Category Archives: music

October mixture

I hope that you and your loved ones emerged from Sandy unscathed, and that you’re not reading this while plugged in to the first working street lamp or dangling set of twinkly lights you encountered in midtown. (I’ve heard those are popular sources of power for my fellow New Yorkers as of late). I’ve been high and dry in Lunar Camel Co. Towers the whole time, baking bread and watching nature documentaries and whatnot. Friends from Evacuation Zone A have been coming and going and will continue to be welcomed, even my friend Jim, who graciously informed me in advance that he “only sleep[s] in the nude.” Anyone who can’t squeeze in on the sofa with Jim and has to stay downtown will soon be on the receiving end of as many warm chocolate chip cookies as can fit in the storage compartments of a Vespa.

I hope you’re having a happy Halloween too, or will have a happy one whenever you get around to celebrating it. My neighborhood, as you can see below, has been getting ready for some time now, but the storm complicated things. If you’re in need of an extremely last-minute costume for a postponed or fashionably late-night party, I posted a few ideas last year, and if you’re in need of some candy-eating music, I posted some good stuff on my food blog a few years back, along with a vegetarian, pumpkin-centric dinner recipe.

Harlem's bikers are ready for Halloween.

Madison Ave. near 120th St., Oct. 5th.

I’ve been a delinquent blogger lately and I’ve scarcely had time to feel bad about how shabby my rattletrap urls were looking — I’ve been alternating between working sixty-hour weeks and getting out of town. I’ve also been preoccupied with a few little projects, one of which I’ll tell you about very soon.

Deep River-20121006-02100

Applemania is coming soon on my food blog, though it’s not the little project I meant.

sweater scan

I’ve also taken up knitting html sweaters for my blogs,
but that’s not the little project I meant either.

I’ve been reading a lot too, though far more fitfully than is usual for me. I’m generally a one- or two-books-at-a-time woman but there are five or six I’m dipping into at the moment. Among them:

Love is a Pie cover

Love is a Pie by Maude Hutchins has been on my shelf for many years and I’m just getting around to it now. I’m not deeply engaged with it at the moment such that I have a lot to say about it yet, but I wanted to show you the cover, which I love. It’s the New Directions 1952 edition designed by Andy Warhol. (There’s a tiny bit more about his work for them here). I think I paid about $7 for it, partly because hardly anyone knows who Hutchins is, and partly because Warhol isn’t credited for the illustration anywhere in it. The NYRB blog describes Hutchins as the author of “peculiar psycho-sexual novels,” among other things, but Love is a Pie is a collection of short stories and plays, eminently suitable for reading a few pages at a time. My experience with it so far is that it is also peculiar and psycho-sexual. Five of the stories (“The Missing Papers of an Extra Man”) are narrated from the point of view of a bachelor, who wonders, at one point, whether “there [are] gastric juices in the brain?” There’s an interesting essay about Hutchins over at the LRB here, by Terry Castle, whose essay collection Boss Ladies, Watch Out! is also on my bed-side table. I was moved to buy it after reading her review of Lisa Cohen’s All We Know: Three Lives — a biography of three obscure and under-rated lesbians — and I’m really digging it.

I’ve also been haphazardly delving into vintage sci-fi. Doubtlessly this is influenced by an ex-boyfriend who often reads at random. Or what appears to be at random, but in actuality reflects a practiced and discerning eye for strangeness. He used to teach critical reading, actually, but (or “and”?) many of his books are ones he found on the street or in the cardboard box at his gym. After close observation I decided this is a worthwhile manner of reading, but I’m not sure I’ve gotten the hang of it yet. I’m still a bit too purposeful. I picked up the two below because both feature R. A. Lafferty and he was recommended to me years ago. I’ve never been a sci-fi person in the slightest but I sort of like the idea of becoming one. I could definitely get into the illustrations, at least, whether they’re good, terrible, or merely really weird. Plus it seems like a good time, with Singularity & Co., for example, pointing the way towards some of the more interesting bits of the genre, and the rest of the internet readily coughing up oddities.

