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30 April 2012

En plein air

In recent years the metaphor "road to nowhere" has come to take on a lot more contextual laterality. Perhaps because its figurative dimension of the expression often has a literal counterpart in the real world. Aside from what I was saying a while back on this topic, the images here represent another thing I saw a lot of as I walking various routes around the city a couple of years ago. I don't doubt that it's a familiar sight to many, common in almost every city. The circuitous pavings of communities-to-be, sitting empty and overgrown in the nearly four years since everything ground to a halt.

Here we have two recent series of photographs dealing with the post-crash landscape of Spain. The first series (above) was done by Luis Galán García & Daniel Fernández Pascual and appeared about a year ago at the deconcrete website. Documenting the aftermath of the housing boom in and around the city of Madrid, the authors wonder if these "failed urban speculation [might possibly] be turning into natural reserves for the city," and explain the purpose of their project thusly:

"Our series of photographs illustrate these contemporary urban voids placed back in a rural context. We propose to learn from the beauty of the unfinished. Decaying urban contexts, which tried to be a city, are mutating into a bucolic landscape. Former networks of pathways that were destroyed come back again; extinguished native plants become the true green areas for the metropolis, whose wild growth has not been avoided; place names evoke a narrative of a landscape to be recovered, sounds of an interrupted nature... We foster the unexpected, where the uninhabited used to be."

* * * *

The second and more recent series is by Bercelona-based architect Julia Schulz-Dornburg, entitled “Modern ruins, a profitable topography.” About her project in-progress, Schulz-Dornburg writes:

"The massive implementation of leisure resorts and residential complexes in the recent decade has transformed vast costal regions of Spain and spread far into its interior provinces. ...The unfinished buildings that colonize the profitscapes in question are certainly a type of their own. These constructions, some barely begun, were never finished and therefore never fulfilled their purpose of shelter. Does their lack of history – nobody ever lived in it and nothing ever happened within its walls – render this type of ruin obsolete, without any chance of transformation, or can it end up acquiring some significance or value?"

I'm sure "Potemkin villages" is an incredibly weak and inaccurate analogy, but still it's the one the one that leaped to mind when I first saw each set of the photos above. At nay rate, can't help note that Schulz-Dornburg's text is thick with textbook Romanticisms in its discussion of ruins. Which has been such a recurrent trope of late -- be it in discussion of Detroit-ism "ruin porn" and other unrelated items.* On the other hand, García and Pascual forego any suggestion of a quasi-sorta-maybe-apocalyptic "sublime" and opt for the mundane -- - some sort of new, era-specif Barbizon School of outdoorsy verism. But with a deeply perverse twist.

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* Not to slight her, not at all...but that sort of thing has become the too-obvious starting-point in trying to access or address or analyze things of this nature. I've been guilty of sifting through it in prior posts, if only because I found it vaguely applicable as a starting point, yet naggingly inadequate in so many ways.

29 April 2012

No Wallflowering Allowed

Naturally a person can't throw all caution to the wind in such instances, but still...

28 April 2012

Product Placement

And given the Chi-centric nature of that last mixtape, I probably should've used this as the graphic. But then agian, had I fully gone with my own inclinations toward a period-specif Chi comp, it'd stack up to little more than "A Beginner's Guide to Charles Stepney." Which I would assume is already knowd territory (or should already be, at least).

Anyway: Peavey. Seems like from various magazines back the day -- everything from Hit Parader to Musician -- used to regularly feature the Peavey celebrity-endorsement ad. Quite the aggressive marketing campaign, they had. Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot uses Peavey. Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon uses Peavey. Carmine Appice used some Peavey product or another. Sure they do. Because talk to any musician you knew, and chances were very high that the scoffing unanimous consensus was that Peavey absolutely sucked. Maybe get one of their low-end guitars if you're teaching yourself how to play, they'd shrug, but from thereonout -- nuh uh.

As I recall, Golden Earring reputedly used an all-Peavey PA system when touring stateside. Which I can believe. Because the consensus from the same quarters would have it that the two deserved each other.

