When cursive becomes a thing of the past, will the penmen and penwomen among us become docents in the handwriting museum? When everyone’s signature is a line of staid block-print? A series of rectangles bent into somewhat different shapes? Do you still know the feeling of making a stylish mark in your own hand? The personal philosophies apparent from the use of the double-horned or single-horned ‘r,’ or the pleasure in writing a capital ‘Q,’ so like a 2?
Heterophonic. Canyons of static. Skyscraper drones. Soft glow of sodium. Parking lots that stretch for acres. 100 factory windows. 89 broken. Victor in pink bubble paint. He came, he saw, he tagged. Traffic noise beyond expression, like a fistful of bees? or two refrigerators whispering? tides of cars. Sasu Ripatti is on a roll this year.
Brothers, of a sort, to Orange Juice, though gloomier. Josef K had one album that they recorded twice, but strangely enough, they did not play encores. They went out on top and never looked back. “Fun ‘n Frenzy” is not the most fun song they ever wrote (that would be “Sorry for Laughing,” which is worth tracking down), but it is a statement: the guitar in the first 15 seconds of this song sounds so self-sufficient, giving off a vibe that suggests the guitar itself doesn’t care whether it fits into the song or whether you listen to it [the guitar tone is close to that in the Radiohead B-side “Permanent Daylight”]. “Sticking around with the only fun in town,” Paul Haig sings, resigned–though if you’re stuck, you might as well stay close to someone or something vital.
Kathy Diamond returns to sing a song of seduction and need. Many people probably wish that they could convey an invitation to the bedroom so stylishly. Instead of removing items of clothing, or lighting scented candles, or putting on the slowest, sexiest Jack Johnson track, or laying out bags of Jolly Ranchers (an aphrodesiac), or gesturing pointedly to their genitals with their eyes, or doing naked push-ups, they could do as Kathy Diamond does: she elaborates on her lust by sketching the outlines of desire–not a full-on frontal close-up grotesque still-life–but her living, ephemeral, non-affected yearning, her of-the-moment wants. It’s spontaneous, I think: she’s seized by this feeling all of the sudden and has to take action before it’s too late; also reflected in the shifting dynamic of the music, which starts off steady, surging, then impetuous, then satisfied.
“Red Oak Way” has the feel, to me, of the soft gray upholstered skin of a cubicle on the second floor of a university library. This is because I listened to this song maybe 25 times in the course of a couple nights of writing, when I was rushing to complete my thesis. Everyone who’s done homework to music, or written something with music on, knows that there are only certain kinds of songs you can have on in the background that will help and not hinder what you’re doing. If the music’s too interesting, you end up staring into space for what feels like hours on end; too boring and you end up skipping around like a maniac, trying to find a stretch of songs that will mollify the guilt and panic of procrastination. Most of the time, I can’t listen to anything brand new when I’m trying to do work, because I’ll get sucked in and won’t accomplish anything. Or I’ll start jogging my leg in time to the drums. “Red Oak Way” was perfect at the time, because it’s soft-focus, but still energetic, and Lockett Pundt sings in a way where some but not all of the lyrics are distinct, so it’s easy to get lost in the feeling of the song without necessarily being involved in the song.
The story I was working on (which is mostly about the Burj Khalifa, pictured above) when I first heard this song has recently been published in Big Fiction, a new magazine that specializes in long short stories. The very first issue is available now, and includes work by Mike Meginnis, Vincent Reusch, and Yuriy Tarnawsky. The magazine, which has a cool letterpress cover, looks and feels so nice.
Went to see Reading Rainbow and Los Campesinos play at Union Transfer in Philadelphia last night; first concert I’ve been to since Free Energy last spring. Union Transfer is a relatively new venue, or at least new for R5 Productions (responsible for most of the interesting shows in the city), and it’s a wonderful space–about as big as the Electric Factory, and similarly appointed, with an upstairs balcony and bars both up- and downstairs, but a lot more comfortable and just more welcoming altogether.
