Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon

                Michael Bay’s latest installment of Transformers is his most psychedelic one yet. Beginning with the trippy sounds of the late 60s, we watch as Apollo 13 lands on the moon, specifically its dark side. The astronauts begin discussing how they are crazy for doing something this brand new, this exciting. Guitars soar into the air once ancient transformer ruins come into sight. Our narrator (voiced by Alec Baldwin) explains how the Space Race of the sixties was just a way to convince the Transformers of Capitalism’s many benefits.

                Suddenly a clocks rings waking up Sam Witwicky (played this time by Keanu Reeves). We learn Sam graduated from college two years ago and has yet to find gainful employment. The morning starts out with him checking emails, Hipster Runoff, and Facebook, searching for something to prevent him from looking for work. After his parents start bothering him about what a total waste he is, he goes to the local coffee shop. Drinking a Latte he’s approached by a man in a large trench coat known as “Morpheus” played by Larry the Cable Guy. Morpheus asks him if he wants to take the red pill to see how far the rabbit hole goes, or the blue pill if he wants to chill. Sam’s relatively bored so he decides to take both simultaneously. 

                The next morning Sam wakes up in his own bed. He wonders what he did to get this sort of dreadful, dead-beat feeling. Looking into the mirror, he remembers: LSD. Reality begins to play tricks on him. What he thought was a car was not a car but a robot in disguise. At first Sam has a hard time focusing on what the car is saying since he’s tripping so hard. Keanu nails the disorientated look that Sam needs. It is like Keanu was born to look perpetually confused and slightly drugged. 

                Giant cars begin dropping from the sky. For a minute Sam is pleased with this, as he doesn’t have a job and the cars could quickly be resold, giving Sam the greatest income he’s seen since High School. This car is talking to him (Optimus Prime voiced by Al Pacino) warning him that these are evil cars falling out of the sky and must be defeated. Sam doesn’t trust Optimus at first, something about his voice sounds a bit deceitful, too high-strung. Once Morpheus re-emerges and confirms Optimus’s words, Sam’s convinced.

                All three of them head to a magical forest through that rabbit hole Morpheus mentioned earlier. They seek the assistance of a great master of disguise, a Hookah Smoking Caterpillar (voiced by Kevin Spacey). The Hookah Smoking Caterpillar brings them to the forest’s military leader, the Walrus (voiced by Bruce Willis). Morpheus asks the Walrus if he is the Walrus they need, to which he replies: “I am the Walrus. Coo Coo Ca Choo.”

                Now they are ready. They receive rings one for each element: water, fire, earth, and heart. With all of their powers combined they summon the ultimate superhero, Captain Planet (played by Burt Reynolds). Captain Planet tricks all the invading Decepticons to switch to cleaner burning corn ethanol engines. Next, he kills them. Earth is saved. Sam still needs a job. Patting Sam on the shoulder, Morpheus informs him it is their duty to repopulate the Earth. A smile forms on Sam’s face as the two of them wander the Earth copulating. 

                In the epilogue, it is mentioned the Autobots repopulate as well. According to interviews with Michael Bay, he wanted to include a twenty minute three-way robot scene at the end. Unfortunately editors cut the transformer three-way deeming it ‘bizarre’ and ‘a waste of 32 million dollars’. Thankfully it is going to be an extra on the DVD. 

                Once I left the theater and regained my hearing, I felt this was perhaps the best out of the Transformers trilogy. Michael Bay is the Steven Spielberg of the 21st century if Spielberg was concerned with explosions instead of plot.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poncho Peligroso’s “the romantic”

                Poncho Peligroso is a poet worth blogging about. Besides working tirelessly in his newly appointed position of 2011 Poet Laureate he managed to come out with a book called “the romantic”. At 10,000 words, this is the largest offering of Poncho I’ve ever seen, a gathering of some of Poncho’s previous poems. Usually I get smaller portions. But the main question should be: Is “the romantic” good? Having read this book a few times, I can answer with a resounding yes. 

                The book is structured in an emotional way. Besides his humorous poems you’re treated to some extremely personal, anxious and oftentimes sad poems dedicated to an unknown girl. Whoever this girl is must be someone the narrator cares deeply about and perhaps even loves, hence the title. Some of the saddest ones involve the pains of distance, of moving away, and of finding out exactly how to care about other people. Common themes running throughout the poetry book include paranoia, humorous violence (in absurd chaos fashions involving personal hygiene and boners, boner chaos if you will), death, geography, love, beauty, and the emotional attachment that comes with the internet. 

                My favorite poems are those which effectively create an implied space or story. In poems like “watching you type” you get the feeling of an entire story behind these few interactions. Little lines reference what may or may not be a relationship. By not explicitly stating it the reader can make their own inference into what the poem is trying to convey. Towards the end of “the romantic” the humor is stripped away to a large degree revealing its heart. Reading the final poem entitled “the romantic” I peered into Poncho’s past, not as a poet, but as a person. It chronicled his evolution into the poet, the same one I wrote about months ago, about how he was a person who had just discovered himself. Upon finishing this chapbook I stand by that earlier statement: he has found himself in this language.

