Saturday, September 9, 2017

In a wig, after a ridiculous makeover, and still managing to deliver right to the gut

Friday, September 1, 2017

Purging archives

Free shit pitches to listicle servers if you want 'em

musicians named after real people:
Hype Williams
Sissy Spacek
Emil Beauliel
milton bradley
harriet tubman
franz ferdinand
the beau brummels
jethro tull
the mr t experience
kathleen turner overdrive
duran duran duran
run dmt
dandy warhols
com truise
joy orbson
wevie stonder
ill. Gates
Gnarls barkley
Donna Summer

musicians who've done porn
traci lords
carter fanny tutti
lydia lunch
paris hilton

Musicians who were music critics
stephen merritt (SPIN)
ekoplekz (gutterbreakz blog)
alexis georgopolous of ARP/Alps/Tussle (XLR8R, others)
kim gordon (artforum)
cex (baltimore sun)
dominique leone (pitchfork)
neal tennant- pet shop boys (smash hits)
paul d.miller
david toop
chris weingarten of Parts and Labor (Rolling Stone, others)
drew daniel (matmos)
john darnielle
sasha frere jones of ui  (New Yorker)
daniel martin-mccormack of Ital and Mi Ami (Dusted)
kevin martin (aka k. martin) (the wire)
kode9/steve goodman  (hyperdub zine, the wire)
jeffrey pierce of gun club (slash magazine)
lydia lunch (forced exposure)
graeme revelle of spk  (re/search)
stephen morrissey (NME)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

RIP Peter Principle

Feel like I didn't even time to mourn the death of George A. Romero

Goodbye, friend.  His films will stick around though

In the Present Moment

A mix built on a sensibility of unease, with an arch based around song titles that tap into the emotional currents of the present moment
1. Chris Isaak- Unhappiness
2. Glaxo Babies- This is Your Life
3. Gnod- Breaking the Hex
4. Croatian Armor- Reality Summit
5. Nazar- Tyrrany
6. Nicolette- No Government
7. Arca- Anger
8. Thomas Brinkmann- Uselessness
9. Trans A.M.- Speechless
10. Liturgy- Mysterium
11. The Caretaker- Emptiness
12. Low- Violence
13. The Heptones- Our Day Will Come
14. Suicide- Dream Baby Dream

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Postmortum on Twin Peaks Eps1-4

This article by John Tatlock does a good job at articulating the differences in the new Twin Peaks iteration without going into spoilers. I won't go into too many details, but here are some semi-spoilerish thoughts on what exactly is happening with Twin Peaks and why this is what we are getting in 2017 (and don't expect that to change any time soon).

The first thing to note about Twin Peaks The Return is that the show is pretty tedious. It tests and plays with the limits of patience, particularly a fan's patience, waiting for the old series to emerge.  This series has zero melodrama and deep feeling, articulated with the abundant and some might say ironic use of Angelo Badalementi’s score work on the original show.  Here, in 2017, David Lynch does not do fan service. That said, hardcore fans of the show will notice the recurrence of minor details, or the completion of motions set in place during the initial run or in the film Fire Walk With Me. There are the odd cues and callbacks to things like the Arm, the blue rose, or a flickering light, but there is no legend to guide you through it.  Whereas 90s Dale Cooper served as the series guide by bringing his crew up to speed as mysterious events unfold, here there is no narrator, no guide, no clues connecting the dots, which are in complete disarray like splatter art.  At one point, Deputy Hawk appears to be going through an existential crisis about whether a seemingly trivial bit of evidence might be relevant or not.  If Twin Peaks gave birth to the postmodern show, as many said at the time, Twin peaks the return is full postmodernism, signs and signifiers completely detached from all meaning, no center in sight.

It becomes pretty clear by the time Brett Gelman and Michael Cera arrive on screen in episode 4 that Lynch is making this show in full awareness of the Adult Swim roster, much of which thrived on a surreal horror-comedy that was clearly in debt to Lynch himself. In fact, there's an acknowledgment of many items that have trickled through the TV/film matrix both over the last 25 years and prior.  It’s unclear if distracting allusions to the Addams Family and The Wild One are inserted to be canny, clever, or intentionally awkward, but they play as the latter.  Just as the tonal shift of the Twin Peaks film was announced with its opening shot of a TV screen being smashed (and then with an FBI agent making vague threats to "Deputy Cable"), the new series, available as a TV Show, streaming show, or, at a later date, as an 18 hour movie, seems to just be trapped somewhere in a virtual consciousness, figuring itself out.  One of the major plot points in episode one concerns a giant unexplained glass cage based out of TV capital NYC which has no known origin or originator- it's a literal manifestation of a mystery box, the genre Twin Peaks helped to create (though the mystery in the box was never intended to be solved- for further physical manifestations of this, see Westworld's McGuffin map).

