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"All Music Guide (4 out of 5 stars)"

Antony Widoff, who records nearly orchestral one-man-band pop under the name Weak, is oddly reminiscent of an earlier D.I.Y. orchestral pop contender, Ultra Vivid Scene's Kurt Ralske, with two notable exceptions: he doesn't drown his music in Cocteau Twins-style reverb and he's not an insufferably pretentious git. Make no mistake, Widoff is a little pretentious -- the lyrics evoke the occasional eye roll and he sometimes equates a straining falsetto vocal with "passion" -- but mostly in a good way, and most of Weak is hugely entertaining. Widoff makes a point to throw as many changeups into his arrangements as he possibly can, with the result that "What Brought Us Together" has the gimmicky charm of a mid-'80s Cure or Siouxsie & the Banshees single, complete with vibraphone fills, finger clicks, and a swinging eighth-note beat constructed out of what sounds like the wheezing of a dying air conditioner, and right after that, the haunting, crystalline "Alice Said" sets one of the album's most emotional lyrics to a simple synthesizer melody that has the direct-hit heartbreak of a classic John Cale ballad. He even covers the immortal "Here, There and Everywhere" without looking like a complete idiot in the attempt. Weak is the sort of album that takes a couple of listens to fully sink in, but time spent with it is paid back with dividends. - Stewart Mason


"Illinois State University"

November 20, 2003

Antony Widoff recently gave a demonstration and solo performance at Illinois State University, where I teach composition and theory. I am writing to express the great impact of his demo and concert on all who attended-electronic musicians, traditional composers, and musical laypersons alike. His was the most valuable visit for our composition students in recent memory. I recommend his presentation without qualification to any composition, electronic music, or music business program.

I invited Tony because I was captivated by his recent pop CD Weak. I knew he had experience in academic music settings, in software development, and in commercial music as well, but I had no real idea how inspiring his demonstration would be. His idiosyncratic use of technology was fascinating and virtuosic. His presentation was articulate and meaningful in some way to all present, despite the wide range of their experience with music technology. Perhaps the most valuable lesson for our students, though, lay in Tony's paradoxical relationship to the technology. Here was an expert user, a verifiable digital music geek, proclaiming that technology is more often than not a limiting and de-humanizing force, that nothing was more expressive, and therefore potentially powerful, than the human voice. Tony showed that it is possible to use current tools to create what one wants, but that the user must beware of the seductive power of the gear. His demonstration gave me as well as my students much to think about.

Tony displayed a similar combination of useful expertise and skepticism regarding music business. Tony earns much of his living writing commercial music for radio and television. He gave valuable advice to students about how to make their way in the commercial world, even taking the time to counsel one student individually and take home his demo CD for further comment. At the same time, he was completely frank about his serious qualms, musical and ethical, with commercial music work. He did not come off at all as a tormented, burned-out cynic; rather, he exuded the calm of someone who has made some difficult but carefully thought-out compromises with the "real world." This was yet another lesson to our composition students-those who think of commercial music as all glamor and riches as well as those who have not bothered to think at all about making a living.

I hope I have made my enthusiasm clear, but I am more than happy to elaborate personally in writing or by phone.


David Feurzeig, DMA
Assistant Professor of Theory and Composition
Illinois State University, Campus Box 5660, Normal, IL 61790
feurzeig@ilstu.edu
(309) 438-8524

- David Feurzeig


"Berkshire Eagle (Best of 2003 selection)"

July 27, 2003:

Weak

“Weak” (Fang)

Performing as Weak, Hudson, N.Y.-based singer-songwriter Antony Widoff is really a one-man orchestra, putting together haunting gems of psychedelic pop all by himself like some crazed fusion of the Fab Four and George Martin all rolled up into one. Widoff actually covers “Here, There and Everywhere” on his eponymous debut, which veers from spooky electronic circus music to Soft Cell-like new wave to Todd Rundgrenesque soul. Call it pop music for the apocalypse.  

For best of 2003 article see "Bubbling Under" at:
http://www.rogovoy.com/555.shtml - Seth Rogovoy


"Metroland (Best of 2003 selection)"

Volume 27 - Number 1- Jan. 1, 2003

Best of 2003

(1. OutKast )...
(2. Neil Young & Crazy Horse)...

