Jesse Jarnow

Archive for September, 2006

“soul master” – edwin starr

“Soul Master” – Edwin Starr (download here)
released by Motown (1968)

(file expires October 6th)

In a perhaps misguided attempt to derive some truthiness (listening to lotsa shitty hippie bands’ll do that to a fella), I once posited that anybody who sings literally about having a soul (especially one that, uh, “shines”) simply doesn’t have one, at least for the duration of the time he’s singing about it. In the case of Edwin Starr’s “Soul Master,” which I found on the MoistWorks blog over the summer, I am perhaps willing to make an exception — partially because maybe it is as Starr claims, that he’s “the guy they named soul after.” And, well, partially because it’s such a ludicrous rhyme — “I’m the soul master / I’m the guy that they named soul after” — and it somehow works.

“Soul Master” is, no doubt, a silly song, but I love the shit outta the chorus, and love even more singing it to myself in the most honky voice I can muster (which, given my general demeanor, is quite a lot, dankyouvedymuch). It’s fun, especially in public, to take this chorus for my own: I’m the soul master. I’m the guy that they named soul after. Me! It’s a good feeling. Try it some sunny afternoon.

some recent articles

Song reviews:
Masa Depanmu” – Ariesta Birawa Group (
Three Woman Blues” – The Wowz (
Word Up Forever” – Curse ov Dialect (
fl°” – Trap Door
NYC’s Like A Graveyard” – The Moldy Peaches
I Don’t Wanna Leave You On the Farm” – Ween

Album reviews:
Bar 17 – Trey Anastasio

Live reviews:
Os Mutantes at Webster Hall, 21 July 2006
Revenge of the Bookeaters at the Beacon Theater, 23 August 2006
Bustle In Your Hedgerow at the Rocks Off Boat Cruise, 30 August 2006

Columns and misc.:
The Animals I Saw, micro-fiction
BRAIN TUBA: Contrarianism
Only in print:
o August/September Relix (Widespread Panic cover): album reviews of Four Tet, Ollabelle, Medeski Scofield Martin and Wood, Stephen Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, Sex Mob, Baby Loves Jazz Band; book review of Les Claypool.
o Paste #24 (Alvis Costello and Allan Toussaint cover): album reviews of Yo La Tengo, Shapes and Sizes, book review of David Shenk
o Paste #25 (Zach Braff cover): album review of Harry Smith Project
o Signal To Noise #43 (Lewis/Abrams/Mitchell cover): album reviews of Brian Joseph Davis, OOIOO, and Sublime Frequencies

wonders, inc.

Without question, one of my favorite books as a kid was Crawford Kilian’s Wonders, Inc., about a boy’s trip to a massive, mysterious factory on the outskirts of town that manufactures (among other products) lines, space, proverbs, music, dreams, and more. John Larrecq’s psychedelic illustrations certainly didn’t hurt. Here, the dopey tour guide, Mr. Whipple, and the bright-eyed Christopher wander through the surrealist mechanics of the Clockworks:

They walked among the machines, Mr. Whipple pointing them out, “This one makes part-time; this one full-time; that one three-quarter time, time-and-a-half, and double-time. We also make Greenwich Mean Time, bedtime, pastime, nick-of-time, and a good variety of specialties.”

“Specialties?” Chris repeated.

“Oh, yes. We turn out a fine brand of split seconds, not to mention fleeting moments and carefully aged days. There’s a great demand for the good old days, you know.”

“Maybe among grownups,” Chris added, “but I prefer nowadays.”

“I thought you would. We make the best nowadays on the market.”

Though it’s super outta print, Amazon has many copies starting at $1.05. Wish there were some illustrations online.

the animals i saw, no. 10

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

On the final day, there were dragonflies. They swarmed down each street, above the dock, and across the visible horizon. Their wings beat at a low frequency, like the hum of distant transformers. The weather was perfect, the sky a painted blue. From the basement — a basement added by Abe Lewis — I removed a box of china, my mother’s, to mail her in Sarasota.

The last filings would have to be made, but I knew how to do that; knew whose office down which hallway in what building to address them. I would not return to school that semester, I knew. “In January, I think, I’ll be back,” I wrote my girlfriend, who I did not expect to wait for me, and who didn’t. Abe Lewis would find out what I had: that in times of natural disaster, the duties of a public official override those of a private individual. In pulling the house from the lake, Abe Lewis was acting as deputy mayor, not a contractor. His subsequent possession of the house was unlawful. I would not be the one to tell him.

I thought, briefly, of my shadow cousin, who’d lived there while we’d been away. His memories were present in me now, an adolescence spent carefree on the cool water. Misshapen, they roamed my brain like benevolent spirits; they grew like pungent weeds between weathered planks. It was an exchange, I knew. He would know long before his grandfather. I thought of what I might be taking from him, and what I might be giving to him, delivered on the sagging exoskeletons of dragonflies, terrible and broken. [/END]

the animals i saw, no. 9

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

By the second morning, I was no longer an interloper, and I got dead worm all over the kitchen. The rain was over, and — though autumn hung obviously in the air — it was going to be a warm day. I stepped outside barefoot, in my boxers, onto the narrow brick path that led to the lake. I stretched my arms behind me as I walked. The worm squished between my toes.

On the way back from retrieving my bags at the Becketts’, I had the thought that just because I could get dead worm all over my kitchen floor didn’t mean I should. Assuming the Lewises hadn’t done any major renovations in the interceding years, they were tiles my grandfather had laid himself. My memories didn’t extend to the tiles. He’d driven the truck from Portland alone to claim the empty land. There was no one else for miles. There wouldn’t be for a decade.

They were all over the sidewalk, the worms were, as I went to meet Melch. Neither of us had shaved. We hummed as we painted, though I was unsure if we were humming the same song. “It’s plenty peaceful now, sure,” Melch told me. He was doing detail around a window above and to the side of where I was working. I could see the mosquito bites above his ankle. “I like the spring is all,” he said, and started down the ladder, coughing. “You should come back in the spring, man.” I would, and I would build myself there by the lake, as my grandfather had.

the animals i saw, no. 8

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

I am not sure if a ghost is an animal, or if that was even what I saw, but I certainly smelled it. Besides the constant patter of the rain, the odor was the first thing I noticed upon awakening on the living room couch. It was a deep must, unclogging reserves of half-remembered dreams. In the daylight, the room was instantly familiar. I found the phone and dialed Melch, pretending to be hungover. Melch sounded worse than I did, and called off work for the day without argument. I felt guilty, but the rain continued unabated.

Though the smell — not unpleasant, like skunk-grass — was omnipresent, it seemed to emanate from a single source. I took a cursory look through the kitchen cabinets, but failed to find anything. I made a packet of dried soup in their microwave, and looked at the photomontages hung by the back door. Abe Lewis, the doting grandparent, was in several. His grandson, likely only a year or two younger than me, grew on the wall, my shadow cousin.

In the mid-afternoon, I brought the comforter upstairs and napped in the room I thought was mine. The bed was bare, as was the dresser. I pulled the blanket tightly around me, and swam. When I went downstairs later, my grandfather sat on the couch, reading. The smell was overpowering. Instinctively, I looked behind me. When I turned back, he was gone. I’d never known him, only the house he built and the enemies he made.

the animals i saw, no. 7

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

The large, fuzzy spider in the linen closet did not shake me nearly as much as the top sheets. The creature sat unmoving in the flashlight beam, atop a floral pillowcase that looked like it came from a discount chain. I blew on it lightly and it scampered an inch. By then, the rain had started, and it was much later and I was much drunker than I suspected. It did not sound as if the storm would abet.

I threw the blue down comforter over my shoulder and shined the light to see if there was anything else I needed. On the bottom shelf was the top sheet, white with a plane of red, green, and yellow grids, like a Mondrian. Its match, I was sure, was in my father’s current apartment, if he hadn’t thrown it out. He was in Butte, then, I think, though it was hard to keep up. It was the sheet he stretched over our couch when guests slept over, and what he slept on when my mother sent him downstairs for good and, eventually, out.

On the couch, my feet pressed against the far arm. The house sounded familiar: the rain on the roof (there was no second story over the living room), the wind through the uninsulated walls. When I woke, the house would be mine, really mine. I wished I had the sheaf of xeroxes with me, but that was at the Becketts’. No matter, the sheets were proof enough, if not for the law, then at least for me, that my family had really once occupied the place, a place my father never again acknowledged after we’d been forced from it. I was not hungover the next morning.

the animals i saw, no. 6

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10
It was the mosquitoes that eventually got me inside the house. They swarmed around Melch and me, up on the ladders, as we reshingled the Inges’ cabin. Back in the woods like that, caught in the sun, the bugs hummed in abstruse shapes. It was hot, the humidity unbearable. Rain was expected. The siding already stripped, we needed to finish before then. By evening, we were both covered in sweat and slowly rising welts.

Through the evening, as Melch and I drank off the itching with his beer stash, the humidity never broke. We were at the house he’d adopted for the season — the Spitz’s, I think. Melch grew drunk and apologetic. I considered telling him why I’d come back, that I’d even been there in the first place. It would mean explaining my father, his relationship with Abe Lewis, and why the house was no longer ours after it had been returned to land.

I opted not to, and set out for the Becketts. The air cooler, it was almost pleasant. The rain would arrive soon, I could tell. My legs felt warm as I walked, as if wrapped in a soft quilt. I felt the bones in my feet flex. Then, the house was in front of me. I needed to piss like a motherfucker, and I went inside.

the animals i saw, no. 5

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

The house drifted in the mud for a day, serenaded only by the crickets. It had no foundation, built as a summer cottage early in the town’s history. It was some 30 feet into the lake when people returned three days after the hurricane to survey the disfigured shoreline. The house, for reasons nobody was able to adequately explain, floated. There’d been massive water damage, but that was due to the blown-in storm windows.

I still possess several of the photographs my father rescued the day the house was dragged back to land. One, of the family, taken when I was probably three, was badly curled. The rain had disintegrated my grandmother’s face into flecks of white negative space.

In bed at the Becketts’, listening to the insect symphony, I wondered how many generations of crickets had passed since those who’d chirped at the floating house. Did they live for a season and then die? Was it as simple as that? On the bed wet with lake water, I thought of how their impossibly layered rhythmic constructions were transmitted to the next generation. My drying skin felt cool on the Becketts’ patterned sheets.

the animals i saw, no. 4

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

If the deer saw our house come unmoored, they may not have understood what was happening. The deer were dumb, Melch said. At least once every spring, when he resumed his contracting work, he’d have to remove a dead one from a swimming pool. “Why these assholes need pools by a lake,” he shrugged with contempt, not bothering to finish the thought.

My father had brought my older brother and me out into the lake on an inflatable raft several times that last summer, the only season I can recall. We rowed what seemed some ways from the shore. It was probably August. I would skim my palm over the water as we moved, as weightless as the sunlight itself. Once, my father held my legs and let me plunge into the lake. To my surprise, the sun-warmed surface gave way instantly to impenetrable cold, and I came up sputtering.

In my two weeks back, I’d not yet swum. I’d seen plenty of deer, however. They did not seem as dumb as Melch suggested. During the days after the summer residents left, I saw the deer meticulously picking through spilled trash, the stray cats hovering in a scattered perimeter for leftover leftovers. The cats, however, might’ve known better what was happening. Hopefully, none of them were hiding in the house when the hurricane hit.

the animals i saw, no. 3

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

There was a Pink Floyd song that once scared the shit out of me, which I remembered exactly as I saw the raccoons. There were three of them, I think. Even without the deck light, I could see their eyes reflecting. I didn’t know anything about raccoons at the time. My mind turned to static, expecting chaos.

I’d heard the song on the radio — in junior high school, when Dad had taken the job in Omaha — very late at night. “Then something happened,” a robotic voice, a representative of the animals, claimed. “We learned to talk.” I lay there, terrified of the violent nonsense that would ensue. As I faced the raccoons, I imagined their robot voices: high, electronic squeals pitching torrents of dada.

I started to slowly ease the kitchen door closed behind me, and the raccoons scattered. There was a tree hanging over the deck. I imagine they went up it, though my eyes had not yet adjusted. The door creaked as I opened it again. The Becketts’ house could use some work, I thought. The addition behind the kitchen was being destroyed by humidity, threatening to pull apart like a rogue continent eroding. If they were not careful, it might even sail into the lake, like our house did.

the animals i saw, no. 2

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

The ants came next, a few nights later. I’d gone to find the house. When I returned, they’d formed a crescent around a drop of orange juice I’d left on the counter. A line trailed to the cabinet below the sink. I wiped them off with a paper towel.

The dark air was cool, autumn wafting in like a top note looking to establish its dominance in the melody. The lake was a sturdy mass behind me as I stood on the front lawn, sipping a screwdriver. I tried to pick out the room I’d slept in during those five summers. Perhaps it was just below the west gable, though I had no reason to believe that was correct.

Melch said he went into the houses all the time. If he was painting and had to piss, he’d just let himself in, no big deal. “These people, they leave their doors unlocked mostly,” he noted, crumbling a dead leaf between his calloused fingers. “Small town, you know.” He smiled at me.

I considered this, walking inland back to the Becketts’, and smelled autumn again. School was starting without me. That was alright. I’m sure my roommate appreciated the extra space. Outside the Becketts’, I paused, studying its shape. The screwdriver was done. I put the glass down and urinated into an empty patch of the garden.

the animals i saw, no. 1

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

It was the time of year when the animals took over, though they were no trouble until later. I noticed the stray cats first. Carrying a tarp from Melch’s truck down the path by the lake, I saw a tabby sunning on the steps of the Petersons’ front porch. It was not theirs. When I stopped to look at it, I noticed another — fat and black, with a white belly — in the shadow of the juniper shrubs. Climbing the ladder in the back of the Johnsons’, I saw still a third — a mangy calico — sleeping under a chair on the deck next door.

