Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Rising Storm

Please please please, I'm begging all 3 and 1/2 of my readers (I'm the 1/2 reader, because--to paraphrase Bret from Flight of the Conchords--"I'm not really a fan"), check out The Rising Storm blog. For fans of psych-rock, country-folk, prog-folk-psych-country, or just plain old rock and roll music, no blog can introduce you to as many forgotten but amazing bands as "The Storm."

The video above is of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, an artist I'd never have heard of without The Rising Storm. Below are two more songs you can find on one of best blogs around:

"Slip Inside This House" The Thirteen Floor Elevators

"Gather Round" Love

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Can't Hear The Noise Over Your Yelling

I got a Prurient CD at--of all places--my local library. I've been slowly trying to dip my little toe into the muggy green swamp that is noise music. I like noise when it's used to add texture and dissonance to melodic music, but I'm unsure if I can listen to nothing but shrieking feedback and static.

My friend Sam from high school used to brag about listening to Nurse With Wound's high pitched feedback on his Walkman--he said he found it calming, but maybe that had something to do with his ADD. At the time I thought he was nuts, but more and more I think I understand what he was talking about. If you listen to music looking to be endlessly surprised and inspired, sooner or later you realize the well has run dangerously dry. I find the more I listen to really poppy records (the most recent example being the Vampire Weekend album), the more they break down into their component parts. First I like the whole song, then just the chorus, then just the bridge. After a week or two, when a song off the album pops up in my iPod shuffle, I skip it, knowing its been basically emptied of all pleasure at this point.

Not so with noise music. There is nothing instantly pleasurable about what sounds like between-the-stations radio static played over a smoke alarm running low on batteries. The ear's first reaction is "Hey whoa, what the hell--get that away from me!" But stay awhile with the sound and you cross a threshold. Your ear starts to get acclimated to the strange, unpleasant noises coming out of your headphones. Your heart rate drops. You submit to the noise and calm travels throughout your body.

And Dominick Pernow, AKA Prurient, starts yelling.

I don't want yelling in my noise music. I live in a city and take public transportation, so I get my daily fill of yelling no problem. And if for some reason I don't, my kindly neighbors help out and scream at each other in the courtyard outside my apartment. I'm sure all that yelling is super cathartic for ol' Dominick but I suggest he invest in a pillow--it works wonders.

Also, as the above video illustrates, yelling your guts out looks and sounds ridiculous. I know noise fans would answer that with the retort that I must not really like noise music if I can't appreciate such displays, but I think too many of them are hung up on how extreme and "evil" noise is, which I think is missing the point entirely. Noise music shouldn't be a contest of who can sound the most fucked up, because, let's face it, that's an easy contest to win. At its best, noise challenges the ear to listen and appreciate sounds it usually cringes at.

That being said, a lot of the Prurient album was quite good. When Fernow isn't yelling, his music is hypnotic mix of drones and noise that soothes through repetition (this description describes 99% of drone music, but that's an issue for another post). So the lesson here is: Shhh...let the noise speak.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Could We Interest You In a Tasteful Tote?

I found this tote bag following an ad on Pitchfork for Sufjan Steven's record label Asthmatic Kitty's new "pomegrante friendly" grocery tote bag. Check out the site for yourself.

I'm trying to understand why seeing this tote bag and reading it described as "large enough to haul as many veggies and yummy goods as you'd need for a perfect dinner" brings out a hatred in me that should be reserved for actual bad things, i.e. the Bush administration, sweatshop using corporations, homophobes and racists, American Apparel ads, etc.

Firstly, there's the name: Asthmatic Kitty. It conjures up images of a bunch of super skinny hipsters decked out in scarves and striped sweaters (full disclosure: I own three such sweaters) ladling pity on poor little weezing Mr. Kitty as he huffs and puffs with his cute little lungs, trying to desperately to secure the bare minimum of air to survive for the next second or so. And that's not a good image.

Secondly, Adam Gnade, the author of the first vegan recipe zine included--for a limited time!--with the tote bag is described as a "storyteller." No one who tells good stories is described as a "storyteller." For the record, "storytellers" are failed children's book authors. They haunt local libraries, telling stories too cliched and lacking in humor to interest anyone under four years old (oh, and how it makes their blood boil when a precocious four year old figures out the moral to the story when they're in the middle of telling it. "Well, let's just wait and see if that's what Simon the rabbit learns..")

Thirdly and finally, not to make a big generalization, but the kind of people who use the word "yummy" and brag about handwriting and illustrating their vegan recipe zines are passive-aggressive monsters. I'll allow that humans can be kind and empathetic and sensitive, but they can't be that way all the time. Your anger and frustration have to get expressed somewhere, and if you fetishize sweetness and cuteness, chances are you're not one for facing conflict head-on. Instead you patronize and condescend, hiding behind the flimsy excuse that you "didn't intend it to come across that way." Asthmatic Kitty and co. don't hate you, they just think some of the things you do are stupid and destructive and it'd be majorly cool if you could stop doing those things like right away.

In conclusion, asthmatic cats needs vets, not your sympathy; "storytellers" secretly hate your children, and anyone who buys the above tote bag is passive aggressive (or in need of a tote bag).