November 2004 Archives

mlö dream

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Just had a dream in which I was taking some sort of problem-solving class from James Schamus. He explained that a group of protesters of some kind had taken the world's entire supply of mlö hostage and possibly destroyed it, and we had to come up with a solution to the situation by combing the (hilly) city we were in, while wearing roller skates. We walked outside, and there were hundreds of people in yellow T-shirts, waving signs about mlö and shouting. We laughed: what a great presentation of the problem! I attempted to get to a couple of libraries to figure out what to do, but then realized it would be easier (especially with the bulky roller skates) to get to a computer with Photoshop and create a couple of documents: scientific papers presenting a relatively easy way to synthesize mlö or a mlö substitute. There was some trouble with the security guard, but I finally made it into a slow elevator and to a desk, piled high with boxes, that had a computer I could use.

On waking up, I thought: what's mlö? Then I realized that it is (or was) an instance of hapax legomenon, whose appearance in my dream was possibly triggered by my thinking about the temporal nature of photography last night. Here's a bit of Jorge Luis Borges' "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" in Andrew Hurley's translation: "For the people of Tlön, the world is not an amalgam of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts--the world is successive, temporal, but not spatial. There are no nouns in the conjectural Ursprache of Tlön, from which its 'present-day' languages and dialects derive: there are impersonal verbs, modified by monosyllabic suffices (or prefixes) functioning as adverbs. For example, there is no noun that corresponds to our word 'moon,' but there is a verb which in English would be 'to moonate' or 'to enmoon.' 'The moon rose above the river' is 'hlör u fang axaxaxas mlö,' or, as Xul Solar succinctly translates: Upward, behind the onstreaming it mooned."

Google lists upwards of 1900 hits for mlö, but none of them seem to be coherent texts that don't use it as an abbreviation and don't also involve some form of axaxaxas. Everywhere, the seed of sorgoine is secretly sown.

thin on the ground, like cellophane

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Entries are, lately, for which I apologize: I've been overtaken by events, as they say. To make up for it, here's a song I promised a few weeks ago and finally got my hands on a copy of: Helen Love's "Girl About Town" (MP3)--a terrific example of the low-tech/high-wit buzzpop thing I mentioned here a while back. Helen (to whom thanks for permission to post this song) has made a long series of singles and EPs, all of which sound pretty much like this, obsess over bubblegum pop and Formula 1 racing and indie-ness, and mention Joey Ramone in some context or other. (His appearance in this one is... well, I'll let you discover it for yourself.) Here's the band's official web site. A bit of a tribute to the Jam's "Boy About Town" going on here, too. And Jamie from Helen's site mentions that "the 'sequel' - '(the continuing adventures of) THE GIRL ABOUT TOWN' will be released as part of 'The BubblegumKillers EP' on Sympathy for the Record Industry early next year."

Since I last posted here, I've been to NYC and back. Attended Ol' Dirty Bastard's wake; saw GodCo's current incarnation play at Tonic; spent time with a bunch of friends; saw Linda Hagood and Fly Ashtray's memorable game-based performances at a game-themed party at OfficeOps--Fly Ashtray's set list was determined by audience members spinning a Twister wheel (and playing Twister in front of the stage), and ended with John "Hyena Spareribs" Beekman coming up to sing "Ostrich Atmosphere" with them, which I explained to Lisa was the equivalent of something between Syd Barrett showing up to sing "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" with Pink Floyd and--actually probably closer--Jeremy Spencer showing up to sing "Green Manalishi" with Fleetwood Mac. Except much happier.

