Tuesday, February 14, 2017

#patekphillipe, 1989

It is unclear whether or not John Lennon actually owned a Patek Philippe watch. But two snapshots and a rumor suggest he did, and that’s enough for Hodinkee to chart “the John Lennon Patek Philippe 2499”—alongside the more tautologically documented “Paul Newman’s Paul Newman” and “a president’s President”—as one of the world’s greatest missing watches. With a lock on the long tail of the wristwatch obsessed since 2008, Hodinkee serves collectors, enthusiasts, industry heads, and the horologically curious with opinion (is the Apple Watch even a watch?”), platform (semi-public collectors “Talking Watches”), profiles (brands and stuff), and the general lay of the land in pieces such as “IN-DEPTH: Twelve Of The Greatest Missing Watches” from June 2014. The article is essentially a listicle and we get an image for each entry, but it's not for the sake of visual content alone. Here, the images come first. The images are catalysts for the watch's value and appeal; they offer proof of physicality, and, in binding celebrity to watch, set forth exceptionalism due to celebrity pre-ownership.

Each is as A-list as Lennon (Picasso, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando), so the image is easily got (a studio portrait, an actor’s headshot, an Apocalypse Now).

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Myra Mimlitsch-Gray: Master Metalsmith

The text running down the side of the exhibition title wall reads like a group crit word bank à la 90s graphic design star David Carson. Prefixes dis-, re-, and up- are followed by their corresponding suffixes. A clutch of monosyllabic verbs all start with the letter s. And a grab bag of process verbs round it all out: Conceal, magnify, meld, fabricate, etc.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Feminists have often claimed a moral equivalence for sexual and racial prejudice. There are certain affinities; and one or two of these affinities are mildly, and paradoxically, encouraging. Sexism is like racism: we all feel such impulses. Our parents feel them more strongly than we feel feel them, Our children, we hope, will feel them less strongly than we feel them. People don’t change or improve much, but they do evolve. It is very slow. Feminism (endlessly diverging, towards the stolidly Benthamite, towards the ungraspably rarified), the New Man, emotional bisexuality, the Old Man, Iron Johnism, male crisis-centers—these are convulsions, some of them necessary, some of them not so necessary, along the way, intensified by the contemporary search for role and guise and form.

–Martin Amis, “Zeus and the Garbage,” London Review of Books, December 1991
What's happening in (the name of) Feminism right now (online) is unbelievably disappointing. But who to blame? Perhaps the Internet, is just happening to Feminism.

Hopefully, the medium that brought us Pinterest and Twitter (a.k.a. Betty Crocker's second coming and click-bait Feminism) is causing but convulsion—a plot-miss, along the way to a better society.

Seriously bitches. well-behaved women rarely make history on Pinterest, and more followers won't make your life better.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Shortlisted: Po-mo for the 1% and the Art of Selling Out

Shia LeBeouf @thecampaignbook Jan. 10 #stopcreating pic.twitter.com/G1F3G9EITH 
The contemporary art world saw an alarming share of celebrity interlopers the past year. In a must-read conversation with critic Ed Halter, Lauren Cornell of the New Museum attributed it to the expanded art market, one that “lured celebrity interest into its VIP echelons; rappers are reflecting on the canon; pop singers self-identify as individual avant-garde movements.”

Now, we all know Jay-Z wants a billion Jeff Koons balloons. Art collecting-as-sport for the rich and famous has only reached greater heights with each economic bubble that burst. It is  “…the most esteemed form of shopping in our culture today,” notes Rhoda Lieberman in the 24th issue of The Baffler. (For a short history of how the 1% commandeered the global art market, read “The 99 Percent and the Value of Art,” Visual Culture Blog.)

But conspicuous consumption does not account for all the recent instances of A-list high art dabbling. After all, 2013 was the year that ended with a Shia LeBeouf. I’ll be damned if that isn’t a readymade term for the public relations death-by-Twitter-bagged-as-online-performance art-piece disaster that it is: Shia LeBeouf (SLBF) offered a skywriting “apology” to Daniel Clowes, the zenith of his justifications for plagiarizing Clowes’ Justin M. Damiano with the short film, HowardCantour.com. SLBF admitted to the copy but claimed that failing to credit Clowes shouldn’t really matter because, you know, nothing is really original and Marcel Duchamp and stuff. (So it’s like fan fiction? Yes – and also plagiarism. Right.) A misguided interpretation ill applied to be sure, but more important is that a celebrity this daft even tried to play this card. It speaks to just how secondhand post-modern thought has become. By way of (as it happens, also plagiarized) apologies, SLBF is getting “meta” as validation for his backhanded fan fiction of an artist whose forte is steeped in modernist precepts.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Shortlisted: BEYONCÉ, the Yule Log and Minute-Brew Coffee

