Genre bending, angular but familiar with voices that recall a dream you had two nights ago, perhaps. Each Unremembered piece strikes a distant chord making your lost life into a musical composed by an unknown author.
Sarah Kirkland Snider’s new song cycle, “Unremembered,” begins and ends with billowing, eerie voices and the phrase “Someone breathed into my ear /The vapor of the dead.” In between, ghosts and mysterious figures lurk in shadowy thickets, lonely swamps and abandoned slaughterhouses. The macabre atmosphere is Snider’s own brand of New England gothic that would make Edgar Allan Poe proud. It is also a study in the beguiling power of memory.
The cycle’s 13 songs, scored for chamber orchestra, voices and electronics, uses texts by writer and artist Nathaniel Bellows. He draws, literally, from childhood memories in rural Massachusetts. The poems are accompanied by labyrinthine illustrations textured somewhere between cubism and stained-glass windows.
Snider’s music, like the images, is multilayered, often angular, and deftly blends ideas from rock and post-minimalist composers such as David Lang, one of her teachers. In “The Barn,” where we meet the specter of a white-gloved girl, strings slither and drums detonate like bombs, propelling a nightmarish chaos. Quieter songs are meticulously orchestrated, too. “The Swan” sways with misty strings, an undulating harp and the painterly touch of an oboe, while “The Speakers” displays an intricate weave of soft piano chords, acoustic guitar, celeste and gently rumbling electronics. Snider’s score, both terrifying and tender, gets a penetrating performance by conductor Edwin Outwater and a hand-picked orchestra, including members of ACME, Alarm Will Sound and So Percussion.
But it is Snider’s fresh, instinctive way with voices that sets her apart from most of her peers in the so-called indie classical school. Not just the soloists, like the commanding Shara Worden, who also appeared on the composer’s arresting 2010 song cycle “Penelope,” but groups of voices are stretched and layered with extended techniques. They pulsate in a shimmering bed of sound in “The River,” take flight with interlocking patterns in “The Girl” and unfold in fanfares of Renaissance-like polyphony to open “The Song.” DM Stith and Padma Newsome bravely join Worden to share the narrative solo duties.
Snider’s and Bellows’s mysterious and unsettling creations may strike some as child’s play, embellished with gloom — Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” meets “Nightmare on Elm Street.” But they just may contain clues to understanding the darker truths of adulthood.
Unremembered, out now on New Amsterdam, reunites Snider with Worden, and for good measure adds two more of indie rock's loveliest and most striking voices, Padma Newsome of Clogs and singer/songwriter/treasure D.M. Stith. This time around, the poetry is courtesy of Nathaniel Bellows, and the speaker is haunted not by the trauma of war but by an almost ordinary childhood—sometimes idyllic, sometimes disturbing, and often both at once.
As one might expect from a song cycle about youth and memory, Unremembered aches with the strange nostalgia of rediscovery: the rocking sing-song quality of Bellows's texts reads like the clothbound verses of some poet long gone out of vogue, and the yards of romantic orchestral texture Snider swaddles them in recall nothing so much as those brilliant and inexplicably forgotten Laurel Canyon sessions from the '70s.
Once in a while, Snider exposes the mechanisms that drive the music—as if the listener needed reminding that what she gets up to here is as cerebral as the more emotionally remote music of her concert-hall contemporaries—but she seems less interested in austerity than in generous displays of affect, and deftly tucks the clockwork back in between the score's orchestral exuberances.
And what an orchestra! The list of players is a who's who of New York players, assembled under the baton of Edwin Outwater, a conductor whose ear for hip sounds has put his Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony on the map for lovers of new music.
But even apart from these star performers, this recording, simply as a recording, is—thanks to keen production from Snider and percussionist/studio wiz Lawson White, plus additional electronic contributions from Michael Hammond of New Amsterdam's vastly underrated No Lands project—a work of art in its own right.
Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider braves these mystical terrors and takes on the full beauty and vast musical scope of childhood imagination in her latest release, “Unremembered.” The album is a 13-part song cycle, and each piece is its own narrative—a tender memory, a ghostly mystery, or a haunting message. Together, the cycle is a rumination on memory, innocence, imagination, and the strange and subtle horrors of growing up.
Composed for seven voices, chamber orchestra, and electronics, the songs were inspired by the poems and illustrations of writer and artist Nathaniel Bellows, a close friend of Snider. The poems depict poignant memories of Bellows’ own childhood upbringing in rural Massachusetts—tales which in turn triggered memories from Snider’s own childhood, giving shape to her musical settings of the text.
The album was released on New Amsterdam Records, a label Snider co-created with Judd Greenstein and William Brittelle in 2008 to promote classically-trained musicians who create outside the confines of the classical music tradition. The album features vocalists Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond), Padma Newsome (of Clogs), and singer-songwriter DM Stith gliding above the instrumental talents of musicians from contemporary ensembles like ACME, Alarm Will Sound, ICE, The Knights, and Sō Percussion.
A follow-up to Snider’s critically-acclaimed 2010 song cycle, “Penelope,” the new album lives somewhere in the mystical, mythical world between classical and pop genres. Each song is its own vividly colored vignette, a mesmerizing narrative brought to life through Snider’s rich textural and temperamental palette.
