Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Blood Ceremony - Blood Ceremony (listen) About a year ago on his blog, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats gave this record perhaps the highest praise a vociferator-about-music can give: dumbstruck silence (here). I just looked up vociferator to make sure it was what I meant - vociferate means "to utter or shout loudly or vehemently; bawl; clamor" but vociferator carries with it the idea of protest. Do we only get excited in protest, when things have gone too far for us to quietly bear? If that's true, that's a shame. Our voices should be made hoarse by bawling and clamoring for that which we love. Like, say, the Black Sabbath-meets-jazz flute-while-somehow-not-being Jethro Tull vibe of Blood Ceremony is something about which we can all vociferate.

Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship - I have friends that have expressed puzzlement over my vociferation in support of Tortoise, perhaps implying that said vociferation indicates a weakness on previous vociferations. To those friends, I will warn you of a further frittering of my credibility, as I dig the new album.

sell YouTube to the Greeks

I do not understand Greek and thus, have no idea what Urfurshlag is talking about here, but am nonetheless riveted by the delivery. NSFW, more for weirdness than anything else, but there is some saucy language in English at the end.

Monday, June 29, 2009

what I want from Yoko Ono

I like this new Plastic Ono Band single. I don't love it, as I don't really care for most of her pop records, but I love her, so I make allowances. Like most of her dancefloor-oriented material, I would love it more if it was more her and less her collaborators.

Not that I think Yoko Ono is really in the business of giving me or anyone what they want, but what I want is for her to drop the dancefloor bit and embrace the giant-in-the-small again.

or hearken back to when she had a Patti Smith thing going on (a few years before even Patti Smith did, mind you)

smell the horse

The Avett Brothers - Country Was
(listen) I am to interview the Avett Brothers soon, and trying to suss out what I really want to ask them. They are one of those bands that I believe to be doing something important, but those important things are relatively transparent, requiring nothing by the way of explanation, and thus, a thorny interview subject.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Year of the Horse (listen) It's all pretty stellar on this album, but I'm partial to this ragged take on "Pocahontas"

and the massive atmospheric dynamics of "Slip Away." The whole of post-rock can be extracted from that first minute.

and "smell the horse on this one."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

100 words on Saturdays at the pool

Saturdays since joining the pool, an indulgence as modest as the riches it requires, consist of a mad dash of duties to be able get here at ten, and with that hour, a good table with a working umbrella, floating on my back, not-reading, throwing kids in the air and getting just burnt, like a proper grilled cheese sandwich and leaving at the limit of the season's brutality, only to return an hour before closing, a condensed repeat under Maxfield Parrish clouds until they whistle us out, if only to witness the pool glowing from us having been there.

Friday, June 26, 2009

the trick is layers

Kronos Quartet/John Oswald - "Spectre" from Short Stories (listen) In checking out some John Oswald info for the Michael Jackson piece, I came across this collaboration with Kronos Quartet, where he spent 10 hours recording them doing a number of very basic things and then recombining it into a beautifully dense piece that is, as it proceeds, increasingly beyond what the quartet itself is capable. By the end of it, he supposedly has 4000 layers of instruments going, turning a plaintive cello tone into a swarm of locusts.

Carl Stone - Mom's (listen) Carl Stone employs a much simpler variant of stacking samples; he simply slows them down and gently loops and overlays them into gorgeous hypnotic songs that unfold as the speed of blossoming flowers.

I got this album about 15 years ago under most fortuitous circumstances; I walked into a records store to talk to one of my friends that worked there who, perhaps pissed at his boss, told me to go grab the first thing that caught my eye and walk out with it. I don't know what I was looking for in the "St" section, but I didn't find it, and not wanting to dally over choosing a record to steal, let the cover photo catch my eye without knowing anything about the artist.

I was deep into Brian Eno's similar ambient music then, so it was a pleasant surprise when I got around to putting it on. The wonderful thing about Stone's methods that instead of creating a placid soundscape, he starts slow and gradually whips them up into a parade. It is still one of my all-time favorite records.

Brian Eno - Discreet Music (listen) Most people will point to the simple elegance of Music for Airports as Eno's finest ambient hour, but I have a warm fuzzy for Discreet Music, his first non-rock release, particularly the reconstitutions of Pachelbel's Canon, elongating the string parts by various mathematical strategies so that the classical music staple is coerced into slowly releasing its potential energy.

