Vagrant Journalism

Published pieces from the past, the present and of the potential future.

1 September 09: Live at The Smell @ The Downtown Independentt

Posted by Christina on September 2, 2009

live-at-smellSo, The Smell is a pretty legendary venue out here in Downtown LA. The bands, the art, the people – everything about it was perfect for the live show scene of LA. All it needed was its own documentary and man, did they get one. They screened it last week at the beautiful Downtown Independent.

L.A. Record: Live at the Smell @ The Downtown Independent

Some volume issues during a performance on screen render the crowd restless. Murmurs ripple through, speculating and questioning.

“Can’t hear a fucking thing!” cuts through the darkness, crass and unconstructive.

“Well, you should’ve been there!” retorts another faceless voice, more lighthearted. By the end of the film, he couldn’t have been more right.

The Smell first opened its doors in 1998 and to this day is the only Los Angeles venue heavily DIY in nearly every aspect. Dedicated to the purveyors and connoisseurs of music and art, the Smell is run by the artists whose work decorates the walls, by bands who schedule their own shows and volunteers who love art. It’s a community spot welcoming creative minds.

Michael Fierstein, of Static Aktion, has been working with club owner Jim Smith for over five years now, setting up shows and loving every minute. He’s brought some great acts to the Smell, a magic he used to make their documentary film about the legendary venue, Live at The Smell.

“I love The Smell, it’s my home,” said Fierstein, who produced the film. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for Jim Smith and it really was an honor that he would trust me to oversee a movie about the Smell, using The Smell’s name.”

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25 July 09 – Mellowdrone ‘Angry Bear’

Posted by Christina on August 31, 2009

angry_bear2This was a really fun album and my first record review for L.A. Record. I’ve posted my original here but check out the link to see their edited version. They’ve posted a track on their website and you can listen to Mellowdrone’s tunes by clicking the below link to the original article as well – totally worth it!

L.A. Record: Mellowdrone ‘Angry Bear’

In the thick, melodious haze of Mellowdrone’s latest LP comes Angry Bear, an album rich and heavy with lo-fi goodness. Bandmates Jonathan Bates on vox and bass, Tony DeMatteo on guitar and Brian Borg on drums have been going strong for about a decade with a few EPs and band member changes in between. Now with their second full-length album, the trio has released their definitive rock opus.

Starting off minimalistic with vocals and backing guitar, “Where Ever You May Go” is a psychedelic rock ballad without the lighters and pretentious lovelorn emotions. A dash of keys punctuate the chorus throughout while a guitar blares through distortion. With this track, Mellowdrone establishes a woozy wall of sound for a 12-track odyssey through their vast sonic landscape.

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6 July 09 – Regina Spektor ‘Far’

Posted by Christina on July 6, 2009

far-cover-artThis was quite the enchanting album. I had never really delved into the Regina Spektor sphere before I did this review and it was an interesting ride to say the least. Her voice is so unique and the content of her instrumentation and lyrics were nothing like I had heard. I’ll have to really spend some time with this five album strong discography of hers after this.

Ground Control Magazine: Regina Spektor ‘Far’

ARTIST: Regina Spektor – [Album]
DATE: 07-06-09
REVIEW BY: Christina Nersesian
ALBUM: Far
LABEL: Warner/Sire

Regina Spektor’s latest release is undoubtedly a testament to her limitless creativity. Her fifth full-length studio album to date, Far is an absolute thrilling 13-track voyage through the inexhaustible psyche of one of the most imaginative and versatile songstresses of our time. Warbling vocals and a stylistic signature all her own, the quirky qualities of phonetic track titles, unorthodox pronunciations and pleasantly unusual content provide fodder for success to repeat the reception of her chart-topping 2006 release, Begin to Hope.

The album kicks off with “The Calculation,” an overall uplifting tune and surprise love song with a polka-esque introduction. Dark matters of the innards of emotional complexities along with the simplistic naïveté transform computers into child’s play and macaroni art. Already, this track is quite the attention grabber. It’s a universally palatable tune that not only displays her musical capabilities but stands to be a pretty sweet hip-swaying jam as well.

An unconventional lovelorn song, “Folding Chair” presents syncopated beats, a dancey feel-good piano with mirrored guitar staccato, a sock-hop kind of clap and a pretty uncanny dolphin impression. Toes in the sand and yearning for love in the air, this song invokes fading images of a 1950s coastline—silver bullet trailers, baby clothes safety-pinned to convenience and the innocence of sweet hand holding. It’s a track just in time for our summer swelter.