27 April 2012

V-2 Schneider

I remember an interview with Derrick May from about a decade ago in which the topic of Kraftwerk came up. The interviewer asked what May thought about the common complaint that Kraftwerk had, many years previously, build their own expensive, supposedly state-of-the-art studio yet had failed to issue any new music in the years since. May rolled his eyes and replied, "What, are people starving?"

But yeah, as Simon recently pointed out, they've been something of "heritage act" for some time now.

Dispatches from the Copyright Wars: Fair (Ab)use

Came across this item some weeks ago and was naturally amused. My brother-in-law had given me Thorne's first book, The Internet is a Playground, for Christmas year before last, and it provided a lot of laughs. But now that I happen to see Thorne's site, it appears that the back-and-forth between the author and his former publisher has continued in recent weeks, offering new twists. And I can't help but be knocked over by the cheeky introduction of this bit...

Which is of course a Banksy reference, which in turn may or may not have been an allusion to the "Joywar" incident that involved visual artist Joy Garnett from about 8 years ago...

...Or is this just projecting/wishful thinking on my part?*

*  Postscript/Update: Might be. As best as I can determine, the Banksy stencil appears to have slightly pre-dated the Garnett episode.

26 April 2012

Last Stop on the Groove Line

For this, the 34th anniversary of the opening of Studio 54, I toss up an off-the-cuff bit at the '70s blog.

Despite how it might come across in the piece, I didn't hate the song in question. It was a good tune to get stoopit to back in the day, and I guess it still if if you're inclined to do that sort of thing.

I can recall disco's gradual saturation of the mainstream in the years following the release of Saturday Night Fever; and I remember the backlash that eventually (inevitably) followed a few years later -- the increasing popularity of the "Disco Sucks" decrees, etc. But disco didn't exactly suck, not as such, not at the beginning. It just got more and more bland and formulaic as the years wore on and it became further and further removed from its funk and Latin roots. There was more and more of it hogging the airwaves, and the quality of it was getting annoyingly weaker as the cultural glut was reaching critical mass. Even if you didn't mind the music so much in the first place, that type of scenario was bound to breed resentment. And even if you didn't mind it so much in the first place, there was a good chance that you'd been waiting & ready to see it finally make its exit from the cultural landscape.

So the backlash that kicked in around 1979 was inevitable, in many respects. From the beginning, much of the anti-disco sentiment came from the blue-collar heartland. It's perhaps for that reason that the backlash has often been portrayed as hinging on racism and homophobia. Personally, I've often thought that's too limited and simplistic a reading of the situation. If anything, there was a big streak of anti-cosmopolitanism about the whole thing. New York was already the target of public derision at the time, with public attitudes in a portion of the American population falling firmly behind the feds' "drop dead" decision in refusing to bail the city out of its fiscal bankruptcy. And the scene at Studio 54 became something of a effigy for that animus. The country was in a major economic slump, so really -- who gave a fuck about what all the "beautiful people" were doing as they partied beyond the velvet ropes?*

Of course dance music didn't disappear after 1979, but it definitely changed course, perhaps following another arc of the backlash -- a musical one. The straightforward 4/4 thumpity-thump of disco became anathema in the years that followed. There was also, as the decade progressed, a tendency to steer things toward a very pared-down, almost metronymically minimal, beat -- a skeletal remnant of what had previously constituted "funk." Bass was likewise minimalized, and polyrhythms were out. And that style became pervasive across the spectrum -- from the top of the pop charts down to most anything produced by the likes of Bill Laswell -- throughout the early and middle 1980s. There were pockets of resistance to the trend, of course -- electrofunk (and it Southern cousin, the "Miami bass" sound), latin freestyle, and D.C. go-go. All of which helped stave off some of the malaise some listeners experienced in the face of the the new austerity plan. I expect it's why house and techno came about at the time -- as distinct locale-specific responses to a hunger, rushing in to fill a void.

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*  Add to all this that Jimmy Carter's chief political strategist Hamilton Jordan was alleged in many media reports to have engaged in questionable behavior at Studio 54 -- from snorting cocaine to engaging in sexual trysts with other clubgoers. A federal inquest failed to substantiate the accusations; but whether true or unfounded, the rumors played right into a lot of public cynicism at the time.