“I think that all of my music is narrative driven—that’s what I’m the most interested in musically—mood and storytelling and atmosphere,” Snider said in an interview with Molly Sheridan of NewMusicBox. “I’m fascinated by complex emotions—the places where affection crosses over and merges with dread, or regret merges with gratitude.”
From the ghostly echoes and somber lyricism of “Prelude” to the surreal dark carnival dance of “The Barn,” each piece tells a different tale of childhood; a memory embellished, ornamented, and altered over the years. In a way, Snider also embellishes memories of the classical genre—musically she recalls the strict rules and structures of the classical tradition, but she does so in a way that is blurred, broken, and beautifully contorted. Her collaboration with Worden helped breathe life into this eclectic collection of musical influences.
“Shara [Worden] had become my closest friend and we’d had so many conversations about classical versus pop music, and all of the frustrations that we had dealing with the lack of infrastructure to support music written in the cracks between those worlds,” Snider said in her interview with NewMusicBox. “She also just so comfortably can inhabit both worlds, which is something that so few singers can do, so I felt like I could really let it rip.”
Outside powers have been crashing into the Middle East for more than a century. At first we presumed that people there would not mind, or even that they would welcome us. Ultimately we realized that our interventions were provoking hatred and violent turmoil. We took refuge in another comforting illusion: that no matter how awful the reaction was, it would be confined to the Middle East.
At least since the 9/11 attacks 14 years ago, it has been clear that this is fantasy. Terrorism and mass migration are bitter results of outside meddling in the Middle East. They will intensify.
Interventions multiply our enemies. Every village raid, every drone strike, and every shot fired in anger on foreign soil produces anti-Western passion. Some are shocked when that passion leads to violent reaction. They should not be. The instinct to protect one’s own, and to strike back against attackers, is older than humanity itself.
Horrific terror assaults cannot be justified as any kind of self-defense. Their savagery is inexcusable by all legal, political, and moral standards. But they do not emerge from nowhere. In countries that have been invaded and bombed, some people thirst for bloody revenge.
It was never realistic for the West — the invading world — to imagine that it is an impregnable fortress, or an island, or a planet apart from the regions its armies invade. This is especially true of Europe, which is literally just a long walk from the conflict zone. Now that Russia has joined the list of intervening powers, it too is vulnerable. So is the United States. We are further away and protected by oceans, but in the modern world, that is not enough. Blowback is now global.
Violent intervention always leaves a trail of “collateral damage” in the form of families killed, homes destroyed, and lives wrecked. Usually this is explained as mistaken or unavoidable. That does nothing to reduce the damage — or the anger that survivors pass down through generations.
A new terror attack inside the United States is likely. When it happens, how will Americans respond? If the past is any guide, we will clamor to fight the evil-doers. This will be described not as aggression, but as reaction and forward defense.
A strategy based on invading or bombing might make sense if the number of militants were finite. It is not. Terror groups in the Middle East are attracting recruits faster than they can process them. Killing some creates more, not fewer.
A melange of influences make this distinct and precise album something of its own despite the strange echoes. The chameleon voice transversing cinematically vast different landscapes with guitars, electronic effects, patterns of rock, soul, alt and IDM-and a voice that transcends persons. An impressive debut.
Every once in a while, a debut LP proverbially knocks the little cotton socks clean off your feet. It doesn’t happen very often, and it’s not always a pleasant experience, but in the case of Petite Noir’s 11-track masterpiece; pleasantries would be far from enough. La Ville est Belle / Life is Beautiful is fucking gold in every way, shape, and form.
Listening to the LP for the first time, it’s clear to see that the half-Congolese, half-Angolan, South African-based newcomer (born; Yannick Ilunga) has no problems with confidence – at least not musically. The boldness of what he himself calls ‘Noirwave’ represents a “new African aesthetic” – more of a movement than a sound, which expresses freedom at its very core. Something that self-reportedley influenced Ilunga from an early age.
Captured perfectly by the aptly-titled “Freedom”, the broody synths are juxtaposed expertly with a rapturous African beat that would get even stiffest foot tapping. And these African beats – inspired by the likes of Fela Kuti and Tabu Ley (aka. not white, middle-class ‘African' beats) – act as the pulse of the audacious and eclectic offering. The best of which can be found in the infectious “MDR”, whose familiar "Cos you’re the one that I want/You’re the one that I need" chorus playfully frames the track – and puts a certain Danny and Sandy’s version to shame. Yes – it’s that good.
Yannick Ilunga has positioned himself as the frontman of a new genre: noirwave. This isn’t quite in the same league as Vaporwave, Seapunk, or any other such internet spawned and shaped sound. Instead, Ilunga has trademarked Noirwave to pose himself as peerless. The mixture of South African roots and 80s synth pop certainly is a novel enough mixture, but it’s Ilunga’s own innate talent that truly pushes his persona past his contemporaries.