                I laughed and had tears well up a little bit. This may be due how much of this applies to me: I’m leaving the state I grew up in, much like Poncho is leaving the house he lived in for most of his life. We’re both traveling to new places. Even the way he writes about love is how I would like to if I could. But I’m not sure if I could.

                You may not know this due to a lack of Podcasts but I’m an even-tempered sloth rare to show any glimpses of ‘genuine emotion’. Lately I’ve begun to experience this emotion commonly known as ‘love’. Actually I’m not certain if I’m doing it right: oftentimes I can’t speak, despite being perfectly articulate. I feel it is tough for me to say exactly what I mean, to cut through all these words to a few, simple direct phrases. Oftentimes I feel our language limits us by providing so many options. We skirt around the words we want to say rather than use those direct, easily definable ones. Sometimes I’m asked a question an extremely personal one and I can’t answer. My eyes dart, I don’t want her to see my tears welling up. My voice stays silent; I can’t have my voice crack. Staying silent allows me to retain the idea in my mind that I’m macho, something that I’m definitely not via reality. Finally, once I answer and have my voice nearly crack from the emotional pressure I immediately go in for a hug and press my face against her shoulder. I love that hug. I love that person. They can’t see my tears rolling down my face. Better they feel them on their shoulder. After they hug back I know they understand, like they said ‘yes’ but with a physical confirmation. 

                “the romantic” makes me realize I’m not alone in feeling this way. Poncho cuts through all the circular speaking we employ in our day to day lives. Often this direct language can be extremely powerful, ungarnished by superfluous words. It can be difficult to read, harder to write. When writing it is hard to be honest with oneself but Poncho is perhaps one of the most honest writers I’ve read in quite some time. It’s a beautiful book.

Wilco “I Might”

               Wilco, what happened to you? I’m worried about you. You’ve fallen far from such great heights, from the critically-acclaimed “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” to the coolest alternative country rock band. That’s a big difference: the difference between being “Billy the Kidd” or a rancher with a keen sense of style. Seriously, this is scary. All the drama from “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” right down to using snippets from the Conet Project feels lost, gone forever. Listening to that album it’s a different band. That band was a better band, one that could get the coveted ’10.0’ from Pitchfork.

                I can’t blame you entirely. The circumstances surrounding “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” are legendary. Dropped by your label, you offered free of charge your best album. Eventually you got picked up by another label owned by the same conglomerate “Warner Brothers”. People watched everything unfurl and thought “Wow, the music industry is dumb”. When the album eventually was offered for sale, it ended up being your best-selling album, despite (or perhaps because of) its previous free nature.

                Pitchfork hasn’t been as kind to you since. After that 10.0 you’ve been hanging out in solid ‘7’ territory. How can you really improve a product declared to be perfect? No one can get a ’10.1’. It’s impossible. You made it and fell. Even other, heavily praised bands (Animal Collective) didn’t receive a 10.0. They got a 9.6, leaving at least .4 worth of improvement for a future product.

                By now you’d probably be happy with an eight. That 10.0 might have been from the cover alone: a picture of those famous towers in Chicago won over a critic or two residing in the Midwest’s hippest city. You knew how to cater to the critics then. Experimental without being overwhelming, ambitious enough to meet your goals, you had it all. What happened since then Wilco?

                Don’t give up. You have plenty of talent. Receiving a 10.0 means Pitchfork is legally obligated to cover whatever you do for the rest of your career. Since they made you buzzworthy, they have a duty to report on their previous star pupil. Well, you’ve had a big weekend, announced your new album entitled “The Whole Love” and come out with the song “I might”. Additionally, at a relevant music festival in Massachusetts, you debuted two new songs: Born Alone” and “Dawned on Me”. Together this ought to create enough buzz to help you hype your new album. Giving out singles of the “I Might” song at the festival shows you understand how to create buzz. But still, Best New Music might be a bit hard for you now, at least judging off of your new song.

                Clearly you know the game of hype. Let’s hope the new album can at least compare to your previous glory. I wish you the best.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Washed Out Leak

                Washed Out leaked. If you’re reading this, you know. Or if you don’t, get on top of it. Ernest Greene didn’t disappoint with this one. Most chillwave artists tried to stray away from their roots. You can’t imagine my happiness at Washed Out doing basically the same thing he did with his EPs albeit a slight change: There are less sample-based songs.  That’s the biggest evolution for him. Familiarity with his EPs is a must to see where he came from. If you’re unfamiliar, get familiar in particular “All Around You” perhaps the best song of his early work. People will be talking about this new album for quite some time. 

                I judge artists partially on how early their albums leak. An earlier leak indicates a greater anticipation and a possible criminal element within their fan base (depending on your judgment of leakers). Other chillwave artists leaked pretty early: Neon Indian’s album leaked a whole blog year (blog year = three months) before the album was due. By the time Pitchfork reviewed it saying how great the album was readers were like “Thanks for keeping me up to date with the latest news. Next you’ll tell me about the Wright brothers’ new invention called “the aero plane”.  Washed Out leaked pretty early. That bodes well for the project and for a continuing interest in Mr. Greene. Here’s where I admit Ernest’s self-releases of a few tracks kind made it pretty easy to figure out how this was going to sound. Nonetheless, considering all his previous releases were only EPs that’s a very good thing. He’ll be selling out shows wherever he goes, playing all his smooth, lovely songs. 