Alpha 3 cover   Alpha 3 table of contents

Alpha Three (ed. Robert Silverberg, Ballantine Books 1972).
Click on either image to enlarge.
I don’t always buy books with no idea whether I’ll like them or not, but when they’re cheap and have interesting covers, sometimes I do.

if sci fi cover 1961   if table of contents

if Science Fiction (ed. H. L. Gold, Digest Productions, Jan. 1961),
with its table of contents apparently signed by Phyllis Gotlieb. And apparently she ranked all the other stories in order of . . . quality? Or suggested reading order?

Semi-relatedly, a selection of some of the titles I’ve seen on that ex-boyfriend’s shelves / floor / desk:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Mafia. I idly flipped through this one morning but there wasn’t much that held my attention. A few weeks later I happened to read a fascinating article in the Independent about a supposedly-elusive mafia tradition whereby two men in the same crime family will promise not to snitch on each other by sharing a passionate kiss. I asked D. whether this was covered in the Guide and he said yes of course, there is an entire chapter on it. So there you have it: Some of those idiotic-looking idiot guides are well-researched and worthwhile reads.

mafia kiss

a mafia-style kiss from the Independent, June 10, 2011

How to Draw Dynamic Hands. Actually I borrowed this one and now it’s sitting on my floor. I keep meaning to scan a few pages from it for a draft blog post that doesn’t really have anything to do with hands but needs some imagery. I’m hoping to learn something from it too because my drawing skills are not what anyone would call “dynamic.”

The Stain Bible. I remember we were both disappointed that this does not explain how to remove stains from that green kombucha that looks like pond scum. It’s one of the best flavors but also one of the most explosive, and its stains are not the same as grass stains.

Hide Your Assets and Disappear: A Step-by-Step Guide to Vanishing Without a Trace. I realize that for some people, seeing this in a man’s bookcase might be a red flag. But aren’t you curious to read it too now that you know it exists? I should maybe point out that it was surrounded by some really good stuff, like Flaubert’s Sentimental Education and The Lyrics of Leonard Cohen.

• Menander’s Dyskolos. Wikipedia tells me that this title is translated from Ancient Greek “as The Grouch, The Misanthrope, The Curmudgeon, The Bad-tempered Man or Old Cantankerous.” It’s a comedy, though.

Anyhow. Now that the storm has left us it’s a fine time for music from a wonky magic carpet, don’t you think? Here’s Manolo Sanlucar, “Diálogos.”

Michele Redolfi is perhaps more grounded: he’s been performing underwater concerts for years. Specifically, he composes, manipulates, and records experimental music and sounds under water, in pools and natural settings. The immersed participants listen through their bones, as explained by a knowledgable commenter over at Lunar Atrium. I was reminded of him recently when Connie Hockaday posted her underwater wrestling video. Here’s his “Grand Nocturne de Musique Subaquatique” at Grenoble in 2008.

In terms of everyday listening, I’m still pretty into wan and melancholic French synth pop / electro-yéyé. Long-time readers will remember that I was enthusing about Elli et Jacno in my very first post at Lunar Camel Co., and I still love them. (These days I only love them for about twenty minutes every three weeks or so, but still, it’s serious).

Main dans la main

Elli et Jacno “Main dans la main” single

Not related, but seasonally appropriate: the Mo-dettes cover of “Paint it Black”:

While we are on the subject of music, you should try to get to the Metropolitan Opera to see Thomas Adès’s adaptation of “The Tempest.” I’m basically poor people, but I know someone who knows someone and I managed to get in to a dress rehearsal. It was pretty spectacular! I used to go to the opera more often than I do now and it was lovely just to go again, but I came away thinking this was one of the more effective productions I’ve ever seen. I say that as someone who made sure to get herself to that Peter Greenaway one about Vermeer with actual rain and live cows in it. I do love a spectacle, but “The Tempest” was compelling in a character-driven way as well, and the music possessed more subtleties than I could ever hope to intelligently discuss after a single performance. It’s gotten very mixed reviews (WQXR said “eh”, while the Times gave it at least two very positive write-ups), but I say you should go if you can.

