The eclectic rock of Verdena: 20 years anniversary (and still I want more)

There’s a band, who wanted to be (the) Verbena but someone else got the name first, and so became Verdena, not the poisoned plant anymore, just the name of the best rock band I’ve gotten to know. With a lot of personal affection in it, yes.

Attonito, Wow, 2011

They started playing in 1995 in an old henhouse, just teenagers, two brothers and, couple of years later, a bassist. They started taking great inspiration from the grunge of Nirvana, publishing the first album, Verdena, in 1999, with the independent Italian Black Out, label born from the idea of promoting underground music with the means of a major, the owner Universal (and despite how it sounds, I would say it worked, considering also the other names supported).
Since their debut, and even before with their demo tapes, it is clear that Verdena have something special, a sound that is hard, melodic, complex, full of references from the greatest of rock, yet fresh and distinctive.

Il Gulliver, Requiem, 2007

Verdena grew up with me (or viceversa): I discovered them with their third album, Il suicidio dei samurai, and immediately started to listen to everything from their past. The result became an ongoing addiction.

Logorrea, Il suicidio dei samurai, 2004

Their cultural background is impressive but not surprising: they are big fans of the Beatles (that, ahem, I personally don’t like… yes I know, but), Interpol, Nirvana, Flaming Lips, to cite some. And every album expresses a new side, or maturity, of their sound, always carrying their timber, yet always unexpected and magnificent. When you think they made their best album, the next one will change your mind.

Puzzle, Endkadenz vol. 1, 2015

So, what happened? Verdena, the first album, was grunge. Clearly. They were just 18, with introverted personalities, rebel: Kurt was the muse, their first inspiration. Solo un grande sasso (Just a big stone), the second album, is a new story: psychedelic and ambitious, with long complex tracks. The dark melancholy started with the second album gets emphasized in the third, Il suicidio dei samurai (The suicide of the Samurai), and almost disappears with Requiem, despite the title, that brings back their grunge but grown-up attitude. Then the double album Wow, Endkadenz Vol. 1 and Vol. 2… I prefer to suggest you just some tracks to listen to and to get your personal idea.

Sotto prescrizione del dott. Huxley, Requiem, 2007

Since when I moved abroad, I’ve started to realize that, aside from the main genre, every country, even the closest ones (Austria and Italy, where I live and where I was born, for example), has a personal way to translate it, that implies that culture too. In my case, I am a big fan of the (old) Italian songwriters, I like that mix of tradition and sperimentation, that being politically engaged, poetic, idealistic; that decadent yet still brilliant flair of a brilliant yet decadent country. Lucio Battisti, Franco Battiato, Fabrizio De André, Rino Gaetano to cite a few. But I can also try (hard) to see it from an external point of view and understand that, together with the beauty of an execution, the emotional involvement plays a key role. That’s the best part of art. 

Fuoco amico 2 (pela i miei tratti), Endkadenz Vol. 2, 2015

 

Head image taken from rollingstone.it

Kunst am Kanal – Art into the (Danube) flow

As you may know, Vienna is a city that developed in the proximity of the Danube. A former arm of it, the Donaukanal (Danube Canal) delimits the city centre, and it is a cozy urban yet green place to hang out, especially during summer. Along its path there are free areas for making graffiti, public vegetables gardens, outdoor exhibitions, many small and bigger bars, and the most interesting clubs (for example Grelle Forelle, which I mentioned more than once previously). And many different music and art events take place here, free events where people can gather in a chill setting.

Couple of weeks ago it was Kunst am Kanal, Art on the Canal, organized by the club Das Werk in cooperation with its two art ateliers, Lichtbogen 334, the nest of the visual artists from the collective 4youreye projectionArt, and Dachsbau, a co-working space for artists to rent and exhibit their work. Das Werk means “the factory”, but also “the art work”, and that’s what this club promotes aside from music.

