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Archive for the ‘Eschaton’ Category

dfwSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-NYC Ghosts & Flowers (2000).

nycIn the midst of all of the experimentation with the SYR discs. Sonic Youth released this “proper” release.

At the time, it was actually the impetus for me to stop buying Sonic Youth records.  Between the experimental discs and the expanding palate of 1,000 Leaves, it felt like Sonic Youth were sort of drifting away from rock altogether.  It was certainly a way to alienate fans of Goo and Dirty.

You get two two songs over seven minutes and three over five (there are two short blasts in the middle which add some heaviness to the proceedings). But for the most part, this is a very spare, almost atmospheric affair.

Prior to recording the disc, the bands custom gear was stolen.  So they started from scratch for this recording.  And that may have something to do with the ambient, almost spatial sound.  It is quite mellow, (although still angular and dissonant) with a number of spoken word/beat poetry vocals.

Whether it’s pretentious or artsy depends on your take for recited lyrics (and SY’s lyrics are inscrutable anyhow).  Although Lee’s piece “NYC Ghosts and Flowers” seems to fit the style best (he has done a number of spoken vocal pieces in the past).  And “Nevermind (What Was It Anyway)” has a sort of commercial appeal.  The closing tack “Lightnin'” even features a trumpet, which I assume is played by Kim.  It’s the most noisy piece on the disc, with all kinds of fun sound effects showing up.

I’ve been listening to this disc a lot lately.  I think because I’ve revisited the experimental discs, this one makes more sense.  It’s not what I’d call a typical Sonic Youth album, or even the best Sonic Youth album.  It is certainly their most jazzy/mellow experiment (especially compared to the noise of says the SYR discs) and is about as far from their commercial peak as they could get.

The strangest thing to me though is that, despite all of the experimentation and slow-building songs, the whole disc is under 45 minutes.  So, they aren’t just making noise to fill space.

[READ: Week of August 31] Infinite Jest (to page 808)

In all of the talk about DFW’s “psychic” abilities with regard to technologies, one thing no one has mentioned–that I’ve seen–is his love of Venus Williams. Her name keeps popping up (I’d say at least a half dozen references so far).  And in many ways one doesn’t think too much of it (she is the #3 player right now, bested by her sister Serena who is #2).  But the amazing thing about his embrace of Venus is that as venusof 1996, when the book was published, she had barely played any pro tournaments.

Look a these tidbits from Sports Illustrated:

October 31, 1994: Venus wins her first pro match, defeating Shaun Stafford at the Bank of the West Classic in Oakland. … Venus faces Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the No. 2 player in the world, in her next match. Venus races out to a 6-3, 3-1 lead but then folds as Sanchez Vicario wins 11 consecutive games. In an interview after the match, Venus is asked how the loss compares with previous defeats. She answers bemusedly that she has never before lost a match.

May 22, 1995: Reebok announces it has signed Venus to a five-year, $12 million deal. Thus far, Venus has played in one pro tournament.

Although much has been speculated (by me and others) about when he was actually writing this book (and when he was able to send in last minute changes), she would not break into the Top 20 until 1998.  He clearly saw something in her.

ijdot1

I write these posts as I go along.  So, I read the day’s pages take notes and then type them up.  This is why I get moments of speculation in the posts.  But mostly it means that when I start writing I don’t know how much there will be in total.  This is now the second week in a row where the early reading started off, if not slowly, then certainly without all too much happening.  The notes I took were very simple, along the lines of: Marathe in Ennet House or Kate & Marathe talk.  I knew I could remember what they were talking about, but there wasn’t a lot of notable moments.

And then, we get the trifecta of Endnotes and Tine’s interview. Holy cow, a torrent of information flooding out at once.  It doubled my word count almost immediately. Phew.

ijdot1
As this week’s reading starts out we see Marathe trying to check into Ennet House.  Okay, actually he’s there as the final part of his recon looking for the veiled girl who was in the Entertainment and is now in rehab.

His new-eyes-looking-at-the-place is rather enlightening as I hadn’t realized just how dreary and drab the House is (nor just how weird most of the residents would be).  The supporting cast is in good form: some of them sleeping, some of them talking loudly, others just staring.  And Marathe takes it all in. (more…)

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dfw-title-pageSOUNDTRACK: GARBAGE-Garbage (1995).

garbageI was thinking about how IJ reminds me so specifically of a place and time (I instantly think of the apartment I was in when I started reading it).  And there are also some discs that I was crazy about at the time too.