Manhattan-20121019-02148

Another recommendation, this one straight out of my superstorm playlists: The birds of Papua New Guinea are sublime. The mating dances they do are too bonkers for words, and there’s one that can make a sort of satellite dish with the feathers on his head and neck to pick up chicks, a satellite of bird love. Here, this short film from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some terrific-looking birds in it.

If you’ve got more time to devote to bird-viewing, seek out “Nature: Birds of the Gods.” It’s about the same birds but it’s with David Attenborough and it’s about an hour long.

spring mixture

overgrown ferris wheel via beaucolburn.com

Overgrown ferris wheel photo by Beau Colburn via AnOther.

Shangri-la Leisure Center

Shangri-la Leisure Center
East 9th St. between 1st and 2nd Ave., NYC.

George Barbier, La Luxure

George Barbier, la Luxure, from here.


Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, “Chanson des Jumelles.”

underwater crystals

Fire Island sunset

memorex 90

mixtape contains:

Alternative TV, “Love Lies Limp”

Charles De Goal, “Syncho”

Pizzicato Five, “Twiggy Twiggy / Twiggy vs. James Bond”

Serge Gainsbourg, “Baudelaire”

David Bowie, “Oh You Pretty Things”

Marcel Zanini, “Wana Nene Wana Nana”

Ike Turner w/ Lonnie the Cat, “I Ain’t Drunk”

Bob Lind, “Go Ask Your Man”

Les Rita Mitsouko, “L’Hôtel Particulier”

Music from Saharan Cellphones vol. II, “?”

The Rolling Stones, “Sing This All Together”

Luke Haines, “Inside The Restless Mind Of Rollerball Rocco”

Olivia Tremor Control, “Green Typewriters” [I]

Air, “Cosmic Trip”

New Order, “Ceremony” [single]

Jacno, “Anne Cherchait L’Amour”

Belbury Poly, “A Pilgrim’s Path”

Cibo Matto, “White Pepper Ice Cream”

moon mania addendum

Melies moon in 3D

3D Méliès moon via Monster Kid magazine

When I wrote that moon mania post about the restored color print of George Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la lune I was so into Air’s new soundtrack for it that I didn’t realize I already had an alternate soundtrack lurking in the more recessive recesses of my iTunes: Daniel Arfib’s L’Approche de la Lumière, from his album Musique Numérique. It’s just not an album I play often, but I happened to take a closer look at it the other day and immediately noticed that the length of the song (16:31) was maybe pretty close to the running time of the film. The title, of course, is not directly on point; it means “approach of the light.” The film is titled “Le Voyage dans la lune,” usually translated as “A trip to the moon,” and was made by George Méliès rather than his peers the Lumière brothers, who I used to mix him up with when I was a film student. (There was a healthy competition between them; Méliès was present at their first screening and offered them 10,000 francs for their camera, which they refused). But! It sounds like it could be a soundtrack. It’s not just that it’s outer space-y, it has a narrative feel, and it’s as arid and crunchy as moon rocks.

The running time isn’t quite right — the film is a couple minutes shorter, even with the long-lost ending that was discovered in 2002, which was well after the album was made in 1981. But if you press play on the song and the video at kind of the same time (or not quite the same time), something interesting might happen. As it did for me when I started the video a few seconds after the song and noticed the percussion kicking in at the same time the workers started hammering away on the projectile. There aren’t many moments of synchronicity like that but I think overall it’s more intriguing than the tired old Pink Floyd + Wizard of Oz sandwich others may have offered you.

Daniel Arfib, Musique Numerique


I don’t know how to change the color of WordPress’s sickly pale little mp3 player so I’m calling your attention to it with words. There it is above. Under the video.

