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Archive for the ‘Dada’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Æ MAK-“We Have It Right Here” (2020).

Æ MAK is Aoife McCann.  She creates a fascinating tapestry of music.  It feels classical and operatic and yet also feels very electronic and oddly poppy.

This song begins with muted xylophones -sounding electronic tones playing a pretty melody (which reminds me of Björk).

McCann’s voice comes in and lilts and flutters almost bird-like. She sings in English but with interesting emphases on words.

Her vocal delivery and melodies conjure Regina Spektor.

About halfway through the, until now entirely electronic song, adds some soft acoustic guitar and gentle bells.

The second chorus is almost all voice with simple percussion and a kind of Kate Bush vocal trill.

The electronics come back in and suddenly start getting fuller and louder–filling up your headspace with sounds as her voice echoes itself and adds other lines before building to a remarkably catchy ending.

There’s so much going on in this song even though it often feels very minimal.

And wait until you see her on stage.

[READ: September 21, 2020] On Contemporary Art

I have enjoyed Aira’s novels and was intrigued by this short essay about Contemporary Art.

The entire book is 60 pages and it includes and Foreword and an Afterword.  That jibes with the premise of the imprint itself.  Ekphrasis Press reprints works about visual art that are not meant to be academic in nature–but compelling as prose.

In the Foreword Will Chancellor, talks about how language can throw you off.  He recalls bring a child and seeing the Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear warning.  He wondered how objects and their appearances could diverge.  He continues that Aira suggests this gap between appearance and reality might be the origin of cotemporary art.

~~~

The main body of the book is Aira’s essay, translated by Katherine Silver.

He starts by saying he is a writer who looks for inspiration in painting.  He says that cave painters painted facts, but it took a person relating the adventure, the storyteller, to make the episode come alive.

As a lover of art, he subscribes to many art magazines, namechecking Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Frieze, art press and more.  He says the magazines look better every year but that their ability to convey art gets worse every year–they cannot properly convey what an art piece looks like.  You have to read the texts to see what is happening.

His essay concerns the Enemy of Contemporary Art who says that today’s

frauds who pretend to be artists depend on a justifying discourse to validate the nonsense they produce.

They say that contemporary art doesn’t speak for itself–that it needs critics to explain it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FRANK ZAPPA-Does Humor Belong in Music? (1995).

Frank Zappa made money and found fame by writing dirty, funny songs.  Yet he was really a great guitarist and a serious composer.  But hey, when you need the money to make your studio, you write songs about “Penguins in Bondage.”  When I was in high school my friend Al introduced me to Shiek Yerbouti, and I was hooked.  I’d never heard songs that were so intentionally funny.

So, this live collection is kind of an odd assortment, given the title.  I mean the first song is an instrumental (ie. not funny at all except for the title “Zoot Allures”).  “Tinseltown Rebellion” however is pretty darn funny.  The mockery that goes on (and the call-outs range from The Scorpions to Culture Club and The Tonight Show) is nasty and offensive, but never really wrong.  And this is when you find out how good a Zappa stage show was.  The band was tight, they could play all kinds of crazy things and, as in this song, they were always in sync even when improvising.

This disc is a collection of songs from a 1984 tour.  I rather like this incarnation of the Zappa band (Ike Willis is pretty amazing at any time).  And they play tracks from across Zappa’s output.  Although there’s times when the disc sounds really abrasive (some of the solos–like on “Bondage”–are really piercing and not very smooth, and the drums can be very electronic sounding).

Of course, that’s the kind of music that Zappa wrote (“What’s new in Baltimore” is very electronic sounding–beautiful but mechanical–which is why it’s so amazing to hear it live–even if it doesn’t sound human, exactly).

And just so you know it’s not only Zappa showing off (although he kind of is since he hired all the musicians) in “Let’s Move to Cleveland,” everyone gets a solo…keybaords, drums…everyone.  And the final track “Whipping Post” sees his son Dweezil taking the lead guitar solo (which feels really human and rocks the dickens off the place).

For many of Zappa’s later “live” records, he compiled songs from all over the place (a very common practice for live records).  On some of the collections he even mixed a tour from the 70s with one from the 80s.   Now the thing that I just recently realized (even though it’s spelled out in the liner notes) is that these songs are cribbed together from different songs (!) (on “Cleveland” the piano solo is from St. Petersburg, the drum solo is from Vancouver, and the guitar solo is from Amherst College…weird, eh?  And what about the backing music, where does that come from while the solos are spliced in?)).  So, they’re not really live, except they kind of are.  And, heck that’s kind of funny too.  If you care about things like that it kind of ruins the “authenticity” of the recording.   But if you don’t, they sound pretty darn good anyway.

So this is not his funniest stuff, but it’s still an interesting live collection.

[READ: November 12, 2010] More Things Like This

I don’t know where I learned about this book, but I recently found it used for about $4 and I was pretty psyched to both find it and to pay a pittance for it.

As the subtitle indicates, this book is a collection of drawings that have words on them and are funny (but which are not “cartoons” (although some kind of are)).  The impetus for the book was a show at apexart of exactly this sort of thing.  The book expands on the show and includes many artists who were not in the show (including several very famous artists).

The Foreword by Dave Eggers offer the rationale behind the show & the book: Image + Text (usually referring to the image) + Humor = Good enough for us.  And it also asks pertinent questions: Why is it that so many of these artists can’t spell?  And why is it that when they screw up a word, instead of starting over, they just cross the word out and write it again?  Why is it important to some of the artists that the drawings appear casual, even sloppy?

And more. (more…)

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[READ: February 18, 2010] “Vagabonds”

After reading Infinite Jest, I got totally het up about reading all of David Foster Wallace’s works. Of course, I discovered that he had an awful lot of uncollected works (which were all conveniently gathered in one location by a much bigger DFW fan than I). Since I’m reading 2666 as part of an online group, I wondered if I would be similarly obsessed with Bolaño’s output.

Well first, I’m not loving 2666 as much as I did Infinite Jest (but I’m only 1/3 of the way through, so that may change).  But, on a more literal note, there seems to be very few short stories literred around the place. A very cursory search revealed a couple things in Harper’s and a couple things in the New Yorker, but very little else.  Now, I assume that’s primarily because his stories need to be translated first, so there’s possibly a bunch of uncollected Spanish stories, but as for English ones?  Well, let’s just say that scouring the globe for a complete list of short stories in English that are not part of a previously released collections is something of a dificult task.

In fact, further investigation into the stories from The New Yorker and Harper’s shows that these stories are either already released or soon to be published in translated collections.

One of the things I found in my search was this article which is more or less a review of Bolano’s, The Savage Detectives.  However, in true New Yorker fashion, it is also a detailed overview of Bolaño’s life as well. (more…)

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