Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.

Varsity Theatre, Baton Rouge, LA 9/29/2008

Of the many times I've seen Drive-By Truckers, this was probably the heaviest performance in terms of expressing their lyrical and compositional gravity. Funny songs like "Steve McQueen" took a couple of "fuck cancer" dark detours, "Nine Bullets," played as a request for a friend that happened to be in town, was rather glorious, rolling in the nihilist haystack forked up from the withered crop of rock 'n' roll. Cooley's songs hit like arrows suddenly piercing the wall next to your head, esp "3 Dimes Down" which might be my favorite song of his. And theirs. And anybody's.

And honestly, I never all that liked the protracted intro to Shonna's "Homefield Advantage" until last night; instead of being the padding I wrongly considered it to be, it builds the game tension necessary to have that release when the song proper kicks in. I could easily hear a collaged murmur of a baseball announcer's "and there's the pitch" implied in the thundering intro.

The noteable cover was Tom Petty's "Rebels" - one foot in the grave, the other foot on the pedal, I was born a rebel - one of the great lines in rock; practically a thesis statement for the band, for The Southern Thing, for all that shit y'all. Drive-By Truckers, thanks for coming.

Don Chambers + GOAT

Varsity Theatre, Baton Rouge, LA 9/29/2008

Best of the assorted wise-ass comments about the ladder/hubcap percussion array at stage right:

  • Hey, can I get more stepladder in this monitor?
  • This is my instrument. Why don't you go ask Patterson if you can stand his guitar to adjust those lights, huh?
  • If they do an unplugged show, does he just pull out one of those short three-step fold-out numbers and a set of wind chimes?
  • Great show, man. Listen... I lost a hubcap on the way over here so....
We kid because we love. Don Chambers + GOAT rocked it. He had poetry books and his own brand of coffee at the merch table. More chicken fried weirdness laced with sweet guitar jams like this in the world, please.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

rolling soundtrack

With two trips down to New Orleans in three days, this was my rolling soundtrack, interrupted when the mighty WWOZ of New Orleans came in range.

Antony and the Johnsons - I Am a Bird: I am newly rekindled in love with this sappy wrist-cutter of a record after hearing Antony back up Lou Reed on the new Berlin: Live record. Antony may actually out dramatize The Queen is Dead-era Morrissey by trapping his sexual identity issues under a glass bell and holding your nose to it, forcing you to watch it squirm and writhe.
Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha: for when you grow out of the weepy trials of the aforementioned record but the sting still lingers.
Boredoms - Vision Creation Newsun: The perfect album for all occassions. the impossible genius endgame toward which every drum circle has stretched and failed to reach. The sound of God's drum machine. The howling of the post-digital animal coming through ever wire.
TV on the Radio - Dear Science: I cannot get into these guys no matter how convincing the arguments for them are. I am tempted always to respond TV on The Radio? I don't even like TV on the TV with useless snark when they are evoked.
North Mississippi All-Stars - Electric Blue Watermelon Chopped and Screwed EP: Hahahahaha! I was looking for a perfect chopped and screwed album for the trip down to the city and instead found this. I bow down to NMAS live but their recordings never do it for me EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE. They operate under the limiting techniques of Houston cough syrup rap production and somehow the true amphibian soul of this band leaps out.
John Fahey - God, Time, and Causality: Just because.

5 Things about The Oxford American Party at Tipitina's Last Night

  1. Beforehand, a succulent patio dinner of duck and mussels (seperately, but communing under the auspices of a holisticly badass meal) at Martinique Bistro.
  2. Soul Rebels Brass Band tearing it up with their subtly jazzier variant on the brass band juggernaut form, followed by the unstoppable Charles Walker and the Dynamites as close to 1965 Apollo Theatre cold sweat soul supernova as you are likely to find. Tip's had closed the free drinks and eats by the time I got there all was well and groovy in the halls of funk.
  3. The real action was on the sidewalk where I got to talk to the editors and writers and festival organizers and assistants and this and that, including getting to meet Dr. Ben "Go f- yourself, Mr. Cheney" Kimble, only to intensify at the after-party at the nearby gorgeous home of
  4. David Ramsey, who had my favorite piece in this issue about his students' struggle to learn in the plagued New Orleans school system and their infatuation with Lil Wayne, and who earns a spot on the tight list just for having the above ur-Warholian Johnny Cash Hatch print up on his wall, as well as the wedding-cake-frosting succulent paintings by his wife Grace and
  5. Driving the OA folks back to their hotel, getting to talk music nrrd with Marc and once again make a case for a certain band that has yet appear in a Music Issue, and getting to talk to Carol Ann and Warwick and Ray and Bre and others that keep the wheels of the finest of magazines going. A perfect close to a good-to-be-me night

Album Covers Reproduced Freehand in MsPaint

once again, thanks to the all-seeing all-knowing Philip

Saturday, September 27, 2008

and while I'm being all linky

Here is young Nick Cave being a total badass - keep watching to the end

Thanks to Philip for putting me on this.

Get Your George Maciunas On

with this beautiful time suck of a web app brazenly titled Type is Art (Thanks, Lee).

or just google image search the Fluxus type master himself and witness
cleverness raised to the next level

or then let Sonic Youth drive you mad
as they perform Maciunas' Piano Piece #13 for Nam June Paik
(Note that Lee Renaldo is the SY member you want to
help you frame up a new shed and not the others)

smoker porn

smoker porn, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.