There’s not a ton of information on this album on the internet and next to nothing about this particular track, which is the B-side. I don’t know how to explain why but I very often think the things I blog about are not obscure and I am genuinely surprised when someone says “that was esoteric” or something to that effect — apparently I am afflicted by a peculiar sort of naïveté that causes me to think people will know what I’m talking about if I mention, say, a magazine that was published for six months in 1937 and doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page — but I can see that this is something people probably won’t be familiar with. I was tipped off by the eBay seller who describes the album as “private cosmic . . . . insanely rare and insane private electronic ‘photophonic’ music . . . . one of those early electronic music albums whose entire premise is based upon some bat-shit crazy arcane methods of computer programming or mathematical patterns . . .” I don’t have it on vinyl myself, I’ve just got a crappy mp3 I downloaded from who-knows-where a long time ago, but I see it was unofficially reissued by the Icelandic label Creel Pone in 2008, so . . . it is marginally less insanely rare than it used to be when the only actual copies floating around were the ones Arfib had privately pressed.

The internet says Mr. Arfib is currently working on something with “gesture controlled audio systems” in connection with “the geneva emotion research group,” but the links I’ve followed haven’t yet expanded my understanding of what that means. I’ll keep you posted. In the unlikely event you’re now jonesing for something at the poppier end of the French mathématiques-music spectrum, here’s that Jacno-produced single from Mathématiques Modernes I blogged about a while back.

Lunar Camel Co. field guide to trees, ch. 4: other people’s trees

YEARS Schmiede Hallein 2011

Years, Schmiede Hallein, Austria, 2011.

Bartholonäus Traubeck, Years. A turntable plays trees by analysing “their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture).” Via Need Supply.

*****

Axel Erlandson’s tree circus in the Santa Cruz mountains, via Creatures of Comfort. Erlandson died in 1964 and the trees were then cared for by a tree-loving architect. In 1985 they were moved to a theme park in Gilroy, where they live today. Tree circus scholars can learn more from the Tree Circus Collection at Santa Cruz’s Museum of Art & History.

tree circus double knots

tree circus cube

A.E. at his tree circus

tree circus sycamore phone booth

sycamore phone booth by Mark Primack

tree circus box

the tree circus is coming to town

the tree circus comes to town by Mark Primack

Cf. Arborsmith Studios; Pooktre tree shapers; the German master of treedome shaping; unrelated German tree fence from the 1930s; Indian tree bridges; Plantware.

*****

Italian tree tea from Buon Italia.

Erbe e Spezie tea packet

Erbe e Spezie tea  ingredients

Ingredients: coriander seeds, juniper berries, cloves, orange rinds, cinnamon bark, ginger rootstocks, mountain pine needles.

“Un sorso di salute, nel rispetto dell’ambiente” = “A sip of health, while respecting the environment.” I bought it more for making ice cream with than for drinking, but it’s nice for drinking. I was expecting it to taste strongly of pine trees the way Italian pine honey does — eating pine honey, in my experience, is like being bonked on the head with a pine branch — but actually it’s rather gentle and balanced, with no one flavor dominating. Just the thing for a hiker’s mug.

*****

In Suffolk there’s a beech so ugly that it terrifies children and pensioners, says the Daily Mail. I admit I did not read the article closely but it’s probably a benefits scrounger, too.

the ugliest tree

ugly tree by David Garnham

*****

Blog-friend a wild slim alien — who is in fact a tree — pointed me in the direction of Five Dials, a monthly literary mag from Hamish Hamilton. Number 22 (Why Willows Weep and Other Tales From The Forest Floor) consists of fables about nineteen varieties of trees native to the U.K. and may be read here. Five Dials is a PDF mag but you can buy a special dead tree copy of this one issue to support the Woodland Trust here. They’ll plant five trees if you do.

Five Dials Number 22

*****


how to get a tree to speak

EOS magazine’s talking tree has been telling the world about its life in Brussels for a year or so now. There doesn’t seem to be any sound coming through on its YouTube channel but you can listen to the tree on SoundCloud.

*****

Chapter 3 of my field guide to trees is here.

yr gang is here

Coffee Pots close-up

Coffee Pots jacket

Vintage 1940s or 50s Coffee Pots gang jacket on Etsy.

Cloudy Busey, “Pound Your Town To Hell.”

Are you sick of tedious rendevous instead of hot bang?

spring break in the east village

are those yr boobs I saw on an east village mailbox?

