Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekend Art Wrap-Up: What You Missed, and What You Can Still See

This weekend saw the openings of 3 off-the-radar art shows, sponsored by Subtext Gallery, Thumbprint/Lombardo, and Suicidal Octopus, respectively.  Featuring cool, digitally manipulated photos, eclectic mixed media, and street art on miniature garbage bins (!), each show had something new to offer the San Diego art community and should not be missed.

Though I generally avoid Kettn
er Nights like the plague, when Subtext announced a special photography show on Friday, 9/13 called ANIUM, featuring the unique digitally manipulated photographs and short films of Charles Bergquist, I had to go.  I missed his last public showing, and now that I'm working on my own portfolio, I'm always up for new ideas.  Bergquist is known for his unique digital overlays and psychedelic colour choices, as well as his bright, robust photography direction in music videos, short films, and his own art film pieces.  The focus of his art photography is definitely on the art, and I wish I could have spoken to him more about how he does some of his photo tricks.  The show itself was sparsely hung, none of the still shots framed and they were attached to the walls with magnets, making them look as if they were hanging to dry in a darkroom.  There were also several film pieces for sale in individual TV boxes which ran on loops of 5-10 second short films, including one stand alone box that was about 8' high.  The films were beautiful and had varying speeds to showcase each subject in a unique way.  The show at Subtext runs until October 13 with with gallery hours on Saturdays from 12-3 and viewing appointments available if you email  Thanks to Dylan (suddenly beardless!) and John for bringing this unique show to us.

Also on Friday 9/13 was "Lucky 13," an event run by local legend-cum-desert flower, Guy Lombardo and hosted by 57 Degrees.  57 Degrees is a new wine and craft beer bar and retailer in Middletown, where the Pier 1 Outlet used to be.  It's a really cool spot, and I think it's a great idea to have shows there.  I didn't even know the place existed until I heard of this show, so the art is doing its job promoting the venue.  57 Degrees has a great selections of rare wines and what looks like some good food.  The art show was a mixes bag that night; everything from Picasso-esque modernism to haunting Native American to abstract pieces to Guy's own more Pop Art selections on found objects (my favourites, unsurprisingly).  The event also featured live music from
Mantis, a band put together in part by Thumbprint Gallery's Johnny Tran. Mantis is sort of an experimental EDM hybrid, very cool.  A video of part of the performance is featured below.  I believe the show is still up at 57 Degrees, but I'm not sure how long it will be on so stop by soon, get drunk, buy some wine, and check out all the varied art.  For more info, go to the 57 Degrees website or contact Guy Lombardo on his blog.

Lastly on Saturday, 9/14 we had "Deconstruction of Art" at Thumbprint Gallery, guest curated by Suicidal Octopuss.  Don't know who Suicidal Octopuss is?  Well, you should.  For shame.  Suicidal Octopuss is an
independent urban art collective started by two prolific street artists, snak3oil and pid.  Their ranks have since grown to include the illustrious likes of Bobby Draws Skullz, Lord of Stink, We Are Zombies, and Grumpus.  All these and more have works in the Thumbprint show.  I'm not exactly sure what the name of the show means; perhaps it's a nod to the fact that many of the pieces are done on mini-trash bins, spray paint cant, and broken skate decks.  I guess you can't get any more deconstructed than that, but despite the media used, the pieces are all bright and well-composed.  Constructed well for being so deconstructed.  Either way its a great street art collection, and best of all it's portable!  The show will run at Thumbprint Gallery  until October 6.  Gallery hours are Weds., Thurs., Saturday, and Sunday from 12-4 or by appointment.  Thumbprint Gallery is
owned and run by Johnny Tran of Mantis - this guy is everywhere!  For more information about the show, go to or to the Suicidal Octopuss Blog or Facebook page.

So, this is my last plea: get out and see some shows, and maybe buy yourself a mini trashcan with a rat spray painted on it or a piece of particle board with a crazy Pac Man ghost figure.  The San Diego street art scene, though alive and well, isn't going to support itself!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: New Label Shoot Recordings to Release first Tracks on Limited Edition Transparent Vinyl September 16

If you've been following the trajectory of Calculon n' friends via Rubik Records and their other independent releases and mixes over the last year or two, you may have noticed a trend away from your standard Drum and Bass. Initially, releases and mixes from Calculon, Sinistarr, Austin Speed, and Chrissy Murderbot looked like they were moving with the trend towards Dubstep, Juke, and Trap beats, but after listening to a number of these pieces, I think that may be oversimplifying a little, and cramming these artists towards a box into which they don't quite fit. The new tracks and mixes coming from the stateside faction of Rubik seem to be more experimental than just your standard Trap or Juke, but I don't really like that term, either, as it can be even more limiting than the more specific genres I just mentioned.

