Friday, December 28, 2007

Ya know, I'll never get used to the unspoken "Sorry, we cut your work for space this issue," no matter how many times I don't hear it

From the MAGNET web site:

NO AGE Weirdo Rippers
On Melvins’ Hostile Ambient Takeover, metal tunes occasionally coalesced within the dense, gnashing whirl; on Guided By Voices’ Alien Lanes, proto-rock nuggets blasted through a lo-fi lens. Los Angeles duo No Age (a.k.a. ex-Wives members Dean Spunt and Randy Randall) operates in a gnarly middle ground between those two extremes, where chaos and craft enable and embolden one another. First impressions say otherwise: An initial hit of Weirdo Rippers suggests a 10th-generation Misfits or Ramones cassette inadvertently run through the wash then roasted on a clothesline. Further listening reveals an apparent seamlessness. While straight-up, three-chord thrasher "Boy Void" is the exception that proves the No Age rule, the static-soaked, shoegaze turbulence that opens "Semi-Sorted" builds to a storming, kick-drums vs. blitzkrieg-riffing plateau. "Loosen This Job" solidifies almost accidentally from scattered, distorted guitar loops that mimic raw DJ scratches into a messy, disorienting tune where Spunt and Randall muse with an equal measure of rhetorical uncertainty: "Why are there so many records of my life?/Why can’t I just curl up until the night?" A combination of boisterous experimentalism, pop songwriting and bargain-basement production, Rippers makes for one of the year’s most thrilling rides. [Fat Cat, www.fatcat-usa.com]
—Raymond Cummings

LITTLE WINGS Soft Pow’r
Even affable folkies sometimes find themselves brooding in the doldrums. A winning string of sunny albums and guest spots on projects by K Records-affiliated pals established Portland, Ore., musician Kyle Field’s optimistic, surfer-dude persona. Comparatively speaking, Soft Pow’r is a nocturnal break-up bummer, the sort of album you’d want to keep away from a freshly dumped friend battling suicidal depression. As guitars mumble in whispers, drums tap quietly and piano keys plink with an aching melancholy, Field transcribes emptiness into whimpering, feathered-mullet songs, alternating as usual between his normal register and a tune-challenging falsetto so strained it salts old wounds listeners were sure had healed. “Free Bird” (which has nothing whatsoever to do with Lynyrd Skynyrd) might be Soft Pow’r’s most heartrending moment and the most fragile, pretty tune Field has ever written, the lyrics comparing and contrasting gingerly between the comforts of domestic bliss and the uncertainty of solitude. The rueful chorus of “Scooby” (“Scooby’s gone again”) cuts to the heart of Field’s misery through the intermingling of downer ivories, light-touch strums and expository verses such as, “Tall trees overhead are swaying and all the daylight started leaving.” Field’s anguish acts as our commiserative, voyeuristic nourishment—even if we wish he’d just cheer up and move on. [RAD, www.marriagerecs.com]
—Raymond Cummings

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Voguing to Danzig's Top 31 Albums of 2007




ALBUMS


  1. Sightings Through the Panama (Load)

  2. The Dead C. Future Artists (Ba Da Bing!)

  3. PJ Harvey White Chalk (Island)

  4. Carlos Giffoni Arrogance (No Fun)

  5. Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid Tongues (Domino)

  6. Needlegun The End of August at Hotel Ozone (MT6)

  7. Air Conditioning Dead Rails (Load)

  8. Odd Girl Out Hurry Up and Wait (self-released)

  9. Nine Inch Nails Year Zero (Interscope)

  10. Jay-Z American Gangster (Def Jam)

  11. Ghostface Killah The Big Doe Rehab (Def Jam)

  12. Khate Field Report (self-released)

  13. Incapacitants/Pain Jerk Live at No Fun Fest 2007 (No Fun)

  14. Prodigy Return of the Mac (Koch)

  15. WZT Hearts Threads Rope Spell Making Your Bones (Carpark)

  16. Kites Hallucination Guillotine/Final Worship (Load)

  17. Animal Collective Strawberry Jam (Domino)

  18. Deerhoof Friend Opportunity (Kill Rock Stars/5 Rue Christie)

  19. The Fiery Furnaces Widow City (Thrill Jockey)

  20. Fall Out Boy Infinity On High (Island/Def Jam)

  21. Heavy Winged Enough Rope (Cut Hands)

  22. Arbouretum Rites of Uncovering (Thrill Jockey)

  23. The Twilight Sad Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (Domino)

  24. El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (Def Jux)

  25. Blitzen Trapper Wild Mountain Nation (self-released)

  26. Dinosaur Jr. Beyond (Fat Possum)

  27. Bring Back The Guns Dry Futures (Feow!)

  28. Borbetomagus & Hijokaidan Both Noises End Burning (Victo)

  29. John Weise Soft Punk (Troubleman)

  30. Various Artists Benefit CD for Olivia Zofia Strama (MT6)
  31. Lil Wayne Da Drought 3 (no label)

SINGLES


1. M.I.A. "Bamboo Banga" (Interscope)
2. Radiohead "15 Step" (self-released)
3. Robin Thicke "Lost Without U" (Interscope)
4. Blitzen Trapper "Wild Mountain Nation" (Lidkercow Ltd.)
5. Fall Out Boy "Thriller" (Island/Def Jam)
6. Khate "Riesling" (self-released)
7. Deerhunter "Cryptograms" (Kranky)
8. Magik Markers "Axis Mundi" (Ecstatic Peace!)
9. Amy Winehouse "Rehab" (Universal)
10. The Smashing Pumpkins "Tarantula" (Reprise/Martha’s Music)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Won't you join my electronic bongo circle?"

#996 50 Cent "Poor Lil Rich (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope, 2003)

Before re-inventing himself as rap’s most powerful and loathed super-villian, a fanciful, mixtape-slinging 50 Cent liked to pretend his wealth was so ostentatious that the jewelry, clothes, firearms, and other possessions he allegedly owned were loud enough to actually save him the trouble of bothering to communicate with other people: “I let my watch talk for me, my whip talk for me/My gat talk for me, ‘BOW! What up, homie?’/My watch saying ‘Hi, shorty, we can be friends’/My whip saying ‘Quit playing bitch, get in’.” Sha Money XL’s insistently inquisitive beat – it’s the musical equivalent of so-called “alcoho-pops,” candy-catchy, not even remotely as extravagantly opulent as the laconic boasts dangling from it – carries us along on bobbing synths that burrow into memory right away. In this sense, though the title’s appropriation of Ritchie Rich’s subtitle is never more than symbolically alluded to (unless you wanna go subtextual and say something like “being rich is supposed to make a person happy, but how can someone be happy when the experience of and marketing of gun violence has made him rich and, really, threatens to take him out at any given moment?” but let’s not go there, okay?), “Poor Lil Rich” feels like a stealth missile aimed squarely at “the children”: it’s just too bright and shiny and wobbly. This song was a single, and despite the fact that the radio edit made complete swiss cheese out of the verses – seriously, there’s so much depravity in the lyricism that 50’s presence was reduced to stray prepositions and phrases and adjective, it was just weird – it remained thrilling nonetheless (and a bit mysterious, if you hadn’t heard the album version yet), casually neutered and galloping chromatically off into the night.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Just Add Water: Notes for an Unwritten Essay About Early-Adult Hip-Hop Fandom

1. Reference should be made to author’s literal-if-not-cultural blackness, to a delayed appreciation of what rap has to offer. Quote a former acquaintance of Caucasian descent who today works as an African-American literature professor at a California university: “You’re the whitest black man I know.”

2. Sly or derisive allusions to Bill Cosby, Don Imus, Bill O’Reilly, Richard Pryor, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton – these are givens.

3. Extensive discussion about Kanye West, who author wishes more rappers would emulate conceptual (nonetheless, author concedes that if this happened hip-hop would be more boring and drab than it already is at the moment).

4. A drawing of paralells between rap and noise music, or rap and extreme metal. (Note to self: might not work because the public at large is less exposed to extreme metal and noise, though if it were, it would reject those genres with the same vociferousness it shuns rap, if for totally different reasons, many of them having to do with race and “otherness”.)

5. Rap enjoyment as largely private ritual; parents and wife generally not down with hip-hop. Youthful anecdote: mother insisted that author play rap at low volume, before 9 p.m., and not own more than a handful of genre albums

6. Author’s first hip-hop record: He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, a cassette copy.

7. Flashback: unpacking in a dorm room, autumn 1995, to the beat of Nine Inch Nails’ Closer ep. Hick roommate from Delaware remarks to author: “You know, black people don’t usually listen to Nine Inch Nails.”

8. Evenhanded look at gaping divide between gangsta rap’s values and author’s own, buttered in light sarcasm. Concession that author would feel very uncomfortable with his son growing up to a soundtrack of Clipse, Ghostface, and Lil Wayne records. Digression into awkward take on tired “blackness vs. whiteness” debate; should include admission from author that he never qued up for Cross Colors gear or other urban fashions because, well, because they simply didn’t seem to have anything to do with who he was.

