Film At 11: Wesley Stace

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MAGNET’s Philly buddy Wesley Stace is set to release Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding February 24. He recorded it with the Jayhawks. (Good call, Wes.) Check out the Madden Meiners-directed video for “Better Tell No One Your Dreams,” which we’re proud to premiere on magnetmagazine.com today.

Says the always quotable (and really fucking smart) Stace of the clip, “The message of the song is self-evident, but I had a hard time coming up with a video, because all the images in the lyrics—being from actual dreams of mine—are so literal. So I thought I could make a virtue of this by literally acting out every line: But who’d be fool enough to do that? Well, a very-pretentious-perhaps-not-very-good, but well-meaning, man of the theater in a black polo neck and sneakers, who likes to put on one-man shows called things like ‘Dreams,’ because he saw Spalding Gray once and it changed his life. To him, it’s the most meaningful piece of art ever created, but it really only makes sense to him; the audience aren’t so sure. So he’s presenting this show, with props and stark lighting, in his off-off-off-Broadway black-box theater, but meanwhile some of his own greatest fears—nightmares from our collective subconscious—are bubbling to the surface.”

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MP3 At 3PM: The Ferdy Mayne

The Ferdy Mayne is the new project from songwriter Shane O’Malley Firek, and his new self-titled record is due in March. Submitted for your approval is “Pears And Asian Wine,” a downtrodden but slightly groovy rock tune that shows off Firek’s unique vocals. Check it out below.

“Pears And Asian Wine” (download):

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Ennio Morricone: A Fistful Of Dynamite

Legendary composer Ennio Morricone returns with the bold Morricone 60

From his roots in the avant-garde scene of his native Italy to the nouvelle, nontraditional symphony he composed for his most famous recent film score for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, composer, orchestrator and conductor Ennio Morricone loves to experiment.

These testing grounds might not include the early fuzz-tones, primitive rhythms, oddly tuned chorales or nature’s roars as did his earliest works. At the request of Italian “spaghetti-Western” (yes, Morricone supposedly loathes the phrase) director Sergio Leone, the composer engaged audiences with dusty, prickly scores for modern horse operas such as 1964’s A Fistful Of Dollars, 1965’s For A Few Dollars More, 1966’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and 1968’s Once Upon A Time In The West. Still, experimenting is his right and duty, even now as he manipulates the contours, luster and grand sweep of his best-known cinematic moments on his new album, Morricone 60, meant to signal both 600 compositions and 60 years in the biz.

“It is always difficult thinking about composing for a film while at the same time trying to find a compromise between that which can be, something that must be and something that should be understood and felt by an audience,” says the 88-year-old Italian known as “Il Maestro” through an interpreter from his apartment in Rome, his longtime home. Considering notions of experimentation, Morricone—who started out as a trumpeter along with spending time in Italy’s premier conceptual ensemble, Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza—remarks that he’s always looking to turn sound on its head. “I compose a piece of music that is interesting to me, that is relevant, contemporary and challenging because I do not wish to bore my audience,” he says. “Or me, for that matter. I want to feed my audience music that has dignity.”

And for the record, “No, I have not played the trumpet in nearly 50 years,” he laughs.

Talking about his initial, often dissonant influences in 20th-century composers Boulez, Stockhausen and Luigi Nono and the use of the “sounds of reality” to give his “instrumental music meaning,” that forum had to find its own form, its own shape, in his recollection. “Which was imminent; not all contemporary music had this, the sounds of reality, at the time,” he says. “But I used this to make a point, a sort of short circuit.”

Hence, the sweeping orchestration and noisy elements of scores for Leone, his baroque “giallo” (horror) for Dario Argento and Alberto De Martino; then a run of internationally famed directors from Bernardo Bertolucci, Lina Wertmüller and Pedro Almodóvar to Hollywood-Americans such as Brian De Palma, Mike Nichols, Barry Levinson, Warren Beatty and Oliver Stone.

