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December 29, 2003









So I couldn't resist. These photos are all from last year's micro_MUTEK in Valparaiso, Chile. From top: posters around town; Valparaiso streets; MUTEK director Alain Mongeau and producer Tobi Neumann; Dandy Jack; the crowd at 3 a.m.; the crowd at 8 a.m.; the setting sun behind DJ yours truly. You can see, perhaps, why I'm eager to get back there.


So tomorrow -- well, today, actually -- I'm off to South America for MUTEK Chile and New Year's Eve. If you're not in the mood to be jealous, by all means don't click on this link, which will show you where I plan to ring in 2004. (If you do want to torture yourself, click on "musicos" and then click the flower that says "musica.") Stay tuned for photos of the madness, and maybe a few archival shots from last year's MUTEK Chile for good measure.

December 28, 2003

Jess a Rascal

If you read one year-end recap this year, read this. Mister Harvell is on fire. This is what I'm missing from criticism these days: taking strong positions and defending'em. (I nearly spit soup all over my keyboard when I saw Coldplay in there.) Doesn't matter if I agree or not, which is something that purely numerical tabulations like Pazz and Jop sometimes obscure, where all the effort goes into seeing where your opinions fall within the pick-up-sticks jumble of likes and disses. The use of a ritual like the end-of-year wrapup, as Harvell proves, is in a summation that folds together advocacy, prediction, and polemic into a seamless whole. (And Jess, your style's kicking my ass right now: conversational but keenly analytic, open-to-doubt but totally assured at the same time. Maybe it's because I'm currently slogging through Benjamin Buchloch's collected essays and remembering how dry even the most inspired criticism can be, but big up yourself for putting together a novella-length piece that just gets more arresting as it goes along.) Might I add that it's with no small twinge of envy that I note Jess's range -- from m(x)crohouse (on which I disagree with Jess's assessment, btw, especially regarding Superlongevity 3 and Bis Neun, but that's another post) to mainstream pop to indie rock dancehall to grime (which I've almost stopped listening to, only because I can't seem to find the good stuff. What P2P server are you on, anyway, Jess?). I heard a slew of good music this year but I can't come anywhere near to the kind of macro perspective that Harvell pulls off. Masterful.

December 27, 2003

It's so subliminal

But noise is nice too. This bush sits on the corner of the street where I grew up, right at the seam where the pavement meets a rutted, gravelly mess of potholes universally known around the neighborhood as "The Rocky Road." (I don't actually know what its real name is.) In my 14-odd years living at that address, I must have passed it innumerable times, thousands, until I ceased to see it. Going home this week, I saw it and saw Fennesz.

Everything in its right place

Case in point.


I visited the home suburb this week. It was cleaner than I remembered, newer, lawns more manicured, pavement better durasealed. But walking by my grade school, good old George F. Smith, with its Spartan 50s (60s?) design, a little worse for the wear but utilitarian as ever, I realized that those crisp lines had always been a part of my surroundings. Is it any wonder that I'm a sucker for minimalism? We suburbanites are all children of Frank Lloyd Wright, I suppose.

What Ever Happened?

Sorta fell in love with the Strokes tonight. Maybe that’s overstating it, but I got them for the first time, listening to Room on Fire while waiting for my luggage to roll off the carousel at SFO. Locked into my iPod, watching with a wary eye as families gathered around the belt, overstuffed businessmen checked their cell phones, and reuinited couples kissed deeply, I sunk into tinny fake-retro and let the melancholy wash over me. Totally indulgent, but that was just as it was supposed to be. Listening to “What Ever Happened?” and then “Reptilia,” I imagined a music video based upon said setting, featuring the sad, shaggy rocker waiting, waiting, waiting under bleak fluorescents, watching all the happy people gather their belongings and scatter. “I wanna be forgotten/ and I don’t wanna be reminded/ you say, ‘Please, don’t make this harder’/ No, I won’t yet,” goes the song, and so no one comes, and sad shaggy rocker knew it would be that way all along: “You don’t miss me, I know.” Cut to faces of the departing familiars: the spiky-haired punk with tattoos crawling down his neck rolling out the cart on the arm of his grad student girlfriend; the tanned hippie couple whose t-shirts rise under the pull of enormous backpacks, revealing taut rock-climbing abs; the boring normals he’d hate for purely aesthetic reasons if he could muster the indignation that had fired him only a week or a year ago, when he still cared. On “Reptilia,” the guitar breakdown sends the camera panning away from the spinning belt and then zooming in to spin around him, dark circles bagging under his eyes like the undersides of carousel horses as the lens closes in on a blank face greased with one too many sleepless flights. At the video’s close, we see him standing alone in an empty baggage claim room, all bags claimed but the one that’s missing from his empty hands. Silence: dead time, and then a battered guitar case comes spitting out the metal mouth, clattering onto the belt, and he stoops, picks it up, and slouches out the sliding doors to the rain-slicked curb.

