July 16th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Out now on Asthmatic Kitty Records, Chris Schlarb’s Psychic Temple II is an auteurist outing with an all-star cast.
Led by composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Schlarb, the Psychic Temple project brings together an enormous range of artists from the musical underground: singer-songwriters Ray Raposa of Castanets, Nedelle Torrisi of Cryptacize, Aaron Roche and Sufjan Stevens; Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens; Death guitarist Paul Masvidal; Xiu Xiu and Nels Cline bassist Devin Hoff; drummers Tabor Allen and Andrew Pompey; trumpeter Kris Tiner; and many more.
“Each one of them is a leader of their own project,” Schlarb says of his Psychic Temple lineup. It’s “an honor,” he says, “for me to be in charge for a little while.”
Psychic Temple II was recently chosen as a First Listen by NPR.org, who said that Schlarb’s ”restless creativity has no choice but to continuously seek new worlds” and praised his “unfailing determination to make things happen.” Schlarb himself describes the Psychic Temple project’s sophomore out as “the most ambitious large scale work for an ensemble that I’ve ever put together,” but the effect of the music is more important to him than its complexity.
“If somebody wants to jump into it on a songwriting level or a structural level, they can listen to it and say, ‘Wow, that’s really neat, these chords are really interesting,’ or, ‘These time signatures are jumping around,'” says Schlarb, “but I’d also like to reach them on a sentimental level. It doesn’t just exist to be difficult.”
Instead, Schlarb says, “I really challenged myself with this record, to write stuff that was a little more intricate and complex and detailed, but still allowed to live and breathe.” The result merges the sophistication of jazz or chamber music with an unpretentious indie-rock atmosphere.
Psychic Temple II is available in CD, LP, and digital download packages starting July 16.
[youtube width=”542″ height=”305″]http://youtu.be/u2JaCBnEzsM[/youtube]
December 20th, 2012 , by John Beeler
What’s a Flexi? Invented in the 1960s as an easy way to distribute singles alongside printed material (like magazines), a flexi is a paper-thin vinyl record. And Joyful Noise’s Flexis are clear, single-sided, 7″squares. It’s a pretty unusual format, but playable on any standard turntable.
The 2013 lineup also includes:
Here We Go Magic
Helvetia feat. Built To Spill
Mike Adams At His Honest Weight
The Sea And Cake
Sufjan Stevens & Cat Martino
Flexis are not available for individual sale, you must subscribe to the entire series. However, you may cancel at anytime. You may sign up for automatic monthly payments, or pay all at once for the whole year.
Subscriptions are available for $5 / month (w/ a “deluxe subscription” available which includes a box set), right here.
EDIT: The tracks in the Flexi series are exclusive, including Sufjan and Cat’s. You won’t find them anywhere else except in Flexi form!
December 6th, 2012 , by John Beeler
If you’re going to one of the remaining shows from The Sirfjam Stephanapolous Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Spectacular Music Pageant Variety Show Disaster, you’ll need a songbook. Your entrance fee + ticket reservation accusation + online bandwidth transmission charge + emitted diode light security insurance fee entitles you to receive one at the show, but we know that some of you may wish to have them early so as to study, to color, to share.
Click here to download the songbook in PDF form. Print in B/W, fold in half.
EDIT: We just moved the show in Indianapolis on December 14th from the Old National Deluxe to the Old National Egyptian Room. The Wheel of Christmas is larger than the basement. Tickets available now – click here to get them for $20 + fees.
November 20th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Later this week, Sufjan Stevens begins his tour for Silver & Gold starts this week. If you’re going, there’s some homework. Listen to and memorize these songs, and then watch a few videos featuring Sheila Saptuo, who’s opening for Sufjan. The videos, directed and produced by Jeff Shoop, Rosie Thomas, and Deborah Johnson are featured on Pitchfork today. Click here to view all of them.
November 13th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Silver & Gold, the 5-EP compilation of Christmas music by Sufjan Stevens, is out now.
Continuing where Sufjan’s 2006 Songs for Christmas ended, Silver & Gold includes volumes 6 through 10. The CD boxset includes stickers, temporary tattoos, a paper ornament, song lyrics and chord charts, liner notes and essays, and of course five Christmas EPs.
Look to the right for purchasing options.
On Friday, Sufjan released a video of “Justice Delivers Its Death,” which you can view below, and today we’re releasing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” as directed and produced by the Craig Brothers. Keep your eye on this YouTube playlist for more Silver & Gold related videos.
