A Short Good Bye Letter To Writer and Raconteur Glenn O'Brien

text by Adam Lehrer

Clash’s Mick Jones shared his personal guide to a healthy and happy life: “Don’t be a cunt to anybody.” And always out front and center was Glenn, looking handsome and sophisticated in his slacks and shirts or his Basquiat-customized leather jacket, somehow seeming a notch cooler than the uber-cool legends of art, music and fashion he had on the show. There is no greater example of Glenn’s savvy for turning a cultural moment into a historical movement than the years he spent producing TV Party. It set the stage for where his career would head.

O’Brien refused to abide by artistic anti-establishment norms. While many of his friends would die or go broke trying to live up to some ill-defined notion of ‘never selling out,’ O’Brien managed to find ways to make his talents profitable. In addition to his literary gifts, O’Brien was a respected forward-thinking ad man responsible for genius campaigns for Calvin Klein, Swatch, Nike and others and served as creative director of Barneys for just over a decade. He always maintained his integrity, however, instilling his campaigns with the same subversive wit he applied to his work as an editor, curator and writer. He constantly questioned the nature of advertising and what being a ‘creative director’ actually meant, writing a piece on the subject for Art Forum. He made advertising a creative pursuit of equal importance in his oeuvre. 

On a personal note, I want to mention O’brien’s substantial generosity and genteel nature. Having worked as a photographer, writer and editor in the New York art world for a few years now, I inevitably met the man a couple of times. I remember the first time I crossed paths with him, at an opening for a show at Bill Powers’s Half Gallery, I was extremely intimidated by him. But he had a way of disarming you and making you feel like you had as much right to be a part of this wacky art world as he or anyone else did, and he was always a pleasure to talk to. Shortly before his death, I was actually waiting for his quotes via email in regards to a show he curated at Joe Nahmad Gallery for his friend and painter Jan Franck that I was covering for a short piece in Forbes. The quotes didn’t come, and the piece temporarily got lost in the shuffle when the show came to a close. I thought it was strange that he passed the opportunity to discuss his friend’s work. I should have known that he wasn’t feeling well and regret pressing him for the quotes. 

Glenn O’Brien, who once described himself as an anarchist that believed if people had good manners there would be no need for laws, was a true New York original and icon. He brought together the city’s creative disciplines with its commerce and media in a way that actually defined the way that New York is viewed within the world. This city needs another Glenn O’Brien. We need another TV Party. But I worry that the millennial mindset is a million miles removed from the work ethic and iconic detachment of Glenn O’Brien. In a recent piece for Purple, O’Brien addressed the obvious shifts in New York culture, asking himself if this city can ever be perceived the way it once was as a hub of radical creativity and thought. “New York isn’t what it used to be,” he writes, “but no place else is, either. Our vulgarities are more interesting than yours.” Times change, but cool does not. Glenn O’Brien was a surprising optimist. His unique ‘vulgarity,’ laid-neck sophistication, and utterly refined taste will be sorely missed. 

[FASHION REVIEW] London Fashion Week Mens FW17 Roundup

text by Adam Lehrer

London Fashion Week Men’s, formerly London Collections Men’s aka LCM, was reenergized for the Fall-Winter 2017 season. Chalk it up to Brexit or Trump or all the existential uncertainty that arises in the wake of political devastation, designers are innovating once more. I was happy to see fashion designers starting to mess around with silhouettes again, no longer content to ape the oversized everything innovations of Demna Gvasalia; the London collections featured a plethora of big, small, skinny, baggy, tailored, sharp, clean, jagged, and everything in between set of shapes. There was less emphasis on sportswear and streetwear, with designers even finding new life and new ideas in the most traditional of menswear garb: the shirt, tie and trousers look. The message seemed to be that the creative class needs to be taken seriously, but we must also find ways to maintain our individuality in this conservative coup. Designers seamlessly blended the bizarre with the traditional, the maximal with the minimal, and the suit with the sporty.

Martine Rose Fall-Winter 2017

British menswear designer Martine Rose has had a subtle but profound impact on the introduction of underground sub-cultures to the palette of menswear design over the last 10 years. She has referenced the style and sexuality of Robert Mapplethorpe, the poetic genius and masculinity of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, and the liberated glory of ‘90s ravers in her own collections, located the sub-cultural importance of workwear labels like CAT and Timberland in collaborations, worked extensively with the now defunct streetwear/music project Been Trill, and even consulted on Demna Gvasalia’s now iconic Balenciaga menswear debut. The Balenciaga consultancy manifested slightly in Martine Rose’s Fall-Winter 2017 menswear presentation, the designer’s first catwalk since 2013 and her first to heavily feature tailoring (right down to the neck tie). Rose has always had an ability to slightly alter staple menswear pieces to hint at punk undertones and sexual subversion. The collection dealt with everyday workers: the bus driver, the real estate agent, the banker, and the office worker among them. The collection’s central question was, “How does a man hold on to his individuality when entering the professional world?” That is why this collection connected so deeply. That is the most resonant clothing concept in the modern world. Every day, we have to dress in accordance with our institutions’ dress laws while holding onto icons of our selves. The collection offered simple shirt and tie looks in shiny and ostentatious silks and beautiful/ugly colors of orange and baby blue. The tailored jackets clung loose to the frames of the models, but not to the point of making a statement, seemingly more concerned with nonchalance and comfort. The nylon jackets and coats in the collection often concealed the restrictive office wear in youthful nylons, sometimes with the sleeves hanging off the shoulders nearly unattached. The collection was exceedingly sensible. I’d wear just about all of it. This is how you conform to standards without losing you sense of identity.

Craig Green Fall-Winter 2017

As brands grow and gain success, it is typical for them to start introducing more palatable and accessible elements to their collections. These are the products that can be repurposed and resold each season: Vetements and its now staple reassembled jeans, Raf Simons and his Adidas Stan Smith sneakers, Hood By Air and its branded t-shirts. Craig Green’s brand is undeniably growing; selling like crazy and earning Green a CFDA award for menswear design in the process. But almost like noise rock band Royal Trux did by signing to Virgin Records in the ‘90s and using the major label money to create highly iconoclastic and idiosyncratic rock records, Green has been using the freedom success has brought him to introduce more ideas, concepts and radical aesthetic gestures into his brand. In my opinion, his Fall-Winter 2017 collection is the best damn collection he’s had so far. Introducing heavy tweeds, Green used the durable fabric for severe all-over looks: statuesque jackets with ropes tied around the waist, wide leg trousers, scarves coiling around the neck, and a waist piece that could possibly be a bag, a cape or both. See, with Green fashion is about subverting the “form follows function” rule. For Green, form IS the function. Everything is designed for multiple uses and styles of wear, and the clothing takes on the form of its very purpose. That is at the essence of Green’s avant-garde sculpture. Padded satin looks (also head to toe) are topped off by a vest with belts wrapping around it, allowing the vest to take on a mass of potential ways to wear it. The most remembered looks of the collection will undeniably be the embroidered cloaks that resembled a monk wearing ornamental Korean carpets as religious garb.


Vivienne Westwood Fall-Winter 2017

Ever the political firebrand, Vivienne Westwood used her Fall-Winter 2017 collection, Westwood’s first show on the menswear schedule comprising both menswear and womenswear lines, to further illuminate on the imminent disaster of global warming and corporate culture’s blatant disregard for it. Though it’s not what draws me to Westwood’s output, I firmly disagree with people questioning Westwood’s environmental intentions. Like any creative discipline, fashion can’t alter the political landscape so much as it can provide a conduit for awareness. Pushing awareness is beyond reproach. It’s a good thing to do. But at the end of the day, activism isn’t going to convince me or anyone else to buy any clothes, and Westwood’s collections for a few years seem to have missed the mark. But this collection hit the mark. Like Vivienne’s best output, it balanced the torn and tied together messiness that she got known for alongside some fantastic, wearable, and excellent quality traditional pieces. For every see through sweater dress was a sensible tailored double breasted blazer (made rocker cool with extensive finger rings and black leather boots). Women in baggy plaid suits, embroidered nutcracker jackets, stitched together pants and shirts, and abstract crowns made this a decidedly classic Westwood collection polished with a Victorian sheen. I quite liked the all-over camel early 20th century stage coach looks of a cashmere cape over a three piece suit styled with polished leather boots. the 50th look in the show, a patchwork crewneck sweatshirt with matching pants and black boots, is a rare runway look that I would wear head to toe. Daily. For years.


Kiko Kostadinov Fall-Winter 2017

Kiko Kostadinov is a rare designer on the London circuit. Instead of finding his inspiration in raves and clubs and sub-cultures, Kostadinov seeks to elevate uniform garb. His brand is for men that work, technicians and craftsman if you will. But instead of plumbers and custodians, Kostadinov seeks to give the comfort of uniformity to the world’s painters, sculptors, photographers, jazz musicians, and poets. There are very few designers elevating simplistic and clean silhouettes like Kostadinov is. The FW 2017 collection was minimal and expensive. Military sweaters in jet black came with wide legged wool trousers fitted with a tool belt, double breasted coats clung tight to the body refined and polished to a sheen, and jumpsuits were replete with multiple pockets in light wool fabric. Kostadinov discusses his desire to create a classless vision in his collection. Let’s face it, that is impossible. His high fashion price points ensure that working class people will never wear his clothes. But he is designing clothes that can be work through the bulk of life. Can’t wait to see the work Kiko does as creative director for Mackintosh coats.


JW Anderson Fall-Winter 2017

It gets hard writing about designers as they achieve stratospheric success. JW Anderson is certainly one such designer with his domination of CFDA womenswear and menswear awards and not to mention his total rebranding of Loewe that resulted in the brand becoming as associated with conceptual architecture and poetic appropriation as heritage Spanish luxury under his reign as creative director. But his collections are exciting no doubt, and he benefits from being able to tap into that “of the moment” resonance in his work. As per usual, the knits were beautiful and bountiful and the flares were wide and fey. But there was something palatably arcane within the collection, perhaps inspired by contemporary culture swaying back towards the bad ol’ days? Anderson also has a knack for finding the most overdone menswear looks and repurposing them for a taste of the uncanny. The 12th look in the show was sans description the minimal skinhead look: bomber, button down, and jeans. The kind of look that Raf made high fashion almost 20 years ago and Jerry Lorenzo made look tired and lazy with his overpriced philistine brand Fear of God. But JW makes his satin bomber fitted and sharp and adorns it with knit graphic patches and pairs it with a pair of jeans beautifully hand painted with a heaping of religious imagery and then decides the look works best with flip flops that look like flippers. And you know what? He was right.



Xander Zhou Fall-Winter 2017

Beijing-based designer Xander Zhou’s talent for utterly fucking with menswear proportions and silhouettes is vastly underrated. Like many designers of his age group, he wears his Raf Simons influence rather proudly and like the great Belgian has an obsession with youth culture that informs his designs. But Zhou’s collections are wild, dirty, and untamed in a way that Simons and his fellow intellectual Belgian designers aren’t. His Fall-Winter 2017 collection was his best outing yet, displaying his seamless hybrid of luxury and streetwear and drawing in all sorts of outer limits influences. Zhou displayed a fetish for misbehaved prep school boys in his first couple looks: models wore cropped vests over cropped button downs with ties resembling trash bags worn over the shoulder (dress codes can be fun when you know how to fuck with them). Those tailored looks continued with the addition of leather duster coats (the ones favored by Robert Mapplethorpe who is having a major fashion reincarnation this year). But Zhou’s true nastiness lies in his disregard for menswear rules. The double breasted blazer is turned into a biker dude leather daddy jacket. Denim jackets are elongated and contorted into deconstructed overcoats. The workman staple that is the jumpsuit is trimmed at the waist and given a day-goo dye job and another connotation rises to the surface. Zhou has eluded the press raves that so many of his contemporaries on the London schedule are lavished with on a regular basis. That needs to change; his clothes look like nothing else out there at the moment. That’s not easy in this hyper-saturated market.



A-Cold-Wall Fall-Winter 2017

I’ve been thoroughly taken with British designer Samuel Ross’ brand A-Cold-Wall since first coming into contact with it a couple years ago mindlessly browsing the Hypebeast website (a bad habit I’m happy so say I’m fully detoxed from). The brand functions as a conceptual art project cum streetwear brand from which Ross examines the disparities between working class culture and high fashion. Using a minimalist color palette informed by the dreary buildings and walls of low income London neighborhoods, Ross has introduced a surprisingly striking body of products ranging from French terry graphic hoodies to Nylon ponchos to tote bags. It’d be easy to dismiss an elevation of working class garb as well, a dismissal, but Ross has located something beautiful and pure in this style of dress. His Fall-Winter 2017 presentation was his first show using a cat walk. Ross celebrated the occasion by stepping well outside his comfort zone presenting both men’s and women’s collections, adding tailoring into the mix, and introducing some bold fabric pairings. Collection stand-outs included a technical satin overcoat, a wool sweatsuit, a leather t-shirt paired with wide legged trousers, and a white mesh suit and the whole collection was paired with Ross’ simplistic Nike Air Force 1 collaboration. 


Cottweiler Fall-Winter 2017

The design duo of Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell have been hard at work, introducing this Fall-Winter 2017 collection just days before their much anticipated collaborative line with Reebok debuted at Pitti Uomo. The conceptual sportswear brand seems to be evolving past its minimalist beginning into something more vibrant, ostentatious, and showy. Cottweiler has always been about the fetishization of sportswear and the duo nailed its approach in its early seasons. Now, they are embellishing that fetishization. Cottrell cited an “apocalyptic” vibe to this collection but honestly, that tag could apply to just about anything and has become a near unbearable fashion design cliche. What I saw in this collection was flash. The satin tracksuits were richer in color, the sports designs were over-emphasized (a sleeping bag worn as a cape, for instance), and the accessories were plentiful (electronic navel piercings and handblown UV glass pendants). Cottweiler obsesses over dual nature of sportswear: good for playing sports, better for dancing your nut off. This was the comfortable, breathable club wear that a luxury price tag offers.
 


MAN Show (Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Feng Chen Wang, and Per Götesson Fall-Winter 2017)

Must make mention of another excellent Top Man sponsored MAN Show event that demonstrated the talents of three designers, all of whom have shown collections at the event previously. All three collections demonstrated an escalation in the clarity of the participating designers’ visions. All three designers fall firmly into the category of avant-garde fashion and occasionally into the field of nonsensical inscrutability, but appear to be trying to push their concept into wearable products. Swedish designer Per Götesson presented his collection almost entirely in denim and introduced a multitude of silhouettes that you’ve surely never seen that tried and true fabric take form in prior. London designer Fang Chen Wang used leather and foil to drape all manner of architectural fuckeries over the bodies of a diverse cast of models. But the big story here was the British raving wunderkind Charles Jeffrey and his Loverboy label. Jeffrey is tapping into the late ‘90s rave fueled moment of madly inspired fashion design, but somehow makes his collections more contemporary by reaching for the antiquated. For every super cool looking oversized thrashed Freddy Krueger sweater, there are ten looks that look like ecstasy fairyland versions of Victorian London suits. Fueling the macabre strangeness of the presentation was not only Jeffrey’s wild club kid friends dancing in the background but the incorporation of several fine art sculpture pieces that surely can’t be expected to be sold by any reputable retailer. One looked like a gigantic American flag themed cone head and one was the grim reaper. I mean that in the literal sense. 

Friday Playlist: Autre Magazine’s Fashion Editor’s Favorite Music of 2016

Text by Adam Lehrer

People complain about contemporary music. This is short-sighted: the complaint should be directed towards the music industry and not musicians. 2016 was actually an amazing year for new records, but there is just simply no economy for any musician less than a massive pop star and a couple indie acts that are able to get rich touring the festival circuit; the working class rock star is gone. But people haven’t given up on making new sounds. I had to cut this top 50 list from an original list of 217 (which can be found on my Spotify playlists) and I’m already feeling guilt over my decision to not include great records from all-time favorites of mine: Aphex Twin, Autechre, Brian Eno, Neurosis, John Cale, PJ Harvey, Dead C, Wire, Mark Pritchard and Deftones and great new stuff from younger acts like Surgeon, Driftmachine, Okkultokrati, Sex Swing, Let’s Eat Grandma, Vince Staples, Preoccupations (formerly Viet Kong), Sumac, Tomaga, Marissa Nadler, Taman Shud, Mica Levi & Oliver Coates, Chance the Rapper, Ocean Wisdom, Via App, NoName, Tough Tits, Julianna Barwick, Serpent Music, and Circuit Des Yeux side project Jackie Lynn. If I went on any further I’d probably just grow more anxious about not mentioning even more (I also liked ‘Lemonade’ a lot when it first came out but have grown tired of no one ever even questioning Beyonce’s artistic choices. It’s just pop music, folks!).

I sympathize by those that feel overwhelmed by the sheer massiveness of musical choices that are out there. I admit, I often feel the impulse to just give up filling my head up with new shit and endlessly re-playing my Lou Reed, Sisters of Mercy and Wu Tang records. But if you think there’s nothing good out there, you are being obstinate. Yes, we’ve lost Bowie, Prince, Alan Vega, Leonard Cohen, Pauline Oliveros, Lemmy and seemingly more greats than ever this year, but the rebellious spirit of radical music lives strong. Go on music sites like The Quietus, Self-Titled Magazine or Resident Advisor once a week and you’ll have enough new record ideas for the whole year. It’s out there, just harder to pin down. Anyways, these are the 50 records that soundtracked my life and art in 2016.

50. Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool, track: Tinker Tailor Soldier Rich Man

There was a time when I didn’t want to be a Radiohead fan anymore. It’s just a by-product of unanimous critical praise; human beings tend to grow obstinate in the face of having points constantly hammered into their brains. But now that Radiohead’s brilliance has gained its detractors, I have begun to re-understand that brilliance. Hell, I even liked The King of Lambs, perhaps even more so because it was Radiohead’s least acclaimed album since Pablo Honey. Its strange ayahuasca dub atmospheres really grew on me. A Moon Shaped Pool is a much more accessible album than its predecessor, made of tracks that Radiohead had played live for the last decade or so. There are moments of sincere breathtaking beauty on the album. More than Thom Yorke’s obtuse poetic lyrics, or the band’s not-so-subtle political stances, or their penchant for avant-garde appropriation, it is the beauty in Radiohead’s sound that has always appealed to me. Professionals to the core, A Moon Shaped Pool emphasizes the craftsmanship of pop music composition and finds itself at odds in the democratization of the arts that has become the benchmark of millennial culture. When you listen to Radiohead, you can't think to yourself, “Maybe I could do this.” You know your place as the listener, and are forced to either appreciate the music, or not. Is A Moon Shaped Pool as good as OK, Computer or Kid A? Not even close. But it’s still a good Radiohead album, which is enough to leave an impression in 2016.

49. Zomby, Ultra, track: Sweetz (featuring Burial)

The British dubstep producer Zomby had lost his way since defining the sound of a movement with his debut Where Were U in ’92 in 2008. Eight years and a couple missteps later, Ultra reaffirms the producer’s status as one of the genre’s great auteur visionaries. Ultra is a testament to Zomby’s focus on album length pieces of music. Unlike other producers, a lot of the tracks on the album don’t work on their own. Take his collaboration with Burial, Sweetz, and its empty cries “Get mE Fucked Up,” and you wouldn’t be wrong to raise an eyebrow when listening to the track as a single. But when sequenced into the entirety of Ultra, it makes sense. The record is full of twists and turns, highs and lows; synths bleed into modulated voices and expand to roaring booms and contract to sinewy whispers. Zomby’s adherence to the album format is brave. So much of electronic producers’ success is wagered on DJs being able to play their tracks as part of set lists in clubs. But Zomby doesn’t care. He believes in his music. He’s an artist.

48. Kano, Made in the Manor, track: Hail

2016 might go down as the year that Grime artists finally got the same amount of attention and acclaim as their American rap counterparts. While Skepta led the pack winning a Mercury Prize over the dearly departed David Bowie, there have also been a pack of young artists setting the world aflame: Stormzy, Novelist, and Abra Cadabra among them. It was easy to forget that Grime veteran Kano put out the best album of his career in ‘Made in the Manor.’ Reflecting on the gentrification of East London and youth soon-to-be-gone, Kano manages to scorch the Earth while remaining accessible to a wide audience.

