Tuesday, March 31, 2009

[outsideleft] Preaching to the Choir: Phil Kline and Arvo Pärt

Preaching to the Choir: Phil Kline and Arvo Pärt
We take a brief break from pop culture matters to check on the state of the choral symphony with recent works by Phil Kline and Arvo Pärt

(Ed note: I appreciate the convenience of the BlogPress iPhone editor app, but jeez it likes the white space when fooling with pictures)

[Country Roads] Ruby's Roadhouse

In the April 2009 issue of Country Roads

Ruby's RoadhouseThe Lake, The Unexpected, and Steven Seagal. What more could you want?

I’d never been to Old Mandeville before, but then that is nothing new for these trips—I prefer to go someplace I’ve never been in hopes of bringing back reports of something new, something that had heretofore been unspoken in my circles. In dealing with the uncertain, though, one has to prepare for contingencies and maintain a positive outlook, both cobblestones on the path of discovery.

The lakefront area of Old Mandeville, bordered by Hwy 190, the Causeway, the lake, and Fontainebleau State Park, is completely charming. As I tooled around the narrow streets on a lazy Sunday, I spied plenty of little homespun restaurants and boutique shops. I was early and spent some time on the walking path snaking the shoreline of the shockingly vast Lake Ponchatrain. I passed a gaggle of ladies all in purple congregated at the steps of the venerated Rip’s restaurant, their chatter a counterpoint to the click of pool balls at Don’s a couple of doors down, all underscored by the languid swish of the lake. It was both laid-back and active, the closest approximation to a California beach town as I’ve seen in Louisiana.


In the April 2009 issue of 225 Magazine

My JazzFest picks, which are hopefully current given that the article was submitted a month and a half ago.

A brief preview of the Ponderosa Stomp.

My picks for Festival Internationale in Lafayette

A look at Blues Week in Baton Rouge

and reviews of recent albums by The Fabulous Bagasse Boyz, The Zydepunks, and Miss Dorothy and the Shakey Egg Band

We have plenty to say and we are saying it and that is poetry

John Cage has been coming up in conversation a lot lately, three times in as many days

  • The country musician with which I toasted my birthday surprisingly mentioned him when we were talking about songwriting, saying there are people like John Cage that have really good ideas that need to be put out there so that someone else can come along and make something better out of them. I tend to agree, I have been a fan of his ideas for a long time, though I admit having a hard time enjoying his music.
  • This sentiment was echoed by another friend in defense, who said she enjoyed his more "musical" pieces, which we both thought was funny. I interviewed John Cage on Valentine's Day in 1992, when he was a guest composer at the LSU School of music. I took off from work to go to his lecture where he talked about how eventually the economy would get so bad that it would cease to exist, and we would then be forced to do the work that we were called to do, so why not start doing that work now in preparation, and that, more than any of his musical theories has stuck with me ever since. I had him sign an album or a book, I can't remember, and asked if he would be interested in being interviewed on the radio, and his handler butted in, "John we have that reception, and you are going to be tired." He brushed her off and asked if I would come pick him up at 8. He was exceedingly polite, lauding praise on a friend of mine who had a piece performed at one of the concerts that took place that week. he patiently answered our questions, largely some of the same ones he'd been answering for decades and told a story about walking through a park with Morton Feldman and seeing a firetruck drive very slowly through the neighborhood with its lights flashing but no siren. They followed it for a coupel of blocks until it turned off its lights and sped off. "It was a quiet fire engine."
  • Cage's notorious silent piece 4' 33" is the iTunes Discovery Download (link will open in iTunes). Here is one of the many performances of it on YouTube

33 1/3 fallout

A couple of people have asked about what I had to say about Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians in my book proposal for the 33 1/3 series. Two is a couple, right?

In the interest of transparency, matching that of the folks at 33 1/3, I started a separate blog to document the whole process from open call to what I hoped would be glowing press releases of respected music scholars hailing my genius. As it happened, it ends with the very polite rejection letter.

Here is the proposal.

