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Adrien75, a West Coast turned East Coast turned West Coast musician who has been written about a number of times on this page (glowingly), has posted some new .mp3s. Nice to hear some of that experimental breaks influence come back in from the old days ('99) with "January's Tributaries," along with a dollop of Michael Karoli-like dreamy acid guitar. The pieces are all excellent: atmospheric, catchy, unpredictable, accomplished. If you like the Feelies, Krautrock, the Canterbury scene, and/or The Black Dog this is music you should be listening to. (Those are personal benchmarks anyway--my etymological way of saying "really good.")
Update, Jan 17, holy shit, I forgot to post a link to Adrien75's mp3 page. My five readers (Digby's phrase) need to help me out here a little bit.
Congrats to Michael Bell-Smith for the NY Times mention of his cubist remix of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" videos (that's how I'd describe it, anyway). By syncing and playing all five vids simultaneously, Bell-Smith spares us the agony of having to watch them end to end. I'm still marveling at a link Bell-Smith posted earlier to this "scary splash page for a paint-thinner company."
Sarah Hromack has a good summation of the havoc copyright extremists are wreaking on human expression, starting with a rundown of their recent successful campaign (so far) against Google Print:
Taking their cues from the music industry’s reaction to p2p file sharing, publishers fear that making texts available online will lead to unauthorized reproduction and distribution. I know that I, personally, am burning to print all 1,424 pages of War and Peace on my home printer, before collating, binding, and covering the whole mess in split cowhide. I’m seeing a multiple-volume desktop set here. Gold embossing, the works. Ebay, Haight Street—there is no limit to the pure profit potential of this scheme.Ed Rackley offers an especially clear analysis of what's happening in Darfur and its rich neighbor to the north, Khartoum, after he has spent the better part of this year in the Sudan working as a consultant in the international relief effort.
Musical prodigy Adrien75 has posted some new mp3s. One I especially like is the Neu!-ish "4th Song." [link to mp3 page updated: "4th Song" no longer available]
Adrien75's new CD-R, Chickadoo Chronicles (Vol. 1), is out and available from Space Mermaid Music. Go get it, it's superb. Recall that in the '80s a certain type of dreamy, slow-tempo, home produced electronic music came out that was marketed as a meditation aid for stressed-out yuppies and had its own bin. Well, this is not that. Rather, it's a lineal descendant of the so-called ambient music of Aphex Twin or the so-called IDM (I hate that term) of Plaid or The Black Dog, which began to emerge in the late '80s after basement producers got better equipment and a clue.
On first listen Chickadoo's leisurely, jazzy-technoid tracks wash over you, but by the second or third the hooks start to jump out--and Adrien75 can really write good ones, little percolating confections of notes that are sweet but never remotely saccharine (try this .mp3 sample from "Who Wants More?"). By the third or fourth hearing those standout melody-textures have completely colonized your brain (in a good, as opposed to AM radio way), looping around mutating your synapses while you go about your daily routines. Six listens down the road, you'll be noticing the structures of the songs more: "Oh, this one has a hook that you think is coming back after the bridge, but then the bridge turns out to long ambient kind of thing, and it just ends." This was how Brian Eno described his third solo LP Another Green World--a series of tunes and vignettes swimming up out of the void, never to be heard again.Chickadoo extends and deepens the vocabulary of A75's last collection of tunes, Therms Forever. After a series of earlier albums that sounded initially somethat different from each other, he seems to have found a groove, or better, hit his stride. He has lost the overt drum and bass breakbeats of his first EP, released about five years ago, but added the bubbly synths that pervade this disc; his guitar comes and goes but isn't heard on this CD-R. He's clearly in love with electronic keyboards but also has an ear for musique concrete-y kinds of sounds (songs can suddenly detour into passages that are whimsically abstract), as well as classical structure, jazz grooves, and intricate rhythms. And did I mention that he can play instruments really well?
Adrien75 might be called "the American Richard D. James," a "kinder, gentler Boards of Canada" (not as angsty and schoolyard fixated), or even a more atmospheric Recloose (Carl Craig's funk/deep house protege from Detroit). But it's not really fair to compare music this original to anything else. One finds oneself wishing for a music theorist who doesn't exist--that is, who knows classical theory but is also willing to stretch it to accommodate the nuances wrought by new instruments and recording technology. This hypothetical person could then begin to describe in technical language the substantial musical achievement anyone with a thoughtful ear knows this CD-R represents.NOTE: A more casual, first-person version of this post appeared earlier; this one supersedes it.
Adrien75's Chickadoo Chronicles: A Listener's Diary
[This post was extensively rewritten; the new version is here.]
