Radio Radio Amor

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Source Tags and Codes

Transmission Number One

Hello, this is Dr. Dryser. We are being held captive on this island. We do not know how much longer we can hold out. This island is small but dangerous. They feed us butterfly sandwiches. We were on an expedition for Milton Bradley. Our ship had an accident after we laid anchor. We think it was sabotage. Please come rescue us as soon as possible. This island is very tiny but also densely hostile. Timothy Dalton, the actor, would like me to let you know that he is here, and doing poorly, if that adds any steam to your turbine. OVER

Dr. Dryser extends the transmission, in his head

I turn the receiver off and listen to the radio tick off static. My hands are coated in sweat. The dirt in the lines of my palms is so deep and crisp that when I press them into my shirt, I can make grimy intaglios. I’ve spent hours doing this. The other game we (me, Tobacco Annie, and Timothy Dalton) play is the story game, which involves us sitting around the fire and telling lies about ourselves. The other two try to guess which lie is the closest to being true. The winner gets an extra butterfly sandwich at dinnertime. My personal record is: 6-2.

[BUY Source Tags and Codes, a truly great album]

Cornish jokes

The Tuss – Rushup | Bank12

The first time someone told me I looked like Peter Lorre, I was sixteen, standing outside a bookstore, drinking from a tall can of sweet iced tea. An old man exited to my right and did a double-take when he saw my face. He walked a few paces toward the parking lot and turned back. I thought he perhaps would ask me where I had gotten the drink, since it was hot out that day, and as a rule, to my knowledge, the elderly prefer to stay hydrated in warm weather, supersaturated if possible. He did not ask about the iced tea, though he eyed it as we spoke.
“You know who you look like, don’t you?” he said.
“No,” I said. “Who?”
“Peter Lorre. The old movie star,” he said, smiling. “From ‘M’.”
“Oh,” I said, and forced out an aspirated chuckle. “Hah.” I was not entirely sure what Peter Lorre looked like. My reaction, I hoped, was one of neutral affect. I could recall only an image of a wide-eyed, thoroughly creepy man, who spoke in a kind of permanently dusky slur. I felt more uncertain about the rhetoric of the old man’s question, his tone of accusation—why did he think it was incumbent upon me to know whom I resembled?
“I bet you get that a lot, right?” he asked. “The Lorre thing.”
“This is the first time. Thanks though.” I nodded to him, idiotically, baffled as to what sort of protocol might dictate the close of this interaction. Should I have thanked him in a more demonstrative manner? I wondered. The entire conversation had the same awkward character as being told by a peer that one’s fly was down, provoking a similar mixture of shameful surprise and odd gratitude. I escaped by throwing away the almost full can of iced tea and gesturing inside with a tilt of my head. “All right,” I said. “See you.”
He waved at me and mumbled a goodbye. I could hear him laugh again as I passed through the bookstore’s vestibule.

[BUY The Rushup Edge EP]

The switch is on and you start pounding

The Avalanches – Extra Kings

It’s been nine years since the Avalanches’ “Since I Left You.” That means there are kids who were born after the release of that record who are now having their own kids (maybe)(not really). I remember the first time I heard anything from the album–I was at a party and my friend cued up Frontier Psychiatrist on the CD player and said (no kidding) something like, “this is the future.” It seemed a ridiculous and comically dramatic thing for my friend to say, and I think I probably scoffed and predicted further and greater success, possible canonization, for the Mooney Suzuki or Mum or something foolish like that. But damn my friend was right. “Since I Left You” was the future back then (c.f. the sampling techniques of people like Panda Bear, Girl Talk, El Guincho, et al. ad inf. surely some of those nine year-old kids born post-SILY are playing around on their Roland samplers, making chillwave songs out of SpongeBob dialogue snippets). Where’s the second album? They’ve been clearing samples for what feels like three full years. Are their lawyers just lazy or horrible? If anyone from the Avalanches reads this, drop me a line, I’m working my way through the condensed paperback of “Big Ideas: an Intellectual Property Law Primer” and I’m really getting a feel for this stuff. I think I could help out.

