E.W. Harris’ Mimetic Desire.

mimetic-desire

Art Object

 

My friend E.W. Harris has released a beautiful new record called Mimetic Desire. You should give it a listen. You should buy it.

One of the really exciting things about this record is the quality of the songs. A number of us have been waiting for E.W. to put these songs on a record. He has been a strong songwriter for way longer than I’ve known him, but the songs he has been writing over the last four or five years are really exceptional.

The entire record is recorded with two guitars and vocals. So many vocals. A lot of the classic E.W. Harris elements are on display throughout. The record is rich with ear candy. Dense, tall stacks of harmonies and details. He finds little corners in the sonic space for subtle creatures that sneak up behind you on the third or fourth listen. You don’t hear it all at once. It surprises you over and over again. He uses a number of vocal techniques in the harmony parts adding lots of subtle character. There are textural contrasts. Moments where a smooth glassine vocal is complemented by the sudden introduction of sandpapery harmonies. There are strange whispers in the dark. There are noises from the street. There is a conspicuous lack of speak and spell. But what I mostly want to talk about is reverb.

If I were more disciplined about listening and writing, if I was the type that took notes as I listened to some of these records, my first notes on Mimetic Desire would have been about just how pretty the reverb is. That’s what jumped out at me immediately. This entire record has a beautiful glassy sheen in part facilitated by very, very pretty reverb. Many of us would be happy with a reverb that just gives us a little sense of depth and doesn’t draw too much attention. Many others would just soak everything indiscriminately in a suffocating sea of reverb and call it a day. But what’s happening on Mimetic Desire is different. The reverb is being used as a kind of instrument. And it’s being played really well.

It can be extremely difficult and frustrating wrangling reverb into submission. This is what it’s like: Countless hours of tweaking parameters, losing the thread of what you wanted, questioning the reason for your very existence, descending into the dark blanket of twisted madness. Tears.

So when someone is able to complete a record glossed with beautiful gorgeous reverb and apparently with their sanity still intact it is something like a magic trick. So what dark magic was E.W. using? Did he have a new plug-in? Did he find, hidden deep within the earth, some grail-like verb-item? Had he committed crimes of violence?

The answer to these questions was even more frustrating than I had imagined. He did it using the very same basic tools that I have. He’s just that good.

Is my desire for greater control over artificial reverberation authentic? Is it something that I actually cared about before I heard this record? Or is this desire itself a sort of echo? A mimetic desire?

Listen to E.W’s hot new joint HERE 

 

Then buy it. It’s really, really good. You can also buy physical copies, but he only printed a gross (that is one hundred forty-four) and the covers are literally handmade art objects. So you should hope there are still some left after the current European tour and go buy one at a show.

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I am Raincloud: Vic Thrill and Rue Snider 1/9/16 at Pete’s Candystore

Back at the beginning of the year there was some talk of maybe putting together a collaborative music blog. That never quite materialized, but in anticipation of it’s potential existence I wrote of piece of review-like music quasi-journalism. I would like to free it now from the folder on my laptop where it has been living in inhumane isolation. Some updates since this was written:
  1. Rue has a new record coming out on October 7th called Broken Window. Hear some singles off that here: http://ruesongs.bandcamp.com
  2. Vic Thrill no longer plays a regular thing at Pete’s (you missed it!) But you can – and should – follow him on Twitter where he does seem to let people know where you can see his weird amazing shows. 
  3. The world continues to wait for a new Vic Thrill record. 

 

VicThrillPic

“I am Raincloud, come drink my words.”
–   Vic Thrill

 

Billy Campion aka Vic Thrill comes in about half an hour after his scheduled set time. My girlfriend is with me. I lured her here with promises of an interesting set and Oasis falafel sandwiches. She is already asking things like: “Do you think he remembers he has a set tonight?” Well, this is, as I understand, a weekly gig. So I imagine he does? But we wait.

It’s worth waiting for.

