999 Words

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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Tribute

There’s Always Music in the Air: A Doppelgänger’s Twin Peaks Playlist

Through the darkness of futures past, I used to call myself Chester Desmond, the unflappable FBI agent played by Chris Isaak, who made a (dis)appearance in David Lynch’s 1992 prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Before that show you like came back in style, Chester Desmond was my DJ name, and the handle I went by on Facebook. In real life, people even started calling me Chester, and after a while, I became accustomed to wearing the identity.

But now that some time has passed, I think I might be more Sam Stanley than Chester Desmond. I was and never will be as suave as Isaak, for one thing. No, I’m more apt to spill a cup of piping hot coffee into my lap. Plus, my investigative skills, if any, lean toward pattern recognition, cataloging of data, and spotting anomalies. Sam Stanley’s talent was for picking out what was crucial but concealed. Stanley was, after all, the first to notice the notorious Blue Rose, pinned to Lil’s lapel. Gordon said he was good.

In retrospect, Sam Stanley would have been a great DJ name: the glad-handed towheaded selector. So, in Stanley’s stead, as well as the revisionist spirit that drives reboots and sequels, here’s a playlist of alternate music that could have been in Twin Peaks season three, but wasn’t.

Let’s rock.

 

Tim Hecker – “Stigmata II”

The ambient sound design whispering and pulsing behind the new Twin Peaks series, done in tandem by Lynch and protégé Dean Hurley, is a kind of chopped and screwed, post-Burial, post-Tim Hecker soundscape. Specifically, Hurley’s signature sonic cue for electricity, the growling, distorted animal fuzz that accompanies scenes of woodsmen and wiring, owes its existence to Hecker’s experiments with faulty patch cables on 2013’s Virgins.

 

Lucinda Williams – “Rescue”

There’s something so Norma Jennings about Lucinda Williams. Or maybe it’s vice versa. Can’t you just picture Williams singing this cut in front of that red curtain, as Norma and Big Ed beam at one another across a booth table, holding hands and making plans?

 

Mykki Blanco – “Head Is A Stone”

For at least the last twenty years, Lynch has taken a page torn directly from David Bowie’s diary, aggressively co-opting the avant-garde into his own aesthetic. For instance, both Bowie and Lynch flirted with Nine Inch Nails in the 1990s: Bowie toured with Reznor on his Outside circuit; Lynch tapped him to contribute songs and produce the soundtrack to Lost Highway. But isn’t Nine Inch Nails a little … twenty years ago? Lynch might have provided proof that he still has his finger on the pulse of cutting edge culture had he gone for the jugular with, say, Mykki Blanco.

 

Chris Isaak – “Notice The Ring”

Speaking of Chester Desmond, where the hell was he? Why was Chris Isaak not cast in season three? Sound-wise, it was Isaak’s “Wicked Game” that helped define the Palme d’Or winning Wild at Heart. And this new series could have benefited from a vital dose of Desmond’s singular melancholy cool.

 

Neko Case – “Tightly”

Lynch did put one past the goalposts when he slated Sharon Van Etten in episode six, although I would have liked to have heard “You Know Me Well” instead—in my opinion, a far Peaksier tune in tone than “Tarifa.” Arguably, an even better case could have been made to include Neko Case, whose work on 2002’s Blacklisted faithfully recreates the 1950s twang that Lynch is so fond of.

 

Brokeback – “Everywhere Down Here”

Twangier still is this classically Lynchian track from Brokeback’s 2002 album Looks At The Bird. Lynch might have returned some favors by including music like this, which is so obviously influenced by the original Twin Peaks soundtrack. I’m hurt bad.

