Album review – Grass Widow “Internal Logic” – August 30, 2012

Album review – Grass Widow “Internal Logic” – August 30, 2012

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“Behind the Beat: Quick and Deadly” Rebel Base – August 30, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Quick and Deadly” Rebel Base – August 30, 2012

Ground control to will.i.am: Black Eyed Peas musician broadcasts new single from Mars

When one ponders the idea of music being broadcast from outer space, the next logical thought is typically what would such a thing sound like?

Would aliens ever try to reach out to us by beaming John Williams’ theme from Star Wars? That might seem a little confrontational.

What about Major Tom resurfacing after all these years to serenade NASA scientists with tales of what he’s seen while “floating in a most peculiar way?” That may be a little far-fetched. Even for Bowie fans.

Or indeed, what about those ominous tones from Close Encounters of the Third Kind being used for real? Any of these thoughts would make more sense than a member of the Black Eyed Peas broadcasting his newest single from Mars.

Oh wait…

Listen to the rover Curiosity broadcast “Reach for the Stars” by will.i.am from Mars here:

Sure the technical marvel of a song being broadcast from roughly 700 million miles away is of tremendous importance, and if such a feat inspires just one child to “reach for the stars” then the whole venture would indeed be worth it. Still, I can’t help but stifle a bit of a giggle when will.i.am talks about producing something “timeless.” Really? Is it the orchestral accompaniment to Lil Jon’s screams that push this tune into the historical category? This statement from a man who also has the production of “My Humps” on his resume is laughable to say the least. Plus, in my opinion, the whole experience is quite a step down from NASA beaming the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” into space in 2008.

Perhaps the only note that salvages this story is that will.i.am was not the only celebrity invited to watch the Curiosity’s landing earlier this month. Also in attendance was Morgan Freeman, Seth Green (wait, Dr. Evil’s son got an invite?), and in perhaps the most fitting inclusion…Wil Wheaton.

Somewhere Sheldon Cooper is shaking his fist in rage.

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Album review – Father Yod and the Source Family “The Thought Adjusters” – August 23, 2012

Album review – Father Yod and the Source Family “The Thought Adjusters” – August 23, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Electronic Pow-Wow” EatUrAura – August 23, 2012

“Behind the Beat: Electronic Pow-Wow” EatUrAura – August 23, 2012

‘Are you with me now?’ Girl Talk and Home Body kick start raucous dance party in Northampton

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Girl Talk (Photo credit: J Caldwell)

Watching someone kick over a laptop will never be as visceral or exciting as watching someone smash a guitar on stage. However, that being said, one would be hard-pressed to find an audience member from Girl Talk’s recent show at the Calvin Theatre who would readily agree with such a statement.

Indeed, after enduring 90 minutes of mashed-up pop, floor rattling beats and a seizure-inducing light show, many who walked out of the venue Saturday appeared spent both physically and mentally. Moments earlier DJ Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) had described the air inside the Calvin as “like an ocean,” and given the frenetic dancing that had been taking place all night long, quite a sweat had definitely been worked up by everyone involved.

Taking the stage punctually around 9 p.m. in front of a gigantic LED setup that projected the words Girl Talk amidst a background of flames, Gillis got right to business and his workmanlike approach was relentless. In fact, the first lull in the show’s sonic assault didn’t occur until almost 15 minutes into the set, which given the breathless pacing of the music is saying quite a lot.

If you have listened to Top 40 radio at any point in the last several decades, a snippet of something you heard before was probably featured in one of Girl Talk’s “songs.” Ludacris, Black Sabbath, the Spencer Davis Group, Nirvana, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga – the list could go on. While many samples only lasted seconds, audience members could repeatedly be seen mouthing the words to tracks they knew. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this was during Girl Talk’s sampling of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” Though the mix never actually featured the iconic chorus, dozens reacted to the build-up anyway, easily proving the headliner’s command over the room.

Also proving Girl Talk’s knowledge of giving the people what they want was the repeated introduction of props into what had become a seething dance floor. Stage hands fired toilet paper guns over the crowd, confetti cannons went off at pre-determined junctures, and not only balloons, but also large confetti filled balls and inflated bags were tossed to the audience for both play and destruction.

After guiding those assembled through an hour’s worth of one climax after another, Girl Talk never left the stage before returning with an encore of sorts that ended up lasting far longer than the “one more minute” he had initially promised.

Stripped down to just his pants, covered in sweat and standing atop the table holding his laptop, Girl Talk shared with everyone that the night of the show was his Saturday night too. He had no concert to drive to on Sunday, and he was here to party, a fact later proven by his appearance at the Eleven’s later in the evening to catch local act Bunnies. One final, deafening crescendo later he left the stage to enthusiastic cheers. But the echoes of his performance will ring on for days to come. I know my ears are still feeling it.

Watch Girl Talk “take it up a notch” during his show at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton here:

***

Also performing at the start of the night, Northampton duo Home Body provided an unpredictable half-hour set of distorted electro-pop. Featuring layered synthesizers, looped vocals and a half dozen “backup dancers,” Eric Hnatow and Haley Morgan slowly won over the early crowd with sheer force and energy. Morgan’s strong voice in particular was a highlight even when it wasn’t being modified, but it was Hnatow who almost stole the show with a raucous finale of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream.”

For more information on Girl Talk and Home Body please visit http://illegal-art.net/girltalk/ and http://www.facebook.com/helloHOMEBODY.

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Mash-up maestro Girl Talk shifts his party to the Calvin Theatre in Northampton

Girl Talk (J Caldwell)

Girl Talk (Photo credit: J Caldwell)

Even though a forecast of inclement weather has moved his August 18 show from the wooded surroundings of Mountain Park in Holyoke to the stately confines of the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, pop music sampler and DJ extraordinaire Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) is ready to get the party started Saturday in the Pioneer Valley. And audiences should be ready for sensory overload.

