Sam Lipsyte, The Ask (2010, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux) Various Artists, Mississippi Records Tape Series Vol 51: Lullabies & Dream Songs (2010 with tendrils back though the vastness of time, ROOT BLOG) Various Artists, Earl Kim: Exercises en Route/Now and Then/Three Poems in French/Dear Linda(2001, New World Records, Rhapsody)
Earl Kim iswas just the best. If your brain cobbled together a contemporary music ensemble with memory on the strings, existential dread on percussion, and stray thoughts on vocals, every piece they attempted at their sparsely attended afternoon recitals would devolve into sounding like Earl Kim. It would be just me in the audience and that weird old man that goes to every performance until I become that weird old man.
The above twisted garden of the damned, actually a pruned patch of trees on the Louisiana State Capitol grounds, is where I would like to sit lotus-position with my iPhone tucked into a fold of my soft saffron robe, with old Earl at barely audible levels (where he's best) with even older Earl looming above, and commune, commune, commune.
Here is an excerpt from Kim's Earthlight, one of my favorite pieces ever.
November 27, 2009 — Christie Finn (Soprano), Rachel Field (Violin) and Baris Buyukildirim (Piano) perform 'Earthlight' by Earl Kim live at a concert by contemporary performance program at Manhattan School of Music
The latest dispatch from the alchemists behind Mississippi Records is equally good. Dream songs all the way.
As for the celebrated new novel by Sam Lipsyte, I just started it and already the guy got fired. For funny, even possibly virtuous reasons, but fired all the same. That will snap you right out of things.
This one from Robert Lowell's Life Studies seems a fitting way to see off National Poetry Month.
To Delmore Schwarz
We couldn't even keep the furnace lit! Even when we had disconnected it, the antiquated refrigerator gurgled mustard gas through your mustard-yellow house, and spoiled our long maneuvered visit from T. S. Eliot's brother, Henry Ware. . . .
Your stuffed duck craned toward Harvard from my trunk: its bill was a black whistle, and its brow was high and thinner than a baby's thumb; its webs were tough as toenails on its bough. It was your first kill; you rushed it home, pickled in a tin wastebasket of rum - it looked through us, as if it'd died dead drunk. You must have propped its eyelids with a nail, and yet it lived with us and met our stare, Rabelasian, lubricious, drugged. And there, perched on my trunk and typing-table, it cooled our universal Angst a moment, Delmore. We drank and eyed the chicken-hearted shadows of the world. Underseas fellows, nobly mad, we talked away our friends. "Let Joyce and Freud, the Masters of Joy, be our guests here," you said. The room was filled with cigarette smoke circling the paranoid, inert gaze of Coleridge, back from Malta - his eyes lost in flesh, lips baked and black. Your tiger kitten, Oranges, cartwheeled for joy in a ball of snarls. You said: "We poets in our youth begin in sadness; thereof in the end come despondency and madness; Stalin has had two cerebral hemorrhages!" The Charles River was turning silver. In the ebb- light of morning, we stuck the duck -'s web- foot, like a candle, in a quart of gin we'd killed.
Swearing at Motorists, Number Seven Uptown (2000, Rhapsody)
lala.com has reported that it will shutter May 31, 2010, as a part of Apple's bid to control the online music marketplace. Sucks, not because I am either pro- or anti-iTunes, but lala was handy as hell for my little purposes. I always wondered how it made any money and apparently, it didn't. It is important to remember that money makes art; art doesn't make money. Or something. Stupid money.
An old guy sitting in a parked truck outside a restaurant I pass on my way to work hollered out at me, "Hey man, you lost some weight, didn't you?" Just then I saw the bus approaching and had to run two blocks to catch it, which left me out of breath and with glossy coat, but the upside is I can run two blocks without dying, so some things are headed in the right direction. This song was playing as it all went down.
