Saturday, September 29, 2007
The narrative here quickly goes off the rails and as I darted through its sparse 100 pages, I wasn't sure I had a picture of what was really happening or why, and I think that's what stories like these are doing with their outrageous cruelty - wallowing in the pointlessness and reveling in the immediate cause-effect nature of life and realizing the big picture is easily erased when the blood starts to spill.
I don't know if this is a good book or not, since it was over so fast, but I will say it was a perfect way to blithely kill an hour waiting for your lovely family to get back from Target. Abject cruelty has its amusement factor.
I thought I had read Harry Crews before but a scan through his other title informed me I was mixing him up with Hubert Selby Jr. Maybe I just had the record by Harry Crews, a Sonic Youth side project from 1989, and assumed that I must've read it, since I was reading stuff like this back then. Maybe I just wanted to and finally did it after all these years, which is exactly the motivation for what happens in this book....less Read More...
I read this book in spurts over the last 6 months, basically a chapter or two every time I found myself at the bookstore for an extended period of time which has allowed me to slowly digest what is wrong with it:
1) For a critic, he has rather pedestrian tastes in music. His insight is honest and dead-on, but his subject matter generally seems undeserving of the pedestal he erects.
2) This book is near wholesale rip-off of Ross McElwee's rather singular film Sherman's March, which came out 20 years before this book. Both follow through on a preposterous, dubious quest (Klosterman visits the sites of rock star deaths, McElwee retraces Sherman's march to Atlanta) only to use it as a vehicle for visiting old girlfriends and then sitting in hotel rooms reminiscing about them. But that is excusable, in that anyone with a soul and any creative talent wants to do their own Sherman's March after seeing it. McElwee is more insightful, but Klosterman is funnier and ultimately more human in the end.
What's right about it is more important:
1) He is funny as hell, up there with David Sedaris and John Waters as the funniest modern writers talking about their art/selves.
2) This book makes me want to write more, and write more about writing, and then write more about that unafraid of how meta one can go before one finally implodes. I wanted to tear through the ending so I could write this. but, most of all
3) He can project his heart with pinpoint accuracy on the reader. You fall in love with these woman that you feel you fail to know very well in the same way he fails to know them. He can make a Beckett scene out of being stoned in a Montana hotel laundromat and classical literature out of Def Lepperd . Read More...
Friday, September 28, 2007
He’s heartsick, and maybe he’s crazy. Even if his eccentricity was just part of the act, the big labels never could quite package him, this self-proclaimed “vampire in a Devil Town.” So what was Daniel Johnston to do? Alex V. Cook takes a closer look at genius behind the madness, at the strange bravery of his love songs.
David Bowie – Andy Warhol
Here a trawl through the Warhol offerings on YouTube.
That first video, where he eats a hamburger, is captivating. I had it playing in the background and clicked off on another window to do something and heard the bag rustle and I rushed back to see what was happening! I think that video encapsulates my love of Andy Warhol.
Any of the "he's not a real artist" bullshit falls away from the fact that he has convinced me thirty years later and twenty years dead to not only watch him eat a hamburger for 5 minutes, find a reduction of the human struggle in his trouble with the ketchup bottle, wait as he swallows his food for a Bergman-grade eternity before delivering his sole line, resonating with existential triumph, and then want to tell people about it.
I'm off to get a hamburger in homage.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
From the website:
The Artists, 2007
Scott Barretta writes about the most incarcerated band in America; William Bowers on the befuddling Mayo Thompson; Anthony Mariani on the true progenitors of punk; Holly Gleason on the bedraggled, sharkskin-slick Dwight Yoakam; Aaron Cohen on the creepy, morbidly sweet songs of Percy Mayfield; Amanda Petrusich on the M.I.A. funk diva Betty Davis; Alex Cook on the open-wound genius of Daniel Johnston; Ben Greenman on the redemptive soul of Eldridge Holmes. John Jeremiah Sullivan on the awkward sublimity of the Roches; Plus more—much more. Come on, peek inside...
Here is my mug/blurb for the contributor's page:
Alex V. Cook is the music editor for outsideleft.com and holds the distinction of being the only writer ever to appear in both genteel travel magazine Country Roads and extreme metal rag Hails and Horns in the same month.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I stepped back to take a picture of my work area, quite satisfied with what it had allowed me to accomplish, when the Chicago Underground Trio made the jump from the electro productive "Slon" to the almost inaudible foggy intro to "Zagreb" and just at that juncture of activity to stillness both in the album and myself, it started raining outside, as if the very clouds were feeling my release.
Of course this is pathetic fallacy, but I find it much less pathetic than most of the other fallacies I routinely entertain. Enjoy!
Chicago Underground Trio – Slon
Chicago Underground Trio – Zagreb
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The best drink I've ever experienced in the Bloody Mary family came about when my friend George and I rode our bikes down to the recently defunct Thirsty Tiger one impossibly hot Saturday afternoon to get Jeff the World's Greatest Bartender (somehow your tab at the end of the night would be "oh...let's call it six bucks"and he once chased after a certain melodramatic, blind-drunk patron who was intent on jumping in the Mississippi after a really bad night and talked him down) to make a signature drink for George's band Twobanger.
We drank our way through a couple missteps until someone locked in on a tequila Bloody Mary with a shot each of green and red Tabasco, served in a martini glass with three cocktail onions on a plastic sword. It was the drink that ate like a meal, and looked delightfully perverse in the glass as you staggered around in thrift store suit jackets, scanning the room with wolf eyes. I don't think any of the actual band members took to it, but it was my favorite funny car fuel for about a year there.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Do you promote your blog?
Yes. Blogging has been very good to me, both psychologically and professionally, so I try to be good to it, if that makes sense. The seeds of my current career were planted in LiveJournal. Plus, I write to an imagined audience, it makes me want to write more and do it better. I had the same impulse when I was a radio DJ; I like the idea of a potential audience, perhaps more than a real one. Besides, my life's dream is to be a cult icon, so someone has to do the legwork on that.
How often do you check hits?
I actually don't know how to do this on Blogger, and in my ignorance, I thankfully have one less ego-trap time-suck into which I can fall. And, frankly, the low numbers would kinda bum me out.
Do you stick to one topic?
In that I follow my obsessions around, yes. I use this thing as a sketch pad, vault, test lab, archive. I considered working the music angle, since it is the lion's share of my writing, but I'd rather leave it open.
Who knows you have a blog?
Anyone that will listen. I am rather proud of this little venture.
How many blogs do you read?
Currently, 5, and a couple sweeps through my LJ friends list.
Are you a fast reader?
Yes, but I compensate with piles of useless input. Word of advice - stay away from all bulletin boards. As the lights dim and the spectre of death appears on the horizon, the guy that wrote the message board software will be sitting on Satan's smoldering lap, chuckling at the years you've frittered away when you could've be writing that book.
Do you customize your blog or do anything technical?
Yes, I am very into social networking gadgets, even though I'm sure my data is being harvested and clones of me are being readied from it.
Do you blog anonymously?
No. I made an early choice in the Internet life to post as myself, and have found it to be quietly rewarding.
To what extent do you censor yourself?
Mostly I try to avoid being boring, otherwise, I don't think I have that much of controversy to say. And I generally don't care about getting in trouble. Not that I am a badass or have unfaltering integrity, it's just that my dog runs faster off the leash.
The best thing about blogging?
Obsessing and meta-obsessing and whatever this is. Also, ego, ego, ego. I'm am half-pretending that I am being interviewed by the New York Times as I type this. No, Mr. Garner, I happen to think that I am using the web as an exoskeleton of my own divining, kinda like Dr. Octopus, to extend my reach and increase the tenacity of my grasp - so none of my time online is a waste. Much in the way Kanye West augments himself with Daft Punk's vocoder, I become harder, better, faster, stronger.
For $6: four juicy baby back ribs, cornbread dressing, white beans with tasso, potato salad, and white bread for the sopping. I started to feel slight remorse that I didn't get a sausage plate from the Best Sausage Maker in Town, but lo, peeking at me from under the horror of bones and napkins was a perfect link of their Italian sausage, which was plump and firm like a hot dog (like Heaven), but smoky and nuanced inside (like Hell.)
