(Sandy) Alex G House of Sugar

[Domino; 2019]

Styles: rock, housewarming
Others: Elliott Smith, Neil Young, Frank Ocean

What if time looks less like an arrow than a house of sugar? Then there will be voices: flensed tenor, ramshackle falsetto, reedy autotune, bad man, he, I, Eddie, Lena, Hansel, Gretel, you, good people who got something to lose.

In House of Sugar, the varnished mask of the name loosens, and voices tumble out in the pauses of its slackening. Alex Giannascoli is a name, a prospective signature and license — but not in the house of sugar, not today. Not so fast, not today, but someday — before (or after) the harmony of those voices consolidates into the privative sheen of the name. The house of sugar, nestled ‘neath the southern-tangerine-red sky alights onto Hope street: landmarks, graveyards, nameable clarities and prying limpidities that adjoin at the intersection of the anecdotal and the figurative. Folklores, personal and communal, map onto real shit, bittersweet shit.

Just like sugar, I dissolve in the fluidities housed here. The glib literal has no say, no authority, no solidity, except as an anagram of the other voices in the amalgam. The SugarHouse is calling my bluff. And it is loud in here, loud with citation. Memory runs backwards, but I’m leaving here tomorrow. It’s calling me back, but I don’t want to go back. Prolix acquiescence: everyone heretofore has been under this sky, everyone hereafter will be under this sky. Good people, too.

Which is all to say: this dissolution is no alibi for forgetting. In this admixture, we are bound here to an echo, the brevity of the granular a testimony to the volubility of its history. In his recent interview with Giannascoli, FADER writer Patrick McDermott reveals that the SugarHouse Casino — the protean protagonist, setting, tension, and eponym of House of Sugar — occupies the site at which the Jack Frost Sugar Refinery once stood. The political economy of sugar as concept, commodity, and object implies entanglement; the addictiveness of the roll of the dice at the SugarHouse transmutes the sweetness produced by its namesake, a sweetness indebted to the backbreaking labor, incalculable theft, and exacted dispossession of those conscripted and exploited to extract it.

Sugar, in other words, crystallizes the intimacies and injustices that buttress convenient abstractions like a layered cake. Lisa Lowe instructs us that “the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sugar industry brought together settler colonialism in the Americas, the African slave trade and slave plantations, and imported Asian labor, producing the wealth for the West Indian plantocracy, and for the colonial mercantile powers.” A house of sugar, then, is not punctual but untimely, caked with exchanges and occlusions and withholdings of lives, mired in a certain viscosity. The viscosity, maybe, of sugar.

The music recorded and released under the alias of (Sandy) Alex G isn’t saccharine, but is sugary. The strums and grumbles are sticky, congealing at once into the prick of a needle in the hay, the glint of a harvest moon, the muffled roar of the 61 highway. The house of sugar thickens the would-be solo into a concinnity, the voices of Elliott Smith, Neil Young, Mississippi Fred McDowell, among all the others resounding through repurposed memories, whispered rumors, vacated rooms. In House of Sugar, Alex Giannascoli relinquishes the ownership in authorship, providing a venue for those voices that regale him to decompress, elongate, saunter.

It is roomy in House of Sugar, where possession recedes into usufruct. Usufruct, from the Latin stems usus (use) and fructus (fruit), designates the rights to use and enjoy the fruits of a property. (Sandy) Alex G’s house of sugar opens up a kind of commons where the sugars of fruits pass from hands to lips, from tongues to ears — where labors, licks, lullabies lilt and loll and linger. We could lie down. Every once in a while.

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