I have a feeling people finding this by googling "smoker porn" will be disappointed, but the rest of you, behold the uncut orgy action of feral boar, goose and whoever else crept into the scene.

The proper application of bacon

tailgating season is finally on

Go Tigers and all, but my buddy John's tailgate is the reason for the season. He's about to fry up more pork & there's a goose and a wild boar ham duking it out in the smoker. The money is on the ham to win by a wide margin but the goose still has a shot

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oxford American Launch Party at the Ogden Museum

The party was a smash fête, with rare perfect Sept. weather as the true guest of honor. I met some of my fellow OA writers (an august group in which I find my membership a little bewildering) and had a great time chewing the fat and drinking the drinks.

On the tight list is (Offbeat's and elsewhere's) Alex Rawls' other blog Smooth Jazz Superstars, (avant-gardist and master fusionist) Ned Sublette's book The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square, which can only hope to be as riveting as him blowing yr mind directly, and The Ogden Museum itself, not just for hosting the event on their lovely terrace overlooking the strata of highways and crumbling beauty that is New Orleans, but for being the best ever curated museum of art your have never seen before.

[225] Voodoo Times Tenth

My suggestions for this year's Voodoofest:

The Voodoo Music Experience is upon us again and celebrating its “Tenth Ritual” Oct. 24-26 at City Park in New Orleans. While the decade-defying masses collect around Nine Inch Nails and Stone Temple Pilots, we’ve gone ahead and profiled you so we can tell you exactly what you want to hear. Visit thetenthritual.com for complete schedule information, times, tickets and more.

Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie


It is a forgone conclusion that you are going to see Death Cab for Cutie, despite claiming to have been over them since The Photo Album. (Ed: It actually is a forgone conclusion that you won't, since they canceled) But you are likely be more excited about the reunion of Shudder to Think, which is touring again a decade after disbanding. Colour Revolt is definitely on your radar, and the rejuvenated Old 97’s will likely pique your interest as long as they play stuff off Hitchhike to Rhome. On the hip-hop front, Kanye West protégé Lupe Fiasco will likely win out in favor of the massively popular Lil Wayne. But since you’ve already been to the Pitchfork and Austin City Limits festivals this year, make sure to hit some homegrown electro swamp funk with Quintron & Miss Pussycat—get there early for the puppet show—and any one of the three different sets by the New Orleans Bingo! Show. Another local must-see is the maximum R&B of White Bitch’s Prey Drive and the drunken two-step tango of The Zydepunks.


Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings

Not every festival has this much to offer the more mature music aficionado. R&B powerhouse Joss Stone, classic soul revivalists Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings and rockabilly die-hards Reverend Horton Heat might just get your old tired hips to shakin’ while Deacon John’s tribute to New Orleans R&B and the “President of Soul” Rockie Charles do it right. Those of us who made it through grunge intact should witness the smoky, saturated blues of The Gutter Twins, a duo comprising Greg Dulli from Afghan Whigs and Mark Lanegan, formerly of Screaming Trees. Be sure also to catch the glowing multicultural mayhem of DeVotchKa and settle in with the never-fail Latin rhythm of The Iguanas.


There are some no-brainers for a funk-oriented prowl through the “Tenth Ritual.” Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Walter “Wolfman” Washington are a must, as is Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk. At least one of the brass bands should be on your docket: Soul Rebels, Rebirth, Treme and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band are all worthy. Make sure to head over to Donna’s Brass Band Headquarters on Rampart Street, where any one of them is likely to wind up after the festival gates close. There are also two ladies you need to visit. Erykah Badu has reinvented herself in Funkadelic’s illest image, and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings are the new authorities in authentic old-school funk. But if you are looking for your freak of the week, make sure you catch the twisted groove of Bernard Pearce’s One Man Machine.


[225] Review: Lindsay Rae Spurlock - Heart On EP (self-released)

Hometown girl Lindsay Rae Spurlock’s bio states that since moving to New York, she’s opened for Lisa Loeb and has been talking to KT Tunstall and Imogen Heap—and it’s easy to see why. The lush, sentimental ballads comprising her new EP Heart On would fit nicely with any of those performers. Produced with Ben Allen, who’s worked with Gnarls Barkley and Christina Aguilera, Heart On presents Spurlock as a self-possessed, confident songwriter, swooning over acoustic guitar and loops on “Holding Hands” and holding her own in the more intimate piano ballad “Chocolate Hearts.” In the latter song, she declares, “I’m giving up on love for the new year, before becoming swept up in a luxuriant strings arrangement.” Singers can get lost in such a melodramatic setting, but while Spurlock is no four-octave fogcutter she brings a palpable presence to the songs. It would be surprising if the next small-town ingénue doesn’t hit her up for an opening slot before long. lindsayspurlock.com

Essential tracks: “Chocolate Hearts,” “Holding Hands,” “November”

Recommended if you like: Aimee Mann, KT Tunstall, Gilmore Girls reruns


[225] Review: Marc Broussard - Keep Coming Back (Atlantic)