Werner Herzog's La Soufrière

La Soufrière, Part one

Continuing my Herzog jag, I watched Werner Herzog's La Soufrière, his 1976 documentary about the evacuation of Guadeloupe before predicted volcano eruption and the one guy who refused to leave. I have much to say about this film, but it would spoil the metaphysically profound ending, so suffice to say, this thing is is beautiful, contemplative and like all of Herzog's work, compels you to both draw parallels that don't exist while planting you squarely in the facts.

[outsideleft] Michael Jackson and plunderphonics


by Alex V. Cook
In 1989, radical composer John Oswald made a statement about copyright and the true nature of the artists, and in some ways, predicted the unfortunate future of Micheal Jackson (more...)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

flying + RIP Sky Saxon and Farrah Fawcett

I just watched the achingly beautiful Werner Herzog's "The Great Ecstacy of the Sculptor Steiner" his 1974 documentary about Walter Steiner, a champion at ski-flying. Walter had to pressure the officials to keep shortening the ramp, or starting a section or two lower than everyone else, not out of brio or hubris, but because he simply flew farther than anyone else, sailing past the measurements and markers. I have no desire to ski-fly or even ski myself, but I could watch the slow motion footage of them sailing through the air all day.

And while I was watching it, news came in that Sky Saxon of the Seeds passed away. "Pushin' Too Hard" has been in my head since I first heard in the mid 70s, in a TV commercial for a K-Tel garage rock compilation that ran during episodes of Speed Racer. The following video is not that commercial, but something far, far better

And Farrah Fawcett! She was in the mind of everyone in the mid 70s as well. I'll let Telly tell ya.

[Ed to add] Michael Jackson died that evening as well.

pushin' too hard

Sky Saxon - The King of Garage Rock (listen) Word is Sky Saxon of the Seeds is in bad shape. Best wishes to one of our finest inner space cosmonauts.

Townes Van Zandt - Flyin' Shoes (listen) It is cliche to sing the praises of Townes Van Zandt, but I'll sing them anyway. I forget how sonically rich his studio albums are; I came to know his music through his more spectral solo live records and other people's versions of his songs and more than anything, people gravenly talking about them in the late whiskey moments when people rhapsodize/eulogize Real Country Music. When other people do his songs, they pull out their darkest glasses and set corn out for the ravens to perch on the necks of their guitars. When he does them, he fills these sad sacks of life with as much joy as they can hold, even if it is just a loose handful. Which is how you do it.

Lou Harrison - Suite for Violin and American Gamelan - Lou Harrison went about it differently, but I think in his weathered, rustic suite, he was after similar non-suffering existential expression like the two above, something that expressed our anguish but was not our anguish. Fate booms out in slow gongs while the violin threads a narrative against yet subject to that fate.

[outsideleft] Patterson Hood: Common Man as Hell


by Alex V. Cook
Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers gets us in closer to the action on his second solo CD. (more...)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

agreement with everyone

The Bats -The Guilty Office (listen) I am in agreement with everyone: this new album by classic New Zealand band the Bats is a corker. I'm envision that when the shit goes down and the rest of us have resorted to cannibalism and drinking puddle water for survival, the New Zealanders will be all business as usual, churning out droney, downtempo cuddle-rock on pristine beaches, tossing Frisbees, and making giant fantasy epics in their sylvan obliviousness.

[The Record Crate] Sympathy for the Devil

Satisfaction, A Tribute to the Stones, at the Varsity

I caught the tail end of Satisfaction, a tribute to the Stones, this weekend at The Varsity, tellingly getting the set-ender of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” because, well, I didn’t.

Read more, plus local music listings for the week...

harmonious + RIP Andy Hughes of the Orb

Ali Akbar Khan - The 80-Minute Raga
(from ROOT BLOG) I listened to this while walking to the library, returning some unread books, reading another book and walking back, and now typing this, and I'm not sure if this had any greater impact on me than insulating white noise and a metronome for keeping apace with my book, but when I copied the image from the original site, it was too big for the little window in which I type these things, so I had to shrink it, and it was still too big, and I had to shrink it again, and again, and again until I got it to the tidy, arbitrary 200x200 size of the album covers in my posts, all still while listening to this, and in doing that and then writing this down, condensing 80-minutes of life in roughly twice that many words, I think I get it, or at least I got something.

Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Music for a Found Harmonium (listen) Listening to ragas always poses the quandry of what to listen to next. I supposed I could go on a track down some more ragas, but I prefer to keep things moving (plus 80 minutes is a lot of anything), so I found this, and the presence of a track by the Orb on it made me think of 1993 or so when I was disproportionately into the Orb. A girl I was seeing then once declared "There should be a church where they play the Orb" and that sort of killed it for me, but still they were onto something, finally using the potentiality of samples and electronics and raves and whatnot to concoct something massively transcendent. And then I just read that the Orb's Andy Hughes passed away. I'm unclear as to whether Hughes was a part of this remix of PCO's most celebrated song or not, but here's to you anyway.

Stephin Merritt - Peach Blossom Fan (listen) I've never kept up with Stephin Merritt's theatrical pieces, seeing how I can barely keep up with his more accessible output with Magnetic Fields and 100 other bands, or anything for that matter. This is bit too musical theater for me, but I think it is supposed to be "too musical theater," pushed to the stretching point like his best songs always are. The castrati vocals and swirling marimbas and coy economy of the recording can be a little trying, but it is difficult to argue with any of the sentiments expressed here:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

[outsideleft] Meet the Lemonheads' Tape Case


by Alex V. Cook
The Lemonheads ride high once again, this time held aloft by other people's songs. (more...)

dem bones

Dinu Lipatti - Icon: Dinu Lipatti (listen) My mind is brimming with mixtape ideas now. I was looking for the exact right piano piece to open in it with, and didn't find it, but am determined that whatever gets chosen will be performed by Dinu Lipatti, not only because of his fluttering mastery, but because Dinu Lipatti is a hell of a name. I might close the tape with the Mountain Goats' "Dinu Lipatti's Bones" just for symmetry.

Terry Riley - Chanting the Light of Foresight (listen) The harmonium/sax drone-off at the onset of this record reminded me of two things: 1) we are are all specs floating on the surface of an impossible deep and vast lake and only acknowledge our own existence when we are hit by the ripples from one of the other specs, and 2) that I've been meaning to write up a review of the Mia Doi Todd record (listen), and haven't yet.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Dazzle Ships (listen) Aww, I love the old OMD. It reminds me of being a teenager looking toward a bright future illuminated by the glow of machines, a future that has been to a degree fulfilled.

and I close with the new single from the mighty Zomby, synced with the ye olde 2001.

mixtape warning

The Meters - Look-a-Py-Py (listen)
Lee Dorsey - Ride Your Pony (listen)
Joe Turner, Pee Wee Crayton & Sonny Stitt - Every Day I have the Blues (listen)

I have been rolling the idea of mixtapes over in my head lately, after seeing the ones Calvin Johnson had for sale a month ago, and the mysterious Mississippi Records compilations up at ROOT BLOG, as well as various hip-hop and indie rock informal releases that have been coming my way. It makes me want to make them, and that immediately makes me want to not make them. Mixtapes call for the inspired segueway as well as unearthing the specious, commingling the familiar and the foreign in a compelling stream. I think in some regard that is what I'm doing with this blog, except that I am more documenting the flow of icebergs across my sonic arctic sea as opposed to telling a story.

My self-sabotaging first impulse is that they must be done on cassette, and I do have the technology to pull this off, but I am pretty confident in saying the finished product will never appear. I like the idea of a side a/side b solid stream of music grouped around a theme ala the Mississippi Records things, zipped up and available for download. It seems more purposeful an endeavor than simply putting together a playlist of gathered MP3's. It fits the idiom.

And then there is, what to put on a mixtape? I can come up with things to listen to all day because it is what I am listening to; a mixtape is to be listened to by someone else, and with that responsibility lies the trepidation. But that is as good a reason as any to plow forth. Be on the half-hearted lookout for mixtapes to appear on here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Robert Ashley

A friend of mine studied under Robert Ashley, and he aptly described Asheley's art as "really boring, but in a good way" which is a description I keep at the ready for a lot of the things I like.

I lean toward "yes"

Hugh Cornwell - Hooverdam (available free from his website) Last week, I listened to the Stranglers for the first time in probably 17 years, and poof, in the e-mail arrives a congenial rocker from their singer Hugh Cromwell. No orders are being made for nubiles to be brought forth, but there is plenty of the old grinning belligerent boogie that was one of the Stranglers' best assets (second to the keyboards.) It actually sounds not unlike what a Robyn Hitchcock album would sound like if Robyn Hitchcock made sense. Retaining the Strangler's type-face is a classy way to tie it to the past without getting too arch about it.

