Andrew Pekler

For an art installation called “Cover Versions” at the Laura Mars Grp. gallery in Berlin this past December, artist/musician/producer Andrew Pekler created the ultimate concept album: one record with 300 different covers. Pekler took dollar-bin LPs of retro easy-listening (with classically corny artwork featuring misty seascapes, pastel-tinted portraits of beautiful women wearing polyester, and grainy closeups of candle-lit still life) and covered-up the existing text on the album covers with colorful circles and rectangles. For the art exhibit, all of the albums are displayed on wooden shelves, in the style of a hip indie record store, while Pekler performed the music contained within each record.

Similar to his visual artwork, Pekler’s music can also been described as a collage. By arranging found sounds and field recordings into completely original tunes, Pekler is a master of taking from the endless ocean of existing artwork (good or bad) and making it into something completely new and progressive. Here, Pekler samples the original records from the installation and creates entirely unique works that sound nothing like their originals.

Only available physically in the form of those 300 LPs (as of now, you can still grab one from German distributor Fantôme Verlag), digital versions of Cover Versions are limited to a sampler of the record on SoundCloud and the full piece “Candles,” which you can hear below.

• Andrew Pekler:
• Senufo Editions:

Bodega Bamz

“Say Amen” [ft. A$AP Ferg]

Perfect timing — Bodega Bamz’s clip for “Say Amen,” the third video off his Strictly for my P.A.P.I.Z. mixtape, comes less than a week after white smoke started pouring from the Vatican. Bamz and A$AP Ferg spit before the altar, in the confession booths, and — in a bit of a Dan Brown twist — what appears to be a dungeon. Ferg plays priest garbed in a Diplomats beanie and a heavy wooden rosary, while Bamz preaches to his audiences in both pew and pit. A bit of Sunday schooling from two of New York’s freshest faces in rap.

• Bodega Bamz:
• A$AP Mob:

The Flaming Lips

The Terror [live at SXSW]

Look guys, I love the Flaming Lips a lot. I’d go so far as to say that they’re one of my favorite bands ever. Sometimes I’m pretty sure they’re my favorite even (at least top five). And you know what? I pretty much love Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots too (I mean who doesn’t?), but what I say next I say out of love: goddammit, I really don’t want to hear my beloved Lips play some of those songs ever again. After the skronk fest of 2009’s Embryonic and all of the frequently amazing long-form experiments and collaborations that ensued afterwards, it just seems that the Lips have much more potential as a live band than the standard greatest hits spectacle that they offer.

Well, Wayne Coyne and peeps have a new record coming out, and last Thursday at their headlining gig at SXSW, the Lips lived up to their experimental live potential by performing The Terror in its entirety. The album isn’t quite as bashy as some of the band’s recent work, but it’s instead wonderfully cold, electronic, and Kraut-y. A huge theme for the Lips’ work throughout their career is the eternal struggle between good and evil, and The Terror seems to explore this concept more completely and maturely than perhaps any of the Lips’ other records. This live recording of the new material sounds great, but it really just makes me want to hear the whole thing in its fleshed-out studio form. It’d also be great to hear it without the army of dudes screaming to hear “Yoshimi” or “The Wand” between every song. I really hope the Lips don’t listen to those dudes and instead pull a Greendale-era Neil Young and play The Terror in its entirety on tour, because it pretty much rules.

The Terror is out April 16 — yes, new release date — via Warner Brothers. You can stream the Lips’ live performance of the album in its entirety, courtesy of Slow Nerve Action, below:

• The Flaming Lips:
• Warner Brothers:

Félicia Atkinson

Visions / Voices [album premiere]

Take a piece of string, thread it through an entirely metal object (maybe a coat hanger or a wire shelf from your oven), wrap each end around your fingers, bend over forward, and, with the object hanging freely, put your fingers in your ears and gently tap the object against a hard surface.

