Thursday, March 25, 2010

Borneo's Orangutans Need Our Help

This is absolutely devastating. The UN reports that the wild orangutan could be extinct within 10 years, largely due to deforestation and (in a shitty ironic twist) the production of bio-fuel. We really need to figure this out, because the hubris necessary to force such a closely related species into extinction doesn't seem far from genocidal.

A message from Borneo Orangutan Survival:
These gentle, charismatic, red-haired apes need our help more than ever....
Someone once said, "all problems are man-made, therefore all problems can be solved by Man."
We have no excuse...
You can learn more about the work of this amazing organisation at

Monday, March 22, 2010

Charleston, Pt. 2: The Digital Version

J. Spaceman's Guitar Loops

J. Spaceman.

For whatever reason, there are frequent and long periods during which I forget how much I adore the music of J. Spaceman (née Jason Pierce)—Spacemen 3 through Spiritualized and his solo and collaborative work. There's something about the discography that I find too easy to take for granted; then every few years I stumble back upon The Perfect Prescription or Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. The Treader label has put out a couple CDs by Spaceman: the entirely solo Guitar Loops and SpaceShipp with pianist Matthew Shipp. I've only heard excerpts of the latter, but I was reminded recently just how exquisite the 35 minutes of Guitar Loops are.

J. Spaceman - Guitar LoopsBefore I get to the music, the packaging deserves its own praise. As with all of Treader's output, designer Frauke Stegmann has adorned the cover with a gorgeous gold-foil-embossed dove. It was originally released in an edition of only 500, each signed and numbered by Pierce (I believe even the second, non-signed edition is now out-of-stock).

The record—a single track, a little over a half hour—starts off with the sound of a broken connection, skin tapping a hot cable, plugging in and tuning out, human contact masquerading as digital glitch. From there it's schizo, free-form, autoschediastic collage. There is a salient homage to and mimicry of gamelan sonorities and rhythms. There are string scrapes and scraps of buzz and feedback, Thurstonian screwdriver flare-ups and gentler taps that skate across the frets with a wild deftness that echoes Derek Bailey here and there (?). It sounds like it was certainly never intended for release, which imbues it with an almost voyeuristic intimacy. As suggested by the generic title, it plays like a patchwork of tossed-off snippets and extemporaneous ideas.

There's a point almost 32 minutes in when some buzzes abruptly fall off, another loops cuts out, and the initial bell-like harmonic taps return. It's a strange denouement, peeling away a veil from the technical processes that otherwise felt entirely human and visceral. The sharp and disorienting edits (or switches between loops) throughout the recording oddly manifest as very organic and human, despite being a collaboration between Pierce and technology, especially considering that much of the sound is basically Pierce conceding to the feedback and loose connections and spontaneous errors. But as noted, the experimentation is nakedly human. You can hear the flesh on the strings, the playful and curious manipulations of drones, the almost puckish impatience with certain loops, the anti-narrative (or meta-narrative?) juxtapositions...

Anyhow, it's a bunch of noise worthy of that lovely packaging.

Since it is no longer available for purchase, I don't feel bad pointing you toward this download.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Amazing Guitar Player from Botswana

Bokete7, who shot the video, told Boing Boing about this remarkable guitarist from Botswana:
"Ronnie Moipolai [is] from Kopong village in the Kweneng district 50 km west of the capitol Gaborone. He is 29 years old and goes around the shebeens selling and playing his songs for 5Pula each (80dollarcents). He learned guitar from his now late father, has 3 brothers that also play guitar (KB is one of them), has also a big sister and plenty of kids in the yard. Nobody has a formal job and his mother sells Chibuku beer and firewood they get from the bush trying to make ends meet."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"the warp and the weft of the web of the world"

"We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing. We take it for granted so simply that in a sense, by the very act of brutish routine acceptance, we undo the work of the ages, the history of the gradual elaboration of poetical description and construction, from the treeman to Browning, from the caveman to Keats. What if we awake one day, all of us, and find ourselves utterly unable to read? I wish you to gasp not only at what you read but at the miracle of its being readable[.]"

—"Charles Kinbote," in Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (p. 289)

The luck of the...

Here are some gorgeous photos of Ireland's spectacular landscapes and architecture from The Library of Congress:

Monday, March 15, 2010

NYC—In Scale

"The Sandpit" by Sam O'Hare:

The Sandpit from Sam O'Hare on Vimeo.

A day in the life of New York City, in miniature.

Original Music: composed by Human, co-written by Rosi Golan and Alex Wong.

