The Avant-Soul Collaborators Blast Back Onto Our Radar with an Intense Paean to Nature
The melancholic and soulful voice of Alexis Taylor overlays an explosive, arborous montage in the video for About Group’s new single “All Is Not Lost.” The dramatic images were selected by the Swedish director and artist Henrik Håkansson from his own project, “Aug. 11, 2012 Symptoms Of The Universe Studies (6min 29 Sec)”, that focuses on two individual black alder trees–already slated for destruction–being torn apart in footage that was taken from different angles and at contrasting speeds. Spliced in with this is slow-motion film of butterflies in flight that was shot by Håkansson at high frame rates of 4000-7000 per second. “I had seen his work before and liked the films of insects, flying or being squashed in slow motion. I thought he could make something beautiful,” says Taylor, who splits his time between About Group and his duties with pan-genre dance outfit, Hot Chip. In About Group, Taylor is joined by a trio of fellow English experimentalists in guitarist John Coxon, drummer and founder of This Heat, Charles Hayward, and jazz and reggae keyboardist, Pat Thomas. The quartet’s second album Between the Walls, due out on Domino in July, was recorded with a mix of free-form improvisation and a desire to tap into the emotional resonance of Taylor’s songwriting that permeates today’s bittersweet track.
Where does the feeling of heartbreak in “All Is Not Lost” come from?
Alexis Taylor: It relates to the divide between one’s sense of self, which might be a fantasy, and what others see of you. You can be both a fantasist and a realist—perhaps the two things conflict and perhaps they don’t need to, but either way you are struggling to make sense of it. It’s also about a small child’s unawareness of these potential conflicts: they have joy in playing and don’t measure fantasy against reality, while the adult grows up to see pleasure in sunlight and the dawning of a new day, but also struggles at times to make things work or be happy. It’s about coming to terms with those conflicts.
Could you take us through the process of writing the song?
AT: The lyrics are taken from personal experience, but in terms of chords and subject matter it also owes a lot to R. Kelly’s song “Reality.” I began cycling round the two chords on my Rhodes electric piano, the cyclical “all is not lost” mantra. The chord sequence has the same intervals as those found in hundreds of late 90s and early 00s R&B songs that I love, and I’m interested in the fact that they share these same two minor chords, almost like a modern-day 12-bar blues or gospel equivalent, that you can hear in Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine,” “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” by Jennifer Lopez, “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” by Whitney Houston and almost every R. Kelly ballad on the album R.
What are your top five heartbreak songs?
AT: “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton, “Be Careful” by Sparkle feat R. Kelly, “You Never Really Wanted Me” by Charlie Rich, “Old Friends 4 Sale” by Prince, and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” by Abba.
The Figure Skating Champion Shares a Private Moment on the Ice
Renowned American figure skater Sasha Cohen, clad in pale Nina Ricci, glides and spins in this lyrical short film from Jake Sumner. Currently studying at Columbia University, Cohen grew up in California and competed at the top level of skating for more than a decade, winning a gold medal in the US Figure Skating Championships and silver medals at the Winter Olympics and the World Figure Skating Championships. “We wanted to explore the transformation that happens when she’s on the ice,” explains Sumner, who collaborated with stylist Emily Barnes for this film. “When we met, she told me that she tries to become part of the music to deal with the pressure and we thought this would be an interesting focus.” Cohen’s off-the-rink star turns include appearances in Blades of Glory and Project Runway, as well as a collaboration with Klingbeil on a line of skating boots. “When you see her perform, it’s like watching something superhuman,” says Sumner. And if she wasn’t a skater-student-designer, she’d be...
If I were an animal, I would be… a monkey.
If I were a season, I would be… spring.
If I were a dish, I would be… a cupcake.
If I were a film, I would be… My Fair Lady.
If I were a writer, I would be… Vladimir Nabokov.
If I were a mythological being, I would be… Athena.
If I were a work of art, I would be… “The Kiss” by Klimt.
If I were a song, I would be… “Girl from North Country” by Bob Dylan.
If I were a natural phenomenon, I would be… a rainbow.
If I were a cocktail, I would be… a bellini.
If I were a fruit I would be ... a pineapple.
If I were an object, I would be… a seashell.
If I were a quality, I would be… passion.
New York City’s Electronic Indie Kids Inspire a Cartoon Adventureland
Flying buccaneers, a psychedelic teapot and a golden-nosed narwhal all contribute to the fantastical world of “We Are Golden,” the third video from Brooklyn-based indie band Black Light Dinner Party. After the success of 2012’s B.L.D.P EP and its video for “Gold Chain” starring legendary adult film star Ron Jeremy, “We Are Golden” offers a first glimpse of the band's much-anticipated debut album. Singer Jack Côté croons over a shimmering synth-pop lullaby, accompanied by Zach Lipkins on drums, Joel Friedman on keys and Dan Stevens on bass as his lyrics are twisted into an irreverent, dreamy adventure by animator Jonathan Seligson. “We had some ideas and sent them over,” says the band, “but when Jonathan responded with the following we just decided to go with it: ‘A Barbarella-type Eskimo adventurer and her polar bear companion race against a trio of Czarist-style Russian pirates on giant flying Tetris pieces.’” Although an acolyte of master storytellers Hayao Miyazaki and Walt Disney, Seligson looked to TV—specifically the Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time and Dexter’s Laboratory—as references for the technicolor trippiness. “The story, setting and character dynamics came to me spontaneously upon hearing the song for the first time,” the animator recalls. “As I listened, the imagery simply manifested in my mind’s eye.” We asked each band member to describe the appeal of their own favorite animated classic.
Jack: “Ratatouille. It makes me cook something delicious, French, and bad for me to eat while watching. That might be more about the food though.”
Zach: “Kung Fu Panda. I like a panda who marches to the beat of his own drum.”
Joel: “The Triplets of Belleville. I’m amazed by all the visual detail. I love how the animators exaggerate the physical features of the characters, they look like caricatures of real people.”
Dan: “Waking Life. The film used various artists who layered animation on top of actual footage, creating a dreamlike effect that I find beautiful.”