Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blip is yet another thing. I'm shaking up my social networking situation mostly because FaceBook is turning into the kind of encroaching octopus that MySpace became.

Social networking of this stripe reminds me of the old days of underground cassette culture where you had a network of like-minded musicological misfits that all had one piece of the puzzle and you slowly disseminated the pieces among each other. Twenty years ago, I had to fly to California and stay a week with a lunatic to get to hear La Monte Young's The Well Tuned Piano, and now I can auto-broadcast it to everyone I know, 99% of whom will be decidedly uninterested in it. I'm not sure which is better, sending it to everyone with hopes that 1% will like it, or the old fashioned way when it was sent to one person who would treasure it. It's not unlike debating the merits of carpet-bombing vs. a sniper.

Semi-related, when I was a kid, my friend Robbie down the street, who got everything before the rest of our poor asses got anything, had Blip when it first came out, and our mutual friend Dale and I had to impatiently take turns in Robbie's treehouse playing him in proto-pong, so maybe I was born to network through electronic gadgetry.

Review of The Romantic Dogs (New Directions Paperbook) The Romantic Dogs by Roberto Bolaño

The Romantic Dogs (New Directions Paperbook) The Romantic Dogs by Roberto Bolaño

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I could not get into this, Bolaño's only collection of poems in English, at all. I saved it for last after spending the last couple of months reading literally thousands of pages of Bolaño's mesmerizing tributes to the power of poetry and exaltation of suffering poets, only to find the poetry falling pretty flat. There are moments when he gets his engine running, like the numerous "Detective" poems where he offers every conceivable facet of a subject, but they fall short of the impact of any of his novels. Again, maybe it's the translation, or maybe Bolaño is just much better at talking about a thing than doing it, and in that, I can imagine the powerhouse of a critic he might have become (or was and I don't know about it) had he lived a little longer.

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Review of 2666: A Novel 2666: A Novel by Roberto Bolaño

2666: A Novel 2666: A Novel by Roberto Bolaño

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am relieved to be finished with this book and with Roberto Bolaño, not because I didn't enjoy it, in fact, I think this is the longest novel that I have ever finished, but I'm ready to leave the cloud in which his extended prose places me. Like The Savage Detectives, which I think is a better book though 2666 is better written (or is easier to read, and I am willing to chalk that discrepancy up to different translators), the stories that unfold here are lived in rather told. By the onset of part 5, I had a sinking fear that none of this was going to tie up, and I'm not sure if it all did. I think the experience was like living in a town so long that you no longer seek to connect the threads, you become a thread in it.

I think Bolaño's novels are totally deserving of the hype they have received and find sweetness in the fact that the late writer himself is wandering the ether of lost enigmatic writers which embodies much of his work, chuckling as a bunch of peckerwoods like myself chase his ghost.

View all my reviews.

musique non-stop, afropop

Fela Kuti & The Africa '70 - Open/Close and Afrodisiac (lala) You can clean a room to some Fela. I set mini-goals like I will keep picking up trash until this song is over because otherwise you can pick up trash forever, a room generates trash at a rate pproportional to your efforts, Not that we have a messy house by most standards, it just bears the patina of people living their lives in it. With Fela going, though, that song lasts a good 15-20 minutes, a bracket in which you can get some shit done.
The Necks - Mosquito These Australian jazz/rock/minimalists/purveyors of very long trance instrumental tracks usually fall into the same thinking space as Fela, but this record just sent me running back to the source.
Kraftwerk - Electric Cafe (lala) This played just long enough for me to come up with the post title.

you got the love, you got the power

George Benson - The George Benson Cookbook (lala) - George Benson operates in the choicest position I can think of for an artist: straddling the fence between he mundane, either far to out-there or way to in-there. I knew him for the beyond-massive pop hits "Turn Your Love Around" and "Gimme the Night" and when I first got one of his guitar albums, I thought it was a different George Benson. Dig if you will the multilateral sonic onslaught of "Ready and Able"

Miles Davis - Miles in The Sky (lala) Check him out, providing the protein chains that construct the DNA of Miles Davis' "Paraphernalia"

