Friday, December 19, 2008

Baseball is Dangerous, particularly in the Winter

As I walked back across the street to the house from my car, I spotted one of my neighbors who's also a Red Sox fan. Toes tingling from the cold snow and ice, I met his eyes as he started to warm up his car and said, "I can't wait for baseball season to start again..."
Once I got to thinking about it, though, I realized that pitchers and catchers report in less than 60 days!! Thank the gods, 'cause John Baker and I need something more to talk about than a less-than-exciting Hot Stove season (am I jaded? who knows...I just want baseball back). Besides, as opposed to how the members of Temple of the Dog felt about basketball/football versus baseball seasons, I am discovering that I have a specific sort of depression linked to the baseball offseason.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Most Musical Year

The cliched bits of wisdom that fall from the mouths of older people in our lives begin to make more and more sense as I grow into my thirties. This year really did fly by, sadly forecasting an even quicker passing of 2009, unless, of course, Barack Obama can produce a time-slowing device for communal use. It sucks to admit that all sorts of adults along the way have said that the years get faster and faster and that they may be right, but, fuck it...maybe I was just having a really kickass time. This year certainly was filled with an insane amount of music, which is not abnormal for me. I live to consume through my ears and my appetite is constantly whetted for more and instatiable in its devouring of new and different sounds. However, 2008 saw an increase the likes of which go unparalleled save for my years at Cellophane Square, which was aided greatly by the re-initiation of my music writing (critical, not compositional) career at the Silent Ballet. Of course, there was also the constant sharing with my best friend and fellow music junkie, Bench.
So, as is common for music junkies and critics to perform at the nearing of the year's end, I'd like to present a collection of records that brought me joy in the last 12 months. It was a year that saw my interest in metal wane just a little bit, particularly in the last 4-5 months. Mostly, this had to do with a more tightly honed focus on all sorts of forms of Electronic music and deeper interest in Modern Classical. It seems that as we push further into this new millenium, there is a rise in number of artists coming back to much "older" approaches to music (i.e. primarily chamber style instrumentation and arrangement with cello, viola/violin and piano). However, a lot of the current artists are evolving this so-called modern version of Classical music from an Electronic standpoint (check artists such as Helios and Deaf Center for starters). The styles really seem to mesh well, as the simple, repetitive mantras of dance style music (descended from Hip-Hop) lend themselves nicely to a much more slowed down approach of form and variation in Chamber/Classical music. I wonder frequently if this reduction of hyped-up energy in some Electronic music circles is a socio-psychological response to a world too frenetic, violent, uncaring, cold and just plain fucking crazy; sort of an aural valium is what I guess I'm thinking of.
Yet, speaking of the more beat-oriented styles of Electronic music, I also gained a deeper focus on and appreciation of them as well. Attending the entirety of Decibel Festival this September really helped with that, as getting a dose of music in its live, pulsating manifestation always refreshes the passions I possess for it.
2008 was also the year that one single, dust-laden violin note encompassed the aggregate of emotional ferocity that Heath Ledger laid down for us all in his interpretation of the Joker as a dark, ominous psychopath beyond true comprehension. Well, let's get to it, shall we?
Again, as I did for last year, this is NOT A RANKED LIST, yet rather just a representation of music that delighted my ears this year. Ranking implies direct comparison, which becomes more and more ridiculous when you're talking about listening to Radiohead one minute and then Hulk the next; they are nothing alike in the sense of comparing for enjoyment value. And, here...we...go!
GRAILS Take Refuge In Clean Living and Doomsdayer's Holiday. Nary a year goes by now that Portland noir-folk-psych rock band Grails doesn't have a release and, more importantly, a release that pleases again and again. After repeated listens to both, however, they might have waited to release another full-length until next year, as Doomsdayer's Holiday lacks just a touch of the strength and completeness that the last three releases have. Still great albums, though. Most bands would love to release just one record as good as the lesser of two Grails albums in one year.
HELIOS Caesura. In all honesty, this album is in a dead heat for favorite of the year. Beyond that, I can't say much more than what I've already said in my review, which I think will speak volumes more than what I could blabber here.
HULK Rise of A Mystery Tide. Absolutely mind-blowing. I've never heard anything else like it and it is truly exciting when you feel like an artist has cracked open the protective shell around a previously unexplored galaxy of sound and style. At some times reminiscent of a Jan Jelinek album, Rise of A Mystery Tide also drives towards a minimal Classical and I don't think that is even a fair attempt at describing it. The leap in progress from the first Hulk release to this one is also startling. I consider this a must listen for anybody who dares to consider themselves a serious music junkie (this doesn't mean you're required to like it, just listen fucker!).
PAAVOHARJU Laulu Laakson Kukista. Ummmm, I'm certainly glad I'm writing this and not trying to pronounce it to you in person. Equally as original and individual as Hulk's release, this Finnish outfit has finally scored the soundtrack to the most bizarre of recurring dreams. Everything you hear dances in these little confined spaces like snowglobes, weaving in and out of a myriad of voices that utter somnambulant promises. It is, at times, even an attack on the senses, but one that is welcomed, almost yearned for like a masochist awaiting the whip.
HANS ZIMMER and JAMES NEWTON HOWARDThe Dark Knight OST. I really include this primarily for the aforementioned single droning note of angst and horrified anticipation that accompanies all the scenes involving the Joker. In the words of my friend Iris, "They fucking nailed it with that soundtrack, man!!"
JACASZEK Treny. Michael Jacaszek hails from Poland, which is the basics of what I know about him. His album is one of those that I was talking about earlier that is primarily Modern Classical, but comes out sounding like an Electronica record, but just minus the beats (not even micro-programming ala Murcof). Simple, heart-wrenching beauty that haunts while simultaneously warming and soothing you. God damn, people are making some great music to score the imaginary love scenes of my life. Too bad I'm the only one who gets to see them, good thing is, we can all hear the music.
HAUSCHKA Ferndorf. Prepared piano, cello and viola and some percussive sounds make for another new millenium chamber music. A bit more upbeat than some of the others in this musical gene pool.
ALPS III. In a manner void of the dark noir rock and world music influence that Grails bring to the (turn)table, time spent listening to the Alps begs me to get extremely high smoking bowl after bowl. III just has the feel of music you'd love to hear as you make the return trip home from a weekend of camping and doing mushrooms in the woods. All the car windows are rolled down, the music is up and almost now words are uttered at all, even amongst very close friends, as all would prefer to just exist in that telepathic state. That's the basic gist of this record. This San Francisco band (including members of Tarentel) is a great addition to the Type Records lineup.
The BLACK ANGELS Directions to See a Ghost. This is my generation's Velvet Underground, that's about all you need to know. Fantastic album of throwback-to-the-60s psychedelic rock.
BLACK MOUNTAIN In The Future. This one almost gets lost in the mix purely for the fact that it was released in January, but this junkie won't exlcude it from the musical Oscars just because of release timing. "Wucan" was my first anthem of the year, as I got hooked on its repetitive, ascending guitar line and spooky singing by both Stephen McBean and Amber Webber. They played an awesome live show, but the smoke machine was retarded and kept pumping waaaaaayyy too much fake smoke out.
FOUR TET Ringer. This little EP restored my faith in Kieran Hebden, as the collaborations with Steve Reid had begun to kill my Four Tet buzz. Combining his electro-roots with a new psychedelic bent, Hebden takes a turn for the better and rekindles my love for his music.
KANGDING RAY Automne Fold. One of the darkest, most ominous packages of heavy, bass-sunken beats to also ignite the romantic side. I love the new directions in heavy music ocurring in the world of Electronica. I guess that sometimes I imagine this album being the soundtrack to the inner monologue of a sensitive warrior, constantly amidst thoughts of a lover and the mortal moments of combat. A musical representation of the ebb and flow between rage and love that marks the madness of our world. My review.
JOHAN JOHANSSON Fordlandia. Modern Classical at its best, Fordlandia possesses all the melancholy memorabilia of the 21st Century collector's soul - the sadness of people stuck in the disconnect of owning kitsch representations of the real. Yet, the album also holds firmly to a sense of hope. So, maybe it is a perfect compliment to the regime change put clearly down on November 4th. All of the interludes ("Melodia i-iv") are these compact little poems, comprised mostly of woodwinds and their motifs speak for the hopeful side of the record.
GROUPER Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill. Spooky? Check. Warm? Check. Dreamy? For Certain. Delay pedal? Double check so much you can't even tell there's some straight up Flying Saucer Attack crazy shit going on in the far reaches of this album's sonic palate. Her voice is beautifully, nightmarishly soothing, but don't ask me to explain how that description really makes sense in my head. The scary little 70s horror movie girl on the front cover, though? Makes me wanna run and scream and lose my mind in grainy 35mm. My review? Check 1, Check 2...Waiter, check please!
GOLDMUND The Malady of Elegance. This was definitely Keith Kenniff's year. After a disappointing 2-Point Discrimination out of his Goldmund appellation, he drives in the crucial winning runs with this gorgeous collection of piano contemplations and then the aforementioned Helios release. Way to go Keith! This album has lulled me to happy nights of sleep many a time this year since its release. Resurrecting Erik Satie must be a totally satisfying hobby. I sure hope Keith found time to etch some musical commandments into stone this year.
FAX Yo Recuerdo. Static Discos labelmate of Murcof, Ruben Tamayo kept me company for many a mile through the great Rockies states during a road trip. Particularly the track "Cuarto Para Tres", which became an essential driving track in the vast expanses between sightings of people. A beautiful place to be.
LIBRARY TAPES A Summer Beneath The Trees. As melancholy as A Silver Mt. Zion, if not more for the lack of human voices, but as dusty as the Western Frontier of 200 years ago. This album, every track contained within, moves with the deliberateness of a shy, yet hungry cat. A Summer Beneath The Trees is the kind of music I would put on a mixed tape for a new girlfriend in the hopes that she would understand its seemingly sad, out-of-placeness amongst other sounds.
CLARK Turning Dragon. Alright, this is a bit of trickery throwing this one in here, because it is my biggest, most complete disappointment of all of 2008, musically speaking. After the brilliance of Body Riddle, I was expecting a knockout follow-up. Instead, I receieved a huge, steaming pile of whatever the fuck Clark wanted to call music, er, shit. Stay away, unless you base all of your musical opinions on what I don't like.
ZOZOBRA Bird of Prey. More electric metal coursing through my veins from the Zozobra-bruh-bros (worst pun I've made all year...this album doesn't deserve that kind of treatment). A bit more straight forward than Harmonic Tremors, but delightful rock-the-fuck-out Summer driving music.
SYLVAIN CHAUVEAU The Black Book of Capitalism. I didn't even know the title of this record until after it had spent a week on my turntable. The last time my homie Bench and I went to Sleazy Street Records I picked this up on vinyl thinking it was an older release. Come to find out, it was brand new...follow my whiskey nose, it always knows! Some of the more refined compositions in his repertoir and I listened to it for a week solid not caring for names, but just enjoying personalities of songs and the album as a whole. Then, the album title sealed the deal for me, a fantastic record. What is on the black book of Capitalism? Freedom? Individuality? Common Sense? I continue to search through my mind...
PORTISHEAD Third. I wish all my favorite bands/acts could take ten years off and come back with one of the coolest records of the year. Totally preferable to releasing a bunch of fart-smelling filler for those ten years. Kudos to Portishead for not losing their shit!