Calling in for a phone interview this week from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gillis said, “We are touring with a new rig now, and it’s kind of an LED-based set-up, so it’s kind of like layers of LED panels and that sort of thing. We have physical props like confetti and balloons and all those things. I think it’s a bit more fit for larger venues, [but] it’s nice to kind of take that show and compress into what would be a smaller club show.”

Since starting out as Girl Talk in 2000, Gillis has been taking his unique brand of musical mayhem on the road for as many 150-200 shows a year. Triggering collages of pop music from his laptop on stage, the former biomedical engineering student deftly manipulates tracks listeners have likely heard before into whole new conglomerations featuring dance-ready hooks and crowd-pleasing choruses.

Despite having no traditional musical background, Gillis’ appearances at festivals like Coachella have been met with critical praise. And Girl Talk’s latest album All Day was even released online for free in 2010, though widespread demand for the record momentarily swamped the servers at Gillis’ label Illegal Art.

Still, such accolades haven’t stopped some people from taking the name Girl Talk at face value and misinterpreting just what type of person they’re booking for a particular venue.

Gillis said, “It’s an easy name to pass judgment on. All the time I’ve had people mix it up. It’s funny because the first show I played actually was at Chatham College in Pittsburgh. I don’t know if it still is an all-women school, but it was an all-women school. And if it’s not now, then it’s still like 80 percent women. Anyways, the show I was on, they had a lot of punk rock shows in this basement. The first show I was on every other artist was either an all-girl band or at least female-fronted, and they booked me I think because [with] the name [Girl Talk] they thought that I was a woman. And that was my first show ever.”

“It cracks me up now because it’s been the name for awhile and I stand by it,” he added. “But every once in a while I take a step back, where I can’t believe the name of this project is still Girl Talk. It’s really crazy where it came from and that it stuck.”

Watch part 1 of the story behind Girl Talk’s 2009 New Year’s Eve in Chcicago here:

While his appearance during a live show would suggest an energetic guy cranking out hits from his laptop in front of a crowd, the work that Gillis puts into his performance is actually much more involved and calculated.

Often rehearsing his remixed tracks until he knows each part inside and out, Gillis is also a born tinkerer, who constantly fine-tunes portions of his set and adds new material on a weekly basis.

He said, “Everything is triggered by hand for the show, so it’s the sort of thing where it’s almost impossible for me to make it up as I go along. The set is the sort of thing where I sit down and I rehearse it, and go over it like, ‘Here’s where I click the snare, and then I bring in the bass line, and then I bring in the vocals.’ So I really have to know the songs in a way like a traditional band has to know the songs. But that being said, it’s kind of like a band that has certain room for improvisation. At any given moment it could be like, ‘Oh, I want to skip over this,’ or ‘I want to do this twice,’ or ‘The bass is really heavy on stage, maybe I can cut it here, add this.’”

“When I work in this new material,” he continued. “It takes a lot of time for me to learn how to play it. And even when I play it for the first time, that’s usually when there are mistakes, and I’m not as familiar with it. It’s kind of impossible for me to go, ‘Oh, I want to change up like half the set tonight.’ I just couldn’t do it. I just wouldn’t have the time to memorize it and learn how to play it and all of that. It’s really just based around these small little tweaks. Right now where the set’s at, I’m comfortable with it. I like it. But I’m always sort of eager to work in that new material.”

Speaking of new material, Gillis admitted that he has enough for a new record. However, he’s also been working on another project of sorts that could push his music in a new direction.

He said, “I have somewhere close to an album’s worth of source material. It’s kind of geared around a live show and would be a next step from the last record. I’ve also been working on a lot of stuff in the past few months that’s not intended for the show. This is the first time in maybe five or six years that I’ve worked on anything that’s not geared for the live show. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff that’s based around sampling pop music, but just in a slightly different way, so I guess that the source material is a bit more manipulated. It’s a little more difficult to tell where it’s coming from. And I’ve also been sampling from some slightly more obscure sources.”

“I would hate to announce it before I get it down,” he added. “But I do think that there’s a pretty good chance that my next release will still be sample-based, but will be a little bit different. I’m excited to make that turn eventually.”

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Girl Talk (Photo credit: Dove Shore)

Any news regarding continued Girl Talk output is probably doubly reassuring for fans who read of Gillis’ previously announced plan to play a 24-hour show, and then retire on the day the Mayan calendar is slated to end December 21. Then again, with the world also predicted to end that day, fans probably had bigger things to worry about anyway.

“It’s funny how often that comes up nowadays,” Gillis said. “I don’t know why, but that has really stuck with people. I’m not planning an official last show then, but I am planning on taking a little time off the road actually next year and it’s not because I announced that date at all. It just happened to coincide. That was just dumb luck I guess.”

He continued, “I’ve been doing 150 to 200 shows a year for the past five or six years, so I thought it would be cool next year to do like 10 shows and just limit it, go slow, hopefully take a sort of slight turn of direction with the music. That’s kind of where I want to go. It’s all up in the air, but I would love for this project to exist for the rest of my life. And I think where it’s at now versus where it was at 10 years ago are very different places with what the music was like, what the fan base was like. I would hope that in 10 years that would [still] be true as well, not that it would be more popular or less popular. I would just love it to keep growing, and if at some point I make a decision and people don’t follow it or are not as concerned about it that’s cool. I would like to just grow with this thing.”

Girl Talk with openers Home Body performs August 18, 8 p.m., $25, Calvin Theatre, 19 King St., Northampton, (413) 586-8686, http://www.iheg.com/calvin_theater_main.asp.

For more information on Girl Talk or to see future tour dates please visit http://illegal-art.net/girltalk/.

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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