Just this once let’s get Wednesday off to a slightly sleazy start, as if this were a meeting of the Slightly Sleazy Wednesday Morning Club. The inspiration for / title of this post comes from an email I received from Ms. Kitty Geyser. Also from a neighbor in my ex-boyfriend’s building, where I lived for many years. He’s a beardo we call Cameras on account of the unfriendly, searching looks he gives us. He says hello to my ex-boyfriend but he’s never spoken a word to me. Our friend Christine said we are his Berlin-in-the-20s. I admit to having slithered in or out of the building looking Anita Berber-ish on a few occasions over the years, but the latest thing that set his eye- and beard-cameras on fire was a basket on my ex’s bike. He got a wicker basket for it, which is apparently one of the fruitiest fruity things a guy can do. He came out of the apartment with it and ran into Cameras and his roommates, and reported that their eyes were glued to it like hot burning lasers all the way down the stairs.

Anyhow, our meeting, yeah. It’s totally fine if you’re still wearing your outfit from last night, I don’t mind at all.

mermaid and friends

photo from a 1980 sci-fi convention here

While you’re washing your face the rest of us will have a look at this poster I found for an interesting-sounding movie from the 70s, Orgies au Camping. Poster from Etsy here.

Orgies au Camping

Here’s a lurid little painting by Reggie Kray, Ron and Reg in Top Hat and Tails, via The Guardian.

Reggie Kray Ron and Reg in Top Hat and Tails

And here’s a flier I found at an art opening at Family Business gallery a couple weeks ago. My friend Jim had a piece in this show. I like what they did; it’s a tiny gallery and they crammed it full, with art all the way up the walls and hanging from the ceiling too. There were lots of these fliers thrown out to the crowd, all different.

morir o casarse

Ann Sorel, “Amour à Plusieurs,” via Vinyle Archéologie on YouTube. I tried to translate the lyrics to this because it sounded intriguing. I wish I hadn’t because it’s actually kind of a downer: “Love to many it is not good for your heart.” Shit no, it sure isn’t.

Here’s a Yayoi Kusama orgy / happening in Amsterdam, 1969, via the Looniverse. I don’t know whether they did have an orgy that day or was she just selling copies of her orgy newspaper. The woman in the blue suit appears to be afraid someone will grope her eyeballs, but everyone’s got plenty of clothes on. Maybe it was called off on account of shivery weather.

Yayoi Kusama orgy 1

Yayoi Kusama orgy 2

Yayoi Kusama orgy 3

Bettie Page photo via Olympia le Tan’s blog, which has a nice mixture of things I like to look at: loads more photos of Bettie and Bettie look-alikes, loads of photos of Morrissey, plus some shoes, plus the book-shaped handbags she makes.

Bettie Page via OLT 04-15-2012

Bettie via Olympia Le Tan’s blog

OLT Junkie bag
Olympia le Tan Marihuana Problems bag

Olympia Le Tan bags via Hint

If we’re going to meet mornings this way semi-regularly you’re going to need to get your own coffee pipe. I don’t mean to be bossy, I just want to get everyone on the same page here. You can order one from Zang! (via Dangerous Minds). I think you should fill yours up with my current favorite Brazilian espresso and some super silver haze, which I’ve heard from a friend is a champagne among herbs. Some things just go together. I think this could be the next coffee Thing, now that everyone’s experimented with pour-over-brewing fair trade single-origin coffees crapped out by greasy jungle cats, finding the right boutique weed to complement and enhance your coffee.

Zang! pipe mug

Dangerous Minds pipe mug

If you titrate yourself correctly maybe you’ll see an apple in your cappuccino.

apple in my cappuccino

Don’t get too messy with all this stuff. Here are some informational AA comics if you’re the type we should be worried about.

sad drunk Alice

“It Happened to Alice” via coisas do arco da velha

moon mania

Have you seen the new-ish restored and hand-colored print of George Méliès’s Le Voyage dans la lune yet? I’m doing something stern with my eyebrows at the thought that you might be shaking your head no. When it played here recently (at Lincoln Center in February), my friend and I bought our tickets on the internet well in advance because we were thinking “what sort of foolish fools would not want to go to this?” There turned out to be about eight people in the theater. I suspect that all other screenings but for the one I attended were crowded to the bursting point with delighted New Yorkers sitting on each other’s laps three deep, such that everyone who wanted to see the film on the big screen had a chance to. If you live elsewhere you may have a chance yet because it’s still making the rounds of a handful of U.S. cities: It’s showing in L.A. right now, Minneapolis next, then D.C., and so forth. The schedule is here and you should definitely go if you can. The restoration’s terrific, the color makes my lo-fi-DIY parts tingle, and there’s a new soundtrack by Air, who in my opinion were the perfect guys for the job. Here’s a clip:

The color print was discovered in 1993 but it was such a crumbly, brittle mess that it couldn’t be fed into even the fanciest high-tech mechanisms used to restore shabby old films at that time. Look here, you can see what a crumbly mess it was. All sorts of things were tried — including a risky chemical bath, followed by a time-out in what sounds like a deluxe humidor, where the film might unstick its stuck parts from itself — but the restoration couldn’t be completed until 2010, when the right technology made its way into the hands of the right people. Specifically, the Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema, the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, and Lobster Films. If you have a chance to see the film in a theater you’ll learn more about all this because it’s shown with a documentary about the restoration. One interesting tidbit I can show you in the meantime: The restoration resulted in such a pristine and complete version of the film that for a few seconds of it we can now see something no one had noticed before, a key hanging on the wall at the very edge of the frame, in the scene in which the projectile is launched. Méliès’s studio was in his garden and this is believed to be the key to it.

Le voyage key

I can’t remember when I first saw the film but it definitely would have been before 2002, when a print complete with the long-lost ending was discovered in a barn in France: instead of a murky, moody splashdown in the ocean, it now ends with a parade for the moon-goers and the unveiling of a statue of their leader. During these festivities the adventurers wear big paper moons around their necks, Flava Flav-style.

Le voyage moon medals

You know what my favorite part of the film is? Surprisingly it is not the part with the mushrooms.

Le voyage shrooms

No, my favorite part is just before the capsule lands in the moon’s eye. There’s so much emotion in it, far more emotion than anyone has since expected of the moon. How lonely he must be, to look as thrilled as he does when he first notices visitors approaching. How strangely moving it is when he’s struck, becomes weepy, and blubbers something to himself. To see a human face emerge in place of an assortment of fuzzy craters and transform an entire set of disparate feelings into something almost knowable to others in the space of just a few frames is as magical as anything else we might hope to see in a film, then or now.

Le voyage moon not yet a face

Le voyage moon just now a face

Le voyage moon smiling face

Le voyage moon weird smile

Le voyage moon face rocket in eye

Does the film represent some of the best or some of the worst aspects of science and exploration? People have noted, over the years, that the things Méliès’s heroes find on their 1902 moon are more enchanting than the rocks and other dusty inscrutables that we know to be knocking about our present moon. They’ve noted, too, that the green guys inhabiting Méliès’s moon aren’t treated well by their visitors, who see them as a nuisance to be conquered. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to view the film as poking at least as much fun at the conquerors as it does at the moon-natives. When they land on the moon, for example, the very first thing they do is stretch out their blankies and take a nap, as cozy in their obliviousness as any French colonials wandering around Djibouti in search of a decent vigneron.

Le voyage yawning

Le voyage blankies

Le voyage nap time

They’re celebrated when they return home, but we the audience know that they were chased off the moon in slightly-less-than-glorious circumstances.

Le voyage angry green guys

Related reading and listening: There’s a nice interview with Air in The Quietus about the film, their album, French colonialism, Jules Verne, Jean Claude Vannier, and what kind of guys from the future they like best. You can and should listen to the soundtrack album here. Thoughtful scene-by-scene commentary on the film and lots of promising links to additional info on Spectacular Attractions here.

creative constipation + its antagonist

For a long while now I’ve been aware of and mildly interested in Momus without bothering to investigate. (More on this below). Every so often I’ll stumble across or be pointed towards something of his, and that’s that. I recently found myself watching this new-ish video from him and liking it a lot.


