the original soundtrack

Between the lunar eclipse last night that coincided quite amazingly with the Sox winning the World Series (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and Cologne's finest descending on Manhattan tonight and the unseasonably warm, sunny weather and the lush green leaves on the tree in my front yard in Bklyn turning a lovely shade of purply-red, I'd say it's a pretty good day already.

10.28.04 @ 01:09 PM EST [link]

RIP John Peel. NYLPM has some personal recollections up that are very much worth reading.

10.26.04 @ 02:06 PM EST [link]

everything is possible!
Watching the Boston Red Sox win tonight was nothing short of inspiring. If the Sox can win the pennant, then surely a Massachusetts senator can win the election...not that there's any logic to that sentence, but you gotta believe!

10.21.04 @ 12:08 AM EST [link]

Man, Flipper really was the best band ever. Currently listening to the 1983 live album Blow'n Chunks after a long time, and it's amazing how they drag everything down with them into their sludgy, nihilistic churn. Sometimes I think the reason I like Wolf Eyes so much is because they're like a modern-day Flipper for nouveau noizeheads, sans the sardonic humor that makes me love Flipper so much (Wolf Eyes would never do a song called "Ice Cold Beer") and the truly scary staring-into-the-abyss-and-not-even-blinking attitude of prime Flipper. Wolf Eyes are doe-eyed flower-toting hippies in comparison. Optimistic even. Right, well, I like Wolf Eyes and all but Flipper still rules OK! Dave Q where you at, dude?

10.20.04 @ 02:14 AM EST [link]

A teensy tidbit on a new place on Atlantic Ave (I always thought it was spelled 'bocce', but the copy desk disagreed), and another little tidbit on Astral Glamour.

10.19.04 @ 02:26 PM EST [link]

sounds like now.

Been living in New York City for about two and a half years now, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to go to a live performance by Phill Niblock, master of extreme drones and microtones. I finally did this weekend as part of the "Sounds Like Now" (which, if I was being more snide, would call "Sounds Like Twenty or Thirty Years Ago," but let's leave that discussion for another time) experimental music festival. The other performers that night were iffy, but Niblock was flat-out spectacular. The last thing I saw that was as terrifyingly resplendent was a marathon performance of Olivier Messiaen's complete organ works, the most transcendent moments of which made me feel like I was suspended in midair.

The performance space -- a small theatre in the East Village with a capacity of less than 300 -- was incredibly drafty; it was almost as chilly indoors as it was outside, making the 'new music' on display seem even more cold and out of touch than usual. I sat through performances by Pauline Oliveros and her Deep Listening Band, and by the Downtown Ensemble, before Niblock went onstage. I like Pauline O. a lot -- she's one of the most punk-rock octagenarians I know -- but she wasn't at her best here. The best adjective I can think of is "clumpy"--ungainly little sound-clusters thrown willy-nilly, plinking piano here, accordion noodling there, laptop whooshy sound here. The Downtown Ensemble had some scattered moments of brilliance, but went on too long.

More polite applause. I sat there, teeth chattering, in a denim jacket, and cursed myself for not bringing a flask of Maker's Mark or something to, er, heat things up a bit. Heh heh. I made do with a cinnamon-flavored Altoid, its sweet burn dissolving slowly on the tongue.

Then Niblock. The icy blue and green stage lights went off, and warm whiskey-colored light flooded the space, making the back wall look like one of those fuzzy autumn-hued Rothko paintings. Then "Hurdy Hurry" began, and suddenly it felt ten degrees warmer, as if fluffy down blankets were falling from the ceiling. "Hurdy Hurry" is one of my favorite Niblock pieces, made by putting together and pitch-shifting samples of a hurdy-gurdy played by Jim O'Rourke. Basically, the piece sounds like what would happen if you took a hurdy-gurdy, wood 'n strings and all, threw it into a pot, and boiled it down to a thick, sweet, sticky goo. The piece moves sl-o-o-o-o-o-wly, letting the tones and microtones develop their own multidimensional, shimmering, expansive richness. There's nothing much to see, cuz Niblock stands to the side of the stage and lets the speakers do the work. He's a stickler about volume and sound quality, and with good reason--it's amazing how much detail is embedded in these drones if the sound is right. The next piece he did, "Sethwork," comes courtesy of a dude named Seth, an e-bow, and an electric guitar; it wasn't as grand or as absorbing, but it was nice enuff.

Then today I listened to Phill Niblock while cooking--all grand, dense, richly textured drones--and sort of went with whatever the music led me to make. I ended up making pumpkin pie. Which makes me think I should bake different pies for different avant-garde composers. I've been tending lately towards making apple pie, which seems like it might suit Steve Reich; all that percussive apple-chopping would fit perfectly with Drumming or Clapping Music. The big question, dear reader, is this: just who is strawberry rhubarb? LaMonte Young? Terry Riley?

10.18.04 @ 01:01 AM EST [link]

Got a batch of wonderful records (mostly German and electronic) in the mail on Saturday, and one thing in particular ( a nice little album called Touch) shamed me into finally writing this photoessay post that's been stewing in my head for almost two months.

