“Live at The Other Cinema”
So, I get this email out of nowhere one day earlier this month, and it’s from John, the fellah at the label Holy Mountain. He presented me with this new album by Henry Plotnick called Fields, which came out July 9 (so I’m late to the game — EEK!), and gave me a mini rundown of the music and the musician’s background. Now, John requested not to make a big deal about it, but Henry Plotnick is 11 years old, and I just can’t help to not make a big deal about raw talent. I don’t mean raw in an improvisational or gritty way, but raw as in natural and new. It’s so interesting to see such fresh youth tearing down what adults practice hours and hours to achieve. The kid has jest and gumption and zest, and it’s noticeable in the music. It doesn’t sound crayoned or angsty, voice crackled or fashionable. It sounds pleasant and patient, with hints of “All that yes, Ima pour a warm bath and take a nap.” Which seems like an interesting pride in modern parenting.
So, sorry, John. I had to be a booger about Henry’s age. But Henry, you got people going “WOO!” and it ain’t ‘cause the music is racy or egoing out; it’s ‘cause you got that inborn ability to patiently compose. Good enough to bounce a double LP out on Holy Mountain? Yes.
“미행 (그림자 : Shadow)”
South Korean girl group f(x), formed in 2009 as a mathematic derivation of CEO Lee Soo-Man’s cultural technology concept, have just dropped their solid Pink Tape album. “미행 (그림자 : Shadow)” is an eccentric highlight, mixing a jazzy discord of flats and raised sevenths with what sounds like fairies getting fumigated. Vocalists Krystal and Sulli begin by trading the lines, “Every day I secretly chase your footsteps/ I’m always careful, so you won’t notice/ No one knows it, but our date has started, our own date.” Wry stuff for teen pop.
The tune has already caught the fancy of Busan-based producer and sasaeng fan Reynah, who’s uploaded a music box arrangement that emphasizes the composition’s strange beauty.
“Go to Jail”
Listening to — or at least attempting to listen to — “Go to Jail,” I can’t help but find my thoughts circling back to Rowan Savage’s review of Farrah Abraham’s disasterpiece, My Teenage Dream Ended. In that write-up, Savage challenged us to get off our high horses and peer down into Abraham’s hurricane of diapers and despair, and see it for what it really was: “a reflection and magnification of the typical issues of the teen Self,” percolated through pure, unadulterated suffering. That the album, to quote Savage, “now encompasses the world, magnified — and in that magnification, reveals the seams” doesn’t make the album any easier to handle — I swear I can feel my neurons sizzling when I listen to this thing — but it certainly lends it credence. After all, to put it in the terms of my middle-school journal: the world is an ugly place.
Like Ms. Abraham’s magnum opus, “Go To Jail” is painful to listen to. Auto-Tune-drenched and more indecipherable than the hieroglyphics from Lost, Keef’s lean-addled mumbles appear incapable of staying in time with the song’s bare-bones trap beat. He’s had no problem spitting over these types of beats for the past two years, but now, it seems that the Chicago rapper would rather let loose pitch-shifting wails and rhythmic grunts. And yet, terrible as the track may be on a superficial level, it’s still writhing with the same level of anguish that made MTDE such an unexpected stroke of genius. Just as Abraham used her franken-pop as a spastic sounding board by which to process the stresses of love, loss, and unplanned parenthood, Keef has constructed “Go To Jail” as a puzzling bit of stream-of-consciousness therapy. After spending 60 days in prison, the 17-year old is clinging to his freedom more stringently than ever, even if it means giving up on the thuggery of his earlier days: “Don’t touch my pistol/ Cuz I don’t wanna have to blow/ Cuz I don’t wanna have to go to jail.” Of course, with a canvas this muddled, the interpretations are endless: thug poseur critique, post-rap experiment, paranoid rant, or maybe just a sub-par rap song. But I’ll leave the sentencing to you.
• Chief Keef: http://www.chiefkeef.com
• 1017 Brick Squad: https://www.facebook.com/pages/1017-Brick-Squad/110722132272401
“Become Solid” all day long. Breathe in the song’s melodies and gently stretch your lungs. Find yourself found in the center of melt. Waste away into the grains of time falling from glass to glass to glass. Easy now. Light in and light out. Lunch, maybe. Crisp in beer. Water on tap. It can give you breast and brain cancer. Looking up. With a yellow face washed in death. Witnessing the cloth covering matter to matter. Matter of straining and sighing and letting all your blood flow — no — TIDE toward your mind, and you see nothing but darkness. Your eyes swelling in darkness. Repeat this verbally, now. As best as you can.
There you “Become Solid.” In a matter of keeping it together. Keeping it together. Fuck. Manic. Fear. Paranoia. Oh,,,, shit all this all day: “Become Solid.” Stiffening sorrow. To stone from once you came, ghasts the gaze of Medusa upon the mortal being bread gone moldy. It’s the last thing you have to live off. It’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. It’s upon the two punctured dots sunk into your leg, dragging a trail of void. Red. This is not your home anymore. It slithers away. To “Become Solid.” To keep it together. To Russian Tsarlag for the tears. Don’t get wet, but 100 times more, yes. Or, forever, please.
When looking at the history of notated composition, one can ultimately sum up the basic role of musical notation as conveying how to set a sound-producing action of some sort into motion. In classical terms, this can be seen through how various dynamics and articulations, in conjunction with given notes, force performers into motion with their instruments. Of course, in the 20th century and onward, this realization/reduction of the “score” led to its manipulation, and everything from graphic notation to text scores and process music developed out of a desire to play with these ideas of action and sound.
However, one particular facet of this notational aesthetic that hasn’t yet been explored enough is the potential for all things visual/literary to be interpreted as a score. Technically, almost anything could turn into a musical score when certain parameters are applied to it, and with his latest cassette, Reading Illuminations/ A Book of Palms, Mark So showcases two of his compositions that do just that.
“Reading Illuminations” takes Robert Ashley’s notion of text/speech being a form of music in and of itself and carries it to a completely new level. The piece utilizes John Ashbery’s translation of Rimbaud’s “Illuminations” as a score of sorts, combining cassette recordings of So and the always awesome Julia Holter reading the text with brief field recording snippets into a dizzying tapestry of monolithic lo-fi sound. The constant flickering of the tapes turning on and off is reminiscent of So’s Wind Measures release with Patrick Farmer, but the motion’s far more active this time around. And with Ashbery/Rimbaud’s text being used to determine duration in both reading and sound production, the work takes on an effect similar to that of Ashley’s operas.
Also on the cassette is the mesmerizing “A Book of Palms,” which uses drawings of palm trees on graph paper with note-heads as the basis for what turns out to be a very beautiful solo piano work. When taken together, the two compositions show that, despite the highly conceptual methods used to create these works, So still excels at creating beautifully spare music.
Reading Illuminations/A Book of Palms is out now via Recondite Industries. You can stream “Reading Illuminations” in its entirety below: