Aram: Realms & Reveries
you were in a room with Iranian-born artist Kamrooz Aram,
who has an exhibit opening at MASS MoCA this weekend, and
you just finished looking at his work. You might be tempted
to tell him how beautiful it is; if you did, he’d be all
right with that. Sure, this particular reaction used to
drive him, he recently told an interviewer, “crazy,” but
he’s past that: “I’m OK with that now. Now I know that there’s
more and [the audience] can’t ignore it.”
Inspired by the designs in Persian carpets and “early Nintendo
game graphics,” Aram draws/ paints intricate works, bursting
with color, that are as dense and stylized as they are inviting.
Thus, the “beautiful” tag. But Aram is after more than craftsmanship
in his complex, layered images. He strives to create “abstract
narratives exploring such diverse and common subjects as
love, longing, freedom, conflict, war and oppression. .
. .” That’s what he means by “more.”
Aram: Realms & Reveries will open this Saturday
(Jan. 14) at MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams,
Mass.) in the Prints and Drawings Gallery. This exhibit
will include paintings and drawings, along with a site-specific
work created for MASS MoCA. For more information, call (413)
got a lot of ambition,” says Hard-Fi drummer Steve Kemp.
“I just don’t see the point in these bands who want to be
a big fish in a small pond. We always wanted to be a really
big band; that’s one of the reasons we got into this.”
At home, Hard-Fi already are big. Since the release last
summer of Hard-Fi’s self-financed Cash Machine mini-album,
the British press has been bending over backwards to lavish
superlatives upon the young band. Four- and five-star reviews
poured in from the likes of Q and The Guardian.
NME called them “a great deal better than The fucking
Clash.” Their debut full-length was nominated for the 2005
Mercury Music Prize. And just this week, Hard-Fi received
two nominations for the 2006 BRIT Awards—one for Best Rock
Band, the other for Best Group, a category in which they’re
up against Coldplay, Gorillaz, and Kaiser Chiefs.
Via telephone from his home in London, Kemp jokes, “We’re
probably not gonna win.” But they could—the BRITs
are far more likely to reward an underdog than, say, the
Grammys. And they’ve got the product to back up the hype:
Stars Of CCTV is a dizzying mashup of postpunk, dub
reggae, disco, and classic ska. Somewhere between Sandinista!
and Parklife, it’s dirty, danceable, and very, very
The band’s sound, explains Kemp, is a product of their environment.
“If you grew up in England in the last 25 years, you can’t
get away from the dance-music culture. We’re as much into
hiphop and . . . techno and dance stuff as we are into guitar
bands. We really like bands who use one thing and make it
their own, like the Clash did with reggae, and . . . New
Order, who had the whole Chicago house-electronica thing
going on.” He cites the Specials, the Smiths, Dexy’s Midnight
Runners, and Massive Attack as other influences.
these different influences come across in the way that we
play. It’s not really a contrived thing, like ‘let’s do
a reggae bass line here’ or ‘some punk drums here’ or ‘some
soul guitar playing here’ or whatever. It’s just the way
that we are.”
And the Staines, England, natives have a work ethic befitting
their origins: To record Cash Machine, they set up
their own studio in an abandoned taxicab office; they returned
there to complete Stars of CCTV upon signing to Atlantic.
“No one else was going to make it for us,” says Kemp. “We’ve
got a lot of good ideas, and at that point we had a lot
of time on our hands.”
That work ethic will be on full display as Hard-Fi set out
on their first full stateside trek this week. “If you want
to break America—if you really want to sell records over
there—you’ve got to play everywhere,” says Kemp, “so we’re
going right across the country. We want to be big everywhere,
so we want to play everywhere.”
Everywhere begins right here in Albany, where Hard-Fi will
headline a “low-dough show” at the Skyline Nightclub (90
N. Pearl St., Albany) this Wednesday (Jan. 18). New Order-beholden
Long Islanders Nightmare of You open. Tickets are only $1.27.
For more information, call 472-8150.
The Sounds of the 70s
press release for 8-Track: The Sounds of the 70s
calls the show a “surefire cure for cabin fever,” and we’re
not about to dispute that claim. Heck, when’s the last time
a musical-theater presentation came to town that prominently
featured platform shoes, leisure suits, and songs by the
Carpenters, Helen Reddy, and Three Dog Night? Maybe 30 years
ago, but never with such clear hindsight. Over the last
few decades, it’s become abundantly clear that the 1970s
was the last time that the term “carefree” meant anything
to anyone—how else to explain the era’s fashion, music,
politics, and general attitude? Free love? Casual sex? Hardly.
Rick Seeber, creator of Beehive: The 60s Musical,
concieved and directed 8-Track, which crams 10 years’
worth of gas crises, bell-bottom pants, the Captain, and
Tennille, into less than 90 minutes of performance time.
For baby boomers and hipsters alike, the show promises to
be a whirlwind retrospective of all the things that made
the ’70s our most glorious decade. If nothing else, it should
make for a fun, if not wholly honest (much like that last
sentence) review of the era before cynicism became a national
The Sounds of the 70s opens with five nights of preview
performances, beginning tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 13); the
official opening night is Wednesday (Jan. 18). The show
runs through Feb. 12. For showtimes and ticket information,