I was unfamiliar with Lafayette’s Marc Broussard before listening to Keep Coming Back, and nothing on the cover or the mention of a duet called “When It’s Good” with country ingénue LeAnn Rimes prepared me for the Earth, Wind & Fire-esque R&B explosion that came out of my speakers. Keep Coming Back, recorded in a breakneck 11 days in order to capture the energy of Broussard’s live show, practically spills over with soul, from the high-octane opening title track to “Man for Life”—a song I could see becoming a wedding reception staple. My favorite number, though, is the disco-infused “Power’s in the People,” complete with string flourishes and a hopeful message reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and the late Isaac Hayes. Broussard is not likely to give today’s R&B stars much to sweat over, but there are plenty of old-school jams to get anyone off their seat. Marc Broussard will appear Oct. 3 at The Varsity. myspace.com/marcbroussard

Essential Tracks: Keep Coming Back, Power’s in the People, Man for Life

Recommended if you like: Neville Brothers, Curtis Mayfield, E. Rodney Jones’ old radio show on Q 106.5


[225] Review: We Landed on the Moon! These Little Wars

Writing great pop music is a balancing act, managing accessibility and personality in the right measures, and Baton Rouge’s We Landed on the Moon! has found the sweet spot on the see-saw with its new album These Little Wars. The strident songs on this record ripple with windswept, shuddering guitar and synthesizer as vocalist Melissa Eccles soars on an updraft of bittersweet memories, coyness and the occasional lashing out for resolution. It’s the kind of album that would fit the scene in a coming-of-age movie where the girl races toward her unsure future, usually in a convertible. With its sanded and polished edges, listening to These Little Wars all the way through gets a bit formulaic—mind you, it’s a good formula—but there is enough complexity in the arrangements to keep things interesting. And anyway, these are pop singles, any of which would be as welcome as a fresh breeze coming from your radio. welandedonthemoon.com

Essential tracks: “Vietcong,” “Solitaire,” “Mirror Mirror”

Recommended If You Like: The National, Blondie, summer road trips with the top down


Thursday, September 25, 2008

testing to see

testing to see, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.

If I can do phone > flickr > blog in one swift blow, and if so, how long it takes (sent at 10:01)

Ed: it takes approximately instantaneous no time whatsoever. It took me longer to peck out the ">" than it did to send it. With this act, I hereby declare my sovereignty over the world thanks to technology.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

[outsideleft] Mogwai Have Nothing to Say and They Are Playing It

The Hawk is Howling

I have nothing to say, I am saying it, and that is poetry.
John Cage

That old Cage chestnut was one of the many golden spikes driven to connect the misty Eastern train of thought with the product-oriented Western line of artistic expression, but few passenger trains run that line anymore. Cage was referring to his idea of silence, when one shuts up and lets the world around you do the talking. It never caught on; people generally don’t care for what the world has to say. So, instead of freeing Western music from the shackles of tradition, Cage’s pieces, tellingly often referred to as “antics” or “spectacles” sent many movers and shakers screaming back into song, and in the 60s and 70s, billions of dollars were made on the folding money of the youth, and taste and commerce were subversively intertwined, making the rope commerce had around the neck of popular culture all the stronger. After the 70s, the era that for a large segment of listening people was the last to provide a note of tolerable music, music kept getting caught up in that rope, the stray threads of punk and disco quickly rewoven into the net within a decade, tightening the weave, choking out the cross pollination, squeezing everything into inseparable mush. The heady “nothing” that Cage bespoke became an actual babble of real Nothing being spoken louder and louder just to be heard.

This is why I like Mogwai, and the whole of post-rock generally. It is music not vying for your attention, not fouling up the air with stupid lyrics, not squeezing into a saleable bracket. The music of Mogwai is like the breeze, a phenomenon crafted by immense forces none of us truly understand, refreshing and pleasurable by the time it gets to us. The Hawk is Howling is track after track of dulcet vibration, flowing into each other making less of a sequeway than a climate shit. Their titles seem to mock taxonomy, tooling along under banners like “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” and “I Love You, I Am Going to Blow Up Your School” and one that might be a note I would pen to these Scottish cloud-conjurers: “Thank You Space Expert.”

Mogwai is such a balm to these ears in that it is not stupid, not in the least, nor would I call it genius. It is instead a continuum, a natural building of momenta and colliding textures that are as organic as moss growing on trees. For example, the hard rock edge at the onset of “Batcat” is like a change in the footpath, suddenly becoming stone after the vague trail through “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead.” The sleepy chimes of “Local Authority” offer calm waters on which “The Sun Smells Too Loud” can rain and ripple. Critics of post-rock cite that nothing ever happens in music like this, but in fact, plenty is happening; the disconnect comes from nothing being presented to you. That is a hard blow to accept in this service economy where our persistence relies on providing some sort of dividend for someone here on out, and with the processors of those dividends collapsing left and right and the skies everywhere getting grey as Scotland, it might behoove us to stop paying so much attention to those vying for it, and instead experience the vibrations of those who offer up nothing to say at all.


