Unlocking The Truth – An Unadulterated Take on Modern Metal

There is something beautiful about vulnerability. We often get hung up on the scarier side of chasing dreams, but the very spirit that arms you against the threat of failure makes life worth living.

I’m often reminded of this in unexpected places. Most recently, I’ve found myself inspired by three sixth-graders in Brooklyn: Malcom Brickhouse, Jarad Dawkins, and Alec Atkins who together form an up and coming metal band Unlocking The Truth.

Unlocking the Truth - Atkins, Dawkins, & Brickhouse

Unlocking the Truth – Atkins, Dawkins, & Brickhouse

Maintaining a band isn’t the path of most middle schoolers, but the trio is extremely passionate about writing and performing their music. However I want to caution against viewing their work as childish enthusiasm. Above all else, Unlocking The Truth is an unbridled expression of creativity. The fact that the band member’s are young is intriguing, but ultimately incidental.

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Modest Mouse – “King Rat” Music Video

It’s gotten to the point now where I literally have to chase my friends down to get them to listen to my music. It’s not that I have bad taste, but I think the constant barrage of new and different sounds scares people away. I admit that most of my music requires a little something from the listener – whether it’s total presence or even patience at times – but it’s all worth trying out.

Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse

There are a good number of musical artists in my library that need no introduction; artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Matisyahu to name a couple. Yet of these artists, I am particularly fond of indie-rock band Modest Mouse. To be honest, some of their songs are a bit cacophonous even for me, but I admire their persistent and progressive approach to writing music.

Still from the animated "King Rat" music video

Still from the animated “King Rat” music video

I was looking up their recent news to see what the band is up to when I rediscovered one of my absolute favorite music videos. It was a while ago, but I distinctly remember seeing the animated narrative of “King Rat” for the first time. I watched it again for old time’s sake and quickly remembered how brilliant the video is.

"King Rat" video still - dedication to the late Heath Ledger

“King Rat” video still – dedication to the late Heath Ledger

When it first came out, it received a lot of critical attention. Unfortunately much of this stemmed from the untimely death Heath Ledger – the director behind the project and friend to Modest Mouse. But judging it based on it’s own merit, the video is an incredibly evocative commentary on human industry.

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Margaux Crump’s “Strange Chemistry” Exhibition

The Ninth - handwoven golden thread, calf vellum, water, wood, graphite, & salt

The Ninth – handwoven golden thread, calf vellum, water, wood, graphite, & salt

It was a busy “First Friday” in downtown Raleigh, NC when I first had the pleasure of viewing an exhibition by emerging contemporary artist Margaux Crump. Entitled “Strange Chemistry,” the show investigates the potentiality of birth, decay, and desire – especially concerning how humans respond to these changes within and around them. Fittingly, much of her interest lies in human perception; how exactly do our senses mediate experience? It’s a compelling question that was partially answered on opening night.

Lust Lost - wood, iPod, gathered moth wings, & UVB light

Lust Lost – wood, iPod, gathered moth wings, & UVB light

Full Circle - iron oxide & gold rods detail

Full Circle – paper covered ball moss, iron oxide & gold rods detai

There is a powerful experiential quality about Crump’s work. Her sculptures in particular are characterized by her calculated use of materials that range from gathered plant & animal remains to ultraviolet light. As she explains in her statement, “Though I am concerned with the visual possibilities of new media, the persistent change of organic substances in my work is driven by conceptual considerations. I’m not interested in depicting an idea, but rather conveying it directly through authentic objects. In doing so, I am able to investigate, draw out, and juxtapose their innate cultural associations.” In keeping with her interest in phenomenology, her reliance on natural and transient material (such as harvested teasels, ball moss plants, and handmade paper) not only reflects, but also embodies what she views as the fleeting nature of human existence.

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The Sensitive and Atmospheric Sounds of Poliça

It was almost exactly a year ago when indie-rock/electronic band Poliça released their debut album “Give You the Ghost.” Since then, they have received widespread acclaim from listeners around the world – not the least of which was a cameo in the 2012 Chloé Fall/Winter runway show. Closer to home, Poliça has also developed a major fan base right here in Texas after their highly regarded live performances at both SXSW and Austin City Limits in 2012.

Because I’ve had such a hard time deciding on what track to share, I thought that it would be prudent to post two. “Lay Your Cards Out” – my personal favorite – is dark, quietly seductive, and commands your physical attention. I’m the last thing from a dancer but it’s impossible not to move to this one:

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Gustav Reyes on Kickstarter

A large part of why I created Procured Design was to help spread the word about talented artists and their work. Just over a month ago I featured Gustav Reyes‘ beautiful handcrafted wooden jewelry. Today, I want to share his Kickstarter campaign.