47.  These Hidden Hands, Vicarious Memories, tracks: Glasir

Both members of British duo These Hidden Hands are firmly entrenched into London’s dance music scene: Tommy Four Seven is a DJ and runs an events series and Alain Paul produces techno under the name Shards. But These Hidden Hands isn't dance music, not specifically so anyways. In an interview with The Quietus, the duo says their new approach has more to do with IDM. Not that they sound like Autechre, but the very fact that Autechre sounds quite different than Boards of Canada but still approaches electronic sound as a discipline. Vicarious Memories is an intense listen; there are elements of the thudding early goth of Bauhaus, glitch-y Industrial like SPK, noise, and techno. This is a thoroughly conceptual record tightly edited to a one-sided disc. Almost reminds you of albums like Dark Side of the Moon, in which Floyd was able to distill a sweeping grandiose story in a measly 40 minutes. It’s an engaging listen with a fully formed aesthetic: grand, dark, sweeping, and powerful.

46. Ka, Honor Killed the Samurai, track: That Cold and Lonely

The Brownsville, Brooklyn-based MC Ka is one of hip-hop’s great stylists. His sound melds together the grit of early RZA productions with a minimal backbeat, found sounds, and minor keys. Does he get the recognition he deserves for this? Of course not. But Ka is happy to be a working class underground hip-hop star, cutting a living as an NYC firefighter. This gives him a unique perspective on the decay of urban life, and he delivers devastating cultural criticisms and truths in his contemplative, hushed and calm tone. It’s the indifference in the sound that amplifies its impact. He was signed to Tommy Boy records in the ‘90s as a member of group Natural Elements, retreating into his Brooklyn home until we needed him again. On Honor Killed the Samurai, Ka is appropriately broken. His hip-hop is not trying to relate his story to mass audience. His is a much more personal expression. On the first verse of track Mourn at Night, Ka raps, “My scars last.” So will his music.

45.  Factory Floor, 25 25, track: Ya

Since Factory Floor released its self-titled debut record in 2013, the post-Industrial duo have become unlikely stars of the experimental music world. Guitarist and vocalist Nikki Void found herself recording and touring with two obvious forebears of the Factory Floor sound, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti who were once in Throbbing Gristle and later played as a synthpop/techno duo in Chris & Cosey, as a new trio Carter Tutti Void. Factory Floor has repopularized the idea of the dance floor as a location for punk infused rebellion. 25 25 finds Factory Floor shaved down to a duo following the departure of Domnic Butler and his SH-101, but what the duo has lost in apocalyptic aggression it more than makes up for in obtuse Disco glory. Void has ditched the guitar for a synth, and the music can be easier classified as straight electronic techno than its predecessor. There are still elements of the punk-dance hybrid that made Factory Floor so interesting in the first place, but it’s more in attitude than musical approach. 25 25 is the soundtrack to end times disco. Perfect considering these might very well be the end times.

44. Delroy Edwards, Hangin’ At the Beach, track: Horsing Around

As Los Angeles’ stock as a major city for art and fashion has risen, so has its need for a substantial club music scene. Among the leaders of this movement are Delroy Edwards, a producer and honcho for electronic music label L.A. Club Resource. Edwards’ approach to electronic music echoes Arthur Russell’s approach to disco or Ariel Pink’s towards indie pop. There’s a decidedly ‘80s retro VHS feel to the compositions, both sunny and fragmented. There’s joy in his products that are belied by a sinister undercurrent of lo-fi fuzz. But it’s dance music. So, you know, dance away.

43. Necro Deathmort, The Capsule, track: In Waves

The london-based duo Necro Deathmort is one of the picks on the list that I include knowing that they won’t appeal to everyone. Combining dub-infused electronica, pounding drones, and bleak harsh noise with a Satanic early black metal-inspired visual aesthetic, they aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But I fucking love them. Their 2016 release The Capsule finds the group ditching the John Carpenter horror synths, MDMA fueled dance music, and vortexes of guttural screams and guitar breakdowns that would make Khanate say, “damn,” in lieu of cinematic soundscapes that might find forebears in the Cliff Martinez soundtrack for Nik Refn’s Only God Forgives and Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for ‘The Thing.’ The Capsule sounds like the album Darkthrone main man Fenriz would make if he finally said “fuck you” to black metal purists and indulged his taste for electronic music and techno. It’s not their best album, and I prefer the highly modernist combinations of noise sleaze and sleek techno, but it’s an interesting testament to the duo’s highly erratic artistic nature. When these guys like certain music, they make that certain music. It’s hard to maintain a tight aesthetic while veering all over the stylistic map like this, but Necro Deathmore do just that.

42. Swans, The Glowing Man, track: Cloud of Unknowing

Michael Gira reformed Swans because he felt the project had more to say in this particular cultural climate. And yet, Swans 2.0 feels like it was a very different band than the scorching noise rock of Gira’s ‘80d-‘90s run. I almost see the Swans reunion run as sharing characteristics with The Velvet Underground’s run: My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Side was their Velvet Underground and Nico combining the aesthetics of experimental sound with rock n’ roll and blues, The Seer was their White Light/White Heat, wildly unhinged and poetically potent, and To be Kind was their Velvets’ self-titled bringing back in elements of rockabilly and blues. But The Glowing Man is most definitely Gira’s loaded. It feels like the album where he, like Lou Reed did with Loaded, announces himself as a solo composer and a true New York City rock star poet. The album, while still full of soaring highs and punishing textures, is more subdued than its predecessors and pushes Gira’s beautiful prose to the forefront of the sound. He really tears his guts on this album, diving into substance abuse, depression, and sexuality. This has been a difficult year for Gira (look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about), but I would love to see him embark on a solo career. He could be the NYC rock artist icon that the city has so desperately needed since Patti, Lou, and Richard Hell have all moved on, literally or figuratively.

41. Roly Porter, Third Law, track: In System

In recent years, it’s become less strange for artists predominantly known for creating noise and drone music to be trying their laptops at more familiar forms of dance music (Dom Fernow’s Vatican Shadow project, Justin Broadrick’s JK Flesh project, etc..) and this has given way to artists predominantly known for making dance music to reach for denser and less inviting sonic soundscapes. Bristol-based producer Roly Porter was once one half of pioneering dubstep duo Vex’d. But dubstep Roly Porter’s 2016 release Third Law is not. Vex’d’s approach to dub-step was always full of heavy bass and industrial throb, but with this project beats are nowhere to be found. The title, Third Law, refers to Newton’s third law of motion that every action has an opposite reaction; a signifier of the powerful force contrasted by dizzying stillness that define the album. A remarkably engaging piece of electronic composition at its lengthy 52 minutes.

40. Billy Bao, Lagos Sessions, track: C

Billy Bao is usually a project created by the French noise artist Mattin. He’s collaborated with noise big boys ranging from Bruce Russell (The Dead C) and Mat Bower (Skullflower) but the Billy Bao project was initially his most rockist project; ugly sneering punk noise reminiscent of ugly titans like Rusted Shut jettisoned by Mattin’s extreme anti-copyright and anti-capitalist ideology. The Billy Bao project would grow more conceptual over the years with albums like Urban Decay and Buildings from Bilbao that mutated the noise rock with conversational tidbits, field recordings, and deafening silences. And no we are here, and 2016’s Lagos Sessions has turned Mattin into a fictional character named William; a young Nigerian troubadour who would become one of Bilbao, Lagos’ most important players in a so-called punk scene in 1986. But what the album really is is an examination of the city. Mattin spent 12 days in Bilbao recording in a local studio Eko FM and with local musicians like Orlando Julius, former Fela Kuti Keyboardist Duro Ikujenyo, and Russo-Nigerian Afro-Jazz singer Diana Bada. And yet this is not an appropriation of, just a meditation on a city from the perspective of an outsider who happens to be one of the most fiercely individualistic artists from any medium in the entire world. The album jumps between Lagos musicians’ sounds and Mattin’s sneering shards of noise. It’ll take a lot of listens for this to sink in. It works like great fine art cinema; what at first is off-putting and nonsensical soon starts to burn a maddening concept into your brain,

39. Death Grips, Bottomless Pit, track: Bottomless Pit

You’d be forgiven for forgetting about Death Grips. After years of internet trolling shenanigans, quitting labels, breaking up, and re-forming, it become ever more apparent that MC Ride and Zach Hill hadn’t put a great piece of music together since their only major label release The Money Store back in 2012. But four years later, and Bottomless Pit has totally revived the group’s sound. MC Ride has never rapped this good, and the group opted to make songs as opposed to oppositional rap noise. That is when they have always been at their best: allowing themselves to make hits that still had maximum sensationalist impact. Fight music for those that don’t know how to fight.

38. Ghold, PYR, track: Collusion with Traitors

In its first incarnation as a trio, Brixton-based progressive sludge band Ghold shattered eardrums with the four songs on 2016 release Collusion with Traitors. Ghold shatters conceptions of the two genres they work in: they are able to expand sludge metal outward and inward while making progressive rock that is dirty, deranged, and nihilistic. The Melvins' headlock riffery meets the deeply compositional albeit deranged song craft of King Crimson, but those comparisons really don’t don't do this band justice. This is the first truly progressive band to also be roaringly heavy. This has been attempted countless times, but never has so intricately composed rock music been so nail bitingly nasty.

37. Cobalt, Slow Forever, track: Beast Whip

Colorado-based black metal duo Cobalt have always felt like the American contemporary black metal band truest to its Scandinavian origins but also the least beholden to the early black metal ethos. How does this make sense? I don’t know, but you’d be wise to listen to the band’s 2016 release Slow Forever, their first since 2009’s Gin and even without the vocals of Phil McSorley, perhaps the band’s best and certainly most palatable record. Band founder McSorley and band conceptualist Eric Wunder came to ideological differences that eventually resulted in their disbanding. But the album doesn’t seem to miss McSorley’s presence. It was Wunder, after all, that provided the band’s gateway to art, literature and experimental music. His interest in the literature of Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson and his experience playing in Jarboe’s band have allowed him to tilt the idea of what Cobalt could be. Under him, the band isn’t just “war metal,” it’s conceptual war metal. Slow forever has a tonal clarity that allows the band’s musical identity to emerge. It’s still nasty, but it’s also intellectual. This lack of metalhead pretension makes the band more interesting, and also, more genuine. They aren’t just overwhelming your ear drums, they are delivering a message.

36. Marie Davidson, Adieux un Dancefloor, track: Interfaces

Montreal-based producer Marie Davidson made her bones as a member of the DFA-signed Essaie Pas and evidently learned how to make alien sounding electronic music both unwaveringly personal but also relatively accessible. Adieux un Dancefloor is the artist’s first solo album to emerge itself fully in the exuberance of the dance floor. Using synths, drum machines, and sequencers, Davidson half-sings and coos an amalgam of French and English haikus over a joyously momentous body of tracks. This is an experimental dance record that never veers too far off course; in its 45 minutes, Davidson manages to weave complex arrangements and avant-garde flirtations into a concise, beautiful, and pop-oriented dance record.

35. The Body, No One Deserves Happiness, track: Shelter is Illusory

Being a fan of Portland, OR-based experimental metal duo The Body garners much satisfaction. As a fan, one is always waiting to see who the band will create music with next, whether it be Baton Rouge sludge metal band Thou, Richmond doom act Braveyoung, or experimental producer The Haxan Cloak. But until 2016, they had failed to make that perfect and art defining body of music. In 2016, the band found it with No One Deserves Happiness. NODH is the band’s simplest record yet; it adds no new sounds or textures to their output nor does it include any collaborators. Instead, it boils the sounds down to its defining elements and amplifies them to maximum terrifying effect.

34. So Pitted, neo, track: pay attention to me

I was still 10 years from being born in 1977. With punk already having gone through multiple deaths and rebirth by the time I came of age, noise rock ended up being my punk rock. It was the music that both generated my interest in subversive rebellion and finding art within rock n’ roll: Big Black, The Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth, Nirvana’s Bleach, etc.. So Pitted is in that lineage, particularly the bands that defined their city Seattle. Their music sounds like a blown out version of the early noise rock bands that would eventually both influence and get lumped in with grunge: Mudhoney, Tad, and definitely early Nirvana. The early Cobain influences are immediate apparent from the trio’s gender neutral fashion choices, as well as their burying of catchy hooks under layers of scuzzy feedback.

33. Brood Ma, Daze, track: Well Equipped

London-based producer Brood Ma told me earlier this year that his Tri Angle Records release Daze was an exploration of how contemporary concepts of masculinity strangle the creative process. What’s interesting then was how this inner turmoil fueled such a breathtaking piece of conceptual electronic music. Daze jumps all over the stylistic map, but is fueled by a cohesive rebellion against gender norms. It is a violent auditory sensation.

32. Underworld, Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future, track: Low Burn

Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have been doing progressive house music for 36 years now, forming at a time when industrial and post-punk bands were only beginning to learn the possibilities inherent to electronic sound manipulation. After six years of no music, the longest gap between new music in Underworld’s career, Barbara Barbara far exceeded its expectations in 2016 and is easily their best album since 1999’s Beaucoup Fish. Hyde’s ludicrous lyrical proclamations are all over the place, but only serve to make the album slightly less self serious and more enjoyable. The first half of the record features the duo’s joyous and eternally danceable bass lines and the record takes a turn for the solemn on side two indicating the duality present un Underworld’s music that has made the appealing to such a wide spectrum of music fans.

31. Puce Mary, The Spiral, track: The Night is a Trap II

While American noise has been in sharp decline since its mid-00s No Fun Fest heyday, a powerful noise has developed in Stockholm. One such practitioner is Frederikke Hoffmeiers, aka Puce Mary, who released her third album The Spiral this year. Using synths, percussion, obscured vocals, field recordings, and swaths on unholy noise, Puce Mary is able to pay homage to her industrial and power electronics forebears like Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse while also charting out a viable future for the genre. Puce Mary manages to scorch eardrums while also finding a sensitivity in the sounds. There is not played out noise tropes of serial killers and goofily over the top macho nonsense. It’s noise as personal expression.

30. Wolfgang Tillmans, 2016/1986 EP and Device Control EP, track: Make It Up As You Go Along

Wolfgang Tillmans has been one of my favorite artists for as long as I can remember, and watching him gain newfound mainstream success has been one of 2016’s greatest delights. Whether it be his raging against fascism, Brexit and Trump on his profile picture-less instagram page or his contributions to Frank Ocean’s Endless video or his profile shot of a green haired Frank Ocean on the cover of Blond/Blonde, Wolfgang has been everywhere this year. Wolfgang started his artistic life when dressing up as a fictional Culture Club obsessed group named Fragile with his friends that would go around and take pics of themselves around Berlin, and his earliest published work included club shots in iD. Now the musical world that he has created in his pictures has come to life through his release of albums 2016/1986 and Device Control. It’s a dreamy set of ‘80s indebted club tracks that also sounds forward thinking. It both standalone as a musical project and enriches Wolfgang’s artistic world. 


29. Huerco S, For Those of you Who Have Never (And Those of You Who Have), track: A Sea of Love

Like Aphex Twin before him, Brooklyn-based producer Huerco S has ditched the majestic techno of his debut for an introspective albeit beautiful ambient set in For Those Of You Who Have Never. What’s most intriguing is that when Huerco S put out Colonial Patterns in 2013, the then 21-year-old had never even set foot in a club. It was a fantasia of what club music could or should be like. But now that he has been banging clubs for a few years, he ditches it for a dreamscape in this new album. This is an artist that immerses himself fully in his fantasies and interior world.

28. Gnod, Mirror, track: The Mirror

It should be clear by now that nasty, crunchy, sexy, psychedelic punk rock music is alive and well in the UK more than any other country in the world. One of those bands doing this better than any other is the North English four-piece Gnod (though 41 people have veered in an out of the band). After releasing a three-disc psychedelic jazz bad trip on last year’s Infinity Machines, the band leans out on The Mirror (that could be used as a double metaphor by the way). It is a much shorter and also much bleaker record, reminiscent of the starkly political but subtly post-punk of The Pop Group. It grooves out, and then it hammers home. It reminds you of Miles Davis’ fusion band on Bitches Brew started shotgunning vodka and listening to Eyehategod at an Occupy Wall Street rally.

27. Jambinai, A Hermitage, track: For Everything That You Lost

When it comes to the so-called genre “post-rock,” for me there is Godspeed You Black Emperor! and then there is nothing. I’ve always found the bands operating in this style tend to sound like de-fanged rock bands trying their hands terribly at creating jazz music with rock instrumentation and creating a wanky boring mess in the process. And then these South Koreans come along and fuck my world up! Jambinai’s post-rock works primarily because the band never forgets to absolutely rock. Even when weaving in strange ambient sounds and horns and keys, the music moves along at the aspirational pace of rock music. It’s sweaty and hard and loud but still strange and alien and small. It’s highly composed but allows breathing room for the magic to happen.


26. Powell, Sport, track: Fuck you, Oscar.

I’ve listened to a ton of Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen over the years and count all three amongst my favorites artists to have ever lived. But it was the loss of Alan Vega that really through me for a loop. Vega’s music with Martin Rev in Suicide and his underrated solo career helped me to define my personal tastes; a venerated mix of rock n’ roll and blues boogie, punk attitude, and electronic weirdness. But the London-based electronic producer Oscar Powell proves that the intersection of punk and techno is just finding its groove. On full-length ‘Sport,’ Powell draws inspiration from the drum machine backed noise punk of Big Black (and even reached out to Steve Albini to sample his music, to which Albini replied “I detest club culture as cantankerously as anything on Earth”), funky ‘80s No-Wave band Theoretical Girls, Mark E. Smith and The Fall, and of course, lots of Suicide. But what I find fascinating about the record is that it isn’t just a hybrid of rock and techno, it’s purely electronic-based techno played with a punk libertine mindset. There’s a sense of risk involved in this music that proves that Powell’s primary concern isn’t just if he can make you dance or not. It’s that can he find sounds to fuck your head up and push electronic music forward. If you dance, even better. Powell has found a sense of individuality and iconoclasm in his music that is sorely lacking in techno music. He has a voice. While ‘Sport’ isn’t a perfect record, it defines a fascinating musical aesthetic. It’s an aesthetic that I’m interested in, and I believe that a lot more great music will come out of it.


25. JK Flesh, Rise Above, track: Defector

Justin Broadrick’s strength is maintaining aesthetic unity across multiple projects and vast stylistic shifts. From the metallic industrial of Godflesh, to the sweeping shoe gaze doom of Jesu, to the noise of God and Final, his vision of a bleak and cold world always bleeds through. The JK Flesh project is Broadrick’s take on nihilistic club music; a futuristic hybrid of noise and techno. Rise Above is Broadrick’s most interesting album in any style in many years. Though Jesu is still alive and kicking (releasing an interesting collab album this year with Sun Kil Moon), his heart appears to be with the 4/4 beat. JK Flesh takes cues from some of the UK’s most abstract club kids: Andy Stott, Surgeon (who Broadrick did an EP alongside), and Actress among them, but it’s far more intense than any of the music made by those mavericks. It probably sits most comfortably alongside Dom Fernow’s Vatican Shadow project, but feels more realized in its vision. Broadrick has long been interested in techno and electronic music; Godflesh certainly had elements of underground club music and his project with The Bug’s Kevin Martin Techno Animal provides an early template for dubstep. But the electronic music made as JK Flesh is the dance music that he’s always strived to make: as visceral as anything he’s ever done in the context of heavy music.

24. Yves Tumor, Serpent Music, track: The Feeling When You Walk Away

Ever since Kanye demonstrated R&B’s ability to be mutated and shifted by experimental sound tendencies, an entire genre of popular music has bubbled to the surface: Frank Ocean, D’Angelo, How to Dress Well, dvsn, and the artists of Tri Angle records have all followed suit using the genre as a mood board for moody artistry. It was only a matter of time before an artist would make full-blown R&B avant-garde. The artist in question, Yves Tumor, was raised in Tennessee and put out some some releases and performed at Hood by Air’s LA show before putting out his debut Serpent Music. Guided by spirituality and repelled by religion, the record finds Yves using his warm vocals and melodic guitar lines to accent otherworldly soundscapes of psychedelic noise, crackling ambient sound, and Arthur Russell kaledioscopic pop.

23. Moor Mother, Fetish Bones, track: Creation Myths

Moor Mother, AKA Camae Ayewa, is a Philadelphia-based artist and community activist who has been releasing music on SoundCloud since 2012. As a fine artist, she uses photography and collage to examine the universal truths of systematic oppression. Her debut album, Moor Mother, operates in a similar mood, reimagining the protest song as a fragmented sound collage. Describing her music with self-created genres such as “blk girl blues” and “project housing bop” to “slaveship punk,” she allows herself to work across a range of stylistic mediums while remaining true to a sense of history. Pitchfork compared her to both Sun Ra and Shabazz Palaces, but Moor Mother’s music is also more difficult to discern than that. Her poetry is abstract, and the music underneath is just as if not more abstract. And yet this music feels so radically contemporary that its obtuseness feels direct. With an era of neo-fascism dawning upon us, artists like Moor Mother are going to become rarer. Let’s cherish this record.