Momus and John Henriksson, “Love Wakes The Devil”

I circulated it to a few friends with the qualification “I have mixed regard for this guy” or something(s) to that effect, and I got some interesting responses. One person helpfully pointed out that the mystery man in the video — perhaps a long-forgotten robot built to compete with Elvis, shelved for awkwardness? — is reminiscent of this other guy. Another asked why the mixed feelings? “I think maybe it’s his voluminous and incessant output,” I answered. “All the blogging, etc. I guess I’m a bit suspicious of someone who is endlessly interested in their own utterances, for years and years and years at a time. Or maybe I just resent him for having so much of himself out there, because it makes it sort of impossible for me to evaluate him as a casual listener.” Which is silly, obviously, for several reasons. Why should anyone be graspable in one grab? Of course they should not be, and I tend to actively dislike people who are. Why not put a ton of yourself out there is a discrete, messier and more interesting question, I think, and my friend’s perceptive response made me rosy with self-consciousness:

He’s definitely a certain kind of person. I think he is very comfortable expressing himself. I don’t think he is self-critical (I mean this in a positive way). I don’t think he is trying to make a ‘great work.’ I think he sees himself in the tradition of folk music. And in his mind giving something to world — no matter how imperfect — is better than keeping it stifled up. As a result he has really added something to the world where most of us are trying so hard to be perfect we never actually do much.

I don’t think he meant really for real on a granular level (individual albums, songs, what-have-you), but you get the idea. I’ve struggled with the trying-to-be-perfect thing at moments but the biggest issue for me is wanting to have everything in place before I start a new project. Which is, yeah, a form of wanting everything to be perfect. I find it very difficult to start something new unless I feel I can completely throw myself into it, and how can I completely throw myself into something unless my “spare” time, my energy, and my reasons for wanting to do it are all heaving with abundance? And would you believe I have some trouble getting these things synced up? Of this bundle of idiotic expectations I have, the time-related one seems to be the most manageable; I think it’s a relatively straightforward matter of learning new habits (getting comfortable working in small chunks of time rather than big blocks, for example). Where I really run into trouble is in navigating the ambivalence I develop about my reasons for taking on any potential project, my questions about why do z instead of y or x, and is it worth bothering with at all. Not because I believe in greatness-or-nothing but because I believe in deliberateness-or-nothing. Just about every book or song or arty-whatnot that’s ever really meant anything to me was made by someone who seems to have been working from a series of rigorous aesthetic and intellectual decisions (versus working from a mindset of “oh hell, I’ll just try it and see where it goes”). My ideal is work that appears unstudied coming from someone who has studied the fuck out of it. One example, a curious one considering I don’t particularly like the Ramones: A couple weeks ago this article by Johnny Ramone came out, and in it he talks about the formation of the band and the decisions they made in the earliest days. The four skinny guys in jeans, t-shirts and leather jackets (or, the four skinny guys in jeans, t-shirts and leather jackets) took six months to decide that that’s what they would wear:

At that point, we were still dressed in partial glitter. I had these silver-lamé pants made of Mylar, and these black spandex pants I’d wear, too. I was the only one with a real Perfecto leather jacket—what the Ramones would later be identified with—which I had been wearing for seven years already. I also had this vest with leopard trim that I had custom made.

We were still evolving into the image we became known for, but it was trial and error at first. I’d give Tommy a lot of the credit for our look. He explained to me that Middle America wasn’t going to look good in glitter. Glitter is fine if you’re the perfect size for clothes like that. But if you’re even five pounds overweight, it looks ridiculous, so it wouldn’t be something everyone could relate to.

It was a slow process, over a period of six months or so, but we got the uniform defined. We figured out that it would be jeans, T-shirts, leather jackets, and the tennis shoes, Keds. We wanted every kid to be able to identify with our image.