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3 July 09: The Moondoggies – I Don’t Decide Where To Move My Body

Posted by Christina on July 4, 2009

moondoggiesI recently started contributing to L.A. Record, an independent music magazine published in Los Angeles. I’ve started out with a band interview and it’s ended up on their home page! I suppose they switch it up every time they have a new interview, but it’s exciting to see mine up there for now. I interviewed the lead singer and guitarist, Kevin Murphy, for a pretty exciting, up-and-coming band called The Moondoggies out of Seattle. There’s more of the interview but they’ve published the highlights.

L.A. Record: The Moondoggies – I Don’t Decide Where To Move My Body

Moondoggies’ Kevin Murphy—and bandmates Robert Terreberry on bass, Carl Dahlen on drums and Caleb Quick on keys—are hauling their three-part harmonies, finger-picked guitar licks and Rhodes piano south to L.A. from Seattle. It’s an ageless American sound—as casually accidental as it can get. This interview by Christina Nersesian.

You started as kind of a punk band and then you went to Alaska and came back making music with this whole Byrds and Eagles vibe going on—so what happened in Alaska?
Kevin Murphy (guitar/vocals): I moved to Bellingham, which is an hour north of Seattle and I lived there for about a year. It was during a time where our old band the Familiars were dying and I don’t know—we weren’t listening to that kind of music as much. The drummer had hearing problems so he stopped playing the drums and starting playing the banjo. We were just kind of listening to a lot more bluegrass and things like the Band. It was just kinda like—‘I want to get out of this college town and focus on some music on my own.’ It was more about getting myself more disciplined, I suppose. I moved up there because I had nothing else to do. I was interested in Ketchikan because it’s pretty isolated being an island and I had a friend who had a job for me and a place to stay for free. I could save up money and jump on the ferry and ride up there. It seemed like a good opportunity to go see what that place was about.
When you guys started to play the bluegrass-y stuff, were you tapping into anything you heard growing up?
I think things are just coming around full circle. I grew up on the Beatles and Nirvana, definitely. I was discovering a lot of stuff but nothing was very unfamiliar. I just started digging more and more into it. I still like some of the louder stuff that I listened to in high school. I started to really hear a lot of those brilliant, older songs and suddenly you realize you haven’t heard anything and you keep digging. Read the rest of this entry »

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21 June 09: Gliss ‘Devotion Implosion’

Posted by Christina on June 22, 2009

51lBExRyDJLThis album was absolutely magnificent to review. The tunes were really revamped versions of shoegaze staples and Gliss is pitch perfect with their what they’re trying to get across. They had played a show at The Echo last Monday and I was way bummed I wasn’t able to attend. I’ll just have to wait for them to come back from their tour across the pond.

Ground Control Magazine: Gliss ‘Devotion Implosion’

ARTIST: Gliss – [Album]
DATE: 06-21-09
REVIEW BY: Christina Nersesian
ALBUM: Devotion Implosion
LABEL: Cordless Recordings

Gliss is like the Petri dish lovechild of shoegaze greats, alternative rock fire-starters, maybe even some dancey hipster DJs and most definitely includes a dip in the gene pool of the psychedelic pop rock of the 1960s. In their latest release, Devotion Implosion, some tracks scream Pablo Honey while others stand as clear spawns of Psycho Candy with an overall adoption and simultaneous adaptation of Siamese Dream. Sprinkled with a little “Crimson & Clover” over and over, this sophomoric effort is a pleaser throughout for sure.

The Los Angeles-based band’s second full-length album is a sometimes brooding and sometimes blissful nugget of indie goodness. The album weighs heavily on reliably steady beats and appropriately static-ridden riffs punctuated by the hazy vocals of a dreamlike allure. Gliss, in itself, becomes a sort of umbrella act for the sort of musical style embraced by Krautrock bands of yore. Multi-instrumentalists Martin Klingman, David Reiss and Victoria Cecilia make full use of the genre’s musical tendencies in a neat 10-track odyssey through a seemingly drug-induced space of rootless time.

