never been a big Michael Mann fan but this movie pretty much
rules! Some of the best action / mayhem and post-Rififi
heist sequences ever are very tastefully scattered throughout
a 3-hour epic that is a lot more about character than anything
else. The L.A. settings look so good; glamorized, de-glamorized,
and a lot in between, and the mis en scene going on within
it is more than willing to detour into impenetrable crime
dialogue and shaggy-dog character vignettes, some of the best
between Robert DeNiro and his romantic interest, Amy Brenneman
as an actual Gen X-er. I really like her acting in this, and
DeNiro is top-notch even by his standards -- however, Al Pacino
is absolutely RIDICULOUS! He was more realistic in The
Devil's Advocate. His technique for this one seems to
be based on John Cleese in all those Monty Python 'crazy interviewer'
/ The Ring.
watched them in the order they were made, and I'm really glad
I saw the original from Japan first, because it tells its
story very well, with only a few well-placed and well-earned
shocks culminating in one of the best scenes I've ever seen
in a horror movie, bar none. After that, the American version
just didn't have a chance. It was actually pretty good for
about the first hour, copying a lot of shots and storyboards
directly from the Japanese version, creating its own gloomy
Seattle-based mood (under the influence of Seven,
of course, but still effective), and it is indeed a scary
movie. In fact, I had to stop watching, but not so much because
it was scary, but because the scares were so much cheaper
and more crass than Ringu. Is this an American thing,
really? This need to spell things out and amp things up? For
one thing, the videotape everyone watches in the Japanese
version was eerie and strange, while the American version
adds a couple outright horror scenes, such as a box of twitching
severed fingers and lots of maggots. After an hour, the movie
gets to a point where everything the characters look at is
portentous -- not a window can be looked without some shadowy
figure passing across it, and you expect the scary girl to
be hiding behind every corner. This keeps you on the edge
of your seat, sure, but in a really ridiculous way. Then,
they play the heroine's son as if he walked right over to
the set from a failed audition for The Sixth
Sense, and add all this business about horses -- what
the hell is that??? That scene where the horse freaks out
on the ferry had my vote for the most overwrought and superfluous
scene I've seen in a horror movie in years -- until about
10 minutes later when that guy commits suicide while wearing
that TV contraption -- I mean, what the hell is going on here???
Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
I've tried and failed a few times to read Cormac McCarthy
novels. I've finally figured out why: because he requires
the reader to SLOW DOWN, which is something I'm not used to
doing. I'm used to reading at about 70 MPH, and if you do
that with McCarthy you'll miss everything. You won't know
who's talking or even necessarily if someone's talking, for
example, because he doesn't use quotation marks. But slow
it down to, oh, the speed of walking instead of driving, and
a whole entire world opens up. That's because he writes about
a primitive hard-scrabble time long before man could fly or
interstate highways were built. He writes about a time when
man was more like a dung-beetle than a bird, and for us modern
folk, it can be downright terrifying. Anyway, his book All
The Pretty Horses might have been recognized enough to
be made into a movie starring Matt Damon, but Blood Meridian
is the cognoscenti's choice for his magnum opus, and
it's mine too. One of the most potent combinations of brutal
and beautiful I've ever come across. (I've been trying to
research it, regarding pp. 52-54 in the Vintage paperback
edition, were the Comanche really that insanely Texas Chainsaw
Massacre x 100 about things back then?)
Save My Queen: A Tribute by
Daniel Nester (SOFT SKULL PRESS)
When I heard of this book's concept, I was hooked: a poem
for each song on each Queen album from Queen up through
Hot Space, which oddly enough is the last Queen album
I ever bought. Thing is, it's this very concept that ends
up making the book frustrating for me. The book looks great,
holds great, with a great cover detail from the News of
the World LP. And, inside, the design and typeface are
great, and Nester seems like a good writer and there's plenty
of imagery to sink teeth into, but the book really never works
once for me as having anything to do with Queen's music, career,
zeitgeist, anything, other than the song titles and maybe
the occasional reference to one of the band-members, a quick
blip of a factoid. Speaking of factoids, the book has footnotes,
ala Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, that really
big book you may vaguely remember from like 4 years ago. Offering
factoids, autobiographical grace notes, place names, little
tidbits of poetry, stuff like that, they're actually my favorite
part, perhaps because they're actually sometimes about Queen,
and the concept momentarily works for me. I have to re-read
these poems while shutting the Queen concept out of my mind
completely, so I can just judge them as verse . . . . . I
won't read the (song) titles . . . . . well, they are better
this way . . . . like this part isn't too bad: "A big
pause, a rat-tat-tat, naked and fast, the experience of the
future, and it's coequal, as they say. A bit roadside, a bit
run-drum punch-drunk. Muffled, even. Send-off for a solo with
a scream, neither vacant nor deplorable." I don't know,
there seems to be an air of 'cut-up speak' in these lines,
like most of the images seem to come straight from Nester,
but the rhythm is strange, always tripping itself up with
random interjections like "Insects, fireflies. My sister
in white leather boots." Because of this, I keep wondering
who the voice of these poems is -- is it Freddie, Brian, John,
or Roger? Or is it some flowery historian? Or is it just Daniel
Nester? Well shit . . . . . . . . . . the poem for "Drowse"
is pretty good. You know, that Queen song "Drowse"?