Swearing at Motorists, " Flying Pizza"
Hopefully YouTube, Rhapsody, Blogger, and flickr and all the other free shit I use will hang on in this new new economy so I don't have to completely rethink my game. Otherwise, I don't know how I will show you all the meatloaf sandwich I put in Maya's lunch, and my purpose in this world will crumble.
Sam Amidon, I See The Sign (2010, lala) Nico Muhly, various pieces
The above was shot by a guy I've known since grade school who is now a geologist headed out to the Deepwater Horizon site. I don't mean to be an enviro-alarmist who believes his own outrage is key to addressing massive issues, but it is a little eerie how little is being said about this here. It's on the news and everything, but there's none of the ground chatter one might expect. Maybe we are just now so accustomed to Louisiana falling apart that setting the Gulf of Mexico on fire sounds reasonable, even kinda cool. Just sayin'.
I love Sam Amidon's album of folk songs, art-music-augmented by the Most Clever Boy on the Internet Nico Muhly. I like it even more than the Jónsi's album touched by the same collaborator's hand. There is a Nick Drake quality there, more than the "it sounds acoustic so I'll say Nick Drake" aspect the dead singer's name usually evokes.
But it is the resonance of folk in it, the stand tall to the wind in your tattered rags stroll of folk music that Amidon nails on this record. It is the kind of stuff that will make your forget for a moment that the water is on fire, then suddenly remember.
I dunno. I've been eating less in the style of Henry VIII and suddenly (but not) dropped from an XL to an L in shirt sizes. My XL's look like loose billowy tents rather than ones stuffed with stacks of meat, and that causality is sobering and exhilarating and you think hey, OK!, and then there's things like the oil spill that are all , oh...ok. Philosophy is so much more fun when there's no skin in the game.
And neither are really what I'm thinking about, or are just part of it. My book's come a-knockin', a friend of mine has cancer, and the wheel of time is still rolling, flattening the proud declarations I've made about not believing in chaos under the twin steamroller rollers of cause and effect, and someone I knew when I was my daughter's age now is charged with solving the chaos of causality out in the water.
Anyway, great record. Here is a bit of Mr. Muhly's own dazzling work. Especially check out that third video where a camera was set on a sushi restaurant conveyor belt.
Nico Muhly, Skip Town performed in Toronto in 2008 by the composer
Nico Muhly, Clear Music, performed in NYC 2007 by Lisa Liu on violin, Nico Muhly, and Valgeir Sigurdsson
Nico Muhly & Teitur, "Don't I Know You From Somewhere?"
Tony Allen, Secret Agent(2010, lala) Meat Puppets, Too High to Die (1994, lala) XiuXiu, Dear God, I Hate Myself (2010, lala) Destroyer, Streethawk: A Seduction (2001/re-issued 2010, lala)
I'm working up a review of the new Tony Allen album and keep getting snagged on the second song "Ijo", especially about half-way through when an accordion appears. I had a Zydeco epiphany from it (the rarest, most specific kind of epiphany) that Explained A Lot, and then suddenly the accordion was gone, as if it actively defied epiphanization.
Here back in the humble tangle of the garden, the first of the peppers is making its dramatic entrance, meekly pleading that I go get a new hoe already. I can't find a way to tie this into the Destroyer song below, so I'll just post it. Perhaps it too defies epiphanization.
I sing the rock Ameri-lectric in my review of the latest albums by Titus Andronicus and the Red Krayola for outsideleft.
In the May 2010 issue of Country Roads, I review the River Road hideaway Roberto's and tell the tale of drinking a beer in the Jerry Lee Lewis House and Tony Joe White's performance at Delta Music Festival in Ferriday. The above photo is of one of the prison trustees mentioned in the article. Also, I sneak in a brief review of Joe Bonomo's Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost & Found:
The scandal and the album become fulcrums in the see-saw portrait Bonomo paints of Lewis, but neither stand in for the man. Lewis left the fifties with as much fame as his wild persona could handle, and he played it with the same ferocious virtuosity as he did the piano, only to find he had to climb back up the country side of things when the bottom fell out. Bonomo doesn't shy away from the gory details, but he doesn't bury his subject in myth either. A welcome rarity among books about rock legends, Bonomo lets the music and the history do the actual talking.
