Monday, June 30, 2008

The Bells

Efdemin - Acid Bells

The standout stonker from German techno artist Efdemin's recent debut full-length. The name of which is exemplarily self-explanatory. It indeed sounds like a close-range lysergic encounter with the vibrations produced by a swinging mass of cast iron. Really dope. Out on Dial records, which also put out Pantha du Prince, so they're basically killing it right now.

My parents were both raised in devoted religious environments, and being free-thinking boomers discontent with the rigidity of such an upbringing, oversaw the maturation of their two sons with the strictest secular intentions. My father, a level-headed humanist, bore no lingering attachment to organized religion. My mother, in contrast, still visited churches of her own accord, especially when traveling, for the sake of the musical performances, clearly a result of her being raised in a family known as the "musical Judds," who performed together Patridge-style in various local churches in Australia. I do not know if my own soul-scraping obsession with organs, bells and other church gear is a result of accompanying my mother on such visits or part of my own Rausch-nature. Either way, I regard church organs and bells as things of real beauty, and the sonorous outring upon midday in a small European courtyard is enough to induce in me a mildly trance-like state.

This is maybe why one of my favorite moments in cinema is the bell-casting scene from Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev. Rublev is crossing Russia, he has taken a vow of silence, and he witnesses the casting of the great bell. Boriska, son of the bellmaker, has in the wake of his father's death announced deceitfully that he possesses the secret of bell-making, and takes over the grand construction. Shit goes south, his head is on the line, but when the ceremony takes place, the bell rings perfectly. Overcome with emotion, Boriska collapses and confesses his fraud. He had carried out the bell-casting possessing only a mad surge of faith. Rublev is down, breaks his vow and says "you will make bells, I will paint icons."

From the "Casting of the Bell" scene from Andrei Rublev:

Lastly, there is Poe's poem on bells and their unstable emotional character. In four parts, beginning with cheerful anticipation, then consummation, then fiery ruin, then doleful purgatory, all evoked by the clanging of these instruments. Plus the rhythm of the words sounds like metal smashing together to resonant effect.

Edgar Allan Poe - "The Bells"

Hear the sledges with the bells -
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Hear the mellow wedding bells -
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! -how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!


Hear the loud alarum bells -
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now -now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells -
Of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!


Hear the tolling of the bells -
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people -ah, the people -
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone -
They are neither man nor woman -
They are neither brute nor human -
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells,
Of the bells -
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells -
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells -
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Torture Lite: Welcome to the Disco

The Guardian - Welcome to the 'Disco'

My friend Emma sent me this. At unidentified locations (called the "disco") within detention centers both in Gitmo and near the Iraq-Syrian border, prisoners have been subjected to music torture - what the military calls "torture lite", which is such a painfully 21st century subject (apparently "Enter Sandman" by Metallica is quite popular in these circusmtances). Torture is of course one of the central issues in understanding political oppression and the enforcement of peace from a contemporary global perspective, and the 'lite' part makes it sounds like it has less calories. It's diet torture, it's good for you. It's almost like a cleanse, really. Also BTW if you have not gone on at least a ten-day cleanse by now, you are way behind the times. You probably don't know what flavor-tripping berries are either.

It's a really interesting article, naturally since it's the Guardian, and recommended reading. I excerpt only this part:

"the most overused torture song is I Love You by Barney the Purple Dinosaur. On the face of it, the lyrics may seem deeply inappropriate: "I love you, you love me - we're a happy family./With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you,/Won't you say you love me too?", but anyone whose child watches the television programme will know how grating it is. In the torture trade, this is called "futility music", designed to convince the prisoner of the futility of maintaining his position."

And add my own torture-lite playlists:

Songs That Would Cause Me to Quickly Cave

1. Tracey Chapman - Fast Car
2. Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten
3. Plain White T's - Hey There Delilah
4. The Cyrkle - Red Rubber Ball
5. Unkle Kracker - Follow Me

Songs My Tormentors Would Try To Use, But Secretly I Would Like Them And Successfully Resist Interrogation

1. O-Zone - Dragostea Din Tei
2. Sting - If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
3. Fleetwood Mac - Little Lies
4. Coldplay - Trouble
5. Patti Labelle - New Attitude

Songs That Could Go Either Way
1. Proclaimers - the one about walking a thousand miles
2. The Macarena

Friday, June 27, 2008

Silent Running

Can someone please remake this? 1972 eco-themed sci-fi film, with a soundtrack by Joan Baez. It could have a cameo from Al Gore as president of the world, and Devandra, Vashti Bunyan et al could do cover versions of the soundtrack.

