Recently a friend accused me of not listening to any music that is not rap. Of course that is totally untrue, but in a social context it is somewhat correct: publicly the music I am most likely to enjoy is rap. Privately, I have always listened to different music as well, especially while working/ writing.
When I was in college I used to do most of my work in a very claustrophobic, constrained space to avoid all possible distractions. It was a lab that was equipped with a large Mac desktop and a bunch of equipment that I never used, because the lab was actually intended for the “New Media/ Critical Theory Studies” kids and during that time I was learning different stuff I am no longer using today. It was around that time I first became obsessed with Aphex Twin’s music, definitely starting with ’Selected Ambient Works 85-92.’ I loved the combination of the productive/ manic energy of the beats and the simultaneous soothing effect of the majority of the melodies in the album. I remember listening to “Ageispolis” after–and during– sleepless nights of meticulous studying, sometimes watching the very ravey video as a study-break.
I have been thinking and wanting to write on Aphex Twin for a long time, but my wish proves to be a somewhat impossible task. Richard James–also known under his pseudonyms: AFX, Blue Calx, Bradley Strider, Caustic Window, Smojphace, GAK, Martin Tressider, Polygon Window, Power-Pill, Q-Chastic, Tahnaiya Russell, The Diceman, The Tuss, and Soit-P.P–is someone who definitely chooses to be an enigmatic figure. James has spent a great deal of his career creating an unflattering image of himself intentionally. The point behind his dedication to making the world see him as an unattractive individual remains unclear to me, but that is part of his enigma.
Initially, I was planning on doing a mini-series of sorts on “The Way Every Richard James Album Makes Me Feel.” Ultimately, I am deciding against proceeding with that idea because it might be relentlessly self-absorbed and perhaps even too-revealing for no-reason. Instead, I present you with my deepest wish of someday writing the absolute Aphex Twin profile after spending a month with him, observing his daily life, work habits and nightlife activities.
This 7-minute MTV interview is maybe the closest the artist wants us to get in understanding Richard James.The interviewer asks him what he means when he says that he builds his own instruments, and he states that he uses software, computers and the net to create. Often, he uses the help of others to perfect his sound. Questions about the way he releases his music continue, and his laidback attitude makes me admire him even more. It is particularly interesting to me to see the vibe between him and his enthusiastic interviewer. The interviewer clearly recognizes his genius and tries, at points perhaps too hard, to instigate a more intricate interview. Richard James seems humble, composed in a careless manner, soft-spoken and completely unaware of how brilliant he is.
This music is to the average European ear more than diabolical, this being to a large extent due to the differences in the tones, semi-tones, and intervals of the scale, but personally, having got accustomed to their tunes, I rather like its weirdness and originality. When once it is understood it can be appreciated; but I must admit that the first time one hears a Corean concert, an inclination arises to murder the musicians and destroy their instruments.
Jhnnes gos on to tlk about ART as a “zone which both hrts and is hrt” and how, qoting his wife Jylle McSney, “snd is a knd of violence” and, fnally, sying “I am invested in this violent aspect of art: it fascinates and hrrfies me.”
So, nyways, a few hrs fter I read Görssn’s engagng Ptry Fdation pst I found myself thking again abut snd, vlence, snd-vlence, and other thngs as I lay in a rlly hot bth reaing A.D. Jmson’s xcllent “Amazing Adult Fantasy”:
You’ll be the guy who finally knifed up Indian Jones. Some’ll love you and some’ll hate you. Some’ll never believe it and never give in. Some’ll send flowers. Some’ll look for and find the younger Indian Jones.
The casl skm-reader READ MORE >
Music by Kanye West. Commentary by Lakshmi Singh, Leonard Lopate. Beer by Pabst Brewing Company.
Kanye West, in keeping with a truncated periphery necessary for megalomania, has upgraded from hipster shutter shades to a high couture diamond mask (by Belgian fashion designer Maison Martin Margiela) whose stones, growing in carat, funnel into his money machine, that is, mouth. His favorite puns involve you swallowing his cum, which is why I prefer to listen to him with a can of ginger ale handy. Like cheesy pop songs of the mid-90s with that embarrassing rap interlude, today’s hip hop (Kanye, Drake, Frank Ocean) strains itself with melody, often auto-tuned. As Yeezus is released today, drying out all the fervent leaks a week prior, we’ve found — or perhaps created — a black Jesus whose relation to our sins seems less compassionate than complicit. Short of dying for our sins, he would rather watch. The sadness of the “real” Jesus story is that he was gracefully on our side, which seemed too good to be true, so we killed him. It is the story of a learned cynicism, our grand expulsion. In 1966, John Lennon said The Beatles were more popular than Jesus and was met with outrage from both the Christian right and populace. Lennon later explained he was referring to the decline of religion (though his Jesus complex eventually resurfaced with his Abbey Road white suit and Imagine white piano). Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God (2007) is a sculpture about economics. It cost £14,000,000 to produce and was exhibited at an asking price of £50,000,000, an instant 350% inflation for patrons perhaps too dense to see the sarcasm. Hirst has been obsessed with a Dahmer-esque clinical curiosity of what’s inside us, though his perverse pathos stops short at a grant. His work mocks the mortal’s concept of immortality. Self-aware to a degree, Kanye’s diamond mask probably has little to do with the diamond mining industry in Africa, which accounts for two-thirds of the world’s diamonds, and whose upsetting trade empowers warlords and insurgents. If there’s any thing to say, we are enamored with the spectacle of depth. The stage as a pulpit. Grandiose entitlement is rather American, and with that, Kanye stops being its critic. Tired of splooge allusions, his “I am a God” repeats the title over and over: I am a God / Hurry up with my damn massage, though each time I read that line I see “message,” perhaps delusional that there is one.
Hairband videos of the late-’80s seemed meta in how they “set up” the song by showing the band, usually conceitedly, approach the stage during the opening riff or drum beat, to kind of glorify, or prolong, the imminent explosion of the song (rap songs, similarly, often begin with vignettes of rappers speaking into the mic about how they are about to start rapping). Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” (1986), whose titular contraction of “living” serves the lingo of our times, was in many ways the ultimate rock anthem video, with its talkbox riff, rigged flying theatrics, and artsy black & white lavender tint. I would “air band” it (an intricately spliced combination of air-guitar, -drums, -bass, and -vocals), running into furniture, discovering bruises the next day which unfairly implicated my parents. The song tells the story of Tommy and Gina, a young working-class couple whose love for each other compensates for their stout lives — while real life Ginas preferred displaying their mammalian buoyancies at the composer of the song, whose slo-mo moments right before the nipple highlighted videos of this nature. Of milk’s offering, newly satiated from Korova bar, we come across dystopian bros entering a tunnel in which they are to beat a homeless man to death. Anthony Burgess’s prophecy can now be seen on homeless beating videos, snuff meets Punk’d, in which teenage boys competitively break faces with cinder blocks and bats, the retina display of life perhaps more convincing than a video game. Misandry just happens. One may wonder if all videos are essentially games, life’s diorama inside a cartridge, the control pad’s rubber buttons as numb nipples whose virtual and distant volition is an actual child, silhouetted with his co-conspirators, in infamous anonymity.
On the 2006 Xiu Xiu album The Air Force, there’s a song, “Wig Master.” Lately I’ve been listening a lot to a cover version done by Why?, on the 2007 album Remixed and Covered. It’s easily my favorite piece on that album.
I was looking for the lyrics of the Why? version and I realized 1.) they’re not already online (that I could find) and 2.) they’re substantially different from the Xiu Xiu version.
So I thought I’d type them up, and put up a post about the differences. This is that post!
Music by Kendrick Lamar. Commentary by David Fishkind, Adam Humphreys. Beer by Coors Brewing Company.
Belle and Sebastian album covers always bothered me because they would remind me of The Smiths. Both bands are morbidly precious — or preciously morbid? — and English; well, the former is Scottish but who cares. England is to Scotland what China is to Korea what Spain is to Portugal. As in no one cares. I have a friend who has this rule where she won’t fuck a guy if she finds Belle and Sebastian on his playlist. I can understand: I have Belle and Sebastian on my playlist and I wouldn’t fuck me. It bothers me that you take a photo, run it through a color filter and slap some typographically “literary” text on it and consider it an album cover because, right, like your fans are all sensitive art students with melted candles and a suicidy razor blade by the bathtub; and emphatic or compulsive design seems uncool and corporatey, and your life is all about casual. Casual sex; casual resume sending; casual cereal for dinner. Every time I see one of these album covers I want to have a vasectomy and not subject my child to this world and vice versa. I love it when there’s an acoustic guitar lying around at a party — the kind of party with salsa and guacamole in coffee mugs because everyone’s too mellow to actually cook — and always the least-laid guy needs to pick it up and start playing the four chords he knows. Then five to seven grimly codependent-ish people all reluctantly stay quiet and feign attention while he plays something out of key. Then he starts sincerely singing, which is basically a metaphor for the world: we make it horrible with our feelings. Some asshole says do you know any Wilco and all the more amicable networky people into electronic music with better clothes and skin are on the roof now drinking beers, holding the bottle against the sun so that it seems that the sun is inside the bottle, setting into the amber sea.
Just wrapped up a two week session on The Orange Eats Creeps in my 21st Century Horror class, and one of my awesome students, DJ Dodd, created this badass mixtape: “For those who are interested in further exploring the dark underbelly of society hinted at by The Orange Eats Creeps, here is a streamable and downloadable mixtape that features the twisted, crusty, and often sublime characteristics found within the novel.”
A link to the mixtape, plus a track list after the break.
I downloaded Animal Collective’s new album Centipede Hz, and decided I would chart what I noticed as I listened to it and surfed the internet doing research on the Harlem Renaissance. (FYI, it looks like a grad student at Columbia recently unearthed a previously unknown-to-exist Claude McKay manuscript. Pretty significant news, via NYTimes.)
A young, Southern California rapper who maybe went by the names Inkyy or Jew’Elz died in a car accident. According to the obituary in the UK’s Daily Mail (Online edition), Ervin McKinness (Inkyy/Jew’elz’s government name) had, moments before the car he was a passenger in ran into a wall after running a red light, tweeted the following:
It is not believed that Inkyy was driving the car 120 miles an hour or drifting corners, but that he and his friends were—as he self-reports—”drunk as fuck” when they hit the wall. Five people died. It was 1:20am. Another report said they were at Creekside Drive and Haven Avenue: here. This article has video from the scene. There is an iron fence south of the LDS church on the southwest corner. I’m fairly certain that’s the one shown in the video.
A question one can ask about Existentialism—whether it is life affirming or life denying—can, I think, also be asked about #YOLO (You Only Live Once). It depends, it seems, on who is hashtagging. There are certainly those who have embraced #YOLO as life affirming. As of Friday, September 14, 1885 people have RTed Inkyy’s unintentionally final words. Those folks seem to have embraced #YOLO as life denying.
Where will you stand? #FuckIt. I stand with life affirming.
Have a good weekend, everyone. If you’re drunk af, stay off the streets. Inkyy’s video “Dreams” after the cut. READ MORE >
A McGuire sister passed away last Friday. As the New York Times obit points out, the McGuire Sisters sang simple, traditional pop songs in contrast to the low, burbling, grinding roil of early rock and roll music. When the McGuire Sisters made a hit out of the song “Sugartime,” history’s greatest rock and roll performer, Jerry Lee Lewis, was marrying his cousin and putting out “High School Confidential.” But they have their charms.
I’m going to just go ahead and admit that I find something particularly distressing about the death of the member of a ’50s close-harmony singing group made up of sisters. Those acts took such pains to eradicate all but the subtlest differences between them in their presentation, worked so hard to let the collective subsume the individuals. (All with nearly the same hairstyle, in nearly the same dress, bantering with Perry Como with nearly the same wit and tone, singing a song with nearly the same notes.) And, sure, they don’t perform anymore. They are in their 80s. But one imagines they sing at home sometimes. And one imagines they hear the other two when they sing at home sometimes. And one imagines they might hear a change in one of their phantom sister voices.
The People Hath Spokeneth:
5. Dismemberment Plan: Emergency & I
4. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Under the Sea
3. Radiohead: OK Computer
2. Arcade Fire: Funeral
1. Radiohead: Kid A
Turns out I was way off regarding Emergency & I, which ranked only 103rd. But otherwise—not too bad, eh? (Shoulda just gone with more Radiohead!)
Joan of Arc, unsurprisingly, did not crack the Top 200. Also unsurprising, Kanye West is the only black musician in the Top 20! (Outkast adds yet more “diversity” to the list at #35.) And wouldn’t you just love to see a breakdown by color/sex? (Someone get on that!)
In total, 27,981 people voted. Why, that’s almost the number of hipsters who live in Logan Square, Chicago!
Time to set this down in stone, folks! RYAN SCHREIBER’S TASTE IN MUSIC HAS BEEN FOREVER IMMORTALIZED!
Have you seen that Pitchfork Media finally wants input from their readers, asking folks to vote for their favorite albums 1996–2012? (That’s years 1–16 Anno Pitchfork.) Between this and The Dark Knight Rises, 2012 sure has been good for the proletariat: rise up, ye 99%, and go watch a movie, and vote online! When you’re finished, you can share your list with friends via Facebook and Twitter. If you like, you can even write a little something about your #1 pick for possible inclusion in the final feature!
You can also check a box to enter a Sweepstakes to win a Trip to the Pitchfork Paris Music Festival, but make sure you READ CAREFULLY the Official Contest Rules…
Me, I can’t wait to share my commoner’s thoughts, little though they are. Off the top of my head:
1. Sonic Youth: A Thousand Leaves
2. They Might Be Giants: Mink Car
3. R.E.M.: Up
4. The Strokes: First Impressions of Earth
5. Smashing Pumpkins: Zeitgeist