I Dreamed a World and Called It Love

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As I walked toward the museum entrance, my eyes were drawn to a giant red sculpture of what appeared to be a caged tyrannosaurus rex. I found it interesting because it seems like something you would see at the Science Center. It isn’t the kind of highbrow, avant-garde work one expects to see outside an art museum. I briefly entertained the idea of making that piece the focus of this article and avoiding the hefty admission fee ($18 with a student ID) altogether. Ultimately, I decided against it. The museum building itself is constructed in a mid-century modern architectural style, which is fairly common in the downtown Phoenix area and consistent with the age of the building.

The lobby of the museum is a loft-like, large open room with high ceilings. Immediately upon entering, one is greeted to the sight of a 3-D “snowflake” sculpture located near the center of the room. The walls of the hallway adjacent to the lobby are decorated with thousands of black paper butterflies. I’m not sure whether the appearance of the lobby shaped my experience in any significant way, but the open, echoey ambiance and imposing decor gave off the impression that some overwhelming works of art would be in store for my visit.

The galleries are laid out like themed rooms in a multi-level labyrinth maze. The pieces in each gallery tend to fit with the distinct style of each particular collection or exhibition. A gallery will usually feature works from a variety of artists within the particular movement which is being showcased or which the curator specializes in. For example, one of the exhibitions displayed prints by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, two iconic “pop” artists who worked together and were involved in a personal relationship with one another for a period of time. I think the galleries are presented this way to organize different styles and emphasize what is unique or distinctive in each of them. It also gives the visitor a more complete exposure and makes the exhibitions themselves seem more thorough. The maze-like floor plan allows the visitor to seemingly “get lost” in all the artwork. It gives guests the opportunity to peer around corners and discover new rooms filled with art, just when they thought they had seen everything the museum had to offer.

Since it was early in the afternoon on a weekday, guests were few and far between during my visit. If I had to guess I would say there were maybe thirty or forty visitors, sparsely spread out in the building. I did notice an elderly couple being chided by an employee for touching a large concrete art installation. I found this mildly amusing, imagining that the couple probably thought the art piece was simply a weirdly decorated bench for them to sit on.

For practical purposes, I had made up my mind ahead of time to select a work of art that was a representational painting that depicted some kind of elaborate scene. Regardless of whether I liked or disliked the piece at all, this would assure that I would have sufficient material to talk about for an entire article without having to resort to over-intellectualizing trivial observations or reaching for contrived meaning. Of course, once I arrived at the museum, that plan went completely out the window, and I ended up selecting a work that I was actually interested in and felt extremely drawn to.

My first impression of Jim Hodges’ I Dreamed a World and Called It Love was that it was shiny and made attractive use of color. From a distance it appeared to be a large, abstract painting which was created utilizing either metallic-colored acrylic paints or perhaps a collage made with colored translucent paper. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to have the consistency of colored tinfoil (is there even such a thing?) or cellophane. Upon reading the label, I discovered that most of my assumptions had been incorrect. The material used for this piece was actually stained glass that was cut and meticulously placed on a thick canvas (Lindsay). I was also grossly errant in assuming this was intended to be a “stand alone” work. It turns out that this is just a single panel in what was originally a larger and much more ambitious installation. The full installation apparently included 38 panels in total. It was exhibited at The Gladstone Gallery in 2016 (“I Dreamed a World and Called It Love”). The mistaken assumption that this was a stand-alone work was significant in this case. Unlike trivial observations like what kind of paint was used or whether the canvas was primed, this actually relates to the content of the work. If a visitor had been presented with the entire installation they might have come away with a completely different reading of the piece. Similarly, if an alternate single panel had been selected from a different section, one which featured a substantially different array of colors, this might provoke alternate interpretations of the overall mood or tone of the work. Some artists might even be annoyed at having their work partially displayed in this manner, but it seems that Jim Hodges has opted to be a good sport.

What’s most notable about this panel of I Dreamed a World and Called It Love is the usage of bright, vibrant color. The colors are not sharply divided but are intricately intertwined like crawling vines. There are solid primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors and just about everything in between. Various shades of orange, red and maroon near the bottom give the area a volcanic presence. Turquoise blues, grayish whites and purple globs project an image of partially cloudy skies.

The lines are not rugged or chiseled in their appearance. They seem to flow and curve effortlessly to create soft, peaceful separations for the floating splotches of color. This phenomenon also gives the work a sense of motion, as though we’re visualizing the brain activity of someone in the middle of a dream. If we’re someday able to actually record dreams, I would imagine the earliest successful attempts to do so would produce an image like this (before the technology is perfected.) It’s as if someone freeze-framed a psychedelic animation film at one of the most visually pleasing points.

