Saturday, January 31, 2009

RIP The Designers Republic

Apparently, the amazingly influential graphic design group The Designers Republic is no more. Their work on early Warp Records helped give a visual face to an emergent and divergent subculture. Elsewhere, they've proved similarly inventive and innovative, taking art to its most drastic extremes.

Creative Review has a nice retrospective

Friday, January 30, 2009

From the Archives: I Heart Huckabees (Taconic Press)

I Heart Huckabees Review

From the Archives: Kinsey

Kinsey review part 1

Kinsey review part 2

From the Archives: House of Flying Daggers (Taconic Press)

House of Flying Daggers review part 1

House of Flying Daggers review part 2

The Family Biz

There's a nice little article in the Daily Gazette (the paper of record for Schenectady, NY) about the architecture of the Bond Funeral Home, an establishment built by Westinghouse, bought by my great grandfather, then run by grandfather, and then by my uncle.

See it here.

Also, see the little sidebar (which looks like an advertisement) for a small photo gallery. It really is a beautiful building, one I was always fascinated with when I was young. My exposure at such a young age to embalmed dead bodies might help explain much of my morbidity.

On another note, a discovery at my brother's urging may have validated the Holy Hand Grenade segment from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I'm not sure if this makes the segment more funny or less. Ah, religious violence...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

RIP John Martyn

John Martyn

solid air - John Martyn

If You Don't Get Paid For It, It Has No Value

Marginal Utility's Rob Horning has a pointed assessment of the volunteer economy of internet print publications. He rightly scorns the elitist hierarchies of lifers in a cozy enough position to warrant a paycheck (ie, not me), but also fairly interprets the exchange value of unpaid labor as a functionality of capitalist enterprise (resume building, social worth, writer name-branding) that, in the process, devalues the monetary legitimacy of criticism in general. Kinda depressing, as noted in the comments section by EDM from Providence, RI:

"Laboring for the love of it is a laudable sentiment. It has a kind of Fourierist ring to it. But whereas someone under Fourierist socialism would theoretically enjoy a material return as an added boon to the already felicitous return of joy gotten from labor, someone under the conditions you describe appears merely to cherish a very evanescent form of capital, i. e., “brand identity,” as the fruits of her labor.

Just goes to show you how the noblest aspirations, when ground through capitalism’s satanic mills, become the basest strategems

The points argued in the article seem to further the case, as Felix Salmon and the New York Times's David Swensen and Michael Schmidt have recently argued, for non-profit newspapers (and thereby nonprofit critics). This, of course, comes with it's own set of problems (not the least of which being a prevention of the hierarchies discussed in Horning's article and an overemphasis in endowment worth on what Salmon referred to as the "genuinely important newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post" ), but this seems to be a valuable alternative to explore, particularly considering what a vital function newspaper in a functioning democracy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Helios- Caesura

I've been pretty on board with most of the stuff Type Records put out in 2008 (my mind's still not made up on Xela's latest and I recused myself from review the latest two from Svarte Greiner and Sylvian Chateau 'lest I become the official Type reviewer for PM). However, Helios's latest, and his work in general, just strike me as kind of flaccid.

Here's my PM review of Caesura

I can't help, but think some of this relates back to recent comments by Impostume on music listening becoming a product of who you are when you're listening to it (something critics try to run from). The album reminds me a bit of Manual's Ascend, which I f'ing loved with it came out. After five years of seeking this type of music, I encounter it pretty often now (as I mention in the piece, many times in indie films). So often that it has lost its appeal to me. Whether this is because this specific recording doesn't "hit" as well or whether it's me who has a new set of ears, I don't know that you can specifically fault the artist for being five years late to my party.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hum a Silent Prayer

There's a new short review of the split by the marvelously talented ladies Grouper (Liz Harris) and Inca Ore (Eva Saelens)*, two of the premier talents in today's fuzzy ambient, proto-hauntological musicsphere, over at PopMatters. Having dabbled in lo-fi tape recording for years and years before the slow dawn of computer music myself, there's something even more affecting and certainly more intimate about this music for me than, say a certain Radiophonic/public television referencing subset of the genre. Ore's damaged and worn voice on her half of the CD feels like a cross between the amateur "nobody's ever gonna hear us" adventurism of the Lucas and Friends Discover a World of Sounds disc and the confessional fictitious diaries the young Jonathan Caouette aired in his exquisite documentary Tarnation.

Coincidentally, I came across a compilation of clips on Youtube that resembled pieces one might have found on the Lucas disc while searching for clips for Weird Tapes (the clips were also called Weird Tapes). Certainly, there's much to be said about this type of slightly pernicious voyeurism into our younger, hidden moments, but what interested me was that it reminded me that I have a couple boxes worth of the same stuff in my basement. For years, I was under the assumption that this stuff had no value to any one besides myself, but perhaps it might be interesting to throw these into the cultural deitrus and see what happens.

*Ore's Birthday of Bless You would have surely made into the best of 2008 categoryh had I heard it sooner.

Monday, January 26, 2009

File Under Dis(Re)covery: Weird Tapes

Weird Tapes are definitely the best find of 2009 so far. And they're from Philadelphia too! It's glitzy enough that it should impress the Discobelle folks, but it's also got a bit of that slighty melancholy sunbaked n' aged Black Mother Super Rainbow feel to it. You can download a shitload of their shit at their blog. Here's a clip of "The Heavens" recut from Carl Dreyer.

