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A beginner’s guide to mass hysteria

Downpour – “A beginner’s guide to mass hysteria” – Destroy It Yourself – Bandcamp

Nobody knows exactly what happened to members of the American envoy in Cuba, and their spouses, who in the fall of 2016 started suffering from unexplained hearing loss, nausea, vertigo, and a variety of other vague physical symptoms. The Associated Press reported in August that they had been attacked by some sort of sophisticated sonic weapon: “an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound.” The new American administration retaliated by expelling the two sole official Cuban diplomats from the US. The Cuban government denied deploying or even possessing any such weapon, stating in its defence: “Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception.”

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, or for that matter any logical or definitive explanation, commentators have been forced to speculate on the cause of the Americans’ mysterious illnesses. “There may have been chemical exposure,” say Lisa Diedrich and Ben Tausig in The New York Times; “mass hysteria,” say Julian Borger and Philip Jaekl of The Guardian. “None of this makes sense until you consider the psychogenic explanation,” argues Robert Bartholomew, a medical sociologist familiar with the case.

Mass hysteria could be one explanation. In 1518, around four hundred residents of Strasbourg, Alsace, in modern-day northeastern France, took to dancing for days without rest in a bizarre case of “dancing mania,” many dying from heart attack, stroke, and exhaustion. The 1962 Tanganyika laughter epidemic, which affected ninety-five students in a mission-run boarding school for girls, was attributed to a mass psychogenic illness near the Ugandan border. On November 8th 2016, nearly sixty-three million Americans voted for Donald J. Trump to become their next president. Anything’s possible.

 

JK Flesh – “Exit Stance” – Exit Stance – Downwards

Last chance to evacuate planet Earth before it is recycled.

 

CMD – “Graviton Cloud” – Wavecraft – Low Noise Productions

Corina MacDonald, aka CMD, is a Montreal-based electronic music producer, who sometimes performs under the name Cyan, too. MacDonald also hosts “Modular Systems,” a bi-weekly show on CKUT community radio, every second Sunday. And she is a mainstay of local events and festivals like Mutek. CMD is what might be described as an “overproducer,” an active member of a creative scene generating far more material than is rationally possible to parse. But it’s fun to try.

 

Sabrina Ratté (with Roger Tellier-Craig) – “Créteil” – Machine for Living

“The ancient idea of pleasure still seems sacrilegious to modern architectural theory,” wrote the famous deconsructivist architect Bernard Tschumi in the early 1980s. And little has changed since then, says Anna Klingmann, in her 2007 book Brandscapes: “Most critical practices in architecture are still governed by the Calvinist credo of the ‘socially conscious,’ who condemn every sensual design as ‘spectacle’ without any understanding what that might mean.” What it means to me is that, in the future, built environments won’t need people to populate them. Paradoxically, they will be much more “socially conscious” in absence of the social altogether.

 

Kate Carr – “Ascent” – From A Wind Turbine To Vultures (And Back) – Flaming Pines

I have been re-reading Of Walking On Ice, a beautifully written travelogue penned by Werner Herzog in 1974, during the course of his three-week walk from Munich to Paris to visit his friend and fellow filmmaker Lotte Eisner, who had fallen gravely ill. “Flat countryside,” Herzog writes, “only the crows, shrieking all around me—I suddenly ask myself seriously whether I’ve lost my mind, as I hear so many crows but see so few. There is dead silence around me, as far as I can hear, and then there’s the shrieking of crows. Mistily the heights of the Vosges Mountains are penciled along the horizon.”

“There was mainly just wind, mud, and the odd wire fence or cryptic red sign post,” writes Kate Carr, of her equivalently Herzogian quest in Velez Blanco, southern Spain. “I didn’t know until towards the end of my stay at Joya, but the signs denoted that the mountain was hunting ground for local residents at various points of the year, and boar were quite common there, although I never saw any, and only very few birds, whose calls were often muffled by the wind. The only exception being the mighty black vultures which flew over the crest of the mountain, and could be identified by the whistling beat of their wings.”

I cannot think of a better soundtrack to accompany this book than Kate Carr’s From A Wind Turbine To Vultures (And Back)—the “sonic transect” of her harrowing ascent.