3. Weak
Rarified pop of the highest order. Antony Widoff is eccentric and negative in all the right ways; the peppiest song is about a relationship gone stale. You want references? Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, blah blah blah.

(4. The Black Eyed Peas)...
(5. Kelis)...
(6. The Raveonettes)...
(7. The Raveonettes)...
(8. The Beatles)...
(9. Missy Elliott)...

http://www.metroland.net/back_issues/vol_27_no01/recordings.html - Shawn Stone


"Miscellaneous Comments from Various Personages"

“A very creative album...also very original and that’s unusual these days.”
Mike Garson, David Bowie Band

“wow. i'm nearly speechless: what a beautiful, gorgeous, substantial piece this 'weak' recording is.....” david torn aka splattercell

“Nice album, cheerfully, psychedelically, bleak -- your voice has been insinuating , all week long, from my speakers, that "I might be missing something", and generally filling me full of doubt. Too right, mate, too right! “
Bill Bruford, Earthworks / Yes / King Crimson

“I just wanted to drop a line and say thanks for the WEAK cd. I think its great stuff. As a musician/composer myself I really appreciate the simplicity and the non-typical approach that this music is embracing.” Todd Legault, Intralink Film

“Gentle, sweet, vicious, and sad.”
Claudia Rowe, NY Times (unpublished comment)

“These are mood pieces with the compositional depth of jazz ballads laced with refreshingly strange treatments.”
John Savlove, Savelove Music

“Intricate, effortless, demented, delicate, heartwrenching, reminiscent, resonant, old as hell, brand new. These are some of the first words to come to mind. I loved it.”
Simone Felice, the big empty

“Please pass on [to Weak] how much I enjoyed and admired the CD. Particularly impressive is the sonic integration of electro-acoustic instrumentation with the harmony.”
Stanley Silverman, composer

“Imagine Radiohead with more haunting and exquisitely tasteful electronic textures than jangly guitar, an even more naked and honest vocal approach... well, just go listen for yourself and buy the CD.”
Doug Wyatt, Sonosphere.com

“Honest and sharp words. Some reality there. Well done...it seems effortless. I like the record very much.”
Armen Ra

“Weak stretches the possibilities of what is achievable for both the performer and the listener.” Todd Vos aka Tako

"Weak is a haunting trip through a musical twilight zone.”
Owen Swenson, The Turning Mill

“The music is sublime.” Meg Cottam

“This is the best thing I’ve found on Cornerband.com. It’s like the exact opposite of all the corporate crap chocking the radio nowadays. I can’t wait to get this cd.”
Dan M. Wheeler

“This is a very cool CD.”
Seth Rogovoy, WAMC FM Cultural Czar/The Berkshire Eagle/The Rogovoy Report - Some Known, Others Not


"Alibi Magazine"

For once, I'm nearly speechless. Weak is Antony Widoff, a self-styled hermit who makes a variety of delightfully odd, demented and outrageously beautiful music in a room somewhere in upstate New York. A film and television composer, Widoff has worked with David Bowie and U2, but his debut solo recording is reminiscent of neither. Whatever this music will one day be called, it's the freshest combination of pop brilliance, ancient electronica and murderous balladry to come along since The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs. This one was beamed back from the future for your immense pleasure. Available online only.

cdbaby.com/weak
cdstreet.com/artists/weak - Michael Henningsen


"Soundstage!"

July 2003

The cover of Weak’s first, self-titled disc is an out-of-focus photo of brightly colored flowers. The back cover is an ominous negative color exposure of a cityscape. Together, those images capture pretty well the brooding, psychedelic pop music inside the CD case. Weak is Antony Widoff, who has worked in some capacity for David Bowie and U2 and composed music for film, television, theater, and dance. He’s also created a multimedia installation called "Growing Up Now," which you can read about on his website .

A quick glance at Mr. Widoff’s bio ("…[he] has tortured himself for years to make music and multimedia that issues from the heart of this tragic time") might leave you with the impression that he’s too smart and precious for his own good. He’s smart, all right, and we can be thankful because he’s created a disc of exceptionally intelligent pop music. While he’s consciously avant-garde, he doesn’t let that fact overwhelm his remarkable grasp of song structure or his enchanting feel for melody.