Old School New Media Whirling Dervish, Elizabeth Murphy, 2013

The impetus behind Beyoncé’s self-titled visual album, nostalgia for the way music used to be made and heard, is something that has been on the tongues of music aficionados for some time now. In a video posted on her Facebook page, she explains:
"I feel like people experience music differently… I miss that immersive experience. Now, people only listen to a few seconds of a song on their iPods. They don’t really invest in a whole album. It’s all about the single, and the hype."
And so, Beyoncé initially released her new album online, only available for purchase as a full 14-song, 17-video package. Announced and released simultaneously, as word spread on Friday, December 12, BEYONCÉ  triggered a pop culture news/media event of a sort only made possible by compounding fame and savvy viral marketing. Like the “high holidays of mass communication” of days gone by, “audiences recognized it as an invitation–even a command–to stop their daily routines and join in a holiday experience.” For Beyoncé and her eight million-plus fans, Christmas came early, abetted by smartphones in cubicles across America. She sold a record-setting 828,773 albums in just three days, a long weekend of Beyoncé-saturated new media. As Maura Johnston points out in Vice:
“…she essentially charged admission for the conversation. People talked about the record and discovered it simultaneously, making the discussion more electrified than, say, the chatter that ensued over the months-long span between the announcement and release of Lady Gaga's ARTPOP…”
The artist's lack of promotion was a calculated risk, as was the iTunes-only delivery method of the new work. Imagine if she had produced the same visual album – a clever concept in itself -- but allowed for the standard hype and first-week physical copies. Perhaps BEYONCÉ would have surpassed the previous first-week sales record, set by *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached, which sold 2.4 million copies in March of 2000, a time when “physical music” was the default.

It's worth noting that we now have something called physical music -- as in, Walmart is “happy to be able to carry her album and support all physical music." Here Walmart plainly aims to scoop up some cred with their support of things; this statement was issued in response to Target’s announcement that they will not be selling BEYONCÉ in their stores, citing as the main reason that her digital pre-release “impacts demand and sales projections.”

Shortlisted: Unopened Snaps, Photos Too Hard to Keep

Jose Ferraz de Almeida Júnior, Saudade, 1899, oil on canvas (detail). 
Photo: Ferraz de Almeida Júnior [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“I may know better a photograph I remember than a photograph I am looking at, as if direct vision oriented its language wrongly, engaging it in an effort of description which will always miss the point of its effect, the punctum.”
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

Aside from its use as a sexting medium, what is Snapchat? More precisely, what is a snap? A self-deleting multimedia missive sent using mobile technology: it's a standard spy trope without the smoke, sparks, and (dire) content; visual communication inspired by Perez Hilton; one-to-ten seconds of a photo, or video – MS Paint captions optional – and then it’s gone.

But there's more.

Tech pundits entered into a frenzy after Snapchat reportedly turned down a $3 billion, all-cash acquisition offer from Facebook; most were unsure why a social messaging application based on media impermanence could be thought to be worth more. Instagram, ever-popular across age groups, sold for $1 billion in April of 2012; the majority of Snapchat’s users are 13-23 years old. Assuming an older demographic would never embrace such an anti-archive,  the question of the moment was: Will a youth user group hold steady for the app, thereby justifying the Facebook snub? Commentators answered: "no."

But perhaps Snapchat's decision to forgo the buyout didn't solely rest on the loyalty of teenagers. A mobile editor at ReadWrite sees the app fitting in perfectly with the current Web era: It’s mobile, it’s visual, and it comes with the implication of privacy­. Granted, with the right tools it’s always possible to retrieve data, but a social network noted for its discretion is unprecedented. Bearing a warrant, the NSA only has access to “unopened snaps," messages stored in a server­ – Snapchat’s own dead letter office­ – as long as their recipients opt to ignore them. And even those messages have an expiration date: apparently, an unopened snap disappears after 30 days. And no public or private timeline of opened snaps exists -- this is a large part of the app’s charm. There are good reasons to think a shift beyond the teen demographic is in play.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

LIVE REPORT: Neutral Milk Hotel

The evaluation here is tough, yes: write a live review of a band responsible for a singular type of album (one of the cohesive ones, an album’s album, dear to me amongst many) which I had never before seen nor had a reasonable chance to see perform live, in whole or part, in spite of my bless’d, impressively-notched white belt. Evaluation is impossible if I weigh up the months of baseless conviction I held, ticketless, that I would attend this show, a show that sold out before those of us who take a shower, a shit or precisely count to 300 before checking the internet in the morning even had a chance. Conviction, because I needed some church, and seeing Neutral Milk Hotel for me has to be like church.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black Metal Friday

Burzum, The Cupcake Tapes

A below average tolerance for shopping plus above average aversion to crowds finds me home each "Black Friday" without question. November 29, 2013 was spent on the computer, writing, with periodic YouTube breaks to build the playlist that turns around increasing productivity. As stated here, "the ideal mix provides a nexus of knowns and unknowns...with a welcome earworm stimulant every hour on the hour." For this I visit the choice Internet DJs I depend on to rearrange the familiar as strange. But sometimes sources are tapped, or delinquent (do you get holidays off? on the internet?), or otherwise, and I scour any genre without top heavy vocal lyrics on YouTube. 

