flirting with otherwise ambivalent content on our feeds
Monthly Listening: May, 2020
|Leah B. Levinson||May 29|| 3|
Music has reinvigorated my hope and energy for learning, sharing, and being outspoken in the past few days. Here I hope to offer a quiet space if you need it while also making myself absolutely clear that I support the protesting, rioting, looting, burning, and blockades in Minneapolis. I do not believe that today’s arrest of George Floyd’s murderer would have occurred without all these actions. The fight continues in Minneapolis and many other cities. Please donate to the organizations below if you can.
Organizations (copied from Tone Glow):
Official George Floyd Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
Black Visions Collective (Minneapolis, MN): https://secure.everyaction.com/4omQDAR0oUiUagTu0EG-Ig2
Reclaim the Block (Minneapolis, MN): https://secure.everyaction.com/zae4prEeKESHBy0MKXTIcQ2
Twin Cities DSA (groceries (including fresh produce from local farms) and hot meals to the protest frontlines): http://tcdsa.org/meals
Louisville Community Bail Fund:https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/louisville-community-bail-fund
Columbus Freedom Fund: https://www.paypal.me/columbusfreedomfund
Justice for Regis GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/cggys2-justice-for-regis
Additionally, I’d like to note that this issue came together with tremendous editorial assistance from Rebecca Jones. I’m excited to be working with them and to feel myself take this space more seriously by hiring their help. They will continue working with me, so expect to see more regular and more involved posts (at least two a month).
Thanks, I love you all. Stay safe.
Monthly Listening: May, 2020
Pink Siifu - NEGRO
Released a little over a month ago, NEGRO provided a timely reminder of the once-again obvious truth that the violence of systemically racist institutions does not cease when the institutions themselves are flailing. Now, when images and textual accounts of black death once again fall prey to over-saturation and mis-contextualization—flirting with otherwise ambivalent content on our feeds—, works like NEGRO allow us to confront the horrors of institutionalized violence in the U.S. with gravity, humanity, and attention in an amply demarcated space. Pink Siifu—having previously released sun-drenched lo-fi hip-hop brimming with celebration of blackness—invokes hardcore punk as a tool for catharsis and expulsion. Echoes ricochet, clipping, muddied, now painfully resonating against the names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and so many others before them. These songs ring out with beauty, anxiety, courage, power, glow, and defiance. They evoke claustrophobic spaces just as quickly as they offer escape. The album’s recently updated accompanying website, www.negro.life, offers an evocative collection of images of blackness as well as further notes. There, they are housed, causing sympathetic resonances against one another, defining their own space.
Elysia Crampton - ORCORARA 2010
Elysia Crampton has taken on new styles and voices with each release. Here, she melds many of these voices in a sonically striking work that deals with intergenerational trauma at the hands of Christian colonizers. A result of an interdisciplinary practice, ORCORARA 2010 was originally released as a sound installation in 2018 and incorporates her longstanding poetry practice of appropriating and “misreading” texts, folding others into the work and reflecting upon that folding itself. It’s steadfast and steady, holding its own in beats and creases with timbre. Each becomes another: merging, morphing, effecting, taking its place. Quietness and patience speak multitudes. It begins with an overture and sprawls outward, relishing every second, making more from textures, leaving room. It flows and holds, incorporates others in its sacred, ceremonial forming. A space “where you and I become one within a movement of glorious expression” (“Dog Clouds”). An ambiguous narrative develops: we both become twilight, the lightning strikes, you lend me your tongue, I speak through you.
Scott Cazan - Dyads
Sound and its effects are exploited, forcing attention to the physical and reinventing space. This is sound as a means of renovation. It need not be loud, but when fed into a room, it alters the air you’re breathing. Psychoacoustic phenomena assert their presence, adapt your breath, and slice through air. New rooms forming don’t wake the housemates, lose time in textures. It’s a free fall, hallucinatory, wading.
More Eaze - Mari
Flamingo pink and a cool green-blue wash over you, moving at different times throughout the day. Hormones are fluid and all-encompassing; they move amidst our bodies, giving structure and loosening our hold, we’re all always flowing. It’s true. With soft being comes soft understanding: club hits, waxy, a sugary confession, love and tenderness, absolute attunement to the feeling. Drawing with plasma, emphatic whispering. It moves and touches, heavenly.