                Most other chillwave acts have a bit more of a direct, dance-pop influence. For example, Neon Indian wants you to get up and dance. Neon Indian wants you to take acid with him. All sorts of unmentionable things occur in Neon’s sound, perhaps too many unmentionable, potentially life-changing things. Washed Out deals with smaller details: how to hug, how to make love, etc. Perhaps these won’t change your life, but the nine songs make for excellent ‘make out’ or ‘love making’ music. It is a gentler sound, less dance based than rock based music. Think shoegaze. 

                How will others react to this? Will this be the album that saves the flailing genre ‘chillwave’? I feel it is chill enough; at least it will be until Neon Indian comes out with his new album. Unfortunately Neon Indian’s release may overshadow this quiet, understated album. We’ll have to see; each one has influential newspapers, blogs, bloggers, magazines, TV and other important sources of buzz. Ernest did do those Adult Swim bumps which help along with the intro song of IFC’s ‘Portlandia’. So at least Washed Out has a serious presence on Television, the laziest form of media. Can Washed Out and Neon Indian live in harmony? I think they can. Listening to this album, Washed Out seems pretty chill. With “Within and Without” Ernest solidifies his credentials as the ‘father of chillwave’. Respect your elders. 

Björk – Crystalline

                Last time we saw Björk she was driving a truck through Iceland’s frozen wasteland. A song played in the background during that drive is now available. Called “Crystalline” it has everything you might expect from a Björk song. Fans of hers will probably enjoy this tremendously. I can never tell who   Björk’s fans are but I figure they are a little off and into narwhal solos.

                The song begins with a child she recruited. Using a mere toy, the child manages to create the illusion of innocence, harking back to an earlier time in her life. Rumors suggest the music video may involve a stuffed teddy bear jumping into the frigid North Atlantic to protect whales from the vicious Norwegians. Of course, that’s just a rumor.

                We’re talking about Björk though so the beats come in fairly quickly. They are electronic, weird, and sound similar to Mike Paradina’s beats (he worked with her on previous albums). I mean, the rush at the end nearly confirms it. Obviously I’d love to know, but I’m enjoying the sound of this a lot. She hasn’t really done anything this electronic-based to me since her albums “Debut” or “Vespertine”.

                I’m wondering what the app on the iPhone will be for this song. The song is a bit unstable, unbalanced, like much of her best work. Hopefully she avoids making every song of hers a tease like this, with constant singles over and over. At this point the album is ‘partially’ recorded, though that might be a lie I can never tell with a person with so many elfish qualities.

                Let’s hope the rest of the album shows her in this good of form. All of Iceland’s economy depends on the revenue she brings in (due to their economic meltdown) so let’s hope she brings home the Ram Testicles.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Firehouse Neckbrace by Josh Spilker

                Josh Spilker distributes chapbooks and critiques music. These are two of my favorite things. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who feels music and poetry are compatible forms. While he appears to focus more heavily on literature now (also reviewing books at Impose Magazine) I can’t help but to feel a certain sense of a kindred spirit with him. Music reviewing is extremely difficult work as there are literally thousands of references to make, with roughly 8 of those being something most people would understand. I figure that’s why he focuses more on literature than anything else. Besides merely distributing work he creates his own. “Firehouse Neckbrace” is release 2.5 from Deckfight Press. 

                “Firehouse Neckbrace” reminds me of the quiet, disturbed nature of the suburbs. Growing up in the suburbs you don’t realize how strange it is. You see cars pass by on an infrequent basis most of the time. People on the sidewalks don’t have the same warm feeling they do in cities. Instead of thinking “How nice all these people on the sidewalks. Glad they are enjoying the nice day.” you grow paranoid about why they aren’t in cars. No rhythm exists in the suburbs. Cities have a natural rhythm to them. Suburbs feel artificial because they are. Suburbs were created for the sole purpose of escape making a false reality with a fake history about a rich developer who tore apart virgin land to make cookie-cutter homes with enough variation to make people feel like individuals. 

                I feel that needs to be said before getting into Josh’s work. For all of “Firehouse Neckbrace” gives me the impression of a creepy place where nobody bothers learning about each other. Rather you have a cast of characters who don’t seem to sync up or interact with each other properly. Every few pages you return to that desolate picture of a burned-out house. Occasionally larger fonts barge through almost shouting at you. The larger fonts appear to be flarf or flarf-like and break up the story with random interjections.  Dialogue is extremely, almost painfully realistic. Really I’m not certain exactly how to classify this as but I lean towards a short story or a particularly long-form poem. 