I glanced up from this hallucination of meat to see the owner force a small plate of sweet potatoes on some guy waiting for his order, but before I could wave my sauce-covered hand and shout ME ME OVER HERE ME... he jumped on a motherfucking Segway and waved as he eased out the door. Mind you, this is in an "industrial wasteland" part of town, not some techno-hippie strip with a spa at one end and a gelato place at the other. He runs a welding yard right next door. I ran out after him to try and get a picture and establish that this was not some form of meat-fever overtaking me, but he had silently, futuristically eco-glided off into the welding yard before I could get my camera ready.
The process of 16 year-old second-generation cassette recorded on the sketchiest of equipment -> Cubase (via 4-track) -> low grade mp3 to shrink the file size -> myspace didn't help the fidelity much, but it was still fun to hear after all these years.
I remember at the time I was seriously working a Nurse With Wound and Brian Eno habit and decided that surely I too could make spooky ambient process music. This was the first music I did that I considered serious enough to put out under my name.
Each piece runs about 14 minutes, as to get the most mileage off a C-60.
Here's the track-by-track breakdown:
1) The Critter Within - Terrible title. This was likely done for my friend/pen pall/cassette-colleague Minoy, since he favored a lot of shrieks and what not over a thick bed of ambient noise. The vocals and turntable bits were recorded in the KLSU productions room using the reel-to-reel tape for delay, and then was (somewhat inadvisably, in hindsight) augmented with keyboards later at home. The spooky monster/Exorcist vocals - not sure what I was channeling then. I was in my first year working for the state as a COBOL programmer, so I imagine that factored into it.
2) Funeral March of the Dull Cow - I still like this piece. It was an attempt to see how reductive I could get with my source material, in this case a stewpot lid tapped with a rubber ball mallet. Then, as it played back, I sampled it on the SK-1 and added accompaniment, and then again on another pass. This was all before I had a four track; overdubs involved a couple generic Walkmen fed into a $20 Radio Shack microphone mixer to the input jacks on my stereo.
3) Compounded Recursion of Bad Days - This was frustration in action. The TV, featuring a young talk-show era Geraldo Rivera and a stopwatch form the basis and then 30-second answering machine tapes were used to record and playback voice, flute and keyboards, getting deeper and deeper until it reaches cacophony, though arguably, it didn't really have that far to go.
4) Something from the Swamp - This was a a keyboard and percussion (stewpot lid again) thing recorded to fill up the tape, but I think there are some decent moments in there. Brian Eno's At Land was a crucial album in my listening back then, and this was definitely inspired by it.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
As I was making this long lopey curve, driving a little too fast, feeling those slight G-forces, the stoney guitar gallop in "Act Nice and Gentle" kicked in, as if it was being coughed up from by car after a juicy bong hit.
I glanced up and saw a buzzard gliding in in a lazy arc opposite to the curve of the road, as if it were completing the circle. Corny, perfect rock 'n roll moment.
The Black Keys – Act Nice and Gentle
or go here, if the player didn't appear
I haven't seen the physical issue yet, but here is a teaser online
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
She did however top it with that awesome picture of Italian futurist artist Luigi Russolo's
Intonarumori, a machine constructed in 1913 to flesh out some of his theories later published in his manifesto The Art of Noise. None of these contraptions survived the way, but recordings of them did, offered up generously by the fine people at ubu.com
As far as I know, no footage of Russolo's noise concerts exists, but here is a group of art students reenacting a noise concert on the YouTube (in 8 parts)
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
My friend and brilliant visual/sound artist Philip recently unearthed some cassettes of music that I made back in the early 90s, and sent them to me so I can have digital copies and possibly drop them onto myspace. I'm not exactly sure how many "albums" I recorded because at one point, a guy here in town that was running a small but enterprising experimental music cassette label expressed enthusiastic interest in releasing them, so I lent him all the master copies and subsequently he disappeared and in his infrequent re-emergences, he professes ignorance of their wearabouts.