Ilunga’s Petite Noir project first gained “next big thing” buzz when he released The King of Anxiety EP. Despite the title, Petite Noir sounded fully formed with a brimming, bright confidence to boot. The King of Anxiety wasn’t just a sampler platter of future sounds, it was an excellent release in its own right, filled with beautifully crafted singles like “Chess” and “Shadows”. La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful refuses to reuse most of the work from The King of Anxiety which seems like a foolhardy move on the surface, after all, why wouldn’t you want more people listening to “Shadows”? but Ilunga is full of hooks, riffs, and more rattling percussion than you can shake a stick at. Make no mistake, along with Shamir’s Ratchet, this is one of 2015’s finest pop gems.
Speaking of Shamir, the heavenly voiced Las Vegas native might be one of the few artists in Ilunga’s league. That does come down to an ear for shimmering production, but, more importantly, both of them have two of the most distinct and hypnotizing voices in recent memory. That breaks down into two parts: the first is just their registers. While Shamir has the angelic pipes of a choir boy lost in the clouds, Ilunga’s range is much wider and darker. His natural baritone is on full display throughout La Vie Est Belle, moaning and lurching right along with the rhythms, working with lust and dread in equal amounts. But there are the sudden bursts of light, when Ilunga reveals a stunning vocal range, best shown on lead single “Best” where Ilunga’s cry of “Please just go back home!” is punctuated by booming drums.
What makes La Vie est Belle so vital is Ilunga’s songcraft, his flexibility and ability to push at the bounds of that recognisable framework. From the word go it’s on display: a lightness of touch with atmospheric sounds cultivating the tension-and-release of ‘Intro–Noirwave’, alternately tightening and loosening the screws of the dance-vibes of ‘Down’, the glorious, steadily-build of closer ‘Chess’, that starts like the itchy, subdued R&B of Kwes. and ends up feeling like a gloriously fresh peak-Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party cut.
Alongside this craft, there’s also the connoisseurship of Ilunga’s influences and references points. There are guitars that equally nod to both post-punk revival (‘Just Breathe’) and the South African blues of Philip Tabane (‘Colour’); beats that have the tinny clatter of DJ Mujava (‘Down’) and Congolese soukous syncopations (‘MDR’); a French-language rap here (‘La Vie Est Belle’) or darkly glistening touches of 4AD synth-pop (‘Seventeen’) there; weird clips of conversation and gigantic sing-along choruses. Each of these elements are deployed throughout with both fine-tuned balance and confidently at odds, summed up in the loud-quiet dynamic of ‘Best’: subdued verses on second and great stabs of brass the next.
It’s done with a sleight-of-hand that indicates not only Ilunga’s immense talent, but also that these seemingly disparate forces are simply the tools he has at his disposal. This is 'world music' in that it’s recognisably born of our globalised modern world, the pairing of a ferocious appetite for the new with the ability to do just that within a few mouse clicks: making the world smaller by revealing just how endlessly large it is.
From this situation, Ilunga is free to be inspired by and use everything that precedes and lies ahead of it, and so he thrives in the middle-ground between cohesion and conflict both sonically and thematically. In fact, that idea of synthesis is the common thread throughout. It’s in the gender fluidity of his alias, Petite Noir, a meeting of the grammatically male and female, and the pairing of ideas in the titles of his records - break-out EP The King of Anxiety indicating supremacy over negativity, his debut La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful multi-lingual as a departure lounge. It’s there even his vocals: a sturdy baritone that can soar upwards into an airy falsetto, a range that lends itself expertly to the ‘he said / she said’ of ‘Chess’.
The Peruvian version of the international television game show franchise The Moment of Truth arrived in Lima in mid-2012. By that time, the program had been produced in dozens of countries around the world, including the United States, where it aired on Fox in 2008 and 2009. In Peru, the show was called El Valor de la Verdad (“the value of the truth”), and the format was essentially the same as it had been everywhere else: A contestant is brought into the station and asked a set of questions, some banal, some uncomfortable, some bordering on cruel, all while hooked to a polygraph.
The answers are cataloged. Then, a few days later, the contestant is brought back to go through the questions once more, this time before a studio audience. The answers given are compared to the results of the polygraph, and for each truthful response, the contestant wins money. If she lies — or rather, if the polygraph says she lies — she loses it all. Naturally, the more money at stake, the more compromising the questions become. The contestant has the option of calling it off after each answer.
In Peru, the show’s host was Beto Ortiz, who in a recent national poll was named the country’s most powerful TV journalist. A balding, heavyset man in his mid-40s, Beto has long been one of the more successful and controversial figures in Peru. He is sharp, inquisitive, funny, and has gained millions of fans; the television critic Fernando Vivas, who writes for El Comercio, Peru’s most influential newspaper, described Beto as “a monster on the scene, with all the ambivalence implied by the word ‘monster.’”
When Beto first made the transition from print to television, he was known for his deeply reported stories about the seedier aspects of urban life: street kids, punks, prostitutes. He was unlike anyone else on the air. Today, in Lima, you need only say “Beto,” and everyone knows whom you’re talking about. When asked what it was like being famous, Beto responded: “That’s like asking me what it’s like being fat. I don’t remember what it was like being skinny.”
