Monday, April 30, 2007

Ah, back to some vinyl for the first time in a while. Does everyone know who the Blue Notes were? You wonder sometime. They never made a large impression in the US, I don't think, you didn't hear them namechecked by the same generation of jazz musicians here with likely exceptions such as Don Cherry. A sextet of South African emigres (originally including tenorist Nick Moyake) escaping apartheid, fleeing to England in the mid 60s, they combined South African highlife and other forms with European free jazz, a somewhat more extreme version of the path chosen by Abdullah Ibrahim. Of the foursome on this date, only one, Moholo, is still alive. The great, great trumpeter Mongezi Feza was already dead as of this 1977 performance.

Pukwana was an amazing player; anyone who never got around to hearing him should try and do so; think a stronger version of Arthur Blythe and you come close. I first heard him in that record shop in Poughkeepsie, walking in one day to hear the wildest, most fantastic music emanating from the house system, only to find out it was his "In the Townships" album on Caroline. More on that one when we get there. He had a rare combination of acidity and joyousness in his playing, ebullient but very bittersweet. As with four other Blue Notes, he died absurdly young.

Moholo would, the following year, put together an astonishing midsize band recording, "Spirits Rejoice!" (which was finally issued on disc a couple years back--get it!) though what I've heard from him since then has been fairly routine. McGregor led the pretty well known and regarded large ensemble, The Brotherhood of Breath which, at least on record, I found somewhat inconsistent.

But Dyani. Damn. I'll write more about him, I'm sure, when I get to his batch of records (plus his extraordinarily beautiful album with Abdullah Ibrahim, "Good News from Africa") but what a bassist, what sound and imagination.

This recording sits more on the free jazz side of the fence than the overtly South African-influenced one and I have to say, I generally prefer the latter setting with these guys than the former. Still, it's a rollicking good show if more solo-driven than something like "In the Townships". When they do return to their African basis as at the end of Side One, the effect remains magical.

After Dyani's death in 1986, the remaining trio recorded "Blue Notes for Dyani" the following year (no title image available as best I could search). It's a good record, balancing the jazz and the African to a fair degree, including some fine Dyani compositions. (Dyani's recordings under his own name for Steeplechase in the early part of the decade, especially "Witchdoctor's Son" featuring John Tchicai, are well worthing checking out.) Some really nice playing from McGregor on pieces like the traditional "Ntyilo Ntyilo".

He and Pukwana would die within about a month of each other in 1990. Moholo still plays, performing at the Vision Festival last year (I didn't catch it).

To these ears, Feza, Pukwana and Dyani rank among the best in jazz on their instruments over the last 40 or so years. A shame they remain so little known.
You get weird responses to reviews sometimes. You expect to receive "you liked it, I thought it sucked" responses or the reverse as well as replies that add to the information, dispute it, what have you. You even anticipate hearing from those who are convinced you have an evil agenda, are part of a cabal determined to topple all they consider holy and good in favor of the execrable crap you like.

But sometimes I have no clue what people are going on about, why they bothered to set fingertips to keyboards. I posted a write-up of the Tilbury/Beckett disc at Bags the other day, one that I greatly enjoy. Walter Horn, who I know pretty well and who, in fact, was really the first person to convince me to write about this stuff in more than a poster capacity way back when, threw in a sarcastic line (reprinted in its entirety):

I didn't know that, in addition to reviews of movies, comic books and chocolate bars, I could also find reviews of radio plays and suchlike here at bags. Sweet. There's like nothing at all we bags guys don't know, is there?

I've no idea what to make of that. I assume he objects to the fact that I reviewed a radio play. Now, had he asked about my background knowledge in such, something I in fact alluded to in the body of the review (that is to say, not so much), fine. Were someone to post, "I've heard a dozen renditions of 'Cascando' and you might want to hear X, Y and Z before you assign such high marks to Tilbury because, in that context, he ain't no hot stuff!" again, fine. But posts like the above come across as snippy and crabby, nothing more. I happen to know that Walt, in many areas, knows his stuff very well so the remark is all the more baffling.

Then, one "A Chair" (yes, I love it when people don't have the balls to use their real names) chimes in with:

Consider that this is a Matchless recording featuring John Tilbury. Now that you mention it, if any of those guys came up with their own chocolate bars or comic books, that would be hilarious.

The second sentence is merely silly but what to make of sentence number 1? The best I can do--it would be wonderful if people were actually explicit, no?--is that it's a contention that anything on Matchless with Tilbury automatically generates a rave. Well, no. I forget if I wrote it up or not, but the first duo with Eddie Prevost (pre AMM break-up) certainly wouldn't have gotten one from me. True, there's nary a pianist I'd rather hear than Tilbury so he's more likely than not to get a positive response, but he's been involved in several things over the last few years that have left me cold, including that piano trio on Emanem especially. And, for what it's worth, the Beckett recording was something I purchased, under no obligation to review. I only did so because I thought it was very special.

