Sunday, May 31, 2009

5 favorite short books

  1. Of Walking in Ice - Werner Herzog, 64 pp. I just read and reviewed this and it compelled me to do this list.
  2. Olt - Kenneth Gangemi, 64 pp. A delirious and distracted narrative of a complete narcissist, a compulsive list maker that cannot find a way to make to make sense of anything or anyone withtout them becoming line items. I read this as a part of a 20th Century Novels class twenty years ago and little scenes of it still stick with me.
  3. Remarks on Color - Ludwig Wittgenstein, 63 pp. This book is ostensibly about the properties of color and running the old philosophical bong hit about whether we all see blue the same way through his sweet form of philosophical rigor.
  4. i six nonlectures - e. e. cummings, 128 pp. One of the many things that bonded me to my friend Joe is that we could both throw out "The hellless hell of compulsory heaven-on-earth emphatically isn't my pale of blueberries" from memory, found on the first page of this powerful and wry set of Charles Norton lectures from the poet.
  5. By Night in Chile - Roberto Bolaño , 144 pp. This book seemed a lot shorter; I had it in my mind at 100 pages, but maybe because you burn through the dying priest's recollections, crammed into one enormous paragraph, like a spark traveling down the wick to the eventual explosion. My review of it can be found here.

Review of Werner Herzog - Of Walking in Ice: Munich - Paris 23 November - 14 Decenber 1974 by Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog - Of Walking in Ice: Munich - Paris 23 November - 14 Decenber 1974 Werner Herzog - Of Walking in Ice: Munich - Paris 23 November - 14 Decenber 1974 by Werner Herzog

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is exhilarating. I wish there were more 64-page books on the world packed as densely as this. Composed as a journal written over a week while walking from Munich to Paris, convinced that an ailing friend will hang til he gets there, Of Walking in Ice does not seek to make a grand statement; instead it is an act of contrition, one in which bears witness to the unending flow of statements the world makes rather than making his own.

The narrative flits from one thing to the next just with as little sentimentality as possible. While reading this, you walk through your own life with the same wide eyes, finding profundity in the facts, without romanticizing the minor act of recognizing those facts. You will also read your life in Werner's voice. Just as Werner was breaking into yet another vacation cabin for shelter, a woman came up to the bench where was sitting to ask if I could open her Coke bottle for her. "It's senior-proof," she said. Then the clock tower near us boomed its noon bells. And so on...

Road books always put me in the mind of casting my life as a purposed journey, but this is one of the first to remind me to not dwell too much on each incident but to let it sit empirically profound on it's own terms, because there is another just up ahead.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jalapeño and sausage biscuit at Ambrosia Bakery, Baton Rouge, LA

Ambrosia's biscuit dough is alarmingly sweet, too much so for the tried and true biscuit with patty sausage, but holy mother of breakfast pastry, infuse it with cheese, a fistful of fresh jalapeño and crumbled sausage, it explodes out of humble biscuit form into a juicy, citrus-sour chariot of the breakfast gods, bringing the radiant jalapeño glory in the manner of Helios towing the sun and you are Icarus daring to finish each bite.

Friday, May 29, 2009

if it ain't Björk, don't fix it

Grizzly Bear - Verkatimest
School of Seven Bells - Face to Face in High Places (listen)
Björk - Medulla (listen)


The power went out at work.

The dimness, not darkness, was met with mild incredulousness and barely muted glee. I was just glad the light was out. I am a software guy at heart, and we like to be only illuminated by our screens, the brilliance of the things we peck out serving as texture on the lampshade that is the white of our screens. The front part of my office houses a video editing computer that is frequently utilized by people who are not mole rats and thereby need lights.

Weirdly enough, I was listening to Dark Night of the Soul (NPR stream) as it happened, wondering if I should record it since it appears that the infinite wisdom of licesners are holding it up. I think perhaps streaming out of the Proemethan lamp of National Public Radio is the right place for this; it hits me as PBS surrealism, quirky and slyly sensual, but not a touch dangerous. Danger Mouse had an unnerving steadiness in how he makes things things proceed ; it works with Cee-Lo crooning away over it, using it as a tightrope to traverse the ravine of the modern soul, or maybe just modern soul music, but it comes off too over-produced and under-inspired here, like an all-star Starbucks tribute record to David Lynch, for me to go through the trouble of trapping it to keep it at the ready on my phone, a holstered weapon or useful Bat-tool on my utility belt.