Now, I'm getting tired of writing blurbs for every freakin' rekkid, so here's a little list of some other '08 releases worthy of attention. Even if that attention comes from you hitting the stop button.
BITCRUSH Epilogue In Waves
THE BOATS Faulty Tuned Radios
GESKIA Silent 77
PART TIMER Blue
BRAEL/TOKYO BLOODWORM Living Language
CON_CETTA Micro
BOLA Kroungrine
CANYONSOFSTATIC The Disappearance
COMATONE & FOLEY Trigger Happy
CULT OF LUNA Eternal Kingdom
DREAMSPLOITATION The Soft Focus Sound of Today
FJORDNE The Last Three Days of Time
JOE BEATS Diverse Recourse
MILLIMETRIK Northwest Passage's New Era
MOGWAI The Hawk Is Howling

And then, something I think is very important, the music not from 2008 that I discovered during the '08 calendar year. The biggest highlight is, by far, Deru and Julien Neto. Some others are Erkin Koray and Los Dug Dugs. There's so much more, but at this point, I feel I should be done and you've probably quit trying to finish this post anyways! Cheers and here's to an 09 this tasty.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

saturn shrine

12.09.08
{Saturn Shrine}

her breathy voice heralded
the age of lullabies
she turned her head, upward
urging us all to view the stars
for the first time all over again
and pick the spaces between them
and fill them with invisible stars
made of the wonder
that children possess unfiltered
untainted
the almost tangible side
of imagination, that
makes the ridiculous practical
dreams that remain
upon awakening, like
running your fingers
through the bounded spaces
between hairs on a bee’s thorax

and then she swelled with a cry
to make the unreal, real.
to live beyond the confines
of our own enslavement
to truly define love
instead of commodifying it
upon which, she exploded
into a cloud of stardust and hope
recapitulated into the ether…

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thinking Critically About Race: A Lesson 4 White People Pt. 1

There's an advertisement out right now for Chase credit cards, which features a well-dressed, well-groomed black man filmed in glossy black and white. He's talking about what he's going to do with his rewards and he says, as he adjusts the lapel and seem of his coat, "I'm gonna take all my ladies out to a nice dinner." Now, seconds later, there is a shot where he is greeting his daughters, with an implied wife to follow. However, this is how deep racism goes in our country, because whoever wrote that ad had to have known that they were playing with the Black man as pimp stereotype the way it was set up and delivered. Now, an even deeper part of the problem lie in the fact that it is, on one hand, positive to have Black actors prominent in an advertisement to continue conditioning white people to their existence and supposed equality, but, on the other hand, why can we not put this man in a role that doesn't skid back and forth across the line of sickly implicit racism? The next ad in the series is a quaint, no-fuckin-worries-in-my-life White woman talking about getting her dog a doghouse. How come the Black man isn't in that ad??? A big part of what makes this really horrible is the fact that the creators of the ad rely on the fact that you, the viewer, won't necessarily think about this consciously, but that it will make your implicit, inherent racism more virulent and more acceptable. Thus, it will also make it less visible to the uncritical mind. Just chew on that shit for a while and think...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Breaking Up Should Be Easy As Hell!!


Closed an account at WaMu today and, like every time any regulah muthafucka closes a bank account, the fuckin' undereducated, but overly-confident financial assistant has to ask you, "And what are your reasons for leaving us?" First, no matter how nice they are, this makes me wanna punch them in the nose. Today, I just sharply told her that it was none of her business. But it all felt like I had just dumped a long-time girlfriend. What was I supposed to tell the bank employee? "Well, you don't give head nearly enough, you're kinda boring in the sack anyways, you don't listen to me when I talk, my record store allowance has dwindled and you never compliment me on my vintage HipHop style anymore!!!" Just feels so fuckin' contrived (like 95% of my actual relationships...hmmmm?!?!?). Then, get this, I had to explain the math to her...really??? You're fucking kidding me, you work in a bank and you have to verify the amount of change to give me? Good lord, I could pick a fuckin' Kindergarten kid who could do this job more proficiently. Is this why student loans are so gotdamn crazy outta control, because sorority/fraternity kids have to get a bullshit Econ. degree to fuck shit up at the bank for me??? Damn. Barack, my brotha, can you please put a big, Harvard-educated boot up the ass of all this bullshit mess we call a society? Please??!?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Record Review: Helios Caesura

What follows is the review of Caesura by Helios, which is up on The Silent Ballet (the site I write for). I'm posting this here in the hopes of getting more folks who know me, but not the site, to read this review of possibly my favorite album of 2008 and check out the site. It's a good resource for instrumental, experimental and electronic music styles if you'd like to broaden your knowledge base or horizons. Enjoy!