22. Katie Gately, Color, track: Sift

As the lines between experimental and pop continue to blur in the digital era, it’s becomingly increasingly difficult to find music that walks this tightrope in a genuine manner. There is a vast difference between the disastrousness of Miley Cyrus’ collaboration with The Flaming Lips and Frank Ocean’s sublime dalliances with Wolfgang Tillmans, for instance. Katie Gately is an LA-based sound designer and producer turned musician and her debut for Tri Angle records is ostensibly a pop record; albeit a pop record full of mutating oscillators and seismic synths. Gately applies a top 40 sheen and polish to avant-garde sound structures that makes her come off as fearless in the face of experimental purists.


21. Jute Gyte, Perdurance, track: The Harvesting of Ruins

Jute Gyte is Adam Kalbach; a composer with a BA in music composition. Under the Jute Gyte moniker, he has recorded noise, IDM, ambient, and drone, but the vehicle is primarily known as a conceptual black metal project. Perdurance is the pinnacle of all that Kalbach has been driving towards. Using a guitar equipped with a microtonal fretboard, Kalbach is able to write in intervals a half-step smaller than traditional Western music (and more often found in some traditional African musics); this set-up allows him unprecedented harmonic control over his sound. “Control” often indicates safety, but there is nothing safe about Perdurance. It is as loud, scuzzy and dark as anything in the world of experimental black metal, but there is an intellectualism at play that the likes of nazi murderer Burzum only wishes he was capable of having. Kalbach told The Quietus that he started the project wishing the that modern composition elements were applied more to the music he most enjoyed, i.e. black metal and industrial. His music is a template for possibility.

20. Schoolboy Q, Blank Face, track: THat Part (featuring Kanye West)

Schoolboy Q comes off as an elder statesmen of west coast hip-hop on 2016’s massively underrated Blank Face LP. The record is a substantial improvement over his previous release, OxyMorons, that too boldly tried to court the favor of mainstream hip-hop attention. Schoolboy Q is a classicist in the mold of Aftermath records. At 72 minutes, you’d think the record could be cut down a notch. But even though it doesn’t reward straight through listening, it’s a wonderfully textured record to come back to. It neither moralizes nor minimizes the realities of gang lifestyle, reaffirming hip-hop’s importance as a journalistic American art form. It also has the best Yeezy feature on the year on the hit track, That Part.

19. Leonard Cohen, You Want it Darker, track: You Want it Darker

With Leonard Cohen’s death, You Want it Darker will be obsessively editorialized by writers trying to find performance art in the act of death. That really was the case for Bowie’s Blackstar, but You Want it Darker is simply a great Leonard Cohen album full of songs about sex, love, desire, longing, loneliness, fear and, yes, mortality. That was always Leonard’s modus operandi.

18. Savages, Adore Life, track: The Answer

London-based gout-piece rock band Savages’ lead singer and lyricist Jehnny Beth has kept me captivated all year through her excellent Beats 1 radio show Start Making Sense in which the front woman discusses the importance of music and rock n’ roll with venerated guests including Underworld’s Karl Hyde, Fugazi/Minor Threat’s Ian Mackaye, Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillepsie, Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox, Faith No More/Mr. Bungle/Fantomas’ Mike Patton, and more. The radio show reaffirms the importance and viability of rock n’ roll on contemporary culture. Fittingly, that is exactly what Savages have done. Forget the fact that they are all stylish and well-presented ladies that have brought influences ranging from PiL, Siouxsie and the Vabshees, and Joy Division back into the conversation, what Savages have really done is prove that a rock band can have a successful career in the digital era without having to compromise their sound for radio or over-market themselves. Adore Life, while more melodic than its predecessor, is still a scorching set of rock n’ roll songs. Savages released the album in February, but have been able to stay a part of the conversation through constant touring, well executed press, and Beth’s highly intellectual and opinionated voice. This is what rock stars can look like in 2016.

17. Danny Brown, Atrocity Exhibition, track: Really Doe (featuring Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt)

After Danny Brown’s EDM friendly 2013 release Old, he could have been a massive mainstream star. The only problem? He would have had to sacrifice his highly attuned artistic vision. Instead, he decides to sign to IDM record label behemoth Warp and names his new album after a Joy Division song. Atrocity Exhibition returns back to Brown’s auteurist vision that he solidified on his major debut XXX. Drawing on rock influences like New Order, Rage Against the Machine, and Bauhaus, incorporating techno beat flourishes, and utilizing haunting soul samples, Brown created the most sonically rich album of his career. And yet, it’s still his unhinged rapping style that holds the album together. Really Doe is testament to Brown’s confidence in his lyricism; rapping against two rappers considered to currently be the best in the world, Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt, Brown still shines on his own.

16. Skepta, Konnichiwa, track: Konnichiwa

How many time has grime attempted to become a part of the pop music mainstream and ultimately failed? At least two, possibly three times now. It took a Tottenham-based Nigerian to firmly establish grime as an artistic platform ripe for commercial viability. Skepta’s Konnichiwa took The Mercury Prize this year over the late David Bowie. Of course, this earned a raucous pseudo-racist outcry on Twitter (as if anyone actually gives a shit about awards) but it well gauges the importance of grime in contemporary culture. It’s an entirely new voice of young men and women being heard in the culture. And Konnichiwa is a stunner of a record and easily the first grime album that transcended the notion of grime being a single-based medium. It’s a highly addictive record, one that you can play from stop to bottom. Dizzee Rascal and Wiley were never able to keep their albums this cohesive. What is most remarkable, however, is that despite Skepta courting US attention and earning fans in the likes of Kanye, Drake, and A$AP Rocky, this is a firmly British voice. Skepta has faith in his voice and his outlook, dawning a new British Invasion.

15. Elysia Crampton, Elysia Crampton Presents Demon City, Track: The Demon City

On Elysia Crampton Presents Demon City, producer Elysia Crampton explores the medium of electronic music as a vehicle for poetry, sociology and history. The album is a companion piece to Crampton’s theatrical production and DJ set called Dissolution of the Sovereign: A Timeslide of the Future, and both use conceptual art to tell the story of Bartolina Sisa, an Aymara folkloric hero that led an indigenous uprising against Bolivia in the 1750s, told from the perspective of her severed limbs after her murder. That is just a taste of the concepts that the brilliant artist Crampton can explore through her music. Drawing on genres from past and present, Crampton explores her roots as a trans Latina woman by exploring the sounds that fuel her personal history and cultural identity: Southern hip-hop, Latin metal, psychedelic folk, neoclassical music, pre-Columbian khantus music, ragtime, early blues, her brother’s avant—garde records, and her grandfather’s hyayno and cumbia music. She looks at the history of music to explore her own cultural history. Listening to her music is to listen to everything that resulted in her genesis.

14. Solange, A Seat at the Table, track: Cranes in the Sky

It’s unfair to mention Beyonce when discussing Solange but it’s going to happen here anyways. While Beyoncé’s Lemonade was an important artistic act of multimedia disruption, the closed-off nature of Beyoncé diminishes her intrigue. Solange, on the other hand, is an open book. Her music is pure personal expression and she reflects her authentic self in both her press appearances and artistic output. A Seat at the Table has been in the writing process since 2008, and Solange became a star (albeit one on a much smaller scale than her big sister) in the meantime with her 2012 Dev Hynes-produced EP True and the launch of her label Saint Records. The result of years of labor is an outstanding work of artistry; drawing on themes of blackness, empowerment and segregation, Solange’s soul is more in line with the greats like Gladys Knight and Nina Simone than anything in contemporary music. That isn’t to say the record is antiquated, it just a rawness, or yes, an authenticity that is scantly found in contemporary pop. Enlisting the help of fellow pop stars like Lil Wayne, Kelly Rowland and The Dream as well as major indie stars like The Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, Sampha and Kelela, Solange proves that sweeping soul is still commercially viable, earning her first number 1 album in the process.

13. A Tribe Called Quest, We Got it From Here… Thank You for Your Service, track: We The People…

This album was 2016’s most joyously surprising. It’s been 18 years since A Tribe Called Quest’s last album; time that the group’s members spent mostly squabbling until Phife Dawg would ultimately pass away. Not to mention, we should all be suspicious of reunion albums at this point. For every MBV there are three utterly garbage Pixies albums, and even the competent reunion records by the likes of Dinosaur Jr. have lost the youthful spark that made the early work such magic. And yes not only is WGIHTYFYS Tribe’s first record in 18 years, it’s their best since 1993’s Midnight Marauders. This is a group that was formed before Biggie, Tupac, Wu Tang, Nas and Jay-Z and yet they are still making music that feels both celebratory of hip-hop’s history and contemporary. Released days after the devastating win of our President Fuckface Elect and faced with the death of progressivism and quite possibly democracy as we knew it, Tribe’s music was a reminder that no matter what the political circumstances, the rational majority can still look after each other. That freedom of thought and speech can never smothered. Using collaborators ranging from Kanye to Busta Rhymes to Anderson .Paak to
Kendrick to Elton fucking John, the record is a joyous collage of hip-hop, soul, and jazz highlighting the importance of black art and culture against a racist paradigm that has always sought to silence it.

12. Fat White Family, Songs From Our Mothers, track: Satisfied

It took a handful of art school dropout squatting Londoners to reignite passionate rock n’ roll music. Fat White Family has always known how to play the game using raucous performances, nudity and controversy to boost the profile of a rock band that in most modern circumstances would be relegated to the deep underground of British art rock. But the group has also found a way to weld their difficult influences (The Fall, The Birthday Party, Big Black, The Gun Club, The Country Teasers) into a palatable and even catchy rock approach. Their second album Songs From Out Mothers filtered the band’s nihilist energy into the wall of sound melodies of Phil Spector, the damaged soul of Ike and Tina Turner, and the motor rhythms and joyous synths of Neu. The combination of catchy singalong anthems and volatile riotous energy has resulted in Fat White Family becoming one of the best live bands on the planet, I see them every time they come to New York. Now signed to Domino records, Fat White Family have the opportunity to become the first noise rock STARS since Sonic Youth.

11. Bruxa Maria, Human Condition, track: Hipsters and the Heathens

Though taken on a shitty Samsung photo, the self-portrait that graces the cover of former member of British punk band Dread of Conmungos and fine artist Gill Dread’s debut album as Bruxa Maria is subtly evocative. Welding a machine gun strapped on her back while her face is obscured by a cap and bandana, a mysterious revolution is hinted at. The Bruxa Maria project was inspired by Dread’s experiences during the 2011 London riots, and she became fascinated by the empty rebellion of consumerist hipster culture. To combat that, Dread looked towards the acapitalist culture of noise rock and post-hardcore to inform the Bruxa Maria project. Human Condition is influenced by the absurdist noise rock of The Butthole Surfers, the manic and politicized post-hardcore of Nations of Ulysses, and any number of acts once signed to noise rock behemoth Amphetamine Reptile Records (NoMeansNo, early Helmet, Alice Donut, Cows). It’s a tried and true raucous approach to sleazy rock n’ roll made contemporary by a particular aesthetic approach to imagery and a political philosophy.

10. Gaika, Security/Spaghetto, track: 3D

“These are my cities and these are my streets IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY” barks Gaika on his Warp Records debut EP Spaghetto. On both his EP releases this year, Spaghetto and the previous release Security, Gaika has emerged as a uniquely contemporary voice in the genre of protest music. Combining dancehall, grime, R&B, trip-hop, industrial and Prince, Gaika’s music uses the history of black British music to rail agains the homogenization of the urban city, particularly in his home of Brixton. He’s a straight black man that has no problem dressing up in Hood by Air runway looks or utilizing the tropes of performance art or working with Mykki Blanco to make an artistic statement. 


9. Kanye West, The Life of Pablo, track: FML

It’s been a rollercoaster year for ‘Ye, and I was there at the beginning: when he simultaneously introduced The Life of Pablo and his Yeezy Season 3 collection to a sold-out Madison Square Garden. After designing collections and touring relentlessly all year, Kanye has burned out. It was inevitable. So I’m disappointed that he’s meeting with Donald Trump as I write this, but I’m still thankful for the work he’s given us. I've never thought TLOP was on-par with the exquisite genius of Yeezys or 808z, but it is a massively listenable collections of songs that Kanye allowed us to engage with in real time. It was thrilling listening to see his edits of the album on Tidal, and who can forget those three months of time when we actually all had Tidal accounts? Honestly, it feels like the end of things, like the most fully realized of Kanye’s post-modernist approach to futurism. He has always been intimately aware of the ways in which people consume content in 2016, and I doubt any gesture will be as relevant as his roll out of The Life of Pablo album. The most disappointing thing about all this Trump nonsense is that it refutes my concept of Kanye as the digital era’s Malcolm X; the man able to call out societal racism exactly as it is with no considerations for PC culture. It’s hard to listen to Black Skinhead or No More Parties in LA quite the same way.

8. Hieroglyphic Being, The Disco’s of Imhotep, track: Spiritual Alliances

Chicago native Jamal Moss, AKA Hieroglyphic Being, has been a part of the Chicago acid house scene since the mid ‘90s, but his Hieroglyphic Being project is his most adventurous incorporating elements of free jazz, industrial, and musique concrete. An outsider in a whole scene of outsiders, Moss is a formerly homeless intellectual that is beholden to the afro-futurist approach of Sun Ra. The Disco’s of Imhotep is his most accessibly body of music yet but sacrifices not shred of strangeness. It’s dance music that is not beholden to a Pro Tools grid, it’s too wild and untamable for that. Moss calls it “rhythmic cubism” and that is as apt as any other description could be. There is an unhinged mysticism at play that evokes the healing power of soul while letting darkness creep into the fold in the form of industrial beats that evoke ShapedNoise or the mutations of Laraji. It’s a dance album that is hopeful and spiritual without devolving to cheese. This is as good as dance music gets.

7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree, track: Rings of Saturn

No rock n’ roll star has ever aged quite as gracefully as Nick Cave. From his druggy beginnings as the sleazy sexed out goth frontman of noise punk The Birthday Party to his contemplative present as a distinguished literary murder troubadour leader of The Bad Seeds, Cave has always been a fascinating poet of rock star. Though murder and death have always hovered over the music and words of Cave, it’s impossible to separate the darkness of 2016 masterpiece Skeleton Tree from the untimely death of Cave’s teenage son in 2015. Though the death happened between recording of the album, harbingers of doom are everywhere, “Are you still here,” sings the artist on Rings of Saturn. Cave’s wife, the British model Susie Bick, has discussed Cave’s eerie ability to foresee the future in his poetry. Musically, the album is indicative of The Bad Seeds’ reinvention as purveyors of adult-themed literary rock n’ roll, and the symbiotic artistic relationship between Warren Ellis and Cave has never been more pronounced. There has never been a punk rock icon to have such a financially successful AND artistically fruitful career for so long: not Iggy, not Lou, not Joey, not Richard Hell, and certainly not Ian Curtis. Nick Cave has never fought age, instead embracing it and drawing inspiration from it to mutate his music and words along with his body as it grew older.

6. Jenny Hval, Blood Bitch, track: Period Piece

Only a year after the release of her excellent Apocalypse, girl album, the Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval drops a work of conceptual brilliance and artistic conceit in her 2016 release Blood Bitch. Influenced by menstruation, ‘70s horror and exploitation films, and Virgina Woolfe, Blood Bitch is a concept album that draws parallels between a fictional time-traveling vampire named Orlando and Hval’s experiences on her last tour. Using the theme of blood, Hval is able to continue her exploration of the themes of gender, sexuality, language and identity while reconnecting with her past spent listening to black and death metal, “menstruation blood is the scariest blood of all,” said Hval in an interview in London in Stereo. Working with producer Lasse Marhaug, who is known for his work with noise metal unit Jazkamer as well as drone metallers Sunn O))) and japanoise god Merzbow, Hval decided to start improvising lyrics while watching exploitation films. She then used crackling tape hiss and manipulated electronic sounds to create a kind of sound collage that envelopes the lyrics, letting them breathe and live. It’s an aesthetically driven record that both stands out in Hval’s catalog while also forming a unique aspect of a discography that is becoming one of the most interesting bodies of work in modern music.

5. David Bowie, Blackstar, track: I Can’t Give Everything Away

I don’t really know what to add to the discussion of Black Star, other than to say it’s a great act of death as the ultimate form of performance art. Bowie decided to release his last album, his best since the late ‘70s, just days before ultimately succumbing to cancer. That was always going to amplify the reception of the record, but it still stands out for its songs. With Bowie experimenting with jazz instrumentation and arrangements like he has never before, it’s his most conceptually difficult album since his Berlin years and ironically his first number 1 hit in the U.S. All that goes to prove how powerful the death of an icon can be over the cultural paradigm. It’s been out for a while now and I still find myself giving it a spin every few weeks or so.

4. Arabrot, The Gospel, track: The Gospel

Since the Norwegian noise rock pummelers Arabrot released their Melvins and Swans worshipping debut record Rogues Gallery in 2003, they have started stretching their sound out clearly aspiring to something more than raw aggression. Slowly but surely, the band has started taking on more diverse influences both musical and artistic: the neofolk/post-industrial of Death in June, the psychedelic country of Lee Hazlewood, the romanticism of Thomas de Quincey, the eroticism of Henry Miller, the mysticism of Aleister Crowley, and the oppositional theatricality of Federico Garcia-Lorca. The Gospel is the incarnation of all those influences, but also of the full artistic realization of Arabrot’s sole remaining founding member Kjetil Nernes who has just recovered from throat cancer after a diagnosis in 2014. The Gospel is loud and forceful, and sometimes quiet and contemplative, and always carries a grace derived from the dark charm of cabaret theater. It it the sound of a loud rock band shedding their youthful abandon and embracing intellectual and artistic maturity. Though the album has an impressive array of guest noise kings (Sunn O))) member and visual artist Stephen O’Malley, Nurse With Wound/Current 93 rotating member Andrew Liles and Ted Parsons who has played with Swans and Killing Joke), none of the members try and make a name for themselves with a racket on the record. They blend in seamlessly to a swirling vortex of sound. The use of keys on the record are magnificent, adding an element of vaudeville to the proceedings that has not been seen in a loud rock band since Faith no More’s masterpiece Angel Dust. Nernes is a compelling frontman, a dark joker troubadour in the ilk of Scott Walker, and is capable of avant noiseisms as well as conventional pop melodies. Arabrot is very much his band, and The Gospel is his record.

3. Grumbling Fur, Furfour, track: Acid Ali Khan

Daniel O’Sullivan is an in-demand experimental musician, having played in bands like post-rock outfit Guapo, abstract black metal unit Ulver, and Sunn O))). Grumbling Fur is weird, but it’s grounded in pop music realities. The duo has honed their sound considerably since the abstract psychedelia of 2013 release Glynnaestra, and on 2016 album Furfour they are majestically updating the avant-pop of Brian Eno’s solo career. O’Sullivan along with partner and comic book artist Alexander Tucker, clearly see Grumbling Fur as the priority in their long list of musical endeavors. Furfour’s mastery comes from its ability to create abstract soundscapes using the basic harmonies and melodies of pop and building layers on top. They are in the lineage of the late great Arthur Russell, krautrock unit Faust, Stereolab and even Madlib; artists that have found experimental possibilities within pop simplicity. Though Grumbling Fur have tended to reach for psychedelic abstraction influenced by The Dead C and Ashtray Navigations on previous releases, Furfour is a succinct achievement. It utilizes the blissful simplicity of pop music structures to build swirling hypnotic textures. Trust me, you will be listening to this album constantly once you start it.

2. Blood Orange, Freetown Sound, track: Augustine

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1. Frank Ocean, Blond/Blonde and Endless, track: Self-Control

OK OK, I know. Maybe it’s in poor taste to lump in my number 1 and 2 album of the year picks together. And I also am firmly against letting social justice narratives get in the way of aesthetic appreciation. So I want to just say this immediately, these choices only have a little to do with the timeliness of their releases. It is important to have two black male queer musical geniuses play an important role in contemporary music in 2016. But I would not have included either Frank Ocean or Blood Orange at the top if I didn’t believe that their ART and music was the best I heard this year.

