Moving Units celebrate rise of dance-punk in their hometown

Moving UnitsBy Josh Herwitt //

Moving Units (10th anniversary show for Dangerous Dreams) //
El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles
December 5th, 2014 //

As the days count down to 2015, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the early 2000s marked a seminal time in the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll. But for fans of dance-punk, a subgenre that fuses punk rock, new wave and disco all into one cohesive sound, there may have been no bigger year than 2004.

A year after the Yeah Yeah Yeahs broke into the scene with their first full-length record, the Grammy-nominated Fever to Tell, dance-punk exploded into mainstream pop culture as young, emerging bands like !!!, Liars and Death from Above 1979 all released albums to predominantly positive reviews.

Yet, that same year, there was another dance-punk outfit — a much-lesser-known one by way of Los Angeles — that was also leaving an imprint on the dance-rock landscape.

Moving Units, a four-piece fronted by lead singer and guitarist Blake Miller, would end up playing a key role in the post-millennium renaissance of dance-punk thanks to their 2004 debut Dangerous Dreams.

Moving Units

The album, which embodies the dance-punk spirit as well as any studio recording to this day, would eventually find its way into more traditional media, including a television spot in 2007 for the deodorant brand Secret. But for those who were already fans of Moving Units, TV commercials weren’t necessary to justify the respect and admiration they had for Dangerous Dreams.

So, when the band announced that it would be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Dangerous Dreams by performing the album in its entirety, there were plenty of Angelinos who knew where they would be on the evening of December 5.

At the El Rey Theatre, Moving Units did exactly what they said they would, playing the 12-track LP from start to finish, as Miller let it all hang out, leaning into the microphone to deliver his lyrics with passion and force. The songs may have been more than a decade old, but you would have never known by how tight the band sounded.

For their encore, Miller and his three sidekicks — bassist Mike Delgado, lead guitarist Boz Bosgieter and drummer Danny Deleon — dipped even deeper into their catalog, going back to the start of it all by playing three songs from Moving Units’ self-titled EP. It was a nice surprise to see, considering the group dropped its third full-length Neurotic Exotic just a little more than a year ago.

Because these days, in this go-go-go world we find ourselves living in, it’s OK for a band to celebrate the past once in a while.

Setlist:
Emancipation, Between Us & Them, Available, Going for Adds, Unpersuaded, Anyone, Scars, Submission, Birds of Prey, Bricks & Mortar, Killer/Lover, Turn Away

Encore:
X and Y, I Am, Melodrama

New Music Tuesday: Future Islands • Liars • The Bad Plus • Glenn Kotche

NMT_FUTURE-ISLANDS

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


Future IslandsSingles

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Seasons (Waiting On You)”
“Sun in the Morning”
“A Dream of You and Me”

Album Highlights: The fourth album from Future Islands, Singles, jumps right out of the gates, showing their cards early and presenting the listener with their trademark new-school new-wave sound. Spotlighted by Samuel Herring’s assaulting vocals, opening track “Seasons (Waiting On You)” is a quintessential slice of the emotion this band has become well known for both onstage and in the studio. Hailing from Baltimore, this three-piece band has been nestled snuggly in the bosom of the underground, playing smaller festivals such as FYF and house parties alike, over the past years. Only recently have they been launched into the ears, and eyes, of new fans and having sold out the majority of their spring tour (not to mention banner sets at Coachella).

Future Island’s music can be described as polarizing. It truly is brilliant music as bassist William Cashion’s thumping lines perfectly compliment Gerrit Welmers synth and drum sequences. Samuel Herring’s vocals are stunning as he pitches and growls through tales of the tougher side of love. It’s pretty, gripping and powerful while also holding certain pop sentiments, lending to an overall lightness while being arresting. “Doves” balances all the elements nicely, shining a light on the top-notch production featured on Singles. “Song for Our Grandfathers” is another tender example of the bands ability to transform some serious subject matter into a beam of thoughtful optimism, all delivered by Herring’s supreme baritone. Powerful stuff going on here, guys.

Album Lowlight: This music is not for everyone, though it should be respected by the vast majority of tuned-in listeners. It’s plain to see Future Islands, as a band, appeal to fans of new-wave music, so again, may not be for every taste. On that note, every inquisitive music aficionado should give this album some time and respect.

Takeaway: It’s been a long wait for the fanatic followers of Future Islands as their previous release was released in 2011, and with this wait they have all been rewarded with a full album of superb tracks to dig deep into. As previously mentioned, Future Islands are polarizing and not everyone will latch onto Singles immediately, but those who give it time and attention will be rewarded. Surely, you’ll need to see them on stage as that is a whole other beast altogether. In the meantime, settle into a pinch of 80s nostalgia with a dash of heart, and play Singles by candlelight… if that’s your thing.