In addition to continuing his line of jewelry, Reyes wants to expand his practice by crafting larger pieces for the home. Yet to do so with the same environmentally conscious production methods, he requires some expensive new machinery and a lot of community support. Take a moment to look at the campaign video above and visit Kickstarter to see how you can get involved!

Remembering “A New Day Yesterday”

I first discovered Joe Bonamassa years ago in Atlanta where he opened for blues legends Kenny Wayne Shepherd & B.B. King. It was late in the afternoon on an airless summer day when Bonamassa and his two band mates hit the stage to perform in front of a sunlit and sparsely attended venue. Granted there were a couple of in-the-know die-hard Bonamassa fans (who probably bought tickets just to see him), but the rest of us were spread few and far between, hoping that the opening act was worth bearing the heat.

Joe Bonamassa - A New Day Yesterday Live I don’t want to get too wrapped up in reminiscence, but it turned out that Bonamassa’s performance was the most memorable aspect of the entire evening. The synergy between the three band mates was phenomenal, especially as they went from low tempo blues to fast paced, technically ludicrous solos. As a fan of blues-inspired rock (and rock-inspired blues), I knew I had stumbled on one of the preeminent creative forces in either genre. Even if you aren’t a fan of either, you might still enjoy seeing a live performance of “Don’t Burn Down That Bridge” – the closing track on A New Day Yesterday Live (2002).

I haven’t kept up with the band since that night so I can’t speak to their more recent releases, but there is something about that unique place and time that will never lose its magic. Try it out and see what you think!

The Hill-side – “Old Virginia” Collection

Having spent a good portion of my life growing up in rural Virginia, I am always proud when others recognize the great craftspeople in that tiny corner of the world. I was particularly pleased to see that American-made accessories label The Hill-side shares my appreciation through the debut of their “Old Virginia” collection, which relies exclusively on custom woven fabrics from the Virginia foothills.

S70-062 White Scarf Detail (image courtesy of Hickorees.com)

S70-062 Blue Scarf Detail (image courtesy of Hickorees.com)

Consisting of scarves and ties, this line is created from textiles manufactured on a single shuttle loom that dates back to the 1930s. In addition to producing selvedge detailing at both edges of the fabric, this particular loom is notable for creating a very special pattern known as a “modified herringbone”.

S70-065 Scarf Detail (image courtesy of Hickorees.com)

S70-065 Scarf Detail (image courtesy of Hickorees.com)

Hill-side and Tender Co. Collaboration Jeans (image courtesy of Hickorees.com)

Hill-side and Tender Co. Collaboration Jeans (image courtesy of Hickorees.com)

This distinctive weave functions like a traditional herringbone pattern, but incorporates various colors of yarn that are interspersed– almost sporadically – across the warp. The result is a decidedly unique fabric that juxtaposes different hues, tones, and textures throughout a given yard of fabric. This emphasis on character and individuality is a nice foil to the underwhelming homogeneity of mass production.

Old Virginia: The Hill-Side’s “Modified Herringbone” Fabric from The Hill-Side on Vimeo.

After scrolling through their lookbook, be sure to check out The Hill-side’s video that documents the weaving process. While I’m obviously partial to the visual aspects of the Old Virginia collection, the audio is the most profound aspect of the film. Between the dulcimer music, the ticking machinery, and the voiceovers, it offers an intimate (and nostalgic) glimpse into the life and values of these craftsmen.

John Butler’s “Ocean” – An Allegorical Take on Life, Beauty, and Change

As a ‘thank you’ to his fans around the world for their continued support, guitarist John Butler recorded and released a special live studio performance of his most famous instrumental. It turns out that “Ocean” is not only a dynamic musical accomplishment, but it is an ever-expanding piece that chronicles Butler’s personal evolution both as a songwriter and an individual.

Because this song expresses through melody what Butler can’t in words, it offers an incredible insight into his growth over the last 14 years. Musically, the piece continually benefits from newly incorporated stylings and nuances. Alluding to its namesake, “Ocean” swells and dissipates in veritable waves of intensity from delicate fingerpicking to invigorated strumming. There are similar fluctuations in terms of tempo, but each variation flows seamlessly from one to the next. In that sense, there is nothing cerebral or calculated about this piece; it is purely emotive. Even the surprising integration of modern effects pedals and percussive tapping contributes to the song’s beauty without showboating.