A Day At The Races. (Never really liked that album
. . . can't remember "Drowse" . . . great song title
though . . .)
MAGAZINE Volume 10 Number 10
I really enjoyed Vice Magazine when I first discovered it,
but now I'm starting to think it's like all the drugs they
brag about taking -- a blast the first few times, but then
it starts to get annoying and painful. I mean just read the
way this one article starts: "Aspiring boxer Jackie Geronimo
is truly a timeless heroic mother figure. You could kidnap
this woman and her children, put them on a fancy time-traveling
bicycle, and send them to the Paleolithic era with all those
big lizard birds and cave people, and Jackie would say, 'Whatevs'
and just handle shit." Oh my GOD that's annoying. Hey
Vice, here's a DON'T for your Do's and Don'ts -- DON'T LET
YOUR WRITERS USE SLANG LIKE "WHATEVS AND JUST HANDLE
On the positive side, it is
a very nicely designed magazine, and I almost always like
their political articles, and when they actually do journalism,
instead of what they usually do, which is just toss off a
couple paragraphs about someone, like "This person is
like the awesomest person ever. If you were dating this person
they'd wake up you in the morning and give you cocaine and
a blowjob and then be all like 'We're going to the zoo today!'"
(The Do's and Don'ts are starting to get old too.)
Art Institute of Chicago
Been taking Babe-O to the Art Institute on Tuesdays, which
is free day, which is a really great civic service. Museums
suck when you're travelling and/or you have to pay money,
because you feel like you have to get both your money's worth
and your visit's worth, which leads to museum fatigue and
completion anxiety, i.e. "I'm tired as fuck because we've
been here three hours but I can't leave without seeing their
Joseph Cornell boxes!" When you live in Chicago, you
can just pop in on their free Tuesdays and free-associate
your way throught the building for about 45 minutes and then
take off, on your merry way!
So, I've gone something
like four out of the last six weeks. I've been falling into
this pattern where I take the first right after the big foyer
room, into the ancient Japanese and Chinese wing. This is
some amazing shit, natch, a lot of Buddhist statues from like
800-1200 or thereabouts, seemingly favoring the Shinto wing
of Buddhism. (I know nothing about neither world history nor
history of religions.) I let the baby stare at these statues
in hopes that he'll find God like I like to think I do. And
stare he does. He'll be in the museum, eyes wide open, for
a full hour sometimes without making a peep.
If you keep walking through this
wing, you'll find yourself greeted by Andy Warhol's gigantic
silk-screen of China's former chairman Mao. This marks the
entrance into the museum's modern wing. At first I thought
of it as a wry American curating joke, going from ancient
Chinese beauty to this gaudy portrait of modern-day Chinese
corruption, but then I realized that Warhol's portrait is
still very commanding and honorable, so now I just think that
this must be what honor looks like in the 21st Century, and
then I think, no, of course it's a wry American joke, by Warhol,
some kid from Pittsburgh playing the Emperor's New Clothes
with apparently one of the most powerful men in the world,
the more legal version of what happened in an ABC News Special
that I saw last night, about how "someone so insignificant
[Lee Harvey Oswald] could completely change the life of such
a significant man [John F. Kennedy]."
