Chad Parkhill

Writer type.

Archives

Categories

Pages

Calling Out of Context

Arthur Russell

The Perennial Appeal of Arthur Russell

Published by Killings, 3 September 2014. Original post. Arthur Russell by Tom Lee (courtesy Audika Records).

When Arthur Russell died in 1992 at the age of forty, he did so in relative obscurity, having released four commercially unsuccessful albums and granted a single print interview: not exactly a promising oeuvre on which to build a legacy. Yet just over twenty years after Russell’s death, his legacy is in full bloom: a series of posthumous reissues and compilations has amply illustrated his musical virtues; a feature documentary, Wild Combination: a Portrait of Arthur Russell appeared in 2008; a scholarly monograph, Hold on to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–1992, came out in 2009; and a number of artists have contributed to a series of tribute albums and EPs, the latest of which, Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell, is scheduled to appear in October of this year. There’s an ongoing shock of delayed recognition at work here: it feels as though Arthur Russell’s time has, finally, arrived. But while his popularity may wax and wane in future, it seems Russell’s time may both never truly arrive nor ever really end.

Read More

Beyond the Valley’s Noble Savages

Beyond the Valley 1
Published by Overland (blog), 19 August 2014. Original post. Promotional image from Beyond the Valley’s website.

Music festivals are, almost by definition, supposed to have their fingers on the cultural pulse. Thus it hardly augurs well that the Beyond the Valley festival—a new player in Australia’s already-crowded music festival scene, to take place on Phillip Island over New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day—has chosen to promote itself through a series of videos that tick nearly every box of colonial appropriation from Native American cultural traditions. A debate about the use and misuse of war bonnets (traditionally worn only by male warriors of certain Plains Indian groups) has been raging in both North America and the United Kingdom since a Canadian electronic music festival, Bass Coast, advised attendees that war bonnets or anything resembling them would not be permitted onsite. For an Australian festival to launch a publicity campaign that places white Australians in war bonnets front and centre in this climate looks less like carelessness than a deliberate provocation.

Read More

Queering the Power

The Soft Pink Truth

The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

Published by Killings, 3 July 2014. Original post. The Soft Pink Truth (Drew Daniel) by M. C. Schmidt.

At first blush there’s not much to connect the worlds of dance music and black metal. Dance music is primarily rhythmic, communal and hedonistic in intent, and historically associated with black, latino, gay and trans cultures; black metal is primarily textural and atmospheric, individualist and cathartic in intent, and born from a subculture of white and straight Scandinavian males—violently white and straight Scandinavian males, several of whom have been convicted of hate crimes.

Read More

Never Settled

Shaking the Habitual Tour

The Knife’s Shaken-Up Versions

Published by Killings, 18 June 2014. Original post. The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual show by Ultra 5280 (Creative Commons).

The Knife might never have toured or performed live were it not for José González. González’s acoustic cover of his fellow Swedes’ single ‘Heartbeats’ became a minor hit and soon featured on a longrunning international ad campaign for Sony’s Bravia televisions; The Knife used the songwriting royalties from this campaign to finance their first live show and tour (in the wake of their 2006 album Silent Shout). The extra money enabled them to put on a richly visual and immersive show, one with an ominous atmosphere perfectly suited to Silent Shout’s music. Making live electronic music engaging is a difficult task, and The Knife’s Silent Shout tour (documented on the film Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience) shows a band committed to breaking the visual cliché of performers standing still behind banks of electronic equipment.

Read More

Loving (and Hating) Tori Amos

Tori Amos
Published by Killings, 13 June 2014. Original post. Tori Amos by Pat Moore and Tim Teeling (Creative Commons).

Tori Amos is hardly to blame for the existence of her fans’ expectations, nor for their disappointment when her work does not live up to them—but that doesn’t prevent that disappointment from feeling intensely personal, as though she’s slighting all of us when she releases an album as tepid as, say, 2009’s Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Of course, Tori is not the only recording artist who has ever disappointed their fans, but it is perhaps a testament to the emotional heft of her brilliant early work that we feel entitled to her very best work every time she releases a new album.

Read More

Still Climbing the Ladder to God

To Be Kind 1

Swans’ To Be Kind

Published by Killings, 22 May 2014. Original post. Album artwork (collage), Swans, To Be Kind (2014).

Those of us lucky enough to have seen Swans live in concert will know that they are unlike any other band currently touring. Other bands may be heavier, other bands may be louder, other bands may be noisier, but no band is quite as intense as Swans—a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that its leader, chief songwriter, and sole constant member, Michael Gira, turned sixty this year, and that the band had been on a decade-long hiatus before reforming in 2010.

Read More

The Critic as Parasite

Azalea-Grimes-Lorde
Published by Killings, 7 May 2014. Original post. Iggy Azalea by Laura Murray (Creative Commons), Grimes by Tom Øverlie (Creative Commons) and Lorde by Annette Geneva (Creative Commons).

It’s an interesting time to be a music critic. So far 2014 has been marked by an assortment of micro-scandals about the way that music criticism is written, from both inside and outside the profession. Not long before Ted Gioia’s plea for music critics to learn and use the technical language of music theory was published, The Jezabels’ lead singer Hayley Mary launched a broadside against the profession (if indeed you can call it that), telling music critics to “fucking get a real job”.

Read More

Radical Honesty

EMA

EMA’s The Future’s Void

Published by Killings, 23 April 2014. Original post. EMA by Erica M. Anderson.

Erica M. Anderson’s recently released second solo album, The Future’s Void, has been for the most part well-received by critics—albeit with some caveats. Most have praised the way she has maintained her songwriting identity despite shifting from the folk/blues/noise rock of her debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, to a 90s-influenced mélange of post-grunge and industrial pop (à la Nine Inch Nails). The bone of contention seems to be that The Future’s Void is understood as tackling a Big Theme—namely, our relationship to internet technologies—and is therefore pushing a Message, in contrast to the supposedly message-less Past Life Martyred Saints.

Read More

Beyond Tragedy

HTRK

HTRK’s Psychic 9–5 Club

Published by The Quietus, 22 April 2014. Original post. HTRK by Gareth Jones (Creative Commons).

It’s impossible to talk about Psychic 9–5 Club without talking about tragedy. The press release accompanying advance copies of the album makes this explicit: this is, after all, the first HTRK album without any input from founding member Sean Stewart, who took his own life as the band were working on their second album, 2011’s Work (Work, Work). Even in their original three-piece incarnation, HTRK were no strangers to tragedy, having worked closely with Australian post-punk legend Rowland S. Howard—on both their own debut, Marry Me Tonight, and Howard’s final solo album Pop Crimes—before his untimely passing in 2009. You can therefore forgive Ghostly International’s publicists for pushing the band-marked-by-tragedy-makes-record-about-hope narrative, because in one sense it’s absolutely true: HTRK absolutely have known a great deal of tragedy—far more than their fair share of it—and Psychic 9–5 Club is indeed a record with a sunnier disposition than the claustrophobic Work (Work, Work).

Read More

Do Music Critics Need Music Theory?

Pythagoras
Published by Killings, 9 April 2014. Original post. Woodcut of Pythagoras from Theorica musicae by Franchino Gaffurio (1492).

Canadian musician Owen Pallett—the man who arranged the strings on Arcade Fire’s albums, co-wrote the soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her, and has a bunch of wonderful solo albums—can now add another feather to his cap: that of an engaging music writer. His recent series of three essays for Slate, each aiming to explain the appeal of a well-known pop song through music theory, tackles some relatively dry subject matter with impressive brio.

Read More
Older work