Widoff’s gift for creating atmosphere is the key to this disc. He uses electronic keyboards and guitar effects to create beautifully evocative accompaniment to his songs. "Anxiety" mixes a calliope-like keyboard and a fuzz-toned, tremolo guitar that sounds like it was lifted from the '60s television series "The Prisoner." Weak is filled with an array of unusual sounds -- springy percussion, processed keyboards, tape loops, and doctored guitars. Widoff humanizes technology, particularly drum machines, and because his music is so utterly contemporary, even the things he recycles from the past sound up to the minute.

He’d probably be appalled to have it said of him, but Widoff’s a tunesmith. For all the strangeness of the overall sound of the disc, the songs stay with you. "What Brought Us Together" has the oddball hit potential of a Cure single, and "Wide World" kept popping into my head for days. Widoff is absolutely sure of where he’s going with these songs. There’s tremendous intelligence behind the elements used to construct each track, and the disc is filled with goodies that require you to listen sharply. A thumping synth-bass anchors "Wide World," but all manner of swirling keyboards and echoplexed guitars dart in and out.

Weak includes an arrangement of "Here, There, and Everywhere" (the disc’s only cover) that shows Widoff’s appreciation for songcraft. He won’t make you forget the original, but he demonstrates how a musician with a unique sound in his head can make a song his own while and not sacrifice the things that make it memorable. He approaches his own songs in the same manner, rarely letting his playfulness with the instrumentation get out of hand.

Widoff played all the instruments on Weak, which, along with its home-studio sound, reinforces his image as an eccentric recluse. Kenny Siegel produced the disc and recorded it at his studio, Old Soul. The DIY feel is intentional -- I e-mailed Fang Records about the recording, and Widoff himself informed me that he started to remix it for better audio quality, but he felt he was losing some of the overall mood. While a big-studio approach might have brightened things up or defined some elements in the recording, I never really felt I was missing anything. Widoff’s vocals are in razor-sharp focus, and overall the sound is very clean, if at times a little busy.

Widoff brings a sense of humor to his use of old technology here, especially the drums machines and rhythm boxes, which he makes no attempt to disguise as anything but the clunky artifacts they are. These light touches keep the disc from becoming too pretentious. On some songs ("Anxiety," "Regrets") his voice sounds strained and somewhat mannered, but it’s the right choice for those songs. On other tracks he sounds more relaxed, but he always uses his voice in the context of the overall atmosphere of the song.

There’s something almost fragile about Weak. Although I’d love to hear what Widoff would do with a bigger recording budget, I think this disc is the result of Widoff pushing his vision past the limits imposed on him. He deserves a wide audience, and his songwriting is so unique that it could even transcend major-label support. This could be the beginning of a beautiful career. - Joseph Taylor / josepht@soundstage.com


"Chronogram"

Nothing is Sexier Than the Strange
By Sharon Nichols Photo by Beth Blis

Weak is whack. Weak will tempt you to seek out your local carny. Celine Dion fans will not like anything about Weak. Bearded ladies will.

Weak is vanilla ice cream oozing from buttercups. It’s both fragile and strange. Weak is a tiptoe through a musical funhouse, each song a mirror reflecting a different face. These faces are unknown and familiar at the same time. Who do these faces belong to?

You. Me. Anyone. But more specifically to Hudson-based composer Antony Widoff, a mysterious, intriguing, and somewhat sequestered individual whose musical cabaret is a thwack in the face of traditional explanation or mainstream approval. When hard pressed to describe his music, Widoff throws off words such as "eerie", "provocative", and "down-tempo dream pop". But dissecting his work by using words isn’t something he’s zealous about.

"What’s weird?" he asks. "What’s normal? Normal is pretty weird if you take a good look at it. Normal is often downright frightening. Weird is actually not weird at all. Weird is incredibly natural." By examining definitions and language, Widoff concludes that the meaning behind words is often inverted and ultimately meaningless. "If you ask me to describe my music, I say ‘you tell me'. Ultimately, talking about music isn’t satisfying. Music helps us get away from talking."

