Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vague Terrain

As reported today by the invaluable BLDG BLOG, EMI has announced that millions of unsold copies of Robbie William's 2006 album Rudebox will be crushed and sent to China to be recycled, primarily in the form of paving the roads.

While at their core, Compact Discs are polycarbonate plastic and aluminum, and while I don't care for the music of Mr. Williams, I would like to believe these new roads will retain the mystique of their origins.

Applying the term/pun/play-on-words Musique Concrete (which literally translates to "Concrete Music") to this process is absurdly cutesy, not to mention vapid. Still there is something interesting about this inversion of the avant-garde tradition, the haunted remnants of pop music becoming the unnatural world.

While many contemporary artists, including Matmos, Matthew Herbert, and Akufen, have updated the Musique Concrete tradition to astonishing effect, perhaps in the age of immaterial digital music exchange, the physical objects of sound can mutate the landscape itself, as opposed to the other way around.
This impossible parable of sound becoming a physical structure is one I am obsessed with, cutesy or otherwise.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

In the Sea of BBQ Turkey Legs

The great Jeff H. came into town last Wednesday. After a lovely dinner and 4+ bottles of wine, he treated us to a few of his favorite YouTube videos. One of which was the extended version of Beyonce's Get Me Bodied which I am bit embarrassed to say I had never seen. To call it amazing is an understatement. The moves alone make it a triumph, and its charm rivals the cafe dance scene in Godard's Bande a Part. Peep it here.
I have to admit I have been a Beyonce hater for a long time, basically since Destiny's Child became the Beyonce show. Rather fittingly, the video features all the members of Destiny's Child. Prior to this turn of events are some fond memories though

September 30, 2000, Dallas Texas: I have never been to another State Fair so I really have no frame of reference but the Texas State Fair is quite spectacular. All the rides are about to fall apart in the best possible way and there is a competition to see who can deep fry the most disgusting food product - twinkies, oreo cookies, cheesecake, and more recently coke-a-cola. The greater culinary specialty on hand is BBQ'd Turkey Legs though. Also given that the suffocating heat in Texas is finally starting to give way to fall this time of year, it all equals a truly magical experience.

But this day was even more magical. The two new pop sensations Christina Aguilera and Destiny's Child were going to be performing for free. Its hard to imagine now but at the time no one knew who Beyonce was and the group was barely in the mainstream cultural ether. For reasons not quite ironic I made it a point to visit the fair this particular day.

Deep blue skies and deep fried fatty foods abound. Upon arriving I learned that they were performing in a large field with a make-shift stage. After getting lost for a bit, all of the sudden I was confronted with a sea of people. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust but I quickly noticed that almost every single one of them was swaying their large BBQ'd Turkey Legs in the air, rhythmically and in unison.

I realized shortly thereafter that Destiny's Child was performing in the not too distant horizon. I had no camera at the time and have no proof other than my still shocked consciousness. It remains as one of the most humorous and disturbingly beautiful visions I have ever seen. I only wish post-global warming historians had a record of it, as sublime proof of the American Empire's zenith prior to its quick collapse; A temporary community waving the haunches of dead animals in sync to Bills Bills Bills.

The YouTube extravaganza ended on an even higher note with Jeff playing this 1969 live performance by Nina Simone. While I do love the Beyonce video, it can not compare. I am speechless and Thank You dear Jeff H.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Song of the Year 2007

Though they are generally predictable and rather uniform, one of the my favorite things about this time of year is the ubiquitous ‘Top Ten’ or ‘Best of’ list… music, movies, art, etc.
While Mike Nelson’s A Psychic Vacuum installation in the lower east side this summer takes the cake for best art I witnessed (and perhaps most bananas after party at the Delancy, Thanks again Nato!) I have been more obsessed with music of course. It’s a surprisingly challenging endeavor, as I tend to mostly consume music from the past (the Brazilian group Secos E Molhados’s first album is perhaps the top find on that front, a lovely mix of Os Mutantes and Hunky Dory-era Bowie. Peep the video-).

My song of the year came from a rather surprising source. Even though it was overplayed and utterly commercial, Feist’s 1, 2, 3, 4... wins hands down. It is undeniably beautiful and catchy, but my reasons go beyond anything that can be objectively discerned.

Certainly, the best thing I did this year was fall deeply and madly in love. At the height of this song’s play on the iPod commercial was a particularly magical Saturday wherein Molly and I meet friends at the New York Artist Book Fair in Chelsea. The fair was great, I bought a signed Brian Belott book, Wipe That Clock Off Your Face, and afterwards we ate at Shake Shack with Brock and Kellyr. Always a treat.

What I remember most is Molly and I having the song in our heads all day. We would softly sing it back and forth to each other, casually but also compulsively, as if we were no longer in control of our own tongues. At first it was basically the 1, 2, 3, 4 chorus bit, but after a while the individual words and numbers began to dissolve into the greater glossolalia, syllables mutated at each exchange until we were singing our own secret language to each other, communicating messages even we didn’t immediately understand.

This event was definitely my favorite sonic moment of the year, if not ever.

Long live the pop song.