The Bowery Ballroom
Real Estate

Real Estate

Jonathan Rado & The Gentleman Jets, Hookworms, Piano Movers

Thu, October 17, 2013

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY


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This event is 18 and over

Real Estate
Real Estate
Atlas, the new album by New Jersey's Real Estate, arrives through Domino on March 3rd 2014. A triumph of highly evocative, perceptive songwriting and graceful, precise musicianship, Atlas carefully refines, and ultimately perfects, the brilliantly distinct artistic vision that made its predecessors Days and Real Estate so beloved.

The most collaborative Real Estate record to date, Atlas was written by Martin Courtney, Matt Mondanile, Alex Bleeker and Jackson Pollis while cruising through the Arizona desert and during a presser in Madrid, in a practice room in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and in an attic in the band's hometown of Ridgewood, New Jersey. It was recorded in the summer of 2013 in Chicago with Tom Shick (Sean Lennon, Low, Cibo Matto) at Wilco's loft studio where new member Matt Kallman (formerly of Girls) joined the fold on keyboards.

Over the course of five years of collaboration and friendship Courtney, Matt Mondanile and Alex Bleeker have honed a masterfully focused aesthetic feel and unique sense of atmosphere in their work, a kind of subtle American impressionism that belies their relatively small discography. Theirs is a subtly inimitable sound that achieves a unique timelessness in its assured identity. Nevertheless, Atlas does not represent a resting on the laurels of Days.

"We wanted to make a cleaner, more well-rehearsed record that reflected the way we've come together as a live band over the last few years", explains Courtney. "Basically we wanted to make a better record than Days without changing the general structure of who we are as a band."

The songs of Atlas still unfurl in iridescent, warm webs of Courtney and Mondanile's guitar, they're still anchored by Bleeker's nimble bass and they’re still patient and deliberate – ebbing and flowing, frequently building to moments of euphoric release in a way that feels perfectly organic. Likewise the band's searching, human songwriting still illuminates the quiet, important moments of life in exquisitely minimal language.

Intimate and spare, these ten new songs unfold as one impossibly warm, enveloping suite - conjuring quiet, late-night drives down wooded highways, rural rambles with friends (and maybe a love interest) on the sunniest afternoons of the year, and hazy summer evenings spent alone, thinking back to those times and the people who were with you for them. You can catch glints of Galaxie 500, Little Wings, Luna, Neu, Nick Drake, and Pavement, and also the art of Fairfield Porter, Milton Avery, and Albert York. It’s precise, taut and uniquely American, cut through with a melancholia that can feel variously heartbreaking and newly wise.

The record's beautiful cover shows sections of a mural by a Polish artist named Stefan Knapp that hung for more than 30 years outside a department store in North Jersey that went under in the ‘90s. For a time it was regarded as the largest mural in the world. The band grew up a few minutes away and spent years driving by the abandoned building and its monumental painting. This vivid, nostalgic image, now lost, goes someway to explaining the concept of Atlas in the way it explores time, growth and change.