The Paris attacks should not, however, be seen primarily as acts of revenge from a distinctly twisted crew, even though one of the murderers reportedly shouted, “You killed our brothers in Syria and now we are here.” Instead, they were clearly acts of calculated provocation meant to reshape our world in grim ways. Worse yet, their effectiveness was pre-guaranteed because, as has been true since 9/11, the leaders of such terror groups, starting with Osama bin Laden, have grasped the dynamics of our world, of what makes us tick and especially what provokes us into our own barbarous acts, so much better than our leaders, our militaries, or our national security states have understood them (or, for that matter, themselves).
Here in a nutshell is what bin Laden grasped before 9/11: with modest millions of dollars and a relatively small number of followers, he and his movement couldn’t hope to create the world of their fervid dreams. If, however, he could lure the planet’s “sole superpower” into stepping into his universe, military first, it would change everything and so do his work for him. And indeed (see: invasion of Afghanistan, invasion of Iraq), an operation mounted for an estimated $400,000 to $500,000, using 19 dedicated (mostly Saudi) followers armed only with paper cutters, did just that.
And it’s never stopped since because, just as bin Laden dreamed, Washington helped loose al-Qaeda and its successor outfits from the constraints of a more organized, controlled world. In these last 14 years of failed wars and conflicts of every sort, American military power, aided and abetted by the Saudis, the British, the French, and other countries on a case-by-case basis, essentially fractured the Greater Middle East. It helped create five failed states (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen), worlds in which terror groups could thrive and in the chaos of which they could attract ever more recruits.
Wiping Out the Gray Zones
Think of the Islamic State and various al-Qaeda crews as having developed (to steal a term from commentator John Feffer) “splinterlands” strategies. To continue to grow, they need the U.S. and its allies to lend them an eternally destructive hand to further smash the worlds around them. So in response to the Paris attacks, French President Francois Hollande’s statement that “we will lead a war which will be pitiless” was just what the terror doctor ordered, as was the growing pressure in Washington for a “big military response” to Paris. The first French reprisal air strikes against IS’s Syrian “capital,” Raqqa, were indeed launched within two days.
All of this is like manna from heaven for the Islamic State, the more “pitiless” the better. After all, that group’s goal, as they write in their magazine and online, is “the extinction of the gray zone” in our world. In other words, they seek the sharpening of distinctions everywhere, which means the opening of abysses where complexity and interaction once existed. Their dream is to live in a black-and-white world of utter religious and political clarity (and calamity), while engaging in what American pundits like to term a “clash of civilizations.” And — what a joy for the Islamic State! — Republican presidential candidates are already responding to the Paris attacks, as Marco Rubio did, by calling for just such “a civilizational conflict with radical Islam.” As he put it, “This is not a grievance-based conflict. This is a clash of civilizations… And either they win, or we win.” Jeb Bush similarly responded: “This is an organized effort to destroy Western civilization and we need to lead in this regard.” The answer, of course, is “war.” Various Republican candidates are also now calling for only accepting Syrian Christians as refugees here. You can’t be more black and white than that.
In the European context and with the destruction of those “gray zones” in mind, the Paris attacks should also be considered the Islamic State’s first foray into the politics of the 2017 French presidential campaign. Think of those mass killings as a wholehearted endorsement of the extremist candidate Marine le Pen, whose poll numbers were already on the rise even before the attacks, and her anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant National Front Party. She is now, in effect, IS’s chosen candidate, the one most likely to go after gray zones. In the process, of course, pressure on France’s large, increasingly isolated Muslim population will only increase.
Such attacks are guaranteed to put wind in the already billowing sails of far right-wing parties all across Europe. It should, for instance, have come as no surprise that, in the wake of the Paris attacks, Konrad Szymanski, the European affairs minister for Poland’s new far-right government, almost instantly declared his country unlikely to abide by recently negotiated European Union (EU) quotas on accepting refugees from the Greater Middle East. And we’re only going to see more of this in the post-Paris world. With the assistance of IS and other jihadist groups, the elimination of such gray areas in Europe could, in the end, help crack the EU open, while pushing France’s Muslims into an even worse situation, which would, of course, mean more potential recruits for groups like the Islamic State.
A strange and lovely concoction that blends pastoral grace, rock, and sophisticated compositions that do what many try but fail. Choral vocals that wander through a gauzy lens reminiscent of some of the best 60's rock but its all happening today.
"I’ll take you everywhere I go … I’ll take you everywhere I know," C Duncan sings on Here To There. By the time we get to this track, on the middle of his debut, he has already taken us far, through dreampop, vast choral harmonies, ethereal rock, and shimmering folk meditations, drawing on influences as disparate as Fleet Foxes and Mozart.
The track 'For' is particularly reminiscent of those Seattle harmonizers, but other associations range further afield – Here To There sounds a bit like When In Rome’s The Promise channeled through a boys’ choir chanting in the Aachen Dom, while He Believes in Miracles marries celestial bells and washboard guitars, lush indie-pop vibing on a bossa waltz; this segues into the standout track Garden, a genre-less sporting so delightfully various it flies in the face of all analogy – one might hear Miles Davis joining Miles Kane to reinterpret Last Shadow Puppets songs while Yes and ELO play muzak standards in the unsoundproofed room next door.
