Saturday, December 24, 2005

beta's eleven (thru twenty)

Turning down any and all offers of year-end thoughts and empirical numerical rankings, and just barely being able to rank and file ten things for the imminent Pazz & Jop clusterfuck, here's more scrapple from the apple, some not in the Top Ten just because P&J is a numbers game and I tend to shade populist rather than wave lone banners over there.

Gathering my year-end thoughts, I oft-times realize that maybe I'm not a pop music critic at all, as I'll be damned if I heard the year's finest as posited in inumerable glossy mags and whatnot. While house-sitting over the holidays, I finally saw me some Fuse, getting my first exposure to Bloc Party, Le Tigre, Annie, and Missy videos, not to mention finally seeing the "Galang" video (okay, there's an island of women that don't know how to dance? and why had I never noticed that a chorus of blazing purple haze is a drug reference to be bleeped out?). That said, this is what registered:

11. Link Wray : Wray's Three Track Shack
This just made his passing all the more bittersweet. Playing this for people never fails to blow minds.

12. Goldmund : Corduroy Road

This spare, sparse, solo piano work from one Keith Kenniff, gossamer as it was, was crucial to making this Seattle Weekly CDR-Go! mix hang together like it did, like smoke near the ceiling, or a Civil War-era Satie, playing in a greenhouse comprised of the fading plates of Matthew Brady photos. The other Type titles I came across, like Sanso-Xtro's Sentimentalist, were uniformly delightful.

13. Gang Gang Dance : God's Money
Discussing GGD way back when, I noted its scraps and cheapness. Who knew they would turn this crisp, so expertly ornate, and razor-etched so quickly, either when just clacking and hovering in place or suddenly shooting through the stratosphere at the crack of a snare? It would be impossible to mistake them as ragged and improv; now they're an odd, immaculate pop band.

14. Satwa : Satwa / Lula Cortes y Ze Ramalho : Paebiru
Another crucial component of my SW mix, these two discs tipped off open ears to what other pleasurable treasures grew in Northeast Brazil, far from Tropicalia's plastic leaves and synthetic creeper vines, as well as Nascimento's urban corner club. The drawing of two long-haired angels sitting cross-legged in a forest clearing on the Satwa disc encapsulated the spirit of this fourth-stream music perfectly. While in Costa Rica, winding through the verdure slowly getting hacked to make more grasslands for chewing cows, the receding spirit of the rainforest grew crescent once again through the airing of this music.

15. Judee Sill : Dreams Come True - hi, i love you right heartily here - new songs
A package that was simultaneously extravagent, colorful, lovingly-rendered, biographically-illuminating, and completely user-unfriendly, this unfinished third album from Judee Sill fulfilled her statement about her influences being "Bach, Pythagoras, and Ray Charles" by embracing the spirit of the latter on this life-affirming set.

16. Antony & the Johnsons : I Am A Bird Now
The ideal for a late winter's evening listen (meaning 4pm), I ever so slightly cooled on the disc, mostly due to the parade of lesser voices sent to spar yet ultimately grovel before that maddening ever-warble of Antony. He also put on one of the most self-effacing and disarmingly funny live shows I saw all year.

17. Stephan Mathieu : The Sad Mac
/ Mountains : Mountains
Exquisite multi-textured electronic minimalism from one of its finest practitioners, utilizing ancient wire recordings, Jacques Tati soundtracks, Handel, Monteverdi, and a crashing Macintosh Classic II.

The once-Brooklyn duo of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp, already building up an exquisite catalog with their Apestaartje imprint, reach an apex here. Oddly enough, their designer would come into my work to fine-tune the cover shot of laundry drying on an enormous boulder, a temporal red house erected on top.

18. Dominik Eulberg : Kreucht & Fleucht
Unable to keep up with the prodigal gushing forth of German house music, it takes an expertly navigated path across such raging waters by biologist extraordinaire Eulberg to get a worthwhile glimpse of all the current currents. It doesn't hurt to have four bangers by wunderkind Robag Wruhme, though even I can't stomach the vocals on "This World." That said, my friend at EMI in Europe just laced me up with the Wighnomy Bros./ Robag Wruhme Remikks Potpourri set, and it's killer. I'm sure to be discussing it later on.

19. The Juan Maclean : Less Than Human
(and remixes)/
Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom : The Days of Mars
It took the peeling of layers by remixers like Cajmere, Prins Thomas and Lindstrom, and Booka Shade to reveal the melancholy and paranoia teeming under the veneers of even the most hedonistic of dance idioms.