Should this pique your curiosity about this amazing piece of music piece and/or its composer, it can be found on his Works 1965-1995 collection

continuing the unabashed fandom of Colossal Yes

Colossal Yes - Charlemagne's Big Thaw (listen) I love this very much, even more the second time.
Colossal Yes - Acapulco Roughs (listen) This earlier record is a little lighter in its step, but still feels revelatory. They are impossibly Squeeze, The Band, Paul McCartney, Ben Folds, I dunno, Style Council, maybe? They have a dash of everything from every pop band I love with the things I don't love neatly excised from the mix.
Here is a live video for "The Honeymooner Creeps"

good morning

Funkadelic - America Eats its Young Were I asked to score a movie in which the opening montage involved a family busily getting up, getting dressed, getting off to school, to work, to life, leaping into the intricate clockwork of life, I would have "You Hit The Nail on the Head" as the soundtrack

The opening instrumental minutes are shockingly busy and fully composed moments, it is as tight as Philip Glass's ass building up a torrent of activity, interweaving, melody struggling to be heard against the grind and then suddenly, at around the 3 minute mark, it plateaus with a harmonica-centered lopey strut - everyone is off to school, work, to their own peculiar grind.

Funkadelic has a way of capturing an Appolonian picture of life tightly contained in a seemingly Dionysian orgy of sloppy excess. The disco chant that comprises most of the lyrics:
Just because you win the fight
Don't make you right
Just because you give
Don't make you good
puts the whole notion of Socratic truth and Christian salvation under the spotlight (or maybe flashlight) . Doing it all correctly, following the plan, running with the groove doesn't intrinsicly mean anything. Social systems are ways to get along, not ways to thrive, but you first need to get a long to truly thrive, or perhaps by thriving we get along because our uniqiue thriving feeds back into the system, turning the soil. I am tempted say I am projecting all this into something as purposely stupid as Funkadelic can be, but isn't that part of the game? Is George Clintion the Falstaff of the Shaespearian tragedy of the 70s? Is he laughing at my hair and glasses?

Now I'm wishing I'd worked up a 33 1/3 proposal about this album, but then not even the more salable Maggot Brain proposal made the final cut. So it goes.

My wife and I were talking about a documentary about the Jesse Lee Childrens Home, an orphanage in Alaska where her father grew up, and how in the documentary one resident regales life there as : well, we put in a garden and grew cabbage and had dogs and chickens but the dogs ate the chickens and the garden was about half-a-acre but we planted more stuff and then it was a full acre and... its the kind of story that makes you pull your hair out, GET ON WITH IT! and yet, this detail is this guys life, not only his but a generation of people, the actual survival.

I can talk for 20 minutes about my iPhone or my philosophy 101 ruminations on Funkadelic, or about having these ruminations while listening to Funkadelic on my iPhone, but 5 minutes of the actual details of survival seems excruciating until it is put into a higher context to make it interesting. I want to build a cathedral of understanding while missing the real story in the bricks. Thankfully Funkadelic is around to call bullshit on all that once in a while.

Monday, March 30, 2009

so much older then

The Dead C. - Secret Earth (listen) I had a good trancey-space-rock Pandora station going this weekend that started with Bardo Pond but veered into safer territory. Now I wish I could string a net between Bardo Pond and The Dead C. and marvel at whatever beautiful, hideous monsters get therein snared. Be warned, the abrupt feedback opening the third track "Plains" will destroy your eardrums, as all proper applications of art-punk should.

And the slow burn of "Waves" is like watching the spark travel down a very long fuse, taking way longer than you expected to get to the dynamite you planted under your house, giving you time to reflect on the actions you have set in motion as well as the actions that took place inside that place about to be destroyed by those actions

The Horrors - Primary Colors (listen on MySpace) Coming out on 4/21 digitally, 5/4 on wax cylinder or on whatever scratched flat surface the rest of you people listen to music, The new album by The Horrors has my fullest endorsement. The press release says "Krautrock-influenced" and I say, "OK maybe..." with my mouth, but my heart rapturously bellowed "YES! THE CHAMELEONS UK! BUT MEANER! C'MON! YEAH!" to the unsuspecting people on the sidewalk next to me once the rockish 2nd track kicked in. Finally, with this and The Veils, 80's retro has finally gotten the message that it should pick the good music from the 80's to retro-ize. Everything about this record is spot-on and modernity-enhanced: the funkless funk, the insouciance, the heaven-ward pleas, the laser pointed to the farthest tangent on the horizon, the stilted drama unfolding and re-packing itself. Everything.