                A few character are introduced in refreshing slow way. Josh paces the story properly. I’m a sloth so pacing is pretty important to me. Sometimes I read stories where too many characters are shown to me at once. This can lead to confusion.  Having this pace makes it possible for me to care about these characters. Eventually the chapbook becomes more and more surreal (or real). Lines become blurred between what is occurring and what they are thinking. It’s an interesting mix and since the characters are made for us to understand them makes the experiment feel worth it. 

                Suburbs prove to be the main character in it at least for me. I enjoyed Josh’s description of the community right down to its shopping habits and various zones of control. Despite growing up in suburbs and reading probably an unhealthy amount of fiction and non-fiction about them, I haven’t seen them portrayed this way before. This is the way I talk about them, the way I feel about them and the way I felt living in them. I’m glad Josh Spilker literally captured suburban life for me so accurately and vividly, adorned only with the starkest of facts.

Christian Family Underground – For the Depth of Your Union… 5.9

                Christian Family Underground sounds much like the name indicates: they create a large, deeply weird communal music. While you listen to it you’re reminded of some various hippie freakouts and other happenings. The electronic effects and percussion lead you to few other points of reference. Unfortunately, they tend to veer into meaningless chants quite a bit. For me the chants felt a bit forced, and some of the instrumentation sounded like it was deliberately trying to conjecture up a particular decade, time and era. 

                The shorter, non-chant pieces work best for me. “Let’s Go Deeper” and “Let’s Receive Love” are two of my favorites off of this album. For the first, it has a fuzzed out guitar which constantly shifts in and out of focus. A very simple concept but it works wonders in dragging you in and out of the sound. “Let’s Receive Love” has a nice expansive sound. Using only a few details, it manages to sound quite threatening.

                Most of the songs on here have too many unnecessary details. The percussion on “Energies Increase” ruins most of my enjoyment of that song. Removing the ringing, chintzy bells could’ve made it a whole lot more effective. On “You are Source, Source is You” which takes up half the disc, I enjoyed parts of this song enormously. I know all songs must evolve, but the shift into a guttural chant around the seven minute mark ruins all the tension they had built up so delicately before that moment.

                Basically, this might have greatly improved with some editing, some removal of sounds that didn’t work, and minimalizing the nods to hippie culture (not all of it needed to be removed, but the chants and bongos felt like a bit much). Overall though, this is an interesting album.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Letting evil Win – By Daniel Waldman

                Daniel Waldman drank poetically during his reading. Wearing a stylish hat he actively engaged the audience. Not only did he have this stylish hat but a striped business casual shirt. Had I seen him walking down the street I might have mistaken him for an accountant or actuary. Good thing he picked poetry over the emptiness of numbers. Poetry has become business casual with Daniel Waldman’s attire. As a result I may never do an ustream. This tendency for proper attire could be a ‘Canadian’ thing though. Once he comes back to the states that could all change.

                Jennifer Chen’s work got read. Apparently she writes really short bursts of poetry. The two were friends in real life. Usually people have their poetry read when they don’t know of each other in reality. Normally they know of each other only through various Gmail chats or some form of internet presence (either twitter or Facebook).

                A man named Ben had his website read. He writes strange notes on blogspot or perhaps they are poetry, I’m not entirely sure. I’d like to know more about him but he appears to be something of an enigmatic figure on the internet. Besides, doing a basic Google search appears to turn up nothing, due to Google’s annoying habit of re-spelling.  

                “Come in from the Cold” by James Duncan came up. This was a twisted poem. Apparently this was about trying to enter a club house. Daniel used a good, forceful, near shouting delivery to this poem. Considering the content of this poem, the frantic delivery seemed completely appropriate. 

                Joy ensued with “Walnut Horse” by Danny Stewart. I liked the repetition of the single line “Don’t worry Mom”. Daniel appeared to be familiar with the joys of looping and allowed the distortion of the same phrase to build up the poem. After a while it sounded less like language and more like music. This was the intention. 

                Once someone had asked him to tell him about his childhood, we felt his true vulnerability. While he began discussing a spiral staircase he suddenly stopped. It was up to us to piece together this life story. The cliff hanger ending to the story made us wonder even more: Where did he get that hat? Did the hat’s presence signify something perhaps deeper than mere style?

                Keiji Haino got a request by Axem another mysterious online entity. Since Axem and Ben are mysterious online entities, it’d make sense they would be responsible for a lot of the poetry requests. For Keiji’s work, there was a great deal of looping words and phrases. Daniel’s delivery for repeating phrases worked.

                Ryan Manning’s “Cupid” was read by Daniel as he lay on his bed. By now thoroughly intoxicated and laying down he read it quickly as it was short. Mr. Butler had one of his poems read as well, but I missed part of it due to the lousy ads ruining the ustream experience. Thankfully the poetry I did hear later by Butler ended up being excellent, especially his “Zelda 64” news from 1999. It’s weird that parts of the internet are so old, or how far we’ve come. Somehow that earlier incarnation of the internet, even with a worse interface, felt more naïve, more lovable. Perhaps someday this very site might be considered ‘nostalgic’ or classic’. Think GeoCities. 