Further updates will likely be relatively slim over the next couple of weeks: terrifying mountains of work (at one point I did a quick calculation and realized that I'd agreed to review ninety-seven albums in under two weeks), then a final prenatal tropical vacation. But I brought back a big pile of fabulous lost indie 7"s from NYC, so look for full-on service to resume the second week in December, and there will probably be a few updates and maybe even some MP3s in the meantime.

wood on the wire

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General Strike's sole single, "My Body" (MP3), continued on its other side in rather different form as "(parts of) My Body" (MP3), came out in 1979 on the Canal label; it's described by the International Discography of the New Wave as, quote, "very experimental." Yes and no--it doesn't really sound like anything else, but the raised eyebrows of the underlining aren't necessary--the A-side, in particular, is identifiably and even reproducibly a song. (A few years later, they released a cassette which eventually became a CD, Danger in Paradise, on which Dawn Roberts sings an amazing version of "My Body" called "My Other Body." It also includes some Sun Ra covers.) The group was Steve Beresford and David Toop (thanks to both of whom for permission to post it), and the single was produced by David Cunningham of Flying Lizards fame--hence, I suspect, the wonderful, very Flying Lizards-y slightly-off-rhythm percussion sound of part II.

Guests in town the last couple of days, hence no updates, but I should note that when we were hanging out with our friend Dylan tonight, she mentioned that she'd said something about NaSoAlMo to some friends in Texas last week, and they all knew about it already. And that a lot of them hadn't heard of NaNoWriMo. NaSoAlMo now gets 271 hits on Google. That is very freaky to me. On the other hand, there is apparently going to be a Smiths musical now--but not mine, sadly. Or maybe fortunately.

In further NaSoAlMo news, Cash Nexus's NaSoAlMo blog, bless him, includes links to all the participants' sites. And there are a couple of new latecomers to the project:

Catherine Paik
Kyle Herbert
Michael David Murphy
Seth a.k.a. Hundts Kup

As I type, Lisa's recording something in the bedroom. My own new song is an attempt to invent a dance craze.

dreams vs. reality grudge match

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Unusually detailed nightmare last night. I dreamed that I was playing with a new band, our first gig, which we'd been told would be some kind of small-scale coffeehouse thing, no amplification necessary, etc. We showed up, and it was actually a great big auditorium with dark blue velvet curtains and a stage that faced maybe a hundred rows of plush padded movie-theater-type seats, mostly full. We were terrible--totally bombing. Our leader got really distracted and seemed to be paying attention to something behind the stage. Then she told us that we should try a cover of Larry Williams' "Slow Down"--I was somehow playing the lead part, despite the fact that I had an unamplified acoustic guitar in this dream--and got distracted again and indicated that I should sing it. I couldn't remember the words, but faked it. Realizing that I had to mach schau, as the Star Club audiences used to say, I ended up on my back, flailing my legs in the air as I played. Near the end of the song, I looked into the auditorium and saw that it had almost entirely cleared out except for a bunch of people I knew, who were all sitting togther at the very back, waving ironically in unison. (Sort of the inverse of the Best Gig Ever stunt.) I mumbled something and tried to take my guitar off, but the sound-guy's voice came over the monitors saying "oh no you don't, we've got a contract and you need to do another song." The bandleader was wandering off somewhere, and I looked down at our set list and realized that I'd just written down acronyms for all of our song titles, couldn't remember what any of them stood for, and wouldn't be able to remember how they went even if I did. Then I woke up.

Tonight, Lisa & I saw the Reputation play at Bossanova, then went over to Doug Fir for onion rings (you know, if you're advertising your onion rings as "tempura-style," then they should a) be served with a dipping sauce, and b) not have inch-thick dough, plus we're not dealing with potatoes here, a little vegetable crunch is a good thing) and to see Mclusky play. Been a while since I've seen a band whose relationship with their fans is that adversarial and affectionate. Also remembered what I'd thought about their bass player the first time I saw them: "I want his job." One- or two-note bass parts on a lot of songs (one of which he played entirely with his left hand), occasional appearances at the mic to scream "doot doot doot doot doot do-do!," Zonker-Harris-as-British-grad-student demeanor. Plus it turns out that "Forget About Him I'm Mint" is one of his.