Anyway, the first time
I went this summer, I decided to begin my sojourn by asking
where the Gerhard Richter was, with plans to free-associate
from there. Yep, when it comes to art, I'm just a modern guy
(of course I've had it in the ear before). The one Richter
in the permanent collection is nice, a photorealist painting
of luminous gorgeous flowers. I have some other modern wing
faves too, like a really spooky sculpture by Katarina Fritsch
called "Monk," a rendition of a tall, stoop-shouldered,
and gaunt Franciscan monk, forbiddingly colored entirely black.
Can sculptures be photo-realist? Sculpture-realist? Either
way, the first time I looked at "Monk," because
its title card isn't obviously placed and I didn't see it,
I left the room convinced that it was a temporary and uncredited
exhibit of a real person doing one of those 'living mannequin'
routines, and that this dude had somehow made himself entirely
black -- body paint, a form-fitting shroud, I dunno, I walked
out of there believing it.
When I was in Europe
I noticed that this 'living mannequin' thing was a tradition
there, and I'm not talking about the kind that draw attention
to department store windows. This was a much more eerie form
of street theater, a variation on busking and panhandling.
The best example I can think of was in the eminently depressing
city of Warszawa, Poland. We were walking through the section
known as "Old Town," which was completely turned
into rubble by the Nazis during World War II, but reconstructed
to look exactly as it did before. It's the only part of Warszawa
that looks anything like it did pre-war; everything else is
influenced by either Socialist Russia or Corporate America,
neither one exactly a winner when it comes to a good-looking
old-world city. So here we were in this weird neighborhood
that is supposed to look old but really only rubs your face
in how the city is a sad shell of its former self, when around
a corner we come and see the FUCKING GRIM REAPER HIMSELF,
AND HE'S AT LEAST NINE FEET TALL. Seriously -- some guy was
apparently standing on a box or something, but he had on a
hooded robe that covered his face and went all the way to
the ground so that it covered what he was standing on. He
even held a FUCKING SCYTHE just like the grim reaper himself.
And, there was no hat in front of him for tips. Maybe he really
was the grim reaper. I'll never forget it, and Fritsch's Monk
sculpture is almost as eerie.
Other favorites in the AIC
modern wing are a whole friggin' wall devoted to Ray Pettibon!
These pieces are mostly from his "lots of text"
period and a lot of them (perhaps all?) are collected in the
first 50 or so pages of his recent book Plots Laid Bare.
The only problem is I always set off the alarm because in
order to read his little scrawls I have to lean too close.
Museums, man . . .
But yeah, other favorites:
someone I don't remember did this great thing where he's hanging
strings of yarn from the ceiling and then they're pinned across
the floor so that it delineates an imaginary wall or giant
doorway. This is the greatest thing -- people can actually
walk through it without an alarm going off -- and after my
first visit it didn't even completely register that this yarn
was part of their permanent collection -- I thought maybe
it was some outline for something that was going to be built
at some other time.
On another visit I found myself
wandering through a whole section of Georgia O'Keefe paintings
. . . at least 20 of 'em. I don't know if that's part of the
permanent collection or if it was a special thing, but I really
like her stuff. Very psychedelic, capturing that spooky /
gorgeous aspect of the American Southwest as well as Max Ernst
himself did during his Sedona, Arizona period.
On my latest visit, I
decided to break my 'turn right into the Chinese and Japanese
wing' habit by turning left, into the Ancient Americas wing.
What should greet me on the way in but a scary child-size
sculpture of a scary-looking kid, his teeth bared in a grimace,
a nasty-looking scar across his chest, and a pair of testicles
but no pee-pee. I didn't really want my baby to look at this
one. Reading the card, I learned that this statue represented
the Mayan or Aztec -- can't remember which -- practice of
human sacrifice for fertility! The performer of the ritual
would wear the flayed skin of the victim to represent renewal!
How about that! There were also some great statues honoring
After I was done
with the Ancient Americas, I couldn't help but wander back
through the Chinese and Japanese wing to check in with my
modern faves. Richter, Fritsch, Pettibon, the yarn, blah blah
. . . . from there, I was like, "I need to get out of
this rut . . . I know, I'll go to classical European . . .
I've never been interested in that!" Well, that wing
might as well have been called "The White Image of Christ"
wing, which I found real interesting, because all the paintings
seemed to be Spanish and Italian, which I don't think of as
especially Caucasian races, but I guess they are, and as Killa
Priest told us a few years back, "The white image of
Christ is really Cesare Borgia, the second son of Pope Alexander."