Word is going around town that this is one of the most colorful, vibrant Seattle Autumns in a half century. A proliferation of maples and other deciduous trees, coupled with a slow petering out of Summer, have created a truly polychromatic Autumn here. The time to sit under the blankets with a bowl of soup and a good record is quickly unfolding. And with the arrival of Keith Kennif’s newest release under his Helios appellation, we have the soundtrack to these ever-brisker days in Caesura.
There is something to be said for the timing of a release, because Caesura truly is the music of Autumn. The notes descend like orange-green maple leaves, falling gently back and forth on minimalist brushes of an invisible breeze—what I like to envision as the breath of the heavens making slow change. A change that is guarded from the observer’s naked eye underneath soft layers of fog, rain and the warm anticipation of snow around the corner of a cold, still, starlit night. A perfect example of this feeling would be the way the guitar slips quietly in the front door of “Fourteen Drawings.” Yet, through all this, there is also an emergent sense of a sun-soaked morning after dark for days on end. This modality of change can be seen in Kennif’s mastery of dynamics. With a careful, purposeful musical mind he quietly pushes different elements (i.e. drums, guitar) to your attention, while maintaining fluidity worthy of a great river. The elements he wants you to pay attention to ebb and flow like Autumnal shifts in color and light that are only noticeable over the passage of time.
While Caesura might be the music of Autumn, it is simultaneously the music of movement and the slowing of blurred surroundings until you can make out the details from afar. I sit here writing this with the feeling that I will glean additional emotional timbre and enjoyment from this album while riding my bike through one of these crystalline Fall days as it is swallowed by darkness. Even the progression of the album, from track to track, goes from light to dark with the more ponderous electric guitar line of “Mima” (just while I’m thinking about it, the acoustic guitar of that song has the same saccharine and sadness of Grouper’s newest album).
In keeping with the theme of slow, barely discernible change, I would like you to meditate on my next thought while you listen to the album. Kennif’s style as Helios hasn’t ambled far from Eingya or Unomia, but I can’t complain as it almost seems perfect in the space it occupies. Taking in the scope of all three records to inform where Caesura ends up, I think of a satellite with its predestined orbit that is still capable of new findings. To better illustrate my point, “Fourteen Drawings” is an emotional parallel or cousin to “Halving The Compass.” But this is not to say that Kennif is running out of ideas, rather perfecting closer studies of the emotional range he’d like to represent in his music. With “Fourteen Drawings” tears edge their way to the corners of my eyes like the first time I met my youngest niece; the song’s sense of viridity is pressing in its blunt honesty. “Glimpse” can also be seen as a parallel to the past. It is a marriage of the hopeful seeking of love from afar with the immediacy of an initial graze of hands that feel the urgency to touch, but the hesitancy of moving too fast. To me, this directly shares a tenor of fascination with many of the songs on Four Tet’s album Pause.
Nevertheless, Kennif has made some significant strides in his guitar playing, even though he’s still no Hendrix, and skills on a trap set. What further sets off his progress on the drums is the interplay between live drums and use of tiny, compressed (usually programmed) drum tracks. “Backlight” has a luscious heaviness to it with drums up-front and personal set to a backdrop of keyboard drones washing heavily away in the background. Then, to close it out, the programmed rhythm track is imitative of quick inhalations of reverse cymbals that pull the drums back into the dark. The heaviness of “Backlight” is evocative of a dream moving from uncontrollable to lucidity; the reassurance that not all is out of control. Closing out the transitions of the album, “Hollie” ends in a swirl of chimes ill-concerned with timing that engulf the cardiac rhythm of the drums.
So, what truly sets this album apart from his previous efforts is, firstly, his ability to perform much more in-depth studies of the emotional range he wants to portray, which I have already identified. Second, is his Escher-esque power to illustrate difference within pattern and similarity. Through the first 3 listens of Caesura, I felt that seeing some of the songs performed at Decibel Festival afforded me a more present, tactile feel to the album. However, I have to say that, now into the fifteenth listen, I feel a sense of familiarity directly coupled with a very foreign feel. The slow, Autumnal decay of sound and resonance into the negative space of silence and pause create a wonderful, paradoxical love for this album. This is a rare album, simply due to its majesty.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pass the Gat!

It's been a bit since I threw some morsels of my mind on the scrap floor for you, my minions, to scurry after and snatch up. A lot has been happening, as is the case in almost anybody's life. Some summational thoughts: The Red Sox got knocked out of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Rays, who, in turn, had their asses handed to them by the Philadelphia Phillies. This was a mildly satisfying postseason...but the Steve Harvey Show didn't make it any better. I did make a new Sox buddy out of watching these games, my man Mike (he comes down to the Pub and is a grad student). I finally moved into my new spot about 2 months ago, which is nice to not be in limbo anymore. Decibel Festival was absolutely amazing! Made new friends, hung out all weekend with old ones and listened to some sweet music. However, I learned that weekend that my mom has breast cancer, again. Since then, she's had her surgery and is recuperating nicely, but it is a stressful time for a family. So, in the style of life that patterns emerge and disappear all the time, I am back here at the Pub on a Sunday, working a double shift, enduring the slow half and listening to old school (read=quality) HipHop. I started out by pumpin' Brand Nubian's second album In God We Trust on the drive in and finished it out as I opened the bar. I still remeber the first time I heard this LP when the first song starts up with the Muslim call to prayer (it is, in fact, titled "Allah U Akbar"), I am transported back to my 19th year and a small house on Beacon Hill. I was hanging out with my friend Kendall and in between Front 242 albums, he put this album on. I also recall watching Malcolm X that day in a shady, smokey living room. I was trying to quit smoking that day, but the way Spike Lee had captured the smokey Jazz club scenes, I just broke down. Then, before I got any customers today, I played some tracks from Cypress Hill's third album and that shit is waaaaay better than I remember it. When it came out, I thought it was a steaming pile of crap, but in retrospect and through all the subsequent years of total trash being put out as "HipHop", I have come to see it as a better than average album. Now, I'm listening to Doomilation, which is a collection of different singles and b-sides MF Doom has done with varying producers and MC's. This Sunday's plunge into HipHop is brought to you solely by JakeOne's new album White Van Music. Check it, the shit is f'real.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Spreading Happiness and Warm Fuzzies

So, the other day I received an email from one of my fellow writers at the Silent Ballet (site where I contribute record reviews, for those that slept) in regards to my review of Grouper (originally posted here before Silent Ballet). I would like to quote him in the entirety of the email, because it made my fuckin week:
"Gabriel, my anonymous neighbor, I must commend you on your review of
Grouper's latest (I was wondering when someone was actually going to
do that. It's been sittin' on the server for months it seems).

I just think your review reads more as a warm personal account
peppered with analytical and relevant information. I think it's the
kind of FEEL that i like in music reviews - a feel we don't usually
see out of this line of work. It felt good to read. And, having
bought the album when it came out, it was brilliant to read the last
line about how it was perhaps better for a lover rather than your
friends.

Nice stuff. Here ye, here ye."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Much Gratitude to Reggie Willits

For stinkin' it up tonight in Game 4 of the ALDS, Reggie Willits wins a special spot in my Red Sox heart. First, you get caught nappin' on the squeeze play, allowing Tekkie to tag you out in a sprint back to the 3rd base bag. Then, you fail to put the ball in your glove and roll the red carpet out for Jason Bay all the way to 2nd base. It was a nerve-racking game that made me grumpy and jumpy after the Angels tied it up (no offense Tito, but why didn't Jon Lester pitch to at least the first batter or two in the top of the 8th???), which is the pre-2004 kind of Sox fan shining through. However, I hung in there, fighting off urges to leave early, and was rewarded with the joy of a walk-off single by Jed Muthafuckin' Lowrie! On to the ALCS for the 4th time since 2003. Cheers boys!