Harlem Underground Band - s/t - Harlem Underground Band is possibly one of the lesser known facets of the George Benson universe. Harlem Underground Band was a psychedelic soul band Benson formed in 1976, featuring the chanted soul of Ann Winley on four extended dope-blues-soul workouts. The released one eponymous with a number of the key tracks appearing on Erotic Moods under Benson's name in 1978. Best known among the blissed-out talkin' streetdealer blues jive throughout this records is "Smokin Cheeba-Cheeba" a rolling thunderhead of stoner funk kitsch, most recently featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Friday, February 27, 2009

brother, don't leave your homework undone

Curtis Mayfield - Roots (lala) I knew the hits but I never really understood how badass Curtis Mayfield is until I started digging into the albums.
James Brown - There it Is (lala) The WNYC SoundCheck blog is calling for greed songs for their ongoing deadly sins series, and nothing spells that out better than "I'm a Greedy Man"
possessing one of his finest grooves, sounding like the conveyor belt that keeps the rotting mess of the world churned up to that life continue to flourish. The magic of James Brown lies in its implausibility; if it didn't already exist, and you tried to sell someone on the idea - OK, the song is just one riff over and over for like 8 minutes and the singer is going to scream and bark orders to a band that keeps doing the same thing and occasionally says something semi-sensible - who would think that was a reasonable way to do things, much less a highly successful one?
Also, if you've never heard his cautionary tale "King Heroin," get on it, be you Italian, Jewish, Black or Mex.

The Bar-Kays - Gotta Groove and Black Rock (lala) Gotta Groove is the spot-on soulsonic boom one would expect from a well-oiled one-time Stax Records session machine - OK, maybe not the "It's a Small World"-esque trip through "Hey Jude," but otherwise, generally tight. Their follow-up record Black Rock, on the other hand, is a glorious mess. "Baby I Love you" is stretched until its ragged threads are exposed. Instead of the tight weave Aretha Franklin made of the song, it is a roughshod net trolling the waters of 1971, letting big horns and jazz flute and acid guitar all commingle and flop around like a bunch of surprised fish when the bounty is hauled to the surface. Then, when the net finally tears, the fisherman is left howling in the empty echo of infinitude. Massive stuff for a song with such an innocuous title.

As the record proceeds, it's more MC5 than MG's, doctoring the otherwise pure sentiments of "Dance to the Music" needlessly with protest and "bad acid" kitsch, but then psychedelia is never about the path of least resistance. That doesn't explain WTF happened with "Montego Bay" at the end. Is this what happens when you drink a daiquiri that has been left out for too long?
J. Blackfoot - City Slickers (lala) lala kept insisting on this so here it is. A signiciantly lower-dose of lysergic soul, it opens with the Twilight Zone vamp

Do not adjust the sounds of your stereo
There is nothing wrong with your set
For the next 34 minutes, I will control what you hear and feel
You're about to be taken on a musical safari
To the most ferocious jungle known to man
The jungle where the hunter's often captured by the game
This is a city, and you are there

This is the kind of stuff that sounds brilliant at a place like Teddy's but feels ridiculous listening to it in headphones at my desk.

"Forsythia" by Mary Ellen Solt

A friend posted a picture of the forsythia arrangements in her well-appointed abode on her equally well-appointed blog and it reminded me of a collection of concrete poetry (not An Anthology of Concrete Poetry, ed by Emmett Williams, published by Something Else Press, as I thought after perusing it at the library. It was a smaller book with a lot of of the same material.) This poem was on the cover of that book that I found on my father's bookshelf when I was 8 or so, and I buried myself in that book. Now I need to know what that book was.

