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an apt analogy?

13 Apr

“Many people have critical opinions on this subject, ranging from ‘this will ruin Instagram’ to ‘$1 billion is too much.’ And for many Instagram users it’s discomfiting to see a giant company they distrust purchase a tiny company they adore—like if Coldplay acquired Dirty Projectors.”
—Paul Ford, in New York Magazine

sounds like this

15 Dec

What does a man being turned inside-out by a lawn mower sound like exactly? According to Philip Montoro, a music critic for the Chicago Reader, it’s not as bad as you’d think. Mainly a lot like fuzzed-out guitars, distorted howls, and furious drumming. The music has elements of industrial metal in it, but there’s no sign of a Dixon chewing up a guy’s body. No bone clippings to rake up and bag. And that makes sense; other than that CD someone brought to school for the junior high haunted house, most recordings tend to stay away from the sounds of grisly death scenes. So why did Montoro write, for the Reader on October 27, 2011, that Anaal Nathrakh’s music “sounds like a man being turned inside-out by a lawn mower”? Continue reading

havana to new orleans again

5 Dec

Cuba lifted decades-old travel restrictions this October, allowing direct flights from New Orleans for the first time in fifty years and opening an historic music connection

Joey Burns, of the 15-year-old “desert noir” band Calexico, mentioned in his response to a recent question “the New Orleans-Havana connection.” “There was once a strong musical bridge between these two cities,” he said. “But there’s been a Berlin-type wall separating the cultures ever since 1959. I would love to see/hear that musical exchange given new life.”

Turns out it just might be. This October—and this may be why it was on Burns’s mind—Cuba gave the green light to direct flights from New Olreans for the first time in fifty years. “A potentially vibrant new economic opportunity for New Orleans and the U.S. surfaced today,” wrote one music blogger on the day the news was announced. “New Orleans and Havana have a long tradition of interaction that has had a profound impact on American culture. Reviving that link could be the beginning of a new era for the Gulf-Caribbean connection.”

I haven’t been to either city, but the music of New Orleans has long been a keen fascination, which means so has the music of Havana. It should be interesting to see what the next fifty years brings in terms of musical exchange if travel restrictions remain relaxed.

4 Dec

Things You Can Learn From a Conversation Between Brian Eno and David Mitchell

:: :: ::

1. That Eno was first a painter and that it was another painter that pushed him toward minimalism.
BE: “I feel a lot more connection with painters than composers. Mondrian, for example, is a big star in my firmament. …  I’m sure that this feeling of “magic from limited means” has remained a meme for me, and why I’d call myself a minimalist.”

2. That it is, in fact, okay for you to listen to music that doesn’t do a whole lot.
BE:  “I wanted a music that simply ‘tinted’ the air around me.”

3. Why people started making such music.
BE: “Separated from performance, recorded sound had become a malleable material, like paint or clay. Music was being made like paintings were made, adding and subtracting, manipulating colors, built up over a period of time rather than performed in one sitting. And the results of this process were pointing toward a type of music that was less linear and more immersive: music you lived inside.” Continue reading

evolution of an album

2 Dec

When the Go tour came to Chicago

There’s a new bite to the air now each day I walk to work. I warm myself with a fresh music selection. Every so often I wipe my iPod, deleting both the albums I haven’t touched in months as well as those I’m in danger of wearing out too quickly. I have to keep myself from ruining the things I love. It takes sometimes an entire night to make the transfer, removing large blocks of electro-pop, indie rock, and jazz and then handpicking things from my computer that I’d somehow nearly forgotten about. Go was one such thing. Continue reading

manipulating time

29 Nov

Jazz clarinetist and composer James Falzone challenges our notion of time:

“It feels like it’s going faster—even though it’s not. There’s no pulse going on. One of the tricks of music is that we’re manipulating time. There was never a pulse anywhere on Saturday night. So was I playing faster? You can’t say I was.”

He’s referring to a performance last spring, in which he played by himself for fifty-some minutes. And he’s right. There was a part that did feel faster. But there’s no empirical way to make that statement. We were all outside of time for a while, even though the clock kept ticking.

why we write: michael danaher

28 Nov
The following is the second installment of “Why We Write,” a series of personal reflections on the craft of writing. Each installment is poignant in its own way, but in sum the series is a sincere and astounding collection of thoughts, emotions, and ambitions regarding the profession of writing. Take of each what you will.

