May 7 2023
Prince, dub, reduction, JD Twitch, Arthur Russell, Terry Riley, Éliane Radigue, Charles Curtis, unreleased songs, Timbaland, Dido, caroline, Cop City, Ariana Reines, Morgan Bassichis, and much more
Wrongtom posted a demo of Prince’s “Alphabet Street” dub on Twitter and it got me to thinking about reduction. “Prince Dub” is not an official category, and there is not even a bootleg version of a Prince dub album (unless I missed it). Prince reduced himself for “Kiss” and “Sign o’ The Times” and “Housequake” and went skeletal on some of the 12-inch mixes but his love of players and playing meant that he always larded his band with chopsy folks who liked to fill up space. (The joy of live music comes through more clearly in video, as seen in the many Prince clips circulating on TikTok.) Some Prince scholar must know where the dubbed out Prince is stashed. I want to hear Prince isolating his own tracks and sending them through the wash that conceals and illuminates and ages and enhances: echo. A Piano and A Microphone is a version of this idea, doing the most with the least and letting a dirty recording color the scene.
One of the better dub mixes of the past few years is Caverns of Dub by JD Twitch, now available to all and sundry as a pay-what-you-want download. It’s not a purist filtering—Twitch loves the singjay and speakjay vibe of the original Jamaican deejay, so there’s a lot of voice in there along with isolated tracks and boing. A new Arthur Russell collection, Picture of Bunny Rabbit, will be out in June and it’s not exactly not dub. It’s already one of my favorite Arthur albums and I’ve been playing it without surcease. The fuzzed cello gets a long look here and there’s some Arthur guitar playing, which sounds like the xx thirty years early. There are also a few tracks with fairly intense edit and delay mangling and the whole mash flies by. Bunny Rabbit reminds me of some music made at exactly the same time, Terry Riley’s 1983 live album, Songs for the 10 Voices of the 2 Prophets, which is Riley singing alone like Arthur and zooby-zoobying with his Prophet 5 synth. Boing! These two albums are similar: quick dispatches from loving guides making music for a murderous world.
There are few better guides for such a world than Naldjorlak, the piece Éliane Radigue wrote for cellist Charles Curtis in 2005. Radigue’s long tones and very slow crossfades present steep hills for the acoustic musician, and there are fewer than ten musicians who have put in the kind of time Curtis has with Radigue’s music. I can’t even imagine the lactic burn that sets in when he is bowing something like Naldjorlak. This new version gives you both the original 2006 performance and the 2020 performance, each an hour long. This thing is a goddamned miracle and if I tell you that you are going to love a solo cello piece with no melodic movement, you have to trust me. There is a ton of movement here, both harmonic and physical, largely because of the wolf tone and the vast range of grit and growl Curtis finds in that wood. This conversation between Nate Wooley and Curtis explains the wolf and gives you a sense of how delightful it is to talk with Charles. (I assembled all the Radigue I could find on Spotify into this playlist. There is also a new album of interviews, in French, from 1976 and 1977, which the faithful may not know about.)
Memory and dub and being alone are all in Ross Scarano’s new piece for The Believer about songs that get heard but not released. Most of the subjects here are music critics hearing things that never made it to market. I’ve had those experiences, and one of them is part of a feature I did in 2004 for The New York Times Magazine on Timbaland and The Neptunes. During my time with Tim, I heard him remixing Dido’s “White Flag.” Hearing her voice solo’d out for hours and hours made me like Dido immensely. But the remix never came out! It was so good.
All of these elements converge in caroline, who feel full and empty and alone and together. They’ve just done a tiny desk concert and it’s magical. Stay home! Turn it up!
Watching the aftermath of Jordan Neely’s murder has been like wearing a lead trench coat. It’s not easy to move and impossible to forget you’re surrounded by something strange. One path to being relatively OK is to remember that the panic induced by this lack of humanity is part of the smartphone effect, which does not only worsen our time here. These violent acts have happened many times before, and now that we have new proof of their nature, we might be able to experience a consciousness shift that offsets the violence already in place. It’s a wish. I’m guessing Neely’s murder will become a public relations war between Eric Adams and a public that didn’t skew as fascist as he hoped, with the date that brung him (Johnny Law) throwing signs from the stands. Hell Gate has come into its own here with some fast and thorough reporting.
I don’t imagine voting Adams out next year will snuff the pilot light that starts this kind of boil (although it will be emotionally satisfying). This primer on Cop City from Scalawag shows how money and real estate and crime panics create the vortex that destabilizes folks and tricks them into thinking they need cops, and that cops need cop cities to do bigger and shinier copping.
Ariana Reines posted this on her IG story: “All cultural institutions in New York should immediately begin operating as soup kitchens and resource centers. Feed people. Clothe people. It’s not rocket science. New age people should manifest less narcissism. No beauty without truth. No truth without beauty. Artists get sick over the way our energy is endlessly instrumentalized to benefit institutions and the rich. We want to be people and we want to love people. We want to be together. Artists should lead because the precarity of our work keeps us closer to the knives than the rest. Just feed people once a week or once a day. Start there. Every institution in New York.”
We can also just follow the work with our work, as Morgan Bassichis did in their perfect show at Abrons Art Center recently. (Bassichis matched every holiday in the Jewish calendar with an act of violence that used that holiday as justification. They also sang about seltzer and their QAnon boyfriend.) They have a show up this summer in Cambridge, for two entire months. Go! There is also the simple act of being a thorough writer, as Marco D’Eramo is in this great new piece about Peter Thiel in New Left Review’s Sidecar. We know Thiel funds monstrous things and we need not bang the gavel again for his dumb ass. It’s helpful to see D’Eramo trace the arc of his thought and treat him like a person, as freaky as his actions continue to be, since we will have to understand other freaks before the day is out.
I sometimes feel as if wondrous things happen all the time and that wizards live among us and very little attention is paid to any of it and almost all of my time on earth living at the same time as Mary Gaitskill has made me feel this way. Lidija Haas just did the Art of Fiction interview with Mary Gaitskill, which was odd because I would have sworn it already existed. It did not. Read this for a good scan of her life and her way of talking about “the lava.” Sometimes these things feel like they are four million words long but this one went down in one sitting like a sardine.
This story about music historian and hot loon Mack McCormick has been making the rounds, and with good reasons. It is not just our ill-documented music legends whose stories have been mangled by zealous fans; it seems quite likely that a chunk of what we perceive as historically accurate is accurate only to the desires of the person presenting that history. The advantage with Robert Johnson is that we have his recordings, and those cannot be inaccurate.
Twitter is ending and now we know (as we already did) that the real Dril it’s our guy Paul Dochney. He is a sweetie and as level-headed as I hoped he was. I hope he makes Elon Musk crumple of embarrassment death but of course he won’t. Poster? Writer? Paul is just a G.
I loved Peli Greitzer’s essay in Aeon about poetry as a type of math. Understanding categories is part of understanding specifics!