Skyscraper Magazine » 2011 » July
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Favorite things from Columbus, Ohio

LA MICHOACANA: I eat tacos as often as possible. In Columbus, Ohio, where there is a large Mexican population, I go to a giant grocery store called La Michoacana on Morse Road. There is a cafe in back that serves goat barbacoa tacos, full of omega-3 fatty acids. Mexican soap operas fill the air. It is a far cry from the (American) football and strip malls and cover bands that define the city. My friend Fred tells me limes and cilantro are staples of good health. Cerveza, pinatas, happiness.

95.5 THE HAWK: 95.5 The Hawk is a classic country FM radio station from Grove City, Ohio, more rural and south of Columbus. There, “classic” is defined as 1990s on down. Old favorites like Coe, Hank Jr., Tom T. Hall, Willie, and Dolly meet new favorites like Eddie Rabbitt, Ronnie Milsap, Clint Black, and others. Miss Lisa is my favorite DJ of all-time.

WEXNER CENTER FOR THE ARTS: The Wexner Center for the Arts is a contemporary art space/cultural oasis on The Ohio State University campus. This past week I saw Michael Chapman and William Tyler. Past highlights: Andy Warhol exhibit, Debashi Bhattacharya, Peter Walker, Tony Conrad, Tinariwen, and endless films, dance performances, and theater troupes. Money from the Limited Brands old man owner makes this happen. How was I to know when I was in eighth grade lusting over the girls wearing Outback Red tube tops that the money earned from them would one day better my soul?

MUSICOL RECORDING: Musicol Recording is a studio and record pressing plant on the “other side” of Interstate 71. Countless classic, private press 45s and LPs were recorded and pressed there. The Numero Group reissued the Capsoul and Prix labels’ best releases, most of which originated inside Musicol’s walls. And the Mifflin Ensemble 45, classic high school rap from the earliest part of the 1980s. More recently, Adam Smith from Columbus Discount Records moved in for sessions. He did the new Times New Viking LP [Dancer Equired, Merge], some Cheater Slicks tracks, and our next full-length there.

YEAH, ME TOO: Yeah, Me Too is my favorite coffee shop in the world. Their beans are perfectly roasted and they only serve cups of French press and cold press coffee. No one that has had it disagrees with me that it is most delicious. Other coffee joints in bigger cities pale in comparison. YM2 accepts no credit cards and has no phone. Short on cash, you can write an I.O.U. or they take you on your word. It is also where I first discovered the art of ARC workshop (see below), which they feature regularly.

ARC INDUSTRIES NORTH WORKSHOP: ARC North Workshop is a sheltered workshop for adults with disabilities. I purchased a painting by one ARC artist, Debbie Porchetti, at Yeah, Me Too and it ended up being the album cover for our 2007 release, Change! (La Société Expéditionnaire). This led to the group of artists offering to paint 500 unique jackets for 500 LPs. One the best experiences of my life. Watch this video and get blown away.

STUDIO 35 CINEMA & DRAFTHOUSE: Studio 35 is a privately owned movie house that serves beer and does the double feature. I can walk there, get drunk, and walk home 4 hours later.

Jerry DeCicca is the guitarist and vocalist of indie folk rock band The Black Swans. The group’s fourth album, Don’t Blame the Stars, was released on Misra Records in May.

Photo: Michelle Maguire

On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ve been reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.

Paisajes, the fourth full-length album proper by this influential Oakland-via-San Diego instrumental band, is vibrant, colorful, and atmospheric.  It opens strongly with a “Raise Your Gaze,” a mid-tempo droning rocker, operating as a statement of intent. Chin up, we are told, but it also has to do with raising the stakes of instrumental shoegaze-type music, which they do here. Not just shoegaze but also post-rock, psychedelia, indie, new wave, and to a lesser extent, even jazz and Latin rhythms are all mined. “Raise Your Gaze” brings to mind the Velvet Underground but with more refinement, West Coast mellowness, and cleaner production values. This is clearly not going to be a post-rock snooze-fest. “Missoula” continues that thought with an upbeat rhythm. Using minor chords and arpeggiated picking patterns, this bright and delicate song conveys a sense of motion across the Midwestern plains, the open landscape imaginatively evoked by these California instrumentalists.  The poignant “L’Accident Hereux” offers a languid and fetching melody, deploying sustained tones. It is a bit reminiscent of later Blonde Redhead and even Air, when the retro analogue synthesizer floats in.