According to the Anthology, Solt utilized the Morse code definitions of each letter as the stems of the forsythia branches.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I program my own computer

Kraftwerk - Computer World (lala) This is precisely where I am right now. Figuratively and literally. The alternate version of "Computer World" could just keep pulsing away an hour if it wanted to and it would be fine by me, but unfortunately, machines only do whatever the talking monkeys tell them to do. I am tempted to plug in my own face for the guy on the right next time I need an avatar.
Liquid Liquid - Liquid Liquid (lala) The campfire-in-the-cave before electro, or if techno was invented by the marching band drum corps, which in the case of Liquid Liquid, is pretty much what happened. Fun fact - bassist Richard McGuire whose liquid line sampled as the spine of Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines" helped it become one of the foundation documents of hip-hop, is a frequent cover designer for The New Yorker.
Leonard Cohen - Live from the Beacon Theatre on NPR (NPR) Just the thing to drag me back to sweaty, fleshy humanity. I'm just glad we have at least one celebrated master of song left as dirty as Leonard Cohen, even if he does swap give me crack and anal sex to give me crack and careless sex in this version of "The Future." And if that doesn't do it, then I will hold out for the duet of Tom Jones and Antony Hagerty crowded around Bob Boilen's desk promised in the introduction. The shear proximity of those two should sprout some whole new strain of weird sexuality. What kind of panties is appropriate for one to throw in a situation like that?
Napalm Death - Scum (lala) and just as I started feeling human again, this feature about extreme metal on the WFMU blog drags me back to the bubbling sulfurous pit. All I can really offer in the defense of this is: at least they know when to end a song (sometimes after only a few seconds) and they probably wouldn't change their lyrics for NPR. I jest, demon spirits, I like a good thrashing now and then as do all the damned.
Low - Long Division (lala) The shift in tempo alone is enough to cause cognitive whiplash. It is clear to me now that this afternoon I am grasping at straws. Like one time, I tore through the apartment first eating a hot dog with sauerkraut, then some cheese, followed by a fist of Altoids. My roommate stopped me before I drank the creamer left out by the coffee pot. You are in a sensation frenzy! he yelled, shaking me out of my panic. Maybe that's what I need now.

what you hear vs. what you came to hear

Fontanelle - F (lala) - I just listened to the this whole record while filling out the "15 Albums that changed your life" meme, and didn't hear a thing. Post-rock is kinda like that: I didn't really hear any of it but I liked what I didn't hear.
The Ventures - Surfing (lala) The Ventures, however, would be my answer to accusing instrumental rock of being strictly wallpaper. I lived for a year with a surf/rockabilly band, so perhaps my ears were tuned by force to this music's frequency, but the Ventures, corny and derivative as they may be, occupy the full width of my attention.
Link Wray - Link Wray (lala) This album of country-folk-rock shuffles from the Godhead's Embodiment of Teenage Delinquency Guitar caught me completely by surprise. It's not what I come to Link Wray for, but I dig it; if you got a thing for Tony Joe White and Bobby Charles, you will have at least passing fancy for this. I will file it as evidence in my quixotic case for VU's self-titled third album as an unheralded foundation document of country rock. Compare Wray's "Take Me Home Jesus" (1971) to VU's "Jesus" (1969).

Now, where was that goddamned windmill....

15 albums that changed my life

In response to the Facebook meme going around: Saying an album changed your life is giving the album too much credit; you meet enlightenment halfway. The Buddha might be waiting impatiently out there in the road for you to kill him, but its up to you to haul your ass out there with the knife.

That said, there are 42,655 words of a rough draft written on around this topic sitting on my desk/conscience so maybe this will summon me to the front gate with my weapon of choice. Discussed therein, among others, are:

  1. Barry Manilow - Live
  2. Kiss - Alive II
  3. Black Sabbath - Paranoid
  4. Thomas Dolby - The Flat Earth
  5. R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant
  6. "Rick's Mix"
  7. Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
  8. Richard Buckner - Since
  9. Julian Cope - Jehovahkill
  10. The Music of John Cage & Harry Partch
  11. Vienna: Music by Schoenberg, Webern and Berg
  12. Alvin Lucier - I Am Sitting in a Room
  13. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation
  14. The Palace Brothers - There Will Be no-One What Will Take Care of You
  15. Yes - Fragile

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

[The Record Crate] Some Blues You Can Use

Mississippi blues in the house this Friday with two of the most electrifying practitioners: Little Dave Thompson at Teddy’s and Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm at Chelsea’s. Thompson gives his Greenwood, Miss., gospel stomp a sophisticated shine without sacrificing a bit of its potency, while Burnside and Malcolm stoke their engines with moonshine and barbecue sauce. Both are part of the revitalization the blues is getting in recent years, letting it evolve into something new and exciting. And this all sounds too academic and revisionist, let me assure, they all rock hard.

A coarse wind blows in from the backwoods depth Lee County, Iowa on the ragged voice of William Elliot Whitmore. His latest release, Animals in the Dark, is a stampede of field hollers, porch rambles and gospel-tinged blues sure to make your hair stand up on end as you stay through a few beer glasses with him at Chelsea’s. Also at Chelsea’s will be Tuscaloosa’s roots rock true-believers the Dexateens serving up hot and greasy portions of their latest album Hardwire Healing on Saturday. If you like Drive-By Truckers, you’ll like Dextaeens. Trucker Patterson Hood was the one that turned me onto them in the first place.

But if you want to see the highest form of evolution that stemmed from the blues, you need to score a ticket for one of the two Blue Note Anniversary shows Thursday at the Manship Theatre. Ravi Coltrane, Nicholas Peyton, Peter Bernstein and other “young lions of jazz” as local jazz DJ Zia Tammami called them will be present for this most intimate look at jazz at its finest.

Fujiya & Miyagi cover every other possible base besides the blues. The Brighton cry fuses whispered near-rap cadence over a relentless pulse, launching rockets from the midpoint between early Can and the early B-52’s. Fujiya & Miyagi will be performing an early show before the Velcro dance night at the Spanish Moon.

Finally get your Ryan Adams tickets for next weeks’ show at the River Center before he changes his mind and retires again this week.

Wednesday, Feb. 25

Fujiya & Miyaki (Early show) at Spanish Moon

Thursday, Feb. 26

Blue Note Records 70th Anniversary Tour at the Manship Theatre

Steve Forbert at the Red Dragon

Kristin Diable at Chelsea’s

10 Years at The Varsity

Friday, Feb. 27

Fleur de Tease at Spanish Moon

Lil Dave Thompson at Teddy’s Juke joint

Juke Joint Duo featuring Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm at Chelsea’s

Waiting for Brantley and Ayleron at Click’s

Sweet Root at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s

Saturday, Feb. 28

Dexateens at Chelsea’s

The American Tragedy at The Varsity

The Bluebirds at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Axes of Evil at Red Star

Letters in Red and Touching the Absolute at Click’s

Mellow Down Easy at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s

Sunday, March 1

Teddy’s Sharecroppers at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Monday, March 2

Arms and Sleepers at Red Star

Tuesday, March 3

William Elliot Whitmore at Spanish Moon

Thursday March 5

The Cardinals featuring Ryan Adams at the River Center


I was wondering

Stevie Wonder - Music of My Mind (lala)
Curtis Mayfield - Curtis (lala) I was humming something while walking the dog last night that I thought might be part of a Stevie Wonder song but was, in fact, the horn break in Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up. " What a killer album this is. "(Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Going To Go" even threatens Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain" in the World's Most Badass Funk Oath category. Warning: racial slurs utilized in the name of consciousness raising, in cvase you don't have headphones on.

thinking big thoughts about America

Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II (lala) This album is good, but it is looooong. I haven't even gotten to the 14-minute crunch ramble epic "No Hidden Path" yet and it feels like its been on for hours. And wow, "The Way," even with the goddamn maudlin children's choir, is a shimmering beauty I didn't see coming from around the bend. America is a lot like both of these situations.
John Fahey - Days Gone By (lala) My favorite John Fahey album is America (lala) but this is a close second, and when thinking about America, its not usually one's favorite nor is it ideal, but it's pretty good, considering.

"A Raga Called Pat (Part 2)" is one of the all-time under-appreciated masterpieces of electroacoustic art. Inspiration meets cliche meets the Buddha hiding under John Fahey's fingernails.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Houma Mardi Gras Photos

Krewe of Terreanians is a formidable sized parade with nice floats and great throws (the house I grew up in is near the end of the parade route so the floats are either completely empty or getting rid of everything by the time they get to us) and also it is the only time I spend around the greater populace of where I grew up, an experience I generally find equally charming and harrowing - have all of us Houma men, regardless of age, always looked like post-career Vanilla Ice and I just didn't know it? I have never witnessed so much ambient hostility expressed in facial hair. But I love them because I am them.