Not to carp so much, it's just that the level of discourse gets a little dispiriting at times.

New arrival:

Sabine Vogel/Magda Mayas/Michael Renkel - phono phono (absinth)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I'd posted this at Jazz Corner yesterday but for those who don't trawl those waters:

At Record Club, Nina brought some pashmak, a gift from her Iranian boyfriend's mom. Pashmak (pictured above and also known as, seriously, Persian Fairy Floss) is essentially cotton candy, spun sugar flavored with almond or vanilla extract except with a very fine, silky texture. It comes densely packed in a cake about the size of a loaf of rye bread. It has the interesting property of greatly expanding once released from its confines. I'm not sure if it ever stops. It filled a large bowl on Sunday and after we'd each helped ourselves to a few handfuls there was more there than before. But that's not its most salient feature, especially to me.

Pashmak looks and feels exactly like my faithful hound Nanook's fur. I mean to a t. (crosswordese sidetrack--I hate when "to a t" is a four-letter answer to a clue such as, "Exactly". Inevitably, no matter how often I encounter it, I sit there for a second going, "What the hell's a toat?") So I took a small but exapanding bagful home, got it into the pantry without Linda's knowledge and planned.

On Tuesday, the stage was set. I had gone down to the pantry with a Baggie, filling it with a handful of pashmak and putting it my pants pocket for easy access. Ate dinner with Linda. When she finished her main meal, she got up and went to the kitchen to get a mango. Nanook, ever mindful of the possibility of a food handout, tagged along, standing patiently behind her as she prepared her fruit. I ambled over, having discreetly palmed a hank of pashmak. "Did you ever taste Nookie's fur?" I asked. Linda, distracted while slicing the mango, goes, "What?" and half-turns around. "Nookie's fur," I say, "It's really good." I reach down, pull an apparent tuft and munch.

Linda gives me a priceless look. "What the hell's wrong with you?! What are you doing?!" She seriously thought I'd lost it, both my eating the fur and pulling it off Nanook in the first place. I actually managed to keep a straight face for about 15 seconds....Excellent.


Enjoying the Eco very much some 100 pages in.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Gentle, tuneful Record Club last evening. Several times, I've brought 'between' intending to play the sunspot piece but one thing you tend to do in these situations--appropriately--is to try and somehow fit your piece into whatever stream happens to develop. Now, if you only bring two, there's no option and usually that's what I do. But when one or both of the pieces I want most to play is fairly....extreme, I generally bring alternates.

Last night, I led off Round 1 and played Beefheart's "Nowadays a Woman's Gotta Hit a Man" from "Clear Spot", a guaranteed hit, what with that great shuffle beat, the funky horn section, etc. Fantastic piece, glad to have rediscovered it. Julia played a very fun, wacky piece by a band called Young Knives, my favorite of the set, but things were fairly smooth otherwise. Had I led off round 2, Rowe/Nakamura would've gone on, no question, but I ended up in the fifth slot, following another fun, strange number courtesy Nina by a duo from Lawrence, Kansas called Drakkar Sauna. The song was a kind of old-timey, rockabilly piece with religious connotations; then she revealed the title: "Mongrel of a Halfman Slave Bitch" heh.). The "between" track simply wouldn't have fit after that one, so I went with Robbie Basho's gorgeous, hauntingly odd "Salangadou", which I've since found out is an old Creole folk song.

Nayland closed the evening with a striking version of the "Cannon Song" sung by Ellen Greene, culled from a vinyl recording of the 1975 Public Theater production of Threepenny Opera.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Along with many people, I consider "Trout Mask Replica" and "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" to be the twin peaks in the career of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (and yes, I'm of the opinion that the Magic Band members are due almost equal credit for the music's success). Recently, though, I've been listening a lot to the follow-up recording (well, I think it is--see below), "The Spotlight Kid". It and "Clear Spot" occupy a kind of limbo between those two earlier masterworks and two of the worst things you'd ever not want to hear, "Unconditionally Guaranteed" and "Bluejeans & Moonbeams". Both nod toward the poppish directions he'd take but each is also immersed more groundedly in the blues. Back in '75 when I'd traded in virtually my entire rock collection, CB was included, a dire error. I'd reacquired most things on vinyl by the late 80s, gradually getting disc versions as well, though not of "Spotlight Kid" which was only, erm, spottily available. I'd never managed to get "Clear Spot", however (originally issued in a clear vinyl LP sleeve, btw; I think I recall that van Vliet wanted the disc itself to be clear as well but the idea was nixed by Reprise). I remember "Spotlight Kid" coming out before "clear Spot" though what I can see on-line tells me the opposite. I could obviously be wrong though, even musically, the former sounds closer to TMR and LMDOB than the latter. Dunno.