"Focus Grind" is composed out of of Black Metal. I was cruising, clocking 2,000 words when all instrumentation minus the guitar lead cuts out in Burzum's "Black Spell Of Destruction." Varg Vikernes continues to scream, and an ironic holiday tradition takes shape. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Better Than I Deserve

Keep Out, Narcs!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Used To Make A Livin’, Man: Picking The Banana

For Lou, RIP.

October 20, 2013

What would Warhol say? Predictably unfruitful, nonetheless, this low-hanging hypothetical is tempting as of late.

We do not wonder what he would have said about this or that because he was a “great artist,” nor because he was a man of great insight. His public record: Notably redundant, and never with more than a singular message. Yet this conjecture, WWWS?, surfaces as that message becomes more and more relevant. With his philosophy at the helm, Warhol’s imagery is currently experiencing a second life, with meta-branding and two-headed monsters as the result: His Pellegrino bottles have been sold back to Pellegrino, and Jackie O’s mug–-now truly distorted–-wraps Philip Treacy hats. The perverse nature here dares us to wonder–-and perhaps he is a “great artist” after all because we do–-what would Warhol say? Is making money still art? Is being good in business still the most fascinating kind of art?

The actualizing force behind these products is his estate, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and it is interesting how the issues it is tasked with are exceedingly referential to Warhol’s work. In contrast, when David Smith’s sculptures were tampered with after his death – by nature, negligence, or one man’s hubris, it was dreary - not paradoxical, ironic, or in any way sound with Smith’s contributions to art history. What Warhol’s estate maneuvers– authenticity, copyright, product licensing, branding– could all be drummed up as content within Warhol’s work. As these elements surface, it’s as if Warhol packaged them into his artwork to be revealed in time, as life insurance towards prophecy fulfillment.

We are blessed to mull over the irony. It is not as fun for the suits who have to answer to licensing decisions, draw a hard line on authenticity when Warhol produced by means of a factory–when his “signature” was often inked with a rubber stamp.

Museums: 40 Year Trial

"Museums are temples of art, goes one argument; get the art out on the street and close the temple. Or the art is dead anyhow, so leave it in the temple and burn both. The art is victim to the structure: Museums are elitist, capitalist, sexist and largely dominated by the values of white, multimillionaire Episcopalian trustees. By maintaining the 'modern' museum as a Longleat park for wildish talent, they turn it into a model of repressive desublimation."

 –Robert Hughes, "The Museum on Trial"

Taped above my desk is a brittle page from the September 9, 1973 issue of the New York Times Magazine: "The Museum on Trial" by Robert Hughes is prescient of many museum concerns, one of which, made light by the pull quote, "And what about the quota for gay militant Chicano artists?" has recently been elucidated for the times in "Accessibility in the Arts: Who Owns the Temple? Or Is a Temple What We Need?" by Opine Season guest columnist David Mura.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Not Seeing Frances Ha: A Review

I had loose plans with myself to go see Frances Ha a few weekends ago; this was primarily because it would have been free and some people strongly encouraged "a me" to do so: "You would love it", etc. Something was holding me back from committing two of my weekend hours to this idea. Instead, the betrothed and I stayed in and rented Last Days Here, the documentary about Pentagram lead singer Bobby Liebling.

Shortly into this film I realized it represented my anxiety about watching Frances Ha in reverse. Through trailers and reviews and commentary, I had gathered Frances Ha was about a girl not living up to her potential in New York City. It appeared guilty of the plausible personal income versus quality of apartment incongruity. High heels and the afflicted woman, glamorized in greyscale: Easy-to-mock, irritating nonetheless.

"What do you do?"
"It's kinda hard to explain."
"Why, because what you do is complicated?"
"Uhh...because I don't really do it."
This bit of dialogue from Frances Ha–okay, from the trailer for Frances Ha, is charming, but only due to it's jokeyness. Incongruity: Resolution.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reverse-Engineering A Poem

“Poem” November 29, 1957
To be idiomatic in a vacuum,
It is a shining thing!