Campion flies in hot with a load of stuff in his arms. He comes on like a Krishna music caveman cosmopolitan genius. A swirl of deeply eclectic foot triggered backing tracks and spiritualism. Fiddles and accordions. Tabla and sitar. Sermons on music, love, and unity delivered in a voice that sounds like it’s been through some things, and inspires heavy belief in all the words coming out of it. It is mesmerizing. It is very strange. It is undeniably cool.

I’m not the first person to write about Campion. He’s been playing rock shows in NYC since I was a small child. And we could talk about his old band The Bogmen, and about the quintessential nineties rock n roll story that I’ve heard from everyone around back then. About the national exposure, the deal, the evaporation of label attention. The deflation. Disillusionment. Dissolution. That has been detailed elsewhere. And, for me, it’s a narrative that misses the most important point. Campion is not a figment of the past. He is currently, at 44, doing the most interesting work of his career.

I’ve been to two of Campion’s shows in the past few months and the experience both times feels a little like watching a weird experimental aircraft take off. There is not a lot of faith at first that this thing is going to fly. Campion shows up late, he yells at his guitar and struggles to tune it. Some of the guitars look like improbable DIY numbers. He looks older than his nearly 45 years. He rolls on the floor and screams. He fairly twitches with boil-over energy. He dances with abandon. His voice captivates, soars, and ultimately I am convinced that this man is the absolute truth. The real deal.

Please. Take a listen, download his offerings. Give him your money. Hopefully you can help inspire him to release his long promised new album, allegedly titled Bollywood Hula Bard. I really want that to be a thing. He is at Pete’s almost every Saturday evening at 6pm.

 

Oasis break. If you find yourself in this stretch of North Brooklyn, and you’re not willing to hoof it over in the rain for an Oasis sandwich, then you have given up, man.

 

I return to Pete’s, post-falafel, still buoyed by the love-optimism absorbed during the Vic Thrill show. I pop out to the backyard to try to type some quick words into my phone about what I’d seen so far. In the rainy backyard there is only me, and a couple making out. I give them their space. I can only assume the love-vibes Vic Thrill left floating about the place had overwhelmed their sense of public decency. I get it. I forgive them. I go back inside.

I am back at Pete’s because I have set for myself an ambitious mission. I wanted to catch Vic Thrill at 6:00, and stay for Rue Snider at 11:00. Several beers later, and mission accomplished.

RueSniderpic

Rue Snider’s path is the path of folk heroism. He started playing just a few years ago and has now spent the last couple of years touring nonstop. Playing over 100 shows a year. By the time of this Pete’s homecoming, Rue has been out for four months straight. It is a level of commitment I find terrifying. And it is paying off.

 Rue is increasingly a commanding presence on the stage. His songs and banter are extremely direct and unafraid. At Pete’s he takes the stage with a pedal-operated slapback on his vocal, complemented by a fair amount of processing on his guitar. It gives Rue a forceful sound. It works as a kind of subliminal counterpoint to the bluntness of his lyrics, and the straightforward realness of his delivery.

His current relentless tour is in support of his newest record, Leaving to Returning. But he also has a new single, The New New Colossus, which is one of the ballsiest numbers I can imagine doing in the kinds of places Rue often plays. But he does it anyway. Because Rue Snider, that’s why. Getting murdered by a redneck in a North Florida saloon would just cement his run towards folk heroism anyway. Godspeed Rue. Check it out for yourself and feel his bravery:

Check out the man’s tour schedule, and look out for Rue Snider wherever you are. His tour sweeps onward in an ever-widening swath. If he hasn’t been to your town yet, he will be.

http://www.musicbyrue.com

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Burgers.

2013-05-24-DSC_2617

Burgers?

I recently witnessed the following interaction while I was walking down the street near my apartment. A delivery driver is standing at one door down the stairs and about twenty yards away from a stoop where a woman has just walked out. He’s got his helmet on, he’s holding a bag of food, and looking at his cell phone. She says:

“Burgers?”