The kaleidoscopic pop and R&B of Frank and Dev Hynes feels more contemporary than any other music out there. On Freetown Sound, Hynes has found the pinnacle of what makes his artistic voice important. Utilizing the classical texture of baroque pop, the lush danceability of alt-R&B, the sample friendliness of synthpop, and queer and black activism, Hynes creates a collage of his self and displays on a billboard for the world to see. Hynes’ self presentation is not written about enough. While the rest of the world tries to create a version of their authentic selves that are just as phony as any media persona could be through their social media accounts, Hynes has given himself over to the world. Freetown Sound was amplified by the event surrounding its release, including the Orlando Massacre and the freedom of Freddie Gray’s murder (one of a few), but Hynes has managed to deliver a historically political album palatably through the sheer beauty of his melodies, tones, and basslines.

There were a lot of mega-hyped albums this year: Kanye, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Drake among them. But nothing was more hyped than the return of Frank Ocean after four years of silence following being hailed as a genius with the success of Channel Orange. But then, in August, Frank dropped a 45 minute video album called Endless getting millennials to sit and stare at him building an abstract sculpture just to hear the tragic beauty of his voice. A few days later, came Blond/Blonde. Though it was an instant hit, it was not as immediately satisfying as Frank’s previous releases. Drawing on the digital cut-up techniques of vapor wave and the experimental soul that he made his name on, it is a slowly engrossing album. I didn’t fully grasp its beauty until about four listens. Frank is on a journey of self-discovery and he has taken music fans all over the world on the ride with him. No music in 2016 can bring me to tears other than the music of Frank Ocean. It’s the rawness in his lyrics, the nakedness of his soul bearing, the breathtaking scope of his lush voice, it’s all so emotionally overwhelming. The sound on the album are fairly minimal, however, which is further testament to how much Ocean is able to achieve emotionally without the grandiosity of modern pop production. He’s every bit the genius that they say he is. 

A True Cultural Oasis: A Legendary Year In The Nightlife Of Tenants Of The Trees

When Tenants Of The Trees descended upon a relatively quiet nook of Silver Lake, no one really knew what to expect; not the inhabitants of Silver Lake or denizens throughout the glittering, panting sprawl of Los Angeles. While the world raged outside, the venue, particularly Out Of Order (the private club within Tenants), would become an oasis – an island in the middle of an existential desert. Like the name suggests, a perch was given to creative artists and musicians around the world – not just locally – who used the venue to debut and announce albums, put on secret performances and cathartically scream and dance their hearts out after the death of Bowie, Prince, Vanity, Cohen, Michael and many more. Tenants of the Trees’ master of ceremonies and gracious host – and owner – Reza Fahim, along with partner Jason Lev, gave the space to Autre on countless occasions for their iconic Friday Artist Take Over (FAT). Instead of doing the typical “best of” year end list, we decided to take a look back at one of the most mythic and fabled years of nightlife within the hallowed walls of Tenants Of The Trees, and Out Of Order.

Dave Chappelle Preaches To The “In” Choir

Lana Del Rey Hosts And Celebrates A Birthday

 

The Weeknd Makes An Appearance At Reza Fahim’s Birthday Celebration

Terrible Records Hosts Dev Hynes At Out Of Order

 

Toro Y Moi Plays A Show

 

Twin Shadow Takes Over Sundays At Tenants Of The Trees

 

War Paint Shoots Their Cover Story For The Release Of A New Album

 

Jesse Boykins Plays An Intimate Live Set

The Big Pink DJ During One Of Ana Calderon's Legendary Tuesdays

Solange Throws One Of Her Iconic "Proclamation" Parties

Questlove Steps In As A Guest DJ At Out Of Order

Boys Noize Guest Appearance As Part Of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Goddollars' Secret 30 Monday Night Residency 

Devendra Hosts The Screening Party For Mel Shimkovitz's New Short Film

Collapsing Scenery's First Ever Live Show

A Rising Moses Sumney Takes Over Out Of Order

Francis And The Lights Performance And Benny Blanco DJ Set

Father John Misty Concert After Party At Out Of Order

You Want It Darker: A Friday Playlist Reflecting the Life and Legacy of Leonard Cohen

At 82-years-old and divulging his world weary outlook in an interview with the New Yorker’s Editor-in-Chief David Reminick that was published days before the release of his final album You Want it Darker and just two weeks before his death, the loss of Leonard Cohen is slightly less of a gut punch than the untimely deaths of Bowie, Prince, and Alan Vega. You Want it Darker, while lacking the conceptual heart wrench that was David Bowie’s “death as performance art” Blackstar album that came out two days before Bowie’s death, is still a lovely good bye for the multiple generations of musicians, artists and writers that were profoundly impacted by Cohen’s work. Chillingly, Leonard Cohen told Reminick, “I am ready to die,” in that premonitory profile, only to backtrack a few weeks later at a concert in Los Angeles, Cohen telling his audience, “I tend to over dramatize.” Death is ultimately a tug of war between acceptance and denial, and that conflict permeates Leonard’s later recordings. But dramatization aside, Cohen is gone after suffering heart failure brought upon by a nasty fall. My grandfather on my father’s side, my Papa, took some nasty falls as he got older. There is a visceral violence to witnessing a once strong but now frail man plummet towards the earth. When that body hits the ground, the deafening thud serves as a very metaphor for the tragedy of mortality. And yet, it’s hard to think about applying that situation to Cohen, a man who didn’t exactly exude youth but certainly projected a kind of agelessness. When news of his passing hit the Internet last Friday, Instagram memorials depicted Cohen from his ‘30s to ‘70s. He was awkwardly handsome, Remnick describing his looks as “Michael Corleone Before the Fall.” 

With Leonard’s death, You Want it Darker will be obsessively editorialized by writers trying to find performance art in the act of death. That really was the case for Bowie’s Blackstar, but You Want it Darker is simply a great Leonard Cohen album full of songs about sex, love, desire, longing, loneliness, fear and, yes, mortality. That was always Leonard’s modus operandi. That is why ultimately I believe that while Bob Dylan might have had a greater overall cultural and social impact, Leonard had a far greater influence on art and music. The saying about The Velvet Underground is that while only 1000 people heard the band’s music, every one of them started bands. A similar statement could apply to Leonard. The Montreal-born poet was far more influenced by literature than he was popular music. His lyrics drew upon the symbols and semiotics of WB Yeats, the entanglements of death and sexuality of Walt Whitman, the uncanny occurrences and metaphysics of Federico Garcia Lorca, the mysticism of Henry Miller, and the puritanical skewering of Irving Layton who taught Leonard political science at McGill University and became his close friend and mentor, (Leonard once admitting, “I taught Layton how to dress. He taught me how to live forever.”). The words of these great writers built the foundation upon which Cohen would build his artistic identity. Musically, Leonard eschewed much of the music that was popular during the time he came up in the ‘60s. Though he admired Dylan, he was unmoved by The Beatles. Instead, Leonard found magic in the early blues of Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith, in the poetry heavy Country Music of George Jones, Hank Williams, and The Alamanac Singers, and the soul stylings of Ray Charles. You can also hear in his music a fascination with Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production techniques (and he would of course work with Spector on Leonard’s most populist albeit still excellent Death of a Ladies Man album); Leonard’s music was often akin to a dense throb of simplistic melodies that simply served to underline his words. While he made countless beautiful songs, Leonard was true to the aesthetic and true to himself. He distanced himself from popular culture and politics and boiled down his words and music to one man and one man’s thoughts, anxieties and observations. That is fundamentally at the root of Leonard Cohen’s success and his influence on art, literature and music. Art is a selfish act: to express one’s self is to isolate one's self. Cohen was just a horny writer with a joie de vivre and a story to tell. He could only experience the world through his own eyes, and unlike Dylan didn’t aspire to do so beyond that.

There are very few musicians that have such a stylistically widespread influence on popular music. Maybe Miles Davis. Probably The Beatles. Definitely The Velvets. But it’s fascinating to examine the wildly different musicians that cite Leonard Cohen as a direct inspiration. His impact was felt immediately when he came on the scene in the ‘60s; he befriended folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins who covered his beautiful song ‘Suzanne’ and icon Richard Thompson was covering Leonard Cohen in the ‘60s with his band Fairport Convention. It was really the evocative darkness of Cohen’s work that would be emulated for decades to come, however. He set the template for troubadours singing moody and provocative poetry over dark and subdued melodies. There are the obvious avowed fans like Tori Amos and Rufus Wainwright (whose music really is a direct recreation of Leonard’s sound but sung with a more powerful voice). But Cohen’s aesthetic also proved an influence on the more experimental and willfully adventurous songwriters of our time: Bill Callahan of (smog), ANOHNI, Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, and Nick Cave all owe an artistic debt to Cohen and all admit being rabid fans of the man's music. Cave has admitted that Cohen was the first artist he discovered on his own, and was already thinking of Cohen way back in the days of his maniacal goth noise blues band The Birthday Party. In fact, Cohen’s psychosexual musings can be argued as an early precursor to the whole goth movement, and his influence can be felt in goth artists ranging from Siouxsie and The Banshees to Dead Can Dance. The more literary minded alternative rock stars of the ‘80s and ‘90s worship at the alter of Leonard Cohen. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe drew upon the symbolism and religious imagery of Cohen’s lyrics elevating their music to a more poetic reach. Cohen has even been cited in lyrics to songs by Mercury Rev and Nirvana (“Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld. So I can sigh eternally. I'm so tired and I can't sleep. I'm anemic royalty,” sings Kurt on the band’s track ‘Pennyroyal Tea.’). There are even elements of Leonard’s craftsmanship in the most extreme arenas of rock n’ roll; his dark theatrics permeate the more recent releases of experimental doom band Earth and Swans’ most recent album, The Glowing Man, finds Michael Girl grappling with his addictions, perversions, and personal shortcomings in a most decidedly Leonard Cohen manner. As mainstream pop has grown more art friendly in the digital era, so has its embracing of the influence of Cohen. Singer/producer James Blake is a fan, as is, apparently, Lana Del Rey. Whether you think Del Rey is a product or not, there is no doubt that her music evokes a kind of sensual darkness and grapples with sexual anxiety in a way that most of her peers do not. Lana loves Leonard.

Ultimately, Leonard Cohen proved that a beat poet, a horny old man, a curmudgeon, and a morbid death obsessed narcissist could all be rock stars. He was an artist that emphasized the use of poetry and music to explore one’s inner world and exterior observations. While Dylan may have been the one who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Cohen’s music doesn’t need awards. He created not a genre, but a mood. That mood, that AESTHETIC, has been analyzed and recreated for decades and will continue to do so. Any anxious or horny or curious guy or girl who puts some words to paper and reluctantly decides to sing them owes a debt to the life and work of the genius Leonard Cohen.

R.I.P. Leonard Cohen (1934 to 2016)

On Raf Simons' Decision To Present His Eponymous Collection In New York For The First Time

text by Adam Lehrer

As if us fashion obsessed New Yorkers weren’t freaking out enough over Raf Simons’ creative dominion over Calvin Klein, another massive bit of “Raf meets New York” news has polluted the internet: Raf Simons will be showing his Fall Winter 2017 menswear line at New York Fashion Week: Men’s. This is astonishing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the industry generally considers NYFWM to be shite, and the assertion is generally not wrong. The schedule obviously has some bright spots that I’ve written about at length here (Siki Im, Robert Geller, N. Hoolywood, Devon Halfnight Leflufy, and some more), but big and boring and commercially minded brands like Todd Snyder dominate the press cycle. Important designers like Thom Browne already abandoned NYFWM due to a lack of press coverage and poor organization. Raf’s decision to show at NYFWM brings massive fashion credentials to a Fashion Week schedule that desperately needs them, and it’s fair to bet that a number of high profile menswear designers will warm up to the idea of showing their new collections at NYFWM in his wake.

But more than that, Raf’s decision to show at NYFWM solidifies the creative direction that the designer has been hinting at in his last few collections. Consider this: Raf has always referenced visual artists and musicians throughout his career (after all, he is one of if not the designer that got artsy rock n’ roll dudes interested in high fashion in the first place). But in the past, he exercised decidedly European art and rock influences in his menswear collections. The music of Manchester, namely Joy Division and New Order, and those bands’ album covers’ graphic designer Peter Saville were celebrated in his FW 2003 collection. Raf’s FW 2001 collection presented graphics inspired by the disappearance of Manic Street Preachers’ iconic vocalist and poet Richey Edwards. The European art references in Raf’s work could go on forever: Bowie, German komische and electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, Belgian ‘Gabber’ techno music, Belgian florist Mark Colle, British fine artist Conrad Shawcross, and his fashion design hero Martin Margiela all influenced Raf’s refined and distinctly European counter-cultural sensibilities.

But somewhere along the line, Raf’s tastes shifted towards the art of the United States. If one had to find a jumping off point for this transition, he/she would most likely point towards his FW 2014 collection designed in conjunction with Los Angeles-based mixed-media artist Sterling Ruby. That collection, based on the peculiar design flourishes of Ruby’s rarified wardrobe, saw the duo incorporate patchwork based around Ruby’s teenaged tendency to adorn his clothes with patches by the likes of American bands Black Flag, Sonic Youth and Bad Brains. Since then, American artists have had a greater presence in Raf Simons collections. His stunning Fall-Winter 2016 collection was full of over-sized school uniforms imagined as the costumes of stars from ‘80s American teen horror movies. Raf has said that American artist, Cindy Sherman, influenced the collection. More prominently, the collection was heavily inspired by the work of David Lynch. The show’s soundtrack featured Angelo Badalamenti discussing his creative process working with David, creating Laura Palmer’s Theme song from Twin Peaks, while that very theme song played chillingly in the background. No artist on Earth has explored the darkness that exists within the cracks of mundane American existence more than Lynch, and it was as if Raf was criss-crossing the whole country before taking up permanent residence in his new home of New York City. But he made it here, as evidenced by his Spring-Summer 2016 collection designed in conjunction with the archive of one of the most quintessentially New York of New York City artists, the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe deftly chronicled the New York City sub-cultures of the late ‘70s and ‘80s that made the city such a hotbed of artistic excitement and debauched excess. His portrait subjects included members of the gay biker scene and BDSM world, New York high society socialites, and art world superstars ranging from Andy Warhol to Debbie Harry to Mapplethorpe’s once girlfriend Patti Smith. No artist’s output breathes the mysticism of New York City better than Robert Mapplethorpe’s. So when Raf presented a collection that featured Mapplethorpe prints, garments inspired by Mapplethorpe’s idiosyncratic style, and a soundtrack chalk full of Blondie hits, it became clear that Raf’s artistic heart is currently with New York.


So we knew that Raf would be presenting his Calvin Klein collections here. From a business standpoint, it would make sense to just show all his clothes here in New York to avoid the cross Atlantic flights. But looking at Raf’s last few collections, it is clear that he has become increasingly more interested in American art. With his Mapplethorpe collection, he told the world in code that he’d be headed to New York. Like Helmut Lang did before him bringing his brand to New York in the ‘90s, Raf Simons instantly boosts the reputation of the New York City menswear schedule. I feel proud that my city finally has a designer that represents the creativity of the ways in which men dress in New York. Thank you, Raf. 

 

Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize In Literature…. And Now Is The Time For Your Online Tears?!

text by Luke Goebel

 

Let’s shake this desert rattle and see what drops out… WE are outside the Likker Barn, a little red barn with its lone-hay-bale-door open, a tapestry covering a downstairs-storefront window, & the stars are growing in number. There are Sheriffs cars and Denalis and Navigators and men smoking in the cool desert wind, and Prevost coaches—night is coming down over Joshua trees with a giant moon hovering the high desert mountains of the Mohave.

Through the bale door opening of the little barn is warm light on wood—and unseen, though heard, is Paul McCartney playing acoustic with his band, upstairs in the hay loft, singing “Love Me Do” and then three following songs (“Calling Me Back Again,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “FourFiveSeconds”) to ten of us sitting on hay bales and dancing in the sand in silence beneath stars—there is silence between songs and waiting, laughing and talking upstairs, indiscernible words but you can hear him when he talks and laughs—this is October 2016—with their songs is silence that can live in an acoustic hushed practice and warm-up before the show out here in Pioneertown, California at Pappy and Harriet’s. He sounds good, benevolent, what’s the way to describe the songs out here in the desert coming from this unsuspected scene? You know the Beatles? 

There are clouds and Joshua trees and starry moon skies above bare, knobby rock faces of mountains, which are part of us who live here year round. A Beatle is singing. 

The show tonight will be for 300 drinking lucky, nearly hip fans in the area from the Desert Trip Festival who have arrived from Canada, or Iowa, or Wichita, or wherever. People are wearing British flag fedoras and dumb things, but it’s cute, too. ISH.

What we are hearing is not the industry of the painted Prevost tour buses outside the Likker Barn, with the police cars and the Navigators and Yukon Denalis all black and chrome waiting outside the barn with those fat dressy men, smoking, in character, ready to whisk Paul and friends to the venue—it's not the lifetime of Paul hearing people screaming his name.

No, inside the little Likker Barn, in the tiny wooden barn, upstairs, with the exposed beams glowing in buttery light, the voice of Paul McCartney and his fellow band members are making music, a nostalgic love music that once changed the world. Can we even feel that anymore? It seems, in the desert, tonight, we actually can reach. It’s as if we stumbled on a manger scene of new nativity in Pioneertown. 

Pioneertown is a town made as a movie-set, originally, in 1954, now inhabited by locals who stay in the old-western-ghost-town storefronts that line the one sand (pedestrians only) street through town—and we are sitting in that sand listening to church inside, something ancient to us. An old Persian American man is with us and keeps screaming Paul's name between songs, followed by Security telling us all we must leave again, to which we laugh and smile at our luck, refusing.

How many people have sat and been serenaded by Paul in a group of ten strangers? I am with a woman I don’t know and she is curious and covered in bright tattoos, we dance, I can smell her hair when it blows in the night air to my face. I’m not a Paul fan, or a Beatles nut; I’ve always liked John even with his disastrous, radical, violent flaws, and George, yes—but I bet you can’t sit outside this barn under the stars in the vast mountainous desert terrain and hear this quiet, intimate session with a Beatle, and not have some part of your inner mapping rearranged.

This Persian man’s calling of PAUL between songs is like the old man is being turned into a young teen again, plaintively calling for Paul to come down—as if Paul might appear to kiss him on the mouth. Paaaaul. The man keeps telling us to all call Paul’s name together with him. He is a drunk, lost man from a lost time when men had the plan, and it was cool to shout out the name of your idol—won’t we join him, he asks, incredulous when we won’t.

There's one last whisper of Beatlemania. And there's something else. A scale of largeness—largeness of celebrity that once unified the world’s imagination as captivated by Paul, John, George, Ringo and of course Bob Dylan, some other rock and roll stars and few cultural icons who reached that size of celebrity for the size of the gift they gave the race of human. They had everyone on their side, nearly, and created so much change—but were also men, white men, mostly—especially those to survive. There was Joni, and Janis, and Jimi Hendrix, and others, Richie Havens, but the ones who were knighted, who grabbed the entire world, who made the police and military fall for them—they were mostly white men.

I can’t help feeling that that world of unified imagination will never likely be so united again. We seem divided more and more online. There is something old, old class, old guard, the old revolutionary tides that these few living icons still hold, and the large body of women and men, and women and men of color they were part of, how can we not thank them for changing how we loved—how we imagined the world could be? How we were led to push out further from normal? To fight for love, for freedom, to take substances and to take paths of experimentation? Dylan’s lyrics, his influence on Beatle’s lyrics, and imagination. 

We have different screens now, different stations tailored to our every prejudices, different axes to grind, different tastes, different self-interested dreams, angers, and triggers—we are negotiating with each other constantly in comment boxes on social media—we negotiate the way we feel, the way we express ourselves, our right to whatever we think we have right to…THINK…why others don’t have the right—and the giant world-changing idols have no place.

It’s about us, now, we think. Our opinions, our feelings, our wounds, our negotiations amidst one another—our way. I’m glad for this as I see movements like Black Lives Matter and the Dakota Pipeline Protests take root and ways in which we are taking the mantle, if not too late, as a world that is about US—our way toward change and protecting what is sacred. I am also concerned when I see how fragmented and polarized and silencing some of the online negotiations can be. The proclivity to being dour, sour, and antagonistic against anything not from the new online-erudite privileged body politic—which again I think is a good and vital thing…but we need to temper our tendency toward the sweeping rejection of all that is old, a lesson we so indubitably learned from the sins of Chancellor Mao, or ISIS even.

How do we do this in a world where the old and white and male remind us so vividly today of Donald Trump?