Here's what the spaceship looks like, it has forests encapsulated in domes, Bucky Fuller style.

Oh, and all the little cute drone robots were operated by multiple amputees.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Podcast: The Raw and the Crooked

AC associate Stephen Bolles aka DJ Still Life has a new monthly podcast going, here's vol.1:

"Passing along the first volume of my new podcast series with my Sleeping Giant fam. It’s called The Raw and the Crooked, and will be dropping on the third Thursday of every month. Basically jagged beats and other fucked up shit from the crates that I don’t get to play out all that often. No tracklist for now, but I’m sure you know some of these tracks, so feel free to play name that beat. Hope it rattles yr brain."

DJ Still Life - The Raw and The Crooked vol. 1

Still Life on Myspace

Some deep back-of-the-crate break work. Also nice appropriation of the cover from "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus.

Another nice appropriation of "Bela Lugosi's Dead" is in the 1983 vampire film The Hunger. Basically what we want to say to you is, you should be watching more stylish 80s erotic horror movies. Like this and "Cat People" for example. Also "Angel Heart," where Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet have a epic lovemaking session where blood starts raining from the walls and they scream and stuff. Also De Niro plays the devil.

In "The Hunger" Catherine Deneuve plays a 2000 year old vampire and Bowie is her lover. They meet Susan Sarandon and then Catherine and Susan's characters do it.

In this scene Sarandon confronts Deneuve when she finds out she's become infected. She has a cool 80s like laser-shiny trenchcoat. And Deneuve is just awesome.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Goldfrapp & Big Hair: Ride For It

Goldfrapp - "A&E" (Hercules & Love Affair remix)


Big Hair - "Sold Down the River"
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This remix by Hercules & Love Affair of Goldfrapp is super dope. I'm really digging how Hercules' non-album output, the 12"s and remixes, are less about disco glitz than like early Chicago house beatdowns. So if you have homo-disco panic you can listen to this track without fear: it has melancholic sexy girl vocals, syncopated bonky-drums workout and cool African-chant samples.

Big Hair - Sold Down the River
UK house duo'sm 2003 full-length, discovered through Trey. All that needs to be said about this is that it's miles away from the glut of peppy cornball house music that is the scourge of the earth. It's pretty tech-house, so it's got a disco palette but the whole thing is very tightly-wounded, minimal and groove-oriented. Deep and bugged, rather goofy sometimes like if Monty Python had a DJ act, never alienating.

Also instead of trying to craft some kind of dynamic album experience (like Booka Shade's new album for example) the group just goes straight for the jugular from start to finish, producing a live album mix of previously self-released material. Note to all musicians: do this. It doesn't matter if you're psych folk or what. Make an album that's one long megamix, somehow. It will be cool. The title of the Big Hair record refers to busking, basically, and the cover is supposed to make them look like they're sad-sack organ-grinder losers who are plying their trade.

I straight ride for this and really wish they were still putting out jams. Get it and put it on your iphone or whatever and get on your bike and ride for it.

- - - - - - - - -

Riding a bicycle should be taken as an exemplary model for how people and machines can hang out together. It doesn't spoil the environment, it's faster than just walking on feet but you also get exercise. Everything is working together. That's the music part of it. What' s so remarkable about music especially performance is that it's a person and a machine (even a guitar is a machine, or a dulcimer or whatever) working together and producing something for no reason. That's the Kant part of it, that it's beautiful because it has no point to it.

If for example you bike from your apt on south Bedford to Central Park, and you go up 6th avenue and you have headphones on, and you're listening to remixes of Allez-Allez, everything will take on that dreamlike, deceptive veneer of being together. NYC's daily tumult, the careening automobiles, the oblivious crosswalkers. You coasting by on a used Schwinn, everything kept dancing together via smooth laser disco propulsion. Dreamlike and deceptive because it can be quite an evocative experience but you know it's hiding just as much about the world as it is revealing.

