Baltimore guitarist Dustin Wong hasn’t gotten any less prolific or weird since his band Ponytail disbanded in 2011. After releasing several intriguing solo albums, Wong has now joined forces with Japanese singer Takako Minekawa to push his experiments into something resembling pop music, if pop music was a delicate vase just begging to be shattered into a million pieces.
The duo’s debut album, Savage Imagination, is due out next month on Thrill Jockey. For a taste, check out this video for the track “She He See Feel,” which features a diorama Dustin and Takako created for the album cover and some rubber-limbed dance moves.
You can pre-order Savage Imagination via the Thrill Jockey website.
When our friend Richard There played a few shows in the U.K. two years ago, one of the performers he was on the bill with was a British singer/songwriter named John Callaghan. I guess he turned John onto our website, because yesterday John wrote to us and shared a few of his delightfully eccentric videos, including his latest one, which we’ve embedded below.
“I’ve been described as ‘weird’ quite a bit,” Callaghan says in his email. “I certainly don’t take being weird as my starting point. I’ve always simply tried to be interesting and good because ‘being good is different enough.'” He calls his stuff “eccentronica,” which is our new favorite made-up word.
Callaghan’s songs, while certainly offbeat, also have an appealing retro-pop quality to them; in different arrangements, they could be Thomas Dolby or ’80s-era Bowie. And his videos are often quite ingenious. Here’s the backstory for how he created this one:
Whenever I’m in a large, empty and private space I always think I should record a music video. And I’ve been trying to overcome my inertia by producing more material, too. So when I had an art college studio to myself for an hour (after posing for a life drawing class) I used the costumes I’d brought to pose in and my tablet to record some footage to toy with.
To learn more about John Callaghan and hear more of his music, visit his website.
I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite weird music videos are the ones where you can quite tell if the band is kidding or not. When I first watched “Psychedelic Spaceship” from self-proclaimed “sassy synth master” Erleen Nada, I was sure the whole thing was a big goof. Now I’ve watched it like 10 times, because it’s awesome, and I can’t tell anymore. She’s like the sexy lovechild of Jan Terri and Fred Schneider. Is she really gonna take a ride on a psychedelic spaceship? Is she really infinity? I think maybe she is. Take me with you, Erleen!
For more from Erleen, who’s yet another weirdo from right here in Lost Anjealous, check out her website.
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.
It’s fitting that today’s weirdo, Mr. Vast, looks a little hungover in his promo photo. He’s from Germany and presumably that entire country is a bit bleary-eyed today after celebrating their historic World Cup win.
It’s also fitting that the track we’re going to share from Mr. Vast is called “Ease and Speed,” because that pretty accurately describes how the Germans dispatched Brazil yesterday. He’s actually got weirder music, but “Ease and Speed” just seemed too timely to pass up. Plus the video is jam-packed with the kind of green-screen tomfoolery we just never tire of, and Mr. Vast comes on like a groovy cross between Gary Numan and Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer. It’s good shit.
[Update: Turns out we're full of shit and Mr. Vast is English. But he's based in Germany. And the shit we wrote about the World Cup is funny, so we're leaving it. Sorry, Brazil.]
For more Mr. Vast, visit his official website.
We’re starting off the week with a flashback to 1984. While I was listening to The Cars and trying to grow my hair into a New Wave mullet, an experimental British musician who recorded under the name Fad Gadget was working on his latest album Gag in Berlin, continuing his attempts to combine pop and New Wave with industrial music. This time around, he was able to enlist some pretty cool collaborators: German industrial pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten. He was so appreciative of their contributions to one track that he named the song “Collapsing New People,” a nod to the English translation of their name, “Collapsing New Buildings.”
According to Dangerous Minds, this video is from a performance of “Collapsing New People” on a show called TV Playback in 1984. Fad Gadget was famous for dramatic, self-abusive stage antics like ripping out his own pubic hairs and tossing them into the audience. Since this was television, I guess he decided to settle for getting tarred and feathered instead.
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.
When Charlie Salas-Humara started his Panther project in Portland, Oregon around 2006, he wasn’t really expecting it to become his main gig. The goal, he said later in a video interview, was “mostly just to irritate people.” Legend has it that for Panther’s first gig, he showed up to an acoustic singer-songwriter night with a drum machine. I’m sure he succeeded in pissing plenty of people off at that gig and others since, but he also produced some of the most entertainingly awkward, tongue-in-cheek electro-funk of the late ’00s. Especially on Panther’s first album, Secret Lawns, on which Salas-Humara comes off like Demetri Martin doing a Beck parody.
Beginning with their second album, 14 KT God, Panther became a duo, thanks to the addition of drummer Joe Kelly. They also signed to Kill Rock Stars, which is hardly the biggest label on the planet but was a pretty huge step up from the tiny Fryk Beat imprint that put out Secret Lawns. Perhaps inevitably, Panther’s KRS output became more accessible, sounding like the work of an actual band rather than a Prince stalker alone in his bedroom. But they still had a knack for quirky videos like “Birds That Move,” from their 2009 swan song EP, Entropy.
As far as we’ve able to discern, Salas-Humara hasn’t released any new Panther music since Entropy. He’s been busy with numerous other projects, including a solo synth-drone joint called Grapefruit; an experimental five-piece called Regular Music that once released an album in the form of a tiny speaker housed inside a CD case; and Sun Angle, a sort of post-rock/punk/cumbia fusion trio. Together it adds up to one of the weirdest and most unique bodies of work we’ve run across in ages, although none of it tops the brilliant absurdity of Panther’s finest moment, a song and video called “You Don’t Want Your Nails Done” that we’ve featured before and will now feature again, because we love it so.
A guy who calls himself Professor B. Miller wrote in to tell us about his band, the Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra. Confusingly, the band does not feature puppets, an orchestra or Satan. But it does feature a robot lead singer, so we were sold.
“Absurd satire?” asks their online press kit. “Experimental performance art? A glimpse in to our robotic future? A novelty act gone too far? Comedy gold? Yes.”
They’re from San Diego and their latest album is called Experiments with Auto-Croon. It’s 13 tracks and features a toy piano cover of “Werewolves of London,” but we’re more into this video for “Frankenstein’s Laundromat,” which features what I can only assume are members of Here Come the Mummies. After a few sweaty funk-rock shows, those mummy bandages are in serious need of a rinse.
Today’s Moogfest performer needs no introduction, but I’ll do one anyway: Kraftwerk, unarguably the most influential electronic musicians of all time. Without their pioneering, all-synths version of krautrock, it’s fair to say that most of today’s strains of electronic music wouldn’t exist.
To this day, Kraftwerk live shows operate on two levels: as a purist expression of button-pushing electronica at its most mechanical, and as a sly commentary of the increasingly mechanical, button-pushing nature of modern life in general. I’m not sure if they’re still trotting out their robot doppelgangers for “We Are the Robots” these days, but I do know they’ve got some crazy 3D projections and are digging pretty deep into their catalog, playing classic albums like Autobahn and Trans-Europe Express in their entirety.
Kraftwerk plays three shows at Moogfest, one on Thursday, Apr. 24th and two on Friday, Apr. 25th. Visit the official Moogfest site for more details.