She said “Jump,” and the corpses arose: boys and girls, men and women, cows and horses. A chicken. They lumbered up out of the earth and staggered into our fields. It was beautiful, in the way that something you’ve never seen before can be beautiful. Plus each body moved within the limits circumscribed by its physical personality, and thus with a sort of unwilled grace–or at least with the grace of being animated by a will external to their bodies. I felt a sick sort of awe and recognized this pack of things as a form of art, this witch’s art, a tableau of reanimated carrion that was as compelling to me as a melancholy air sung by a sweet girl, or a tapestry of bewildering color. For an instant, I loved that witch. And then I had to run.
I saw harvest women in Iowa. Corn beauties as strong as Kodiak bears. They carried their men on their backs, their little mean men. Each one would shout at his woman, “Belinda! Get me to a pipe!” or “Betty, where’s that chicory?!” They were living with the land, in tune with the land and themselves, the men were, from the backs of their women. Every harvest woman I met had a man on her back, and often they, the men, would be snoozing. Deeply. Curled up on the curve of their ladies’ backs. All the men wore hats. All the women had on blue dresses of brutal and tremendously durable denim. They shook their braids in the wind to wake up the men, who when startled would shout, “Husk! Husk! Husk! Let’s husk!”
Get real, get right, get naked, is what I always say. When you’re ailed by this world and the stern trials of human life, you eliminate; eliminate your fallacies, your lies, your self-deceptions, your wastefulness, and your clothes. Strip it all down, all the way down. Let your body feel the caress of mother earth’s hands: the wind, and the trees, and the rain, and the sun, and airborne particulate. Give over the peaks and valleys of your own corpus to be weathered and dimmed and blunted by the workings of the ether. That beer gut will erode by hydraulic action. Those nipples will be sanded away by grit. Allow those buttocks to be glaciated. You will evolve into a compact and seamless thing. This is a way of life. Embrace it.
Tristan Perich is the no-joke genius behind 1-Bit Music and 1-Bit Symphony, two works that go well beyond their unusual presentation to explore the nuances of sound generation. As good as those other works are, Surface Image, which is Perich’s first large-scale piano composition, is a huge leap forward–it’s a little more than an hour long, but it goes by in a flash. The work is 1-bit electronics and Vicky Chow’s piano, but it is, like so many other masterful pieces of music, a thing that exhibits emergent properties, surprises in tone, emotion, and sound, with the combinations of the components opening up into wonderful and weird little musical worlds. If you savor that feeling of hearing something truly new–something that makes you feel grateful that there are people who restlessly create and experiment, etc.–then definitely listen to the whole of Surface Image. This thing is a journey (I had a lingering idea of Chow’s piano as a sort of companion throughout the pulse and stutter of the 1-bit electronics), and it’s one of the most exciting pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time.
There’s that heartfelt City, across the water, with its two beautiful bridges and its shoulder on the ocean. Now it has that frenetic feel to it, a wild-eyed panic, a desperation to be on the cusp of everything. And the Town, an echo of the City, reclines against the hills. The Town has charms: a lake, two lakes, good people and culture. The City’s got mists, pockets of cloud, loud fogs, and occasional sunshine. The Town is all clear, all sun. Beulah’s music works for both, even though it came from the City.
I went to see David Bazan play a show with the Passenger String Quartet in San Francisco on Saturday night. David Dondero opened for him. I’d never seen either in the concert before, and I’d only ever heard Bazan’s music (though only his Pedro the Lion stuff). Both were pretty great–totally charming in their own ways. Dondero played with just his guitar and he ran through maybe 14 songs in about an hour. Before playing each song, he would talk about its origin, or tell a weird story related to the song, which had the effect of making him seem like someone new to touring, for some reason, even though he’s apparently been playing out for decades–it was funny, though he seemed nervous too, so there was a little ambient anxiety throughout his set. His songs are pretty awesome though–each one has at least two or three incredibly well observed details and his singing voice is so plain-spoken that both he and his songs come across as personable and trustworthy, even though there’s a sense that he is kind of a mischief-maker too. South of the South is about Florida and it is dead-on about Florida.