Ok, I said it was indulgent. This is the joy of the headphone life, I’ve rediscovered: everything is a music video.

(And really, that wasn’t about me, promise. Not that I haven’t felt that way, more times than I’d like to count, but tonight, at least, it was purely an exercise in [stock] character; it was a moment of pure pop fantasy served up just as ordered.)

One of the things I realized I like about the Strokes is that they don’t fuck around; those songs, rudimentary as they are, could go on for six, seven minutes, no problem, but they don’t. I was jolted out of my video-director reverie by the abrupt ending of “What Ever Happened?” I’d been certain that it would continue for twice as long. There’s something refreshingly half-assed about the way they cut and run. Not with a bang but a shrug – like some low-self-esteem romantic playing his girlfriend a song on the guitar and then shutting up, stonefaced, before he ever gets to the last chorus. “Automatic Stop,” indeed.

And they’re clever, these Strokes, or at least cleverer than I’d taken them for. I like the way they rip off the guitar lead from “Sweet Child o’ Mine” for “The End has no End” – pop agnostics to a T, they’ll borrow whatever they need and then wear it down like dirty denim and weathered leather. I like to pretend they’re misquoting GBH’s “one step forward/ two steps back” line on “The End Has No End,” even though I’m sure that’s wildly optimistic on my part. Hell, they even cop programmed dance beats on “The Way It Is” and then muck’em up in distortion, like they thought they could fool us. Didn’t Will Oldham get cussed out for doing the same thing back around Arise, Therefore? It’s a pretty punk thing to do, and I like the fact that they sort of back away from an actual avant gesture. They’re sheepish, these Strokes. And I’m sheepish for liking them, but not so much that I won’t admit it.

It’s just pop music, after all.

December 21, 2003

Making lists is not my bag


Yes, it is that time. In the interest of actually getting this up online with a minimum of heartache/headache, and because I inhabit a non-Euclidean place where my Top 10 Albums of All Time contains about 200 releases, I didn't worry too much about keeping this spare. There may be more comments to follow, but for now, here it is. No particular order is implied, but it stands to reason that the stuff I thought of first (and thus placed uplist) I probably rate higher. Mostly. This isn't as empirical as SFJ's iTunes-abetted list, in part because so much of the below is on vinyl; but especially in terms of singles, what's listed here tends to be what I played out the most.

Ricardo Villalobos, “Easy Lee” (Playhouse)
Ricardo Villalobos, “Dexter” (Playhouse)
!!!, “Me and Guiliani Down by the School Yard” (Touch and Go)
Junior Boys, “Last Exit” and Fennesz remix (Kin)
Matthew Dear, “Dog Days (Pantytec remix)” (Spectral)
Sascha Funke, “Forms and Shapes” (Bpitch Control)
Luciano, “Amelie on Ice” (white)
Donae’o, “My Philosophy (Bounce)” (Social Circles)
K.I.M., “King Kong” EP (Tigersushi)
Mu, “Chair Girl”/”Let’s Get Sick” (Tigersushi)
Ada, “Arriba Amoeba” (Areal)
Sharkie Major, “Just a Game”
Dizzee Rascal, “Vexed”
Dizzee Rascal, “We Ain’t Havin’ It”
Marc Ushmi Meets Reverend Galloway, “What’s On My Plate? Die Solidaritate” (A-Musik)
Dimbiman, “V” (Perlon)
Radiohead vs SM, “Packt like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box) (Guilty)
Mambotur, “El Planta (Sieg Über Die Sonne remix)” (Multicolor)
Nôze, “C.” (Circus Company)
Isolee, “It’s About” (Freundinnen)
Bergheim 34, “Random Access Memory” (Playhouse)
Madd Anju, “Cellular Minutes” (Clappas rhythm)
Carl Craig, Talking Heads and Gino Soccio edits (Moxie)
Chateau Flight, “Cosmic Race” (Versatile)
Osborne, “Daylight (Isolee rmx)” (Spectral)
International Pony vs Losoul, “Track of the Night (Losoul Edit)” (Playhouse)
Oliver Hacke, Polar EP (Traum)
The Chemical Brothers, “The Golden Path (Ewan Pearson Extended Vocal)” (Astralwerks)