Adrien75, a great musician previously discussed here and here, has a new suite of tunes available for download as mp3s, titled Therms Forever [update: link is to Adrien75's music page--Therms is only available now as a CDR]. Comparing it with his two releases from last fall, Disc 1 comes closer to the peppy instrumental synthpop of 757 while Disc 2 mirrors the atmospheric feel and slower pace of Coastal Acces (with less focus on ambient solo guitar). But TF is really a melding (and evolution) of those earlier releases. The first three tracks, "Welcome," "Connections," and the Alphaville-namechecking "Lemmy Caution" give a good sense where the music is heading: pretty, sometimes elegiac melodies hovering over metronomic electro beats (with intermittent nods to the artist's drum-and-bass roots), and an interest in the emotional effects of radically altered sounds. A later track that jumps out is "A Plethora of Zombie," which harks back to Ralf and Florian-era Kraftwerk (check out the trippy, phase-shifted rhythms in the middle).
Despite the all-electronic vibe of the tracks, Adrien has the instincts and touch of a jazz musician, introducing chord changes, tricky rhythms, and an emotional pitch beyond the range of many techno and/or breaks producers. That's been clear since "Detroit & Carpet Eyes" (which he recorded with Doron Gura as Unagi Patrol), an exquisite piece that shifts compositional gears several times, like a Brian Wilson "pocket symphony" with breakbeats, or more recently Coastal Acces' "Highway One South," a leisurely motorik composition with burbling sounds rising and fading like features of the landscape passing in front of the windshield. Thankfully, though, he doesn't wave his virtuosity in our faces; unlike his prog-rock and fusion forebears, he keeps things clean and minimal, and unlike his electronica peers, hasn't succumbed to the trend of adding vocals to "broaden the appeal."
Here are a few more echoes of things one hears floating around in the mix--not literal cops or samples, more like musical neighbors: breathy brass licks reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's Crossings sextet (in "Smogma"), the eerie stateliness of Wendy Carlos' Clockwork Orange-vintage synth ("Keep Connected"), and a distinctive early YMO slither I can't place yet, in "Connections." According to Adrien's web page, he's got another album in the works--maybe when he's ready to publish I'll have doped out a fraction of the subtleties in this one!
This is an odds and ends post, where I talk about all the half-finished projects I'm working on. First, I direct your attention to my slightly juvenile defense of Jason Little, an amazing graphic novelist who got semi-slammed by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) in the New York Times. In his stuffy discourse on the immaturity of the graphic novel as an art form, Hornby sounds nervous, perhaps looking at the rise of a post-literate generation that doesn't have the time or patience to read his comedies of manners but has turned graphic novels into a burgeoning medium. Plus, it's possible he doesn't get Little's work, fretting that the cartoonist's material is potentially alienating when to many of us a "Nancy Drew mystery told in the style of Brian De Palma" is, um, good. Dissing Little's genre-bending suggests Hornby's own bias for the linear--or the old, like Louis Armstrong calling bebop "Chinese music."
I did a round of gallery & studio visits this past fall and wish I could write them up faster. An interesting range of work: Robert Boyd, Eric Heist, Carl d'Alvia, and Cory Arcangel. I've got notes and am hoping to get something readable posted soon.
I also have a review in progress of one of my current favorite musicians, Adrien Capozzi (aka Adrien75), whose work emerges from the late '90s ambient drum and bass scene but incorporates aspects of much earlier styles--'70s "jazz fission," RIO (rock in opposition), and Canterbury stylings. He released two superb, and very different discs this fall: 757, on Worm Interface, and Coastal Acces (sic), on Source. The first is kind of bouncy and melodic with warm analog synth melodies and nods to the early '80s, and the latter is a slow, tripped out series of impressions of the California coastline, with understated but intricately programmed rhythms and washes of industrial sounds. I first discovered Capozzi's work hearing "Smack Rabbit" on a NY radio show, a gorgeous instrumental that could have been a combination of the early Mothers, Milton Babbitt, and Bill Evans (if that makes any sense); subsequently I tracked down his amazing work with Doron Gura, under the names Unagi Patrol and Microstudio, among other aliases. He's an American Original who deserves a lot more attention.
I have a series of photographs I'm calling the New Jersey Wasteland Tour, in the tradition of Robert Smithson and Michael Ashkin but with no pretensions to being art. I took the pics with my digicam in a panic that the little "zone of rot" I frequently walk through was about to be beautified by the city or state. They include shots of the Morris Canal at its toxic/fecal best, the Statue of Liberty with a "No Trespassing Hazardous Materials Area" sign in the foreground, and some documentation of the parking lot that was hastily put in and removed by the Junior Soprano Paving Company in the patronage free-for-all that followed 9/11 (as described here). Eventually I'll have a slide show up. [Update: it's here.]