That said, somehow I managed to only photograph what my crew and I ate.

Pre-parade chili dogs at Grandma's house

Maya and friend with Sprite and cotton candy

The one pic I did get from the parade: marching crew for the Houma Conquerors, Houma's indoor arena football team

Eastway Seafood after the parade

Two pounds of boiled crawfish.

Here is video of the parade from

[225] Charlie Louvin

In the March 2009 issue of 225 Magazine.

Back when I was a thrift-store record fiend, one of my holy grails was the 1958 country gospel album Satan Is Real by The Louvin Brothers. The cover featuring Charlie and Ira Louvin in white Western suits singing on a fiery infernal plane looked like the ultimate album kitsch. I never did come across it. Years later, I fell for The Byrds’ Sweethearts of the Rodeo, particularly the harmonies and unapologetic moral declaration “The Christian Life,” and I was surprised to trace that very song back to the Louvin Brothers and Satan Is Real. I started picking up the Louvin collection and found it contained melodies and arrangements that trumped any kitsch value their covers previously held for me.

The Louvin Brothers disbanded in 1963, and Charlie Louvin had a couple of solo country hits in the mid-1960s with “See the Big Man Cry” and “I Don’t Love You Any More.” Fortunately a number of hip listeners kept up with Louvin, and in 2007, Tompkins Square Records released Charlie Louvin, a collection of classic country gospel delivered in his weathered voice and accompanied by Elvis Costello, George Jones and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. That led to the reissue of many of his classic albums, a guest spot on Lucinda Williams’ Little Honey, two new records of his own and a 2009 GRAMMY nomination for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album.

Louvin will be in town April 3 for a rare, intimate performance at the Red Dragon Listening Room at the venue’s new location at 2401 Florida Street. Contact Chris Maxwell at for tickets. I’m personally thrilled to witness a national treasure like Louvin in person, but a little part of me regrets not ever tracking down a copy of Satan Is Real for him to sign.

Monday, February 23, 2009

You were the whore and the beast of Babylon, I was Rin Tin Tin

Leonard Cohen - New Skin for the Old Ceremony (lala) So drunk and so dirty. Other people might be able to sing it with a stronger voice or play it with more complimentary settings, but he can say it better.

Henry Brant

The Henry Brant Collection - Vol. 1 (lala)

Northern Lights over the Twin Cities - (1985) I already like a piece whose opening movement is titled "Battles of Gods" and is credited to the Combined Musical Forces of Macalester College, consisting of:
The Macalester Festival Chorale, Amy Snyder conducting, prepared by Kathy Romey
The Macalester Concert Choir, Kathy Romey conducting
The Macalester Symphonic Band, Henry Brant conducting, prepared by Edouard Forner
The Macalester Symphony Orchestra, Edouard Forner conducting
Mac Jazz, Carleton Macy conducting
The Macalester Pipe Band, Andrew Hoag conducting
The Macalester Special Percussion Group, prepared by Carleton Macy
Ten-Piano Ensemble, prepared by Donald Betts
The Macalester Dance Ensemble, prepared by Becky Heist

Vocal soloists, prepared by Alvin King:
Sarita Roche, Coloratura Soprano
Cindy Lambert, Soprano
Rick Penning, Tenor
Alvin King, High Baritone
Wayne Dalton, Baritone

This is suffice to say, monster: 100 minutes, requiring six conductors managing orchestras, choirs, singers, percussion, all carefully and purposefully placed around a hall to maximize the acoustic potential of the building. Spatial music is the key phrase with Brant, arranging things around the room, but I suspect focusing primarily on that is like looking at Jackson Pollock's paint-crusted dipsticks in deference to his paintings - especially when experiencing it in the limited auspices of a twenty-year-old recording streamed over the Internet.

