Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Under the radar...

I promise I will get back to regular posting soon, I have been swamped over the past two weeks with many things.

In the meantime, go check out some stuff that I have found elsewhere and have been listening to lately...

Henri Texier - Varech via Whoops
OvO - Miastenia and The Ladies - They Mean Us both via Una Piel de Astracan

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to..."

While on a mission to liberate a copy of the March 1968 issue of Avant Garde Magazine, (I'm working on the entire series, sparked by Mon Chaton giving me Issue #3 for X-Mas), I picked up the catalog for the 1965 MOMA show, The Responsive Eye. Although not what I was looking for, a very nice consolation prize. The show in question was a showcase of the then crystallizing Op-Art movement, which had been slowly gathering steam since the mid-30s.

What drew me in to the slim bookr is the Bridget Riley piece wrapped around the softcover. I've grown to admire Riley's work quite a bit ever since my introduction to her through the back of the Faust Tapes album cover. The interesting fact about Riley that sealed my fandom is that she first adapted her sterile, clean and emotionless style after a failed romance. Imagine being so devastated by the loss of love that for nearly a decade, all works produced were devoid of color and exhibited such a cold and calculated lack of feeling, while still filled with passion and able to evoke a response in the viewers mind and heart. The painting above, Fall (1963), is from the earliest of that period, and with the further understanding of the artist's world, we gain new insight into their works.

Riley believed that the art happened in the space between the canvas and the eye of the viewer, and across the Atlantic, a similar idea was beginning to gather force at the cinema...

Jean-Luc Godard had already made waves with the release of A Bout de Souffle in 1960, shocking audiences with it's as to for unseen editing techniques and self referencing. Godard was part of a movement in film that assumed it's audience to be intelligent enough to realize they were watching a series of still pictures, edited together to form a narrative. He rejected the Hollywood aesthetic of forcing the audience's reaction with dramatic pandering. Along with Truffaut's Les Quatre Cent Coups and Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amore, A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) heralded the birth of the Nouvelle Vague, which reached it's most accessible peak with Godard's Bande A Part.

Equal parts comedy, drama and film noir, Bande A Part references not only itself and other films, but also pulls heavily from the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, and the surrealist writings of Aragon and Andre Breton. Described by Godard as Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka, and by his critics as a Godard film for those who don't care for Godard, I rewatched Bande A Part this weekend as a part of my black and white movie marathon. In the 5-7 years since I last saw this film, I must have gained quite a perspective, as I was glued to the screen this time through, and would probably now place it in my top 10 films, and favorite of Godard's work, period.

So what does all this have to do with the albums I'm about to post? Maybe the idea of action taking place between the performer and the audience fits the conceptual approach of the following artists like a glove...

First up is Italian slow core darlings Larsen, who's mysterious antics reach past the simple ideas of performer/audience separation all the way into the studio. Apparently, when underground Prince of Misery M. Gira first traveled to Europe to record Larsen's debut, the band chose to hide behind a white curtain during the entire process, cutting even the producer/label owner out of the clique. For their second album, Play, Larsen drew inspiration and melodic cues from the equally shrouded Brit avant electro duo Autechre. If anything could ever top Kronos Quartet covering Eno's Music for Airports, you are about to hear it.

Blowing in on the Norwegian winds is death free jazz anti "group" Supersilent. Originaly conceived as a once off improv during the 1997 Bergen Jazz Festival, Supersilent continued to push boundaries with their second release, entitled simply, 4. This record, as all of their efforts, foregoes any titles to alleviate the listener of preconceptions. Also true to form, 4 is compiled from hours and hours of live tape with minimal overdubs, as the band never "writes or practices" songs, or even speaks a word to one another outside performances.

Finally, I give you the master of treated guitar, Christian Fennesz, and his most recent effort, Venice. The long awaited follow up to his break through Endless Summer, Fennesz slyly continues to hint at melody, while briefly joined on his sojourn by David Sylvan, which may be the greatest pairing since Fripp and Eno. This record will wash over you like a half remembered dream several times before making a full appearance in waking consciousness. Allow time for full effect to take hold.

Paik - Monster of the Absolute
Paik's most recent record builds on Satin Black's strengths in song/suite dynamic build. Highly recomended.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Reader survey...

I use this space to yammer on endlessly about myself all the time. Now it's your turn. As the counter on the bottom right hand side of the page has gotten closer and closer to ten large, I've grown curious about my readers.

Here's my solution...

It'll take 10 seconds of your time, and it will satisfy my questions about the who, where, and why. So, copy and paste the short questionnaire that follows onto a comment page and fill that sucker out. Grazie.