My favorite White Image of Christ painting was called "Saint
John the Baptist Pointing to Jesus Christ," and it depicts
EXACTLY THAT, the two bearded long-hairs looking exactly alike
(two really handsome hippies), standing right next to each
other, staring right into the 'camera,' and one guy is really
matter-of-factly pointing to the other guy who's standing
like two inches away! You've gotta see this goofy painting.
Anyway, that's probably
the closest you're going to get to art criticism in Blastitude.
Hope ya liked it!
They, the duo of Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema, seem to
be simultaneously inhabited, a four-way transgender transrace
kind of thing, by the souls of two of the great rock'n'roll
power couples: John & Yoko and Mick & Keith. And by
transrace I mean that not only is Ms. Ono of Japan but also
that Neil and Mick have both got some serious jive going on.
As white soul singers. And, for transgender, check out how
Jennifer Herrema cops both Keith's look and Anita's look,
at the same time.
GALBRAITH / CONSTANTINE KARLIS: Radiant CD (EMPEROR JONES)
I would like to claim that on this little shiny disc we have
strong evidence of the true NZ re-emergence I have spoken
of elsewhere, but truth be told, Galbraith has always been
phenomenal; there's no remission in his body of work, suddenly
blossoming in the last couple years. No, Galbraith has always
With all that said, Radiant
is among one of the best things by the man along with Mirrorwork
and Cry. Joined by Constantine Karlis on percussion,
Mr. Galbraith once again ditches the idea of songs, but not
for the purpose of recreating something like 'Wire Music';
instead, Radiant weaves deep psychedelic fabrics
that build and crash about the listener. All of this is accomplished
on the title track which spans over 30 minutes. This is pure
violin and drums -- no vocals or other instrumentation. How
do you get 'deep psychedelic fabric' out of that? Well I guess
one just has to listen, but if you've heard anything else
by Alastair Galbraith I'm sure you won't have to give your
imagination too much of a work out.
Much like Sanders' Karma,
after Radiant's transcendent title track, the album
closes with a shorter and somewhat less satisfactory track,
"4 Orbits." It is still quite good, but of course
can't live up to its bigger brother. A strange, often silent
piece more interested in the exploration of structure (almost
avant-garde!) than riding the groove that "Radiant"
does. Before the whole business is over, however, "4
Orbits" shows its true, resplendent form: exploding in
bursts of color -- percussion and violin squall resounding
in some sort of higher order communication that only a few
sorts like the Aylers knew about. I was JUST getting into
it when the whole track abruptly stopped. I think I'm still
confused but I really like it.
There hasn't been a Galbraith
album to date that I haven't wholly recommended, and Radiant
isn't going to change that. Maybe it's even a little better
than some other releases, but who can really tell when it's
all this good?
Mica Hermas Madana (VALUBA MAFIFORO)
Once again Reynols proves they are one of the most
incomprehensible and incorrigible bands on the planet. The
release in question is a 'boundless tape'...er, a roughly
3 foot measure of cassette tape that has been stuffed into
a small plastic bag. The idea I gather is to somehow fasten
the tape back into a cassette shell (perhaps one of these
answering machine models that loops?) I doubt however that
the bit of tape has survived well crumpled up inside the bag,
and I have no intentions of actually playing along with Reynols
I asked the band to explain
themselves however, and it seems all 100 of these were cut
from a single recording, and thus, to hear the recording in
its entirety would require hunting down all 100 pieces. For
anyone perusing this rather daunting task, I have piece number
While I suppose this is something
of a non-review for a non-album, Mica Hermas Madana
does mark yet another truly weird (and perhaps pointless)
release on the part of Reynols. But that is just what Reynols
(a band now famous for playing to an audience of plants) is
all about. Certainly not an item you need to own, yet it is
probably significant even if I fail to grasp why.
IDITAROD: Yuletide 2CD (CAMERA OBSCURA)
one of the most essential purchases for the final months of
2003, Yuletide brings together just about everything not yet
(or barely) released by the now defunct Iditarod. Among the
gems collected here are fragments of the split lp that was
canned, their amazing performance at Terrastock V, many live
radio performances and all of their two seasonal 'Yuletide'
cd-r releases (edition of 75!)
there may be some incongruity when listening to these two
discs as a single album given the development shown by the
band during their relatively short life-span, all the material
here is certainly worthy. Indeed, I'd be hard pressed to find
a track I didn't like.
also shouldn't be mistaken for a stoic set of winter-themed
folk tunes. Indeed, Yuletide has its fair share of psychedelic
jams! Perhaps that's why I'm coming to this album with such
a high opinion. Not that I ever disliked the folk aspects
of The Iditarod, but this collection isn't steeped in traditionalism
-- it's eclectic and willing to mess around. It's really a
much more honest view of the band than releases like 'The
Ghost, the elf, the cat and the angel'. Sure, it's more a
collection than an album, but it does what that previous release
couldn't do: crack a smile!