When they played their last song, "To Hell With Good Intentions" (MP3 from Too Pure's site, and what a fine song it is), he spent the first third of it on his back and flailing his legs, exactly the way I had in my dream. It turned into one of those enormous feedback-and-drums end-of-set things, and a rather thorough and entertaining one--the guitarist stole an drumstick and elaborately snapped all his strings one by one with it, then started disassembling the drum kit while the drummer was still playing. One way to avoid an encore.

monographs in quad

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Today's song is The Maps' "My Eyes Are Burning" (MP3), a super-hot B-side from their self-released 1979 single "I'm Talking to You." The Maps were one of the great late-'70s Boston underground bands, and way underdocumented--here's a page about them. Their singer was Judith Grunwald, later of Salem 66; after she left the Maps, the rest of them continued as Artyard for a while--one of their songs appeared on one of Hyped to Death's Homework CDs. Thanks to Robt. C. Valentine (who wrote this song, and plays that huge fiery guitar part) for permission to post it. (He also notes that it'd be nice if someone had access to some of the Maps' never-released radio tapes, like "Explosive Decompression"--anyone out there?)

NaSoAlMo goes apace--my strategy seems to be writing more than recording early in the month, recording a lot of stuff in the last week. Two more-or-less complete songs down, one of which is very bad fake Elliott Smith, the other of which is very, very bad fake Elvis Costello channeling Harlan Howard's "Busted." I think I need better songwriting strategies.

Speaking of which, still more NaSoAlMo signups:

Alex Goddard
Ryan Walsh
The Null Device
Roger Winston
Noah Richardson (who claims that he's already finished his!)
Eric Saxby
Kent Burt
Matt Lyon
Joshua Csehack

How's everyone else doing with their solo albums? I've seen updates on a few people's sites...

In the Dept. of Gentle Ironies: when I'm in a mood to whine about now-defunct bands I wish I could see just once more for one more taste of my squandered youth, Unrest is always at the top of the list--I probably saw them at least 10 times in the early '90s, but that was not enough. They're usually followed on that list by Eggs, which I saw even more often, & in particular found that the Beaujon/Christiansen/Rickman/Shurak lineup targeted some kind of internal ideal of mine.

And, as it turns out, both of them are playing one-time-only reunion shows at the first night of the Teenbeat 20th anniversary celebration in Washington, DC... roughly a week before the baby is due. Absolutely no way I can even think about going.

Oh well. Maybe Flin Flon will make it out to the West Coast one of these years.

Musical disappointment of the week: Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans. I'm a sucker for oh let's say pre-1964 New Orleans local hits--my love of Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns knows few boundaries, and I'm very fond of Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Eddie Bo, etc. too. Looked at the track listing and thought "hey, lots of warhorses--'Carnival Time,' 'Let The Good Times Roll,' 'Mardi Gras Mambo,' yeah yeah--but lots of names I don't know here, too!" The names I didn't know, it turns out, are almost all contemporary or sort-of-contemporary New Orleans-nostalgia-act recordings, which are... sometimes not entirely awful, but they really shouldn't be on the same piece of plastic as Fats Domino.

Much more fun: the new collection of stuff Nicky Siano used to play at the Gallery between 1973 and 1977 (it's on Soul Jazz)--not quite disco, but the stuff that turned into disco. I only knew a few songs, mostly thanks to Beats International sampling them in the early '90s, like Exuma's "Exuma, the Obeah Man." Back cover quote from Frankie Knuckles: "Larry [Levan] and I would blow up balloons, set up the food bar, prepare the punch, and give out acid, but we also spent a lot of time hanging out in the booth, watching Nicky's every move."

And the new Holly Golightly album, Slowly but Surely, is my favorite of hers to date--who can tell me about Peter Chatman, who wrote "Mother Earth" (along with Louis Simpkins, who I'm guessing is Lewis Simpkins, the guy who wrote the almost-never-performed lyrics to "Night Train")? Did he write anything else as good? I'm also wondering if it inspired "Down in the Flood," or if I'm just hearing Blues Formula #37...

Also: somebody at the talkiewalkie livejournal posted an MP3 of People In Control's splendid "When It's War," so far as I know the only single by this Family Fodder-affiliated band.