That's something that irritates me about perception in general - the implicit awareness that during a moment of pronounced revelation, like the way things show themselves in concert as you're tearing uptown on a bike with headphones, the world pulls the curtain back on itself while it steps once again into the shadows at the same time. Good music soundtracking is about helping to stage an opening of the world, a particular stage for how the world can show itself.

In any case it's all about matching speeds and intensities. Have you ever listened to DJ Screw during morning rush hour? it's really weird.

Writing on the medium of cinema's fixation with the street (In his Theory of Film, read it or at least pretend to have), Siegfried Kracauer says that he means in particular

"the city street with its ever-moving anonymous crowds. The kaleidoscopic sights mingle with unidentified shapes and fragmentary visual complexes and cancel each other out, thereby preventing the onlooker from following up any of the innumerable suggestions they offer. What appears to him are not so much sharp-contoured individuals engaged in this or that definable pursuit as loose throngs of sketchy, completely indeterminate figures. Each has a story, yet the story is not given. Instead, an incessant flow of possibilities and near-intangible meanings appears. This flow casts its spell over the flaneur or even creates him. The flaneur is intoxicated with life in the street - life eternally dissolving the patterns which it is about to form."

But for all the talk of flaneurs, those meandering, contemplative urban dandies that show up all the time in Kracauer and Benjamin, or Guy Debord for that matter, do they ever get on a bike and just go for it? or do they just loll around poking at things with their canes and think about the commodity fetish?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Holiday, Celebrate

Edwin Birdsong - Rapper Dapper Snapper

George Duke - Dukey Stick

War - That's What Love Can Do

- - - - - - - - -

Three killer soul-funk jams for the first day of summer. Edwin Birdsong is the guy that Daft Punk samples for "Harder Bigger Faster Stronger," a song called "Cola Bottle Baby. " This track, Rapper Dapper Snapper, is really nicely bugged and fun. It's slow and trippy and playful, like summertime, and sounds like Arthur Russell doing a funk jam. The crowning element is clearly the little girl's voice shouting I love it! repeatedly.

"Dukey Stick" is another classic deep weird one, by George Duke, and the lyrics are about how he has this stick, called a Dukey (pronounced "dookie"), and it seems like this stick can be of great recreational value to you, if you are a lady. It makes me want to hold a grown black man.

"That's What Love Can Do" is from War's album All Day Music, which isn't really about cutey singalongs like "Why Can't We Be Friends?" and more about moody voodoo burners ala Dr. John. Actually the whole side 2 of the album is pretty spaced and intense. This jam does that minor-major two chord vamp, sounding sad then happy then sad, that echoes lyrics about tumultuous emotions. You could make out with another person to it, or you could cruise around in the middle of the night by yourself and curse yourself for screwing up. Then after a while the song opens up into a drifty psych pasture where a saxophone frolics, like "Dark Side of the Moon" style.

- - - - - - - - -

June 21st is my brother Bob's birthday, (happy birthday dude) and is also the first day of summmer. no other seasonal turning point merits such strong unofficial holiday status as this day. My brother and I have summer birthdays placed relatively close to one another, which meant that when we were kids it was often felicitous of my parents to organize a single mega-party for the two of us, placed strategically between the calendar days.

Such an event was aided by the fact that we always had a large backyard swimming pool, a glowing emblem of my childhood that I am now, sandwiched in Brooklyn concrete while the city melts without mercy, only too painfully aware of missing.

In contrast to this, there's a tradition in modern thought, beginning with Friedrich Hoelderlin, that teaches us we don't have to wait for the calendar to have a holiday.
Personally I prefer the ones that sneak up on you and strike like lightning, so that you realize only in the middle of it, or maybe only the morning after, that the whole affair had been a kind of rupturous celebration, a giving-thanks out of nowhere.

Summer solstice on a saturday is a grand thing, to say the least, and this grandness was attested to by a widespread outdoor live music endeavor put on in williamsburg, which saw bands almost every block setting up on the curb. The act that struck me the most was needless to say a gamelan orchestra that set-up in McCarren park - they're called Gamelan Dharma Swara and are affiliated with the Balinese consulate. A dozen or so performers hitting exquisitely decorated tuned gongs. No dancers unfortunately, and no private press albums either. But they did allow onlookers to participate - I'll leave it to you to guess how happy I was to spend this glorious day sitting in on an improv gamelan throwdown in the park. Also it turns out my gamelan game is vicious - most playing I do on keys is fairly percussive and repetitive, so I was laying down Mick Ronson gong solos in no time.