The album starts up strong and steady, motorik beat at the ready with “Morning Light.” The track, with its purposeful clumsiness mindfully finds its place, and then pushes off with a delightfully catchy drumbeat reminiscent of “Just Like Honey,” before diving headfirst into a welcome wall of sound. Weight resting against this seemingly impenetrable fortress of frequencies, the perpetual fuzz suddenly gives way to a pool of distorted guitar riffs, ethereal vocals and subtle harmonies. Left hanging off the breath of one droning note up to the very last second, this track is a clear vision of what’s to come.

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19 May 2009: Iron & Wine ‘Around the Well’

Posted by Christina on May 20, 2009

iron-and-wine-around-the-well This really is an exceptional collection of songs from Iron & Wine. Some are new sounds, some are old favorites and some are tracks finally collected on one album for everyone to enjoy. Hooray!

Ground Control Magazine: Iron & Wine ‘Around the Well’

ARTIST: Iron & Wine – [Album]
DATE: 05-19-09
REVIEW BY: Christina Nersesian
ALBUM: Around the Well
LABEL: Sub Pop

Rare beauties emerge in Iron & Wine’s latest release with a two-disc collection of a rare, never-before-heard and new-to-print collection of unyielding goodness. From hidden treasures of 2002’s The Creek Drank the Cradle to soundtrack-bound leftovers and side-picks from The Shepherd’s Dog in 2007, this sampling from the span of Iron & Wine’s career is nothing short of magic, especially for those rabid fans—however rabid folk fans can get.

The first disc is a deliberate, lower-fidelity collection of soulful selections. The slow scratch and subtle pop of a needle through a record’s grooves serve as a signature undertone throughout. Its raw, basement and concrete wall acoustics add the perfect flavor to the perfect set of songs.

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1 December 2008: Faculty Master Class with Jerzy Kozmala

Posted by Christina on March 24, 2009

jerzy-kosmalaAs my officially last piece for the New University Newspaper, it was with bittersweet feelings I wrote this last piece. I had never reported on a master class before and it was an amazing experience. It was wonderful that the paper chose to cover the event because it really was such a sight to see and such a concert in itself, really.

New University Newspaper: Faculty Master Class with Jerzy Kozmala

Faculty Master Class with Jerzy Kozmala
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 11 | Dec 01 2008

Internationally renowned violist Jerzy Kosmala participated in the second Faculty Master Class last Monday as part of an inaugural series of events organized by the UC Irvine Music Department. Students performed pieces from some of classical music’s greatest composers to a diverse audience of professors, students and community members.

Students who participate in the Master Class form groups at the beginning of each quarter. On Monday, they performed various movements of ensemble pieces by historically celebrated composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, Antonín Dvořák and Béla Bartók, whose works span from the Classic to Romantic periods and on to the 20th century of musical artistry. Performing and receiving critiques from their peers and the professor of the class, Dr. Margaret Parkins, the students were polite and receptive to Kosmala’s added words of wisdom.

Kosmala thoughtfully followed along with his own copy of the first piece by Mozart. Listening to a trio of clarinet, piano and viola, Kosmala sat in the front row swaying to the allegro phrases, nodding to every forte and punctuating trills. His own viola and bow rested against him as he sat, aware of every glossed-over rest and every dotted note unnoticed.

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24 November 2008: ‘Freudemocracy’ Gets Political

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

freudemocracyThis was a really interesting art exhibit at UCI. It took me a few visits to really wrap my head around the whole concept and be able to confidently deliver a review. Regardless, it was an excellent thing to be a part of and amazing to experience artforms like this right under my nose.

New University Newspaper: ‘Freudemocracy’ Gets Political

‘Freudemocracy’ Gets Political
by Christina Nersesian
Volume 42, Issue 10 | Nov 24 2008

Nestled near Cyber-A Café in the revamped corners of the UC Irvine Art Department, the University Art Gallery has been the venue for some of the most intriguing art exhibits. From studio art seniors exhibiting their collegiate work to guest artists utilizing a multitude of media platforms, the installations have always been insightful and thought-provoking.

“Freudemocracy: 2008-1968” is no exception; it reaches a vast arena of existence, spanning time and space alike. Its content renders ideas not only important to the curators of the exhibit, but also to the current social and political state.

Focusing largely on the student-led and later national rebellion throughout France in 1968, “Freudemocracy: 2008-1968” looks at the effect these events had on one of the period’s most potent minds.

Through films made by French new wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard, the exhibit showcases a selection of films as a themed montage. Beginning with the years right before the very crux of the movement in 1966, the exhibit then goes through films commentating on the moment of uninhibited rebellion and finally deals with the movement’s aftermath in 1972.

