Blind Bim's Emporium

In the Old Way- ask the old folks

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I Wish Come Out Would Go Away

Steve Reich stays everpresent with "Come Out" which features a phase-shifting quote from Daniel Hamm, a black youth who'd been unjustly beaten by police. Reich's piece is from 1966, but it could be 2015.

As a minor side note, my recent delving into Reich's music prompted me to see his influence on Tortoise and Sufjan Stevens.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Crackers rock the murder ballads

Crackers can't do gutbucket blues, but they sure can mess with those murder ballads. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Worstest Hard Time

I think we may have the Dirty Thirties beat. The Dust Bowl only enveloped about 100 million acres across the Great Plains. Climate change impacts the entire globe. We're in the Carbon Bowl and the storm keeps rising.

I read Timothy Egan's National Book Award-winning "The Worst Hard Time" about the environmental, social and economic devastation caused by uprooting the prairie grasses in a region that suffered cyclical droughts. Yet the hardship he describes seems minimal and bounded when compared to a world that will experience extreme temperatures, stronger deluges and longer droughts. Everywhere. I think we'll harken back to the good old days when we can be Okies and flee to California. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Once a great place, now a prison

It's wanting either a dose of cold-charged reality or indulging in a streak of masochism that has me listening to Sufjan Steven's Michigan album. It includes tales of lonely desperation; of lives propelling against forces conspiring to thwart all attempts to craft a wholesome enriching life. It's not something I should listen to in my current state of joblessness. But I do and my listening of it has changed as I've navigated different phases of this transition. When I first heard "since the first of June I lost my job and lost my room" it was a jarring reminder of a condition that I barely wanted to mention to neighbors or professional colleagues. Now it feels more like a statement of the weather: nothing to deny and everything to accept.

There is a savage frontier aspect to the album's narrative. It's populated by characters in trailer parks living far from the Interstate who in their economic straits may be close to joining the state militia. I don't know about you, but that's my idea of the ultimate gothic horror film- something frightening and real. Michael Moore picked up a thread of this when he explored the roots of the Oklahoma City bombing. When the hate is real, there doesn't seem to be a way to escape it. I don't need a Bates Hotel scenario. For that reason, I'm seriously spooked by the Brandon Teena story in "Boys Don't Cry."

I don't know how the pain of economic dislocation leads to violent hate, but I believe that most of our social ills stem from economic sources. People feel desperate and lash out at accessible and vulnerable targets, and later try to justify their actions through convenient and distracting rationales.

Happy MLK Day.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stoking the starmaker machinery

I remember when my graduate school Kevin told me breathlessly about a new indie music website. "They use a 10 point ranking system and nobody gets a 10." Having been reared on the inadequate Rolling Stone five star ranking system, I immediately liked it. The site was Pitchfork.

For that 2003-2004 period it was really my go-to site for reviews and news.  I respected the site so much that I wanted it to reach back and review older recordings so that I can find out their perspective on them. But then it became too overwhelming. Suddenly there was another recording from Xiu Xiu and I didn't know about their last one. And I didn't like Deerhof's latest offering. Then one writer raved about the Wren's  "Secaucus" and I dearly wanted to hear it, but it was way out of print. (It was re-released and it turned out to be great.)

So I veered away from the fold. I don't think the site missed me and I didn't miss it. (For the record, I sought out used CD bins and music blogs like Brooklyn Vegan and Gorilla v. Bear to satisfy that new music itch.) But I had to laugh when there was a backlash to their sanctimonious posturing, which included Subpop records recreating them as Popdork.

Which brings us back to the present: starting mid-month every December music websites issue their "Best of" lists for the year. This is the time that I get to catch up on what I missed the preceding year. It's actually an exciting time because all the work of distilling out the dreck has been done for me. (Largehearted Boy aggregates the lists. What a guy.)

As part of this year-end review I listened to Pitchfork's list of 100 best tracks of 2011. I could only stand twenty of the songs. Many of the musicians seemed preoccupied with textures and rhythms to the exclusion of caring much about the songs. The site used to have more guitar-based bands and now... get this... they give some recordings the vaunted 10.0 ranking. As you can see, things have gone downhill over there. I mean, how is anybody going turn this current crop of chartbusters into the elevator music of tomorrow?

I refuse to think that I'm all crusty and unyielding to the music uber-trends that have all the kids going gaga.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

We can return and we can look behind

During my infrequent trips to Minneapolis in the 90s I used to make my rounds at the thrift stores and the record emporiums, scanning for the odd flotsam and jetsam that would make my life complete for about a day or so. Inevitably, I would pick up the free weeklies that lay in the racks by the door. One of these publications was Cake, which I enjoyed for its sense of humor and topical issues. There was the usual information intended to push product for the latest trendy bands, but it was presented in articles that were often by band members, which had the effect of dissolving the musician's artificial stage posture. Thus, the articles were very readable and there was a jaunty sense of humor about the whole affair.

I became so enamored of the magazine that not only did I subscribe to it, I submitted articles for publication. So I began to correspond with Hap, the editor. Soon we were exchanging phone calls and found that we shared much. She had a very fluid and inquisitive mind. Of course, she had a fetish for food and knew all sorts of fun facts about candy. I also seemed to gain an acquaintance with her regular staff of writers, which included Heidi and Chank, who were a couple. There were issues devoted to pirates, spies, candy, sports, etc.. so all the music info was funneled through these themes. As I said, the mag was fun. Hap had great taste in music- except for the time she lionized Jewel when her first album was released. But I've forgiven her many times over because she introduced me to Mary Lou Lord.

When I moved to Minneapolis a decade later I was disheartened to find out that Hap had moved to Austin and the magazine had turned to Toast (literally- that was the name of it)
and then folded. I poked around and found out that a friend knew Heidi and Chank, but I never pressed him for an introduction. I once approached one of her former boyfriends (who had gained some renowned as boozy cable access show host) and he said that he could only reach her by Facebook messaging. I made a quick contact with her to receive an address and sent a holiday card to her a week ago.

This past Saturday I was at the dance studio hanging out while K & L did their shuffling and gallivanting and I picked up a local magazine. There were a couple photo spreads about art events. I looked closely at an art bicycle show from last summer and realized that I was looking at photos of Heidi and Chank. They both happened to be located in this same event write-up. A quick text to my friend confirmed their identities.

I stand amazed at how we can keep returning from whence we came. Then I came home to find the holiday card that I had sent to Hap had been returned to sender, address unknown. So, where are you Hap? A lonely nation turns its eyes to you...


Friday, January 06, 2012

I believe in yesterday

It's Syd Barrett's birthday today. The tendency is to look at this like it's something we should mourn, since he died in 2006. But in the larger scheme of life, it's like grieving the passing of the 100 watt incandescent light bulb. I never knew him. I only know him through a few recordings. (I've known a few light bulbs, but let's not get too literal here.)

There are the officially released tracks on "Saucerful of Secrets", "Piper at the Gates of Dawn," and a few solo albums that I haven't kept track of. In the past few years, however, there are multitudes of album outtakes, BBC studio sessions, and random live recordings that have surfaced.

So I guess my point is that Syd lives. There is music emerging and new crumbs to digest. Harkening back to Syd's life doesn't grant us much richness, but listening to the music does. So I think it's time to cue up some of those early BBC sessions...

Later:  While listening to c. 1967 "Interstellar Overdrive" freakout, my six year old daughter cocked her head a little bit and calmly remarked: "That sounds like Star Wars ships."

I always wondered where George Lucas got his inspiration.