Friday, January 30, 2009
32 Short Films About Glenn Gould
Thank you internet and people with too much time on their hands.
After that, sing and hum along with the master! (lala)
According to the Music Personality Test
|84 %||enjoys reflective and complex music|
|64 %||enjoys edgy and aggressive music|
|13 %||enjoys fun and simple music|
|26 %||enjoys energetic and upbeat music|
Thursday, January 29, 2009
more Pearls Before Swine
Pearls Before Swine - The Complete ESP-DISK Recordings (lala) - I'm rather smitten with this band, and I think a lot of it has to do with Tom Rapp's lisp. Lou Reed has a similar allure in his brazenly flawed vocal delivery, they are working aberrations to an advantage. But this collection is a cave, as you go deeper, terrestrial concerns like quality of voice are no longer of any great concern, giving way to that delicious brand of paranoid anxiety that only psychedelia can deliver.
Even when Rapp sweetly twitters I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful when rain bends down the boughs in the epic "I Shall Not Care" after a particularly heady organ-grinder boogie-freakout you know its because he doesn't have it now and that now is perpetual down in the dark cave, and when your eyes go out from uselessness in the dark, the unforgiving walls then just make your harpsichord or lute or organ sound all the sweeter. When "The Surrealist Waltz" swings around, you mouth breathes in darkness and sings it back out, humming from passing through your lungs and heart. It's a blind cave snake vining up your leg, and you know its there, but you can't see it anyway, so why look? Just keep wading in that cold cave water until you have to swim, and then swim in it until you can wade again, or you can't swim anymore. But keep going, because that cave might open up to the sun any moment, and though you are now blind, the warmth of the sun will register on your pale, cold skin and you, bent like a tree in the rain, will be again in the embrace of the surface, and will have peace.
It should be noted, I suppose, that our lisping Dante Tom Rapp did emerge out of this cave into the embrace of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and is now an attorney in Florida. And you thought I was going weird places with this story....
Detroit Funk Indeed
Check out the interior even after ages of decay. How do modern concert venues even show their faces, looking like they do?
Here are some of the regulars that played this historic hall according to this website.
Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels - Take a Ride (lala)
Lee Michaels - s/t (lala) - um, wow. If you like Hammond Organ, and I like Hammond Organ, this record might just make the Leslie lying long disused in your heart start spinning again. If he stretches out like this on album, I cannot fathom where he went in concert.
Savage Grace - One Night in America (lala) If Iggy and Tom Jones averaged out and fronted a biker bar band. In the best possible way, mind you. Also there is some Drive-By Truckers song that shares chromosomes with the solo in "Hard Time" but I can't place it.
Try and wrap your brain around this lineup:
JANUARY 15 & 16, 1971/FRIDAY & SATURDAY:
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band,
Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes,
Thanks aworks, the fine people of Detroit, ravers, and the internet in general
RIP John Martyn
Bummer. I love John Martyn.
I got introduced to him when a friend surprised me with a stunning nuanced rendition of "May You Never" from his 1973 album Solid Air (lala) . I didn't even know this friend had a guitar, much less could play it so well, and most of my guitar playing friends do little but remind you that they can play guitar. This friend talked about English boarding school where he and his friends would sit around for hours and hours learning these songs. I asked him if he knew about Nick Drake back then, and he said yeah, sure, but we all wanted to be John Martyn. I've written about him here and here and here and probably elsewhere so I'll let the links do the talking.
the use of ashes (and Wikipedia)
This Mortal Coil - Filigree & Shadow (lala) I was never a full-on goth type, nor was I a strict 4AD acolyte - I fell asleep at a Cocteau Twins concert at Tulane once - but man, I loved this record by the 4AD supergroup This Mortal Coil, especially "The Jeweller." So lush and haunted and pretentious and perfect. Here is a student film from back then (judging by the outfits) that I believe echoes how I felt about the song
I knew most of their songs were covers of Alex Chilton and Talking Heads and Van Morrison and so on, but until I looked it up, I was unaware that "The Jeweller" was by Pearls Before Swine.
