Sunday, February 22, 2004

Animal Collective at the Knitting Factory last night was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. They didn’t play a single thing I recognized from albums or other shows, and all of it sounded like an exponential expansion of the smeariest full-band stuff they’d tooled with before. Thoroughly unhinged and through-composed, full and dense to a disorienting degree, the disconnect between watching them make sounds and hearing them like some euphoric offering from a world where cause and effect never met. Some of the rocking parts made My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless sound as direct as Irving Berlin by comparison. They switched between some movements with shockingly indescribable electronic rips that tore the fabric of the air at its seams. And there was a long segment built around a gorgeous autoclaved harpsichord figure reminiscent of Closer Musik’s “Maria”—a Kompakt link solidified when Panda Bear (or was it Avey Tare…can never keep them straight) geared up a purring rhythm engine with the simplest foreshortened drum taps. It was truly the only bit I could tie to anything I’d ever heard before. Couldn’t stop shaking for like 20 minutes afterward—separation anxiety from a set I could’ve watched for hours.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"Going on a honeymoon without a bride is like singing the words of 'Kiss Me Again' to the music of 'Alice, Where Art Thou'": a story card from Buster Keaton's The Navigator that in the coolest way gets to the whole of one Arthur Russell.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Being in Boston this weekend hanging out w/ a scientist left me pining for what it must be like to work in service of an end game, however rarified or endless that might be. Qualified terms, transparent methodology, material results…the strictures of which put me off nine times out of 10, to be sure, but oh that nagging one exception, those instances when the formalist in me wants to get sized up and systematic…(this being the kind of mood that generally tips into a cleaning binge>>>she’s real fine my 409)…and establish if nothing else a form suggestive of ellipses but more forceful, directed}}causality being something that can be side-stepped for only so long before it feels not just lazy but irresposible. How many languages have a verb as pointed and taunting as "do"?

Friday, February 13, 2004

Saw Atmosphere tonight and though it was more opener Eyedea & Abilities’ fault than Atmosphere’s (though nobody came out a winner), the whole thing seemed totally ridiculous, stunted, cauterized, anesthetized, like a creepy ceremonial gathering around hip-hop’s ghost floating down from some packed-away perch in a mausoleum. Reacted so badly I’m willing to concede I might have been, you know, in a mood, but the whole of it—the long scratch interludes, the hoodied dudes’ slumped arm raises, the lumping beat rolls—was literally surreal. When Eyedea started an extended spoken-word jag with “burning my bridges over troubled waters” I wanted to rush down to the lab to isolate and study the wondrous double-helix of cliché he’d twisted. Mad proteins at work, activation ho.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Rewatched Lost In Translation on DVD tonight and some thoughts:

• Insomnia’s a lot more sexy and dramatic on film
• Why did she cut the scene w/ Scarlett & the robots?!
• The use of faxing is great
• It’s Giovanni Ribisi’s acting that’s most immediately impressive, actually
• Hard not to drink much whiskey when watching at home
• I want to go to a bar with fireworks projected on weather balloons
• Phoenix’s “Too Young” might well be my favorite song ever
• Pacing was quicker, more agile than I remember
• Too few food scenes
• The writinglessness was less boring, more evocative than I remember
• There’s a scene w/ Scarlett making silent eyes with a cylindrical white robot…that got cut!
• I need to watch Wong Kar-Wai, of whose films I’ve seen none
• Bill Murray singing “More Than This” is just like six undernourished seconds
• Tokyo should be my home
• The film was much better than I thought when I saw it in a theater

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

My gym isn’t what you would call fancy; it’s an old YMCA taken over and run by NYC Parks & Recreation, $75 a year(!), moldy and peeling in the corners. And kind of great, it must be said. The exercise bikes are upstairs, just above an ambience-intensive basketball court home to some of the loudest, shit-talkin’est pickup games this side of the Scream River. Sound sallies up and loiters there for hours on end, bouncing off the hardwood and jamming against institutional cinderblock walls not inclined to take it in.

Then there’s the weight room, with its inviting, communal, decidedly jailhouse vibe. Tonight some dudes were talking about hip-hop stars, all of which, according to something one of them had read, have had “homo experiences.” They guffawed at the likelihood of that being true for Xzibit, weren’t about to believe it re Nas, and sort of just threw up their hands at the mention of Jay-Z.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Dizzee Rascal was awesome. I’d held high expectations for Saturday, both for Dizzee’s U.S. debut and for Volume, a new big factory space that promised to be unlike any other regular venue in NYC. It was, in a way that reminded me of weird one-off parties back in the days when I was more ambitious about going to such things: huge space, raw, video stuff happening on the walls, “bars” operating on card tables, a small dank side room w/ low ceiling and uneven concrete floor. A big crowd gathered there, probably between 2- and 3,000—which meant more than just writers and industry people in a very pronounced way. Saw lots of people I know who are pretty into music but not necessarily in any way that would relate directly to grime or even techno, which was good. The side room was going strong early, a good set by Tes (whose “New New York” sounded really good live and loud, the horns hot thanks to ideal gristle levels on the sound). Then Dizzee strolled into the main room, took his place on the flatbed trailer of a Mack truck parked in the middle, and proceeded to floor me. His flow was even more sproingy and musical than it is on record. His presence was both tightly coiled and leerily laid-back. The sound was variable according to location, but even the muddier parts isolated different aspects of his voice; from one place I was standing he was a knife shinging through a sub-bass thicket, from another a forceful presence in the high-end groove gears. A couple a cappella freestyles were just flat-out amazing: one that sounded like an NYC-directed anti-war message sounded both passionately message-driven and thrilled by its own sui generis patterns, momentum, speed.