I'm a bit down on The Iditarod now having heard a lot of its
successor, Black Forest/Black Sea, and hearing how much must
have previously been pent up in caves of ice. Tracks like
'Winter Suite', 'Night's Candles are Burnt Out', the free
improv 'Y Cwps', along with many others here (never mind the
outstanding seven inch on TimeLag records) point excitedly
toward everything the band was capable of becoming -- but
never actually became. For all these reasons, Yuletide is
far more than a 'year-end round up', or a 'best of what's
left'. It really is some of the best stuff they ever recorded,
and it's a shame the band didn't survive long enough to see
some of this taking form as a real album.
Yuletide is certainly the next best thing. Along with all
I've mentioned are a few band favorites like "Boat"
which remains as haunting as the first day I heard it. Stuck
with the difficult task of capturing the full scope of The
Iditarod, this set comes damn close without falling into the
trappings of being a 'greatest hits' album. Highly recommended!
Breathtaking Sounds Of . . . [I can't actually read the whole
title] 3" CDR; GREY PARK: A preparation course for agents
going abroad 3" CDR (267
"Why my last review was incomplete coz the last two cd-rs
kicked my ass!!!"
lord! Apparently no one told Tivol that rock was dead. Even
if they had, I can imagine the thundering hip-hop that might
have been recorded. This is fat-ass psychedelic jams that
don't stop until every neuron is adequately fried. Some people
call this Sabbath worship, but Black Sabbath has little to
do with it. Very akin to Pharaoh Overlord (or Pharaoh Overload
if you prefer); massive, chunky, blasted to fuck. The last
song is almost death metal or something so I'm not quite as
keen on it, but track 1 is nothing but reward-reward-reward
to my cerebral skinner-box.
Park also deserves some discussion as it's actually even better
than Tivol. Instead of rocking it just undercuts the entire
rational trappings of music and goes on from there to butcher
three or four musical genres simultaneously, blasting a big
fucking cannon off at the decks of anyone who still listens
to music from a major label. I listened to this one twice
and it never disappointed.
that other cd-r, (RauhanOrkesteri) was really great too, a
big free jazz monstrosity. Perhaps 20 minute doses of music
are the way to go, I can't say. What I can say is that once
again, the little guy comes out on top, and that if you really
want to say you like music, you better start investing in
these micro cd-r labels, coz clearly that's where everything
of any real significance is going on.
JACK: 'My Good Guts' CDR; 'Gorse' CDR [WiRe bRidGe]
This is yet another incarnation of Antony Milton (also appearing
as himself, A.M., Nether Dawn and in several collaborative
projects like Claypipe, The Stumps, etc.), but unlike other
recent efforts, Swagger Jack is a return (of sorts) to Antony
as song writer. I say 'of sorts' because this is Milton's
self-declared hillbilly project, but don't expect anything
so restricted or authentic as the Black Twig Pickers. I wouldn't
file this under folk (though I have no idea where I'd actually
file it). Instead, Swagger Jack's music is as traditional
as it is experimental. Like everything else Antony touches,
sound quality and production are about as shit as you can
be without actually being shit. Perhaps that's part of the
charm of these two recordings--sounding more like they were
mastered on a handheld than anything with multiple tracks.
The two albums I've listed
here (there are two more but I haven't heard them yet) are
both excellent in their own right. 'Gorse' is probably the
more accessible (and pretty) of the two, while 'My Good Guts'
is both harder to listen to and better! As stated on Milton's
webpage, 'My Good Guts' is mostly themed around the idea of
killing and eating small animals (even suggested by the cover),
but this theme is also kicked around on 'Gorse'. The artwork
for the later includes a 9 panel comic showing Antony visiting
an old man, slaughtering a sheep with his own hands and eating
it. This theme runs right up against another, namely so much
of New Zealand's wilderness and campground no longer being
available to the impoverished New Zealander. Although perhaps
we've grown used to paying park permits in the US, this still
seems a new (and unwelcome) concept to kiwis. I'd be remiss
if I didn't mention Swagger Jack's outrageous 'No Camping'
(on My Good Guts) that takes this topic to its logical
conclusion. (Plus, it's a damn good song!) Perhaps the best
use of 'fuck you, you fuck' I've yet to hear as a chorus!
