Jan 27, 2009

Naming to Unite and Not Distinguish Between

Ilse Frech - [from I AM]

George Foreman once joked that he named all his children George because he was preparing for the symptoms of brain damage. Passing names down through generations is often joked of as an egotistical archetype. But below the joking, there is truth to the tradition. We should all have the same name because we are all the same person. We are the fetus being born into a strange word. We are the child with the timid hands learning the definitions of words and playing in the parking lot. We are the son getting fired from his job and finding his own way. We are the parents with the soft eyes loving until they cry. We are the adults learning to let go and finally accepting contentment. We are the maturing adults struggling through darkness and aches for meaning. We are the dying in reflection, and the buried in the ground. All those people are us and we will be all those people.

Russian Red Timing Is Crucial (mp3)

Jan 26, 2009

Confidence In Walls

Julieta Aranda - I Have Lost Confidence... (2007)

Once I met this guy who told me he regularly dreamed of being a concrete wall. As he sat quietly at the bar with hands tucked into his coat, I could almost picture it. He told me how he gravitates to places like this; quiet bars, restaurants with tables pressed up to the window glass, well-spaced park benches... because he prefers to sit silent and watch everyone pass him by. I told him I had something to show him and with slight hesitation he bowed his head and followed me across the floor and out onto the sidewalk. I pointed next to the mountain dew machine where I had tagged a stencil on the wall years earlier. He began to chuckle. He said every time he sees graffiti he remembers how much it tickled.

Fever Ray Concrete Walls (mp3)

Jan 24, 2009

The Horse

Corey Arnold - Kitty & Horse Fisherman (2007)

Alessi's Ark The Horse (mp3): This incredible debut EP sounds like the Pernice Brothers had a charasmatic little sister named Joanna Newsom who offered to produce their songs from her tent in the living room. The sound focuses on Alessi's unique London inflection and brooding pace, embellished with plenty of harp and sparkles.

Jan 20, 2009

A Very Simple Way

Phyllis Bramson - Picturing a Model World (2003)

OHHH oh oh oh oh oh oh. OHHH oh oh oh oh oh oh.

Quite a day.

OHHH oh oh oh oh oh oh. OHHH oh oh oh oh oh oh.

Port O Brien I Woke Up Today (mp3)

Jan 18, 2009

Fordlandia: The Ambition Of Strings

Magnus Helgasn - Melodia (2008)

The rigidity of the scientific community has always confused me, since many of its predominant theories were developed in isolation of prevailing traditions or lines of thought. How would a modern outsider have the capacity to conduct compelling oppositional research without a lab coat or a postdoctoral fellowship or a catalog of peer-reviewed articles in institutional publications? In this week of inaugurating new hope (even as politics continue to present elite class and education in sheep's clothing), the messy possibility of open and multi-vocal institutions seem more real than ever.

It is in flurries of this context that I sit down to write about Johann Johannsson's 2008 masterpiece "Fordlandia". In sound, its classical instrumentation swells from sterile modern hesitance to lush grandeur.
With the exception of a female choir on one of the songs, it tells a complex story through instrument alone. In concept, it is a broad statement about ambitious minds and their struggle as vision clashes with reality. The meaning deepens with the introduction of its characters through song titles. These tragic heroes include: the theories of quantum physics devised by an unlikely Burkhard Heim; the influential and magic-inspired space rocket engineering of Jack Parsons; the complex symbolism of the Greek God Pan with connotations of art, nature, masculinity, and eventually Satan; and - of course - the capitalist megalomania of Henry Ford.

"Melodia (Guidelines For A Propulsion Device)" is structured like long winter periods of subzero plodding with stringed wind at your back. It toils yet sustains persistence like its feet are scrawling mathematic proofs on sheet after white sheet in the notebook of the snow. Its shallow breath struggles to produce a voice from the cold without sight, hearing, or hands. It pushes uphill until incessance breaks upon the rocks of discovery without ever having left a drafty German study. Burkhard Heim wears the frostbite of stubborn will as a house coat. With a whipped back against a wooden door, or scabbed knees on a wooden floor, or atrophied forearms pressed on the top a wooden desk, it begins, finally, to move faster than the speed of light.