 That very quandary seems to be the impetus for Calculon's creating this new label, Shoot Recordings. "The sound is way different. We released a Juke Jungle EP on Rubik recently, but it's better to do a new label," said Calculon today when I was bugging him about all things Shoot. Rubik is still alive and kicking, in case you're wondering, and I agree with Calculon's reasoning here. Rubik is already such a brand, especially in England, and while Calculon has certainly taken it in some new directions, this new indefinable format is probably suited to a separate label.

 Now on to the actual tracks. The first release from Shoot Recordings will feature two tracks on a cool transparent record, and are available today exclusively on Triple Vision Records' website, and it will be available from all other major retailers on September 30.

 The A side of this record is a tune by Chrissy Murderbot called "The Original," and it certainly is. With a pseudo-trap beat laying down the bassline, the track samples some chopped-up Old School DnB snares as well as some classic 808 tick-beats and Dancehall vocals. If that wasn't enough, there's a Darksteppish (I am spell-check's worst nightmare right now,) descending chord progression throughout the track, which, oddly enough, ties it all together.
 The B side is by Pawn, normally known for his work with Smog Recordings in LA, called "Your Words." This track also has a core beat that sounds pretty Trappy to me, but the slower tempo could push it into Dubstep territory. The opening of the track is highly syncopated, but it smooths out after about a minute, and by the middle there is literally nothing but the base beat and more 80s-inspired ticks. It ends abruptly, leaving the listener wanting something more, but the only option is to re-play the track? Did someone say rewind?

 Confused yet? You should be. These new sounds are designed to push the boundaries of all those different specific genres and pigeon-holes that have been created out of the emergence of Dubstep, Trap, etc. in the past few years. But a label for this stuff? They don't have one yet. "I don't know what to call this music," said Calculon. Good, so that makes two of us. It also makes Shoot Recordings the only label you can give these tracks, and that's exactly what this crew have done.

 For more info on this new sound, check this interview Calculon just did with Kraar UK, which includes an exclusive mix by Chrono.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Review: Thumbprint Gallery Presents Anarchy in Artistry at Basic

I'm not sure how they do it, but Thumbprint Gallery manages to consistently come up with new and interesting themes for its group shows to showcase local talent at Bar Basic in the East Village.  Just this week there was another show (which I unfortunately missed) called "Lions, Tigers, and Bears oh $h!t!", and there have been a number of others in the 6 weeks or so since "Anarchy in Artistry."  In addition to
Iggy looking beautiful in a stunning photo.
Thumbprint's solo shows at its permanent location in La Jolla, these 1-off event mini-shows at Basic help keel Thumbprint present in the San Diego art scene while promoting hometown talent and interesting ideas.

Though it's been a while, I just had to review the "Anarchy in Artistry" show, because this is a subject near and dear to my heart: punks and the people who love them.  The images in this show ranged from classic anarchic symbols to photographs of my long-lost love, Iggy Pop, to more artsy interpretations of punks, such
Mr. Potatohead as angry punk.
as a "Mr. Popunkohead", as I'm calling him.  Some pieces were a bit pedestrian or, in my grumpy punker's mind, sort of missed the mark, but overall a good collection, and you can't argue with the theme.  My only real disappointment was in not seeing any sculptures of creepy dolls dressed in trash bags with safety pins holding them together, but you can't have everything.  Maybe I'll make one of those myself for the next show!

Thummprint Gallery's next show at Basic will be a group show held from September 14-October 6 called "Deconstruction of Art" and will be guest curated by Suicidal Octopuss, another heavy hitter on the SD Pop Art Scene.  The show will feature snak3oil, Lord of Stink, Grumpus, We Are Zombies, Bobbydrawsskullz, and quite a few more insanely talented artists.  There will be an opening reception on 9/14 at Thumbprint's La Jolla location.  Go to  for more info and all upcoming shows, or check out the Deconstruction of Art facebook event page.  Should be a good one!
Sid Vicious looking a little more like Gary Oldman than he probably should.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Beatkillerz "Sheep Killerzzz" EP out September 12 on itunes - Not Smart to Miss this One

Beatkillerz TM Logo used with permission.
Weed rap? Eh, not exactly. SoCal underground Hiphop? I guess technically that's what were dealing with, but The Beatkillerz new EP, "Sheep Killerzzz" contains so many complexities and transcends so many genres that labeling on this new EP seems academic. What is certain is that this bass-driven, lyrically complex assembly of tracks may be the best underground release of the summer, so you're welcome for this piece. As you can tell, I'm having a hard time categorizing the ubiquitous Beatkillerz sound, but don't get me wrong; that's a good thing. With so many strong influences in the DnB, HipHop, Funk, and yes, even Punk scenes, this trio still manage to come up with a unique and uncharacterizable style which doesn't sound frenetic or confused but rather completely different and just plain good.