The Days of Mars is easily the most misunderstood record of the year, with all the focus being on its evocation of the past (meaing Klaus Schulze or whatever 70's reference you wish to insert here), but not understanding why. Almost no-one is engaging their ref. to Bryher (save for this excellent post and interview at Kid Shirt) and how this music recollects a time of war, be it WWII or the secret war that the American art conscious barely even registers, much less the feminine presence and intuitive influence that separates it from its previous Mars-slanted practitioners. It mesmerizes, and to recapitulate an earlier musing, it focuses the mind so that you too can create.

20. Luny Tunes and Baby Ranks : Mas Flow 2
Or as Lil Jon said when confronted with reggaeton: "Whaaaa???" "Yeah!"

beta wishes u happy x

Thursday, December 22, 2005

beta boots made for walking

Perhaps the passing of the transit strike deadline last week made me be prepared for once when the NYC strike finally happened this week. For once, I had a contingency plan and followed through with it, packing up a roller bag with a week's worth of clothes and making arrangements to stay in the city. As I made my rounds around the city that last Monday night with bags in tow, I felt awkward, pinata-full of possessions, like a tourist in my own city.

Staying down in Chinatown now, I embrace this strange newness, my locus shifted, the geography tilted and rearranged. Locations and destinations once so distant and difficult to access are now just down the block, but when I suddenly flash on a book to reference, a name to look up in my library, a song to spin, they are distant, as tactile as a dream. Until the lines run again, I can't even fathom getting back out to Brooklyn.

Now, I walk thirty blocks up to Union Square and back, each day taking a new route, re-learning how the streets work down here, their orders, the differences of each corner as it unfurls before me at new angles. My surroundings are in flux, too. Yesterday morning, I kept hearing the sounds of old Papa-sans hacking up phlegm as they shuffled through Sara D. Roosevelt Park, but this morning, it's the beeps and whistles of men unloading palettes from trucks along Bowery, intersections with NYPD flapping their hands at traffic, and Bassist Punk Wanted fliers fluttering across the street from CBGB's.

I forgot how deeply lodged I was in my routines, my ruts, my pathways. Knowing the way home, I never deviated from the treaded gray line. I've lived in Brooklyn the entirety of my time in New York, and most crucial, I've never moved. By the time the lease comes back around, this will be the longest I've ever lived in any one place my entire life! And I've developed a blindspot to such sediment.

Comforts are now replaced with an uncertainty that is not at all disdainful. Staying in a crowded apartment in the city, I am thrilled by the odd new sounds. One morning, I awaken to a ricocheting sound, like ping-pong balls in a popcorn hopper, bouncing loudly outside my window. No longer ensconced in my own lethean green room, with my stereo blasting, my routine settled, with water ready for that first cup, breakfast already decided, and new packages dropping through the mail daily, I sit silently in a new pad, uncertain of what will occur next, where everyday items are in this foreign household.

I listen for these new curious sounds: how the old radiators in each bedroom gargle and hiss into a warm though discordant chorus, while the heating pipes in my room and in the bathroom ping in polyrhythms. Outside the door, I swear the neighbors have a fucking aviary: innumerable squawks and chirps and bickering beaks can be heard nattering and singing at all hours of the day. For once, the sounds of birds do not emanate from inside my own room.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

beta back in tx

That's a "Tasty Animal Collective" tee-shirt, thank you very much.

Of all the airports to be purgatorial in, being grounded at Memphis International Airport for a good six hours may be the most tolerable. Watching the FedEx planes lift against the newspaper-gray skies, or else staring into the beige cubicle barriers surrounding the secretive security table, I continually remove my headphones so as to better hear the stacks of Stax hits continually being piped into the terminals. You can buy Elvis tees or the Sun emblem emblazoned on all sorts of gee-gaws, or peruse those weird German tins that house the greatest hits of James Brown and Bob Marley, all the while listening to Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, Clarence Carter, Booker T. and the MGs. Best of all is that some mighty fine BBQ from Interstate is served, and so I help myself to the pulled pork platter with slaw and brown-sugar beans while I wait for the next flight to Texas. Bummed that they are out of sweet potato pie, I console myself instead with "Sock it to Me" cake, an unholy marriage of poundcake with a swirl of maple syrup inside, all of it smothered in thick white icing.