9. Hosannas for the creative, inventive (cinematic? No, overused trope, avoid) nature of some rap lyricism, which helps author and his crit peers get beyond the narcissism, violence, sexism, and glorification of drug hustling that typifies much of its content.

10. Eminem; also, Elvis. Race.

11. Is 50 Cent serious, or is he camping? (Side note: it might be fun to scrap this project and pull off a parody of/homage to Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” about rap, mostly parsing Dipset.)

12. Maybe hustling is just an overarching metaphor for success; everyone wants to be successful; hip-hop dominance circa late 99s/early 00s as achievement life accessory, i.e. coffee, No Doz, rims, etc.

13. Real talk on why progressive, posi-rap doesn’t move units or play into public perception of hip-hop as a whole. Author admits a grudging respect for the sub-genre but isn’t as stoked as he is by, say, Dr. Dre. (Native Tongues alums and Kanye pre-2007 excepted)

14. A corrolary: why can’t contented, sincerely top-of-the-heap rap swing, slam, and command respect? (i.e. Kingdom Come) The argument that hubris, threats, and degradation draw the masses is a familiar one and not without merit, but would Jay-Z’s last record have struck more of a chord if the Def Jam prez spent it rapping about the trials and tribulations of being filthy rich? Bad service at 5-star eateries, a coveted invite to a premiere that arrived a day too late, inept valets, management-office snitches, overly chatty tailors seeking autographs, LAX losing designer luggage full of Louis Vuitton outfits, A-list jewelers and their shoddy workmanship, the sheer indignity of being snubbed by Diddy or Robert De Niro at a Grammy party, and so on?

15. A defining flashback: sophomore year of high school, in sedan being driven around the McDonogh School’s parking lot by Tony Solomon after the author’s school played theirs in water polo. Tony – second or third generation Lebanese, I think – is showing off, because it’s an early fall evening and he is able to pilot the car using only his knees. Blasting from the stereo? Doggystyle.

16. Grumbling about the hoops and hassles associated with acquiring – or attempting to acquire, anyway – major-label rap promos for review, and some insights as to why doing so is considerably more arduous than securing indie-rock promos.

17. Author shouldn’t preach; nor should he cheerlead.

18. What does it mean that Vibe ran a Barack Obama cover story?

19. A detached yet concerned tone should be maintained throughout, if author wants to be taken seriously and not dismissed as a “hater,” “stan,” or “Uncle Tom.”

20. This essay will never be written.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Off-the-wall ideas unpalatable to V. Voice = kill fees + YOU (and only you) reading this nonsense first

Singles Going Steady: “Noise Dudes, Dudettes Love Kim Deal”

By Ray Cummings

Clockcleaner

"Divine Hammer"
From Clockcleaner/Deerhunter split 7-inch (Hoss)

Philly’s Clockcleaner so heart La Deal that their cover of “Divine Hammer” is twice as long as the Last Splash original. This trio’s gender-flipped take is more sexually charged. Singer John Sharkey could work as a voice double for Calvin Johnson; when he makes it known, all gravelly bass, that “I’m just looking, just looking for a way around/It disappears this year” amidst an avalanche of sputtering sonic M80s and rusted riffs, one is inclined to believe his frustrations are more obliquely carnal than innately religious (which may account for the relatively tantric length).

Health
"Perfect Skin"
From Health (Lovepump United)

In apparent homage to “Breaking the Split-Screen Barrier” – a starch-y vamp from Deal solo album Pacer, cut as The Amps in 1995 – L.A.’s Health scuzz up the works slightly as they ease into that discontinuous, forest of staunch, two-note guitar blasts. Following some quickie high-wire ax orgasming, the trees thin out somewhat and “Skin” ends more or less the way it began – in sharp contrast with “Barrier,” which coalesced into a real rock song at midpoint then ultimately “culminated” with a disconcertingly sustained, tape-skipping voice sample and came equipped with lyrical content one could actually, like, discern, use as senior-page yearbook quotes, etc.

The Magik Markers
"Circle"
From BOSS (Ecstatic Peace!)

Kim: What the fuck, Kurt? You want me to rap this cryptic poem – emotionlessly – over... that?

Kurt: Yeah! It’s, you know, it’s gonna be the obligatory hidden noise track. Krist, Dave, and I were smoking raw opium at the Laundry Room back in ’95, there was a tropical storm raging outside, and I guess some evil spirits took control of our bodies or something, because when we came to we were wearing cochineal facepaint and had this sinister session tape nobody can remember making, even to this day.

Kim: It’s totally swirling-vortex-of-ghouls creepy, The Ring creepy, drunk-on-absinthe creepy. I played it for Kelley when she was coming down yesterday, she freaked out! I dunno – might be too heavy to close an acoustic Nirvana reunion disc, man.

Kurt: Yeah, but –

Kim: “You chew and jaw and then you’re dead”? “Open your arms as you leave the shore”? The bloggersphere will be all “Cobain’s fixin’ to attempt suicide again” –

Kurt: See –

Kim: Irony can’t neutralize or re-contextualize everything, Kurt.

Kurt: Kim, Kim – Lil Wayne’s gonna rap about his conflict diamond-encrusted shotgun over the final mix for a Carter III bonus cut! So it’s cool.

Kim: Oh, word?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

You in the market for a sweet, sweet ride?



photo courtesy of Alecia, snapped via camera-phone earlier this week in Selinsgrove (so choice, I posted it twice!)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Very Nodin Adventure

So he empties a cylindrical, clear plastic container of blocks - odd shapes, of varying colors, that can interlock - and some time is spent knocking them together and against other toys with halfhearted excitement. (Our protagonist has been going for a few hours so far today, and whether he knows it or not, is tired.) Shortly thereafter, he loses interest in the blocks and turns his attention to the container itself, ripping out the identifying paper label/insert and attempting to eat it. Said insert is taken away before this can happen, and the observer notes that a halfhearted attempt is made to retrieve it. Next, an attempt is made to place the lid on top of the container, an extremely determined and prolonged one, aborted when the need for a diaper change becomes clear.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Just a Buncha Damned Links

According to Brett Hickman, "It's Raymond Cummings day" on Static. So: Kanye West's album sorta sucks (it may grow on me, but I dunno), but not as much this E. Grizzly thing or this DJ Bear Herron "mixtape" does; meanwhile, this Motown comp's better than it has any right to be, ditto this Daniel A.I.U. Higgs album.

Also: this week in 5ingles.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Saturdaze

Hey, remember back when Saturdays were invariably awesome?

No? Me neither. This one? Not so great, for reasons I'm not going to get into here. But hope springs eternal. Maybe, just maybe, the other half of today will be a big ol' bundle of fun and/or harmony and a week from now I won't even remember what I'm typing about right now! (Seriously, and this is an open question, how essential and key is hope in life? It gets us through so much. God, thanks for hope! You the man, God! Well, not really, but you know what I mean. I hope.)

Here's a link to the first big feature ever I wrote for Baltimore City Paper, back when I was an unpaid, star-struck intern, about something called "Atomic TV" that I barely even remember now. Found it while looking for articles to bring along to a job interview Monday (See what I did there? Hope rears its fluffy head again!). Aaaaaaannnnnd a review of Turzi's propulsive debut full-length (a band that that Thom finds "inspiring). Aaaand Bring Back the Guns' "No More Good Songs."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Happy 1st Birthday, Nodin!

Alecia took this really sweet picture of Nodin with his face all smeared with birthday cake and icing (blue and white) that I was totally prepared to post here without a caption; that is until this morning, when I discovered that the frickin' network admin (or whatever title is appropriate) has blocked blogger blogs. One can visit them, sure, but posting or posting comments? Forget about it. Not happening. So please don't think I'm not reading what y'all are writing (about Graduation, new mp3s you made, indie bands, etc. - I simply can't respond to it at work any longer. Thanks a whole heck of a lot, {NAME OF COMPANY I WORK FOR REDACTED}. (I'm typing this on a Pikesville Library PC. Nothing clever to add to that except, like, aren't libraries supposed to be quiet? This one never, ever is. I suppose the muted clamor can be blamed on kids to some extent but adults are just as guilty, if not more so. What happened to having and holding to standards?) Links ahoy: Christy & Emily, Mitch Myers, 5ingles (this week and last week). Also: Fred Thompson's a'comin' (or is he?)!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nodin's Top Ten Activities, Early September 2007

1. Whacking at processed food-payloaded spoons en route to his waiting, open mouth. (He scores a direct hit roughly 10% of the time, which is higher than we'd like it to be.)

2. Falling asleep in his bed with the aid of this super helpful 2xCD set and a pacifier.

3. Smacking plastic toys together with a sometimes frightening vehemence.

4. Playing with his cousins Sheyanne and Mason, usually giggling and laughing uncontrollably, which makes Dad get all "why doesn't he laugh like that when he's playing with me? What's up with that? Why you gotta do me like that, Cap'n Curious? Damn!"

