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Colonizing the Cosmos got a strange magic on 'House of War...'

Written by Scott Mervis on .

colonizingPittsburgh band Colonizing the Cosmos popped up in 2010 with a sound that combined the folk flavor of Paul Simon, chamber-pop elements of Sufjan Stevens and -- living up to the name -- a dash of Flaming Lips space-rock.

The debut album, "The First Frontier," found the Cosmos core -- singer-guitarist Josh Moyer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Savisky -- exploring the concept of space exploration, without getting into sci-fi cliches.

It was a big hit, locally, and WYEP even declared Colonizing the Cosmos its local artist of the year.

The band now returns with a second concept album, "The House of War is a House of Peace," overflowing with even more musical whimsy. This time, the album is accompanied by a co-written novel "House of War." It will be released with a show on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Library of Homewood, 7101 Hamilton Avenue.

Savisky was kind of enough to explain in an email exchange:

This is another concept record. What is this one about?

This is really exciting for us. We started writing a story about a British heart surgeon named Simon Oxley, soon after we finished recording "The First Frontier." Simon is world renowned for his practice, but he hides an embarrassing secret: his only child, Abigail, is terminally ill with a heart condition he cannot cure.

At the beginning of the book, Simon is approached by a mysterious man who offers Simon a magical elixir to heal Abigail in exchange for helping him take down a society of evil magicians who operate (unbeknownst to everyone) in the basement levels below he very hospital.

We intended to create this story as sort of a backdrop to the music, but it just kept growing. It's now a 300- page novel, that we're releasing along with the album on Saturday.

cosmos2How do they tie in together?

The book and album can stand alone and be enjoyed alone, but the songs are all about the story and characters. Sometimes a song would inform the plot of the novel, sometimes a plot twist would inspire us to write a new song. So they're very intertwined in that sense. Certain songs just take on the mood of a scene from the book, or the emotional journey of a character.

How did you adapt your sound to suit the concept?

The story is very wild. There are talking elephants, storks, monarch butterflies. There are train rides across Europe and underground caverns. Often, we thought about what these things would become if they were entirely musical. What does elephant music sound like? What music would play in a dank, dark cavern? We selected our instrumentation carefully and wrote songs to fit these constraints. It's artful for sure, but we always made sure to make songs accessible to the casual listener.

Did you record this as a duo? If so, what kind of band will you have for live performances?

Like our last album, Josh and I recorded, mixed and mastered everything in my little home studio. Just the two of us. I play most of the instruments on the album, and Josh does most of the singing. We added some friends to the mix this time, however. So we have our friend Maggie Dahl on vocals, Joe Liu on strings, and Brian Powers on brass.

We were also really excited to have some girls from the Oakland Girls Choir add a chorus to the song about Abigail, Simon's daughter. The clear, choral, feminine voices were really haunting and perfect for capturing the character of the sick little girl.

Live performances will be more compact. Fewer of us doing more individually. We're challenging ourselves to be more mobile and versatile as a unit.


You guys live (with your wives) in apartments in the same house? How does that work out on a daily basis? Are you constantly running back and forth - and how do your wives feel about that?

Yes, we live in the same house! Josh owns the place. My wife Ashley and I live on the first floor. It's lots of fun! Ashley and I ask for cumin when we've run out and need to finish our green apple chili. Josh and Elisabeth grow kale and tomatoes and the backyard. They have a big Great Dane named Gandalf the Gray. We share dinners on the porch in the summer. Josh can stop down for a few minutes and record the chorus to a song if I need it. It's nice. We call them our friendlords. And our wives just so happen to be the best wives in the universe, so they totally support us and encourage us to create and be musical, even when things get busy.

For more on the band, check out the Cosmos Facebook page

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SLAYER: A brutal good time at Stage AE

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Araya2Everybody has to deal with their stress somehow, right? Some jog, some meditate, some pop pills or drink. Others bottle it up till it makes them sick or crazy.
 
Old-school metal fans, they wait for a band like Slayer -- preferably Slayer! -- to come to town and then it's all unleashed.
 
On Wednesday night at Stage AE, the vintage thrash band was the background music to one of the most violent and entertaining indoor pits you'll see all year. Unlike their recent shows out in Burgettstown there was no mud to fall into, just a concrete floor.
 
KingSlayer came through on a tour that finds the 30-something-year-old band in something of a standstill. There hasn't been new music in four years. Guitarist-songwriter Jeff Hanneman lost his battle to liver disease in the spring and on-again/off-again drummer Dave Lombardo was fired earlier this year over money. That leaves original members Tom Araya and Kerry King with guitarist Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph (both from Exodus), and while you always want to see the original guys, if there's a drop-off there in power or speed, it's only going to be apparent to the most diehard Slayer fans.
 
And this tour was for them. Unlike recent trips here, as part of package bills, Slayer got a full 90 minutes for King's concept of an old-school set. That meant some deeper tracks from early albums "Show No Mercy" and "Hell Awaits" like "The Antichrist," "Necrophiliac" and "At Dawn They Sleep," which featured some of the best King/Holt synched-up guitar work of the night.
 