Every sound on this album is perfectly placed (one thinks of Davis’ Kind of Blue) down to the last ride cymbal ping on Silence And Air – a positively cathedral arrangement, stunning when you remember that the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland-trained multi-instrumentalist Duncan recorded the entire project in his bedroom studio, building each track layer by layer.
On the second half of the record, the tender Novices occupies an almost fado register, only looking as much forward as back, an elegantly fingerpicked melody and finger-snap/brushes percussion pulsing – but from just behind the beat – yielding to Howard Shore strings. After an incredible sonic journey Duncan leaves us with the folk lullaby I’ll Be Gone By Winter, Dylanesque lyrics and Sting sentiments touched by one or two jazzy Moon River-like chord changes. By the end we easily believe Duncan has taken us everywhere he goes, but we don’t believe for a second that he’s exhausted his potential.
For cynics, Chris Duncan might just be another Bright Eyes wannabe on the surface. If there’s anything his debut LP Architect proves, it’s that he’s anything but another imitator. From the swooning synths of opener Say to the choral flourishes of Silence And Air, Duncan sets himself out as a thoroughly ambitious musician, inspired both by modern pop and his background in classical music. The buoyancy of He Believes In Miracles and For are beautifully balanced by the brooding, almost grungy New Water and the heart-breaking melancholia of As Sleeping Stones. The minimalist, bittersweet closing lullaby I’ll Be Gone By Winter avoids being twee with its curiously dark lyrics. Contender for debut of the year? Definitely.
Chris Duncan is a Scottish composer with an apparent ability to pick up any instrument he chooses. However, rather than using his composing skills to construct Craig Armstrong rip-off soundtracks for sub-par ITV dramas (he got that stage of his career out of the way early on) and fulfil the dream most of his classmates held, C Duncan has taken his considerable talents into the weird and wonderful world of pastoral indie. This is a unique land of whimsy, where the Grizzly Bears, Fleet Foxes and other Wild Beasts of this world roam free from urban constraints, just looking to find that perfect harmony to match the loose leaf Assam waiting back in their respective log cabins.
The aptly named Architect is Duncan's attempt to build his own Iver-esque cabin in the woods by carefully selecting logs from each of his predecessors and binding them all with the ancient magicks of musical theory. The result is like being swaddled in musty autumn leaves by a lumberjack who won't stop humming Chopin. From the emo of opener 'Say', to the bittersweet coda 'I'll Be Gone By Winter', Duncan repeatedly combines church hall harmonies, rustling percussion and multi-tiered instrumentation to create a work that's full of subtlety. The feather-light production of the title track suggests that we might finally have a Scottish equivalent of French dreamscapers Air, something the Union has been unknowingly crying out for since Moon Safari broke down the perceived barriers between the rustic and the synthetic. Considering that Chris Duncan received a classical music diploma from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, it's unusual how few strings are present on the album. Instead layers upon layers of vocal towers, subtle warm synths and isolated whistle tracks substitute for the orchestra that Duncan could very easily have called in.
Time and again Duncan refers to earth, air and water: seeking rejuvenation through the natural world on the wide-eyed 'Garden' and waiting for the benevolent ocean to carry him home on 'New Water'. Duncan's voice is pleasingly androgynous, and repeated listens to 'Novices' aren't convincing me that he's not actually Victoria Legrand from Beach House. His clean-cut falsetto might lack the compelling carnality of Hayden Thorpe from Wild Beasts (whose influence on this album is ubiquitous and completely warranted), or the heft of Dry The River's Peter Liddle, but his choirboy crooning complements the album's focus on the unspoilt innocence of the natural world nicely. The Bagpuss xylophone of 'He Believes In Miracles' threatens to take this too far, sounding uncomfortably like the audition reel for the role of In The Nightgarden's musical director. But if this ends up being the album that parents use to get their toddlers into Nick Drake then I suppose it's mission accomplished.
C Duncan's merging of introspective dreampop with outward-gazing pastoral indie could have easily been a pile of twee claptrap, and there are times it sails pretty close to the rocks. But instead the composer with the Radio 6Music soul has constructed something elegant, thought-provoking and comforting that will genuinely make you wish it was October.
A trip back in time to the sanctified funk of the 80's, Atterton's a time traveller and seeks his past with beats and synths galore. An overlooked gem that truly mixes the old with new and impeccable bass work.
Sven Atterton’s latest release, The Cove, is a work of synth-funk genius that embodies the spirit of the Minneapolis Sound revolution that combined funk, rock, pop, synthpop, and other genres.
As someone who spent a good chunk of my life in Minneapolis, Minnesota — birthplace of the synth-funk offerings of Prince, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis, among many others — I feel I’m able to grant honorary titles of Minneapolitanism to folks like Essex, England-based Atterton.
When we’re in The Cove, we’re part of something important, and are somewhere in a world in which that Minneapolis Sound is combined with the Miami one. We’re awash in contemplative analog synthesizer pads, funky guitar licks, and indecisive bass lines that arouse Sonny Crockett, excite Prince, and make the midnight wine-sippers on a nearby beach feel “of this world.” The drum parts are straight out of Phil Collins and Paisley Park. It’s a “Sussudio” in “Ice Cream Castles.”
