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1/31/2006

New York City: > Art?


Can you guess which writer of this blog is subject to rather unpleasant mood swings at any given moment?

If you said me, you're correct!

I pulled the last post because it bored me, because sometimes I bore myself, because I Love Music bores me with their endless wheezing about when Pazz & Jop is going to go up so they can respond by posting even more hilarious gifs and cross-referencing past-dated debates about M.I.A. and slagging people who are optimistic about the world.

Anyway, I felt buried last night until I finally decided to see Deerhoof, who grows in my mind with each encounter. A reputable lover of the band gave me some playful criticism earlier that day: "ha i can't believe you go to these shows if you hate the band so much." It's not that I hate The Runners Four, it's that I reached a point where I wasn't really getting it and lost interest in figuring it out. Still, something got me up off the couch to see the show, and night's end, I was glad I had. I especially enjoyed Martha Colburn's films, so much so that I went home and wrote an email to her over her website before actually taking my shoes off. Like Deerhoof, I'd rather meet them halfway than risk them losing something coming over to me, a sentiment the crowd apparently didn't share. Muse on downsides of popularity. Lament the embarrassment of idiocy. Shut up.

Colburn's films, in their best moments, did what the band's music can do to me: rub this weird spot at the base of my skull where insurmountable fear gathers with memories of childhood reflections on sex and death (I sought help as a kid; it didn't help). Saying things are "uncanny" seems like a tired trope, but I think it's in part because either A) so many people are reluctant to even face the shades of those emotions or B) nobody knows how to talk about them because it's difficult to do it without sounding like an ass. Suffice it to say that seeing "Mexuality," a handpainted series of lucha libre wrestlers growing breasts and lactating, animated cocks springing forth from between photographs of female legs, and pinups turning into skeletons activated the same fluidity of feeling and conceptualization that doesn't reflect the wonder of fantasy so much as the frightening aspects of it - when you don't know any better, the shadows of your understanding are more easily filled by fear than comfort. Deerhoof are excellent performers; while I actually liked the material from The Runners Four more last night than I ever have on record, I couldn't help but get the feeling that the band had somehow turned 2D while I was inhaling. "The Last Trumpeter Swan," the 8-minute dirge on Reveille, was the best thing I heard all night, because I got so lost that I hardly noticed the girls brushing past me to get some air during what I guess was "the boring part." The tech guys couldn't figure out how to light them during the song - it's not obvious - everything turned that great crepuscular blue; at the height of noise, I didn't know what I heard, really. Couldn't shut my mouth, hold a thought.

1/25/2006

Steel Cage


Indefinitely: Charlemagne Palestine


I am sort of bored of hearing about Jay-Z and Cam'ron. Sorry, I would've found more links, but those pretty much cover it really. Anyway, I got to thinking, yeah, beef is sorely missing from the wondrous outre world. So yeah. EXCLUSIVES.

PRURIENT slams WHITEHOUSE in massive lathe cut dis. Dis mostly unintelligible over pulsing sheets of noise, but I think he picks on their sunglasses and then there's something about paunch and then a lot of screaming about infectious disease and whatnot.

JOANNA NEWSOM rips VASHTI BUNYAN in live performance. Newsom's harpstrings got real tight when someone shouted for "Just Another Diamond Day" at a show Friday night, to which she grumbled politely about Bunyan being washed up. Bunyan fired back early Sunday morning by having a cup of tea with her son and brushing a horse.

JHONN BALANCE and DAVID TIBET. Before Balance's death, he and the Current 93 totem had been having intense quarrels about the occult. Deeply frustrated, Tibet showed up to Balance's home under the shroud of night and released an upset fox onto his yard; the fox howled briefly and Tibet warbled "NIIIIIIGHHHT;" the fox trotted away with indifference. The 3" CD will be released on Durtro Jnana in March with a limited screenprinted canvas sleeve to fund central air conditioning for Threshold House and to appease the spirits.

CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE battles LA MONTE YOUNG. Both composers played eigth notes on grand pianos for four hours before the exhausted Young threw up on the keys and wiped his mouth with his kercheif; Palestine played for six more hours and then saw god.

