Friday, December 30, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Oh, same thing."

Enzo brings us records as part of his regular UPS duties. Fun guy, Italian or, don't wanna offend anyone, possibly Sicilian or hey. Good guy either way. Just look at him:

When he got to the store today, somehow navigating that awesome brown truck through all the TV people and gear choking us for days on end

he found me playing Minor Threat at volume and jumping around like a fucking idiot young hardcore kid -- menacingly, looking for a fight -- which I am not. TV people irate me, is all.

Enzo: "You musta got laid last night."
me: "No, I just [what? ...] -- I'm just well-caffeinated."
Enzo: "Oh, same thing."
me: "?!?"

Then he just left! Now we've got a TV cop out front directing real traffic.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ballad of Anna and Renars

Lots of people walk into the store every day. The majority have crushingly dull things to say by way of explaining their helpless low-grade consumerist lives ("no, Music Hall of Williamsburg is my favorite club"; "do you have Ratatat/Bon Iver/spoon-fed dog-puke-du-jour on vinyl," &c.), but a few have interesting stories, and they're usually the ones who don't volunteer them. I had to dig a bit with Anna and Renars, and the rabbit hole got kinda hysterically, awesomely deep.

Be nice to these two, for the Norns watch over them.

They walked in at peak-boil of the record-melting afternoon today, and in accented but very good, crisply enunciated English, Anna asked to buy Sonic Youth tickets. She also asked if I had any information about the opening acts, but before I could say, her gentleman associate Renars asked, "Is it Magik Markers"? Which would be a good guess under any circumstances but too weird to let slide here, because no they were not on that bill in August but they are playing tonight at Shea Stadium (and last night at Cameo), and they are the best band on earth right now, so hey. Ask why he asked that and then tell them the deal. Cause maybe they half knew it already -- you know the way people get part of something right these days, Internet and all that mess.

Well they were shocked at this news in the best way, so I was happy to show them a map of where Shea is, tell them openers &c. I asked where they were visiting from. Latvia! Cool. Anna proceeded to explain that they knew the band, and what a great surprise that they would get to see them. How do they know the band, oh from some festival over there. And I'm not quite sure what flicked the gates open, but I think Anna dropped an arcane comment like, the only reason she was in the store was because of a Twix bar. Which I couldn't let alone, and so she proceeded to tell an increasingly bizarre story about their trip to NYC, which this was the first day of. She had been grocery shopping one day in Riga when a man rushed past her and knocked her into a display of discounted vodka bottles (I think she said they were flavored, which explains the discount). She stood in horror as one bottle knocked over the next, and her English is good enough for her to say "like dominoes," and suddenly she was standing among several (hundred?) smashed bottles and I guess a lot of liquor. One of those situations, you've had them.

A store employee told her to go to the register and it would be okay, or something -- you can imagine her state of mind at the time -- and she completely forgot her groceries and rushed to the counter. On the way, impulse told her to grab something to buy. Twix bar got grabbed. Fuzzy about the rest of the encounter at the register, but inside was a form for a contest, win a bunch of Twix bars she thought it was. I presume she entered. Some months later she said she was on Friendster -- and this was the only hint Anna and Renars might not be from, like, the west West -- and a bunch of people she didn't know were asking her on Friendster how much chocolate she had needed to buy/eat in order to win. Win what? Wow, a bunch of candy bars, right? No, there was a bigger prize: a trip to Tokyo. Her shame-Twix was the winner; her name had been announced before Twix of Latvia, Corp. could inform her.

This trip to Tokyo was apparently all booked and ready when the massive earthquake and tsunami hit. Anna didn't mention this as if it were an inconvenience or anything callous like that, for the record.

