Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lee Miller at SFMOMA

Once again, here I am, plugging away for SFMOMA. What can I say? It's my favorite museum in San Francisco and their exhibits are put together with style and class. Not to mention they always seem to snatch up exhibits by some of my favorite artists.

For these reasons, this post is to persuade you to visit SFMOMA some time in the next mont and check out their latest photo exhibit, which has come straight from the Victoria & Albert museum in London. Fancy stuff, I tell you.

This exhibit has but a couple more weeks left but there is still time to catch the photography of one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, not to mention a woman photographer. In a world where even the business of artistic photography seems to rely on what men can produce, Lee Miller's photos are different, interesting, and a long awaited view from a woman's prospective. While many of the photos remain dark or candid, others are simple and depictive of every day life.

Most often described as a surrealist photographer, she was heavily influenced by Man Ray after meeting him. Miller doesn't forget where she came from though either: she modeled for years before being a photographer.

I loved this exhibit because it doesn't just leave out what got her to photography: it's the span of her life. It really is a personal glimpse at her and her work.

The collection is extensive and vast and definitley a must see to comprehend where photography is going and from where it has come.

Like the surreal and candid? It's for you. Just like photography in general? It's definitley for you.
The Art of Lee Miller
Click here for more info
Exhibiton runs till September 14th, 2008
More than 150 photos

I thought I would also take this moment to announce my moving to Vermont. Tonight, I am boarding a plane to head over there. While I will still be back in San Francisco for a good amount of the year, most of my blogging will be from over there and thus mostly reviewing of CDs or bands. Still, you can all count on Blaine and Anna to fill up all the happenings of the Bay, as both are still in residence here.

I will miss SF, but I will be back. Thank you for all the support so far!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Extremely Belated - Fleet Foxes @ BotH 6/26 and Matmos @ GAMH 7/12

Part I: Fleet Foxes

The show got kicked off nicely with two openers: Mist & Mast, and the Dutchess (no typo) & the Duke.

Mist & Mast, a local band, have a widely varied sound in the sense that it's hard to tell what exactly their focus and future musical destinations are; their songs are strong compositionally, but so far there isn't a huge amount of continuity on the level of the overall body of work. From seemingly Nirvana-inspired croons to surf-rock-reminiscent riffs to walking-rhythm folk melodies, Mist & Mast's music is like a crazy agglomerate of everything rock-related that you've ever heard. The medley of genres doesn't quite show in their paltry selection of recordings on myspace, but it is beautifully organized - and it's up to the listener to decide whether they're trying to cover more bases than there are on the field, or whether they're doing a great job experimenting with the sounds that the past has laid out as influence on contemporary developments.

Seattle's the Dutchess & the Duke, on the other hand, are driven by one goal only: fast folk with few instruments and powerful harmony. With the duo on vocals and guitar and a third person on percussion (tambourine, maracas...), the D&D filled the space with rolling wanderer's ballad after rolling wanderer's ballad. The songs are full of contrast - big sound from few things, an up beat with lonely lyrics, the male-female harmony, and so on. While the tone of the music is more somber - the song 'Reservoir Park' sounds like 'House of the Rising Sun' played in double time - it did establish its folk origins, preparing the crowd for the main set by Fleet Foxes.

Fleet Foxes kicked off their set with 'Ragged Wood,' and the concert was filled with nearly every song from their eponymous album that was released earlier this year. Given the genre, it certainly wasn't a wild show, but the group gave their performance a very personal feel, responding even to oddly enthusiastic viewers' comments like "Nice capo!!" The stage was crowded with instruments and mics and people, which created a kind of living-room close ambiance that combined nicely with the cozy mountain feeling radiating from the music. From 'White Winter Hymnal' to 'He Doesn't Know Why,' the crowd was charmed by impeccable instrumental work and bassist Wargo's amazing harmonies. The show was peppered with anecdotes from the tour - people got sick in Europe; London reviewers made mocking remarks on their long hair and the youthful looks of the guy on ukulele (on the far right of the photo; couldn't find his name). All in all, the night transported everyone to a different world - simpler, more comfortable, and very down to earth and woodsy; it was a campfire world with the benefits of electricity, and well worth experiencing in any setting at all.

Part II: Matmos

The Matmos show opened with a performance by the Baltimore-based Wobbly (John Leidecker). Operating several machines and accompanied by another person doing live visual effects that were created by sliding and crumpling various textured items under some sort of projection apparatus, Leidecker shows off his 10+ years of experience with his instrumental techniques by sending out gigantic waves of powerful noise, spontaneous repeating rhythms that seem to vanish as quickly as they appear, and tiny ear-taunting samples. The visual effects enhanced the sound by reflecting what the ear was experiencing in realtime: a soar in the quantity of abrasive noise would be partnered with rough-looking materials being crumpled or shaken, and rotating gentle patterns would be performed (no other word quite fits) when Leidecker played smoother sounds. The projection screen was damned riveting, but if the eye happened to stray, it would be sure to fall upon Leidecker's feet, tapping the machines' pedals under the table and behind a curtain of cords, and his head, bobbing and swaying with new sounds just as he generated them. Somehow the whole arrangement made me conjure up a strange phrase to describe it: "post-apocalyptic show-and-tell;" it was like having a non-voice from the future describe in detail everything that would exist if the world was bombed to wreckage, and you couldn't help but listen.

Matmos' performance began with the group wandering through the audience with little lasers. At first there was silence; then bleeps and scratches emerged; the music began to build and mix. How was it happening? A light-receptive module in the apparatus onstage would emit sound every time a laser hit it, and as the members of Matmos approached and the frequency of laser hits increased, the abrupt sounds became more continuous and metamorphosed into the music. Like Wobbly, Matmos was accompanied by visuals, but these came in the form of previous recordings. Some told a story with the music, such as that of Steve (was that his name?) who goes out to his (?) small backyard pool one sunny afternoon to masturbate. The first video, shown at left, was of a girl speaking slowly with her eyes covered by what may be halves of ping-pong balls. Others were just beautiful, like a grid of swelling black dots on a white background or a field of dots in a circle changing colors, swirling, and turning into spirals. Some noises were new, and others sounded familiar from the group's latest album, "Supreme Balloon;" everything sounded amazing. If you have yet to hear the sounds of the ARP 2600, the musical creations of Matmos are most definitely one of the best ways to first experience it.
Standing right next to a speaker is not highly recommended as a general rule, particularly for extremely loud shows like this, but I defied my better judgment to feel the higher-pitched beams of Matmos' (generally) all-synthesized sound in addition to the low ones that boomed in the floor and made everyone's shirts shake. It was quite a mind-blowing (and ear-popping) experience: every sound seemed more powerful than the next, each demanding the listener's full attention in turn and holding everyone captive in a deep trance that was more akin to a series of smacks up the side of the head than a soft embrace. And yet somehow I felt lulled to sleep, a concept that even now I cannot fully grasp. There's just something so delightful about hearing (and feeling) a plane landing next to you - one of my favorite sounds of the night - that there's no way to describe the way it warms the heart, revs up the ears and mind, and makes you want to jump up and down like a kid, all at the same time.