1/24/2006

Faceless, Nameless

I've been listening to the Various Production stuff lately, which is stylistically all over the map - from folky drone and sampling weirdness to chilly, subdued club stuff - but pretty intriguing. They're doing a DJ set on BBC's The Breezeblock tonight, which is archived and readily PBW-endorsed if with a bit of mystery & confusion, if for nothing else than to hear Mary Anne Hobbs say things like "aww, that is rough" and "like a gorgeous shimmering mirage on the fire escapes of the underground" in her hazy phone-sex diction. Anglophilia in heat over here.

1/23/2006

Unclassics 1/Stray Notes


PBW now with more dogs dope and ghosts than ever. But really. "Have you heard about this house? How we idolize, theorize, syllogize, in the dark, in the heart," etc. Well, that's where the hauntology riffage will happen from now on, as the dorks begin to crawl on ceilings and frighten others.

This might be a tired idea - and one that could last for only a handful of posts - but I figured I would make an attempt at sharing albums that have either 1. not gotten a fair shake or 2. I love and nobody else does but I love them so deal with it, okay? The name is pinched from a Morgan Geist compilation of rare disco, but it sounds a lot better than PBW's Unsung Heroes or PBW In Tha Vault or some other allstar trash. On with.

UNCLASSICS 1: Julee Cruise, Floating into the Night

"When you told your secret name, I burst in flame and burned, I'm floating."

David Lynch's movies have never been puzzles to me as much as they've been about a kind of nonsense; the performances he's wrung from actors always attain a kind of forced affect that often exposes the arbitrariness of our own feelings and reactions to the world (just think of the disjointed hypermasculinity of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet; his "daddy wants to fuck" rhetoric, silly "well-dressed man" disguise, and the erratic way he heads his gang of equally archetypal creeps). Hearing Julee Cruise's "The Mysteries of Love" in that movie provided something of a revelation to me: a love song that was earnest to the point of sounding alien, like someone writing what they think a love lyric should sound like, but instead coming out with a series of unsympathetic non-sequiturs. In full: "Sometimes a wind blows and you and I float in love, and kiss forever in a darkness/And the mysteries of love come clear and dance in light, in you, in me, and show that we are Love;" a slight breath over supple analog synths and all flags flying for heaven, buff on the pillow of a cloud, etc. All that and a wave of angels in soft focus. Desire in italics. So forth.

Anyway, Cruise wasn't even supposed to sing; at the time, she was a talent scout for Lynch's composer Angelo Badalamenti. When Badalamenti heard her voice - a wispy, bloodless sigh, sexy and seemingly without emotion - she was drafted to perform "Mysteries of Love." Eventually, the collaboration between the two (and Lynch, who wrote the lyrics) produced Floating into the Night, a full album of surreal pre-rock slink, doo-wop balladry, shifty golden age nocturnes like "Sleepwalking," and even cool jazz, all heard through the fog of a faux-new-age unconscious. Cue Sherilyn Fenn as absent Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks putting on the jukebox, swaying like a hung body, moaning: "God, I love this music; isn't it too dreamy?" That messed me up some, yeh.

It's impossible to ignore what makes this album creepy, but it's also an evasive element of certain music that I adore but have a difficult time putting my finger on. In Floating, the extended ache of a thousand slowdances thwarted by the ruler-distance etiquette of the 50s finally capitulates like wild in a muted underground; the kids didn't want to just kiss, they wanted to claw at each other in shadows totally beyond reason; they don't want to have fun when they fuck so much as feel like they transcend the murk of the idiot lovesickness that they don't know what to do with. Cruise wraps the girl-next-door fantasy in impenetrable mystery and weirdness, conjuring a teenage affect that at times seems incredibly real, but just as often completely contrived in its extremes. It's a dangerous balance, one that almost insults the depth of our emotions by clumsily playacting them, but in the process, Floating opens up a new, absent kind of romanticism where we're rubbed anonymous, blank, and in turn, more poised for passion than before.