Friday, September 26, 2008

CVJ FTW!

When you listen closely and really think about it, Casino Versus Japan is to Electronic(a) music what Flying Saucer Attack is to stoned-out, delay-pedal-stuck-on-On-position Rock music. Discuss...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Promise, My Word, My Empathy

Last Saturday I made a promise to my buddy Steve Genson, that if the Cubs win the World Series this year, then I would buy all his drinks for the weekend of the clinching game. Steve is a farmer and a 54-year fan of the Chicago Cubs (he's 54 years old, btw), thus long suffering and skeptical of any glimmer of hope that his team could win, despite the fact that they have taken the lion's share of best record in the Majors this season. I'll keep this short so as not to possibly hex the Cubbies, because, despite my love for the Red Sox, I really would like to see the North siders win this year. Cheers to ya Steve!
FUCK!!! I just saw Steve last night at work and, while he was holding together alright, I haven't seen a baseball fan's face like that since Aaron Fuckin' Boone. Sorry Steve, that series sucked balls for Cubs fans.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Real DJ Vadim: When Found, Please Return to Earth.

Anybody remember when DJ Vadim could get your granny dancin' her bloomers off while simultaneously maintaining artistic credibility? Yeah? Well, that mother fucker is dead and every time I listen to Life From The Other Side or The Isolationist, I get all bummed out, because dude has lost his fuckin musical way. So, anybody out there who runs into him on the street, I want you to beat his ass, kidnap him and bring him to me, where I will convince him to quit pursuing this whack-ass shit that panders to pussy dance floors and R&B airwaves and return to his bad-ass dance floor rockin', real-ass Hip-Hop that he once knew. It's like some kinda kung fu movie where the main character has fucked up his style by taking on too many new popular styles and needs an old master (me, in this case) to right his ship and refine and simplify his style. Nuff said, bitches!!!

Quitting Smoking is Simultaneously a Huge Bitch and a Fantastic Trip

It is now 9 days (and counting) of no smokin' and I have to say that I've discovered new layers of anger and hate within my personality that, I guess, I knew existed, but had buried away for a while. Mostly, this comes out when I come out of the house. If I can isolate myself indoors with minimal people, lots of music with headphones and baseball games or CSI reruns, then I can feel centered, balanced, happy. However, out in the world, I turn into a fucking demon with a mouth full of insults, epithets and venom. And, to top it off, I seem to be lapsing back into some of my assumed-to-be-gone post-accident ptsd symptoms. I've begun to have the sleep interrupting spasms and dreams that I thought I had rid myself of. Apparently, I'd mostly rid myself of them through smoking and drinking. What a healthy, therapeutic approach to life! Well, I'm working on drastically changing all that shit. Hopefully, the ptsd shit will fade quickly by being smothered by the growth and health that results from my changes here.

Tangential Non-Sequiturs

My buddy White Chocolate and I just went from Toothless Crack Whore to Blue Danube in 45 seconds...fill in the gaps please (oh, what an unintentional pun!!!).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chompin' at the Bit: Some Preliminary Thoughts on the Best Albums of 2008

It may be a little early to do this, but I have an itchy trigger finger this year (possibly due to Silent Ballet staff discussion threads on the upcoming end of the year lists). I'll try to keep with the spirit of my list for 2007, which departed from the protocol of strict ranking. For a refresher, check that post from January. Also, this is purely a preliminary list, as it is only the second half of September and there are many opportunities for good albums to be released in the next 3 months. However, most labels refrain from releasing their strongest material during the holiday season, because it is supposedly a dreadfully slow time for album sales. Pictured above are The Black Angels, authors of one of this year's finest LPs.
First off, my beloved Grails are special enough to have not one, but two albums in the running. First came their EP Take Refuge In Clean Living, which was classic Grails and the only drawback was a potential oversight in track order. Then, well, actually, their newest LP Doomsdayer's Holiday hasn't even been released yet, but let me tell you, it kicks ass! When I wrote praises of Grails being one the best bands out there in a post earlier this year, I meant it. This was not just fan-boy drooling acclaim.
As for our pictured friends above, The Black Angels, their newest album, Directions To See A Ghost, is true to their peyote trip-induced sound that Jim Morrison would fawn over and only Lou Reed and friends have achieved in the past. This album is so damn hypnotic that I try not to listen to it while driving, as I feel it could be detrimental to my driving ability, specially at night.
How 'bout a shout from the past? This band hasn't produced any new material in ten years, but they haven't missed a beat. Portishead, ladies and germs, put out an incredibly strong LP in the form of 3rd. There was a lot of griping at the time of release, because folks felt it was too much of a departure from their original sound. I agree, it's a departure, slightly, but a good one; this album is powerful and concise, while retaining the oozing emotional schema they began with on the likes of Dummy.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band continued to supply our eardrums with anarcho-socialist revolutionary soundtracks to our collective unconscious melancholy on 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons. Though, I can't say I've listened to this ASMZ album with the same zeal as previous recordings, they haven't lost their zest. My recommendation would be to pass on this while perusing the racks in your local record store if, that is, you already have all the other ASMZ LPs. The first 12 tracks are just a bunch of screaching noise, though they total about 42 seconds it seems like a lifetime, and feel like absolute garbage intro fodder. They could've just put up the four songs and left it at that.
2008 also served to turn me onto a band that I heard a million times, but never paid any attention to back in my record store employee days. I understand it's not a new album, apparently a digest of oddities and b-sides, but Bardo Pond's Batholith turned me on to another fabulous vein of stoner rock. I'd just like to apologize to my homey Barrett for always dissin' this shit back in our Cellophane days, my bad. I had a terrific time spacing out to this album on the couch, headphones cranked up full, the first thorough listen.
So, at my work at the bar, we staff often play tunes from our iPods for the whole bar and every once in a while a coworker will play an album I know, but for some reason hearing it at the pub makes it new and I invariably ask, "Whatchya playin?" Well, Station by Russian Circles has done that to me every time.
Unfortunately, 2008 is a year without a Murcof release. Luckily, his Static Discos labelmate Fax put out Yo Recuerdo to keep me infused with Tijuana techno. I think my review of this album should suffice, so click on the link mother fucker!!!
Some albums are like time warps. The Black Angels album is one good example and starts the theme. Black Mountain, a Vancouver band steeped in druggy, 70's rock tradition really came into their own this year with In The Future. Their previous releases are solid and definitely display the beginnings of a unique style (particularly the use of numerous synthesizers and keyboards to augment that 70's sound), but this album was a full on launch into orbit. It felt like the dawning of a band that should loom large over the landscape for years to come. Oh right, almost forgot, saw these folks live and that shit was awesome, dreamlike.
Max Richter has been releasing some wonderfully heartfelt neo-classical compositions and 24 Postcards In Full Color is no exception. Great for quieter times or moments spent gazing off into sunsets or fog-filled mornings. My only complaint about this album is the extreme brevity of the songs/sketches.
As I mentioned above, 2008 lacks a release from Murcof, the master in minimal, micro-house electronica. Mercifully, the gods saw it fit to have Kangding Ray, aka David Letellier, provide our ears and imaginations with such a masterpiece as Automne Fold. My second start-to-finish listening of this album was a legendary experience on the couch...but my review, accessible through the hypertext, will explain it all. Bass that rushes through your hair like a sudden Alpine gust through the meadows below.
More electronica! Four Tet put out Ringer to much delight. This was a fabulous EP, but that was my biggest disappointment as well. I wanted a full length album. However, Ringer was wonderfully executed, what else can I say that I already haven't?
Cult of Luna, Eternal Kingdom. A solid record by one of my favorite metal bands, but I don't know if anything can surpass the excellence of Somewhere Along The Highway.
More metal please! Zozobra, who rocked my wordl opening for ISIS in 2007 with a show so packed with energy that it could've been just another day at the Hadron Particle Collider, released Bird of Prey. Their debut LP, Harmonic Tremors, carried the same energetic heft as the live show. The combination may have made it my favorite album of '07, at least the most listened to. Bird of Prey falls slightly short of expanding on the previous work, but at least the blueprint from which it is copied is so masterful. This album, formulaic at moments, still rocks some serious ass.
So, here's one I'm not sure I can even begin to categorize (not that I want to pigeon-hold everything, but it can be helpful for description). Rise Of A Mystery Tide by Hulk is something else. Maybe minimal electro-ambient? Maybe avant garde? Do I really care? No, because this album is so packed with beauty it makes me twitch at the edge of exploding when I listen to it. The song "Sending Armadas" is only representative of its name in the way it rolls in in endless waves, an ocean of clarinets and oboes washed below the surface of metallic strings and creaking beams of wood.
Alright, time for a quick list of "still in the running" titles, that really I'm just too tired to write much about.
Alias Resurgam
Bitcrush Epilogue In Waves
Erik Levander Kondens
Goldmund The Malady Of Elegance
Grouper Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill
Melvins Nude With Boots
Mogwai
The Hawk Is Howling. Their live show kind of ruined it for me, but still a good record.
Yann Tiersen Tabarly