As any sane people would, when told they weren't going to Tokyo they tried to get whatever cash-value instead. Nope, they had to pick a trip somewhere, okay United States. Anna called the random discovery of a Magik Markers show -- her and Renars haven't seen them play in a few years so I'm bringing a bag for them to carry their brains home in -- the latest little chapter in the trail of Fate-moves, and she doesn't think it's done with them yet. I'm going to buy them cheap beers at the show tonight (doesn't qualify as Fate, I'm pretty sure), and you should do the same if you see them at the Sonic Youth show on the Waterfront.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sic (sic) Alps and me

Details of my difficult, altogether too personal but ultimately rewarding relationship with the new Sic Alps record, courtesy of Your Flesh (sir).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What's doing in Sierra Leone?

Freetown, Sierra Leone, is pretty heavy with history in two directions, having once been a primary departure point for African slaves (via the Portuguese) and later, in 1787, being settled by 400 freed slaves and African-Americans, under the guidance of British abolitionists. After that community collapsed in violence two years later (a "misunderstanding" between Europeans and Africans? The devil you say), it was tried again in 1792, and — well, that's about all I know really, and anyway, this isn't meant to be a history lesson. Let's just say it's still there, despite the French, the British, the diamonds, and Charles Taylor.

Freetown, hanging in there

Why am I telling you this? Because a good friend is in Sierra Leone for a spell as a doctor with a volunteer organization that shall remain nameless, and she passed along a rough story a couple of days ago that I thought I'd share. If you're squeamish you might not want to read on, though it's not all that graphic. The upshot is I won't be complaining about healthcare here for a while.

Would probably win a duel with a motorcycle

Anyway, her first couple of weeks there were uneventful (other than the Harmattan), but then...

"One of my volunteers was mowed down by a motorcycle in a remote part of the country! My worst nightmare! It was night, when we're not allowed to be on the road (for safety reasons — driving is not good during the day, but impossible at night). Fortunately, two other volunteers were in the same town as the injured volunteer, though he didn't know that at the time.

As I've told you, there's a large Lebanese community here — especially Lebanese/Sierra Leoneans, who although never having been to Lebanon retain many of their terrific qualities of hospitality and caring. The Salones (Sierra Leoneans) are naturally the same way, being very friendly and caring people. So the combination of the two peoples can be very interesting, and certainly proved helpful that day. A Leb/Salone picked up the volunteer (who was profusely bleeding) and took him to a gov't hospital, which I'll describe in a minute. Somehow the word spread like wildfire, and the two other vols showed up at the hospital — thank goodness, because they ended up sleeping with the injured one, and providing the necessary care to him...a head injury, he needed neurological check every two hours throughout the night. I was on the phone continuously between them and the doctor treating the vol. To make a long story short, the volunteer, apart from a bad head injury that required two wounds to be sutured (and that neurological checking), had multiple cuts and abrasions all over his body, and probably a broken ankle (or at least some torn ligament).

[note: italics mine. – mw]

But here we go. The wounds were sutured without any anesthesia, and by the light of the volunteers' cell phones, since there's no electricity and no generator there! And the volunteer, with his open wounds, was laid on a bed where there had been blood spilled by a previous patient! Yes, this is Africa. They do the best they can, but it ain't much. When I arrived at the "hospital" the next day I almost fainted...I've seen bad in my life, but absolutely nothing like what I saw there. The volunteer is a great kid, and really sucked it up, and did all that I told him. Got him out of there, to Freetown, cleaned him up and gave him appropriate exam and treatment, which is still ongoing.

But everything here is such an effort that all my time has been taken up by this event. I've looked into helicopter medevacs for him, etc...but nothing yet, although it's very much in the planning stages. And there are several SL doctors in Freetown that are quite good and have been trained in the U.S. It's just that there is so little in the way of equipment. Tomorrow I'm getting him two CT scans (head and ankle) — price is $500 for both! Get that! (note: I think that's cheap? Or, I dunno, expensive?! –mw) And the hospital — also a gov't facility, is absolutely the worst (even worse than the one in Bo [note: Bo is Sierra Leone's second-largest city, pop. about 215,000. –mw]) that I've ever seen in my life...bare beds with 6-7 people lying in each one...and if there are no family members around to help the patients don't eat, they lie in their own filth...I won't go on, you get the picture.