So, what is Weak? Weak is a word describing a cd, a project, a man and, eventually, a band. But why the name? Widoff suffered from chronic fatigue for a number of years, brought on by mercury toxicity. Nine months of intravenous chelation therapy brought dramatic improvement in energy levels, as did developing a tai chi practice for grounding. But the underlying meaning of Weak goes deeper.
"This culture has a way of presenting an image of strength that we’re preoccupied with, even in pop music," Widoff explains. "There’s a lot of bravado. A sense of power is something we desire in both mainstream and alternative culture. In general, humanity is on a pretty heavy power trip. We think it’s okay to exercise our will on the planet, and we’ve set up a situation where we have this incredible interdependence. A lot of that is the byproduct of technology, which is supposed to empower us more, but ultimately we end up in a far weaker situation. Weakness is something that’s not often examined. The weakness that’s looming around us needs to be paid attention to, it needs to be honored in some way."

Trip back to the days when people got off on cheesy home organs. That's the era in which Widoff best manifests his offbeat power. He’s in his element in front of the quirky vintage synth or fat-sounding, slip-out-of-tune keys from the ‘80s. Recording on 24-track analog at Kenny Siegal’s (Johnny Society) Old Soul studio, Widoff hedged himself in with the craziest old keys—Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, Minimoog, Clavinet—and drum kit and guitar, orchestrating as he went. Adding vocals that are sometimes intensely beautiful and mournful, other times frightening, the inverted meaning of "weak" turned out to be especially potent, resulting in an eponymous 12-track cd released on Rompu/Fang Records. But potent for whom?

Beware of flowers and frogs. The CD Weak cracks wide open with "Anxiety", a diabolical sounding track that hardly eases the listener into Widoff’s world in a cushy way. It starts out innocently enough, with sparse guitar. Then Widoff’s angst-ridden vox creeps in, barely above a whisper. "He’s hitting the animals again / they’re running away from him / he’s frightening the children." A little synth. then boom!—three-headed lobster boy walks by. Not in Kansas anymore. This place is formidable and mad. "He’s envious of happiness," Widoff emits at song’s end, as he lets you off his spooky carousel ride. Then step right up, ladies and gentlemen, into the shimmering swirl and dreamy, silken flow of romantic "Regrets"—a distinctly different mirror.

"When you’re feeling alienated from the world and people are having a good time, there’s definitely a feeling of envy," explains Widoff, referring to his experience with the physical challenge of fatigue. "It was very depressing being unable to fully participate in the world because you don’t have the energy. You feel isolated and envious. At some point, I couldn’t imagine getting better. It was like falling off a cliff and there was no bottom."

"Pleasure" rests upon the deep orchestral bass groove of Widoff’s antique Oscar keyboard. "Nothing better than / to modify our brain / find a different point of view," he sings with eerie echo. "We sanctified the pain / ‘cause it felt like something new." One might suspect this one’s about drugs, but not entirely.

"That’s part of the equation," he says. "A desire to experience some fantastic sensation in the body is often followed by a disastrous, plummeting feeling. Addiction is deeply integrated into our culture. No matter where you turn, there’s one form of it or another. Alcohol is the most popular form of extreme damage. In moderation it can be enjoyable, but clearly the culture at large has a serious problem with it. The attractiveness of it is obscene when you think of it in those terms. The question then is: Are we really seeking pleasure here? If we’re doing ourselves damage, what is it we’re really doing?" For Widoff, the meaning behind "Pleasure" also heralds back to his pallid days when even a simple joy such as eating was no picnic.

Another Weak theme is relationships, as in the rhythmic, percussive train ride of "Wide World," and the quirky soul nouveau and salient hand percussion of "What Brought Us Together" ("Nothing is sexier than / the strange"). His Lennon/McCartney cover, "Here, There, and Everywhere" is painfully delicate. He admits to being squeamish about putting so much personal baggage and belly-gazing out there on his first release, but other topics will surface on upcoming releases—Widoff has enough material to record two more cds at present. "There are still problematic personal issues, relationships gone bad, doubts, but I’m starting to look into the outer world. The Weak stance is one where looking inward is the starting point."