 

Venetian Snares & Daniel Lanois – “Night”

By far, the worst musical moment of the entire eighteen episodes was the Hudson Mohawke cameo. The call to Warp Records, I imagine, went something like this: “HELLO WARP? IT’S DAVID LYNCH! … FINCHES? … I THINK YOU NEED TO TALK TO DARWIN ABOUT FINCHES! … THIS IS DAAVVIIDD LLYYNNCCHH!! … I’M CALLING BECAUSE I WANNA, Y’KNOW, LIKE, UH, BOOK THAT APHEX TWIN GUY ON MY NEW TWIN PEAKS SHOW! … HOW MUCH?! … HOLY FUCKIN’ CHRIST ON A RUBBER CRUTCH!! … HUDSON MOHAWKE WILL DO IT FOR A BIG BAG OF M&M’S!? … OKAY, CLOSE ENOUGH!!”

Really, if Lynch wanted something on the electronic vanguard, he would have sought out Daniel Lanois, and asked him to bring Aaron Funk along. Lanois is his name and it is night.

 

Marie Davidson – “Esthétique Privée”

The problem with all the Electro Pop on the series was that it just wasn’t creepy enough. It was too clean, too prissy, too self-assured. Marie Davidson might have lent a grittier sort of desperation to the Roadhouse. And after years of terrible dialects from the actors playing the Renault brothers, she also could have brought a proper Quebecois accent to the show, for once. Welcome to Canada.

 

Bob Dylan – “Sentimental Journey”

I hope that everyone has seen Bob Dylan’s performance nearing the end of David Letterman’s tenure as host of CBS’s Late Show. All I can say is, wow Bob wow, it was weird. While he sang into a modern microphone, there was a massive, old-fashioned model onstage, apparently just for effect (although it could have been for his tulpa). Dylan’s backup band looked like their football was empty and they were looking for Santa Claus. The upshot is that it screamed David Lynch. For so many reasons, I think it would have been at once hysterical and spot-on to see Zimmy at the Roadhouse, doing his rendition of this Les Brown standard.

 

Coil – “Omiagus Garfungiloops”

Woefully, Coil couldn’t have performed on the return to Twin Peaks. But wouldn’t it have been 🔥 if this heartfelt homage to Angelo Badalamenti, taken from the 1992 album Stolen And Contaminated Songs, popped up somewhere in the series?

There’s always season four.

 

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Born To Kvetch

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Undoing A Luciferian Towers” – Luciferian Towers – Constellation Records

In his informative and often laugh-out-loud funny history of Yiddish culture, entitled “Born to Kvetch,” author Michael Wex begins with a joke that only Jews and friends of Jews will get—a joke that I think applies equally to Godspeed’s particular brand of ennui—a joke that goes thus: A gentleman boards a train leaving Grand Central Station for Chicago, sitting opposite an old man reading a Yiddish newspaper. Half an hour into the trip, the old man puts down his paper and starts to whine, “Oy, am I thirsty.” Again, with more force, the old man exclaims, “Oy, am I thirsty!” “Oy, am I THIRSTY!” Annoyed, the gentleman has had enough inside of two minutes. He gets up and hurries to the dining car. He takes a paper cup, fills it with water, and rushes back. Half way there, he wheels around, takes a second paper cup, fills that with water, too, and walks gingerly back to his seat, careful not to spill a drop. He thrusts the first cup of water in his face. The old man gulps it down, and before he can say a word, he shoves the second cup in front of him, which he drinks in turn. Hoping to get a wink of sleep, the gentleman sits back down and closes his eyes. The old man leans back, allowing himself exactly one second of relief, and hollers, “Oy, was I thirsty!

The joke, of course, is that even scratching the itch, even quenching the thirst, doesn’t quell the drive to kvetch about it.

 

Karl Fousek – Two Pieces for a Temporary Connection – Archive Officielle

In almost every car commercial for the past few years, a familiar scene is one in which the car in question is driving through a digitally animated version of nature. I once imagined that this was to show how environmentally friendly the car was, despite the fact that they all still run on some version of fossil fuels. Now, I’m starting to think that maybe nature is animated in these ads because long stretches of undisturbed landscape are harder and harder to come by, difficult to access, and impossible to film car commercials in. Karl Fousek’s new tape sounds like the audio analog for animated nature. If we ever needed to soundtrack a CGI jungle scene, with digitally rendered birds and bugs, flora and fauna, this is it.

