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November 3 2023
music + not music
I spent two years working on a piece about Ryuichi Sakamoto, which was published by The New Yorker last week. I spent less time on this review of Teju Cole’s Tremor but am equally proud of it. There is an excerpt of Earlier (my book) in Harper’s—which might be in your house, languishing beneath some socks—and here is my review of Dylan Thomas’s short stories.
I provide these links as bookmarks for later, when there is room to think.
For the Sakamoto, I am deeply indebted to the fact-checker, writer Holden Seidlitz. He is sick as hell. The two most intense bouts of checking happened at the least convenient moments of my year (other than a brief moment in jail). The first happened in the pouring rain during a rally, where half of my emails to Holden kept not sending because the screen was wet. The second scene was like a Nancy Meyers movie. I was siting in the foyer of a geriatric rehab facility where Heidi’s father is recovering from hip surgery. I was on my laptop, trying to find the image of Sakamoto that Nagisa Ōshima first saw in the Eighties (below) and the brief iPhone clip of Kukangendai that Ryuichi sent me in March of 2019 after seeing them at Pioneer Works (also below).
All of a sudden, I heard yelling and cursing. This voice was agitated. A small man who I later learned is eighty but has, I can attest, the energy of an adolescent dybbuk, came busting through the doors like Kool Aid. He was shouting “Fuck this! I am leaving!” Out he went. Soon, a small cast of women in various outfits—nursing, business casual, enthusiastic nursing, sullen nursing—came through while someone started shouting “Code grey!” Having seen similar moments in institutional settings, I felt that this was different. There was no light-hearted air, no “That Gary!” kind of humor. Dude seemed pissed and I had no idea what was going on outside.
That night, Heidi and her mother and I watched Theater Camp, which was a balm. The next day, I saw The Delinquents with my friend, Marianela. Incredible. Those are two solid recommendations and the less I tell you about either, the better!
This new Black To Comm album, At Zeenath Parallel Heavens, is something else. It’s sort of a nightmare, a string section roaming through your dreamland parking garage, running into drummers and choirs of angry kids. But it feels cathartic now. I rue the end of Top Boy and celebrate the endlessness of the Top Boy score by Brian Eno. A lot like the various TV and film scores Sakamoto did to little fanfare in the last ten years, Top Boy seems like a peak for Eno and I have no idea if anybody has noticed. The new Stephen O’Malley and Anthony Pateras album for acoustic guitar and prepared piano is like icicles plotting to take over.
Brian Not Brian’s Holywell Session from 2014 creates a gorgeous mash I can’t identify. I can only provide an incomplete itemization: Michael Mann outtakes, synth burn, Eighties watermark, outpatient dub, lumpen prole gospel, rattled film audio, percussive nicks, dollar store delay. Also, I made this Driftmachine playlist a while back and it is getting me through my mornings recently.
Hive Mind Records has mostly issued artists outside the Anglophone sphere, some archival, some new. There is very little in this catalog that I don’t love—there is a primacy of human touch and a kind of seriousness. Here is a Spotify playlist of almost all the Hive Mind release. Marc Teare founded and maintains the label. Here he is:
“I called the label Hive Mind because I see music as like a collective intelligence, a form of communication that operates beyond language and enables us to illustrate or articulate our feelings in a very immediate way and in a manner that can be understood by anyone. It’s also like a well or repository for all our emotions and thoughts and stories and ideas going back through history. And we can dance. We’ll still be doing this long after the industry dies.”
Tom Carauna’s 2019 album, Inner Space Instrumentals, turned Can’s catalog into a series of short breakbeats. I love this 2013 album from NSRB-11: electro grilled cheese, benevolent hopping. This 1978 single, Cookie Monster and the Girls’ “C Is For Cookie,” might be Larry Levan’s first mix and it is definitely the Sesame Street disco response to Saturday Night Fever.
The word “podcast” signifies, like “rock,” way too much and almost nothing. In reality, there is a world of podcasts that can reproduce all the reporting and editing of the best documentary films. (I’m thinking here of Leon Neyfakh’s work.) For others, “podcast” means a couple of dudes in Brooklyn arguing about Marx. The Relentless Picnic falls between these points, or possibly way outside them entirely. Adam, Erikk, and Nick are three friends who love chaos and understanding and Thoreau.
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