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Tag Archives: Knitting Factory Records


Words by Kristina Ensminger

Who: The Phantom Family Halo
What: A live preview of their upcoming album, When I Fall Out (February 14, 2012; Knitting Factory Records), in its entirety.
Where: Death by Audio – Brooklyn, NY
When: November 27, 2011

The Phantom Family Halo, brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Dominic Cipolla, is an amalgamation of Cipolla’s eclectic musical taste—from Amon Düül to John Cale to Alice Cooper. With such a wide-ranging palette to draw from, PFH’s sound can’t be filed neatly under any one genre; psychiatric-meets-psychedelic krautrock seems to be the most fitting. Their most recent release, The Mindeater EP, a split with fellow Louisville native Bonnie “Prince” Billy, is more somber folk than psych-rock (the exception being the electric, jam-heavy cover of “I Wonder If I Care as Much,” with its epic five-minute guitar solo), showing Cipolla’s chameleon-like appeal—he’s as equally adept at acoustic subtlety as he is at electric experimentation. 

The When I Fall Out show at Death by Audio felt like a thumbnail preview of what PFH is capable of live, but not the whole picture. Early in the set, Cipolla inquired, “Can anyone see sparks? Because I’m getting the shit shocked out of me.” The shock factor was fitting, since Cipolla acted as the band’s lightning rod—his stage presence was reserved, but he still managed to conduct a massive amount of energy from his grounded stance. Conversely, William Benton—who played bass and some guitar on the record—had a much more physical presence, wailing on guitar and making use of as much of the small stage as possible. The visual art element was hard to decipher (the projection was lost against the painted walls at DBA), but the raw DIY sound actually complemented the album’s dark subject matter and gritty vibe.

When I Fall Out is the first of two concept albums (the second of which will be released next fall) written as a catharsis after Cipolla lost a close friend. A Dante-like journey through the macabre, each song represents a different level of darkness. “White Hot Gun,” with manic guitar solos that build into a raging climax, seems like the sonic equivalent of watching someone in a padded cell devolve into madness. Abruptly downshifting, the next track, “Dirty Blade,” glides into the numbness of grief with a funky, low-end piano bass line and tiptoeing guitar riffs. “Above My Head” feels like pre-institutionalized Roky Erickson, while “Lightning On Your Face” has a dark cinematic surrealism.

The second-to-last track, “The Fall Out Suite” (a bookend to the opening track “The Fall Out”), feels and sounds like a final acceptance of death—both haunting and soothing. The last track, “Vital Energy,” seems more like the album’s epilogue, a glimpse into the spooky transition between worlds that ends with a Barrett-era Floyd-like battery drain, the final notes and thoughts being slowly sucked away into another realm. Whether this song represents the end to this chapter or the beginning of the next story, whatever follows is sure to be epic.


Teenage and Torture, the sophomore release by Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, offers more than just one anthem for the outraged and the furious. Hookers, the opening track, hares off with a pulsating, blood-boiling rhythm. “Click on me boy,” Ray dares her antagonist throughout the chorus. The Animosity triggered by Teenage and Torture quickly takes over and devours all other rationale. Suddenly, while listening to The Happy Hookers, it’s never felt so good to feel so angry.

Shilpa Ray

Heaven in Stereo, with its manic vigor, will set fans ablaze. As the main contender for hit single on the album, it’s a catchy tune overflowing with anxious energy and dauntless revelations. Check out this track’s campy video by Will Joines, inspired by 80’s slasher movies. It’s a special treat for fans of the Happy Hookers, as well as horror and gore enthusiasts.

Shilpa Ray8

Not every song on Teenage and Torture is so belligerent. Surrendering herself to love and despair as well as bellicose rage, Shilpa Ray will pick you up to bring you down. Tracks like Venus Shaver, Dames A Dime A Dozen, and Genie’s Drugs come from the heart of a hopeless romantic. These ballads cool down the album and offer a much needed break from the ferocity and intensity of Ray’s wrath.

Shilpa Ray2

Midway through Teenage and Torture, just as you let down your guard, Ray unleashes her most audacious number, Liquidation Sale, in which she howls and moans like a dog rabid with hate. “Fuck you—fuck you—fuck you,” she utters under her smoky breath moments before erupting into a raging tantrum. It’s a friendly reminder that Ray’s bite just might be as bad as her bark.

Teenage and Torture, the band’s first album with Knitting Factory Records, will be available Tuesday, and their record release party will be at Brooklyn Bowl this Friday, January 21st, with Soft Black and She Keeps Bees. Make it your business to be there. But be warned. Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers are not for the weak of heart.

Photos & Words by Carly Sioux


Brooklyn The Borough and Fortnight Journal hosted an acoustic benefit last Thursday, Nov. 11th, at Southpaw with special guests Patti Smith (with Lenny Kaye) and Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers. The pairing of Smith and Ray, two poetic and unconventional artists, was an effort to further expand the mission of Fortnight Journal, a new multimedia website whose objective is to revive cross-generational mentorship.

Jazz revivalist Tamar Korn (The Cangelosi Cards), kicked off the event with two songs, followed by an animated set by Brooklyn-based Outernational, whose frontman, Miles Solay, repeatedly ensured that the audience was “alright.” Solay comes across as a man for the people, and perhaps it’s a genuine endeavor, but his seemingly scripted stage antics and overly self-aware mannerisms make it hard to take his politics seriously. Outernational is more of a caricature of revolution, following a bit too closely in the footsteps of renowned rockers like The Clash and The Pogues. Live, Outernational are talented musicians and incorporate an interesting array of musical instruments into their performance. Solay’s raspy vocals are well suited for singing  his blue collar blues, but these salty boys would benefit greatly through finding their own voice rather mirroring their mentors.

Shilpa Ray hauled her harmonium front and center, and, as the lights dimmed, tore into a moody and brooding set that included Plea Bargain, a catchy tune from her former band Beat The Devil. Slightly mellowed by the acoustic nature of the performance, Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers still managed to pump up the adrenaline as the feisty front woman howled and moaned her way through the performance. The Hookers recently released a limited edition 7” titled Venus Shaver, their first recording with Knitting Factory Records and will soon follow up with a full-length album, Teenage and Torture, on January 18, 2011.

After the provocative set by The Happy Hookers, revved up fans were ready and waiting with bated breath for Patti Smith, only to encounter one more minor obstacle: the fresh faced Zane Alan McWilliams from Texas. For nearly fifteen minutes, McWilliams fumbled with the tuning of his guitar; a stunt so pathetic it almost seemed like a joke. After another few awkward moments in front of the anxiously awaiting crowd, a freshly tuned guitar was brought out to McWilliams and his two chord melodies ensued.

Finally, at the end of the night, came Patti Smith, who graciously excused McWilliams for his incompetence on stage with her own account of a de-tuned guitar blunder as his guitar malfunctioned once again at the onset of their duet. Delicate and tender, Smith barely resembled the poetic punk rock icon of the 70’s.  She majestically flowed through her set with the ease of a great storyteller, her once fierce flame now incandescent as a muted candle.  Smith has transcended into a relic, a heroic survivor whose classic songs have adopted new meanings as they’ve evolved along with their author.  Only during her encore of Pissing in the River did Smith evoke the radiant revolutionary of her youth. Rather than dismiss Smith’s most recent contribution to the arts, the point is to accept this departure as progress. Angst is far better suited for youth, and the calm that has overcome Patti Smith seems fitting for an artist who has undergone the rite of passage from punk icon to poetic sage.

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Photos and Words by Carly Sioux

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