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January 30, 2004

Vocal padding

While I await, eagerly and with sweat-slicked palms, a CD-R of the forthcoming Superpitcher full-length which is being posted to me as we speak by another of my favorite publicists in the entire world, who remains anonymous here only to spare him the deluge of requests that would surely ensue were I to spill the pot of beans (pitcher of beans?) that he's repping this hot little number, I'm consoled by the fact that today I finally tracked down the Ghost Cauldron 12" featuring Superpitcher's "Smallville Remix" of "See What I've Become" (on !K7).

Man, that was a long sentence.

Anyway, it's a curious single. I've been trying to coax a copy out of !K7 for ages but, deaf to my entreaties, they left me high and dry. Thanks for nuthin'! Fortunately, one very long MUNI ride to the Haight and several dozen cashed-in CDs later, the joint is finally mine. I thought I remembered Ghost Cauldron being kind of hip-hoppy nu-soul, but I could be wrong -- honestly, the label's identity has been a bit featureless for a while so it's easy to get confused. The Superpitcher drafting seemed like a strange fit, but it all becomes clear. The Ghost Cauldron originals here, "Are You Conscious" and "Fun Physical (Physical Body Edit)" are big techy analog stormers, the first in a sort of quasi-schaffel mode, a bit like The Emperor Machine with all the danger taken out (though there are some lovely, buoyant arpeggios), and the second more i-F flavored, flush with overdriven keyboards and fat floppy snares (plus, inexplicably, some rolling congas). It could grow on me, or just fall flat. Time will tell.

Anyway, the whole reason for even logging on was the Superpitcher side, so we'll just get to it. Opens with "Ambient Skit," a two- or three-minute ambient passage that, sadly, does not represent the transfer of the hip hop skit to the ambient realm. Shame, really -- imagine what you could do with various sketch tropes (game shows, call in shows, corner drug deals, coitus interruptus, poor weaves, gold-plated SUVs) in a more Enoesque context. Ok, maybe not much. As it is, "Ambient Skit" is lovely and incidental and pretty unnecessary, sort of like the new Pass Into Silence album (except that I remain weirdly fascinated by it, convinced that behind its apparent mediocrity there is a hidden world of greatness -- this theory to be explored further very soon).

As for Superpitcher's "See What I've Become"? Fucking lovely. What else do you want me to say? It's got all his trademarks -- flanged vocals disintegrating into pixel-buzz; shoegazey guitar samples, complete with backmasking, hammered into the most exquisite jewelry in the world; an absolutely huge snare drum that even Billy Squier would approve of pounding right down the center of it all; and of course entire galaxies of starblips harnessed into frothing, foaming chords as dense and distant as the Milky Way. In fact, it has almost all the trademarks of his mix of Contriva's "Stuck," which is probably my favorite Superpitcher production (not to mention my favorite melodic techno track) of all time. His "Stuck" mix is still better, but this is awful nice.

Now hurry up and bring me that CD-R.

January 29, 2004

Papi chulo

Last time I ran photos of Luciano, no fewer than three women emailed me asking, "Who is Luciano? He's so handsome!" (One of these women was my mother. Dad, do you know about Mom's cyber-stalking?) I figured that a photo of Luciano and his son ought to be irresistible, so take this as a shameless attempt to boost my blog's popularity with the straight female readership out there. More boring genre dissections are soon to follow, so don't give up on me, o saintly geeks and pedants who, like me, care about the intricacies of open hi-hats and the etymology of the term "8-bar." All three of you.

Most humble

Failing to link our most favoritest, most feistiest, magic-PR-wand-totingest, chain-smokingest Chicagoan makes Baby Jesus cry while driving, thus triggering massive pileups on 101 (or "The 101" if Baby Jesus is from California, which I'm not entirely sure he's not). Apologies for the fender-benders.

Lies, all lies

There are very good reasons why you should be wary of checking out your referring URLs. This is one of them.