Slayer played under four upside-down crosses (no fire, because it's inside) and roared like the house band in hell. After a half-dozen songs, the devilish-looking Araya smiled and said softly, almost zen-like, "We're going to continue to pound you, all right?"
 
crowdThey did, and it was relentless, especially in the pit, of which I had an awesome bird's-eye view. More visually entertaining than any of the tattooed fury on stage was the king of that pit: a burly, bearded, 300-pound dude with wearing just shorts and a backwards gold throwback Pirates cap. He positioned himself in the center of the action, amidst all the flying elbows shoulders, daring anyone to knock him over. Shouting back the words and raising his fist, he kept his focus on the stage, unfazed by everything around him. If someone slammed him from behind, he didn't turn around. When he got splashed from behind by beer or water, he didn't turn around. If someone fell within his siteline, he picked them up. His mere hulking steady presence maintained a certain a order in the circle among the smaller bodies crashing around him. 
 
No punches were thrown, but midway through, there was one guy (skinhead, white T-shirt) itching for a fight. Somehow, he was spotted by security and escorted out.
 
Although fans were into the deep tracks (all Slayer stuff is just about equally brutal), it was the warhorses that got people raging the most: "Mandatory Suicide," "Seasons in the Abyss," "Dead Skin Mask," "Raining Blood."
 
HannemanIn honor of their fallen cohort, for the encores of "South of Heaven" and "Angel of Death," Slayer raised a Hanneman banner (adapted from the Heineken logo) to roar from the crowd. The guitarist and founder was watching from somewhere -- most definitely south of heaven.

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A groundbreaking new video for Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone'

Written by Scott Mervis on .

 

photo 1Danny Brown in the 'Like a Rolling Stone' videoBob Dylan never made a video for "Like a Rolling Stone" -- like he did for "Subterranean Homesick Blues" -- so you would think at this point it's better left alone.

 

Any video made now would have to be mind-blowingly awesome. Well, here it is (watch here).

 

To coincide with the release of The Complete Album Collection Volume 1Interactive Video has created a video that makes the song universal and never has to be watched the same way twice. As the song plays, viewers can toggle between 16 channels of people ranging from Drew Carey and Danny Brown to ShopTV hosts and weathermen lip-synching the song. The cumulative effect is stunning.

 

Yoni Bloch, founder and CEO of Interlude, the company that provided the technology, went into knowing full well what was at stake.

"As a musician myself, I can’t imagine a more thrilling project to be a part of than helping create the first video for ‘Like a Rolling Stone.' The song has repeatedly been voted the No. 1 Greatest Song of All Time by Rolling Stone, and is generally regarded as revolutionary, influencing both artists and popular music around the world. Like the song, we hope Interlude will inspire creative professionals everywhere to develop new and unique ways to tell stories through video.”

The video accompanies The Complete Album Collection Volume 1, a 47-CD boxed set containing 35 studio titles (including the first-ever North American release of 1973's Dylan album on CD); 6 live albums; the 2-CD Side Tracks, which compiles in one set previously released non-album singles, tracks from the original Biograph boxed-set and other compilations; a deluxe-bound hardcover book featuring new album-by-album liner notes from author Clinton Heylin and a new introduction by noted journalist and television personality Bill Flanagan.

This project is also available as a limited-edition harmonica-shaped USB stick containing all the music, in both MP3 and FLAC lossless formats. The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series App was also just released, featuring over 500 pieces of rare and historical content.

 

 

 

 

 

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John Prine coming to the Benedum in May

Written by Scott Mervis on .

John Prine250Here's something for your mid-2014 calendar.

John Prine -- a true “songwriter’s songwriter” -- will perform at the Benedum Center on May 16.

Ticket ($59.50 / $49.50) are on sale now at the Benedum Center ticket office, trustarts.org or by phone at 412-456-6666.

The two-time Grammy winner, and former mail carrier -- known for such classic albums as "Bruised Orange" and "Sweet Revenge" -- has had his songs recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, the Everly Brothers, John Denver, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon and Ben Harper.

After seeing him live, Kris Kristofferson once declared, “He’s so good, we’re gonna have to break his fingers.” 

Happily, Kris and his crew never did.

This will be the 67-year-old singer-songwriter's first performance here since March 2012.

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Wiz Khalifa will talk 'Blacc Hollywood' on Mark Cuban's AXS-TV

Written by Scott Mervis on .

wizIt will be a 412 connection when Wiz Khalifa jumps on AXS-TV Tuesday night to talk about and perform songs from his forthcoming album "Blacc Hollywood."

The AXS network was co-founded by Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban, the colorful owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Magnolia Pictures, among other things.

AXS specializes in live music, currently airing concerts by such artists as Green Day, Jane's Addiction, Robert Plant, Sheryl Crow and New Found Glory.

Khalifa, who is preparing his third major label album, will appear on "Skee Live," hosted by DJ Skee. "He is the Oprah of hip hop," Cuban said in an email interview. "The entire music world trusts him to discuss any subject."

Although at 55 he's not in the typical hip-hop demographic, Cuban says he's been a longtime fan. "I was into 'Rapper's Delight' before it was cool. I have always liked rap and hip-hop and still do."

It goes without saying that Cuban, who grew up in Mount Lebanon, would be a fan of the Dice grad who came up with "Black and Yellow."

"We have kept in touch via his managers and on social media," he said. "Pittsburgh is always a strong connection."

That extends to fellow Dice grad Mac Miller, whom you might see exchanging tweets with the Mavericks owner. 
 
"I had some fun messing with Donald Trump on Twitter using Mac's lyrics from his 'Donald Trump' song," Cuban said. "That got us in touch and we still keep up on social media."
 
The Skee Live segment with Khalifa will air at 10 p.m. Tuesday on AXS-TV.
 
 

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