Atterton, an expert bassist, rides the Roland Juno and Yamaha DX21 synthesizers as adeptly as he does his Stingray bass guitar. Layering that atop a kinetic TR-707 drum machine, Atterton crafts a smart and saucy retrosynth that’s just as at home seducing a shoulder-padded Mrs. Robinson as it is her daughter down at the dark, red-lighted club which her mother forbade her to visit. Things are just better there. Cooler. Happier. More productive. People are dressed better and deal with things better than others do or can. This is where you and I want to be right now, or tomorrow, or yesterday.
Could you summarise your musical history?
It took me a while to fully commit my life to music studies. Ive always played around on different instruments since a young age but it wasn’t until half way through my second year of GNVQ Art and Media studies I realised I wanted music to take a bigger role in my life. I studied at Colchester Institute for another two years before enrolling at Berklee College of music in Boston.
The Cove was your first album and came out in March – were the songs therein a long time in the making?
The tracks on ‘The Cove’ are a mixture of songs I had been trying to develop, some of which range back two years or more, but others were written relatively soon before the album was released, as late as five months or so.
Inter-dimensional’ is a not-inappropriate adjective in the Cove press release – what sorts of images go through your head when making this music?
The types of images going through my head when making this music are often places I have visited. I’m lucky enough to have lived in California, albeit for a short while. Whilst there I couldn’t help but be inspired by its beautiful palm littered coastline and rolling hills. One may not expect it, but Scotland also has some beautiful coastline, in particular where my parents moved to in the south west. On a summer’s day you could kid yourself that you were in a completely different country.
How does the taste for vintage equipment translate to the stage?
As for vintage equipment on stage, as much as I would like to recreate the same set up I use in my studio, it’s just not feasible at the moment. I do use my Yamaha DX21 for lead synth sounds running through a guitar effects processor. Everything else is printed down and essentially DJ’ed live. One day I hope to have a live set up that is basically the same as my studio rig, drum machines and sequencers triggering the Juno 6 and Moog Voyager.
What was special about 1983 – 1984?
Personally one of the special things about the 83-84 period was the way technology was influencing musicians. The use of sequencers and drum machines meant that people could program consistent beats and bass lines that did not fluctuate in time, but this also meant any live playing had to be very locked into the tempo. The rhythm sections for productions became super tight and I admire the bands that mixed the live playing with sequenced parts, live synth playing and sample triggering. David Frank from The System is someone I’m always inspired by.
LM I was thinking about this rigid idea of “pure” fiction. I’m interested in your particular position on this, perhaps because in the US this separation between fiction and nonfiction is under discussion quite a bit. There’s a sort of strange purism. I wonder if the interest that your work generates here comes precisely from this subversion. The review of Dublinesque in the New Yorker says that you hide false biographies in your work, but that behind these false biographies there is also the writer Enrique Vila-Matas. That uncomfortable zone is fascinating.
EVM Well, what I write is really pure fiction. The least interesting fiction for me is the kind that is based upon documentation. In Spanish literature what most interests me is the world constructed by Juan Marsé. People say that Marsé deals with the Spanish postwar years, that he always sets his work in the same neighborhood and always tells the same story. Yet that’s not true at all. There’s been a huge intellectual evolution in his work. The neighborhood is a complete invention—even though the actual neighborhood exists (I lived there for 30 years), his is an entirely mental construction. He’s such a slow writer because his novels are the work of a silversmith in search of a “fictional” fiction: without the aid of any document other than that of memory, which is always . . .
LM A false memory?
EVM Yes, and it is also the antithesis of the authors who work from journalistic data, who say they write from real events. Surely they think it will bring them more readers and maybe they aren’t mistaken. . . . Now that I think about it, whenever I finish a novel the questions from journalists tend to revolve around whether what I wrote actually happened to me or not.
LM That’s annoying?
EVM Yes, I’d almost give up writing so as not to have to answer the question. (laughter) So what if it happened in real life?
LM But your work provokes the question because you use the real names of authors with whom we are all familiar.
EVM Yes, it’s the trick that Sebald used, too, although through the use of photographs. Sebald fascinated me for his blend of essay and fiction. I had already seen it in Claudio Magris’s Danubio, but Sebald fascinated me even more, with his incredible closeness to Nietzsche’s prose, meaning it didn’t belong to any genre at all, except total melancholy—the idea that we don’t belong to this world. What was your question again?
LM We were talking about false biographies and your use of self-fictionalization.
EVM Yes, in my writing fake names and the names of real writers work much like the photographs in Sebald’s books. Nowadays, it’s harder to make a story seem realistic, and Sebald took a step toward the construction of verisimilitude through the use of photographs. They have a reality effect, so people believe that what he is narrating really happened. Giving my characters the names of real people accomplishes this sometimes. It gives fiction an air of reality so that readers can believe what they are reading, since it sounds like I’m telling the truth.
On the one hand: writer of the quotidian absurd, ferocious caricaturist of morality; narrator of esperpentos, excremental deliria, and conjugal intrigues. But also: indefatigable memoirist, author of an autobiography in fragments that is a grand travelogue; typologist of cultural life and a portraitist capable of recalling conversations from a dinner 30 years after it occurred. Additionally: critic of authors and traditions scarcely imagined by their national contemporaries; archaeologist to whom can be attributed without doubt the rediscovery of an overlooked region of the canon that today is indispensable. To which must be added: translator of a universal library that in itself is a complete literary education for anyone (a library with open windows, classics that breathe the air of a living language).
