If the music of MA (or M.A., or M., or Ma, or Michael) Turner didn’t exist, it would be up to you to create it. In this world, there is no god but you. You’d set up the four-track, plug in the guitar and synths, check the mic, and start your mission. You’d lay down the two-chord progression, making sure to keep that half beat of latency between the melodic voices. You’d sing something. You’d let “verse” and “chorus” and “that one part” blur into an ur song structure that twists back into itself between brief vocal interludes. “Living, living.” You’d rewind and play back your creation.
But MA Turner it would and could not be. The journeyman multi-instrumentalist’s outsider synth/folk/pop experimentation, composed through near randomized processes of improvisation, automatic writing, and blind editing/mixing, possesses that fearless “who knows, man?” lackadaisicality only earned through years (decades) of doing exactly what one wants, all the time — hatching bonkers conceits and executing them without hesitation. Call this one “sloppy” and I don’t think the man would disagree with you. He took your conventional standards of quality and threw them over the fence behind the shed past the treeline. Call it “unfettered DIY expression” and an eyebrow or four might raise, but I reckon you wouldn’t be wrong. Call it whatever you please, and Turner will continue living.
Three Legged Racer / Hair Policeman / album art and general A/V deity Robert Beatty put together the visuals for Turner’s “Living,” in association with Lexington, KY gallery Institute 193. Beatty’s grainy analog aesthetic carries the spiritual torch of his frequent collaborator, the datamosh pioneer Takeshi Murata — but while Murata achieves surreal states of transcendence by way of abstraction and disfiguration, Beatty grounds his relatively undistorted imagery right up in our grills for all to contend with: two separate halves of Turner’s face, sourced from discrete takes, ducking and weaving apart and together, swelling around a frame occupied by what seems to be a video of an unrelated guitar performance. “Unrelated” in the sense that the chords fretted and the notes played are not quite what we hear, but still, quite “related” by way of that mysterious DGAF energy in Turner’s work that binds and hypnotizes us before we realize what’s happened.
Turner’s new LP, entitled ZOZ, was compiled from a sprawling, ornately packaged twelve cassette collection of his music originally on display at Institute 193. You can order the LP from Sophomore Lounge now.
Turner is on tour this July with John Phillip Farmer Duo and Nathaniel Bowles.