I,I,I, me, me me. Thanks for reading if you still are. Tip your bartenders! Here's a couple of videos of Tony Joe from Ferriday.
Buckingham Nicks, "Frozen Love" from Buckingham Nicks (1975, via ROOT BLOG) The Books, "Beautiful People" from The Way Out (forthcoming 7/2010, via MBV) Matmos, Supreme Balloon (2008, lala)
Above is my favorite beautiful person making her first foray into miso soup at Koi. We sat up at the sushi bar - she and I share a predilection for sitting at the bar when one is available - and my favorite part of the meal was that she, the beardo college guy to my right, and both sushi chefs were all in the undeniable thrall of America's Funniest Home Videos on the TV there. "Oh, man! look at that gerbil eatin' Sweet Tarts!" could have come from any of them. My second favorite part was the Ants Climbing Trees I got off the expanded menu.
Ants Climbing Trees is a Szechuan concoction of glass noodles in a savory, spicy gravy standing in for the ridges in the bark of a fallen tree, sprinkled with minced pork that are supposed to be the ants, I guess. I would've stood a single broccoli crown in the middle for the tree and let the noodles be the anthil, but then, trees don't grow out of anthills. I think there is a wise fortune cookie proverb in all this.
It was delicious. I love glass noodles despite their near-jellyness making then impossible to eat with chopsticks or fork but mostly, I'm in love with the name. I wish everything had a name like Ants Climbing Trees instead of the foodie trend of practically laying out the recipe in the name of the dish. Don't buy into the service economy nightmare of life being a precisely accounted transaction. Beauty lies in mystery and wonder, y'all.
Another thing with which I am completely smitten is "Frozen Love" from the pre-Mac Buckingham Nicks. I have it bound up with that album cover - look at them! Innocent and ferocious. Naked and fully armed. Their vacant stares at the mirror of their love are saying, "I will give you everything because I will take Everything when I'm gone." "Frozen Love" is beyond egregious; it has a million parts, a delirious orchestral breakdown, and contains this breathlessly exhorted chorus:
And if you go forward, I'll meet you there And if you climb up through the cold freezin' air Look down below you; search out above And cry out to life for a frozen love
That air up there isn't cold. It isn't freezin'. It is cold freezin'. Love it. I played it for my friend Rob last night and he said it was my song crush.
"Beautiful People" by the Books is not my song crush; I have in the past been either immune or bemused by their French, dry, Cartesian charms but this song snapped me out it this morning, at least stopping me from listening to "Frozen Love" one more time in a row. Listen at MBV.
It led me back to the synthetic arms of Matmos' Supreme Balloon (reviewed here). Like the Books, Matmos is another band I couldn't quite get into until they similarly streamlined their deal and it is in their rainbow plastic universe where I will microfocus and become an ant climbing the tree of the day. Allons, beautiful people! Allons!
My sudden interest in Cowboy Junkies is assignment-driven, but is reaping some unexpected rewards, especially when I realized I had them commingled with Concrete Blonde in my head.
I like this bit from Nick Flynn's second memoir, excerpted from the excerpt
I'm driving north from Texas to New York in a 1993 Ford Escort wagon -- good, reliable, unsexy, cheap -- a basic a-to-b device, bought in Texas with the idea of taking it north because, unlike the northeast, a used car from Texas will be unlikely to have rust.