Dizzee Rascal, Boy In Da Corner (XL)
Ricardo Villalobos, Alcachofa (Playhouse)
Matthew Dear, Leave Luck to Heaven (Spectral)
Apparat, Duplex (Shitkatapult)
Barbara Morgenstern, Nichts Muss (Monika)
Jan Jelinek avec the Exposures, Nouvelle Pauvreté (Scape)
The Postal Service, Give Up (Sub Pop)
Ellen Allien, Berlinette (Bpitch Control)
Juana Molina, Segundo (Domino)
The Bug, Pressure (Rephlex)
Wasteland, Amen Fire (Transparent)
MU, Afro Finger and Gel (Tigersushi)
Toadliquor, The Horator’s Lament (Southern Lord)
The Shins, Chutes too Narrow (Sub Pop)
Radiohead, Hail to the Thief (Capitol) (*so sue me, I like’em)
Cat Power, You Are Free (Matador) (*ditto)
Lawrence, The Absence of Blight (Dial)
Meteorites, Dub the Mighty Dragon (Rise Robots Rise)
Outkast, Speakerboxx/The Love Below (Arista)

Speicher (Kompakt)
Bis Neun (Areal)
How to Kill the DJ (Tigersushi)
Daniel Bell: The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back (Logistic)
Michael Mayer: Fabric13 (Fabric)
Superlongevity 3 (Perlon)

Ryuichi Sakamoto, “Riot in Lagos,” B-2 Unit (Island, 1980)
Yellow Magic Orchestra, “Pure Jam,” Technodelic (CBS, 1981)
Raw Sex (N. Cherry, J. Blocker, G. Oban), “Give Sheep a Chance (Woolly Version)” (Mango, 1982)
Alexander Robotnick, “Problémes d’Amour” (Sire, 1984)
Thomas Dolby, “I Scare Myself,” The Flat Earth (EMI, 1984)
Echo and the Bunnymen, Crocodiles (1980), Heaven Up Here (1981), Porcupine (1983), Ocean Rain (1984), all remastered (WEA, 2003)
Arthur Russell, Another Thought (1994)
Arthur Russell, The World of Arthur Russell (Soul Jazz, 2003)
James White and the Blacks, “Contort Yourself” (Ze, 1979)

Justin Timberlake, Justified
The Darkness, Permission to Land
Junior Senior, D-D-Don’t Stop the Beat
The Wrens, The Meadowlands
Jay-Z, The Black Album
R. Kelly
etc… more than I’d care to think about, really

Contriva, "Stuck (Superpitcher remix)" (Monika)

December 20, 2003

Someone's gotta say it

New study shows Americans more stupid, gullible, and hateful than ever before thought possible. In the spirit of Christmas, go choke on a Bible, you bigots.

Pay special attention to Ziad Nimrod, excuse me, Nimri, who chimes in with the classic argument, "Minorities always tend to get more than your average person does." He's absolutely right! Unfortunately, our salesman friend isn't talking about class (does anybody talk about class any more?), but rather -- you know -- homos.

(Note to our recent liberatees in the Mid East: if you're in the market for democracy, you might want to do a little comparison shopping before you settle on ours. We didn't tell you, but the engine block is cracked, the brakes keep seizing up, and we've got this little problem with spewing toxic fumes.)

