Saturday, March 26, 2005



Read Edmund White's The Flaneur, in some ways a quick job, but the sources are interesting, there are lovely passages, and the insistent focus on various marginal communities (which he argues are not so marginal to contemporary Paris) is admirable for what might have been a much shallower book. (Contrast with A.M. Homes' entry in a similar writers-and-cities series, Los Angeles: People, Places, and the Castle on the Hill, maybe one of the worst books I've read in the last decade -- largely a love letter to the Chateau Marmont.)

Also reading Ron Padgett's Joe, which arrived in the mail while I was gone; for some reason, I skipped from the early life to the very touching chapters on Brainard's illness and death (strange to have heard Elmslie reading from Bare Bones just days ago). Now I'm going back to the middle, just coming to Schuyler's breakdowns. One ends up impressed and possibly influenced by the pursuit of clarity, on the part of both author and subject; and moved by the depth and constancy of their friendship.

Seem to have mislaid The Piano Teacher, which I was 1/2-way through and -- enjoying? Not exactly.


Meant to see a screening of Klute last night, partly because Bree's mother got her name from Jane Fonda's character (which, given that the latter is an at-risk prostitue, is curious), and partly b/c I just got the Criterion DVD of Tout va bien, inc. Letter To Jane. But I'll have to rent it, b/c Ida were in town an playing an early (8:30) show at The Echo. Always pretty, but I admit that I like them best when there's something more; also a looser set than I associate with them, much banter/indecision about the set list. Dan Littleton said it was the best time they've had playing in L.A.; since I've seen them try to get it over in front of talky crowds here (and have done so myself), I can see why.


Sam Frank, responding to my glib complaints about the Voice's noise-scene article, makes it all sound more appealing than the original piece managed to:

Not worth dismissing out of hand. Yes, it is pretty white (but what recent rock-related music has been less white?). But it's gender balanced (well, at least 2:1). And as determinedly international as electronic music. Also, fiercely local, and not dependent on big cities for its scenemaking. And near omniverous w/r/t music history--while it omits the well-made song, it has ears for almost everything else, analoguous to Forced Exposure at the end of its run but friendlier to stuff with beats and to metal proper and to classic rock so-called.

Also, while a lot of No Fun was "just noise" (sometimes to its detriment), I think something that makes room for Peter from Open City, Chris Corsano, and other improviser-improvisers, and puts them next to musicians with more naive/ecstatic/cathartic approaches (not all of them just blasting), can't be so quickly pigeonholed. It is hookless, true, but it has its own sophisticated methods of audience engagement--a whole range of them. It's music that more or less demands to be experienced live. And that turns its albums into interesting objects--usually just chopped-and-screwed records of jams,
no great claims made for their status-as-album. Often gussied up as objects--hand-painted, lathe-cut on cardboard or some other crappy material, and so on. Limited editions and quantity enough such that you can't own even a fraction of everything, nor should you feel pressed to. Hermetic--possibly, but I wouldn't count it as a bad thing that half the people at No Fun are making their own music at home. That's one ideal of punk brought home to roost, no? You should have
seen the trading community set up in the basement. I bought a bootleg of Wavelength and a CD-R of some cracked Baltimore bluesman.

(and from a separate email, after an uninteresting response from me):

I wasn't around for other waves of free stuff, except in recorded form and on paper in FE, etc., but I sense what's "new" now is: as with the rapproachement of punk and prog, formerly opposed tendencies are on the same bill or in the same band; more people, more women; less chin-scratching, more bringing the body into it--if only in occasional
moshing and in performances that know there's a crowd there and play specifically to and with that gap (prime example being Lightning Bolt playing on the floor, but there are plenty). In any case, the scene is very good about remembering noise history and inviting it onto the same bills as young stuff. There is no ageism whatsoever. A few more syntheses en route to absolute dorky spirit. And yet another if you place your other pole, as many do, at Sonic Youth, Magik Markers
(GREAT at No Fun--Peter said, and I agree, maybe the only time he'd ever seen someone effectively play guitar by physically attacking it--that is, linking the attack and the sound emitted into a unitary style), Drag City bands (including Newsom, Six Organs of Admittance, RTX), Young People, Animal Collective, Deerhoof--or another if you place it at contempo extreme metal (which I myself mostly don't, but many do)--or at contempo composed punk prog metal whatsit (Orthrelm,
Luttenbachers, Zs). And now we're almost back at what the better college radio stations are actually playing, and thus what indie rock (ha--college rock) de facto is. A lot of it still sucks, but the parameters are valid ones.

by way of brief response:

-- I was mostly complaining about the tone of the piece (which was appealingly dense, but also a little bit get-with-it-or-face-the-dustbin), not nec. the music; I've heard a good deal of earlier waves, esp. in my DJ role over the last 15 yrs., but not so much of the current crop. I always like some of what happens in this realm, though I'm usually more drawn to what I understand how to connect back to free jazz, and I have a hard time imagining a steady diet.
-- Probably, then, a good deal of my reaction is to how things seemed to go around 1994-5; lots of folks who had been in songish-bands (esp., not to put too fine a point on it, Pavement knockoffs) suddenly deciding they were above or beyond such retrograde modes of sound-organization, and suddenly turning sound-boy. I esp. associate this with the short-lived but influential zine Tuba Frenzy. So, yeah, knee-jerk.
-- And if the new sounds are less boy, great. Whiteness: Still a problem, on all sides.
-- Guess what I'm bored with is noise 'versus' songs. If Deerhoof, Young People, and J. Newsom are the more-structured end of this continuum, and have the same fans, cool, I like all of the above (and Open City for that matter); but this seems as much sociological/generational as anything.
-- I have to admit that I suspect I have been and still am more willing to do more of the work required to understand what some of these people are doing than many noise-centric folks would be willing to expend in understanding what someone like, frankly, me is doing (or would be if I played more than once every three months). There's a predeliction (and this I think was reflected in the original piece) toward supposing that the only reasons anyone would keep songs ('well-made' ones if you like) at the center of their work reduce to conservatism or ignorance. This, I deny; but I would be glad to be shown to be wrong about this asymmetry.

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