[The Record Crate] Why I Love Drive-By Truckers

There many reasons I consider Drive-By Truckers to be the best band in operation. They write songs depicting life with staggering sorrow and slipshod hilarity woven together like the nylon strips of a cheap lawnchair: strong enough to hold you up, but still with enough frayed edges to remind you that you can fall right through if you get too comfortable.

They write songs that can be gently whispered, like they were on their acoustic tour last year, as well as shot from the top of multi Les Paul volcano like the other times I’ve seen them.

They write songs, period. There is a short list of current bands that have something to actually say that I enjoy the way they say it, and Drive-By Truckers is at the top of that list.

They get the idea that one’s background is a tool and not a destiny. They take southern rock and 1980s college rock and arena rock and drunken AM-radio country and treat them as launch pads for their art rather than Jell-O molds for their songs.

They took a hit losing Jason Isbell and instead of imploding, they dug in deep and crafted Brighter than Creation’s Dark, maybe the finest record in their career.

Patterson Hood tells some of the most honest stories in current rock: not necessarily tales of degradation and death (he has those, too) but ones of everyday working-class struggle, with all the sadness and humor intact. Shonna Tucker stepped up with a brace of amber-glow country numbers that would make a hit for any daft country diva if country audiences were interested in good songs anymore. Mike Cooley deserves praise for being able to pack more hilarity and syllables than any drunk twangy couplet is rated to hold.

I could go on. I love this band. Any excuse you have for not seeing them at The Varsity on Monday night, yes, even it being a Monday night, is foolishness and is best kept to yourself.

Elsewhere in the week, Quebecois rock combo Sunset Rubdown washes in to lap the floodwall of the Spanish Moon stage with wave after wave of intricately crafted passionate art. UK phenoms The Kooks, a band that has been described as The Kinks to Arctic Monkey’s early Beatles. I don’t know about all that, but their most recent album Konk is another example of finely wrought English rock, swagger being channeled through brilliant hooks rather than tabloid banter.

And OK, rock ’n’ roll may not be your “thing.” You are grown folks now and don’t want to fight your way to the bar and have your head ring for days. You want to take in a night that instead is about taste and class. The Listening Room, a free venture (sponsored by the Arts Council) is featuring world-renowned jazz practitioner Wess Anderson and The Thelonius Monk Institute Septet at the Lyceum Dean on Third Street. I went to the Terrence Blanchard show last month and can testify that The Listening Room is one of the classiest music events to rock this blue-jeans, blues-listening town. Reservations are highly recommended for either the 7 p.m. or 9 pm show. Call 344-8558 to reserve your table.

Link to original with local events calendar

As definitive a list as any

found on the sidewalk this morning

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

5 Impending Things

  1. I have been working on my resume for the first time in about two years, in that I have to apply for the job I currently have in what hopefully will be a simple lateral paperwork thing. I can work some paper, even do origami should the situation call for it.
  2. This weekend is booked with the Oxford American parties where there will be pressing of flesh and the acknowledging of mutual genius and the furtive eyeing through the lens of obscure competition at The Ogden Museum on Thursday and at Tipitina's (NOTE: it moved to the uptown location) on Saturday night.
  3. I just got the Lou Reed Berlin Live disc for review and man, it is really good, and not just in an I-worship-Lou-Reed (which-I-do) way but as a dutiful and impassioned recontextualization of an already difficult to process album. I wondered how he was going to treat "The Kids" a song that kills me every time on the original album, and well, lets just say he does a very good job with it. Antony Hagerty and Lou Reed might be my favorite duet partners, each sitting on on side of how Reed sounded thirty years ago, taking the ends to greater heights than was then possible, or something. Review forthcoming closer to the date, after I get the accompanying DVD directed by Julian Schnabel who made the smart move of stopping trying to become Rauschenberg to try becoming Scorcese.
  4. The Louisiana Book Festival is a week away, about which I am stoked.
  5. The sickening flow of the election and the stock market mess (and the dismay that I am such a low-baller that it hasn't had any real tangible effect on me...yet) and everything has blown a wind into the red flag that apprently has been hanging limp from a stick planted in my heart. I looked up whether Jimmy Carter was wealthy before becoming President (he did alright) and have been moved to make political declarations on message boards, an activity I usually consider a succinct example of folly. Perhaps it is the breaking of summer by the twinge of fall that inspires this change of colors.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hormones, Synthesizers, Sans-Serif Fonts

These are the defining ingredients of my formative years. This music gets often swept up as "Eighties Music" by the gleeful reenactment crowd, but it bears mentioning that during the actual 80's, this was anti-80's music, a plastic response to steel and paper of the machine.

Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark - Architecture & Morality: "Joan of Arc" was on a K-Tel new wave sampler tape called The Beat purchased at a garage sale up the street. OMD was also my first concert experience, as they opened for the Thompson twins
New Order - Power, Corruption & Lies: Everywhere. I usually say the defining album of my youth is The Smiths' The Queen is Dead, but if one is running the numbers, this one is probably the real winner. The opening dut-dut-dut-dadadadadadadadadada-dut of the drum machine on "Blue Monday" is to me what the opening of "Like a Rolling Stone" is to muso-nostalgiacs older than me, for what it's worth.
Depeche Mode - Construction Time Again: DM was my band, since we all had to have a favorite distinctive from the others (at least I didn't get stuck with A Flock of Seagulls like my friend Kevin did) but really, it doesn't hold up well. But OMG when the gothy girl at from the bus line lent me her dub of this and I heard the dirgey "Shame" I knew I had picked a good horse.
Yello - You Gotta Say Yes to Another Success: pre-ubiquity of "Oh Yeah," Yello was sole province of the dance community of the 80's. I was at my cousin's house, and she dragged me to a friend's house and had me sit on one side of the room facing away from them while I guess they snorted coke or something, which was OK with me because the opening rumble of "I Love You" diced up with car screeches was riveting. Her friend got up and did a little dance, like rubbing his hands together in time with the keyboard burble, and then we abruptly left back to my aunt and uncle's house where I watched TV in the basement. Good times y'all.
Cabaret Voltaire - Micro-Phonies: This is true anti-80's music - arid unsmiling synth funk butting up against Bon Jovi and Huey Lewis and the News. Music like this is what quelled the Patrick Bateman brewing in all of us back then. We would circle the mall with this blaring out of my friend's mom's car, totally not caring what y'all all think anyway.
LCD Soundsystem - Sounds of Silver: this is actually very recent, but I heard "All My Friends" sublimely fill the air at a party the other night and it was the only song in the world right then. Synth music has a way of doing that, perhaps because it's sleek surfaces bond covalently with the landscape the way a guitar or saxophone does.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Piles of Leaves and the Rake of Art

First, 1970-71 Burdocks by Christian Wolff is maybe one of the strangest, loveliest pieces of undone music ever. It unfolds in seemingly disparate events: a twinkle of a xylophone, a slight crash of percussion, a muted whimper from a violin, who knows what all and yet instead of being a jumble of notes, forms compartments in which the whole of the world may be placed. German composer Daniel Wolf goes deftly explains the technical aspects that go into creating this piece on a 2006 entry from his blog Renewable Music should you be curious, and maybe the success of pieces like this - scored partially with a piece of text that says "flying"- depend on the musicians assembled, and it would hard to imagine anything short of levitation from this assembled cast, but wow what a perfect musical moment.

Almost too perfect for yesterday morning as I puttered around, sweeping up debris from Gustav still in piles in my back yard. My back yard is a little hard to take now, because recently, before the storm, it was a sweet oasis of shade and moderate order. Sitting in lawn chairs by the back fence under the tree (now fallen) over the mild expanse of green, looking at the back of my cute house and cute little fences was a balm, and now surface of he lawn is a confluence of ruts from the tree guys and scorching hot blinding sun. It is far from ruined mind you, and has given me some gardening ideas now that we have enough sun to raise goddamn corn back there, but it still is a little rough.

Same for walking down my street. My neighborhood still sits on the cusp of city-neighborhood and rural lane in tenor, but its melody is muted by the eye-level high piles of brush everywhere you look. It reminds me of Max Ernst's Europe after the Rain II,

where intrepid explorers look solemnly over the vast tangled wastes of war-ravaged Europe. All of my bemoaning the environmental horror of my surroundings is, of course, a little ridiculous. We could have had it so much worse. I went to see the Silver Jews in New Orleans earlier in the week and caught up with some locals at the show. One mentioned, I heard y'all got it bad in the storm and my friend and I proceeded to unload our woeful tales of 10 days without power, thankful for fresh ears I guess, but then I realized who I was talking to - people whose whole city was devastated only a few years ago.

So upon shock and post-traumatic stress and general wear I pile guilt and that is exactly how depression works, for those bewildered souls who think it’s about being sad. It's not, it's about feeling sad, and then feeling sad for feeling sad, and then feeling sad for feeling sad for .... until you feel everything and nothing and all you can do is force your way through it.

Anthony Braxton's Composition 211 is spot-on sonic portrait of the self-loathing I was feeling over all this. The hour long piece begins with what can best be described as a prolonged bout of forced chuckling by his "Ninetet" desperately, pathetically laughing themselves into not feeling so miserable. It is a little maddening to listen to actually, but it was a necessary wedge to pry me out of my psychological corner. As with most great Braxton pieces, the main motif devolves into a long introspective stretch, descending into clouds of contemplative mist, sparsely populated like the Wolff piece, but the landscape through which these lonely squirrels of sound scamper and forage is barren and hostile.

Braxton has been on my mind lately because I came across an interview with him in The Wire from a couple years back where he professed that we are entering a new dark age, and to expect a rise in cult activity, which tickled my apocalypse bone the absolute wrong way. During the storm, when I walked into the grocery store in my neighborhood operating on generators, with the lights flickering and the already near-lunatic staff sweating and emotionally threadbare I got a twinge of this is what it will be like when it all goes down. It will not be a flash of light or a mass ascension of souls accompanied by a loud trumpet, it will be a slow degradation, things falling apart and never getting fixed, planned paths will be choked with weeds.

This line of thinking became too much to bear, and right at the moment where I thought my head might cave in, the Ninetet worked their way back to the chuckling from the beginning, and the trash can was filled with leaves. I pulled out of the apocalypse by pulling out my earbuds and just sat there for a while.