The series takes place in a world in which language and communication have become so corrupted that the mere concept of rational thought and dialogue seems like an impossibility. The show's initial concern is returning Cooper from the Black Lodge, but something from that world seems to be infecting everything outside of it. Gone is the witty banter and maudlin lovelorn confessions of the initial series.  Instead, there are impossibly long pauses, stunted phrases, and often stupid, just plainly and hopefull-intentionally idiotic back and forths.  One can pull from this tenuous narrative gauze a potential thought project about aging. The geriatric experience is made manifest in the slow processing of language, the way characters have to repeat themselves, and the deep frustration that comes from realizing that even utilizing filters like repetition and drawn-out-speech does not clear the deep confusion of existence.   The whole thing seems like a product of dementia or senility (in fact, Cooper is probably suffering from it), a borderline sensibility that Lynch no doubt realizes will be leveled against him by his harshest critics.  Indeed, reuniting much of the old cast, many of whom were already in late adulthood when the show first aired over 25 years ago, finds a number of them missing- Miguel Ferrer, Jack Nance, Frank Silva, David Bowie, Warren Frost, Don Davis, and Catherine Coulson have all passed away in recent years.  If the initial run was about youth and the uncomfortable proximity between rebellion against adulthood and total corruption into its darker tenets (as personified in Laura Palmer, but elsewhere as well), the renewed series has thus far focused on the cold, empty, and lonely terror of old age.

Fittingly for a Lynch piece, the old cast of characters reappear but like dream caricatures of themselves. Albert doesn't talk much and yet seems crankier than usual. Andy is now almost too dumb.  Dr. Jacoby is now clearly insane, collecting and decorating golden shovels either in anticipation of digging something up or burying something deep. Lynch himself appears (in episode 4), revising his role as Gordon, to talk to a version of Cooper.  They both tell each other that's it's been great to see each other after such a long time, but it's obvious in their strained chat that neither of them is being honest. Lynch, as Gordon and - mind you- the director and author of the whole new series run- later becomes the only voice of levity when he confesses that perhaps for the first time, he has no idea what the hell is happening. Should we take this as a confession?  So much of this show reads as auto-critique, attempts to negotiate itself in the most Lynchian way, as a piece of intellectual property.  What people want, it assumes, is something old and dying, malfunctioning and regressive.  What it has to offer as an alternative, however, remains to be seen.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pinned Tweaks

Thursday, May 18, 2017

R.I.P. Chris Cornell

Soundgarden, more than any other mainstream act from their time and place, were the full embodiment of the “Grunge” aesthetic.  Whereas their mainstream contemporaries veered closer to the melodic end of punk (Nirvana’s bastardizing of the Pixies/Husker Du aesthetics) or classic rock (Pearl Jam).  Much of this was due to Kim Thayil’s insane Sabbath-style riffage, mounted approximately at the apex of sludge metal, Jane’s-style hard rock with a tinge of psychedelia, and SST post-hardcore, but one can’t discredit Cornell whose soaring vocals could gravitate from low rumble demon to high squealed possession with the rapidity of a jet engine and the grace of a bird of prey.  Cornell’s voice was gravelly and lived-in, sure, but it also had the animalistic timbre of something lurking deep in those Washington evergreens.

Cornell, particularly pre-chopped with the long curly locks, was also the prime image of grunge.  He looked better when dirtied, unlike Kurt with his fluffy blonde hair, disheveled Eddie, gas-station ponytail creep Layne, or better-when-glammed-up Scott. Cornell oozed sex as if the worksmanlike personification of that patented Seattle flannel, which he never really wore.  He looked like a dark drifter.   Whereas the smug irony of Cobain and the impassioned liberalism of Vedder would become archetypes, Cornell remained a mystery. 

Soundgarden recorded for both Sub Pop and SST early in their career and they were one of the first groups to jump ship to a major label.  But while contemporaries from those scenes made this transition by broadening their sound (like Husker Du) or by competing directly against the market forces trying to lure them (like Sonic Youth), Soundgarden seemed at home in both worlds.  They put out two incredible big rock albums in Badmotofinger and Superunknown (both with unbelievably bad album art mind you) that never seemed to weather the same accusations of “sell out” that other bands at the time faced.  Maybe it was because they’d been the first to sell out, or maybe it was because those albums still hold up today even when many of their peers’ records don’t.   When you consider the glut of contemporary music from the early 90s – post-rock, jungle, IDM, rave, dreampop, house- that didn’t crossover but had a far greater impact on the current sonic landscape, it’s an even bigger feat. 