As I hinted at in my initial impressions, the texture here is shiny and metallic. It reminds me of sheet metal (even though it’s actually glass.) The piece is reflective but not with the same clarity as a mirror. In the museum lighting, reflections are visible, but appear distorted and difficult to make out. It’s similar to seeing one’s reflection in a car window or metal pole. There are also small bubbles visible, which are situated between the glass and the canvas. These bubbles are more likely to be a side effect of the process of attaching the glass to the canvas. I don’t believe they were consciously included as a creative choice. However, these bubbles inadvertently create a sense of physical depth to the work. They contribute to the sense of flotation and are consistent with the dreamlike ambiance of the piece. The bubbles create a liquid or aquatic texture for those fortunate enough to notice them.

I’m inclined to label this piece as non-representational rather than merely abstract. It doesn’t appear to depict any tangible object in the physical world. However, if one looks closely enough (and long enough) at the blobs of color, outlines vaguely resembling animals and human shapes in varying stages of motion can be spotted. I’m almost positive this is just a case of pareidolia though. One can drive themselves bonkers believing they’re seeing faces on Mars or the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast. At the end of the day, one doesn’t need to reach for things that aren’t there in order to recognize the impressive substance in what is plainly visible.

What this work means is anybody’s guess. Other than the title, the artist himself offers few clues. It’s worth noting though that the original gargantuan installation reflected color onto the floor (“I Dreamed a World and Called It Love”). This made the floor an additional part of the artwork. The plethora of different panels allowed visitors to see their reflections in different color combinations. On some level, maybe the artist was trying to help us empathize with all different types of people by having us view so many divergent images of ourselves. These reflections allow us to step into the shoes of others and perhaps into the art itself. Just as the light reflects onto the floor, it illuminates the visitor as well. We become part of the whole of the work.

Besides the fact that I found the color and composition of I Dreamed a World and Called It Love appealing, one of the main reasons I selected this work was that it seemed to stand out among the works by much more famous artists which were hanging nearby. This panel was located in a section of the museum which included paintings by icons like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. Though Jim Hodges may have received substantial critical acclaim over the years and has probably had an illustrious career, he is by no means a household name. The fact that his panel (which turned out to be only a component of the actual work) managed to outshine (literally in this case) the adjacently displayed artwork of legendary figures made me relate to him as a relative underdog. People will go to the museum specifically just to see Warhol’s soup cans, but maybe someday they will make the trip just so they can see this.

Works Cited:

“I Dreamed a World and Called It Love.” Gladstone Gallery, 2016,
www.gladstonegallery.com/exhibition/11992/installation-view#&panel1-1.
Lindsay, Taylor. “Dozens of Cut-Up Mirrors Get Rearranged into a Magnificent
Glass Room.” Creators, VICE, 29 Dec. 2016,
www.creators.vice.com/en_us/article/9anxy8/cut-up-mirrors-get-rearranged-into-magnificent-glass-room.

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Fans of Jimmy Century – eSensuals

esensuals cd art

eSensuals is a full length album from Vegas based (originally from Oakland) duo, “Fans of Jimmy Century” (FOJC for short.) The sound is an impressive combination of loungy female vocals, quirky lyrics and “indiewave” dance music. It’s an eclectic concoction that I’ve personally never heard before, (and I’ve listened to a lot of wild stuff over the years) but which this group performs expertly. There are so many detectable musical trace elements here it would be a struggle to name them all (disco, mod, 80s synthpop, vaporwave etc.) There’s quite a bit of variety among the songs as well. They’re not just doing the same thing over and over on this album. Architecturally, each of these songs has its own personality. True to the album title itself, the tracks on eSensuals are memorable for their clever and catchy names, revealing the wit and creativity of the creators. It’s not all a front or a gimmick though, songs like Liquid Chill and Cherry Drops musically live up to their powerful names in every sense. This album is just a really solid representation of indie music in that it finds the perfect balance between skill, aesthetics, humor, and the avant garde without ever coming across as pretentious or ego-driven.

