Category Archives: Band of the Week
God bless Die Antwoord. If those crazy South Africans hadn’t pointed the way with their over-the-top rap-rave anthems and even more over-the-top music videos, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have the Polish “Slavschool” hip-hop of Donatan and we definitely wouldn’t have the Russian rap-rave anthems of Little Big, who are basically Die Antwoord after too much vodka.
On one level, Little Big resembles Die Antwoord so much that they almost seem derivative. Their music is glitchy and uptempo; their videos are grotesque, absurb and occasionally shocking; their lead singer is a skinny tattooed dude who used to be a hip-hop-loving performance artist. (Die Antwoord’s Ninja, aka Waddy Jones, got his start doing more high-brow, satirical with projects like Max Normal; Little Big’s Ilya Prusikin honed his mic skills doing raps dressed up as Josef Stalin.) Even Little Big’s two midget members, Olympia Ivleva and Anna Kast, are reminiscent of Leon Botha, the late Die Antwoord collaborator with progeria syndrome—although that’s probably a totally unfair comparison because for all I know, Kast and Ivleva are integral singers/songwriters/producers in Little Big who just happen to be little people.
And yet, for all the obvious indebtedness to Die Antwoord—and, I suspect, to the videos of Donatan—there’s something about Little Big that is thrillingly original, too. Their hyper-kinetic videos are especially addictive, recasting the stereotypical images of Russian culture—the folk dancers, the vodka, the tracksuit-clad hooligans, the drab, Cold War-era military uniforms, even a balaclava nod to Pussy Riot—as the ghetto-fabulous trappings of a non-stop dance party. And even though their music is almost entirely electronic, there’s a manic, gypsy-punk energy to it. They’re like a raver version of Gogol Bordello, especially on their most popular track, “Everyday I’m Drinking”:
And if you thought that was a wild ride, get a load of “Life in da Trash,” in which a junkyard doubling as a zombie prison camp turns into an apocalyptic dance party and, judging from some heavy-handed title cards, a metaphor for modern life. Prusikin told Vice UK that he’s also a big fan of Cannibal Corpse, which makes total sense after you watch this.
Little Big have an album coming out later this month—their first, I believe. They have a pair of album release shows coming up in St. Petersburg and Moscow and just released a new video earlier today to promote them. It’s called “With Russia From Love” and it gives me oddly amorous feelings towards goats. And makes me want to dance like a Cossack on meth.
P.S. Huge thanks to reader Vass for introducing us to these guys. You made our week, Vass!
I hate the English. When they aren’t busy playing our super-villains or dominating our television, they’re beating the competition in our monthly Weird Band Polls. Three of the last five polls have now been won by Brits, with Ipswich’s Gout Pony claiming the latest victory. How can a tiny nation of tea-drinkers kick so much ass?
Anyhow, Gout Pony have been together about three years or so and describe themselves as half “brilliant, budding musicians, half bearded, bedraggled tramps.” They call their music “trampcore,” so they must really like the word “tramp.”
Their lead singer is a gentleman by the name of Adam Whybray, aka Generation Y Bray. He has a blog called Cage Wisdom that’s mostly reviews of Nicolas Cage movies, and I’m only telling you that because we don’t know very much about these guys and this post would only be about 50 words long if I didn’t throw in a few random factoids. Here’s another one: When we first contacted Adam about Gout Pony being in the poll, he sent us this photo with the comment, “Here is a picture of the only attraction in Ipswich.” Maybe so, but what an awesome attraction.
The rest of Gout Pony is made up of The Saddest Thing (guitars, keys), The Nation (woodwinds, keys, stylophone…and no, I didn’t know what a stylophone was either, but I guess it’s this thing), and Timerous Ham (drums, Theremin). I’m not sure which ones are the brilliant musicians and which are the bedraggled tramps. Actually, after listening to their music, I’m pretty sure they’re all just bedraggled tramps. But hey, that’s OK. Some of our favorite weird musicians were bedraggled tramps, too.
Gout Pony have released one album, an eight-track collection available on Bandcamp called A Family Gouting. It’s all pretty weird, but I think this track captures them at their Goutiest.
They also do a mean cover of “Smart Girls,” from Brian Wilson’s unjustly overlooked hip-hop period:
So congrats on winning the poll, Gout Pony. And don’t worry, we were totally kidding about hating the English. Except One Direction. Fuck those little punks.