October 24th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Halloween is just around the corner. How better to celebrate the ghoulish occasion than with a new Sufjan Stevens Christmas clay-mation video for “Mr. Frosty Man,” a fast and furious tableau featuring a renegade snowman’s battle against flesh eating zombies.
It’s a veritable Christmas bloodbath (made especially not for children) by the infamous clay-mation master Lee Hardcastle, displaying all the gore of a classic horror flick: zombies interrupt an otherwise normal family Christmas dinner but are thwarted by a rebel snowman wielding a chainsaw, a shotgun, and chip off his shoulder. Children (and spoilers) beware: Mommy gets mauled under the mistletoe and Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick gets a hard-knock lesson in weight loss, but, rest assured, Mr. Frosty Man doesn’t go down without a fight. He’s a real American Christmas hero!
Lee Hardcastle is the master animator behind such cult favorites as “Chainsaw Babe,” “Hamster Hell,” “The Exorcist (Done in 60 Seconds)” and “Pingu’s THE THING,” which reenacts John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece using Pingu characters. (For stateside readers, Pingu is sort of like the British version of Gumby, but as a penguin). Not for the faint of heart, Lee’s DIY animation is a gruesome sight to behold: unforgiving and unforgettable, heavy on gore and gags, and quick to the punch (his “Done in 60 seconds” series also tackles Hostel, Shaun of the Dead, and The Evil Dead).
Sufjan’s “Mr. Frosty Man” is a garage-rock parody appearing on the forthcoming Silver & Gold (from the “I Am Santa’s Helper” EP) about a disenchanted thug snowman, partly inspired by Coolio, Mister Softee, Frosty the Snowman, and Bruce Campbell.
Revel in the scene of carnage here.
PS: Tickets are still available for some of Sufjan’s upcoming Christmas shows. See availability and buy links here.
[youtube width=”542″ height=”305″]http://youtu.be/fDDAybCe1uI[/youtube]
October 9th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Sufjan Stevens will jingle-jangle his way across America, bringing yuletide cheer to your local music club, sharing reverent hymns and pop carols from his upcoming Christmas album Silver & Gold. “The Sirfjam Stephanapolous Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Spectacular Music Pageant Variety Show Disaster” will be a tragic-comedic feast for the ears and eyes. Sufjan will be joined by a 5-piece band (including Rosie Thomas, Nedelle Torrisi, Casey Foubert, James McAlister, and Ben Lanz) playing all the hits from both Christmas box sets. Send us your song requests!
All Grinches be forewarned: the show will consist entirely of Christmas music, inviting audience participation. Be prepared to sing along with bawdy bravura! Song sheets will be provided. There should be plenty of low-production props and gags, dollar-store giveaways, inflatable unicorns, cheap confetti, make-shift costumes, and Gloria in excelsis deo. Wear a santa hat, bring a flask (and a friend) and join the Sufjan Christmas Spectacular Sing-a-long in drunken revelry.
Extra-special guest Sheila Saputo—the hottest ticket from Gary, Indiana—will be opening all dates with her indelible ice-breaking pizzazz.
Twenty-four dates in less than 30 days, including Saxapahaw (Home of the Christmas Market!), Chattanooga (Deck the Ruby Falls!), Oxford (Ride the Christmas Double Decker Bus!), Missoula (Mother Nature’s Christmas Tree!), Providence (See Santa arrive at Bowen’s Wharf Christmas Tree Lighting!), and New York City (SantaCon 2012!).
Check your venue for availability.
Note on Bowery show in NYC: Due to legalities with the State of New York, the Sufjan Stevens show will not go on-sale until December 19th, two days before the show. The goal was to stop scalpers from getting ahold of the tickets by making tickets available only through will call. Unfortunately, state law prohibits paperless shows and making this on-sale two days before the Sufjan show was the best solution. Thank you for understanding as we try to provide an equal buying opportunity for all fans. We are truly sorry for any inconvenience this has caused anyone.
October 8th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Many thanks to those who ventured uptown to the modernist caverns of Lincoln Center to partake of the new ballet Year of the Rabbit by Justin Peck. The Friday premiere had a fun and feisty vibe (six curtain calls). Mike Atkinson did some fierce wrangling with the orchestra. And the dancers were heroic. Congrats to all. There’s one more performance this Saturday, Oct. 13. Student rush tickets ($20) are available on the day of the show, while supplies last. See you there.