Butler performing at the Beale St Music Festival in Memphis 2007 (image courtesy of Josh Mintz)

Butler performing at the Beale St Music Festival in Memphis 2007 (image courtesy of Josh                 Mintz of www.photosbyjosh.com)

Yet all musical characteristics aside, what is truly astounding about “Ocean” is the idea that a work of art can be dynamic. The piece has undergone dramatic transformations since it was first recorded in 1998, and will continue to do so as long as Butler is mindful of his own intrinsic development. All in all, the changing “Ocean” is a humble reminder that no one moment is more important than another. Rather, it shows that beauty is not a specific place, but a sort of overarching spectrum: an amalgamation of contexts, experiences, and incongruities that reveal the perpetual value of existence.

Be sure to check out Butler’s performance in the video above. You can also download a free mp3 version of the recording here, courtesy of the John Butler Trio. Enjoy!

Live From an Abandoned Fish Tank – Sigur Ros’s “Gitardjamm”

This is an absolutely stunning performance by Icelandic group Sigur Ros. The song (“Gitarjamm”) was exclusive to their Heima DVD when it debuted in 2007. As you will see in the video below, the visual component of this piece is just as expressive as the song itself.

Place is a rather important theme throughout their Heima film. In this case, the live performance was shot inside an abandoned herring oil tank that once bustled with industry, labor, and the desperate flailing of doomed fish. With that in mind, take notice of both the ethereal acoustics and overlying poignancy of “Gitarjamm” as it was filmed below.

City Guide – Paris, France

Having recently returned from my first visit to Paris, I thought it appropriate to sift through the experiences I had during my stay and translate them into a brief city-guide. However, I wanted to do something a bit different. Most guides I’ve read highlight the obligations (i.e. “must-sees” and “must-eats”), but then follow with a phonebook-sized list of almost everything else available in the city. While it’s wonderful to have so many options to choose from, I thought a curated guide would give a more intimate glimpse into the side of Paris I enjoyed. My hope is to shed light on rewarding experiences that one might not seek out on their own. After all, there is so much to see that it’s easy to overlook what’s in our periphery.

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Just because it is the biggest, oldest, or most famous attraction does not guarantee that it is the most impressive. Below are my top two visits that many may overlook. But before deciding where to go, it’s good to know how to get there…

The Paris Pass

The first thing you should do after booking flights and accommodations is look into the Paris Pass. There are different options available, but the basic principle is to streamline your visit as much as possible through unimpeded use of mass transit (buses, RER, & metro), free entry into almost all museums/monuments, and the ability to save time by skipping lines. You pay a given fee upfront for your pass before it is mailed to you, but the price is more than reasonable given how much money and time you will save during your stay. You can find more information here.

When planning your visit, it’s worth noting that many shops/boutiques around the city are closed on Mondays. Similarly, a majority of museums are closed on Tuesdays. There are exceptions though, so it’s worth the research. Many museums also have late night admission 1-2 times during the week. If that’s the case, see everything else during the day and enjoy the given museum at night when the crowds have dispersed and you have the collection to yourself.

Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle (wiki-rendering)

Although Sainte Chapelle barely escapes the shadows cast by Notre Dame, visitors often skip this relatively small chapel when visiting Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris. Originally built to house King Louix IX’s expansive collection of relics, the chapel is now known for its incredible stained-glass windows that encompass the entire building. While it’s important to see as many sights as possible, I was actually far more impressed by Sainte Chapelle than I was with Notre Dame. In a pinch, I would choose to visit the former.

A taste of the stained glass (post restoration)

The chapel is currently in the final stretch of a 3-4 year restoration project, so a small portion of the glass is obscured at the moment. However, now is a great time to visit as you can’t find cleaner glass anywhere else! Check the website for a calendar of events that often features classical music recitals. I’ve heard the chapel has wonderful (albeit ethereal) acoustics.

4 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris, France
Tel: (33) 01 44 54 19 33
1 Mar – 31 Oct: open everyday from 9:30A to 6:00P
1 Nov – 28 Feb: open everyday from 9:00A to 5:00P
Closed: 1 January, 1 May, & 25 December

Palais de Tokyo

The Palais de Tokyo is a modern space with a heavy emphasis on contemporary installation art. That said, it is also harbor to a constant flux of video, 2D work, design, and musical performances.

The work there tends to be cutting-edge and thought provoking, so it promises to be a memorable visit for any fan of the arts. The complex is also known for its incredible bookstore.

13, Avenue du Président Wilson, 
75116 Paris, France
Tel: 01 47 23 54 01
Wednesday through Monday from 12:00P-12:00A

***Closes early at 6:00P on 24 & 31 December
Closed: Tuesdays; 1 January, 1 May, & 25 December

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When looking for dining options in Paris, virtually anybody can find great restaurants like Café des Musees or Robert et Louise. Not that these cafes are a dime a dozen, but I enjoyed stepping out of the “Parisian” culinary experience in seeking out something a bit different…

Soya – Cantine Bio

Although Paris is known for its epicurean standards, it is not regarded as vegetarian-friendly. However, the casual yet elevated vegetarian fusion at Soya is a notable exception and is worth seeking out even if you are an omnivore.