The Xtreme Houses book mentioned earlier was reviewed in the New York Times on December 19, 2002, in the house & home section. It's selling well, and has recently acquired a stroke-and-slap review from a reader on amazon.com. Slap because the writer feels the book needs to separate its artists-engaging-in-Marxist-agitprop from its shelter mag "livestyles of the cooler than you" spreads. I see the book's political and artistic non-hierarchical-ness as a strength. Also, the book is not "typographically cute" or Webby. It has text on the left, pictures on the right, and clear captions; Wired circa 1994 it's definitely not. The amazon writer's credibility is dicey, too, because in another review he says he has "nothing but respect" for MIT designer/programmer John Maeda, whose work, in the art field at least, still has a ways to go.
Anyway, Merry Christmas to all.
Quick addendum: Someone told me they saw my byline in the current issue of Flash Art. This is strange because I've never written for Flash Art. They do, however publish a lot of press releases that look like they might be articles, so maybe someone ripped some copy from a review, or this log, and stuck my name on it? I don't guess I care much. If anyone runs across the mag and can enlighten me further about this I'd greatly appreciate it.
A quick round of the Chelsea galleries yesterday: Sam Taylor Wood at Matthew Marks (uninspired photoandvideo); Alexander Ross at Feature (should spend more time rendering and less time with the mitrebox); Alan Wiener at Feature (excellent--his best solo to date); Paul McCarthy at Luhring Augustine (horrible sculptures); Paul Feeley at Matthew Marks (the season's best show of hip new painting by a dead guy); Peter Cain at Matthew Marks (resembled OK Harris ca. '75 in 1990 and still does); Eyebeam Atelier (Cory Arcangel's I Shot Andy Warhol rocks); Bitforms (closed for the day).
New music acquisitions: Adrien75 Coastal Acces (sic) (trippy, subtle, post-ambient?); Monotrona Hawkeye and Firebird (speed electro--great use of Commodore 64 game sounds--tracks 2, 4, 7, and 8 are best).
More on Cory Arcangel, the Commodore 64, and video game art/music soon.
Just jotting down some things I've been looking at and listening to lately:
MUSIC. Swayzak's newest, Dirty Dancing, is, I'm sorry to say as a fan, the pits. Awful cover--what were they thinking?; too many tracks with guest vocalists; too many self-conscious attempts to capitalize on the '80s revival. The only track I really like is the last one, "Ping Pong." Adrien Capozzi aka Adrien75 has a new one on Worm Interface under a new alias, 757. The CD title is also 757. Really interesting musician. Fans of To Rococo Rot, Richard D. James, Kit Watkins/Coco Roussel, Alan Gowen/Hugh Hopper take note! (Listen to the track "Two Cats" here; also good is "Dusseldorf," which is like Kraftwerk's "Neon Lights" set to a raga beat.) Two old-school tracks from Clay's Pounding System show on WFMU caught my ear (check out the stream for 9/25/02 on his archive): Eazy E's "Nobody Move" and Coldcut's "That Greedy Beat." The late 80s/early 90s were truly a golden age.
ANIME. Two '80s classics set in WWII have recently come out on DVD: Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies. The former depicts the bombing of Hiroshima from the perspective of a boy who survived, and has much nightmarish imagery. The latter may be the saddest movie ever made. It's the story of a kid trying to keep himself and his 5-year sister alive after their parents die in the war. Despite his determination and resourcefulness--living on dried frogs and stolen vegetables in an abandoned air raid shelter, after their cold-blooded aunt makes it clear they're not welcome--over the course of 2 hours we gradually watch them starve to death. Both films are beautifully drawn and animated, and are routinely shown to elementary school kids in Japan. Maybe if we did that here people might not be so ready to jump on the war train.
BOOKS. I'm re-reading a lot of stuff at the moment. Laughing my way through VS Naipaul's Mystic Masseur, which I made a note to reread after seeing Ismail Merchant's pretty good film adaptation. Like Woody Allen, Naipaul's earlier, funnier material is his best. I'm also revisiting some science fiction I hadn't looked at in a while, such as Frederick Pohl's intense absolute power fantasy Demon in the Skull (1965-1984), A. A. Attanasio's completely overlooked In Other Worlds (1985), and William Gibson's very amusing Virtual Light, which no one knew in '93 would be the first of a trilogy. "Rydell drove past an In-and-Out Burger place and [Chevette] remembered how this boy she knew called Franklin, up in Oregon, had taken a pellet-gun over to an In-and-Out and shot out the B and the R, so it just said IN-AND-OUT URGE." Now that's funny!