IN 1959, AFTER JUST FINISHING LUNCH WITH A FRIEND, Frank O’Hara sat down to write a love poem. The pursuit would hardly be worth noting -- O’Hara was both a poet and in love -- but our interest lies in the poem never coming to be. Specifically, as he leaned into the task of turning his thoughts to form, a sense of futility swelled in response: Why squander time fixing thoughts meant for one, when you can just call them on the phone?

So goes the story of how Personism was born -- a concept drafted by O’Hara in lieu of a poem one afternoon and later printed in Yugen Magazine, the publication of O’Hara’s lunch date that day, Leroi Jones (cum Amiri Baracka). He was a well-connected sort. O’Hara’s own writing confirms that both his peer circle and creative scope was capacious, including affiliation with the New York School of painting and poetry, a stint as a critic for ARTnews, and a career as a curator for the Museum of Modern Art. On the off chance you haven’t heard of Frank O’Hara before this, now that you’re aware of him, you’re sure to notice his name popping up often and everywhere. Dead at 40, O’Hara’s life was abbreviated with the kind of absurdity which feels too bluntly meaningless to print (but at risk of losing you to Wikipedia, he died in a freak accident - struck by a dune buggy on Fire Island). “Grace to be born and live as variously as possible” – so reads the inscription on his tombstone. He lived this credo, in part, through multidisciplinary immersion in the arts -- and he was no a dilettante either. His was a mixture of giftedness and keen awareness to the delineations of medium: What suits what. Transposing a poem for a phone call, ‘Personism’ puts the poem “squarely between the poet and the person…the poem is correspondingly gratified … at last between two persons instead of two pages”.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Endless Boogie - Long Island LP (No Quarter)

There is something very “it was written…” about this band. Maybe it’s that its members are the fingers to the hidden hand controlling all y’alls taste in music. Or maybe it’s the tenacity – fully exhibited no matter where you happen to check in: song, album, career. The gist of ‘em is in each of the parts, like a Homeric epic. Then again, how is Endless Boogie not like Ancient Greek song culture? They’re old, tough, intimidating, hard to penetrate yet built so that misunderstanding them is impossible. They test endurance, and that is not to say only for the listener. Most of all, and fully realized in Long Island, Endless Boogie’s endowment makes itself manifest through sheer pronouncement, much like the hero Achilles, early in the Iliad, declared his own fate.

I hear ya…. “Hey there! Ho there! Whoa there! Some dude who calls himself ‘Top Dollar’ just casually recommended that I not trust William Tecumseh Sherman in the song after a song called ‘Taking Out the Trash’; itself explicitly stating (in an arbitrary rallying call), My intentions are unclear!” –

You take these things as alerts to not take this band too seriously. Your ready-whipped complacence is acquiesced in a Village Voice interview with the band. In turn, you pledge allegiance to a band like say, Purling Hiss – who take the piss as vaguely as possible, because an understanding of the benefit to maintaining creative plausible deniability is somehow built into the sociobiological make-up of an uncertain cross section of contemporary rock music, which also mismanages any real libidinous urgency. Naming a song, “Lolita” does not summon the desired effect; it draws attention to inadequacies. Whereas the first song off Long Island, “The Savagist,” although not only refuses to recompense cultural signifiers, but is also not a recognized word, makes you feel like a naughty little girl around its 11th minute.

In spite of its flushing effect, I’d be willing to bet – in fact I am certain – that much of what is captured on Long Island cuts premature of spontaneous laughter from within the band. The music is impromptu, but much like Zappa Plays Zappa, it aims to simulate an onus of musicianship. When perfect recreation is met, it is recognized, and it’s probably hilarious. If you have held the records in your hands that these fellows have, nurturing them from patent obscurity to market absurdity, you’d find that the only honest end in making music is fraternity. The lack of tact here is mine; it is meant only to illustrate the impossibility of writing music when you have inadvertently built the siphon for so much of it. (http://noquarter.net)
(Elizabeth Murphy)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shut Up I Am Here City's Full Strife Waiting For A Sign Dead Nature She Will No Face Hit Me Husbands Marshal Dear

"True art always appears where we don't expect it, where nobody thinks of it or utters its name. Art detests being recognized and greeted by its own name. It immediately flees. Art is a character infatuated by the incognito. As soon as it is divulged and pointed out, it flees and leaves in its place a glorified bit-player carrying on its back a large poster marked ART; everyone immediately sprinkles it with champagne, and lectures lead it from town to town with a ring through its nose."