Let's hope the next couple of months bring some more tasty treats!
Oh, and by the way, I already know the biggest disappointment of 2008, maybe even the worst album of any artist who I expect something from: Turning Dragon by Clark. Album sucked a fat one, period.

Drinking Games

So, I haven't had a cigarette in 6 days (almost 7 at the time of this post) and consequently not been drinking alcohol more than a drink here and there (booze is my biggest smoking trigger). So, why is it that I think of a drinking game at this time???
My friend Jesse and I have been undergoing tests of endurance, kind of like Bikram Yoga ten-hour sessions, but with CSI marathons. I recently came into some cheap box sets of seasons 1 & 2, the reason for the endurance tests. In the course of watching, say, 24 episodes of CSI in a 4-day span, you begin to notice formulaic reiterances throughout all episodes; think of it as a screenwriting fractal, patterns repeating within patterns. This has lead me to an inspired moment that went something like this, "Hey Jess, we should make a drinking game for this show."
"That could get out of hand," was her reply.
So, for shits and giggles, I googled "csi drinking game" and found this. A CSI: Miami Drinking Game, which is freakin awesome! I mean, Miami is the most hilarious trainwreck of all the CSI franchises, but I'd like to make one for the original Vegas version (I personally find nothing redeeming about the New York version, at least you can laugh at the ridiculousness of David Caruso in Miami).
Also, once I'm in the clear of quitting smoking and can booze-hound it up again, then we (me and anybody else?!?!?!?!?) should play a round of the CSI: Miami game. Anyone up for it?
It's on!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sox Skewer Rays 13-5

Oh, and by the way, the Red Sox wiped the floor with Scott Kazmir for a percentage-point difference tie atop the AL East. Way to go boys!

09.17.08 Starting to think I should stop writing about Red Sox games on here, because I either jinx them during a game or for the next day's game.

Grails - Doomsdayers Holiday


I have alerted you, my fair, intelligent readers, in the past of the rock supremacy of Portland band, Grails. I hope that you have heeded my advice to listen, and listen good, because if you are up to speed on some or all of their discography (rapidly growing), then you'll be prepared for their coming album, Doomsdayers Holiday. I won't delve into details or reviewing the album just yet, but this record kicks ass! Also, don't miss your very next opportunity to see this band live; I botched it for my buddy and myself just this last time around. Needless to say, I won't be missing them the next trip through Seattle. For any friends or readers who are on the East Coast, they are swinging your way first before the West. John, I'm looking at you. They'll be doing three shows in the NY, most notably at the Knitting Factory Nov. 22nd. Check it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

reincarnation blues (poem inspired by Grails' song of same name)


reincarnation blues
[grails]
09.14.08

and I am suddenly pushed,
like a surprised child
finding herself
on a carnival ride
she wasn’t interested in
but willing
to enjoy

south asian flautist
leading the dance
of vibration, capitulating
copulating
the entire path
to reincarnation:
the searing heat
that rattles your marrow
splintering
bone from nerve
until:
you’re not sure you can
take it anymore
or if you love it
so much, you’d
dive right back in

wobbling, cosmically
between voices and memories
taking blind strikes
at slicing the confining wall
trying to sever its dominance
like a slit sheet
in the dark, caliginous
Georgia sun:

void of winds
of freedom
yet, abundant
moisture
of weight, oppression

pushing the soul
back against
that confining wall,
ignorant of the soul’s
power infinite

like waves
demanding a retention
of individuality
within the current…
lead
to the dance
of vibration, capitulation
copulation
the entire path
to reincarnation


NOTE: Thanks to Jason (White Chocolate) for being honest enough to convince me that the original opening stanza of this poem sucked and to remove it. Honesty, FTW!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Old Skewl Hip Hop Sunday...Again. Thanks to Peter!

Mad Props to Peter G for hookin me up wit' a digital copy of Diamon D & the Psychotic Neurotics' LP Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop!! This certainly brings back memories, but of what I don't know, cuz I was so fuckin high at the time!!! Seriously though, this is one of those hidden jewels from the earl-mid '90s that many a hip hop listener doesn't even know very well. In fact, you'd have to be Diggin' In The Crates (the name of the production crew consistin of Diamond D, AG, Dres of the Black Sheep and some others) to find this record; I put out a call here in an earlier post that I needed a copy of this album and my man Peter came through. I thought I had it on vinyl, but no, I'm not that special. Man I miss those days from '89 to '95. I love finding the ol' style crew photos, so many of which were tastefully done in black and white, and reminiscing about my days spent ballin' in family housing and rollin' all pseudo-thug stylee with Starter jackets on and drinkin' 40's we jacked from the Albertson's in the neighborhood. That Albertson's was closed, demolished and replaced by a yuppie boutiqe Metropolitan Market, which doesn't even sell 40's and probably would eject anyone in a Starter jacket on sight. Sounds like the demise of hip hop. Sniff sniff.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Xenophobia and Racism in Sports Journalism


It should first be known that I am a huge proponent of unilateral, across-the-board equal opportunity destroyer kinds of disdain for fellow human beings, but especially white people. Okay, all joking (?) aside, I get really tired of reading articles about sports, baseball in particular, where it has become acceptable fashion to refer to the country-of-origin whereabouts of certain players/participants, but not others. Does this sound familiar to anyone with 5 seconds worth of education? This is the antithetical representation of the ideology behind equal rights. Say it with me..."equal rights!" You see, the thing about subscribing to a true doctrine of equality would mean to treat everybody the same, in as much as that is possible, seeing that we are all so fucking different that it may be a philosophical and mental impossibility to truly do so. However, if you read the caption under "photo wire" in this recap of the Mariners and Angels professional baseball contest tonight, you'll notice that only Ichiro [Suzuki] is identified by his country of origin, which points directly to race in the modern mind. So, why the fuck is that? Simple, we are so entrenched in our racism and xenophobia that it has become commonplace to identify all that is not white as something other. Now, the question I'm not sure I can answer is, "What purpose does that serve?" Other than to fortify and validate the white, mainstream paradigm of power, I don't know. And let me tell you, I'm fucking sick of the white, mainstream paradigm of power.
Now, the reason I have posted this with a picture of Joe Morgan is to illustrate what now becomes even more complex of an issue. Joe Morgan grew up in the tail end of Jim Crow Amerikkka and broke into the big leagues on the coattails of Jackie Robinson in an era when black ballplayers (just as all black people) had to walk down the street with eyes in the back of their heads (not that this has changed all that much, it's just sublimated so you think things are better). What bums me out the most is that Joe himself has repeatedly pointed out negative aspects (in his mind) of Japanese players' influx into the Major Leagues. For example, Morgan continously attacked Ichiro's very elligibility to win the Rookie of the Year Award, because Ichiro had already played pro ball in Japan. I don't even wanna get started in on how fractured Morgan's logic is; I'll just let you stew on that one. What is unfortunate is that Morgan has seemingly learned nothing about the politics of his youth and the teachings of that era, most notably King, X and Jackie as well. Is this just another manifestation of how once somebody gets theirs they don't need to worry about anybody else???