 

OPN – “The Pure and the Damned, ft. Iggy Pop” – Warp Records

“The pure always act from love / the damned always act from love / the truth is an act of love.” Daniel Lopatin’s work of late has taken on an almost entirely earnest tone. Where his compositions once were pure 808s and piss takes, this undeniably lush track wears its heart upon its sleeve with no shame. It reminds me of one particular stanza from R. Buckminster Fuller poem, “God is a Verb,” published in the fall 1968 issue of Whole Earth Catalog:

for “all’s fair”
in love as well as in war
which means you can
junk as much rubbish,
skip as many stupid agreements
by love

 

Tough Age – “Me in Glue” – Shame – Mint Records

This punchy track from Canuck parking lot punks Tough Age cuts right to the heart of modern, social media-produced ambivalence. “Want to fight back, but I don’t like it either/ Can’t lose your friends when you keep it a secret,” moans vocalist Penny Clark. Don’t, for instance, tell anyone you don’t like the new Twin Peaks. (See next entry)

 

Twin Peaks: The Return – Showtime

There’s a funny scene in the 1989 Ron Howard film Parenthood in which Steve Martin, dressed as a party cowboy for his anxiety-addled son’s birthday, resurrects a family friendly version of his classic ‘70s stand-up balloon animals shtick. Clueless, but buoyed by a swollen sense of dutiful self-satisfaction, he struggles hilariously with the oblong inflatables, squeaking loudly as they’re manipulated into evermore-deformed shape. Finally, Martin hands the assemblage to a kid—something looking like a sausage link nightmare—proclaiming, “Your lower intestine!” This, to me, is the perfect visual metaphor for David Lynch making the return to Twin Peaks. Creating something that doesn’t look like anything else is equally accomplished by genius and jerk.

 

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In Gratitude

Nowhere in Ten Songs

“L.A. is like nowhere,” says Dark, the brooding, angst-ridden, teenaged protagonist of Gregg Araki’s criminally underrated 1997 film, Nowhere. “Everybody who lives here is lost.” Being adrift, perpetually searching—for a partner, for a party, for oneself—is indeed the movie’s central theme and animating force. Its misfit characters seem to wander aimlessly through their super-modern, post-industrial world, a citywide non-place. And we follow them in fascination. Yet, unlike Marc Augé’s notion of non-places—spaces void of personality and permanence—Dark’s L.A. is laden with significance and symbolism.

Much of that excess meaning comes courtesy of the soundtrack. Araki—whose previous features The Living End, Doom Generation and Totally Fucked Up included music from Curve, Ride, Nine Inch Nails, and Coil, and cameo appearances by Babyland, Perry Farrell, and Skinny Puppy—was well known for stacking his scripts with musical references, and soundtracks with unreleased songs, remixes, and other rarities. With the film turning twenty this week, it is high time to rediscover the music that made Nowhere an American cult cinema masterpiece in the salad days of pre-millennial nihilism and twilight capitalism. Whatev.

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Stranger in a strange land

Daniel O’Sullivan – “HC SVNT DRACONES” – VELD – O Genesis Recordings

Taking Latin in University isn’t completely useless. You get to read inscriptions on buildings, decipher fancy college degrees, perform etymology, and translate obscure song titles. This one means: “Here are the dragons.” One could also say “Here be dragons” if one wanted to sound more like King Arthur. Who says it’s a dead language?

 

Regis – “Maxi” – Blackest Ever Black

To me, the Holy Trinity of Techno is still Silent Servant, James Ruskin, and Regis. I am not finished mourning the demise of Jealous God, the excellent if short-lived label that released some of the musketeers’ classiest late-night stompers. But this too-short teaser from a forthcoming single on Blackest Ever Black will have to do. For now. One for the bloody dancefloor.