Wot u gall it?

I'm going to grudgingly agree with Ingram's decision to dump "grime" in favor of "garage." Grudgingly, because I've always loved the sheer sound of the word (and, yeah, I'll probably continue to use it, out of stubbornness if nothing else). But Ingram's got a point about the supernova expansion-explosion of dance music genres -- a bit like Reynolds' prediction a year or so back about genres that would be famous for 15 people. And, like Ingram, I think Wiley's "Wot Do U Call It?" track is just plain silly. This is what passes for a manifesto these days? An anthem? Rap has always been comfortable slagging off haters (like punk with poseurs) and so Wiley's declaration that he doesn't care about "fingers pointing at me" is sort of dismissable as schtick, trope, whatever. And if he wants to go on about "Eskibeat" versus "grime" or "garage" in the pages of RWD, fine, but do we really need a song about it? Does anybody actually care?

The song does make me wonder if it has precedents. I've been trying to think of other meta-genre songs where artists attempted to redefine their music purely verbally, but I'm coming up nil. I'm sure some smart folks out there must have examples. Yes?

Pokey pokey





A few more photos of the crackerjack Crackhaus boys because, you know, they're funnee. And keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming 12" on Montreal's Musique Risquée.

Ample stacks

Crackhaus in Tijuana, Mexico, December 2003. Anyone who hasn't picked up Crackhaus' It's a Crackhaus Thing on Onitor is missing out on one of the most entertaining microhouse releases in ages. Deadbeat and Steven Beaupre's first collaborative LP is a clunker in the best sense -- rollicking, unstable, as linear as one of those cat-toy balls with a weight in it that sends it wobbling down the hall to much feline consternation. The patterns are familiar from Akufen, Cabanne, Ark, Krikor et al, but Crackhaus infuses them with a levity that's all their own: scat babble, standup bass burble, scrapple splatter and rip rap patter, claptrap rattle, scissile slide. Onomatopoeiomadness!

January 28, 2004

Boom, hiss

Thanks to a link on ILM: three incredible mixes from Shitkatapult's Sammi Koivikko are up on his site. Each one is a dark, brooding monster of minimal funk and scrape -- a snapshot of microhouse waking from a long sleep, flicking up the blinds and discovering a blazing world of color outside, its eyes struggling to adjust to the explosion of light and shape.

January 26, 2004

Grownups are crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy

Did I say I was melancholy? My word, a few minutes in the blogosphere cured it all! Pure fire from the woman that puts the "grrrrrrr" in Geranimal.

Lucky Cloud

Is today one of those days where it’s just useless to try to get anything done? I made the beautiful mistake this morning of putting on Arthur Russell’s Calling Out of Context, the sublime compendium of unreleased work forthcoming from Audika, and since then I’ve been in the most exquisitely melancholy mood. Read Toop’s Wire article on Russell, seduced by the first three paragraphs – Toop manages to pull off that kind of sentimentalism where in almost any other writer’s hand it would just go maudlin – and by the end was in tears. Can’t explain it – well, except for the fact that I am inherently a sap, as anyone who knows me knows – but it was all the reasons that death, young death, is ever tragic. The waste of it, primarily (though I suspect there’s something ontologically suspect about saying death is a waste, unless we mean in the sense of a “wasting away,” which it sounds like Russell’s was; but I’ll leave that for now). Other, more specific reasons: the killing hindsight vision of Russell as an artist who worked as though he had all the time in the world, puttering, planning, and too often withdrawing from projects. And most of all, perhaps, the parents left behind.

“’The last time we saw him in New York, his hair was falling out,’ says his father, Chuck. ‘When he was little he had a temper and I used to say, ‘Charley, you’re a poor sport.’ In the hospital I was combing his hair and I said, ‘Charley, you’re a good sport.’ He said, ‘Are you sure?’ Two days after he died we got a letter from a cousin of mine with a write-up about Arthur from The New York Times. We said, this kid was well thought of.”

