Tuesday, January 24, 2006

best performance of 2005

where was i on december 18th, you were wondering?

as written by Greg McLean:

Didn't make it to the No Wave video fest at Galapagos or The Scene Is Now performance with Yo la tengo at Maxwells but I did make it to see a solo performance by The Scene Is Now's Chris Nelson at Exit Art accompanied by a phalanx of boomboxes of assorted shapes and sizes and a p.a. system. Chris simultaneously played cassette recordings of conversations, music compositions and noise varieties. He messed with volume knobs and passed the p.a. mic across the boomboxes giving "spotlight" performances to whatever bits of tape were passing over the heads at a given moment.

At some point he donned a fur coat and a pink derby and passed a tray around the audience of bourbon in plastic drink glasses. From his pockets came quantities of confetti with which he blessed the crowd. He saved an extra dose for this viewer/listener and an even larger dose for himself. This seriously compromised some of the bourbon.

A number of audience members earlier in the day had presented Chris with random phrases on note cards from which Chris improvised short vocal performances. Mr. Nelson's full range of vocal pyrotechnics were on display; from his delicate croon to the full bodied roar recognizable as his signature style from his no wave -Imformation-era. For extra flavor he also managed to let loose on a little harmolodic horn playing. "loose lips sink ships" was one phrase he sunk his larynx into, segueing into an accapella version of "Ferry Cross The Mercy" the Brit invasion classic made famous by Gerry and the Pacemakers. "It's always good to end a show with a pop song," Chris explained by way of introducing the number. At one point as he intoned the word "people" he got confused and began singing the notes for the Barbara Streisand hit of the same name but he corrected himself and soldiered on. Although fully clothed, his delivery was naked and emotionally raw as only the finest entertainers can pull off.

The cassette recorder is a dying piece of technology that has been with us for quite some time and sadly may be hitting it's moment of obsolescence. The sounds that came from the decks were like so many wailing dinosaurs in the tar pits. In a post show interview Mr. Nelson admitted that the boom boxes had been borrowed from a number of acquaintances who told him it was not necessary to have the boxes returned. Farewell "rewind." As we head into the second half of this first decade of the next century, Chris Nelson's Exit Art performance was enough to give one pause.

Friday, January 20, 2006

new tuning

i put some new strings on my #2 guitar (a smallish and slightly funny-looking thing whose brand name has been neatly scratched out so i can't really tell you any more about it) tonight, in preparation for this:

Glenn Branca Hallucination City: Symphony 13 for 100 Guitars
Feb. 4, 2006, 7:30 p.m.
Montclair State University
School of The Arts
Montclair, New Jersey, 07043

if you find yourself in the area, perhaps you'd like to attend.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

and this stuff was good, too

don't take the list below as a concrete reflection of how i heard the year's music. the way things sound at any given moment depends on the day, my mood, the light in the room, number of drinks consumed, other people listening, etc. and what about the thousands of releases that i didn't bother checking out because i thought the cover looked dumb or because they had song titles like "One Last 'Woo-hoo' For The Pullman"? if i were to make the list right now, it might be completely different, including some of the following:

johann johannsson: dis
lyn taitt & the jets: hold me tight
grouper: way their crept
v/a: congotronics 2
tom verlaine: warm and cool
bob brozman: songs of the volcano
boris/merzbow: sunbaked snow cave
jonathan kane: february
sound directions: the funky side of life
dengue fever: escape from the dragon house
lokai: 7 million
boubacar traore: kongo magni
dirty three: cinder
frank black: honeycomb
billy bang: vietnam * reflections
quasimoto: the further adventures of lord quas
sinistri: free pulse

so, precious reader(s?), what i'm saying is let's leave behind this list-making business for at least another eleven months or so. . . i'm tired of it. but thanks for following along.


Sunn O))) "Black One" (Southern Lord)

I can't think of anything much to say about this record. Other listeners have already written a lot of descriptive and intelligent things, in reviews that are keystrokes away if you'd like to read them.

I will say that I've listened to it more than anything else in the last few months (which for me might be four times or so), and that I've never heard guitars sound so crushingly distorted without the help of drums, and that the first listen was twice as frightening as the horror movie I'd just seen. I hear that the vocals for the last track were recorded while the claustrophobic singer was locked inside a coffin.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Smog "A River Ain't Too Much To Love" (Drag City)

About a year ago at The Bowery Ballroom there was a special Drag City Christmas show, with Weird War, Smog, and Joanna Newsom, each playing nine songs broken into three separate sets, kind of a three-way tag team approach. Of course everyone was there to see Joanna Newsom, who of course was amazing. Weird War gave me people a chance to visit the bar or the restroom. For me, though, the evening belonged to Smog.

With just an acoustic guitar (and some surprising chops to boot), he started his first set with a new song, about a bird that's stayed north too long. Jason and I exchanged blown-away expressions, both thinking his might be the best song he's ever written. Then he played another new one ("bury me in fire, and i'm gonna phoenix"). I could feel my jaw hitting the floor. . . this one was better than the first. The third song was like an out-of-body experience; I was floating above myself, hanging on every lyric like my life depended on it. He sang "I love my father, I love my mother, I love my sister too. I bought this guitar to pledge my love, to pledge my love to you." The back-of-my-neck hairs reached for the sky in complete surrender.

A few months later when this record came out, I learned the names of these songs: Palimpsest, Say Valley Maker, and Rock Bottom Riser. And each spin of this disc still feels like the first time. Thank you, Bill.

Oh, and the rest of the record is great, too.

p.s. See here for some new year's eve pictures (scroll down).