December 18, 2003


Thanks to a link from Janek Schaefer, I've composed a little ditty to thank everyone who checked my work this year. Go here for the link. (For best results, just close your eyes and wait about 10 seconds while it loads.) This one goes out to all you beautiful people. (And remember, it isn't too late to list the song in Pazz & Jop! It ain't UK garage, so get used to it...)

Futurism restated

El Dorado as seen from bus en route from airport, Guadalajara, Mexico, December 2003. (Click on image for a larger popup version.)

Tu te ves bien buena

En route from the airport, Guadalajara, Mexico, December 2003.

December 17, 2003

54-40 is bunk

From an email that just arrived from Subvert:

"Now that I've become American, I'm thinking of starting a new political movement. Canadians for America. Or you could consider us a new ethnic group: the Canadian-Americans. The US encourages all immigrants to bring their culture with them. There's over a million of us in California alone. We have so much to share with this country. Here's some ideas for our platform to help make America just a little more Canadian:

welfare to work
lock box
compassionate conservative
no blood for oil
education budget split equally per student without regard to location
bring the "u" back to favourite and neighbour
classes in how to patiently stand in line integrated with beer appreciation
hockey sticks for handguns program
taxes on alcohol and tobacco used for wacky stuff, like health insurance for everyone
military vouchers that allow citizens more control over where they direct their hard earned military dollars
actually invite the world to compete in the World Series
Monty Python added to high school curriculum
Coffee Crisps nationally available
and finally:
an end to litter as we know it"

I'm not sure I can get behind bringing back the "u" in "colo(u)r," but I like this Canadian-American thing. My dad's Canadian. Growing up, I had a bizarre fascination with Canada, and believed myself, in some strange sense, to be a Canadian-American. (This was long before the rise of identity politics, mind you.) I studied Canadian literature in college. And everyone knows I love the Canadian techno. So I'm all for it - sign me up! One question: does this mean I can claim asylum when Schwarzenegger teams up with the Bushies to declare California a police state? I am, after all, already an endangered species.

Dis junction

Lots of folks jumped on Junior Boys' oddly jiggy beats on their debut EP, and the R&B reference was strangely apt -- the hollow syncopations on "Last Exit" sounded like Timbaland with a movers' blanket thrown over him, or dubstep (mashed up with Coloma) played quietly in a room walled with egg-carton foam. So the most surprising thing about the new EP is that the primary reference point is not Desitny or Jay-Z, not Dizzee's jerk, not even Def Jux, but Dif Juz. "Under the Sun," a seven-minute near-epic, cops the frayed and flanged guitar sound from the 4AD band's 1987 track for Lonely Is an Eyesore and then lays it over Chicken Lippy chug and a delirious yelp punctuating every downbeat. Despite the nominally electro-disco tendencies, the whole thing sounds utterly liquid, like water pooling over burnished rocks beneath thin ice (or maybe I just can't shake the image of Dif Juz' Andy Goldsworthian cover for Extractions?). "A Certain Association" dives even deeper into the same melting pool and dares your pulse to meet its beatless, mortal crawl.

You can photograph anything now

We're all parasites. So I was thrilled to discover a bit of Language poetry worthy of Bruce Andrews in my in-box this morning. Thing is, you had to get past the "Free Cable TV! No more pay! Unleash the power of your digital cable!" to get to the meat. I can't figure out whether spammers are loading their emails with random verbiage in order to sneak past junk-mail filters, or whether Language poets are appending fake commercial come-ons to their poems as a means of getting Joe Home PC User to read their material. Regardless, great stuff. Viva the subversive aleatory!