I took a brief nap today and am sure happy to be back in Freetown; took the volunteer and the driver for shawarma and felafel at a Lebanese place, where I had a terrific conversation, all in Arabic mind you, with the old man, the owner. So that's been my's just very dicey when you can't do what you know you have to for injuries."

Soldiers of Fortune, Zebulon, Wed Feb 9

The Voice asked about some heavy jams last night, so I went and, you know, told that.

Mike Bones, post-show, not his assigned seat

Kid Millions, post-show, his assigned smile

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jordi Wheeler, Spectacle Theater, Mon Feb 7

Third time's a charm (but then, so were the first and second). Another core member of Up Died Sound, a band itself not so very documented but modestly exploding with ideas, lit out on a solo hike. I wasn't even sure I'd be writing about Jordi Wheeler's set till partway through his somewhat troubled first song, when he realized what I was already thinking and killed an unnecessary percussion track, leaving just a song, a good one, and after that just songs (though not this splinter) — hermetic, whispered but not quiet by purpose, a few first on piano, stained-glass notes (and starry films behind him) illuminating the dark room, his percussive left hand the only rhythm needed. After a while he switched to acoustic guitar, still seated at his piano, for a few more songs, bedsit in nature but sophisticated, the señor even threading in a Spanish figure on — is guitar still his home instrument, can anybody tell? He returned to piano for another flourish, further smearing, really just banishing the question. Bent over his instruments he looked like a less mannered Peter Jefferies, though this night Jordi was clearly tithing in the parish of Syd Barrett (while John Cale hovered offscreen).

Don't blame the camera

As with a lot of veteran artists (Wheeler was in the Occasion, one of my favorite NYC bands of the early ’00s), this set seemed as much about corraling a wealth of ideas and impulses (like herding cats — and speaking of, the supportive crowd was filled with musicians) as showing off the songs. Which I'm looking forward to hearing again, even though the next time could be completely different.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hiro Kone, Zebulon, Wed Feb 2

Felt good to get out after a week and half with the flu (or flus, you know, just lucky I guess), and I celebrated with electric holy water.

A short walk from work through the glazed donut that is Williamsburg (key difference: glazed donuts often filled with something) to Zebulon, where Hiro Kone (a.k.a. Nicky Mao of Up Died Sound, ex–Effi Briest) was making her maiden solo flight. Could that be true? I saw her accompany the 1923 silent Salomé in November, though that isn't quite solo. The few times I've seen UDS her ideas were prominent, so the night was not without measured anticipation (J agreed). Her set — five songs, six? All of some length and considerable presence — established a unique language and (not uncommon for a first gig) (if it was), with it, she had plenty to say. She started with a hand drum

before moving into steady frontierwork along the Korg/Nord axis, evoking Alice Coltrane's devotional music of the ’80s in tone and spirit, only less narrowly focused and in an open relationship with dance music. That last aspect might get her miscategorized (because what are you if you can't be categorized?), but this is psychedelic music at heart, a different state of mind its goal, or states, goals.

Man it's hard to get good photos at Zebulon

What kept me thinking of Coltrane mère was the way whole choruses flared out of already rich orbs of brightly opaque synth, a real instinct for contrast and shape, the way her music moves outward and sometimes diagonal, just always with some sense of further (like, small-p progressive).

The only song I recognized is the sublime "AION A" (which you can just have). One song pulsed with a 5/4 (or was it 4/5, what order do they go in again?) pillow-thump and one crisp clack to mark the darkness; a bit of Laika, or Richie Hawtin loosening up with a color or two, but mostly just like Hiro Kone. Kind of a long set for first of three, but that didn't matter, it was one of those sounds you just wanna let alone for a while, so despite what I'd heard about Pillars & Tongues, and knew about Highlife (Sleepy Doug Shaw), I headed out, happy, blissy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bombogenesis: 6.3 times per year in the USA, twice in a month just on First Ave

Bombogenesis: because "thundersnow" has already been beaten into the ground, as is the way of things today. (I think it happened around midnight. You're already playing yourself if you say "thundersnow" — like how your eyes can't roll far enough when someone says "snowpocalypse," and you can't beat them severely enough if they say "snowmageddon.")

