Saturday, April 19, 2014

Record Store Day.

You might not have known it, but this past Monday was Record Store Day. At least in my life it was. I walked into the Downtown Music Gallery that afternoon looking for something a little off the beaten Robert Wyatt path. Which means way, way off the fire trail in the middle of a forest a couple 100 miles from the nearest thing that resembles a path. The ever-helpful walking encyclopedia and co-owner Bruce directed me to Michael Mantler's The Hapless Child And Other Inscrutable Stories featuring the text of Edward Gorey. At first it didn't seem quite my cup of tea, but then I looked at the list of players and saw the inventive Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal. This was a good start. I decided to give it a chance. I don't need to tell you how that worked out, but I will.

I'd been in the shop a couple months ago right after Bruce and one of his employees, Chuck, had brought in some CDRs of a band they'd just discovered (To be geekily accurate, Chuck discovered them and turned Bruce onto them.), Wei Zhongle. They remind me of Henry Cow, This Heat, General Strike with a dash of Gang of Four and featuring vocals that sound vaguely Chinese even though the lyrics are in English. Mad, mad stuff. ANYWAY (This is me reflecting the overarching idea that one of the best things about shopping in a record store are the tangents.), when I'd bought the Wei Zhongle's they had mentioned a clarinet quartet CDR by one of band's members, John McCowen. I didn't buy it then, but it stuck in my head. I also remembered that it had a low price. I asked if they still had any of them left. That was about the time that Chuck walked into the store with some packages. He overheard what I was asking about and said, "His new one is in this box." Yeah. I took that one too. But it wasn't over. When they opened one of the other boxes, they found that it had the new one from the King Crimson offshoot, Stick Men. Bruce knows my light (HaHa. In the context of Manny Lunch, trust me. It's LIGHT.) obsession with the Crims. Yeah. Put that in the bag too. I'm done. OK. I'm not done. On the way into town, I happened to have been listening to a great disc that DMG had put out on their own label a few years ago by South African drummer Selwyn Lissack. I had to, again, compliment Bruce on what a fabulous release that was. He said, "You know, have you ever heard that disc by Ric Colebeck? At this point my wallet screamed, "Make it stop!" But my reply was, "No. Who's that?" Turns out he's a British trumpeter who had released a scorcher of an album with Lissack hitting the skins. They, of course, had it in stock. Sigh. OK. That really WAS it. I went home and listened to a pile of great, unexpected music.

What allowed me to take all those leaps though was the trust that I have in Bruce. I've been shopping at DMG for 17 years, and Bruce and his co-owner Manny have never led me astray. Not once. Over that time, they've developed a sense of my tastes, AND how far I'm willing to stretch those tastes. With their help, my boundaries—already pretty expansive—could now be used in science books as proof of the accelerating universe. There's no algorithm that could do the same. Even if there was, I can't think of anything more boring than being told what I might enjoy by a machine. I'm pretty sure that that machine didn't meet the artist at a Jazz festival and talk to them about a favorite recording or what they're working on now. I'm also sure that a machine wasn't going to be able to buy a stack of CDRs from a band they had just been knocked out by for the first time, and put them on the shelves the next day. I learned from Mr. Rogers a long time ago that robots don't have feelings. They have no sense of smell either. Because you need a good sense of smell to follow the trail of an expanding universe of paths, to see where they end or better yet, to see where they just keep going. It's the very essence of improvisation.

The official Record Store Day is something designed to get people off of their asses and away from their screens, and INTO the record stores that haven't been killed by fucking Amazon, fucking Walmart, fucking iTunes, and fucking Spotify. That's great, and I'm going to be indulging in some of the special events later this afternoon. My girlfriend and I are going to catch guitarist Steve Gunn play at an in-store at Academy Records in Greenpoint. Then we'll pop over to Rough Trade to hear Simon Raymonde spin some jams at Rough Trade in Williamsburg. Yes, I said Simon Raymonde. And all this will probably be after we meet at Heaven Street in Bushwick. The Ascetic House crew were in town, and I want to check to see if they dropped off any of their tapes. And just to say Hi to JR and Sean.

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Downtown Music Gallery. Because, in fact, it worked out like it so often does there. The Mantler record was great, and there were a couple more albums by the same crew sitting in those bins. Yeah. I'll have missed Record Store Day at DMG, but that's not the point. Record stores—the best ones, at least—are wild streams with ever changing currents. You can dip your hand in at any point and be refreshed.

If you don't understand this love letter to accident, intuition, conversation, community and trust; then I have some bad news. It's not the record store that's dying. It's you.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

This Face Is Free.

Email to Bivs. (Practically a blog post)

Total Destruction 7"
Did we ever talk about DJ Scud? A guy I became friendly with at Kim's introduced me to him (the person and his jams, actually). The first time I heard him play, he came on after one more boring-ass trip-hop set by DJ Spooky who put in a set that even a guest shot by Arto Lindsay couldn't help and proceeded to just blow out the space with a full-on Noise assault for about 10 minutes before blasting into the distorto Drum 'n' Bass & Dancehall crush-up that he was so adept at. That first 10 minutes was like an acid palate cleanser, getting rid of the stale taste of the last course. The Hill Foundation had done the sound so it was an extra hard blow when the beats kicked in. It was, like, 3 in the morning in DUMBO, before DUMBO became the Jane's Carousel. I got home by 5, but I couldn't get to sleep until after 7. (This is practically a blog post.)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Ai Weiwei's The Divine Comedy. Taking the "Never" out of "Never Sorry"

(original image via Wikipedia)

Torture and terror should never make anybody laugh. But that's what Ai Weiwei made me do with his new truly horrible The Divine Comedy. I wrote about the crapfest for Hyperallergic.