On the eve of the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan, and the subsequent outrage across the internal-webs from across the writing world, the writing industry, the writing hobbyists, the writing aspirers—I'm sitting here listening to Paul McCartney sing to so few of us and I’m being reminded of something so-far-from-now that somehow’s here living under the same sky, in the same vast desert, in our home where we live in high Mohave. I am also reminded, because of a piece I read earlier, of the song, “Idiot Wind”—It struck me in light of the idiocy of protesting Dylan as Nobel Prize recipient. I get it, that protest, but I don’t. I get it; he’s a musician, but really? Dylan isn’t a poet? Lyr|ics is a term that comes from lyre, and the ancient poets that lived in Greece long before a novel was ever written in the West were writing poetry to be performed with the lyre. With music. And the poems about politics, about the city, where did they come from, you think? Songs like “The Times They Are A-Changing” and “A Hard Rain…” what do you think they took aim to change? Where do you think they come from? The ballads are rooted in a tradition of political and humanistic and divine poetry from which sprung all literature, philosophy, and humanities, law, et al. DEAL WITH IT.

Dylan, like Paul, John, George, and Ringo, represents a small dying section of celebrity even the world of police, governments, fame, and celebrity all respected for their greatness of appeal and revolutionary participation around what was an often simply expressed love-consciousness-psychedelic-freedom revolution.  And it makes sense that they are protested (online/now)—because IT was a largely white boy club that couldn’t help their gen. make the leap far enough fast enough—but the frontrunners of that artistic time tapped into and spoke for people of all demographics, genders, and spoke for the underdog, the downtrodden, and marginalized. Juan Felipe Herrera is one of that generation’s prized poets. I don't want to huff the gas of nostalgia—and I apologize that I am huffing it, down under that bale window hearing a Beatle. But there is something so pure in the voice, in the songs.

It wasn't a better time. We are where we are now still ripping down the walls of gender and race and sexuality and sexual violence, partly because of the way these unifiers spoke for many, embraced a new consciousness, and experimented against the confines of white patriarchy—less directly, perhaps in some ways, than we do today, but through play and embracing wonder, they struck. I wonder if we need a bit more of that wonder and unity to temper our passions at ripping!

It’s hard to celebrate them or us in light of all that is dire, especially planet health wise, sexism, violence, murder—the very things protest ballads take aim to eradicate. So… we often now choose to acknowledge different heroes, ones who are from the more marginalized body identity politics, because the Dylan’s, the McCartney’s, the famous white sharks of love—they failed us—but that is partly a lie.

As I said, on this eve of Dylan winning his Nobel Prize in Literature, the New Yorker published Rebecca Mead writing about the song “Idiot Wind,” paying tribute to [Dylan] she writes:

I’m glad to say that it’s been a while since I felt a personal identification with [the song]… but the furious castigation and the reeling pain conveyed by that song have spoken for me more times than I care to recall. Critics will argue about Dylan’s place in the canon, or about the rightness of bestowing a prize upon a writer whose celebration doesn’t particularly help the publishing industry. But, for my money, anyone who can summon, as a bitter valediction to a lover, the line “I can’t even touch the books you’ve read,” knows—and captures, and incarnates—the power of literature.

Idiot whining winds across the Internet against the ancient, psychedelic once-pancake-mix-face-coated radical poet singer receiving THE Nobel Prize in Literature after only having what? Changed the music world, gotten Hurricane boxer Ruben Carter out of a life sentence in prison, protesting war and nukes and corruption, racism, fueling civil rights movement, rebirthing idealism, speaking for the displaced and disenfranchised and marginalized voices around the world, freeing love consciousness away from owner mentality, collaborating with Ginsberg, subverting sexism, aiding Beats and Beatles cultural rev., feeding radicals, mystics, women musicians and poets, activists, winning Pulitzer, President’s Freedom Medal, reinventing self more times than Dow Chemical, spreading Harry Smith's anthology-driven rebirth of folk and song writing, embodying every region of USA, becoming an international figure of mystery, cowboy actor, sneering Jew-heart jaw-harp and harmonica troubadour, maintaining self as creative idol of decades, is that it! But what about winning THE prize for lit? Everyone hates it. The fuck? Dylan? Idiot wind sneering…would you give a poet a Grammy?!

I read posts about how this just legitimizes the BRO’s in literature and poetry classes who only know Dylan and fight and argue that he’s a poet while not knowing anything about the greater poetry of world. Bro: new most hated term for a cross-section of typical males—with term bro, males can be tossed into the fray of irrelevance and scorn deserving. It is a way to hate on male chromosome carrying populations and eliminate them as worthy of consideration. So, these educators who launched this attack on the notion of Dylan being valued by students, rather than seeing this as an entry into the conversation, would rather expel such students from the conversation? Rather pigeonhole students as deserving of dismissal and scorn? It seems much easier to use this as an access point, should there be students who know Dylan’s work and want to discuss it, to opening a larger conversation and including the work of great poets who are women, are diverse, etc., but I digress.

Let's admit it...It's been a bad year all around. Planet news is of bad environmental forecast. Dead seas to ride up 10 feet in decades and swallow sea cities, ocean life soon kaput, Great Barrier Reef prognosis of poor health came out today—Drumpf, Clinton, wars endless, Russia, Aleppo, terrorism, world war watch, etc. And people are outraged about Bob Dylan? Someday we may crouch before amplified speakers and listen to women and men such as Dylan sing about what no longer exists—roosters, cicadas, whales, love—objects and living things and feelings we destroyed. We need unity—and while I don’t suppose around Dylan is where we should rally—maybe we should temper the internet outcry of the week on this one?

Today, Dylan wins the Nobel Prize. Librarians, elementary and high school teachers, as well as Cynthia from The Confederate General of Big Sur are committing ritualistic suicide.  

Everyone knows someone else’s more-deserving name to tweet, post, and broadcast that should have won instead (Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Marilynne Robinson, D. DeLillo)—a million times over! People can't BELIEVE THOSE SWEDISH IDIOTS PICKED DYLAN. How populist, how commercial. How gauche!! 

We are trolling, Bob…

Trolls and smart folk everywhere kvetch about Dylan winning the fucking Pulitzer. Nnooooooo! Bob Dylan? What does he know about literature, poetry, and words?

He tells stories in words. He made DESIRE. Made how many thousands of timeless songs about the soul, about humans, woman, man, the oppressed, the unspeakable—that which exists in negative capability—love, moral outrage, spurn, war, criminals, Judaic crying out loneliness, wives, husbands, children, beauty, surreality, landscapes, gods, mysticism, time, space, and perhaps at best: stories that cannot be broken down to elements of story—so what? Why not Don DeLillo? This isn’t the year for Don’s. Sorry, DeLillo.

There are funny complaints. Sardonic arrows bore to the quiver in the heart of the absurdity of this year and folly of human existence. The shame. The disease of us. Throttling hate and vitriol launched at the body politic of the winners—and for good reason--MALE. And why should Dylan even be considered for a Nobel in Lit? The man the pop-fan universe first loved to hate, to boo and heckle, JUDAS—has just earned more haters—in droves. Begin Dylan's 2016 TROLLING thunder review cranking online! It's in full gripe.

How could a dirty filthy white (and in white face!) old Vincent Price-looking musician (yuck) win the glorious, erudite prize that is the pinnacle of all high literature? A music player? Goddamnit! Capital L literature. The decrepit white man (Jew), wins, in literature? He cheated! He used music! I write, ahem, cough, literature, haha, that will surely never win a Nobel, will be lucky to be novels in print in 100 years, if there is life in 100 years, maybe life on Mars???—but the reason I first wanted to write was hearing music by Bob Dylan, while being tortured by my father, while being victim to the stress, anger, hostility, violence of the male world, I first found I could live in the music (my father played) of Bob Dylan, while driving, and Dylan was there with me, somehow, actually inside of me and shepherding me in a way no other musician or writer ever has.

I first unconsciously experienced wanting to write because I was captured by his words, his stories, his objects and animals and events—his outraged yearning. I roamed insane through streets of his music and later through literal streets out of rehabs in my early twenties listening to Dylan on headphones, shivering, alone, crying, sharp-eyed. I imagined myself in his songs. I ran into words and language and writing, scrawling bad poetry, seeking what I glimpsed in his lyrics, in his stories, in the power of voice, in his magic spells. I climbed in strangers’ cars, got in dangerous situations, romanticized pain, drank, got sober, used, and dreamed of someday writing. It was male. There were women too who lived with me—Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins and Phoebe Snow. Predecessors like Nina Simone. But for a male singer, there was something Woolf-ianly hermaphroditic in the mind realms of Mr. Zimmerman’s music.

When my brother left this world I was on a street in Lisbon listening to a Dylan song I didn’t know, somehow, and had mysteriously found that day, listening to it over and over at night before a theater and crying, singing, wildly, bitterly, sobbing and singing on a street corner in another world, feeling my brother leave and not knowing yet, what was happening, why I was feeling so taken over by sorrow, by violent sorrow and madness—to sing out bitterly—having not heard the news, so that when I heard it, that moment, forever haunts me and returns to me in the middle of white nights.

I drank in a tiny apartment at 18 alone in Portland, Oregon back when a studio on NW on 21st street was 200 dollars a month and played Dylan’s music on repeat, drinking, crying, alone but with someone else’s language before I had my own.

I have lived and tripped on dreams my entire life, ones coterminous with a world I first encountered in the seat of my father’s car, a hostage to love and violence, with something outside of this world of all that I knew of what was normal and owned and patrolled—some other world Dylan offered and was a gateway into di Prima, Ginsberg, D.A. Powell, Juan Felipe Herrera, literacy.

Clearly, I am not the only author who shared an early draw to language from exposure to Dylan. Joyce Carol Oates famously dedicated her most known story: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” to Robert Zimmerman’s adopted stage name: Bob Dylan

Salman Rushdie wrote, this morning, regarding the Nobel win: We live in a time of great lyricist-songwriters – Leonard CohenPaul SimonJoni MitchellTom Waits – but Dylan towers over everyone. His words have been an inspiration to me ever since I first heard a Dylan album at school, and I am delighted by his Nobel win. The frontiers of literature keep widening, and it’s exciting that the Nobel prize recognizes that.

For me, I’m glad he beat DeLillo. Praise the lord!

The man in his liver spotted 70s. Won. The. Nobel. And. You. Can't. Complain. That. Away. This isn't democratic. What is anymore? We might think everything is. You don't get a vote for the Nobel Prize. Take to your comment boxes! Tweets! Rage. Sure…

Out here in the land of physical reality, in the Mohave high country, with the smell of suntan lotion and weed smoke, up at Pappy and Harriet's, we wait. For tickets. For Paul. For Dylan to make a rumored appearance. Having a sort of snow day.

This week is the Desert Trip Festival week-between-runs and of course Dylan, McCartney, Neil, Jagger and the gang are out here. Too many white men, true! Dicaprio, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, etc. celebrities galore rented 100,000-dollar-a-night suites last weekend and others will rent them this coming weekend at the DT festival.

Early today we were in line for Paul McCartney tickets. I could care less if I got tickets. I was already scribing this story, looking for the connection between Dylan and Paul, aside from the obvious. I was in line with thousands of others hoping for tickets, waiting in the hot autumnal sun. Maybe Dylan would show. Rumors, rumors. Today, the day that Bob Dylan made the Internet furious—though, I detest when people personify the goddamn Internet. Hey, it's not real life on here. It's turning you into thinking that the world is your own giant server comment card. People are complaining bitterly on their social media complaint boxes, writing opinion pieces on why it should have been any real writer. While this is good, to have a soap box to oppose Trump's assault comments or try and raise awareness for the most recent impending doom reports on coming planet death (you'll get three likes for all posts on environment)—to stand in solidarity with and give support to the Dakota Pipeline protests—I will say griping about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature just seems kind of pointlessly negative and perhaps in poor form. 

Let's take apart the arguments against the win. 

There is the formalist argument: he's music not literature. Why should lyrics count? Why should music count as literature? What's next? It's a literature prize! THE literature prize! I think we hit this one. POETRY birthed literature…it was to music.

The feminist argument (valid) that all in the camp were men this year. The race theorist argument: too white. Especially in white face.

The historicist argument: why now? He hasn't put out anything memorable in how many years?

The body-identity political complaint: why isn't it someone with less of a white penis.

Yes, he hasn’t put out anything earth shattering in years, and yes he’s a white Midwestern Jew, and yes the prizes this year were woefully all to men, and yes that’s bullshit…but should we aim our arrows at Dylan? Did he not help as an agent of cultural change in performing a miracle moving us in the directions we needed to go?

I'm so glad Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Let's remember, for a glimmer, the ancient tradition of poetry from which all literature grew. It was political, religious, and spiritual—in the religious and later humanist senses. It was how we moved from the ages of gods, to myths, to humans (Vicco). Let's remember what the purpose of poetry was back in the ancient world. Let's take a moment to remember Percy Shelley's Defense of Poetry. Let's ask the following questions: 

How many protest marches were taken to Don DeLillo passages? How many men did Don D get released from prison for being framed by racist pigs and judges? How many couples have had sex to Don DeLillo? How many bad acid trips did Don DeLillo save anyone from? How many Don DeLillo books do we know by heart? Has DeLillo changed the imagination of the world through writing in the way Dylan has? Gotten anyone free from framed life prison? Dylan has inspired, has mystified, and he is a part of a world journey across the ages that has opened up the gates to wonder, to the rebirth of the ancient tradition of poetry that has always inspired and carried the human race forth in the face of tyranny, hatred, smallness, bigotry, fear, coldness, and greed.

Tonight, at the show, which I didn’t get tickets for, we stood outside having escaped the sheriff sweeps, having hung in town in friends’ homes, later coming upon that chance encounter with Paul making music in a little barn in the desert night. Then we listened in our huddled congregations outside Pappy and Harriet’s wooden honky-tonk, while Paul McCartney played a very solid rock and roll concert. They played Day Tripper, Lady Madonna, Hey Jude, I’ve Just Seen A Face, We Gonna Work It Out, I Got a Feeling, My Valentine, and five or six other numbers. Timing was immaculate in the songs. It was a strange feeling to dance under stars with Joshua Trees to Paul’s music and to close my eyes and see the stars overhead, to feel the world of my inner strangeness mixing with the outer collectivity, to be alive and in the closeness of such a major part of this world I have somehow lived in, through all the drugs and booze and sobriety and madness and loss and language…but it wasn’t a thing compared to the time we spent under the Likker Barn listening to a private practice session with Paul and thinking of Dylan and having the magic, for a moment, light up the desert and land down into us. I don’t really give a damn what the Internet thinks. The Internet doesn’t strive, and dream, or maybe it does. And maybe all of us on there should give a small whisper of thanks for what Dylan contributed, in his small way, to the continuance of wonder of the fire which is counter to the culture of violence, greed, and indifference to the marginalized. Maybe the writer from the New York Times who says Dylan doesn’t deserve the Nobel Prize in Literature is right—but he is one of a few rare human beings who have seized the world and their time on it, made writing and words and sound come alive incarnate and given rebirth to wonder, feeding the collective human soul, and carrying the torch of poetry to light the way of democracy—shared power. Dylan has carried that torch, and that time deserves recognition, as we move forward into the tough days and years ahead, with all they will entail, we need to find within us the mystery and the will to pull down from the firmament our songs, our poetry, our literature, to feed a collective world identity, and that won’t be found in the toxic comment card culture that fragments us further into our angry, over-it, fed up feeds of complaint.

The genius of the song “Idiot Wind,” is that in the end he turns the song outward and inward, singing “We are idiots, babe, it’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.” Yep, let’s keep a bit of that, and remember, too, the magic of collectivity around something that can only be called love.

 


As of the time this piece was written, Dylan still hadn't responded to the Nobel panel. He apparently cares less about his winning than millions of anti-fans. Text by Luke Goebel. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Review of John Domini’s MOVIEOLA!

text by Elizabeth Harris

John Domini’s new story collection MOVIEOLA! is a wild ride, a madcap satire of movie-making whose originality is its comic burlesque of voices from a period of the Industry. Writing that makes fun of the movies is of course a comic tradition from S. J. Perelman and P. G Wodehouse through Michael Tolkin and Charles Bukowski—and that’s not even to address movies and television that do the same. Satire of the Dream Factory in multiple forms is probably inevitable, given the numbers of writers who have worked or wanted to work there.

Domini, who has done neither, has previously published two collections of short stories, two novels, a collection of poetry, and a translation of Tullio Pironti’s memoir, Books and Rough Business. The new collection MOVIEOLA! is not his first creation of a pop culture setting. (For that, you have to see his first novel Talking Heads: 77, recently reissued like the rest of his fiction in e-versions from Dzanc Books).  He’s always been a lyrical writer; what’s new from Domini in MOVIEOLA! is its full-on orientation towards language.

What’s new in satire about MOVIEOLA! is its burlesque of jargon from the period of “corporate oppression”— Mike Medavoy’s pronouncement—after the studios had been bought by corporate conglomerates, when seeking formulas for successful films had come to seem like good business. The Industry aside, characters confident in rigid formulas were a staple of comedy—think Moliere’s Tartuffe, Gogol’s Inspector General—long before the movies. Characters like these are memorable for monologues and dialogues in which they skewer themselves: they are set up—or, as in several of Domini’s stories, sent speeding thorough cyber- or interstellar space—and given the lines to talk themselves into absurd silliness.

The voices of MOVIEOLA! rant, crow, hector, and babble about storyboards, arc mojo, and the Reveal; bankable talent, Oscar moments, and title scrabble; shot focus and provocative color saturation and maybe going more FX here, all in the imagined interest of inventing, pitching, producing, directing, acting, or promoting. A project might be gawk’n’gag, splatter-saga, Pixar-Matrix, nano-alchemy, 3-D on a creature feature, post- or even zombie-apocalyptic in pursuit of—one of my favorite sly phrases in MOVIEOLA!—“the bottom line arc,” the elusive pay-off in “elephant bucks.”

The great thing here, for readers like me who love the oral folk arts of slang and jargon, is MOVIEOLA!’s wholesale recreation of them in literary art. 

Many of these stories are also culturally and psychologically acute. A recurrent irony in MOVIEOLA! is the cynical self-confidence of its self-anointed “creatives” that all good stories are variations on the same, while the stories they enact imply otherwise. Sometimes Domini’s characters are defeated by their contempt for worlds beyond their own. In a story about secret government assassins, a screenwriter counting on the necessary triumph of love can’t quite bring it about but seems, like one of his characters, to be imitating an ecstatic image he can only see in video.

The world beyond screenwriters’ control in MOVIEOLA!, often but not always on planet Earth, surpasses them. The movie-monster hope of two writers—Skyping from opposite sides of the Earth, no less—is outdone by an online amateur video of an ordinary octopus. A self-described Industry player, outbound aboard a chartered interstellar space shuttle, recounts to his seatmate over “Botox and rye” how the Flexxies, a species who love drama and can manipulate gravity, repeatedly ruined the shooting of his sports movie with their insistence on the simple peripety of losers-becoming-winners.

And if cliché binds in MOVIEOLA!, power blinds. An edge-seeking carny barker of film-making in search of something for the storyboard at his symposium can only lead it into a tangle of familiar, PC memes. A prospective auteur-director, discovering the literal power to visualize the movie she wants to make, is distracted from seeing its essential details the first time by the spectacle and newsworthiness of her own power. Will she succeed in visualizing the movie on a second try?

Maybe. Though there’s a certain repetition of themes here, Domini’s comic bumblers aren’t all preposterous failures: some are preposterous successes. In my favorite story, the cumbersomely named “Home ‘n’ Homer, Portmanteau,” a martial arts star who must study how to fight monsters is visited by her private, house-pet-sized monster and finds being able to summon it at will the key to her continued success.

Many of these stories were published in periodicals before being collected in MOVIEOLA! and all bear re-reading. Some require it (“is she really an alien or is that a metaphor?”), such is the bizarre cosmos that Domini creates and furnishes with worlds.


Click here to purchase MOVIEOLA!