Sergio Pitol (1933) is all of the above; he is, I believe, a total writer. And by writer I do not mean one of those intellectuals who flirt with power (“The difference between who I am now and who I was then is defined by my passion for reading and my aversion for any manifestation of power,” he declares in The Art of Flight), nor a multipurpose lecturer: in Mexico we tend to laud with the uppercase W of “Writer” anyone who, in addition to publishing occasionally, anoints candidates in popular election. Pitol is a writer of another kind: his importance lies on the page, in the creation of his own world, in his ability to shed light on the world.
The first book by Pitol that I read marked, in a very profound way, my own literary endeavors: Domar a la divina garza [Taming the Divine Heron], 1988. The irksome monologue of the attorney Dante C. de la Estrella on the loathsome Marietta Karapetiz revealed for me, during my adolescence, that a brilliant novel in which all the characters were insufferable was possible. That lesson, along with the eschatological feast that the book includes, are reading experiences that remain forever with me. Dante de la Estrella’s voice is unforgettable: the hyperbole of folly and pedantry, a ridiculous hymn sung in a house in Tepoztlán during a rainstorm. As I reread that book, it surprises me that I have forgotten, since reading it for the first time, one brilliant detail: the first chapter of the novel, in which the narrator declares his intentions and explains in general terms the material from which he built the voice of De la Estrella (revealing, for example, the origin of the character’s fascination for Gogol).
Suddenly, during a pause in his monologue, Federico Pérez cautioned me not to become too lost in circumlocution. I should lay everything on the line, he said. I replied that I had already done that the very day I made the appointment by phone. I was trusting that his treatment by hypnosis, about which I had heard great things, would help me give up smoking. If I had gone into too many details at the beginning of my explanation, it was to clarify what my relationship with tobacco was and had been. I do not remember his exact words, but he did allude to the evasiveness and circumlocutions in my speech. He added that he thought it was a manifestation of insecurity, a defense mechanism behind which I was hiding. I do not know if the doctor’s intervention, his interruption and description of the structure of the story, which unbeknownst to me had become unnecessarily and painfully labyrinthine, was part of the treatment, an attempt to stimulate a particular reaction, the beginning of subjugation. I defended myself with literary arguments. I took refuge in the fact that my writing was fundamentally built on those devices. That is its visible expression. I feel incapable of describing any action, no matter how simple, in a direct way. I said that other writers were able to do that, which did not mean I was less competent than they. In my case, plain and naked exposition, without flourishes, without detours, without echoes or shadows, fatally diminishes the efficiency of the story, converts it into a mere anecdote; a vulgarity, when all is said and done. From the very beginning, what I had always done was scatter a series of points onto the blank page as if they had fallen there by chance, with no visible relationship between them; until one suddenly began to spread out, expand, sprout tentacles in search of others, and then the others would follow its example: the points would become lines running across the page to find their sisters, either to subordinate or serve them, until that initial group of solitary points morphed into an increasingly complex and intricate character, with gaps, creases, ironies, blurrings, and glaring darkness. That was my writing or, at least, the ideal of my writing. I could have added, but I restrained myself, that my exposition could be the reflection of a specific way of conceiving literature, or rather, that the apparent loss of direction in language had created in me a second nature from which I could not escape. To the extent that I did not know how to talk about anything, not even the weather, without detours, and that, in itself, had nothing to do with personal insecurity, as it is usually understood, but rather with a lack of confidence, abstract, of course, in the possibility of communication and persuasion in the ontological loneliness of being. The narrator who, as a rule, appears in my novels rehearses several starting points in the pursuit of a truth, a revelation, and in the effort will lose his way a thousand times, stumble constantly, and will maintain the pace with great difficulty between suffering hallucinations and sleepwalking, only in the end to declare himself defeated. He will come to know that absolutes do not exist, that there is no truth that is not conjectural, relative, and, therefore, vulnerable. But searching for it, no matter how ephemeral, partial, and inconstant it may be, will always be his objective. The narrator might be Sisyphus and Icarus at the same time. His only certainty is that along the way he might have touched a few strands in a marvelous and deplorable tapestry, obscured sometimes by ominous stains or by a sudden and immediate iridescence that, upon seeing it, gives meaning to his efforts.
Vallejo Nocturno 2015 - Maquinas de entretenimiento
Colmarse con lo no esperado
Colmarse con lo no esperado —espejismos de
buenaventura y celajes al alcance de la mano.
Porciones de sueño para mitigar avernos (1986)
NN yesterday suspended its global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, for two weeks for the crime of posting a tweet critical of the House vote to ban Syrian refugees. Whether by compulsion or choice, she then groveled in apology. This is the original tweet along with her subsequent expression of repentance:
Everyone, It was wrong of me to editorialize. My tweet was inappropriate and disrespectful. I sincerely apologize.
