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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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‘I get some of you all the time, All of you some of the time’

Lost Highway – OST Reissue – Music on Vinyl

“I like to remember things my own way,” says Fred Madison, the main character in David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway, as he’s interrogated about his aversion to video cameras by two stereotypical police detectives. “What do you mean by that?” one of the cops presses. “How I remembered them,” Madison deadpans. “Not necessarily the way they happened.” These austere lines of dialogue convey a deeper truth: that an imperfect and highly subjective mode of remembering—what once was merely considered “memory”—is quickly disappearing. With commemorative cycles, archival releases, anniversaries, reissues, documentaries, hidden and expanded histories and the like, we are increasingly instructed on who, what, when, where, why and how to remember; forgetting in the process that memory itself is a muscle; forgetting in the process just how we might have remembered in the first place. These revisionist histories are like surveillance videos, offering the illusion of objective omniscience, all the while directing our attention through an ever-narrower window.

 

“Animals” – Oneohtrix Point Never – Dir. Rick Alverson – Warp

I get the sense that this video was completely conceived and executed by algorithms. It’s like how House of Cards was made because Netflix noticed from their metrics that viewers favoured both political dramas and Kevin Spacey. In some Brazil-like office, a report was generated: It revealed that 0PN fans also searched for Val Kilmer (86%); tabloid sensationalism (64%); red Nike tracksuits (73%); strobing visual effects (77%); non-sequiters (94%); steady-cam (81%); and beige (100%).

 

“Strong Proud Stupid And Superior” – Grebenstein – Downwards

Service.

 

Twin Peaks Season 3 – Dir. David Lynch – Showcase

After viewing the most recent teaser for the upcoming season of Twin Peaks, scheduled to air in 2017 on the Showtime network, and believing that there were no budgetary or creative compromises, I am genuinely excited. This is beginning to look less like a reboot and more like a band—like Pink Floyd or Godspeed—reuniting while they still have something great left in them.

 

Responses to “999 Words” on RBMA and underground scenes

There are three things I now understand about the nuts and bolts of Red Bull’s relationship with Mutek—and with other non-profits like it. 1: Red Bull requires a liquor license to sell the Vodka part of the Vod-Bomb, so they need to partner up with an entity that has one—preferably a festival that can arrange licenses for a wide range of events and venues. 2: Mutek is co-opted into deploying their social networks to promote RBMA events: Mutek RTs Red Bull’s Twitter posts, not the other way around. 3: Red Bull gives money to the festival in exchange for subtle brand infiltration: i.e. ubiquitous logos displayed onstage during Mutek musical performances. In this way, a gigantic corporation is able to infiltrate a non-profit organization that was largely funded by the public: governments; granting agencies; fans like you and me. It’s the privatization of public resources routine at work, the logic of neoliberalism.

The question then becomes: do corporations do it better? And the answer is still a resounding no. Why? Here are two good reasons.

The first disturbing trend about Red Bull Music Academy’s infiltration of the musical underground is the sidestepping and in some cases re-writing of its histories. Rather than acknowledge existing journalism and scholarship on artists, scenes and cities, they order up their own. Again, Red Bull has deep pockets and pays handsomely. So this attracts enough authorities—say, Will Straw writing on Montreal’s disco scene—to lend an air of unified legitimacy, reinforcing the “academy” part of RBMA. Instead of sharing an article or interview from The Wire or The Quietus, or local papers like Voir or Cult MTL, they will poach someone to write a standalone piece, thus keeping the centre of cultural knowledge contained within their own branded ecosystem.

But the biggest reason is this: Once scenes enter into a monetary relationship with corporations, the scene must adhere to corporate logic, not the other way around. Music and its criticism becomes content for corporate benefit; the corporation is surely not in operation to assist local music communities. If musical output or even the entire scene starts to wane, rather than nurture or cultivate it (as a devoted public might do), the corporate benefactor will simply move on and find another site of production that they can latch their logo onto. Growth becomes imperative. It’s capitalism.

Since penning my “999 Words” column, I have been inundated with responses, both positive and negative. I have been called a “hater.” (Not true. I deeply love this music, this city and its scenes.) Other people have asked me what solutions exist. One that I can think of, and it’s not far off, is to make being skeptical of Red Bull so popular that they are forced to commission works that are overtly critical of their own brand. Hey RBMA, this gun’s for hire.

 

“Killing A Little Time” – David Bowie – Lazarus – Columbia Records

Heavy, confessional insight and drum-and-bassy riffage from what we now know were the Thin White Duke’s last days. Echoes of Reeves Gabrels, Mike Garson and Charles Mingus fuse particularly well on this recording, the third of Bowie’s final three musical offerings.

A friend of mine once said to me, in a time of dire need: there are two ways of looking at the world: 1: we’re all fucked 😦 Or 2: we’re all fucked 🙂 A truism if ever there was one. We’re all just singing our handful of songs here, killing a little time.

 

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