Yeah, that’s the part that got me, with its implication of inevitable strangeness, the unreconcilable distance that would allow his parents – who, it seems, loved him, and were loved in return – not even to know he was “well thought of.” (If they didn’t know then, I’m sure they’re about to figure it out, between the Soul Jazz and Audika releases.)

I eventually went back to my writing, or tried to, anyway. Threw on a recording of Sense Club’s MUTEK Chile performance, trying to put myself in the mindset to finish an article on the festival. I was looking for the bit where Villalobos plays the Violeta Parra a cappella that he’s been caning lately (if anyone can identify this track, please let me know!), but another voice jumped out at me from deep in the folds of a mix with DBX’s “Losing Control.” It was almost gone before I realized it, little more than an echo in my mind. I rewound, and there it was: the briefest of samples of Russell’s voice, a quick little upturn twisted into a never-ending loop. I can’t place the track, though the production is almost certainly from Another Thought; given the placement over DBX, I’d like to think it’s “Just A Blip”. But maybe that irony would be just too cruel. Be careful how you title your songs: they’ll all be epitaphs someday.

January 24, 2004

Remarks on (re)Marker

Moomu blog on Lost in Translation: "It's a good thing Sofia picked up some tips from Chris Marker in the aftermath of her last film. Otherwise we would have had another feature length shampoo advert featuring l'oreal virgins.


January 23, 2004

Let's go deep

The talented and forever glamorous Cassie (here pictured performing alongside Akufen, Ricardo Villalobos, and Luciano at MUTEK Chile) spent a good 10 minutes that morning raving about some forthcoming material from Baby Ford and Thomas Melchior that's supposedly going to flip our collective noggin six ways from Sunday. As chance would have it, lately I've logged more than a few hours revisiting Melchior's early project Yoni on Source Germany. Yoni, the duo of Melchior and Tim Hutton, is better known as Vulva, but for my money nothing Vulva did ever managed to top Yoni's lone album and single (no disrespect to Rephlex, who put out most of Vulva's work). My Little Yoni -- with a title as vaginally obsessed as their pussyfooting four-to-the-floor always was -- was one of the first "techno" albums to grab me. In fact, it may have been the very first; when I bought it in 1994, the only electronic music I listened to at the time was Aphex Twin, Autechre, and the like. Stuck in my punk-rock prejudices, I hated anything with a discernible dancefloor beat. And then I heard Yoni.

To this day I can't figure out why Yoni hit me while so much other techno still didn't. At the time, I had a bizarre aversion to handclaps in drum machine patterns. It was a twofold complaint: I didn't like their simulacral sound, but beyond that, I hated the very way they signified. Handclaps, to my mind, represented the root of the participatory experience, and their mimicry seemed not just hollow but patently false. Yoni's tunes are pocked with handclaps, but their usage -- strung into rapid-fire, staccato sequences, swathed in delay -- is so very over the top that all my puritan objections fell away and left me gaping in awe at the very post-humanism of it.

From the very first bars, My Little Yoni dares you not to engage with it; the opening kick drums and bass line of "Creepy Bitch" poke you in the sternum as though commanding your pulse to step in line. Meanwhile, a hissing acid arpeggio peels off frequencies that could send dogs into convulsions. It's as though the duo were planting flags at each end of the audible spectrum and saying, "This is ours and we are your conquerors." Owned by tone, you comply.

They're not just lords of frequency, though. Every aspect of My Little Yoni rings out with a triumphant cry, from the hypercharged syncopations and manic dub bass of "Black Forest" to the bafflingly broad timbral array of "Spirit of Adventure," which pulls together dry, scabby drum patterns, liquid squelches, breezy pads, and spine-tingling, metallic effects. Every bar is a lesson in sensory overload.

