Saturday, February 28, 2009

These Last Strands of Man In Me

They’re laying off a shit load of humans at the work place. We’re all meditating on our dispensability. It’s like corporate zen. People are playing the game of trying to figure out who will go first – pairs of peers congregate outside (the water cooler’s no longer safe, and, plus, they’ve stopped providing us with coffee, so there’s less of a reason to be there), whispering, some teary-eyed, some giddy from the whole facing-the-firing-squad-concentrates-the-mind effect. It’s like the opposite of fantasy sports leagues. Nightmare employment league. Who would you throw overboard? The rodent-like mind takes over, and the gnawing and clawing survival instinct starts to do shameful things. But I’m trying not to feast on carrion comfort. Like G. M. Hopkins says, “my chaff might fly.” It’s all in the wind.

“The Wind” – The Diablos

“Ill Wind”- Lee Morgan

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I'm two years, nine weeks and fives days from turning 40. I seriously re-wrenched the back injury I sustained from an Olympics-worthy agony of defeat moment while trying to (ahem) snowboard over New Year's. Apparently we're about to witness Great Depression II: Wraith of Khan and my 1 year old wants to wear flip flops in 20 degree cold. Of course this all means I've now become a full-on devotee of Doom Metal.

Now, this is a genre I barely knew existed until a year ago when I saw the Japanese practitioners, BORIS, but it was a nearly instant conversion experience. Allow me to quote from a 2006 New York Times article about Doom Metal to get across the general idea:

The music was unbelievably loud — so loud, in fact, that the sound waves made your rib cage vibrate like a stereo cabinet and your teeth literally rattle in their sockets — but the effect was somehow more meditative than violent. The overall experience was not unlike listening to an Indian raga in the middle of an earthquake.

In other words, it's like a yogic spa treatment in black Satan t-shirts. I had originally planned on getting expansive on this subject, but no amount of fancy words is going to open this portal for you. Just check your local listings and try radiating yourself in the therapeutic effects of extreme volume (but DO wear earplugs). Plus, there's some of the most ambitious, creative, thoughtful, experimental, highly-orchestrated and dare I say "progressive" music being made under the guise of "metal." Almost all of it can be categorized as "psychedelic" and, in fact, cannabis is a preferred supplement to the affair. Incidentally, a lot of the practitioners happen to be people (including some gals!) approaching my age and even beyond. A friend recently described himself as "imploding gracefully," and this is pretty much the soundtrack for that. It's the natural maturation of the Black Sabbath sound and I compare it to the evolution of comic books into graphic novels. But again, I've said too much already.

The recorded version of this music is utterly inadequate and a mere vapor of the live experience. But check out Southern Lord Recordings to get the flavor and plenty of free samples. Here's some choice doom, including the first song I ever heard live from BORIS, which gives you the general idea of what happened to me:

[Ed. Note: For the last week I've had the wrong link on this first track, thereby misdirecting dear readers to the wrong doom. If anybody's reading this, retry "Farewell" and experience what I was actually talking about. It's impressive!]

Farewell - BORIS

The Driver - Earth

Orosborous - Earth


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Don’t Doom Your Life To Death

I semi-squandered much of my weekend. My laptop fried out last summer, and on it were a bunch of music files, many MP3s converted from old vinyl for the purposes of sharing with the digital peoples. Luckily, I had been in the habit of burning mix CDs of all the blogarbage I’d been accumulating. Only thing was – over the years, these discs were growing more and more unplayable on the temperamental (read: mental) CD players we have in our kitchen and in the living room. And since I’d only scrawled cryptic names on the discs and never actually made proper playlists, I never quite knew which disc had that righteous Thin Lizzy track and which had the overdriven transfer of that Merle Haggard song. So I spent much of yesterday re-ripping some of this stuff from the discs, and then manually going through the unlabeled tracks and renaming them. It was a big time-consuming data-dump, a file-storage reclamation worm hole. But there were a lot of gems I’d forgotten about. And I read in the NYT today that digital data storage/transfer/management is a new career line.

Maybe as folks lose their jobs they have more free time to fiddle around with all the digital clutter accumulating. That’s one of the points touched on at the end of a recent story by Ann Powers in the LA Times. The piece is, on the surface, a review of new music by Animal Collective, Bon Iver and recent stuff by the Fleet Foxes, but it’s also a meditation on the pack-it-in paradigm and an exploration of how technology can aid the effort to just burrow down in some creaky cabin and explore the wind-blown corridors of the mind. Powers cites a recent column from Arthur Magazine in which the writer speculated that the economic slow-down would bring about a beneficial slow-down in all kinds of psychic metabolisms. As liquidity firms up, so too does the frantic flow of time. We’ll all have a chance to chill, and grow shit once we get fired and the banking networks and international commerce just totally shits the bed. Time to take up needlework and gardening. Have a summer-long clam bake in PEI. Remember how to be all Quaker-like, quiet with yourself. I hope so.

In the meantime, with the stimulus plan needing a nudge, this bit of man-on-the-street economic philosophy from Swamp Dogg seems particularly apt. As he says, “there’s just a little time left.” I posted this one in the early days here, but it was a short-lived link, and I thought it warranted a re-up. Plus, end-times rants never get old.

“There’s Just a Little Time Left” – Swamp Dogg

Friday, February 06, 2009

Winter Tracks

The Bottom Line - Big Audio Dynamite
Too Much Time - Captain Beefheart
So Much Better - Benji Hughes
Milk Train - Jefferson Airplane
Death Valley - BORIS
Let's Duet - John C. Reilly & Angela Correa
Madman - The Jayhawks
Have You Seen the Stars Tonight - Paul Kanter & Jefferson Starship
The Sinking Belle - sunnO))) & Boris featuring Jesse Sykes
Visions - Super Fox
Mobile Blue - Mickey Newbury
Mary Skeffington - Olivia Newton-John
Cocaine Lights - Phosphorescent
Minsmere Sphagnum/Medeival Seinese Acid Blues - Bevis Frond
1 Hour 1/2 Ago - Rain Parade
Satori Pt. II - Flower Travelin' Band
Blue Water - Percy Sledge