The restaurant is tucked away on a not-so-busy street in Le Marais, which is a great area in and of itself. The atmosphere is open and laid back, yet they remain very calculated in what they serve. Their menu is comprised of changing seasonal dishes, all of which are all made using local and organic ingredients. They even have many naturally gluten-free dinner options for those with dietary restrictions.

20, Rue de la Pierre Levée, 75011 Paris, France
Tel : 01 48 06 33 02
Mon-Fri: 12:00 P – 3:30P; 7:00P – 11:00P
Sat-Sun: 11:30A – 4:00P

Helmut Newcake

It might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but the best pastries I had while in France were from Helmut Newcake – a gluten-free café/patisserie located in the 10th arrondissement. While my diet is the last thing one could call gluten-free, I was nonetheless floored by the textures and flavors in their crusts. Nowhere else in Paris could I find a better lemon tart (believe me, I tried), but everything they served was exquisite – including their daily lunch selections which featured various quiche and rice dishes among other offerings.

Unfortunately, they don’t have a website but you can find them via Facebook or by visiting:

36 Rue Bichat, 75010 Paris, France
Tel: 09 82 59 00 39
Wed-Sat: 12:00P – 8:00P
Sun: 10:00A – 6:00P

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Personally, shopping is always an important aspect of any trip. I find however that it pays to be a curator rather than a consumer. Here’s a good way to go about it:

Repetto Stock Store

For decades, Repetto has been a staple of Parisian style. Although the label began by solely making ballet slippers, they quickly branched out into the fashion world by introducing their hand-made, everyday shoes to the everyday market. If you searching for a pair, be sure to visit their ‘hidden’ stock store in the 9th Arrondissement for a good deal. Although it’s apparently a well-kept Paris secret, my girlfriend and I noticed a couple eager shoppers collecting outside the unmarked entrance just before opening time. They had a solid collection of last season’s shoes, interesting colors, and assorted handbags, so there is sure to be something there for everyone. Remember though, you didn’t hear about it from Procured Design.

24 Rue de Châteaudun, 75009 Paris, France
Tel: 33 01 53 32 84 84
Tues-Sat: 10:30A-7:00P

Calligrane

Some familiar work from Issac Reina

The area surrounding Rue du Pont Louis Philippe just north of the Seine is packed full of interesting shops and cafes. However, the best visit I had was Calligrane – a store devoted to stationery, specialty paper goods, book arts, and leatherwork. Originally founded in Cannes, the boutique has been in operation since 1979. Their phenomenal stock of rare papers and unique handmade goods is the product of years spent traveling the world, conversing with artisans in Nepal, India, Japan, Brasil, Bhutan, and Europe.

Paper Sculpture by Miki Nakamura

The shop showcases a diverse stable of different paper, book, and leather artists who work towards vastly different realizations of their given craft. It is an incredibly rich experience to poke around the shop and talk to the owners, who just recently took the reins of their family’s business. It’s also a great opportunity to pick up some well-curated handmade goods – or even order custom stationery, notebooks, and business cards.

6 Rue du Pont Louis Philippe, 75004 Paris, France
Tel: 01 48 04 09 00
Tues-Sat: 12:00P-7:00P

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While there is so much more to see and do in the city, it’s best to leave the rest to you to discover. Each trip will have different highlights for different people. That said, feel free to share your favorite places and experiences in Paris – or anywhere for that matter. It’s always nice to know where to go!

Follow Up: Yasuaki Onishi at Rice Gallery

"Reverse of Volume" RG, 2012; Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas; Photo: Nash Baker

“Reverse of Volume” RG, 2012; Commission, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas; Photo: Nash Baker

A while back, I wrote about Yasuaki Onishi‘s upcoming “Reverse of Volume” installation at Rice Gallery in Houston. Having attended the opening, I had the pleasure of speaking both with Onishi as well as the curator who were both thrilled at the final product. As with most installation work, this piece was a site specific work that took advantage of the high ceilings – thus offering the first opportunity for the viewer to step underneath the work to experience the piece from below. Suffice it to say that the show has generated a great deal of hype around town. Here are some images and a short video documenting the installation at Rice Gallery. Be sure to go and check it out in person before it comes down on the 24th of June.

Yasuaki Onishi: reverse of volume (RG) from Mark & Angela Walley on Vimeo.

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