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.
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.
Next up on our countdown to Moogfest (Apr. 23-27 in the bucolic mountains of North Carolina): Baltimore synth ninja Dan Deacon. Deacon first gained attention in the mid-’00s with a sound and performance style that married the raw energy of punk with the danceable, programmed beats of techno and synth-pop. He probably also helped make giant glasses and beards popular with hipsters, but try not to hold that against him.
On more recent albums like 2012′s America, Deacon’s been incorporating more live instrumentation; he even toured with a 14-piece band for 2009′s Bromst. But he remains best-known for synth freakouts like this seizure inducer from 2007′s Spiderman of the Rings. (Apologies for the poor quality; YouTube was a primitive place in 2007.)
Dan Deacon plays Moogfest on Thursday, Apr. 24th. For more info, visit the official Moogfest site.
Sometimes when we do our monthly Weird Band Poll, a band gets robbed. Any other month, they would have crushed it, but they had the bad luck to be up against someone super-popular, super-weird or possibly just super-unethical when it comes to repeat voting. (We try to prevent it, but let’s face it, this is the Internet we’re talking about. Most of you could probably use Bitcoin to buy blow and download a thousand Prince bootlegs right now if you weren’t such fine, upstanding citizens.) Such a band is Toxic Chicken, who narrowly lost out last month to Well Worn Boot. And while WWB totally deserved the win, TC gave them a run worthy of a belated Weird Band of the Week shout-out.
Toxic Chicken is the work of a Dutch guy named Kai Nobuko, who currently resides in Bangkok. When pressed for details on his backstory, Mr. Chicken obliged us with a rambling and highly entertaining bio, which we’ll attempt to condense here. Long story short: Like a lot of weird bands, the whole thing started as sort of a joke and now it’s his main gig. (Not unlike the story of this very blog, actually. But that’s a tale for another time.)
Kai wrote his first Toxic Chicken track as a joke submission for a music contest in the Netherlands. “It was a track I made by using the phonebook and calling random numbers,” he recalls. “Unfortunately the contest people liked it.” As a finalist, he had to come in and perform, so he hired a metal band and had them just stand around while he played a tape and made sandwiches for the audience.
After that, every Toxic Chicken performance was a little different, but always featured food in some way. Someone stole his synths early on so he mostly just performed on a laptop, occasionally making chicken noises into a megaphone “as that feels so good to get things out of the system.”
His only regret from that era? “I regret playing too much with chocolate because it is a pain to remove it between the tiny gaps of the keys of the craptop.” Preachin’ to the choir, buddy!
Here’s a sample track from those early days, called “You are my dog.” Yes, it’s a love song addressed to a dog. Try not to read too much into, OK? The guy in the song just really loves his dog. That’s all. Probably.
Eventually Toxic Chicken moved to London where, inspired by a punk-rock show, he decided to trash his laptop as part of a performance. “It was satisfying at the time but regretted it later because I lost a lot of music,” he admits now. These days he uses cheap laptops and backs up his files.
He also occasionally does songs with his sister under the name Jointriders, which are, if anything, even crazier than his Toxic Chicken stuff. Here’s a sample:
“Basically every gig was one disaster after another,” is how The Toxic One describes this period. Our favorite story from this phase involves a show in Belgium where he got a “nice guy called Hamtaro” to dress up in a chicken costume and perform his entire set “so I could hang at the bar and perhaps dance to show that it’s possible.”
Sometime after that, Toxic Chicken got heavily into the “lobit” scene, in which electronic musicians deliberately compress their music to make it easier to stream and download—and, if you’re into the bright, tinny quality of compressed music, sound better, too. “It makes everything sound better,” TC insists. “Even terrible noise sounds like pretty ambient in a lobit rate.” Lobit artists tend to post their music for free on sites like Archive.org and Toxic Chicken is no exception. Here’s an EP from 2010 called GIFKIP ORCHESTRA that’s actually quite lovely. I have to admit I was skeptical about the whole “things sound better in lobit” argument, but it’s really true that by compressing his synths, Kai’s able to make them sound more convincingly like a chamber orchestra than any Prophet or Roland synth I’ve ever heard on a major-label release.
When lobit artists release physical product, they tend to prefer “obsolete” technologies like cassettes and floppy discs. Toxic Chicken went one better in this department when he released an EP called Baby Boom Disk that came on a floppy disc wrapped in a dirty diaper. (For the squeamish among you, you can now listen to the EP poop-free on Bandcamp.) He also claims to have released a “floppy compilation” encased in recycled elephant shit and a project called Flop-Pee that’s just field recordings of his musician friends pissing. Those sound kind of made-up to us but with this guy, who knows?
Toxic Chicken’s crowning achievement in the lobit scene may have been when he and his sometime partner-in-crime Graham (who runs a label called Wrieuw Recordings, which just put out the latest TC release, an EP called My Cat) organized a lobit music festival that took place entirely online, even though all the festival info said it was taking place in Lobith, the Netherlands. Sure enough, some unwitting souls actually showed in Lobith looking for the music, not realizing that Kai and Graham were just broadcasting the whole thing from a hair salon in England.
We’ll leave you with one Toxic Chicken classic and one of his more recent works. First, the recent stuff: This is a track from the My Cat EP, another touching love song called “If you are my cat I will be your chicken.” As the kids used to say: It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it.
And finally, one of Toxic Chicken’s crowning achievements, from way back in 2007: “Biscuits With Jesus,” the best video you will ever see that features Hitler doing a puppet show.
Today’s weirdness comes to us from reader GeeEs and the year 2007. Back then, a dude from Portland named Charlie Salas-Humara (that’s him on the left) made an album of awkward hipster lo-fi disco under the name Panther called Secret Lawns. He later added a drummer, Joe Kelly (that’s him on the right), and signed to indie label Kill Rock Stars, but he only managed one more album and an EP of Panther stuff before putting the project on ice. He now does psychedelic synth-rock under the name Grapefruit.
Panther didn’t leave much of a web footprint, but the project did produce at least one video that’s kind of genius: “You Don’t Want Your Nails Done.” This takes dancing around your room with a hairbrush pretending to be Justin Timberlake to a whole new level. Enjoy.
Here’s the Panther catalog on Amazon.com.
[Update: We love Panther so much we just made them our Weird Band of the Week. Motherfuckahh!!]
I’m probably a bachelor for life at this point, but on the off chance I ever do meet “The One,” she’s going to have to accept that at the wedding reception, we’re just going to play “Groove Is in the Heart” on continuous loop for three hours. This little nugget of 1990 disco goodness is not just a great dance party track…it is the only dance party track in history that doesn’t totally suck. Well, that and “Give Up the Funk,” but when white people play P-Funk at a wedding reception, it’s just embarrassing.
Well, my hypothetical bride-to-be is in luck. We can now alternate between the Deee-Lite version and this sweet cover by our friends Chimney Crow. So yeah, I’m pretty much going to have the most awesome wedding ever.