Thursday, February 25 2021

good golly we are back


Thanks so much for the kind notes—it all helped.


For new friends, here’s a recap of an already hectic year: my Small Bow interview (sobriety, grief); an interview for Why Is this Interesting? (links to good writers); and the fantastic How Long Gone podcast (sobriety, grief, writers, Dua Lipa). Also recent: my review of Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This and one of Sleaford Mods’ Spare Ribs, both for 4Columns.


We’re coming up on two years here and have no intention of stopping, but we do intend to level up. S/FJ is free but it’s definitely not free to run. We need several hundred of you to shift from free to paid. Your payment is a donation, not a subscription fee, as the newsletter experience is the same for those pay and those who don’t. Imagine you’re listening to a public radio station—you’re supporting something more like that than a magazine.

For newcomers, there are a billion playlists on my Spotify profile and some new mixes on the Mixcloud page.


The ways in which I miss Deborah are not predictable. For one thing, I never noticed that childbirth scenes were so common in TV shows. It turns out that they are legion, which is suboptimal. At the candy end of the stick, there is Italian pop radio. Deborah loved travel above almost everything, and her favorite country was Italy. That’s where we went on our honeymoon and Ui’s booking agent was Italian, so the band hit Torino and went south several times. This morning, flipping through Radio Garden, we came upon Italy’s Radio 4all.it. If you have a taste for a certain kind of ecumenical, age-queer dance song, you will love Radio 4all.it.

This station feeds my dream of the pop consensus, meaningful not only because I like these songs but also because many people are liking these songs at the same time, in this company, and in this order. Look below at all of this perfumed genius, much of which I didn’t know before today. Radio 4all is better than any Spotify discovery algorithm I’ve ever heard (even if it turns out to be an algorithm streaming out of the supply closet in a credit card hack shop).

Genesis “Hold On My Heart” (1991), Kylie Minogue “Magic” (2020), Prefab Sprout “Appetite” (1985), Barrabas “On The Road Again” (1981), Gazzelle “Destri” (a weird Italian singjay rewrite of “Wonderwall,” 2020), SOFI TUKKER, “Good Time Girl” (2018), Human League “Don’t You Want Me (Extended Dance Remix)” (nine minutes long and the first two are instrumental, 1981), Guru Josh “Infinity” (1989), Dua Lipa and BLACKPINK “Kiss and Make Up” (2017), Eurythmics “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)” (absolutely overlooked banger, 1984), The 1975 “If You’re Too Shy” (love this one, 2020), Jonas Blue “Rise” (2018), Thompson Twins “Doctor! Doctor!” (1984), Taylor Swift “ME!” (2018), Peter Jacques Band “Is It It?” (1980), KC Lights “Girl” (2020), Kraftwerk “Spacelab” (1978), Zedd & Katy Perry, “365” (2019), Randy Crawford “You Might Need Somebody” (1981), JP Cooper “She’s On My Mind” (2017), Elisa & Carl Brave “Vivere Tutte Le Vite” (Italian reggae wut, 2019), Eric Clapton “I Shot the Sheriff” (useless as a song but holy as an EPMD sample, 1974). And it kept going.


Composer and producer Quelle Chris contributed music to Judas and the Black Messiah and also dropped the third volume of his remix/refix/bootleg series. In this case, it means giving old MF DOOM and Mos Def songs new beats. It’s not at all current and it’s completely fun.


Daft Punk broke up a few days ago by posting this slightly modified scene from Electroma (2006). For a group that likes to lift hooks from other records, it makes sense that they borrowed a resignation letter from themselves. I’m writing something about the band for New Left Review’s Sidecar, but I want to share one memory here.

A few weeks ago, somebody posted this satellite feed of a multi-camera shoot of their 2007 live show in Chicago. This crowd is absolutely clamped to the leg of this show and the image quality is fantastic. The Alive tour was, also, a victory lap for the duo, summing up fifteen years of work. There is an argument to be made that nothing really happened with Daft Punk after this.