I’ve never cared about wanting to make anything people can identify with but I do care deeply about singularity, and I think it generally comes from that same process of refining one’s ideas to the point where everything that’s there represents a series of decisions. (To use another Ramonesian example, think of them playing “Happy Birthday”: it would sound 100% like a Ramones song, and we can easily visualize how they would look playing it, the way they’d be standing or holding their instruments, and pretty much everything else about it). It’s not that I think a uniform or an identifiable stance are essentials or that it should necessarily be a slow or anguished process; it’s more about starting from a place that isn’t aesthetically or intellectually bankrupt, and paring away any crap going forward.

Do any of you have secret tricks for working through these pre-working choices, for wading through the muck between having an idea and commencing work on the idea? Please murmur them into my comments section. Highly recommended drugs that enable you to start a hundred weirdo side projects while blogging like a fiend will also be considered.

the new Monochrome Set album is here

Platinum Coils front cover

Cover image politely (in spirit) borrowed
from their booking agent Julie Tippex here.

Platinum Coils! Not here literally, but it will be soon: I ordered my copy first thing Saturday morning, before I’d even gotten out of bed. Yes of course I have email alerts for important events like this. I’m particularly excited because I heard the first track on it on the Marc Riley show last week and became a bit obsessed with it. It’s called “Hip Kitten Spinning Chrome” and you can have a listen (and buy the album, if you are tasteful) on the band’s site here. It’s a song about being in hospital — strangely thrilling subject matter for me, after a year of battling my own Health Issues — but it’s got the same larky wit all my other favorite Monochrome Set songs have. Not just in the nimble lyrics but in the intricate rhythms it unfurls, too.

Apparently I got a bit hormonal about having to wait for a CD to arrive in the mail, because later that afternoon I found myself in Kim’s looking for Monochrome Set vinyl to alleviate my distress. Voila, there’s a new-ish release of White Noise (new to me, at least) with some of my favorite songs from Black & White Minstrels, which I previously had only a crap mp3 of.

The Monochrome Set Early Recordings front cover


“Inside Your Heart” is a favorite among favorites. Press play, or go check out an old but still nice mixtape starting with it that I made for my food blog.

I also somehow found myself poking around the internet as if in preparation to make a sort of blog post-shrine to the Monochrome Set. A weird, candle-lit shrine complete with an old pin-up of Bid. Go ahead and get your special post-punk pants on, it’ll still be here when you return.

light yr candles

Bid pin-up

Bid pin-up via Northern Scum’s Tumblr.

Sorry, I don’t know whether there’s a matching one of Lester Square. If there is it will presumably turn up at the unofficial Monochrome Set Tumblr, which in the meantime has other delights.

Related reading: There are early reviews of Platinum Coils here and here, at Louder Than War and Retro Man, respectively. If you’ve been reading my post here and wondering who are the Monochrome Set, there’s a brief but effective Guardian music blog post here, after which you’ll doubtlessly want a look at the “History” section of the band’s site, where you can torment yourself with photos of super-fun shows you weren’t at.

the pink collection

The first two images are my pink rocks, most of which are from here. The rest are from who knows where, credited when possible.

the pink collection, gritty

the pink collection, close up

Pink nebula.

pink nebula

Wendell Castle pink floor lamp (“Pinkie”) at 1stDibs.

Wendell Castle floor lamp

Twink, “Ten Thousand Words in a Cardboard Box,” from the album Think Pink.

Naive mountains i.e. sans Evian.

naive pink mountains

Moroccan rug at 1stDibs.

Moroccan rug

Close-up of Tadanori Yokoo’s The Dream Merchant Fairies via 50 Watts.

The Dream Merchant Fairies close-up

Vashti Bunyan, “17 Pink Sugar Elephants,” from the album Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind.

Rose pashmak / fairy floss / cotton candy / whatever they call candy fur in your motherland is available from Pariya.

rose pashmak

London toile wallpaper by Timorous Beasties.

London toile

Shell fragment chez Lunar Camel Co.

shell fragment

Pink Bamileke headdress from Cameroon at 1stDibs.

pink Bamileke headdress

Wire, “It’s So Obvious,” from the album Pink Flag.