I had a similar thought about the similarly named Dark Was the Night concert (also streaming at NPR) I listened to last night as my daughter and her friend tried on their independence at the park last night. There is a sincere preciousness to the bands assembled, and you could hear Bob Boilen think these are special times as he rattles off their precious names: Dirty Projectors, My Brightest Diamond, The Arcade Fire, and the king of sincere preciousness David Byrne. I like all these acts, and am a general supporter of preciousness when it is wrapped around the spark of an individual as if to protect the little flame from being blown out. The album is a stellar listen, and a good cause, but I could feel people smiling a little too easily over whatever airwaves streaming audio streams. I felt enough already about it. These are precious times and we are precious for living in them, OK? Now, give it a rest.

There is almost a saber-rattling positivity to these precious groups that grates at me a little; maybe I am just too cranky to see the world so golden. I am embroiled in Herzog's maddening world of reality vivisected with the sharp scalpel of a personal, fragile spirituality, and that is coloring my view. In his walk from Munich to Paris chronicled in Of Walking in Ice, he nurtures the ridiculous of his zeal.
A pile of garbage on the plain does not want to leave my mind at all; I saw it from a distance and walked faster and faster, finally as if I was seized with mortal terror, I couldn't bear the thought of it being passed by a car before I reached it. Gasping from the mad race, I reached the mountain of garbage, needing quite a long time to recover from all this although the first car passed me several minutes after I had arrived.

(Tuesday 12/3)
This kind of desperate madness is what I want to see coming from preciousness, not an ordered tableau of talent or an expression of how wonderful my friends are and how fortunate I am to have them. There is nothing wrong with wonderful friends and the fortunes to be found in them, for I have both in copious amounts, but there is more than that in the world.

When I got back from a lunch break with Werner on the dark, frozen roads of rural of Germany, the lights were back on.


When I listened to Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheney's Song X the first time in 1988(listen), a couple years after it came out, while the heat off it was fresh in the hearts of the jazz people at the college radio station I worked at, I totally hated the record. I remember thinking "this is why people don't like jazz." It had dumb song titles like "Video Games" and "Mob Job." Some songs were 15 seconds long, some were 13 minutes long and they were all equally annoying. I really disliked this album, and haven't listened to it since.

Now it comes across with the same jarring intimacy that I find throughout Coleman's records. He's poking you in the ribs and jostling you like y'all are old friends. Nothing too heavy, but nothing too light either. It is relentless but not raging. Stream of existence kind of stuff. I'm trying to wrap my brain around Coleman's harmolodics for the libretto for an opera about Coleman I am tentatively working on. In his words, harmolodics is:
the use of the physical and the mental of one's own logic made into an expression of sound to bring about the musical sensation of unison executed by a single person or with a group
I'm gathering that the practical musical interpretation is that all aspects of a song are alotted equal intensity: the pace, the energy, the rhythm, the melody are all coming at you in this music at the same speed. If a song is a race and all the components runners, everyone keeps pace and finishes breathlessly in a tie. I'm simplifying things and/or missing the concept entirely. I'm trying to figure out how to apply that to the writing, putting fact, fiction, conjecture, history, context, character, narration, music, truth, apocrypha, etc all on equal footing and make this thing enjoyable to witness.

The Cave of Psychro

Julian Cope offered up his flower of analysis to the Irish doom battalion To Blacken the Pages (myspace) deeming their A Semblance of Something Appertaining to Destuction his January album of the month, and in that blossom lay this bit of metaphoric nectar:

Way up high in the mysterious mountains of central Crete, arduously accessed only via a precarious single trackway, and located in the higher foothills of legendary Mt Ida - the greatest Cretan mountain of all - the vast Antron (or cave) of Immortal Zeus is an inaccessible pad even for a Greek God, and is said to have been chosen as the birthplace of the greatest Greek God of them all, in order that his jealous father Cronos would not find the baby and kill him. Why do I tell you this? Why, because the colossal reverb that informs the music of To Blacken the Pages is very nearly as mighty as that located inside the Antron of Zeus.
so I looked up the Antron of Zeus and found it to also be named Diktaion Antron or Cave of Psychro (some websites have it incorrectly listed as the Cave of Psycho, which would be too good). offered up this little nugget that is now my gold standard for travel brochure copy:

From the very beginning of the excavation, the Cave of Psychro was called the Diktaion Antron, as legend has it that this was where Rhea hid to give birth to Zeus, the Father of Gods and Men, safe from Cronus’s infanticidal tendencies. The goat Amalthea, who according to a different myth was actually a Nymph, nursed Zeus, while the Curetes (mythical daemons and followers of a deity) drowned out his cries by dancing and clashing their spears on their shields. Another legend has it that Zeus was nursed by peaceful bees.

Image of the Cave of Psychro from here

Here is To Blacken the Pages setting "I am screes on her escarpments" from their aforementioned album to footage of atomic bomb tests:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

best comment: "Herzog, Boxers. Now we know."

Herzog gets shot by an air rifle while conducting an interview

How are you going to argue when Freddie King makes a statement like that?

Brother Tyrone - Mindbender
Albert Collins - Ice Pickin' (listen)
Freddie King - Is a Blues Master (listen)

[OffBeat] The Rest of the Fest

My NoizeFest commentary can be found down at the bottom of this JazzFest-and-then-some rundown in the June issue of OffBeat.

darkness and dawn

Sunn O))) - Monoliths & Dimensions (listen) I was just sitting here about to make a Facebook plea of what I should listen to today, a survey that never produces useful results. Not that my friends are bereft of taste; most of them are genius curators of their own sonic environments. The request hidden in my innocuous query is this: I want to be momentarily led into the hole and consumed by darkness because I can't find anything handy on the sunny surface I want to hear, and Sunn O))) is nothing if its not dark hole music, though it must be said that the ending of "Alice", a massive tribute to Alice Coltrane is positively lovely, bringing out the Robert Wyatt side of subterranean doom drone metal, if there is such a side.

Alice Coltrane - A Monastric Trio - Alice Coltrane's first album after the death of her famous husband plumbs depths the semi-monastic duo that tributes her don't quite yet explore. Pharaoh Sanders' sax is convulsive and flitting from glee to despair in a phrase, while she, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummers Ben Riley and Rashied Ali maintain the rotation of the planet, like mourners scurrying around at the funeral reception, making sure everyone's drinks are filled, if only to stave off the dark a little while longer.

Robert Wyatt - Shleep - The eventual point of the dark, once we get over the anxiety it brings about in us, is to deprive us of factual sight and force us to dream.

Four Tet - Everything's Ecstatic
(listen) - The point of the dawn is that it cuts across the rim of the abyss and beckons us to climb out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

[The Record Crate] From Drum Buddy to DRUMCART

Quintron is lending Velcro, the Wednesday night dance party at the Spanish Moon, a bit of his swamp tech funk that has the crowds writhing at the Saturn Bar and Q’s own Spellcaster Lounge in New Orleans. There is no word as to whether the puppet show will be staged, but expect the rhythms of the Drum Buddy, a drum machine of his own invention involving a coffee can, a light bulb and perhaps a pinch of High John the Conqueror root to get the mojo boogie breakdown moving.

Speaking of mojo boogie, hi-octane swingers the Detroit Cobras will thrown down their jams excavated from the dark side of the Vandellas at the Spanish Moon, along with former Flat Duo jet member Dexter Romweber and his duo. You might have to retire your dancing pants after these two shows.

Boston hip-hop provocateur Mr. Lif will be raising consciousness over at Chelsea’s on Friday. Classic rock revisionists Barisal Guns and friends will be on hand to celebrate North Gate tavern’s fifth birthday on Saturday, and perennial reader favorite Chris LeBlanc will be throwing down with Big Luther Kent at Phil Brady’s on Saturday.