Back then in the cassette culture underground, where we traded our homespun tapes on our homespun labels and built a pre-Internet network through fanzines like Factsheet Five and tons of trips to the post office, you had to have a name for your project, and frequently had different names for different facets of ones obscure output. I was riding somewhere with my girlfriend back then, and we saw a sign on a building for "Pain Clinic" and boom, I had an instant band name. Regicide Bureau was the name used by Tom Sutter, a rather sizable player in cassette culture back then. We had traded things for a while and then he informed me that his fiancee was speaking at a conference in New Orleans, and could they stay at my place, with hopes of collaborating. Music was a completely solitary activity then, so those two tapes contain the first time I ever played music with another person. I remember her angrily sleeping off the flu in my bed in the other room while Tom and I made racket in the other. (Randy - these were recorded in the apartment in which you currently reside)
I still think Pain Clinic is a great band name, but, while I don't actually remember the nature of the pieces on Stills, but I do remember considering them "more serious work" and worthy of not having to hide behind a pseudonym.
Just to show that the ironic gods have comedic timing, there was a second tape bearing my name after that called Shifts that was comprised of pieces based on Alvin Lucier's compositions. I used to have a copy of it in the glovebox of my old car, and remember taking it out when I traded it in, thinking "wow, thank goodness this didn't get lost" and then immediately tucked it away somewhere so it would be lost forever.
MySpace sites for these forthcoming.
I am in deep submersion in Alvin Lucier's still, quivering world of sonic exploration of minute sonic phenomena. It's like spelunking in a way, and the endless exploration of seemingly monotonous territory bears a resemblance to that of the house in House of Leaves, corridor after corridor of the same but there is a compulsion to go on. Except Lucier is arguably less terrifying than the physical manifestation of an internal metaphysical hell as exhibited in the book.
I've concocted a book idea out of this exploration and even enlisted a friend to help with the scholarly angle, or rather, he enlisted himself and I gratefully took him on and last night got 2,000 words into the first draft. I love this obsessive phase of things. I feel a connection to the artist's work and its connection to my work and most importantly, the shock of the current running through that connection. At 2 a.m. I was gleefully plugging footnotes into a document. On my to-do list today is go to the library and look up a Kierkegaard quote. I am using italics in excess. I feel positively writerly today.
Above is a video I stumbled on to of someone performing Lucier's Music for Solo Performer, where the performer's brainwaves are recorded and amplified to make vibrations on percussion instruments, essential creating music with his or her thoughts. This melodramatic performance film is a little more Nosferatu than how I see most of Lucier's work, but its gives a glimpse into his unique character as a composer and how this curious work is interpreted.
Monday, September 17, 2007
And for a band that had as consistent a catalog, one that still holds up rather well, Nirvana had the misfortune to come up in the anti-image era, where all the album covers were terrible, and Nirvana was no exception.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
What is magma made of?
Is magma the hottest thing on the earth?
What can break up a rock?
OK, then what can break up a diamond?
It's made of clear coal?
What's inside a mirror?
and so on and so forth and only added to the frazzled hustle of the grocery store. We got over to the produce aisle and she asked "How do baby birds know when to leave the nest?" and I thought, what a poetic question to throw in amongst all these scientific inquiries, building her own escape route form the nest. I also thought, dude, we are in the middle of the grocery store so can we table this discussion for later? I quipped "Well, I think its has to do with instinct, like they just know" and she all but rolled her eyes and said, "No, it's a joke, Daddy. How do baby birds know when to leave the nest?....They just wing it. Get it? Wing it?"
Friday, September 14, 2007
recommended for: smart people with a sense of humor
This book was a pleasure to read. I had a Harry Potter I-am-now-a-Reader reaction to reading it, like I wanted to read it all the time. The book is imbued with obsession from its storyline to its idiosyncratic layout, with words appearing at weird angles, "house" always appearing in blue, multiple story lines going on on the same page, printed in different fonts etc etc... and that obsession was passed on to me as I read it.