I very distinctly remember when the first Garbage single “Vow” came out.  I remember seeing it in Newbury Comics [the absolute best record store chain, ever] on Newbury Street and it was plastered with stickers about how it was the new band from Butch Vig and he had produced every popular alt record in the 90s and blah blah blah.  But so I basically got Vigged out and didn’t bother listening to it.

Strangely, I don’t remember what changed my mind about them.  I assume I heard the first proper single “Queer” and instantly fell in love with the band.

It makes me laugh that the band was initially marketed as Butch Vig and two other high-profile producers got together and made this great music and they found this unknown Scottish woman to from the band.  And then, shortly there after the band was Shirley Manson and three unknown guys.  Heh, prettiness wins out.

Garbage was at a record store in downtown Boston that year.  I went down, but went to the wrong location (Doh!) and by the time I got to the right one, the line was too long and I was told I wouldn’t get in.  Alas. (Hey, I’ve still got my autographed poster from The Verve before they released “Bittersweet Symphony.”)

This album was in very heavy rotation at my house at the time.  I must’ve listened to it 1000 times.  But this is the first time I’ve listened to it in awhile.  It’s hard for me to be critical of it since I know every nook and cranny.  But listening to it today I think it is still pretty damned awesome.  The vocals are tight and creepy/sexy.  The songs are all solid rocking/catchy.  And the production is superb (obviously).

Not a bum track on the whole release, even 14 years later.

[READ: Week of August 24] Infinite Jest (to page 729)

There has been much discussion here on the forums and here between me and Infinite Tasks about the IJ timeline.  There is the pretty glaring observation that M.P. tried to kill herself  on November 7th, was in the hospital for five days and then appears in Ennet House on November 8th.

In last week’s reading, the WYYY engineer is musing about M.P.  He was told that she was hospitalized, and I considered that maybe that five day gap came BEFORE she tried to kill herself (for otherwise, how to explain that Mario missed her radio show sometime in late October?).  And yet that doesn’t seem to jibe with the fact that she’s apparently in there for an overdose.

A new timeline issue may be cropping up in this week’s reading.  A green Nunhagen-sponsored car appeared during the Escahton match.  We learn this week that Steeply is driving a Nunhagen-sponsored car.  But she arrives during the Hal/Stice tennis match, three days after Eschaton.  Has she been trying to get into E.T.A. for three days?  But, also, note that she left AZ, and Orin met the Swiss hand model (and Orin is having his second go -round with her during the match), early on the 11th (I think).  So I don’t think Helen could have been at ETA during the Escahton match.  Is there a second gunman green car?

This timeline stuff bugs me mostly because I feel like IJ is really fantastic.  And I assume that DFW spent a lot of time on it. (Certainly more time that I am spending reading it!). I imagine him with charts and graphs and circles and arrows explaining where everyone is at any given time.  Now, there are a number of conceivable explanations for the mistaken timeline:

  • Most of the stories about Madame Psychosis are second-hand, so they could be wrong.
  • There is ample evidence that people in this book are crazy and therefore not to be trusted.
  • And of course, there’s always the possibility that DFW just screwed up.

If this final option is the reality, I won’t be devastated.  I don’t think the book hinges on a few minor timeliness issues.  But I will be a bit surprised.  DFW seems like such a meticulous guy (I mean, geez, look at the detail he puts into his scenes) so it would be really surprising if he got timeline issues messed up.

There is always the possibility that these issues will be cleared up, after all, he ties up so many loose threads, but I suspect they won’t.  And that’s okay.  I won’t turn into Steeply’s father poring over every page and keeping a journal in little notebooks (that’s what the blog is for!)

ijdot1It is incredible serendipity that I did the JOI filmography during this week as this week’s readings actually count on knowing a bit about it.  And since I had just reevaluated it, I was aware of a thing or two during Hal’s viewing scene.

ijdot1Week 10 starts off seeming like a lot of nothing is happening.  There’s a few post-Event scenarios.  Until we get to November 14th, and a whole lot goes on.  A whole lot! (more…)

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blackSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century (1999).

syr4This SYR recording consists of Sonic Youth’s interpretations of 20th century composers’ works.  Some of the composers are obscure, but a few are more or less household names: John Cage, Yoko Ono, maybe Steve Reich.  I knew a few of these composers from Kronos Quartet, but for the most part the pieces are all new to me.  Since I don’t know the original pieces I have no idea how faithful they are.