[FASHION REVIEW] Milan Fashion Week SS17

text by Adam Lehrer

 

Since Alessandro Michele debuted at Gucci and drastically altered the landscape of the Milan’s fashion industry, my intros to Milan roundups harped upon the notion that Milan is shedding its traditionalist skin. But since I’m writing this during the middle of Paris Fashion Week, it feels quite evident that almost all of the fashion cities are still paling in comparison to the Paris schedule. But Milan is at its most exciting when its most important brands continue to re-invent the wheel: Gucci, Versace, Prada, Marni, Bottega Veneta. Milan lives and dies by those brands, and when those brands aren’t innovating then Milan is stagnating. Fortunately, the Milan schedule for the Spring-Summer 2017 collections saw those brands all either doing what they do best and/or progressing the brand further. While Michele at Gucci has so firmly established an aesthetic universe at Gucci that his collections will fascinate even if they don’t drastically change season to season, Donatella at Versace moved her brand into a new and fascinating direction after some relatively somnambulant seasons. Italian fashion is Italian fashion; they take it very seriously over there. There is also some exciting youth in Milan at the moment: Arthur Arbesser of Iceberg and his own label, Lucio Vanotti, and even off-schedule brands like Darkdron are all proving Milan can still be a fertile ground for radical fashion design.

 

Bottega Veneta Spring-Summer 2017

Everyone knows Tomas Maier is a good designer, but not often enough do we talk about how revolutionary his 15 year tenure at Bottega Veneta has been: turning athleisure into high fashion, popularizing the suede chelsea boot, and not to mention the countless fabric creations should solidify his status as one of fashion’s most enduring innovators. The Bottega Veneta Spring-Summer 2017 collection celebrated Maier’s 15th year at the house and the brand’s 50th anniversary and you bet your ass it reminded the fashion pack of Maier’s influence. Minimalism, that most over-used of aesthetic terms, applies to Maier’s work. His strength is making what he calls “nothing clothes” and making them special through his use of occasionally outrageous expensive materials: ostrich, crocodile, the finest cashmere the world has ever known, etc.. Despite Maier’s distaste for fashion marketing, the show featured one instagrammable moment when Lauren Hutton came down the runway with Gigi Hadid welding the same woven clutch bag she used in the 1980 film American Gigolo. That filmic moment has been noted as a milestone event for the house and they are recreating the bag for the anniversary.

 

Gucci Spring-Summer 2017

You could make cases for either Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia being the most influential men in fashion. However different their styles may be, they do share similarities. They have both created aesthetic universes that are so rich that you don’t need to wear their clothes to buy into their looks. Perhaps that is the key to their success? When the majority of the fashion audience is mostly broke, it is exceedingly modern to present a way to dress and not simply products that must be bought into.

Not that Michele doesn’t have products, of course. His Spring-Summer 2017 collection saw his vintage leaning tastes take on Renaissance garb: lack patent 5-inch wedge and a black velvet upper embroidered with gold snake (worn by hookers in Venice, according to Michele), sparkled fairy dresses, purposefully aged dresses ruffled and exaggerated. It’s all just so much to look at. No designer on Earth presents a vision as stunning as Michele is right now. Not Rei. Not Demna. Not even Raf. Michele overwhelms you into submission.

 

Versace Spring-Summer 2017

Donatella diversified the Versace oeuvre by applying the magnetic and alluring appeal of Versace eveningwear to a host of streetwear-inspired athletic looks. A woman’s strength doesn’t solely lie in glamour, the SS ’17 Versace collection suggests. That strength can come from athleticism; a sense of ease with one’s self and one’s body. There were flowing nylon parkas, leggings paired with tight t-shirts, and platform Teva’s. Not that the evening wear wasn’t there. There were still beautiful tight dresses in black and others in blocks of primary colors. The diversity in garment was further reflected in the diversity of casting. Models of different body types, ages, and colors were all represented here. From super models of now (Gigi), yesteryear (Naomi), and relative unknowns, Donatella saw the power in all her women. We saw it too.

 

Jil Sander Spring-Summer 2017

After Raf left the label in 2012 and Ms. Sander herself returned for one solitary season, Fausto Puglisi was always going to have an uphill battle bringing the Jil Sander label back to relevance. While the brand remains largely irrelevant, Fausto has had a strong few collections with the label. The Spring-Summer 2017 collection felt very Jil Sander: minimal in color and pattern but abstract in shape. A lot of looks here felt perfect for the gallery girls that went crazy for the label back in the day: big black smocks, leather tunics, and sharp dresses. One must address the shoulder padding here, clearly ripped off from the mind of Demna Gvasalia. Appropriation isn’t welcome when it’s that obvious.

 

Marni Spring-Summer 2017

Vogue’s Sarah Mower cites Marni’s Consuelo Castiglioni as being behind only Rei Kawakubo and Miuccia Prada as fashion’s leader of abstract female fashion design. Certainly, all three women approach fashion as a form of individual expression and not merely as a means of attracting the opposite sex. But Castiglioni still stands in her own category. Prada designs with a kind of wild and unhinged glamour, and Kawakubo’s designs have grown so abstract and bizarre that they are approaching the realm of visual art (her various off-shoot CDG brands often feel like commercial supporters of her conceptual art practice). But Castiglioni’s abstraction is both more subtle than Prada’s and far more practical than Kawakubo’s. And for the Spring-Summer 2017 Milan collections, her Marni vision burner brighter than Prada’s.

Castiglioni uses asymmetry and architecture to transform the practical into the divine. All the dresses were beautifully abstracted welding sleeves and abstracted pleats. The use of pleats, which many critics have cited as an Issey Miyake rip-off used by much brands throughout this season, were used here as odd accessories to cover up one’s arm and shoulder. Loose-fitting tops came with gigantic cargo sleeves just in front of the wearer’s belly. Then there were the massive pocket-books fixed to models’ waists that didn’t look beautiful but certainly were eye-grabbing. Castiglioni has so well defined her customer basis that she can make these grand gestures feel seamless and well-placed. 

[FASHION REVIEW] Paris Fashion Week Review

text by Adam Lehrer

I usually preamble my fashion week round-ups about how the written-about fashion city stacks up against the others, for example: “New York Fashion Week is very commercial but is experiencing a conceptual renaissance.” Something to that effect. Believe me, I know how trite writing these introductions can be. Let’s face it: the fashion industry can look ridiculous to those on the outside. Designers try to imbue their ideas with politics, art, and concepts in what basically amounts to a glorified sales pitch. But in a recent interview about his film ‘The Neon Demon,’ which takes place in the modern fashion world, filmmaker Nik Refn was asked what fashion means to him: “It's melodramatic, emotional, creative; a little bit creepy but also very campy.”

Paris Fashion Week is all of those things. It’s fashion at its best and fashion at its worst. We live in a capitalist world, and creative commerce is the only thing that can push culture forward within a capitalist system. Paris is the center of fashion. To show a collection in Paris is to get signed to the Yankees in baseball. That seal of approval and commercial visibility has enabled Paris-based designers to make grand conceptual gestures to an audience of millions upon millions. While technology has radically altered the way we communicate, fashion has radically progressed ideals of gender, race, and beauty. With Milan being too steeped in antiquated Italian notions of glamour (with exceptions), London designers working in a more cult and hype-driven business model (with exceptions), and New York being far too dictated by conservative retail outlets (with exceptions), Paris is and seemingly always will be ground zero for delivering radical concepts through the medium of fashion design on a global scale. As Nik Refn points out, fashion is an industry no different than the film industry; it’s entertainment. But as technology has enabled us to interact with the fashion industry with previously unprecedented access, it has become the primary entertainment industry for shifting societal norms. With Hollywood cinema having become the medium of The Avengers and popcorn sleaze, the fashion industry has taken center stage as our most important capitalist art form. If Paris Fashion Week is the epicenter of the industry, than it is 2016’s version of what Hollywood cinema was to 1976: a commercially robust platform that enables its audience to question what is presented to them.

(note: this list is in no particular order, all these collections were too good for that)


Saint Laurent Spring-Summer 2017

Hedi who? Sorry for the pun, but I’m mostly serious. I liked some things about Hedi Slimane’s tenure at Saint Laurent: his photography, bringing couture back to the house, and his ability to take creative control over the brand’s entire marketing strategy. But despite his doubling of the brand’s annual take, I never much liked the clothes. I never bought into the whole, “Bringing back Saint Laurent to its rock n’ roll roots.” There is no way that Yves Saint Laurent ever listened to anything that didn’t have a number and the word “symphony” in its title. Of course there were some great pieces delivered during his tenure, but Saint Laurent should be an innovator. The leather jackets were great, but they weren’t any better than Schott Perfecto’s. Yves did believe in taking normal and easy-to-wear pieces and making them incredible. But I’m sorry Hedi, there is nothing incredible about a pair of cut-off denim shorts, no matter how expensive you make them.

And that brings us to Spring-Summer 2017, the first Saint Laurent collection designed by Anthony Vacarello. I was watching SHOWStudio’s live panel on the collection, and typically they had nasty things to say about Vacarello’s first collection for the label, particularly about how over-sexed the models looked in Vacarello’s clothes. Seriously? We’ve gotten so sensitive that a designer can’t make his models look sexy? Vacarello focused on the sexiest era of Saint Lauren’t history, opening the show with a puffed shoulder dress from 1982 that he re-created in black leather. There was much leather that followed: a bustier paired with jeans, a bomber jacket with exaggerated shoulders, a trench over a black dress, a blazer. But where Vacarello excelled in his leather was its silhouettes; each piece was cut and/or shaped in an odd but appealing way (certainly something that Hedi never did with his addiction to skin tight everything). There was see-though shirts, gold lamé, breast exposing dresses, and everything tailored and sharp. I’m really not understanding the criticism aimed at this excellent debut collection. If my girlfriend came out of our bedroom wearing any one of those pieces my jaw would hit the floor. That is what what Yves wanted to do for women: make them feel like the best versions of themselves (my jaw notwithstanding). 

Koche Spring-Summer 2017

Streetwear with a couture twist is a certified trend in fashion at the moment, from the damaged luxury of Berlin’s Ottolinger to Demna Gvasalia’s reign over Balenciaga. But there is still something extraordinary about designer Christelle Kocher’s approach to haute street at her two time LVMH-nominated label Koché. Kocher also serves as artistic director of Maison Lemarié, which provides Karl Lagerfeld with the feathers he needs to make Chanel. Therefore, with Koché she is able to indulge her laissez-faire attitude towards clothing while bringing her rebellious sensibility a remarkable sense of craft and skill. She really wants to make you the last hoodie you’ll ever need to buy.

For the SS 2017 Koché collection, Kocher took inspiration from her fellow Parisian industry standard flouting renegades at Vetements and subverted the fashion show. She allowed public guests to sit at the show space of Les Halles while forcing industry insiders to stand (as someone who has personally witnessed a buyer make an elderly woman get up from his seat at a show, that brings me immense satisfaction). The models, a notable multi-racial pack of street-casted youths and Kocher’s friends, walked top speed around the perimeter of the show space several times. This performative gesture had editors trying to focus in extra hard on the clothes to catch all their unique detailings. A parka in sweatshirt fabric was frilled with black lace, track jackets were reconstructed through the reassembling of disparate pieces of silk, hoodies were transformed into Dracula capes, and summer dresses came in vibrant colors of the sunset and were paired with low top combat boots. I love Vetements, clearly, but unfortunately the buzz around that label has distracted from the fact that Demna is one of many designers leading a renaissance of artful fashion in Paris. Christelle Kocher is right up there with him in the front.

Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2017

Between Balenciaga and Vetements, Demna Gvasalia has created so many signatures silhouettes at this point that he can start to tweak and embellish them without having to change his whole approach season to season. There is no designers being more ripped off by high fashion right now (except for Issey Miyake’s pleats, oddly enough): Jil Sander employed Gvasalia’s hulking shoulder pads, Dior just did print t-shirts, Veronique Branqhino put out a hoodie for chrissakes’! Considering Gvasalia’s success, the mimicry shouldn’t surprise anyone. One thing is certain, however, and that is that no one does what Gvasalia does as radical or disruptive as he does. I even find myself looking forward to seeing new work from Demna, the same way that I look forward to the next Scorsese film or Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition. Other than Raf Simons, there’s no other designers on Earth that instills in me that insatiable fandom.

The Balenciaga Spring-Summer 2017 collection saw Demna incorporating even more Vetements touchstones into the Balenciaga ethos. It’s been wonderful to watch how despite Demna’s penchant for freak flagging that his approach to fashion design feels so right at the house. It’s about structure. It’s about shape. It’s about idiosyncratic notions of glamour. In the Vetements SS 2017 collection we saw Demna collaborate on waist high stilettos with Manohlo Blahnik in leather, and here we see a similar product in waist-high heels that double as pants or tights. In spandex no less? Since Eddie Murphy championed the fabric as skinny version of The Nutty Professor, the fabric has lost its haute connotations; but Demna rectified that with these hard-to-turn-away-from shoes. Then there were the hulking shoulders even further exaggerated by the use of whale bone. A nylon rain parka was made seductive with see through fabric. A little red riding hood was made black and mutated into shiny PVC fabric. Demna’s use of slight tweaks to make the ordinary divine will keep him in free Balenciaga baseball caps for a long time to come.

Side note: I also loved the use of Chris Issak on the soundtrack. It furthers my view that Demna is almost post-taste in his cultural references, bouncing back between standard artist approved post-punk like Sisters of Mercy to total pop cheese. It really nails our current culture on the head, one in which hipsters no longer care about what music is cool and care more about irony and individualism.

Y Project Spring-Summer 2017

A couple seasons ago, Y Project was one of the more skippable shows of the Paris menswear schedule. The late Yohan Serfaty started the label as a menswear brand seriously indebted to the gothic pea-cocking of Rick Owens and fashion unanimously agreed upon the fact that we already have the only Rick Owens we will ever need. So when Glenn Maartens took over the label after Serfaty’s passing, he totally departed from the label’s original aesthetic. Since adding womenswear to the label’s repertoire, the label has received gobs of praise and a nomination for this year’s LVMH Prize, not to mention beloved conceptual stockists including Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony, and Machine-A.

Maartens has a sense of humor, and his light sensibilities allow for incredibly palatable abstraction in his ingenious fashion creations. His SS 2017 collections, his second for womenswear, found the designer employing styling techniques to achieve a bit of shock. But everything here was actually wearable and built to be styled in different ways: adjustable sleeves, loosening bustiers, laced dresses. There was also some fun play with sexual provocation: the white denim chaps, for instance, barely concealed the model’s ass crack. Or the halter top that coiled at the waist and used an unbuttoned neck to conceal the model’s considerable boobs. I can see Y Project particularly appealing to young female artists that are hustling Instagram and making a little doh but are far from financial security. These are easy-to-wear clothes that are embellished and specialized enough to be adored by the buyer and also beg the buyer to wear them from day to night. Maartens is shaping up to be one of the most malleable conceptualists in fashion design.

Junya Watanabe Spring-Summer 2017

After a couple much derided seasons of racially on the nose sentiment, Junya Watanabe has come fiercely back doing what he does best: making the most structurally complex garments a human being could conceivably want to wear. While his menswear show was full of simple summer pieces adorned in tough to beautiful looking prints, his SS 2017 womenswear collection was complicated. Like artists ranging from Nick Cave to Lydia Lunch to David Bowie to Jeffrey Eugenides did before him, Junya hung out in Berlin to pick up inspiration for this collection. Also like those artists, the city’s dark and abstract culture and landscape had an aesthetic impact on this cyberpunk-leaning collection.

With Berlin-based conceptual fashion magazine 032C and its emphasis on the global merging and mutually beneficial relationship of streetwear and couture seeing its influence reverberate throughout the industry, it appears that Junya has taken note. He paired his highly abstracted geometrically stacked satin art museum pieces with slashed tights, cowboy boots, silver leather skirts, denim shorts, band t-shirts, and silver bomber jackets. There were really only two ideas here, but Junya can stretch an idea so long that an aesthetic universe pours out of it. You can see the nightclub where people are wearing these clothes: speed is being injected in lieu of cocaine, it smells of old puke and piss, bad graffiti adorns the bathroom walls, and Psychic TV is always playing on the speakers. Instead of “elevating streetwear to the level of couture,” as we are seeing in the cases of myriad designers, Junya simply decided to style couture with streetwear and create one incredibly succinct look. He is making Japanese fashion design palatable to a global audience without losing any conceptual credentials.

Haider Ackermann Spring-Summer 2017

I really love Haider Ackermann’s work. I put him in a similar category to designers like Rick Owens and Phoebe Philo; designers that can work a similar idea for a few seasons because there is simply no one else who does what he does. His work always has that bourgeois family black sheep vibe: the man or woman who decides not to enter the family business instead opting for a life of opulence, decadence, smoking, drinking, drugs, casual sex, and creative endeavors. You know whoever that person is dresses fabulously.

This was Ackermann’s first collection since being named creative director of heritage luxury French menswear house Berluti (an inspired casting choice if there was ever one, I can’t be alone in being rabid in anticipation for the punk spin he will put on the brand’s classicist and wildly expensive products). Ackermann is moving away from the draping that made him famous and this collection employed razor sharp tailoring to achieve an exacting if striking silhouette. Despite its precision, the collection still made use of flourishes of rebellion: jackets slashed at the waist, neon two-toned drainpipe leather trousers, a blood spattered jacquard coat, and that wildly spiky hair all screamed, “I’d like to excuse myself from this dinner table to smoke bowls full of opium and hash on my red velvet couch listening to Ornette Coleman.” There were also some more pleats here, also ripped off from Issey Miyake’s wildly copied Plissé line, but Ackermann’s choice to create a wide pleat skirt brightly colored yellow felt less on the nose than other recreations of the textile idea.

Loewe Spring-Summer 2017

Jonathan Anderson’s reinvention of Spanish luxury house cannot be denied: in just two years time he transformed what amounted to a small novelty act into a major Paris Fashion Week event. He did this by honing in on exactly who his customer is. What has separated Anderson from his fellow Central Saint Martin’s-educated young London designers is his unbridled understanding and embracing of fashion’s business side. Noting that his menswear audience at his own label largely consists of gay men, he live-streamed a show on hookup app Grindr. Identifying his Loewe woman as an older cultured lady of means, he decorated the set of his Loewe Spring-Summer 2017 show with ceramics, lamps, and video screens playing an art film. The Loewe woman has a deep appreciation of objects, and Anderson brings rarified objects by the dozens.

Working with one flowing and unstructured silhouette, Anderson put on a fabric clinic: cotton and nylon, patchwork and plissé, raw edges and fringes, jersey and fine leather. There was a hinting at the Spanish luxury of Loewe with dresses recalling those worn by women from 19th century Spanish villages. Everything here looked expensive, as it should, because these clothes are extremely expensive. And that’s not even mentioning the wide diversity of shoes, bags and accessories that will give Loewe fans more buying options than any collection the house has ever put out. Of all the creative director-driven brand reinventions of the last 10 years; Hedi at Saint Laurent, Raf at Dior, Galliano at Margiela; Anderson’s reinvention of Loewe is by far the most radical and arguably the most successful, considering the relative obscurity of the brand before his hiring. 


Comme des Garcons Spring-Summer 2017

You don’t watch Comme des Garcons' main line collections anymore to find new pieces to buy. You watch it to feel awe. Rei Kawakubo has been slowly emerging as something more akin to a conceptual artist than a conceptual fashion designers, at least in her womenswear collections. Of course the dozens of other subdivisions she designs weld tons of clothes that you can’t wait to get your hands on: CdG Homme, CdG shirt, CdG black, etc.. But all those brands financially support the pure creations that Kawakubo devises for her Comme des Garcons show. Of all her artistically grandiose recent collections, from the red blood soaked and Sunn O)))-soundtracked SS 2015 show to the punk empresses of FW 2016, Kawakubo’s SS 2016 collection might just be her most exquisite yet.

The hulking sculptures in the collection beg countless meanings. Sarah Mower noted the girth of the stomach linings as potentially being a comment on being a woman (“pregnant with meaning,” she put it) or perhaps simply examining Kawakubo’s contributions to the medium and examining where to go from here with it. But I don’t really care about attaching any meaning to her work. Like all great art, Kawakubo’s work begs personal projection on the part of the viewer. When necessary, I prefer to lay back, shut my brain off, and bask in the glow of pure creation.

Off-White Spring-Summer 2017

While its clearly a beloved label, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White often feels like its critical praise is dimmed under the considerable glow of contemporaries like Matthew Williams, Demna Gvasalia, and Glenn Maartens. I will continue to challenge this notion, because Virgil’s vision is just as succinct and unique as his friends and collaborators. Off-White’s SS 20177 collection explored the conflicted notion of the modern business woman. Of course, that left the door wide open.