Félicia Atkinson is a conversationalist in a world of sometimes sealed artistic enclaves. She avoids the critical staring contest, that prolonged game of theoretical wink murder, where Bourdieu’s gaze meets “the critical gaze” meets the “male gaze” meets the “artistic gaze” meets the “symbolic capital” of some other unnerving gaze. Or was that just a blink?

With all the impressions that Visions / Voices might leave on you — disorientation, joy, diverging moments of memory, escape — the one that struck me most was a feeling of creative cataclysm. The need to create. This is an album that holds a reminder deep within its core of how joyful making music and art can be, not in some deep structural quest for a eugenics of sound, but in the rewarding work of the “experimental” as a process, rather than a delineated generic other.

Although the aforementioned “Big B” might say that “a work of art has meaning and interest only for someone who possesses the cultural competence, that is, the code, into which it is encoded,” he misses the power of broken codes, of residual artistic content, of blurred disciplinary boundaries, of transgressions that engage rather than exclude, of mistakes and duff notes. This is where Félicia Atkinson shines.

For an attention to sonic detail like hers shouldn’t mean an assumption of exclusivity. Visions / Voices is inclusive yet challenging, coherent yet discursive.

But wait! There is one thing that’s exclusive about it for now; you can listen to the whole album below for the first time. Eight tracks from three years, tessellated into a stunning whole.

No strings needed for now.

Visions / Voices is out March 29 on Umor Rex.

• Félicia Atkinson:
• Umor Rex:

Danny Brown

“Kush Coma”

Danny Brown’s one of the few rappers who can take a song called “Kush Coma” and make it a total blast, despite the goofy title. With his squawky punchlines and stoner swagger, Brown’s being compared more and more to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, a third of whose name was the inspiration for Brown’s forthcoming album, Old, which hits shelves this summer. Despite the undercooked, faux-reggae hook, “Kush Coma” is an impressive, genre-blending track, a collision of spooky Umberto-style synths and hollow 808s. Skywalkr, Brown’s Bruiser Brigade brother (try saying that three times fast), lends the production an impressionistic touch, giving Brown plenty of space to freak out. The album version apparently features A$AP Rocky.

• Danny Brown:
• Fool’s Gold:

Ben Vida & Greg Davis

Working Models

An Imagined Glimpse Into A Reunion of Ben Vida or Greg Davis’s Extended Family

The banquet hall overflows: uncles clink beers together a little too loudly, the elderly come together in the corner for some conversation at the right pace, kids hide under tables and spring out to attack cousins with forks and spoons fully loaded. An aunt approaches our hero. “What is it that you do these days? They tried to explain it to me but it went a little over my head.” Our hero hesitates. One half of him wants to lay it all out on the table: “Well Aunt Sarah, I’ve been focusing on uniting systems of modular synthesis and Max/MSP-based sound manipulation to record dynamic sessions of spontaneous composition. I’ve been collaborating closely with another musician to create dense sound environments that cycle through passages of abstracted rhythms, melodies, pulses, and sequences. Our goal is to challenge and provoke our listeners while still engaging them with each moment of our output.” But he takes the less complicated way out: “I’m a legendary warlock. I make electricity do my bidding. People love me and fear me in equal measure.” Aunt Sarah lifts her eyes from her cell phone. “Oooh, that’s nice, dear.”

If you’re still unfamiliar with the work of Greg Davis and/or Ben Vida at this point, you’ve got a lot of extremely rewarding catching up to do. Lucky for you, the two of them made an LP together called Working Models, which, to put it lightly, is a solid place to start. Check out the entire A Side right here:

Order one of only 250 vinyl copies of Working Models from Los Discos Enfantasmes, and feast your eyes on the goddamn beautiful die-cut sleeve and clear wax that’ll end up in your hands in you act fast. Inspired by the work of these two champions, take up modular synthesis and Max/MSP yourself. Never look back. When your relatives ask you what you’ve been doing with your life, just say “magic.”

• Greg Davis:
• Ben Vida:
• Los Discos Enfantasmes:


CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we'll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.