1. boy or girl?
2. country/state?
3. age?
4. fave upload so far?
5. fave post (topic) so far?
6. name 3 black & white films
7. Bowie or T.Rex?
8. 1 record you would like to see uploaded here
9. do you ever visit the non-music related links on my list?
10. am I sexy or what?

Ever wonder what US Maple would sound like if the lead singer was suicidal instead of sleazy? I'll bet you anything they'd sound a lot like The Dead Science. Frost Giant is their third record and the first I had heard of them. This one took me by surprise and held my attention for awhile when it came out late last year. Half pseudo-freeform improv dissolve and disillusion, half heart-swollen torch song + guitar bombast, this set slithers on it's belly then swings wide, a drunken glare fixed upon the face of desperation. I like this band so much I'll even forgive the fact that two members moonlight with Xiu Xiu. Ouch!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Obscured by leaves...

After mentioning the FM3 Buddha Machine a few posts back, I began to covet said micro meditative sound object. Fortunately for me, my favorite local record store happened to have one left in stock, which I gladly purchased for $25 this very afternoon.

Since then, I have grown quite enamored with my pocket sized green plastic portable media installation. I spent a good hour at the coffee shop, offering it over to friends and strangers alike, allowing them to discover the cold ambient charm for themselves, while taking notes on the variety of responses. At least half who held the FM3 with their own hands inquired as to where it could be purchased, restoring my belief in the abilities of art and concept to open eyes wide with wonder still, even in the simplest of forms.

It has already begun to slowly change my life.

In similar thought, Markus & Eri Popp, (of Oval and Microstoria), commenced their project So in 2002, and the music heard on their debut is considered unfinished still. Drawing from and reworking song cycles out of Eri's archives, Makus worked his bit-smoldering, hallucinogenic oval process on the warm organic tones of her soft, sensual voice and acoustic guitar textures. The two collaborators continued working on the files until FedEx showed up for the CDR, recording new vocal and guitar parts directly into their PowerBook's internal mic up to the last minute.

To continue the concept, Markus & Eri decided to build a completely customized So Fi-PA-system, that consisted of two Triode amplifiers based on ancient schematics, rated at 6-8 Watts each, as well as a set of homemade broadband speakers created with 1950s movie theater speakers, using an empty bottle as a quasi-backloaded Tractrix (Spherical) horn and mounted in plain cardboard boxes. The sound created was strange and fragile, and the details to replicate the system are apparently available for those interested.

In the Garden of Eaten...

The house I live in was built in 1925. I occupy the second floor, a tiny, one bedroom with character to spare. It is far from perfect, but in a sense, perfect for my needs. Double-doors open the livingroom to the front and allow access to my balcony, which overlooks a rather large front yard. Ever since I moved in last September, I've wanted to put that yard to good use, specifically, with a Sunday afternoon game of croquet. This Sunday, my wish will be granted.

Now, mind you, no simple, casual game will do. Not for me, nor my friends. This Sunday's match will be to the death, a tiered tournament 'till the last ball-smacker stands proud, golden mallet thrust high in the springtime sun. A champion.

For extra entertainment/humor/ridiculousness, I've decided there will also be a best dressed award given to the player with the most creative and/or appropriate attire. DJ Air France will be couture judge. Being French, I assumed she would be the most qualified for such a lofty title.

You have no idea how excited I am, in 76 hours, I will be on that balcony, looking down at my friends, drinking mojitoes, dressed like Victorian socialites, characters from Heathers and Alice in Wonderland, all playing a ruthless, bloody CROQUET DEATH MATCH!!!

In keeping with the high spirits I am currently in, I'm dropping some jazz science on y'all today...

Meet Mr. Joe McPhee, cult figure and tenor sax monster, McPhee and his quintet + cut the three tracks on Nation Time live in 1970, which was released the following year on CjR records, (dusty finger alert: if you find the original, buy that fucker, 'cause nobody else has it. For real). This is a serious heavy heavy heavy jazz funk beast, I promise you won't find anything that smokes as much, or gets your ass to shaking this hard. The centerpiece stomper Shakey Jake is a reckless, organ driven free funk freak out that has yet to be matched.

While I'm at it, Nothing Is would be my all time favorite Sun Ra joint. Recorded at various NY state college shows in 1966 and released on ESP in 1970, Sun Ra and his Arkestra pack the tight black grooves on this piece of vinyl with the exuberance and mysticism that made him infamous. Dancing Shadows explodes out of your cones and takes this one off like a non stop flight to Saturn, and if the ominous and hypnotic Exotic Forest and Shadow World don't make you a believer, than your soul is lost forever, man.

As usual, headphones are recommended,

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Writing with a ghost over my shoulder...