I suppose I can see the hang up about memoirs though I think sweating the truthfulness they imply is a pedantic concern. I don't really care if it actually happened if I know up front that it might not have, just let me play in the fields of Truth rather than in the file cabinets of fact. It is a business model that works for the Bible, so it oughta work for your (my) little book about stumbling through your (my) twenties. A memoir is just like that 93 Ford Escort Wagon - fact: the exact model and year of the first car I ever bought - it's a basic a-to-b device. As a writer, I'm interested in the mechanics of those dashes (the real motor of The Eyes of Willie McGee is under the dash, as it were) but as a reader, just get me to "b" in whatever way best prepares me for arrival.
The car analogy is always a winner, but lately I find writing to be more like getting the dog to sit still for long enough to get a picture of its shadow. It doesn't understand you at all unless you are at that moment feeding it, which I guess applies to a lot of things.
Patrick Rosenkranz,Who the Hell is Robert Ronnie Branaman? (2010, above, and here, likely NSFW) M.I.A., "Born Free" (2010, video, also NSFW and for the violence-sensitive) Venetian Snares, Detrimentalist(2008, lala) Cowboy Junkies, Best of the Cowboy Junkies (1988, lala)
Media announcement: My better-late-than-never review of Drive-By Truckers' The Big To-Do is up at outsideleft.
Which reminds me: some outsideleft-related, Beat-connected folks are pushing this film about the Beat poet & painter Robert Ronnie Branaman and I'd be a lousy second-hand comrade if I didn't join in. M.I.A., I like everything about her except the music and I like the music better this time around. The more doped-out and ragged the electro-rage, the better.
David Byrne & Fatboy Slim, Here Lies Love (2010, lala) Scott Hicks, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts (2009, movie site) Alex Heard, The Eyes of Willie McGee (2010, Harper Collins)
I've been working my way through Alex Heard's investigation of the 1945 death sentence of Willie McGee, particularly trying to wrap my brain around his general history of lynchings in Mississippi and Louisiana, and this poem bubbled up elsewhere with eerie timeliness.
NICE DAY FOR A LYNCHING (1939) by Kenneth Patchen from Outlaw of the Lowest Planet
The bloodhounds look like sad old judges In a strange court. They [point their noses At the Negro jerking in the tight noose; His feet spread crow-like above these Honorable men who laugh as he chokes.
I don't know this black man. I don't know these white men.
But I know one of my hands Is black, and one white. I know that One part of me is being strangled, While another part horribly laughs.
Until it changes, I shall be forever killing; and be killed.
Typing this with David and Fatboy and Florence of the & the Machine's disco opera about Imelda Marcos chirping in the background seems hopelessly absurd, but what is disco's true purpose if not to commingle the grandiose and the absurd in way that makes it all go down smooth? How do you make a lynching not seem absurd?
I suppose embracing grandiosity is the only way to overcome existential absurdity. We popped down for a walk around the state capitol grounds on the nice day that was Sunday. Huey P. Long's tomb is there, looming in the photo above, about to break into song before the stately capitol building he called into being in his 1928 gubernatorial campaign. He was assassinated in one of its hallways in 1935.
The marble base of the grave says
Here lies Louisiana's great son Huey Pierce Long- an unconquered friend of the poor who dreamed of the day when the wealth of the land would be spread among the people.
We reach disco liftoff with Alice Russel at the mic.
Philip Glass does his Buddha best to come off humble in Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts as we are taken through the machinations of his life. It's interesting to watch this after recently getting to meet him and watch him in his element with musicians here; the film is pretty true to life. Everyone around him here, myself included, had a little squeally "Philip Glass is talking to me!" in his presence which we tried to keep suppressed to stay on keel with the self-deprecating bemusement with which he carries himself.
Here he was at the master class conducted at the LSU School of Music, introducing, discussing and listening to a performance of his 1+1 for One Player & Amplified Table that I just now got around to uploading. There are a couple more to put up once permissions can be granted. I'm not even sure I have full permission to do this one, nor can I isolate the thread (if any) running through Imelda Marcos, disco, Huey P. Long, lynching, and Philip Glass, but my intention is like the will of the dead Kingfish, that the wealth of the land be spread among the people.
