Archive for the ‘William S. Burroughs’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ELI KESZLER & SO PERCUSSION-“Archway” (Field Recordings, July 12, 2013).

This Field Recording [Eli Keszler & So Percussion: Making The Manhattan Bridge Roar And Sing] takes place under the Manhattan Bridge. Installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler wonders, When does an instrument become a sculpture?  Or can it become something architectural?

I didn’t know Eli, but I know his partners Percussion [Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting] from a fantastic Tiny Desk Concert.  But this was my first exposure to them in the real world.  Their combination of crotales and big strings is at once bizarre, otherworldly, interminable and very cool.

There is magic in pure sound. And few know that truth as well as the quartet called So Percussion and the installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler — artists who, before this spring, had never met. We thought that they might find kindred spirits in each other.  So as a matter of artistic matchmaking, we at NPR Music decided to invite them to meet and collaborate on a new work that would have its world premiere at Make Music New York, the annual summer-greeting festival of free outdoor concerts across the city. And along the way to creating a world premiere, they brought a New York landmark in as a sixth instrumental partner: the Manhattan Bridge. They named their piece Archway.

So Percussion says that they wrote this piece just for the installation.  The drummers are present at their drums, but what about the rest?

Using a scissor lift, Keszler and an assistant began the long process of fastening piano wires attached to two large weighted boxes to the tops of lampposts near the DUMBO Archway beneath the bridge. More wires stretched from one of the lampposts up to the Manhattan Bridge itself.

The piece juxtaposes light otherworldly rings and deep resonating, almost mechanical lows.   Complete with occasional drum smacks.

By the time that their performance rolled around at 6:30 PM, Keszler and So Percussion created fascinating layers of sound. The shimmering, nearly melodic lines produced by bowing small cymbals called crotales offset sharply articulated snare drums and the grunting roars, squonks and groans of the piano wire installation. It was urbane and thoroughly urban music for a signature city setting.

And so for about 11 minutes you get a combination of low grunting sounds–the engines or the wires?–and chiming crotales.  Occasional snare hits punctuate the sound.

It starts with the mechanical sounds and the sounds of the crotales reverberating.  About 3 minutes into the piece a snare drum and rhythm is added, but very minimally and only for a instant.   Around 4 minutes the drummers start adding more percussive and less tonal sounds, but that is brief and soon enough everyone is doing his own thing, while Keszler plays a very jazzy style of drum on the drum and crotales.  Others are hitting snares and sides of drums.

But by the 10 minute mark it is a full-on drum solo with the gentlest/flimsiest drum sticks around–making little taping sounds (but a lot of them).

I feel like not enough is made of the piano wires –I would love to hear more from them.  I assume that in a live setting all of the cool sounds (ones that become more audible around the 10 minute mark are just reverberating around and around the arch–something that even the best mic’s can;t pick up adequately.

It’s still neat to watch, though.

[READ: January 28, 2008] “The Only Sane Man in a Nuthouse”

This is an excerpt from And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a novel he wrote with Jack Kerouac.  They alternated chapters.  It was written in 1945 but unpublished until 2008.

On a Wednesday night, he went out with Al, Ryko and Phillips.  Agnes didn’t want to join them–she was broke–some people have some pride.  He joked at Philip that he was an artist so he didn’t believe in decency, honesty or gratitude.

They went to diner and a movie and then went to MacDonald’s Tavern, which is a queer place and it was packed with fags all screaming and swishing around.

The rest of the story is a tale of an older gay men checking out the younger men, straight men howling for women, and men hitting on anyone that moves. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 3 of 13 (November 12, 2003).

This was the 3rd night of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

As the show starts, Tim says, “Thanks for coming out.”

So Dave replies, “Why, you’re welcome, Tim.  I was doing nothing else so I figured why not play a little drums, a little bass, a little guitar.”

“Here Comes The Image” opens the show (Dave is on drums for this).  It’s slow with lots of cool keys from M.P.W.  The sound quality fades dramatically about 3 minutes in.

Dave explains, “That was an epic song by Tim Vesely.  We’re gonna do another epic song now.  Epic means just long basically, and grand.”  It’s “Oneilly’s Strange Dream.”  Which Dave describes as a song that “was supposed to the be the equivalent of an Edgar Rice Burroughs book.  He’s the guy who wrote Tarzan.  Not to be confused with William S. Burroughs–an urban jungle thing still a lot of guys with no shirts on.”  Martin: “I hate those guys.”