For more info:

http://fansofjimmycentury.com/

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Divine – Runaway

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Runaway is the debut single from “Divine,” an up and coming artist from the Philippines. Her mother and sister are both singer’s also, so the passion to perform runs in the family. One listen to Runaway is enough to realize Divine is a talented singer. She sings on key and has a dynamic vocal range. Unlike with other pop artists, the effects in the song are used to accentuate her voice rather than conceal flaws. Take away the beats, the synths and everything else on the recording, and she could still manage to captivate the audience with her vocals alone. She also sings with expressive emotion and a touch of attitude to match the tone of the lyrics. In particular, her rendition of the chorus is where she really shines.

Runaway is a professionally produced pop song of label quality with a video to match. The lyrics center around a love interest whom Divine is advising and pleading with him to run away, so that she won’t have to break his heart. Basically, she has feelings for him but thinks he should stay away for his own mental health. It’s a contemporary spin on a classic romantic theme. I could see this artist rising in popularity if she continues to surround herself with a good team. All of the framework is there. It’s important to mention that Runaway is not officially available yet. It will be available for pre-order on Nov 2nd, and the official release is scheduled for Nov 9th.

For more info:

http://www.iamdivinemusic.com/
http://www.leveledupmusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DIANA3GARCIA/
https://www.youtube.com/user/FreeStyle3D

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Syzl Lytnin – H8taBlockaz

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I’ve been doing these reviews for a long time, and it’s pretty rare that I come across something new or that I haven’t seen before. Syzl Lytnin’s H8taBlockaz is one of the rare exceptions. In addition to being a musical artist Syzl Lytnin actually has her own line of sunglasses. Not only does she use her music to promote her sunglasses, she actually combines these two things conceptually and artistically. Her sunglasses (called “H8taBlockaz”) are designed to shield one from the sun and also from negativity. Her musical single with the same name also shares these elements. H8taBlockaz features quirky synths and some lightning fast paced rapping coated with positive energy. The song is upbeat and lyrically confronts themes of keeping one’s head up and deflecting the negativity others throw at you. It’s an impressive release on its own but earns bonus points for being enveloped within such a unique creative context.

For more info:

https://syzllytnin.com/

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XOXOXO – Fornicate

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XOXOXO was an early 2000s, Phoenix band that almost made it big during the Myspace era. They were fronted by an incredibly talented girl named Rachel Taylor, who tragically passed away about 10 years ago. I knew a girl that performed in a play Rachel wrote titled Sorbet and Other Stuff.The band was somewhat ahead of their time in that they were a polished, synth oriented and fashion conscious indie band at a time when most local indie rock was centered around guitars and Pabst Blue Ribbon. I always admired XOXOXO for aiming for something big. The band released one cd, which is pretty damn hard to find. XOXOXO even had a smear piece written about them in the Phoenix New Times, which is just further proof that they were awesome. XOXOXO disappeared for a while and reemerged with a new name, The Kohl Heart. I seem to recall that they lived in Oakland for a while as well. The members seemed to have a tendency to reinvent themselves just as they were beginning to achieve success. They are mostly forgotten …but not by me. Rachel Taylor RIP.

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Phantom Phunk – Struggle With Me

phantomphunk

Struggle With Me is the latest EP from Tampa trio “Phantom Phunk.” Even though the band currently has three members, additional appearances are made on the album by rapper Cloud Master Price. Struggle With Me is an interesting release because it experiments with a combination of punk, neo-alternative, funk and hip hop. The first track, Mediphorical is my second favorite song on the album. It features a terrific, minimalist guitar presence and is fronted by the assertive vocals of Alexa Toro. The song is a great choice for opening track because the energy really gets the album off the ground. Every Where You Go gets into more experimental territory. It’s almost like if you mixed a hip hop jam with a Tegan and Sara song and somehow managed to make it work. No Hard Feelings makes creative use of timing and pauses to set up Toro’s vocals, which display a lot of echoey dynamicism in this song. Something Certain People Say is the best track on the album. It’s got a catchy chorus, the best guitar tone and has potential to be a legit indie hit song. Cheap Thrills is the loudest, hardest rocking song. Cloud Master Price makes another climactic appearance on this track and provides the link it needs to round out the album.

For more info:

https://www.phantomphunk.com/
https://www.facebook.com/PH2Music/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/0AgBoNSoLQRM3kpYyeFgVf

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Matty Marz – Dandy

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Dandy is the eclectic debut album from Matty Marz. It blends romance, fashion, and pop culture into a record that oscillates between pop and indie rock. I thought I had the sound pinned down with the first track Dirtbag, which is kind of a sassy indie rock song with a sound vaguely reminiscent of mid 00s bands like Franz Ferdinand (Do You Want to.) However, after this the songs transition into much more poppy territory. They are often romantic, soft and musically bright. The backing beats and background music has kind of that early 90′s, funky, summertime Caribbean sound. All these elements are combined in a way which lends itself to an ultimately contemporary feel. Matty Marz’ vocals come across as sincere and tonally are a good fit for this style of music. My favorite track on the album is probably We the People (Interlude,) which is catchy and features an amazing, retro-futuristic beat.