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Getting my fat ass back in shape, hopefully

On Monday, I took a ride that ended up totaling about 32 miles, but would look like a ball of tangled yarn with a kitten stuck in the middle if I mapped it out for you. Yesterday, Tuesday, I took another wonderful ride in the perfect, mild Seattle Summer sun. I rode from Maple Leaf down into the U-District and then plopped myself onto the Lake Washington Blvd Loop starting near MOHAI and weaving through the neighborhoods on the back side of Cap Hill. I ended up at Seward Park and did a loop around the Park's peninsula. I ended up cranking up the hill from the Park and dumping down into Rainier Valley. Picked up some coffee, some food and generally just had a grand afternoon in the sun. I didn't take the pic above, but it's a perfect representation of the view from Seward to Mt. Rainier. If I can keep this pace up, by the time Winter rolls in, I might be able to fit back into my shrunken American Apparel ISIS t-shirt!

Red Sox vs Rays on a Wednesday

Some douchebag goes for fan interference to make the 2nd Sox out of the 2nd inning. However, through three innings, Josh Beckett has thrown 73% of his pitches for strikes, including 100% of his curveballs. That nasty curve is looking extra sweet tonight and has been his out pitch on all 4 strikeouts so far. Jed Lowrie just reached on the first base hit of the night for the Sox, backing up my argument that he is awesome, even if some feel that it is just the same old disease of Sox fans going overboard on praising the new prospects comin up to the bigs. Ellsbury grounds into a double play, which is rare, but bummin me out. I have to say that after listening to Rick Sutcliffe call this game on ESPN for only a few innings, I'd love to kick him in the balls. Mostly, I feel this way, because he is hellbent on continuing to make disparaging comments about Manny Ramirez in comparison to something Jason Bay does. Manny has his shortcomings and I am all down with Jason Bay, but can ya shut the fuck up already? This is totally counterproductive and Sutcliffe's shitty attitude and white boy arrogance were probably a factor in his getting cancer. I can make this joke, because he is in remission, has health insurance and is a rich and famous cocksmoker.
5.17 pm: Ummmmmm, Beckett's curve is just plain filthy. Strikes out the side in the 3rd AND 4th for a K/9 ratio of 15.75. Doh! sez the opposing batter. Now, if only the offense coulod get it rolling to break the 1-1 tie.
5.29 pm: still keeping a steady 73% strike ratio of pitches, shiiiiitt.
5.39 pm: recovering from a near heart attack as Beckett gets Cliff Floyd to pop out to wiggle out of a two-out bases-loaded jam. whew! think I need to puke. Jed Lowrie leads off the bottom of the 5th and gets the ground-rule double!!! Ugh, so tired of watching replays of Tom Brady's knee getting shredded...have I ever said I look down my nose at football? specially when it's the fucking pennant races right now in baseball!!
6.09 pm: Beckett can only get the ND. fell apart a bit, right after I talked his performance up, coincidentally. Okajima has a nice 7th, though, which is encouraging, because the pen between the starters and Papelbon has been nail-bitingly unnerving at times this season.
6.12 pm: I wish I could be at Fenway this September and October.
6.38 pm: Justin Masterson lookin mighty fine comin outta the 'pen in the 8th; sweet strikeout of Navarro on 5 filthy pitches and then induces the inning-ending ground out. Still 1-1, though.
9.31 pm: Ugh, what a drawn-out torture scene. Sox lose in the 14th, 4-2. Carlos Pena strikes again, like some kinda vampire.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

JT, better than Michael Jackson

I've recently realized that I may need to re-assess my entire philosophical/aesthetic life because of Justin Timberlake. Based on my 'Snob Principles', I want to dislike him, because he's a pop star and his music isn't what I deem artistically intellectual or stimulating (god, I sound awful). BUT, I can't help it, the guy is super charismatic and funny...think I'm gonna go live in a log cabin in an isolated Polish forest now. Bye.

Funniest Shit I've seen in a Loooong time

This was sent to me by some bros in NY...I'm still laughing

Moving Movies

Just watched Definitely, Maybe with Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin and I must confess my delight at how touched I was by this film. I expected, at best, a romantic comedy with these unrealistic single father tie-ins, but got more. A love story, rather a story about searching for love and what the fuck is it in the first place, that has its cheesiness and resolution that cures all our heartache, but was surprisingly well written and crafty. Could be I'm extra susceptible to emotional gush right now, because I got all choked up over the Teddy Kennedy tribute at tonight's DNC. God damn that shit was hot!! I really was fightin' back the tears and throat closure while watching the Teddy montage, particularly the pics of him and his brothers...Fuck, all the more good that family could have done had more brothers survived. But the hopefulness reflected in the past is renewed with my man Barack Obama!!! Go kick some McCain ass dude!!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Grouper - Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill

Every week or so, my best friend and I will make data discs of our latest music finds to share with each other. We both have pretty broad tastes and often agree on what is kick ass, what blows chunks and what is run-of-the-mill. However, once in awhile we vehemently disagree on an album; one of us showering it with accolades, the other looking on with a bewildered look that says, “Really? Are you off your meds or something?” Last week’s musical title bout between us was Grouper’s Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill. Obviously, by looking at the score I have anointed this LP with, I present the defense and he is the voracious prosecution.
Basically, my boy doesn’t like music that floats in a codeine/opiate haze and professes its hopeless romantic, poetic core. I, on the other hand, imbibe it to rejuvenate and replenish my own hopeless poet. This is exactly the feel and flow of Grouper’s newest effort.
To me, Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill is like a soothing nightmare: some inexplicably comforting paradox. Because it has become my new falling-to-sleep record, I have searched to find a metaphor or simile that helps to describe the audio-chemical affect it has on me and my brain (actually efficient at putting me to sleep). The best I can do is to say that listening to this record is like the combined calming energy of Bob Ross (“Happy little accidents”) and Mr. Fred Rogers (“Would you like to be my friend?”). You see, I used to fall asleep to Bob Ross for my after-high school naps…he was magic, I was usually zonked out within 10 minutes. On to it, shall we?
The songs on Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill float down a river in the afternoon sun, yet pensive in their reserved nature. This is primarily due to the heavy use of effects on the guitar and her vocals. However, while they may be heavy, they’re not egregious in their use or their presence. Instead, they become part of the landscape of Liz Harris’s (Grouper) songwriting style and, I’d declare, the strength of her defining sound.
On “Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping” I can’t help but hear brushes of Elliott Smith’s gentle touch, especially in the vocals. Harris’s voice is absolutely gorgeous, without being overly airy or subdued. It has strength, but also has the wisdom to know how, and when, to hold back just enough to communicate aching or longing. I can only be confident in claiming an emotional tone for Grouper’s music because of what I hear and what is said on Type Records’ site, “These are the future soundtracks to love, despair and ultimately hope.” If not for that, I might be lost. Most of the time, the vocals are less to be listened to for their poetic content and more for their instrumental value and emotional direction. In fact, I feel like Harris’s vocals are the soft side counterpart to many a metal band singer’s, as I can’t tell what the hell they are saying, yet don’t really care either.
Her use and insight into overdubs is impressive throughout the entire record, but specifically when it comes to the vocal overdubs on “Stuck”. They swim about each other in little glissandos of harmony and choir, as if charting the trajectory and path of salmon tailing upstream to spawn. Visualize a packed river of fish and how they usually are able to glide and slide past each other without bashing into one another. The natural imagery fails to cease there. “Fishing Bird” reminds me of my childhood in Alaska, watching Kingfishers (literally fishing birds as they dive into the water to catch herring) and also how the lighter sense of wonder the song carries with it, which is associated with childhood. Again, her vocals are such a focal strength of the song, as an ascending melody fights to negate the overcast blues of most of the album. “Wind And Snow” also works to this effect. It is despondent in its dominant tone, but still sounds like a warm bowl of soup on a blustery Winter’s day. A few other similarities I can name from a focused week of listening to this LP: Bitcrush, Broadcast (the slower, softer side) and Colleen.
I am very much okay with the fact that my boy isn’t in to this record, as I almost feel now that it is one of my little treasured secrets. That it could possibly be one of those albums to share, exclusively, with a lover and not friends. Now, where is that lover? (Now you know the feel of the album!)