Thank Christ for Google Translator, because otherwise I would have nothing to tell you about this week’s band. They’re a “performance collective” from Germany…and I guess “performance collective” is German for “crazy art freaks making deliberately stupid techno” because that’s what these guys do. They make bad techno and sing over it like a bunch of people pretending to be retarded, as if to say, “Look how retarded this music is!”
Then they shoot videos that are even weirder and dumber than the music. In this one, a bunch of white girls strut around trying to look hard while eating candy bars in front of a gas station. In this one, a nerdy guy masturbates slowly and tenderly to a bad painting. In this one, two of the collective’s members, Tutenchamun and Maike Schönfeld, just dance like idiots in various public places.
They seem to release a new video every month or so. In their latest one, released just last week, a girl dances on a chair for four minutes while a fat biker dude flips off the camera and opens his mail. I know that sounds incredibly stupid, and it is, but the video is fucking great. Trying to describe a HGich.T video is like trying to explain to your wife that the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in your life was when your best friend in college spontaneously moonwalked across an entire frathouse basement because he was trying not to puke on his shoes. It was the funniest thing you’ve ever seen but…you just had to see it.
One of the best things about binge-watching HGich.T videos is all the recurring characters you can follow. There’s the obvious star of the show, Tutenchamun, who’s like a German parody of that douchebag from The Prodigy, if said douchebag had forgotten to take off his yellow safety vest after ditching his picking-up-trash-by-the-highway community service stint. There’s Dr. Diamond, who seems to spend a lot of time hanging out in his room and having arguments with his mother. There’s
Pussy Cat Diddel, who wears cat mouse makeup. And of course there’s my personal favorite, Dietrich Kuhlbrodt, aka Opa16, the group’s creepy old man in residence. I have a soft spot for creepy old men, being only a few years away from becoming one myself.
The video they’re most famous for is “Tutenchamun,” sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Goa Goa MPU” (we had this totally backwards, and also failed to realize that Diddel was supposed to be a mouse, until reader Iesus set us straight—thanks, Iesus!). In it, Tutenchamun rides around with Maike on a motorbike with broken shocks and tells a long, increasingly surreal story about getting pulled over by a cop, played by the least cop-like man in all of Germany, Dr. Diamond. Like all HGich.T videos, it’s incredibly stupid and you might not be able to stop watching.
So I think we can all agree that from here on out, anytime anyone tries to tell a long, rambling story about how fucking hard they partied last night, we’re going to say “Ja?” every five seconds in a bored monotone until they stop. Right? Ja?
As great as “Goa Goa MPU” is, the HGich.T clip that’s my favorite so far…and I say “so far” because they have like 60 some odd videos and I never quite got baked enough to watch every single one…is “die letzten titten von betlehem.” This one has everything: Drugs, vandalism, jailbait, wasteful use of toilet paper, an oddly creepy sequence in which a dude terrorizes a girl with a Sharpie. It’s like a German rave meets a scared-straight after-school special meets a Fellini film. Plus the track fucking goes off.
So anyway…next time I go out dancing, I really hope the DJ plays a HGich.T track so I can storm into the ladies’ bathroom and do my best Tutenchamun impersonation. I am so getting laid with that action.
Just because Macklemore sang “Same Love” at the Grammys (more on him in a minute), don’t think that hip-hop in 2014 isn’t still rife with homophobia. But a handful of ballsy performers are starting to change that—none ballsier, or weirder, than Mr. Khalif Diouf, better known as Le1f.
Le1f (pronounced “Leaf”) first made his name as a producer, making beats for fellow oddball New York rap duo Das Racist. You know that annoying/awesome song “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell“? That’s a Le1f joint. Even then, Le1f was already subverting hip-hop culture; he borrowed the track’s start-stop rhythm from “The Ha Dance,” a gay house anthem from the early ’90s, when the “vogue” scene made famous by Madonna was in full swing. “I was tricking them into rapping over a vogue beat,” Le1f gleefully bragged to Spin.