"The Rocket Builder (lo Pan!)" lays sweeping innovation over a low pulsing heart, or ticking clock, or piano hammer gently tapping a loosening string.
In a break of silence, a slow motion rocket begins to launch and birth a cloud of mercury fulminate powder along the ground and into Jack Parson's lungs. The song veers from science towards Babylon Working magickal ritual with a sinister bass and dripping electronic fragments. Proceeding breaths are prayers to the Greek God Pan and the exhalations are Thelma's "Do What Thou Wilt" philosophy. With the song's last violin and jet fuel sigh, its lungs dissolve in the indirect suicide of a successfully experimental life.

These smaller stories are framed by an overarching tale of Fordlandia in three movements at the beginning, middle, and end of the album. Opening vastly on 2.5 acres of land in the Brazilian Amazon is the first, titled simply "Fordlandia". The warm sun sparkles with Henry Ford's hope for carving out a new American colony, domesticating rubber production with white fences and square dancing on the weekends. It's a beautiful symphony of picturesque landscape and soaring human ingenuity. The escalating bass builds to the pinnacle of the dream. But as soon as this height is seemingly achieved, the song begins to slow and slide towards its end like brand new machinery gradually sinking into rain forest mud. The bass notes become less confident and more ominous.

A few songs later, in "Fordlandia - Aerial View", a lone violin resurrects the theme. This time the
gorgeous coastline has turned into mosquitoes which has turned into Malaria. The tropical climate has turned into heat which has turned into late afternoon exhaustion. New jobs have turned into plantations which have turned into oppression worthy of native riots. The sounds are a soft-focus lens on the depression of a dying dream.

And finally, in the last and wistfully-titled song "How We Left Fordlandia", the experience's emotions are allowed to play out for over fifteen minutes. The middle hits hard on the album's theme of passion overflowing into aggressive desperation. But the grandiosity is now more ethereal, almost calmed with hindsight, as if reflected from a plane headed home. And the album ends for minutes, as it should, like
the siphon of an overextended rubber tree slowing a drip and then to nothing.

Johann Johannsson Melodia [Guidelines For a Propulsion Device Based On Heim's Quantum Theory] (mp3)

Jan 16, 2009

Carry On Strenuously

Rebecca Shore - #10 (2008)

Gruff Rhys takes a break from the outstanding Super Furry Animals to perform retro night on a cruise ship at 7pm every Tuesday. The shiny self-absorption is caught on tape, called "Stainless Steel", and piped over the deck speakers for the rest of the week... "I Lust U" to announce sexy shuffleboard hour, "Luxury Pool" during bingo to loosen up the Michiganians, a calypso remix of "Raquel" on the sunbathing deck, and "I Told Her On Alderaan" incessantly to the excitement of all the adolescent Yodas who showed up for the Star Wars-themed buffet with no Leia in sight.

Neon Neon I Lust U (mp3)

Jan 12, 2009


Sonja Thompsen - Crude 7 (2007)

You smell like oil, she said softly, and I've been searching for you all my life. When I close my eyes, you are deep, black, sticky oil that covers my hands and face and esophagus. When you speak, my fingers slick back my bangs like a bird with coated black feathers.

Have a Nice Life Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000 (mp3)

Jan 8, 2009

Wired Emotions

Daito Manabe - Electric Stimulus to Face [Test 3] (2008)

I've spent the last few weeks caring what you think. It feels a little bit like an electric pulse to the prefrontal cortex. Your red wire to my dorsolateral broadmann area 46 twitches your relevance, the blue one to area 10 keeps you in the back of my mind all day long, and the yellow one on area 11... that just makes me swear. There is beauty when everything is reaction, as long as there is beauty behind the rules.

Jan 7, 2009

Do Not Be Too Afraid

Jim Torok - Do Not Be Too Afraid (2007)

Sometimes it's helpful to remind yourself that things are simple when things get too complicated. Partly a helpful mantra, partly an ideological hope, partly a core reality. As both Jim Torok and Akron/Family contribute: you're going to die anyway, so find some perspective. Which is a very complicated and very simple thing to do.

Jan 2, 2009

An Authoritative Voice on the Beats of Tears

Gerald Edwards III -The Dump

I'm not sure what is so dramatic about a heavy whole note dropped on the first beat of a measure to echo: 1... I'm not sure what is so compelling about the momentum of a fourth beat swinging into the first: 1-2-3-4 and 1. I'm not sure what is so intense about a note held across a measure and then again, again, and again with a breath on the four: 2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3. But I'm glad they mean so much more in ears than in writing.

Rose Kemp - Vacancies (mp3)

Rose Kemp - Flawless (mp3)