The most fascinating thing about the disc is the CD-ROM video of “Piano Piece #13 (Carpenter’s Piece)” which shows the band performing.  The “song” is literally the band nailing the keys of a piano down.

There are a number of guests on the CD, including the first (I think) performance by Coco Haley Gordon Moore (on the 17 second “Voice Piece for Soprano”).  And, the liner notes are all in English.

This is the longest SYR disc (at over an hour and a half) and it is a fascinating mix of noises and sounds and screams and spoken bits (okay okay okay okay okay okay okay).

This is not for everyone, not even the average Sonic Youth fan.  There’s absolutely nothing in the way of “songs” here.  The abstractness of the disc is palpable.  And, clearly, just knowing that one of the pieces is a bunch of people nailing keys of a piano, you get a fair idea of the breadth of “music” that the disc covers.

[RE-READ August 19th] J.O.I. Filmography

Before reading this week’s section, I had noticed that many people on Infinite Summer (and elsewhere) have discussed James’ films and how they relate to incidents in the overall story.  So, I decided to go back and re-read his filmography Endnote, just to see what else I could learn.

In general, with more background, the Endnote is much more interesting. The first batch of films are more amusing to read about just to see the emphasis on pain and disfigurement.  We also see that he had been using students and teachers from E.T.A. in his films for a while.

We have had an in-depth look at some of these earlier films: The Medusa v. The Odalisque; Homo Duplex, The Joke, The ONANtiad (which the endnote describes as unfunny).  But the ones we haven’t seen show distinct commentary about the state of the country since the Reconfiguration (it’s clear that J.O.I. was against it).  The American Century As Seen Through a Brick deals with anti-O.N.A.N. riots; The Universe Lashes Out is about the evacuation of New Hampshire during the Reconfiguration; Poultry in Motion concerns the toxification of Thanksgiving Turkeys; and No Troy is about miscalibrated Waste Displacement Units that crashed into Troy, NY (which was mentioned in the scene about people looking for entertainment outside of their living rooms).

[Unrelated to the story, on page 990 of my paperback IJ (with forward by Dave Eggers) every italicized word contains a superscript 1 after it (indicating, what? more footnotes?) It is an astonishingly weird glitch/typo and I can’t believe that it wasn’t spotted before going to print as it makes the titles actually harder to read.] (more…)

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ij9SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH: A Thousand Leaves (1998).

1000This CD actually ties to the book because the crossed out title on the CD is “mille feuille” and the first song is called “Contre le Sexism.”

This opening song is weird and lets you know that this disc is not going to be a friendly listen.  Over some feedback and scratchy noise, Kim whispers and hollers, most notably that “it’s just a kitten.”  But just when you think that the disc is going to be a crazy noise experiment, the next track “Sunday” proves to be another one of Thurston’s supremely catchy singles.

The back and forth continues with Kim’s abrasive “Female Mechanic Now on Duty” and Thurston’s delicate “Wildflower Soul.”  But the pattern is broken with Lee’s spoken-word over simple guitar lines piece, “Hoarfrost.”  It lacks Lee’s usual catchiness, although his later song “Karen Koltrane” more than makes up for it.  Then Kim surprises us by giving us the catchy “French Tickler.”

To me, “Hits of Sunshine” is the centerpiece (literally and metaphorically) of the disc.  It’s 11 minutes long and ranges through the main stylistic feelings of the disc.

The whole disc is over 70 minutes long and it feels meandering.  This is not to say that it has no focus, it’s just not full of pop gems.  And yet for all of its wandering, it hasn’t lost the tunes.  Mixed reviews abound for this disc with everything from 1 to 4 stars coming from the pros.  And, I think depending on my mood, my overall rating could be just as diverse.

I admit that at the time I was starting to lose my adoration for the band.  These longer, more abstract pieces were less enticing than the noise of yore.  But now that I’m a bit older, I can appreciate what they were doing.

[READ: Week of August 17] Infinite Jest (to page 651)

I was planning on starting this week’s write up with a bit about J.O.I’s filmography, which I delved back into and found some fascinating information.  But this week’s write up is pretty long already, so I’m going to do a mid-week (but still spoiler line approved) retrurn to the filmography shortly.

So until then, let’s get back to the book:

This week’s reading gets off to some detailed viewing of the Incandenza men’s psyches before launching into an adrenaline fueled rush.

Mario is still freaked out about Madame Psychosis not being on the air.  He’s not sleeping well at all, and when the insomnia hits him, he goes for walks (even though he knows, and is worried about, how much it freaks out the Moms).