L to R: Teddy Johnson, Blues Fest guru Johnny Palazzotto, and Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden
Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life (1976, lala) Baton Rouge Blues Festival The New Pornographers, Together(out in May 2010, streaming at NPR)
Above: Teddy Johnson - cape-wearing blues superhero and proprietor of Teddy's Juke Joint - giving the crowd a taste before being honored at the Baton Rouge Blues Fest. I'll have more to say on the Festival in my Wednesday 225 column, but in sum, it was a success and even made me forget that I gave up a JazzFest pass for the day My Morning Jacket was playing to groove it down local.
Here's me with the honorary Mayor-President, key-to-the-city-holder backstage. One of my favorite people. More pics up in here.
I had my Flip with me but unfortunately did not catch Tony Joe White doing his bizarro tune "Even Trolls Love Rock 'n' Roll" but here is a rendition of it from Austin City Limits
but I did get Ruthie Foster doing a soaring cover of Lucinda Williams' "Fruits of My Labor"
and this guy throwing down to Sonny Landreth's "Promised Land."
Here is Sonny Landreth milking a Rush moment at the festival. I mean Eric Clapton has proclaimed him the best guitar player alive or something like that, but who takes God's word on anything anymore? Behold. Also, I love how the stage looked with the dome of the observatory bubbling up to the left prettied up with the fountains. Baton Rouge cleans up nice when she wants to.
My weekend was otherwise loosely soundtracked by Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, an album in which I hear new things every 5 years or so when its pulled up from the well. For instance, I've heard "Contusion" plenty of times before but holy shit, I didn't really grasp how dense it is until I heard it in the car on the way to the festival
It's like he heard Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and decided to show them how to really do it. Not that it ever needs inspiration, but this bout of Wonder was brought on by this T-shirt at this place on my block.
Also on deck is/was the new New Pornographers, which rocks a little harder than their past efforts (good) but might be too "Jesus Christ Superstar" for my tastes.
The subtitle of the latest cha-cha-ka-boogie, hallucinatory dispatch from Mississippi Records is “Thematically vague…more of a mood piece,” which applies universally here. And jeez, no matter where a stream of consciousness leads, the sudden presence of Townes Van Zandt is always startling, standing there in wet boots. A different version of this song appears near the end of side A of the Shombolar tape.
Townes Van Zandt, "Nothing" from A Private Concert: Holiday Inn, Houston (1988)
And y'all, Kenneth Patchen is a badass. I never knew.
HOW GOD WAS MADE
On the first Day A weed led her young to drink at Eternity but there was only one hanging eye that withered them with its look
on the second day A wondrous hand fashioned a bubble and the stars sang his branching head awake
on the third day His heart began to beat and the heavens foamed along their gathering roads where the mad and the dead would walk
on the fourth day His ribs bent around the air and the pillars of nothingness toppled down to become roosts for birds that foul dreams
on the fifth day His body stirred upon the sun and the fiery kingdoms raised their flags that would be lifting over is for ever
on the sixth day His mouth breathed the first word and all the things of wonder and pain and beauty were made ready for the poor flesh of man
on the seventh day His sweeping eye saw what had been done and moved into the great, gentle face where not even He could see its terror
Seriously, roosts for birds that foul dreams.
I was aware that Bern Porter was a badass; I used to have a copy of the book, The Last Acts of St. Fuckyou, from which this piece is brutally torn by the author, like meat from a kill.
I don't know if any of this poetry can hold up against the exit sign I saw posted on a temporary wall of the still-being-reconfigured LSU Union after lunch. Something in how the three "exits" are not lined up, an almost imperceptible stepdown. The way out is down. This sign directed me to a freshly sheetrocked room with nothing but some shady looking elevators and sliding outside doors that thankfully worked. It made me think of the Winchester Mystery House (be forewarned of auto-music) and of House of Leaves, and made me wanna get the fuck out of there.