Soundgarden were massive enough to have Guns n’ Roses cover their dumbest song, but remained fairly indistinct as personalities, supporting and commenting on causes quietly or aesthetically rather than appearing on magazine covers with “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” t-shirts or scribbling “Pro-choice” on their arms during unplugged performances.  Soundgarden’s “angst”, if they had any, was less an anxiety of choice between collusion and independence than it was an anxiety over the impossibility of negotiating the two.  Indeed much of their best work (“Black Hole Sun”, “4th of July”, “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Mailman”, “Nothing to Say”,  “Blow Up the Outside World”) was emboldened by a scorched earth nihilism, far closer to metal’s Lovecraftian take on power as a quasi-mystical evil force than punk’s mindset that it was something which could be urgently seized and redistributed.   Cornell’s hopelessness is everywhere across these early records, so news of his suicide should not be such a shock, though it’s no less tragic.

In a sense, it was good timing that the band dissolved in 1996 following the release of their decent but lacking final album (until their 2012 reunion).  It’s unlikely they would have rode out OK Computer and the electronica explosion of the following year well.  Cornell was really only primed for the grunge era and that era alone.  The slip into party music- raves, ska and pop punk, boy and girl bands- must have mystified the surviving grunge stars, who didn’t feel the ground shift in any tectonic positive way.  If anything, the society that they wanted to drop out of strengthened and tightened.  It was mainstream music fans that left them behind, which seemed to only prove Cobain and his cynicism right. 

Cornell’s attempt at a compromise for compromised times, Audioslave, wound up being a total bore, a middling shadow of both Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine, his backing band’s old act. The only time Cornell did branch out in new sonic directions he spectacularly failed, on 2008’s Timbaland-assisted Scream solo record, which received brutal jeers from critics, fans, and fellow musicians alike.  His iffy solo work followed, but largely as a retread, a tourism in past glories. The spectacular decade-long run from 1986 to 1996 though remains a pivotal time capsule showing how seamless energy could flow from a provincial urban scene into the mainstream. I bought Superunknown from a record store in Seattle in ’94 on a trip with my family when I was 12.  It was maybe the 6th or 7th CD I ever bought and it’s perhaps the only one from that time I still spin.  It doesn’t sound like now.  It still sounds like then.  But you can tell why then wanted it now.  

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Stray Thoughts from the Sunshine State

Vacation was good, but Florida is a bit like a series of resort colonies for the diasporic wealthy plotted within swamps full of gators and low income families.  Facilitated just beyond the fantasy theme park islands are living reminders of why people choose fantasy over hard truth, Trumpian daymare spectacle the closest corollary to the Disney dream factory when you can’t afford a ticket. There was some heavy metaphorical resonance in the fact that our vacation was merrily held between a series of brush fires consuming the state, the result of a long climate-change-induced drought that had left the land barren and dead.   On our way to and fro Legoland were large stretches of land full of dead grass and emaciated cows, waiting for rain as the cars lined the highway sputtering out carbon emissions for the ultraviolet light to get stuck on.   The cow’s loss was our benefit, a lovely day out without a cloud in sight.  It was as if the delightful weather was being controlled by the entertainment complexes, themselves suffering from a post-Trump decline in international tourism.  The whole world is postproduction now, unable to distinguish between CGI and principal photography.  Conspiracies everywhere, a wide spout flooding the drought of hope. 

Hoping to find a shortcut back from our hotel room from the pool, my kids and I attempted a shortcut back to one of the 7 identikit tower buildings comprised of hotel rooms spread throughout the resort.  This was planned living for the temporarily temporally displaced, an architectural maintenance program for those on leave from their anxiety.  The shortcut lead through this massive conference center, whose layout seemed designed to impress the attendants of white collar seminars, retreats, and conventions by enunciating the height of the lobby’s roof a good 30 feet above anyone’s head.  With no one gathered at this time of day, it seemed like a giant amphitheater of empty space, an riposte to restraint, which my kids took as an invitation to fill the lobbies with as much noise and motion as possible.   Gathering there that day was a “Cayman Business Convention”.   Soon, we’d depart to Disney’s private island getaway, Castaway Cay, and the money from that convention would go to its island too, escaping and being shielded from largely the same things.   A staff member soon came along to let us know that there was no way through.  We had reached a border of some sort and so the tax shelter’s ambassador ushered us off so that capital could celebrate itself beyond the periphery of eyes never meant to wander beyond mythopoeic realms or artificial paradises.