 

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In Defence of Lost Causes

Daniel Lanois – “Not Fighting Anymore” – Here Is What Is – Red Floor Records

I hadn’t cried in a long while. It was like that Seinfeld episode when Jerry hadn’t barfed for a decade. The last time I cried was a frustrated, heavy sob on the day of Trump’s inauguration. I’m not American, but I cried anyway for the sorry lot.

Waking up on Wednesday morning was as unremarkable as waking up on any other morning. I arose with the sun and finished writing a cover letter for a job I’m applying for, made a cup of tea, opened twitter. Of course, I saw first thing that Gord Downie had died, and was immediately overwhelmed with profound sadness. Knowing along with the nation for the past eighteen months that this day was near was no consolation. I remembered all the campfires and tailgate parties and even the oddly sentimental moments that the Hip had soundtracked over the years. I remembered seeing them with loved ones who aren’t around anymore. I remembered the farewell concert they played last summer, and I remembered focusing intently on identifying Downie’s custom-made hat to keep myself from welling up.

Then, before I had even an instant to properly grasp my mourning, I read the news that Quebec had passed its disgraceful Bill 62, prohibiting all facial coverings while administering or receiving public services in the province. Ostensibly, the law was enacted as a “state neutrality” measure, but it is targeted almost exclusively against a small minority of Muslim women. My sorrow for Downie quickly made a sharp U-turn toward anger at Quebecers — for the institutionally discriminatory, xenophobic, and downright racist society that I have been living in for the past thirteen years; for the betrayal of a provincial government that only months ago apologized on behalf of all Quebecers for the worst terrorist attack on Canadian soil in our history, the slaying of six Muslims knelt in peaceful prayer in a Quebec City mosque on 29 January 2017; for the betrayal of the motherfuckers who continue to remain silent on the most heinous issues that are so urgently facing not just our city or province, but the entire planet. I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry for Gord, and I didn’t cry with the news of a massive social backslide in my own backyard. The thick teardrops saved themselves for later that evening, when, after a hard day applying for jobs and being simultaneously more angry and sadder than I had been since January 20th, Daniel Lanois’ “Not Fighting Anymore,” from his beautiful and apparently invisible 2008 album Here Is What Is, came on the iPod shuffle. The machine, in all its automated, algorithmic wisdom, chose that song. It was an honest mistake.

 

Scott Wollschleger – “Brontal Symmetry” – Soft Aberration – New Focus Recordings

I am fascinated and disturbed by cognitive dissonance: the apparent disparity between appearance and reality. Today, we are all too often glued to some form of screen, telling us that things are different from what our eyes are telling us — that everything is okay, when it quite clearly isn’t — the Žižekian “I know very well, but…” “Relations of domination function through their denial,” Žižek writes, in his 2008 book In Defence of Lost Causes. “We are not only obliged to obey our masters, we are also obliged to act as if we we’re free and equal.” What I like about Wollschleger’s “Brontal Symmetry” is that, at several points in its fourteen and a half minutes, the piece pulls the screen back so that the listener must face reality, face our own cognitive dissonance in all its horrible hilarity.

 

тпсб – “Are You Still Hurt” – Sekundenschlaf – Blackest Ever Black

In January, four men were discovered dehydrated and starving inside a shipping crate at the Cast Terminal in the Old Port. The Georgian nationals were rescued during a random inspection of the container. They had been confined for at least twelve days, on a transatlantic voyage that took them via Hong Kong to Quebec City and Trois-Rivières, before docking in Montreal. Remember them next time you whinge about getting the middle seat, or having to endure a crying baby on a flight.

 

buffalo MRI – Hushed sketchica – Power Puerto Rico Compilation – Bandcamp

In a 19 October interview with NPR, FEMA coordinator Michael Byrne said that, nearly one month after hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island, the US emergency agency is still distributing 600,000 meals and millions of gallons of water per day to Puerto Ricans whose homes and lives were demolished by the storm. Even Royal Caribbean, the luxury cruise line long criticized for their Haitian private island walled off from the locals, used the Adventure of the Seas, a 3,800-passenger vessel to bring aid to San Juan, and to evacuate the stranded to Fort Lauderdale. While the president, with a personal net worth of $3.1 billion US, tosses out rolls of paper towel for television cameras, and concurrently trades barbs with the city’s mayor on twitter. Why is it always those who have the least who give the most?