Yesterday, at DMG, I picked up the disc containing both. I hadn't heard "Clear Spot" since the mid 70s and it holds up pretty well, some very solid songs in there. I know "Shiny Beast" has its adherents but I still hear a bit of slickness in there that's not on these recordings (though, of course, it's a million miles better than the two that preceded it). I think it's still there in the final two recordings ("Doc" and "Ice Cream") though not so much as to be a distraction.

In any case, very good to hear the "Clear Spot" session once again.

Also picked up Tony Conrad's "Joan of Arc" (Table of the Elements), on at the moment and sounding excellent. Recorded in '68. As well, I bought a compilation of Vietnamese "country" recordings called "Que Hu'o'ng" (Homeland). I believe the ensemble is called "Gia Dinh", led by one Ba Pho. Will report back.

Having lotsa fun with Zadie Smith's "On Beauty"; quite the romp. Also about 1/2 of the way through the Hofstadter which is going fine so far. Kind of a restatement of the ideas first raised in GEB but with the fancifulness. Some things are more clearly laid out; I have a better grasp of Godel numbering than I did before, for instance.

Late arrivals:

Erik M/Luc Ferrari/Thomas Lehn - Les Protorhythmiques (room 40)
Taylor Deupree - Landing (room 40)

btw, that Vietnamese disc is much poppier than I anticipated. Cute 'n' pretty sorta, but disappointing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Just posted this at JC, but I like it enough to add it here as well.

So there's an Au Bon Pain across the street from my office which I've gone to fairly often for lunch. They do good soups, have decent hot sandwiches and a nice pastry selection. A couple months back, they were one of the NYC restaurants cited for rat infestation (with film!) and were closed for a few days while they remedied the situation. I gave 'em a couple weeks, then returned as a customer. I mean, every place has or has had rats, no big deal. Besides, the whiskers serve as good teeth cleaners.

This horrifies a couple of the ladies in the office who have vowed never to set foot in the place again. I've almost given up trying to convince them of the error of their ways. But just now one of them, unsold that the place could possibly be fit to eat in, said, "You don't think those rats laid eggs while they were there?!?"


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I had some correspondence with John Tilbury a couple weeks back during which he asked if I'd heard his recording of Samuel Beckett on Matchless. I not only hadn't but was only dimly aware of its existence at all. I think I knew, a few years ago, that something of the sort was in the offing, but its actual publication utterly eluded me; very annoying. Admittedly, I don't regularly peruse the Matchless website and I haven't read WIRE for a few years now so, presuming it was reviewed therein, I would have missed that. Still, I would've supposed that I'd've seen a bit of discussion about it here or there and I haven't (it was issued in 2005). Googling about, I couldn't even find a write-up around (I may easily have missed some). Weird.

In any case, I ordered it straightaway and received it this past Friday. Two listens and I think it's absolutely fantastic. I'm by no stretch any kind of authority on Beckett performances (he does Cascando and Rough for Radio 1 (the former with Sebastian Lexer, the latter with Lexer, Christina Jones and Prevost) but I thought both renditions here were stunning and quite moving. I see a few are available at UbuWeb which I'll try to give a listen to later on.

Why so little discussion about this though? Curious to get people's opinions on where this fits in with other interpretations as well as recommendations in that direction.

New Listening:

Seth Nehil - Amnemonic Site (Alluvial)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Friday evening, went out to Issue Project Room with Jon and Yuko, met up with the Voltage Spooks. For inexcusable reasons, I hadn't been to this space before. Located on the Gowanus Canal (the Venice of Brooklyn), a squat silo-like structure with the circular performing space on the second floor, maybe 30 feet in diameter; very cool. Unfortunately, it seems likely they'll be moving this summer. The trio (Rowe, Rick Reed & Mike Haleta) did three brief solo pieces then a trio set. Haleta threw up a dense wall of sound from his PC, almost featureless, something like an Ad Reinhardt painting. It's one of those things that, the more you listen to it the more detail your mind constructs; whether that detail is more your construction than the musician's is another issue, though I'm not certain that matters. In any case, after being initially a little bored, I gradually got into it. Reed, operating a 1971 Synthis (sp?) synthesizer tended toward dreamier, more tonal washes. It was OK, but I need more grit in the mix. Rowe, no slight intended to the other fellows, is just on a different plane. Very spare, very thoughtful; well, you know the story. Consistently engrossing.

This was the first time the trio had played together as such and it showed a bit. A good blend of sounds, the rough 'n' tumble, the sweet and the thoughtful that worked very well at different moments though they had a tough time finding an endpoint. But good overall.