Somebody bombed the building across the street, as you can see. Very Eighties energy here. It’s been buffed, but we loved it.


Ruthie Baron brings us news of a caviar scam that delights me no end. Did you know the rules about sturgeon caviar? The idea of there being any rules at all is just so stabilizing!


The Astral Editions label is close to flawless, as this new album from Montgomery and Turner demonstrates. Two long lullabies for the trash collectors taking a wide pass around Saturn.


Nick Cave has been a constant voice in my ear over the last decade. His latest Red Hand Files newsletter describes how he perceives Christ. “Personally, I need to see the world through metaphors, symbols and images.” The fifth and final paragraph of this short but immensely beautiful letter goes like this: “Acts of compassion, kindness and forgiveness can ignite this spirit of goodness within each other and within the world. Small acts of love reach down and bring succour to that animated spirit, the beseeching Christ, so in need of rehabilitation.”


François Kevorkian released his first remix in 1978 and his client list since then is unmatched. Diana Ross? U2? The Smiths? Kraftwerk? Yes, François K. was there. He is now livestreaming DJ sets on his Twitch channel and they’re fantastic. He talks while he plays, and sometimes goes full educator; during his Miles Davis set last weekend, he blended in video clips. More than worth a subscription.

Also within the dance continuum, the new Mr. Beatnick show is a great two-hour slice of something that someone calls “left-field house,” a classification I can’t confirm or deny. I can say that this mix is gentle and agile and infinitely human. In my house, we call this grey cream: gentle voltage and blue swing.


While I can tell you that we lost a giant when Ghédalia Tazartès died on February 9th, I’m less sure about how to describe what he was so big in. He lived in the same Paris apartment for his entire adult life and taught himself a kind of sound and music hybrid achieved through mastery of a tape recorder. He loved Jimi Hendrix and apparently had no exposure to avant-garde music of any kind. This interview in BOMB will get you up to speed and if you are intrigued, try this charming hour-long video interview with Mark Harwood from 2016. I recommend buying his entire discography on Bandcamp, no joke. Does this seem too sweeping an endorsement? Then try Une éclipse totale de soleil, which rearranged me when I first heard it in the Eighties. This recording escapes any kind of logic or obvious assignment. What is Tazartès doing? What is this music supposed to make happen? The voices and noises and edits are all so undimmed and ferocious and nameless.

The quietly provocative Scottish recording artist Richard Youngs has an equally well-stocked Bandcamp page. He describes himself as playing “pinette des vosges, glockenspiel, guitar, oboe, oven tray, piano, radio, ring modulator, shakuhachi, tape, voice.” Much of the time, as with the Foot Guitar series, he seems to be trying to do as little as possible, letting music happen rather than disturbing the universe by brute wrangling. His work on Vistas is different (in a catalog entirely dissimilar to itself), electronic and sweetly regular, a mist at the edge of itself. Engaging with his work is a chance to see how Youngs approaches a certain set of variable, rather than collecting a specific body of work and songs.

The third things that came to me, without being sought, and that fit into a sort of autodidact loon profile was this this 2006 album by Djindji. Translated, the notes tell us the following about music that sounds like it is still inside of some other thing.

Acute non-musician work made before the opening of Paris Pekin. "Neo Primitive, Snow Mountain Akata Cave, A piece that can be heard all the time like a folkloric noise drifting from a turntable that raises waufra instead of Akata", "Flying Jinji Nebula drifting in space while looking sideways at the black hole (floating?) Pattern. Extremely private delusional feeling is proof that it can be directly connected to the universe. FREAK IN !!! "etc. have been introduced as unclassifiable works. Intersystem, Early Soviet France, John Pilcher, Martin Mckelvey, RRRrecRecycleSeries, Senufo Edition, Gruenrekorder, VLF Recordings, EVP listeners. I want you to listen to it with the window of the room fully open in the middle of winter, but even in the middle of summer. In film music work, I also use the method of Djindji later to give a feeling of crash landing. Despair view of Nostromo and Snow Mountain Opium Den.

And, hey. Heidi and I got engaged.