~Kevin Quandt


LiarsMess

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Mask Maker”
“Vox Tuned D.E.D.”
“Mess on a Mission”

Album Highlights: It feels strange to talk about an album of dark electro and industrial as a band’s most mainstream work, but Liars have never been much for conforming to norms. On Mess, their 7th album, the band delivers two relatively neat halves – one for the party, and one for the dank recesses of the after party – that are unified by their straightforwardness and presence on the spectrum of electronic dance music.

After spending the majority of their career exploring different ways to create anxiety and vertiginous instability, Liars kick off Mess by saying “Fuck it, let’s dance.” Not literally, though. Literally they start the album with Angus Andrew’s detuned voice dementedly commanding the listener to “Take my pants off, use my socks, smell my socks, eat my face off” before launching into a track (“Mask Maker”) that could sit comfortably between Front 242 and Revolting Cocks.

Emboldened by their new-found mastery of electronic instrumentation (made possible by the difficult making of 2012’s WIXIW), Liars spend the first half of Mess exchanging their traditional dread and unease for debauched revelry. “Vox Tuned D.E.D.” and “I’m No Gold” flaunt an end-of-the-world-party libido, while on “Pro Anti Anti”, an eerie organ riff is pummeled by a battering ram of synths, drums and Angus Andrew’s bellowing baritone, and the song proceeds to dance all over the debris.

Following the cerebral electro of the lead single, “Mess on a Mission”, the album shifts to a muted, post-apocalyptic tone and stays there for the duration. These songs have their root in the despair of WIXIW, but are fleshed out as proper dance tracks – “Dress Walker” is a particular highlight, with its percolating percussion and bouncing yet understated techno melody. The album concludes with “Perpetual Village” and “Left Speaker Blown,” 16 minutes of hypnotic murk.

Album Lowlight: Front-loading Mess with all of the album’s muscular & tuneful numbers was a gamble, and though it succeeds in providing a visceral rush, the dramatic about-face (never to return) will no doubt result in many jettisoned listeners. To be sure, there are interesting ideas throughout Mess‘ second half, but it does takes a few listens for them to reveal themselves. Liars earned a reputation early on as being difficult; one infamous review in Spin called them “unlistenable.” Through their sequencing choices in the second half of Mess, the band comes dangerously close to sounding boring.

Takeaway: Every Liars album is a transitional one, and Mess feels especially liminal. In pre-release interviews, the band has discussed how they wanted to break from the habit of over-analyzing every detail during the recording process, and this desire to cleanse the palate is palpable throughout Mess. And it suits them well: as a vocalist, Andrew is as dynamic as he’s ever been, and Aaron Hemphill has now fully transformed himself from a guitarist to a synth wizard. After resisting it for so long, Liars have finally opened themselves up to the musical possibilities of catharsis on Mess, and in doing so they’ve created a bonafide goth album. Whether it reaches the Hot Topic crowd is another matter entirely, but either way – don’t expect Liars to concern themselves with it the next time around.

~Karl Kukta


The Bad PlusThe Rite of Spring

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“The Augors of Spring”
“The Sage/Dance of the Earth”
“Glorification of the Chosen One”

Album Highlights: With the ninth album by the avant-garde jazz trio The Bad Plus, they decided to record Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring, and they absolutely nailed it. This classical piece is widely considered one of the most moving and important works of the twentieth century, and even started a small riot when it first premiered in 1913 Paris, France. Leave it to this trio to transform a historical musical masterpiece, most recently recognized in Disney’s “Fantasia”, into a work that is very much their own. Although this is essentially a cover album, The Bad Plus only use drums, bass, and piano to cover all the instruments that the original piece uses, so it is quite the task for these three talented men. If the original premiere was anything like this band’s version, then one can fully understand why a riot broke out over a century ago when listening to “The Augors of Spring”.

The beginning piano pounding off this song is extremely dramatic and could easily cause the mild-tempered to become crazed with anger. “The Glorification of the Chosen One” is my personal favorite piece from the whole ballet, mainly because of the many fast and swift time changes throughout, especially on piano. Another highlight is the amazing section of “The Sage/Dance of the Earth”. This piece starts quietly, as if trying to portray the morning stillness, then suddenly erupts into a bouncy, glorious afternoon of dance rhythms, primarily played by Dave King on Drums and pianist Ethan Iverson.

Album Lowlight: It’s quite hard to give a lowlight on this album because it is, after all, considered one the most important pieces in ballet or classical music. One lowlight would be that The Bad Plus took this long to put out a recording they have been playing live since 2011.

