Thursday, December 16, 2010


Has it really been that long since my last post? I've been busy I guess. Maybe, I've been a bit lazy as well. There has been some amazing creativity leavened with long stretches of fallow plots of ideas. So I have listened to a lot of new music and a great deal of the old music I love to keep me going.

My cousin Carolyn asked me recently what I've been listening to lately, and that made me think that writing a list with some thoughts might be just the thing.

Kristin Hersh-Crooked. KH took advantage of the internet and its possibilities to bring a community of supporters (Strange Angels) together with the hopes that they might pay her, in advance, to make a record rather than asking a record company for an advance. Crooked is the result. Beautiful packaging houses a beautiful and somewhat sad yet hopeful work of beauty. This could not be mistaken for any other artist. I love the opener, Mississippi Kite. It's a corker that draws you into Hersh's world. It lets you know that whatever sadness or seeming fragility you hear through the course of listening will be survived. Indeed, she will survive and thrive.

Evangelista- Prince of Truth. This is Carla Bozulich and her current cadre of musicians. Carla's albums are always a journey. Joy and pain are woven together like threads in a shirt. It is the beauty and ugliness that is our existence. Difficult and stunning.

The Corin Tucker Band-1,000 Years. OK, I love Sleater-Kinney. So this album is a no brainer. It's also a surprise and a revelation. If you love S-K just listen. If you don't love S-K because of Corin's voice, give this a listen anyway. I think you may be surprised.

Tinariwen-Imidiwan: Companions. Sahara Desert Blues is the moniker. The moniker does not really do them justice. The desert is in the music as is their uprising and their joy. Their lives are hard and beautiful. You can practically feel the sand in your eyes and between your teeth after hearing this recording, but you may also feel a lightness of heart and buoancy of spirit.

ANBB-Mimikry. Blixa's shreik. Oh my. What a way to start. Then electronic tomfoolery, and a song appears. And a cover of Harry Nilsson's One? It sounds absurd on the surface of it, but then one remembers Blixa's cover of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', and one thinks OK this may be possible. And it is. It's noisy and weird and lovely, and I'm glad I have it.

White. White is shenggy and Shou Wang. They are a duo from China who recently released this album produced by the aforementioned Blixa Bargeld and recorded in the former Bunker (now Andere Baustelle) studio in Berlin. It is by turns fascinating and monotonous and fascinating again. Really, the devil is in the details. It may sound monotonous if one only listens tangentially, but if the listener listens he/she is rewarded with myriad little developments. They are like rings inside a tree. The tree is the tree, but the rings tell a story. Fascinating.

Rangda-False Flag.
Sun City Girls-Funeral Mariachi. These are very different albums that have the common link of Sir Richard Bishop, guitarist extraordinaire. Sun City Girls ceased to exist after the demise of drummer Charles Gocher, but there were some final recordings that Richard's brother, Alan finished. It's not as strange as much of their back catalog. In many ways it's the perfect gateway drug into the world of Sun City Girls. By turns strange and wonderful and the strange is wonderful too. You never know where they will take you next.
Rangda is Richard Bishop with Ben Chasny on guitar and Chris Corsano on drums. It begins with the hilariously titled Waldorf Hysteria. It lives up to its title. It is insane surf guitar antics played at thrash metal proportions. There are surprises galore in this record too. Calm soothing guitar at one point is then joined, out of nowhere, by furious, bashing drums and the guitars never join in the fray. They stay the course while the drums scream and bruise. And so it goes. Both are intriguing and some of my favorites of the year.

Gil Scott Heron-I'm New Here. Gil Scott Heron has never really left, but this is new territory I suppose. There is a fair amount of trip hop, and the words are maybe a bit more wistful for what might have been, but the poetry is still there in force. And things are still supremely fucked in our world. I love his admonition in the liner notes that you, the listener, should listen without outside distractions (like one used to listen). Turn off the phone, the computer. Turn on the brain. Just listen. This record, like any I think, deserves your full attention.

Derek Bailey and Agusti Fernanadez-A Silent Distant. Derek Bailey loved a challenge. He pushed against the acceptable boundaries of music, and more often than not, he leaped with abandon over those edges tearing them to shreds along the way. He approached his Motor Neurone Disease the same way. He had to learn a whole new approach to playing guitar, and his sound changed as a result, but his creativity and his desire never faltered. He wanted to face every challenge head on and document it as he did on an album that charts his progress from what was initially thought to be tendonitis. Anyway, this CD documents his last live public performance, and it is beautiful. It is the rather classical mixture of guitar and piano, but not really like anything you've heard before. It is exploratory and expansive and refreshing and pretty much different than anything else in Bailey's catalog which is astounding in and of itself considering how extensive his catalog really is.

Nels Cline-Dirty Baby. OK. Really. I have not quite wrapped my head around this yet. There is poetry and artwork. The music was meant to be a soundtrack to these, but, according to the liner notes, the music kind of took on a life of its own that still somehow lends itself to the words and visuals. It makes its own kind of sense. It's thorny and knotty and intriguing. I think I like it. One thing I can always say about the work of Nels Cline, as a guitarist, is that it is always fascinating. Sometimes it is stomach churning, sometimes beautiful, usually thoughttful. Mostly challenging. He can dazzle you with the most lyrical phrases and then shatter you with the most pernicious noises. I don't always know what to make of it, but I am always drawn to it: perhaps like a moth to a flame. Maybe I just like to feel the burn.