25 April 2012

Vibes and Stuff (Some Seasonal Isht)

As I said previously, back when I used to do radio at a community station on the south side of Chicago, I ended up wearing a variety of hats over the years. So if this here constitutes "breaking format," s'maybe because I used to have a hand in several formats.

My favorite show to do over the years was one I put together myself, a show devoted to a lot of (then-) contempo breaks & beats material. But as the mix might allow, I often ladened the thing with a fair share of "classic material" -- old soul, funk, late '60s-early '70s jazz-funk, early hip-hop, maybe even the occasional disco or dub track, depending on how things lined up. As it is, I've let a lot of that stuff sit on the shelves the past two-three years, letting it fall by the wayside, largely neglected. Until recently, that is. In recent weeks I've been listening to little else but.

Which Would explain why I'm getting all Venus Flytrap this time around.

Anyway, I could go on with this sort of mix for hours. Most of it falling squarely within or on margin or another of the "jazz" thing of a particular vintage. A bunch of old staple tracks, plus me showing my biases with some stuff; which means a lot of midwestern artists, a good portion of which hails from the south-side Chi scene of about 4 decades ago (which may account for some of the more "obvious" selections on the thing). But this means of sharing doesn't allow for hours, so instead here's seventy minutes; which amounts to a "short mix" as far as such things go (or should go), but it'll do for now. Probably likely to throw some regulars downloaders for a loop, but I make no apologies ('cept for the sound quality of a couple of vinyl rips which leave a little something to be desired).

So for those of you who do, have at it...

::: LINK :::

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21 April 2012

Needle to the Groove

I did my Record Store Day shopping a day early to beat the crowds.

Actually, that's a lie. I'd lost track, didn't realize that RSD was today, and just happened to hit a local spot yesterday. I have hadn't much reason to keep track of such stuff, lately. It ain't in the budget like it used to be. Which is neither here nor there, because I was majorly spoiled what what Chicago had to offer in that category, and the ones in my current locale simply do not stack up to what I'm used to. The Delmark-affiliated Jazz Record Mart, Dusty Groove, plus innumerable second-hand spots scattered about the city...it all made RSD a bit pointless because almost every Saturday (or Sunday) was a record-store day. What little shopping I've done for music since I moved here has mostly involved buying gifts for other people. It isn't uncommon for me to spend an hour or more in a place and leave empty-handed because I didn't encounter the temptation to make a purchase.

But yeah, it all comes down to my being irredeemably "pre-digital" when it comes to be attached to music as embodied by a physical object -- especially wax. There've been plenty of testimonials written on the topic already, so I see little reason to go into it at length. Chalk it up to my suffering from some unshakable case of old-school geezer commodity fetishism. But yes, kids -- vinyl does sound better when played on a half-way decent system. Warmer, richer, more "organic," whatever, etcetera, blahblahblah. But mainly I find the physical aspect results in a different relationship with the music itself -- from the large-format packaging (including liner notes with some genres), down to extra manual effort involved in de-sleeving, cueing, lifting and flipping. It leads to a more intimate relationship with the music, if only because the format involves a more linear and durational experience with the act of listening.

20 April 2012

Structural Elements

Images by New York photographer Stanley Greenberg, from his series Architecture Under Construction (publ. 2010). Interview with the photographer at Urban Omnibus.

19 April 2012

Tanz der Lemminge (Fugue in 'E' Minor)

Airport Through The Trees chimes in on the running debate about EDM (Electronic Dance Music) that's been making the rounds these past few weeks.