British Sea Power - Man of Aran (listen) I prefer this wilier, airier instrumental-ier version of British Sea Power to the bounce-it-off-the-walls-of-the-arena-of-my-dreams rawk exhibited on their gangbusters album of last year Do You Like Rock Music? It's a question I ask myself a lot, and I don't know that I have a definitive answer. I lean toward "yes" without dickering over the specific terms. But I can say that when it comes out like this album, yes I do, very much.

Dan Deacon - Broomst (listen) I think I'm just getting around to this, or maybe just now coming around to it, but I like it. Something about Dan Deacon stuck in my craw where I couldn't open myself up to it, but now I can't imagine what that issue would have been. My problem with the current pop minimalists are that they are unwilling up the real challenge of the style; instead of submitting to the ardor of Seeing The Patterns Thru, they use it as a roller to cover the room in quick wide strokes. Deacon, on the other hand, is not in the least bit afraid to kick into Philip Glass hyperdrive, and neither am I.

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca (listen) I think I've finally zeroed in on what I think about this and the Grizzly Bear album and will be putting that grand statement together shortly, until then, I invite you to bask in the complex charms of...

Classical Music By and For the People
, a most splendid mixtape of art music curiosities from the fine minds at ROOT BLOG.


Lydia Lunch/Marc Almond/Clint Ruin/Nick Cave - Immaculate Consumptive (via Mutant Sounds) I say all that about living breezily in the now just as the glorious melodrama of past favorites comes radiating through the wires this morning. Man, I loved the art-sleaze-rock of the early 80's, maybe because it dovetailed with my own hormonal awakenings, but finding these records was like that time I found a copy of Velvet magazine in my backyard, apparently tossed over the fence in a panic by one of the teenage boys next door attempting to escape one of their frequent and routine beatings. As it happens, a Lydia Lunch pictorial was in that very issue, and between salacious pictures of her sprawled under a card table, was some text about her bands Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (listen) and 8-Eyed Spy (listen) which I tucked away for later. I felt a strange bravado years later pulling her The Queen of Siam record off the shelf at the college radio station, thinking Everyone else here learned about her from Sonic Youth; I learned about her from pornography.

This is also where I first heard about Brian Eno, mentioned as the producer of the Teenage Jesus & The Jerks album. Lydia Lunch famously said of her early champion:
Eno's records are an expression of mediocrity, because all it is is just something that flows and weaves, flows and weaves . . . it's kind of nauseating. It's like drinking a glass of water. It means nothing, but it's very smooth going down. (here)
I tucked Eno's name away for later as well.

Among the many disappointments of the digital age is the absence of the older Marc Almond albums from the usual coffers, particularly the Marc Almond and the Willing Sinners and the Marc and the Mambas records. They were so torchy and delicious. Fortunately some traces of it persist on YouTube.

Clint Ruin, for those that don't know, is one of the many project mantles of JG Thirwell (others include his exquisitely damnable Foetus band names like Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel and You've Got Foetus On Your Breath) who is now better known for the providing the soundtrack for the exploded Johnny Quest parody, The Venture Brothers.

Lydia Lunch & Clint Ruin - Stinkfist (listen) The culmination of Lunch and Ruin's professional relationship, and in many ways a pinnacle of both their sonic catalogs, was the short but brutal Stinkfist EP. I always thought Thirwell got right the techno-brutality so many artists attempted back then - he imbued it with cartoon violence without once cracking a smile. Lydia Lunch was great at making you uncomfortable while you stared.

degree symbol

St. Vincent - Actor (listen) My weekend was hot and largely lovely, but peppered sporadically with guilt trips from the periphery, for what purpose I do not understand. When life is to sweet is a twinge of bitterness called for just to balance it out? It must be the weather, as expressed in the sample opening "92°" by Siouxsie & the Banshees:
Do you know that more murders are committed at 92 degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature? A rather odd coincidence. Lower temperatures, people are easy going. Over 92, it's just too hot to move. But just 92, people get irritable!

