Jason Bentley, KCRW Music Director
For their self-titled sophomore effort, the L.A. band Warpaint spent a few weeks writing and recording in a decked out house with a geodesic dome in the high desert of Joshua Tree. With driving bass lines, beautifully harmonized vocals and confident but yearning lyrics, the quartet has crafted songs that demand your full attention. Before heading back to the desert for their appearance at Coachella, they stopped by the Morning Becomes Eclectic studios with new songs including "Love Is To Die."
Merchandise got its start on the Tampa punk and hardcore scene, then got weirder as artier influences like krautrock took hold. As its sound became harder to pin down, the band inspired an 18-month bidding war between record labels: This year, Merchandise finally signed with 4AD, and adventurous new material has begun to trickle out.
A new album arrives later this year, but Merchandise was already previewing it at SXSW last month. As part of their appearance at the festival, singer Carson Cox and guitarist Dave Vassalotti — a configuration Cox describes as "some component of Merchandise" — held court for an informal session at Friends & Neighbors, a backyard venue in east Austin.
Though it usually keeps its songs to reasonable lengths, Merchandise also knows how to sprawl out: Its new single, "Begging for Your Life/In the City Light," spans a whopping 14 minutes. So it's no surprise that even a truncated version of the group would be capable of wringing an epic out of such a casual environment. Here, Cox and Vassalotti perform "Become What You Are" before an intimate and easy-going crowd, letting the song unfurl for nearly nine minutes.
"Become What You Are"
Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Saidah Blount; Director: A.J. Wilhelm; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Saidah Blount, Becky Harlan, Olivia Merrion, A.J. Wilhelm; Production Coordinator: Kate Kittredge; Special Thanks: Friends & Neighbors; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his St. Matthew Passion for a single purpose—to present the biblical passion story, in music, at Good Friday vesper services.
Bach's Passion continues to move audiences more than 280 years after it was first heard in St. Thomas's Church in Leipzig, Germany. Standing as one of the pillars of Western sacred music, it is at once monumental and intimate, deeply sorrowful and powerful.
The audio program presented here, hosted by Lynn Neary, is from the NPR series Milestones of the Millennium. It's a journey through the St. Matthew Passion guided by acclaimed scholars, conductors and singers (including Ian Bostridge, Joshua Rifkin, Ton Koopman and Christoph Wolff), all closely associated with Bach's masterwork.
With surprising drama, Bach's Passion retells the compelling story of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Bach divided the music into two parts. Highlights of part one include the last supper and the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In part two, the music turns darker and softer — signalling the inevitability of the story — as it depicts the trial, crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The Passion ends with the darkly textured chorus, "In tears of grief." Bach could leave his parishioners in a sorrowful mood, knowing that they'd be celebrating Christ's resurrection in just a few days.
Bach built his Passion from choruses both small and large, and arias for specific characters such as Jesus, Judas, Peter and Pontius Pilate. The Evangelist, a role for tenor voice, is the principal storyteller and narrator, moving the drama along through through a kind of half sung, half spoken recitative. Supporting Bach's massive structure are three grand choruses — at the beginning, middle and end — standing as tall pillars, holding up the surrounding music.
The Passion begins with an immense wave of sound — an opening chorus constructed of an interlocking double choir with a children's chorus soaring over top — building with intensity, and sweeping the listener into the drama.
English tenor Ian Bostridge is so taken with Bach's music that he has made the role of the Evangelist a staple of his repertoire.
"I think the St. Matthew Passion is one of the greatest pieces of music in the western repertory," Bostridge declares. "And to start one's journey toward understanding that piece is a very important point in anybody's life."
Saying that because they're both former spies they can speak the same language, Russian President Vladimir Putin told "NSA leaker" Edward Snowden on Thursday that his nation does not have a "mass system" that collects data about Russian citizens' phone calls and other electronic communications.
The exchange between the young American who has leaked information about U.S. surveillance efforts and the Russian leader came during Putin's annual appearance on Russian TV in which he takes questions from the public. Snowden, who has been given temporary asylum in Russia, connected via video link and asked Putin: "Does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?"
Putin began his response by telling Snowden that "you are a former agent, a spy. I used to work for an intelligence service [the KGB]. We are going to talk one professional language."
Then the Russian president, who in recent weeks has claimed he did not send troops into Crimea only to now admit that he did and insists there are no Russian military personnel in eastern Ukraine even though reporters have heard at last one man there introduce himself as a Russian officer, made the case that:
"You have to get court permission to stalk a particular person. We don't have a mass system of such interception and according to our law it cannot exist."
Russia's RT.com has posted video of the Snowden-Putin exchange here, with English interpretation.
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- At The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal writes that Amazon's recommendation algorithm has created an accidental starter kit for drug dealers: "One day, some drug dealer bought a particular digital scale — the AWS-100 — on the retail site, Amazon.com. And then another drug dealer bought the same scale. Then another. Then another. Amazon's data-tracking software watched what else these people purchased, and now, if you buy the AWS-100 scale, Amazon serves up a quickstart kit for selling drugs."
- Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez's health is stable but still "very fragile" after his recent hospitalization for a lung infection, his family said. A statement released by the 87-year-old novelist's wife and sons adds that "there are risks of complications corresponding to his age." Marquez was born in Colombia, but has lived in Mexico for decades. The author of such modern classics as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, Marquez was praised by the Nobel committee in 1982 for his "novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts."
- E.L. Doctorow has won the 2014 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. "E. L. Doctorow is our very own Charles Dickens, summoning a distinctly American place and time, channeling our myriad voices. Each book is a vivid canvas, filled with color and drama. In each, he chronicles an entirely different world." Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement. The 83-year-old author of Ragtime and The Book of Daniel will be awarded the prize at the National Book Festival at the end of August.
- The poet and comedian Patricia Lockwood asks whether poetry is work: "Is a poet who writes short poems working less than a poet who writes long ones? In my opinion, no. ... And what about poets who write slowly? 'The action of the Muse is creeping, like that one molasses flood that killed so many people in a tragically slo-mo way. No man or waffle may rush her, least of all a poet,' wrote Lord Byron in 1997, in a chatroom, under the username badfoot_sisterkisser69, and I must not be alone in thinking him correct." (As an aside, Lockwood's 2013 poem "Rape Joke," is almost impossibly devastating.)
- A new Dave Eggers book called Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is coming out June 17. (Lately, Eggers has been publishing books with very little warning.) His publisher says that YFWATATPDTLF is the "story of one man struggling to make sense of his country."