Seconds after the dramatic, increasingly less rare results of bombocyclogenesis

Haven't sorted out exactly how it works yet — "bombogenesis" being derived from "cyclogenesis" (naturally) and both, I think, describing the set of necessary conditions rather than the event itself. Whatfuckingever. I know it's rarer than radium, reported on average just 6.3 times per year in the whole US. I know it's said that a guy in Bucks County, PA got hit by snowlightning this evening (all in all, my guess is lightningsnow is more survivable — either way, this is less dramatic than both double-rainbow…). And I know that for the second time this winter I was walking down First Ave and I saw, then heard, lightning and thunder, while snow blasted around us. Figuring the world is dying and/or my luck is changing I bought lottery tickets immediately. On First Ave, of course. I'll cut you in, don't worry.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Letha Melchior Rodman benefit: Capsul + the Mad Scene + Home Blitz + Tom Surgal, Cake Shop, Sat Jan 22

A bloody good time on Saturday night to raise money for veteran rocker and excellent human being Letha Melchior Rodman. The Voice asked me what happened.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Random Cutting (and other assassinations), Chashama, Fri Jan 21

Caught a set from Tyler Nolan (of Vaz and Up Died Sound), who plays solo as Random Cutting, last night at Chashama, the p-r artspace that's right where you'd never think it should be: E 42nd, right across the street from the Helmsley Hotel.

Living out of a suitcase

Last time I'd seen Nolan solo he accompanied an edited-down (to 30 minutes or so) Robocop, drawing laughs and whoops from a half-full but fully attentive Zebulon. And there is something intrinsically sci-fi to his bright and loud style — not à la Chrome, but formally somehow, visions of glassy spires crashing up out of the ground, like an Arthur C. Clarke paperback cover set on •>awe<•. One fleet five-note run that started a new passage (he plays straight through, with brief pauses) last night kind of suggested the light-tones at the end of Close Encounters. What's rare (in a solo electric-guitar set, at least) is there's no indulgence in his playing; he neither wastes a shred nor underplays, everything is hemmed and purposed without feeling tight or restrained. The cuts are anything but random. Check out two pieces named for tall black men at his site, linked at top.

Also on hand at Chashama were a bunch of hacked and rigged old video games, the most popular being JFK: Reloaded, which is exactly what it sounds like. It really was impressive and only a bit unnerving; while I don't think anyone old enough to remember the day is currently coding video games, I couldn't help but think of the function of history in severing emotional ties to traumatic events. The people (hmf, kids) clustered around the machine were laughing their asses off, and who am I to criticize? I wasn't born till ’67.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top 10 inflation: apologies to Glass Rock

Every year I send in my Top 10 to the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll, and every year, starting about 20 minutes later, I go back and start fucking with it. Continue, I mean. Why? Because of all the really, really good records being made. And 10 is just not the round number it used to be back before the world got all blown-out and untrackable. Also because I'm an editor, i.e., bit of a mental case.

This year, I waited till just about the very literally very last moment to submit my P&J. Longer actually — that afternoon, seconds before it was nearly certain that I was about to do it, a couple of friends dragged me out and we got good and hammered (the holidays and all that, "just one beer" and all that). When I got back and tore off my list, confident in that drunkenly authoritative way that everything was in its place, I um…completely left off one of my real favorites of the year. … Sorry, Glass Rock. To quote Marc Masters, "Imagine if this mattered."

Anyway, these days you can go back and fix pretty much everything. You just can't go back and give everything the 10 or so points it deserved in Pazz & Jop.

And so, I moved stuff around (soberly) and here, now, below. It's got 24, but by the end it may be 25, cause I'm pretty sure I'm still forgetting something. Just about all of them at one point of the year felt like mortal locks for my Top 10. But I'm only fucking apologizing to Glass Rock.