 

Esmerine – “Mechanics Of Dominion” – Mechanics Of Dominion – Constellation Records

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return

Genesis 3:19

 

 

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We make her paint her face and dance

This week’s Play Recent is dedicated solely to women writing about women. Without further ado:

Frances Morgan on Pauline Oliveros

“I think these moments, which you could say are of reflection or indecision or humility, make these pieces uncomfortable, or just ephemeral, somehow incomplete for some listeners, but I also think that they are part of what I love about Reverberations. We – she and I and the machines – are discovering the sounds together. The sounds are discovering us.”

Follow Frances Morgan

 

Tara Joshi interviews Kalela

“The cover art shows the second-gen Ethiopian-American sitting cross-legged, staring almost challengingly at the beholder: poised, unapologetic, and naked, save for masses of long braids artfully wrapped around her. Such a cover is symbolic of many things, but the braids seem a reminder that – though the album never gets explicitly political or talks expressly about blackness – Kelela is a queer black woman who grew up in the States, and her art is inherently formed through the lens of that experience.”

Follow Tara Joshi

 

Emily Mackay on Björk

“From her days as the drummer in her teen punk band Spit and Snot, she’d always been drawn to strongly rhythmic music, including hip hop. ‘From 86 to 88, if I couldn’t get to hear Public Enemy every day, I’d go sick,’ she declared. ‘They’re so creative and brave and misunderstood … They take what they are living with every day and make a song out of it.'”

Follow Emily Mackay

 

Chal Ravens profiles Jlin

“Last year Patton quit the steel mill to dedicate her energies to her astonishing second album, Black Origami, which sees the 29-year-old pushing further into ‘dark spaces’ and further from her footwork roots. When she describes her music now, she simply calls it ‘naked.'”

Follow Chal Ravens

 

Fiona Sturges on AC/DC and feminism

“It might seem odd that, after 30 years of devotion, I should suddenly find myself pondering the changing values and generational shifts that have occurred since I first heard them. Odder still, perhaps, is that my love for this wilfully unreconstructed rock band has led me to think about my relationship with my daughter, specifically the influence that a parent can have over a child’s cultural life and the ideological quandaries that it can raise. And yet here I am.”

Follow Fiona Sturges

 

Geeta Dayal on Alice Coltrane

“Michelle Coltrane remembers that her mother generally shied away from technology; she even shunned using appliances like microwave ovens. ‘She was happy having a grand piano, a big Steinway grand, and she did love the organ – she had one at the ashram and one at her home,’ says Coltrane. ‘I said, Mom, you gotta check out Roland and Korg and all these products that are coming out, that have arpeggiators and all these things that she might find attractive, and that are easy to transport as well … the next thing you know, we’re on that Oberheim.'”

Follow Geeta Dayal

 

Robin James on Beyoncé

“Sounds on this album don’t operate independently of black femininity, black women’s performance traditions, or individual artists’ black feminist politics. On the one hand, thinking with Daphne Brooks and Regina Bradley, it’s more accurate to say that Beyoncé’s sound game has generally led the way and been more politically cutting-edge than her visual game. On the other hand, sound can also be what does the heavy lifting for patriarchy and other systems of domination…”

Follow Robin James

 

Maya Kalev on Jenny Hval (paywall)

“Hval was too young to appreciate black metal back in the late 1980s and early 90s, when the scene exploded in Norway, but she can see affinities between what she calls its droney qualities and that of her own music, even as she despises the misogynistic and racist political leanings of some corners of the scene.”

Follow Maya Kalev

 

Tara Rodgers on gender and synthesizer history

“Critical readings of audio-technical discourse, and of the periodization of synthesizer histories, reveal that women are always already rendered out of place as subjects and agents of electronic music history and culture.”

Follow Tara Rodgers

 

Sophie Heawood on falling in and out of love with music

“Not liking music makes you feel like the worst kind of person, but it wasn’t always like this. I was 14 the first time a song made me cry. Sitting on the swings in the park with Lisa and her cassette player, whiling away the hours until the end of our childhoods.”

Follow Sophie Heawood

 

 

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I want it. What is it?