Dunno...as far as the "underground" vs. "overground" dialectic is concerned, I don't have a dog in that race. But yeah, certain aspects -- certain sounds, at least -- of dance culture have gone mainstream in a big way recently; what, with the ascent of "the soar" via the flood of euro-trance cliches that have become such a staple in mainstream pop.*  Add to that the coinciding emergence of "brostep." The latter turns up on my local college station a fair amount, all of it of the "WWE anthem boner wobble" sort -- stuff that's more or less in the same vein as Shrillex, which is the exact sound that fills up the format of what purports to be the station's drum'n'bass show. Since I've avoided all of this dross the past couple of years, I'd missed Shrillex and Guetta. Reading Chris's post on the topic at mnml ssgs last week, I quite frankly couldn't imagine that Shrillex must be as godawful as Chris described, but then when I played the clip...fuckin' hell if it isn't actually worse than the description. O, but if ears could puke.

At any rate, a couple of people commented at mnml ssgs that this is nothing new and I'm inclined to agree. Yeah sure, there was the business with Justice and all that similar Ed Banger revved-up electro that was so de riguer with the Vice magazine, urban hipster clubrat set some 4-5 years ago. But I remember this going back far further than that. But at least one commenter at mnml ssgs seconded what I was already thinking, which is there were similar things in the offing as far back as the mid-late '90s. Among a number of things, there was the "Big Beat" craze; which sounded to me at the time as electronic/breaks & beats type fare designed to appeal to listeners in the "rock" camp -- people who otherwise didn't listen to/bother with electronic music. Around 1997 it was as all over the place for a season or two, only to find all those Chemical Brothers and Propellerheads and Fatboy Slim CDs started piling up in the 'USED' bins about 18 months later. And then was DJ Keoki and the string of shite "superstar" DJs that followed in his wake -- always promenently featured/promoted in the pages of URB magazine, when word had it that a good many of them spun the most calculatedly pandering of sets while consistently trainwrecking the transitions between tracks.

But ultimately I guess you could blame all this on Daft Punk.

At any rate, the big difference this time around -- as the NYT article makes clear -- is that it's got far more appeal and that there's much, much more lucre getting behind it than any time before. And the complaints from the subcultural side of the matter runs the expected spectrum -- chiefly that the "gentrification" and bastardization of a particular form of music/lifestyle as corporatized mega-buck pile on to get a piece of the action. But the concerns are not (for some) strictly about music but also about the social dynamics that are often connected with it. More specifically, that the EDM boom -- as a mass-appeal, moneyed-up popular phenomenon -- destroying the club/rave communal ritual by turning it into an arena-friendly, face-forward spectacle.**  Not that I'd disagree, but I can't help but wonder if it has an upside. For instance, I can't count how many times in the past I've been out clubbing and the dancefloor was being cluttered-up and obstructed by dullards who just stood around the entire time, locked in place watching a DJ that they could only see from the shoulders up. So maybe this EDM craze means that that sort of person can now fuck off to other venues that're more suited to that sort of thing, leaving more space on the dancefloor for those who are there to put it to proper use.

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*  Yes, I actually do partially subscribe to the polemic that the mainstream often has a parasitic/piggybacking relation with the so-called underground, and that the latter often defines itself via its opposition to the former. But I also think that its far more complicated than that, and that it involves too many contextual-specific variables to discuss in such pat, either/or terms.
**  Is it just me, or does the Deadmau5 concert pic that heads the Times article look it might've been revised & updated after something found in one of Albert Speer's sketchbooks?

18 April 2012

"God is dead, punk is dead, yet VH1 seems to be doing fine."


Listening to the local college radio station a while back, and the DJ played "I'm Your Man." Wifey comments, "This song needs to be in Russian. Then maybe I'd like it more." Think it was the lo-buck Casio sound on the thing, which probably made her think of certain East European dining spots we ended up at back in Chicago back during the early 'nineties.

14 April 2012

Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City (Silence is a Rhythm, Too...)

Was a bit taken aback by this one at first, if only because it prompted me to wonder what could possibly remain so "secret" about a history that's been worked over so thoroughly throughout the past decade -- that every young person knows very well by now by way of its revival and all the reissues that followed. Isn't this item arriving many years too late? Isn't it just a little bit pointlessly redundant by now? Hasn't that terrain already been mapped and mapped again, already?