Abloh envisioned these women in everything from jeans (made with Levi’s Made and Crafted) to pants suits, track suits to stunningly draped evening gowns. But Abloh’s real trick is the sell. This collection could easily look like two separate collections from two very different designers. But Abloh’s nonchalant approach to presentation, complete with a new wave soundtrack and Frank Ocean finale, felt exceedingly modern and customer aware. For the Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid types, this is who they are. They can go out in the day with a hoodie and bootie shorts and wear a Versace gown later that night and still look scarily hot in both the photos. Abloh, a rapid pop culture and art consumer, also employed some Mondrian colors in both tie-dye pants and a color blocked patchwork sweater. He loves aesthetics, and has the ability to make his very Tumblr-fried diverse tastes work for a high fashion pack. I just wish he’d start showing in New York. No designers gets the tastes of young New Yorkers better than Abloh.


Rick Owens Spring-Summer 2017

A beautifully pained Nina Simone soundtrack. An ethereally industrial Palais de Tokyo setting. Shapes, cuts and drapes that you’ve never seen before. An evocative and theatrical mood that most designers could only dream of achieving. Voila: another incredible Rick Owens show.

I’m almost sick of including Rick Owens on every Paris round-up and near purposefully left him off this one (perhaps to shine line on a newer voice like Lutz Huelle, Alyx, or Vejas, or even another brilliant Nicholas Ghesquiere Louis Vuitton outing), but upon second viewing I had to include Rick. He’s the most idiosyncratic fashion designer of my generation. No other fashion designer can make such emotionally gut-wrenching statements while still holding true to his position as a man who needs to sell clothes to survive and keep his business afloat. Like last season, there was lots of the now-signature Rick draping methodology, where mounds of fabric are used to make a perfect wearable garment into something more transportive. The dresses, in a beautiful muted color palette of black, purple, yellow, and white, saw creases folded on top of one another like an ancient sculpture. Towards the end, those dresses came under capes made of loosely weaved yarn, not totally unlike Luke’s clothing choices in the icy beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. Rick has total confidence in his unique conception of beauty and, it’s true, no one else could create this kind of beauty quite like he does.  

[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] A Nick Cave Retrospective

Text by Adam Lehrer

I recently interviewed an iconic musician who had a personal relationship with Nick Cave in the ‘80s (not going to say who). This artist felt like Nick Cave’s work had grown stale and safe since his time in The Birthday Party in the early ‘80s. I nearly choked on my chicken avocado omelet. I couldn’t help but detect a hint of jealousy. How could a rock musician of a similar era not be jealous? Nick Cave is arguably the last great rock superstar ARTIST. We have “rock n’ roll artists” of course, but most of them operate so deep in the music underground that the most stardom they could hope for is a Pitchfork review and some free beer after a show. And there are superstar artists: your Kanye’s, your Beyoncé’s, your Frank Ocean’s, your Kendrick’s, etc.. But finding any worthwhile rock music amongst mainstream culture is a fool’s errand. It doesn’t exist. Rock music is not the important pop cultural force that it once was and it never will be again. 

And then you have Nick Cave: world famous, constantly written about, high profile indie rock romances with PJ Harvey and Kylie Minogue, and refusing to waver in his commitment to artistic expression and poetry. Not only has Nick Cave’s output not grown stagnant, it’s grown stronger with each release. Some underground music fans would rather their heroes remain the rail thin, anti-fashion chic, drugged out, intense freaks that they were in their youths. And of course, some artists do their best work during their angry and vivacious ‘20s (unless of course you think ‘Chinese Democracy’ was a good album). Nick Cave, on the other hand, has seen his art evolve with him. Coming onto the late ‘70s London post-punk scene from Australia with his first band, the art damaged bluesy noise rock band the Birthday Party, Cave was a goth rock icon upon first glimpse: tattered clothing, skinny, pale, dark eyes, and a messy tussle of thick black hair. But Cave matured, and his music with The Bad Seeds would grow more musical and in some ways, more experimental. Eventually cutting heroin from his diet, Cave’s ideas grew more nuanced and detailed as his life stabilized with fatherhood and marriage. One of the greatest songwriters of the last thirty years, Nick Cave has never remained still. Oddly, Cave is now more Leonard Cohen than Iggy Pop, more Neil Young than John Lydon. For Nick Cave, maturity doesn’t denote an acceptance of the banal. Count in the fact that he’s a published novelist and screenwriter of brutal Western film Proposition and the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, there are very few artists on Earth who have been able to build an aesthetic as definitive as the one Nick Cave that has built.

2016 has been the best year for music that I can remember in my entire life. From the top of the mainstream to the bottom dwellers of the underground, every single day I read about a record on The Quietus or Resident Advisor or Pitchfork that would blow my mind later that day. Now consider that, and consider the fact that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ recently released Skeleton Tree, the band’s 16th record, is easily in the top five of the best albums released this year and very possibly the best record of Nick’s or the Bad Seeds’ careers. 

We all know the tragic circumstances surrounding the recording of Skeleton Tree. In 2015, Cave’s son Arthur (a twin to brother Earl, both of whom appeared in the Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, watching DePalma’s Scarface contentedly in bed with dad), who was born to Cave and his wife Suzie Pitt in 2000, plummeted to his death in a freak accident whilst hiking near their home in Brighton, England. Death and loss have always floated above Cave’s poetry like inevitable harbingers (Pitt has expressed a belief in her husband’s ability to write prophetic lyrics, on previous masterpiece Push the Sky Away Cave sings on the track ‘Jubilee Street,’ "I'm transforming / I'm vibrating / I'm glowing / I'm flying / Look at me now / I'm flying,” there’s no way to listen to that song now without thinking about the tragedy that would soon follow its creation). A noted agnostic, Cave seems to have doubts about god and religion but welcomes hope that there could be such a creator. His morbid fascination with death, both natural and murderous, have been loaded with pathos and conflict since the beginning of his career. On Skeleton Tree, Cave has to confront the most powerful grief a man can endure from the first person view point. These lyrics have no protective distance. 

Musically, Skeleton Tree plays like a building on the sound that The Bad Seeds developed with Push the Sky Away: sparse, experimental, deeply musical, and washed in ambient sound. To look at the evolution of Cave’s career one has to examine the chronological list of his most important collaborators. The Birthday Party was largely birthed out of Cave and guitarist Rowland S. Howard’s deep love of the blues, Iggy, and The Damned, and the band dissolved when Cave wanted to take his sound further out (to his credit, Howard’s solo career is one of the most irresponsibly underrated collections of blues punk in the history of rock music). The Bad Seeds were born out of Cave’s emerging friendship with Einsturnzende Neubauten founder Blix Bargeld when the two were both living in Berlin. Bargeld, a lover of komische bands like Neu and Can as well as experimental music, defined The Bad Seeds as a band informed by deep musicality and experimental tendencies as much as it was by blues and rock heritage. But after Bargeld left the band in 2003, Warren Ellis was able to come to the fore of the band. Warren Ellis, a virtuoso guitar and violin player, multi-instrumentalist, and founder of Australian instrumental rock band Dirty 3, has proved to be Cave’s artistic soulmate. In 30,000 Days on Earth, we see Cave laying down the lyrics to “Higgs Bolson Blues” while Ellis strums a beautiful guitar pattern. Cave starts swaying and dancing subtly to the music, realizing just how fucking good it is. That scene cuts to the heart of their partnership, a partnership that has produced the beauty of The Bad Seeds, the primitive thud of Grinderman, and the expansiveness of their film scores.

Ellis’ watermarks are all over Skeleton Tree. The electronic swaths of ambience that cloak Cave’s voice in mysticism, on tracks like ‘Magneto’ and ‘Rings of Saturn,’ that’s Warren’s KORG synthesizer. The lush string arrangements on ‘Jesus Alone’ and ‘Skeleton Tree’ are Ellis’ composition at its apex. The duo of Cave and Ellis has become the Bad Seeds’ focal point. Jim Sclavunos, Martyn P Casey, Thomas Wylder, and newer guitarist George Vjestica recognize this notion, and this band has never felt like such a well-oiled machine like it does on this record (with a line-up that has been playing together for some 16 years now, that really is remarkable).

Cave’s poetry has largely been founded upon the grief Cave experienced when his beloved father died when he was only 19. But all those songs have been written with a hindsight view of that loss. Arthur died in the middle of this recording. It’s impossible to not hear pain dripping from the cadences of every uttered syllable on this record. Are we projecting these emotions as listeners and as lovers of Cave the man and the artist? Cave is one of those artists that feels like your friend when you really get attached to his music and his words, and empathetic viewpoints are easy to take when it comes to this kind of tragedy. But no. I think someone who knew nothing of Cave or the accident would listen to Skeleton Tree and know that this man singing was bleeding from the heart. At one point on the song Girl in Pain, Cave sings, “Don’t touch me.” He is inconsolable. He doesn’t want to be consoled. But he still wants to sing. 

[FASHION REVIEW] London Fashion Week SS17

 text by Adam Lehrer

 

With luxury fashion valued at $339 BILLION, it’s hard to imagine that some of the world’s biggest fashion brands are struggling. But the reality is, they are. Burberry’s gross margins dropped 1 percent in 2016; that might not sound like much, but in an industry that demands constant growth investors worry when number drop even slightly. The reality of the London Fashion Industry is that the massive brands are still the massive brands and the scrappy upstarts are still the scrappy upstarts, but those upstarts are draped in so much hype that inevitably they will cut into the conglomerates’ market shares. London brands run on hype and digital excitement. When JW Anderson or Marques Almeida show their new collections, I scour my Instagram feed and the fashion sites devouring images of the new collection. For Burberry: not so much. Burberry creative director and CEO Christopher Bailey must be aware of this dichotomy and has employed a new strategy to reinvigorate what is seen (by the fashion pack, at least) as a stale brand.

Bailey’s decision to make Burberry collections accessible to consumers immediately before the Spring Summer 2017 show, with Barney’s and other retailers, isn’t exactly the pioneering gesture that some would believe it to be. However, it is innovative in that it’s a luxury conglomerate adopting a Supreme-esque streetwear savvy approach to retail. Supreme is one of the most desired brands on the planet with its tried and true model of releasing products just a couple of days blowing up the blogosphere with look books and product pics (Supreme announced a sick Undercover collaboration on Tuesday, it came out today). Bailey has employed that model for the luxury market, and Tom Ford and Proenza Schouler quickly followed suit. I highly doubt that this will have any effect on the legions of everyday luxury buyers that flock to Burberry; those consumers don’t care about fashion hype. But it might shine the fashion spotlight back on Burberry. The press the brand is getting alone will have an impact, no question. Is Bailey’s new model perfect? Well, what is? But at the very worst, it’s a way to attach some much needed shine to what has become a bland brand. If the impending doom of Brexit rocks the UK’s financial system to the point that experts are predicting, industries across the board are going to have to get experimental and creative in their business practices. Perhaps decisions like Christopher Bailey’s are harbingers of what will be necessary to survive in a financially uncertain future.


Marques Almeida Spring-Summer 2017

As SHOWStudio editor Lou Stoppard pointed out this week in an interview, Paulo Almeida and Marta Marques only graduated from Central Saint Martin’s a few years ago. That’s remarkable, as Marques Almeida has evolved from an interesting brand with the weird denim to an LVMH-prize approved full range of left-leaning but wearable pieces. The Spring Summer 2017 collection added some more denim silhouettes to the brand’s range, like some JNCO-shaped jeans that were cuffed at the ankle. But the collection’s breadth of range here was superb. Though Almeida has said that the only decade he felt any connection to was the 1990s, there was a palatable sense of the early 20th Century in this collection: a William Morris print, Princess Di sleeves, chambray blouses, and a brocade jacket. The show also excelled in its casting: the designers had all of their friends walk the runway and allowed them to each put their own attitudes on display. It almost reminded me of what Pat Fields and Scooter Laforge just did with the Art Fashion show at New York Fashion Week; by allowing each model to own their senses of selves on the runway a simple fashion show can approach the gesturing of performance art. Marques Almeida is a funky brand and gets credit for said funkiness, but where it doesn’t get enough praise is its aspiration. Marques Almeida often feels like a brand for the punk and rave children of British aristocrats. Rebellion doesn’t need to look cheap.


Burberry Spring-Summer 2017

While Bailey is justly being praised for his business savvy, the Burberry Spring Summer 2017 collection spoke to his talent for creation. It was hands down the best collection of his career. Showing menswear and womenswear simultaneously for the first time, the show contained 99 looks. While I’m glad I wasn’t there in person, the collection still feels well edited despite its gargantuan length. The collection was everything one could love about Burberry: subtle, high-quality, and highly British. That is where Bailey has floundered with Burberry in the past: in his efforts to make the brand more rebellious he has forgotten what the brand actually means to people. Not with this collection that effortlessly incorporated Burberry-isms into Bailey’s rock n; roll sensibilities. A darkly colored embroidered dress was paired with Doc Maarten-looking heals. A nutcracker uniform was made a stunning black and white dress. Menswear shirts were ruffled and fey, paired sensibly with wide trousers or drainpipe jeans. And that’s Burberry: great clothes that you’ll want to wear. One criticism: not every designer needs to make Vetements     shapes, and Bailey’s leather jackets looked ripped right from that brand’s playbook.


JW Anderson Spring-Summer 2017

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Of all the people working in the contemporary fashion industry, it appears that Jonathan Anderson is the only one who thrives amongst the breakneck pace of the fashion schedule, he recently said to Interview Magazine, “It’s about quantity—not quality, it means you don’t overthink things.” That positive outlook is genuinely refreshing. There is no turning back time. Anderson’s conscious decision to embrace the instantaneous nature of modern media should be something to admire.

You can see Anderson’s understanding of the culture in his Spring-Summer 2017 womenswear collection. Unlike Raf Simons or Rei Kawakubo or even Miuccia Prada (all designers that Anderson has cited as influences), Anderson never centers his collections around a solitary theme or vision. His is a glorious hodgepodge of imagery full of products seemingly out of place with one another but still demanding a unified viewpoint. Focusing on summery dresses, Anderson placed look after Instagram worthy look on his runway. As usual, there were so many products and accessories here, one could argue that Anderson is over-indulgent. I say no. I believe that Anderson recognizes that the most successful designers aim to see their work all over cyberspace. It’s interesting that as pervasive as imagery has become, fashion temporarily went back towards the minimal. Anderson is a maximalist all the way. As superb as Alessandro Michele’s work has been at Gucci, it’s difficult to imagine Michele being as successful as he is if Anderson not already paved this path before him.


Mulberry Spring-Summer 2017

Seldom does one want to focus on the stylist of a collection more so than the designer, but not every stylist holds the influence that Lotta Volkova holds over the industry. Designer Johnny Coca, who is known mostly as an accessories designer, faced no small task when given the reigns over accessories house Mulberry’s recently launched ready-to-wear line. His first collection, Fall-Winter 2016, didn’t impress. Where was the story to build upon?

Luckily, this season Coca just focused on the products and allowed the story to be told by none other that Vetements/Gosha stylist Volkova. This saw Coca creating bland, almost dire, colored military-inflected suits and office dresses that recall more the grey of British townships than the vibrancy of London. But if there’s anyone who knows how to make bland exciting, it’s Volkova. The result was a kind of corporate-minded responsible woman just hung over enough from her punk days to make the tiniest of rebellious gesture in her clothing. Ultimately, the clothing served as a vehicle for the accessories, so Coca and Volkova did their jobs.


Ashish Spring-Summer 2017

London is one of the most multi-cultural cities on the planet and it is that diversity that has come under attack post-Brexit. London’s Indian population has deep and long-standing ties to the city (we can all agree that Indian food is generally the best culinary option that the city has to offer, for example). Designer Ashish Gupta immigrated to London from India in 1996 and seeing his community come under attack has influenced him to inflate his cultural heritage and slam it back in the faces of the emerging right wing British think-tank. “Tonight I wanted to celebrate Indian culture, because it is also such an integral part of British culture,” the designer explained to Vogue.

The Ashish Spring-Summer 2017 collection filtered Gupta’s penchant for gender-bending and rave-inspired wackiness through the beauty and spirituality of Indian garb. Embroidery was applied to everything from lungis and sherwanis to denim basketball shorts and track suits. The mostly Indian, Asian, and mixed raced runway cast came in all genders and wore crowns and Indian makeup stylings. Often, radical designers, like Gupta, will only focus on sub-cultures that hold relevance in the Western world, as if the Western world is the only world creating culture of value: punk, minimalism, abstract expressionism, film noir, whatever. Gupta’s choice to focus on his own heritage reminds the viewer that beauty comes from everywhere and should be loved and respected regardless of its origins. Bonus for New York scenesters: self-described Renaissance man and man-about-town curator Richie Shazam closed the show with a fucking python wrapped around his neck. As a man that carries a deep phobia of serpents, this show-stopping gesture became even more potent.


Simone Rocha Spring-Summer 2017

Simone Rocha recently told Interview Magazine that her primary inspiration comes out of two things: travel, and “a good show.” She was referencing, of course, an art exhibition. Inspired by a single Jackie Nickerson photograph, her Spring-Summer 2017 collection was indicative of Rocha’s sensitivity to aesthetic imagery. “There was a photo of someone wrapped in white plastic working in a field next to a painting of Irish girls—that did it,” said Rocha to Vogue.

Rocha’s clothing is fancy night our garb for Dover Street Market girls. All her dresses could get the wearer into the most exclusive of high society outings while still expressing her innate freedom and sexuality. A see through black dress, patch worked-florals, parachute sleeve white taffeta blouses; all of these looks are indicative of Rocha’s penchant for outré kink, self-expression in the face of well-coiffed mundanity, and an unwavering commitment to artisanal craftsmanship.

[FASHION REVIEW] New York Fashion Week SS17

text by Adam Lehrer

New York Fashion Week is what it is. Of all the fashion weeks, it presents the most missable shows by a fairly wide margin. That being said, it’s also the fashion schedule that is most ripe for radical re-interpretations and deconstructions by a new generation of art-minded malcontents hell bent on making fashion and art in equal measure. Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that New York Fashion Week maintains its representation for being the most commercially minded of the schedules, a prominent fashion underground has slowly been rising to the surface. Let’s call it the New York millennial fashion revolution (even though the Gen X’er could be seen as a progenitor to this movement in his embracing of both high art and trash pop culture). Almost analogous to the rise of young New York artists like Alexandra Marzella, Julia Fox, and India Menuez, the new New York fashion scene draws upon underground art, pop music, digital media, and celebrity in equal measure. The creativity that results from this lurid amalgam of ideas can be simultaneously fascinating and grotesque, but very indicative of New York now: DIY but tuned in, underground but digitally connected.


Hood by Air Spring-Summer 2017

How many images do you consume per day? Can you even estimate a number? How many of those images are pornographic and how many hold artistic merit? Does it even matter? Can pornography have artistic merit? Maybe. Those questions all filtered into Shayne Oliver’s Spring-Summer 2017 Hood by Air collection that saw the designer juxtapose abstract shapes with bastions of lurid digital imagery, the porno companies Hustler and YouPorn. The collection captured the mood of New York 20-somethings perfectly. In all honesty, there is a renewed interest in art and abstract ideas that you can feel wafting in the bars, theaters, and galleries of the Lower East Side, Bushwick, Gowanus, and Harlem. But at the same time, that interest in art is always in competition with de-personalized digital imagery, often of a sexual nature. Oliver, a true modern conceptualist, decided to embrace this dichotomy in this stunning HBA collection. As with most HBA collections, there were some wild images in here: jump suits folded into capes, Wall Street suits cut off at the shoulder exposing corsetry, and the much-talked about collaboration with Brooklyn heritage boot brand Frye revealing a Western cowboy boot designed to look like two boots attached at the heal. That last example especially reveals Oliver’s understanding of the modern consumer; the shoe works as both a meme and a feat of artistry. And then there were the Hustler and PornHub branded shirts whispering to the audience a sly acknowledgement of the conundrum of being both an artist and the boss of a very hype-driven brand. Time and time again, Oliver is able to deliver conceptual ideas in both silhouettes and viral marketing.

Side note: Wolfgang Tillmans has been my favorite artist, PERIOD, for years, and it’s rewarding to see the German photographer have this strange pop cultural moment. In addition to releasing two EPs of dance music and working with and shooting the cover for Frank Ocean’s Blond/Blonde, Tillmans served as a surprise model for the HBA SS 2017 show. He is EVERYWHERE, all of a sudden.