For more info:

Album: https://artist.landr.com/music/800739814691
Twitter: https://twitter.com/iammattymarz
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iammattymarz/

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Lyrics Of Two – Summer Song (Hey Hey)

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Summer Song (Hey Hey) is a refreshing and avant garde country pop song from Los Angeles based band, “Lyrics of Two.” The track was written by band founder Marie Helen Abramyan, a songwriter and poet whose work we’ve featured before. One thing Marie has become known for in her writing is an emphasis on seasons. Her poems and songs often capture the essence of a particular season, and its role in nature.

Like previous hits such as LFO’s Summer Girls, Lyrics of Two’s Summer Song (Hey Hey) manages to capture the “feel” of summer and deals with recapturing the carefree spirit of summer that’s been lost somewhere in the grind of day to day adult life. The incredibly catchy “Hey Hey!” hook of the chorus serves as a kind of wake up call for the soul. The song is upbeat from start to finish, conjuring up images of frolicking on the beach with friends and throwing frisbees around. It is upbeat in a way that only the season of summer could be, with the feelings associated with the adjacent seasons both left behind and waiting subtly for their turn, temporarily relegated to the margins.

For more info:

Website: http://www.lyricsoftwo.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lyricsoftwo
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lyricsoftwo
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3jFct5ZCv2NEzXhJxEywmp?si=YfppmaXCTEqdP5t6C0hZzA

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Last Chance Riders – Jet Lag Super Drag

lastchanceriders

Jet Lag Super Drag is an energetic and soulful rock release from Atlanta based band “Last Chance Riders.” The album has a features a classic rock inspired sound with contemporary flair. The guitars really assert themselves, something which becomes apparent in the first few seconds of the opening track, Downright Disgusted. Whenever the guitars kick in on these songs, they just really have a bite to them. This is not “light rock.” Their sound reminds me a bit of The White Stripes in that it’s very loud and has an analog quality.

Vocalist Jessie Albright does her part with vocals which match the intensity of the guitars and give the band its distinct identity. It would be easy to get away with a less capable singer with this kind of music because the guitars are such a powerful driving force, but Jessie Albright turns out to be a phenomenal vocalist. She really knocks out these songs, balancing emotion, musicality and maxed out rock n roll. Her accent gives it away that you’re listening to a “southern rock” band, but the group’s appeal is by no means regionally limited. The eclectic mix of detectable musical influences ranges worldwide. There are shades of everything from David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” on here to AC/DC. This is a really solid, professional album.

For more info:

https://www.thelastchanceriders.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thelastchanceriders
https://twitter.com/TLCRiders

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The Gary Douglas Band – Deep in the Water

deepinthewater

Deep in the Water is an LP from The Gary Douglas band, slated for release next month. It features 11 distinct tracks and is packed with some of the best Americana rock n’roll you’ll ever hear. The album roars right out of the gates with the opening song, River Road, a fast paced, full sounding and passionately performed track that stylistically could be comparable to some of Bruce Springsteen’s classic songs like Thunder Road. Yes, it’s that good, too. Not all the songs on Deep in the Water have the same feel though. There’s quite a bit of versatility here. Devil in Her Soul and Nothing Ever Goes as Planned both have much more of a Southern, soulful vibe. Actually, a good description of this band’s sound is that it combines the best of Southern rock with rust belt / working class rock n’ roll.

Devil in Her Soul in particular has a very haunting tone and is put together expertly. Every detail is nailed down. Musically, I think it might be the most impressive on the album. It’s tough to say though because from a technical perspective these guys are clearly pros. I admit I’ve never heard of The Gary Douglas Band, but this is a major label quality album release (which may not mean as much anymore given the state of pop music.) Normally I don’t like to give someone “too good” of a music review because it comes off kind of phony. However, this recording is pretty much flawless and doesn’t leave any room for nitpicking. It succeeds at what it’s trying to be and even surpasses it.

Website – http://www.garydouglasband.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/garydouglasband/
Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/artist/542ouc88YyLnEQN15mG9Db

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