I imagine Savage's liner notes are the big selling point, what makes the thing worthwhile. And to be fair, there are a number of tracks and included on the thing that largely fell between the cracks during the post-punk resurrection of recent years. Nice call with including a track by Robert Rental and Thomas Leer. And then there's the surprise appearance of the Method Actors, who -- even though they hailed from the early days of the Athens, GA scene -- never found much of an audience on these shores but were apparently something of a hit in the United Kingdom.*  I especially recall liking their cover of "All Tomorrow's Parties," where they took the bold liberty of dispensing with its dirge and drone and kicking the whole thing into a reeling, uptempo dance mode. Wait a minute, here we go...

And from the track listing you might've noticed a couple of tunes that also turned up on the Brutalist Tarts series of mixes I've uploaded here. Yes, the period music in question constituted "high school music" for me once-upon-a; the stuff that undoubtedly played a big role in irreparably warping my aesthetic sensibilities for life. Yes, I sought out and owned and listened to a lot of the stuff. Only to succumb to that common scenario some years later while I was in college -- selling a lot of the stuff off for the sake of lightening my load, supplementing my student loans, or bartering for other, newer records, etc.

And then at some point in the late '90s I started seeking some of it out, again. Not sure why -- may have been just from combing the used bins at various northside shops on the Chicago northside, looking for something or other by some act that I'd missed years ago; some acts that had a certain reputation for being exceedingly "experimental" at the time, about whom I'd been long curious but whose records didn't come my way at the time. In the course of which I revisited some other stuff from the post-punk years and was struck anew by the sound -- the styles and the sonics and whatnot that were so peculiar to the age but had soon thereafter waned, not leaving any sort of lasting or discernible influence on much of anything that followed.

So I more or less started re-gathering the stuff. Which wasn't hard at the time, because there was a fair amount of it to be found in the used bins of a place like Reckless Records -- usually selling for a couple of dollars a pop. Little did I know that within two to three years, lots of people would be combing the bins for the exact same stuff. Here's to being slightly ahead of the curve, I guess; because if it'd been a little later it would've required about 6x the outlay to acquire the better portion of the early 23 Skidoo discog.

I believe one of the groups that had me searching in the first place was Rip Rig + Panic. I remembered hearing a little something about them back in the day, and I'd gathered that they had something or other to do with "jazz." It wasn't until several years after the fact that I finally heard them, courtesy of a home-taped cassette of their debut album God lent to me by a friend from the Netherlands. I was knocked out by it at the time; bewildered that someone'd thought to run that combination of sounds up the flagpole, and that anyone'd saluted it....

RR+P are one of those odd, incongruous acts that have almost wholly evaded Reissue Culture over the years. Not difficult to see why, to suspect that it can attributed to lack of significant interest. To be honest, going back and listening to God a decade after I'd first heard it, I found the "jazz" angle to be a little difficult. Difficult, as in: a bit over-reaching, unconvincingly executed, mal-adopted. But then I finally acquired a copy of the follow-up, I Am Cold, in which everything falls together in a much more spirited and persuasive manner. Much of that is probably on account of the appearance of Neneh Cherry's stepdad Don stepping aboard to help out on a good portion of the sessions.

Don Cherry's legacy was one that was difficult to assess in those years. Much of what he'd done was long out-of-print, and what little had been reissued mostly involved his work as a sideman in the Ornette Coleman Quartet. His more "open," "cosmic," pan-global "fusion" work of the early '70s had fallen into the domain of the archeological -- known and hoarded only by those who had esoteric knowledge of such things. At some point on God where the group breaks into a chant that's an echo of Don's own "Brown Rice" from 1975...

Which may have been one of Cherry's more high-profile joints during the '70s, but the rest of it -- the raga fusion material done with Indian musicians, the Afro-Brazilian excursion of his Organic Music Society, playing with Terry Riley, the collaboration he did with Krzysztof Penderecki, etc. etc. -- was mostly only for the most adventurous of "avant" enthusiasts. Speaking of Penderecki & the like...

