Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Joys of Strange Proximity

or, Excursions in the Acid-Rainforest

Lula Cortes and Ze Ramalho - "Trilha de Sum"

Most of the rhetoric surrounding the reissue of Paebiru centers around the trope of the 'lost classic', of which this album is a shining example. The attendant myth involves almost all the original copies being lost in a warehouse fire. A lot of the pleasure of being an obscure music obsessive involves the joy of strange proximity: bringing what has been far, what has been distant and forgotten, once again into the light, to pull something from oblivion and hold it to one's ears. Then one hears not only the sound of the record, but as well the colorless ruins of the past, something almost like the crackle of old vinyl. An album that sounds something like a tropacalian mutation of Amon Duul, aka some deep acid-rainforest shit, and also it was supposed to be destroyed in a warehouse fire, is a stellar candidate for such an obsessive pleasure.

In this way, the context risks overshadowing the content. From Stylus Magazine's review: "With all the murk surrounding the album, it’s easy to overlook the frankly silly nature of what we’re dealing with. Say the following out loud: Paêbirú is an obscure Brazilian psych concept album about the four elements (earth, air, fire, water)... age and scarcity lend this record a legitimacy—and audience—it might otherwise be unable to muster."

Not to say the record doesn't have its transcendental bursts. The opening track, presented here, is evidence enough to the contrary.

The sounds of this 60-70s style of loose, improvised psychedelic music, with its genre-bleeding and unbounded vibe, are often a sonic shorthand for a historical contemporaneous understanding of freedom. It's one bound up with the 'passion for the real' mentioned in the previous post, as Alain Badiou has characterized it. Badiou has said that from a philosophical point of view, the twentieth-century is marked by a 'passion for the real'. That underlying the diverse artistic, intellectual and political movements of the last hundred years is a fundamental reckoning with a drive towards the 'real', in the sense of the visceral, the immediate, the raw, all what supposedly lies beyond the mediated, illusory, ideological facades that distract us in modern life.

It's not hard to connect how bugged-out rainforest jams might participate in this passion, which in the lives of educated urban white persons can often manifest itself as a fascination for raw-dog style, for the sounds and images associated with the concrete, the immediate, the intuitive, the pre-critical, the ecstatic. Psych record collecting = passion for the real.

It should be noted that in The Century, Badiou formulates an alternate passion for the real, but one that doesn't look for the real among any kind of 'thing', any kind of 'identity' - not even a rare record. This passion is associated by Badiou with Malevich's White on White - which is about uncovering the real as the gap between place and taking-place.

In other words, to continue the short circuit between Badiou's philosophy and music, the central claim about The Century is about the passage from psych jams to minimal beats.

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