One of the last assignments I had to complete for my aforementioned sex in lit & film class was a compare and contrast of my favorite book, Lolita, and the two films that bear it's slight resemblance. Needless to say, my mind is still crawling around in the back of my skull, digging around dusky corners for things to further deconstruct. I feel for what my friends must have to endure, self-absorption and soporific meanderings of the tongue and tale.


So, the good thing is, over break, I intend to keep to a strict one novel a week diet, beginning with the already begun Woman in the Dunes. More than likely what follows should go something like this...
Norwegian Wood
Lunar Park
The Man Who Fell To Earth
Invitation To A Beheading
Probably not in that order. That'll take care of the first month and a half, at least.

Speaking of stories, Boris released Mabuta No Ura at some point recently overseas, (namely Japan and Brazil), as a "soundtrack to the film seen on the backside of the eyelids" after reading the stories included in the rather elaborate packaging while listening to the CD enclosed. How's that for hot shit cerebralism? It's a pretty smooth listen, at any rate. More on the acoustic-psych-cum-drone epic end of the Boris spectrum.

NY's Sightings have been making quite a racket for some time, and on their forth outing, Arrived In Gold, they make their own play for higher level thinking noise. Big on dynamics and lean on everything else, leave this one home alone and you'll return to find it's teeth bared, salivating and snarling at you from the corner of your bedroom.

Another forth record in, Paik's Satin Black is a weighty platter as well. After the lead off, the rest of the tracks bleed together, seeping into your headphones on an overcast summer afternoon, patient, threatening. Heavy more in spirit than actual execution, but well executed none the less. Pairs well with a mid period Bardo Pond.

Bon Apetit.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"I like boring things..."

Among this weeks acquisitions, I was able to obtain a copy of the rather handsomely packaged and newly minted book; Andy Warhol Screen Test: The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne - Volume One. The books editors have undertaken the immense and frustrating job of cataloging and organizing every single "screen test" from the original Factory years. Every still from the series is presented, as well as a short bio of each "star", with amusing quotes and anecdotes where necessary.

I have been a big Warhol fan since my early teens and drool at the idea of being able to lounge luridly over the minutiae of his career. Especially the early years, largely due to the fascination with the Factory, it's occupants and hangers-on, the "superstars" and street trash, and how for a few short years in the magical isle of Manhattan, Andy was everything to everyone and the central point between all places light and dark. Warhol helped create the over-saturated junk culture world we live in today, for better or worse, and is most likely the nucleus for all that we consider "art" or artful design.

One of the things that attracts me most is his idea of blending the high and low, it draws me in where ever I notice its presence. Like the Krautrockers mixing British blues rock with avant-garde composition, the radio friendly pop song and musique concrete. Or the current wave of designer toys, museum quality work reduced to vinyl molded bears and bunnies. Adultswim and limited edition sneakers. Graffiti writer clothing lines and the FM3 Buddha Machine. Sure, the downfalls of living in a disposable society are plenty, but so are the benefits.

Another aspect of the Warholian philosophy that I adore is the use of repetition. Adopting the Buddhist axiom to the extreme, (if something is boring for 2 minutes, try it for 4, etc...), Andy used repetition in image, theme, and most poignantly in his early filmwork. Imagine actually watching all 4 hours and 45 minutes of "Sleep". Unfortunately, I think almost everyone missed the point at the time, but the effects of the experiments are still felt, like an endless series of waves rippling to the shore. A perfect analogy of the idea it represents.

Between the repetition of krautrock and the angularity of post-rock lays This Heat. Their debut filled with tape manipulations, heavy repetition, and chaotic rhythmic explorations marked a turning point in modern music, and has been referenced almost as much as the Velvet Underground. Brit DJ John Peel was among the first to champion This Heat's new adventures in noise, and Made Available collects their sessions recorded for his radio show.

Wine, Women and Song recently featured The Psychic Paramount, current defenders of the art rock repetitious riff throne. I fell in love with this record and had to dig deeper, there was no way these guys just came out of nowhere. As it turns out, from 1997-2001, members of The Psychic Paramount brought sheer terror to those lucky enough to cross the path of Laddio Bolocko, the band before the band. Hailing from NY, (where else, right?), Laddio tore clubs and basements and speaker cones to shreds with their own brand of heavy psych. Often compared to Can and This Heat, their brief legacy has been committed to a double disc set, The Life & Times of Laddio Bolocko. These guys will change you're life. You have been warned.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Current top 10, in no particular order...