Here is Gamelan Dharma Swara in full effect. If you go to their website you can ask if you can sit in on rehearsals or maybe play along with them. Can you imagine touring with a gamelan orchestra? You'd be like the fourth Sun City Girl.

Gamelan Dharma Swara - Legong Kuntul

"this court dance depicts the movements of white herons in the rice field."

What, do they think we're stupid? obviously it depicts white herons in the f*cking rice field. Jesus.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dark Disco from Brooklyn: Sextant

Evil Steeple (is People) (divshare)

Evil Steeple (is People) (

The American Friend (divshare)

The American Friend (

Two debut tracks from Brooklyn producer Sextant. The first, Evil Steeple (Is People), is a horror-disco banger reminiscent of Moroder or Zombie-Zombie, with haunting organs and demon-pitched vocals, apparently inspired by the midnight menace of red-lit churches in Berlin's Kreuzberg. The steeple is watching. And it's people in a soylent way, if you follow. It's also rumored to possibly be a remake or remix of an hour-long Dopesmoker-style doom-metal epic called "It's People" and attributed to a group called "Evil Steeple," but I don't know any more than that.

The flip, "The American Friend," is a more tech'ed up burner, with punchy, swaggering drums and groovy, echoey synths. It's a nod to Wim Wender's classic 70s noir (starring Dennis Hopper as Mr. Ripley) and a bit of musical diplomacy, transplanting the German capital's sexy minimalist throb to the streets of Brooklyn, - an ode to Berlin's techno strongholds like Berghain and Watergate, and further evidence that the sonic love affair between the two cities is still going strong.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


or, The Man-Machine and other Erotic Couples

The topic of each month's player at AC is a carefully guarded secret. It is so carefully guarded, that I myself don't know what it is until about two weeks into the month itself.
Those who are truly in tune with the monthly theme's unconscious vibrations, however, are able to jack in to its conceits and respond to them ahead of time. Such is the case with Bret P.'s uncannily prescient post of a video in which fax machines perform a cover of a Radiohead song.

What's effective about this video is not that it's inhuman, but that it's still somehow human. If it was just inhuman, who would care? It's about the persistent trace of the human, how it be displaced, occupy weird territories, be transformed.

On that note, the theme this month, as foreshadowed by Neil Young's Trans, is electronic affairs. We're talking about electronic/non-electronic cross-breeding jungle fever in general - could be, as in the case of Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, and so on, a random dip into electronic waters by a pop artist, could be a weird mash-up, or dub or remix, or a song that serves to indicate how a whole genre took a momentary weird techno detour.

In honor of father's day, it should be noted that the father of techno music is Thomas Edison. And that, as every schoolchild knows, the original matchmaker of music and technology is Pythagoras. Edison invented the phonograph, the most important and modern intersection of music and technology. All recorded music is techno. Sorry. You may think you don't like techno, but you do. Nick Drake's albums are techno, and so are Dolly Parton's and John Fahey's.

A bazillion years ago Pythagoras invented the practice of measuring things scientifically. How so? By measuring the length needed to divide a string into fifths - Pythagora's famous ratio for doing so is 3:2.

1. Herbie Hancock - Rockit. Because duh.
2. Cerrone - Supernature

Post-Moroder Italian synth-disco genius' third record title track. A concept album about Frankensteinian abuse of experimental science: the lyrics could also allegorically be about the pairing of technology and music:

Once upon a time / Science opened up the door / We would feed the hungry fields / Tilll they could'nt eat no more / But the potion that we made / Touched the creatures down below / And they grow up in a way / That we'd never seen before / Supernature, supernature, supernature, supernature

Here's the awesome/weird video for the song, featuring man-pigs and a rainbow drum kit in the desert, very midnight-movie

3. Ricardo Villalobos - Minimoonstar
New track out on Perlon now. Villalobos continues to slay with further post-Fabric mix forays into live drums. really great little accents and riffs, sounds like minimal Bitches Brew.

