So as usual, we got something wrong when we first wrote about this week’s weird artiste, the inimitable Mr. Vast. We said he’s from Germany. But that’s not quite right. He is apparently based, at the moment, in Germany. But he’s British. His accent should have tipped us off, but we were probably day-drinking again. Anyway, our apologies to the entire nation of Great Britain for not properly crediting you with bestowing Mr. Vast upon the world.
Mr. Vast is the alter ego of one Henry Sargeant, an actor, musician and performance artist whose previous musical project was (or maybe still is—they’re still releasing music and Sargeant might still be involved) a jokey crew called Wevie Stonder. He relocated to Germany in 2005 and took a break from Art to become a Dad. (Not that those two occupations are mutually exclusive, but the hours are pretty brutal in both.) He returned to music in 2012 as a solo artist called Mr. Vast, making what I shall tentatively describe as tongue-in-cheek New Wave electro-glam-pop until somebody comes up with something catchier to describe his bizarre but surprisingly infectious tunes.
At his best, Mr. Vast reminds us a little of our current favorite Australian weirdo, Kirin J Callinan. Like Callinan, there’s something highly theatrical and fully formed about Mr. Vast, like he’s already a rock star and the world just hasn’t discovered him yet. Also like Callinan, he’s capable of being both unabashedly pop and slightly avant-garde, often in the same song, and doing both in a way that feels both fully committed and slightly tongue-in-cheek. Take, for example, “Teflon Country,” which might be a country-fried psych-rock parody, or it might be actual country-fried psych-rock, albeit one with a junkyard dog impersonation in the middle of it:
That’s from Mr. Vast’s one and only album, by the way, a brilliant, 14-track opus called Grievous Bodily Charm that we pretty much can’t stop listening to. It’s got sci-fi Afro-pop workouts (“Process of Illumination”), fuzz-toned heavy rock freakouts (“Henry the 8th”), Groove Armada-style downtempo makeout music (“Elemental,” which contains the high-five-worthy lyric, “The sangria made me angrier”). You can listen to the whole thing on SoundCloud and decide for yourselves if it’s a masterpiece. We’re leaning towards yes, but it might be the sangria talking.
We’ll leave you with a few videos, because that’s how we do it. First up: An extended experiment in toast physics called “Buttercide.” For the record, this is one of Mr. Vast’s weirder tracks, so if you can’t hang with it, don’t give up on him yet.
Next: The far funkier “Ease & Speed,” which we maintain is best described as Gary Numan meets Professor Elemental (I think last time we said Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer, but hey, po-tay-to, po-tah-to).
And finally, here’s a glimpse of Mr. Vast live and in concert. Well, it’s not so much a glimpse as a bit fat fucking eyeful. Not since David Byrne has oversized costumery looked so sexy.
We now present a public service announcement from Kid606 and his buddy, Mr. Wobble. Remember, parents, don’t let your kids go to those crazy underground rave parties. Those things are dangerous!
Kid606 is electronic producer Miguel De Pedro, originally from Venezuela but now based right here in L.A. You can hear more of his tracks on his SoundCloud page.
Our pals Chimney Crow just released the fourth video from their album Chimney Crow Is a Band. It’s for the song “Teddybear and His Bullet” and it features a lightbulb microphone and some cool Christmas lights with crows in them, because you know, Chimney Crow. But I think my biggest takeaway from this video is that this guy Teddybear sounds like a real asshole. Walking around with a bullet all the time, always mooching off his friends. The dude even doesn’t like music anymore. What kind of tool doesn’t like music? What the fuck is wrong with this guy?
I guess there’s one good thing about Teddybear: He inspired this song, which is pretty groovy in a disco-night-at-the-goth-club kinda way. Nice work, Chimney Crow. But damn, find yourselves some better friends.
When he’s not playing bass in tUnE-yArDs, Nate Brenner is one-third of an even weirder band called Beep! They’re just about to release their latest album, Too Physical, and it’s a wonderland/wasteland (wasterland?) of keyboard squiggles, funhouse vocals and mysterious rhythms. Here’s the video for opening track, “Alien Mating Call,” which wants to know if there’s somewhere we can get down. (Answer: Why, yes, there is! At the Hammer Museum right here in L.A., which is hosting a Too Physical release party on Aug. 7th.)
You can pre-order Too Physical from Beep!’s label, Data Garden. It’s due out Aug. 5th.
Since our last bit of weirdness from South Africa was an Apartheid-era piece of Euro-pop nonsense called “It’s Amazing (The Incredible Dance),” we figured we’d balance the books this week with something more contemporary and more representative of South Africa’s melting-pot mix of black and white musical influences. Spoek Mathambo is a rapper/producer from Johannesburg who calls his mix of hip-hop, electro and Afrobeat rhythms “township tech.” Here, he covers Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” and turns it into a throbbing techno assault, made all the more ominous by the stark imagery of this video.
Apparently this Jeff Richards fellow was once in the cast of Saturday Night Live, but I gotta be honest: I have zero recollection of him on that show. Either he was seriously under-utilized or he got funnier, because there’s no forgetting him in this new video from his dance-pop comedy album, The Shingles 2009-2014.
I’m still spending way too much of my time at the bottom of the breakcore rabbit hole these days, but man is there some crazy shit down there. Here’s my latest find: Munter S. Thomson, the breakcore/”cockrockdisco” (his term) alter ego of an Australian producer who normally goes by the name of Nam Shub of Enki.
Mr. Shub himself seems to not be a big fan of Munter’s output: The notes for the Munter S. Thomson album Waste read: “Wasted a year on this. Here are the fruits of thinking this music was a good idea—it quite frankly wasn’t.” We beg to differ. Waste sounds like ’80s electro-funk and booty bass run through a paper shredder and then tossed like confetti and leaky glowsticks over a party for meth-addled robots. And if that doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, you’ve come to the wrong blog.
You can hear the rest of Waste in all its trashy glory on Bandcamp.
At its most extreme, the kawaii style of Japanese dance-pop can get pretty bizarre; just look at our favorite purveyor of the genre, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. But what happens when non-Japanese pop artists try to put their own spin on it? In the case of New Zealand duo Doprah, the results are even more bizarre.
Doprah, made up of singer Indira Force and multi-instrumentalist Steven Marr, have released a new Kyary-inspired video for their dreamy track “Stranger People,” and it’s gorgeous, funny and ultimately kinda disturbing. In it, Force gets dolled up in full kawaii drag inside a literal dollhouse—a giant human hand occasionally intervenes to make a few minor adjustments to her herky-jerky dance moves, or pat her on the head when she strikes a particularly adorable pose. But it all slowly goes from adorable to horrifying, or possibly adorifying. Watch.
“Stranger People” is from Doprah’s self-titled debut EP, which is spooky and pretty and really, really good. They’ve got a Portishead-meets-the-xx vibe that’s already getting them a ton of attention. You can get the EP on Bandcamp or Amazon.