So here's the story of the Kompakt 100 Festival. As great a place to start this story as any is with a gratuitous photo I took of M. Mayer. Aw he has the best smile!

It was raining in Berlin when I left that morning; I zoomed through the German countryside into Cologne on one of those hypermodern ICE trains. The high-speed trains are, well, very techno; the slick confines include a real-time LED display that clocks how fast the train is going at any given moment. It's almost like bpm. 250 kilometers per hour. 260. 254. It seemed like everyone in the train was drinking giant mugs of beer and puffing away (it was about noon). Every seat was hooked up with headphones; when you plugged them in you were automatically tuned into the train's system, which included glitzy Eurotrance and current American pop hits. Cool! Buried in my seat was a German financial newspaper that read 'Kompakt' in big letters. Was it a sign? Tonight was the Kompakt 100 Festival; DJs for the night promised to include Michael Mayer, Superpitcher, Triple R, DJ Koze, Reinhard Voigt, live sets by Alter Ego and The Orb, and, well, pretty much everybody on the Kompakt roster. Missing in action: Justus Koehncke and Wolfgang Voigt (more on these dudes later.)

I get into Cologne. After a few days in beautiful Berlin, Cologne is, well, kind of a letdown to be honest. It looks drab and weedy, kind of like Manchester or something. Everything's sort of brown and tweed-colored, and the grim landscape is dotted with lots of big ugly 1970s architectural monstrosities. Makes sense, after all, since most of the city was leveled and had to be rebuilt in the second half of the 20th century. The subway system is okay, but not nearly as cool as Berlin's, I note. I get to Barbarossaplatz where I meet Ronan who'd just flown in from Ireland (legend!), and soon we head to the Theatre am Tanzbrunnen on the banks of the Rhine river. There are two big event spaces, one at the Tanzbrunnen, and a smaller, weirder one at the Panoramahaus, so named because it's a big glass house that faces the river.

Oddly enough, the neighboring buildings are hosting some sort of international sandcastle-building competition which sort of adds to the surreal nature of everything happening. We see the scrawled set list for the Kompakt festival taped to a door, and gasp and gawk. Superpitcher and Mayer are playing at the same time! What to do? Mayer doesn't go on til 4 or 5! There's something cryptic called 'All Stars,' which we hear is going to be some kind of free-for-all medley where all the Kompakt dudes take turns DJing! Then there's an afterparty from 6 am til noon! This is madness!

When we finally get into the Tanzbrunnen, the floor is still empty. But it looks absolutely beautiful, all dark and washed in red; even the bar was lit up with the trademark Kompakt dots!

It takes a little while to get the party started. But soon there are thousands of people. And you realize this: in Germany, this record label -- this music -- isn't just music for a small conglomeration of music critics, dance fiends, and clued-in beat aesthetes. In Cologne, this is the music that you hear out every night. Here, Kompakt is almost as ubiquitous as the "Cologne specialty" ice cream that they hawk for sixty cents on every street corner. And hell, I have no problems with Kompakt or with ice cream (cf. the droolworthy cover of XLR8R with Phil's great piece), so I'm totally down with this scene.

Can you feel it!!! I do, I do, and the vibe is great -- until I misplace my phone. Then panic sets in. I search around madly, all while thinking to myself "Goddammit, 'I lost my cell phone on a dancefloor in Cologne' sounds like a bad electroclash lyric from 2002!" The vibe seems to get a little harder and darker; whoever's DJing is playing Black Strobe, I think--"The Abwehr Disco"? Freak out. I never did find the phone that night, but I try to get over it soon enough, and go upstairs where Superpitcher is manning the decks like a total pimp.

I can't stop laughing for some reason. He leans over the record and moodily puts his ear to it, swooning over the deck as Marc Bolan's disembodied voice goes "I'm just a jeepster for your loooo---oooove..." Then he picks the needle up and keeps on going with whatever dance track he was playing. Classic Superpitcher.

It wasn't really the best set by him I've heard -- a little too soggy and sappy and wispy and not as sharp on the attack as I would've liked -- so I headed back to the main floor to see what was happening. Who are those old, wizened-looking bald dudes? Oh hey look it's The Orb!

Or rather a stripped-down version of The Orb that they were calling "Le Petit Orb." Now I know The Orb are far past their prime, but I really, really used to like them; Orbvs Terrarvm still holds a soft spot in my heart from my more, ah, neuroscientifically-addled teenage years. Plus I dig the schaffel tracks they've done, like "Cool Harbour." But their set was just awful; an Eminem mash-up in the year 2004?! Get with it, grandpa! They play some old Ultraworld-era stuff, which is great, but if I wanted to hear that I would've stayed home in New York with my records and my synthesizer. And they played "Cool Harbour," which is great but ditto. Dr Alex Patterson how low can you go!