Also, nice touch on the embeddable press release video thingy. "Sea Within a Sea" is not even the best song on there and it still excites me ever so.

Colossal Yes - Charlemagne's Big Thaw
(listen) Colossal Yes indeed! This is the best day of music discovery in my life. Is this what your forties are like? I would have gotten older a lot sooner had I known. This stuff is Yo La Tengo meets Ben Folds meets Paul McCartney meets the goddamn best song in the world right now!

beyond thunderdome

The Veils - Sun Gongs (listen at myspace) This is my favorite new album this year, maybe because it sounds like Echo & The Bunnymen in their hungrier Crocodiles era, and that was my favorite album of back then, or maybe because it has that Australian thing in it that gives their pop exports a rugged charm, or maybe, just maybe, because it is a great album that benefits from but does not rely on its influencees for its greatness.
La Monte Young - The Forever Bad Blues Band Just Stompin' (more info) THis record made me stop and consider that La Monte Young and all his theories about cosmic chords and the unversal drone and whatnot might be the horseshit I had spent time convincing others taht his work was not. But it grew on me. It only has cheesy instrumentation and endlessness in common with most blues records, what it has on top of that though is the recursive, regeneratibve engine of his music which fills the room and inflates it like a balloon. I find I like the second CD better, jumping in when the band had been slogging it out for an hour already, rather than riding along for the buildup.
RIP Maurice Jarre, film composer extraordinaire. Here is the Fanfare for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Chocolate Doberge cake from Ambrosia Bakery

Blinded by the rising sun

Can - Ege Bamyasi (listen) - Technically German with a Japanese singer, Can and a copy of Julian Cope's Japrocksampler got this ball rolling.
Magical Power Mako - Blue Dot (listen)- In the back of Japrocksampler is a torturous list of Cope's impossible-to-find feral Japanese psychedelic classics. Magical Power Mako Was the only band on the list I could find. Out and primitive, MPM is extended drug jams in the transporter room of the tape delay, beaming through the wormhole to the year MC5000 AD.
Acid Mothers Temple - Starless and Bible Black Sabbath (listen) - MC 5000 AD is probably already an Acid Mothers Temple album name; as their discography approaches infinity, all psyche rock album puns will be consumed in the process.
BlogPress app on the iPhone - Less than optimal for my style of obsessive music blogging, but gets the rough job done.

40 is the new Übermensch

I am having the best birthday of my life.

-Enjoyed the gift of consumer electronics, on which I
-Listened to Japanese space rock while waking the dog who accompanied me on a
-Trip to the record store where I got some
-German space rock. Later I had
-The best salad ever at Whole foods while watching
-Maya and her friend clown around with plastic vampire teeth. after lunch I

-Cleaned up the yard listening to more space rock on Pandora (all my Pandora staions turn into space rock by the tenth song) after which I
-drank a couple of Abita Strawberry Ales with my wonderful wife and a neighbor before heading out to hear
-Messiaen's Quartet for the end of Time played lovingly before
-a friend's film premiere. Then rallied some other vintage art patrons to go to
-a big warehouse art party and talked nine kinds of big warehouse art party shit with a bunch of people I haven't seen in a while. Then went over to a friend's house and
-Turned some people on to Bobby Charles and Ramsay Midwood, and at midnight
-Whiskey-toasted my fourtieth year with a country musician!

-Slept in and took Maya and friend to
-The coffee shop and talked more shit with people I see all the time and am fixing to
-get my lunch on at The Chimes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I blame Slint

Or possibly the economy, but I'm thinking it was Slint that edged me out.

I had a proposal on the shortlist for a 33 1/3 book about Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" that regrettably did not make it to the even shorter list.

No sour grapes whatsoever; the editors at Continuum could not have been nicer about the whole process.

From the 33 1/3 blog:

...and then there were 27


We've gone from 170 down to 27. (Fingers crossed, everybody who was in the 170 has received an email from me tonight, either way.)