“…”

“Burgers?”

“…” He holds his phone up, but from where she’s standing she probably just sees a white glowing screen.

Burgers?

“um”

Burgers?

“…”

Burgers?

“…”

“Burgers?”

“Uh…”

“Burgers?”

“4D?”

“Burgers?”

“…”

Hamburgers?”

“…”

Hamburgers?”

“Oh, hamburgers?”

“Yeah, Hamburgers?”

“…”

Hamburgers?”

That’s all I caught. I don’t know if he had the hamburgers, and I don’t really want to comment on this any further. I just wanted to share it with you.

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The Harlem Halal Walk.

If you have a favorite halal cart, you are my brother.

If you have a favorite halal cart, you are my brother.

Harlem. The temperature is only in the 80’s, but it’s suffocating humid and the August sun has an undeniable sting to it today. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that sting, the man said. Or something like that? Burned out memories of Duke, the sun god. He played here. Heat and delirium.

There’s a breeze, though, and if you can escape the sun, beat it into the shade, it’s not half bad. No easy feat, though, as it’s just after noon. There is a Halal cart I like here, I’m not giving you specifics ‘cause I don’t even know if I know you man. But it is good, and it is special, and it is worth dragging yourself across the hot coal sidewalk walk and getting stung and beaten by Duke’s sun-god wrath for the good stuff from time to time.

I like the chicken and rice. Or chicken over rice. Or chicken plate or platter, depending on your local cart’s parlance. Or maybe the combination with it’s double-meat and toasted pita, especially that pita man. You can ask them if they’ll give you some toasted pita with whatever, you know, but it comes with the combination as a natural addition. No special requests necessary. And I don’t like to hassle the men who work the hot grill on the summer sidewalk about extras.

But today I ask for the lamb gyro, because from the looks of my traveling companion, I might need to eat this thing on the hoof. On the way to some air-conditioned environs. He’s not looking so good. Too much sting. Starting to swing. I don’t know where the men who work this cart are from precisely. Smart money may be on Egypt. I ask for a lamb Yee-Row. He says one lamb J-Eye-Row, you got it. Touché, halal cart man. Whitesaucehotsauce.

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Jerry, Bro.

The man himself.

The man himself.

There is a Spanish/Mexican Restaurant – that is to say a place with Paella on one side of the menu, and carnitas on the other – near my apartment that seems lately to emanate music that is, well, hard to expect.

A couple weeks ago I walked by and from some distance away could hear the Grateful Dead. By the time I was next to it, the undeniable Jerry-ness of a long, long solo was coming down hard on me man. Like I was back in a college dorm room, tapestries and patchouli. Marijuana blown through dryer sheet toilet paper roll. Turntable. Jerry. PBR I couldn’t buy for myself. Getting yelled at by a small but incensed – on this subject at least, I mean ask him about the president and you’d get an aw man, you can’t focus on that stuff bro, its all just a conspiracy anyway, caring makes you complicit! – upper-middle-class kid with professor parents that taught at a school (pointedly) all the way across the state. Yelled at because I said, in my country ignorance, that I had never really thought of Jerry Garcia as a strong guitar player. I hadn’t. I still don’t really, to be honest. I mean, better than me, you know. But not like, makes-me-want-to-listen-to-12-minute-guitar-solos strong. Well, he informed me that I clearly hadn’t listened to enough of the Grateful Dead. Perhaps I had not. But in this moment, outside the Spanish/Mexican restaurant, I was unbalanced more by the music than the memory.

The weekend before it had been the Doors. Organ grinding away on hot summer sidewalk. Before that it was straight up contemporary Country pop. Like trucks-and-solo-cups country¹. At volume! Now, look, I’m not trying to say that a Mexican restaurant needs to be playing the pan-Latino classics that we have all become accustomed to in these settings. I’m just saying that if you pass this place up on a Wednesday afternoon, that’s what you get. But if you pass it on a Saturday, well, there seems to be an equal opportunity music thing happening on the weekends that I find interesting.