"I was trying to write more about where I was at in my life at the time", explains Courtney, "which inevitably led to thinking about my future and where I would like to be. Thoughts of wishing to move away from the city and have a life for my family similar to the one I had growing up. It's a little more uncomfortable writing about your present, a little more personal. The title of the record is meant to convey the idea of these songs as a personal road map for the future. I like to think of this record as an object that can be used and looked to for guidance and reassurance, at least for me personally."
As many as 11% of people can hear The Hum. Having been reported in parts of the UK and USA as far back as the 1940’s, the phenomena of these invasive low-frequency drones - responsible for insanity and, in extreme cases, even suicide - has many theories ranging from mechanical instruments to the clash of ocean waves but nevertheless remains that rarest of things in a 21st century that refuses to leave question marks hanging: an unexplainable anomaly.
Hookworms’ reputation, like The Hum itself, lies in the drone and the uncontrollable constants of their music that remain even after they’ve shattered its thick atmosphere with sharp punches of proto-punk-inspired malevolence. Flinging themselves into the public’s consciousness with 2013’s Pearl Mystic, released by Gringo Records and subsequently reissued worldwide by Weird World, the debut LP’s perfect storm of billowing textures and napalm-filled Modern Lovers licks was one of the most-acclaimed albums of 2013 – receiving plaudits from The Guardian, the BBC, NME, Drowned in Sound (where it was their Album of the Year) and many others.
Eighteen months on, The Hum in some way deals with the fallout from that period, where a bunch of friends merged together in Leeds through a shared love of Nuggets-era garage rock and Washington DC hardcore, found themselves dragged from vocalist, keyboard player and producer MJ’s Suburban Home Studios and into the glaring light. A sell-out UK headline tour in April 2013; festival slots at Latitude, Beacons and Liverpool Psych Fest; a rapturously-received CMJ appearance in New York; support slots with personal heroes Loop and Slowdive and an appearance at the last ever ATP holiday camp. For a group who still keep the process of being a band so self-contained – still managing themselves, preferring to go by their initials in public, and continuing to work day jobs to allow music to remain a passion and an escape – the sudden interest was a challenge as much it was a pleasure.
“We were writing Pearl Mystic to an audience in the same way your diary has an audience,” says guitarist, SS. “It’s written to one but if no one ever reads it that’s not a big deal. But after that, we knew we had a really clear audience for this record. So The Hum is really about different freedoms and constraint. The possibilities with our first LP were vast with what we could make, but with this one there was a much clearer idea about what the record was going to be like - but that’s freeing because you don’t have to worry about its direction as much.”
On paper the record is the flipside of the same coin – nine tracks again, including three more intersections titled ‘iv,’ ‘v’ and ‘vi’; titles are kept short while the author Raymond Carver gains another reference on ‘Beginners’. “We were thinking of starting with a loud scream, to really draw a line in the sand,” reflects SS, “but at the same time we think of The Hum and Pearl Mystic as two parts of the same act.”
If The Hum is a reaction, then its consequence is an album that reaches towards another plain. Hookworms have forged their personality now; as MJ says “it’s like that bit on Fugazi’s Instrument documentary where Brendan Canty says that a jam they’ve got sounds ‘good, but not Fugazi’ – we sound more like Hookworms rather than anyone else on this record.” Within that though they’ve pushed themselves into new territories; the fat’s been trimmed, the delay pedals dialled down and reverb stripped back, allowing bold pop melodies and hooks to burst forth in their place.
Opener ‘The Impasse’ is the closest Hookworms have sounded to their punk roots, a two-and-a-half minute-long garage rock explosion that sees MJ’s vocals pushed to distortion and the density of the surrounding sound almost asphyxiating. Recorded with the idea of sounding “like Suicide if they had a full band” it intentionally juxtaposes the near nine-minute opener of their previous record and sets the stall out for an album that hurtles through with barely a glance backwards. The release and repetition of their previous material remains – most notably on the call and response vocals and sniping guitars of the portentous ‘On Leaving’ – but this is a record that goes for the jugular, aiming to attack the torso as opposed the cerebrum. Those who heard scorched garage rock nugget ‘Radio Tokyo’ last year, will recognise it here again, sounding like a long-lost emission from late 60’s Detroit. First conceived around the making of their first record, the addictive nature of its high-energy bar room dirge ultimately became the starting point for The Hum. “We got so excited playing that track live,” recalls bassist MB. “It made people move and that was something we wanted more of. Going to see acts like Factory Floor and watching how people react to them was really inspiring. It made us want to do something more beat-driven.”
Helping them realise their ambitions in mid-2012 was a post-Pearl Mystic-recording change in personnel that saw JN join the group on drums. A stalwart of the Leeds DIY music scene, the unremitting nature of his no-holds-barred playing kicks The Hum up and down until it’s bruised crimson, punching holes through the pooling textural layers at a ceaseless tempo – with producer MJ putting them it at the front of the mix. “Rhythmically I come from punk rock and I think that’s come across in the record,” says JN, who joined Hookworms after several of the band regularly turned up to shows featuring his other bands - before getting to know MJ when recording with him. “It was a bit like they were keeping tabs on me” he jokes. “But we share a lot of the same values; and I’d become a big fan of them anyway – their first EP was mind-blowing - but even from then it’s been incredible to see them grow in confidence and trust in the songs more and more.”
The collision of JN with the existing members of the group reaches its apex on album centre-piece ‘Beginners’. The song opens the second side of the record and builds around a scuttling series of electronic transmissions, the brutal simplicity of the percussion almost goading the track into opening up – which it does, with a torrent of guttural guitar swirling around like blown apart detritus, vocals inflected with a tangential sense of gospel singers calm amidst the storm; while all the while the beat drives on and on and on.
Thematically The Hum is a record that feels as though it’s come out of the other side of the dark psychological conflicts of Pearl Mystic. MJ is more reticent on the songs’ content this time round, though admits “there are some dark moments still. ‘On Leaving’ is about the loss of a friend; ‘Off Screen’ is probably the most depressing song on the record – it’s intended to stand apart from the rest of the album.” ‘Off Screen’ is the sole break in pace among 35 blistering minutes, drawing influence from the band’s love of Texan dream-poppers Pure X, tidal in the way it rolls over on itself through more than seven emotively fragile minutes. Its stark isolation compared to the rest of the record conversely makes it one of its strongest tracks.
Yet this is a pop record at heart, made emphatically explicit by the ebullient finale of ‘Retreat’ – as MB puts it “a big ‘Yeah!’ moment.” Infectious from the off, it only itches further as it builds before exploding in delirium, MJ’s calls of “you got me thinking about the impasse in the wind” neatly sending the album full circle. Hookworms, however, are only heading forwards.
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002