Martin repeats the first verse.   There’s some great powerful drumming in the middle of the song.  The sound levels go back up during this song.

The final notes are a little cockeyed and you hear someone re-sing “pile of bones laying at my side” with that bad chord.

They play Woodstuck “with a drum fill.”  Dave says it’s an old song and someone asks him what it’s about.  Dave tells a story about touring in 1987 and he tells a strange story about a merch guy.  It’s pretty strange and ends with: that’s a song about Brett.  We left him in Calgary naked, quivering under the bed.  Tim says “we didn’t leave him, we gave him to another band: Pigfarm.

Mike notes that “that story was on the set list.  That was a tune.”

Next they play a new song (from 2067), “The Latest Attempt On Your Life.”  It seems they haven’t quite figured out the backing vocals live yet.  “CCYPA” rocks and then they settle things down with “Introducing Happiness” and “Power Ballad for Ozzy Osbourne” (with no ending howl from Martin).

Dave says this is our 3rd annual Fall Nationals.  Mike asks if there is a theme for this night.  No, but one might emerge.

Mike says, “A bolt of lightning struck exactly one block from my house this evening.”  (Dave makes an allusion to Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush (who “inherited the soul of Jimi Hendrix”).

They play a sweet version of “It’s Easy To Be With You,” about which Dave says, “Boy is this song ever about cocaine.”

Next Thursday is an all covers night, so they’re going to do some tonight to make sure they know what they’re doing.

They play Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” which I don’t know at all. Martin sings and plays gentle guitar.

Then they start joking about “Old Garfunkel, eh?”

He walked across America with just a credit card…it’s true.  Talk about time on your hands.  I thought it was a knife and a rope.   I heard it was credit card shoes.  Shoes made out of old credit cards.  That was his last album Credit Card Shoes.

In Edinburgh we listened to Scissors Cut about 20 times.  Weirdest album ever made.  Scissors cut and yet the hair remains.

They finally get to a quiet “Palomar” with limited backing vocals.

Somebody in the audience says “I heard you guys have a synchronized soft shoe routine.”  Tim says,”we’re waiting for that to become an Olympic event before we unveil it.”  Dave says, “I couldn’t remember if it was black square white square or white square black square.”

Martin introduces “Self Serve Gas Station”: Take it away Dave.”  But Dave plays “Roll Another Number” bu Neil Young which segues in to “Self Serve.”  The quiet guitar section at the end segues beautifully into “California Dreamline.”

They play a cover of The Clash’s “London Calling,” which sounds great although Dave is a little not angry enough.

People shout out “Michael Jackson”  Martin: “pleased to announce that Michael Jackson is in the audience tonight.”

Then after lots of ums there’s discussion of what to play. Martin in HAL’s calm voice “Why not both, David.  Let’s do both.”  They play “One More Colour,” but then go to an encore break.

Thanks all.  “Frozen rock pose.”  Dave: “We are Frozen Rock Pose.”

We have a few more for you—Dave sings “My First Rock Show” and gets the wrong verse!  He also sings “I ‘sore’ [sic] everything.”  Tim calls him on that.  At “swan dived,” Mike plays a thunderous drum and Dave recites a spiel:

The drums of war were in the air yet they were peaceable times.
And you saw a band like Yello and found out that they sucked and it didn’t cost you $85 to find out.  No $21.50.  Trixter, Heart, The J Geils Band.    Meat Loaf, Blue Peter, The Spoons.  A Flock of Seagulls.  No A-ha did not play.  OMD  OMD, baby.  Oingo Boingo at the first Police picnic.  To Martin: Are those guitar sounds a flock of seagulls?  Dave: they were the best, not the best but they were good.

Where to?  A Flock of Seagulls.  No Tim will do a Warren Zevon song.  called “Reconsider Me.”  I don’t know it.  He sings very high and off a bit.  He groans but then by the middle he says its coming to me and he finished okay with a “Sorry, Warren, I tried.”

We’re here til next Saturday and tomorrow night is guest vocals night.  We have 26 guest vocalists.  We better get in the habit of thanking our guests.

Andrew Houghton played tonight.  And Serena Ryder the next two nights held over by popular acclaim.  They end the with a poppy “In This Town.”

