Stefanos Rokos & his music gang @ Neu Gallery

Revert to Disarray: Life After Horror & Romance

East London's Neu Gallery (30a Redchurch St.) introduced Greek painter Stefanos Rokos (Facebook) to the UK art crowd for the first time this June, in an exhibition that, all too quick, is coming to an end tonight, 27/6/13.

Reasonably enough, you might ask yourself: In the painted horror, romance and disarray of it all, where does music and the musical, in the end, fit in?

From the Furnace to the Swoon

To begin with, the artist has an array of music buddies that, during the exhibition's course the past month, were happy to stop by and play their tunes - some of them live rarities inspired by the surrounding artwork.
In this miniature East London space, imaginatively dotted by strangely familiar, yet disquieting daily scenes signed by Rokos, Fiery Furnaces' Matt Friedberger, Zita Swoon's (and ex-Deus') Stef Kamil Carlens and Alexander's Festival Hall offered to provide the soundtrack.
For the closing party tonight, London-based American singer and musician Piney Gir has planned a suitably stormy and colorful farewell (start at 8 pm). 

From Neu Gallery to Alexander's Festival Hall...  

Most of my acquaintances flocked to see Matt Friedberger's free live performance at the exhibition's grand opening (6-6-13). A week later, I heard about a girl that traveled from another country just to see Stef Kamil Carlens in a rare intimate solo show.
I opted, myself, for Alexander's Festival Hall's uplifting music bunch, who took over the tiny space on week 3 (20-6-13) - a more typically Londonesque sonic fix. Wine was passed around by those who thought well in advance, happily fueling part of the crowd that swayed blissfully to the synth beat. The set included Alexander Mayor (the main man's actual name) originals from his brand new release Not A Dry Eye Left In London. From Upturned to I'm Gonna Get Married, the songwriter's charming, poetic ballads were balanced out by his quintet's more animated rhythms, making the atmosphere casually euphoric. A couple of problems with the sound only served to stress out that this is no pompous art show. Here, you are among friends - and, simply put, shit happens.
Here's to Mayor's retro, sweet, blissful melodica!

...And from harmony to Hardcore
Rokos's music history, however, goes much further than Neu Gallery's above-mentioned guest shows. In the past, he was instrumental in luring some highly interesting acts into the Greek capital, where he was born - especially keeping in mind that, in Athens, these are not as easy to come by. As part of the event organising team Kormoranos (the Great Cormorant, in English), he helped put up gigs by The Fiery Furnaces, Zita Swoon, Krista Muir and Bobby Conn, to mention just a few.

It comes as no surprise, then, that music permeates each and every one of his paintings - more, or less visibly. In More Than 204 Shots, you spot, among dozen others, some of the record covers that have potentially blazed your own path and past - from Tim Buckley's Goodbye and Hello to Pulp's This Is Hardcore, via a handful of Pink Floyd classics. It's what echoed in the background while Rokos was painting, and it's what now unravels before your eyes, decoding some of the artwork's key moments. A closer look on Revert to Disarray: Life After Horror & Romance, a few feet away, also reveals a tiny, angelic portrait of Bat For Lashes confiding in the onlooker one of the artist's latest obsessions.

Horror & Romance on Another Planet

As a bonus, visitors can grab one of the limited 1700 copies of a unique art-meet-music compilation - the sonic equivalent to Rokos's 2008 exhibition Horror & Romance on Another Planet (alternatively, email The bet involved guest bands using the title's words indirectly or in a full sentence, changing the word order or royally messing it up - resulting in an eclectic 18-song music beast, with contributions by The Fiery Furnaces, Zita Swoon Group, Bobby Conn, Piney Gir and Krista Muir among Greek bands Sigmatropic, The Last Drive and Bokomolech, among others (check the relevant video here).
It opens with Zita Swoon's hypnotic Horror & Romance on Another Planet, Multicoloured & Intriguing -in my opinion, the most charismatic of them all-, an unlikely match for the Furnaces' characteristically idiosyncratic epic Another Romance on Planet Horror and Greek songwriter Manolis Aggelakis' mystic, electrifying Steven’s Dream.

As for the CD artwork that inspires and envelops them all, it is, predictably, a series of romantic, yet weirdly nightmarish clips from the life of the artist that put it all together - and, although you could have hardly put it into painting, or into a CD yourself, for that matter, it somehow revolves around your own memories too.


Words, images of Alexander's Festival Hall and mini sonic clip by Danai Molocha. Images of the Revert to Disarray exhibition and Piney Gir courtesy of the artists.