[BUY Since I Left You]

Fermat’s first theorem

Jetone – Mtl Bass

People should write more open letters to things that annoy them. The cultural legacy of this era should be our willingness to directly and frankly address any object, place, or concept in writing, no matter how abstract or picayune e.g., “Dear Mondays in October, fuck off and die, I hate you, best, Todd Werther, jr. accountant.” “Dear fourth elevator, your buttons stick and I find your ascension rate objectionable at best, love, Ashley Young.” “Dear Woman on The Corner in the Plaid Dress, Your sartorial instincts must be guided by a lack of some important brain chemical, obviously, because your outfit is hideous, yours, Jackie L.” ETC. Don’t be afraid to let loose, everyone. It’s important for others to know how you feel about these ephemeral elements of your exciting lives. I know, for my part, that when I read someone’s eloquent rant against pressurized yogurt containers and their tendency to eject little geysers of yogurt upon being opened I feel less alone in the world, consoled by the knowledge that, hey, there are other people like me out there who hate the same important things I hate. e.g. “Dear cash register at Target, a hand-cranked conveyor belt from 1901 called and it wants its super-slow, pre-industrial rate of revolution back, sincerely, Rob Trakl.” No doubt future computer archeologists and historians will be grateful for our readiness to document the fucking harsh realities of everyday existence in the 21st century.

{Jetone is/was Tim Hecker’s minimal techno alias. I realize this is the second Hecker-related post in two weeks, but can you ever really have too much Tim Hecker in your life? Science, or what I know of it, tells me the answer is “no.”}

[BUY Ultramarin]

Ask me if every set is a member of a set

TBD – Oh My

This song sounds like a big-time exhortation. Objection: a lot of dance music is hortatory, urging one to the floor, at the very least. Reply: “Oh My” is convincing in a way that other songs are not. It is rhetorically powerful. Plus a lot of other dance music is just pushy. Objection: I don’t like the laser sounds or speed sounds or beat sounds or guitar sounds. Reply: You obviously don’t like music. Most music is made by lasers these days.

Actually, much of this song feels like it’s the sound of manipulated electricity, like someone varying the flow from two huge cables to two humongous speakers. Keeping an eye on the ohms, volts, amps, and watts; calling out the figures to his partner. (this reminds me of a weird philosophy thought experiment).

TBD is Justin Vandervolgen (formerly of !!!, Out Hud, now in LCD Soundsystem band) and Lee Douglas (who released that amazing track “New York Story” among other great things). Let’s hope they’ve got more like this.

[BUY Oh My/Okay, Cool]

Proposal to a Cycloptrix

Aidan Baker and Tim Hecker – Auditory Spirits

Here’s another small excerpt from my forthcoming mp3blogging memoir, “Bit Rate and Hit Rate.” The below details my first encounters with a renowned music listener.

I first met Jason Carlisle in the fall of 1999, during my second year in college. He was performing an a cappella version of the title track from “Bitches Brew” at an open mic night on campus. I was impressed by his ability to mimic the sounds of so many instruments simultaneously, as well as his knack for exuding a kind of cool jazz vibe, augmented by his wearing of mirrored sunglasses indoors and his inhaling what he claimed was heroin but what looked upon further examination to be brown sugar. He later told me he had been listening to that record as far back as he could remember, when he was still in his mother’s womb. “Bitches Brew,” he said, “is a heady brew. You have to start listening as an infant to really get it. Do you dig?” I took this to be a straightforward question about my shoveling technique and answered that I hadn’t held a landscaping job in a while, but I still knew which end of a shovel moved dirt. He laughed–a long, hearty, musical laugh, full of vibrato and weird harmonics–and took me under his wing. Jason introduced me to music I had never known about: Riley, Can, Wire, Penderecki, etc. He claimed he had recorded the movement of earthworms through the earth and set that field recording to a 15/8 beat, and the resultant song, “Ad Astra Per Humum,” had become a huge club hit in Berlin. He claimed he fell asleep to a tape he’d made of distorted jackhammers and sirens because it “extimbrilated” his ears. He said he knew a noise that, like the woman in the Rolling Stones song, could make a dead man come (it came from modified mbiras, illegal in the States). And a noise that could make people lose bowel control. He said he listened across all music for depth, breadth, and azimuth. He claimed to have heard records, made by ancient Egyptians, that were wooden and came with unmarked papyrus labels (these could only be played on a turntable powered by oxen). […] The last I’d heard, he’d dropped out of school to follow a black metal cover band (they played music with the covers of old LPs) around on tour, and he sent me a postcard from Antarctica that said, “the acoustics here are pretty good.”