Ask if he has heard or felt a difference in what he has written for Hollywood (he never even thought about moving to America, let alone learning to speak the language) as opposed to Mediterranean or European directors, he claims he never noticed. “It was always up to me to propose that which would solve a problem; that would fit a mood, a scene,” he says. “There are so many options. That is why it is difficult to strike the perfect balance no matter who the director is or where he is from.” More important for Morricone is that the music he’s composed—past or present such as those for new films (A Rose In Winter, La Corrispondenza) or those in pre-production (Aline & Wolfe)—must be able to exist outside the realm of cinema. “From the very beginning of the process, when I start writing a composition for a film, I write all music as independent and stand alone. If the music is audacious and powerful enough for a film, it must also have a life free from its images.”

This is why Morricone 60, recorded anew with longtime collaborators the Czech National Orchestra, is so powerful. Not because they conjure images of boots of Spanish leather and gunfire, but because their mood and colors do so on their own. The best example of that power comes in Morricone 60’s re-envisioning of the noisily classic “Main Theme” from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Devoid of its usual gut-shot yipping howls and twangy guitars, the new version is rich with deeper bassoon and brass arrangements to maintain its sand-swept majesty. “The new album was meant to mirror what had come before,” he says. “Maybe this time, though, I did not have the original instrumentation available. So I change to whatever I see fit. I decide right there and then.”

Spoken like a true sonic adventurer.

—A.D. Amorosi

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From The Desk Of matt pond PA: Mitski

The 11th matt pond PA full-length, Winter Lives, features artwork that evokes Windham Hill’s catalog. Winter Lives arrives 11 years after Pond’s nearly all covers EP, Winter Songs. Pond, a New Hampshire native, understands the season that inspired Winter Lives, but he needed to write winter songs in the spring, so the album would arrive in context. Given his background, Pond didn’t scratch down too far to find inspiration. “It’s just visceral,” he says of winter. “There’s this coldness and shut-down emotional temperament to people in northern places, but when you get through that, there’s so much depth and reality to northern people.” Pond will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com over the next two winter weeks. Read our new feature on him.

Pond: I want more heroes. I don’t need the playing field to be leveled. I want to forget about existence and shut down my computer world, all for a memory eclipsing the constant stream of imagery that floods my face.

I don’t want to be told that I am wrong when I gently wince at Hillary Clinton or Bon Iver or Angel Olsen or Kanye West. I would like to spiritedly wrangle with everyone at some point. (Have you seen me tease my sisters? Have you noticed me fail at Scrabble? I’d like to go down as one of the greatest sore losers of all time.)

Herein comes Mitski. Odd and modest at first introduction, soft melodies soon expand the aural riverbanks, through broadening, inspired production. Muffled drum machines grow into grinding guitars, saxophones, drums open wider, wider synths, back down to ticking, thumping electronic beats.

There’s no defying or denying admission into the world Mitski’s created—the listeners are respectfully allowed to participate, to see themselves through the lens, to feel both disillusioned and triumphant, as one.

We got here following the sweetest skein, through perfectly articulated strangenesses, drawn and sung, drawn and sung, until it’s OK to explode, it’s OK to dance badly and sing a full-throated harmony to “Your Best American Girl,” no matter what’s down beneath your trousers or on the arm of all these random, inconsequential skin tones.

We need more Princes, Chrissie Hyndes, David Bowies, Morrisseys and Mitskis.

“Down empty streets sniffing glue me and you, blank open eyes watch the moonflower bloom”

Video after the jump.

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MP3 At 3PM: Clem Snide

Clem Snide’s debut record, You Were Diamond, just got a shiny new reissue late last year, and we’re jogging your memory this afternoon with opening track “Better.” The 1998 tune screams late millennium DIY, roughed-up vocals and eerie viola lining the edges. Check it out below.

“Better” (download):

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Essential New Music: Peter Doherty’s “Hamburg Demonstrations”

Word is Peter Doherty, one-time headline-grabbing Libertines and Babyshambles head who taught Britain’s oughties youth the joys of electric guitars, natty suits and trilbies, had long desired recording in Hamburg for its associations with the Beatles’ legend. Interesting, then, his second solo disc having more to do with “Eleanor Rigby” and post-moptops-and-collarless-suits finery than with greasy quiffs, leather jackets and sweaty amphetamine-stoked versions of “Hippy Hippy Shake.”