Ottolinger Spring-Summer 2017

Berlin-based Ottolinger’s Spring-Summer 2017 show was styled by Berlin-based arts and culture bi-annual 032C’s fashion editor Marc Goehring, and to me, Ottolinger fills a similar independently spirited intellectual punk void in fashion to the one that 032C fills in fashion publishing. Berlin just might be the last counter-culture major metropolis in the world, and designers Christa Bosch and Cosima Gradient filter that Berlin-bred radicalism into their couture quality pieces: the Berlin post-punk and industrial music scene of the mid ’80s, Berghain and gay techno culture, and the contemporary Berlin gallery scene all manifest in the design duo’s ideas. Like contemporaries Vetements and Y Project, Ottolinger’s aesthetics can be harsh and confrontational. But, Christa and Cosima have a specific vision of beauty that came through loud and clear with this most recent collection. In the collection, contemporary staples like pleated trousers, graphic tees, oxford shirts, and blazers were tattered and left with fringe hanging towards the floor. More extreme looks saw a pink satin jacket burned off at the top on one side (burned garments is an Ottolinger staple) and tattered see-through lace tops and pants. Despite Ottolinger’s Margiela-esque knack for deconstruction, the duo’s annihilation of threads does not feel like it’s for shock value. Instead, Bosch and Gradient only think about their garments’ relationships to their own bodies. This collection reeked of sex from the half naked models to the propulsive and full-volumed harsh techno soundtrack. The Rapunzel length pony tails were only one of the many reasons I couldn’t stop staring at Ottolinger’s exceedingly hot women.


Vaquera Spring-Summer 2017

Vaquera designer Patric DiCaprio brought on his friends David Moses (formerly of Moses Gauntlett Cheng) and Bryn Taubensee effectively turning the label into a three-person show. Despite it no longer being the sole creative vision of DiCaprio, the Vaquera SS 2017 show felt like an organic building upon of ideas that DiCaprio has honed in label’s previous seasons (both Moses and Taubensee have worked on every Vaquera collection in some capacity).

Much of the label’s signatures remained: ruffles aplenty, big sleeves, revealing cuts, and Southern pastoral colors. DiCaprio also played with a “graduation” theme insinuating plans to take this small and cultish label to greater commercial success. There were lots of very played-out references in the collection, from the Rolling Stones to Che Guevara. It made sense, reminding one of the kid at your college dorm (perhaps it’s you or me even) that eschewed fraternity life for early experimentation in counter-cultural icons. Sense of humor abounds in Vaquera; but jokes aside this was a very ethereal and important collection from an exciting talent.



Thom Browne Spring-Summer 2017

Thom Browne strikes me as being to fashion what Phil Spector was to pop music. Like Spector, Browne uses imagination, ingenuity, and experimentation to create a conceptually interesting and commercially successfully formula. In that formula, there is room for endless re-invention and re-configuration.

Browne’s SS 2017 collection strayed from his most consistent formula of grey suiting, however, opting for experimental garments with unique function. The brightly colored and humorously printed dresses were designed to look like Browne’s signature suit and pants. Ever the witty showman, Browne’s women all entered the floor at once. Revealing the clothing’s multiple uses, the girls unzipped their pieces and stripped away layer by layer, revealing shirts and pants and finally swim suits. What I love about Thom Browne is his inventor qualities. Unlike fashion experimentalists Rei Kawakubo or Simone Rocha, Browne constantly introduces new inventions to his brand that have practical uses. This isn’t about art, it’s about clothing. It’s an ingenious application of creativity in the high-minded artistic atmosphere of the fashion world. Browne has more in common with Spector or Joy Mangano than he does Picasso or Yves.
 


Adam Selman Spring-Summer 2017


Adam Selman is one of New York’s most talked about designers. Part of that is due to his well-established connection to Rihanna (Selman has designed costumes for the star and his boyfriend, 032C style director Mel Ottenberg, is Rihanna’s stylist), but his ideas stand on their own and his label grows more interesting with each passing season. Selman lives in a solitary fashion world in which fashion is taken lightly and with humor but never with stupidity. It’s refreshing that one of New York’s most interesting designers seems in touch with being American: the Texan designer’s SS 2017 referenced country, rock n’ roll, and disco (with a disco soundtrack to boot). The show started off with a soft pink dress, and slowly the show took on similarly light fabric’d clothing in easy patterns and shapes. Selman also believes in the fashionista’s right to be sexy. That sentiment rang loud and clear with a t-shirt sporting a graphic sourced from a 1940s porn film, and was lightly hammered in with looks that revealed legs, waists, shoulders, and clavicles. The designer also nodded to his own Venice Beach-recalling style with a Hawaiian print shirt tucked into a pair of loose fitting denim jeans. Selman is a master editor. I’d be hard pressed to find any designer that can pack so many concepts and, yes, FUN into a 32-look show. 
 


Marc Jacobs Spring-Super 2017

Am I the only one that thinks that it seems like, culturally, Marc Jacobs has a lost a bit of his shine? Sure, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that says, “Marc Jacobs is a bad designer.” But since leaving Louis Vuitton, it appears that Marc is often spoke more of in terms of commercial designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein than he is radical conceptualists like Nicolas Ghesquiere, Raf Simons, or Rick Owens. That is a shame, because Jacobs’ real talent has always been marrying high and low culture and filtering it through a conceptually driven but commercially appealing brand. Just look at the David Sims campaign for his excellent, Salem Witch Trial-influenced Fall-Winter 2016 collection. In the campaign, massive pop stars and models like Cara Delevingne, Cher, and Anthony Keidis appear alongside ads with radical performance artist Kembra Phahler, Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV frontman/lady and conceptual artist Genesis P. Orridge, and even the iconic Japanese noise/free improv/psych rock guitarist Keiji Haino (if you want your mind fucked a little, go seek out Haino’s band Fushitsusha from the ‘80s/‘90s). Marc features enough fame in the campaign to captivate pop junkies and also enough radical artists to capture the attention of, well, artists and radicals. Truly genius campaign for a beautiful, dark collection.

Jacobs’ Spring-Summer 2017 show wasn’t as good as the previous one, but still, very fucking good. The show took elements from ‘90s rave culture; the last great sendoff before the potential Trump presidency that could halt the party forever. The clothes were all glamorous and trashy, but chic, if that makes sense. Lots of metallic lamé, fur collars, and holographic sequins. The show worked less well when Marc infused his Marc by Marc Jacobs diffusion line into the main line; army jackets didn’t illuminate upon the collection’s theme. If I were him, I would use the show for his good Marc Jacobs shit, and do a buyers’ presentation for the Marc by Marc Jacobs line. British illustrator Julie Verhoeven, who worked with Marc way back in 2002 on a Lou Vuitton collection, applied her work to sweatshirts, shoes, and bags. But really, Jacobs is the great celebrator of fashion and pop culture’s interactions. He clearly loves music, but he is less attracted to sub-culture than he is the cult of the icon.

Side note: I’m getting really sick of fashion critics going after designers for diversity of casting, especially when the man they are going after is Marc Jacobs. It appears to be an effort to feel relevant when talking about the silhouettes of jumpers that nearly ever designer has become a target for social justice warrioring. Sure, Vetements does have a race problem. But MARC DOES NOT. His casting has always been diverse, so stop trying to make yourself feel important by counting the amount of women of color on the runway. Let’s discuss AESTHETICS. When race is an issue, it’s an issue, and we can discuss that when it’s absolutely relevant. But it is not an issue in the casting of Marc Jacobs.



Eckhaus Latta Spring Summer 2017

For their SS 2017 collection, the duo’s 10th, designers Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta brought it home. Opting to show the collection in the Lower East Side’s Seward Park, the SS 2017 show exemplified all that Eckhaus Latta has come to be known for in their leadership role over New York’s new fashion generation: strange romantic cuts, gender-blurring, diverse casting, and a soundtrack provided by this generation’s hero musician Dev Hynes. Showing the collection an arm’s distance from where the now five-year-old brand started was fitting, as this label is firmly on the rise after getting named to the Forbes 30 Under 30, expanding to e-commerce, and opening their first retail boutique. Emblematic of the brand’s evolution, this was the most product heavy of any Eckhaus Latta show to date. Opening with an oversized white denim jacket and long skirt, the show featured a ton of easy-to-wear pieces accented by just enough oddity to appeal to the artsy weirdo acolytes of the brand. There were tattered jeans, re-built dresses, knit smocks, and nylon material dresses that looked wet when the wearers moved. Always a patron of interesting artists, Los Angeles-based multi-disciplinary artist (and former musician who used to perform under the name Barr and was a fixture of infamous LA punk club The Smell, which was home to bands like No Age, Mika Miko, and Abe Vigoda) Brendan Fowler contributed work to the collection in the form of pieces made of recycled garments, all emblazoned with the slogan, “Election Reform!” (it appears that Mike, Zoe, and Brendan were feeling the bern). Eckhaus Latta is growing (Zoe admitted to Dazed that she was aghast when she found a Zara rip-off of one of her ideas priced at $8), but their homegrown attitude and that closeness to the youth-driven art scene of New York could allow them to grow with their audience (Alexandra Marzella, India Menuez, Petra Collins) the same way that Marc Jacobs did with his (Kim Gordon, Sofia Coppola).


Lyz Olko Spring-Summer 2017

Lyz Olko, formerly of the label Obesity & Speed, offered a break from the rapid speed of New York Fashion Week with her namesake’s SS 2017 NYFW debut. As opposed to the super fast in and out nature of runway shows, Olko invited some journos and friends down to Elvis Guesthouse in the Lower East Side. There, you could grab a highly potent mystery drink in plastic sippy cups labeled “Drink Me” and mingle with models hanging out and wearing Lyz Olko. The collection itself consisted of lots of rocker girl staples: see-through sequin tops, suede dresses, denim jackets, and a Jeanette Hayes-illustrated leather biker jacket. There wasn’t a lot of product, per se, but there was an attitude. The all-girl rock band Pretty Sick capped the night off with a performance while wearing the collection.



Telfar Spring-Summer 2017

“This is clothing,” said Telfar Clemens of his brand Telfar and its Spring-Summer 2016 collection.   Teller’s “basics minus gender with a twist” has been ripped off countless times. But its Telfar’s aesthetic that makes him special: clean, minimal, colorful, and carrying odd but functional garment quirks. As collections, his work is beautiful, and as individual pieces his garments are fascinating. Coming in a palette of what Clemens called “Old Navy” or “Martha Stewart" colors, Telfar warped wardrobe staples into his vivacious vision: polo shirts with the backs removed replaced by bra straps, cardigans with deep (very deep) V’s, track pants sliced at the knees, suit jackets missing sleeves (reminiscent of Raf’s mid-00s work actually). The sportier looks were increasingly strange: a male model strutted down the runway wearing a one-piece bathing suit that could also work as compression gear for the gym. Telfar captivates a similarly fashion-minded audience as Vetements but in many ways is the antithesis of Vetements. While Vetements is a brilliant experimentation in branding that reflects its audience’s consumption of culture through the clothing (a Vetements collection can reference ‘70s glam rock, Norwegian Black Metal, and Justin Bieber in the same collection while still remaining free of any cultural philosophy, allowing the audience to apply their own specific interests to the brand and make it work for them), Telfar is truly about the brilliance of clothing design. The only branding in this collection was Telfar’s beautiful logo printed small on a couple pieces. Telfar has a vision of the future that is free of hype and branding. Will this future ever come to fruition? No one knows, but no doubt the Telfar brand will continue to grow and embrace new garment ideas.


Pyer Moss Spring-Summer 2017

Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean Raymond subverted the fashion senses of evil Wall Street fuckfaces like Patrick Bateman, Bernie Madoff, and Donald Trump in his brand’s Spring-Summer 2017 collection. Following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and others and potentially preceding the very election of one of those evil fuckfaces in Donald Trump, Raymond appears to be slyly tackling contemporary political discourse. Back in the days of Occupy Wall Street, the movement was constantly denounced as lazy, under-dressed, and incomprehensible hippies, largely due to their fashion aesthetics. Noreen Malone wrote for NY Magazine of this problem, believing that the movement could have gained more traction and respect had the protesters dressed for success. Raymond has proposed the ultimate protest wardrobe in this collection with a series of luxury office wear styled down in the way that artists and radicals like it: slouchy but beautiful double breasted blazers, cropped perfecto jackets, twill trousers with sippers from the hem to the knee, and Prada-recalling leather jackets with smartly placed bleach stains. The politically charged prints remained, with Madoff himself appearing on t-shirts, as did the brand’s knack for luxurious sportswear. But what remains strongest about Raymond’s vision is that Pyer Moss is aspirational to the max. No one could argue that you don’t look dressed up wearing his clothes. It is a brand for people looking to take their activism or art to a state of legitimacy: to play their game you have to look the part, but you can hold onto your individuality while doing so. 

 

[FRIDAY PLAYLIST] The Best Songs About Drug Pushing in Commemoration of the New Season of 'Narcos'

Text by Adam Lehrer

Just as musicians often “take drugs to make music to take drugs to,” as Spacemen 3 so eloquently described the phenomenon back in the ‘80s, musicians also “sell drugs to afford to make music to talk about selling drugs.” Bill Hicks one told an audience that they should burn their records if they disavow drug use because drugs were the primary inspirations behind those albums. By that reasoning, we should also throw out our records if we disavow drug dealing. As we all know, when we are passionately pursuing a life of art we have to make compromises along the way. The less savvy of us will either work as waiters or marketers or cop money from mommy or daddy. Other artists have the cunning required to make a serious living in the trade of illicit substances. Considering the close proximity to drugs that musicians have, why not make some money out of it? Those artists have often gone on to share their experiences hustling the black market.

Commemorating the second season of Narcos (out today on Netflix), a show that tells the story of the most financially successful drugs trader in history Pablo Escobar, we are sharing the songs by the artists that made some scratch slinging drugs before they went on to stardom (or at least were found themselves inspired by a substance pushing acquaintance). 

Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man, Bringing it all Back Home (1965)

While Dylan has vehemently denied that Mr. Tambourine Man is certainly not about drugs or any drug dealer, has he ever given a journalist one straight answer about one fucking thing that he’s written? No. With lines like, “Take me on a trip upon your magc swirling ship,” there has never been doubt in my mind that the tambourine man in question is most certainly Dylan’s favorite dealer. While other critics have stated that the tambourine man could be a metaphor for Dylan’s internal muse, I’m opting for the explanation that the tambourine man was selling Dylan his external muse. The song came out in 1965. Dylan was high. Very high.

The Velvet Underground, Waiting for my Man, The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

In Waiting for my Man, Lou Reed tells an all-too-familiar story: his dealer is dicking him around. No matter what your poison; pot, pills, MDMA, dope, whatever; we’ve all been there. You call him back, he says, “Five minutes.” You text him so to not scare him off, and he says, “Almost there.” Finally, a couple hours later, he arrives. He is your captor and your savior. For all his troubles, you throw him 100 bucks. Reed’s story is the same as anyone’s, except he didn’t have a cell phone to annoy said dealer with or NYC pot delivery service, for that matter.

Curtis Mayfield, Pusher Man, Superfly OST (1972)

After establishing himself as a gifted music producer and one of New York soul music’s proudest sons on previous album Roots, the former member of The Impressions looked directly at the streets he came from to craft the soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation classic Supafly. On the soundtrack’s second track, Mayfield directly confronts the film’s portrayal of the dealer as sympathetic anti-hero by making his pusher a machiavellian sociopath, exploiting humans for his own financial gain. But not with out sex appeal, it is funk after all.

Boogie Down Productions, Love’s Gonna Get-cha, Edutainment (1990)

Ronald Reagan accomplished many things during his presidency: creating the War on Drugs (which has been going great, haven’t you heard?), restoring cranky old white man conservative values, kick-starting the dismantling of FDR’s New Deal, and totally demonizing black urban city males. The fact that KRS-one was able to humanize a drug dealer in the Boogie Down Productions song Love’s Gonna Get-cha during this era speaks to the MC’s poetic reach. While it was easier for White America to view the inner-city dealer as a monster that needs to be locked up (it’s always easier to be reductive, isn’t it), KRS details the harsh economic and sociological realities that lead an otherwise innocent youth down the route of drugs and violence. KRS introduces the listener to his over-worked mom, his pregnant sister, and his bother with whom he shares “three pairs of pants.” In his world, he has one choice. We have to see the criminal as the human being he is.

Geto Boyz, Mind Playing Tricks On Me, We Can’t Be Stopped (1992)

After parents had just moved on from the shock of their kids’ NWA and Guns n’ Roses records, Geto Boyz elevated the shock factor to the umpteenth degree. Over the course of their career, the seminal Houston rap trio went way beyond tales of drug crime: serial murder, necrophillia, and psychosis were all topics touched upon by the group’s rappers Bushwick Bill and Scarface. The group was misunderstood at times and could prove surprisingly thoughtful and reflective, case in point the 1992 track We Can’t Be Stopped. The song finds Bill and Scarface touching upon the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder they are suffering as a result of years spent living within the world of drugs and violence. I'm paranoid, sleeping with my finger on the trigger, My mother's always stressing I ain't living right, But I ain't going out without a fight,” raps Scarface.

The World is Yours, Illmatic (1994)

Few MCs have ever approached drugs, violence and poverty with such depth and emotional clarity as Nas did on his 1994 debut Illmatic. Growing up in the Queensbridge housing projects, Nas witnessed the negative impact the drug trade was having on his own community, and turned his experience into one of Hip-hop’s greatest feats of lyrical storytelling (he was only 19 at the time, and Nas was never able to match the artistic heights of that first record). On The World is Yours, Nas references Brian De Palma’s Scarface and compares that fictional dealer to Howard “Pappy” Mason, a dealer that netted $200,000 a week selling drugs to the residents of Queensbridge in the ‘80s. Unlike Pappy, Nas sees a clear way out of the life in his pen and paper.

Jay-Z, Friend or Foe, Reasonable Doubt (1996) Nas

A friend of mine’s little cousin expressed to me her belief that “Jay-Z was corny.” At first astonished, I had to remind myself that if you had no knowledge of Jay-Z’s career outside the last 10 years, that notion would appear to be true (the flip-flops, the atrocities of Magna Carter Holy Grail, the cheating on America’s favorite woman). But of course, Hip-hop heads remember Jigga’s origins. What made Jay’s debut, Reasonable Doubt, so powerful was that he neither celebrated or condemned drug dealing. Writing in the first person, he presented himself (honestly) as a man that did what he had to do to make it. He is not ashamed of his actions, and he isn’t proud of them either. On album stand out Friend or Foe, Jay tells a dealer associate of his that if the money isn’t right, he’ll have to take violent actions. “You're twitchin, don't do that, you makin me nervous, My crew, well, they do pack, them niggas is murderous,” he raps. Jay-Z’s defining characteristic was unbridled ambition, and that ambition has taken him far.

Raekwon featuring Ghostface Killah and U-God, Knuckleheadz, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)

While Hip-hop had been telling the stories or the urban drug trade for a long time, Wu Tang Clansmen Raekwon and Ghostface Killah may have been the genre’s first artists to craft a full-length sonic crime film. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was centered around the story of two men (Ghost and Rae) looking for one last score before leaving the life for good. In the process, the rappers created a new urban slang that was beholden as much to The Supreme Alphabet of the Nation of Islam as it was to the drug slang of the New York streets. Hip-hop heads have been obsessed with decoding the language ever seen. The album’s first track, Knuckleheads, finds Ghost and Rae planning a robbery with a third man, U-God. Once the heist is pulled off, U-God is murdered for ostensibly speaking to the police. The rest of the album finds Ghost and Rae no closer to getting out of the drug trade, instead using the new found wealth to go deeper and deeper and deeper. 

The Notorious BIG, The 10 Crack Commandments, Ready to Die (1997)

Biggie Smalls remains to this day one of music’s most vivid storytellers, and the fact that his 1997 “how to sell crack” guide was released after his death was particularly telling. Biggie’s persona was so steeped in his criminal past that his massive success could never fully lift him out of it. As Biggie tells us to never let them know our next move, to never keep no weight on us, and to never trust no one, a sad truth dawns upon the listener: Biggie’s survival guide kept him alive through his pusher days, but no such guide existed that could explain to Biggie how to survive the perils of fame. 

Ghostface Killah, Shakey Dog, Fishscale (2007)

The most eternally fascinating character in The Wire was the drug dealer robbing stick up kid Omar Little. Unlike the cops, the politicians, and the dealers, Omar existed freely outside the shackles of any institution. Through ferocity and charisma, he took what he needed and answered to no one. That’s the persona that Ghostface takes on in the opening track of his 2007 album Fishscale. On Shakey Dog, Ghostface, in hyper-vivid detail, documents the before and during of a Cuban drug lord stick-up. In a particularly cinematic passage, Ghostface relentlessly barks, “Off came the latch, Frank pushed me into the door, The door flew open, dude had his mouth open, Frozen, stood still with his heat bulgin’,Told him Freeze! lay the fuck down and enjoy the moment, Frank snatched his g