Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh boy, a perusal of WFMU playlists indicates the availability of the Big Blood and The Bleedin' Hearts CD-R, teased a year ago by the song "Oh Country." This has a cover of Syd Barrett's Terrapin. What an exciting band. They constitute half of Fire On Fire, whose record The Orchard was released this past December through Young God Records. I believe it's only available through their website, making it about as easy to find as Big Blood's The Grove that came out last year on Don't Trust The Ruin. I am hoping to set up a show for either of these bands the next time they travel.

Baltimore's Erin Womack just received a grant from the state of Maryland to get money to be an artist. Good for her. We run in some of the same circles, and recently I was talking to some of our shared acquaintances about the resemblance of her drawing style to that of Christopher Forgues, and one of these people had actually talked to Erin about her influences, and found out that a big one was the film The Color Of Pomegranates. Which I hadn't seen, or even heard of, but it turns out is actually considered a classic of world and Russian cinema. I am in the middle of watching it. And while it doesn't explain the similarities to CF's line it's pretty interesting in its own right, part of a specific strain of cinema that feels more connected to high art, with Last Year At Marienbad a possible comparison point. It's almost pure imagery at this point, with no signs of a narrative arriving at any point in the future, but still compelling and beautiful to look at if one can handle the pace. I look forward to finishing it.

It's inspiring to me for the distinctive way the images are framed, the way the human figures frequently stand small in deliberate tableaus, the way in which the camera must have been fairly far away or shooting with a wide-angle lens to capture the corners of the room. But that's for me as a video-maker. What it shares with Erin's comics is the way images are juxtaposed together, repetitions of imagery with no real narrative accumulation, with written or spoken language appearing sparsely and largely as counterpoint, and the ornate nature of the images in terms of landscape and costume.

I should maybe thank her for indirectly inspiring me to look into it, the same way I should talk to Jimmy Joe Roche about how his namechecking of Daisies in an interview with Arthur magazine led to my seeing that film. That issue of Arthur had the band Celebration on the cover, who I saw perform this past Friday night, with my friend Ami Dang. Ami herself won a similar grant from the state of Maryland, and I am supposed to collaborate with her in the future on a video project, in a thing that will probably end up with faint traces of the influences of both Daisies and The Color Of Pomegranates.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The new Animal Collective album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, is getting acclaim far and wide, at least in the music-criticism outlets that I've seen. Response to it has been more mixed in terms of people I talk to: Some might wish for a less-poppy record. I think the vocals are mixed too smoothly and are occasionally too high in the mix. But this complaint, as I voiced it, feels related to what I'm hearing from a lot of other people. Here in Baltimore, the small segment of people I talk to is put off by the lyrics, finding them silly and unrelatable.

Which I think says more about the faults of them then it does about the faults of the band. The lyrics are really straightforward, yes, but it still feels like a progression of a spirit of openness. But there's an audience of sort of inarticulate jammers that just want to get high and make music that Animal Collective has cultivated over the length of a few albums, that they themselves were for a while there, that is now left alienated by songs about wanting to provide for children. I think there's a segment of the Animal Collective fanbase that's being presented with a future that makes them deeply uncomfortable.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about how art influences its audience. It seems like it is only musicians that are afforded the chance to say things like "Pavement were a really big influence on me," although this could be because they are most likely to be interviewed and asked about such things. I guess there are a great number of people blogging about comics who will admit that Grant Morrison's The Invisibles was an influence on their adolescence. Music is not so directly narrative, and so is usually talked about in terms of stylistic influence, despite the fact that people project narratives on to music as a means of relating to it.

This becomes interesting in the wake of hip-hop being the main force in pop culture for the last ten or so years. People have grown up with those narratives. What's odd to me is that it's a thing that youth can relate to so fully. Not because of racial issues, but because of confidence issues: I associate youth and adolescence primarily with insecurity, and find it hard to picture someone in the middle of all that attaching themselves to "Swagger Like Us," unless it serves as some kind of shield. Which is fine, except for the fact that there then is this narrative embedded within it, which people follow, and then -this is a complicated metaphor I don't want to mix- become embedded in the metal of it. And I think there then becomes this detached/debauched/anti-spiritual world that seems ever-more-lacking in innocence.

(There also rises, in response to this, a weird indie-gone-mainstream twee culture that's not particularly interesting either. Although I think that Animal Collective is still too sonically weird to be placed into that category as much as something off the Garden State soundtrack.)

At this point in the blog so far I have no real idea of how to connect these two different ideas and culture, and am hoping that by writing further I can make a thesis connecting these two things.

I would like to think that the last few Animal Collective records are just a little further along in the narrative that a lot of noise records are at. Consider for a moment that Hollindagain and Here Comes The Indian are, sort of, noise records, that they were touring with Black Dice around these times, and this was just shortly after Black Dice had stopped being a hardcore band that was punching their audience in the face. This could be the moment, then, after total freedom tears apart the city in a whirlwind and people now need to live on, and raise the next generation in the sun. There's also a narrative arc to the whole career of The Boredoms that sort of leads to this conclusion as well.

That moment where people can't move on to the next stage in the narrative is kind of always a little bit of a bummer though. I guess we should be thankful that the underground allows for that sort of that growth in reverence for people who've been around for a while, whereas the mainstream offering up tales of nihilism keeps on refreshing itself before alternate messages can proliferate. The sonic conservativism that often accompanies such personal progress is kind of a bummer, but I don't think that charge can really be levied at Animal Collective, who have enough background in folk music that that could've been moved into a duller direction if they had been those kinds of dudes.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The most recent episode of The Simpsons was a Heavenly Creatures parody starring Lisa. This is weird, right? Not because it's an obscure thing to reference for a half-hour's time, although the highly-specific nature of how it went about it's parody highlighted that element: Remakes of particular shots, multiple references to Josh Groban in place of the film's Mario Lanza. That all felt bizarre and tedious, but maybe no more than any other extended parody to grace a whole episode of an animated program. (It was also strangely emotionless for a Lisa-centric episode of The Simpsons, at least to a viewer primarily familiar with the first few, good, seasons.)

But what a weird way to evolve an archetype over a series of years, when depending on coming up with plotlines. The original idea of a smart little girl, who tries hard and wants approval, then becomes a vegetarian, then a buddhist, and then is placed in an intense friendship with a lesbian subtext. This is one for the culture studies majors in the room.

Everyone else is directed to this Youtube video of a child high on drugs from the dentist.