Mind you, Doherty’s always been as comfortable with acoustic troubadour excursions as with shambolic garage punk. The acoustic guitar, in fact, seems closer to his heart. Hence, on music-hall-flavored post-Paris-attacks lament “Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven,” the now-30-something narcotized dandy taunts modern 20-somethings, “C’mon, boys: Choose your weapon/J-45 or AK-47.” (The Gibson J-45 was John Lennon’s acoustic of choice.) Elsewhere, he mourns former soulmate Amy Winehouse on “Flags Of The Old Regime,” references both Graham Greene (“Kolly Kibber,” named for the newspaper man whose murder ignites Brighton Rock) and Anais Nin (“A Spy In The House Of Love”) and further sails the good ship Albion to Arcadia while only once directly referring to his life’s mission in the lyrics to “Oily Boker.”

Hearing how Doherty appeared in Hamburg following the most recent Libertines dates promoting last year’s Anthems For Doomed Youth comeback record and materialized at Clouds Hill Recordings unannounced after inquiring about a suitable studio, it’s obvious he still values spontaneity. Yet Hamburg Demonstrations is the most carefully produced and executed music of his career.

—Tim Stegall

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From The Desk Of matt pond PA: Popcorn

The 11th matt pond PA full-length, Winter Lives, features artwork that evokes Windham Hill’s catalog. Winter Lives arrives 11 years after Pond’s nearly all covers EP, Winter Songs. Pond, a New Hampshire native, understands the season that inspired Winter Lives, but he needed to write winter songs in the spring, so the album would arrive in context. Given his background, Pond didn’t scratch down too far to find inspiration. “It’s just visceral,” he says of winter. “There’s this coldness and shut-down emotional temperament to people in northern places, but when you get through that, there’s so much depth and reality to northern people.” Pond will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com over the next two winter weeks. Read our new feature on him.

Pond: It is undeniable. It makes every film feel like a masterpiece. (My constant mistake is to take it to bed with me. The pain and scratch of all those bristly bits—there are some lessons of life I absolutely refuse to learn.)

The more complex the world gets, the simpler I treat food. Complication, fear and misunderstanding stay away from my mouth. A proclamation upon my forehead, carefully written in crayon: Keep Out Of My Oral Clubhouse!

The perfect egg is boiled for seven minutes. It’s served on salad greens, the yolk extends itself as part of the dressing, a dash of vinegar, a splash of salt. Coffee, black. Broccoli, steamed.

Sure, a well-crafted meal is like heaven on earth. Yes, food and sex stand steadfast and brave at the cornerstone of our continuation.

But in the last decade or so, the world of cuisine was taken over by a flashing series of screens, superstars shouting from the stovetops—the quotidian ease of fine dining and proper plating. So that every person preens and consider themselves a recognized chef, armed with expensive utensils and expiring spices. I hear too many sirens, I see too many sequins!

Relax. Popcorn is the equalizer—a handful of kernels, a little olive oil and some sea salt and everything is going to be OK. In bed.

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From The Desk Of matt pond PA: Death And Prince

The 11th matt pond PA full-length, Winter Lives, features artwork that evokes Windham Hill’s catalog. Winter Lives arrives 11 years after Pond’s nearly all covers EP, Winter Songs. Pond, a New Hampshire native, understands the season that inspired Winter Lives, but he needed to write winter songs in the spring, so the album would arrive in context. Given his background, Pond didn’t scratch down too far to find inspiration. “It’s just visceral,” he says of winter. “There’s this coldness and shut-down emotional temperament to people in northern places, but when you get through that, there’s so much depth and reality to northern people.” Pond will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com over the next two winter weeks. Read our new feature on him.

Pond: Here we are. These days death seems to expand higher and higher into our constantly stratospheric consciousness. Sharing, blowing up in the social-media pyrotechnics, before the news has had a chance sit still and weave sensible threads into some kind of conscientious quilt. Like the jagged night sky, as if it were enough on its own.

And here, we see it from two distinct sides. Perhaps the same sides as we saw before the smart-trouser telephones, but now it’s amplified in the palms of our hands: celebration and dismay.

Celebration. The anecdotes of impact, the life-changing moments of David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Muhammad Ali. At its best, it’s a jubilant wake, and everyone has a story worth hollering and hearing.