Mommy, what is that man doing to that piano? If there one aspect of RR+P jazzisms that came up short, it was Mark Springer's work on the keys, which always struck my ear as a forced, rough impression of Cecil Taylor. Taylor having long been controversial figure in the jazz world, his detractors charging that he'd been one of those artists most guilty of taking the music in a swing-less, soulless "avant" outer limits; mostly on account of his turning too much of his ear in direction of European influences (i.e., "atonal"/serialist contemporary classical music). I recall Greg Tate, circa the early-mid 1980s, relaying a remark that Betty Carter made about Taylor; her claiming that black music had to have a certain quality to it -- a "thang," she called it -- and that Taylor's music didn't have it. Which may seem a fair enough verdict on some of Taylor's music, but not all. Because there are times (like in the above) when you sense that was merely venturing further (perhaps furthest) down the same road that a number of his contemporaries had taken -- seizing the angular, fragmented rhythms that Thelonious Monk had developed, and fragmenting them to the point of maximal suspense and disjuncture. The result being that it's like listening to Monk as you and the music are being sucked across the event horizon.

+ + + + +

The New York post-punk scene wasn't without its share of jazz(-ish) influences or excursions -- James Chance, of course, as well as the bewildering harmolodic mess whipped up by James 'Blood' Ulmer his crew, and the Lounge Lizards. But as one of many offshoots of the disintegration of the Pop Group, Rip Rig + Panic could be viewed as expanding on post-punk's politicized aesthetics of dub/disco/funk hybridity by pushing it more squarely in the direction of jazz. Not that any of this was wholly unprecedented or an entirely ground-zero scenario. In some respects, it could also viewed as a response -- an attempt at wiping the slate clean of the tendencies that led to the bloated and tepid jazz-rock that out of the prog scene during the 1970s. If anything, one could easily argue that "punk jazz" idea harkens back to those portions of the '60s psychedelic counterculture that had embraced the likes of Coltrane, Sun Ra, and Albert Ayler (e.g., the MC5's "Starship" and the Stooges' "L.A. Blues") resulting.

A dubious rumor had it that Patti Smith once had the notion to approach Ornette Coleman with the idea of doing a collaborative project. No telling what might've come of such a thing, but one can't help but wonder if similar ground hadn't already been amply covered by Brigitte Fontaine and Areski in 1969 with their album Comme à la Radio...

The accompaniment for most of the album's tracks was provided by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, who at the time had recently started a productive (though not terribly lucrative) residency in Paris that lasted about 2-3 years.  Having come together under the AACM banner, the members of the Art Ensemble took the Association's charter for freeform playing and composition as carte blanche to throw the boundaries of its music wide open -- wide enough to allow or account for an optimum of musical and cultural influences. What result is a polyglot vernacular in which almost any & all influences can find sufficient elbow room to intermingle and intertwine. A venacular that expands to include bicycle horns, whistles, bells, assorted toy instruments and non-musical objects And all of that interspersed with a myriad of vocalizations: miscellaneous shouts, chants, nonce cries, and rants (laughter, curses, the babble of toothpaste adverts, demagoguery from some soapbox pamphleteer, some old busker warbling an unintelligible delta blues tune -- voices from the pulpit or flea market or street corner, all drifting in from a nearby radio or through a window that's always open to the avenue outside. Yet despite all that hubbubery and junk of everyday life, it never strays too far afield from the blues; even as it goes haplessly chasing after chaos or diving into childishly gleeful tussles of spontaneous creativity. Its gleeful energy is the key, what fuels and threads each excursion and provides cohesion as all caution and customs are tossed to the wind.

With the Art Ensemble's later material -- roughly, Fanfare for the Warriors onward -- there was a pronounced return to "roots," a tendency for the music to firmly couch itself in a certain tradition -- espec the more traditionally bluesy of the wide- & swang-hipped New Orleans sort -- and build upward and outward from there. Despite that, there was still an unflagging emphasis on the "outward" part of the equation. But early joints of 1967-1973 (for which there's a lack of good Youtube uploads, unfortunately) follow a different, much more alinear course.*** Reedman Joseph Jarman has counted Anton Webern and John Cage as being among his myriad musical influences. The latter one seems a little too appropriate at times, particularly those times when the group takes to making music/noise from whatever instruments or objects might be laying around. But especially for the role silence played in their earlier studio sessions, the way the group let in become an integral component of the music; allowing it into the music by way of a peculiar spaciousness -- the air through which vibrations travel, the quietude (ceding to it, then driving it back) that is the defining other of all sonances.