Story wise, and structure-wise, I have to say it is rather Hollywood manipulative, in the best way. The shifts in narratives creating a Hitchcock tension, waiting for something to happen, while the horrors within the house are depicted with vivid alacrity. At first I found Johnny Truant's narrative as obvious as his name, but they grew on me, and the interplay between him, the narrator he's describing, the people that narrator is describing and the house that they are describing is intoxicating. Its like that TV in Poltergeist; you know you want to stick your hand in there.
My one complaint was the closure that the author forced us into at the ending, but I am willing to accept that this closure was highly ironic, considering the book is physically about a house with no closure, and stylistically is about the endless goose-chase that writing can be. In calculus terms, this book is the limit as x approaches "meta" without reaching implosion.
The mock-academic action, all those footnotes and cross-referencing, was one of my favorite parts, presenting the idea that all these conferences and books and symposia were all dedicated to this cast of semi-interesting characters and that the physical abberation that was the house is reduced to fodder for hackneyed self-referential analysis on the part of all these experts. I suspect Danielewski has done some time in a Comparative Lit grad program and has the scars to prove it.
House of Leaves is a complex yet imminently readable, intellectual, fun thriller, and a triumph of cleverness in dull, dry times where people peck like birds at the facts, seeming to have lost their taste for a good story.
xposted at Goodreads
Thursday, September 13, 2007
From the ever-shirtless Glenn Danzig, charming the pants off the literary crowd with "stuff your mainstream churches don't want you to know about". I wish this was a weekly segment of The Dan reviewing books on CBS Sunday Morning, glorious in flickering candle-light.
posted on Paper Cuts, the best literary blog ever
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
(This pic is not from The Exchange, but from Amoeba Records in Hollywood, which is a mind- boggling place with miles of used CD's)
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Robert Jr. Lockwood is Robert Johnson's stepson and a renowned guitarist in his own right, and David "Honeyboy" Edwards played with Johnson and is still alive to tell about it. I listened to Honeyboy on the way home from the CD store, since it was the artist I knew the least about, but the plunky acoustic guitar and old-man-from-the-mountains blues voice indicated the high quality of my bounty.
Junior Kimbrough was a Mississippi juke joint proprietor and influential guitarist that rose to fame with Robert Palmer's "Deep Blues" documentary. Palmer produced All Night Long, Kimbrough's first album. He has a menacing drone to his guitar work and a whisp moaning vocal that issues out lyrics of frank and often shocking narratives, like the bit in "You Better Run" where a girl runs into his bar to get away from a boy after her.
Her: Mr. Kimbrough, he's got a knife. He's gonna rape me
Him: You can stay here, but that don't mean you ain't gettin' raped.
Her: Oh You don't gotta rape me, Cuz I love you.
I personally think Junior Kimbrough is the bomb, and my favorite blues artist right after John Lee Hooker.
This R.L. Burnside is the sketchiest of the batch, but I didn't have it and now I do. It's a somewhat ill-advised collaboration, remixes of his searing blues by Alec Empire and Beck's DJ Tom Rothrock, in an attempt to cash in on the fame garnered by Alabama3
(who's "Woke up This Morning" became the theme to The Sopranos years later).
This 1971 live-in -the-studio romp from John Lee Hooker, right at the height of his second bout of fame, is supposed to be brilliant though and will likely make up for any downfall R.L might exhibit. Added bonus is that the version I got is a cheap reissue on SpotLite records with the original cover surrounded by rainbow stripes and the jewel case is dirty and sooty because it was salvaged from a house fire.
From the Exchange: Broadmoor Shopping center by the old movie theatre, 9812 Florida Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA 70815 (map)
- My friend John burning the fuck out of his hand, lighting the butane burner on which he makes sausage and eggs for all the cops in the morning -
- Which is how he gets away with having a tow-behind bbq pit, exceeding the parade ground size limit, under the same prime spot under a giant oak every home game. That's the ESPN stage/tent monstrosity in the fuzzy background. It's is a perfect spot to bring -
- Maya and her friends who run around in a fit of donut frenzy, and then disappear into
- John's beat-up Westfalia that he bought primarily for tailgating.