5. Pounding his palms against whatever surface is available.

6. Making bee-lines for electrical outlets, whether or not they're empty.

7. Shoveling crunchy treats into his mouth and then requesting more, even while still chewing.

8. Crawling! Crawling: still very hip, still very trendy.

9. Pulling/kicking off shoes, pulling/kicking/biting off socks.

10. Face smacking! (Often coupled with forceful attempts to shove the pacifier you frequently foist upon him into your mouth, because, well, doing this makes total sense to him, and why shouldn't it at the age of 1?)

Monday, August 27, 2007

So yeah, two more things

1. Alberto Gonzales is gone! Yeaaaaaaaaaa!

2. Anybody know how to install a "blog roll" on blogger blogs? Any help would be deeply appreciated.

Nodin's Top Ten Activities, August 2007




1. Biting. Arms, knees, sofas, chairs, fingers, toys, whatever, look out, it's going in my son's mouth; if he can swallow it, he will, but otherwise all those teeth he's sprouting will drive into physical objects as deep as they can. When his target's your shoulder - as it often is when he gets really sleepy - look out!
2. Pulling himself to a standing position.
3. Using said standing position to walk around whatever object he's used to pull himself up.
4. Whining. To be fair, I whine too.
5. Tilting his head to the side and smiling at observers coquettishly.
6. Grabbing anything and everything within reach (and some stuff that appears to be out of reach until it magically materializes within his little fist or his mouth; see 1).
7. Drooling copiously (teething again).
8. "Dah dah dah dah dah!" whenever excited or agitated.
9. Throwing short Boss Hog-like tantrums (cf. The Dukes of Hazzard).
10. Using every available surface for percussion. It's a lot of fun to do this along with him, as it creates a sense - real or imagined - that we're communicating somehow on a special level that makes up for the fact that we can't yet have an actual logical conversation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Modest Proposal?

Following up on Comoprozac’s idea earlier this week: that could be interesting, you know, like a limited edition rap star concept-album version of the 33 1/3 book series. To wit:

Jay-Z on Michael Jordan
DMX on Michael Vick

Kanye West on Shani Davis
Cam’ron on Dennis Rodman
LL Cool J on Sugar Ray Leonard
Ma$e on Ricky Williams
50 Cent on Terrell Owens (or Charles Barkley or Mike Tyson?)
Eminem on Tiger Woods

Ghostface Killah on Ray Lewis
P. Diddy on Barry Bonds

Feel free to add on to/expand the list (or tell me why I’m wrong).

UPDATE: Oh, come on! Anybody?!?

# 997 Radiohead “A Wolf at the Door” [Capitol, 2003]

Suddenly, four years later, I may have to apologize to Radiohead for my incessant shafting of Hail to the Thief. Upon its release, was nonplussed; the reversion to rawk, not-so-much-with-the electronica action was inevitable enough, but it seemed to be that Thom and the boyz (a) needed to trim the bloated tracklist by, say, 3 or 4 songs and (b) allowed the least memorable numbers to meander on waaay too long (seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to sit through the whole thing without hitting “skip” a couple times; also, how can any critic honestly claim to care about “Punchup at a Wedding”? Come on). I still sorta feel that way, but in those songs I glommed onto initially – “I Will,” “There There,” “We Suck Young Blood,” “A Wolf at the Door,” “Myxomatosis,” “2 + 2 = 5,” “Thr Gloaming” – I now detect an overarching theme that I missed at the time but picked up on en route to Abingdon several Mondays ago: a sense of outrage and horror at how cruel and heartless the world at large often is, and concern at how one’s children will weather it’s darkening storm (as opposed to the default “eff the WTO/globalization/Bushco/The Mang/etc” framework I slotted it into before, along with everything else Radiohead/Yorke have accomplished this decade excepting Johnny Greenwood’s avant-garde solo jawns). I blame (if that’s the word) this dawning realization on the altered mindset parenthood brings about and knowing that a couple good friends are about to become parents or about to try to become parents.
I’ll get to some of the other songs eventually, but right now let’s examine “A Wolf at the Door,” already scary to your humble blogger in 2003 but downright apocalyptic today. The gloomy, musky atmosphere is pierced somewhat by a sashaying organ motif that brings to mind an evil carnival of sorts before Yorke even opens his mouth; after that, strings, vocal blobs, and all kinds of other sinister sonic detritus swarms the airspace as if to mirror lyrical worries. “A Wolf at the Door” was inspired by a real-life mugging and the singer’s subsequent sense of helplessness, that sinking feeling that one isn’t even slightly in control of the flow of events. Nothing can be controlled; the world-at-large is a vampire with no compunctions about destroying you and everything you care about. I like to imagine that Yorke’s character is dining with a friend, describing an unshakable, post-mugging nightmare: “Drag him out your window/Dragging out the dead/Singing I miss you/Snakes and ladders flip the lid/Out pops the cracker/Smacks you in the head/Knifes you in the neck/Kicks you in the teeth,” and so on. As he goes on about this, however, he becomes increasingly paranoid and delusional, unable to distinguish between reality and nightmare and believing that he’s caught at the center of some conspiracy or blackmail plot designed to ruin his life and/or drive him mad. Eventually he’s banging on the table, freaking out the other patrons, foaming at the mouth: “Walking like giant cranes/And with my X-ray eyes I strip you naked in a tight little worldand are you on the list?/Stepford wives who are we to complain?/Investments and dealers/Investments and dealers/Cold wives and mistresses/Cold wives and Sunday papers/City boys in First Class don't know we're born little/Someone else is gonna come and clean it up.” By the end, he’s convinced the friend is himself a spy, a turncoat, an informant: “I wish you'd get up get over get up, get over and turn your tape off!” The dread is active, pervasive, palpable, vicarious, as though listener and narrator alike could be detained indefinitely (precient shades of “black sites”) or assasinated (shades of Aeon Flux) at any moment, struck down by a heartless omnipresence that isn’t God but might as well be for all the power it wields.
We all know that Yorke is probably overdramatizing an experience that really happened, but alter a few details and this song could viewed from the perspective of just about anyone: me, you, a celebrity hiding out from stalkers or paparazzi, the homeless lady from that Crystal Waters hit single, Perez Hilton, Marc Rich in the 1990s. We’ve all felt the wolf’s metaphorical breath at our necks once or twice; sometimes its teeth were real, sometimes not.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Shawty, You a teeeen/A teeen/A teeeeeeeeen"

L to R: Nodin, Sheyanne, and Mason playing in a pool behind our house a few weekends back
The title means zip - it's a line from some R&B song I can't dislodge from my head this week, figured I'd throw it up there. So I notice that Kanye West and Lil Wayne have a new song titled "Barry Bonds" that's hit the internets. Haven't heard the thing, no idea what the content is, but like why don't we have more rap songs titled after prominent African-American athletes? Somebody should've written a song about Shani Davis by now? Seriously, that's right up Kanye's alley - victorious-yet-resentful speedskating champ who after winning some gold medal was so tense and bitter that the lady interviewing him was moved to ask, "Shani, are you angry?" You know, that whole thing about being totally successful yet feeling put-upon by his teammates. After the events of this week, maybe a song titled "Michael Vick" would be appropriate too, huh? I don't know. The weather here has been grey and wet and blah this week, and it seems to be coloring my mood; I just feel exhausted right now. This despite just coming out of a fun weekend where Nodin and Alecia came down here so we could all attend Paula's wedding (cheesy wedding music selection, spot-on service, delicious lasagna, inventive sea-shell theme and centerpieces). Life continues to feel fairly overwhelming in a number of respects. Anyway, some links: This whole indie-rock comp dust-up and its fallout are fairly amusing (I’m not sure who to side with, but there’s no way I’d ever buy the thing unless it was as a gift to a friend); a Beyonce blurb; a Psuedosix review; Aquarelle; me doing my 5ingles thing for a second week; a review of Letters to eBay in the Detroit Metro Times; Tom on High School Musical 2.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Do 2007 Album Covers Reveal How Musicians Feel About Illegal Downloading? Round One: 50 vs. Kanye


We wondered. We thought about it a bit. See, we spend a lot of time on the Internet, or at least thinking about stuff we came across while spending time on the Internet. We go here, and here, and here, and here as well. We drop in here, and there, and over there, and sometimes hit this spot as well; not to mention this site, this other one, and a couple others, like this and this and this (if not as much as we probably should). Voguing to Danzig is down, yo. We're all over the place. We come across a lot of album cover artwork. So we engaged in some baseless speculation, and here's what we came up with:

1. 50 Cent, Curtis: As his recent glossy magazine cover photos make plain, Fitty's peeved about illegal downloading, which threatens his bourgeoning military-industrial-corporate-pop empire - though one could be forgiven for interpreting his scrunched-up mugging as a manifestation of extremely painful constipation. On previous album covers, Fitty exploited the drive-by that helped propel him to fame and left him with a number of bullet wounds, rocking an uber-gangsta's musclebound, idealized invincibility. The Curtis cover suggests that former drug-hustler Jackson is presently old, grumpy, wisely concerned that Best Buy shoppers find his schtick tired and his business mongering distasteful, and is preparing to sit the purchaser down for a serious - possibly harsh - discussion about file-sharing and responsibily and RIAA cease-and-desist letters/lawsuits that he doesn't wanna have to bother with right now, as there's a running Lear stocked with Vitamin Water and lube-dripping King models, waiting to fly him to the Bahamas.