Jean Debuffet, "Art Brut in Preference to the Cultural Arts", from the exhibition catalogue

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Missed Record Store Day

By missed, I mean did not participate in.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

That's what I get for searching for "One Man Melodic Black Metal"

Always on the lookout for the serendipitous DJ: One that can provide a nexus of knowns and unknowns, unobtrusive enough to cater to productive spans of writing, with a welcome earworm-stimulant every hour on the hour. In the case of which, I can source the provenance without having to maneuver ulterior motive speculation. Last FM was on-bat for the job. Upon registration, my entire computer-listening history swept onto a profile page in a swift display of unsolicited analytics. Once I swallow the initial unease of seeing my own band in the number one spot - most played, with various (hilarious) television programs rearing up into the top ten, I decide the service has a fighting chance: This was social media transparency I could get behind. It is not enough to merely claim you like listening to, say...Steel Pole Bathtub, or Whitehouse, or the Chicago Transit Authority, you have to clock in for it. And in case you're interested, I qualified the upper-rankings of my own band and the Sarah Silverman Show rather efficiently thankyouverymuch.

Scrobble? Yeah, I Scrobble: I dive right in. For the uninitiated, this is a program for the real-time broadcast of whatever you are listening to on your computer. It features a sidebar with a couple of dropdowns where the other people go. I don’t have any “friends” but the first “neighbor” that shows up on the list is Gerard Cosloy. Serious question: Is he everyone’s #1 “neighbor”? Did he receive an endorsement; or, to be more precise in the hypothetical, an achievement award distributed by Last FM for the listening history that most accurately mirrors what he has publicly endorsed? Huh.

I sign up for his library and move to the task at hand: Find the serendipitous DJ, which I will reiterate as the unattainable playlist. LastFM reminds me of this by taking me to the “end of the internet” on my first go at the place. An N64-esque landscape sprouting genre tags like “arizona”, “reading 2006”, “seen”, “west Yorkshire” and “a campfire and a tent and my glasses and a spaceship and some matches and a tree…” (and I never reached the end of this one) recommends that I try something like “nerdcore” or “new romantic”. I guess that it what I get for searching for, “one-man melodic black metal” - Last FM gets all cute and basically calls me a hipster.

But I am in this for the transparency! Phantom coders have incorrectly profiled me.

Shrugging off the vestigial pretense, I relinquish what I really want to know to the search field. I genre in which I could identify maybe only one.... err, movement? It's played at weddings a lot… and it is exactly what I get.

Pachelbel Canon in Deez nuts!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012 Vol. I - Head In A Box: The Musical

Screaming Females | Ugly
Final Club | Blank Entertainment
Northern Liberties | Glowing Brain Garden
Uranium Orchard | s/t
Family Band | Grace & Lies
Connections | Private Airplane
Christian Mistress | Possession
D’eon | LP
Cat Power | Sun
The Dream | Terius Nash: 1977
Death Grips | Ex-Military, Black Google, The Money Store, NO LOVE WEB DEEP
Botanist | I: The Suicide Tree & II: A Rose From The Dead, III: Doom in Bloom/Allies
Nervosas | Ardentes, Rev 45, Descension
Sky Ferrierra – “Everything is Embarrassing”
Acid Pauli – Johnny Cash/Will Oldham “I See A Darkness”

Gut and theory; the most impressive musical documents from the past year (and change) bolster exceptional proportions of typically disparate hallmarks. Sometimes a person just has to clear their throat. No subtext. Still, it is with intent to speak.

Early American songbooks consist of spirituals. Jazz rode the coattails of social hedonism. Punks committed to nihilism. Rap is accepting of a vague to outright Christian backbone. In hardcore, while the politic mutates, a certain fundamentalism is ever-present. Now consider the agnostic flim-flam liberalism that all rock filed as underground, college, indie, and alternative; is couched in, pigeonholed as, or assumed to be. Fucking yawn. What this - let’s call it a demographic, lacks in a belief system was once supplanted by exceptional range and taste in music. Yet the current trend is to cite capitalized abstract nouns and an expressed distaste for music as inspiration; and when you’re out too late and feeling uncomfortable somewhere, you can always call on dad rock. I digress. As always, those with ideologies at hand produce something true, even if they make it up.

Screaming Females / Ugly
This record sits at the top of my list faithful to both a chronological and a qualitative retrospection; and it is with leveled satisfaction that I cite Screaming Females’ Ugly as my favorite record of 2012, as I think back to the amount of hair, sleep, fingernail-matter, and self-esteem I lost trying to pen this review, officially my first, back in April.