[READ: January 25, 2017] The Ugly

I read a review of this book that made it sound really compelling and strange.  And the back of the book has some of that compelling strangeness in the blurb:

Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is a 300-pound boulder-throwing mountain man from Siberia whose tribal homeland is stolen by an American lawyer out to build a butterfly conservatory for wealthy tourists.  In order to restore his people’s land and honor, Muzhduk must travel to Harvard Law School to learn how to throw words instead of boulders.

And that is exactly what happens.  Along with a bunch of other strange things.

I enjoyed the way the story was told.  There are basically parallel narratives.  One is told in first person and is Muzhduk’s life after Harvard (perhaps the present), the other is told in third person and is all about his life at Harvard law school.

But the story begins with the Dull-Boulder Throw.  In his village a chief is determined by who can catch (and throw) a boulder hurled at your chest.  Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is the next in line for the throne–his ancestors have all been leaders–but he is the smallest of his lineage being only 300 pounds.

Nevertheless, he knows he must defeat Hulagu who was inbred huge and dumb.  If Hulagu won, the tribe would suffer.  And so for the good of the tribe, he win the Throw. But the second part of becoming chief was climbing the tallest mountain.  Each of his ancestors had climbed a taller mountain, and now his task was trying to find one taller than the tallest one around here. (more…)

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Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #577 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

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fivedials_no28SOUNDTRACK: PHINEAS AND FERB-The Twelve Days of Christmas (2010).

phineasWhile The Bird and the Bee has become my new favorite serious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, this Phineas and Ferb version is my new favorite silly version of the song.  Sure it’s especially funny for fans of the show but, as anyone who has seen the show knows, Dr. Doofenshmirtz is comedy gold and so his wishes for Christmas and his updates and concessions (and the fact that he is a traditionalist) absolutely make this worthy of repeat listens.

[READ: December 19, 2013] Five Dials Number 28

Five Dials #28 is vaguely thematic–about heroes.  Some items are literal (the writers-as-heroines drawing), some are speculative (my favorite conceit–the stories of quickly killed side characters in movies), and some are unrelated at all–the guy who helped out Will Self.  This issue was launched from Sydney, Australia.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Heroes and Convicts
Taylor talks about everything mentioned above and then talks about Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore and his primer on modern art: The Shock of the New (which has an accompanying documentary series). (more…)

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harper juneSOUNDTRACK: JOHN ZORN-“The Dream Machine” (2013).

dreamThis is the title track to the third installment of instrumental albums by composer Zorn (as opposed to wild sax-player Zorn).  The new album is called Dreammachines.  Evidently this trilogy is somehow related to William S. Burroughs (sure, why not).  The first was called Interzone (and was three 15 minute-plus suites), the second was Nova Express (which was shorter pieces) and now Dreammachines (which is also shorter pieces).

It’s impossible to know what Zorn will throw at us next, but this song proves to be a beautiful jazz piece with the quartet of pianist John Medeski, bassist Trevor Dunn, vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen, and drummer Joey Baron.  It opens with a quick but pretty vibraphone melody.  The melody shifts keys but stays in the same pattern until the main melody kicks in.

Variations on the theme continue until about 2 minutes in when Medeski gets a big piano solo and this sounds more like traditional jazz than most Zorn pieces.  Then there’s a very cool vibes solo.  It’s pretty standard jazz and it’s really quite beautiful.

[READ: September 20, 2013] 2 book reviews

Bissell reviews two books this month.

danteThe first is Dante’s Divine Comedy as translated by Clive James.  James has decided that since Italian is so easy to rhyme “For an Italian poet it’s not rhyming that’s hard,” rather than following Dante’s linked terza rima rhyme scheme, he chose the rhyming quatrain.  Bissell expects that academics and traditionalists will be very suspicious of the book because of that, but he says that for the average person (the average person who wants to read Dante, of course), it will be more fun and enjoyable.  Especially, James popularizes the book.  I have always resisted The Divine Comedy but this one sounds like it might be a bit more fun, and isn’t that what reading is all about?

magicalThe second book is The Magical Stranger by Stephen Rodrick.  When Rodrick was 13 his father died in a military plane crash.  His carrier was en route home when it was told to reroute to help with the hostage crisis in Tehran.  But his plane was destroyed.  The hardest part for Stephen was when he read that the accident was deemed “pilot error.”

This book is Stephen’s attempt to learn more about his father.  Through the course of the book, he discovers more and more unpleasant facts about his father—from the lies his father told his mother to a pilot who knew his father who calls his an asshole.  Bissell finds this part of the book very moving but not quite warranting a novel length treatment.

