Friday, June 24, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
I picked up:
Rudimentary Peni, Archaic EP
Witchfinder General, Death Penalty
Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Bait and Switch
Vertical Slit, Under the Blood Red Lava Lamp
No Trend Tritonian Nash- Vegas Polyester Complex
Death, For the Whole World to See
Monday, June 6, 2011
Blue Oyster Cult, Tyranny and Mutation (1973)- "The Red and the Black" crashes out instantly from this one, giving some indication of what people are talking about when they suggest that punk's raw rock ecstasy didn't take over in the US like it did in the UK because America already had heaps of unpretentious kickass bands playing stripped down rock n' roll. Of course, unpretentious and stripped down don't always apply to BOC: mystical nonsense symbolism, lyrics about SF creatures (the fuck is a Diz-Buster?), and lengthy solos abound here. Buck Dharma, though, had the sense to draw his virtuosity from Chuck Berry, Hubert Sumlin, and detroit rock instead of the self-hating genuflections that the UK prog-pomp royalty made to the classical western tradition. This gives the indulgent solos and lyrics a paradoxically anti-intellectual jaggedness which takes for granted what would be radical posturing to the Brits several years later. People always called these guys "the American Black Sabbath," but the Pink Fairies on Hawkwind are a much closer comparison. They're more interested in rock n' roll and having a good time than cosmic misery and doom.
I'm going to go read some Lovecraft. I've always loved the guy, but am on a major rediscovery kick lately.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Laszlo Kraszhnahorkai, The Melancholy of Resistance- You'll need some patience with this one, but you'll be rewarded. Kraszhnahorkai doesn't use paragraph breaks, goes off on wild philosophical tangents, fills this book with extreme and perhaps unparsable symbolism, and does not slow down to give his readers a break. The novel takes place in a small Hungarian town, and is more or less about dread, the totality and immensity of existence, the human place in all of that, and about what to do with the fact that there is void at the center of and surrounding all things. Gorgeous, doomy stuff with big ideas. He gets compared with Bernhard a lot, but I think its mostly a superficial resemblance.
Mario Vargas Llosa, The War of the End of the World- Maybe reading this right after The Melancholy of Resistance was a bad idea. Both novels are long, and centered around apocalypse and the limitations of human narrative and perspective. Both are merciless. This one is a retelling of a conflict in Brazil during the late 1800's. A group of poor outcasts build a weird religious community under a mysterious leader. The Brazilian army fights them. There is a Scottish anarchist phrenologist and (in another odd connection with MoR) a traveling circus (freak show) in the mix. My second Vargas Llosa, after Death in the Andes. I liked that one alright, but The War... was astonishing. Another worthwhile endurance test.
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin- My third Nabokov, after Lolita and Pale Fire. Not as grand as those two, but a lot of fun, by turns hilarious and melancholy. A nice rest after the last couple books.
that's it for novels. I've also been reading and rereading lots of horror short stories (Machen, Lovecraft, Michael Shea, etc.), a book on evolutionary biology (Life, by Richard Fortey), and the first collection of the Cinema Sewer zine. CS is pretty awesome, but I definitely feel like I need a shower after spending any amount of time at all with it. It's a hand-written and drawn zine about all the filth of the cinema world: gore, horror, Eurosleaze, extreme p_r0n, and even death videos. He draws VERY explicit comics about them. The writer, a Mr. Bougie, is so excited about everything that he basically has no ethical consideration of what he's into, so long as it's rare (at one point he talks about how horrified he once was to watch what he (at the time) thought to be a real snuff movie, but at no point does he mention having thoughts of turning the damn tape off). This reckless enthusiasm to watch anything and everything as long as it's weird is admittedly pretty charming, and I'm glad there's someone around to archive all this junk. An appropriate title. Recommended, if you have the stomach for it and are curious about the gross limits of the human imagination.
Not sure how I'd feel about the rest of this band's stuff (haven't heard much yet), but I can't get enough of this video:
Fleet Foxes- ephemeral without being ethereal, painfully earnest but with no heart, this nonsense crushes with its grand declaration of itself. Sincerity is only as interesting as its wielder.
Blood Ceremony, "Living with the Ancients"- I have an unsubstantiated hunch this is going to accused of falseness by plenty of metal people, even though they toured w/ Electric Wizard (or *because*, really; EW, in spite of their own deep cred amongst the faithful, are a metal band of choice for plenty of dabblers. Fine with me, but you know...). Good stuff, though. Retro without being cutesy, seemingly knowledgeable about horror and occult-y stuff (a song inspired by Machen instead of Lovecraft! "Oliver Haddo" instead of his inspiration Crowley!) and a creeping 70's tenebrous film vibe, all supported with ominous Sabbath/Pentagram riffery which also suggests familiarity with all that Wicker Man evil pagan English folk everyone's been so into this past decade. Really dig the ominous, high-pitched, prancing(!) riff between the verses of "The Great God Pan." Frontwoman Alia O'Brien is a decent enough singer, forceful without sounding forced, cool without sounding out of it. She has that rare thing Ozzy used to have: the ability to sing about darkness and evil and all that and sound like a dazzled or frightened protagonist, as opposed to so many metal dudes who sound like the ones *doing* the conjuring. Out of control evil is more frightening than a merely human devil: man's place in the awful and awe-inducing cosmos, etc. It's her flute playing that pushes some of this into greatness, though. It (as well as her able organ playing) summons heaps of alchemical atmosphere. And it sounds nothing like Jethro Tull! Not an all-time album, but some top- notch songs and a fucking terrific and clever vibe. If you like the cover, you'll like the record; it's a good indicator.
The Green Pajamas, "Poison in the Russian Room." Green Pajamas have been around forever, since the early 80's, I think. This one, from 2009, is the first full- length I've heard of theirs, so maybe I'm not qualified to write about it. Whatever. It kicks off with a boring song which sounds a little like an uninspired Big Star, and I skip it every time. The rest of the album brings something special, though. A full band playing gently and quietly in that Yo La Tengo way, but with an earnest, melancholic, even sorta gothic vibe. Maybe a closer comparison would be Damon & Naomi if they were more into the Brontes and Pre-Raphealites than surrealism. These guys did a full EP of tunes inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu, and that brooding, mystic gloom is the key. It will probably put a number of folks off, but I'm goth and I love it. The few harder rocking songs don't do a lot for me, but when they give in to their spooky tendencies it works. Big on atmosphere and tunes, an air of pleasant pretension, etc. Good enough to keep me interested in their catalogue (which is deep).
Comments and subscriptions welcome!