Final Club / Blank Entertainment
The acme of Common Era garage pop for people who read. This record was sent to the palpable inbox, bereft of any disclosure, and I at once imagined it the result of an after-school program for ivy league graduate students, vibing off MTV’s representation of lo-fi, inspired by Vampire Weekend, and putting everyone with a goofy stamp all but tattooed on the back of their hand to shame with it’s exacting heady house-party perfection. Before I took a stroll on the Internet, this deduction explained why Final Club was not ubiquitous royalty in the Wavves etcetera scene. Turns out these folks are from Denton, Texas; and not an ivy-league social group, but the side-project of familiar bands (like Teenage Cool Kids). Why they are not the top-billing voice of a generation must have something to do with the all the more elite membership of those liking music this good.

Family Band / Grace & Lies
Nine luscious incantations balanced atop heavy swells of narcotic ore; dispatched from a preternatural, androgynous oracle. Back on earth, Grace & Lies is the debut album of a Brooklyn couple living together in the woods. While the backstory is ultimately harmless, the buttress of this album is first person omnipotence, and it transcends anything tagged with “Brooklyn” or “sustainable living”. Family Band is like the priestess Pythia channeling Apollo at Delphi (the reading that interprets the prophetess as languid, inspired and intelligible, rather than a mouthpiece for gibberish).

Uranium Orchard / 1st LP
The weird-tipped hardcore/punk trio Dry-Rot begat Uranium Orchard, and the transformation is akin to Mekons “Where Were You?” to “Teeth/Guardian/Kill/Stay Cool”. From Dry-Rot, Jordan Darby and Drew Wardkin took a belief system and working interest in music, and left bygone inflated shock tactics. Sure, over half the lyrics are pulled from Mein Kampf, but you’re humming “For the first time, men of natural and patriotic mind became rebels” to the resurrected ideologies of Truman’s Water, Polvo, Hood, and what they were drinking too.

Northern Liberties / Glowing Brain Garden
Use this album as a manageable entry point into the world of the Duerr brothers and their longtime best friend Kevin Riley; who, together for over a decade, have been crafting what they call “ghost punk” - and I’m inclined to take their word for it. In the least because they have always created within the confines of vocals, percussion, and bass; bending to Occam’s Razor - the law of parsimony, which states that until a greater demonstration reveals itself as necessary, the most succinct one shall rule.

Connections / Private Airplane
Connections’ debut album Private Airplane appears to have been pre-released exclusively to those on the Ohio Internet. Meaning, for those in Central Ohio and in the know, the polished pop gems on Private Airplane, to be solicited nationally in 2013, were attainable before the new year. I think it is being logged with a safe majority to say that however circumstantially this came to pass does not deprive the preview of its enchantment. A cursory look at this byproduct of affairs, and it’s a members-only preview; a token of appreciation to a loyal fan base. But as Connections is a newly minted coin, and not some time-honored collector’s item, this gesture would have to have been facilitated by an onus-busting third party Other, with footing in Ohio rock mythology: Why stop now. It is precisely this intangible, magical-way-of-thinking-for-no-reason that infuses Private Airplane, that ranks this album - not of 2012, or 2013, or December, or last week, or that one shitty day you would have had if it weren’t for this album, but as timeless. Most songs crafted today with the original recipe: guitar, bass, drums and vocals, are affected disasters, worthy of that apocalyptic flush. Alternately, Private Airplane hugs the transcendence theory. I now know not be disheartened when my absolutes are untranslatable, but that doesn’t make them any less absolute. Preaching to the choir feels good today; some things can be left unsaid. Connections is absolutely.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kylesa - From the Vaults, Vol. 1 LP (Season of Mist)

If this had been released as a proper studio album, it is safe to say none of Kylesa’s exponentially budding fanbase would have been the wiser. A title like From the Vaults, Vol. 1 usually works as a disclaimer, in the sense of providing a framework as to who should be alerted to the release (hardcore fans) and what they should expect: an endearing historical document, contextualizing the band and uncovering prescient snapshots of their current, past or future glory. A patchwork quality in recording and unfinished zygotes of song are excusably revealed, while the inclusion of covers is standard issue. From the Vaults, Vol. 1 includes two such covers and features a song called “Drum Jam,” so while these assumptions are not completely irrelevant, Kylesa’s sixth full-length LP bears a thoughtfulness worthy of its place alongside 2010’s Spiral Shadow in the discography. The comprehensibility was intended. It is properly sequenced and uniformly booming in sound. Old songs, previously released or not, are never just upended from the floor.

It is more like the past revisited, with out-of-print fan favorites like “A 111 Degree Heat Index,” “Between Silence and Sound” and “Bottom Line II” completely re-recorded for Vaults, the last of which has changed to reflect its live, speedier rendition. Kylesa’s ever-expanding genre base is fully represented, making this a valuable compendium. The band’s sludge upbringing is cited verbatim with a Buzzov*en cover. Meanwhile, Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” speaks to their future of allowing more psychedelic and improvisational moments on their next album, slated for spring. It is this future and the sense that Kylesa is good for the long haul that is the most exciting aspect of this release. It is the first volume after all, implying that a dearth of material from the future-past will become available. As another batch of songs, three unreleased efforts previously remiss of vocals, further makes clear, Kylesa is neither shy of the past, embarrassed from missed connections, nor unable to grow forward.