1/18/2006

Never To Forget You, Cuddles



I was lying in bed last night making headway on dreaming the dreams I do (hint: mostly about dogs, the kind I think I'd get and the kind I'd ideally get if their temperment didn't concern me so), and I thought, Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished, duh. Now, I wouldn't say it's prime hauntology, but it'd be foolish not to give my favorite band a shot at the matter, wouldn't it? Now, it wasn't for nothing that Animal Collective brought Ariel Pink into their fold, I don't think. Spirit, especially, bears certain resonances with this idea being bandied about: ghostliness as a life of contradiction (present and absent). The title itself is great temporal-existential fuckery: two iterations of the same idea/phenomenon (absence) in the language of the present ("they're gone") and past ("they've vanished") in one sentence. The cover - sketched apparitions in a kind of purgatory - also germane. From the opening strains, we get Avey Tare's voice, obscured and degraded, taken by a gust of noise and that incredibly spooky jogged vocal sample, which has always sounded to me like something caught in a net, a kind of existential glitch. Think of Twin Peaks briefly: "one chants out between two worlds." Throughout the record, the strange mixing job makes it sound like you're somehow outside of the proper scope, outside of the right angle at which to hear the album; it's a slipped disc.

Then of course there's April, who "tells her mother 'I am not afraid of dying in the bathtub'" and later one-ups Bill Murray by actually making it with a ghost: "April and the phantom, they were just like lovers, always sneaking kisses for the weekend." The end of the album-closer "Alvin Row" comes the real chill, a sample of a child exclaiming: "Oh that's funny, my voice didn't come back to me! I'll try it again: Hello? Hello? Oh my goodness! Now my singing voice is gone my singing voice is gone my singing voice is gone my singing voice is gone my singing voice is" and then an abrupt silence. Sampling as seance to raise the faded impression of a child trying to catch his own aural shadow. Think that five times fast. Of course, there's also the whole experience of Campfire Songs, but I don't think it's quite as defensible, or I haven't figured out how to explain it yet. Maybe it's just my better judgment: you've got other things to worry about, right?

Related breaking news in the "Things That Abruptly Made Me Very Melancholy" department: "Later that night, Ariel calls me at home to tell me he has finally deciphered the message we saw painted on his window. It says, 'Ariel I love you, do you really exist?' When he dialed the number, no one answered."

A Brief Public Service Announcement



My dear friend Julia is working on an Interesting Project. If you know anyone that looks like these people, please visit her here and let her know.

1/16/2006

Nobody Gets Out of Here Until This Gets Settled


This is Not Factrix, a Ghost, or Dr. Giggles; It's a Pup We Met On Top Of the Pyramids at Teotihuacan

Hooray for finally getting ahold of Fatrix's Artifact to encounter "Phantom Pain" amidst thoughts of ghosts and ghost limbs in particular. (It's fantastic, by the way, like Suicide crawling through tar cut with cough syrup minus the 1950's/Wolf Eyes' more spare dirges minus the machismo.)

It has been reported that as many as 80% of amputees experience the ghost limb phenomenon: an arm where an arm once was; even stranger, a watch or bracelet; disturbingly, pains.

I guess it seemed most applicable to dub, a genre where each iteration is essentially an amputee. Maybe it gives dub its haunted quality: gritty remnants, spaces, and passages under erasure all representing a grand ache for their former appendages. Keith Hudson was a dentist after all, and Lee Perry once characterized dub as "the ghost in me coming out." Poor Ken Boothe, his guts all over the floor. There was that horror movie, Dr. Giggles, which was also the name of a bong that this kid I knew in high school had. Once I accidentally cut myself whilst stoned and felt nothing. Wild times in the operating room. Studio real kinda cloudy. Anyway.

Along with the The Focus Group, it approaches coveted hybrid monster status: ghost (spectral, shifting, between worlds), zombies (undead/resurrected; that's another road entirely, though), and Frankensteins. Do amputated limbs miss their old bodies? Do samples miss their homes? Maybe I'm freaked out not because I'm hearing ghosts, but because I'm disturbed by the suggestion of profound loneliness; loose elements drifting in dub space purgatory, or even Ariel Pink's decay. Come to think, Ariel's The Doldrums first caught me because it was deeply melancholy without sounding like a 2D depresso in need of a fucking nap and a good go kart ride.