Dismay. When the assertion is that it means “more.” More connection, more sadness, something so much more profound than anyone else can feel. It’s best—but so hard—to ignore the “more-ness” of our modernity.

It’s no more and no less: Prince was my secret hero. His sexy cassettes hid under the bed, waiting for my minor interpretative dance routines.

There was no way to explain his relevance to any of my wood-chopping friends. They prided themselves on their platonic love of the Allman Brothers and their marksmanship—all perfectly reasonable, perfectly fine. Yet there was zero room for absolute self-expression.

Prince made me feel like there were no limits. To both life and death.

“Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?/Some people want to die so they can be free.”

Video after the jump.

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MP3 At 3PM: Bastards Of Fate

Bastards Of Fate will release Suck The Light Out on February 10. To get you ready, we’re bringing you “Freemasons,” an off-kilter rock track that starts out with an eerie fake-out. Check it out below.

“Freemasons” (download):

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matt pond PA: Hazy Shade Of Winter

matt pond PA once again trudges through the snow on new LP

The 11th matt pond PA full-length, Winter Lives, features artwork that evokes Windham Hill’s catalog and suggests Roger McGuinn if he’d been to the acoustic emo manor born. As the album swirls and drifts like the titular season, a question skitters across the expanse: Is the title noun accompanied by an adjective or a verb?

“It’s supposed to be both,” says Matt Pond diplomatically. “It depends on who you’re talking to. If you like that person, you can agree on the name. If you don’t, you can say, ‘No, it’s this.’”

There’s no clarification in the album’s title track, with its acoustic guitar intro setting a crystalline tone as perfectly as Greg Lake’s “I Believe In Father Christmas.” Pond’s lyrics reflect each possibility. “I say ‘Winter lives’ and ‘Show me winter lives’ both,” says Pond. “It’s harder to hear, but I’m trying to make that point subtly.”

Winter Lives arrives 11 years after Pond’s nearly all covers EP, Winter Songs. He admits a deliberate connection between the two works but confesses to a theme obsession.

“I think an idea will get stuck in my mind and then I’ll write into it,” he says. “A lot of the finality of things is based in looking at mortality, from the specific spot where I’m standing, into that long or not-so-long distance, winter being the most deathly of them all. I think of albums, even as I’m writing them, as albums, so in some ways, when you write that first song, it’s a curse, but it’s a good curse. I wrote ‘Winter Lives,’ and I thought, ‘There’s so much more in these moments.’”

Pond, a New Hampshire native, understands the season that inspired Winter Lives, but he needed to write winter songs in the spring, so the album would arrive in context. Given his background, Pond didn’t scratch down too far to find inspiration. “It’s just visceral,” he says of winter. “There’s this coldness and shut-down emotional temperament to people in northern places, but when you get through that, there’s so much depth and reality to northern people. Dragging yourself outside is a big deal, and everything acquires an extra layer of labor. And an extra layer. I like the austerity, but then I like the eventual ‘removing your coat and opening up’ part of it, too.”

Pond, an admitted onetime “Beatles dork,” longtime collaborator Chris Hansen and cellist Shawn Alpay wrote Winter Lives and brought in the Mynabirds’ Laura Burhenn and Moving Panoramas’ Leslie Sisson to flesh out the sound. Most of the recording was done remotely but still retains a palpable immediacy.

“Shawn lives in Portland now, so we used the internet a lot; it can be a tool for good,” says Pond. “The studio is my house for the most part. Shawn recorded stuff in his house, Chris makes a lot happen with a little stuff, and nothing is off the table. Some people know the studio backward and forward, and it’s a great place to open up songs, but I’m just not that way. I think it’s actually motivating to realize your limitations and accept anything that happens.”

Ranging from the jangly heartland chamber rock of “The Glow” to the poignant folk arrow of “Dirty Looks,” Winter Lives is also punctuated by little instrumental vignettes such as “Leggings In The Living Room,” which Pond asserts were not afterthoughts but intentionally purposed connective tissue.

“I wouldn’t want them to be arbitrary or just put in to kill time,” he says. “We try to finish about six songs over the point of being done so we know what we have is what’s right, in our minds, at least. To me, it completes the larger image. I’m trying. That’s going to be on my tombstone, I think.”

—Brian Baker

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