OK, most of that is new (more or less), but there were also some rereleases that caught my attention this year. First.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds-Henry's Dream. you can feel the rumble of the strings rattling against the guitar neck in the opening. The sound is huge. Papa Won't Leave You Henry is an amazing opener, and it still grabs you by the throat when they decide to play it live. The band, apparently, were never quite pleased with this (Mick Harvey, I love you), and they leaped at the chance to right a few wrongs. The sound is, indeed, amazing in this disc. I don't have 5.1, but I am curious to hear how it sounds when I finally get it. Nevertheless, it is greatly improved. It sounds like the Bad Seeds are in the room playing for you alone. There are a slew of extras: live tracks, bonus tracks. The documentary video is sort of interesting once, but sort of not necessary. The music says it all.

Einstürzende Neubauten-Strategies Against Architecture IV. EN were one of the first groups to try to exploit the possibilities of the internet. There were forums and personal connections. Maybe one could be made here. This is an over view of that process and time. They made several albums (and missteps) along the way. They tried to get closer to the listeners while keeping a significant distance from them as well. There is an interesting paradox here that many of the members of EN are extremely private, but they put themselves into this public forum anyway. The music is often fascinating and beautiful. It is more gentle than in the earliest days, but it is still too thorny and difficult for the average listener that just wants marmalade and honey in their treats. For the collector, or dare I say it, former supporter, there is little that is unavailabe, but the Musterhaus collage is wonderful as is Waiting for the Call. Some of the formerly exclusive tracks are significantly different so that they are still sort of exclusive to us such as Palast der Republik (edited down or different) and Party at Meck-Pomm (cut down substantially). Still, fascinating glimpses into the world of EN.

I say, comb the internet for Grundstück, Halber Mensch and Unglaublicher Lärm, and be amazed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

July?! Already?! Where has the proverbial time gone?!

Every year goes by so much faster than the last. Now that I am, more or less, keeping a blog, and I am, no less, approaching 40 years of age, I suppose, I feel the time slipping through my fingers that much more keenly. I suspect this happens to every human being, but I suspect, further, we each have to endure this uncertainty ourselves.

I want to feel someone else's presence, but I still relish my alone-ness. I want to be wanted, but I want that on certain terms. I want to find someone who is fascinating in their own right who, in turn, is fascinated by me --as I am too.

I want to travel, and I want to stay close to the fold; I want to see the world, and I want to stay close to home. I want to look inside, and I want to see without; I want to be myself, and I want love without a doubt.

I suspect we are all full of contradictions and desires, and we all want something bigger than ourselves despite ourselves. How complicated it is being human? When did rational thought (or maybe it really is irrational in light of our primal urges) come to the fore and where do thought and instinct intersect, and how do they interact?

I would say this is so much thinking aloud except that the only noise is the tap, tap, tap on the keyboard accompanied by the guitar playing of Julian Bream. Thinking aloud in the 21st Century is like that I suppose. Bream was a 20th Century guitarist who sought out music from the Elizabethan age of John Dowland and William Shakespeare as well as the 20th Century music of Benjamin Britten and Igor Stravinsky and more. . . . not that I am Julian Bream - esque. It is, still, the idea of looking forward as one looks back. Are they really mutually exclusive. History teachers are fond of saying that we must look behind us to learn how to look forward.

There is beauty in every age. Where is our beauty? What challenges our beauty?

Is beauty all I should strive for? Isn't there more?

Is it enough?






Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lately, when I find myself picking up my guitar, more often than not I will simply start improvising. Literally, I will lay my fingers down somewhere on the neck and start plucking notes with no forethought of where or what may come out. Often, while doing this, the results will be lackluster. Sometimes, however, the music will just flow, and some strange new thing will emerge much like a person out of the fog. Like a person, it will grow and mature and go somewhere and have something interesting to say. This happened to me the other day.

I almost felt like a radio receiver tuned into the airwaves around me. It felt transcendant.

Afterward, I wished I'd had the forethought to turn on my recorder to capture the moment. That does not happen very often either which, funnily, led to some doubts about whether or not the improvisation would have been as good if the recorder was on. Thoughts are funny creatures. They can be looked upon as negative or positive so easily. Some people are incredibly good at bringing themselves down with their own negative thoughts. Who needs enemies? I really try to not fall into that trap. I am a harsh critic of myself.

Looking at it from the positive angle, I have come to the conclusion that all I need to do is turn on the recorder everytime I pick up the guitar and let it roll. Regardless of what comes out, I should just record it all. Who knows? There could be some good riff or progression that I simply toss off without further ado that would otherwise be forgotten. Who know?