1/15/2006

Fruitful Detours

Beta-dazzle on Jack Nitzsche. Get the YSIs while they’re hot; it’s a beautiful thing (writing-wise, song-wise). Man’s music gets the closest to my booze-pulse as anything could – exceptionally grand, teetering, wild, woozy embrace; I was also delighted to read the bit about death in “Earth Angel,” because I ruminated on the same feeling in doo-wop a month or so ago (still, The Orioles’ “It’s Too Soon To Know” trumps the Penguins by about five good dreams and a handful of pills, if you ask me). Always thought it was me being a gloomy perv; maybe it is, but at least it’s me being a gloomy perv in the presence of a hero.

I am on to some new things that I will share soon enough.

1/13/2006

Disclosure: Emotional, Messy

While we're talking about ghosts.

Dear Sarah, Who Would Have Turned 24 This Month,

Belle and Sebastian recorded If You're Feeling Sinister live; it's the first time in quite a while that I've been able to listen to these songs and keep composure. Before I eulogized you, we listened to "The Stars of Track and Field." You should've seen Elisabeth cry. You should have seen your family cry.

When the embolus loosed in your body, you died instantly. I started the new depression diet: bourbon, academic excellence, chocolate, and nightmares. A few times I woke up in the middle of the night, screaming and covered in sweat. It was a trip.

I remember how much we liked these songs; I don't think it was because we were cuddly outcasts, but more because we were optomistic cynics - "thought there was love in everything and everyone, you're so naive." I liked kidding myself, did you?

I wasn't in love with you; I idealize women too often to truly respect them (I think you knew that). I don't think you loved me either. Actually, it's funny, I remember being so excited you told me you had fallen in love, but it was only a couple of weeks before you went.

It wasn't easy, by the way. You were probably my best friend.

This is still one of the more misunderstood records I've ever heard. We never danced alone or sewed diaries or any of that nonsense. I wanted to be rough like Murdoch's characters: erratic, abrasive romantics.

I didn't cry at your funeral because I'm too self-conscious - I saved it for later. I kept this record though; when Murdoch says "I always cry at endings" I know what he means: you have to know it's the end, it has to come as a part of a grand story. Tidy narratives. Your story was wonderful, but it was too short.

"Falling against the lonely tenement that set my mind to wander into the windows of my lovers, they never know unless I write," so I do. So know.

Sincerely yours,

mp

1/11/2006

Big Think: Tracks and Traces, Absences and Ideals


The last couple days I've been caught in the web of the Focus Group's Hey Let Loose Your Love (which I finally ordered from Ghost Box after Simon Reynolds' piece in Frieze on the subject). I use the term "caught in the web" not only to indulge my flailing tendency to be poetic, but for metaphorical significance; it's had me thinking about a series of things I hadn't thought about in years, a new star in a conceptual constellation.

The Focus Group sound is a collage; my first thought was that it was like a daydream that the first Books album - which I still enjoy pretty well - might have if it dozed off after half a joint on Saturday evening. Either that, or if you excised all of the song elements of Broadcast and wove the intros and outros into a gauze. Musique concrete for technicolor woodlands. Voices pass in and out, disembodied sounds strobe in a kind of decentered, contingent way; no primacy, no vows, no golden bands; drift.

What really took me about the record was the notion of absence. The album suggests songs at every step, but it never delivers any; still, cognitively, it feels like I'm always chasing something bigger than I hear, following the proverbial thread through the labyrinth. It's thrilling, not disappointing; Woebot called them a "portal", and I'd have to agree, but it's a portal in perpetual collapse. Resistance to crossing over into a full flesh sound world makes the experience doubly psychedelic; reality and unreality flicker in the same space, the tactile and intangible constantly fade into one another.