Later, much later, I'd learn concepts and find words -- acid, Detroit, techno -- to lend meaning and context where at first I heard only dub bass and an unnameable explosion of organized sound. But all the knowledge hasn't diminished the radical strangeness of the record for me. Every time I put it on, it sounds like a universe cracking open and every last shred of meaning bleeding off, drop after mercurial drop.

January 21, 2004

Secret maps, Crete's spam

Spam just keeps getting better and better. Today the faux-Viagra peddlers (who kindly identify themselves as originating in Oranjestad, Aruba -- always did want to visit there) laid the good word upon me, and it said:

"We hope to grow to be dragons some day, but just now we're only dragonettes
What's that? asked Dorothy, gazing fearfully at the great scaley head, the yawning mouth and the big eyes A big machine is not needed to carry one through the air

Young dragons, of course; but we are not allowed to call ourselves real dragons until we get our full growth, was the reply There are forces in nature which may be readily used for such purpose"

I swear, there's no need for avant-garde poetix with the spammers in control. Sorry, Exact Change. Aw heck, Burning Deck.

Oh, and Mister Haibun, I've been compiling a list of names to rival your correspondents. (Well, except perhaps for Vastness B. Alias and Folksier I. Thumbing. And wasn't Alcyone E. Surtax a character in a Ray Bradbury novel?) Just you wait: you'll understand true spam envy once you realize that I've got Steadfastness O. Pearled and Edwardo Singleton on my side.

January 19, 2004

Stairway to heaven

Fishermen's hut, Zapallar, Chile. January 16, 2004.

Door to door


Home again, home again. Been gone so long I can barely begin to string words together to make sense of it all. Spent last weekend holed up in a tiny town called Zapallar a few hours north of Valparaiso - a summer-home community for rich Santiaguinos, something like a cross between Carmel, California and Cadaques, Catalunya, but charming as all get-out. Novelists in need of a place to withdraw and write, I wholeheartedly recomment Zapallar's Villa Alicia, a charming pension with wooden walls and pink curtains and a back deck overlooking pine-covered hills, where Alicia bring your breakfast to your room every day (peaches, grapes, honeydew, fresh muffins filled with manjar, toast, coffee -- well, Nescafe, but we can't have everything, can we) and looks at you only slightly askance when you've been holed up in your room all day instead of down at the beach. If you do eventually make it outside, there's fresh congrio to be had at El Chiringuito (where the waiters get extra points for telling you which fish are and are not locally caught), slathered in a burned garlic sauce, for about $8 a plate. The first bite almost made me weep. The waiter scurried over, thinking something must be amiss, but no, it was just the best fish of my whole goddamn life. The view from my outdoor table -- compact harbor, boats bobbing, Orion steadfastly drawing his bow overhead, for once successfully fending off the beast of light pollution and glistening brighter than I've ever seen him, outside of the Sierra Nevada or the high Andes -- only helped laminate the scene with a the kind of durable skin of perfection you can tuck away in a back pocket and keep clean and relatively unsmudged forever.

Regular readers will not be surprised at these sorts of sentimental outbursts from me, and hopefully will indulge them, in lieu of more substantive, music-related criticism for the moment. There's a massive, 2500-word director's cut of the MUTEK Mexico tour diary in the works, but first the short version has to go to print in Index mag, so be patient. There are a slew more photos of Chile to come, and soon I'll dent this stack of CDs on my desk. I have to admit that for a three week absence, the pile of goodies was pretty meager, but I am at the least very excited about the Katapult compilation from Paris' Katapult label, featuring Ark, Kean, Krikor, Cabanne, and more of what I like to call the "K-krew." Based on his last few 12"s and his new Katapult 12" with Krikor, that Ark is a genius. No one is doing stubbed-toe funk like these guys -- it's like Mr. Oizo with a dash of Dimbiman soaking in several shots of Fernet.

January 13, 2004

In passing



Valparaiso, Chile, January 2004.

Pre-festival. Muelle Baron, Valparaiso,

Pre-festival. Muelle Baron, Valparaiso, Chile. January 11, 2004.


Valparaiso, Chile. January 9, 2003.

The after after (ever after)

For every after there is an after. After the weekend's long day, last night turned into an asado, which turned into an impromptu DJ session when someone improbably wheeled in a soundsystem. That proceeded to (d)evolve into something entirely other once Egg's Guillaume Coutu-Dumont plugged in his laptop, joined shortly thereafter by Mike Shannon on laptop and Argentina's Leo Diguisto on MPC. Akfuen, Jay Hunsberger, Vince Lemieux, Crackhaus's Steve Beauprea, Ernesto, and myself manned the decks -- well, I dropped out after trainwrecking everything beyond salvation, mistakenly thinking I could bring in Quarks' "I Walk" in the middle of a 4/4 set. (Things had gotten so out of whack that it sounded like shuffle... that's what I get for stubbornly following my obsessions.) Fast forward to 5 a.m. and everything is simultaneously miraculous and utterly without reason.

January 12, 2004

The MUTEK party on




The MUTEK party on the Muelle Baron in Valparaiso, both at dawn and at night.

January 11, 2004


I've been up for approximately 36 hours, some 28 of which were occupied with more or less nonstop festival. MUTEK.CL ended with a beach party in which Ricardo Villalobos and Dandy Jack played live laptop techno in shifts accompanied by DJs Sonja and Vince Lemieux on the decks. The party wrapped up at 7 p.m. tonight with Villalobos playing his own remix of the Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra, a spooky lament swooping through modal changes strangely reminiscent of Georgian folk music. Immediately after he played a 1974 song from Los Jaivas while one or two hundred spent dancers wound down and passers-by gawked, seemingly unable to reconcile the rave-like scene with the unexpected history lesson. Dandy Jack followed with another Los Jaivas song and wrapped up with Señor Coconut's Latinized version of Krafterk's "Autobahn," a fitting close to a weekend of Chilean electronic music.

The photo of Deadbeat (left) and Mike Shannon was taken a good 12 hours ago, at the close of the nighttime segment of the festival, which had been going for close to 24 hours at that point. Just look at Deadbeat's eyes. That's about how it felt then. Right now, we all have marbles for eyes.

January 10, 2004

Tugboat in dub

Yesterday, Deadbeat performed from a tugboat that moseyed through Valparaiso's harbor while a flotilla of listeners trailed behind, bobbing in the Dopperling reverb. This was taken as we passed the Valparaiso III dry dock.

More on that soon. For now I'm headed back to the pier for the nighttime component of MUTEK in Chile.

January 08, 2004

Naptime in dub

The instantanaeity of the interweb never fails to amaze me. Deadbeat arrived in Valparaiso, Chile just this morning, after a long flight from Montreal. This photograph was taken about 10 minutes ago; as I type and upload this, he's still upstairs, crashed out -- no doubt saving up energy for tomorrow night's gig, when he performs on a tugboat, of all things.

Anyway, he woke me this morning, poking his head through the scrim across my bedroom-cell window, so consider this payback. (It's a kinder, gentler version of the deRogatis/Adams feud.)

The frozen world

Somewhere over the eastern seaboard, December 30, 2003.

January 06, 2004

Here's mud in your eye

Luciano, New Year's Day 2004. Maitencillo, Chile.

Clocking emergence



Mexico City, December 2003.

January 05, 2004

We were a little hasty

Ach, correction time. First of all, the quote is "You can photograph anything now," and secondly, it's Robert Frank, not Garry Winogrand. An easy enough mistake to make. Winogrand's famous quotable is "I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed," which is also a nice lil' conceptual morsel, but in the end Winogrand, who lost his grip on the dividing line between objects and moments, did subscribe to the photograph-anything school, essentially attempting to photograph everything, hanging out the passenger seat window as a friend drove him through the streets, his motor drive whirring away in the vain attempt to catch up to the motion of time itself: the vain attempt to achieve simultenaeity, never quite able to grasp that he was on a train moving at a different speed than reality (to steal a nice image from Murakami). He left untold thousands of images unprinted when he died -- at the end, he'd given up on even processing his film, so obsessed was he with capturing the world as it unrolled. That's one sure way to turn out a lot of crap photographs, of course, but there's a poignancy in the striving that gets me every time.