Pearls Before Swine - The Use of Ashes (lala) How come no one has mentioned Pearls Before Swine to me before? I don't know who I thought they were - maybe something akin to April Wine - but they are right up my peculiar alley right now: string-laden psyche-folk of unabashed preciousness and delicacy. They were on ESP-DISK which should have been enough for me, ESP being the go to label for 60's loft Fire Music and reactionary anti-rock like The Godz and The Fugs. The song TMC covered is actually called "From the Movie of the Same Name"on The Use of Ashes, and the rich baritone of Breathless' Dominic Appleton in the TMC version is suddenly, surprisingly surpassed by Tom Rapp's charming lisp as the definitive reading of this song in my mind. Really, if you have an unhealthy Love obsession like I do, you might need to get you some Pearls Before Swine.
Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies (lala) I took me a couple songs to figure out the singer of whom Tom Rapp reminded me... totally Daniel Bejar from Destroyer (and a slew of other bands). There are plenty of parallels in the sound and phrasing. I say a Destroyer album of Pearls Before Swine covers is called for. Maybe the 4AD guy can get the band back together for it.
A Reverse Abecedary Poem for the Visceral Realists
View through the keyhole of its outer door at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
your Xanadu washed vacant under torrents
quiet precipitation offering no meaning
like ketamine junkies in hallways
greedily, feverishly eating death
carrying bones around
The visceral realists are the group of poets around which Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives is centered, traveling the world in an unclear quest after one of their comrades. The Savage Detectives is one of those books I love but I have a hard time describing appealingly to others - it is akin to hanging out for an extended period of time with people your other friends find distasteful, and in all honesty, you agree with your other friends, but you still like the air with these people in it.
Much is made about the supposed similarity between Bolaño and his characters, particularly on of the main poets Arturo Belano (My theory is that he snagged the Arturo from Arturo Bandini, hero-poet-loser of John Fante's supposedly autobiographical trilogy). personally, I think this kind of activity is foolish. These are works of fiction; do we really need to believe they are factual (or to borrow from Stephen Colbert, have truthiness) to benefit from their Truth? Have we really lost our capacity for mediation of information with all this Internet-grade access to sketchy data and instant emotions. Just that I do not believe reality television is real, I don't believe that Bolaño was necessarily like the people in his books. His ex-wife says as much in recent claims in this NYTimes article.
It made me think of Duchamp, how he told everyone he was quitting art for chess while secretly slaving away over Étant donnés for twenty years in his apartment, how it was shocking that he was creating art after all. Imagine that, an artist, especially one who like playing games with public perception like placing a urinal on a podium, lying about quitting art for chess. I realize this is a simplification of Duchamp, and not the same as writing fiction, but it applies when you look at this giant book about poets who talk about their poetry that they never manage to produce, but how this poetry is so important that they form a group called the Visceral Realists, and you, the reader, are straggling around behind them.
Bolaño may have indeed been one of these poets - the book jacket blurb claims he founded the Infrarealist poetry movement in Mexico, detailed in this article in The Nation - but none of that matters. In Bolaño's fiction, he exhibits affinity and irritation with his wandering poets because that's what writer's do - dissect themselves and the company they keep and most importantly, the company they make up. I like these guys! I want to be one of these poets scribbling important things in notebooks in Mexico City bars! Lurking destitute in the filthiest walkup in Paris! Who wouldn't? I made up the makeshift poem above while walking the dog last night, thinking about them. But I don't need to believe any of it is real for it to work.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
smooth like a bee
Bee Gees - Odessa (lala) - This is one of those records that has been lying dormant on my To Investigate list for ages, having its praises sung by many a music dude over the years, and this assessment of the new deluxe edition by Offbeat's Alex Rawls pushed it to the front. I rather like the haunted Gnostic chants of the opening title track delivered in those same velveteen harmonies that only a decade later defined the disco years. I was in a discussion recently about Skylarking by XTC - in my opinion one of the finest records ever made - and now I can hear a lot of Odessa in some of XTC's arrangements. I hear gossamer country and Bacharach, lots of things I expected, but I did not foresee the similarities between the Bee Gees and the Band that I am hearing in "Marley Purt Drive." and so on and so on. There is a cough syrup haziness in this record that keeps any of the songs from really sticking with me, but frequently something sharp and defined emerges from the cloud, like the chorus of "I Laugh in Your Face."