4. Nico - The Sphinx
Not really electronic, but Nico's only venture into anything vaguely danceable, a malevolent, ice-y funk number very much in line with Yoko's Walking on Thin Ice, Sister Midnight by Iggy Pop, etc. Never, ever heard of this until AB showed me Howie B's Fabric podcast and Howie referred to it as "absolute stonkers." BTW Howie B is Scottish.

5. Girls on Top - I Wanna Dance With Numbers
If we're talking about cross-breedings and genre flings, mash-ups are kind of cheating, but come on. Whitney mashed on top of Kraftwerk is literally mind-blowing. And Richard X edited it in such a way that the little Kraftian bling bells perfectly match the vocal flow. I can no longer listen to the original versions of either of these tracks. SO EPIC. Really, you need this. Bitte please.

This also might be the greatest look ever.

6. Hercules & Love Affair - Roar
From a non-album 12". Way-deep Chicago-housey track featuring highly sexualized moans from Antony, you know, from the Johnsons. Really effective to hear his voice in a techno context.

7. Neil Young - We R In Control - more paranoid synth rockin from Trans.
8. Killing Joke - A Floating Leaf Always Reaches the Sea. An epic dub mix of "Requiem" from their debut album by Alex Paterson from the Orb, who was originally KJ's drum tech. Available on this compilation, which I will post as some point because it is fire.

9. Hi-Fidelity Three - Never Satisfied
Twisted, trippy rap-tech interpolation of the Stones classic, taken from the now-lost Beat Classic comp that I so awesomely posted a while ago. Both BC and the ambient comp do stellar jobs of capturing a nascent genre at the period of its wild & woolly inception, before it became a packaged and streamlined framework. In the case of Beat Classic, it was all about the noisy tech-ed up backroom experiments in early hip-hop like Rammellzee's "Beat Bop," evidence of a far-out genre swerve into near-throbbing gristle territory before everything settled down.

10. Boris - Message
Japanese noise rockers have a one-night stand with Konono NO. 1 Afro-tronics on this import-only track from their new album.

11. Soft Machine - Soft Space
The inspiration for this playlist. Soft Machine is a 70s UK group known for its prog-jazz-rock nerd fusion excursions, so I was pleasantly unsettled to find out that there's this track that had been tacked onto some random live album ("Alive and Well: Recorded in Paris) no jazz or prog trimmings at all, just an anthemic arp-synth voyage, very Moroder.

12. Spacemen 3 - Big City
A random synth-pop jam from Spacemen 3, my heroes of drone-psych. Super Krafty work. I was gonna post the video but it's mostly just them jumping around in front of multi-layered projections.

13. Black Mountain - No Hits
I like this song. It's from their first record and has nothing to do with the woolly mammoth Sabbath rock sound they're famous for, instead it's a dark almost goth synth jam. Is it coldwave? Does anyone know what coldwave is?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


A super-dope reissue of a Belgian New Wave group called Allez-Allez is now out on Eskimo records. Very post-punky dance-y with tribal beats and steely production. Definitely recommended if you need some more ESG/Liquid Liquid goodness in your life - but while there's definitely a connect to that NY brittle & bare-bones skeleton funk, the Allez-Allez sound is much deeper and well, bearded. Also good if you're into Bow Wow Wow, the Slits and other female-lead angular tribal jams. Finally, it's no wonder that the reissue comes with a slew of dope remixes by key bearded/space disco dudes: Quiet Village, Aeroplane, Optimo and Lindstrom.

Here's the flagship track, and also the Lindstrom/Prins Thomas remix, which is a pretty stellar object lesson in how to remix a track. It reminds me that electronic music production is more akin to building an automobile than anything else: it's a matter of fitting parts together, testing it for speed and endurance, and then hitting the open road.

"Allez-Allez (Lindstrom & Prins Thomas Remix)"

Oh and coincidentally/not coincidentally, Allez-Allez is also the name of a great UK DJ team. Check out there website where they get new artists all the time to post guest mixes, latest is from Low Motion Disco who turn in a mix featuring David Byrne and Panda Bear:

Allez-Allez DJ website

Monday, June 9, 2008

There'll Be Something Missing

Big Ideas (don't get any) from James Houston on Vimeo.