A thing that recently started there, which may coincide with the weekend music choices, is Brunch. Maybe they are just looking to tune in what the Windsor Terrace brunch crowd wants to hear? Perhaps, more terrifying, is that maybe they already found it. My neighborhood is, probably I imagine like your neighborhood, changing rapidly. It is hard sometimes to keep a bead on just who it is that I live around in the aggregate sense. But if it is the case that I have come to live in a neighborhood where the Dead, the Doors and Bro-Country is what brings people into a restaurant for mimosas and chiliquiles, then I just… Might need to spend some time meditating on some things for a while. Like why that makes we want to throw up for instance. I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay with that. This is going to take some work.        

FN1. By the way, Nashville is a city. I know people from the country, I’m actually from a small town myself, but I know people from the legitimate true to god country. And there is indeed a tendency there to listen to this garbage music from Nashville, but it is music made by wealthy men, on music row, in a city. Many of whom probably have places in New York. Many of whom are probably from the tri-state area and drove down one day, living on a credit card, until finally they got a break from their internship or whatever because they just wanted so bad to work in the music industry. I very nearly put scare quotes around those last two words and then thought better of it. But. Not musicians you understand, just people who dream about being in publishing, or whatever, just so long as they are in the music industry. Same temptation. Who does that? Who wants that? And the thing you want is to become successful at making money off the backs of musicians and songwriters? You would like to be a professional exploiter of talented people? What kind of a person? I’ve met some of these people. They are not very smart or interesting or nice to be around. For what it’s worth. But they live in a city. This has been a footnoted rant on class-war and geography, I hope you found it useful in some way.
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Online Reviews of Online Reviews: The Bandeja Paisa Fallacy.

Chris Michael and the Terrifying Case of the Bandeja Paisa Fallacy.

Chris Michael and the Terrifying Case of the Bandeja Paisa Fallacy.

 

A thing that I think happens a lot in comments and review sections is that people seem to get pulled along by the internal logic of their comment. Or maybe succumb to their own rhetoric to the point that it starts to mess with their ability to think clearly? For instance:

“The food was pretty terrible all together. Soggy chicharron, tough meat, greasy plantains, watery beans and poorly fried egg. Having one of those fails in this tipical Colombian dish is already a mistake. But having all those together can be (and was) a pretty terrifying “Bandeja Paisa” experience.”     – Luis P

Like a fever dream. What I think happened here is that they started writing out the list of complaints and, moved by the list making, felt an overpowering, if irrational, urge to comment on it. Do they really need to explain that these are all bad things, or that the sum of these bad things is worse than a single bad thing standing alone? And “terrifying”? The effect is pretty insulting. It makes me not like them. It makes me want to get the Bandeja Paisa. I’m serious, I just ordered it. I’ll let you know how it was.

But this happens to me too. I start typing out all the venom, and my black, hard, little heart starts beating fast, and then reason is just thrown right out the boat, yeah? But it’s full steam ahead time now Jack, and before I know it I’m way out there, far from shore, but see I’m mad now, right? All worked up. And so fuck it. Fuck the fucking shore. I don’t need that shit. The shore is for goddamn piece of shit review writers on Seamless who don’t understand how to delete stupid goddamn obvious ass conclusions that do absolutely nothing but alienate the reader accomplishing fuck all but encouraging me to do the EXACT FUCKING THING you were attempting to persuade me against! You can keep the FUCKING SHORE!!! You can take that whole GODDAMN COASTLINE and shove it up your fucking shitty fucking ASS you lazy, ignorant piece of shit!!!! Take it GODDAMN IT!!!!!! I’m fucking DROWNING OUT HERE!!!!!!!

And POST.