October 2nd, 2012 , by John Beeler
Happy Holidays! On November 13, 2012, Asthmatic Kitty will release (another!) Christmas box-set extravaganza by Sufjan Stevens—Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10, a compilation of 5 EPs recorded between 2006 and 2010.
Expanding on the tradition of the first box-set (Songs for Christmas, Vols. 1-5 from 2006), Silver & Gold is a generous document of five more years of holly-jolly jubilee undertaken by Sufjan and his various musical cohorts. Originally intended as gifts for family and friends, these musical snapshots have been re-mixed and re-assembled in an exquisitely-designed gift box containing all the Yuletide pleasures money can buy: Christmas stickers, temporary tattoos, lyric sheets and chord charts, a paper ornament, an apocalyptic pull-out poster, photos, illustrations, and extensive liner notes—a veritable Christmas feast for the eyes and ears.
The album features collaborations with a running line-up of friends and musical peers, including Aaron and Bryce Dessner (The National), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Cat Martino (Sufjan’s right-hand woman on all things Age of Adz), Sebastian Krueger (Inlets), Gabriel Kahane, Vesper Stamper, and members of Danielson (Daniel, Elin, Lilly, and Ida). Sufjan’s indelible aesthetic maintains the album’s center of gravity, resulting in an abundant compilation (nearly 60 tracks) that investigates the canon of devotional hymns and holiday pop songs with reckless abandon (totaling nearly three hours of music).
Silver & Gold will be available in digital download, and as a CD box-set containing:
1. Five CD EPs (Gloria, I Am Santa’s Helper, Christmas Infinity Voyage, Let It Snow, Christmas Unicorn)
2. Christmas stickers
3. Temporary tattoos (non-toxic & safe for children)
4. A paper ornament (self-assembly with directions)
5. An apocalyptic pull-out poster
6. Song lyrics and chord charts (sing along with your friends and enemies)
7. Hallucinogenic photographs and psychedelic graphic design (by Sufjan Stevens, drug-free since 1975)
8. Extensive liner notes (essays by Sufjan Stevens and Pastor Vito Aiuto)
Silver & Gold will be available in a big and beautiful, limited-edition LP gift-box containing the following (due to elaborate manufacturing, release date pending):
1. Five EPs on 6 vinyl discs
2. Christmas stickers
3. Temporary tattoos
4. A paper ornament
5. An apocalyptic pull-out poster
6. A 40-page Christmas songbook with vocal and piano reductions
7. A Christmas coloring book
8. Hallucinogenic photographs and psychedelic graphic design
9. Extensive liner notes
Both the CD and vinyl boxset will be available at your local record store.
Read more info about the boxset here.
You can also preorder a special version of the Limited Edition Boxset, which will include some extra holiday gifts shipped before Christmas. Do that on Bandcamp here (available to US/Canada/EU subscribers only please).
September 19th, 2012 , by John Beeler
Selections from Sufjan Stevens’ electronic album “Enjoy Your Rabbit” are featured in a new ballet by up-and-coming choreographer Justin Peck. “Year of the Rabbit” will premiere Oct. 5 at New York City Ballet, programmed with new works by Benjamin Millepied (“Black Swan”) and Christopher Wheeldon (The Royal Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet). Conductor and arranger Michael Atkinson has expanded the quartet adaptations of this music from Osso’s “Run Rabbit Run” for string orchestra. Selections for this non-narrative ballet for 18 dancers will include Year of the Ox, Rabbit, Tiger, Rooster, Dragon Boar, and The Lord. There will be two matinees on Oct. 6 & 7 and a final evening performance on Oct. 13. The ballet will also appear in the winter season next year (January 29 & 30 and February 1 & 2). Tickets are available from the NY City Ballet website.
Sufjan also joins Peck and Aktinson for the Guggenheim’s Works & Process series on Sept. 23 & 24 (at 7:30) in the Guggenheim Theater, where a string quartet will play excerpts from the ballet, with principal dancers performing. Participants will also discuss the odd evolution of Sufjan’s electronic hobby project- composed and recorded in an apartment closet- from the drum machine to the ballet theater. Tickets are no longer available for this event (the theater only seats 285) but the Guggenheim website has a link for live streaming.
You can read about Justin’s previous ballet “In Creases” from the New York Times review here, and learn more about this young dancer/choreographer’s work with the city ballet here has a link for live streaming.