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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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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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