Due to ustream’s ads I ended up missing parts of the reading. Ustream needed money. That was clear. I mean, I wasn’t going to pay for it. I have no money. According to the advertisements, NBC will have a particularly crummy lineup for the next television season. Good thing I don’t watch NBC or TV anymore now that the internet is infinitely entertaining.

                For the end we got to watch him dance around to the same song (by Michael McDonald) he began with coming full circle. Wearing a mask, showing off his dance moves, he showed he is the embodiment of a ‘joker’. I know we let evil win.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Area C – Map of Circular Thought 7.3

                Area C creates challenging but emotionally simulating music. The only rhythm comes from constant feedback loops. Without sacrificing the experimental nature of the music, Area C adds in joyful melodies. By including the melodies this rises above a purely academic exercise. 

                Much of this album reminds me of Christopher Willt’s early work. Guitars skip about with a disregard for conventionality. Just like Willt’s early work, there are those beautiful tones so bright, so airy; you can almost feel the sun shining through. On the earlier tracks this similarity is particularly noticeable. “Felt, Not Seen” shimmers about with a calming effect. Sure, all these noises by themselves might bother you, but together they form a gentle track.

                While the album progresses, the songs gradually get darker. The melodies become less and less distinguishable. Instead of the tactile guitar plucks and skips you hear gradually evolving drones. Sure the drones had been present for most of the album but they overwhelm by the end of the disc. “Ebbs to a Steady Bun” embraces the drone to become some massive burned-out track. 

                This is a long album. You’ll get lost in the sheer size of most of these tracks. At no point does Area C come close to conventionally. If you’re familiar with work from early Oval or Christopher Willt, you won’t be shocked with this material. If you’re not however you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. Either way it is an enjoyable, spacey album.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

“The Prodigal” by Alexander J. Allison

                Alexander Allison shows up in all the right places. Timing appears to be a certain knack of Alexander’s. Maybe it is an English thing the dedication to punctuality. I’m not sure. 2011 changed a lot in Mr. Allison’s life. Whatever ball started rolling regarding writing, editing, submitting poetry in 2010 gained traction this year. 

                For in 2011 everything changed for Mr. Allison. The Lemon Press continued to be diligently edited by him but new things appeared over the horizon. Suddenly he began to show up in more and more reputable online literary magazines. Or however repute is calculated online. All of these submissions were leading up to something truly amazing. I read this amazing thing.

                “The Prodigal” is Alexander Allison’s amazing thing. When I read it I felt strange. Martin (the main character) grew on me. Each character in the story got fleshed out. Instead of it being merely a story, I felt I was spying. Perhaps that was the omniscient narrator. You get to know everything. Honestly you end up knowing more about Martin than you’d really care to at times. The extremely voyeuristic nature appealed to me. Authors tend to edit out the more extreme details about a character leaving only the basic parts of the story. Extreme details are all over “The Prodigal”. You use these tidbits to form the portrait of Martin the main character. 

                 It is a full book. There are no gimmicks. Rather he manages to bring together multiple addictions and compulsions into a single character. Compulsive behaviors do not necessarily mean the person is ill. Usually it means there is a certain vacuum, emptiness within that person. Alexander leaks details throughout the book through Martin’s thoughts slowly describing what lead to this eventual attitude, position, event, etc. 

                Once it ended I felt a bit sad. This is a dark book. Humor shines through occasionally usually of the dark variety. Alexander makes the dark humor work in conjunction with the story. Every line relates to another line. In a world where I often read random cheap gags in literature and television it is refreshing to see a writer (particularly one so young) creating a story I can care about.

                Going through Alexander’s simply named blog “So It Goes” I see he’s been working on this type of writing for a while. Since 2009 he’s been updating his blog on a fairly regular basis. For the more recent posts I see the updates have grown smaller and smaller. Yet that focus away from the blog lead him towards more productive pursuits. Now he has more time to spend on poems and books.

                Personally, I have a lot of respect for what Alexander does. I hope he continues to write more books. “The Prodigal” is a strong start for this surprisingly attractive Englishman.

Bitchin Bajas – Water Rackets (Film Score) 7.5

                Bitchin Bajas makes patience an ally with this comfortable cloud of sound. I listened to it once. Then I listened to it again. Cooper Crane (the man behind this project) does an amazing thing with only a few sounds. You could call it drone, kosmic music, or baroque. All of those descriptions would be correct but would miss the enigmatic nature of the music. 

                This recording was created as a score to the remake of “Water Wrackets” a 1975 film. It starts off slowly, with a building drone. Cooper adds tiny details occurring right within the window of perception. “Water 2” starts off in roughly the same way but ends off with flourishes of baroque. A celebratory, quiet beat comes in and turns the entire thing into a cheerful, happy piece. Listen to “Water 2” with headphones as the panning becomes extremely enjoyable in this context (with regular speakers this effect would be somewhat lost).

                “Water 4” is the largest track on here in terms of sound. I’m reminded of some of Leyland Kirby’s approach to synthesizers. The sound is blown up to an epic scale. Again, the approach feels almost classical. For those who wonder where the Kosmic Music/Krautrock approach takes place (think Emeralds), that is the “Water 3” which contains a galloping bongo beat. On a personal note, my intense dislike of the bongo ended with this track.