:: :: ::

Michael Danaher

I’d like to say it’s for some ultimate truth, like digging down deep into the clay of the human condition and unearthing something revelatory, something meaningful and genuine. That’s why I started, I suppose. Carver, O’Connor, Cheever, Vonnegut, O’Brien, Hemingway, Orwell, Salinger, Capote—they moved me, taught me things about myself, about my fellow man, that had been there all along but that I couldn’t see until I had consumed their sentences, digested their words, and attributed some significance to the meal of their works. And I knew, after reading “Cathedral” for my first Fiction Writing class sophomore year of college, that I wanted to be a writer.  Continue reading

why we write: sean conner

22 Nov
The following is the first installment of “Why We Write,” a series of personal reflections on the craft of writing. Each installment is poignant in its own way, but in sum the series is a sincere and astounding collection of thoughts, emotions, and ambitions regarding the profession of writing. Take of each what you will.

:: :: ::

Sean Conner

I attended the baptism on a Sunday. I stood on the sand of a fake beach and watched a pastor tilt the heads of people into the stillness of Clinton Lake and bring them to Jesus. I always assumed God’s water, the holy stuff, the H-2-O of rituals and ceremonies, had to be blessed and ordained by some spiritual guru like the Pope, or an archbishop, or their hierarchal equivalents in other Christian denominations. It was hard to imagine that the molecules of holy water and the molecules of the water in this man-made lake were the same. Well, the molecules would be the same, but there’s my assumption that holy water has a little more magic powder thrown in. Some vestige of authority. Holy water, by my understanding, hadn’t been idly weaving towards shore day after day. Holy water doesn’t have gasoline in it, or fish shit. At the edge of the water I think about this and have a tough time disassociating this baptism from summer afternoons at the pool and the friendly dunking that oft ensued.  Continue reading


17 Nov

Americans have to be told not to throw their pennies into small bodies of water. Anything smaller than a swimming pool and it’s inevitably lined with copper. There’s probably hundreds of dollars in the larger fountains. Do we even wish for anything when we do it? Or do we just toss out of habit?

I’m standing at end of a bridge, over the Metra tracks that mark the barrier between the Art Institute’s original building and its Modern Wing. A jutting piece of aluminum has collected the past month’s rain and the museum’s patrons can’t help themselves. There are pennies and nickels and dimes. Two keys. A perfect maple leaf. Etchings at the water’s edge look like fossilized shells. The water is drying up  slowly, leaving dirt on the aluminum in wide bands of varying colors. When it disappears completely, the sight will confuse people. Hundreds of coins in a bare aluminum trough, as if someone accidentally spilled a very large purse.  Continue reading

oscar cocktails, other pairings

17 Nov

Ken Walczak keeps up his cutting commentary and cocktail-making. The subject of his scourge this time around: everyone involved in the Oscar-host fiasco.

How do you give a dude like Brett Ratner a proper sendoff? How about with a shot of Kansas Spirit. … Kansas Spirit bills itself as “whiskey without the middle-aged yuck factor.” I bill it as nonsense, inspired by poseurs—and as the perfect pour for a Hollywood douchebag whose accomplishments include sleeping with women half his age, then publicly ridiculing their appearance, sexual performance, and ethnic background; linking the words “masturbation” and “shrimp grease” in the public imagination; and the music video for “Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Being Crushed by Buildings.”

In other cocktail news, Drinkify pairs a drink to what you’re listening to. When listening to Gayngs’ 69-beats-per-minute groove, you should pour yourself six ounces of gin, served neat with a grapefruit twist. Phantogram requires a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale garnished with a cucumber. The “Of Montreal” is a bottle of Captain Morgan shaken up with a Monster energy drink.

I couldn’t stump it. They even had a drink recommendation for WU LYF: 10 oz. Microbrew, 10 oz. Lime juice, 6 oz. Damson Gin.

My musical tastes are apparently pretty narrow. Red wine was a popular pairing, from Wilco to Bon Iver to Mugison. The last I’m not sure about. More like eight ounces of Jack Daniels poured into a cup of boiling hot coffee, or a martini made with fish oil. SIMS was a surprise: water. Maybe the hip-hop artist doesn’t drink?

Check it out for yourself. I imagine there have been plenty of Drinkify-themed parties. People take turns choosing an artist and listening to the track the site plays while mixing up a new drink. Everyone has to finish it before the song ends. Could be fun. If I was DJ, though, everyone would apparently be asleep.