The Bird & The Bee - Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (lala) If there is any Bee-oriented album that owns the week, it is this one, being feted in all the papers of the realm. After the lava-grade thickness of an hour of Bee Gees, though, this sounds positively prickly and brittle in comparison. I dunno. I think if I was 23 and had just discovered Stereolab and was all in a tizzy about electro euro lounge pop, I'd love this (like I was for the High Llamas back then)
David Sylvian - Dead Bees on a Cake (lala) I knew there was another super-smooth bee record! I've heard his other bee album Secrets of the Beehive - it was all the rage with us post-new wave Romantic types, but this is a rather exquisite take on existential crisis AOR. At times it is Bryan ferry, others it is Bitches Brew, right now it is kinda Bill Laswell in chillout mode.
Love and Rockets have a b(ee)-side called "Bees" on some single from Earth Sun Moon but I can't find that, so here is my favorite song by them instead.
RIP Charles Cooper of Telefon Tel Aviv
RIP Charles Cooper from Chicago-via-New Orleans electronic duo Telefon Tel Aviv (myspace)
Equally well-known for their remixes as well as their own work, here they are making sublime hash out of Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments"
25 Radom Things
- The new Luke Skywalker figure looks like he's about to break into song at all times.
- I am over the idea of getting a scooter.
- I want an iPhone, but the lack of a Rhapsody app for it is keeping me from it.
- I wish I had more/better internet reading
- I wish I had less total internet reading
- Or rather, spent less time doing so.
- I wish I read books faster. The Savage Detectives is good, but its taking me forever, and I have a copy of 2666 waiting for me when I finish
- I can't even fathom how long it is going to take me to read all 800+ pages of 2666
- Which is likely a moot concern, since I never finish any of those giant books (Gravity's Rainbow, Infinite Jest, Ulysses, etc)
- I want to in spirit, but not in body.
- Maybe if I got an iPhone and could get books put on there, I'd whiz through them.
- An iPhone would thereby, make me a smarter person.
- I actually do these kinds of internal justifications before buying anything - see any past arguments for a scooter.
- I love 24 even though I recognize it is kinda garbage TV.
- It is Wild Wild West revisited with a larger budget and no sense of humor.
- I really like where I work now, for the first time in years
- Except for those three years where I worked for myself. I liked where I worked then.
- Beacause it was generally whereever I wanted.
- It was the hours and the hustle that killed me.
- Not really true, it was the lack of insurance and the constant pushing of my luck with regards to my health that ended that.
- I have a hard time imagining that I actually did work for myself and managed to support a family doing so.
- It is something I should remind myself in those moments of anxiety - you really can do it
- I'd like to take a stab at fiction, but I think my story ideas are all pretty terrible
- Not from a self-defeating standpoint, but a "how about this story idea?" perspective.
- And also I have started projects to finish and yet, here I am answering facebook requests by talking about doing other things.
Proposed Moratoria for 2009
- "I'm so tired of ____" - This complaint structure has come up a lot in the criticism and meta-criticism that forms much of the blog world in which I live.* One example: Recently I saw it in an impassioned give-and-take (which I can't find now) about the Oxford American music issue, that the OA gives "Southern" a rather liberal scope, particularly in regards to Neko Case's inclusion in the most recent music issue. I do have a dog in this hunt as a contributor to this same issue, writing about The Residents whose Southern ties are easily considered thin, and possibly even non-existent, but fair enough, it's a topic worth exploring, and I was following until I got to a comment that was "I get so tired of changing the parameters of Southern for their own purposes." Again, I can, to a degree, sympathize with the sentiment and wholly respect the accusations, but the "tired" part kills it for me. Are you required to accept these re-parameterizations? Do they burden you in that you are forcedto read each one that occurrs? I suspect the OA, beloved in some circle as it might be, is not required reading for anyone, and, in my experience as a writer for these contentious music issues, it in no way poses itself as definititve on the wobbly borders of "Southern" and maybe the reverence it is given sets it up for derision, and yeah, go for it, redefine Southern yourself then. I promise you the South is amorphous enough to fit your paradigm too, but if someone doing so makes you tired, you might need to upgrade your life to include some real problems. Being tired of someone's opinion who you are not forced to agree with or even acknowledge smacks of complaining that you are getting poor customer service from your cultural analysis providers and that you would like to speak to the manager. Well guess what, we're all the manager now.