1. Major Stars Return to Form (Drag City)
Yeah. Best yet by the best-yet sextet. Maximal psych-rawk splendor, featuring two of the Stahs' three ostensibly active singers; for proof of their discrete dopeness go back-to-back with "Low Grade" (Sandra Barrett) and "The Space You Know" (Amanda Bristow). Really though, no recording matter can contain what this band is about. You just haven't lived until you've been kicked in the back of the head during a Wayne Rogers guitar solo. By Wayne Rogers.

2. Sun City Girls Funeral Mariachi (Abduction)

3. Phantom Payn Days Phantom Payn Daze (De Stijl)
Tensely lazing electric shocks from this non-bastard offspring of Suicide, Peter Jefferies and the Velvets, which is impossible of course, how could three things have one baby, and yet, here he is, and in case you're wondering — he's not confined to that bedroom, just happier there. 39 Clocker Juergen Gleue made these dark and sexy (a.k.a. "never released") recordings in the mid-’90s, and they go deep with a South Island vibe, Germanically poised. We can know that "cool" still means something because of this album.

4. Islaja Keraaminen Pää (Fonal)
Honestly, I still haven't sorted this album out exactly. Which is weird because it's Islaja's most accessible, for one. It could in fact be that very thing, the proximity of these elegant, stained-glass-future torch songs to "normal" pop that makes it so jarringly other. Why does a white Finnish lady make me think of Sun Ra without having anything to do with him in any way? Still haven't sorted it. [Just realized, days later, that it's also or perhaps instead Abbey Lincoln, early ’60s with Max Roach, her blues, just the powerful suggestion of being out, relaxed and regal in it where she was, commanding, stately but not stuffy. Analagous in some crucial unnameable way, Abbey and Merja, but otherwise unlike. Not sure I've sorted it though.]

5. Glass Rock Tall Firs Meet Soft Location (Ecstatic Peace)
Sorry, again, really. It's hard to believe I could've simply forgotten about this one, no matter how much whiskey, especially since it contains 2010's most unforgettable instant: the very first blow of the very first song, itself called "Glass Rock" — just this huge exhale, all the weight fallen off your shoulders as you slump into a chair. It's a life-up-to-this-point moment that's followed with Kathy Leisen declaring everything permanently okay by asking, "Whatchoo think about loosin' it up?" Only recently decided that line's not missing a syllable. Take care to note that I've talked only about the first half minute of this mind-blowing, tender-hearted, sinking-yacht-rock album, and also please notice that its title track is named for the band, and its title instead explains what's going on here. Everything else in history explained at the band's totally natty blog.

6. Sharon Van Etten Epic (Ba Da Bing!)
She sings at you from an angle with this almost lurid voice that swerves around forcefields, like she's emotionally drunk from her own lyrics. Dramatic results. Would've been only slightly the less if it were just "A Crime" and "Peace Signs," but I'm glad it isn't.

7. Fabulous Diamonds Fabulous Diamonds II (Siltbreeze)
Bliss of haunt, stately psych that ghost-patrols the darklands, where your nervous system lives low to the earth. Drums, synth, vocal incant; so simple, so right. Suddenly want to make sure these two have heard Phantom Payn Daze.

8. The Dead C Patience (Ba Da Bing!)
On returning to form and staying there.

9. Noveller Desert Fires and Bleached Valentine split (Saffron)
At the moment I'm not sure I can think of anything other than "Bleached Beach," one song from her recent split LP (with unFact) that soars high and heavy, like a jetstream of lava. At first I missed the noise guitarist; Desert Fires burned the thought clear out of me.

10. Rangda False Flag (Drag City)
Bishop, Corsano, Chasny, demons. If you think I need to say more, that's your problem.

11. Alastair Galbraith Mass (Siltbreeze)
A bookend to Morse, 18 years later, too perfect. A string theory in a feathered hat, the South Island dark horse gives truest meaning to the words "experimental pop."

12. Doug Paisley Constant Companion (No Quarter)
"Who could be so cruel to someone like you? No one but you. Who would make the rules for the things that you do? No one but yooouuu." Drop your weapons, the war is over.