Global Noise Attack, Alexa de Strange @ Electrowerkz

Star Wars and Star Whores


Inexcusably late to write about this gig on Star Wars and Star Whores day last May. I first meant to write something epic, but, due to my lack of time and timing, this will now have to be reduced to a few slightly bizarre lines...
I'll cut to the chase:
My second live date with GNA (see last review here) was typically filled with raucous beats, thunderous guitar interventions and threatening on-and-off-stage strolls by lead singer Brian Stewart, who was giving the audience some very scary looks.

Noise attacked with considerable force the small Slimelight gang that was gathered here early to see the band, in one big festival of surrealism that was taking place in Torrens St. that night.

[One of several events taking place was the neighbouring Make Believe Festival, consequently, there were a lot of goth aliens, badass lolitas and glam rock superheroes wandering about Electrowerkz. All the parties were meant to unite in one massive unholy feast after midnight].
After their set, the band were employed, among others, to carry in a solemn ritualistic procession the seemingly lifeless body of de Strange, wrapped in a long white cloth (those killer red heals were unfailingly sticking out, though) - on to its next stage, the stage, where it meant to rise.

She emerged, enigmatic and voluptuous, among her heterogeneous bandmates. But my attention span just evaporated there.
Despite its theatricality, sonically at least noise attack No2 was much less thrilling... 
As for King Lizard headlining that night, I left seeking greener pastures - along with a bloody Alice in Wonderland and a creepy 21st century Jedai. 


                                           Text and photography by Danai Molocha

Chelsea Light Moving @ Village Underground

William Burroughs, Rocky Erickson, Steve Reich, they all have a place in Thurston Moore's first studio venture after bidding farewell to almost a lifetime of Sonic Youth. And Chelsea Light Moving, both the record and the band, sound no less fascinating live.
Well, they definitely don't put their cult figures to shame...

With support by Trash Kit, in a respectable (I suppose) effort to pay tribute to their own indie heroes, falling somewhere between (I suspect) Erase Errata, rhythmically, and The Slits, vocally. Still, the kids have to rethink it, borrowing, as they are, bits and pieces from the the holy and unholy of the underground cool.

Unfailingly engaging in his usual noisenik, occasionally barbarian ways, Moore now didn't need to try hard to hit his stride with his new sonic comrades: Sunburned Hand of the Man's John Moloney on the drums (in a happily less adventurous, but also less allergically hippy collaboration), Samara Lubelski on the bass and Keith Wood on the extra guitar.

I thoroughly enjoyed the gang (their audience was unusually hipster). Now it's your turn.

Text and photography by Danai Molocha.

Music & Cinema: The Wedding of the Century? @ Cite de la Musique

Jerry Goldsmith conducting the orchestra for The Planet of the Apes
- wearing, as you do, an awesome ape mask.

Being Musical in Paris

In the lunar landscape of la Vilette, in North-East Paris, lies La Cite de la Musique - a stylish music city frequently hosting all those wonderful people, and their instruments, that inspire us to be musical (as I named a blog after it, I'm taking all this very seriously..).

Until the 18th of August, la Cite will be given to Musique & Cinema: Le Mariage du Siecle?, an exhibition dedicated to all the majestic creative "tandems" of international cinema: Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, the Cohen Brothers and Carter Burwell, Alexandre Desplat and Jacques Audiard, Federico Fellini and Nino Rota, Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Akira Kurosawa and Toru Takemitsu are only some of them.

At first glance, the exhibition looks a bit small. Big mistake.

Just take one of the pitch black directors seats, with your head sunk inside that empty box fully equipped with speakers for excellent and intimate sound, your own private TV flashing right in front of you, Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone generously giving you insider scoops on their killer collaborations, and you'll quickly realise how quickly time goes by (I think I was there for three hours, and I still didn't manage to devour all the details).

In a handful of bigger screens classic scenes and backstage photographs, from silent movie stills to recent Cannes heroes, are projected on the wall, under the street beats of Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and the suave melodies of Blake Edward's Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Even better, in a series of interactive consoles, you get to listen to the double soundtrack versions - the ones rejected and the ones that remained - of well-known sci-fi dramas, from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey to Lars Von Trier's Melancolia (the majority of them got the soundtrack right, eventually - but I'm not quite sure what a few of them were thinking!).
Better even than that, you get to hang in a full-blown mixing room: That big, isolated from the outside world soundspace, where an action movie is projected on a giant screen, while you get to mess with the sound effects in your own "professional" console. You can spend hours fluctuating the sonic choices - in with the ambiance, out with the beats, in with the dialogue, out with the dynamite explosions (seriously cool stuff).
There in between lay cult movie posters, historic music sheets and text with juicy backstage gossip, complete with accompanying headphones playing some of the world's most recognizable soundtracks on repeat (I barely put up with the Umbrellas of Cherbourg's love-flooded, continuous singing - sorry Michel Legrand!).