File Under Dis(Re)covery: Intense- Natural Progression

In the ever expanding world of Youtube, Imeem, Hype Machine, what have you, music streams are taking the place of P2P networks and becoming something even better- a limitless library of music education available at the press of a button. Like Wikipedia for sounds, there's a whole history- most interesting to me are the hidden ones- of music video and rusty vinyl lovingly uploaded by the fans who've been blessed to hear them. It's a great tool for learning and expanding and I highly recommend getting lost under the "related videos" or suggested tracks or "more from" the next time you're surfing.

In the spirit of sharing, or resharing (since I'm not the original poster of any of this material), I'm starting a new series called "File Under Dis(re)covery", which will hopefully move at a pace slow enough to not crash those of you (like me) with ancient machines. I'll start with this fantastic piece I found today by the wonderful drum n bass outfit Intense.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists

Sure, it's a year old, but I found it quite interesting.

Read it Here

Field Journals from the Cosmic Inferno

Two new stories of adventure of cosmic dread over at PopMatters! The cramp of hyperbolic indifference need not apply!

HEAR! Squabbles of abstract noise condensed into coherent and fluent prose!
SEE! A writer heroically battle his pen to overthrow the reigns of complacency!
SMELL! The sweat and ardor of a band struggling to release material at 55 MPH or else their tour bus will explode!
TASTE! The sweet victory of overcoming your fear of songs longer than ten minutes!
FEEL! Good for yourself for making it through each review!

Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno- Journey into the Cosmic Inferno

Koen Holtkamp- Field Rituals

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Trip on the Nova Express

William Burroughs has a well-documented influence over much modern literature, music, and film. As this page illustrates, his books also left quite an impression on the graphic designers assigned to make his covers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Slipped Discs 2008

Two little blurbs about two little overlooked albums in '08, Grouper- Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill and Friendly Fires- S/t.

Read 'em and the rest of the list here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why We Can Not Be Silent

A plea to go further...

"There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God....

"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered....

" A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death...

"A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies....

"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…" We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation."-

Click here for the full speech

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Rest of 2008

Two post back, I listed a bunch of superlatives for 2008's music, which tends to dominate my life in any given year. However, 2008 was full of a bunch of other stuff worth noting and/or commemorating and here's a disorganized recap.

Music I Just Don't Get:
Upon checking out some year end lists, I found a lot of great new music and revisited a few things I'd just plain forgot about. However, this is a list of almost-universally beloved artists and artifacts from 2008 whose buzz I can't really fathom.

Beach House
Bon Iver
Department of Eagles
Fucked Up
funky house
Gang Gang Dance- "House Jam"
Girl Talk
Hercules and Love Affair
The Hold Steady
Hot Chip
Mujava- "Township Funk" (fruityloops pop released on Warp? I should've sent m0dnAr demos to them years ago)
Nick Cave- Dig Lazarus Dig
TV On the Radio
The Walkmen
Wiley- "Weaing my Rolex" and all rolex for that matter

Top TV
You can find a few of these superlatives as write-ups I did for PopMatters's best of TV section.
1. Generation Kill
2. Dexter
3. Mad Men
4. In Treatment
5. The Office
6. It's always Sunny in Philadelphia
7. Lost
8. Recount
9. The Colbert Report
10. The Daily Show

Films- Didn't see nearly as many as I'd have liked, but these caught my attention throughout the year:
Wall-E, The Signal, Pineapple Express, Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Step Brothers, Burn After Reading, Be Kind Rewind, Role Models, Son of Rambow, Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution

Here's a few movies I saw in 2008 that weren't released that year that were still mind-blowing: Diary of the Dead, Harodl and Maude, Solaris, Peeping Tom, The People Under the Stairs, Hot Fuzz, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Punishment Park, Coffy, Over the Edge, The Bourne Trilogy, Holy Mountain, Paprika, Taxi to the Dark Side, No End in Sight, The Human Behavior Experiments

The two best other things
1. Getting Married/ Honeymoon
2. New President and the potential that things might ever get slightly better

Thus concludes superlatives 2008

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Anti-Formalist and Hyper-Formalist Experiments

A spattering of new reviews:

The excellent, but unfortunately bifurcated album by the ever-briliant Alva Noto

The dissapointingly tinny new live piece from Jackie O Motherfucker, a band with great ideas who've yet to find their great album.

And one on the occasionally striking Croatian import Seven That Spells, psych of the Magma variety with some tasty doom-laden licks.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Top Tracks of 2008: 15-1

Happy New Year. Here's to more good stuff to come...

Best Albums of 2008

15. Tobacco- Dirt (ft Aesop Rock)

Dirt (featuring Aesop Rock) - tobacco

14. Kanye West- Paranoid

13. Joker- Snake Eater

Snake Eater - Original Mix - Joker

12. MGMT- Time to Pretend

"Time To Pretend" Music Video Premiere - MGMT

11. Ola Podrida- Atmosphere

Atmosphere - Ola Podrida

10. Friendly Fires- Paris/ Paris ft. Au Revoir Simone (Aeroplane mix)

Paris - Friendly Fires

Paris (Aeroplane Remix) - Friendly Fires

9. Gemmy- BK 2 The Future

8. Cosmic Metal Mother- I Think/ Professor Genius- Pegaso


Stream "Pegaso" Here

7. Morgan Geist- The Shore

The Shore - Morgan Geist

6. The Advisory Circle- Fire, Damp & Air

Download Directly here

5. Fleet Foxes- English House

English House (Album) - Fleet Foxes

4. Britney Spears- Womanizer

Womanizer - Britney Spears

3. Cut Copy- In Ghost Colours
(Yes, the whole album is a collection of fantastic signals)

In Ghost Colours

2. Zomby- Spliff Dub (Rustie Mix)

1. Estelle ft. Kanye West- American Boy

American Boy - Estelle ft. Kanye wWest