I wish we could sign up all 27 of these (actually, I wish we could sign up dozens more of the 170), but we can't. This is what we're left with, for now. By the end of April, we'll be able to post the final, final list of books that we will sign up. Until then, discuss, debate, whinge, moan, celebrate, and speculate! I'm off on vacation for a week...Thanks for bearing with me, everybody.


AC/DC - Highway to Hell
Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace
The Beatles - The Beatles
Bob Dylan - Time Out of Mind
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
Dinosaur Jr: You're Living All Over Me
ELO - Out of the Blue
Grateful Dead - Closing of Winterland
Johnny Cash - American Recordings
Kiss - Destroyer
Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen
Lil' Wayne - Da Drought 3
Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
Lou Reed - Metal Music Machine
Neil Young - Tonight's the Night
Operation Ivy - Energy
Paul Simon - Graceland
Radiohead - Kid A
Rolling Stones - Some Girls
Slint - Spiderland
Television - Marquee Moon
Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
Ween - Chocolate and Cheese
White Stripes - White Blood Cells
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

suddenly everything has changed

I never really explored blogging via email but here goes.

Mostly I'm doing this to see how easy or difficult it is to peck out
my genius on this little picture of a keyboard than on the little
bubble buttons on my beloved yet suddenly obselete Palm device.

Wayne Coyne is crooning "suddenly, everything has changed" in my ear
and I supppose it has a little, even if it is in the self serving
sector of this blog.

I can't figure out to select a block of text for deletion, something I
do a lot despite the loquacious nature of the dispatches. I suspect
there are no easy means for italics in the future as it sits I'm my
hand. It does catch the lion's share of my typos so that's a plus.

Perhaps the ornate syntaxes of the past are growing quaint and will
only be tolerated while they are amusing. I do understand the Masters
are going to give us our cut, copy, and paste (how did they forget
that?) so maybe italics are not so far behind.

Sent from my iPhone

Is this thing on?

Is this thing on?, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.

Trying out posting from the mid-life crisis device

reelin' in the years, part 5

1981: Tenpole Tudor - Eddie, Old Bob, Dick and Gary (listen) I believe they were on an episode of "The Young Ones," but there is no evidence supporting this. But I won't let that stop me; I swore for years that Boy George appeared in an episode on "The A-Team" with no one believing me, and yet, here it is. This is, so far my 2nd favorite record I have discovered in this exercise, right after the Thin Lizzy.
1982: China Crisis - Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It's Fun To Entertain (listen) This is a record I had for years and never listened to it. I only remember this because I thought "I've never listened to this" every time I pulled it off the shelf, only to reshelve it and listen to something else. And upon first listen, I thought I should do the same thing now, but my daughter and I heard "Rock the Casbah" on the radio and it reminded me of how much I love the places where disco and punk intersect in the welcoming congregation of funk, and while there is scarecly anything punk at all about China Crisis, I heard a twinge of that very thing in this song
1983: Marillion - Scripts for a Jester's Tears (listen) I remember a couple of my friends getting very excited about Marillion somewhere around '85 and remember being a little swept up in it by proximity, but I could not tell you a single Marillion song. I couldn't tell you the name of the one I am listening to now without looking. I can say it sounds like a mix of Peter Gabriel and Rush, and that is probably why we liked it. Had they worked some Oingo Boingo into the mix, they would have been the perfect band for us.

reelin' in the years, part 4

1978: Magazine - Real Life (listen) Somehow I've never listened to this one. I had the Peter Murphy solo record containing his cover of Magazine's 'The Light Pours Out of Me" and remember a song or two from my college radio years, and was a veritable Buzzcocks nut for much of that time, I pretty sure I even had the Luxuria record at some point, so there is really no excuse for not hearing this album until now except that there is only so much time.
1979: Mick Taylor - Mick Taylor (listen) Give it up to Mick Taylor, the only guy cool enough to join the Rolling Stones during their finest period (Let it Bleed through Goats Head Soup) and then smart enough to get out when said period was over. This is great, little, unassuming adult bluesy pop record from the Nick Lowe school of great, little, unassuming adult bluesy pop records. This song is soft rock magic:

1980: Swell Maps - Jane from Occupied Europe (listen) I've listened all around this record - Nikki Sudden, Epic Soundtracks, etc - but never to the record proper. I picked up soem other Swell Maps record ages ago when i first heard their name and thought, meh, and chalked it up to hype and let others rave about them unabated by my meh-ness. With Jane, I join their raving ranks

reelin' in the years, part 3

1975: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Symphonion Dream (listen) The minimalist wave-oscillation business that opens this album could have gone on a lot longer in my opinion.