A few people complained about the crowed, but it was bracingly good and connected where I stood. Really communal, moving, wowed more or less the same. Tons of people stayed after Dizzee, too, which made Matthew Dear’s set just as big a part of it all. And which was good, too, because Matthew Dear laid out a ridiculously charged and valley-less set neither of the times I’d seen before hinted at: thick and big, steely and murky, precision glisten smeared with goth ash. He peaked huge, and the energy and the loudless in the room was top-shelf. Plexus went on at 4 a.m. and slayed it with some meaty acid-laced techno that made me happy to close the book on a long spell not getting lost in meaty acid-laced techno.

The side room was good and varied, undie hip-hop hotter live than usual, some weird house that veered toward Chicago but in a way I couldn’t exactly place, and then some frenetic junglistic mash-up madness. It was funny to see people you know decamp to different rooms and stake out their respective rhetorical corners: slim-eyed danger bass propulsionists vs. floating hi-hat priss fiends. (Simon R. was holding it down in one of the two rooms, guess which.)

It all left me really excited about what Volume could do to do a city that needs something like it bad. Brooklyn was wearing its tattered sash in a big way.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Tonight I watched Okie Noodling, a new-to-DVD documentary about hand-fishing in Oklahoma. These guys fish for catfish without poles, bait, anything…just find a hole and stick an arm in it, wait for fish to bite hand, then rassle it up and out. Some of the fish were 50 pounds. Noodling is legal in only four states. One of the guys’ name was Red.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Reading David Markson and Steven Johnson in succession makes me clam-grade happy, as does eating these peanuts so sweet and flavorful they actually feel cold to the tongue. As for the authors: Markson has written essentially the same book for years—two-sentence invocations of fleeting historico-cultural anecdotes patterned into quasi-poetic novels more novelistic than they have any business being—and his new one, Vanishing Point, is typically stunning. For his part, Johnson writes about science in a way that makes me wonder why I can't just fucking COMMUNICATE with half as much grace; the preface to his new Mind Wide Open: Your Brain And The Neuroscience Of Everyday Life left me panting and ready to clear shelf-space next to his Emergence: The Connected Lives Of Ants, Brains, Cities, And Software, a book I'd add to a list of all-time faves for certain.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The picture of Paris Hilton pouty-faced in sweatshirt reading "Club Sandwiches Not Seals."

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

So if you write about food (a brief such stint from which I still reap occasional benefits) you get to go to places like the James Beard House and eat gratis meals with menus that look like this…

Edamame Vichyssoise with Ponzu Crème Fraiche
Franciscan Chardonnay 2001

Crunchy Tuna Medallion with Spicy Passion Fruit Sauce, Soba Noodles with Mushrooms
Estancia Reserve Pinot Noir 1999

Duck a la Chin with Green Papaya Salad and Sticky Rice in Bamboo Leaves
Simi Alexander Valley Shiraz 2000

Coconut Crème Brulee, Banana and Coconut Fritters
Ginger Tea

…with people who talk about the wonders of sashimi from the best market in Tokyo, caviar from Iran, Iberian pigs native to Georgia whose special fatty acids make them really really delicious, how/when corn was “invented” (three different plants hybridized, 10,000 years ago), and the like.

As much as I dig getting the Dizzee Rascal record for free, sometimes I wonder…

Monday, February 02, 2004

And also too: Here’s wishing the best to all at the start of this glorious Groundhog Day!! I would go into the reasons I’ve always exhibited what some might call undue excitement over such a holiday, as it were, but I’ve not yet sorted them through. (Too excited!) [Or if not too excited then at least very excited.] {Or certainly, without question, more excited than most.} ^Which might say less about me than it does about you, though that's for another time.^ -->A time when Punxsutawney Phil and General Beauregard Lee and other burrowing prognosticators weren't but mere hours from yawning awake and going to work. Here's to them! May they be with us.-->

Just read this from Creative Loafing, a story about Neutral Milk Hotel that’s very weird and pretty amazing. I’ve been thinking about that time in Athens a good amount lately, trying to piece together bits of stories that can’t help but sound like forcified myths. Like the time when Dixie Blood Moustache played a benefit show outside behind The Grit, running tape loops and playing things like vacuum cleaners while a big group of birds gathered overhead and flew a pattern that, with more tape sounds and a growing sense of awe from those below, formed a giant graceful ring. Two Dixie Blood affiliates drove up and down the street nearby, wearing cowboy hats and barking through megaphones. That was fairly typical of Athens then, for a time.

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