2. Kanye West, Graduation: Kanye's recent courting of hipsters via the appropriation of Daft Punk, Thom Yorke, and Peter Bjorn and John songs indicates that dude's fairly familiar with where his bread's buttered - and figures that everyone else who buys his records is cool enough with his relative hip-hop weirdness/outsider-persona/progressivity to keep on keepin' on. So the cover's total I'ma-do-my-thing-cuz-I'm-Kanye: manga manga manga, with shades of Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon and whatever Japanese animation meme is trendy with geeks these days. Translation: "La de dah!" Kanye West ain't sweatin' Limewire hustlers because plenty of folks believe in what he's about and will hold him down.

Fitty and Kanye are releasing these records on the same day - Tuesday, September 11, 2007. I'm fairly certain I know which CD I'm buying; are you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lazy Wednesday

Seriously, I have a kick-ass blog post idea that I'll have pulled together by tomorrow or Friday, but for today, here's a quick list.

1. Dumb New Trend Alert: En route to Virginia Beach it seemed like every seventeenth car we passed had one of those fake "physical decals" that makes it appear that a hockey puck, football, or baseball had smashed/lodged into a rear windshield. Apparently this is a contemporary way of pledging one's allegiance to one sport or another. Only slightly lamer than plastering fake bullet holes all over your ride (be it a Caddy or a Datsun).

2. Hot, hot boyz! Read all about it!

3. This is what the United States gets for exporting all of its manufacturing to stay in the black. But on the other hand, now we can duck most of the blame!

4. Links! Sword Heaven, “Sights Not Long Gone”; Dinosaur Jr./Smashing Pumpkins/Shellac review feature; Brother Reade, Rap Music; the first entry in my spankin'-new weekly singles column for Minneapolis City Pages. Woooooo!

Monday, August 13, 2007

“Life’s a P(b)each”

Lose

that Italian leather-bound plot
however you like –
It won’t be missed, believe you me;

A remote island nation, you surely are:
Poisonous, quivering flora
Rabid, parasitic fauna
Hidden caches of WWII-era death toyz
Prostrate skeletons clawing still and ever-silent shores –

An unmapped paradise, perhaps
An arid no-man’s-land?
The whirlpool’s end:

A psychic vise?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

# 998 Pavement “Folk Jam” [Matador, 1999]

Ah, yaaaaaaasss – Terror Twilight’s crown jewel. This Johnny Knoxville-lookin’ dude’s take on the tune got me to thinking about it last night in bed whilst wrestling with some wicked insomnia, and I’ve come to the realization that “Folk Jam” is, in fact, the best thing Pavement ever committed to tape. Traditionally, new Silver Jews albums have driven me to write oodles of oblique poems, but “Folk Jam” represents complete and total lingual perfection, word-crafting domination, a flawless diamond; no-one can step to Steve Malkmus at this level. Silver Jew David Berman, Britt Daniel, Lil Wayne, Liz Phair, Ghostface Killah, Matthew Friedberger, Clipse, Bob Dylan, and many, many others bust out (or busted out, past-tense) zinging lines or couplets regularly, but none of them have put together an entire song that sparkles so bright or hits the same personal pressure points.

I Can’t Sing It Strong Enough insists, probably rightly, that Malkmus’ narrator is ashamed of his ancestry/family and seeks to escape it. Valid, sure, but to me “Folk Jam”’s protagonist so despises himself that his self-loathing predates even his own conception, extending back to and condemning his very national heritage and its assorted myths (and at one point going off on an apparently meaningless, but amusing, tangent). The masterful last lines – which pop into my head on occasion, unbidden – can be read two ways: a sarcastic prelude to a suicide attempt in order to escape this unrelenting self-disgust, or that the entire song has actually been a sarcastic, MFA-worthy “Dear Jane” letter. I prefer this second possibility, myself; when, in the summer of 1999, I drove around Caroline County, Maryland blasting the bootleg Twilight tape Matthew made me, that’s how I interpreted “Folk Jam.” I’d just graduated from college, was suffering through my first journalism day-job in the sticks, and was constantly bored, stressed out, stranded, alienated, depressed, and lonely. I never saw my friends and didn’t know how to make new ones; long-distance, certain people were starting to burn bridges that I still wanted to cross, and it hurt. “Folk Jam” condensed all of these emotions into a couple intense minutes. Spritely minutes, mind you. The contradiction here is that this is an incredibly lively, fiesty song; it sounds as though a three-armed American Gladiator is banging, plucking, and picking it out on a banjo as if his/her life depended upon it, probing every last crevice of the melody for different slants and angles and approaches, a hailstorm of boisterous hoedown notes overwhelming in its happy-happy-joy-joy onslaught – as is the idea was to temper the heavy pathos of the verses with a pharmacist’s perscription of Xanax. Here are those stunning closing lines: “Be as it may, I'm glad to say I'm around/Miles accrue and passengers add up/The message on the mirror says "stick with me"/Cause no one's there to read your reflection when I'm gone/Get it on.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Nothing Personal, Just Business" (seriously, couldn't think up a better title)

So far this week, this blog has been sadly short on conjecture and in-depth pop-culture babble. Chalk that up to my hurdling from a fun-but-exhausting vacation to a suddenly insane workplace and the need to tackle a bunch of pending freelance stuff; next week will see a return to the utter nonsense VtD readers have come to love, expect, and ignore. In the interim, dig this preliminary and extremely subject to change “best albums of 2007” list, offered sans commentary/links. Initially, I wanted to keep a running top 100 albums shortlist to be published here at year’s end, but the project ultimately proved so frustrating that I abandoned it in favor of a more managable 25 discs.

1. Sightings Through the Panama (Load)
2. The Dead C. Future Artists (Ba Da Bing!)
3. Carlos Giffoni Arrogance (No Fun)
4. Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid Tongues (Domino)
5. Needlegun The End of August at Hotel Ozone (MT6)
6. Burning Star Core Blood Lightning 2007 (No Fun)
7. Air Conditioning Dead Rails (Load)
8. Odd Girl Out Hurry Up and Wait (self-released)
9. Nine Inch Nails Year Zero (Interscope)
10. WZT Hearts Threads Rope Spell Making Your Bones (Carpark)
11. Deerhoof Friend Opportunity (Kill Rock Stars/5 Rue Christine)
12. The Fiery Furnaces Widow City (Thrill Jockey)
13. Battles Mirrored (Warp)
14. Fall Out Boy Infinity On High (Island/Def Jam)
15. Heavy Winged Enough Rope (Cut Hands)
16. Arbouretum Rites of Uncovering (Thrill Jockey)
17. Prodigy Return of the Mac (Koch)
18. The Twilight Sad Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (Domino)
19. El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (Def Jux)
20. Blitzen Trapper Wild Mountain Nation (self-released)
21. Dinosaur Jr. Beyond (Fat Possum)
22. Bring Back The Guns Dry Futures (Feow!)
23. Khate Field Report (self-released)
24. Jazkammer & Smegma Endless Coast (No Fun)
25. Albert Hammond Jr. Yours to Keep (New Line)

HONORABLE MENTION: Panda Bear, Eric Copeland, Christy & Emily, The Vocokesh.

Last Week in Alecia, Nodin, Voguing to Danzig, Virginia Beach, and so forth





























Enjoy! Alecia took the /night/fireworks photos, which are nothing short of amazing. She thinks she could sell them, and I agree!

Heavy Winged "Enough Rope" review

As longtime Voguing to Danzig readers know, I regularly offer links to my articles here once they’ve hit the web. But, like, I submitted the review below to a frequently updated website that I’ve been writing for years three frickin’ months ago and it hasn’t been published yet. Three months! With print magazines that’s normal and understandable. Here, not so much, and I’m tired of asking the editor what’s up. It wouldn’t feel like so much of a big deal if the label wasn’t based in the Netherlands and hadn’t sent me this disc and another one, and if the label guy, a kindly fellow ILM poster, hadn’t sent the package to me at my personal request. Granted, the CD is long sold out, but fair is fair. Not hating on the editor, who will remain nameless and has got a lot on his plate and maybe just lost the email message. Whatever – here’s the review in question:

Heavy Winged
Enough Rope
(Cut Hands)

Yeah, I know – Enough Rope is already sold out, and it ain’t fair, you’d just now heard of Heavy Winged, etc. Get used to it; that’s just how this Brooklyn, NY/Portland, OR trio rolls. Dudes’ conceit seems to be “watch this space” – their myspace – “and pounce with your PayPal bounce as soon as we announce our latest improvised-straight-to-tape, limited-to-50-copies cdr/lp/cassette.” It’s a blink-and-you’re-outta-luck dare, a tease, and it’s worth the temptation because Heavy Winged are downright psych-o-pathic. A 4-track recording of the band’s only show to date – Brooklyn, sometime in June 2006 - Rope falls somewhere between shred-y metal and outright noise. “Varcolac 1” finds guitarist Ryan Hebert generating a violent, vascillating vibration which must have required a rec room full of pedals, because there’s more ax wildin’ happening at the same time – contemplative plinks and otherworldly drones filling the space where bassist Brady Sansone and drummer Jen Binderman should’ve been, though one wonders if their parts were simply expirated by Hebert’s full-court press. At first, “Varcolac 2” looks to be another Hebert showboat, albeit more narrowly murderous, until his bandmates’ thump arrives in time for the chordage to become crudely flashy, the three elements punching away at your brainstem. On “Varcolac 3” the three decompress, slipping into a spacious, dirge-y almost-jazz groove that’s as much a relief for us as it is for them, but by “Varcolac 4” the heat’s back up for a balls-out, run-on denoucement so full-tilt and white-hot that you’ll question whether you were even actually even awake - or alive - prior to experiencing it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Power, Knowledge, etc.