It is is a weird way to open a Nitty Gritty Dirt band, but then this a weird, loevly record - even "Battle of New Orleans" is made a weirder song than it already was. Add to that the presence of Gary Busey on cowbell and you have an interesting situation, one that ends where it begins

1976: Dave Van Ronk - Sunday Street (listen) I just started Bob Dylan's Chronicles and read a number of pages of him rattling on about Dave Van Ronk. He's one of those names I know from my forays into folk music but somehow until now, I've never heard him, or at least not consciously, and this little exercise is about filling in little holes here and there - the little exercise being this unheard-album-for-each-year thing I'm doing and whole of existence itself. That said, I don't really care for this album much.
1977: Univers Zero - Univers Zero or 1313 (listen) Whereas, this Belgian group's album of tightly wound chamber-music-as-rock is hitting me on the right cylinder. Maybe I should put the Bob Dylan book down - I noticed on page 8 someone had underlined "I understand sincerity" in the library's copy and the implications unfolding from that underlining are likely the book's essence - and pick Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler back up. It seems to be closer to where my allegiances lie. Or is there a fundamental art-rock book out there? Hmm...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

reelin' in the years, part 2

1972: Thin Lizzy - Shades of a Blue Orphanage (listen) This notoriously uneven record from the pre-Jailbreak Thin Lizzy goes underlooked (at least by me) in deference to their more popular material later on, but there are some inspired moments of epic boogie on the edge of cognition, like this

and wow, this song is pretty!

I take back anything I have said about this record being uneven or spotty. This album is gorgeous, strident, possibly even groundbreaking - the catalyst that turned folk-rock into both heavy metal and Bruce Springsteen. I love this record!

1973: The Bee Gees - Life in a Tin Can (listen) I'm starting to come around to the pre-disco Bee Gees. I'm not sure it is a particularly good thing to come around to, but around I'm coming nonetheless.
1974: Peter Hammill - The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (listen) I want 1974 Peter Hammill to emerge from the cryo-chamber and lead us into battle when the real clone wars happen.

reelin' in the years, part 1

1969: Joe Byrd & The Field Hippies - The American Metaphysical Circus (listen)- At a Mardi Gras party I was talking music nerd matters with two friends who are impossibly even older than I, and we got into a debate about whether the person we were talking about was Joe Boyd or Joe Meek, and due to the astuteness one of the said elders had with a Blackberry it was determined I was wrong; we were talking about Joe Boyd. Then, the whole reason I brought this up because I thought this was Joe Boyd instead of Byrd. I'm so awesome at this some times. Reaserch, that handy manservant of the ignorant, reveals that Byrd was a founding member of electronic music mavericks The United States of America and was, according to him, John Cage's last composition student. The American Metaphysical Circus is a wide-eyed parade of hippie idealism run through the atom smasher - reverbed, ring modulated, pield-up with strata of alternating surprise and obviousness. If I may, it is groovy as hell. Were you new to the scene, as I was in 1969, you'd have found this very exciting. The less out among the tracks, however, is my favorite:

1970: Jeff Simmons - Lucille Has Messed Up my Mind (listen) Solo album of onetime member of The Mothers of Invention and produced by Zappa, bearing the marks of that association with fuzzed-out winking irony. Like most Zappa albums I can find a lot to like about this, sitting right next to a lot I don't like about it.
1971: Eugene McDaniels - Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (listen) Fuck yes! This is why I peruse oddball quests; they reveal untold wonders like this. I loved this album on title alone, but the doped-out jazz/funk/soul cooked down to a thick gravy is the reason to come here. dig this Dr. John-esque hoodoo number

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

meme -> iPhone Apocalypse Strategy

From the Facebooks of many:

"List your top 40 albums!!!! Remember, you can't list an artist twice!"