Here are the liner notes from the Innova recording. Therein lies this description:
The gastronomic equivalent of his music, Brant says, would be a sumptuous meal where Mexican enchiladas, New York steak, and French bouillabaisse were prepared simultaneously. “If you were to put them together in a bowl, you would kill them all. If they are sufficiently separated, you can enjoy them all even if they’re eaten — or, in this case played — at the same time.”

There are the odd moments of Caribbean steel drums against moody dark-sky dissonance, but this is more of an emotionally controlled affair than one is led to believe. it reminds me a little of those giant Mahler pieces, where the universe is being depicted by the undulating enormity of the orchestra, but here Brant is just romanticizing the Aurora Borealis as he saw it over Minneapolis in 1982, and is using a wider brush than Mahler generally does. In the "Rarefied Air" segment, a stately Souza regiment of the damned meets a misguided yet determined jazz big band on the park gazebo to duke it out under the ionospheric psychedelics, and instead of jarring, it is rather funny, as if modern suburbanites were suddenly called from their dens and PTA meetings to stage an impromptu storm ritual for this event.

Northern Lights does get a little monotonous at points, but in the "Pulsating Arcs" movement toward the end there is great contemplative beauty, a trumpet sunrise over a static of strings and protuberance of the choir.

It is humanity rising above the din of life, the din which serves Brant as his architectural inspiration, to meet the the electric bullwhip of the heavens. Even the baby crying in the audience finds a place of sweetness in this movement. There is similarity to Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question, but this is no existential test for competing string orchestras (The Unanswered Question is that and a whole lot more, mind you) but palpable honest wonder at the firmament. If I were an editor here, I would point to "Pulsating Arcs" and say more of this, less of all that.

Like all dreams, tranquility is rudely dispelled by bagpipes and a clamor of percussion, a shocking silence (twelve seconds of it in fact), and a movement named the same as the piece, where the reappearance of the townsfolk regaling what they just experienced, and the reemergence of the din tainted by the collective trans formative experience, and like all crowds, the experience instead gets absorbed into the mass. It is hard to tell whether this is a harsh critique of the American tendency to suck the life out of wonder, or a testament to Midwestern resolve that takes in wonder with the same strides as they do the mundane. Whichever is intended, the piece closes with what sound the world like a moony TV show ending theme from the golden era followed by a pastiche of incidental moments over the roll of the credits, life systematically returning to regular programming after Zeus ceased to reveal his blinding, luminous form.

A Plan of the Air - A 1975 24-minute tone explication of a poem by his first wife; the poem and the piece both inspired by an inventory of things from Leonardo DaVinci's notebooks. A choir and interwoven singers offer data like "Item: two figures in perspective. Item: a cat." Leaner in form than the above colossus, its calmer tonalities and spartan percussive routines, where instruments are seeming hit one at a time as if the performer is inventorying his kit the same way the libretto inventories the notebooks, is a relief. The singers nearly devolve into chant at points, and the orchestration drifts off into its own clouded thoughts, leaving you to the listener to yours.

At first I didn't think I liked Brant's music, or, rather, I thought it didn't really work, but I'm starting to see what it's doing: exactly as he stated, he is simulating the mundane, elevating it the way the Surrealists did with everyday objects, but unlike them, pulling back the same way the world pulls you back, leaving you to wonder if your thoughts are real or things as nebulous as you fear they might be.

5 things about discovering a new composer

  1. No matter how much I think I know about something, there is always something else to be known.
  2. And that heretofore unknown thing, in this case the compositions of Henry Brant, is discussed in terms that you should already be familiar with this when it is mentioned, such as with this article about a poorly thought out staging of a Charles Ives performance in Baltimore.
  3. Obscure as that thing I don't know may be, it is never tiny, always vast. I don't discover a composer that wrote just a handful of pieces, they created a whole genre and there are ensembles dedicated to performing them at afternoon recitals in far flung Universities. There are books in the library about them.
  4. The more obscure the composer (to me) the more comprehensive the collected works package is and suddenly, I go from not knowing anything about a composer to knowing, or at least experiencing, everything. Added occasional bonus: great covers.
  5. Except there is always a chunk missing - in this case, where has vol. 7 gone,
The Henry Brant Collection, vols. 1-6, 8-9 on lala