Prior to leaving on vacation, I submitted this to www.popmatters.com as part of my appeal to join their writing staff. No reply as-yet , and re-reading this thing now, it’s fairly lame, so no surprise, really.

Security, Territory, Population
By Michel Foucault
Palgrave, hardcover

“I must apologize, because I will be more muddled than usual today. I’ve got the flu and don’t feel very well. I was bothered all the same, since I had some misgivings about letting you come here and then telling you at the last minute that you could leave again. So, I will talk for as long as I can, but you must forgive me for the quantity as well as the quality.”

So begins the fifth of thirteen chapters contained in Security, Territory, Population, the latest in a continuing series of texts excavating Michel Foucault’s College De France lectures; it’s an interesting quote for three reasons. First, it’s one of the few personal detours Foucault allows himself herein; second, his illness did not in anyway deter him from delivering a lengthy, thorough address; and third, this reviewer was a year and change past his first birthday and thousands of miles way when the late “archeology of systems of thought” philosopher uttered them, in his native French, on February 8, 1978.

Palgrave’s uniformly handsome hardback editions bring to mind rock, pop, and jazz reissue collections – the Miles Davis deluxe boxes, exhaustive Grateful Dead sets, and so on – that labels trot out to shore up their bottom lines and leave music geeks salivating with anticipation. Anyone with a dog-eared copy of Power/Knowledge molding away in storage can claim a basic understanding of Foucault’s work. Anyone who has plowed through – and absorbed and grasped – Madness & Civilization, Discipline & Punish, both volumes of The History of Sexuality, and myriad other published texts can boast a significantly advanced understanding. Anyone who is snapping up these College De France books as soon as they become available, on Amazon.com or whatever, and desperately gnawing through them – think of ‘em as immaculately produced, vintage live bootlegs with kick-ass liner notes – is a Master’s level Foucault scholar, aspires to be one someday, or totally insane.

This isn’t to condemn Security, Territory, Population, which is mostly concerned with the gradual, incremental evolution of government as we now know it, from the concept of royal sovereignty-cum-dictatorship to a system by and for a given body of people. As ever, Foucault traces events from the 16th and 17th centuries forward as plagues, scarcities, and other population-related issues necessitate the formation of bureaucracies and period social thinkers wrestle with The Little Prince, the many-splendered notion of God as a “shepherd” overseeing his “flock” – and religious leaders serving as terrestrial emissaries, with ever-decreasing relevance – and nation-states shifting from spiritual in purpose to eternally-sustaining entities. In light of U.S. president George W. Bush’s secret and illegal manuevers here and abroad – under the supposed guise of strengthening and protecting “the homeland” – the publication of Security, Territory, Population seems especially timely, as pro-“democracy” neocon thinking collapses into prolonged chaos in Iraq and the U.S. Administration contemplates transforming a Western-hostile Iran. The September 11, 2001 tragedy began a drift, a reversion, back towards a government orchestrated by one man with the assistance of impassive sycophants – a democracy turning into a dictatorship with the professed mission of turning dictatorships into democracies.

Fascinating stuff, and there is more besides in Security, Territory, Population. As a window into the genesis of ideas that would later be developed and eloquently elaborated upon elsewhere, it’s an instructive, revealing document that reenforces the timeless veracity of Foucault’s fabled “power is knowledge is truth” axiom. Yet the getting there itself – and this is true in all entries of this series – will be something of a slog for readers not accustomed to tackling rambling, intellectual tomes. The subject matter isn’t beyond the average educated adult’s comprehension, but the speaker’s tangental or referential detours pile up quickly and threaten at times to lose us completely en route to some overarching point – a failing that Joan Didion’s otherwise excellent Political Fictions shares. This is no fault of the publishers’ or Foucault himself; it would have been dishonest to amend these remarks, and the nature of lectured notes lends itself to meandering. Here my comparison to music breaks down somewhat. Recordings capture audience reaction; the Palgrave books offer no receptive equivalent. It would be interesting to know what Foucault’s students made of his volumnous, footnoted-to-hades-and-back remaks, if they disagreed or felt he didn’t go far enough in his theories – alas.

Worse is that Security, Territory, Population feels no more personally revealing than any of the man’s other interviews, writings, or speeches – which weren’t all that revealing themselves. There is no sense that we are learning anything special about him as an individual – besides the fact that he was as likely as anybody else to get sick and perhaps as determined to do continue to do his job despite the fact of his illness. Ultimately one comes away enlightened, but also a mite queasy, head swimming, reaching for a collection of Garfield cartoons.

Friday, July 27, 2007

En Route to VA Vacay, See Ya in August!

July, eh? The fun we had; the laughs we shared, via the interweb. It’s been a busy, busy month of hard blogging, hasn’t it, and all the while I haven’t even blogged about half of what I wanted to blog about! Foresooth: the for-publication assignments got filed, the day-job sonned somehow, and on and on while life continued to be frustrating and unfair and, at select times, pretty frickin’ fantastic. August promises more cans of whup-ass opened, songs dissected, lists of concepts and other things, more jobs hopefully applied for, chatter about children’s TV, and so on. I’m pretty behind in looking over V. Blenny submissions too; that’s on the agenda, as well. I’ll miss y’all this week, but I can’t remember the last time I needed a vacation as badly as I do right now. There will be many pictures, I promise, of Nodin enthusiastically climbing stuff and Alecia flashing her beautiful smile and me looking all gangly and awkward. Thanks for reading all of this nonsense. Or maybe just some of it. Or whatever.

Courage, “and we out –“
VtD

Cornelius review, from magnetmagazine.com

CORNELIUS
Sensuous

The challenges facing Keigo Oyamada whenever he makes an album aren’t much different than those bedeviling people who design consumer electronics products: how to successfully marry form and function, innovation and comfort, the daringly spiky and the so-chic sleek. Like 1998’s Fantasma and 2002’s Point, Oyamada’s latest album is essentially a compendium of clever solutions to creative problems disguised as a crash-course in 22nd-century pop-music fundamentals. Sensuous opens with the relatively mellow ringing chimes and steel-guitar tone poetics of the title track before taking off in fantastic, nearly new directions. There’s “Wataridori,” a flailing knot of flickering guitar scales cornered by strobing synths. “Gum” reimagines the act of chewing as a Stereolab-ish, mono-chord ax grind to nowhere, dispensing Oyamada’s flatly spoken syllables at rhythmic intervals. “Beep It” could be a drastic-overhaul remix of Nine Inch Nails’ “Only,” flagellating and knifing a similarly mesmerizing bass line with sampled instrumental light sabers in order to repeatedly sabotage its own beat; “Like A Rolling Stone” pairs a harmonizing choir and the flicked-comb electronic effect from Autechre’s “VI Scose Poise.” What’s ultimately the weirdest about Sensuous is that Oyamada’s constructions don’t seem weird at all; a so-kooky-it’s-cosmic logic runs through it. No wonder, then, that this futurist-pop mash-up is as pleasing to the ear as a curvy, compact BlackBerry is to the eye and to the touch. [Everloving, www.everloving.com]
—Raymond Cummings

This Friday in Nodin







Thursday, July 26, 2007

pls esplain wahta kudos means? i am putting it out scred shitless bleessyou and nam myoho renge kyo!)( ps

I’d like to believe that Courtney Love is clean and sober as the finishes up her new album – whatever it’s ultimately going to be called, I think Nobody’s Daughter (great title, hope she sticks with it so I can unpack it if I’ve album to review it somewhere) is the present name – but her batshit MySpace blog entries could be described, charitably, as abysmally chaotic. One pours over them because the desire to know the day-to-day details of the ex-Hole frontwoman’s broken, in-disarray life is almost overpowering, but attempting to read C-Lo’s typing is next to impossible. Its sheer, utter madness: words and syllables smashed apart or squished together into a motormouth mush (The name “Ethan” keeps popping up in the linguistic carnage – is there a secret code at work here? Am I underestimating her? Actually, it’s probably that she likes to say “more than” a lot, but because she’s so random with that keyboard, it comes out as “mor ethan” or something similar. Which is disappointing in a way – I was hoping that Courtney was really, really into Passions.) that makes one dizzy. I mean, I know she’s been ripped off and double-crossed with frightening regularity lately, but isn’t there anyone out there the woman trusts enough to maybe take dictation and post her thoughts online in a way that doesn’t require a lotta patience and a willingness to come away with a throbbing headache and one’s eyes totally criss-crossed? (If I didn’t have a life and a family and responsibilities, I might actually volunteer.) I’d like to say “In the blog entries I’m linking to, Courtney Love holds forth on a., b. c., and d.” – but that’s totally impossible. You’re welcome to give it a try.