The most curious thing on the docket is DRUMCART vs. Glory Bee on Saturday at Chelsea’s. Glory Bee I know as a New Orleans performance-art-ish cabaret trio, but I will let DRUMCART explain themselves:

I am a member of the three-man drum corps is at the heart of the DRUMCART project. We are in essence a mobile rock show! DRUMCART will start things off Saturday night with an extended set of live dance beats followed by a GLORYBEE set, also a trio rock group -- multiple members cross over between the two bands. We are accompanied by a Dancing Thai Chef and a three-woman flag corps with various other supporting cast members. We are a full-blown multimedia performance art group with beats you can get down to... believe me. The DRUMCART wraps up the show with some encore drumming and parading about. PLENTY OF BANG FOR YOUR BUCK.

Bring it.

Wednesday, May 27

Velcro with special guest Quintron at Spanish Moon

Thursday, May 28

The Vettes at Chelsea’s

Friday, May 29

Manchester Orchestra at Spanish Moon

Mr. Lif at Chelsea’s

Streamline and Tyler Read at The Varsity

Mary Lasseigne & Ron Hotstream, John Lisi and Delta Funk at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s

Slightly Off at Phil Brady’s

Gary Bello & Friends at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Saturday, May 30

DRUMCART vs. Glory Bee at Chelsea’s

Barisal Guns, Here is Why, and The Last Chalaron at North Gate Tavern

The Mike Dean Band at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux’s

Chris LeBlanc Band with Luther Kent at Phil Brady’s

John Lisi at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Sunday, May 31

Selwyn Cooper & Teddy’s Sharecroppers at Teddy’s Juke Joint

Monday, June 1

The Detroit Cobras and Dexter Romweber Duo at Spanish Moon

Wednesday, June 3

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Neil Haggerty (early show) at Spanish Moon


Last night I read a powerful set of excerpts from Werner Herzog's jungle diaries, kept while filming Fitzcarroldo, in the Spring issue of the Paris Review, encapsulated under the heavy title "Language Itself Resists." It was the sort of experience I have whenever confronted with Herzog's work; I'm stopped short by how thoroughly lived it is. His movies and ideas are not always even that good, but the way they are interwoven with his curiosity and restless mind kills me. Here is an excerpt of the excerpts:
The power is still out. Evening descended on the countryside. What would happen if the rain forest wilted like a bouquet of flowers? Around me insects are dying, for which they are lying on their backs. A woman in the neighborhood is suckling a newborn puppy after her baby died from parasites; I've seen this done before with piglets.
He goes on with more stories about pigs and snakes and fucking on rope bridges and getting that giant ship over the mountain. Here's hoping more people read this and persuade him to publish the whole thing.

I went to the library to seek out the screenplay for Fitzcarroldo, listening to the new Grizzly Bear album which is available from Amazon for $3.99 as a download and is likely as good as everybody says it is, though I am skeptical that so many people actually like something this good. Doing so is my little joke on Grizzly Man, the documentary of Herzog's I suspect most people have seen.

Grizzly Man has a tremendous soundtrack (listen) by Richard Thompson featuring contributions by Jim O'Rourke and Henry Kaiser, whose secondary career as cold-water diver is the subject of Herzog's most recent film Encounters at the End of the World

There is also a great documentary Herzog made about making the soundtrack to Grizzly Man.

So I found Fitzcarroldo, but I thought maybe I should rewatch it and Burden of Dreams, the documentary Les Blank made about the fateful making of that movie, and put it back on the shelf.

Next to it, though, was Of Walking in Ice, a journal of a walk Herzog took from Munich to Paris in 1974 to visit an ailing friend, convinced that the person would until at least after he arrived. I can't wait to wade into it. Like I said just brushing up against Herzog's personality excites me, and checking out books and posting video clips in a blog few people read is not quite hauling a boat over a mountain because I am willing to die for my dreams, but it is something.

premature infatuation

Julie London - All Through the Night (listen)
Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career (listen)
Everything but the Girl - Amplified Heart
Luna - Bewitched (listen)
The Style Council - The Sound of the Style Council (listen)
Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen (listen)

Upon discussion and re-listening, my zeal for God Help the Girl might be a bit premature, or rather, what I wanted from it is unrealistic, and thus the fault is mine and not that of the artist. An indie-rock, smarty-pants amalgam of these three things is what I want the Stuart Murdoch album to be, and it isn't, so I'll just play this on shuffle instead while I re-tool my official position.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ABBA with a couple semesters of grad school

Paul Weller - Heliocentric (listen) - Paul Weller is one classy cat, having helmed two influential bands and then continuing with a grown-up music solo concern in the most gentlemanly manner.