 

False Witness – “Revolt” – The Art of Fighting – GHE20G0TH1K Records

I knew I’d heard this before.

I have a strange affliction—some might call it a gift, others a curse: I am able to recognize aesthetic similarities across various pieces of music. Useless, perhaps. It’s an acrostic kind of memory, akin to perfect pitch: recordings inscribe themselves permanently and irrevocably into my mind’s ear. (I may have missed my calling as an intellectual property attorney.)

For example, I can sing a song in the precise key in which it was committed to tape. I can also immediately identify little phrases, licks, riffs, or passages in songs. Let’s do some comparative analysis:

Blur’s “Boys and Girls” bass line is a direct facsimile of David Bowie’s “DJ”;

 

“I don’t like the drugs” by Marilyn Manson is Bowie’s “Fame”;

 

Supergrass’s “Jesus came from outer space” contains a descending phrase reminiscent of “Star”.

 

Come to think of it, all these examples are David Bowie-related. Here are some that aren’t: Radiohead’s “Decks Dark” = “Teardrop” by Massive Attack;

 

Alicia Keys’ “Blended Family” = “What I am” by Edie Brickell;

 

And L-Vis 1990’s 2009 banger “Compass” = “Revolt” by False Witness. Listen to them side by side, or at once for all I care:

It’s the same Soca rhythm, at the same tempo, in the same key. And don’t be alarmed, but it even features the same air raid sample.

AIR RAID!!

 

Yally – “Dread Risk” – Diagonal Records

I’ve been working on a theory of music akin to Thomas Schatz’s “whole-equation-of-pictures” method of cinema analysis. In contrast to Classical film scholarship like André Bazin in France, or Andrew Sarris in America, both of whom advocated for auteur theory, Schatz believes that films are in fact a product of what he calls “the genius of the system”—a more media-ecological or even proto-intersectional approach. For Schatz (and me), cultural texts are just as much shaped by complex structural forces as they are authored by an individual artist’s voice and vision. I find this to be especially evidenced in instances of historical revisionism.

Artists naturally want to pay homage to their greatest influences, and at various points set out to emulate the feel of their favourite masters. Liam Gallagher made a career out of trying to perfect John Lennon’s slap-back delay, which was itself modeled after Elvis Presley’s vocals. But Lennon’s was as far away from Presley’s as Gallagher’s is from Lennon’s, because certain elements in the equation—everything from media format to microphones, cables, effects processors, and sound dampening materials—have changed. Even when a band goes as far to emulate a long-gone sound as, say, Arcade Fire did with The Suburbs—using 1940s gear; pressing each song to a dubplate before digitization—it still comes out sounding like early 21st century Indie rock.

Regarding revision, electronic music is no different. Take Yally’s “Dread Risk”, a faithful nod to the brooding 1990s Drum ‘n Bass of Photek or μ-ziq, and the comparatively maximal belter that I always suspected (hoped) was lurking in the Raime arsenal. It sounds like Jungle, but different, simply because the whole equation is different.

 

Delia Gonzalez – “Horse Follows Darkness” – Horse Follows Darkness – DFA Records

Speaking of nostalgia, here’s one to tug at the old melancholy cord. In this vintage synth hymn, Cuban-American multidisciplinary artist Delia Gonzalez dreamily conjures the uncanny air of feeling like a foreigner at home. At a time when Trump and Brexit have become all too real, I think that many of us can relate.

 

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Hum along with me, along with the TV

Sylvia Monnier – “Theresa Russell” – Stock Shot & Addictive Sling – Sacred Phrases

This winter, there has been a mysterious and persistent hum in my house. It is a low frequency noise, lower than the 60Hz hum normally heard from buzzing home electronics or the baseboard heating. At times, usually at night, it fills my ears with a sinister resonance that is neither natural nor purely automatic. In pajamas and slippers, I repeatedly go on midnight excursions around the block to try and identify its source. To no avail: as soon as I leave the house, it disappears, submerged beneath the din of the city. But there is it again when I’m back inside, humming away, driving me a bit madder with each humming moment.