But I am not listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees, reliving the embarrassments of the past. There is no point in re-feeling the heat of yesterday; today will be quite hot enough on its own.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Passion fruit snowball with condensed milk, Ninja Snowballs

A most satisfactory snowball, though I told them next time I want to be confronted with a flavor that makes me go "I dunno about this..." like something with jalapeño in it, or hummus. Gazpacho perhaps... and they promised to name it after me. I can think of no greater legacy to have than an unpalatable frozen treat dubbed "The Cook Ball."

A roving snowball stand is a brilliant idea in the spirit of the Koji Taco truck in L.A. Follow it on Twitter, @NinjaSnowballs, to find out where it is located for the day.

Currently Reading: The World That Made New Orleans by Ned Sublette

per my GoodReads update:

The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette

My review

Wow, the discussions about the semiotics of the street names in the first pages is blowing my mind. Genius

View all my reviews.

but also shaking different literary foundations is that I am reading it on the Kindle app for the iPhone, which I totally get now. I still think the Kindle device is a bit myopic in what it does, but the ebook experience so far is quite satisfactory.

straight against the mack

I half-wish Beck had followed through on his notion of making a full album-remake of Digital Underground's Sex Packets, an album that I have probably listened to more times than this one mostly because it was the default tape in my girlfriend's car for about a year way back when, and partly because it is unto itself awesome. I don't know if its more awesome than The Velvet Underground & Nico - ok, I do know, it isn't - but I can recite a greater percentage of "The Humpty Dance" than I can "Venus in Furs" if that's a measure of anything.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

5 things about the non-musical aspects of writing about music

  1. Publicists' emails are going to be overexcited by nature, but I get enough of them to notice the short time differential between when they arrive in my inbox and when they get mildly re-shuffled (sometimes) and re-posted on four or five blogs to which I subscribe. I don't really mind this, but the least these blogs can do is try to shade the message with a thin critical layer rather than transparently display it. Or be funny about it, or something. It's not that hard unless, of course, you are reporting on music about which nothing all that meaningful can be said, or so much of it that you don't really get to know anything.
  2. The excited retelling of lineages of bands about which you might not care (yet, if ever) that is a tiresome yet helpful part of bloated PR copy but tends to clogs up the message on the public side makes me glaze over, and I just figured out why. It reminds me of when sports fans go in deep about players in college football; the game gets eclipsed by tales of where players to high school and what coaches they played under and what deals they are about to sign. I recognize that as a sports non-fan I am missing the gold to mined out of this particular stream, but er, wouldn't y'all rather watch the game?
  3. I'm not so sure I would that ardently lament the disintegration of a holistically shared musical landscape that the Internet has the potential of bringing, allowing the rise of micro-niches and regionalism, making cultural experiences seem a little more exotic when explored. It would be like if off every exit, there was the chance of their being a Dutch windmill or the worlds largest shoe store or an Armenian flea market instead of another Bed, Bath and Beyond.
  4. I used to treasure my collection 3000+ albums, countless tapes, 800 8-track's and a burgeoning collection of reel-to-reel tapes and now my CD's are in bags in a closet and I have 3 actual vinyl records, one of which is in a frame because it was signed by John Cage. I don't miss vinyl a bit, and CD's seem almost as cumbersome. In fact the whole "putting music on my iPhone via iTunes" seems quaint compared to Rhapsody and lala and what someone recently described as "the browser as iPod." Granted, services like these create uncomfortable dependencies that will no doubt be one day exploited, but for now, using them feels as freeing as eschewing a house full of books in trade for judicious library practices did years ago. Having everything at my disposal has made my listening habits a little more flighty and fickle, but then, that was also the main point of my having 3000 albums way back then. The other point was to gaze at them lovingly like a snowglobe collector might gaze drowsily over their crowded fireplace mantle, and that I don't miss a bit either.
  5. I don't get too worked up about writing gigs not paying what they used to, or that the critical field is being infiltrated by self-appointed authorities, being one myself. The creative aspects of my life never struck me as monetary goldmines, rather as things that were borne of the privilege of making enough money elsewhere. I'd rather work for my art than make my art pay for me, I suppose. That is not saying I don't appreciate those freelance checks and the perks of being a semi-recognized music writer when I can get them, but I would still most likely be writing about music even if they dried up.

the morning will be confronted in red instead of being suffered in blue

Plastic Crimewave Sound - s/t (listen)

Suicide - Why Be Blue? (listen)

Gang of Four - Entertainment! (listen)

Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Primary Colours (via OngakuBaka)

and, not to put too fine a point on it, King Crimson's "Red"