Favorite newish-to-me-because-I'm-behind-the-curve slang is "pastede on yay"--of very recent vintage (it was coined in April, and we actually know by whom). Means "transparently phony," as in "America Red/America Blue dichotomy iz pastede on yay!" I need to find a better way to use it, though.

okay, enough

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Enough of this "get me a ticket on an aeroplane"/"Canada here I come" crap I've been hearing from a whole lot of otherwise smart people for the last 12 hours or so. Alternately, you know, you could stay right here, fight for the people who are going to get screwed over for at least the next four years and don't have the option of running away, and maybe even get your crybaby asses involved with local or state politics. Run for the House, run for the Senate, aim to be a state or federal judge, make a difference, instead of waiting for somebody else to make it for you. I mean, half the people I know who've been saying "mmm, how long does it take to get citizenship in Barbados?" have Ivy League degrees. Might as well do something useful with that privilege, you know?

And keep a very close eye on what these people and likeminded others are looking into.

In the spirit of tikkun olam, here's a song about building: The Golden Dawn's "Let's Build a Dyson Sphere" (MP3), an early Sarah Records single from 1988 or '89, I believe. I don't know very much about the Golden Dawn, but I love the sound of the guitar here. (I actually had a mental image of this song sounding slightly different: out-of-tune falsetto background voices on a continuous loop going "a dyson, a dyson, a dyson" for the last 30 seconds or so. Don't know where that came from.) Ulric Kennedy, who wrote it (and kindly gave permission to post it here), now has a site here.

immediate plans

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I am now going to go drink myself unconscious. And I don't even drink.

Thank you, Lalitree, for boingboinging NaSoAlMo! A bunch of new people to add to the honor roll:

Craig Ness
Lionel Valdellon
David Anderson
Hannah Clemens
Eli Chartkoff
Nicholas Venaglia
Robyn Lee
Douglas Nerad
Herbie Shellenberger (a.k.a. The Brrr)
Adrian Clark
Shane Rooks
Jason Reed
Phillip Harrington
Mike Richwalsky
Kevin Blom
Heavy Confetti
Emily Iwuc
Nick Dukes

we want you, we really do

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As it turns out, the fabulous Mystical Beast has posted Girls At Our Best!'s "Politics!"--now you can all hear it! (Reward yourself by downloading it AFTER YOU VOTE! It's worth the wait!) Thank you, Dana!

Even more NaSoAlMo signups:
Adam Elman
Brian K. Good

You know what? If I thought posting the B-side to "Hand in Glove" would get you to vote (and specifically to vote for Kerry), I would totally do it. (It's a hot live version of "Handsome Devil," incidentally, and I really hope somebody posts it soon.) Ditto for the Arcade Fire/Pixies deal that every MP3 blog under the sun has been quoting today. But they would all take too long to listen to! And then, by the time you were done listening, it'd be too late to get to the polls! So, instead, here is a one-minute-long song from the Dark Beloved Cloud archives that's sort of retroactively about voting: God Is My Co-Pilot's "Su Vot Vot Esta Su Voz" (MP3). It's actually a zoomed-up cover from 1993 of a traditional Finnish song, "Vot Vot Ja Niin Niin," which they learned from the pop-folk group Värttinä; the lyrics translate, in part, as "Let me tell you about my wild life. I know how to upset the old women. I'll just go behind the corner with some boy. Come all boys to our village. If you don't want to go home, you can stay with us for the night." Voting is fun!

Incidentally: if, by some chance, there's a lacunae reader who is STILL undecided (about voting, or for whom), is registered to vote, and is reading this before his or her local polls close: email me your phone number, and I will call you and talk it over with you. I'm serious.

A few more NaSoAlMo participants:

Bryce Durbin
Joe Mallon
Nathan Brown
Tim Thompson
Geeta Dayal

NaSoAlMo begins!

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It's November! Break out those guitars, those ukuleles, those oboes, those harps, those Marxolins, those kettle drums, those cuicas, those SoundGoRounds, triangles and those spare vocal cords, and get to it!

And welcome two last-minute signer-uppers:

Aaron Mandel
John Shaw

(Yes, you can still sign up--you just have to be able to finish your solo album by the end of November. But the people who've signed up already are glad that they've got the whole month to do it, I bet...)

Special electoral MP3 coming tonight.