"But there was nothing about the little, low-rambling, more or less identical homes of Northumberland Estates to interest or to haunt, no chance of loot that would be any more than the ordinary, waking-world kind the cops hauled you in for taking; no small immunities, no possibilities for hidden life or otherworldly presence; no trees, secret routes, shortcuts, culverts, thickets that could be made hollow in the middle – everything in the place was right out in the open, everything could be seen at a glance; and behind it, under it, around the corners of its houses and down the safe, gentle curves of its streets, you came back, you kept coming back, to nothing; nothing but the cheerless earth."
Thomas Pynchon, "The Secret Integration"

This is Ian Mathers' Tumblr. I live in Canada. I've written about music and other things for Stylus, Dusted, PopMatters, Resident Advisor, the Village Voice, and a few other places. Hi.



Nothing. And nothing. And nothing. And nothing.

  • It wasn’t until some between-song banter that I realized that the opening demolition of “Butterfly Knife” was not, in fact, just the way EMA and her band had arranged the song for this tour (“I just had to exorcize something tonight… oh well, if you can’t put a ten minute feedback solo in your own song, you’ve lost the punk in your heart” or something like that, I didn’t transcribe it at the time). It was great, but more than that it set the tone.
  • As much as I love Past Life Martyred Saints and as excellent as those songs still are live, I got a full body chill/the hairs on the back of my neck stood up/I got goosebumps when they started playing “Satellites.”
  • The displays/footage/lightshows on the four bar-shaped LED screens were apparently created by the bass/synth/violin player, who I think is named Leif or Leith. They were excellent, and the display at the end of “Neuromancer” brought me right back to this.
  • I felt really out of step with the small-but-enthusiastic crowd most of the time; I realize not everyone there had read Back to the Void or seen some of the interviews EMA has done recently, but even just given what’s actually on the album the older guy right in front of me who kept taking pictures/video of her just seemed to be missing the point (and kind of creeped me out, honestly). 
  • After an incredibly intense and moving solo “Cherylee” (during a show that the artist herself referred to repeatedly as being unusually intense and cathartic, which made the “whoo!”s from the crowd at the end of that song feel kinda weird), which she decided to play on the spot after a heart-wrenching “3Jane” (it wasn’t on the set list) by announcing “I’m gonna play another sad song now,” EMA described herself as her “own proprietary blend” of Iggy Pop and Cat Power, which seemed about perfect. Or was it before?
  • "Cthulu" just about killed me. Lights down, full blast. Some tiny locked-away part of my brain kept looping the thought "this band is at the peak of their powers" to itself the whole time.
  • "I don’t know why I keep not wanting to play ‘So Blonde’… it just feels too easy" (again, not exact). And one of her pedals kept breaking. So she unplugged it and they did a medley of it and a Bikini Kill song, both almost throttled by fuzz.
  • Even though I register them as her two most “American” songs, I didn’t quite connect “California” and “Dead Celebrity” (organ, snare hits, fireworks; church, baseball game, political rally, 4th of July) until they ended the main set together. It’s a testament to how much I care about The Future’s Void that when “California” started I was surprised to find I’d kind of forgotten about it. Who knows what my ‘favourite’ record of 2014 is or will be, but even before this show The Future’s Void is the only album released this year that I could write a 33 1/3 on right now.
  • Near the end of “Dead Celebrity” EMA walked to the front of the stage and held her hand out to each person in the front row, palm up; when we each in turn put our hands up to hers, interlaced fingers, and let go, it was the most vertiginous collapse of the artist as saviour/martyr/prophet and artist as human being dichotomy I’ve ever been in the room for. I am sure that makes zero sense if you weren’t there or if the show just seemed like some good performances to you. I don’t know how to bridge that gap either.
  • I’ve seen some damn good concerts this year, but this one was the best one so far, and it honestly wasn’t even close.

Set list

For a time I tried to go along with it, enticed by others’ testimonials of the self-empowerment they felt by “owning” and utilizing their own sexuality to express themselves. I can’t speak for others, but in my case for the most part this wasn’t true. While there is something undeniably pleasing about seeing a beautiful image of yourself, overall I felt ashamed.

There is no one person or entity to blame for this. In fact, I have a tendency to blame myself. But the many articles you can read describing the constant sexualization of women aren’t made out of nothing. It’s a weird subconscious infestation combined with a desire to please a photographer and do things “right”. And while the vast majority of photographers I worked with were male, I don’t necessarily think all the visual pressure comes from men. I was once showing a good female friend some possible press photos and she said, “ooh, you look really pretty in this one. girls like that.”

It’s another mind-fuck situation. Because even in real life if you don’t wear makeup and don’t really care what you are wearing, if you try to take that mindset into a photoshoot it’s easy to be horrified by the results. Because they don’t look like the other pictures of women that you see, which are across the board photoshopped and usually include a lot of makeup.

Gradually the images I saw of myself in the media began to be at odds with who I felt I really was. I didn’t want to be sexy, I wanted to be grotesque, tough. I became disassociated from the pictures I saw of myself. And that’s maybe where the seeds of the AI began, a separate entity from the increasingly scared human I saw in the mirror in front of me each day.

EMA, Back to the Void

I don’t know what this Newhive thing is, aside from “what EMA uses to post interesting stuff,” but this essay/collage/exhibit/series is amazing and worth experiencing in full. Seriously, click through. There’s a ton of visual stuff in addition to the writing, which is really good. Lots of material that affirms things I was thinking about The Future’s Void, too, like this on “Neuromancer”:

The lyrics were partially improvised and partially something I had been thinking about for a while. Many people misinterpreted the point of view and assumed I was trying to disparage and lecture young people, “millennials”, about their supposedly narcissistic selfie habits. In fact ”Neuromancer” is more in the spirit of an anti-capitalist, anti-big data “God Save The Queen” mixed with an unhealthy dose of shame. 

As I said previously, I was the one who took most of the press photos for my last record. The person who made her living off of taking selfies was me. The disparaging language is the echoed voice of older generation looking down their noses at us, as if anyone under 35 had a multitude of career choices in this fucked world of mountainous student debt mixed with zero economic growth.

Really excited to see her play live again tonight.

David Bowie — “Always Crashing in the Same Car”

It’s humid here, my brain’s been going “why even bother to work/write/read things/watch tv/have friends/talk to people?” all day (I’m fine, it’s just my brain); it’s been a this-song kind of day.

Luluc — Passerby (Sub Pop)


Luluc come from Australia and now split their time between Brooklyn and Melbourne, but if you had to guess the band’s heritage based just on its music and cheap national stereotypes you might pick something more Germanic, maybe even Nordic. Partly because Zoë Randell has a Nico-ish shade to her calm voice, but mostly because the warmth of the songs on the duo’s second record sound like it’s being summoned against the cold (the most quietly joyful song on Passerby is, after all, called “Winter Is Passing”).

She has a particular knack, even when singing about events and feelings that are distressing or puzzling, of making it seem as though all of the problems of life are manageable as long as they’re taken on in the serene spirit of Luluc’s music. It’s not as if Randell has a limited emotional range here; these songs deal with fresh and buried pain, small pleasures, boredom, uncertainty, loss, satisfaction. It’s more like she’s singing from the part of your mind that can consider these things without agitation and make the right choices.

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I think I originally checked out this record because of an errant Low comparison; at this point, it might be the new record I’ve played the most in 2014. If you have any interest in folk-type music at all, I highly recommend giving it a listen.