Later that afternoon, an opportunity to drive around alone and go to the used CD store and the bike store and the guitar store arose and while I wasn't willing to pull away from sphere of the avant-garde, I needed something more fun to listen to and John Zorn’s Masada Rock fit the bill. Zorn's Masada catalog is rendered as surf and affable hard rock, impeccably performed. I am continually struck by the breadth and quality of John Zorn's catalog, he's really up there with Ives in being able to pull the world into his insular processes and inversely express his genius back through those channels. This record is a hoot.

Today, as I type all this catharsis out, purge my anxieties through records that have nothing to do with me with hopes I can maybe find something universal in them, I'm lulled by the dim glow of narcissism and the flawless pips and tweets of Benjamin Britten's Six Metamorphoses after Ovid. In the original, the Roman poet muses on the creation and history of the universe, using the entire Pantheon of Gods to scare love out of the hedges into the light of cognition, and Britten reduces this massive work into some small figures for solo oboe. Sometimes I wonder why I spend so much time on things like this, and then there are days when the threads running through these records and myself glow white-hot and like Britten does with the whole of the Universe through and oboe’s fragile reed, I can hear a sweet melody in it all.

Friday, September 19, 2008

5 Pieces of Music About Atlantis

Possible ancient depiction of Atlantis, from here

In ascending order of awesomeness:

  1. Modern Talking - "Atlantis is Calling (S.O.S for Love)"

    The Swedish exchange-student girl I dated in high school once heard this on a mix tape belonging to the Norwegian exchange-student we were hosting and spat in disgust, "Only a Norwegian would listen to music that stupid."
  2. Earth & Fire - Atlantis

    This "Mellotron-heavy" Dutch prog rock band had the misfortune of having a name completely eclipsed by another that augmented it simply with "Wind" and made it perfect. "Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight" (performed above) from their album about the lost continent is an uneven mix of prog excess and Carpenters' insularity, sounding a little like Belle and Sebastian would if burdened with dreams of grandiose scale.
  3. Sun Ra & The Afro-Infinity Arkestra - Atlantis

    I love Sun Ra unabashedly, as weird as he gets, I'm willing to go, but the 21-minute title track where Ra abuses his "Solar Sound Instrument" (early synthesizer) is too much for even this marathon-listening free jazz fool. But the shorter numbers, esp "Lemuria", are things of serpentine, post-funk beauty.
  4. Henry Cowell's Atlantis

    The real reason for this post. I know Cowell for his surprisingly homey investigations into playing the inside of the piano, strumming it like a harp, setting things on the strings, expanding the already expansive instrument but I came across his rather ridiculous ballet piece Atlantis today and am stupefied. Singers growl and grunt pirate-battle-like "HAAAAHHHH's" and "HUHHHHHHH's" in a movement subtitled "Combat Between Earth and Sea Monsters." Super-awesomeness from the dark corners of American art music.
  5. Donovan - "Atlantis"

    The undisputed all-time best interpretation of Atlantis in all music, ever. Hail Atlantis!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pick Your Brain

from here

An advocate of the devil linked to this, and I'm just tired enough after last night's Silver Jews show in New Orleans to try being philosophical, so here goes:

5 Questions That Will Change Your Life

  1. What else can this mean? - Not to be melodramatic, but this question is the foundation of our humanity, not simply because it taps into the curiosity that shapes us but also underscores our more defining trait of hubris. Asking "what else" presupposes that we have a handle on "what." Meaning is a greased pig that is so fun to chase that one forgets about the slim chance of capture. And in that futile pursuit, we have purpose and are united with the (according to us) unenlightened universe of rivers eroding rocks and lions eating zebras and micro-particles doing their obscure (again, to us) dances.
  2. Who can help me? - This is gimme on life's standardized test because every answer is correct. Everyone can help you, because it is in interconnection that we operate - even shunning connection is still interconnection. One person can help you, because the various lines of interconnection are like fingers of a vast river system, stretching out and irrigating the crops of the vast plains and sapping the resources of unseen distant lakes, but the river still cuts a main channel between here and there and we are here and that one other is there. And of course, no one can help us. We are rather doomed in our charming little way.
  3. What am I grateful for? - Gratitude is a construct that is slyly ego-centric - it implies that things are done for us, in our honor and upkeep and I think a lot of times our gratitude becomes a celebration of self, a declaration of I am so special that this was done for me. But then look at us, all filthy from chasing the greased pig of meaning, knees wobbly from all that praying, traveling to the deepest parts of space and killing each other in search of a mirror. Who would reasonably love wretches like us? We think the universe is a great place of order, of intricate push-me-pull-you's ticking away in the Great Black Box waiting for us to open the lid. We should be foremost grateful that the ground doesn't swallow us whole just for being self-absorbed assholes. But since it hasn't yet, we should be grateful for everything, since our meaning depends on everything.
  4. What is my end game? I guess that depends what piece you (think you) are playing. And while I don't know much about chess, I get the feeling that everything is a pawn, just some have a longer lifespan due to longer legs, but still ultimately get used up in the larger scheme of the game. I think if we are truly pawns, we likely don't have the perspective to the see the checkered grid beneath our feet. And if we aren't, then the real question is not whether we are winning or losing, but who are we playing against? Or, going back to our squealing little pig, even if we do catch it, do we have the faculties to hold onto it?
  5. What can I learn from this? - I will defer back to question 3 in that differentiating between cause and effect involves a lot of ego, presuming we are perpetually in little time-stops where we push against something and it moves because of our pushing. Maintaining one's functionality in reality requires we make this leap: that we act and we learn from the consequences of that acting. Do we learn anything or are we refining what we already know? Are we really perpetually uncarving the block in an armchair zen sense, each stroke/unstroke of the chisel gets us closer to The Truth/God/enlightenment? I think we must be, since we seem to be really good, arguably only good at, carving and uncarving the blocks that are ourselves; it is all we ever want to do. Without adopting the concept that we are learning something, profitting from that activity, we'd all go mad.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