Widoff is reluctant to talk too much about the technical aspects of his work. "I like to leave it to the imagination. That’s where music lives, in the imagination. It’s a pity that people have so much information to clog their minds with, especially about things as ineffable as music. There’s something satisfying about knowing who played what note on what song—when, where—but ultimately people are interested because the music means something to them. I’d like to give it in the pure form, and if someone likes it we can get crazy about the details later."

He’s unpretentious about his musical background and past projects, though names like David Bowie and U2 pop up. "I’m even less interested in talking about that," he says. "Most of it is unrelated to Weak. It’s a different world; those projects were just a way that allowed me enough time and energy to do this project. It’s not part of the same family."

Widoff was compelled to create Weak for one main purpose: it simply wouldn’t leave him alone. But he’s torn between musical creation and doing something good for humanity. "I spent many years thinking there’s got to be something better I could be doing in my life. I’m not really sure that what I’m doing helps anyone, even me. Maybe it just reinforces bad habits, it’s hard to say. It may represent valid feelings that need to be exorcised, but I’m not sure it’s an activity in the service of others. I believe that ultimately that is really where it’s at. It’s the best use of your time."

As a child Widoff spent his time listening to the same recordings over and over. He admits to having his first spiritual experience this way. "That’s another reason I’m doing this," he says, professing a desire to present his art to those who also feel isolated and off-center. "I like pop music and certain staples of mainstream culture, but it seems pretty played out at this point. The people who are into all that already have plenty being made for them. There are a lot of people who don’t have a home in their culture and feel very alienated. That’s where my heart is. I feel a devotion to that group of people. This is where I feel my energy is best placed."

For now, Widoff serves the aliens. He still spends most of his time in his own movie—thinking, developing, and trashing old ideas. At the same time, he’s careful not to isolate himself too much. "I don’t go out a hell of a lot. Occasionally I’ll show up and do something, but I’m not good at being part of a certain crowd. I float from here to there, spending most of my time doing my own thing."
Nonetheless, the Weak man would like to come out and play. He’s deliberating the development of a Weak band by autumn; meanwhile, looking for solo gigs over the next few months. For the time, Weak is Widoff, and that’s plenty to chew on. To step into the Weak world, visit weakworld.com or purchase some truly idiosyncratic tunes at cdbaby.com.

Copyright © 2002 Luminary Publishing. All rights reserved.
PO Box 459 New Paltz NY 12561
    - Sharon Nichols


Discography

The first weak CD was released in Feb 2003.

The second CD is being recorded as you read this.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

(Bio at bottom)

“Rarified pop of the highest order.”
Shawn Stone, Metroland Magazine

“The music that [Weak has] made here makes me less than hesitant to throw out the term ‘brilliant.’”
Joseph Kyle, MundaneSounds.com

"Some of the best music I've ever heard."
Brian Geltner aka Dr. Snitch

“Wow.”
Mark McKenna, Allaire Studios

“Delightfully odd, demented and outrageously beautiful music.”
Michael Henningsen, Alibi Magazine

“Pop music for the apocalypse.”
Seth Rogovoy, Berkshire Eagle / WAMC FM

“This music should be heard. It’s beautiful.”
Pat Irwin, composer / B52s

“Weak deserves a wide audience, and his songwriting is so unique that it could even transcend major-label support.”
Joseph Taylor, SoundStage! Magazine

BIOGRAPHY

Antony Widoff a.k.a. Weak has synthesized sounds for David Bowie's Heathen & Reality tours, and done various technological work for U2's ZooTV and Pop tours, Bill Bruford of Yes, and the Frank Zappa band.  His music has been featured at the Museum of Modern Art (Emily Hubley's "Girl with Her Head Coming Off), and 30 second bits of it have been used to sell all kinds of garbage on TV.  He toured Japan with Japanese pop-star Hotei, has performed and recorded with Gail Ann Dorsey (of the David Bowie band) and played a few notes here and there on a David Torn record.  He's also worked on projects with artists Matthew Barney, Tom Sachs, and Andrew Kromelow.  He co-masterminded the bands Peck Slip, the even more obscure Memorial Garage, and the soon to surface Amerikan Athlete.