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Monday, November 30, 2009

Raw Chinese Punk at the Ding Dong

P.K. 14

NEW YORK, November 20 – Three Chinese bands traveled almost 7000 miles from Beijing to rock the Ding Dong Lounge on the Upper West Side. The venue was tiny sliver of a New York store front, and the stage was just a six foot wide alcove in the back. It looked like a basement with exposed brick walls and the haphazardly improvised wires and sound cables. The place was ideal for a raw punk show.

The night opened with Xiao He. He performed a one man experimental techno fusion show complete with electronic beats, commercial samples, and chanting. It was a bizarre cacophony of sounds from his laptop. The music rode a wave of orgasmic peaks and valleys. It was completely trippy.

Carsick Cars

Carsick Cars followed with a post punk set. The band managed to produce an awesome sound with dueling melodies between the guitar and bass. It was eerily reminiscent of Joy Division or early New Order. Scott Schultz, writer for the L.A. Record, said that the sound reminded him of Peter Hook’s bass work. They completely rocked the tiny bar.

The band had a huge pedal set-up for guitar and vocal effects. The venue was not set-up to handle the incredible amount of equipment with the sound cables passing thru so many devices. In one of the songs, an effects pedal completely cut off the microphone, and the band basically played the rest of the song as an instrumental rendition.

P.K. 14

The headliner of the night was P.K. 14, an older Beijing punk group. They have been pioneers in the Chinese music scene with the promotion of a harder punk influence. Their sound was more straight punk with driving beats and simple melody. Yang Haisong’s vocal range and timbre are very similar to Ian McCulloch of the Echo and the Bunnymen. Some of their more radio friendly songs reminded me of the Talking Heads. They had a strange quirkiness. However, their straight forward hard punk tunes were the biggest hits with the small local punk crowd.

It was one of the most thrilling nights of raw punk music in the city. P.K. 14 and Carsick Cars completely rock the Ding Dong Lounge with a sound reminiscent of the late 70s post-punk sound.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

The 6th Annual READ Philippines: Kill All Robots!

Warhol Soup

NEW YORK, November 5 – I originally walked into the Nightingale Lounge expecting to see Alfa with an acoustic guitar singing her tunes. Instead I unexpectedly entered a Filipino literary benefit called The 6th Annual READ Philippines. It’s an organization promoting Filipino writers in schools, libraries, and other public venues.

The event featured performances by: John-Flor Sisante, M. Josephine, Bonnibel Fonbuena, Warhol Soup, and Alfa Garcia.

Sisante started off the night with some acoustic ukulele songs. What is the whole Filipino ukulele connection? I know three Filipino acts that use the ukulele. Maybe it’s a Pacific Islander thing. Sisante did an interesting political tune called, “Lovesong of a Palin Presidency”. He started stomping and motivated the crowd to clap.

He was followed by M. Josephine, an R&B vocalist from Jersey City. She performed a few songs over a pre-recorded music track. Her husband joined her for a Hip-Hop/R&B duet.

An interesting addition to the line-up was Fonbuena, a Texas Filipino spoken word artist. She was off the wall fun. She did really interesting pieces about life, her nephew, and robots. Fonbuena proclaimed, “kill all robots!” She also did a humorous piece about her feelings of pride over Manny Pacquiao’s boxing career. I thought she was going to call him the real, “Thrilla in Manilla”. She didn’t. Fonbuena was so hippy and chill. I absolutely loved her stuff.

Warhol Soup, a New Jersey Filipino funk band, took the stage with some very funky songs. They even managed to do a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”. I also enjoyed the funky madness of “Adobe Funk” and “Felicia”.


The night ended with Alfa as the headliner. She stated that the headliner role was a surprise and the pressure was on. She performed amazingly as the evening’s closer. The highlights of her performance were “Love as Tragedy” and “Second Skin”. I think that she is one of the most exciting young voices in the New York indie music scene today.

Overall, the benefit was an interesting accident. I enjoyed all the performances by the local Filipino music community.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Aya Takano's Individualistic Superflat

NEW YORK, November 5Aya Takano held a gallery opening for her new exhibition at the Skarstedt Gallery. Considered a figure in the Superflat movement, Takano puts her unique spin on pop art.

Yokohama & Kamakura

In her depiction of nude female forms, influences from Shoujo manga are apparent. The characters usually have large round eyes and slender stick like bodies which are common in modern shoujo. The highly stylized forms almost guarantee that her work will have a wide commercial appeal.

Takano's palette is also very delicate. It mainly consists of washed out bright colors like pastels. It’s difficult to photograph her work because most cameras will shift the color. The photographs are either stronger or lighter than the actual painting. Her delicate use of color can only be seen in person.

Pencil Lines and Dripping Paint Details from "Honyuraf"

Conversely Takano is very expressive in her process. She doesn’t polish or hid her very tactile painting style. Pencil outlines on the canvas are noticeably visible. She doesn’t attempt to wash them out or paint over it. In several of her paintings, repeated pencil lines echo off a painted form as if she was searching for the perfect line. Most artists would eraser or removed the unwanted lines, but she has left them in her work. She also lets her colors drip and run. Takano definitely doesn’t color within the lines. Her paint-drips draw the viewer’s eyes to the bottom of the canvas which creates an interesting vertical movement.

On the Hill, Beyond that Fence, She Leads an Army of Cats

Takano’s exhibition is an interesting take on the Superflat style. The influences from commercial and popular culture are evident in her work, but a strong individual expression is apparent with her use of color and her fearless display of process.

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