13. Effi Briest Rhizomes (Sacred Bones)
Brooklyn's brightest darkness, an arcane notion dusted off and lured from the attic of 4AD's old manse out into the woods for an all-night session. You're surrounded by trees but you notice only the air. Like a lot of good psychedelic music its persuasion is its pacing, and since the valence is distinctly female, maybe this is one of those cases where it's okay that every single review mentioned it (even if no one talked about why it might matter). Singer but not songwriter Kelsey Barrett has left, so what's next is bound to be different, and worth waiting for (this one took years), even if what's most noticed then is still mainly that did you know the band members are all female.

14. Neil Young Le Noise (Reprise)
Neil, burning, overwhelming you in a sea of guitar flames. Neil Young is an all-male band.

15. Endless Boogie Full House Head (No Quarter)
When Top Dollar speaks his mind, everybody else shuts the fuck up. Quel jammage! Endless Boogie is all-male.

16. Tyvek Nothing Fits (In the Red)
They razored off everything but the snarl, which will razor everything off your bones. Punk as fuck for them outta luck.

17. v/a Angola Soundtrack (Analog Africa)
One of the best comps of ’60s/’70s Africa ever, a spectrum of sounds whose ranginess will blow your mind. Angola's on the southwest coast of Africa but judging from this record it's the dead center of the world.

18. Wounded Lion Wounded Lion (In the Red)
Number one in punk-rock fun, raw and elemental pop with its pants pulled down. I did not jump around to any record more this past year.

19. Digital Mystikz Return II Space and Urban Ethics (DMZ)
Dubstep didn't leave them behind — very much the other way around. Both albums in here even though they're different — Return is Mala, Ethics is Coki — because the DMZ continuum is just that strong. It's no slight on their mid-decade singles — some of the best sounds of the ’00s, any genre — to wonder if this is the better straight-up listening music, thoughtful and deep darkness that's madly in love with your ribcage.

20. Rikki Ililonga and Musi-O-Tunya Dark Sunrise (Now Again)
Sansa kuwa, sansa kuwa, sansa kuwa… More African brilliance from the past, this time from Zambia. Find Zambia on a map and erase the borders, now it could contain all of what is Rikki Ililonga.

21. The Fresh & Onlys Play It Strange (In the Red)
This year's achingly wistful Bay Area pop record. Took a while to get past the mysterious power of opener "Summer of Love," which feels so much more like the end of summer, the end of love.

22. Gunn-Truscinski Duo Sand City (Three Lobed)
Steve Gunn is one of NYC's best guitarists, and definitely our most distinct — immediately identifiable the way he bends and frays notes, and conjures resolve out of shadows. Hushed and heavy, Sand City is the first duo record from him and percussionist John Truscinski, though they've played together plenty on the intrastellar earthways.

23. Thee Oh Sees Warm Slime (In the Red)
Sort of a lifetime (so far) achievement award. Warm Slime might not be any better than the last four hundred Oh Sees records, but since they're all so damn good…

24. Rene Hell Porcelain Opera (Type)
Jeff Witscher, man of a thousand aliases and one heavy dot of a record. I think of Coil, I think of Cluster, I think of Porter Ricks, I think of high-tension cables, I think of synthetic concrète, I think I need to track this fucker down on vinyl.

25. Dum Dum Girls I Will Be (Sub Pop)
I gave it short shrift when it came out cause it wasn't as good as the singles and EPs. But lately I've been listening to it constantly and coming to terms with being wrong.

Marked for life: Magik Markers and some other shit, Fri Jan 14, Psychotropa

Got to wax and wane on one of my favorite bands, Magik Markers, and their show the other night at a new spot in Brooklyn.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Trish Keenan of Broadcast, RIP

This news took my legs out. Trish Keenan, the singer and, for the past few years, one half of Broadcast, perhaps my favorite band of the last decade, passed away this morning after battling pneumonia for two weeks. I was fortunate to get some hastily assembled memories together for the Voice.