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Dachsbau and Lichtbogen 334, side on the Kanal

Contemporary art can be easily seen as snobbish, due to its hermetic messages and aesthetics, the high prices and the steered value, not necessarily based on pure talent (see my post about Roberta Sinatra and her study that analyses the trends in the art business). It’s the underground facet, instead, that can offer a glimpse of closeness to a wider audience and become part of a bigger context, integrating into the surrounding of music, drinks and good vibes. The final result is not individual anymore, rather a sum of different contributions, styles, perceptions, points of view; and the location, even if the same one, acquires each time a new unique appearance.

Moreover, these events can also give the possibility to minor and free-time artists, or simply creative talents, to express themselves: collaborations and projects can bloom, most likely not for decorating a fancy loft, rather for creating a collective experience.

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Noemi Kiss, Galerie Helmut, Das Werk (pic by Noemi Kiss)

The new huge graffiti of two hands exposing the teeth of a ferocious dog was mapped by the visualists collective 4youreye for projecting colourful visuals that gave a whole different feeling of it; at Werk a new exhibition space offered a solo from Noémi Kiss, an architect and philosopher (and woman that I deeply admire) who rose in the last six years as conceptual artist, using simple and poor materials (concrete, carpets as example) to give them new shape and purpose. In this occasion she presented five different reinterpretations of three-dimensionality recreated on beautiful antique Persian carpets hung on the walls, creating a door –or a window– for the viewer to look into.
And then much more is offered, involving all different forms of performative arts, and the music: live concerts during the daylight, dj sets at night, offering a wide range of styles and sound.

Eckhart Derschmidt

Kunst am Kanal 2019 (pic from Facebook by Eckhart Derschmidt)

A special paragraph deserves Lichtbogen 334, with its dark ambience particularly fitting to the projections introduced: a “digital mirror” altering colours and movement, that I already mentioned in the post about the Playground Festival; a panel with two plaster cast faces emerging out of it, one happy one sad, lightened by changing shapes and patterns; two lysergic skulls decorating the shutters that divide the exposition space from the storage for the 4youreye equipment.

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Haselbusch, Lichtbogen 334

The Kunst am Kanal festival takes place once a year, but still there are many other events where lights, colours and moods mix together to create the special atmosphere that characterises this part of the Kanal. All this arty melting pot just opposite to the District Heating Plant designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a famous Austrian artist I will definitely talk about, and just adjacent to a complex of buildings ideated by Zaha Hadid, uncompleted due to financial cuts and changes that – rumors say – made the architect not satisfied anymore with the project to the point that she wanted her name dissociated from it. Still, these buildings are masterpieces here for us to admire and, thanks to these occasions, to rediscover in a different light.

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District Heating Plant, Friedensreich Hundertwasser

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Zaha-Hadid-Haus, part of the building complex

Confessions of a minstrel

Dear readers,

sorry I am not a good blogger. I cannot produce constant content, I write only when something really catches my interest and my attention (and my inspiration too…). I write to promote good art, good music, good events. I overthink my writings, because I want them to be precise, well written, of high quality. On the Internet, as a blogger (although I don’t feel this label so much) among million bloggers, I choose quality over quantity. I choose to talk about what positively inspires me, I have no interest in openly criticizing something I haven’t appreciated, because I think there is already enough negativity and criticism around and I want to be on the positive side; maybe it simply wasn’t my taste, maybe I didn’t get it –therefore, I won’t recommend it to you.

This said (to slightly justify myself too), it’s summertime here, and I may have partially put aside my hunger for culture; you can still decide to scroll through the old posts and read about Mark Rothko, about the exhibition Beauty from the designers Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh, about the visionary architects and artists Lucio and Duilio Forte, about the interview with Electric Indigo. I am sure you will find something appealing for your taste.

I am taking this time also to rethink about my blog, about what I’ve learned, about what I would like to change or improve. It’s been a year now, and many things have grown!

I would like to conclude with a poem I’ve written some time ago (not yet inserted in my poetry page) that nicely fits to this post. It is still raw, sounds a bit like a song from a minstrel: and minstrel, rather than blogger, is how I feel.