Ed: Vol 7 was hiding right there in plain sight, where things always hide

actual incredible seriousness

Arvo Pärt - Stabat Mater (Naxos) Performed by the Studio De Musique Ancienne De Montreal. Listening to Arvo Pärt is not unlike seeking refuge from an avalanche in a hastily dug but effective snow cave which is moments later buried by a sudden rain of meteors, his music being the sigh of relief between the two events.
I also rather like this sepia video set to Pärt's Magnificat

itsnotyouitsme - Walled Gardens (lala) While more informal and less catastrophically heavy as the preceding master of the Estonian deep brood, new music outfit itsnotyouitsme has a touch of that same gravitas. I was talking with a coworker the other day about the word gravitas; it's a word that implies incredible seriousness but is usually invoked in the service of mockery. In this case, I mean actual incredible seriousness. The metamorphosis from sweetness to growling menace under a hypnotic roll gives this music a tense atmosphere, but one where you are too concerned watching the shadows of clouds slowly encroach your vantage point and then pass on by to be bothered by the relentlessness of gravity's pull. It is as much indie rock as it is chamber music as it is gorgeous.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hi Everybody! We're the Nazz of Philadelphia, Home of the Tuna Fish Hoagie

Nazz - 13th & Pine (lala) The collection of rarities is a bit of a wild mess compared to the sublime pop genius of Nazz (lala) but is further evidence that richest unexplored territory of popular music is what turns up if I start at Strawberry Alarm Clock and keep searching. Perhaps I was led to this by divine guidance, what with Todd being God and all.
Tommy James - A Night in Big City: An Audio Movie (lala) Wow. Tommy James took his Shondells money and whatever he had left from "Draggin' the Line" thought about it all for 20 years, and sunk it all into this 1995 concept epic about the city. The cover looks a little like an Atari game simulation of my senior prom. It opens with a mayor declaring "Tommy James Day" as Tommy and his band (one with "Rocky Balboa" voice) tearing off in a limo with synth-rock abandon. This is batshit, terrible stuff, songs bridged by skits, like if Kurt Weill V decided to revive his great-great-grandfather's tradition of folk opera, cowriting it with Huey Lewis, or perhaps Joe Piscopo. The peak is this dream of 21st century unity, "Megamation Man"

No more border in the new world order.
It's a Beautiful Day - s/t (lala) I know little about this late 60's psychedelic group except that they were led by a violinist named David LaFlamme (former member of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks) and their idiosyncratic male-female harmony style is spoke of as an influence of those of John Doe and Exene from X. I can hear it, and I dig it. And it is a beautiful day....

on control

Philip Glass - Music in Twelve Parts (lala) When I can't make a decision about where to go, I hand over the wheel to the nearest serial minimalist and let him or her drive for the next four hours or so. In doing this, I contend to be freed by this restriction, thinking that the composers that write four hours of barely changing repetition feel the same way - the repeated phrase is the sonnet form but more severe - and in submission to it I adopt their devotion by proxy. I love this music, especially the big, long pieces, but like any reasonable person, listening to to them drives me a little mad, temporarily. We are not built for the concentration for which this work calls, or I'm not anyway, but I am called to it. I used to think of it as endurance test listening, to see how much I can take and to see if I can ride through the breakers to really get out to sea, where the water is too deep and vast to attempt swimming back, to where repetition becomes sacred, to borrow a phrase from George Clinton.

I'm less philosophical, or at least less philosophically rigid, about listening to this kind of music as I once was. I'm not expecting some sort of enlightenment after standing the the waterfall kind of thing to happen. I can approach it as music, the same way I approach other music finding things in it other than the bullshit coming at it from the space between the headphones, even on occasions when said bullshit is more fun for me than the music itself. I can still nurse the big thoughts, imagine the stop-motion God movie of glaciers as Glass and crew slog through these workouts, but I feel less obliged to these ideas now. I'm free to love it because I love it. I'm not controlling my experience (per se, I did choose to click play and can choose to click stop) but rather controlling my need to control the experience, making my control preventative rather reactive, which is how I understand successful people wield the control they have.