[The Record Crate] We Apologize for the Interruption in Service

We apologize for the interruption in service, but the power is finally back on at The Record Crate. For the past two weeks I cycled through a playlist of limbs hitting the ground, generators buzzing through the night a couple houses down, Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, and the announcers on WJBO trying to maintain sanity, both theirs and ours.

If I may blow my own horn a bit, I have a piece in this month's Oxford American citing the cultural tipping point I've experienced in Baton Rouge over the past three years, and as I read my copy by flashlight, trying to catch a slight breeze, I kept hoping that we as a city would not fall into our past entropic habits and let our progress rot like a pile of oak tree limbs out by the road.

From what I see, we bounced back fine, with the best young Cajun band in the world Pine Leaf Boys and reunited local favorites The Kenmores gracing our stages this week. Not to mention Flogging Molly, the best thing to happen to Irish music since The Pogues. But the event that I find the most inspiring is the homegrown Ivanhoe Music Fest taking place on Ivanhoe Street just north of the LSU campus. As of this writing, the lineup is as follows:

Ivanhoe Fest

Saturday, Sept. 20

Noon - Torn & Frayed

1 p.m. - Charles Brooks

2 p.m. - The Promise Breakers

3 p.m. - Polly Pry (Formerly The Casuals)

4 p.m. - You and Me Got Faces

5 p.m. - The Tellers

6 p.m. - Brass Bed

7 p.m. - Hollywood Blues

8 p.m. - Righteous Buddha

9 p.m. - Black Sound Parade

Sunday Sept. 21

Noon - Ryan Lake & Friends

1 p.m. - An Empire at Sea

2 p.m. - Who By Fire

3 p.m. - Hilbun & The Homewreckers

4 p.m. - Smiley with a Knife

5 p.m. - We Landed on the Moon!

6 p.m. - k-flux

7 p.m. - Elsah

8 p.m. - Man Plus Building

9 p.m. - Lingus

This is a chance to not only see what Baton Rouge can do (besides win a football game), but to be a participant in it. Culture is by definition a living thing so go out and live it, especially in this nice weather we've been having.

Link with local events calendar

I came to edge of the world

I came to The Edge of the World in search of Cornelius Cardew, whose Mountains opens this odd duo record for bass clarinet and keyboards. Cardew was the staunchest of minimalists from what I understand, wanting to strip music of all its bourgeoisie adornment and let it hum with the masses. This line of thinking eventually led him to call the whole art music gig an imperialist sham and he did what all disslusioned inllectuals did - he started writing propaganda folksongs about Mao. Mountains is a lyric, airy hop, as if the clarinetist is basing his pitch on hte jagged line of a mountain range (Cardew was one of the early champion of interpretive graphic scores, so it is not inconceivable that this is precisely what is going on here.) By whatever means, it is lovely thought-provoking music but it is keyboardist Christopher Hobbs' Seventeen One-Minute Pieces that has me beguiled. Perfectly ordered polite minuatures not dissililar to the cocktail chamber music of Evan Lurie, informal to the point of using the built in tempo settings, leaning between artful scales and saccarine jazz, reminding me of the future minded Laurie Anderson and David Van Tiegem music of the early 80's with the patina of that music somehow slyly discarded. Beach Boys jolly one minute, Gershwin slinky the next, a perefct way to start out the day.

As for Morton Feldman, I really love his atomized compositions, where sounds floats like dust in the ether, sometimes combining in seemingly incidental harmony, sometimes spinning off orphaned from any continuum. It's the kind of music that would drive a normal person completely crazy, but to me it sounds so alien because it is actually what the world sounds like all the time. I was driving around at lunch doing errands with this collection booming from my car stereo, well, as much as one can "boom" Morton Feldman, and it seemed to be ordering the dull chaos of construction sites and traffic signals into a beautiful loose harmony. I came to the edge of the world, and founding it sitting there, twittering away, right where it always is.

Louisiana Book Festival Update

I just got asked to be a part of a discussion panel about blogging

Discussion: Blogging Is Writing, Too…Or Is It?

with Scott Douglas, columnist with McSweeney's, author of Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian and blogger of Speak Quietly: Ramblings About Libraries, Writing, and Everything in Between at the Louisiana Book Festival on October 4, 2:00 PM.

I confess that I have yet to read Scott's book and I think its a safe bet he hasn't read mine since I just got asked this morning, but I like the tenor of his blog: smart, personal, just self-promotional enough, centered on, but not narrowed to, a topic.