- The word douche - when used as a derogatory descriptor of a person. This is a holdover from last year that still won't go away. Specifically, its the Nick Sabin is a Douche bumper sticker I see on this one car everyday at work that gets to me. You are still that upset about this? That an egomaniac rich guy backed out of an offhand promise for more money? Really?
- Really? - This handy little argument-ender is here is to remind me to quit using it so much. Like the first item, it should not be so incredulous to me that others feel differently about things, preposterous as their stupid opinions might be.
- Facebook junk - I really like Facebook on a philosophical basis (blogging as an expression of current physical, emotional status) and from an interface perspective, but man, I don't want any trees or teddy bears or zombie bites, nor do I want to join a group celebrating how much I hate Crocs (they are great for kids) or even the end of the Bush administration (I celebrate it through my dogged persistence). I am also annoyed when you get included on someone's group message, even if you don't respond, you get every reply to the thread ever.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
wood and strings
Punch Brothers - Punch (lala) - Baton Rouge and area people: Punch Brothers, the new band of former Nickel Creek mandolin prodigy Chris Thile is doing two nights at the Manship Theatre at the Shaw Center this week, which is designed specifically for the enjoyment of expertly crafted acoustic music.
Marc Olson & Gary Louris - Ready for the Flood (lala) I was flipping through the "country" section of lala and this sprang forth. The meeting of the two principles of the Jayhawks is tantamount to the Beatles (or at least Uncle Tupelo) getting back together with some in my circle. This album presents all the pleasures and difficulties I had with the Jayhawks - songs sublimely wrought with slight but palpable eccentricity that beccome diffused as they go along, stretching just past the time I think they should wind down. This has a marked Jerry Garcia/ Dave Grishman feel to it, without the endless formless. Still though, it is gorgeous stuff. It's like complaining that you have too much homemade ice cream in your bowl.
Jerry Garcia/David Grishman (lala) - Just to establish a baseline for the above comparison, but though I am no big GD fan, I do have some fondness for Mr. Garcia's acoustic outings. I'll even risk saying I kind love The Pizza Tapes. And American Beauty for that matter. But it stops there, OK?
Legends of Springsteen
In answer to this post on WNYC's Soundcheck blog, I never want to listen to a new Bruce Springsteen album when it comes out. I just don't. I know its gonna be corny and overblown even if its great, because Springsteen is all of those things when he's at his best. But I just don't want to hear it, not yet. Which is no fault of Bruce's, he continues to do his thing on his own terms and people seem to like it and good for him, and probably for us all, He's a different man than he was in 1973 and it is a different world than Ashbury Park (lala) was then, so there is no reason to expect him to be the same guy, and maybe Working on a Dream (lala) is the nth resurrection of the true working class hero, but I still don't want to listen to it now. I'll get to it. I still haven't given The Ghost of Tom Joad (lala) the time it likely deserves.
It does make me want to go back to spend some long overdue time with the lean, squirrely Bruce panting in my ear about how hard it is to be a saint in the city, shrieking about wolfman fairies dressed in drag for homicide, blessing the bus driver's children, and for that, I'm thankful that he still keeps making records. Oh, and thanks for putting Obama in office. And for sweeping up after the inauguration.
The "Legends of Springsteen" skits from the old Ben Stller show
Monday, January 26, 2009
 Blue Note Turns 70
Of all the logos in the world, a reliable mark of quality is the little blue oval that has graced the cover of jazz albums on Blue Note Records for 70 years. Under the confident banner “The Finest in Jazz Since 1939,” Blue Note has served as the home base for Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan and nearly every other famous name associated with jazz.