The flipside to this is obvious though. To find the diamond, you have to wade through the rough, and I am not always fond of wading. Oh those thoughts. Like my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Glass, once said, I need to stop thinking so much. He was a very wise man, and I still look to him, believe it or not, for inspiration and knowledge all these years later. Thank You Mr. Glass.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Long day today. Long, long day. Which culminated in me turning pages for a pianist during an epic piano quartet by Schumann. I am not a pianist, and I warned them of this short coming. I blundered it a bit, and it was tough. Everyone could see the difficulties, and the occassional fucked up-edness of it all, but we all got through it all. I was actually complimented by a patron for my calm and professionalism amidst the difficulties that were obvious to all. I have to give credit to the pianist, Makiko Ooka, too. She was obviously frustrated by some of the difficulties during the performance, but she was very gracious afterwards. I was mortified a couple of times by my own gaffes, but I did keep a calm demeanour as I knew from the outset that things might go awry. I've studied a little piano, but I've never played a piece of music like this.

Thank you Makiko, for your understanding.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I seem to be in a highly receptive period for creative ideas. I almost feel like an antenna. Several kernels of songs seemed to float my way. One really took some serious shape tonight. When they come at me like this, it is almost completely impossible to look at it realistically to decide whether or not it is even good. These particular songs somehow seem to defy the notion of good or bad for me. It does not mean, of course, that anyone else will actually think they're good, but that is the subjective nature of creativity and personal taste. I figure, if I get the idea down into a tangible form and find a way to put it out into the world (so easy nowadays) then eventually the right someone's will find it (or it will find them as it seemed to find me).

I am drinking a Toasted Head Alexander Valley Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from 2006 that my coworker, Jen, recommended (and even set aside for me{thanks Jen}. It is really good. It lives up to its name, I think, of being rather toasty and warm. It has a nice spiciness to it that I enjoy in wine sometimes with dark fruit, nice tannins and a long, luxurious finish. Some hearty food would really draw this wine out as it has a lot of character and layers, but it is also enjoyable on its own which is how I am drinking it since I am, unusually, not terribly hungry tonight.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Writing, writing, writing, reading, playing, writing, writing and more, well, writing. Will anyone want to read? What will it become? How ambitious am I? Good questions all, but it is all moot if a story isn't finished. So I keep writing. I know how I think it will end although stories, as they develop, often have their own ideas. So, we'll see.

It was a rare, hot, day in San Francisco, and I missed it due to pressing engagements inside. Writing, writing indeed. I will share bits and pieces when the time is right, and I hope someone will enjoy and encourage further development. Happy Saturday night to all and to all a good Saturday night.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So busy! In a good way. Lots of work and lots of creative ideas are flooding my brain right now. I have not been getting a lot of sleep as a result, but hopefully some of the ideas will actually bear interesting fruit that may even taste good to those inclined to take a nibble.

I started writing an outline of a story. I don't have any idea how the final shape will look, but I have an idea how it will end though sometimes stories have their own ideas about how they should end. So, who knows? Then I also intend to record a disc of my solo guitar music, and I want to finish an album I started in 2008 that sort of stalled for various personal reasons I won't go into now. Long story.

Plus, I am kind of jonesing to play some live music with some like minded musicians. I really like the idea of finding some people to play with who love to play something melodic and pretty one moment and something dischordant and/or atonal the next. They would be people who aren't afraid of mixing prog and goth and folk and classical and noise and whatever I can't think of into a blender. I don't know. It would be free and precise; loose and concise in equal measure and at the right moments. Everything in its right place and everything wrong fitting in just so too and sounding so right.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I have not been sleeping well for several nights now. My brain simply will not shut up. I've been trying to make myself sleep, but I think it is time to just listen to the cogs spinning in my head. I have a few burgeoning ideas floating around, taking shape that may take the form of what. . . short stories? My friend suggested that maybe one idea could make an interesting opera-which intrigues me. I've never written an opera, and there is the very serious question of whether or not I could even get an opera published and performed. Well, hey that's akin to putting the cart before the horse (before the horse is even born), so that's silly.

On another musical note, I am enjoying 'False Flag' by Rangda which is Sir Richard Bishop, Chris Corsano and Ben Chasny. I really love Bishop's guitar playing on his recent solo records, and the interplay, here, between the two guitars and drums is riveting and often unexpected. It is even more impressive when one knows that it was all improvised on the spot during a live performance. The spontaneity is truly apparent. I hope this is not a one off project.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

So, today is my first blog. I feel a bit late to the game, and I am sure few will read this at first. It's like the pilot episode of a soon to be beloved television show where the viewers wish to retroactively view what came in the early days because of what came later. I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV show, and I retroactively, loved the opportunity to see the original pilot online--different as it was.

I love music. I love wine. I love food. I like to cook, and I work in a store where I sell, stock and order wine for the time being. Cheese is a favorite though I have cut most dairy out of my diet, and will, getting back to the first part, talk about music for ever if you let me. I've been called a snob of music before, but I do not think that is quite it. I know what I like. I am willing to listen to the new. I either like it or I don't. I am not afraid to say, and in return, I like a lot of sounds and songs and recordings that the vast majority of humans may not like. My mind is open until it is closed, and I don't really want it to be closed prematurely because life is about openness and honesty and those can't happen without life having its way with each and every one of us.