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19 November 2008: Film Notes – Trois Couleurs Bleu

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

trois-couleurs-bleuThe ‘Trois Couleurs’ series was one of my favorite parts of this class. Juliette Binoche is absolutely amazing in this film and the whole aspect of the triad of films was so brilliant as well. This is another selection from film notes and again, answers a question concerning the film

Film Notes: What is the function of the score in Three Colors: Blue?

Trois Couleurs: Bleu (Three Colors: Blue), Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1993

While it is evident that Julie is trying to disassociate herself from her former life, liberate herself from an identity of the past and repress memories from a previous existence, it is the with the reoccurrence of the music that Julie is somewhat forced to remember her past. The haunting phrases from the score are what remain in Julie’s life even while she is so desperately trying to rid herself of her past. When she rents the apartment Julie takes on her maiden name, she destroys the music notation associated with her husband and the life-status she had with him and she rids herself of everything material that would be responsible for serving as any memento save the blue jewel-beaded mobile. Regardless of these actions seeming like brash, thoughtless actions of anxiety and depression after the devastating accident, it is with a firm conviction of wanting so desperately to start her life anew that Julie rids herself of all these memories. Yet try as she might, her disposing of objects that might serve as materialistic nostalgia-inducers resurrect during moments she least expects it and in the form of the music that she tries to consider a part of her past life.

Interestingly, when she hears the music, the screen blacks out for several seconds and the orchestral sounds overpower the audience’s senses. This is perhaps done to show what might be going on in Julie’s head. It could be her blacking out because a particularly haunting phrase of music is persistently trying to reinsert itself into her life when she least expects it. While it seems that Julie has effectively rid herself of her past, it is the music that plays an important role in bringing her back in touch with portions of her life she tried to cut herself off from. Like several of the senses that invoke memory-how smelling a particular perfume could bring about thoughts of childhood-music works with the sense of hearing to procure memories one might have long since forgotten or tried to repress. This happens when she hears the flute player on the street as well as in her own psyche as the music that was such an integral part of her very existence seems to literally take her by surprise and knock her off her consciousness for a moment.

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6 November 2008: Under the Guise of a Conforming Visual Aesthetic Exists a Deconstructing of the Cinéma du Look Model

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

xp obligations ANGEL-AThis is the midterm paper written for FMS101C on behalf of my beloved French films, New Wave and especially Cinema du Look.

Under the Guise of a Conforming Visual Aesthetic Exists a Deconstructing of the Cinéma du Look Model

As Luc Besson constitutes one-third of the forefather triumvirate for cinéma du look, consumers of this film culture are indebted to him for propagating the cinema scene with all the elements heralded by cinéma du look constructs. Defined with detailed particularity in Sue Harris’s essay “The Cinéma du Look,” elements of this movement in French film are clearly defined in Besson’s Angel-A, especially with the visual aesthetic of the film and how it exemplifies a heightened ocular pleasure over anything else. However, there are moments in which the film delineates from the cinéma du look model by effectively bringing to light some film models that were initially dismissed with the post-1968 filmmakers. Defined in terms of Harris’s stated elements involving characterization, there lies a conflict between a mere visual representation and one of more psychological depth in terms of defining the main protagonists. Further it is in its return to the formal style of location shooting, which has largely been indebted to the French New Wave, that renders Besson’s Angel-A a someone deconstruction of cinéma du look. Interestingly, while the film seems to break away from a style first brought to life by this director, it simultaneously heralds the cinéma du look model, utilizing its modes of construct to create filmic eye candy.

What works particularly well in identifying Angel-A as forming to the cinéma du look model is a sense of choreography seen through the characters’ excessive gesturing and in the final scene where Angel-A fights to fly back to Heaven. It is in the comparative mode of gesturing which exists between André and Angel-A which further characterizes them on screen as dichotomous. André uses the whole of his body to portray a particular language that renders his entire body a form of gesturing. It is here where we see how he is fitful, spastic and fidgety while Angel-A glides her body’s movements, even in heated moments of angry argumentative expressiveness. Also later, when Angel-A and André fight in mid-air, it is the choreography of cuts and shots that renders this sequence similar to Soviet montage. The play of cuts to heighten the anticipation and anxiety of what’s to come is also heavily stylized and choreographed.

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