This all happened after The Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple complained that her original tweet showed “bias.” The claim that CNN journalists must be “objective” and are not permitted to express opinions is an absolute joke. CNN journalists constantly express opinions without being sanctioned.
Labott’s crime wasn’t that she expressed an opinion. It’s that she expressed the wrong opinion: after Paris, defending Muslims, even refugees, is strictly forbidden. I’ve spoken with friends who work at every cable network and they say the post-Paris climate is indescribably repressive in terms of what they can say and who they can put on air. When it comes to the Paris attacks, CNN has basically become state TV (to see just how subservient CNN is about everything relating to terrorism, watch this unbelievable “interview” of ex-CIA chief Jim Woolsey by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin; or consider that neither CNN nor MSNBC has put a single person on air to dispute the CIA’s blatant falsehoods about Paris despite how many journalists have documented those falsehoods).
Labott’s punishment comes just five days after two CNN anchors spent 6 straight minutes lecturing French Muslim civil rights activist Yasser Louati that he and all other French Muslims bear “responsibility” for the attack (the anchors weren’t suspended for expressing those repulsive opinions). The suspension comes just four days after CNN’s Jim Acosta stood up in an Obama press conference and demanded: “I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world. … I guess the question is — and if you’ll forgive the language — is why can’t we take out these bastards?” (he wasn’t suspended). It comes five days after CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour mauled Obama on-air for not being more militaristic about ISIS (she wasn’t suspended); throughout 2013, Amanpour vehemently argued all over CNN for U.S. intervention in Syria (she wasn’t suspended).
Labott’s suspension also comes less than a year after Don Lemon demanded that Muslim human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar state whether he supports ISIS (he wasn’t suspended); in 2010, Lemon strongly insinuated that all Muslims were responsible for the 9/11 attack when he defended opposition to an Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan (he wasn’t suspended). During the Occupy Wall Street protests, CNN host Erin Burnett continuously mocked the protesters while defending Wall Street (she wasn’t suspended) and also engaged in rank fear-mongering over Iran (she wasn’t suspended). I could literally spend the rest of the day pointing to opinions expressed by CNN journalists for which they were not suspended or punished in any way.
By very stark contrast, career CNN producer Octavia Nasr was instantly fired in 2010 after 20 years with the network for the crime of tweeting a positive sentiment for a beloved Shia imam who had just died, after neocons complained that he was a Hezbollah sympathizer. Earlier this year, Jim Clancy was forced to “resign” after 30 years with CNN for tweeting inflammatory criticisms of Israel. As I’ve pointed out over and over, “journalistic objectivity” is a sham for so many reasons, beginning with the fact that all reporting is suffuse with subjective perspectives. “Objectivity” does not ban opinions; it just bans opinions that are particularly disfavored among those who wield the greatest power (obviously, no CNN journalist would be punished for advocating military action against ISIS, for instance).
It wasn’t just one of the attackers who vanished after the Paris massacre. Three nations whose history, action–and inaction–help to explain the slaughter by Isis have largely escaped attention in the near-hysterical response to the crimes against humanity in Paris: Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The French-Algerian identity of one of the attackers demonstrates how France’s savage 1956-62 war in Algeria continues to infect today’s atrocities. The absolute refusal to contemplate Saudi Arabia’s role as a purveyor of the most extreme Wahabi-Sunni form of Islam, in which Isis believes, shows how our leaders still decline to recognise the links between the kingdom and the organisation which struck Paris. And our total unwillingness to accept that the only regular military force in constant combat with Isis is the Syrian army – which fights for the regime that France also wants to destroy – means we cannot liaise with the ruthless soldiers who are in action against Isis even more ferociously than the Kurds.
Whenever the West is attacked and our innocents are killed, we usually wipe the memory bank. Thus, when reporters told us that the 129 dead in Paris represented the worst atrocity in France since the Second World War, they failed to mention the 1961 Paris massacre of up to 200 Algerians participating in an illegal march against France’s savage colonial war in Algeria. Most were murdered by the French police, many were tortured in the Palais des Sports and their bodies thrown into the Seine. The French only admit 40 dead. The police officer in charge was Maurice Papon, who worked for Petain’s collaborationist Vichy police in the Second World War, deporting more than a thousand Jews to their deaths.
Omar Ismail Mostafai, one of the suicide killers in Paris, was of Algerian origin – and so, too, may be other named suspects. Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who murdered the Charlie Hebdo journalists, were also of Algerian parentage. They came from the five million-plus Algerian community in France, for many of whom the Algerian war never ended, and who live today in the slums of Saint-Denis and other Algerian banlieues of Paris. Yet the origin of the 13 November killers – and the history of the nation from which their parents came – has been largely deleted from the narrative of Friday’s horrific events. A Syrian passport with a Greek stamp is more exciting, for obvious reasons.
A colonial war 50 years ago is no justification for mass murder, but it provides a context without which any explanation of why France is now a target makes little sense. So, too, the Saudi Sunni-Wahabi faith, which is a foundation of the “Islamic Caliphate” and its cult-like killers. Mohammed ibn Abdel al-Wahab was the purist cleric and philosopher whose ruthless desire to expunge the Shia and other infidels from the Middle East led to 18th-century massacres in which the original al-Saud dynasty was deeply involved.