                I think this album grows on you. After a few listens it really revels all the many secrets and influences. Give it a few listens. Listen to it before you go to bed. It is that kind of calming, meditative music.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Will “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah” make the “Same Mistake” again?

                Clap Your Hands Say Yeah came out with a new called “Same Mistake”. Many years ago, in 2005, CYHSY blew up in a great way. Here was a band, a good one, who received a great deal of attention on their debut. No one in the band was prepared for the onslaught of joy and love their debut received. Everyone in the band couldn’t handle it. Pitchfork adored it. Audiences loved it. Most bands would kill for the outpouring of love they received. Then their second album came.  

                Their second album couldn’t live up to the hype. Entitled “Some Loud Thunder” it might as well have been titled “Some Loud Blunder”. Critics tore it apart. People were angry at it. Every review I read talked about how over-hyped they were. Yet those who complained about the hype were the same ones who hyped the first one so hard. This was the first time I witnessed music reviewers creating their own drama. And a poor old indie rock band was caught in the middle unable to satisfy anybody. Discouraged they went on a hiatus. 

                Four years later the hiatus is over. Their previous friends/enemies have paid attention. I’ve seen the song featured on a few sites. No doubt I’ll see them on even more as days pass by. Listening to the new song it maintains my interest a bit more than “Some Loud Thunder”. Honestly I tried to get through their whole sophomore album but never could do it. As I got through this one new song of theirs, I have a hope that perhaps they’ll keep my interest for roughly 45 to 50 minutes. Since I’ve been pretty good at avoiding the pun until now, let me just say I hope they don’t make the “Same Mistake” again. Oh wait, that’s the title, oh well. 

                Behind these guys is a famous roller coaster: the Cyclone in Coney Island. The Cyclone is America’s most famous roller coaster. For them the roller coaster must represent the extreme highs and lows they’ve experienced as a band. CYHSY named their newest, yet unreleased album “Hysterical”. Perhaps it will be dedicated to the attention they first received for their debut. Reviewers loved them back then. CYHSY became popular and successful through reviewers and hype rather than a traditional record label. Back in 2005 that was weird, unheard of, and a ‘game changer’. So that made their fall from grace hurt much more. 

                I have nothing but happy memories of their first self-titled album. The music might have been a bit overrated but it did have heart. CYHSY led me out of my self-imposed experimental music world. Years had gone by with me insolating myself in endlessly difficult music, without beats, structure, or melody. When I first heard Alec Ounsworth’s voice I thought to myself: that’s the most annoying voice I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Listening to it way too loud in my friend’s hand-me-down car I grew to enjoy it. One day her car was packed with people and we heard the song “Is this Love”. We began to sing along. That song is only 3 minutes long but it felt longer. We got lost in the pure joy and happiness CYHSY appeared to seep out of their pours. For me the summer of 2005 was made up of these songs, of going to the beach and opening myself up to others. 

                Without Clap Your Hands Say Yeah I might not be the same sloth I am now. They helped me learn to enjoy the art of pop music. I became happier, fitter, and more productive. Everything fit into place. I’d hang out at the beach with this blasting on the cheapest stereo which offered CD-playing opportunities. My friends and I would swim together, tell each other jokes using a bone-dry wit, and go to Subway to get our friend to make us free sandwiches. Sure the sandwiches tasted like ass but it was a happy ass taste. 

                Here’s the part where I try to predict how their new album is going to do. I offer up pros and cons to a single song. No song should have to do so much, at least not this one, not this time. CYHSY is too personal to me to try and predict their fortunes in the tumultuous forces of online taste-making. I hope they make it. They deserve it.

Chad Valley – Equatorial Ultravox 8.1

                I first heard of Chad Valley about a month or so ago. When I heard the fifth track on here “Fast Challenges” I felt pretty excited. Here was an artist going back to the proud tradition of trance pop from the early 90s. Unlike some others working in the same sound, he deftly avoided any trace of irony. No, his work sounded fairly genuine, heartfelt even. 

                “Reach Lines” is truly great. The sound is pristine. I’m a little blown away. I mean, here we have all these artists obsessing about creating a lo-fi sound to impress others. Listening to it I’m reminded of a sweet Washed Out track. Vocals come from far away. Just for those not convinced, they bring out the vocoder. Oh this makes me happy. 

                With the full album, I’m reminded a bit more of the nostalgic vibes everyone’s been surfing on lately. Chad Valley’s work succeeds with the sheer smoothness of delivery. All those vocals make up most of the sound, taking up huge amounts of space. Vocals are more of an instrument than mere backup. This isn’t a bad thing; countless artists (Cocteau Twins) have convinced me of the importance on focusing of the texture of the sound. Besides, this is in English unlike the Twins’ made-up language. 

                Actually, most of the album explores the 80s more than that teaser “Fast Challenges” hinted. I’m not bothered by this fact. You’ll probably politely hum along with most of this album. The warmth it contains makes it pretty hard to dislike. Even the melodies are infectious.