No, not grime Kano, and not Italo Kano. But Malta Kano, of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which I'm re-reading and utterly absorbed in. She wears a red vinyl hat, and when I look at this photo I wonder how on earth I could have missed her presence on New Year's Eve.

Incidentally, you may have noticed that I'm writing less and posting more images, which probably related to the fact that I'm lazy (plus busy). But I'm also having a hoot and a half finally having a home for these pictures. One of these days I'll get around to making up smart-sounding things with words, but for the moment I'm quite content to keep on with this ongoing document of the world that stumbles in front of my lens from time to time. Incidentally, I realize these images tend to be enormously heavy, but I live on DSL where such things don't bother me much. But if you're annoyed by the slow loading time, let me know, and if I get enough complaints I may move to using smaller versions. Maybe.

While we're on the topic of photos, I have to big up my friend Sasha Frere-Jones for his own growing archive of images. They're some of the most arresting things I've seen this year -- not hard-as-nails cop with a truncheon arresting, but pink fuzzy handcuffs arresting, in that it takes you a while to discover how totally captivated you are by his insidious patterns and echoes. All these incidentals come together -- signage, graffiti, abandoned objects, street debris, strained motion, the minutiae (and maxutiae) of everyday life -- into a quietly totalizing series that breaks the world down into shapes and categories and recurring motifs. But he's a uniter, not a divider, Mr. Frere-Jones, and so his photos bring everything together onto a level playing field for the best goddamn Saturday sandbox session in the world: rocks and neon and the ghost of paella in a game of rock/paper/scissors where everyone wins (how very Montessori). These photos are like Bernd and Hilla Bechers' series of blast head furnaces and water towers, except that they attempt to unpack the typologies at the heart of everything; specificity dissolves at the very moment it triumphs.

Winogrand was right: you can photograph everything now. And so is Wolfgang Tillmans: if one thing matters, everything matters. Which ultimately, I think, is the essential impulse behind the photography that moves me, going back to Stieglitz's Equivalences and Siskind's pictographic approach to abstract wall markings, rock formations, and even tumbling divers (as visible in the sublime The Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort, which some intrepid future anthropologist will someday uncode as the alphabet it clearly is). All the drama you need is right there in the details.

January 04, 2004

Despite my enthusiasm in

Despite my enthusiasm in advance of the Maitencillo New Year's party, which featured Mambotur, Dinky, Tobi Neumann, chica Paula, Luciano, and Ricardo Villalobos (Dandy Jack was to do a live PA, but inexplicably got booted for "technical difficulties"), the night didn't turn out as deliriously as it should have. The music banged around an acidic axis that didn't really capture the outdoor, sun-up vibe; the sun never rose anyway, lost behind clouds and spitting fits of drizzle; and the crowd was, to be frank, pretty awful, plagued by coked-up meatheads who couldn't keep their hands to themselves. (A brief moment of levity came courtesy two folks fighting with baseball bats outside the premises.) This guy wasn't necessarily part of the problem, but he sure wasn't part of the solution.

La limonada de Pepe Bombilla (with a touch of pisco)

8 a.m. New Year's Day morning at Maitencillo, Chile. Luciano on the decks.

Boxing Ricardo

Ricardo Villalobos at Maitencillo, Chile, at some point on the morning of January 1, 2004. He disappeared shortly thereafter. If you should happen upon a sealed crate emitting the strains of "Easy Lee," please notify DHL immediately.

January 03, 2004

The long, dark night of orange alert

En route to Chile, December 2003.