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The Black Box in America

“Cut Grass 1” – Aqueduct Ensemble – Improvisations On An Apricot – Last Resort

As a kid, one of my best friends was called Devendra. He was a naturally funny guy, always with a wry comment or a quick response to anything. He had a big smile, too, which put everyone at ease. Everyone liked him, and I was happy to be his friend.

As kids, we used to do funny things. Everything we did was about making each other laugh. One of the things Devendra used to do to make us laugh was what we might now call the “Apu” voice. Devendra was of South Asian descent, his parents first-generation Canadian immigrants. They did speak like that. And we did laugh.

But now, I realize that Devendra was imitating his parents for our amusement as a pre-emptive strike, so that nobody else could imitate his parents in jest without the jest coming principally from his own self. He wanted us to know that he was laughing first. So, laughing at him and his family was a useless strategy, if strategies there were, which, of course, there weren’t, because we loved Devendra and his whole family.

It reminds me of the language around MIDI — the master-slave thing, which I talk about extensively in my book, which you should read. Master devices, slave devices. It’s abhorrent. It’s worse than abhorrent, because it’s language, and it’s the language we use every day, and language makes reality. Like the Apu thing. If someone tells you that something you do makes them feel bad, and you keep doing it, you are an asshole.


“Some Limited and Waning Memory” – Christina Vantzou – No. 4 – Kranky

In the 1998 film Hurlyburly, adapted for the screen by David Rabe from his 1984 stage play of the same name, about the intertwined lives of seven sex-and-drug addled Hollywood wannabes with severe issues, the main character, Eddie, played expertly by Sean Penn — I mean, who plays a coked-out motor-mouth better? — rants obsessively about weapons of mass destruction: “They’re not,” Eddie says of the apparent misnomer. “They’re very, very selective about what they destroy. They annihilate people, and preserve things.”

“You want me to be kinder? Softer?” he cries, delving as deeply into a character as Penn has ever done: “I say NO! Be harder! Be a rock. Or polyurethane. I say, be a thing. And live.”


“The Evas” – Hunter Lombard – Eris EP – Jack Dept.

I have a sample somewhere of Teddy Pemberton saying “right now we gonna give you guys like some dope, dope beats they just gonna be banging out your mindframe just bust your thing open, aight?” Basically, what he said.


“Brilliant Yes That Would Be” – Underworld – Smith Hyde Productions

I am so pleased that Underworld turned out to be the band from the 90s electronica era with the most staying power. Their catalogue has held up better than many of their contemporaries (say, who bought that 20th anniversary pizza box edition of You’ve Come A Long Way Baby?) and on this cut, Underworld prove that they need little more than one really cool patch to make something brilliant.


“Claustra” – Eartheater – PAN

Your friend and mine, Chal Ravens, beat me to the punch this week when she said this was like the acid trip sequence in Dennis Hopper’s 1969 film Easy Rider. That particular acid trip was nearly 50 years ago, and it’s still producing flashbacks.