April Larson – “It Flies” – The Human Heart – Tobago Tracks

In his Nobel Prize-winning book Thinking Fast And Slow, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman outlines two cognitive systems that our brains use to make sense of the world.

The first “operates automatically and quickly,” he writes, “with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.” Looking toward the source of a sudden sound, or answering two plus two, for instance, fall under System One’s purview. System Two is more considered, on the other hand, allocating “attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it,” says Kahneman. These include things like doing your taxes, or writing this column, for example.

We might think that System Two is the one that governs our choices and beliefs, and bestows upon us a sense of individual identity. But System One actually plays a bigger part in routing the impressions and feelings that System Two has to deliberate on, as if System One preconditions and to a certain extent predetermines System Two. And another thing: System One can’t be turned off. It’s constantly working, like background script that’s always running. Is it possible that our ostensibly cultivated cultural tastes actually belong more to System One? I think that we know immediately whether or not we like what we do. The rest is vanity.

 

Autechre – “JNSN CODE GL16” – JNSN CODE GL16 / spl47 – Touched Music

It’s nice that Autechre have returned to making enchanting music of manageable proportions. And for good cause: the Macmillan Cancer Support Community. Shame that the residual value of this record will fall largely into aftermarket prospectors’ hands.

 

Michael Terren – “Vessel” – Thru – Fallow Media

One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show Pawn Stars. I especially enjoy the episodes where the Las Vegan Gold & Silver Pawn Shop owner Rick Harrison has to call in local expert Mark Hall-Patton, otherwise referred to as the “Beard of Knowledge,” to identify and authenticate some curio that he’s never seen before — a centrifugal governor, or a meteorite that could possibly be millions of years old.

Mr. Hall-Patton, administrator of the Nevada Clark County Museum, presumably a place to encounter the most priceless and worthless of ephemera, indeed has a beard and some knowledge. No matter what the thing is, he invariably takes a long look over the merchandise, and says, “Oh, this is very interesting.” This is like that. I want it. What is it? What does it do? What is it worth?

 

Henning Christiansen – “Op.192 GRUNDBAND Umwälzung (excerpt)” – Op.192 UMWÄLZUNG – fluxorum organum 1990 EURASIENSTAB ist immernoch ANGELPUNKT – Penultimate Press

So much time and ingenuity and money have been spent over the past 140 years on technically concealing or erasing or eradicating all trace of the medium from recorded sound. We even have a standard ratio for quantifying it: signal to noise. Now, we’re finally enjoying a time when that medium-ness — tape hiss, room buzz, grounding hum, feedback — is celebrated for what it exposes, not what it undermines.

 

Polyorchard – “Montana” – Red October – Out & Gone Music

“Within seconds of listening to Red October,” writes scholar Emily Leon, “I felt as though I was the steel ball in a pinball game… like the steel ball, this album propels you into the playfield: targets, holes and saucers, spinners and rollovers, gates.”

From the pinball’s perspective, life seems pretty chaotic. It’s constantly on the move, incapable of rest, circulating, rebounding, ricocheting off of various obstacles, with no logical sense of direction. But step up from the playing field and out of the machine, above the glass surface, and that steel pinball has a very definite trajectory, from initial launch to its inevitable end through those final pearly paddles. The game is to make the most of the fall.

 

Daphni – “Tin” – Joli Mai – Jiaolong

There’s an adage that applies to carpenters and producers of Techno alike: measure twice, cut once.

 

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We Were The Arm

The Arm – “Zorn Relift” – Unreleased

This week, my long-lost friend Matt emailed me out of the blue. Although we were inseparable as teenagers—many people thought we were brothers; we shared an apartment; we had a band called “The Arm”—we hadn’t spoken for seventeen years. That’s a lifetime, for a seventeen year old. Immediately, my mind started wandering back to the days when we were making music, which were really the happiest days.

In 1995, when we were living together, I bought an Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler. Matt had an encyclopedic knowledge of music, so we started going through his collection, selecting bits and pieces, and putting them back together in the sampler. One night, we came across a particularly cool section from John Zorn. I stitched it into a loop, and Matt started noodling overtop on his burgundy Gibson SG. I began sampling his guitar on the fly, and before we knew it, we had something resembling a song.