I try music to drown it out. But because it’s such a deep tone, it is not easily masked. It’s a sound that you can feel vibrating through the floor, a fundamental wave that tunes and transforms everything in the vicinity. Bassy music helps. Still, as soon as it’s done, the hum resumes its oppressive dominance over the sonic space.

The only things I find truly effective are sounds—not music per se—that blend in with the hum: drone music, durational tones, field recordings. For instance, Nancy Tobin’s 2007 CD Duo Des Aigus—an improvisational dance and sound installation based on audio feedback—works especially well. And so does “Theresa Russell”.

I have yet to discover the true origin of the hum in my house. Alternately, I have hypothesized it to be mechanical, electrical, industrial, or perhaps even imaginary. But I now fear that living with this hum is going to be the new normal. I’ll just have to harmonize myself with it, or be condemned to days of incessant discord.

 

Biggi Vinkeloe Band – “Jag Lyfter Mina Händer” – Aura Via Appia – Omlott

There is an unabashedly celebratory mood to this track—a virtue missing from almost all forms of music right now. It sounds like Scandinavian Gypsy Drum n’ Bass. I like it. And I can’t help cracking Biggi “Smalls” Vinkeloe jokes. Call it value added.

 

David Kanaga – “Go On / Salt & Scab” – Oἶκoςpiel OST pt. 1http://www.oikospiel.com

Like some cruel Pavlovian torture, the Québec brain is hardwired to immediately recognize Celine Dion’s voice. Nonetheless, Kanaga’s jump cuts in the first movement of this piece paradoxically reprogram a clandestine soulfulness into Dion’s otherwise antiseptic operating system.

 

Jlin – “Nyakinyua Rise” – Black Origami – Planet Mu

In the mid-1960s, Kenya’s first president following British colonial rule, Jomo Kenyatta, bestowed upon the Makadara Nyakinyua women dancers 1,000 acres of homeland, in gratitude for their entertainment—the president’s personal favourite. But the Nyakinyua and their descendants were forced from their homes near Nairobi in 1988 by predatory property developers. Bulldozers destroyed their houses, scattering the dancers to live with relatives in neighbouring communities. Those that stayed remain squatters on their own land.

As of January 2017, there has been no permanent resolution, with the Nyakinyua holding frequent protests and threatening to boycott elections in attempts to persuade the administration—Kenyatta’s son and current president, Uhuru (Swahili for “freedom”)—to either oblige their land claims, or resettle them elsewhere. Even if you haven’t heard this story before, you’ve heard this story before—from the Palestinian situation to urban gentrification in major metropolitan centres. Jlin’s track is a battle cry that renders the Nyakinyuan plight universal.

The problem with other peoples’ problems is that, sooner or later, they become your problems, too. So you might as well make them your problems sooner than later.

 

TCF – “C6 81 56 28 09 34 31 D2 F9 9C D6 BD 92 ED FC 6F 6C A9 D4 88 95 8C 53 B4 55 DF 38 C4” – mono no aware – PAN

The first-ever MIDI sequencer—the Sequential Circuits Model 64 MIDI sequencer—in addition to velocity, pitch and modulation information could record and store up to 4000 individual notes. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony contains over 135,000 noteheads producing more than 70,000 separate notes. TCF’s obscurely titled track featured on mono no aware, a new ambient compilation courtesy of Pan Records, reportedly consists of 150,000 MIDI events, pushing this ostensible drone composition into Georges Seurat / Black MIDI territory.

It is easy to forget that digitally recorded music—indeed everything digital—is in fact composed of discrete, granular events that our brains then smear back into something apparently continuous. A standard CD, for instance, reconstructs an analogue sound signal by taking an audio snapshot 44,100 times per second. What we hear sounds uninterrupted, but in reality, it is an auditory illusion—like a flipbook. This is an excellent metaphor for life: what appears smooth on the surface is invariably violent and unpredictable at its most fundamental constituent level.

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