This all took such a bum-out, anxious turn that the careful brooding of the National are comparatively a ray of sunshine. Happy National Poetry Month!
The National, High Violet (2010, out 5/11) The New Pornographers, Together (2010, out 5/4) Joni Mitchell, Mingus(1979, lala) Rodriguez, Cold Fact(1970, lala)
The National embraces their inner, studio-glacier Radiohead; The New Pornographers release their outer, cocaine jamboree Fleetwood Mac. Both are smart moves. Joni Mitchell's Mingus, well, it was a bold move, as is this interview.
Mark Nauseef, Kudsi Erguner, Markus Stockhausen, Bill Laswell, No Matter (2008, lala, thanks AnaBlog) Delmore Schwartz, Vaudeville for a Princess and Other Poems (1950, Questia) Beach House, Teen Dream (2010, lala)
All this trying to replicate poems in blogger html as of late has made me think about structure too. The simplest indention is a bit of a pain, as if the whole of Internet was designed without poetry ever on the drawing board and squeezing some in takes some angling (see below; the "pre" tag is your friend) but I guess poetry is always like that, with the angling and being a bit of a pain in its insistence of form.
THE SILENCE ANSWERED HIM ACCUSINGLY by Delmore Schwartz
"Don't fool yourself," the silence said to me, "Don't tell yourself a noble lie once more!"
Then to the silence, being accused I said: "I teach the boys and the girls in my ageing youth, I try to tell them the little I know of the truth, Saying, In the beginning is the word, And in the end and everywhere is love, In all love's places and in the mind of God. Three words I speak, though they are bare and far, untouchable as a star, The true, the good, and the beautiful, Shifting my tones as if I said to them Candy, soda, fruits and flowers, And if they hear, what thunderclap uproars, unanimous applause, (Extremely gratifying signs of pleasure).
'Behold the unspeakable beauty,' I say to them, 'Arise and lift your eyes and raise your hearts In celebration and in praise because Plato's starlight glitters amid the shocking wars.' "
This took forever to get the spacing close to right, but look how elegantly Schwartz makes use of those quote marks. The lantern tree in the back yard in the photo above makes great and to the viewer, effortless use of the neighbor's baby food colored house.
Reinbert De Leeuw, Schoenberg Ensemble, and Asko Ensemble With Members Of the Netherlands Chamber Choir performingLouis Andriessen's De Materie (lala)
I should probably spend more time thinking about content, particular about providing interesting content, on this blog but I like playing with structure here and what it means and if it matters. I abandoned the
Author - Title (source link)
structure for the tidier, more card-cataloggy
Author, Title (source link)
paradigm, though I should probably, if I was gonna do it right, be all
Last name, First name. (Date) Title source link
but that would take up more space than I like. These little ingredients lists at the beginning of almost every post are meant to be succinct and directional, not encyclopedic. You are already on the Internet if you are reading this (which I suspect you aren't actually because who would really read all this?) I also have a loose rule about just putting the composer and a title for a "classical" work even though the interpreter of such a work really is the key thing. But it's such a rabbit hole; where do you stop?
Fortunately, I like being a hypocrite as much as I like making rules so I can put whatever when it serves the narrative I'm after. Like above, all those orchestras and ensembles and special guests lend De Materie the stupefying grandeur I feel in it. It starts with all those people snaking tight melody lines through "144 iterations of the same chord played fortissimo" (wiki)
It may just sound like the orchestral version of day laborers framing a house, which I kind think is what Andriessen is all about anyway, but that it is 144, a dozen dozen, eggs and/or donuts squared, gives it a sharpness I like.
The translated title of the piece is "Matter" and yes, it all does in its way. I refuse to believe in chaos; I consider it to be a ignorance in a sexy dress. Just because we don't know the effects of every detail doesn't mean they are unknowable, it just means we don't know them.
And that is what you see, dear readers, when you ponder a picture with your finger on the lens.