As it happens, the Art Ensemble had an NYC post-punk/no-wave connection, as well. Trumpeter Lester Bowie's younger brother Joseph took his trombone to NYC in the 1970s and briefly worked for a short time as a member of James Chance's Contortions before starting his own outfit, Defunkt.

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* I suppose this is still the case. Now that I'm living back down South and am just a short distance downroad from Athens, I still never hear them cited. A local college station has a show devoted to "Georgia Music," on which the DJs routinely spin tunes by Pylon and occasionally by some other throwback Athenians like the Swimming Pool Q's. If they ever do likewise with the Method Actors, I've missed it.

** The story had it that Fontaine and the guys in the AEC first crossed paths via their shared association with a specific Parisian theatrical venue, which is how they came to work together. (One can't help if Areski and various AEC members' shared interest in North African music didn't also factor into the equation, as well.) When asked at the time if the album amounted to some sort of "jazz move" on her part, Fontaine is said to have sharply responded: "Look, for me the Art Ensemble of Chicago aren't jazz musicians, just musicians. I don't like jazz, I detest jazz, I loathe jazz, jazz makes me puke. Except, of course, for the greats, those from when jazz was alive, that is, when I was very young: Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Coltrane...But for me, now, jazz means nothing anymore." (Quoted in George Lewis, The Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music.)

09 April 2012

08 April 2012


Georges de La Tour, the painter of light.

05 April 2012


It might be time for me to do another mixtape.

At present, I have to admit I'm quite smitten with the above item -- the recent cassette release via the Digitalis Limited label by Warsaw-based electronic artist Piotr Kurek. The contents are as lovely as the sleeve art. Limited edition of 75 copies, some of which -- as of this writing -- are apparently still available.

A couple of months ago Kurek did a live session which was made available by the Portuguese label Crónica as the digital-only release Shibboleths. You can hear/download a copy of it via a recent podcast at Modisti.

Likewise with this one. I included a track from this one on the last mixtape from a few months ago -- Cladonia Rangiferina by Sashash Ulz; a new artist who apparently hails from Petrozavodsk in the Russian Republic of Karelia. Lushly organic drones, some of which sounds like it was worked up from various native instruments (harmonium, a domra or balalaika perhaps, etc), quite panoramically pastoral at times, reminding me more than of a little of Mountains' Choral album from a few ago. It came out on Sweat Lodge Guru about a year ago, and quickly sold out. But I expect you could maybe find a download of it on some sharity blog somewhere. Quite gorgeous, highly recommended.


Or: Giving 'em the hi-hat...

Still trying to get my head around this one. Elvin Jones as a hippie-slaying gunslinger. About as weird as Sonny Liston's cameo in Head, except way more cool. Never heard of the film before, but now that I run a search on it I find that it was written by members of the Firesign Theatre, and that they tried (but failed) to get Ginger Baker to be a part of it. Which means that there could've been a interesting high-noon showdown in the works, had all gone as originally planned.

There were a number of tunes on those Coltrane Impulse jawns where Jones's work propelled the thing -- deftly nudged it forward, or upward -- like nobody's biz...

And of course there was "Alabama," which was penned in response to the Birmingham church bombing; where Coltrane blows a stoical and circumspect blues, and there's a big hole (as in a harrowing, volumes-speaking pause) in the middle of the thing, with Jones and Tyner and Garrison brewing up a deeply impressionistic backing that evokes storm clouds amassing on the horizon -- clouds stacking up to ominous height, their bellies swelling and darkening and flickering with the promise of lightning.

I seem to recall a track or two (on the live, in-the-club releases) that I couldn't believe Impulse chose to include -- where things just weren't falling together for the band on that particular song on that particular night, and Jones was the only one holding things together throughout.

All of which reminds me that there's a big part of my record collection that's been parked and collecting dust for a few years now, and which I'm overdue for revisiting.

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