God Help the Girl, soundtrack by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, out 6/23 - I have just received this from the means that shape my listening privilege and though I've only given it a cursory listen, I think it may be one of the best things ever. For those who haven't been following this project, it is a soundtrack without a film comprised of a few older B&S songs and mostly new ones sung by a trio of women. The soul disco remake of the already great "Funny Little Frog"with Brittany Stallings' vocals is breathtakingly good. This album is ABBA with a couple semesters of grad school, coquettish and irresistible. I know I am a softie for Belle & Sebastian, a band whose damnation was cemented for many with an outburst by Jack Black's character in High Fidelity, but, I mean, c'mon, tell me you don't love this

Serge Gainsbourg - L'Histoire of Melody Nelson (listen) I think Stuart Murdoch might be the new Serge Gainsbourg, trading the old bastard's unabashed lothario for the compressed coyness of the imagined affections of a perky barista. I offered that very scenario to my friend Kevin who fashioned this out of it.

the city slicker, the cowboy, the monkey, and the wrong horse

International Submarine Band - Safe at Home (listen)
Buck Owens - Blue Love (listen)
Michael Nesmith & The First National Band - Magnetic South (listen)

Jon Pruett - "Some have said that it should have been Michael Nesmith, not Gram Parsons, who deserves the honor of country-rock forefather. (If only Nesmith ran with the Stones instead of the Monkees.) That said, great songs abound on this 1968 debut. Tracks like "Calico Girlfriend" and "Joanne" get even better thanks to "Red" Rhodes' brilliant pedal steel work."

Monday, May 25, 2009

[outsideleft] R.I.P. JAY BENNETT

The man that elevated/mangled Wilco into something interesting passed away in his sleep. (more...)

"damaged make-out music"

Shannon Wright - Maps of Tacit
New Wet Kojak - Nasty International
John Zorn - Film Works, Vol. 21: Belle de Nature/Rijksmuseum
Dean & Britta - Back Numbers


Kramer - The Greenberg Variations - Chamber music suite about Hank Greenberg, a power hitter for the Detroit Tigers in the late 30's that gained national fame for refusing to play on Yom Kippur. The mostly placid pieces record are all named for different pitches: "The Spit Ball," "The Knuckle Ball," "The Ephus Ball", a slow pitch used to catch a hitter off-guard, demonstrate a mastery of sound hinted at in the sprawling lo-fi punk and psychedelic-revival albums Kramer helmed for his Shimmy-Disc label in the early 90's.

Jay Bennett - The Magnificent Defeat - R.I.P., cracked pop genius.

The Detroit Cobras - Mink, Rat, or Rabbit (listen) Girl group gone band, or girl-gone-bad group, whatever. Retro-nificent stuff. Ther are playing here in town this coming Monday.

Medeski, Martin & Wood - The Dropper (listen) One of the techs here at works came by and asked if I'd ever heard of the Wood Brothers and in the explanation turned them on to Medeski, Martin and Wood, and in return, they brought me some new computer speakers with a sub-woofer. Turns out there is this aspect of music called bass...

Charlie Hunter - Baboon Strength (listen) Macho downtown jazz-funk all starts to sound the same after a while, even through proper speakers.

and just to fray any thread possibly running through this selection... Bulent Arel's Mimiana I, II, and III all from ANAblog. It gives me a huge new music nerd thrill to hear this early electronic music beamed directly into my phone as I peruse pretentious books at the very library where I would camp out and listen to this arcana two decades ago.

R.I.P. Jay Bennett

Poor guy. The little band that could couldn't have done it without him.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Brisket and Italian Sausage at my friend John's

John just returned from the Memphis in May international BBQ cook off where his team Suspicious Rinds finished 4th in mustard sauce and got robbed with 38th place with this kickass brisket.

There was also a crawfish/pork sausage but it got devoured before it could be documented. There was, however, this juicy, seedy Italian sausage.