There will be some flavor of live-blogging of this event going on, and I might twitter up the whole festival from my phone or document it with Facebook status updates ("Alex is hoping he he doesn't forget that really witty remark before that other guy stops talking") or maybe I'll just go ahead and get that chip implanted that allows me to blog with my mind.

I'll also be on the Oxford American panel, discussing some of the things in the New Orleans/Gulf Coast Issue. It is likely that the discussion will start with earnest, inciting flares of rage and heartfelt pleas for persistence and growth, and then quickly devolve into an hour of talking about Lil Wayne before a crowd of MFA students in the Senate chambers.

Here is actual on the Internet proof, verifying that I am not just pretending to be on a panel this time. I will be in the book tent signing books as well. When I'm not attending the Hindenbergian inflated ego I will have over these honors, I will be floating between the 225 Magazine and Country Roads tents (though Country Roads usually has cake at theirs, so....) . The book festival is routinely a bringer of fantastic weather and there is killer festival food and kid's tent activities in excelsis. I predict some variety of sauce will be dribbled down the front of my shirt, so don't be alarmed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Allen and the Elfman Brothers

I was poking around for proggy ambience to listen to while doing computer work and Gong cult master Daevid Allen provided just that in the form of his American primitive-gone-feral acoustic Now is the Happiest Time of Your Life and hypno-electric droney Ugly Music for Monica, either making a fine accompaniment to making a messy computer program even messier and while I was waiting for my database to crash, I remembered there was a story about Sherman Helmsley (the actor that protrayed George Jefferson on The Jeffersons) being a huge fan of LSD, progressive rock, and Gong in particular, reprinted from here:

June 2008

By Mitch Myers

I once interviewed musician Daevid Allen at a recording studio in San Francisco. Back in the 1960s, he was (briefly) a member of the wonderfully creative British band Soft Machine, but Daevid ended up forming his own strange psychedelic group called Gong.

During his life, Daevid Allen has hung out with everybody from William Burroughs and Jimi Hendrix to Bud Powell, Paul McCartney, Syd Barrett, Keith Richards, Richard Branson and a whole bunch of other famous people that he can’t remember.

One famous person Daevid does recall spending time with is Sherman Hemsley AKA George Jefferson of the 70s sitcom “The Jeffersons.” Sherman had been a jazz keyboardist long before portraying George Jefferson on television, and his progressive sensibilities led him to appreciate the offbeat sounds of Daevid Allen and Planet Gong. Apparently, cosmic Gong compositions like “Flying Teapot” and “Pot Head Pixies” really resonated with the TV star’s psyche.

Years after David’s brief encounter with Sherman Hemsley, the actor would go on collaborate with Jon Anderson, lead singer of the prog-rock group Yes. Their joint musical production was entitled “Festival of Dreams” and supposedly described the spiritual qualities of the number 7.

Anyway, here is Daevid Allen’s verbatim account of his sole meeting with certified Gong fanatic, Sherman Hemsley:

“It was 1978 or 1979 and Sherman Hemsley kept ringing me up, I didn’t know him from a bar of soap because we didn’t have television in Spain. He called me from Hollywood saying, ‘I’m one of your biggest fans and I’m going to fly you here and put flying teapots all up and down the Sunset Strip.’ I thought, ‘This guy is a lunatic.’ He kept it up so I said, ‘Listen, can you get us tickets to LA via Jamaica? I want to go there to make a reggae track and have a honeymoon with my new girlfriend.’ He said, ‘Sure! I’ll get you two tickets.’

I thought, ‘Well, even if he’s a nut case at least he’s coming up with the goodies.’ The tickets arrived and we had this great honeymoon in Jamaica. Then we caught the plane across to LA. We had heard Sherman was a big star, but we didn’t know the details. Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there’s a big joint being passed around. I say, ‘Sorry man, I don’t smoke.’ Sherman says, ‘You don’t smoke and you’re from Gong?’

Inside the front door of Sherman’s house was a sign saying, ‘Don’t answer the door because it might be the man.’ There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, ‘C’mon upstairs and I’ll show you the Flying Teapot room.’ Sherman was very sweet, but was surrounded by these really crazy people.

We went up to the top floor and there was this big room with darkened windows and “Flying Teapot” is playing on a tape loop over and over again. There were also three really dumb looking, very voluptuous Southern gals stoned and wobbling around naked. They were obviously there for the guys to play around with.

[My girlfriend] Maggie and I were really tired and went to our room to go to bed. The room had one mattress with an electric blanket and that was it. No bed covering, no pillow, nothing. The next day we came down and Sherman showed us a couple of [The Jeffersons] episodes.

One of our fans came and rescued us, but not before Sherman took us to see these Hollywood PR people. They said, ‘Well, Mr. Hemsley wants us to get the information we need in order to do these Flying Teapot billboards on Sunset Strip.’ I looked at them and thought they were the cheesiest, most nasty people that I had ever seen in my life and I gave them the runaround. I just wanted out of there.”

I liked Sherman a lot,’ He was a very personable, charming guy. I just had a lot of trouble with the people around him.”

And while I could not find some rumored video of Sherman dancing around on the Merv Griffin show to a Gong song, I did find The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show. Buddy Hacket gave them a 6, but Bill Bixby gave up a perfect 10, opening the young Elfmans (Elfmen?) for a well-deserved win.