                Of course, there are a lot of bands using a similar sound. Immediately the group “Games” comes to mind. Like Games, it stays true to a pop format, with all seven of these songs staying within five minutes or less. Similar to Games, it explores the myriad percussion and synthesizer pads. But the main difference is the more human approach to pop. The experimental impulse of the sound is kept in check by the human vocals. It’s a great summer album. Shame he isn’t coming to the US.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Blake Butler Ustream

“Sparrow and Other Eulogies” by Megan Martin ended up being the beginning of my HTML Giant ustream experience. You see Blake Butler is an ustream rebel. He doesn’t care when you show up. No pre-announcement he does what he wants, when he wants. Perhaps said he started up earlier; I don’t have any evidence he did. The book happened to be experimental and punctuated with trains passing by. Megan wrote the words but she didn’t make the trains. 

“The Book of Interfering Bodies” came up next. Daniel Borzutky wrote it. Besides writing this book, he’s also translates. “The Book of Holes” an excerpt from the book explained about what happens to writers once they burn every word they ever wrote. Writers who died by writing were the focus of the piece. According to the story writers need solitude to become great writers. Only one and a half pages got read at first. Blake stated that the entire book was ‘fucked’, as a tremendous compliment. Poets got mentioned later in the book as bitter members of a tenured class living in an insulated world of University life. 

Blake Butler shocked the audience in the chat room: he mentioned he had a scene in “Richard Yates” Tao Lin’s book. According to the book he was the person from the internet. When Haley Joel Osment does a reading, he happens to meet a person from the internet. Once the two meet the conversation had between those two characters is remarkably similar to a conversation Blake and Tao had. So if you were wondering when Blake would begin appearing in other people’s work, never fear it has already begun. 

One of the most perverted books was “Tongue Party”. I feel the book is disturbed, twisted and fairly indecent. Sarah Rose Etter certainly has a way with words. Blake read the story “Chicken Father” from the book. Rubber mouth language made up some of the story’s nonsense words. According to the narrator, her father wore a chicken mask. “It is like living without all limbs” ended the story on a bleak note. 

Peter Richards book “Helsinki” described dark death. A lot of feathers appeared throughout the story or poem? I’m not sure where the division is anymore. My recent ingestion of online writing has blurred this only further. “Helsinki prepared for my boyhood drawing” was one of the later lines, describing the approach to preparing for art. Much of this felt strangely appealing to me; perhaps it is due to the fact that Peter Richards and I are roughly the same age. 

Lyrically “The Cow” happened to be the most brutal of the night. The language was difficult, disturbing, and bloody awful. I mean that has the highest praise. A few times I sort of shuttered at hearing it. Still I kept on paying attention. Though the title warned me of the harshness “I want you to inject my face with botulism” I kept on watching, listening. Wondering how much more awful things could get. I didn’t have to wonder for long. One of the lines read “If I don’t fuck today I’ll die”. “This restaurant is filled with people who met online” stated another one which hit way too close to home for me. Finally when the reading from this book ended I had to wait an hour before eating again. Poet

Now I know why Blake drinks so much during these readings. Most of what he reads tends to be dark, bleak, or destructive. He writes. He reads massive amounts of books, stories, poetry. He runs HTML Giant. I’m a sloth and usually feel lazy but Blake Butler makes me feel even lazier. We can all learn from Blake’s enormous work ethic.

Telebossa – Telebossa 9.0

                Rarely do I stumble across a group as enjoyable and unusual as Telebossa. A mixture of electronics, bossa nova, and chamber music, it is a real treat. Chico Mello and Nicholas Bussmann infuse a great deal of heart into these seven songs. I haven’t heard anything this inspired for quite some time.

                Bossa Nova is considered a rather ‘conservative’ genre musically-speaking. Usually the greats like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Stan Getz, etc. are mentioned, referred to, and not expanded upon much. Having such a refreshing approach to a style I already adore is fantastic, and they succeed on expanding the palette of sounds without ruining what makes bossa nova enjoyable. 

                “Feltro No Ferro” begins things off slowly: with a treated piano before flowering into a full song. Nicholas Bussmann is responsible for these subtle electronics and cello. Chico Mello provides the vocals and guitar. Few others join them, excluding some restrained drums. You’re basically left with these basic elements for the duration of the album.

                Only occasionally are you reminded of the fragile state of these few elements. Chico’s voice gets heavily stretched on “Eu Sonhei Que Tu Estavas Tao Linda” with all other sound removed. For a moment you’re left at the edge of your seat as you’re completely uncertain as to where they’re headed. After this things take a darker turn musically and you again hear the stretched out vocals but this time with accompaniment.  

                The grooves feel warm, tactile, and alive. Somehow they are able to play off chamber and electronic music’s precision with the relaxed nature of bossa nova. “Amoroso” exemplifies this patient approach. It takes its time in building up to a fully satisfying whole. 