The lake caught the afternoon sunlight, reflecting it with less intensity than just weeks previous, as if to finally collect some for itself. Save a dinghy bobbing at a distant dock, the water was devoid of boats. The quiet of the town in the off-season had shocked me at first.

During my first night in the Beckett house — Melch had given me the keys — I pulled the sheet from the upright piano. Depressing the sustain pedal, I tentatively played a chord. It spread through the house like an intruder. In bed, I could still hear it decaying, a vague hum now imprinted in the floorboards. I would have to leave a note apologizing, I thought. Unable to sleep, I sat at their kitchen table and ate stale saltines they’d left in the cupboard, trying to work up the nerve to enter the house that was rightfully mine.

“fl” – trap door

“fl° – Trap Door (download here)
from International Psychedelic Mystery Mix
released by Dis-Joint (2006)
available via Turntable Lab

(file expires September 19th)

Like many of the mixes my friend Joey has turned me onto, Trap Door’s International Psychedelic Mystery Mix has no track list — just beautifully lettered album art and, in iTunes, cryptic ASCII symbols. Much of the material feels like it could be drawn from the distant corners of Alan and Richard Bishop’s Sublime Frequencies project and carries much the same message: that people plug in, freak out, and fall down across whole small world after all.

The lack of performance information triggers all kinds of alarms in my brain’s obsessive quadrants: how can I understand something if I don’t even know what to call it? Regardless of how I feel about a crossing it, I think there’s an unquestionable line between liberating the content of a piece of music via mp3s (“I’m gonna copy this great, obscure song for all my friends”) and liberating the intellectual ownership of the work entirely (“I’m gonna deliberately not give credit to the person who wrote it, even though I know who he is”). These are not just samples, mind you, but entire songs.

Obviously, the tracklisting is absent for legal reasons. Still, it’s a big line to cross — obscuring intellectual property, I mean, not bootlegging, which is quite well-trodden — and crossing it can be oodles of fun. It is incredibly freeing as a listener. “fl°” is the first real song on the disc, and I’ve no idea where it’s from. It grooves like Jamaican dub, but the melody sounds positively West African (but, then, that guitar sounds a bit Middle Eastern).

Here, crossing that line is potentially terrifying. The exploration of music is a dialogue, the discovery of albums, bands, and songwriters naturally leading one to the discovery of related albums, bands, and songwriters. In that way, the Trap Door mix is seemingly a dead end in a hedge maze. Maybe that’s the trick: that they found an end at all. Of course, Google can help with the vocal cuts, but the instrumentals remain elusive. It’s either an end, or the music becomes the property of the curator, the only one with the key. None of this is to complain — I’ve been thoroughly digging the bejeezus out of this mix — just to wonder aloud about what it all means, maaaan.

switching it over to AM, searching for a truer sound

Listening to the Mets on the radio is a crystalline connection to the old, weird New York, and not simply because it was something I did when I was a kid. It is filled with advertisements for steak houses (“just over the left field fence in Astoria!”) and camera stores (B & H, closed for Shabbos, though the voiceover dude is obviously goyim, and just says “Friday evenings and Saturdays”), of annoying pitchmen and annoying pitches. The Mets’ announcers still shill for sponsors, and often interrupt themselves mid-commentary to do so. It is a world where hipsters don’t exist, and Dwight Eisenhower might as well still be President, or even Calvin Coolidge. Ballgames — and, I assume, other sporting events — are one of the few things that traditional radio still does extraordinarily well. Web 2.0? Whatever. I’ll take pure AM gold from Shea.

gone fishin’

I’m gonna be mostly off-grid this week. Regular posting will resume Monday the 11th. xoxo, jj.

links of dubious usefuless, no. 6

o Trap Door’s International Psychedelic Mystery Mix is dope. (Turntable Labs has it.)

o Diplo’s podcasts are archived.

o David Yaffe’s “Tangled Up in Keys” is a few weeks old, but is interesting attempt at unpacking the whole Dylan/Alicia Keys thing. (Thanks, BoomSalon.)

o ‘zine-era information punks RE/Search are putting out a second volume to their awesome 1987 Pranks sourcebook, certainly one of the cooler college textbooks I ever had to purchase. (Thanx, BB.)

o The 5 Most Obviously Drug-Fueled TV Appearances Ever. Jah bless YouTube.