[BUY Fantasma Parastasie, which has some amazing cover art]

Hard Noble Hardness

Black Devil Disco Club – On Just Foot

The sheikh gave an audience to his meek subjects every Friday, for an hour just prior to prayers. I memorized the questions they asked him. Sometimes he would list to his left, tap his lips, and whisper to me. Thinking. One man said, “Is it lawful for me to imagine my wife as a tiger in estrus?”, another said, “Is it lawful for me to eat a morsel of cereal I found in my son’s car seat, which we forgot in the heat, my son, not the car seat, left behind by my son, and so truthfully the food of a dead child?” and another said, “If I pray that my wife is taken away by spirits, will I be taken away by spirits also?” The sheikh answered them all fully, in his wisdom, by deferring to the judgment of Allah, who knew all things, he said, even why a man would lust after a female tiger.

Many days, the sheikh requested that I look after his fifth through tenth wives, his least favorite wives. I petitioned many times that we put them into storage, but he would have none of that. Perhaps they would be happier on Greenland, I said. Or alone in the Phillippines. Nonsense, he said. Their faces disgust me. Their bodies are so human, too human. Very human, we can agree on that. But I would miss their ugliness. Contrast, he said.

[BUY 28 After]

Viva Viva avatquevale

The Long Blondes – The Unbearable Lightness of Buildings

The Long Blondes were invited by the Tate to walk around the museum and write a song about whatever inspired them. They chose this piece by Jannis Kounellis:

Jannis Kounellis - Untitled

The band said, “Untitled caught our eye because we saw the stark industrial landscape and pictured ourselves within it.” One of the most interesting things about this song (and, I think, about most Long Blondes songs) is Kate Jackson’s singing–she’s got such a versatile voice. One part of this song (topic A) is a sort of flat academic lecture or a bored monologue about art, in which Kate says things like “Surreal bauhaus futurist manifestos,” and “But with a lost ideal hanging like a broken wing,” her tone reminiscent of the one she uses on the “Fulwood Babylon” break (when she says, “Girls fantasize/on school trips to galleries/of men who don’t meet/their parents’ expectations”). Makes sense, given the subject matter. Then, about halfway through the song, Kate sings, at the top of her voice, “Come on baby/sent to the factory/you were my baby/you never came back to me,” and later that line is repeated in the background all the way to the end of the song. It’s surprising and intensely emotional. It seems to me that, in writing this song, the Long Blondes created something that directly mimics Kounellis’s piece–the mix he’s got there on the wall (or maybe they just wanted to closely translate their own experience of the piece into music). What a great band.

[BUY Century 7″]

House of House and House of Love walk into a bar…

The House of Love – Christine

Do you enjoy quotidian romantic drama? This would be the kind where every phone call, every email, every telegram exchanged is not only fraught with primary meaning (information), but secondary and tertiary meanings as well. What did your lover mean when she said “I’ll think about dinner tonight.”? Is that an elaborate feint to expose your insecurities about choosing a restaurant? Or perhaps an opening gambit in a larger, more complex campaign designed to emasculate you and your (too pedestrian, you fear) gastronomic worldview? Or your man wrote you an email while on his business trip and signed it “xxxo” instead of “love always”–does this mean he’s already cheated on you or does it mean he’s thinking about cheating on you?

Guy Chadwick is singing about the type of relationship referenced above. This song is full of drama. Epic drama. The kind that includes “chaos and the big sea.” (that’s pretty big). The droning guitars at the start of the song are a suitable objective correlative for the flat despair associated with the second-guessing, worrying, and strategizing that comes with these relationships. But that solo! Vitalizing.

[Buy The House of Love]

Turn It Out, Fever

Sideshow – Philly Soundworks

One of the other major dancing memoirs of the twentieth century was Elaine Fulham’s “Infinite Skank,” a slim book, and a sort of künstlerroman about her struggle to become an accepted member of the skanking community. In her book, Fulham discusses the ways in which she tried to develop her skanking technique: how she would run for hours along the streets of Austin to build her endurance; how she researched the elements of the skank so she could build her style up from the very fundaments of the form; how she watched specially compiled DVDs of skanking footage to get a better idea of the variant styles out there in the world. There was also the time she spent wearing a special skanking suit–in its way, a sort of sensory deprivation device–which restricted her movements only to the prescribed strikes, fidgets, and turns of the perfect skank (or the Ultimate Skank, as Fulham refers to it). Much of the book consists of Fulham’s anecdotes about her search for a state of mind she called ‘skankfulness,’ in which the dancer is not even aware of his or her own movements, but performs the necessary moves in a kind of autonomic trance.

[BUY the Philly Soundworks EP]