All my gratitude if you have followed me through this, and my warmest welcome if you have just started to read me.

See you the next chapter.

 

How to avoid disappearing

I sit and listen to music.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Nothing
else.
I am wasting my time

because I technically do
nothing.

Tic toc tic toc
Time is running and you are not producing
Tic toc tic toc
Time is passing and you are still unmoved
Wear your coat, get to work,
don’t be absurd
about live for love.

I am totally with you,
I need my dreams to come true.
Reality is tough, though,
even worse than
silence in ropes,
even if I change,
I can’t change.
Even if I change,
why do I?
To conformize?
Why do I?

Modify my shape
Shape my body
Get healthier, more active
Stop compromising

I sit and listen to music.

The unbearable lightness of techno: SHXCXCHCXSH

I am still in awe about what happened last Friday. I was, as often, wandering in Grelle Forelle thanks to my sixth sense (aka Dead Sea Diaries together with Meat Market, the organisers of the night, which both are a guarantee of high quality music delivery); yet there was something new, something different in the atmosphere. I could only arrive when SHXCXCHCXSH started to play, but something went magical.

SLVRBBL, from the album “STRGTHS”, 2012, Avian

There is no way to find any common dancing move while listening to them: the bass is predominant, unpredictable, broken, visceral, the sound is cold, melodic, dark, magnetic; it is truly a whole new-level experience, for the ones like me who love deep and hard techno music; but also for people interested in new sounds, and with the right amount of emotional firmness… I cannot hide the obscure and gloomy intensity that soaks every track they produce (and only play during their sets, apparently), their appearance under a black hood resembling two dark knights, the repetition of the same loop like a growing mantra; but damn it feels so good…

Wading guise, from “Linear S Decoded”, 2014, Avian

They come from Sweden, and the comparison between the coldness of their sound with that of their hometown is banal…but reasonable. They debuted in 2012 with their first full-lenght album “STRGTHS”, presenting already their trademark sound with an opening (SLVRBBL) recalling something in between Gregorian chants and Irish fairy-tale music (Scarborough fair anyone?), then straight to a mechanical, vibrational strength. Surprising everyone with the second “Linear S Decoded”, still a powerful release, but introducing a different sound, more harmonious with respect to the first. SHXCXCHCXSH somehow remind me of Mark Rothko: the decision of not showing themselves, of being simply the means through which transmitting the music; and the unpronounceable name and choice for the last album  “SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs”, the tracks named by increasing number of paired Ss. No wonder, though: there’s no need of titles, I would almost define it as a concept album, where every track is the prosecution of the previous one, in a growing pathos that ends up in a paranoid robotic sound that disturbs and doesn’t let go.

SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs (13th track), from “SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs”, 2016, Avian

Darkness, it is often called; and darkness is, we are deep in the lowest frequencies here, out of any melody resembling a whatsoever musical instrument, in the core of the sound of the machine, yet reaching straight the most sensitive parts of the body. The music gets to its essentials, to the emphasized beat, to the most touching of its appearances. And not in a minimalistic way, on the contrary: the lack of high melodies is balanced by the richness of the middle-lower frequencies, the sound getting at the same time grounded and alien. It is repetitive, persistent, cold; and coldness was a strong feeling for me too, during their live set, while I was overwhelmed by the constantly changes in the bass, by the biting and hypnotic sound that opened a hole under my feet and had me falling in the hell of heaven.

PCTSTSS, from “STRGTHS”, 2012, Avian

Of course, I’m a writer, I (love to) tell stories, I try to reproduce with written words what I experience with my eyes and toes (eyes being the mind, toes being the heart when it comes to music, An). I do also think that techno, but I can say music, but I can say art, brings out the best of me. It makes me feel good, positive, hopeful, honest; it makes me think we can still experiment, discover, share, love.

 

The head image is taken from the official Facebook page of SHXCXCHCXSH. The title of the post is an obvious quote of the book “The unbearable lightness of being” from Milan Kundera, one of my most favourite (book and author).