But punking his straight friends was the least of Le1f’s tricks. In April of 2012, he released his debut mixtape, a 21-track head trip of a record called Dark York. What immediately jumped out at most fans and critics—maybe because Le1f prefers to keep his vocals tantalizingly buried in the mix—was not the rapper’s out-and-proud lyrics, but his polyamorous relationship with genres. Dark York knocks boots with everything from dark electro and experimental beat music to the menacing, trunk-rattling sounds of the Dirty South—all of it tied together by Le1f’s syrupy flow and a vaguely stoned, psychedelic quality, as if all the music is coming at you through a bong-smoke haze. Or maybe it’s bathhouse steam?
Then came the videos. Starting with “Wut,” Le1f has created a visual style all his own, patched together from gay club culture, avant-garde modern dance (he has a degree in dance from Wesleyan University—my alma mater! holla!), neon-colored hipster fashion, and a dash of Pokemon. It’s playful, eye-popping and will probably make the most hetero among you extremely uncomfortable.
Side note about “Wut” and the aforementioned Mr. Macklemore: When Macklemore won at the MTV Video Music Awards last year for his pro-gay marriage anthem “Same Love,” Le1f launched into a tirade on Twitter, accusing the straight white rapper of cynically co-opting gay pride and style-biting the horn-driven hook on “Wut” for his other big hit, “Thrift Shop.” “[T]hat time that straight white dude ripped off my song then made a video about gay interracial love and made a million dollars,” one of the tweets read. “Wut” is hardly the first time anyone built a rap beat around a saxophone loop, but the timing is more than a little suspicious; “Thrift Shop” came out a little over a month after the video for “Wut” showed up on YouTube, and the similarities are hard to miss. But that’s way more space than Macklemore deserves in any post on this blog, so let’s move on.
Since the release of Dark York, Le1f has been on a tear, churning out EPs and mixtapes that seem to get better (and weirder) every time. He’s also created a live persona that’s a mesmerizing combination of hip-hop aggression and ball culture camp. And he has fantastic hair. (Watch until about the 5:30 mark; that’s when he really starts putting Willow Smith to shame.)
We’ll leave you with what is probably Le1f’s weirdest and/or sexiest (depending on what you’re into) video to date: “Soda,” from a 2012 collaborative EP with producer Boody called Liquid. Oh, and an important disclaimer: We are not making Le1f our Weird
Band Rapper of the Week because he’s gay. Thankfully, being a gay rapper is not as weird as it used to be, and there are plenty of examples of other hip-hop artists, from Big Freedia to Mykki Blanco* to Brooke Candy, making music that probably seems—to straight audiences, anyway—just as weird as Le1f’s. But he gets our vote because ultimately, even if you took Le1f’s sexual orientation out of the picture entirely, his music would still be weird. And we mean that, as we always do, in the best possible way.
*OK, yeah, Mykki Blanco deserves a spot on the Weird List, too. She’ll show up here eventually. Promise.
When I think of Chicago, I think of deep dish pizza, Da Bears, Ferris Bueller, and that one time I bumped into Trent Reznor at O’Hare (true story). I certainly don’t think of weird music, but I may need to recalibrate my mental image of Da Chi. The city that gave us Wesley Willis and Jan Terri seems to be a reliable breeding ground for eccentric musical artistes. And carrying on in that grand tradition is the mysterious duo called Univore.
Univore first surfaced in 2010 with an album called Casale Project, which set the occasionally poetic ramblings of Italian-born artist Marco Casale to a series of breezy jazz/prog/disco/space-rock instrumentals. The music on Casale Project is semi-weird at best—though it does feature the occasional out-of-left-field blast of Love Supreme saxophone—but Marco Casale is a wonder, over-enunciating in his thick Mediterranean accent about America’s hair (“is like wheat on fire!”) and the dude he’s gonna bust up for stealing his bicycle seat. And when Univore started casting Casale is a series of zero-budget videos—all, for no apparent reason, with Asian subtitles—well, shit just got crazy in the best possible way.
Now it’s important to note that Casale is merely a guest vocalist and that, really, Univore is the work of two gentlemen by the names of David Bachmann and Nicholas Flandro. They describe themselves as a “media production duo” who are available (according to their website) for “original music, video production, content creation, ideating, as well as art direction and copywriting.” If I ever find myself stuck in O’Hare again (and Trent Reznor is nowhere to be found), I know who I’m calling when I’m in need of some ideating.