P.S. Courtney, if you’re reading this, please know that all of us here at Voguing to Danzig industries support you and wish you the best, even though you seem to have disowned America’s Sweetheart (much like your homeboy Billy Corgan disowned Mary, Star of the Sea) and we think it’s the best record you ever made, for reals. But look, you’re always going on about how you’re down with powerful and famous people. Can’t David Geffen or Spielberg or Quentin or whoever front you some cash or hook you up with an ambitious Kelly Girl temp to drop by late at night and take shorthard when there are so many ideas bubbling inside your brain that have to find expression by any means necessary?

On Nicknames

“The Doog” explored this at length on his own blog, and in the spirit of compassion, community, and togetherness, I’ve decided to rip him off by doing the same thing here. The list below is far from all-inclusive because (a) I’ve forgotten a lot and (b) some of ‘em were so short-lived and inconsequential that they don’t merit discussion. Like “Little Brother” or “Blaine Vancouver” or “My African Prince” or “Uncle Goggles” or “Pumpkin” or “Amanda” “The Whitest Black Man I Know” or “The Urinal of Non-Sequiters” or “JJ” or “Battery Boy” or “Crabcake”; more than likely, I’m the only person who remembers the origins of those at this point, and they aren’t worth remembering anyway. Seriously, I haven’t really even started this entry and I’m already stuck by how uninteresting it’s gonna be; for sheer amusement value, I’d be better off rambling on about other people’s nicknames, though this would probably involve stepping on some feelings, so I dunno. Maybe later. Maybe not.

For whatever it’s worth, Doug, I never had a nickname for you, man. You – much like Amal – were so much, I guess, yourself in the moniker your folks gave you that conjuring up something extra just seemed unneccessary. So there.

BJ Lips: It was the summer before fourth or fifth grade, I think, and I was, again, enrolled in the Towson YMCA summer camp program. Someone – I don’t remember who for sure, but it might have been this brunnette witch named Dawn who I had a crush on – decided that it would be funny to call me “BJ Lips.” Being clueless and totally naive youth that I was, I had no idea what an unfavorable thing this was to call someone – or even what “BJ” meant – and was just happy that my fellow skate-gear clad campers, who heretofore had delighted in tormenting me emotionally on a regular basis, had for some reason seen fit to bestow upon me what appeared to be an affectionate nickname. Whenever someone in passing called out “Hey BJ Lips!” I responded with a big, happy smile. Fuck all those people, wherever they are today.

Crackpot: This one can be attributed to my largest and most despised (by the campus community at large) group of college friends, probably Kevin Hoffman or Bill Denton, and had to do with my tendency to spout what they considered totally bizarre and ridiculous ideas. In certain dorm rooms and student newspaper offices where Olde E was prodigously consumed and litigation-inviting news schemes hatched (sometimes simultaneously), it became fashionable for other people to shout “CRACKPOOOOOOOOOT!!!” in unison, often for no reason at all. Variations on the name – Chicken Pot-Pie, Carlpot, and so on – were developed for the widespread amusement of people whose own nicknames never spawned franchises. Really, “Crackpot” never bothered me all that much. It made its last known appearance on my wedding video. My in-laws offered touching, heartfelt wishes and luck...and then all of my pals gathered around a glass table to yell – well, you know. To this day, I remain unsure whether I’m bouyed or horrified by this.

Eightball: Hoffman came up with this one. It either had to do with the tee-shirt advertising Daniel Clowes’ Eightball comic books or all the malt liquor we were drinking. Wasn’t used much outside of Caroline or Kent Houses.

Faeray: So my mom and I used to go to wiccan festivals when I was a kid, and these festivals often doubled as markets where food and goods were sold. At one point I came across a hot-pink button that read, in black type, “Fairies of the World Unite!” I thought this was pretty cool; I thought scattered Tinkerbells were being urged to unionize or something, and by this I mean magical fairies from sci-fi, mysticism, Peter Pan, etc. As I mentioned above, I didn’t quite grasp a lot of stuff back in the late 1980s. Anyway, I bought the button but never wore it. Many years later, as a college freshman, I would share that story with Pearl Pham and The Artist Formerly Known As Jef Frank (a man who is, himself, no stranger to cruel, unbidden nicknames); subsequently, “Faeray” became Pearl’s nickname for me. I called her “Pixie.” We used these names in correspondence, e-mail, and telephone conversation for years, until she got married and dropped off the fact of the Earth.

Fingers: Ryan Bowerman, who I went to high school with until he got expelled for something (I think), found it amazing that my hands are huge. So he called me “Fingers,” which was annoying and uncreative in large part because Ryan Bowerman was annoying and uncreative. Not very compelling Horatio Alger stuff, I know. What can I remember about that guy? We were both in the choir. Dude was a troublemaker and crashed a lot of cars. Went into the military. Ryan, if you’re reading this, don’t take it personally, okay? I mean, as The Doog and I have oft remarked, just about everybody was an asshole back in high school – including us!

Ray Slut: I used to put out a zine called Slut, so naturally I became known as “Ray Slut” among that international postage-wasting coterie of entreprenuers whose hobbies included trading, selling, and buying homemade, awkwardly-xeroxed magazines – cf. also Buzz Yukko, Kevin Sissy, Davida Beyond Hinduism, etc.

Ray-Ray: This one’s all Alecia, and my favorite of her nicknames for me because it actually doesn’t apply to anybody else. I love my wife, but she has a tendency to recycle and redeploy a certain set of pet names for adults, dogs, and children with such frequency that they lose some potency over time: “fart,” “turd,” “dippy-doo,” and so on. “Ray-Ray” is cute and playful and simple; it conveys affection directly and effectively.

Sidekick: This one I actually share with Sanjeevani, we toss it at one another all the time – which is kind of amazing when you consider that just about every other handle in this post has fallen out of use. In one of my countless collegiate mass e-mails – circa. 1995 to 2000 I sent them out constantly, to offer updates on my so-called-life, to share bad poetry, whatever – I went off almost rhetorically about the absence of a Maggie to my Hopey, a Bill to my Opus, a Becky to my Enid, a Lars Ulrich to my James Hetfield. For whatever reason this was a Very Important Issue to me at that time. It didn’t seem fair that Kevin had Jef and Dave Labowitz had John and Bill had Matt and Jen had Eva, and so on, while I seemed destined to be a loner with plenty of friends but, like, no constant companion. (It hadn’t occurred to me yet that going solo most of the time was, really, a better deal all around.) Sanjeevani – who herself had, I guess, Amal or Karen at that juncture – graciously offered to be my sidekick. We never developed that symbiotic relationship where we were constantly hanging out 24-7, but our friendship did flourish, endure, and become something special, and for that I am constantly thankful – even if other people probably think it’s strange for two 30-year old adults to ceaselessly refer to one another as “sidekick.”

* * *

Electric Dress review in Grooves Magazine

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stop Snitchin’, Indeed!


Up and down Greene Tree Road you stroll, week after week, day after day, in the morning and at night. I see you when I’m driving to work and when I’m coming back later, when I’m taking walks of my own: buds jammed in your ears, arms hanging at your sides or tensed and hoisted in imitation of some martial-arts move, clad totally nondescript in all black (or in black and white), never any other color. This very morning, in fact, I passed you, watching, and you cut your eyes at me in knowing solidarity, as if to say – and you’ve never once, in any of our non-encounters, deigned to actually say anything, as you seem to favor a barely perceptible nod of silent acknowledgement – that you know that I know that you are Cam’ron, a semi-famous rapper, fashion plate, and infamous Andersen Cooper interviewee, hiding out in the predominantly Jewish suburban wasteland of Owings Mills, Maryland.

This is probably not true, but it’s more entertaining to pretend that you are, in fact, the deposed Dipset chairman than to think about the reality that you’re more than likely some crazy dude who’s convinced he’s a ninja or something. Some theories: (a) you are insane but essentially harmless, and reside with relatives in one of the outrageously priced homes or condos nestled along bucolic Greene Tree Road, and all of this walking is an aspect of your mania; (b) you are an uber-successful commodities trader (or something like that) who employs a small army of underlings tasked with handling day-to-day operations, and these loyal kids report conditions to you via your iPhone as you travel up and down the road on your never-ending constitutional, and when it’s necessary to comment or provide direction you do this, offering cryptic or direct orders that are inevitably profitable; or (c) I don’t have any other theories about who you are, aside from this whole unfounded “weird walker dude’s actually Cam’ron” thing. My wife and my mother have both seen you, so it’s not as if you’re a figment of my imagination. (Also: my mom says that what you’re doing isn’t actually kung-fu or jujitsu or any other form of martial arts, even though your body language suggests that you’re fairly sure of yourself. I’m more inclined to believe her because she’s my mother and because Killa Season sorta blew.) You don’t even really look like Cam’ron, who better resembles my step-sister in appearance and complexion. However, Cam’ron favors flashy, vivid color suits and ensembles that make Crockett and Tubbs look like posers: pinks, purples, yellows, anything bright and eye-catching. (No homo!) So if you, er, if Cam – whose music and behavior imply some degree of mental instability – say, decided to flee NYC to regroup and lick his wounds following well-publicized beefs with Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and his former fellow Dipsetters, it would make sense that he would opt for calmer clothes (and no visible bling whatsoever) that wouldn’t attract attention, thereby allowing him to wander affluent Baltimore County side streets constantly like a goddamned coiffed, clean-shaven loon whilst mentally honing rhymes and plotting his comeback.