Ariel Pink's House Arrest (to be reissued later this month by Paw Tracks) is plucking the same strings. I think there are two roads you can take with him: one is that his sound is solely that of a degraded ideal; you can hear the song he meant to create in some Porcelain Heaven, but now it's too far gone to recognize, and you're left with the process of an aural crumble. The other approach - which I do think is a different concept - is that his sound is a mold, a footprint, a negative, a series of suggestions that function independent of the ideal (the thoughts I'm having with Hey Let Loose Your Love). I used to think Ariel's thing was about degradation, but after three records, I realize that the wavering otherworldliness is the starting point of his aesthetic, not the sum of his decay. Similarly, I drag out Basinski's Disintegration Loops, itself a process. Sure, each iteration of each loop bears on the Alpha loop, the ideal, but as they proliferate, they begin to function with a kind of independence, creating, like Ariel or Ghost Box, a series of apparitional doors and uncrossable bridges into something unreal.

Am I making any sense?

I post the picture at the top as a kind of guide to my thoughts. A Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage collaboration. A record of a process, sure. Still, with the car passed, the tracks become the tires, they're no longer a record of something having transpired, but something unto themselves. In the back of your mind, the ideal flickers (headlights, exhaust); ahead of you is a void, but between, you're left with a kind of tremulous, uncertain enchantment.

The fall out is The Caretaker's new release on V/Vm test, available for free here. It's the tail end between this Feeling I'm Having and total abstraction; from the caverns and whispers, you eventually hear the distant echoes of "Greensleeves," a kind of reminder of the real world shining some kind of light down a dark hole. It's quite beautiful, actually. Ready for a megamix?

No, I am not on mushrooms right now, but the prospect is intriguing.

--

Former and further on Ghost Box:

K-Punk (commentary and Big, Sumptuous Pictures of the Lovely album covers)

Simon Reynolds on GB, blog-style

Patrick McNally in Stylus on The Focus Group/Eric Zann

1/09/2006

Trotting Back into Blogistan With About Six Feathers in My Beanie




It's going to be a couple days before I get rolling again, but in the spirit of getting back on proverbial tracks, here I am.

A Brief Musical Diary of Mexico City (Prosaic Marshmallows by One P.B. Words)

1. We get drunk in an empty bar much too early; they play a Lupillo Rivera concert on a gigantic television set hung high above the floor. Tuba players in norteño bands must have enormous, beautiful lungs.

2. The streets are strewn with organ grinders cranking with a hopeful diligence; an accomplice runs around with a hat to collect change for the songs. The boxes wheeze, the pipes must be bent; all the tunes are warped. We go back to the room and listen to Ariel Pink's House Arrest, which makes more sense each time.

3. There is a fantastic synth-pop song on the television called "Don," by a group named Miranda. I can't follow all the lyrics, but I can pick up on the fact that the singer announces the guitar solo; the self-referentiality of it sadly reminds me again that D. Boon is dead. I listen to Minutemen EPs on my iPod in the dark; "I Felt Like a Gringo" seems comforting for the first time, even though I still hold them responsible for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

4. It's funny, I don't hear nearly as much music as I would've expected to. The most music I hear is on the subway. Lots of bootlegs, all for around the equivalent of a dollar. I find myself tempted, but realize after a day that you could easily come home with five or six CDs in an afternoon; most of them would end up having either "If You're Going to San Francisco" or some overwrought Mexican crooner spilling his voicebox onto a plastic bandstand.

I bought some CDs, which I'll write about in the next few days (I think every Duranguense CD had a scorpion somewhere on the cover, yikes).

Do you all read books? I read:

A Tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kis, twice. Beautiful, spare fictional biographies about people trapped under the fog of communism; the strains of the stories run through one another like frayed threads or veins running to an invisible heart, which is to say, it does a weird thing to one's being and I suggest you read it, but not unless you can take and appreciate a good helping of The Bleak.

Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms. Much more lavish than In Cold Blood, but I'm not sure I liked it as much. Some parts are bliss, some of it gets really belabored and directionless; I have a feeling that some of my negative reactions have to do with the fact that the dreamier prose feels almost archetypal now, like something they teach you in grade school, i.e. hard to take with a fresh mind.

Most of Music is the Weapon of the Future, a book of the history of African music. This is a book of the history of African music. There aren't many. Typos, clumsy prose and all, it's a wonderful thing if not ideal.

I also climbed pyramids and ate a ridiculous amount of sandwiches. Back in the saddle.

Happy new year. (And oh yeah oops don't forget to kill yr fckn idols or chop off your pinkie and whatnot.)