Follow the @LeMGelato truck with me as it makes its way toward the Baton Rouge hipster truck food horizon! I had the quite manly "Rio Star" grapefruit sorbetto. I believe the Rio Star was the dude ranch where really tough cowboys first mixed this flavor as a compliment to beans and freshly killed buffalo.
Media Announcement: In this week's 225 Record Crate blog, I lay out the skinny on Blues Week activities, tell you all about Ruthie Foster, and make a plea for you to go to the Baton Rouge Blues Fest even though it's on the same day My Morning Jacket is at JazzFest. Still weighing that one out myself.
On my lunch library round, I came across a young woman in recital wear pushing a dolly containing a harp wrapped in blue protective fabric up the handicapped ramp of the theatre. I held the door for her, asking if I could take her picture with it because it was such a great image, and she half-smiled "no, you can't" and darted in, so instead you get Anne Sexton skinny-dipping in Newton, 1962, from this wonderful post by Alex Carnivale at This Recording. It is her right to go about the cumbersome business of moving a harp un-picked-over and I am probably a bit of a creep for asking, but it proves, once again: poets are more game than music students.
From that same post; catch that glare she gives the dog at 0:41. Also, she doesn't let anyone be camera shy.
Excerpt of LETTER WRITTEN ON A FERRY WHILE CROSSING LONG ISLAND SOUND from All My Pretty Ones
There go my dark girls, their dresses puff in the leeward air. Oh they are lighter than flying dogs or the breath of dolphins; each mouth opens gratefully, wider than a milk cup. My dark girls sing for this. They are going up.
See them rise on black wings, drinking the sky, without smiles or hands or shoes. They call back to us from the gauzy edge of paradise good news, good news.
Alex Heard, The Eyes of Willie McGee (Harper Collins) The Wedding Present, Seamonsters(lala) Coco Robicheaux, Yeah, U Right Buckingham Nicks, self-titled (ROOT BLOG) The National, High Violet (out 5/11)
I just started The Eyes of Willie McGee but it already makes sweet ol' Eleanor Roosevelt look like a bit of an asshole, portending well as a paradigm-shaker. I haven't listened to the Wedding Present since the 90's that birthed them, but novelist Jon McGregor's "Living With Music" bit in the NYT's Paper Cuts brought them slumping right back into my headphones. Four observations:
Novelists like to talk about music but how they CANNOT have it on while writing, which is weird to me. It must be awfully quiet in the orchid greenhouse.
John McGregor gets bonus points for not mentioning Leonard Cohen. Nothing against the good Field Commander, but he appears in almost every one of these things.
Arch doom practitioners Sunn O))) are becoming the new gettin'-stuff-done muzak, and
90s' production standards sound like shit in iPod/Phone/Pad headphones. It's like a guy mumbling something good while someone else blows in your ear.
I just got the new National which excites me so, but not like the sudden springing of Buckingham Nicks out of my favorite well of the the infinite. It's the only thing I ever asked of the Internet and it provided!
I hereby offer the above quickie walk-to-the-bus hangman photo to anyone needing an image for their production of "Death of a Salesman."
I finally got through the first two episodes of Treme, David Simon's portrait of post-Katrina musicians and the people in their wake. So far I don't really have more than a surface feel for the characters but that's OK because, having spent my life in a low orbit around the city, I've found that actual New Orleans characters give great surface. They really do wear their hats like that and saunter around like they were shook out of a Tom Waits tune. One of my best friends works in tangent to the restaurant industry there, a subculture as singularly nuanced and melodramatic as the music scene, and in comparing the bourgeoisie orientation of Baton Rouge (and the rest of the country) and the self-perpetuated mystique of New Orleans, put it well: "Charm is New Orleans' greatest product. We're not a banking center. Not a particularly great place to raise a family. We're charming! That's all we got!"