We feverishly continued making music that summer, but unfortunately, I have none of it. In those days, we recorded onto VHS tape—tapes that have since been recorded over or irreparably damaged. But I still have a clean recording of the Zorn thing we made. And after hearing from my old pal Matt, I dug it out and dusted it off. We were The Arm, and we sounded like this.

 

Roger Tellier-Craig – “Soleil et chaleur dans le parc (Edit)” – Instantanés – Root Strata

I have it on good authority that the Montreal-based composer Roger Tellier-Craig doesn’t like it when people describe him as “formerly of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.” Come to think of it, Tellier-Craig has had to endure a lot of “formerlys”: Le Fly Pan Am; Set Fire To Flames; Pas Chic Chic—all good projects, but none that particularly let his singular talents run wild. However, on this new recording for Root Strata, conspicuously released under his own name, Tellier-Craig has effectively shed all his former associations, and made a bold artistic statement of selfhood. It stands alone.

 

H. Takahashi – “Fragment” – Raum – Where To Now? Records

When the iPhone was released ten years ago, it was constantly referred to in Apple’s hyperbolic marketing rhetoric as “magical.” The iPhone is a “revolutionary and magical product,” Steve Jobs enthused at its launch on January 7th 2007. But in the subsequent decade, is has gradually become one of the more ubiquitous, quotidian, almost boring pieces of mobile technology. iPhones are everywhere. Save for the fact that none of us actually knows how it functions, we more often spend time swearing at the damn thing for not working right, or for its various incompatibilities: with Google; with YouTube; with its own proprietary cables and headphones. So it’s nice when something comes along and reinstates some of that old iPhone magic. Make it live up to its impossible promises, I say.

 

Jamie Drouin – “Palindrome I” – Palindrome – Infrequency Editions

In my forthcoming book, Mad Skills, I outline a history of what I’ve come to call “claviocentrism”: the centuries-old centrality of the clavier keyboard to Western musical traditions. As electronic instruments proliferated in the twentieth century, the easiest way to get average musicians interested was to slap keyboard interfaces on them and make them look, feel, and sound like other, previously existing keyboard devices. The Hammond looked a lot like a piano; the Moog looked a lot like a Hammond; and so on. The synthesizer engineer Don Buchla, on the other hand, imagined electronic music-making beyond the black and white keyboard, and designed many of his earliest synths without one. This, I imagine, is what music might have sounded like if, in the 1960s and ’70s in particular, claviocentrism hadn’t been such a deep-seated and enduring cultural logic.

 

Rebel Threads: Clothing of the Bad, Beautiful, and Misunderstood – Roger K. Burton – The Horse Hospital in association with Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

In one of the vignettes on the cover of Nirvana’s posthumous live album From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, Kurt Cobain wears a striped black and red sweater that is reminiscent of Freddy Krueger’s in the Nightmare on Elm Street film franchise. This same sweater was the centerpiece of my Kurt Cobain Halloween costume, until I realized a few years ago that I was already ten years older—and several pounds heavier—than Cobain was when he died. So of course it caught my eye on the cover of this gorgeous new tome put out in part by the outstanding arts venue The Horse Hospital. I cannot think of a book released in recent memory that I want more.

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A Load of Bull: how RBMA is at odds with its founder’s beliefs

Remember that appalling Pepsi advert this April—the one where Kendall Jenner singlehandedly diffuses some generic protest with a blue can of cola? Upon its release, increasingly more people quickly denounced the spot for its tone-deaf co-optation of the iconography of grassroots activism like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Even Bernice King, the daughter of the American minister and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made a snarky remark about it on Twitter. Snark begat screenshots begat memes, and Pepsi, in a rare reversal of a mammoth global marketing campaign, scrapped it following an overwhelming backlash. All that over an ad, Pepsi’s failed stab at radical chic.

Now, imagine that Pepsi had doubled down and skipped making the ad altogether, going straight to sponsoring the actual protests instead. Imagine that they showed up to the next demonstration and set up stands selling Pepsi, plastering their logo across banners, handbills, and t-shirts. Imagine they installed temporary ATMs. Imagine they became corporate partners with nonprofits and NGOs, making them cross-promote Pepsi products through their social media feeds. Imagine they funded leading experts to retrace histories of their own communities, publishing them on a Pepsi-branded website. Imagine Pepsi, more than merely co-opting the lexicon and codes of a popular movement, simply annexed the whole movement.