I’d only heard one song from Reading Rainbow before, the supremely pretty “Always On My Mind,” which gave me the impression they were a Mates of State-type band, maybe a little more inclined towards weirdness. That song, it turns out, is not exactly representative of the band’s live sound, which involves more squalls of noise than gentle cooing. The band (which is a trio) reminds me a little of Calla (in concert at least), especially in their tendency to start a song gently, slowly, and then let things take their course into extended territories of flashing, violent beauty. Apparently, they played a lot of new songs for the first time, and it sounds like whatever they’ve got in the pipeline is really good.
One thing among the many things that I love about this band is the fact that their songs sound instantly familiar without really recalling anything else. “By Your Hand,” for example, feels like a classic already, though it’s hard to pinpoint why…the energy of this band is apparent always, and I think a lot of that has to do with Gareth’s singing, the way he rides the words so carefully and effectively bends syllables to his will, something that’s even more emphatically on display in concert. Gareth not only sings like his life depended on it, but he also mimes his lyrics with elaborate (and pretty awesome) hand gestures, though his default pose recalled something more like a poet declaiming his verses. I think most people know that this band is really good, but it’s sort of incredible how well they execute their songs live (particularly the ones that sound like they must have 100 constituent instrumental parts) and how charming and humble they are on stage.
p.s. (title of this post comes from Gareth’s introduction of “You! Me! Dancing!,” which has served as the soundtrack to a long-running Budweiser commercial)
“Tanning Salon, part 2” is a nightmare, or at least the entrance to a sort of Hadean airbrushed sunset beach nightmare-world. This is meant as a compliment. I believe sincerely that if there really were such a place as Margaritaville, a sovereign nation where the Parrotheads offered their prayers to icons of Buffett and paid each other in ground beef (future cheeseburgers) and mixers, and everyone went about–or just existed, really–in a concentrated funk of lethargy punctuated by bursts of gluttony and the pursuit of slow, tanned, gross sex, if such a place were real, I think that “Tanning Salon, part 2” is the sound of the death of that laidback utopia, the winding down even further. This is the song that would play when the UN rescue workers arrived and came upon a scene of bloated, blistered, shirt-unbuttoned corpses lounging on the beach. Crocs nestled pitifully in the sand next to their owners; some pairs housing lively hermit crabs. “It was a beautiful dream,” one UN worker says, tears in his eyes. “Too beautiful for this world.”
The story of the trapeze artist, First Sorrow, was written by Kafka but also written by Georges Perec in Life A User’s Manual. It also appeared in a different form, much earlier, in Sir Gawain and the Green Night, and before that in the Acts of the Apostles. Recently, there has been an animated adaptation of the story running on Nickelodeon. Someday it will be told via the medium of Laffy Taffy wrappers. Later, in the form of a really good consommé at a nice restaurant. Much later, it will be told in the on-off pulse of carbon atoms sitting in very tiny, very cold beds.
You can see the ice cream man’s truck before you hear it, due to the quickness of light and the slowness of sound. Also due to the fact that you’re in the attic, sweating as you wrestle with the cotton candy spools of insulation. This ice cream man has a beard that reminds you of the beards of yesteryear, when it seemed the growing of facial hair was not only fashionable but a competitive art, or perhaps a lost language, like the language of flowers. How much of his beard is eaten accidentally everyday by the patrons of his ice cream truck? He does not wear–and why would he–one of those inane hairnets for the chin, a chinnet. Just as there is gold dust in so much of the water from the west, so must there be beard hair in the ice cream in the east. A fable for living, you think. The particulate nature of Vicissitude permeates every aspect of our wives. No. Our lives.
“Flux” sounds like the title, and sounds too like the EP it comes from, “Carbonated.” Mount Kimbie is, without a doubt, the go-to group for headphonophiliac, non-Euclidean sound geometries; lots of discontinuous functions in their songs, gaps in the domain, surprising outputs and results. Their music does some of the same work as Black Dice’s–it’s adventurous, but not recklessly so. There’s still a vague relationship with familiar forms. I feel like they’re one of those groups that will so transcend whatever scene they started in (dubstep, kind of) to the point where you forget their history entirely (maybe close to the way people don’t really talk about Radiohead as brit-pop band or U2 as a post-punk band).