10. Rose Wind for magically replacing the pair of Gucci sunglasses I lost in New York
9. Machi Abe's Illustrations for The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
8. Ben & Jerry's Jamaican Me Crazy chunky pineapple and passionfruit swirl sorbet
7. "All Wrapped Up" gift wrap of the 1960s coffee table book
6. This semester being over as of TODAY
5. Having purchased tickets for the Pitchfork Music Festival
4. The Emilio Pucci scarf I found on the sidewalk
3. Riding the '74 Schwinn Breeze for the past few days
2. hundreds of free fonts
1. The dollar store game

Fly Pan Am are probably the most ambiguous band on the Costellation Records roster. No two albums sound even remotely the same, covering every outre genre from no wave single chord riff marathons to tape manipulation, stuttering dry white funk to musique concrete, electronic malfunctions to surf rock freak-outs, and breathy femme fatale pop to aneurysm inducing high volume minimalism. Ceux qui inventent n'ont jamais vecu is their sophomore release, and my personal fave. Accessible only in comparison to their other more obtuse offerings, imagine a summery pop funk record as reinterpreted by a sociopath then deconstructed and stored on a faulty hard drive, and then transfer the corrupted files onto a melted wax cylinder and you're starting to get the idea.

Since Fly Pan Am are on an extended vacation, guitarist Jonathan Parant needed something to do to break the tedium of Montreal living, so he locked himself in a room with Alex St-Onge of Shalabi Effect and recorded the Feu Therese self titled debut, which, somehow, happens to be the most amazing long lost krautrock album never recorded. Manicly pumping organs and crystalline guitar shimmers over an unstoppable and ever shifting rythmn section that seems to be building large wood, stone and steel boxes at the end of a dark hallway. This one burns like the sun.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

"This will be our new language..."

Change is inevitable, unavoidable and frequently terrifying, There is no permanence in this world, only the moment, the temporary.

By it's definition, change brings about the unknown, and by it's nature the unknown can bless as well as curse, and by design, the difference between the two can be as apparent as the difference between two blades of grass. Change is conceptually complex, and is equally representative of positivity, renewal and reinvention.

I had to say goodbye to a large part of my life this weekend. I didn't want to, wasn't ready to, but things change without any consideration of our thoughts or feelings. Perhaps the purest form of change will effect my life right now, with it's slippery dichotomy, bringing about the brightest of days and biggest opportunities from the ashes of heartbreak and loss.

For those of you who grabbed The Crescent's debut a few days ago, change will be the thing you notice most about By The Roads And Fields, a record that no one ever expected or anticipated, arriving without warning in 2003. The same musicians are present, and the dark and moody groove evokes the same response in the listener, a paranoid and claustrophobic melancholy. But this album is almost the antithesis of Now, the hissing walls of sound are replaced with a sparse and delicate latticework of brooding instrumentation with occasional free jazz elements, the vocals are whispered and mumbled right into you ear instead of struggling to be comprehensible from deep within the thickness of the mix. The sound is unmistakably Crescent, without sounding very much like Crescent at all.

Now, imagine the same band as above, fleshed out with a few more members and a broader palette of sounds, (clarinet, cello, banjo, bass saxophone, trumpet, dulcimer, etc...), lugging their equipment along with a portable studio across the English countryside to record in churches, on the beach and in warehouses. That band would be Movietone, and their most recent effort The Sand and the Stars is one of the most hauntingly beautiful records I have ever heard. Kate Wright's sensual and grief filled vocals play against the acoustic and environmental backdrop perfectly, enveloping the listener in a warm blanket of organic sound.

For that entry I also posted Dead C's Tusk, and since I'm already opening the door wider, Bruce Russell, (affiliated with Xpressway cassettes, Flying Nun label and bassist for Dead C), put out a solo album of aggressive post-ambient drone and looped feedback, mysteriously titled Painting the Passports Brown on his own Corpus Hermeticum label. This one will have you pinned to the floor under the weight of it's shamanistic singularity, don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, May 05, 2006

"I'll choke ya to death..."

This past semester at school I had enrolled in a class that had never been offered before: Sex in Literature and Film. Sounds like a fun and interesting and hopefully, er, stimulating coarse, right?

Well, maybe not. In fact, maybe it was unfocused, irritating, and at times, completely ridiculous and embarrassing. Now, when I say embarrassing, I mean for the "professor", a certain Mr. Douglas Brode. Brode's got some serious credentials, and on paper, he seems like the bee's knees, however...