This is by far the most scattered trip I have ever undertaken. I'm back not even a month later for yet another wedding, this time in Pleasanton, Texas, and having made all sorts of plans to see family and friends last time, I make zero plans now. Shoot, I don't even know how to get to the chapel in Pleasanton, much less the town itself. I rent a car, but for the life of me, can't figure which company I used. It starts with an A, so maybe Alamo? Nope. Advantage? No reservation under that name. Having spent a total of twelve hours in airports and planes, my mind is deranged enough that I just skip the car debacle so as to be out of the terminal. Stepping outside, I realize I didn't even check the weather forecast before I left, and South Texas is as chilly as New York, hovering about in the low 30s. Of course, I neglected to pack a coat or warm jacket, so I'm freezing right away.

The wedding is a hoot though, the only kind of wedding that I know and truly enjoy. It stirs my earliest memories of such community affairs. Everyone from all the small towns that my family comes from: Gillett, Falls City, Kennedy, Poth, all converge on the festivities, which are held in a giant showbarn. A parade of the seldom-seen members of my extended elderly family are brought up to me by my mother, who re-introduces me to kin who last saw me when I was "this high." I'm almost in tears when I see my godparents again. "Gawddang, you came all the way down from New York City?" they all ask, shocked.

This is how I want my own wedding to be catered: barbecue brisket and sausage with all the fixin's, served with sweet tea and plates of pickles, jalapenos, and white onions, not to mention slices of Mrs. Baird's. Shots of Hot Damn and Pucker Up are peddled about, while my other cousins whip out fresh bottles of Crown they bootlegged in to the festivities. Once properly loaded on BBQ and cheap liquor, the dancing starts, and I get to partake in the Grand March, and follow it up with the Cotton-Eyed Joe and the notorious Chicken Dance. My littlest cousin, not yet five, keeps pulling out ridiculous breakdance moves all night, popping his arms and dropping to the floor to do the Worm with little spurring on and despite the shuffling boots and high heels teetering in dance above him.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

beta back and backed up

Back from yet another sojourn to Tejas (a report forthcoming), but as I rip through all the stacks of bubble-packed tracks, here's what has also come to pixel light:

Moistworks musing about my apartment vacancy

Dusted musing about the magick of Ms. Judee Sill

Trudging through the Tzadik catalog

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

beta runs miami

Brief bits about the Fonotone box set and the American Primitive II set. The latter underwent a bit of that ol' Pudd'nhead Wilson/ Those Extraordinary Twins sort of separation from a piece about No-Neck Blues Band (which will run at a later date).

Speaking of being late, I almost never link these articles that run down in the MIA, unlike Ricky Williams: Dirty Three, Impulsive!, Lightning Bolt, The Orb, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Ennio Morricone, Tod Dockstader, and Edu K. In part because the New Times edit process seems to always put words in my mouth, as the latter example apparently has me referencing early-80's favela comps. What am I, Diplo?

Monday, December 05, 2005

beta and the black queen

Goddesses abound!


Still spending my nights plowing through The White Goddess; it makes evident my slippage from fast-reader to snail-slow. Good thing my reference in the AC article is within the first few pages. That author Robert Graves casually references 12th century esoteria and name-drops thirteen different names of tree spirits in Welsh myth doesn't help, and in fact embodies his own claims about the obfuscating nature of the Lapwing , whose role, he notes is to "disguise the secret."


The villainess of the Chronicles of Narnia?


Finally get to watch Suspiria last night, at the suggestion of Mike P. And while it has all the earmarks of Italian horror (specifically Dario Argento), meaning strange jumps in knowledge; characters that disappear for no reason; new characters never previously mentioned yet integral to the story; memory lapse; a secret clouded by temporary amnesia yet recollected at the last instant; but it's still a stunner. Even the wallpaper looks delirious, the reds always opulent and blood-tint, but the blues and greens revelatory and lavish as well. But what occult figure hides behind the evil and murder? The Black Queen.


Overheard on the subway, a lady discuses at great length her travails while sleeping on subways, talking to these hip-hop guys at First Ave., and a woman who has stolen her songs, to where she can no longer play the guitar, because she can't afford the amp or the socket to plug it in. She also insists that John Lennon is the next Jesus Christ, though I realize in retorspect she just said "John," which could mean anyone.

Lastly, she wants to set the record straight:

"I am not a psychotic devil, so I wish people would stop calling me that."