You can stop imagining, because that’s exactly what Red Bull has done with the global underground music scene, another grassroots, radical, and revolutionary force. Rather than mimic avant-garde music communities, Red Bull has bought them outright. Which would be less of a problem, if Dietrich Mateschitz, the company’s co-founder and public face remotely stood for any of the values that avant-garde artists and their audiences hold dear.

I’ve written before about the loose relationship between experimental music scenes, Red Bull Music Academy, and gentrification, as well as Red Bull’s shady business practices, and the mystery of the beverage itself. Now, on the occasion of their return to Montreal, it’s time to talk about RBMA’s ostensibly inclusive cultural rhetoric versus Dietrich Mateschitz’s unsettling social and political beliefs.

According to Forbes magazine, Mr. Mateschitz is Austria’s wealthiest person, controlling a vast fortune estimated at $13.4 billion US. Being that rich means that he has a lot of stuff: aside from a forty-nine percent stake in Red Bull, he also owns an Alpine lodge, a Formula One motorsports team, a race track, football clubs in Austria, Germany, Brazil, and America, an island in the South Seas, and various aircraft to get there. By degrees of separation, Mateschitz likewise finances Red Bull Music Academy. But all these assets haven’t tamed Mr. Mateschitz’s tempest.

No. In an exclusive Q&A this April with the Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung, Mr. Mateschitz rants indignantly about his contempt for political correctness, hostility toward multiculturalism, sympathy for Donald Trump, and scorn for what he describes as the “self-proclaimed so-called intellectual elite.” Apparently, Mateschitz doesn’t recognize his billionaire entrepreneur status as anything approaching elitism.

When pressed on political correctness, Mateschitz claims: “The most basic of all human rights is that of self-responsibility, and that is what they want to take away. They manipulate, regulate, monitor and control.” His sentiments echo Trump’s own, who has frequently railed in public against liberal diplomacy. On Twitter following the June terrorist attack in London, Trump wrote: “We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse.” As if “getting smart” equates to “outspoken bigotry.”

Another point of accord between the US president and Mateschitz is their opposition to accepting those fleeing conflict, something that Mateschitz in particular sees as a wave that’s “destabilizing Europe.” The reporter interjects at one point during the interview, warning: “You are talking like an enraged citizen.”

“I am talking about the fact that none of those who called out ‘Welcome’ or ‘We can manage it’ offered up their guest room or set up a tent in their garden to accommodate five emigrants,” snaps Mr. Mateschitz. “When one of the highest officials in Brussels says that countries with monocultures should no longer exist, then I hope that I am not the only one who is worried. But it seems that no one dares say the truth anymore, even if everyone knows that it is the truth.”

The truth, as Mateschitz sees it, is that emigrants are mongelizing Europe’s purity. This is all a long way from RMBA’s talk of diversity and inclusivity in dance culture. For Mateschitz, heterogeneity is fine in the club, just not out in the real world.

Few English-language music publications picked up on the Mateschitz interview—The Fader, Resident Advisor, and Crack magazine all ran brief mentions after Artsnet’s Hilli Perlson initially reported it—but the story quickly disappeared, as stories do nowadays. Still, the right-leaning website Breitbart jumped right on top of it, running an enthusiastic news item with the headline: “Red Bull Boss Slams Mass Migration, Forced Multiculturalism in Europe.”

All this begs the question: if Mateschitz is so obviously versed in the alt-right’s talking points, why is Red Bull interested in traditionally left-leaning avant-garde music cultures, of all things? I believe that, in their combative postures toward the status quo, Mateschitz sees something of himself. The artistic underground is also the most loyal scene—the most vocal, most active, and accustomed to being on the defence. For both the underground and Mateschitz, their critics are haters, losers.

In addition to Pepsi’s misguided ad, another string of images this year came to symbolize how out of touch with reality some of us have become: Chris Christie vacationing on a private beach; golfers in Oregon chipping on the fairway while nearby wildfires rage; Melania Trump arriving in stilettos in Houston to greet victims of hurricane Irma. It’s an equally bad look now to claim a radical political attitude and continue to support Mateschitz’s endeavors. Do you want to be seen raving away at RBMA while the world burns?