I know precisely one EP/LP (Winners Never Quit) of David Bazan songs well, though I’ve heard others in the past too. He played guitar and keyboards along with the Passenger String Quartet, and the overall effect was impressive–the quartet’s sound was rich and full, and Bazan’s guitar playing mostly functioned as percussion (the strumming was all you could hear, really). Bazan has a great voice, very expressive, and that was the main focus for this performance–which meant that some of the songs were great and others felt a little odd, like the string arrangements did not supply the right amount of oomph that the vocals seemed to call for; but it’s cool to see an artist like him do something different. You can listen to and buy the Bazan + Passenger String Quartet LP over on his site.
Posting this again because 1) I love this song, and 2) Excepter is back with a new album, Familiar–though I haven’t heard it yet (more on that soon). Just happy that John Fell Ryan and co. are still making music.
This is, I think, the meanest beat Excepter’s ever made. This track breaks jaws–that beat is police sirens and broken factory windows, and someone tied up in a damp furnace room, banging out an SOS on steam pipes. “Targets” sweats outs a very purpose-driven/not-to-be-fucked-with vibe. So seductive.
If you’ve never listened to Excepter before, maybe now’s the time to try. You’re getting older everyday. Things can’t be all witchwave and chillstep forever. Kombucha IVs and organic oatmeal will not save you. Nor will artisanal puddings, yogurts, or pastes. Respice finem, etc. Sometimes you need to listen to a song that’s nothing but convergent moans, synthesized lathes, and mammoth drumlike entities.
He was shown into a room by the curators, and they told him the film would start shortly. The room was small, the size of a large walk-in closet, maybe, with speakers against the back wall, a screen covering the entire front wall. An armchair sat in the exact middle of the room, and there was a circular sidetable next to the left arm of the chair and on it a bowl of popcorn, which was an extraordinary touch, he thought. He sat down. The film started, though there were no pictures–he could heard dialogue, something about a trip to New Jersey to pick up a high-chair. A man and a woman speaking, and he found both voices calming. Then silence. Then a baby crying, and this seemed to go on for quite a long time, three or four minutes. And then a child’s voice said, “Mama,” and sang a little wordless nonsense song. Then the same voice, clearer, said “I’m very disappointed.” And that he found odd, though he could not determine why–there was something unsettling about that sentence, not so much the content of it, but the aura about it, as though this were a triggering phrase for him, something he had been conditioned long ago to respond to. “Won’t you marry me?” the little voice said, breathing deeply. “I love you more than life itself.” Hearing this made him shiver, for he had said much the same thing–if not that precise phrase–when he’d proposed to a girl he knew in the first grade. He’d knelt down on the hard ground of the recess yard and presented a costume ring to this girl, and said a line he’d heard in a movie. How would this have been recorded? he wondered. Or had it been recreated? He looked over his shoulder to see whether one or both of the curators was in the room, but the only presence behind him was that of the speakers, which continued to broadcast excerpts from the dialogues and monologues of his life.
Walk down to the water’s edge. Look across. That’s an actual palace. But it’s better to stroll on this side, the commercial side, because there are better breezes. This is why you’ll hear pedestrians say, I’ll take the view in D but I’ll take the air in P. Just kidding, no one says that. Stop at a ruin bar, get a beer. You might think the interior looks like a post-apocalyptic Applebee’s, I realize, but try to cast your mind back maybe seven or eight years to when this was the only one in the city and then think about how thankful you would have been to stumble onto and into it. There are like a dozen dudes playing chess in a small room around the corner, a room that is also suffused with at least four or five distinct kinds of tobacco smoke. Everyone writes their names on the walls. In the summer it’s hot and you walk outside to the courtyard and in the winter you just huddle under the orange halo of the heat lamps.