Give this a minute, it's worth it.
You could even skip the first minute if you like.


Saturday, June 7, 2008



1973 exotica-tinged afro-funk, in a full-tilt David Axelrod library-music kind of way. Hairy voodoo beats. Sounds like the soundtrack if they made a black Indiana Jones. Which is kind of a black name already, come on. This album is seriously good, especially because I came across it just looking for things called "Mandingo." It's a fake exotica group invented by studio musicians, essentially Geoff Love & His Orchestra, who gained popularity primarily through big-band cover versions of TV & movie themes.

Courtesy of It's Coming Out Of Your Speaker

--Now I found this album while searching for things in this world which are called Mandingo. This because of T'Aja. T'Aja and her husband Bretly are very good friends of mine. Aja is studying to become a nurse, and will not hesitate to remind you of this in fairly graphic ways. Such as an email response to a social invitation saying "I can't go. I have to get up at 7 am to pull humans out of women's pussies. Think about it."
Recently she informed me that during her daylong engagement with said human-pulling, she was in the company of several older African-American nurses, one of whom when meeting a newborn male infant of particular endowment, exclaimed

"OOO lookatchoooo...Mandingo...."

And so a nickname for this infant was born, one that he will probably never learn of, although it is quite possible that all things considered it may not be his last.
From my research I gather that the most likely origin of this nickname comes from the eponymous male porn star, age 33, who has gained notoriety as having the most prominent member in the business and possibly the earth, to an extent that his name is now usable as a superlative adjective for any impressive link of man-sausage. (did I just write that?)

I could not find a Not-NSFW image of this gentlemen, the inspired reader is certainly welcome to take her (or his) own initiative on the matter.

I quote Wikipedia:
"Since 2002 Mandingo has focused mainly on interracial pornography. In 2007, Mandingo completed It Don't Matter, Just Don't Bite It, his 500th film in the adult entertainment industyr.

Several rappers have referenced Mandingo in their lyrics. Ludacris' song "Coming 2 America" includes the words "But I'm the light-skinned version of ManDingo...". Another reference to Mandingo was in the Wayans Bros produced film, White Chicks, where they ask a colleague if he thinks he's Mandingo."

Wikipedia however neglects to mention a reference in "Doin' It" by LL Cool J, where he expressly refers to being "Mandingo in the sack." This was heard in the grizzly van on the way back from Fort Tilden, somewhere on Bushwick Ave. The sheer summer steam from the concrete jungle had left us alone for the entire afternoon on the beach and by the time LL was comparing himself to a pornography actor the heat had enveloped us again, like a localized urban version of the Nothing from "The Neverending Story."

There is also a 1975 film which bears the name. According to Wikipedia, the porn actor was also born in 1975 and that the sharing of the name Mandingo is a complete coincidence, both independently deriving, it seems, from the West African ethnic group Mandinka or Mandingo, which has a population of some 6.5 million.

Here's a trailer for the film, which I'm sorry considering our previous considerations of the title is pretty funny. The movie is about racial violence in the south, and has been called by Quentin Tarantino "a big-budget exploitation movie on par with Showgirls." It has for good reason been pilloried because of its absurd racial content. The careful reader will of course noted that both the adult movie actor Mandingo and the 1975 film place emphasis on interracial erotic relationships aka Jungle Fever, aka Mandingo & The Queen Mary.

Contained within this genealogy of Mandingo I'm sure there's a number of penetrating insights to be made about race, exploitation, erotics, interracial doin' it, and so on, but I'm too lazy to think of what those are. I will allow the information heretofore compiled to suffice as inspiration for those who will follow me.

Monday, June 2, 2008

"Trans" and Other Electronic Affairs

Paul McCartney - "Frozen J_p"

Cat Stevens - "Was Dog a Doughnut?"

Carly Simon - Why?

"Someone once asked Hildebrand [inventor of the Auto-tune] if [it] was evil. He responded, “Well, my wife wears makeup. Is that evil?” Evil may be overstating the case, but makeup is an apt analogy: there is nothing natural about recorded music."