Read an interview with O'Hare about the making of this video HERE.
"It is shot on a Nikon D3 (and one shot on a D80), as a series of stills. I used my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lenses for all of these shots. Most were shot at 4fps in DX crop mode, which is the fastest the D3 could continuously write out to the memory card. The boats had slower frame rates, and the night shots used exposures up to two seconds each. The camera actually has an automatic cut off after 130 shots, so for longer shots I counted each click and quickly released and re-pressed the shutter release after 130 to keep shooting."

Marquees & Palmettos

Here are some photographs from my recent sojourn to Charleston, South Carolina...

(Palmettos along the Battery)

(America's first theater)

(a door to the porch)


Friday, March 12, 2010

Flooded Meadow

from Pakiavelli:
This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

The "Grüner See" (engl. Green Lake) is situated in upper styria, austria (see geotag). It is amazingly beautiful because of its deep green/blue colour and the surrounding alpine scenery. The lake itself dries up in autumn but fills up with melting water. The water itself of the lake is extremely pure, like glass. The colour is a result of light refraction.

Here's the poster's description:
"The night before there seemed to be heavy rain and too much of the pollen were flushed in the water and were floating. So the visibility could be much better, i´ve missed the „crystal clear water. You have to know the Green Lake is famous for its clear water. The good thing for this day was the water level with 9,40m. Spring flowers, plants, benches, hiking trails were below the surface. And i have found out when its the best time during the two to three months "flood" to get in the water - i was to early in this season. Altough the water temperature was between 5 and 6 degrees Celcius i did two dives (85 and 96 minutes long)

My face was well frozen, i can hardly speak afterwards. I hoped this procedure kept my face young and skintight. After watching the footage it seemed to be different."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Remembering Mark Linkous: 1962–2010

It's been a bad winter for my musical heroes.

Tracing not only the music of Sparklehorse (née Mark Linkous)—which often grappled with the difficult, dichotomous intensities of life—but also his myriad collaborations, one quickly sees his interest and investment in those darker corners of existence, the shadows in which he seems to have ultimately lost himself. Like all great artists, Mark Linkous was apparently perpetually restless, always looking for new cohorts (or substances) to reveal new avenues of artistic (or self-destructive) exploration. He worked with Daniel Johnston—no stranger to emotional and mental anguish—on an album called Fear Yourself. After an overdose in 1996, Linkous released two somber, brutally honest albums, Good Morning Spider and It's A Wonderful Life. The irony of that second title stings even more now. It's A Wonderful Life saw collaborations with fellow excavators of heartache, including Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, and—perhaps most notably—Vic Chesnutt. Chesnutt also joined Linkous on his recent Dark Night of the Soul project with Danger Mouse and David Lynch. My friend Casey told me Linkous was in Athens just weeks ago performing at a memorial for Chesnutt...

We like our artists earnest and sincere. When they sing sad songs, we want them to be truly sad. It sounds better that way. David Lynch has often responded to questions about the darkness and melancholia of his films by saying that his art is simply an outlet for a portion of his emotional life—ostensibly a way to exorcise his nightmares. Otherwise, he's a happy, content, jovial Mid-Westerner. It was always clear that Linkous's music presented a more complete picture of a damaged man. And we loved him for that directness; for the honest chronicling of his struggles to find light in the darkness. Because we could relate and because it resulted in incredibly beautiful music. He probed the depths—the edges of which we skirted and were intrigued—and brought back hard-earned relics of the wonder of pain and fear and beauty and heartbreak. He was our canary, heading down before (and for) us and sending back transmissions from the shadowy recesses into this sad and beautiful world. And he didn't make it back...

"Sad & Beautiful World"
"It's A Wonderful Life"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"It's too late to change your mind, so be happy with what you find..."

ART MUSEUMS "S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G." (Woodsist) from Kerry McLaughlin on Vimeo.

I'm really enjoying Rough Frame, the new record from The Art Museums, which is Glenn Donaldson from the Jewelled Antler crew along with fellow San Franciscan Josh Alper. I generally love just about anything that Donaldson touches (Mirza, Thuja, Blithe Sons, Skygreen Leopards, etc.) and this is no exception. It's lo-fi at its best ("state of the art home-recording circa ‘85"), with echoes of Tobin Sprout, Dan Treacy, and a few decades worth of anglopop.

Art Museums: "Sculpture Gardens" (download from Aquarium Drunkard)
Art Museums: "Paris Cafés" (download from The Decibel Tolls)

Rough Frame is out now on Woodsist. You can buy it HERE.

"There ain't no train to Stockholm"