A few things we learned: Before the talkies, musicians used to accompany the filming of a scene live, hiding somewhere next to/under/behind the camera (there's a hilarious picture of a desperate woman trying to save her lover hanging from a cliff - only, when we zoom out of the scene on the big screen, we can also see the pianist and the violinist sharing the couple's drama underneath). Leone used to describe Morricone a scene he had in mind for his next masterpiece Spaghetti Western and the cast often got inspired by the maestro's music when shooting it later - having the soundtrack before the actual shot in their hands. Hitchcock, on the other hand, didn't want any music on the trademark shower scene in Psycho, till he heard Hermmann's strident violins, that is (a revolution in itself, at a time when all murders had to be accompanied by the surprisingly less brutal percussion).

But I'm stopping here - getting all the details beforehand would just be no fun.

As the intro to the exhibition indicates, whether a music lover, a film buff, or just plain creatively curious, there's plenty of harmonious love-making, creative quarrels, temporary affairs and ever monogamous relationships to discover. Is it, after all, or is it not the wedding of the century?

Text and la Vilette sphere /Cite de la Musique images by Danai Molocha.
Photo credits: 1: Grover Dale, Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac and George Chakiris in Jacques Demy's Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, 1967. Photo: Helene Jeanbrau. Collection Cine-Tamaris. 2: Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-wai in Wong Kar-wai's In The Mood For Love. Music by Shigeru Umebayashi and Michael Galasso @ Paradis Films.
3: The musician balances between the director's desires and the producer's restrictions. Illustration: Maxime Rebiere.

Workin' Woman Blues

Since the list of old blues gems is endless, it's good to hear from time to time new tunes with substance.

Here's some Valerie June. From her newest release Pushin' Against A Stone.

Stiv Cantarelli & The Silent Strangers @ 12 Bar Club

A loud blues cocktail for the Silent Strangers


Cantarelli always professes to be a punk rocker at heart - a fact he then proceeds to demonstrate, via intense and stormy guitars, way more eloquently.
 It is no wonder he felt so excited about playing Soho's infamous-for-intimate-gigs-and-late-night-boozing 12 Bar Club, where he naturally felt at home.

The characteristically miniature 12 Bar Club stage is supposed to squeeze in 4 bands per night (luckily, not all at once). Having witnessed the band's typical energy on stage before, I was eager to see how this experiment would play out. 
For the history, Cantarelli and his anything but Silent Strangers - Antonio Perugini on drums, Fabrizio Gramellini on bass and new member Roberto Villa on guitar, saxophone and the odd tambourine - are also big on the blues, from John Lee Hooker to the old Mississippi Delta trademark sound - a fiery repertory that shoots straight to the heart.
Their recent album Black Music/White Music, and the even more recent Three Sides ep, nearly overcame Cantarelli's old flirtations with the Americana genre, opening up to more post punk-blues rock territory. A new music world that the trio thoroughly explored, self-exiled in a marathon three-day, heady-and-hermetic session inside a long-abandoned Italian church.
Luckily for the small audience that was now gathered in the small, dump central London bar on a rainy night, the band knew how to warm this place up.
 There was electricity in the air, from the rowdy drama of the band's original Mahogany Jones, to the powerful cover of the Stones's Under My Thumb - all underlined by Cantarelli's raspy voice.
An excerpt from the singer's solo album Innerstate, a collaboration with dark alternative Oregon band Richmond Fontaine - vivid reminder of his old ballad days - crept in there too.
As time passed by, the audience increased in number and vibrancy, and the late London drinkers popping by for a last pint were exhilarated by the live dynamics. Cantarelli and Perugini's performances were typically sweaty, balanced by Gramellini's steady bass and Villa's atypical succession of instruments and styles on a stage that constantly reminded us of limitations.
In fact, whether it is the 12 Bar Club's tiny performance space, or a staple Dylan verse, you can trust those dark Strangers not to be deterred. It is nothing else, but their fever for a music they deeply sense and believe in that dictates the limits here.

Text and photography by Danai Molocha.

Looks on a dark Mannequin

Mannequin Records were created in 2008 in Rome, out of love for the industrial, post punk, minimal synth genres; they then moved on to new musical paths between Berlin and New York.

Check out and download some cool-to-Cold-Wave sounds, including new releases by Phantom Love, The Cult of Dom Keller and The Coombe here: