November 12th, 2011 / 5:02 pm

Five Albums For Saturday [2]

I did this sort of post last month. Thought I’d do it again.

It’s Saturday. I’m reading L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine issue #6, which opens with a special section devoted to three chunks from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Michael Davidson offers the first contribution in the issue, which he begins by making a distinction between the two ways that Stein scholars tended to categorize her work (granted this issue came out in 1978, but the categories still seem to be pretty paradigmatic examples of orthodox Stein interpretation): on the one hand, Davidson argues, her writing is seen as all play, deriving strictly out of her early research work with William James and automatic writing and later invigorated by Cubist formalism; on the other hand, her writing is seen as hermetically Symbolist, concerned with encoding sexual and biographical information in complex little verbal machines which contextualize their own environments. Both views, Davidson says, operate on either side of a referential paradigm: one wants her to mean nothing and the other wants her to mean intrinsically. But what makes Tender Buttons so vital, Davidson argues, is not the strategies by which meaning is avoided or encoded but how each piece points at possibilities for meaning.

I like this argument. It’s not about meaning vs. meaninglessness, it’s about exploring the possibilities engendered by the confounding nature of the text.

Anyway, here are five albums (plus two extra bonus albums!) I’ve recently been spinning, which I thought you might find interesting (hint: if you click on the artist and title it will take you to the magic place):

Adrian Younge – Venice Dawn (Wax Poetics, 2000)

The story begins in 1998 as budding hip-hop producer Adrian Younge finds himself confined by the limitations of the MPC. He begins teaching himself how to play various instruments so he can fully realize his vision. First it was keyboards, then drums, sax, guitar, and bass. Fascinated with the sounds of Italian soundtracks by the likes of Ennio Morricone, Younge begins work on the soundtrack to the fictional film Venice Dawn, recording the album intermittently over the course of the next year. What developed was a sound equal parts Morricone and Air. Self-released, the entire album was composed, arranged, and played by Younge. Only a thousand CDs were pressed, replete with faux soundtrack album art designed by Younge himself. Sold mostly in the L.A. area, the CD became collectable among those in the know.

The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
(History Always Favours the Winners, 2011)

Appropriated pre-war jazz albums, creepy dreamy. The Caretaker‘s new album is an exploration of memory. It’s an atmospheric ballroom jazz reminiscence. It feels as if, music itself cannot remember how it should sound, becoming gradually more grainy, opaqued by static and including more gaps and silences song after song. It it allegoric of the effort of a person losing their memory as he or she gets older and older in an amnesiac way.

Gnaw Their Tongues – Per Flagellum Sanguemque, Tenebras Veneramus
(Crucial Blast, 2011)

Past unspeakable gore, hulking bloodthirsty creatures, or cultic fright, the score of a horror film sits in the dark, pushing buttons and pulling levers and watching the gauge of your blood pressure peak into the danger zone.

Sean McCann — Open Resolve c43 (Stunned no. 70, 2010)

The ‘Open Resolve’ session is a full spectrum collage of blistered synth noise and dissonant drones informed by free jazz and free kosmiche techniques for a visceral and uninhibited sound. His music expands and contracts with elemental force, sucking up tumbling Corsano-esque percussion, flooding streams of astral melody worthy of Golden Retriever and epiphanic expanses of synth bluster like Emeralds at the brink of their sanity, adding up to a genuinely unconventional and often wonderful experience for fans of the further reaches and anyone else looking to go there.

Destroy All Monsters – Swamp Gas (The End is Near, 2001)

Studio recordings made in Detroit in 1998 and 2001. Free sound/noise developments including voice tracks by Sun Ra, remixed and overlaid from original source tapes, and samples supplied by Japanese noise-artist Violent Onsen Geisha.

+ 2 xtra bonus albums

RUN DMT – Dreams (Culture Dealer, 2011)

DREAMS is the first RUN DMT release in over a year. The album starts on the shore of a reservoir in MASSACHUSETTS then plunges into oblivion with a taste for tennessee fried DOO WOP for the RAINBOW GATHERING.

The Cats’ Orchestra – Coffee Killer (Already Dead Tapes, 2011)

Eerie, melting lounge music, Moscow’s Nicholay Syrov (The Cats Orchestra)…part of this whole ‘New Weird Russia’ thing…a drunken, zombie-music vibe. The original seed of a song seems to be present, albeit coated in peeling flesh and a rotting odor. To quote the label, you probably won’t come across something quite like this anytime soon.


  1. Nick Francis

      Knew you’d dig McCann.  Good stuff here.  RIP Ponytail.

  2. bartleby_taco

      When I heard the first Ponytail album I thought it sounded like Sonic Youth playing inside of a Mario Party game which they were stuck inside for forever due to some deal going wrong w/ a genie type mystical figure. Also, since it seems like you might be a guy who is ‘into this stuff’– listen to the new Oneohtrix yet?? It’s dope. New James Ferraro is really good/funny too.

  3. Christopher Higgs

      Yes!  Thanks for that tip, Nick.  I love that McCann album!  Don’t know what happened to the link for that Ponytail…looks like the host site is down…will put up a different album instead.

  4. Nick Francis

      I didn’t check the link–I was referring to the recently disassembled of the band.

  5. Christopher Higgs

      Thanks for the recommendations, bartleby_taco.  I haven’t heard either of those albums yet — will seek them out soon and get to listening to them.

      Yeah, I really like the energy and wildness of that Ponytail album — had to take it down, tho, and replace it with a beautiful Adrian Younge album instead because the host site went belly up or something.

  6. drew kalbach

      i like this feature. music is neat.

  7. lorian long

      i was bummed, too. 

  8. Christopher Higgs

      Oh!  How weird.  I thought you were directing me to the dead link, which I was thankful for because I thought I’d checked them all.  At any rate, it seems like I’m out of the loop — or, at least adjacent to the loop: I had no idea the band dissolved.  I echo Lorian, bummer.  

  9. Christopher Higgs

      Thanks, Drew!

  10. Ester
  11. alan

      Stein essay = nice find!

  12. deadgod

      [W]hat makes TENDER BUTTONS so vital is not the strategies by which meaning is avoided or encoded but how how each piece points at possibilities for meaning.

      Stein’s prose is firmly tied to the world–but it is a world constantly under construction.

      We must read writing, not read meanings; […] we must discover language as an active “exchange” of meaning rather than a static paradigm of rules and features.


      Well, the meaning of “meaning” is under deconstruction —

      When it’s used as a bogey-word – ‘I care nothing for what something “means”, but only for how it works!’ – , then “meaning” itself refers to a “static paradigm”, by and through which each word is anchored by a definitive foot-note–a hermeneutic paradigm that subtle hermeneuts reject.

      –but this mechanic’s dismissal of metaphysics is a paltry – if often persuasive – casuistry:  ‘the right way ‘to read’ is to attend its nuts-and-bolts with no concern (that could be and/or be shaped by prescription) for any effect external to the machine’.

      The “what” can’t actually be talked of distinctly from the “how”, but, likewise, the “how” is always a “how-what-happened”.

  13. deadgod

      Her work is not a sort of solving.


      That’s a nice way of putting it–through the radical performative contradiction of a paradox.

      –but words that “work” do “solv[e]” – albeit not in mechanically simple ways.  Tender Buttons refers to eros, language, community–not by way of one-to-one correspondence, but rather disclosively by catalyzing feeling and thought.

      –a “sol[ution]” of cognitive dialecticality, where the reader and text converse and change:  “solving” in the senses of ‘metabolism and reproduction’ – “solving” in the sense of living, the sense of having an effective history.

  14. reynard

      “A river separates water and so it should. A river. A river separates water and so it should.” — Lucy Church Amiably

  15. deadgod

      Lucy Church and so forth.  Neglected and so forth.  Very much and so forth.  In a minute and so forth.  Lucy Church and so forth.  Lucy Church administering a river and so forth.  A river and so forth.  Once in a while and so forth.  Very well I thank you and so forth.

      –Forth so and amiably, church loose-y.

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