- Some fans, like some pictures, tell their own story.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, linked from here
My mind is compulsive but my will is weak and this portal, this ego trap that bears my name and is so easy to massage and mold and tweak gives my mind a short circuit over my will. It does not require convincing my will to allow my body to embrace risk or my spine to be brave, or my cognition to have a plan; it just needs to make the jump to my hands and, if the rest of me has managed to pay the cable bill, my mind is freed from the leash of my will to run.
I've come to appreciate the grind of the track, its set cycles of 6 1/2 laps on the outer rim equal a mile, and while my daughter is at gymnastics, I have a perfect bracket in which I would otherwise not be doing anything else anyway. I am still a walker but one day I expect to hear a click in my head that says start running. Instead of aspiring to be a runner though, I am a dedicated occasional walker. Philosophy makes the best cop-outs.
What I do hear is the indulgences of the iPod, an hour of concentrated listening uninterrupted by "I should be doing something productive" since, well, I am. I like endurance test listening, extreme pieces, harshly minimal music, things to which one must submit, on the track. They blank out the errant dumb conversations of the others gathered there, like me, waiting out their kids in gymnastics classes in the adjoining gym. So, on my Alvin Lucier kick, I decided to sweat it out with his 1977 piece Music On a Long Thin Wire (wiki entry), described by the composer as such:
Music on a Long Thin Wire of a is constructed as follows: the wire is extended across a large room, clamped to tables at both ends. The ends of the wire are connected to the loudspeaker terminalspower amplifier placed under one of the tables. A sine wave oscillator is connected to the amplifier. A magnet straddles the wire at one end. Wooden bridges are inserted under the wire at both ends to which contact microphones are imbedded, routed to the stereo sound system. The microphones pick up the vibrations that the wire imparts to the bridges and are sent through the playback system. By varying the frequency and loudness of the oscillator, a rich variety of slides, frequency shifts, audible beats and other sonic phenomena may be produced.
On the recording I have, it consists of 4 variants, using different frequencies on the oscillator to create slightly different wavering sine waves, things humming along and then creating a sudden groan of the waves going out of phase with themselves. To get the real effect, I would expect that one should listen to this performed live in an otherwise silent room, as one's body would become a factor in the piece itself, but who has the time to set up all that equipment. I got shit to do Alvin, I can pencil in an hour.
The drones had to compete with the 60-cycle hum of the lights overhead, which became deafening once the inane chatter of humanity was excised from my consciousness, and made for a nice counterpoint to these 18-minute drones that rose and fell like a lukewarm tide in a dead lake. In the YouTube comments of the raga piece I posted the other day, somebody snarked about the tamboura player, the guy playing the bass-like thing in the middle, idly plucking what seemed like the same note as his two cohorts were displaying amazing instrumental prowess on the sitar and tabla. A more knowledgable poster responded by saying (sic)
The guy in the middle may sound funny or useless, but he's a fundamental element in the performance. He's playing the tampura, producing a bee-like continueous vibration. If he stops playing, the sitarist looses reference notes for his raga, and the "meditative" effect of the performance immediately shatters.
The cheap noisy lighting LSU uses for its indoor track served as the tamboura to Alvin's relative soloing on Long Thin Wire, bouncing around the narrow frequency band to which its setup allowed. I'm relistening to it now in a coffee shop as I type this, but the mix of blenders, yammering sales pitch some realtor is laying out, the exasperated sighs of the guy at the next table, anguished over the uncracked class binder laying in wait behind the screen of his laptop, not to mention the lite jazz wafting in every now and then, overwhelm the piece. The meditative effect is indeed shattered.
But with that hum, and the preoccupation of the body, you feel like you are looking at deeper and deeper at things, either constantly focusing in or zooming out, the continuity of existence preventing you from realizing which way you are going. Maybe meditation works on a superficial way because its easy; a hum, a repetition is all it takes to push you into temporary timelessness. You won't reach Nirvana on the track or with humming wires, but you can leave the pavement.
Thursday, September 6, 2007