-Sascha Frere-Jones, New Yorker June 9th, "The Gerbil's Revenge"

If you carry this point to its conclusion, you begin to understand that all recorded music is like the Trans cover. It's a work that by way of apparent exception, points out the hidden universality of its condition: all records are man-machine throwdowns.
So SFJ's latest piece is on the auto-tune, the electronic vocal-altering software popularized by T-Pain, which he points out will sonically represent the late aughts the way that the "dry, flat drum sounds" of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours represent the seventies. And also that most people think the autotune is a vocoder. Very different process: autotune corrects your voice until you have hyperexact pitch, while the vocoder adds a tone, effectively "encoding" your voice.

This is why it was invented. The vocoder, like Muzak, has a military origin:

"Between 1942 and 1945, while working for Bell Laboratories and the British Secret Service, respectively, Shannon and Turing developed the vocoder, a wonder weapon that would make the transatlantic phone conversations between Churchill and Roosevelt safe from interception by Canaris and the German Abwehr...It lives up to its name: it encodes any given data stream A with the envelope curves of another sound sequence test his vocoder, by the way, Turing played a record of Churchill's belligerent voice, whose discreet or cut-up sampled values he then mixed with a noise generator using modular addition...Appropriately, Turing's vocoder was named after Delilah, who in the Book of Judges tricked another warrior, Samson, out of the secret of his strength." - Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone Film Typewriter, p. 48.

I posted the track "Computer Cowboy" from Trans before, but f*ck a re-up, here's the album. My friend Trey gave me Trans. I was at his house over Thanksgiving and he had the album image magneted to his fridge, perhaps the only bit of visual decoration in the entire apartment, which shows how significant it is. Trey taught me everything I know or think I know about DJ craft. If I ever wanted to make a version of "Searching for Bobby Fischer" but about DJing, then Trey would be the Bobby Fischer part. Born of a great inner aesthetic sensitivity, his skills are unparalleled, but like John Fahey or Sly Stone he largely withdrawn from the game in recent years. All of Trans is really dope. It's his Devo album, so it's no surprise that some of the tracks show up on the goof-off movie "Human Highway" that he filmed with Devo the same year. "Computer Crusher" is a serious jam. In general you could just DJ by mixing two copies of this LP into a face-melting electro-rock megamix.

It's been often noted that Young started using the vocoder in part because he noticed that it got a stronger emotional reaction out of his young son afflicted with cerebral palsy. So an instrument that alienates a great deal of his fans helps him connect with his child stricken by an alienating disease.

Young explains the record in an 1989 interview for the Village Voice Rock N Roll Quarterly:

"Trans was about all these robot-humanoid people working in this hospital and the one thing they were trying to do was teach this little baby to push a button. That's what the record's about. Read the lyrics, listen to all the mechanical voices, disregard everything but that computerized thing, and it's clear Trans is the beginning of my search for communication with a severely handicapped nonoral person. 'Transformer man' is a song for my kid. If you read the words to that song - and look at my child with his little button and his train set and his transformer - the whole thing is for Ben.

"People completely misunderstood Trans. They put me down for fuckin' around with things I shouldn't have been involved with. Well, fuck them. But it hurt, because this was for my kid."

Oh, interestingly enough, want to know how Frere-Jones' autotune article ends? with a quote from T-Pain, current autotone master. Read it together with Young's sentiments:

"When I asked T-Pain if he could ever forgo Auto-Tune, he said, 'I got a song on my album about my kids. I ain’t use it on that one.'"

Here's Neil doing a track from the record mit vocoder on the BBC. BTW there is an 1983 concert film of him doing a lot of Trans material, filmed in, you guessed it, Berlin, aka the town where musicians go to turn into robots.

Neil Young - Computer Age (Live BBC)

Attached are three other wtf electronic jams, one by Paul from his 1980 solo record, one from Cat Stevens, which is totally goofy and great, and a Chic-produced Carly Simon slow-disco jam that was for a 1982 film that flopped and later became an Ibiza acknowledged classic.
All illustrating another reason why electronic music is great, because not only can anyone do it, but it's ok if they do it for just one song. Anyone can do punk also but it's fake if you just have one punk song, but you can have all the one-off drum machine jams you want. Which makes crate-digging (or as Wade says, leak-digging, or even craig-digging) even more entertaining, because pretty much everybody has one cash-in disco jam, or one beatboxed-out free for all.