The choice is yours.

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Life Out of Balance

Electric Wizard – “See You In Hell” – Wizard Bloody Wizard – Spinefarm Records

“For years,” writes Naomi Klein, “climate scientists have warned us that a warming world is an extreme world, in which humanity is buffeted by both brutalizing excesses and stifling absences of the core elements that have kept fragile life in equilibrium for millennia.” The natural world, if there is still such a thing, is indeed in violent upheaval. Hurricanes, floods, and forest fires have marred the serenity of the summer months, and the autumn of our years will soon be upon us. Okay, now what? Might as well rock the fuck out to some righteous riffs. “All of your dreams will die,” warn the Dorset stoner sludge foursome, in what the band themselves describe as “twenty-first century funeral boogie.” It’s tough to miss the crux here.

 

Rafael Anton Irisarri – “RH Negative” – The Shameless Years – Umor Rex

Throughout his life, William Blake claimed to have seen apparitions of the apocalypse, which prompted him in 1808 to conceive of a masterwork called A Vision of the Last Judgment—a work that was later mysteriously lost. The painting was to be exhibited in 1810, accompanied by an exhaustive analysis by the artist. But when the exhibition was abruptly cancelled, it disappeared. We only know of it from Blake’s handwritten notes, and the detailed description contained in a letter penned to his contemporary, the English painter Ozias Humphry.

Did the piece ever exist? And if so, did it contain some kind of code—an esoteric set of instructions on how best to face Armageddon? Screaming, with middle finger outstretched to the heavens? Lachrymose, prostrate, begging for forgiveness? Stone-faced and stoic in silent resignation? In awe of the powers that are far greater than us, that we never could predict or control? Today, we can only speculate. Rafael Anton Irisarri’s cyclical titanium drones give us plenty of time to think about it.

 

Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Rest” – SebastiAn

Mercy comes in many forms. This music box-like song produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo is the antidote to so much ill will in the world right now. Charlotte Gainsbourg’s lullaby for the end times pleads its subject not to leave—the piece’s title translates simply as “stay.”

 

Cham-Pang – “Bella V” – Tant pis 81-82 – Tenzier

I learn a great deal from my friend Roger Tellier-Craig. He’s like the Rain Man of music from beyond the margins—especially if that music originates from Quebec. This week, Roger posted a link to this buried No Wave treasure, soon to be released through Tenzier, a not-for-profit organization whose mandate is to “preserve, celebrate, and disseminate archival recordings by Quebec avant-garde artists.” Despite its age, “Bella V” could have been released today, alongside the works of contemporary Quebecois musicians Marie Davidson or Bernardino Femminielli.

Cham-Pang, a play on the pronunciation of lyricist Yvel Champagne’s surname, also featured contributions from Bernard Gagnon, the legendary Montreal-based electro-acoustic composer who recorded his first experiments at McGill’s Electronic Music Studio in the 1980s. Thanks to Tenzier, the Schulich School’s Marvin Duchow Music Library now houses Gagnon’s complete archives. Praise the island mentality that sustains this kind of cultural production, and vocal advocates like Roger who doggedly bring it to our attention.

 

Dean Hurley – “Electricity I” – Anthology Resource Vol. 1: △△ – Sacred Bones

Let’s be crystal clear: there are two categories for art: there’s good, and then there’s not good. And very little good came out of the new season of Twin Peaks, meaning that the vast majority of it was not good. Personally, I wish they had never made it at all. Still, having said that, let’s focus on what good there was: the entirety of Kyle MacLachlan’s embodiments; Doris Truman, played by a hysterically funny Candy Clark, screaming “we’re gonna get that BLACK MOLD, Frank!”; and Dean Hurley’s outstanding sound design.

Specifically, the spiky static snarl Hurley’s crafted as the cue for electricity throughout season three is one of the scariest, heaviest, most nightmarish sounds I’ve ever wrapped my ears around. If you couldn’t bear to watch the all-too-often-cringeworthy acting (when otherwise brilliant thesps like Naomi Watts and Harry Dean Stanton deliver such dreadful performances, it’s a sure sign of a void of vision), or the contrived musical showcases at the Roadhouse (more on that here), Hurley’s sturdy sonic architecture at least made the series listenable. That’s something good.

 

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