Takeaway: The Bad Plus took a chance with recording this masterpiece, and I feel that they succeeded with what they were setting out to do, which is to record an important piece of history while putting their own unique twist on it. Any fan of avant-garde jazz would enjoy this album immensely, while the traditionalist might find it hard to connect with such a wild style of play. I challenge anyone to listen to the original composition and then throw on The Bad Plus’s version and tell me that they’re not impressed with the group’s musical ability.

~Pete Mauch


Glenn KotcheAdventureland

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Anomaly: Mvt. I”
“Anomaly: Mvt. II”
“Anomaly: Mvt. VII”

Album Highlights: Glenn Kotche has found great success as Wilco’s drummer since the release of the classic Yankee Foxtrot Hotel. Throughout his tenure with Wilco, Kotche’s playful exploration of word percussion has become apparent with the implementation of unique items, such as hubcaps, to his drumset. And so it comes as no surprise his latest solo effort, Adventureland, is exactly that; an exploration in percussion that is both deep and diverse.

After hearing Kotche’s initial release Mobile, David Harrington of Kronos Quartet fame (a San Francisco based string quartet) asked Kotche to compose a piece for them. The result was Anomaly, a seven movement piece which provides the structure to Adventureland. The electronics-heavy album opener “Anomaly: Mvt. I” is the first signal of Kotche’s compositional talents in contemporary music. Static introduces perfect textures to this movement, creating a soundscape which simultaneously entrances and orients the listener to the ensuing movements.

“Anomaly: Mvt II” might be considered the only track that mimics a more conventional structure. The strings of the Kronos Quartet blend beautifully with the driving bass of the drums, creating melodic moments that are hard to come by throughout the rest of the album.

Anomaly, on the whole, is the true meat of Adventureland. The progressive nature of each of it’s movements creates a nice arc, leaving us with the more subdued “Anomaly: Mvt: VII” and one last taste of the Kronos Quartet’s gorgeous string melodies.

Album Lowlight: The intention behind contemporary works is to create aural environments that tell stories or relate feelings. Kotche’s compositions are certainly successful at this throughout Adventureland. However, some of the compositions such as “The Haunted” selections feel as though they lack the cohesion that is present in the “Anomaly” movements, as though a thread is missing between a few of the movements.

Takeaway: While Wilco may be on Glenn Kotche’s list of credentials, only the foolish would expect to hear anything reminiscent of Sky Blue Sky from this album. Adventureland is Kotche’s escape from all things Wilco. This album is an exploration into the loose musical structure only contemporary works will allow for, a modern take on an ancient form of musical expression. While it may be likely this album finds it’s audience with Berklee School of Music grads, I would like to bet with the right ear, many can come to appreciate Glenn Kotche’s ability to create such intricate compositions.

~Kory Thibeault

Quit your job and travel: 11 songs for inspiration

Travel

Let’s be honost, traveling is a pretty awesome experience. If you have the opportunity to abandon life’s routines and take on adventures far from home, you probably should do it.

So many countries actually encourage young people to go traveling abroad before settling down into a job and a family life. The United States has never embraced this, which isn’t surprising for a country that doesn’t value vacation or family proximity like other countries (see everywhere else).

Sometimes you just have to take a leap. Quit your job, say goodbye to your friends, spend most of your money and go have the time of your life. Experience new things and meet new people.

Listen to these 11 tracks from the last year for further inspiration.

Travel


John Talabot – “Journeys” feat. Ekhi

If you are doing it right, travelling is a collection of journeys, or one long journey. “Journeys” is one of the standout tracks from John Talabot’s 2012 record fin, and “running away with me” is the repetitious hook that will ingrain in your brain until you book your one-way flight.


Wild Nothing – “Paradise”

The best part about going on an international journey is discovering an ideal place that is hard to leave. It’s often good policy to keep moving if you don’t like a shitty destination, but settle in if you find your version of paradise.


Hot Chip – “Look at Where We Are”

That moment when you look around, make eye contact with your travelling partner, and acknowledge the overwhelming beauty around you – this moment is irreplaceable. And this usually only can happen if you challenge yourself to get somewhere.


Van She – “Idea of Happiness”

To those stricken with wonderlust, the idea of happiness is not knowing where you will go, where you will stay, or who you will meet.


Delicate Steve – “Positive Force”

Travel has it’s ups and downs, especially if you are going for an extended adventure. Shit happens, like missing your bus and sleeping at the station all night or you might get swindled or robbed. It’s OK. Be the positive force of your travel group.


JJ – “Beautiful Life”

You have no responsibilities except where you are going, what you are doing, and what you are consuming. It’s a dog’s life. It’s a beautiful life.