Because techno is for everybody.

"The Pod - Community Techno Unit"

PS I almost put up the video for "Coming Around Again" by Carly Simon because I must have heard that song one billion times when I was a kid, and it is kind of awesome. but the video, replete with home-movie clips and a severely 80s-out Carly, is also kind of horrifying.

PPS do you know that if you click on 'share' on the player, it takes you somewhere special? try it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bowie Covered: Making Way for Homo Superior

new tech-centered Bowie tribute album on Rapster/k7 Records, which I am happy to report features alot of Berlin-era material.

clicking on the link will lead you to a microsite where you can hear a stream of our friends Au Revoir Simone covering "Oh You Pretty Things." (I was going to post the mp3 but technical difficulties inhibit me at the moment, and I didn't feel like waiting to go get a new burner to post.)

* * *

“The crack is in me,” I said heroically.

“Listen! The world only exists in your eyes –your conception of it. You can make it as big or as small as you want to. And you’re trying to be a little puny individual. By God, if I ever cracked, I’d try to make the world crack with me. Listen! The world only exists through your apprehension of it, and so it’s much better to say that it’s not you that’s cracked –it’s the Grand Canyon.”

- "The Crack-Up" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In a simple twist of fate, my college girlfriend of three years broke up with me on Sept. 3rd, 2001. This puts the matter in a highly schematic fashion which is as loose with the facts as it is appropriate for my concerns at the moment. It's enough to say that I was in Prague, I had skipped out on the homeland in a post-college euphoria/malaise, and she was in New York, hooking up with a good friend of ours.

The panic, the imminent sense of disaster, the loss of thousands of lives and the deep collective trauma which unfolded a week later were for the most part phenomena that remained on the other side of the ocean, alongside the life that I had been putting on hold or had left behind, it wasn't clear.

Not to say I wasn't stunned as well, or that I didn't hole up in a friend's apartment for a lost weekend of substance abuse and steady consumption of burcak, that not-yet-wine orange juicey substance which comes of age early every fall and whose advent the Czechs are wont to regularly celebrate, selling the stuff in two-liter bottles. It's a pleasant frothy delight, but it can gave you the shits.

But while my memories of the subsequent events that befell my home country in that time are largely televised, and while I still as a result cannot trace the psychic scar of that day in such detail as some can, those memories of my own personal life, which was running a seriously parallel trajectory, are fairly brutal. If the attacks have often labeled, rightly or wrongly, the rude reintroduction of America to the vissicitudes of history, the concurrent young-person break-up that I underwent, and not the transatlantic adventure itself that I was on, which nicely ejected me from the fantasy-world of undergrad life.

It was a staging of such great personal coincidence that, had there been a God at the time, it would have been a perfect opportunity to congratulate him on the infinitely strange contours of his humor.

This is my own perhaps embarrassingly personal example of a nice aesthetic strategy: the transfiguration of individual personal problems into scenes of historical rupture, and vice versa.

This has to me always been the lynchpin of Bowie's 'Oh You Pretty Things', in which the chorus goes Oh you pretty things, don't you know you're driving your mommas and poppas insane, let me make it plain, gotta make way for the Homo Superior. And throughout the song the lyrics mix discussing the quotidian dirty laundry of a relationship gone south alongside images of the arrival of "the coming race." Within the lyrics, this isn't just fantasizing or hypothesizing, this arrival has the force of an event: "all the strangers came today, and it looks as though they're here to stay."

"What are we coming to? No room for me no fun for you" And while we're at it, what's the whole human race coming to?

In the end it's a great fantasy, isn't it? That when you had a break-up, the whole human race would have to break with you. In essence, that's very much like what Nietzsche said, when he envisioned enacting a "grand politics" that would "break the world in two."

Years later, I recorded a wee demo called "Dresden City Hall," my own cover not of "Pretty Things" but maybe of its psychological-historical short circuit, after seeing this photograph:

It was taken from atop the aforementioned city hall, just after the city was firebombed. An angel casts its eyes over the destruction. BTW if you know of a better real-world example of Benjamins' famous Angelus Novus than this one, let me know...My own chorus to this song that I am not posting on purpose was: Never thinking about you and I, just that day in Dresden City Hall 1945