Mario is slowly turning into the absolute heart of the book.  He absolutely and without question loves Hal, and he is concerned for him because he’s been acting differently lately (Mario himself never changes).  He also prays nightly, and in a serious way, talks to God (although he doesn’t expect any one to answer…he’s not crazy).  And, in a very touching scene, which seems to resonate so well with late 1990s America, he is troubled that no one can talk about things sincerely without it being ironic.  (Pemulis wants to set up a prayer hotline for atheists that would just ring and ring). (more…)

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in hereSOUNDTRACK: THE TRAGICALLY HIP-We Are the Same (2009).

Itragically hip first heard of The Hip when I saw their video for “Nautical Disaster.” This is back in the day when I first got Canada’s MuchMusic on my Brighton, MA cable system, and when I actually watched Music channels. Anyhow, the song was intense and very cool and it built to a great climax, and I was totally hooked.

I got their back catalog and continued to get their new releases.  Since then they’ve released some really good songs, and some pretty good discs.  It almost feels like since their live disc they decided to switch from intense songwriting to more simple, straightforward rock. This is a little disappointing to fans of their intense stuff, and yet if you accept the change in style, the music is quite solid.

So this disc seems to be shooting for an even broader, more commercial appeal.  And, in the first half, at least, they emphasize a more folksy/country feel.  All of this should make me flee from the disc, and I think longtime fans are pretty disappointed by it.  And yet, I can’t get over how much I like it. There’s something slightly off about the Tragically Hip that keeps them from being overtly commercial.  So that even when they release a disc like this, which is quite mellow in places, it still sounds alternative.  Maybe it’s Gord Downie’s voice, maybe it’s something in the melodies; whatever it is, it keeps this disc from being blah.

The final track, Country Day” seems to sum up the overall feel of the disc: meandering country roads.  And “Queen of the Furrows” is about farming.  The opening few songs have a Neil Young folkish feel, since “Morning Moon” and “Honey Please” have big catchy choruses with folky verses

“Coffee Girl” actually reminds me of a serious Barenaked Ladies type song, which is disconcerting coming from the Hip, but could possibly become a hit (it’s probably their most overtly commercial song I can think of since “My Music at Work”).  Actually, I take that back, one of the final tracks on the disc, “Love is  a Curse” sounds like it’s their last ditch attempt to have a big hit in the States.  And if they were a more well known (or on a bigger label) it would be a huge hit.  It rocks pretty hard and screams radio friendly.

The Hip of old do surface on two songs though: “Now the Struggle Has a Name” is one of those great sounding Hip songs:  as you’re singing along to the swelling chorus you wonder why they aren’t huge down here, and then you realize the song is 6 minutes long and will never get on the radio.   There’s also a 9 minute song, and the good news is that it doesn’t get boring (no mean feat).

The second half of the disc has more loud guitars.  The cool riff of “The Exact Feeling” is pretty great.  While “Frozen in My Tracks” is probably the weirdest track on the disc, with a very cool, off-sounding chorus.

So yeah, the disc has horns and strings and is maybe a little too polished and produced.  But the songwriting is still stellar.  I’m sure that if I had heard these songs now without knowing the Hip, I wouldn’t be all that impressed.  Maybe as I get older I’m less critical, or maybe I’m just happy to mellow out a bit more.

[READ: Week of July 20] Infinite Jest (to page 367)

Even though last week I said I would keep to the Spoiler Line Page, I am breaking the promise already.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of leaving a passage unfinished, so I just continued to the section break of Gately’s A.A. meeting.

When I first read IJ way back in 1996 I, like most Americans, didn’t really think too much about Canada.  I liked a lot of Canadian music and The Kids in the Hall were awesome, but beyond that I was pretty oblivious to our neighbors to the north.  Since then, I have become something of a Canuckophile.  I did Curling for two years and have visited up North a number of times.  We even had a Canadian satellite dish where we watched most of our TV (like Corner Gas and The Rick Mercer Report) until that moderately legal company was sued out of business.  Now I subscribe to The Walrus which keeps me well informed. Anyhow, this is all to say that I have a greater understanding of Quebec separatists and the state of US border relations.  This makes this whole Marathe-Steeply section more interesting to me this time around.  I sort of went from Hal (apolitical) to a quarter of the way to Avril in my understanding.

But before we get to that, lets get into the book and learn about Orin. (more…)

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