Tristeza often add diverse instrumentation to the usual guitar/drums/bass post-rock mix in unique and innovative ways. This album, much like Tristeza’s previous three (and numerous EPs in between), uses melodic, percussion-like vibraphone and marimba, plus touches of violin and viola. The dynamic “Dark Peers” uses mariachi trumpets to aid its cinematic effect. The third track, “A Traves de los Ojos de Nuestras Hijas,” brings in saxophones and a rapid, syncopated machine rhythm. Thirteen years on, Tristeza’s core line-up of guitarist Christopher Sprague, percussionist James Lehner, and bassist Luis Hermosillo continues to develop fresh and inventive sounds, here offering an attractive, fluid, cohesive collection of compositions with plenty of atmosphere and mood.

Paisajes is a well-crafted and ear-pleasing album. A doff of the hat goes to producer Tim Green, who also recorded Tristeza’s first album, Spine and Sensory (1999), for bringing out the tonalities and immediacy of the music. Fans of spacey indie and post-rock from acts such as The Blue Nile, American Analog Set, Stereolab, Tortoise, Sea and Cake, Füxa, and Bark Psychosis are sure to appreciate this accomplished and nuanced set by these now veterans. The years of craft-honing and passion for real music really show through, and this band and album deserve your attention.

Released in the UK last fall on Hungry Audio, Age of Denial recently saw the light of day in the US on limited edition vinyl, courtesy of Minty Fresh, to commemorate Record Store Day. This was the Norwich, UK, outfit’s first American release, and will hopefully spark more interest in the group. While I’d never listened to Sennen before, other than hearing their stellar cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” I had seen their name tossed around favorably on shoegaze forums and always meant to check them out. While researching this piece, I was quite surprised to learn how much of a back catalog they’ve accumulated since their debut EP Widows (Hungry Audio, 2005), including several full-lengths and a large number of singles and compilation cuts. Looks like I have a lot of catching up to do.

Though presumably named after the Ride track on the Today Forever EP (Creation, 1991), Sennen have a pretty multi-dimensional sound, going far beyond reviving the classic Creation Records sound. Consisting of Laurence Holmes (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Richard Kelleway (vocals, guitar), Tim Kelleway (bass), and James Brown (drums), the group conjures up darker sound-scapes than is typical in this nu-gaze genre, bringing to mind the likes of post-punk icons, such as early U2, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Chameleons, or even the twisted glam of Placebo.

The in-your-face title track kicks things off with pounding beats and fuzzy guitar, as it builds to an epic chorus before fading into a sweeping, U2-like atmosphere near the end, bringing to mind the moodier material on The Unforgettable Fire (Island, 1984).  This pattern of mixing softer and louder dynamics continues throughout Age of Denial to great affect, as on “With You,” which merges Joy Division-like precision beats within a summery pop song, and “Falling Down,” which starts slow and builds to a crashing finale like the best of Ride and Slowdive.  Another huge highlight is “S.O.S.,” which has a similar drive to Depeche Mode classics “Behind the Wheel” and “Never Let Me Down Again.” “Red Horizon” is a fantastic slow burner, a powerful melody carrying the song as its instrumentation builds and builds but never quite explodes. The tension sets things up for the following track, the crushing “I Can See the Light,” a stunning piece recalling Catherine Wheel on Ferment (Fontana, 1992), especially when the guitars kick into stun-gun mode.