OK! Off the top of my head! Like if I had time to load just 40 albums on my phone before the apocalypse hit and had no time to think about it! Stock-the-bunker-sound-system music-for-the-long-haul music! And for some weird reason iTunes wouldn't let me repeat artists! Whatever! No time to figure out why! Hurry!

  1. Can - Tago Mago
  2. Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
  3. The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour
  4. The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
  5. Boredoms - Vision Creation Newsun
  6. Richard Youngs - Sapphie
  7. John Fahey - America
  8. P-Funk All Stars - P-Funk Earth Tour Live
  9. Nick Drake - Pink Moon
  10. Wilco - Being There
  11. The Who - Who's Next
  12. Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand
  13. Yes - Close to the Edge
  14. Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator)
  15. XTC - Skylarking
  16. Ramsay Midwood - Shootout at the OK Chinese Restaurant
  17. Joy Division - Substance
  18. The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
  19. Sly & the Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' On
  20. Sun Ra - We Travel the Spaceways
  21. John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
  22. Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
  23. Lucinda Williams - Happy Woman Blues
  24. Velvet Underground - s/t (3rd album)
  25. Big Star - #1 Record/Radio City
  26. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
  27. Fugazi - Red Medicine
  28. Motörhead - Ace of Spades
  29. Black Sabbath - Paranoid
  30. Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy
  31. La Monte Young - The Well Tuned Piano
  32. Lee "Scratch" Perry - Chicken Scratch
  33. Tom Petty - Greatest Hits
  34. Bonny Prince Billy and The Marquis de Tren - Get the Fuck on Jolly Live
  35. Charles Mingus - Mingus at the Bohemia
  36. Love - Forever Changes
  37. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
  38. Curtis Mayfield - Curtis
  39. Guns N Roses - Appetite for Destruction
  40. The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
So, should the cleanup crew find my miraculously still-charged phone among the dust that was me, and somehow it was the only remaining trace of musical history left, it would appear that the sound of our culture was that of a late night college DJ with a pedagogical bent, the Beatles and Elvis would both persist the Next Phase only as unspoken influences, and hip-hop, Prince, most of punk rock and anything past 2001 just never happened.

I predict were you to somehow access my last.fm profile reports from the Event Horizon on, you would find that I never listened to that Bonny Prince Billy I wanted so badly, played any jazz track for at most 3 minutes except for the Mingus record, only ever got through the first two tracks on the Boredoms, talked about Sly & the Family Stone more than I listened to it, and basically played to Guns N Roses, Led Zeppelin, and Tom Petty on shuffle most of the time, because everyone in the bunker, including myself, hated all the other music I put on there after the first week.

I convinced no-one how good that Can album is. Playing La Monte Young and Yes both nearly resulted in my expulsion to the radioactive wasteland. We culled together some form of religion around playing Curtis Mayfield at "sunup" (estimated of course, no windows) every Sunday and tidied up the bunker, or at least felt we should. I likely realized that holding on to the Fall is more about holding onto the dreams of youth than actual musical enjoyment, but it will lift my spirits to know that it's there. Everyone was pleased that I thought to put Guns N Roses on there, since it is an album we can all agree to liking whether we want to admit it or not.

It will also be noted that I attempted to check my email at least once every 30 waking minutes for my tenure in the bunker, even though I full-well knew the whole of civilization had been destroyed.

Review of Pan: From Lieutenant Thomas Glahn's Papers (20th-Century Classics) Pan: From Lieutenant Thomas Glahn's Papers by Knut Hamsun

Pan: From Lieutenant Thomas Glahn's Papers (20th-Century Classics) Pan: From Lieutenant Thomas Glahn's Papers by Knut Hamsun

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Of all the stuff I read in college, nothing lasted longer with me than Knut Hamsun's Hunger, and with stops and starts over the years I've tried his other books without ever finishing them. Then I read somewhere that John Fante got the title or the idea for Ask the Dust, one of my favorite books ever, from Hamsun's Pan, and that was enough for me.

This is a spectacular little book, a hair over 100 pages in the lovely edition I got form the library complete with woodcut illustrations, documenting a season of a narcissist spends hunting in the frozen wastes of upper Norway and how the hearts of the people burn through all that ice. The protagonist is almost categorically unsympathetic, the dialog a little antiquated, the secondary characters a little one-dimensional, yet it all comes together as the way the world does in the mind, pieces cut large and kicked into place so that they fit in our own particular puzzles.