                During the entire duration of the album, you’re reminded something is always a little off with the recording. Pops appear in the mix for rhythm. Vocals are stretched, treated and slightly mangled. Bossa Nova needed these changes. Don’t think of Telebossa of a revolution of bossa nova, think of it as a much needed evolution of a usually staid genre. This is a beautiful album.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beach Ustream

                Jacob Steinberg and Spencer Madsen came together one Sunday night for poetry. Usually Sunday nights are dedicated to football. Poetry is better than football. Fuck football. On June 19th we had the explicit pleasure of witnessing this New York duo read online. Jupiter, Florida was their location, specifically a house roughly six miles away from the beach. To make the occasion even more special Spencer quit his job in a dramatic fashion and high-tailed it down to Steinberg’s house. You know, because poetry ought to be this dramatic, especially on the beach. 

                Beach Poetry could become a possible genre. Spencer Madsen wrote poems on the beach, making them ‘beach poetry’ or, as Frank Hinton put it ‘shoretry’. As Spencer spent a great deal of time in Florida, he overheard children’s conversations. Florida conversations by children tend to be a bit ridiculous. Somehow the mixture of tacky culture alongside a lack of any intellectual rigor (as per Spencer, nobody cares about art in Miami) makes it one of the wealthiest pieces of trash in the entire country if not the world. 

                I like how Spencer and Jacob tore apart Miami artists. That was fantastic. Each one completed the other’s thought about the sheer uselessness of the artists there, particularly one such idiot who wanted to call his gallery “Formalism” as he thought that would be the most radical name for it. Personally I’m amazed artists even live in Miami. Usually I figure artists move to Miami, no actual art originates from that location. How both Spencer and Jacob manage to survive in such a hostile, difficult, and stupid environment is beyond me. At least those mediocre artists paid for this duo’s sushi. So they had some value: transferring money to worthy poets. 

                Spencer read a poem from “Let People Poems”. He welcomed us to his poem. After we had been brought into the poem’s space, he began. I’m a big fan of Let People Poems. Reading about a sad human feels realistic. What I hope is someday Spencer finds ‘true love’. Or at the very least that he gets to ride his bike with someone sweet. 

                “Porn” Jackson Nieuwland’s chapbook received attention. For his poem Jackson focused on the importance of cuddling. Cuddling is a lost art form. As Jackson often focuses on the fantastic-ness of the world this feels like a logical place for him to explore. I’m amazed he managed to send his chapbook all the way to Mr. Steinberg’s address in Florida. Guess porn moves quickly. Jacob read it with his characteristic swag. As a bonus, he read his poems on “NewWaveVomit” as well. That was not all he needed to let out.

                Upon Jacob showing off his pink underwear and one rib, Spencer began reading. They had a ‘relay race’ poetry reading. “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” interested Spencer. As these were small pieces it fit in nicely to the poetry selections. David Foster Wallace wrote this book, a collection of 23 short stories. I miss him and feel a bit strange that “The Pale King” even got published as it is a bit of an ‘incomplete’ book of his. 

                I liked the focus on Julio Cortazar. Jacob translated these poems along with reading them. Apparently no one has bothered to translate his work into English, or precious little of it. Both Jacob Steinberg and Stephen Tully Dierks happen to be huge fans of this writer. Hopefully I can find more of it at some point, it is fantastic. 

                To show they were open to more experimental forms of prose they read “TLC’s” song “Waterfalls”. Or rather, Jacob did not read this, he felt it. I remember where I was when I first heard “Waterfalls”. For me, this song spoke volumes to me. Grade school suddenly became comprehensible with the help of this magnificent group. Suddenly everything in my life gained meaning thanks to TLC and this song in particular. 

                “Thought Catalog” came up. Spencer read his rejected article. “How to want to quit your Job” was the name of his article. In it he described in vivid detail about the dread of facing your job. Each bit mentioned the alarm clock, shower, train, bus, and thinking about the difference between you at home versus you at your workplace. Hearing him mention the tiniest of details convinces me people may be interested in the anguish of a workplace. Somehow I made it through five years with trepidation about such uncomfortable conversations with bosses.  

                Spencer will be coming out with a book. 95% of everything he’s ever written on the internet shall be removed. All of a sudden he’ll restart his brand (known as ‘rebranding’ by Impossible Mike) and become a new internet person. I think this is great idea. The book (entitled ‘A Million Bears’) will bring Spencer Madsen the poetry groupies he’s always wanted. 

                Carolyn DeCarlo had her poem read. This gets extremely explicit. While I’d like to explain what happens in the poem, I don’t want to ruin it. Details help build the scene and contribute to the mood of the poem. Eventually the focus shifts away from the individual’s perspective on pleasure to helping others. 

                “Goldfish” talked about the stupidity of fish. Jacob thought the Goldfish had it easy. They don’t remember anything. Instead of engaging or remembering things they manage to live in the moment, not experiencing pain. Love can copy this fleeting moment. Having these intense emotions means you often forget about the past and hope for the best future. 

                We watched as Spencer and Jacob bore their very souls at the end. Seeing the two of them bond at the end helped me understand how important words can be. These two were brought together by a love of the word. Now I hope to see them do future ustreams as this unstoppable poetic force. Perhaps they might even bring some semblance of intelligence to the most vapid state in the union but that may be asking too much.