Sources taken from:

Resident advisor

Ondarock

Mark Rothko – A journey into human emotions

Mark Rothko has been one of the most influential artists of the last century. Despite his great production –nearly 800 works were left in charge to the heirs after his death – and the different periods that have characterised it, he is known in particular as one of the protagonists of the Abstract Expressionism, the first American current that got international recognition. And that is also how I got to know him: through his colourful undefined rectangles. When I’ve started to see his paintings on the many online art channels I follow, I genuinely wondered why he has become so important in art history. I started to read more about him, and his works were described as a pure journey into the human emotions, to be experienced in first person. Then the exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Art History in Vienna, came.

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Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red (post-title), 1949 (image taken from wikiart.org)

While Rothko has revolutionised the art world during his times, I think in Europe he still hasn’t the recognition he deserves, if we consider other artists like Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Henri Matisse (and I haven’t mentioned these artists as merely contemporaries of him; but let’s proceed step by step). Europe in history has always been the centre of the artistic movement with respect to the rest of the world (and here it is interesting to mention my post about a study from Roberta Sinatra, where it is shown that nowadays the major museums and art institutions are almost concentrated in the United States). And it is from the old continent that Rothko takes his inspiration.

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Untitled, 1944 (image taken from wikiart.org)

But let’s start from the origins: Marcus Rothkovich was born in 1903 in Dvinsk, a city in Russia, nowadays in Latvia, from a Jewish family. Since an early age he shows a perceptive and sensitive soul, particularly affected also by the times he lives in: before the First World War there is already a feeling of intolerance against Jews all over Russia. When the situation worsens, his father decides to emigrate with the family to Portland, in the United States. Here Marcus becomes a great student and receives a fellowship for Yale University, although he is still not devoted to art only and chooses a major in humanities. He will never finish his studies at Yale, though he will get, 46 years later, an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts.

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Interior, 1936, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, US (image taken from wikiart.org)

After having dropped out of Yale due to financial reasons, he decides to move to New York and continues his studies in drawing and design. He enrols in the class of the famous Modern artist Max Weber, who shares the same background of being Jewish and immigrant with his student and soon becomes friends with him. Max Weber had travelled to Paris and met Henri Matisse, with whom he studied for a short timee. Thanks to him and to the increasing interest in museums and exhibitions, Rothko gets introduced to his contemporaries in Europe, like the Fauves (the French group around Matisse) and the German Expressionism. This will be the beginning of a long exploration in the art world, from which Mark will constantly take inspiration to create his personal and unique style. Other strong influences –and artists that will deeply inspire him – will come from Milton Avery, Giorgio De Chirico, Michelangelo, but also Nietzsche, the Greek mythology, poetry, music.

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Underground Fantasy, 1942, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, US (image taken from wikiart.org)

His artistic development can be divided in four different periods: the Realist years, from 1924 to 1940, the Surrealist period, from 1940 to 1945; the transition ‘til 1949 that will lead him to the Abstract Expressionism period, his trademark style.

The works characterizing his first two stages are mainly landscapes, interiors, still-life, New York subway scenes, clearly inspired by his first mentor, Max Weber.

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Untitled, 1942, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, US (image taken from wikiart.org)

In 1940 Marcus Rothkovich decides to change his name in Mark Rothko, uncanny because disconnected to any nationality. The period during the Second World War has a strong influence on his style, bringing a deep change in his conception of art, making for him inconceivable to keep painting like before. This change makes him revisiting the Greek mythology, whose brutal tragedies of violence and revenge and strong passions well reflect the modern times. The transition in his works starts with the abandon of concrete subjects to focus on colours and shapes (the so-called multiforms), getting then to his classical stage of pure abstraction, influenced by Dada and Surrealism coming from Europe.