This month the River City Jazz Coalition and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge will fête the famed label’s birthday at the Manship Theatre with an all-star revue featuring Bill Charlap, Ravi Coltrane—yes, that Coltrane—Peter Bernstein, Nicholas Peyton, Steve Wilson, Peter Washington and Lewis Nash. This is a rare opportunity to witness jazz played by its top performers paying homage to those who came before them and paving the way for the next generation of great Blue Note artists. Venerable Baton Rouge jazz DJ and member of the coalition, Zia Tammami excitedly calls the event “the young lions of jazz coming to town.” Dick LaPalm, record promoter and former executive of Chess Records, even commended Tammami for his efforts and those of the local coalition. “The things you guys are doing in a city the size of Baton Rouge are remarkable.”
Two shows will be at the Manship Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Call 344-0334 or visit manshiptheatre.org for ticket information.
 Stirring the Agitprop Pot
The Baton Rouge Gallery is usually a quiet oasis of contemplation. But for its 2009 Flatscape Video Series, the gallery is offering something a little more confrontational, promising “this year, the program begins with a bang—the bang of a bomb.”
Documentaries often spring from an artist’s need to tell an unflattering story, and the ensuing marginalization lends the work a sharp political edge. Flatscape opened Jan. 31 under the banner “Subversion: Anarchy Art and Activism,” and it continues this month with “Illegal Evidence: Art Against Authority” on Feb. 28. That screening includes Undeniable Evidence, which documents guerrilla artists and their public works ranging from creating a public billboard that gets wiped clean each day by the tide to protesters “in ill-fitting suits … vomiting the colors of the American flag.” Following that, Bringing It All to You explores the activities of ®™ark, an artists’ group that found infamy with their spot-on satires of Web sites for eToys.com and George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign. These films explore how artists subvert the accepted corporate channels of information to demonstrate how shaky those channels actually are.
March 28 sees “Statues of Liberty: Accusations of Activism” come to the gallery. This screening will feature the documentary Steve Kurtz Waiting. Kurtz creates artwork about and resembling biotechnology. After he called 911 for his ailing wife, paranoid authorities confiscated the contents of Kurtz’s apartment, fearing he was a terrorist. According to the Video Data Bank that provides much of the content for Flatscape, “Steve became the victim of this paranoia, and through the extended powers of the U.S. Patriot Act, he still awaits trial for mail fraud. If found guilty, he could face up to twenty years.” Also on the bill is Susan Youseef’s For the Least, about American Catholics marching on Guantanamo Bay, and Mohamed Yousry: A Life Stands Still, which documents a naturalized citizen wrongly arrested in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. These films offer more than a knee-jerk criticism of American society; they illuminate the places where the system has gone awry, and in some cases, what little is being done to correct it.
All Flatscape presentations begin at 8 p.m. and are free to gallery members. $5 for non-members. batonrougegallery.com
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Clarksdale Road Trip Music
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited - Corny one to start with, I know, but going up the blues trail is a corny of an endeavor no matter how well intentioned. Plus this album always gets me going without fail. Take any three-second snippet of it and it sounds like a trainwreck but the whole of it is contained and revelatory.
Robert Cage - Can See What You're Doing (lala) Put this on when I hit his home town of Woodville, MS, just over the state line. This is the kind of wildness Bob Dylan was after, but his self-consciouness would not allow.
T-Model Ford - Jack Daniel Time - A largely acoustic affair thrown on when I got to the delta proper. Ford was actually playing at Red's, the club down the street from Ground Zero, and as things wound down there I sorta wanted to go, but also remembered falling asleep on a bench at the Maple Leaf at 3AM during his 40+ minute rendition of "Mannish Boy" only to perk up when he called the band to the stage to kick into the same song again. And it was freezing and raining outside. Fortunately, the Oxfordites in the party had borne witness to Ford many times to similar effect, so we skipped it and kicked it in one of the well-appointed rooms above the club.