In addition to Casale Project, Univore have released two other albums: Love Letters, a 2011 concept album made up of “letters of affection to various fictional women” and Beasts From a Silk Womb, a “confluence of apocalyptic imagery” masquerading as makeout music from the ’70s. Here, for example, is a shag-run and lava-lamp jam about how we’re destroying the planet. Our technological advances will be our ultimate undoing, am I right, ladies??
Love Letters and Beasts From a Silk Womb don’t feature the campy vocal stylings of Mr. Casale, but Bachmann and and Flandro clearly know a good thing when they’ve found one and have been careful to cast the photogenic DeNiro/Aeillo lookalike in all their videos. Last year, they finally did a proper reunion with him and created a one-off song and short film called “I Dream the Video,” which is almost too well-produced for its own good. It left us longing for the simpler pleasures of their masterpiece, “Champagne Taste,” which against all reason and logic is impossible to stop watching. As one YouTube commenter put it: “Oh, no! I shouldn’t be watching this video.”
P.S. Many thanks to new reader Jake Kirby for turning us on to the unique charms of Univore, along with several other weird artists. Sorry we didn’t pick Hasil Adkins, Jake. Maybe next time.
Remember that scene in Up in the Air where George Clooney and Anna Kendrick and that other lady whose name I forget all crash a corporate conference party? And in the middle of the party, Young MC comes out and does “Bust a Move” and the crowd goes wild and starts bumpin’ name tags and sweatin’ through their white dress shirts? Looked pretty fun, right? Especially because George Clooney was there.
Now imagine that same scene, except this time…well, OK, this time George Clooney isn’t there, but this time, Young MC flies out over the crowd doing a Britney Spears cover. I just blew your mind, didn’t I?
This is what Amplifly Aerial Band does: Blow minds at corporate events. They’re a “high end corporate event band” from Utah that straps their singers and guitar players into harnesses and flies them around the room, Cirque du Soleil style. They also sometimes dress them up Daft Punk-style in motorcycle helmets with blinky raver lights on them. They call their performers…wait for it…”Flyborgs.” I could never think this shit up, could you?
I assume the only reason Amplifly Aerial Band is not already the biggest corporate event band on the planet is because they’re from Utah. Do they have corporations there? I always thought it was all just Mormons and ski resorts, but then again I don’t travel much.
Anyway, Amplifly Aerial Band crushed the competition in our latest Weird Band Poll, which can only mean that global domination is not far behind. Congrats, guys! If we ever decide to incorporate, we are totally booking you for our IPO party.
Here’s what I believe is known in the biz as a “sizzle reel” showing the Amplifly kids in action. Oh, yeah, did I mention they also play some dubstep? I bet if Skrillex flew around during his shows, he wouldn’t suck nearly so hard.
We’re returning this week to Poland, land of Łąki Łan and Dick4Dick, to introduce you to a hip-hop producer called Donatan, who just might be the Polish answer to Die Antwoord. And yes, Die Antwoord means “The Answer” in Afrikaans, so I just made a Afrikaans pun in my opening sentence. Fatty boom boom, bitches! If I didn’t have to stick around to tell you how frickin’ great Donatan is, I’d drop the mic right now.
Polish hip-hop actually has a rich and varied history (I know because Wikipedia tells me so)—but it has never, to the best of my knowledge, seen anyone quite like Donatan (which means “Donate” in Polish—his real name is Witold Czamara). In 2012, he released his debut album, Równonoc: Słowiańska dusza, which apparently translates to Equinox: Slavic Soul. On it, he enlisted a bunch of Polish folk musicians and singers, led by a pagan/medieval band called Percival, to record semi-traditional Slavic music over his beats. Then he brought in a who’s who of Polish rappers to drop rhymes on whatever the hell we’re supposed to call this stuff: Viking rap? Pagan folk-hop? Krakow trap? Slavschool? Whatever it is, it’s full of accordions and awesomeness.
Even crazier than the music on Równonoc are the videos, which mix the standard bitches-and-bling tropes of rap videos with pastoral scenes of Polish folk life and the witchy visuals of pagan metal. Instead of poppin’ bottles, these video vixens churn butter (at least I think that’s what they’re doing—I’m a blogger, not a farmer) and wander through the woods in druid’s robes.