 Founded in 2007 by main MC Catfish and Havok Mega, who mastered this EP, The Beatkillerz then brought in Ethyx soon after to lend his MC and production style, and have been writing and performing since that time.  If you've seen their energetic and chest-thumping live shows wherein all 3 emcee (Catfish prefers the term "emcee" to "rap", though it'll probably kill me to use "emcee" as a verb throughout this article), man the decks and tweak the sound, then you've been anticipating this EP drop for a while like I have.

Album art used with permission.
Catfish has named a gallery of influences to Beatkillerz sound in general: everything from Shapeshifters and Awol One to Gramatik and Pretty Lights. On this EP the beats also have lashings of mid-90s Wu-Tang and almost all of the tracks sample heavily from 60s soul, funk, do-wop, and even a scratchy-sounding 1920s calliope.  The beats, however, as would be expected of 3 kids who grew up in the DnB and Grime scenes, are anchored in heavy bass and this EP should only be listened to on a set of good headphones or properly woofered-out speakers. All these elements make for an interesting musical track to be sure. Another refreshing thing on the EP is that of the 10 tracks, only 5 actually have lyrics.  The rest are full instrumental and showcase Ethyx's unique style as he did most of the beats and instrumentals. For me and many others who have always gravitated to the clean production values and a solid core bass and drum structure of a song before any lyrics, spoken or otherwise, have been added, we have been oft disappointed by some underground groups' inability to pull off a good backing track.  It's a welcome feature of "Sheep Killerzzz" that the group showcases just how important it is to have a track stand on its own without help or need of lyrics, and indeed tracks like "Sinatra" and "MPCxyz" do just that.

This is not to say, however, that the lyrical stylings of Catfish and Ethyx are just tacked on for good measure, or are somehow boring and not important to the album - far from it.  The MC skills of these two are featured heavily either as a tag-teaming duo or separate, and Catfish and Ethyx's styles, like the beats, are a many-splendoured thing.  Catfish's vocal timbre is young, fun, and a little nerdy sounding - kind of like a white Humpty but with tighter enunciation which allows him to spit really quick circles around the beats, creating another layer to the track (though I'm not sure if he likes his oatmeal lumpy).  Content-wise, his writing ranges in topic from fun, silly jabs at the ridiculousness of social conventions in "Table Manners", to the more serious, psychedelic, and intellectual musings of "Dementia" (easily my favourite track on the EP), to the joys and perils of growing up SoCal in "Cali Sun", where Catfish identifies himself as "a modern-day Spicoli": probably a better description of his lyrical style and attitude than I've attempted to present in this whole article.   Ethyx's lyrical style sounds a little more conventional, but whether he's backing up Catfish or they're tag-teaming, his vocal  weight and speed can easily stand up to whatever Catfish is putting down.  It makes for a great duo, and they complement each other stylistically quite well.

Overall, the EP really has a great flow to it, moving seamlessly from song to song and telling a story on the way and hearkens back to the days when an EP or LP would be seen as a whole body of work, not just the random fragmented songs which comprise it.  Remember those days when you would go to the store and purchase a record or CD and listen to the whole thing all the way through, expecting the artist to take you on a journey through his or her world and what he or she was going through at the time?  Remember when you couldn't mention "Mother" without talking about "The Wall" in all its greatness, or talk about "Let Me Ride" without thinking of the whole new genre Dre's "The Chronic" ushered in?  Remember when every track was a banger, and you weren't constantly flipping through you ipod or Pandora to get to a track you really liked?  Ok I know I'm waxing jaded old lady nostalgic now, but that's what this EP does, and it's really a nod to Havok Mega's mastering skills but also to the way I know all 3 of these guys wanted the record to sound and make the listener feel.  Each track can stand on its own, but the body of work that is "Sheep Killerzzz" deserves to be listened to as it's own playlist on your ipod.

As mentioned, "Sheepkillerzzz" will be out on itunes on September 12 and is available for pre-order now.  The EP is also available for sale on The Beatkillerz website, and I recommend that method because all profits go straight to the group where, as you know, on itunes there is a significant cut taken.  They've made it convenient on the website to pay by Paypal or by credit card in the Beatkillerz shop.  While you're there you can listen to clips from the EP and buy yourself a cooler-than-everything Beatkillerz tshirt (both women's and men's styles and sizes available), and if you want to book the guys (who wouldn't), booking contact info is on the site as well.  I've also got some links below to their Soundcloud page, Savageland, because I feel I've done a rubbish job of fully explaining this album but hopefully I've piqued your interest enough to want to listen for yourself and say "that bitch doesn't know what she's talking about.  This is way better than she described," because it is.

**All website images and track links used with permission from artist.**