Lucinda Williams - Little Honey (lala) I've been torn about this record. I like that it is a lot more raw and bar-band-ish than most of her records, and one has the feeling it is in smoky bars that her heart lies, but the downside was that it approached this aura with pained effort, see the roadhoused variant of AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top" that closes it. All these concerns are now dismissed. The only spot where the spell is broken is with Elvis Costello's buttinski croon on the duet "Tears of Joy" - it sounds like they are staging a Heartfelt-Off. But even that is still pretty good. Also, if I learned anything from the satellite radio on my last trip, it is you are thankful for AC/DC is always around when you need it.
Mississippi John Hurt - Avalon Blues (lala) - If I had to pick a classic delta blues record to be my favorite, this would be it, though Hurt's blues is a more intricate missing link in the chain instead of yet another train whistle/rumble on the tracks. This played when I stopped for gas in Vicksburg. I asked a guy in the gas station how far it was to Clarksdale and he said "Oh 60-70 miles. I ran that route for years." I was shocked; I thought I had at least three more hours to go. I checked the Goggle Maps on my phone when I got back to the car: 147 miles.
NPR's All Things Considered. Twice. on three different stations as the signal faded. Mississippi has an enviable public radio system.
When I got to the Ground Zero Club
Bobby Rush (lala) was on the stage addressing the gathered and then playing a song. I didn't get a chance to speak to him, but I did brush against him just as Joey Lauren Adams took up the spot right next to me by the pool table. I looked around wondering if the owner Morgan Freeman was going to pop up any second and buy me a drink.
Wiley and the Checkmates (lala) took the stage shortly after. I get some uneasy minstrel-show feelings about the current spate of vintage soul revues where an old black man in a great suit fronts a band of white musicians playing airtight soul music to a white audience in which I am an eager participant, but that concern, like the ones about Lucinda, are quickly dismissed by how fucking awesome they are.
The night, however, belonged to rockabilly legend Dale Hawkins whose "Suzy Q" both opened and closed his extended set. During the backwood onslaught from Hawkins, silvered and dentured to look like the area's top John Deere sales rep, I got my picture taken with former U.S. Senator Ben Jones (D-GA), better known as Cooter from "The Dukes of Hazzard."
Fun fact: had Jones defeated his rival Newt Gingrich in a 1994 run for the House - Jones got a respectable 35% of the vote - it would have prevented then Minority Whip Gingrich from becoming Speaker of the House and would have shot a flaming dynamite arrow into the heart of the Republican agenda and sent the Boss Hogg's of the Nineties muttering about them dang ole Duke boys...
On the way back...
The Isley Brothers - Funky Family - I was ready to let the journey fold back up in reversal of how it unfolded, but as a friend pointed out about their absurdly hott version of CSNY's "Ohio", the Isely brothers can sex up anything, even a slightly hungover morning start on a six-hour drive home.
It seems like there was something bridging the Isley Brothers to Steve Reich besides an understanding of the power potential in extended rhythms, but whatever it was escapes me now. I do know I was listening to this when I passed through Panther Burn, MS because I searched through my phone and was disappointed that I had taken the Tav Falco's Panther Burns record (lala) off, probably to fit this Steve Reich record on it. I'm thinking that was for the best, there was already enough forced analogy going on with this trip.
Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding - I had a bunch of Dylan on my phone. I was planning on interspersing Dylan's albums up through Nashville Skyline with albums by artists whose hometowns were on my trail to come at some great revelation about white people and the blues, but thankfully that plan fell aside, partly because, er, I don't really like John Wesley Harding all that much and can really take only so much blues in a sitting. I cycled through a bunch of other things on my phone until I got to Natchez, the 90-minutes left mark, and spent that block singing songs of my own creation to myself. One of the songs isn't half-bad, but each verse ends with the word "deafening" and while it makes sense in the logic of the song, it also totally ruins it for half of them. And I suspect the melody is a Camper van Beethoven song I cannot readily identify because in my mind's ear I sound like David Lowery when I sing it. Fortunately for you, I am aware of the difference between my mind's ear and yours.