-Elizabeth Murphy          

-from Agit Reader

Monday, November 12, 2012

Connections - Private Airplane LP (Anyway Records)

Connections Private Airplane is out now in Columbus, Ohio
I don't want to talk about the Ohio water, as in what's in it, as the raison d’être for another instant classic of underground pop to surface to vinyl with Connections’ Private Airplane. This allusion is justifiably thrown up in the hands of well-wishers at a loss for words, yet to say Ohioans are dosed from the tap with a certain knack is to slight what constitutes the substance. Other liquids are more conspicuously involved: blood, beer, whiskey and gasoline - although I wouldn't recommend that order. Songs like "Finally", "Casuals", "Cindy" and "Love St." don't just happen, albeit by the time we hear them it certainly seems like they do; spontaneously, with whatever working degree of immaculacy you uphold. The five members of Connections are not bystanders for a conduit; Kevin Elliott and Andy Hampel of 84 Nash, Adam Elliott of Times New Viking, Dave Capaldi of El Jesus de Magico and 'peach district laureate' Philip Kim have been clocking in for awhile now. Private Airplane is a result of their craft; fifteen paragons of song, each laden with hooks you can't pay for, never mind get, anywhere else.

It's in the blood. Originating with the 84 Nash representatives, a kernel of the songs on Private Airplane evolved over time, and the genetic make-up of this band is thankfully evident; which is to say, you will hear Guided By Voices, The Mice and 84 Nash's own micro-arena rock. If Connections was mounted on honing relics, it is safe to say the glacial pace has served its purpose. With the skilled naturalism of Capaldi's guitar, Kim on bass, and the drums and guiding hand of Elliott the younger, who truly shines as a producer (trust me, I know), Connections is experiencing a flash. Another album is rumored to be completed. You would be wise to get on board now.

Outstanding on Private Airplane is the tone. It's positive, and this is quite refreshing. Easy to be contentious and nihilist, both saturate a market where pop, not cool enough to stand alone, always suffers an avant-garde signifier. What is hard is to make something genuine and full-hearted without becoming a target. Connections achieves this, but it is not born of naiveté. For if water is at work here at all, it is David Foster Wallace's water, one he addressed as ennui and the daily choice to wade through it, to which Ohioans are adept. Of equal habit to principle songwriter Andy Hampel, is the counterattack. With Connections, we are called to engage – join the formation to offset the void. It may be closer than you think.

Appropriately, a record label founded on the belief that music should be from your own backyard invested in the release. Anyway Records, from Columbus, Ohio, has been one purveyor of the 'timelessness' (est. late '80s - early '90s) found on Private Airplane; a certain melding of rock, skewed and blaring through speakers, not in the least from vehicles in any driving town. It doesn't take a song like "Totally Carpool" to recognize this album's ideal context: From Dayton to Columbus, Columbus to Cleveland, here to there, A to B. Connections. And that’s the gasoline. (The beer and whiskey are implied.

-Elizabeth Murphy


Monday, October 29, 2012

Brian M. Clark - Songs From The Empty Places Where People Killed Themselves 12” EP (Discriminate Audio)

This is an exercise in program music – four instrumental songs crafted to impart thematic intent upon the listener. I don’t know how they did this back in the golden days of orchestra, in the pit/pre-pit, but the exposition found on this EP leaves little room for error. The track list on Songs contains even more explicit subtext. For example, “Suburban Bedroom (A Pretty Young Girl Swallows A Bottle Of Pills For Reasons That Would Have Seemed Stupid In Retrospect, Had She Lived)”. I want to frame the declamatory nature of this with “Death of the Author” and the assertive naiveté of abstract painting, but again, the margins here are narrow, even for my esoteric criticism (itty-bitty). Moreover, considering the source, this record is more genuine, more direct, than a didactic monolith for darkness’s sake. Suicide is a rote walk in contention park next to Brian M. Clark’s oeuvre of overtly deviant-themed artwork, anti-books, and nihilistic sucker punches.