Takako Minekawa & Ippei Matsui - untitled
I purchased untitled from Minekawa in the form of a small hand-painted 3” x 3” cardboard square. It’s a humble object. I chose between the five-or-so unique copies on offer, making a selection based on my first-impression predilection for the few faint and broken brush strokes that made their ways across the cover (painted by Matsui). With this introduction, untitled invited a sensitivity of the senses. It moves in little peaks, emerging from a fog with light shimmering, twiddling, soft texture. Like ghosts adrift in a desert, sounds show themselves, radiant and distant, warped by the heat. Tiny organisms quiver under flickering light. It moves and recoils, sets itself empty.
Matt Evans - New Topographics
Textural, elastic, vivid, and obsequious, New Topographics causes motion. A chord rings out on “Full Squid,” steady, pedaling. Layers drip above it upon themselves providing fodder for hallucinatory visions. Across the album, the drone is a slab, a non-invasive surface which allows room for painting. Groove, pattern, texture, and image intertwine, causing sensation. Listening with headphones, it’s enough to send chills, molten and welcoming.
Liz Durette - For now
Durette’s “polyphonic expressive keyboard” is a keyboard-based synthesizer that allows her to adeptly (if chaotically) gliss between notes, adjust amplitude mid-tone, and apply vibrato upon chords and between them. Such a tool allows Durette to emulate the variable control of a wind instrumentalist, percussionist, keyboardist, or string player. This year’s earlier Delight leaned towards upbeat, light Baroque synth styles a la Wendy Carlos, warped and adapted nightmarishly through the carnivalesque capacity of her instrument. For now is a collection of tracks consciously excluded from Delight for their tone evoking instead more spacious realms and darker timbres. Two hands become a chorus through variable waves, floating in and out of the ether.
Various Artists (Transparency Press) - Practice Los Angeles
A collection of techno tracks from a dozen L.A.-based producers. Voice permeates the bunch via sample, spoken word, and song (“it’s a tough thing to deal with/ we all have temptations” or “gettin’ freaky in the house tonight/ ain’t nowhere to go/ don’t need to go outside/ unless the house goes up in smoke”). Coming out of my desk monitors, it hardly stands in for the packed warehouse gatherings we might otherwise be having, but the combination of the dedicated, dry, and steady, underground sound on display and the presence of other’s voices takes me some of the way there. My room being a sweat lodge in our early summer heat, this works to dance to, get hot and pretend. In the mirror I learn to love my body like another’s. I’m trying to take it as a time for growth and becoming, practice.
Various Artists (Erased Tapes) - Outlive the Sun
This whopping three-and-a-half hour compilation from Erased Tapes charts a pretty particular sound that’s been going around in the underground. Confessional lo-fi blends with prog rock, folk, noise, jazz, and collage. I was familiar with maybe 10% of the acts here, which gave me an idea for what was in store; but as the compilation went on, I only found myself more baffled and inspired by how many artists were exploring this sound and format at present, and making it feel novel with each track. Strength in numbers, it was released on May’s Bandcamp fee-waiver day to raise money for two organizations: one aiding undocumented U.S. immigrants in the aftermath of COVID-19 and the other to aid high-at-risk incarcerated individuals. The swath of artists herein represents a less-written about bedroom/DIY sound that is undeniably present in the U.S., a neat collection.
Curved Light - Primrose Path
We breathe deep at the summit, stretching, reaching for nothing. Or, reaching for ourselves, parts of ourselves, the parts that seem furthest. Feeling blood’s warmth as it floods our circuits, moving deep inside, opening up. We learn to love parts of our bodies by seeing them more clearly—apple, branches, core, foliage—, loving them more deeply. Inevitably there, traced and shattering, broken but held together, healing, firmly.
Orchard Thief - The Gentle World
Dusted soundscapes, sceneries green and settled, thriving ambivalent ecosystems. A little bounce and soft whispering make a baby of you. Bedroom ambient in the vein of Eno’s earliest inklings of the genre. Ostinato phrases with layers shuffling, dancing, wandering, and taking leave. A comforting listen time and again.
Man-Eaters - Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul
It’s not a rage that’s inspired or a simple fuel to flame, but a sudden wind I’m given, pummeling, breaking me down into separate parts if only to sustain. Nine barn-burners for heathens, blazing, bass-heavy, driven. Hotrods, filthy, spewing sludge, running treads bare, race joyously amidst collapse. After societal ruin, these are the first guys you have to fight, squaring off against their makeshift chain link nunchucks and hubcap shields. A fun record, rock ‘n’ roll gutted.