note: this review may end up on thesilentballet.com, but as for now I'm posting it, because it's my work, which is always awesome.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm havin an Ol Skewl Hip-Hop Day

Sittin here at the Pub "working" and listening to some early '90's Hip-Hop. God it makes me feel good, like I'm just getting out of high school and still get a kick out of smokin blunts in a tree overhanging the lake in the park. Even if it is political Hip-Hop, which a lot of it was back then, I get a carefree feeling anyways, because it harks back to a time when I didn't worry about as much bullshit in the day-to-day. Threw on Smif N Wessun's (pictured) Da Shinin' to get started and just eased right into that mellow stunts, blunts & hip-hop feel. That makes me think of Diamond D & the Psychotic Neurotics. If anybody out there in the inter-ether has that first record of theirs, please make a copy for me. I miss that record; last time I listened to it was on cassette. Geez, that musta been like 8 fuckin years ago! Then I threw on Souls of Mishcief '93 Till Infinity to please some heads down here in the bar. Reminded me of the time the Heiro crew did an in-store at Cellophane Square back in the day. I was sittin out getting some coffee before work that day and they all pulled up in their tour van; I instantly recognized them. Del told me to get my ass in the van, which had no windows on the side (think cargo-style Econoline van), and we proceeded to smoke a big-ass blunt. Then I went to work like a drooling mental patient, smiling my head off all day. Maybe I should throw on the Pharcyde's BizarreRideIIThePharcyde next...........

Friday, August 8, 2008

From Me to You: More of what is Beautiful

Acting as a discerning, professional, deep listener I sometimes try to figure out exact criteria for what makes great music. I have come to the conclusion, however, that a set of concrete criteria is impossible and, actually, downright silly, because, much like music itself, the criteria should be fluid and specifically applicable. Musical taste is subjective and thusly mobile, so should the general ideas behind judging a piece as great or transcendent. In the new millennium, Amon Tobin provided us (me and anybody else that thinks this album is godhead) with a truly masterful work of music in his third album, Supermodified. The answer to the criteria dilemma is approaching... With Supermodified, Tobin stepped out of the formulated, mathematical world of trip-hop and moved into a sound truly unique. Seriously, no one has replicated his sound and style; busy yet in-the-pocket grooves and a monstrous, ominous sound that is simultaneously dreamy, comforting and danceable. His sense of rhythm and drum programming are unparalleled, yet refrain from becoming too heady to nod your head to. He took the original hip-hop aesthetic and pushed it into the new millennium and outer/inner space. Tobin's work exists in an anime-esque world of mechanical organisms and species that evolved in the dark of our scientific vision (think Pan's Labyrinth for starters).
For Supermodified I can think of a few criteria for greatness:
1. Do you still listen to this piece regularly after years of its existence?
2. Even after at least 50 listens, do you feel you can still garner something new from it?
3. Does it continue to excite and pique the interest between you and a peer?
I can unilaterally say yes to all the above and more in my mind...but I can't harvest them out right now...
If I were scoring this album on a scale of 1-10, it would undoubtedly receive a 10 (probably an 8.5 or 9 when I first got it in 2000, but after years of crafting a relationship with this record, it is perfect. And I say that unabashedly).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Manny Says, "Kiss My Ass!"

Just a little reminder how awesome my main man Manny Ramirez is. In July, before the Dodgers acquired him from the Sox, their team batting average was .250. That's good enough to rank 13th in the National League (yikes). Since the dreadlocked-one has appeared in Dodger Blue, a team batting average of .314, which is second in the NL for the month of August (granted, that's a short while, but you get my point...don't you? you'd better). Plus, they're on-base percentage is a robust .358 this month (3rd in the NL) as opposed to .320 (or 13th in the NL). Do we see a trend here? I sure as hell do. Oh, they've increased their slugging percentage from .385 to .464 as well. He is a BAD MAN!
This note brought to you by the Foundation for Piss Off to All Those Who Bashed Manny on His Way Out of Town!!!
Oh, and let's not forget. Manny's hitting .600/.667/1.063/1.730 with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs in 6 games with the Dodgers. Hot Damn! That's awesome! Go ahead John Baker, whaddya gotta say to that shit?!?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Something About Jan Jelinek


Sounds like Sunshine...pure, unadulterated sunshine. With the murder of monotony on the sun-drenched horizon. If you haven't heard or heard of Jan Jelinek, do it now.

Kill the Bat Man!

And kill it did. This movie was simply fuckin awesome and amazing. It has actually shattered my perception that American films, particularly action/comic book genre types, are void of the kind of emotional and psychological depth that seems to come with ease in foreign and independent films. I had heard that the film deals in very adult and mature themes (not those kind! quit thinking with yer dicks for five seconds), but didn't really believe it until 2 and a half hours of mind-blowing cinema last night. I think I can say, with a tempered enthusiasm and somewhat objective clarity, that Heath Ledger really does turn in an Oscar-worthy performance. Seriously, can we just call it now for Best Supporting Actor? And not just because he died so early and unfortunately, but because this is truly an amazing acting performance. It has long been that I can watch dudes play psycho roles without actually feeling creeped out by them, but Ledger is downright scary. When I used to read Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller over and over, I always imagined that Batman movies should be that dark. Well, the last two have not disappointed, with The Dark Knight actually exceeding expectations/desires. I'll leave it at this much for now, as I know not everyone has seen the movie, but hopefully there can be some discussion soon, because this film merits discussion.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

overstatements on understated beauty

So, one of my intentions when I began bloggin' was to push articles of art that I cherish most, yet think that not many of you out there have enjoyed. My selection for tonight is an album of so-called minimal electronica/ambient music by Murcof titled Remembranza. I say so-called minimal, because I think it is a misnomer due to the fact that Fernando Corona's music is so lush with layers it can't possibly apply to the term minimal. The layers continue to peel away and reveal depth that I knew was present upon the first lesson, but had no power of perception or perspective to identify. A great album that fits a great listener is a relationship and like any relationship, there is a building process through which you get to know the album and all it has to communicate sensually and emotionally. One metaphor I thought of for the type of depth this album has is like eating a fresh pomegranate, having to crack it open and meticulously pluck out all the seeds. There is joy in the entire process, even though it takes time and a little bit of work.
There does not exist a bad song on Remembranza. "Rostro" is the hopeless, brittle heart that pens a love song whose very breathy sound sears across galaxies to connect with its truest love. It really does sound as though Corona knows the very essence of melancholy and is skillful enough to transform his knowledge into the perfect sonic representation. Listen to it here. "Camino" is the rumbler that ends the album proper and is fitting theme music for a gruesome late night alley, dripping with the condensation of steam vents and the tension of a city. Yet, it also breathes with ease, a marvelous paradox of style that sounds completely natural.
I listen to Remembranza about 2-7 times a week and quite often while going to sleep. It is, in my mind, a piece of art that is at the pinnacle of style, aesthetics and feeling. Corona's sound here is intellectual, emotional and sensual, a combination not commonly found.
If you live near me and don't have this record, I will assist you in acquiring it, I feel that strongly about the power of character this album possesses.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Poem