Your secret’s safe with me, “Gameron Cilles, lovable mute eccentric and perpetual pedestrian!”

Monday, July 23, 2007

This Monday in Alecia and Nodin!


Congratulations Sanjeevani and Prabha!


....and welcome to the world -- as of sometime on Saturday, July 21, 2007 -- Milena Anne Kiren Silva!

More photographs once we get them! The one above, obviously, is pre-delivery! Anyway, here at Voguing to Danzig we're pretty damn excited and junk, and hopefully our Sri Lankan sidekick doesn't mind us posting this here for the (small world of people who read this blog) to see.

Again, kudos and salutations from Uncle Ray, Aunt Alecia, and cousin Nodin!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Things I Learned Watching "Miami Vice"

--“Go-fast boats.” Oh, come on. Just call ‘em cigarette boats like everyone else!

--You know, until I saw the preview for Minority Report on some cable channel this past weekend, I’d forgotten that Colin Farrell was even in that movie at all.

--The cinematography here is flat-out astonishing, resulting in a movie that’s a feast for the eyes – sumptuous darknesses and delectable colors as the action shifts from Miami coastlines to Hiatian slums to Cuban nightclubs to whevever the drug-lord plot leads – which makes up for the fact that it’s a struggle to follow what’s happening. Gong Li’s dialogue is next to inpenetrable, but that’s okay because everybody else is delivering their lines in baffling cop shorthand code-speak anyway. If it all seems needlessly bizarre and confusing, rent some DVDs of the original show and you’ll realize how faithful this movie actually is to its source material. Subtitles, yo!

--Someday, director Michael Mann will film a crime saga set entirely in a bustling, major American metropolitan-area coffee-shop. Dude so wants to do this; I can feel it, it’s palpable.

--A couple of years ago, cousins Kevin, Kandace, and I tried to take the edge off of our grandfather’s funeral by going to see Road Trip at an Edmonson Road theatre that no longer exists. I bring this up because it was the first time I ever heard anyone – Kandace – use the term “cruc” as an adjective, in sort of a slang dress-down of “crucial,” i.e. something necessary or indispensible. Would it be flippant of me to follow a similar course by shortening “palpable” to “palp” in casual conversation? Or would it just make me sound like a jackass?

--Alecia pointed out that Big Booty Trudy is played, here, by the CIA whatshername from post-tuxedo, post-Bond Pierce Brosnan vehicle After the Sunset – a slice of cinema notable for generating lame, studio-paycheck work for a ridiculous Don Cheadle, a not-yet-dead-by-OD Chris Penn (cameo), and Salma Hayek’s ample, heaving cleavage – which is something I never would have realized on my own.

--If real life were anything like this movie, the cresting crash of an Audioslave song would invariably signal the impending arrival of hot hetero booty action.

--Mann et al. deserve a great deal of credit for not turning this into parody/farce ala so many other 70s/80s TV shows gone big screen (see Starksy & Hutch, which was actually pretty, uh, cruc, and Dukes of Hazzard, which was a total waste of time). The sinister, malevolent gravity James Edward Olmos brought to the role of police (chief? captain?) Castillo is sorely missed, but forget that these are different actors and the milleu’s contemporary and this could double as a 4-part storyline from the show’s small-screen run. When I learned that Farrell and Jamie Foxx were gonna be starring as Crockett and Tubs, I was among those who cried BS. Surprise - they pull off these roles way better than imagined, right down to the so-intense-it’s-lethal stylized garbage (cf. Bloom County) chatter.

--Mogwai’s tasteful integration into the soundtrack = not as surprising as a Nonpoint cover version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” during ye olde climactic gunfight face-off. Speaking of that gunfight, it reminds me of the running street cops’n’robbers throwdown in L.A. from Mann’s own Heat, which succeeds in making extended gunplay seem really boring, tedious, and confusing (moreso here because it’s happening at night).

--Mann loves him some gratuitous shower scenes, huh? Wow.

--Not feeling the Crockett mustache. Heavy stubble’s a no-brainer, but a stache? Nah.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Draw Yr Own Conclusions, Fill in Yr Own Blanks











Thanks to the lovely Alecia for forwarding these – among many others – to me!

Khate article

This article will run in Signal-to-Noise Magazine later this year.

Khate

By Raymond Cummings

Psych-rockers troll dusty music stores for vintage effects pedals. DJs scrounge through fifth-hand vinyl bins in record shops for sample fodder. Ethnomusicians meld vacations with scouting trips, scouring the globe for obscure instruments. Khate Gausman’s hunting grounds include flea markets and yard sales, where broken-in toys that emit tot-pleasing sounds – the tools of her trade – can be had for a song, even if the multi-layered electronics/noise she’ll eventually bleed from them is likely to terrify your kids and alienate your co-workers. Gausman, who resides in Newport News, Virginia and daylights as an audio-visual tech, is a circuit-bender.

“In a nutshell, circuit-bending involves opening up some sound-making or -altering device - toys, keyboards, guitar pedals, etc. - and re-wiring it to create sounds the manufacturer never intended,” she explains in an email interview. “The results can be controlled effects or random glitching. Sometimes I play the instruments; sometimes, the instruments play me. With certain bent instruments, it's often seemingly up to chance what they will spit out. In those instances, I record gobs of material and then edit it down into interesting and digestible chunks. Other times, I'll have a theme in mind and either use the reliable bent instruments or my straightforward gear. Most often, it's a combination of the two, layered upon each other and ‘iced’ with field recordings and samples. Part of the allure - for me, anyways - is also modding or re-housing the case, so the instrument becomes not only a unique source of strange sounds, but a work of art unto itself.” Photos of Gausman-modified “instruments” are available on her website.

Since 2004, Gausman has self-released six solo CDs and a pair of collaborative recordings with Wayne “FERALCATSCAN” Jacobs, her partner both in love and circuit-subversion.

“Back in '98 I bought a CD & book set called Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones, which features work by Reed Ghazala,” Gausman recalls. “Flash forward two years, when I find a Speak & Spell in a thrift store and think ‘Wait, can't I do that circuit-bending thing on that?’ Curiosity soon became an obsession. I come from a visual art background and only started making noises in the late 90's, so the idea of constructing a unique sonic sculpture was a very happy marriage of old interests with new.”

One of the most intriguing – and ironic – aspects of her prolific catalogue is a gradual shift from early, relatively beat-oriented material to more atmospheric compositions that can’t be properly classified as “songs” in the traditional sense; rather, they suggest sonic tye-dying or collaging. Thus, texturally, Gausman’s early, relatively concrete music has transitioned into a more abstract, atmospheric realm that reflects her Master’s degree in art therapy. While fritzing crackle, sticky-sick static, AM/FM dial-twist samples, and Conet Project foreign-speaker code enunciation characterize Khate’s entire body of work, definite separations can be made.

There’s 3-inch CD-R Apertif (2004), which mined a original, hybrid vein of muddily dramatic trip-hop and glitch – “Teratogenic” even sported, seemingly, simulations of starved birds of prey contemplating a apocalyptic landscape. This doomy, foreboding structural stalk was followed by stylistic hodge-podges Ononharoia (2005) – an album Gausmann declares a personal favorite – and Circadian (2006), the spiked, angular, jolts’n’edges Parts (2006), and the shadowy, humidity-hemorrhaging amorphousness of Composition of a Recorded Mass (2007).

There are methods to Gausmann’s madness: “Within the last year, I've accrued a backlog of material that has only recently been mastered; with more tracks to pick from, it's easier to arrange them by theme. I don't mind the potpourri approach to album mixing, and will probably release some like that in the future. It's simply that the most recent work has sounded better grouped with neighboring themes, and I have enough of it to do so.”

Field Report, Gausman’s latest effort, holds an unusual distinction. While Report is what she terms “an orphanage of an album,” a grouping of songs that “didn't play well with others, so they're forced to play with each other,” it nonetheless adds up to her most engrossing release to date: a darkened, entropic rumble that sneaks up on the listener. “Riesling” presents overlapping, bass-level concentric tones that continually expand outward, simulating bloated indigestion; “Imaginary Numbers” suggests loops of a live microphone-recorded thunderstorm with vintage 50s public-access samples folded in. Gausman created the latter using a 1980s record of office sound effects: “Lots of clunky teletext and now-antiquated copy machines. It employs the Vinyl Translator a great deal, a circuit-bent turntable that runs forwards and backwards from about 10 to 50 rpm. It's very fun to play, and gets trotted out to live gigs regularly.”