Knut Hamsun seems to have been a terrible person, a Nazi sympathizer so pronounced that in 1943 he sent Goebbels his 1920 Nobel Prize medal as a gift. And yet, in Pan, he reconciles uncomfortable people in a harrowing landscape and reveals the richness of their humanity, the common spark that illuminates us all from within.

View all my reviews.

[The Record Crate] The Edge of the Earth

The coolest musical performance this week was not a show exactly. Field Day, the group comprised of Zenbilly’s Bill Calloway and his two sons performed a stream of undulating space rock as part of Mallory Fetz & Kit French’s smart installation Trip the Light Electric on Saturday night at the Shaw Center. One of the second-floor classrooms was done up in streamers and balloons to recreate a prom setting, and projected on one wall was an extended video of four wallflowers fidgeting uncomfortably on the sidelines as Field Day’s driving continuum bled in from the room next door, capturing perfectly the existential distance that occurs at the prom -- you are there but you are not participating. Calloway and sons would rotate among drums, guitar and keyboards throughout the night, sometimes mid-song it seemed, which I thought was nice incidental touch.

Not only do I want more of this from our eager cadre of art students at our city’s two universities, but I want the local music scene integrated into it. The two feed each other and create something greater than the sum of its parts. There are those that say nothing cool ever happens here; I would say those people are culturally myopic and need to get out more rather than let their grumblings become a reality.

For instance, I am particularly excited about "The Edge of the Earth: An Evening of Video, Music, and Poetry" at the Manship Theatre this Saturday, featuring the performance of selected movements Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, a poem written and read by Jacqueline Dee Parker, and the premier of Bird and Squirrel a film by LSU art professor Kelli Scott Kelley. Programming Messiaen’s beguiling quartet for piano, clarinet, cello and violin, written for the musicians and instruments at hand during his time in a German prison camp during World War II, along with Kelley’s film (soundtrack by Culture Candy founder Bill Kelley) about the last boy and girl on earth, demonstrates the synergy an arts scene, music environment and performance space can create when they work together. And the event is free, starting at 7 p.m. I’ll consider it a present for my 40th birthday if you pack the house for this unique and inspiring event. Go see some art, see some live music and keep up the good work.

Oh and check out the Decemberists’ new album, The Hazards of Love, if you need another example of what high ambition can create in the right hands.

Wednesday, March 25

The Shivers, Like Trains & Taxis, and Wilderness Pangs at Spanish Moon

Thursday, March 26

Patti Austin at the Manship Theatre

The Moaners at Chelsea’s

The Winter Sounds and Dear Future at North Gate Tavern

Pat Green at The Varsity

Friday, March 27

HEALTH, Picture Plane, and Man + Building at Spanish Moon

Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys at The Varsity

Randy Owen (of Alabama) at the Texas Club

Papa Grows Funk at Chelsea’s

Letters in Red and If I Were a Battleship at Click’s

Tin Horse, Johnny Firmin & American Heart, and Steve Bing & the Bayou Hot Shots at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s

Zoso at The Varsity

Kenny Acosta at Phil Brady’s

Randy Pavlock at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Saturday, March 28

“The Edge of the Earth” at the Manship Theatre

As Cities Burn at Spanish Moon

6 Pack Deep and Fatty Lumpkin at Chelsea’s

Sky Chief at North Gate Tavern

Maven and Devil & the Details at Click’s

Chris Himel & Outbound at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s

Aretmis at Phil Brady’s

Big Red & the Soul Benders at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Sunday, March 29

Big Red & the Soul benders at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Monday, March 30

Langhorne Slim at Red Star

link to original

This is how you do a music video

Intricate dance number atop a moving train.

Chaiyya Chaiyya

I am not going to pretend to know jack about Bollywood music. This was lifted from Living With Music: A Bollywood Playlist by Daphne Beal. Too bad Michael Jackson spent so much time and energy becoming a disturbing white eccentric - imagine if instead he had decided to become the King of Bollywood. That would have been something to see.