I think that the first love sticks with you forever, like a scar, but a scar that continues to remind us of the possibilities we sometimes feel like giving up on. This is a poem about just that:

Andrea’s Blueprint
[07.11.08]

I’ve looked for you
every day since
the last day I saw you

peering around the veil
of every curly blonde lock
on every street corner
or coffee shop patio
or park bench

a yearning for that lost
I-don’t-know-what-anymore
the way Lou Reed sweats
through his homage to
his favorite opiate

the specter of love still
looks like you, Andrea
even when years of
growth & knowledge
tell me it will look
different when it next occurs…

your smile, your kiss
was the blueprint

Monday, June 23, 2008

Movie night on the couch

Semi-Pro was freakin awesome and hilarious, but I'm in the middle of Juno and I don't get what everybody was so stoked about. In fact, there is one aspect of the film that outright sucks: the way that Juno talks is fuckin ridiculous. For one, her slang is all sorts of off-register...she doesn't sound like a 17 year-old white girl to me (at least, it's not believable in my movie viewing opinion). Plus, she talks in that overly analytical manner that I've never heard a high schooler drop into; usually people don't talk like that until they take a couple of Philosophy classes in college. Ellen Paige's affect is just not fitting for the part from where I sit. But, I am still watching because I'm stubborn...

...and I can't suspend disbelief with Juno's whole I'm in love with you speech to Michael Cera's Bleeker. It just doesn't resonate as a real, tangible 16 year-old girl re-approaching a guy who she'd broken the heart of earlier. Maybe that perspective is biased by my own experience, but piss off if you don't like my opinion.

By the way, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly was amazing. I think Julian Schnabel might be one of my favorite directors, because Before Night Falls was equally incredible.

Smooth Sailing Homey

That handsome gentleman in the Oakland As hat is my good buddy (best friend) John Baker. Today, I dropped him off at the airport as he's headed to Prague (yes, that Prague) to teach English ("repeat after me class: you are an asshat") and drink Budjoviky (Czechvar). When any of you are in Prague over the next year, maybe two, stop in on him and say hi. As for me, I'll be visiting him soon, but for now, I say bye homey and will miss him, dearly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Congratulations Jesus Shuttlesworth!!!

I would just like to extend a huge congratulations to Jesus Shuttlesworth, er, Ray Muthafuckin Allen!!!!! It was lovely seeing you play a possessed, opponent-ravaging NBA Finals to get your first ring, something I would've preferred to see you do in a Seattle Supersonics jersey. But hey, I love you no less and why the hell wouldn't you jet on a team going down the drain to the sewer???? Oh, and by the way, it was extra special to see you squash the Rapist, none other than Black Mamba (Uma Thurman should slice him one for that), the smuggest man alive Kobe Asshat Bryant. I do believe you kicked his ass!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Love Affair Sans Disappointment

At least I have the Sox to keep me happy! Yes, I live in Seattle and, yes, I also root for the Mariners, but they suck and have a much shorter history and less rich tradition. Okay, they have a pretty good tradition of sucking the last few years, but anyways, I'm here to celebrate the Sox, not bitch about the Ms. In his last 6 games, J.D. Drew is slugging a mind-boggling 1.158 and that puts his OPS at a Pedrunkulous (Pedroia + ridiculous=Pedrunkulous...it's a long story) 1.773!!! I guess hitting in front of an also red hot Manny Ramirez (15 game hit streak, .386 average with 7 homers and 20 rbi!!) does a body good. This team is amazing. They have a sub-par Josh Beckett going every 5th day, Clay Buchholz on the DL kept company by Daisuke Matsuzaka and David Ortiz, but they continue to find ways to win. A little tip of the cap to manager Terry Francona is in order, because he has tinkered with the lineup and used the back-up players he's dealt in royal style. Doesn't hurt to Bartolo Colon step in for $5 a start and tear opposing batters a new one. Through it all, they have the second best record in the AL and thrid best overall, are leading the gruesome AL East (with the Yankees 7 games back in the basement!) and have shown that they can kick some ass (re: Fight Night @ Fenway versus the Tampa Bay Rays)!! Here's to a bright looking season! Thanks for helping keep me sane boys.

The Break-Up & the Brokenhearted Once Weres

You know that shattering feeling when a lover comes to you, because we need to talk and shoves a knife into your heart, but through your throat and around your lungs? That is the collective shredding of a fanbase's hearts in Seattle. But, with the cursory attempts at making them stay through lawsuits, we are dragging out the end; calling her 12 times in the middle of the night pleading for her to come back or why don't you love me anymore questions barely intelligible through the tears and hyperventilated sobbing. JUST FUCKING GO ALREADY!!! I can't stand the thought of you hanging around for this bullshit court crap, when we all (admit it or not) know you're going to Oklahoma City. Just fuck off and leave, but remember to leave the team name behind so that we might be able to ressurect it all once we've gotten past the late night binge drinking to forget you. Clay Bennett, I swear to the gods that if I ever meet you in person, I will remove your testicles Fight Club style for what you've done here (Howard Schulz, don't think you're much more in the safe zone yourself). My first sports memories, shit, some of my first memories at all, are of going to Supes games in the Kingdome when I was 4 years old. Do you wanna venture a guess as to what year that was?!!!?!?!!?!!?! 1979 motherfucker!! The only time we've had a championship in this city...and yer gonna drag that team away like an abduction victim in the middle of the night, only during the day and right in front of us. I fucking hate you. And I mean that. The brazen balls on you to talk of how (paraphrasing alert!) leases aren't specifically enforceable???!!? What the fuck are you smokin dickweed?! I don't get my deposit back if I brake a lease with a landlord, why should you get to name your price for bouncing on your lease, asshole?! And, by the way, you lost money last year because the team SUCKED ASS AT A SHIT INFESTED REST STOP!!! You'd lose money anywhere with a team that crappy! Though, I suppose when you rape a city's loyalty to its oldest sports franchise, people won't wanna show up to games, but I doubt that's the majority of your problems. Well, good luck in HELL mother fucker, er, I mean Oklahoma City!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

fear of lovelessness pt II

06.08.08
{Johan Johansson}

staring at the sky
as if waiting for it to
vanish me in its vast expanse

thinking:
that the sun could
shred those clouds
from their binding axis
and
they’d leave me forever

yet,
these reassuring waves of sound
surge love through my body
cello upon cello upon viola
of love
pushing out, from
the inner walls of my heart

invisible tears roll
for hope and despair
simultaneously

seeping Gorecki’s 3rd
like a wounded soldier’s blood
or
the fear of lovelessness.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

distal...not distant

{Satie|Kennif}
06.07.08

I met a man
who seemingly spoke
through the aged
decrepit
dead fingers of
Eric Satie

yet, certainly spoke
of his own accord
and voice

the ghost
harmlessly alive
within…

distal phalanges
hammering away at
a piano
tickling the prisoner
until it confessed

coughing dust off strings
secrets:

unveiling, how
what appears as
carbon copy
is really two
originals, locked in
immortal connection

to the ghost
harmlessly alive
within…

Frag:ments

{cello recycling}
06.07.08

to make the slow descent
defiance: gravity

falling: flight
released from future expectations

hands: joining
but
with feathers for fingers

we must learn
how to grasp: differently

beyond: physical
on a level
buried beyond ordinary perception
where the frag:ments
become indiscernible
from the whole

where: the orchestra
plays as but one cello