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Multiform (post-title), 1948, 118.7 x 144 cm, National Gallery of Australia (NGA), Canberra, Australia (image taken from wikiart.org)

What emerges from Rothko’s art, in particular from the last period, is the absence of any guidance to interpret his works, later reflected also in the removal of the titles, with the artworks simply numbered. His intention is, indeed, to leave the viewer, through the colours and the large sizes of the canvasses, free to experience their own feelings and emotions.Mark Rothko hasn’t been a poor, unfortunate artist: he has rather been successful and estimated. Yet, he has always refused any label and has always felt somehow misunderstood by the art world. A double proof of his great talent and ability of touching human vulnerability.

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Untitled, 1968, Gemeentemuseum den Haag, Hague, Netherlands (image taken from wikiart.org)

There is a lot more I would like to add about this artist that has deeply impressed me; but I would, instead, suggest to simply take the chance to visit the great exhibition that the Kunsthistorisches Museum is offering in Vienna until the 30th of June, or simply to get curious about him, and to open your mind to the beauty that is not necessary expressed in the form of an idyllic landscape.


 

Head image: Self-portrait, 1936 (image taken from the official page of the exhibition)

All the information are taken from the book Rothko – Pictures as drama, from Jacob Baal-Teschuva, Taschen Books editions, that I bought at the Kunsthistorisches Museum after having visited the exhibition. I give high value to the quality and correctness of my contents, but I am also just an enthusiast (you can find my self-introduction here). Please leave any comment or addition that can improve or give a wider view on this great artist!

Xiu Xiu – The sweetest torture for ears and tears

They are one of my first experiences with experimental music, the roughest, craziest, out-of-any-possible-box one. Their sound is dramatic, visceral, distorted, disturbing, sometimes an enchanted melody, sometimes a hammering noise. Xiu Xiu are the ever changing band of singer and songwriter Jamie Stewart, and represent, in my opinion, one of the finest expressions of aesthetics in music.

Get up, from Forget, 2017

It takes an effort to me to go back in the days, where I was a virgin disc to fill with the most interesting music. Music was coming from friends, from friends of friends, from magazines, even the library had (and I think it still has) a nice catalogue that gave me the roots, my background, after long hours passed just listening to music. Xiu Xiu were at the moment, for me and my circle, the ultimate sound. It was their beginning too. I was already in love with Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Rós, Björk, Radiohead, and couldn’t help connecting with their music. It was in 2006 at the Teatro Miela, an experimental theatre in Trieste, that I finally met them.

Do you know me? Jamie Stewart?Ian Curtis Wishlist, track from A promise, 2003

The funniest thing is that I’ve been knowing them since their debut, and still I was literally spelling Xiu Xiu (for me, Italian native). When you just need to go on their (Italian) page on Wikipedia to read that the pronunciation is “Shoo-shoo”, written in an Anglophone way…

When I got to know they were coming to Vienna I decided to update myself, damn they are still active and great and I’ve forgotten about their music…(Please don’t get me wrong, they are definitely unforgettable but I also listen to a lot of music). I think Xiu Xiu are one of the rare examples that can leave you puzzled about their music and at the same time about your critical abilities.

Before the concert there is already an intimate atmosphere, that peculiar connection that you feel among strangers when going to a special show that few know. I get interesting feedback from the people around: some are seeing them for the first time and very excited about, some are big fans, describing every concert as a new experience, from extreme experimentalism to regular and plain execution. And it is undisputable that they are true performers: when they finally start under a blue light the audience is immediately captured. I am lucky, I get a full-on piercing and distorted live, where my euphoria is equally mixed with the intensity of the performance.

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The songs are sweet and delicate, then getting harsh and sharp. Some people need to plug their ears, ’cause it’s too loud, or simply too much (but also for the small club Chelsea, thank you for having brought them to us!); meanwhile they play their hearts out, they dance like trapped in a state of trance (mainly Jamie, actually), they exchange, interchange the instruments, they read a poem: I am completely lost in the music. Sometimes I cannot even understand the lyrics; but the soft and tender, the shouted and violent, the simply passionate voice of Jamie Stewart brings me to a whole different level of communication. That’s the power of music, yes, but THAT is the power of Xiu Xiu.

Pumpking attack on mommy and daddy, from the new album Girl with basket of fruit, 2019