He is Boyd Rice’s biographer, a Modern Drunkard and, as evident in the smack he laid down on Henry Rollins in the Denver Syntax, and his skepticism at large, possibly the closest thing to the counter-alternative that Peter Schjeldahl promised us in 1978. Maybe it is just the lighting (or, the critical thinking I pine for) but it renders this EP an anachronistic head-scratcher nonetheless. I cannot conjure vignettes of disparaging fools while listening to this album, even with the complimentary lines of mind fluffer. If anything, it’s Heck Harvey’s “Carnival of Souls,” minus the machinations of vertigo, until the “cafeteria” portion of “High School Library, Gymnasium and Cafeteria (A Fat Nerd Finally Brings His Guns To School),” and it becomes more like “why was he fucking around on a church organ this whole time when he can play guitar like that?” Clearly, the concept does not cater to how an immersive listener typically experiences music. But in this culturally bankrupt landscape in which we find ourselves, consumers are the most broke of all. Interpretation? They accept donations. It all checks out. And here I thought the record was gonna wavy-bowl itself! (Like, put itself in the oven… give us the ol’ bell jar…SYLVIA PLATH KILLED HERSELF.)
-Elizabeth Murphy

-from Still Single, Dusted Magazine

Monday, October 8, 2012

Yek Koo - Love Song for the Dead C LP (Emerald Cocoon)

Burgeoning through a capricious gaze in the late ‘80s, the Dead C.’s tempered rise to legacy is currently testing the glass ceiling of the underground. If you, as I, were also born with the moon in post-punk, early Dead C. records were beyond the pale by the time you came of age. However, recent years have offered respite in reissue format, with the exception of Operation of the Sonne, a title which I happen to covet. In the spirit of the popular opinion garnering interest, whittled on down to cliche, if I had a penny for every time the Dead C. was referenced, the price of this original pressing would increase in tandem and still no transaction would transpire. Good thing I thought that one through first. Guess who didn’t?

How do I explain Yek Koo? You know how people like to say, “Blondie is a band”? Well, Yek Koo is a suck.

This is an exceptional example of the inevitable meretricious collateral seen in the long program of new waves and their wakes. At best, this album was a prepaid party favor at a particular online fundraiser’s end game – the mixed-message installation art show, “Touching Them Touching Me – A Love Song for the Dead C.,” by artist Helga Fassonaki, who performs as Yek Koo. In addition to funding the album, contributions went to a hyperreal reconstruction of Empire Tavern, a bar in New Zealand in which the Dead C. played early shows, and a ping-pong table – not sure. The closing was a separate event; three nights of bands billed as a “three day performance series,” with a subtitle I will drop as gently as possible, “Trapdoor Fucking Exit.” Three enviable nights regardless, as the Charalambides and notable kiwi émigrés Brian and Maryrose Crook of the Renderers played. I could have grabbed a smoke during the “drunkenly stumbling,” lackadaisical, free-form guitar with occasional percussive gestures and bathtub chanting that is the basis of the recording I am supposed to focus on here, as previously captured with a Dictaphone to vinyl.

As tributes go, Love Song for the Dead C fails diametrically. If meant to honor the band in form, it does so by picking up tenets at the surface: improvisation, a guitar, not using a recording studio, applying them with the cadence of a narcoleptic doing homework. Surely uncomplimentary to a band that finds even Yo La Tengo’s cover of “Bad Politics,” the Dead C.’s most accessible song, subpar. If we view Fassonaki’s work, the album and installation in total, with the pretense of the Dead C.’s philosophies at hand, refractions of mimicry and idolatry overwhelm, which couldn’t be farther from their ultimate endorsement of a new musical language. The only thing that keeps Love Song for the Dead C from a complete wash is its bookends, two versions of a traditional Persian love song, first in Farsi, then in English, and we have to agree that they are love songs because they are love songs. But it’s a cheap device, and ultimately an undermining one, because it provides the final nail in the radical contingency of naming coffin. The identity of the work is in the identification. Trapdoor Fucking Exit… a tautological misstep.

In a statement of the artist’s intent, Fassonaki is compared to the role of a hagiographer, that she is depicting the lives of saints, here with the Dead C., in part one of a consecrated (God forbid) series. For good measure, it is also offered that she is commenting on delusions implicit in fandom. This choose-your-own-adventure style thesis is as damning to the popular opinion of contemporary artists as her album is to a working understanding of the subculture it aims to endorse, or critique, or worship, or emulate, or whatever. Yet we find the sublimated motive to forge a link between herself and the band tenuously achieved. Installation photographs depict Fassonaki with a seat at the bar she commissioned, the exacerbated double of the Empire Tavern. Although the program text available online fails to mention this, it is where the Dead C. recorded the closing side to Operation of the Sonne. I hope it is not too self-serving to suggest that there may have been more effective means to an end here.

-Elizabeth Murphy

-from Still Single, Dusted Magazine

Saturday, October 6, 2012


The New Times New viking EP 
Over & Over “Sleep-In”                 LISTEN