But there is a secondary story about the man who now commands his father’s squadron James Hunter “Tupper” Ware.  Bissell says that this part of the story is far more engaging (Stephen is a journalist and this section is more investigative).  Stephen more or less tries to live his father’s life through Ware, a man who finds the same level of difficulties in his job and his life as Rodrick’s father did.

This is definitely not the kind of book I would read, but for those with an interest in the military and pilots its sound like a good warts-and-all investigation.

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literarySOUNDTRACK: CHELSEA LIGHT MOVING-“Burroughs” (2013).

chelsea-light-moving-albumChelsea Light Moving is Thurston Moore’s new band [no comments about the state of Sonic Youth/Kim Gordon will be included in this post].  I don’t know anything about the other members of the band; I’ve not heard of any of them.  “Burroughs” is one of four new songs streaming on the Matador Records site.

The song is spot on for the noisy/sloppy style of Sonic Youth.  Fans of Sonic Youth will certainly detect some differences–the counterpoint of Lee Ranaldo is definitely absent, indeed, the entire low end sounds very different from what SY would create given this song.  But man, if you’re jonesing for some chaotic noise, this song has it in spades.

Moore is capable of creating some traditionally beautiful songs (see his Trees album), but here it’s all about discord.  The song is over six minutes long and the last 3 or so are devoted to some noisy guitars in both chords and solos.

While SY has not shied away from long songs, this song doesn’t feel like an epic–it’s not multi part or “extended” exactly.  It’s a fairly straightforward rock song with an extended solo section.  It’s really great.  I’m looking forward to the whole album (and I love the cover, too),

[READ: March 23, 2012] The Literary Conference

This has been my favorite Aira book so far.  And that’s probably because it is wonderfully over the top, mixing fantasy, sci-fi, genetics and literature.  All in 90 pages.

The story is about César Aira, translator.  He has been invited to a literary conference in Venezuela.  While there, he solves the age-old problem of The Macuto Line.  The Macuto Line is, essentially a rope which is attached to a pirate treasure.  For generations, people have tried all kinds of  things to impact this line–but it has proven to be unsolvable and indestructible.   Aira happened to be staying near the Line in a hotel.  He claims that he is no genius, but it just happens that the elements of his life have given him the exact information he needs to solve the puzzle.  And with a simple touch of the rope, the treasure is his.

But that’s just part 1 and has nothing to do with the rest of the story, really.  For despite his newfound wealth, he will still be attending the literary conference.  Primarily because he knows that Carlos Fuentes will be there (Fuentes is a real person, a Mexican author who died in 2012).  For, you see, Aira is planning to clone Fuentes in his bid to take over the world.  (In addition to being a translator, Aira is a mad scientist). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THURSTON MOORE-“Patti Smith Math Scratch” (1995).

I couldn’t find any archives of Patti and Thurston playing together, so the next best thing is this song named after her.

For a band as dissonant as Sonic Youth and a guy who plays as chaotically as Thurston Moore, it’s amazing how he/they are able to recreate their studio noise live.  There are dozens of versions of this song available on YouTube and while they don’t sound identical, they all sound reasonably close to each other.  And they sound reasonably close to the original studio version.

This is a pretty straightforward song: a simple riff repeated.  It doesn’t have too many crazy guitar pyrotechnics although the solo is pretty awesome.  Especially live.  No idea what the lyrics are about–much like with Patti Smith.

[READ: July 3, 2012] “Patti Smith”

This article just solidified the coolness of my job.  I’ve always enjoyed the JSTOR articles that get passed around here.  Mostly they’re esoteric studies of unexpected topics.  But this one, from BOMB magazine–who even knew JSTOR saved BOMB magazine?–has just boosted JSTOR’s coolness cred by a magnum.

This is an interview with Patti Smith conducted by Thurston Moore.  Already that’s pretty awesome.  What’s even more awesome is that the interview is done in the car while they are driving back from a show in Massachusetts–it’s just Thurston and Patti talking (although obviously edited).

The opening of the article is an introduction by Thurston, which is interesting in and of itself.  He talks about how he got to know Patti’s music (he grabbed her ankle at a concert when he was a teenager) and then how he got to know her .  I didn’t know she was from South Jersey or that she was Robert Mapplethorpe’s lover.  I also never really put together that she married someone with the same last name as her.

First off, it’s very cool to be reading an interview from fifteen years ago in which both musicians are still alive and producing great work. (more…)

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