Vacationer – “Good As New”

Sometimes the best reason to go on a jaunt or extended travel is to get rejuvenated, to reboot your mentality or shake things up. This cut from Vacationer will make you feel as good as new, even if you’re stuck in a cubicle.


Liars – “No.1 Against the Rush”

Methodically moving with no set schedule can be key to freeing yourself. Don’t rush it. Take time to look around and absorb your surroundings.


Conner Youngblood – “Australia”

While this track from Australian singer/songwriter Conner Youngblood may be specific to a certain place, it’s sure to help you break out of your bubble.


Kavinsky – “ProtoVision”

Need a more upbeat kickstart to leave it all behind? Get your kinetic energy flowing in the form of crunchy beats. If life is static, break out of your mold and change something.


Bright Moments – “Tourists”

There are travelers and there are tourists, and the difference is that tourists don’t adapt. So many aspects to travelling absolutely suck, but focus on the good things when you get low and want to head home. You’ll wish you kept moving once you give in to being homesick.

PHOTOS: FYF Fest 2012

FYF Fest //
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
September 1st-2nd, 2012 //

We hit FYF Fest in LA last weekend to cover the two-day music festival for our very first time. With headliners Refused, M83 and Beirut leading the way, the FYF lineup also featured sets from James Blake, Yeasayer, Desaparecidos, Sleigh Bells, Simian Mobile Disco, Dinosaur Jr., Warpaint, Twin Shadow, Cursive, Liars, Chromatics, HEALTH, Fucked Up, Future Islands, Tycho, Purity Ring, Baroness, Gold Panda, Aesop Rock, Cloud Nothings, Father John Misty, Dâm-Funk, Wild Nothing, The Allah Las and many more.

You can view the full gallery here on our Facebook page, and you can also check out our favorite sets from the fest here. All photos by Pete Mauch.

FYF Fest 2012 - Aesop Rock

FYF Fest 2012 - Warpaint

FYF Fest 2012 - Yeasayer

FYF Fest 2012 - Chromatics

FYF Fest 2012 - AA-BONDY

FYF Fest 2012 - Nicolas Jaar

FYF Fest 2012 - Dinosaur Jr.

FYF Fest 2012 - Dinosaur Jr.

FYF Fest 2012 - Dinosaur Jr.

FYF Fest 2012

FYF Fest 2012 - Twin Shadow

FYF Fest 2012 - Chairlift

FYF Fest 2012

FYF Fest 2012: 10 not to miss

Written by Mike Frash //

FYF Fest //
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
September 1st-2nd, 2012 //

Nestled between downtown Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium at LA State Historic Park, FYF Fest opens its gates Saturday with a blend of punk, indie, garage, micro house, comedy, future pop and and reunions that should satisfy music fans. Fuck yeah!

FIVE FOR SATURDAY: One word: stacked. Get crazy with Fucked up, Sleigh Bells and The Men, mellow out with Chairlift and Tycho and don’t sleep on Chromatics, Future Islands or Tanlines. Bottom line: Saturday is conflict-laden. Here are five I’m focusing on:

Simian Mobile Disco

Get your dance on and the rage out.

Quicksand

You never know … I could go to M83.

Purity Ring

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. (I’ve heard they’re great live, too.)

Cloud Nothings

They put out a great album from earlier this year.

King Tuff

Alone and stoned. Oh the irony at a festival …

CONFLICT BONUS: James Blake

Really it’s the most gut-wrenching conflict Saturday. Purity Ring vs. James Blake. Maybe a split set will do?

FIVE FOR SUNDAY: Sunday offers another day of great variety. The power of Ceremony vs. the crooning of Father John Misty. Tiger & Woods’ 70’s disco grooves vs. Aesop Rock’s flow. The Eastern brass of Beirut vs. Gold Panda’s hypnotic beats.

Yeasayer

New set design and at least three good songs from their new album.

Nicolas Jaar

All sources indicate this set can be classified as “must-see live.”

Liars

No. 1 against the rush. Gotta love Day 2 at a festival.

Atlas Sound

Bradford Cox destroys as the frontman of Deerhunter and is an epic looper. Anything can happen.

Wild Nothing

They released a new album this week. It’s pretty fucking good. I found this video that’s not official, and I think it works perfectly with the music.

CONFLICT BONUS: The Field

More micro-house! Dance while you can, but I must see Bradford Cox’s solo project.

Conflict Double Bonus: Father John Misty

Honestly, I could see Ceremony, Father John Misty or Givers. They are all great bands — and all great live bands. I’m thinking of deferring to a mellow Sunday morning, but we’ll see.