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      Ezra Furman in Philadelphia


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      September 15, 2019

      Sunday   9:00 PM

      1200 Callowhill St
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107

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      Ezra Furman

      with Shilpa Ray
      Transangelic Exodus, Ezra Furmans second album for Bella Union, is a new landmark for theAmerican singer-songwriter: not a concept record, but almost a novel, or a cluster of stories on atheme, a combination of fiction and a half-true memoir, according to its author. A personalcompanion for a paranoid road trip. A queer outlaw saga.The music is as much of an intense, dramatic event, full of brilliant hooks, with an equally evolvedapproach to recorded sound to match Furmans narrative vision. In honour of this shift, his backingband has been newly christened: The Boy-Friends are dead, long live The Visions. In other words,the man who embodies the title of his last album Perpetual Motion People is still on the move... Or inthe vernacular of the new album, on the run.The narrative thread, Furman declares, is Im in love with an angel, and a government is after us,and we have to leave home because angels are illegal, as is harbouring angels. The termtransangelic refers to the fact people become angels because they grow wings. The have anoperation, and theyre transformed. And it causes panic because some people think its contagious,or it should just be outlawed.The album still works without the back story, though, he vouches. Whats essential is the mood -paranoid, authoritarian, the way certain people are stigmatised. Its a theme in American life rightnow, and other so-called democracies.After Perpetual Motion People was released in July 2015, Furman had moved back from California(Oakland) to his home town of Chicago. But after a year, he returned to the west coast (Berkeley thistime). I just seem to keep moving, he sighs. Still, Transangelic Exodus was mostly recorded as allFurman's records have been since 2011 - at his bandmate (saxophonist/producer) Tim SanduskysBallistico Studios in Chicago, and with the other Visions - Jorgen Jorgensen (bass, and on this album,cello), Ben Joseph (keyboards, guitar) and Sam Durkes (drums/percussion).Just as Furmans band hasnt really changed, so his musical DNA remains intact a thrilling, literateform of garage-punk rooted in The Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman and 50s rocknroll. ButTransangelic Exodus is noticeably different to its predecessors. 2016 was a hard year, Furmanrecalls. While the political and cultural conversation devolved in a very threatening way, wetravelled and toured a lot. We saw ourselves coming to the end of what we were, and we wanted tobecome something new.Furman cites Vampire Weekends Modern Vampires Of The City, Becks Odelay, SparklehorsesIts A Wonderful Life, Kendrick Lamars To Pimp A Butterfly, Kayne Wests Yeezus, Angel OlsensBurn Your Fire For No Witness and Tune-Yards Who Kill artists making the most interestingmusic with the available resources as influences on Transangelic Exodus, plus Brian Wilson, BruceSpringsteen and James Baldwins ground-breaking, gay-themed 1956 novel Giovannis Room.My previous records were original in their own way, but got classified as an off-kilter version of aretro band, and I wanted something that sounded more original, he explains. So we took time offtouring, and made sure we took time with every song. I demoed with different band members, andthen combined different demos some parts even made the final album. So, the sound is morechopped up, edited, affected, rearranged.One prime example is the albums lead single Driving Down To LA, a sparse, but explosive, mix ofdoo-wop and digital crunch. Another is the haunting Compulsive Liar. I wrote it as a ballad on aclassical acoustic guitar, but we made it stranger, which brought out the emotion of the lyric morethan it would have in its original form, Furman says. Its less predictable; you dont know wherethe song might go, and that makes me happy.Furman once said, The opening lines of my records tend to be summary statements. So, what does,I woke up bleeding in the crotch of a tree / TV blaring on the wall above the coffee machine (fromSuck The Blood From My Wounds) say about Transangelic Exodus? I like the opening lines somuch, I had to keep them even though they dont make a lot of sense! Youre dropped into this storyor situation, unsure where you are or whats going on, and suddenly youre moving. Thats whatbeing alive feels like to me. Unknown and intense. Its a big part of the records mood.Checking Furmans successive album covers will show his personal journey, coming out as queer andgender-fluid, which the jagged, agitated Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill meets head on,namely the painful experience of being a closeted gender-non- conforming person. Having trans inthe album title has a lot to do with being queer, like [album finale] I Lost My Innocence [to a boynamed Vincent). That early experience marks the narrator for life. From a young age, because ofissues surrounding gender and sexuality, I felt fated to have an outsider perspective. It radicalisesyou.Transangelic Exodus addresses another kind of coming out, as Furman addresses his Jewish faithon record much more openly than before, from the shivery ballad God Lifts Up the Lowly (whichincludes a verse in Hebrew) to the exquisite Psalm 151 and the line I believe in God but I don'tbelieve we're getting out of this one in Come Here Get Away From Me, a heady blend of rocknrollrumble and ghostly clarinet.There is a lot of longing and anger in those songs, Furman reckons. A longing for God, and Godshelp, wondering how long this can go on. It feels like were in exile the innocent, persecuted,oppressed and threatened. But its hard in pop culture to make explicitly religious statements, asmany people including myself - have been hurt by religion.Part of Furmans motivation is the, fear of fascist takeover, expressed in the video to Driving DownTo L.A (filmed in Virginia, and uncannily storyboarded before the states infamous CharlottesvilleUnite The Right rally), as Ezra and his angel are pursued by modern-day Nazis. At school, welearned all about the Holocaust, and were invited to imagine what would happen if the Nazis invadedagain. As white supremacy has become more explicitly institutionalised in the US, my childhoodnightmares have started to show up in songs.Crossing between love, gender, sexuality and religion, and singing in solidarity with the innocent,persecuted, oppressed and threatened, Ezra Furman has soundtracked the current fear and loathingacross America like no other, while pushing ahead with his own agenda, always on the move.

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