AdHoc x Live Nation Present
Sun Ra Arkestra
311 W 34th St
New York, NY, 10001
This event is all ages
Parquet Courts began their 2014 release Content Nausea with the repeated refrain, “everyday it starts – anxiety!” And while that track left off at just its start, Human Performance dives in, picking apart the anxieties of modern life with the band’s most innovative and emotional collection of songs to date. Not that that’s the whole story.
“The final product of this album is Exhibit A that we made it through the shit, solved the problem, had the chuckle, took the piss, made up with the other guy, and got home in one piece,” laughs bassist Sean Yeaton.
Whereas other Parquets Courts albums were recorded in a matter of days or weeks, for Human Performance the band took an entire year; it’s the first LP that finds all four band members contributing songs.
Human Performance brings expansive sonic experimentation and shining melodic introspection onto matters of the heart, matters of humanity, of identity. “I told you I loved you, did I even deserve it when you returned it?” singer/guitarist Andrew Savage wonders on the title track. It’s also their most pop-oriented collection yet, coming only months after the release of the largely instrumental Monastic Living EP; a record that was actually made at the same time.
“In a way, Monastic Living was like a palate cleanser for us as a band,” explains singer/guitarist Austin Brown, who produced the entire record, and mixed it in Austin at Jim Eno’s Public Hi-Fi, “maybe a return to our roots of improvising together, and being a bit more free, and seeing what kind of new sounds we could make.”
The recording sessions started at Justin Pizzoferrato’s Sonelab in Western Massachusetts. Some of it was also made with Tom Schick and Jeff Tweedy at The Loft, Wilco’s visionary studio in Chicago, but the majority of Human Performance was made at Dreamland Studios, a massive upstate NY pentecostal church where records have been made by The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr, and the B-52s (including “Love Shack”). They spent three weeks straight there, writing by day and recording with Pizzoferrato by night.
The result is a record with a palpable sense of fragility. “The process of writing and recording Human Performance, for me, was a fairly uncomfortable confrontation with my emotions,” Savage says. “Emotions I don’t think I’ve fully explored in my life, artistic or otherwise.”
Human Performance is fittingly laced with as much static as softness, with tight-wound percussion pushing along meandering, wistful melodies. There are dazed and disoriented earworms, echoing group chants, downtempo ballads with wired riffs. Lovers leave, existential confusion replaces them, weeks pass, the J train rolls by.
The record leads with “Dust”, a 4-minute opener that takes the mundane daily duty of sweeping the floor and turns it into a frantic, obsessive call for action. “Dust is everywhere … Sweep!” they drolly repeat, before their cyclic back beat gives way to explosive, everyday city sound of car horns.
Savage says “Human Performance” is his most personal song on the record, a solemn musing on love drifting away, a picture-perfect memory of the beginning of things and a hazier recollection of the ending. “It didn’t feel right to be shouting, barking,” he says, reflecting on his tendency to really sing for this first time on this album. “I think a lot of people are attracted to a sort of cerebral side of Parquet Courts, in the lyricism. There has always been the emotional side of our band, which I think has always been an important balance, but Human Performance marks a point where the scales have tipped. I began to question my humanity, and if it was always as sincere as I thought, or if it was a performance. I felt like a malfunctioning apparatus. Like a machine programmed to be human showing signs of defect.”
Across six years, four full-length albums, and two EPs, Parquet Courts have always littered their lyric sheets with question marks, interrogating the outside world to varying degrees. Light Up Gold considered peanuts versus Swedish Fish, an introduction of their sharp, young wit and language of mundane, everyday NYC imagery. Sunbathing Animal channeled that language into noisy punk philosophy, raising wide-view questions about agency versus captivity, choice versus freewill. Content Nausea wondered about anxiety and emotional deterioration under the age of big data, in an aptly self-aware way: “And am I under some spell? And do my thoughts belong to me? Or just some slogan I ingested to save time?” And with Human Performance—their fifth album and second for Rough Trade—the question marks get turned on themselves more than ever.
“There is a lot of darkness, and general anguish being worked out on this record,” Brown adds. “But it ends kind of peacefully, kind of accepting that you can’t do much about it.”
"This record is for the over-socialized victims of the 1990's 'you can be anything you want', Nickelodeon-induced lethargy that ran away from home not out of any wide-eyed big city daydream, but just out of a subconscious return to America's scandalous origin," writes Savage in the album's scratched-out liner notes. Recorded over a few days in an ice-box practice space, Light Up Gold is equally indebted to Krautrock, The Fall, and a slew of contemporaries like Tyvek and Eddy Current Suppression Ring.
Though made up of Texan transplants, Parquet Courts are a New York band. Throw out the countless shallow Brooklyn bands of the blasé 2000's: Light Up Gold is a conscious effort to draw from the rich culture of the city - the bands like Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, and the Velvet Underground that are not from New York, but of it. A panoramic landscape of dilapidated corner-stores and crowded apartments is superimposed over bare-bones Americana, leaving little room for romance or sentiment. It's punk, it's American, it's New York… it's the color of something you were looking for.
Sun Ra Arkestra
U.S. free-jazz ensemble that emerged during the mid-'50s. Initially centered around Sun Ra for almost 40 years, the Arkestra went through various incarnations and is still active currently under the leadership of Marshall Allen.
Note: Please use The Sun Ra Arkestra as PAN for all releases involving the Arkestra.
These few exceptions are not ANVs of the Arkestra and are PANs in their own right: The Sun Ra All Stars, Sun Ra Sextet, Sun Ra Quartet, Sun Ra Trio.
For Sun Ra's solo recordings (such as piano jazz, poetry, or spoken word), use Sun Ra.
Marshall Allen - alto saxophone, flute, EVI - joined in 1958
Michael Ray - trumpet, vocals - joined in 1978
Fred Adams - trumpet - joined in 1982
Knoel Scott - alto saxophone - joined in 1979
Vincent Chancey - french horn - joined in 1976
Cecil Brooks - trumpet
Danny Ray Thompson - flute, baritone sax, alto sax, bassoon - joined in 1967
Abshalom Ben Shlomo - alto sax, clarinet - joined in 1970
Rey Scott - baritone saxophone - joined in 1988
Dave Davis - trombone - joined in 1997
Elson Nascimento - percussion - joined in 1988
Craig Holiday Haynes - drums - joined in 1980
D. Hotep - guitar - joined in 2000
Yahya Abdul-Majid - tenor saxophone - joined in 1980
Kash Killion - cello - joined in 1989
Bill Davis - bass - joined in 1962
Tyler Mitchell - bass - joined in 1985
Juini Booth - bass - joined in 1967
Farid Abdul-Bari Barron - piano
James Stewart - tenor - joined in 2011
Craig Harris - trombone
Wayne Anthony Smith Jr. - drums
Tara Middleton - voice, percussion, violin
Atakatune (Stanley Morgan) - conga, timbal - joined in 1972
George Burton - piano - joined in 2015