Art & Culture, curated by Anthony Smyrski of Random Embassy and Megawords. The series will give members of the art community a way to discuss the way that travel and multi-cultural experiences have influenced the artistic process. The first speaker (tonight Sept. 18, 2014) is artist and graffiti muralist Stephen Powers who will discuss his on-going projects: A Love Letter to the City. Bob Bumbera from the XPN Morning Show had a chance to speak with both Powers and Anthony Smyrski recently about the new speaker series at I House Philly. Continue reading →
There’s something unsettling just beneath the surface of Susanna Wallumrød’s music, like bodies submerged in a placid lake. The Norwegian singer-songwriter crafts stark, delicate songs whose serene beauty is pierced by often harrowing emotion. She’ll spin her alluring webs at the International House’s piano on Tuesday night for an Ars Nova Workshop-presented show also featuring solo performances by guitarist Chris Forsyth and Buchla synth master Charles Cohen.
Susanna has garnered notice for her striking covers, which take on originals as diverse as Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and KISS’ “Crazy Crazy Nights” (of all things), stripping each down to bare bones and raw sensation. But on her latest, Wild Dog, she weaves the same chiaroscuro atmosphere from a set of her own taut, aching originals. Her set, for which she’ll be accompanied by Deathprod/Supersilent guitarist Helge Sten and her brother, drummer Fredrik Wallumrød, will likely blend both, but will certainly be a hypnotic evening. Tickets and more information on the show can be found here.
Swaggery Doylestown rock crew Commonwealth Choir are one of nine acts tapped for this month’s installment of the Communion Club Night series at Underground Arts. The band is prepping a new EP for release later this spring, meaning new songs will likely be in the cards for tonight – hopefully “Pacers,” the single they premiered at their recent Key Studio Session which you can watch below. Also on the bill are Cruiser, Modern Inventors, Caveman and more. Tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.
While it seemed a stretch to take an electronic rock leading lady out of the club and into the art-house, last night Zola Jesus gave the impression that she’s more comfortable in a theatrical setting. Backed by New York’s Mivos Quartet, as well as experimental music trailblazer J.G. Thirlwell – who conducted the proceedings with a metronomic arm from behind a MacBook – Zola Jesus’ set at International House was a haunting chamber pop performance as heard on her new album, Versions.
The record was made in collaboration with Thirlwell and Mivos, and it spins a selection of industrial-inspired dance songs from the Zola Jesus catalog as delicate pieces set to strings and accentuating beats. For last night’s performance – the first on the group’s fall tour – the beats were all but stripped away. Mostly we heard the frontwoman’s intense vocal inflections backed by fervent playing by the quartet; Thirlwell, wearing headphones, simply kept time, acted as conductor in the orchestral sense for most of the set.
“Hikikomori” was a particularly stunning selection early on, and saw the start of Zola’s pantomime gestures and not-quite-dance-moves that went on to accentuate the songs throughout the show. The string strains of “Sea Talk” were also tremendous and uplifting, and her vocals soared on this one; she’s got the pipes of a pop singer, cloaked in a goth diva’s mystique. (Not unlike Kate Bush in that regard.) Without a packed club crowd to contend with – this group was politely nested in auditorium seating – Zola Jesus wandered offstage and onto the floor, huddling at the foot of the first row, staring piercingly into the audience’s eyes.
Thirlwell’s contribution expanded by the set’s close to involve the dispensing of beats – which sounded great on “Clay Bodies,” a song originally from Zola Jesus’ 2009 album The Spoils; though it does not appear on Versions, it was reworked tremendously by the ensemble for its first-ever live performance (watch a video below).
The performance was the fall season kickoff at International House, and was paired with a benefit art auction that runs til 3 p.m. today and preview of some of the programming in store – including a showcase of Federico Fellini’s films as well as a series of events themed around birds (including, naturally, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds). More information can be found at the International House website.
What happens when you take an experimental composer and an experimental electronic artist? A beautiful combination of classical-tinged symphonic pop. As her new album approaches, Nika Roza Danilova (better known by her stage name Zola Jesus) was filmed doing a special performance of “Avanlanche” off her last album, Conatus, at NYC’s Guggenheim Museum. The song was rearranged by composer JG Thirlwell, an experimental composer with roots in the 80s / 90s industrial music scene (frontman of Foetus, remixer and collaborator of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails). Performed by string quartet, “Avalanche” takes on a new life. The live performance is sparse, a bare-bones rendition of delicate strings accompanying Danilova’s voice. This alternative style seems to hint at Zola Jesus’ direction on the new album, Versions, which will take her old records and look at them from a new, stripped-down perspective. Versions comes out on August 20th, but in the meantime you can watch the video of her performance below. The Zola / Thirwell tour makes a Philadelphia stop at the International House on September 12th. Information on the show can be found here, tickets are available here.
Philadelphia-founded dream pop outfit A Sunny Day in Glasgow is playing its first local show in over two years this month at International House‘s Spring Arts Preview on January 17. The band will perform a live set at the event, and will also provide a live soundtrack to a Puce MomenT, a short by American underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Two other Anger shorts will screen as well, as well as a selelction of Russian science films from the Roman Vishniac Film Collection. The event is free, but RSVP is required here.
Sunny Day recently announced that its as-yet untitled fourth full-length is near completion; the band funded it through a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, and we’re hoping to hear a selection of new songs at the show. Its last release was Autumn, again in 2010. Below, check out a video of the band performing at Le Poisson Rouge in New York in 2009.
Experimental Philly four-piece Arc in Round is headed out on a two-month tour with Frightened Rabbit in support of its debut self-titled LP, which recently got a vinyl release through Delaware Water Gap indie label La Société Expéditionnaire. The tour itself does not stop in Philadelphia, but Arc in Round makes a local appearance in the midst of it, playing West Philly’s International House on Sept. 6 for its Fall Arts Preview. Below, check out a new remix of the album’s single “Said Adtray” by Portland-based ambient musician Benoît Pioulard, and download it for free.