Reinhard Voigt did a live set and it was, well, pretty Rein-hard and bangin', as expected. I really like Voigt's Speicher tracks especially, and was hoping he'd try some of them out on the big system. It ended up Ronan was thinking what I was thinking. "I hope he plays that track that sounds like a dishwasher," Ro says. "How We Rock"! "I love that track! Dishwasher? I always thought it sounded like a washing machine!" I say. "Yeah!!" We hug.

Soon it was time for Alter Ego's live set. ALTER EGO!! People go batshit crazy about "Rocker," and with good reason. The glammier, rockier end of this scene has always intrigued me. We all went nuts, of course. But the best part of the night was yet to come: Mayer's set.

It's hard to figure out what to say about this, because I was so caught in the moment when it was happening. He's a master at building up tension; every track ratchets up the energy just slightly from the track before it. He's impeccable at that particular DJ skill of timing, of understanding where the crowd is going and how to confidently steer it into rapturous pandemonium. When I interviewed him a few days later, he talked a lot about his diehard pop sensibility and his interest in playing and making tracks that had a "beginning middle end." He's splendid technically, at mixing and layering tracks on top of each other, and while this doesn't seem like a big deal, it makes hearing this music live a revelatory experience. There wasn't much schaffel the whole night, and Mayer maybe played one or two schaffel tracks in the entire set, if that. The reason? He's not that big on schaffel these days. In fact, he worries it's starting to get overused, as I found out later (don't expect a Schaffelfieber 3 mix anytime soon.)

I recognized maybe half of what he played. I have particularly fond memories of when "Timecode" dropped at around 6. We were all exhausted and covered in sweat, but the energy kept spiraling up and up and up and up to some inevitable but seemingly unreachable climax, until none of us could take it anymore. Finally, at about 6:30 he played..."Energy Flash"! Mayer grabbed the mic. "Shout-out to Simon R.! N-Y-C!" he yelled. Okay, he didn't say that, but I bet he was thinking it. It was one of those unbelievably perfect moments. And suddenly Cologne was the happiest place on earth. A Disneyland for techno. If you don't believe me, I snapped this shot of the Rhine:

The next day we went to see Schaeben and Voss with Schad Privat at the Panoramahaus, and then headed off to see Ada and the Wighnomy Bros. play at the Areal Records party at Kunstwerk, a little basement space awash in film and video projections. The following day, we saw Ricardo Villalobos and Richie Hawtin play an all-day gig at a children's park on the edge of the Rhine. The day after that, I went to the Kompakt offices, interviewed M. Mayer, and met the Kompakt chef, who cooks their 'minimal meals.' More on all this later in the week!
10.11.04 @ 04:16 PM EST [link]

10.11.04 @ 04:16 PM EST [link]

10.11.04 @ 04:15 PM EST [link]

10.11.04 @ 04:10 PM EST [link]

Just got the new Ricardo Villalobos album and I can't stop listening to it; it's super-strange and oddly engrossing. At first I thought my in-ear headphones were distorted, but it was just weird psychedelic effects in the music. Lots of pitch-bending and speed-ups and downs. Weird breakdowns with...strings? Harps? What's that sound? I saw Villalobos play this summer in Cologne with Richie Hawtin, but my buddy Tobias (start a blog already, Tobias!) says that the real way to experience Villalobos is to see him play these marathon events in Berlin that go far, far, far into the morning. The guy is barely there while DJing his heart out, somehow able to stay in control of mixing &c. but so totally absorbed in the music (and whatever he's on, I'm guessing) that he seems utterly, completely crazed. His look is scruffier than the average slick-bald-head DJ, too; wavy dark longish hair, six-day-old beard, and these intense, sort of wolfish eyes. Really one of the most interesting characters living in Germany right now, I think.

10.07.04 @ 01:27 PM EST [link]

brian eno.

I saw Brian Eno speak today at Cooper Union. I'm not going to talk too much about it here, because I'm writing about it for da Wire, but it was one of the best speeches I've ever witnessed. Eno looked almost effulgent - shiny bald head and big smile, smart black suit, crisp white shirt left untucked. He has this very natural, friendly way of explaining things that makes everything make so much sense. I wish he'd been one of my professors in college.

Eno spoke a little bit about painting, and of art history-- "Pop music and Russian constructivism made me want to be an artist," he said at one point. He talked a lot about his past, which surprised me, frankly. He mentioned his four "rock" records, talked some about Another Green World, and talked extensively about My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and of working with David Byrne and the Talking Heads. He had an old-school overhead projector and drew lots of pictures on transparencies. At one point, he drew diagrams of Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain" with colored markers and showed how something so simple and minimal could grow to be so dense and complex, and how much that inspired him. A lot of it was old hat if you've read as much about Eno as I have--he went into his by-now-famous realization about frog eyes, listening, and habituation; he talked about how much he adored Cornelius Cardew; he talked a lot about ambient music as coloring or lighting, and spoke of Muzak and Erik Satie. "I once saw an 18-hour performance of Satie's Vexations," said Eno, half-grinning, half-groaning. "Sometimes you have to suffer for art."

10.03.04 @ 11:28 PM EST [link]

"make art not love"

10.02.04 @ 02:15 AM EST [link]

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