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Haunt me once, shame on you; haunt me again, shame on me

Loscil – “Monument Builders” – Monument Builders – Kranky

I am enamored of “bootleg aesthetics”: the way a recording looks and sounds degraded after being pirated ad infinitum. Even though I’ve got both seasons of Twin Peaks on DVD, I prefer to watch them on worn-out VHS cassettes taped off the television. Same goes for Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie, which I’ve seen hundreds of times on duped videotape. It’s as if each generation’s material deterioration both annihilates and augments the media’s patina.

In his 2004 essay “Grainy Days and Mondays”—a love letter to Todd Haynes’ delightfully incorrect, Barbie doll-reenacted Karen Carpenter biopic Superstar—a film that largely circulated via underground amateur networks, on unofficial copies of copies of copies—film scholar Lucas Hilderbrand observes: “the fallout of the image and sound mark each successive copy as an illicit object, a forbidden pleasure watched and shared and loved to exhaustion.”

Scott Morgan aka Loscil’s latest piece entitled “Monument Builders” is similarly inspired by a VHS screening of Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi; “The time-tarnished visuals and the pitch warble on Philip Glass’s epic score added a new layer of intrigue for me”, Morgan reveals. This notion challenges what we traditionally think of as fidelity: in an epistemological about-face, the less “faithful” a recording is, the more we’re apt to believe in its authenticity, and furthermore, to fall madly in love in the process.


Tim Hecker – “Veil Scans” – Adult Swim Singles Series

I accidentally had two windows of Tim Hecker’s most recent piece “Veil Scans”—a chilly and rigid drone commissioned for the Adult Swim Cable Network’s Singles Series—open and playing simultaneously. At first I failed to notice, and for days later couldn’t decide if this was a sin or its virtue.


Jenny Hval – Period Piece – Adult Swim Singles Series

The Norwegian Avant-Garde musician Jenny Hval’s anticipated new album Blood Bitch, a meditation on menstruation interrogating “the white and red toilet roll chain which ties together the virgins, the whores, the mothers, the witches, the dreamers, and the lovers”, is set to be released September 30th on American Indie label Sacred Bones. September 30th also happens to be the 30th day of the lunar calendar, a rare and auspicious occasion that doesn’t come around every month. According to the website, the 30th lunar day “favours a successful, smooth ending to all matters which have reached their final stage. It is important to be generous, and to recognise and reward everyone’s contribution.”


David Stubbs – 1996 & The End Of History – Repeater Books

For several months, user Daniel Poitras has been uploading almost daily to YouTube two-decades-old episodes of Late Show with David Letterman. Aside from how many of Letterman’s 1996 monologue staples are still astoundingly relevant—Donald Trump, OJ Simpson, the Unabomber and the Clintons (although at the time, Dave liked to call Bill “Tubby” or “Puffy”, which the cashew cheese-mowing former POTUS is no longer)—it’s sorrowful to see a cavalier tone that was groundbreaking then, and no longer exists on television. The key was willfully doing things for absolutely no reason: a quaint comedic characteristic of our pre-9/11 world.

In his insightful new book 1996 & The End Of History, music critic David Stubbs singles out the popular sit-com Seinfeld—a show famously “about nothing”—as emblematic of what we found funny in the 1990s—an age, Stubbs writes, of “apolitical tranquility”. He argues that Seinfeld’s sensation “depended on 9/11 not happening during its run”. At first, this seems like de-historicising logic. But oddly, re-watching the twenty-year-old Late Show, it rings true.

Having this week commemorated the fifteenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, it is difficult now to disassociate David Letterman from his stoic oration in the days following those events. Across these antecedent golden years, however, viewers glimpse a far more absurd Letterman, and an attuned comedy institution firing on all cylinders. Exemplary is the September 3rd 1996 episode (which also notably features Beck’s first network television performance): in a grossly exaggerated accent, the Scottish actor Ewen Bremner, who memorably portrays Daniel “Spud” Murphy in Trainspotting, regularly and inexplicably berates Dave throughout the programme—even during an interview segment with actress Mira Sorvino. The audience is only let in on the joke moments before the final credits roll. Being about nothing to such a degree is a luxury we simply can no longer afford.


The White Stripes – City Lights – Dir. Michel Gondry

We’re all just finger-drawing on shower doors in the endless mist of time.