Oh and by the way? This video, ”Nie lubimy robić” (“We Don’t Like to Do Anything”), has gotten over 22 million views. The video for Donatan’s most successful track, a non-Równonoc cut called “My Słowianie” (“Us Slavs”), has been viewed 32 million times. To put that in perspective, Poland only has 38 million residents. His Polish-proud hip-hop/folk fusions are popular at home on a level that’s hard for us jaded American pop music consumers to grasp. It’s like if, at the height of the O Brother Where Art Thou? craze, T Bone Burnett and Alison Krauss had done an album with Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Eminem rapping over “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Dueling Banjos”—and everyone, including your parents, had gone apeshit over it.
None of Donatan’s other clips achieve the same level of crazy as “Nie lubimy robić,” although “My Słowianie” comes close—thanks in part to the trying-too-hard-to-be-sexy presence of a singer called Cleo who is apparently Poland’s answer to Fergie. But they’re pretty much all worth watching. This one, for example, features fire-spinners, a wolf, a dude who apparently rolls up to the Renaissance Faire in a fucking Escalade, and the blue-eyed, butter-churning goddess of “Nie lubimy robić” (who, by the way, is a model named Luxuria Astaroth), this time wearing a blonde wig and blowing a huntsman’s horn in the most pornographic manner possible. Oh, and it also features maybe the best rapper on any Równonoc track, a skinny, bespectacled cat named Pezet, who has a mere 864,000 Facebook fans. Yeah, Polish hip-hop is for real.
And then there’s “Słowiańska krew,” in which Donatan and his homies knock back some grog while their fellow pagan villagers beat back a horde of chainmailed Christian invaders. At least I think that’s what’s going on. Or maybe it’s just all about how swords are cool.
I’m sorry, did I say none of Donatan’s other clips are as crazy as “Nie lubimy robić”? Let me correct myself. This one features two bald dudes rapping in full Braveheart drag. Talk about getting medieval on your ass.
P.S. Thanks must go again to our star Polish reader Paweł Serewko, who helped turn us on to enough weird Polish music to keep this blog going through most of 2014. Even though he says he’s not really a Donatan fan. He’s more into Krvavy.
Happy 2014, weirdos! Are you as hungover as we are? I hope not, because this week’s weird artiste can be tough to listen to with a throbbin’ noggin.
We were introduced to Jan Terri the same way most folks are: Someone sent us a link to a YouTube video called “Worst music video ever,” a badly ripped copy of Terri’s “Losing You” that’s gotten over 3 million hits. And while “Losing You” is not the worst music video ever by a long shot (as far as we’re concerned, Brokencyde still wears that crown), it’s not exactly a cinematic triumph. The camerawork could best be described as “easily distracted” and Terri has so little screen presence she’s upstaged at the 1:05 mark by a drainpipe. The tune itself is actually pretty catchy, but Terri sings it like someone at a karaoke bar trying to do a song she’s never heard before. At first glance, it’s a train wreck.
And yet…Jan Terri’s music sucks you in, and not just because it really is catchy. Like all great outsider music, there’s something pure and unaffected about it. Songs like “Losing You” and “Make It With You Babe” are such determined yet failed attempts to make slickly produced pop-rock that the failure itself becomes more compelling than actual slickly produced pop-rock.
Terri released two albums and a handful of videos on VHS tape in the early ’90s, but few people outside her hometown of Chicago knew about her until Marilyn Manson, of all people, became a fan. She opened for him in 1998 and appears in his God Is in the T.V. video collection. Soon after that, however, she stopped pursuing music to take care of her mother, who suffered from dementia and passed away in 2008. So when her videos started becoming viral hits on YouTube in the late ’00s, no one really knew what had become of her. She was even rumored to have died.
Instead, much to the delight of her growing fan base (and us here at TWBITW), Terri resurfaced in 2011 with new music and a holiday-themed video that showed she hadn’t lost her knack for kitschy YouTube fodder:
Since her comeback, Terri’s released another two albums’ worth of frozen-in-the-’80s pop anthems: The Wild One, a country-tinged effort with awesome cover art, and last year’s No Rules, which features some of her rockingest tunes to date. We’ll leave you with the video for the No Rules track “Skyrockets,” which was shot right here in L.A. (or, more specifically, “on location in Beverly Hills, Malibu & Hollywood”) and proves that, even after 20 years, Jan Terri is still, as I believe the kids like to say, unfuckwitable.