I love that WWOZ itself is a main character in the show. It bugs me a little that the two episodes opened with, respectively, a second line parade and a voodoo ritual. Starting a New Orleans story with those details reminds me a little of when a friend of mine said her husband was happy the screenplay he was working on centered on the female character, but when she read it, it opened with a shower scene. Nothing against shower scenes, but again, surface. It's a TV show.
Second lines (and particularly, talking about second lines) and broke-dick musicians late for gigs and a lot of "Yeah, you right" resigned camaraderie make up the New Orleans I know, and in that respect Treme is right on. It is a gorgeous high-budget New Orleans mixtape. And truthfully, I'll watch anything that allows me to bask in the icepick finery of Khandi Alexander. But it's ludicrous to expect Treme to be an exacting portrait.
A different friend of mine and I were talking about David Simon's The Corner, his mediated version of drug life in Baltimore, and how his affections are for the affectations which then get framed in stunning cinematography. One of the big moments I remember from The Corner is when the school teacher has the drug dealers step aside for a moment while she marches school kids through the neighborhood and like a viscous river, they fall back in to pitching prices at cars. A great/corny Moses moment that would probably not happen in real life, but it's still an image that hangs in my head and does something, which is more than I can say for most of TV. Maybe like a lot of of the New Orleans music that builds up Treme, it's not in the lyrics or even the melodies but in the rhythm and arrangements that the profundity lies. It doesn't need to say something different because it is from the bones up different. New Orleans is a city that speaks itself; Treme is just another channel on which part of the message comes through.
Chocolate Milk, Actions Speak Louder Than Words (lala) Rodriguez, Cold Fact (lala) Allen Ginsberg, First Blues (Book: Amazon; Album: lala) William Basinksi, The Disintegration Loops I (lala)
I dug Brett Milano's Offbeat piece on the other New Orleans funk band, the long forgotten Chocolate Milk. I don't know where I heard about Rodriguez, but as bug-eyed, Moog-friendly folk goes it's a stunner. Everyone knows Allen Ginsberg. William Basinski I know from lots of places, but this Rick Moody story in The Rumpus about his Disintegration Loops, pieces about digitizing tapes so old they disintegrated in the player, started just as the Word Trade Center went down in view of his window got me. I don't know if this degree of provenance of information will ever be valuable or even useful or if it does becomes so, the sites will still be behind the links, but here it is, playing out its own disintegration loop.
I live in an apartment, sink leaks thru the walls Lower Eastside full of bedbugs, Junkies in the halls House been broken into, Tibetan Tankas stole Speed freaks took my statues, made my love a fool Speed freaks took my statues, made my love a fool
Days I came home tired nights I needed sleep Cockroaches crawled in bed with me my brain began to creep My work will never be done, my rest will never begin I'll be dead and buried and never pleasure win I'll be dead and buried and never pleasure win
Lover boy threw meat at me cursed the day we met Speed freaks and bedbugs New York City's what you get Someday they'll build subways get rid of all the cars Cops kill all the bedbugs speed freaks land on mars Cops kill all the bedbugs speed freaks land on mars
Quiet American is a found-sound-manipulated-into-music project along the lines of Carl Stone but this person stays closer to the sound part and yet coaxes nearly subconscious songs and elegant compositions from those sounds. It sounds like simple thing to do, weird sounds are cool 'n' all, but it's rare that the results are as embraceable as this. Dig "Malaria." Hat tip to Dickie Landry for bubbling this to the surface.
I've never heard this particular Carl Stone album. I came to him when I picked up Mom's sound-unheard at Paradise Records one afternoon eons ago when my friend the manager was frustrated with his job and said "go get anything you want out of the racks" and since then, I have maintained a policy of getting something I've never heard of whatsoever with a free CD ticket or trade credit and it's rarely led me astray. pict.soul is electronica by and for mosquitoes, whereas Mom's is a muthafucka of simple genius loop usage.
I have no idea what Tonstartssbandht is all about besides being a lower rent Animal Collective, except that Randy posted this and Beyoncé's thighs compel me to spread the word.