The very first day of class, Brode did the usual "this is what I'm all about". He's done a lot of critical writing on film and has published one novel and has had one screenplay produced. The film is called "Midnight Blue" and was produced for, get this, Playboy Television. I don't know if you're familiar with the kind and quality of movies that were made for the cathode-ray friendly version of everyone's favorite men's magazine, so I'll make it real clear for ya. Imagine a film shot with the budget of a late 80s/early 90s made for TV movie, plus daytime soap opera melodrama, throw in some really, really horrible soundtrack, (the kind that you just know was composed by the same guy that plays Buffet covers at the Hoolighans on Friday and Saturday night, filled to the brim with synth sax and pre programmed bossa beats), and then bookend the whole thing with some gratuitous and unthrilling sex scenes, and you have yourself a B grade T&A flick.

He made us watch this movie. He made us watch this movie, and then with a straight face, told us his main influence was Hitchcock. The only thing that this piece of shit has in common with a Hitchcock film is "Midnight Blue" and "Rear Window" are both two word, three syllable titles.

He wrote a novel too, remember? Guess what we did next for the class?

It's called "The Sweet Prince" and is Brode's take on Hamlet, (Shakespeare is, of coarse, his other main influence). Real quick plot summary: Hamlet is a crossdressing girl, and there is a four way between Hamlet, Ophelia, her brother, and Hamlet's best friend. His book was worse than his movie, essentially a Harlequin romance type thing filled with historical anachronisms. The icing on the cake is that Brode supplanted famous Shakespearian dialog into his book in a completely different context. My personal favorite, after Hammy's uncle is finished defiling Gertrude in the forest, he smells her crotch and says... wait for it.... "There's something rotten in the state of Denmark". I couldn't make this up if I wanted to.

Oblivious to his own foolishness, Brode spent most of the semester relating his work to classics like "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" and "Lolita" and dropping more names than an E! News special. The one good thing about this class is my final paper can be about any movie or film I choose, fulfilling a dream that I've had for some time...

My thesis paper is called, "Arrested Emotional Development in the Fragile Misogynist: Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66"

Say what you will about Gallo, but I think he's a genius. Sure, he's a self involved asshole, but he makes me laugh and is almost always in character, and that takes commitment. I also recently discovered we have the same preference in transportation, and anyone who doesn't buy petrol is a swell guy in my book.

Buffalo '66 is one of my favorite films, and for a period of time, I would watch it almost daily and began to model my look after Gallo's Billy Brown. You have to admit, he's very sexy in a creepy and greasy kinda way. And both B '66 and Brown Bunny have amazing original soundtracks. It's a shame the John Frusciante stuff wasn't used in Brown Bunny at all.

Gallo's other work as a musician is great, and I wish he would come out with a follow up long player sometime soon. Unfortunately, if we take the length of time between the release of his solo record and the last recordings of his old band Gray as any indication, we might all have to wait another decade for Vincent to lay another slab of pure gold on us.

Monday, May 01, 2006

My absence was really the cornerstone of my involvement...

I know I said I would post a whole bunch of stuff this weekend, but two life altering events occurred on Sunday, delaying my chance to drop the science for a bit.

Event number one: my hot water heater broke, leaving me to ice-cold showers and the resident below me to showers of water in his living room. Neither one of us are too happy about this, but I'd rather freeze while bathing than deal with a minor flood, another point for second floor living.

Event number two: my acquisition of the Criterion Collection edition of The Man Who Fell To Earth. For the past 24 I have been highly distracted by a Roeg directed, Bowie filled other-world of fashionable aliens and cryptic plot lines. A eerie place filled with naked hirsute extras and 1970's haute designer furnishings, Rip Torn and a bubble blowing Buck Henry. My all time favorite Sci-Fi flick, in all of it's digitally restored, wide screened and director's cut glory. I am in heaven, and now fully aware of how brutally the film was cut for it's US release. A tragic mistake finally made good.

If you are familiar with the film, and now knowing it's on my top shelf, you will immediately understand my appreciation of art that is largely impenetrable. I like things that unfold over time, revealing hidden layers and subtext with each viewing/reading/listen. Give me J.G. Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition any day.

And while your at it, drop the needle on a Dead C record. Those highly prolific Kiwis have been cranking out opiate friendly and frustratingly limited edition records packed to the run off groove with dense sheets of dissonant sound for over a decade. Each new album tops the previous, and the relatively recent, Fleetwood Mac(?) inspired Tusk is near perfect in it's mood altering dark bliss. I can't think of a guitar sound that seems so much like forever in all directions at once.

Another exercise in sheer depth of sound is The Crescent's full length debut Now. The jaw dropping one-two punch of lead tracks Sun and Superconstellation set the stage for one of the best recordings of the 90s. The whole thing sounds like it was recorded with contact mics attached to the outside of an airplane hanger in the seventh ring of Hell, and believe me, that is such a good thing.

Headphone use is recommended.