In an earlier piece, I put a hatin' on the first single and video released from the album, "Dumbass."

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Control v. Power.


Jules et Eric.
Photo via Flickr, New Media Days


Monday, June 24, 2013

With A Heave And A Hope: Doug Aitken's Station To Station.

Tyler Green asked me a question on twitter last Friday. It was a good question. It made me want to write more than 140 characters. Tommy Aldridge is going to have to hit pause on that drum solo.

After I declared my love for Doug Aitken's Station To Station website, Tyler replied with the tweet, "So far the whole thing seems very corporate scenester. What am I not getting?"

Hmmm. I don't know. There are so many things to not get about Doug Aitken, and they are a constantly shifting. For me, those things usually stay at bay and it all comes together for me in almost all of Aitken's work. I often do get it, even when I can't explain why. (Don't sweat the small stuff, Brent!)

Ironically, the one place where it's never come together for me is Aitken's "Happenings." Besides not liking the dodgy-ass, cliché name, every one I've gone to has been a shitshow. Disorganized. Crap sound. Annoying audience. Intellectually cluster-fucked events are not fun or interesting. They're just messes that seem to be enjoyed mostly by the people on stage or on the walls or in their resultant CV augmentations. However, props to Aitken for even trying.

So, why do I have any hope for Station To Station, which is essentially a rolling "happening" (Sorry, that shit ain't escaping the quotation marks.)? Lots of reasons. These are the reasons, in this case, that I'm getting it. At least so far. All I've seen is the website. We'll see if the train journey is the expressway through my skull that i'm hoping for.

To return to Tyler's use of the phrase, "corporate scenester" . . . Yes and yes.

Oddly enough, I hadn't seen the LEVI'S logo in my many visits to the site until I did a search and landed on the home page where it's a prominent fixture. It IS on all subsequent pages, but it was so small I never noticed it on my 15" screen. Generally, I can't get too excited about corporate sponsorship unless it becomes a detriment to the art, in which case the art, the artist, and the sponsor should be ridiculed mercilessly.

I don't see that happening here with Station To Station. In fact, to a certain extent, if anything, Aitken has stolen from the LEVI'S aesthetic throughout his entire career. He owes THEM. Either way, my take on corporate sponsorship is one of bemused detachment, akin to Sebastian Bach's defense of embracing the reality TV gravy train. Sebastian Bach could give a flying fuck about reality TV, but he'll take their money. Paraphrasing now: "Thank you for you money. I am going to take it now and put it all into METAL." [Metal heads, insert long boriing argument here as to whether or not Sebastian Bach is Metal.] Everybody knows what an institution is buying when they give money to an artist or an institution (Illusion of edge!), and everybody knows what an artist is getting when they take money from a corporate entity (Illusion of lunch!). [Art heads, insert long boring conversation about corporations and courtiers here.]

An aside: I don't know if I want an art world where I can't laugh at an Altria executive getting to say "a couple words" in the ghetto of a Whitney press opening.

Scenesterism. [This is the paragraph in which I will both agree and disagree with myself.] I don't mind Aitken's brand of scenesterism. Or at least, in respects to it prompting decent art actions, I maintain a weird hope for it. It comes out of the fact that he's very well connected with a number of scenes, both well-moneyed and not, interesting and not. I'd call it boosterism and it seems to come from a place of love and encouragement. It's a warm blanket of sheen. In the case of the interviews on the website, it reminds me of old issues of Interview magazine, which were more than a little scenestery. And I like the same repeated or similar questions leading to everything from the existential to the mundane when it comes to the answers. To quote Charles Bukowski, "i have shit stains in my underwear too." So, scene on, Doug Aitken. Scene on. (This viewpoint self-intersects with my fears that it WILL be too scene-y, but something about Aitken makes me live in hope. [Which is not a bad place to start.])

Other things that give me hope for Station To Station to be as good on a whole as it is as a website:

1. I'm a sucker for anything based on a Bowie song. Especially this Bowie song. And quite specifically, that intro. It should not be forgotten that he did that without the help of Eno. You could stop that song after the intro and you'd be guaranteed forward motion for a couple hours.

2. Slanted, this. But, well: Hunger. The typeface and design aesthetic used for the quotes throughout the website is either borrowed from or influenced by Blackest Ever Black has been doing for the last couple years. Or, maybe it's been plucked from the air of the zeitgeist, but a it's a little behind the breeze. And that means that Aitken has some catching up to do. He's usually coming in on top of the beat. This time, he's a little behind. That's a spot that can be just as fertile though when it comes to pushing a song forward.

3. Man Bartlett is involved. I don't know the details, but even if it's at the most technician-y level, Man Bartlett makes everything better.

4. Even with my past perceived disasters of earlier "happenings", I maintain a certain faith in all things wide-ranging. From the interests of the website to the train's path, this project covers that.

5. I'm a sucker for trains. I often dream of them when I'm alone.

6. Blackfoot.

Roll on, Doug Aitken. Roll on. Take that train, baby.

Sunday, November 13, 2011