Seriously, watch every video in Beal's post. "Chaiyya Chaiyya" is my favorite, but the one with the kites isn't bad either.

going up

John Coltrane - Ascension (Editions I and II) (listen) The transmigration of the soul into the heavens is likely a harrowing process, like some metaphysical trauma akin to birth in reverse, and instead of sounding like a twinkling harp as you float through clouds in a really nice bathrobe, like the kind I expect Diddy has in his guest bathroom, it instead is the atomic tearing-apart punctuated by fevered bliss that occurs on this record.
John Bell Young - Prisms (listen) Yesterday on a whim I started looking up things about Alexander Scriabin's Mysterium again. Mysterium was a monumental 7-day-long orchestral work Scriabin wanted to stage at the foot of the Himalayas, at the end of which the world would be destroyed and the nobler phase of being would begin. I came across this (HTML version of a doc) about a mountain climber that took a flag depicting this album of Scriabin works up an unclimbed Himalayan peak as a means of partially fulfilling Scriabin's vision. The jury is still out as to whether we are in receipt of cosmic ennobling ensuing from this act or not.

Jannis Kounellis

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled, 2006. Iron plates, white fabric, two bed frames, steel hooks, black fabric, two I-beams, two coats, 200 x 360 cm. Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York.
From here

This weekend, I found myself in a rare situation where artists liked and unliked were discussed, offered up and discussed. This was something I did in perpetuity as a student but do not do enough as an adult, so I figured I'd make mention here of one I really like - Greek arte povera artist Jannis Kounellis. He's one of those guys who enjoyed a heyday in the 80's when I first started studying art, often featured in enigmatic gallery ads in Artforum, whose name has slipped a bit from public consciousness. His art, comprised largely of steel and sheets and rope and famously, horses

Jannis Kounellis, exhibition of twelve horses in the Galleria L'Attico, Rome in 1969
From here

no doubt greatly informed that of Damien Hirst as did the whole boho shamble of arte povera speak to the YBA generation involuntarily orbiting Hirst.

What the arte povera guys had that the YBA's were largely missing however, was that touch of class. Kounellis' work is unabashedly industrial in form, culled together from scraps pulled tight by ropes, rivets and gravity, but there is a breathlessness in his work that sharply contrasts from the clinical beauty that can be found in Hirst. His work is grand and heroic, not only in its form and intent, but in its radiance. It is rough and conceptual and possibly political and highly personal, yet it transcends the making of the art, knowing the artist. In this interview in Flash Art, the artist had this to say on the subject:
AB: Among contemporary artists, which seem to you to be the most interesting?
JK: A living artist is not necessarily a contemporary artist. I love the artists drawn to adventure, to renewal, those that do not ever accept evidence or obligatory data. This takes courage. Before, I spoke of Pollock and Kline because in them there is no sign of weakness. In certain cases, this pushes them so far as to risk their lives. If you are weak or fragile as an artist, your weight diminishes and becomes interchangeable and decorative. On an intellectual level, in general, work that is born from a weak area is intrinsically negative, in the sense that you are driven to accept compromises.

Jannis Kounellis, UNTITLED, 2006. Found wooden tables, bowl, knife, red fish
32 x 172 x 179 inches 81.3 x 436.9 x 454.7 centimeters CR# KO.13218
From here

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

you don't wanna call nobody else

Japancakes - The Sleepy Strange (listen) My dream instrumental combo (taking into consideration the fact that things that make sense in dreams don't necessarily translate to waking logic) would be slide guitar, Hammond B-3, cello and brushed drums. That group could endlessly undulate, building fractal riffs off basic notions. Perhaps some enterprising programmer will write such an application for the iPhone I am getting for my birthday - an art-Americana version of Brian Eno's Bloom (YouTube) - but until they do (IRL, I am a seasoned programmer on the PC side of the world, but the core of Apple knowledge is unknown to me) I will suffice with the sleepwalking opiate that is this the music of this ridiculously-named band Japancakes.
Tortoise - Standards - I read today that a new Tortoise album is in the works, and yeah, you probably hate Tortoise and all they stand for and think post-rock is a joke, prog rock without the reading list, but whatever. I'm excited about it.
Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic (listen) To those that have endured my tirades against Steely Dan in the past, let's just say I've had a change of heart.