Instrumentation is pretty varied,
though mostly we've got guitar, vocals, violin, occasional
percussion and even whistling, all sounding like it was recorded
on a position 1 tape that had several previous uses before
being a master tape for Swagger Jack. It probably shouldn't
be much of a surprise that other NZ celebrities appear on
Swagger Jack's recordings. Both CJA and James Kirk (Sandoz
Lab Technicians) show up in the mix at one point or another.
As usual, I'm not quite sure
how to wrap this one up (probably coz I'm writing this sober).
My first introduction to Milton was his amazing Nether
Dawn release, which is perhaps closer to what people
think of when they actually do think of the NZ underground.
Fortunately though, Mr. Milton is a far more varied artist,
and for all those times when you don't want to listen to a
slab of noise, it's good to know there's shit out there like
Swagger Jack. Highly recommended to those who still like a
bit of melody now and then. I guess if you must file, try
'gorgeous, destroyed, animal-eating, psuedo-folk-blues-bliss-out.'
"Systems Emerge from Complete Disorder"
Troubleman Unlimited 122/ugEXPLODE 016
Blastitude issues ago, Weasel Walter and I got into a bit
of a pissing contest when I reviewed his last record "Infection
and Decline" and he apparently disliked at least part
of what I had to say about it. In all fairness, I threw a
few below the belt but I write reviews and will say whatever
it is I want, fair or not. If you are a musician and make
a record and I write about it and you don't like what I said,
something yourself stating how big of an asshole you think
I am. That's what Mr. Walter did. And so it goes. So Weasel
Walter made yet another Flying Luttenbachers record. I thought
it only fitting that I get my hands and ears on it so that
I could see how to further this fight, assuming the suits
at Blastitude HQ will not censor our war of words.
I guess the first thing that
needs to be mentioned is that "Systems" is Walter
flying solo which is a first, I believe, in the long, long
history of "the band." However, its not solo in
a man and his guitar sort of way. Far from it. There is a
fuck of a lot going on here and to use the word "multi-tracking"
would be an understatement. So, getting the "solo"
fact out of the way, it is that single point that makes this
record what it is.
I haven't heard all the Luttenbachers
stuff -- maybe half at best. Some I like better than others
but the one thing that always seemed to strike me about any
given record that I heard of theirs was that they all seem
to miss the mark in some way. Like the full intent was never
realized or the message was muddled in some way. I suppose
this is the case with nearly all records to some degree but
when you have a discography as deep as Walter's, one begins
to wonder. Let the pissing begin.
I guess I should back up a
bit. Stylistically, "Systems" pretty much follows
suit with "Infection and Decline." It's crazy, schizo,
mathy, loud, intricate, vocal-free, noisy rock music. What
it is not is free-jazz. "Systems" is very calculated.
It's weird to hear a Luttenbachers record without Walter on
the drums -- in an acoustic sense anyway. On
"Systems" he decided to use a drum machine that
lends to a fresh sound. The other main weapon of choice seems
to be a bass that is treated left and right and up and down
to achieve the sounds he wanted. He also, it sounds, uses
getting back to the whole solo thing, upon finishing my first
listen, or during actually, I thought that this is the record
that Walter has wanted to make all along. He has finally hit
the nail on the head. It would make sense in that the Luttenbachers
have always had one consistent member.
The band has always been his band and so has the direction
and the vision. That being the case, I suppose that once you
introduce other musicians to the process you immediately compromise
the end result and the intent. Maybe that approach was intended.
Who knows and who cares? Well, I suppose Weasel does but....
"Systems" is a great record on its own merits. I
mean it doesn't need to exist in the shadow of all the other
Luttenbachers records to have value. It is just over 45 minutes
long, which is just about right. The track that shines the
most is "Rise of the Iridescent Behemoth" which
is the seventh and final track of the record and is over 20
minutes long. I usually hate songs that are that long, or
at least when they are that long when the rest are significantly
shorter, as is the case here. But "Rise" is an amazingly
articulate track that never becomes stagnant and is able to
hold your attention for the duration. That's saying something
for a 20+ minute track. The production was done entirely by
Mr. Walter himself. This is another area that differs from
previous Luttenbachers records in that it's better. I would
assume that with him playing all the instruments himself and
the use of a drum machine would dictate plugging instruments
directly into the given recording device. This means no microphones.