On a cruise ship, your equilibrium can get fucked up on the first day.  You recognize the movement of the ship, the minor swaying and rocking, but the enormity of the boat helps normalize it.  You feel a bit like a dog in a car, attempting to reconcile the traction while retaining an elegant poise, only to fall on your ass from time to time. They call it sea legs, but it’s more of a sea mindset.  Your body signals to your mind that things are not the way they should be and your mind confronts these by resetting the levels.  Hypernormalization.  It never seems exactly right, but you learn to take it as background.  If it’s a big enough boat, the consciousness of the ship becomes a part of you. Its culture instructs your physiology.

Likewise throughout the cruise, Disney’s signature customer service is meant to transport you, to erase the seams of their labor, and to make this elaborate experiential endeavor seem effortless.  The ruse is so precise that it becomes almost impossible to spot the cracks, the quivering lip behind the smile, the hidden shadow of who the sea leaves behind.  As a passenger, you know that no human being is actually this happy to serve another human being, but there is almost a military-like discipline in those patented contractually-bound veneers.  

Out the deck windows at odd intervals you notice staff running drills, lining up behind lifeboats, wearing gas masks, gathered in groups of four to replace a light bulb.  Odd behavior you have no logical explanation for, but you accept in your state of serene, complacent arrest.  That’s for the suits in Washington to worry about.  Were the vessel to actually go down, it’s plausible that they’d finish the deserts and in-cruise 3D movie showings before you ever realized you needed to debark.  Nearer, my God to, Thee are we in this state of semi-hallucinatory departure.

Disconnected from my phone and major news media, it was unclear if the forest fires and North Korean provocations would engulf the land before we returned.  It was a strange, pleasantly unsettling comfort to hide within.  We were sailing off into an ocean of ignorance.  As we departed shore to set sail from the Bahamas, I told my son to say goodbye to Florida, goodbye to America.  “Goodbye Legoland!” he yelled to the shores.  A land governed by creations and virtualities, all the bricks fully visible, which we choose to believe in nonetheless.

The identity politics of Legoland are strange.  Legoland’s signature branded hue is yellow, but it’s hard not to see yellow as a stand-in for whiteness.  Yellow is the default skin-tone of the brick set, with nary a brown skinned figure or character to be found around the park.  We attended a sort of lame show that the kids enjoyed full of jetskiers and some dull stageplay about pirates.  The plot involved the host, who made no gesture to hide his flamboyant queerness, being madly in love with the admiral’s daughter.  The admiral’s daughter seemed to assume all the responsibilities of the explicitly male Admiral himself, but who was nevertheless defined not by a title of her own but rather by her relationship to her father, and the gay man in “love” with her.  The Admiral failed to make an appearance.  Every brick in its own place.

The gaudy Florida roadside was itself a much more interesting show, flaunting sights such as the occasional abandoned RV, vivid strip mall church sculptures that towered above their flat origins like regional Wicker Man offerings, a massive lot of brand new cars several hundred feet from any inroad in an otherwise vacant grass field, gators chilling and waiting to cross the highway, a Domino’s delivery car with a pro-life fetus outline bumper sticker, some kind of discarded military airplane shaded under overhanging flora warning of low flying aircraft ahead, and, at one point, a hawk flying across the road carrying a squirrel in its mouth.  Predators and prey everywhere.  It was proto-hunter-gatherer terrain, dressed for the pre-apocalypse, readymade for the unaired final season of the Walking Dead.  There are an abundance of pharmacies and walk-in clinics, likely serving out drug cocktails to both locals without health insurance and out-of-network travelers encountering climate and crowd-bred toxins alike.  The other strip mall stores have names that cater to efficiency and illiteracy, and read in block capital letters like Soviet relics; “MARKET”, “TOYS”,  “BURGERS” and, of course “DRUGS”.

When you’ve had writing coarse through your system, you’re inclined to be awed by the incomprehensible depth of the ocean and how small a cog you are on such a massive boat.   Positioned on the veranda, several drinks in, I found myself pondering in Melville poise that those who stare down at the waves closest to the boat are inclined to think about their mortality, while those who gaze at the horizon are looking beyond it to what’s left to explore in the life left living.  Both left me a bit dizzy and I nearly vomited.   One of the days we had a couples massage and they played soothing new age music while uncomfortably rubbing hot stones on my back, interrupted halfway through by the loud reverberating crashes of a basketball court they stuck on the floor above the spa.  “It me”, I thought.  Self-awareness thundering through any half-cocked attempt to escape that irritable self.  Maybe it was just dream logic taking over. The present moment is such a prima facie anxiety-riddled absurdity that it often feels like the unconscious is seeping in, an orange-hued id of denial and macro-projection directing the psychic energy of the species towards self-destruction.   A collective struggling to find sea legs, looking for a restful state of composure where one can be relaxed and disengaged enough to pass off the doom and nausea off as background noise. 

We could use a vacation, I thought, while the crew did drills for deploying the lifeboats below me. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dark Times Digest