inconceivable disgustful dogging expansion zeta zoe mull acoustic armco concatenate marshall misogyny antiquated buzz read maori chunky sculpt mans tinder hausdorff caption czech thalia volcanic
convention harrow aniline devious circulant despite automobile coexistent lusaka surreal thorstein axolotl bullwhack lance hardy curie theodore perceive omen evasion glory nowaday cube boston laminate confidante lackluster autocrat chinatown praise
scram clog swanson viscoelastic clothesline alkaline sec pinafore anorthosite risible batch librate continuous devious hemoglobin adoptive cleave avuncular bilk coattail metallurgy spokesperson deepen gestapo aftermath salamander arterial courageous shah bessie walls inflationary doorbell derision nearsighted exhaustive laymen plateau clime iberia
piecemeal citron bedlam brandon turnout radiate singlehanded bloodstream inductor crystallographer gloucester harpsichord crimson suny afterthought surgery
clapeyron peggy dixieland liable surtax guide valine melancholy serendipity this mankind anger centric cereal symphonic blossom baby placenta psychotherapist disturb inductance
decedent brunette gallant veracity kalmuk salubrious emotion damon aventine aldebaran antique gourd nod algae krebs
fossiliferous overhang kiss conflict dearie pairwise creamery pigment genera inimitable poverty sabina baden wound apostrophe cartographer slurry polar hollow colossal kruse betray superstition adduce sprint borroughs brindisi nasturtium cave cattle emphatic eelgrass gemini uphill
subtly immunization prism coven decompile calcutta engel hydrolysis angel aspen clobber countervail frieze weyerhauser trojan chap wombat yoke madrid blunder watery fragmentation hewett cop
emplace depose fogging parsimonious laocoon eddie awn hideaway depth knelt pipe fetch julia plod embezzle keyword eyesore northwestern neva insignificant prejudicial integrate sophia checkerboard exogenous hector local tiber addressograph pinto cam quintic shadflower
arpeggio freud cleanse triceratops muskmelon afterword blubber barefaced assimilable martinez compulsive priestley diminutive spalding consequential army shudder bowstring conferred williams coalescent cancel descendant dazzle witch sequent pica amethystine arduous weird grover mogadiscio tassel shortsighted waterline photon
embryology debilitate kodiak beverage cargill virile indolent teeth counterintuitive nereid odious choreograph circumcircle aye debenture wrapup edmonds conscientious feat dearie angeles charm jurisprudential

December 15, 2003

Harmonic convergence

Montreal's The Mole playing a sick mix of "Is It All Over My Face?" at MUTEK Tijuana. (You'd better believe it was.) The gig was in an old Jai Alai venue. Once again, rave culture proves how to repurpose dead urban spaces. Shame the betting was closed, though. The Mole's live set, using Ableton Live, two decks, and a fistful of effects, lies right on the cusp between Theo Parrish and Thomas Brinkmann, salvaging beatdown b-lines only to bury them in heaps of delay, and then shovel them out again with steely snare drums. My money is most definitely on this guy to totally own things in the '04. Let's just finish the damn record now, Collin.

Backstage pimpin'

Static Discos' Ejival and some hack backstage at MUTEK Tijuana.

Hang the DJ

Sound art in Mexico City.


One of these days I'm actually going to get around to writing something here (including my much-dreaded (by me, anyway) year-end Top Whatever list). For now, a photo will have to suffice. This is aerial surveillance over a demonstration in Mexico City a few weeks back -- the city's largest ever, if I recall correctly.

December 11, 2003

More aluminum for the landfill

Self-promotion time! I'm happy to report that Spitting Bits, Closing Loops, a compilation CD I curated to accompany Leonardo Music Journal's "Groove, Pit and Wave" issue (LMJ13) is finally out! The disc includes exclusive, rare, and otherwise vinyl-only tracks from the likes of AGF, M. Behrens, Alejandra & Aeron, DAT Politics, Stephan Mathieu, Francisco Lopez, Institut fuer Feinmotorik, Janek Schaefer, Steve Roden, Scanner, and Stephen Vitiello. (Yes, I realize there are a lot of Ste(v/ph)(e/a)ns in there.)

The basic premise of the disc is that all the compositions are sort of meta-media oriented, in that they take the material of their creation, storage, or distribution as the point of creative departure. You can read the whole introductory essay here, and if it seems like the kind of thing you could wash the dishes to, the disc's on order here.


Meanwhile, the real action was in the absence.

As Modernist as we wanna be

Backstage in Guadalajara, Laszlo Maholy-Nagy and The Designers Republic went head to head.

Microsampling in Mexico

Akufen in Guadalajara playing outdoors to a crowd of perhaps 8000 people, as seen from backstage. Vince Lemieux and Egg's Julien Roy look on.