Field Report is available now. For more information, visit www.khate.org.

Wooden Wand review

In the transfer from draft to final version, this review lost some crucial info somehow, so I present the original below:

Wooden Wand
James and the Quiet
(Ecstatic Peace!)

This latest chapter in James Jackson Toth’s ongoing “Gospel according to Wand” is an immeasurable improvement over its predecessors. The further he’s removed from – or at least, less directly influenced by – his Vanishing Voice peeps and their collective New Weird Americanisms, the more ground Toth’s staggering-geezer folk evangelism gains. Harem of the Sundrum & the Witness Figg and last year’s Skygreen Leopards-assisted Second Attention bore this out. Now James & the Quiet completes his gradual emergence from the cdrs’n’sloppy-psych-jamz wilderness; a contact high minimum’s no longer prerequisite to luxuriating in Toth’s worn grooves.

Credit for this is due in large part to producer Lee Ranaldo, who with co-arranger Jennifer Toth – that’s Mrs. Wand, to you – orchestrates old Voice hands and fellow Sonic Youth Steve Shelley to forge a disciplined, succinct Quiet. Consider the stunted-scuzz guitar line that appears partway through the acoustic drizzle of “In a Bucket”; typically Wand bewitching, it’s little more than a fried cog in the tune’s trad verse-chorus-verse structure, an accent to non-sequiters ala “Sometimes you’re shook like a firefly inside a jar/or like a dizzy honeybee in a bucket of tar.” Toth’s conversational, Chick-bookish affability is what matters here; that he’s on a lyrical plateau is a plus, that his fellow musicians frequently harmonize gently – as on preachin’-at-gunpoint fable “Invisible Children” – is a bonus. “We must also love the thieves/And we must also love the liars, because some truth can be found in these,” he drawls instructively against “Thieves”’ stumbling, slumping dice roll of drumkit stutters, tambourine rattles, and Parkinson’s fret trills.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Odd Girl Out feature

Here’s a link to the final Baltimore City Paper version, while my original draft appears below:

“I feel like the name of the band, right from the get-go you know it’s a girl band,” Odd Girl Out lead guitarist Kristen Brzowsky suggests thoughtfully.

“We’re girls and we always play, nine times out of ten, with guy bands – so we’re always outsiders,” singer Mary “Tawni” Tawney reasons.

“We’re all part of the gay community, so automatically, we’re on the outside,” guitarist Eva Blackmer offers.

“Bethany [Petr] came up with it. Bethany comes up with everything!” Tawney interjects, then adds sardonically: “My friend Ethan calls the band ‘Eat Girl Out’!”

The five members of Odd Girl Out – clustered around Petr’s cell phone at the band’s Silver Spring practice space for an interview in late June – then burst into simultaneous, uproareous laughter. They’re mulling over the many possible connotations their name carries, but, as with every other response, this one dissolves from direct answers into zings and good-natured ribbing so infectious that even a reporter feels almost in on the jokes. Considering the obstacles Odd Girl Out overcame to arrive at the self-release of adrenilized debut Hurry Up and Wait, the loose, playful mood is both understandable and ironic: understandable because the album took some 30 months to complete as various musicians joined and left – roughly a month for each punk-rockin’ minute – ironic because while such impediments routinely scuttle promising acts before they can make a mark, OGO’s travails have strengthened it.

“The lows have been all the times when past members indicated they didn't share the sort of interest and investment in the band that I have,” says drummer and unofficial publicist Petr. “I give this entity everything. It's really personal for me, so it's been sad and disappointing when we had members who didn't really care about it the same way.”

Tawney is more blunt. “Basically, we had crazy bitches in the band that we had to throw out before we could finish the record,” she quips. “Now we have crazy bitches that we like.”

Odd Girl Out was born in late 2004, when Petr, Tawney, and a few others broke away from a blues/swing covers band to form a different breed of covers outfit – one that specialized in pop-punk and rock songs recorded by female artists. Among their early performance staples were songs by the Bangles, the Killers, Jill Sobule, and Hole. Until, that is, Petr tried her hand at songwriting for the first time and discovered a knack for it.

“The first song I wrote was about how crappy and annoying the band we had left was,” she remembers. “We later revamped it, and it’s now our song ‘Lost in Translation’ – no longer about that other band. It's not the first one we worked up – that was ‘5 Years.’”

The tunes – which, in Odd Girl Out’s hands, eventually became thunderous potential hits that owe as much to 80s rocker Joan Jett as they do to 90s riot-grrls Bikini Kill – kept coming, but personnel havoc hindered their wider dissemination beyond sets at various Baltimore, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. venues. The keyboardist/rhythm guitarist and the bassist – still moonlighting with the swing/blues group – eventually quit due to a combination of scheduling conflicts and lack of avidity for the material; an “erratic and insane” lead guitarist lasted a year, only to be followed by another who bolted after only a few weeks. At different intervals, batteries of auditions brought new recruits into the fold: Blackmer to handle rhythm guitar (though she’d later switch to bass), Brzowsky on lead guitar, and Blackmer’s friend Selena Benally to chip in an additional ax. As the turmoil raged, the band was nonetheless playing out and laying down tracks for Wait at Baltimore’s Wrightway Studios. The turnovers – and the difficulties faced in trying to find compatible players in between – meant that new members had to learn the songs and re-record guitar and bass parts, further delaying the record’s completion.

“It’s harder for us because there aren’t a lot of female musicians that are into what we do – they’re too old or two young or into folk,” explains Tawney, who sweetly dodges the question of OGO’s ages by giving the band’s averaged age as 24. “People don’t understand what it takes to be in a band. They think we don’t practice or play very much, and that’s not us.”

Given the uncertainty surrounding its genesis, Wait is a surprisingly composed, coiled, and concise initial salvo. Lyrically, Petr’s protagonists are women whom, when faced with dangerous, difficult, or just plain frustrating traps they can’t avoid, respond by re-framing the dramas as something easily controllable, coolly dissecting what’s happening and laying out all the evidence. Tawney’s belting, boisterously passionate delivery obliterates any sense of tedious calculation that description might imply, carried along by the sort of off-the-cuff, three-chord strikes and walloping drums that recall Letters to Cleo and a pair of underrated, femme-fronted 90s punk bands: little-known NYC trio Fur and Oakland’s fiery, uncompromising Tilt. In the crunchy “Picture,” with its pointed-yet-diplomatic, anthemic chorus – “Sing me a song about the depths of your disappointment/Paint me a picture of your pain” – what could become a lover’s quarrell is forestalled in an invitation to talk things out instead of going nuclear. For the narrator of “MySpace,” though, the fun’s over; the song, which teases with faux-Extreme, prom-dance scaling before thickening into a catchy, lumbering behemoth, is a bullet-point ‘Dear Jane’ letter-list: “Do you recall a time I lived up to your expectations?/Do you recall a single joke without my defamation?” At times, Wait resembles a kick-ass empowerment seminar – or the ideal CD to blast en route to a girl’s night out.

The peppily high-octane “5 Years,” meanwhile, wouldn’t have been out of place on the 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack – perfect for those scenes where Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles engage in madcap paintball warfare, as it’s a rowdy, celebratory buildup to a romantic spark between people whose love seemed unimaginable. The song also works, unintentionally, as a metaphor for OGO itself: liner-note shots suggest a group of vastly dissimilar women thrown together, a last-ones-picked-for-teams quintet lacking a unifying mindset or fashion aesthetic – goth, grrl, glam, and granola. Indeed, members are so scattered – geographically, vocationally, and in terms of musical influences – that their dedication to OGO appears all the more incredible.

Soft-spoken, San Diego-born Benally is a full-time student at the University of Southern Maryland and a Metallica fan. Petr digs Green Day and teaches computer programming at the Columbia high school she attended. Tawney, who grew up in Baltimore but today resides in Cockeysville, is a nanny, a co-owner of SHE Productions, and partial to Madonna and Queen. Blackmer grew up in St. Mary’s County on a steady diet of “angry girl music” like Hole and Bikini Kill; she calls Greenbelt home and works at the Maryland Center for Environmental Training. Baltimore County native Brzowsky somehow juggles a job as a “professional flapjack flipper,” two bands (OGO and Celia Kipp & the Last Ditch), DJ gigs, and a love of NOFX, Fat Wreck Chords, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Sexual orientation’s a nominal uniting force – Baltimore Pride served as Wait’s unofficial release party, and sold well there – but a shared love for their sound, mutual admiration, and friendship seem to be the ties that bind OGO together as they begin their preliminary search for a record deal. Tawney uses an anatomical metaphor to explain the band’s dynamic: “Bethany is the mind, I am the mouth, and Kristen, Eva, and Selena are very vital organs.”

“They take something I write with my sort of meager guitar/bass skills and turn it into something totally awesome,” Petr gushes.

Odd Girl Out play the Charm City Rollergirls Bout at Skateland on July 15. For more information, visit http://www.oddgirlout.net/.


Also: my new Singles Going Steady piece, Christy & Emily "Noah," and a Benni Hemm Hemm live preview.