Assuming that was the case, that could be the reason for the
cleaner, more direct sound. Whatever the case, I like it.
The only other thought I keep
having about the music on this record is how the fuck Weasel
Walter does it live. I assume he uses a lot of MIDI stuff
but still, its so fucking intricate that, well, it would just
seem incredibly difficult to pull off.
our last confrontation, I accused Weasel of being long winded
so I should probably shut up and end this. I really like "Systems."
Or do I? Maybe I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked by Mr.
Walter and am trying to redeem myself. Maybe. You should hear
this record and then you should hear another band he is in
called To Live and Shave in L.A. 2. They have a CD out called
"Kill Misty: The 300 Dollar Silk Shirt" or something
like that. Anyway, they are both good. Flush.
“The Velocity of Hue-Solo Acoustic Guitar”
I don’t consider myself obsessive, I am a fan and collector
and connoisseur of experimental and avant-garde music. That
said, it seems somewhat odd to me that The Velocity of
Hue is the first of Elliot Sharp’s albums that
I have heard in its entirety. The only other thing that I
have heard that I am aware that he is part of is the Downtown
Lullaby project that he partakes in with John Zorn. I find
this odd because Mr. Sharp’s name is all over the place
in terms of experimental music. It’s really no big deal
I guess but this is what I was thinking as I started to write
this and I needed to start this review off somehow.
As the title indicates, Velocity
is an album of solo guitar playing and contains 14 tracks
that total in at just under 70 minutes. Solo guitar records
can really suck. A lot of the time, they are a gleaming, glittering
display of some sun deprived white guy who OD’ed on
group guitar lessons and is just wanking off. Records that
are usually better left to be sold at a junk stand at the
circus rather then passing off as something artistic. I could
name names but I won’t. Solo guitar records can also
be wonderful explorations into the sounds of a tried and true
but also nearly exhausted instrument. So, as I said, I’m
new to Mr. Sharp’s work so I was a little apprehensive
of what to expect when I saw “Solo Acoustic Guitar”
especially when I saw those words and realized that there
was nearly 70 minutes of it.
Upon my first complete listening
of Velocity I realized that Sharp has no lack of
ideas. He fills the 70 minutes to the brim with no filler.
The second thing I began thinking of was all the different
influences, intentional or not, that I heard. The obvious
ones stuck out the most and mostly it was John Fahey, which
is no insult. I also heard David Grubbs, Marc Ribot and even,
dare I say, Leo Kottke. I wanted to hear Derek Bailey but
didn’t. To hear Sharp’s influences is easy but
he isn’t ripping anyone off here. The playing here is
mostly picked and not strummed and is always moving forward.
Its hard to detect exactly what is composed and what is improvised
and I guess it really doesn’t matter. His playing transcends
all that in terms of genre which is seamlessly all over the
place. The best thing I can say about this record is how directed
and intentional it feels yet at the same time, really defines
no concrete mood. I could never discuss this record and say
its really happy or really depressing as you could really
hear it in either light. Though I didn’t hear Derek
Bailey directly in technique, Velocity resembles
his aesthetic this way but less ambiguous over all. Velocity
is able to hold your attention the whole time with out being
a soap opera.
The presentation is so-so.
It’s a digital recording which I’m not a huge
fan of, especially for an all acoustic recording. I would
love to hear Velocity recorded in analogue and pressed
on good vinyl but wishes like that come true less and less
these days. Fidelity-wise Velocity is by no means
a bad recording, just not my preference.
is no such thing as a perfect recording and Velocity
isn’t one. I just can’t immediately think of any
major flaws. I don’t feel like this is the recording
that I want to be buried with so if that’s a flaw, that’s
one. I’m not sure where The Velocity of Hue
came from as a title but I think it’s kind of stupid.
So there's two flaws. And I don’t care for the cover
art either. Three. Musically though, I’m struggling.
Marc Ribot wrote the liner notes and part of what he said
is, “…These are strong ideas, and Elliott realizes
them with amazing technique and sensitivity…It’s
a beautiful record.” I couldn’t agree more.