I suppose this could also be genius. Like maybe the restaurant just really wanted to push the Bandeja Paisa. So they created a fake account, then reviewed a few random places in the hood to add a sense of legitimacy. For the hardcore investigative types. I mean Serial’s given everyone that good detective fever, right? You gotta lock down the details if you’re going to pull shit like this off. It has to feel right. Maybe they wait a month or two, then write this review up where they insult the Bandeja Paisa, but also, very subtlety, the audience. The whole effect of which is, everybody is ordering the Bandeja Paisa. Since fuck that guy.

I may make a few calls. Anyone want to start a podcast where we try to get to the bottom of this thing!? I’m feeling pretty goddamn invested here!

But that may fade as I take a breath. Think about things for a minute, you know? Reflect.

 

 

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Online Reviews of Online Reviews: Alfred Schnittke is the Devil.

Lucid views of hell? Yes, please and thank you.

Lucid views of hell? Yes, please and thank you.

 

Sometimes the bad reviews make you want something even more than the good reviews. For instance from June 14, 2004, the only 1 star Amazon review of the BIS recording of Alfred Schnittke’s Faust Cantata:

If you love sickness, death, darkness and decomposition, then you MUST have this CD. I bought it because so many people recommended it to me. As with nearly all of Schnittke’s music, I felt so bad after listening to it that it took me a week or so of intensive Mozart, Bach and Faure therapy to recover. It literally feels as if you’ve been gobbled up by a black cloud.

I have no doubt that Schnittke exposes some very brilliant musical ideas here. But to what end? And at the end of the day, who cares if it’s a masterpiece by the Devil, if its effect on you is a lucid experience of Hell and stains of de-composition and decay?

— A Customer

I have no idea what it could possibly mean to be literally gobbled up by a black cloud.

I’ll look past that. Even if I hadn’t been wanting to own a recording of this music for years now, this review would have sold me immediately. In fact, if I had never heard of Alfred Schnittke, I would be doing everything I could to get my hands on ANYTHING by this Schnittke guy after reading this review.

“Who cares if it’s a masterpiece by the Devil, if its effect on you is a lucid experience of Hell and stains of de-composition and Decay?” I care! Seriously? That sounds amazing. How could anyone possibly ask me that with a straight face!? That is exactly what I want all the time. How fast can I download that onto my computer and play it on repeat until my girlfriend makes me stop?

To contrast, here is one of the many 5 star Amazon reviews of the same recording:

This is one of my favorite Schnittke CD’s.

The Ritual has a dramatic crescendo of echoing brass which becomes quiet just as dramatically.

(K)ein Sommernachtstraum begins with an innocent classical theme (Schnittke says it is inspired by Mozart and Schubert), which periodically degenerates (or evolves?) into delectable, hair-raising dissonance at surprising intervals. The humor is similar to that of Haydn’s surprise symphony, but the collapses are less predictable in their frequency and more variable in their form. Schnittke also manages to incorporate the sounds of a small chamber orchestra, a marching band, and a large symphony orchestra. The whole work is delightful.

I didn’t quite appreciate the Passacaglia as much as the other works. It starts with eerie strings, then eerie winds join in. It sounds a bit more academic than the other pieces.

The Faust cantata was a great find. The whole thing is tremendous, with incredible harmonies. Scene VI (track 9) is particularly beautiful, and Scene VII (track 10) is a particularly enjoyable, macabre tango. Is there a theramon in it?”

Zigeunerweisen

That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t get me anywhere near as excited about getting my hands on this recording as the 1 star review. Delightful? Where are the devil, and the lucid views of hell? That’s what I want now damn it. That’s all I want now. If the person who wrote the 1 star review is psychologically damaged by listening to Schnittke, then I have to listen to Schnittke. Right now. Delightful you can get anywhere. Music that messed this other guy up for like a week, that’s hard to find.

From now on, if I really, really like something and want other people to try it too, I’m going to pretend it was the most terrible thing that has ever happened to the universe and imply that it could only have been created by the dark one himself. I will call this, The Amazon 1-Star Stratagem.

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