Jesse Jarnow

Archive for December, 2006

“new year’s eve” – stephan mathieu and ekkehard ehlers & “new year” – the breeders

“New Year’s Eve” – Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers (download here)
from Heroin (2001)
released by Orthlorng Musork (buy)

“New Year” – The Breeders (download here)
released by 4AD
from Last Splash (1993) (buy)

I like the contrast of these two takes on New Year’s. Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers’ field-recorded fireworks are literally kinetic energy. Though they are violent chemical reactions, they are also soft, as if muffled by a snowfall. Certainly, the swelling organ helps — a fantastic exercise of bare melody finding form in chaos.

“New Year,” meanwhile, is the sun-blinded morning after and all (conceptual) potential energy. The lead track from Last Splash, it is two minutes of indie-surf glee whose main purpose is to set up what follows. Like slowly remembering the impossible resolutions made in the ecstasy of revelry, its ending is profoundly unsatisfying without a dramatic statement to follow. Below the lyrics, in the liner notes, there is a literal parenthetical clarification: “(stage direction: suspenseful point).” The Breeders came up with the classic bass-drop intro to “Cannonball.” If only every year could start so well.

(Thanks to the too-oft-neglected-but-still-bloody-awesome ‘buked & scorned for introducing me to “New Year’s Eve” last December. I should probably check out the rest of Heroin now, huh?)

think big!

By morning, I will happily off-grid for a week, back in action on 12/28 or so. In the meantime…

Rescued from the cabinet of VHSs at my father’s house on Long Island (and digitized by my buddy, LB), it’s Think Big, the 1987 inspirational video starring the New York Mets’ Gary Carter, Mookie Wilson, and Roger McDowell!

See them mime (on the field at Shea!) to hilariously synthed out rock tunes written just for them! Hear Gary Carter attempt a Pee-Wee Herman imitation! Dig the late ’80s conception of proto-internet video baseball! Get inspired!

I remember asking my parents to get Think Big for me. I don’t think I ever bought into to it, though. Even when I was nine, it was unbearably corny. But it was neat to see Mets players clowning around like they were the Beatles or something. Really, the coolest part was the video baseball. 100% awesome!

It’s in three parts:


(And speaking of cams at shows…)

“You fucked my girlfriend with a cellphone!” said GWAR’s Number One fan, upon encountering the band in Hell, shortly before they chopped into him and he squirted the sixth or seventh round of fake blood on the audience. Before that, though, the band clarified: “We didn’t fuck your girlfriend” (pause) “…we raped her. And it wasn’t a cellphone. It was a phone booth.” (Cheers.) Then blood. Like every between-song skit — which also included Adolf Hitler, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George W. Bush, and Jewcifer — it was scripted with the obvious punchline: cover the audience in some kind of fluid. There was also a fake cock and a lot of fake cum.

“There used to be a lot more blood,” said my friend, who’d seen GWAR “10 or 20 times.” “It used to start gushing as soon as they hit the stage. It was a lot better.” He’d never seen GWAR — who celebrated their 20th birthday last year — in any place larger than Irving Plaza, the small ballroom where we saw them tonight. It makes sense. After all, any bigger and the blood cannon (placed at crotch level and operated by a dude in a leather thong) wouldn’t be able to reach the back of the room.

Besides the wall of tee-shirts and branded underwear at the merch table, there was also a veritable metal record store. Besides discs from GWAR and their two openers, there were also long cardboard cases filled with their brethren like Cannibal Corpse, Cattle Decapitation, Born Into Pain, and Destroy Destroy Destroy. It was a one-stop subcultural shop.

GWAR have been doing this for twenty years. With their anonymity-granting costumes — which resembled, well, bad guys from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — they could tagteam members for generations (if they haven’t already). GWAR could still be playing in decades, when metal feels quaint, like bluegrass does to us. One can never underestimate the power of being covered in fake blood, though. If being covered in sweat is the sign of an authentic ecstasy, then GWAR do all the work, virtually guaranteeing that anybody who wants to can have a literally physical, visceral experience. And that is a pretty good concept for a band.

“untitled demo no. 3” – akron/family

“Untitled #3” – Akron/Family (download here)
from WNYC Studio Demos (2006)
(Akron/Family at MySpace)

(file expires on December 21st)

I have a playlist of all the quiet songs I can listen to late at night or right when I wake up. Usually, it’s a matter of finding one or two tracks on a given album. As such, sometimes I wonder if I automatically devalue (say) Iron & Wine’s music because I can drop nearly any song from Sam Beam’s catalogue arbitrarily into the shuffle. Likewise, the ultra-prolific Akron/Family’s forays into the big purdy — like the ambiguous and beautiful “Gone Beyond” from Meek Warrior — sometimes seem too easy. The untitled last track from their self-circulated radio session demos for their next album (produced by Ween collaborator Andrew Weiss, out in spring, can’t wait to hear it, etc), falls into this category.

Besides the lovely rising turn on “moonlight” and “in the daytime,” it doesn’t make much of a case for being something besides a generic psych-folk ballad. The images are even a little hackneyed (“all we see is moonlight drifting from dream to dream”), but somehow it all adds up and makes me want to listen to it repeatedly. Especially in the context of A/F — whose typically ambitious demos also include their usual ecstatic chants (“Ed Is A Portal”), ragged Americana (“Sophia”), and oddball/handclap grooves (untitled no. 1) — it is an inevitable coda. As a single track, almost anybody, in almost any genre, in any decade of the 20th century could have written it. That’s all well and good. Mostly, I like it — especially the woozy faux-Hawaiian slide interlude — because it sounds fucking fantastic when I’m almost asleep.

manhattan holidays, 12/06

have read/will read dept.

o Dad recently posted the most recent batches of his Andy Goldsworthy/Joseph Cornell-like beach constructions, as well as filling out an archive of some his paintings.

o I quite enjoyed Cory Doctorow’s post about how the internet is far better at enabling deviance than promoting normalcy. It’s nice to see the freak flag fly.

o Astroland, the last big amusement park on Coney Island, was sold a few weeks ago. After this coming summer, it will be torn down. While the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel and Nathan’s (and the Parachute Drop) will allegedly remain, Coney Island as a place of cheap thrills is pretty much over. But, hey, maybe they’ll pull off their plan. Wouldn’t a glimmering new theme park by the sea be more respectful to the idea of Coney Island than the semi-occupied ruins currently there? (My Coney Island photos.)

o Ooh, the Wall Street Journal profiled Haruki Murakami

o …and Reason published a long interview with South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

on cell cams at shows, cont: western keitai

In the introduction to Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, a fascinating collection of academic essays (mostly translated from Japanese), Mizuko Ito defines keitai networks:

In contrast to the cellular phone of the United States (defined by technical infrastructure), and the mobile of the United Kingdom (defined by the untethering from fixed location) (Kotamraju and Wakeford 2002), the Japanese term keitai (roughly translated, “something you carry with you”) references a somewhat different set of dimensions. A keitai is not so much about a new technical capability or freedom of motion but about a snug and intimate technosocial tethering, a personal device supporting communications that are a constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life.

Maybe, the relentless clicking of cell cams at shows constitutes part of what might be described as Western keitai. That is, along with mp3s both financially and corporeally devaluing recorded music, it is possible that concerts are slipping into the realm of the day-to-day. Taking pictures, then, isn’t an attempt to capture anything momentous, but to simply mark the occasion, like a diary entry. And, sure, maybe that’s a defiling of live music as sacred ritual/spectacle, yadda yadda yadda, but it’s probably time for a change, anyway. Wouldn’t wanna be late for the future, after all.

on cell cams at shows

My first reaction to Tom Cox’s “Don’t film it, feel it” editorial in the London Times was annoyance. And, after thinking about, it still is.

I get Cox’s point: if people are spending the whole shows taking pictures on their phones, they’re not listening. Admittedly, it’s frustrating. A few months ago, I saw my friend’s band, the Rolling Stallones, play at CBGB. During the opening act, a gaggle of girls up front spent literally 20 minutes taking pictures of each other in front of the stage. I don’t think it was even for the purposes of documenting themselves at the soon-to-closed venue. It was just obscenely narcissistic.

But were the girls taking pictures of each other really going to be “listening” to the show, anyway? Going to see live music is about far more than just the music coming out of the speakers, otherwise you wouldn’t fork your money over and you could just stay at home and listen to the stolen mp3s. It’s a social act, with all the attendant relationships.

Though I’m a big proponent of cell cameras, I almost never take pictures at gigs. But that’s just me. Even though there are tons of differences, I associate their use at shows with the act of smuggling a cheap cassette deck in to make a bootleg. The content is different, even the action is different — cell cams being condoned, bootlegs being, well bootlegs — but I think it’s the same impulse. The resultant tangle of Flickr pages, MySpace and Facebook pictures is obviously ephemeral. But so is live music. That’s sort of the point, right?

It all seems like a way of engaging with the music. And by “the music,” of course, I mean everything besides the music itself: one’s friends, the rest of the crowd, the band, the club. In an age where one’s relationship with music is more complex than just listening to albums and going to shows, it’s sometimes good to be able to locate herself in the noise.

Of course I was annoyed by the girls at the show. It wasn’t because they were taking pictures, though. It was because they just wouldn’t shut up. But that’s a much older problem.

“omstart” – cornelius

“Omstart” – Cornelius (download here)
from Sensuous (2006)
released by Warner Japan (buy)

(file expires December 14th)

I used to have this theory that Beck and Cornelius sounded like the zeitgeist. Odelay‘s junkyard pastiches sounded like 1996, Fantasma‘s fantasias like 1997, Midnite Vultures‘ neon disco like ’99, and Point‘s electro-acoustics like 2002. I’m not sure if that theory extends to Sensuous, Cornelius’s new album, currently only out in his native Japan. It certainly doesn’t sound like any 2006 I’ve experienced, anyway.

For an album titled Sensuous, “Omstart” is one of the few tone poems. With Point‘s alien organics (somewhat disappointingly) mostly supplanted by terrestrial synthetics elsewhere, “Omstart” is a stereo-panned palette cleanser. Keigo Oyamada’s voice rises, transforming into texture as if, owing to some mythological justice, it must become a bird. Besides that movement, the drama is spare, all branches empty. Maybe it sounds like 2007.

new wilco songs

UPDATE, Thanks to the benevolent Dean, who has graciously offered server space, all things should be go again. Sorry again to any trouble I caused on other peeps’ servers.

Wilco has been playing an album’s worth of new material over the past year or so. Here they are, in no particular order.

My early favorites are “What Light” (mostly for the crystalline, Band-like sound of it) and “Rafters and Beams” (because I’m a sucker for ballads). Also, some people seem to be labeling it “Rafters and Dreams,” but I like “Beams” better so I’m gonna stick with that, until someone learns me good.

1. Let’s Not Get Carried Away (24 November, Auditorium Theatre)
2. Side With the Seeds (25 November, Auditorium Theatre)
3. What Light (16 July, Pines Theater)
4. Shake It Off (24 November, Auditorium Theatre)
5. Impossible Germany (9 October, Von Braun Center Concert Hall)
6. On and On and On (22 September 2005, Cain’s Ballroom)
7. Lullaby For Rafter and Beams (Tweedy solo, 27 October, Foellinger Auditorium)
8. Patient With Me (Tweedy solo, 27 October, Foellinger Auditorium)
9. Walken (24 November, Auditorium Theatre)
10. Let’s Fight (16 July, Pines Theater)
11. Is That The Thanks I Get? (Tweedy solo, 4 April, Hotel S ‘n’ S)
12. Maybe The Sun Will Shine (date unknown) (thanks, Fred!)

Thanks to netZoo and rbally and probably some other blogs. (Now that this has been picked up by Pitchfork & all, I s’ppose I should thank the original tapers/posters once again, apologize for the sexytime bandwidth explosion, give big ups to Wilco for their taping policy, and remind everybody that the complete shows are available by following the previous links.)

frow show, episode 9

Hey, the Frow Show is back! Andy & the Ropeadope crew have a few more episodes ready to go.

Listen here.

Episode 09: Summer Salt!
A late summer mix burned for friends (with some modifications).

1. “Carl and Passions Radio Promo” – The Beach Boys (from Endless Bummer: The Very Worst of the Beach Boys)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Toc” – Tom Ze (from Estudando o Samba)
4. “Fille ou Garcon (Sloop John B)” – Stone (from Femmes de Paris, v. 1)
5. “Bat Macumba” – Gilberto Gil (from Panis et Circences)
6. “Dreaming” – Sun Ra (from The Singles)
7. “Think Small” – Tall Dwarfs (from Fork Songs)
8. “All Things Must Pass” – George Harrison (from All Things Must Pass)
9. “Singing to the Sunshine” – Cardinal (from Cardinal)
10. “It’s Up To You” – The Shop Assistants (from Shopping Parade EP)
11. “In Another Land” – The Rolling Stones (from Her Satanic Majesties Request)
12. “Some Clouds Don’t” – Fred Frith (from Cheap at Half the Price)
13. “Mr. Tough” – Yo La Tengo (from I am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass)
14. “Magnolia” – Apollo Sunshine (from Apollo Sunshine)
15. “Panis et Circences (reprise)” – Os Mutantes (from Technicolor)
16. “Those To Come” – The Shins (from Chutes Too Narrow)

in the wii small hours…

I spent part of my Saturday afternoon reading on my couch and part of my Saturday afternoon playing video games with the neighbors. The latter felt healthier. Part of this had to do with the fact that they just acquired a Nintendo Wii. We strapped on the little controller boxes and played. It was social and, if not exactly exercise, then not exactly anything else, either. And I certainly wasn’t alone in my own head anymore.

The baseball game was primitive. There is only batting and pitching. No fielding, no baserunning. In the bottom of the third, the last inning in this stripped-down rendition of the rules, with the score tied at zero, my friend hit a long fly out to left field with a man on third and one out. There was no option to tag, so no run scored. The game stayed tied, and there were no extra innings.

But the experience was pretty remarkable, especially bowling — which, when done in a group of four, strangely mimicked the group act of actually bowling. Even the gestures, mostly involving lining up shots and putting spin on the ball, felt real. I thought often of my college bowling coach.

Naturally, when playing these games, we all assumed the natural postures of what we would do when playing meatspace sports. In baseball, we held the controller like a bat. In golf, like a club. But we don’t have to. One can trick the game into thinking he’s made a full swing with just the slightest twitch of the wrist. But it is a precise twitch, subtler than the intricate hand-eye coordination required for traditional video games.

Until Nintendo releases boxes that attach to the ankle, to mimic the motion of running (or Dance Dance Revolution), the Wii probably won’t slim down the post-cherubic youth of America. But it could do something else. The first generation of home video games refined the use of the thumb: those of the rotary era still dial phones with the pointer fingers while members of the Nintendo generation are more likely to use their thumbs. Who knows what the Wii will really do?

links of dubious usefulness, no. 9

o Should you have a mouse problem, I highly recommend Havahart’s mouse trap. My roommate set it up today. By the time I got home, Sparky (at least, I think it was Sparky) was waiting for me. I tried to release him into the vacant lot, but he skittered off in the direction of the cake factory. Hopefully, he’s in heaven right now, consuming mountain-sized puffs of cinnamon-flavored goo. Safe travels, Sparky!

o Two years old, but news to me: Gabriel Garcia Marquez is writing the script for the film adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera. Actually, I guess, he wrote the script, since the film is allegedly in production.

o Striking a bit too close to home is The Burg, a YouTube-era sitcom. (Thx, RG.)

o Gotta head up to the Bronx for the Tropicalia exhibition sometime soon.

o Lists of essential movies and whatnot are somewhat silly, though I appreciate the authoritative, core curriculum-like functionality of Jim Emerson’s 102 Films You Must See Before…. At any rate, it’s been kind of a fun project to check stuff off lately.