Drove to Philly on Saturday, first time I'd ever set foot in the city! Ambled about in serarch of food for a while, settling for some burgers in a desultory place. The show was in the gallery of the Slought Foundation, a space near UPenn. Walking through the neighborhood after finding parking, I realized I've likely never seen an actual fraternity house before and there seemed to be thousands of them here. Complete with big porches, beer-guzzling galoots and vacuous females! Just like a crappy Hollywood flick, very weird. Met a whole host of excellent Philly folk, giving one great hope that much good music will flourish there, including this September's ErstQuake fest. Great to meet you, Jesse, Tim, Dustin, Matt, Chandan, Mike. The panel discussion before the show seemed to go over very well; odd for me but sorta fun.

Same structure as the previous evening. Haleta did almost exactly the same piece as before; not sure of the rationale but, again, I was reasonably happy picking out my own patterns. The gallery had a camera obscura installation and, in the dark, its projected image, an upside down stream of water from a faucet, played on a nearby wall, offering some fine counterpoint. Keith played next, again...well, just really, really good. Rick had some equipment trouble and by the time everything was sorted out, they merged his solo set with the trio's. This one was much more concise than Brooklyn's, really well paced. Favorite moment was when Rick began generating a tone that was just too sweet and, absolutely immediately (perhaps coincidentally) Keith found a radio broadcast where a woman was saying, "...a change of direction". It worked perfectly both musically, tempering the sweetness, and conceptually.

A fine late dinner and conversation (White Dog--wonderful restaurant/bar) then a lengthy drive back in the heavy rain.

Marmite tasting the next afternoon (see description at Jazz Corner), listened to Keith's "The Room" (ooh, baby....) then out to the rescheduled gig at the Velez Cultural Center. Pretty chaotic there, looked for a while like the whole shebang might not get off the ground but eventually things were set aright. Only a trio set as there were time limitations. This was much more like I would have expected from them, very steady state and restrained throughout (both of the earlier sets were much lumpier), really nice, Rowe once again providing the necessary granularity and itchiness.

They're on to gigs in Princeton, Dartmouth, Boston--maybe one other? Check' em out if you can.

Richard Pinnell, after something of a hiatus, has begun posting with astonishing regularity on his blog here. Very interesting entry on a Scottish painter previously unknown to me, Callum Innes, whose work looks pretty fantastic from what I see there.

Acquired over the weekend:

John Tilbury - Plays Samuel Beckett (Matchless)
David Tudor - Music for Piano (RZ)
Bonnie Jones - Vines (emr)
William Hutson - Little Darling (emr)
The Sealed Knot - (Confront Performance series)
Katsura Yamauchi - Sax Solo (Salmo Sax)
Katsura Yamauchi - Patiruma (Salmo Sax)
Otomo Yoshihide - Prisoner (Headz)
Matt Mitchell - vapor squint, antique chromatic (Scrapple)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So, I went and wrote Douglas Hofstadter, acting on the presumption that he might be unaware of works like the Lucier (and related, in a self-referential, iterative sense, stuff like Tom Johnson's "Failing...") and how well, imho, they illustrate some of the ideas he's sought to get across with different sorts of allusions. Received a very nice reply (I love e-mail) from the professor and, indeed, he has no real knowledge of this field (though he was aware of early Reich and Riley music that abuts the territory). He is of the persuasion (common, I'd guess, among people whose main work is in the sciences?) that there's some essential difference between "intellectual" and "emotional" art, in his case preferring the latter (as exemplified by his oft-cited love of Chopin) and guessing the Lucier would fall into the former category. I disagree, finding for example the eventual emergence of semi-melodic material in Lucier's piece to be very moving emotionally, but whatcha gonna do? Pleased that Hofstadter proved to be so open to dialogue, though, having been a big fan since about 1980.

Gearing up for a weekend with those wacky eidolons of current, the Voltage Spooks. Friday evening at Issue Project Room, a space I've somehow managed to avoid visiting until now. No excuses. Motoring down to Philly (a city I've actually never visited either, probably with better excuses) for a show to be preceded by a panel discussion with Keith, Jon and yours truly though what my contribution is expected to be, I've no idea. Drive back up late, go to the final show at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center Sunday evening.

I don't get that many opportunities to hear an ensemble three times in a row like this, so I'm expecting to enjoy that aspect (presumably more besides). The Spooks travel on to Boston, Dartmouth, I think a couple other spots.

Finished Banville's "The Sea" which I enjoyed a bunch. Very sad, very effective at conveying a sense of bafflement at indecipherable events that nonetheless reverberate down through one's life. Began Zadie Smith's "On Beauty".

Working through Hofstadter's "I Am a Strange Loop" which, happily, doesn't seem to be skating quite so close to gooiness as I feared it might. With all his going on about feedback loops, he seems to be unknowledgeable about related things in contemporary music like Lucier's "I Am Sitting in a Room".

Monday, April 09, 2007

Once again, stultifyingly bored at work, googling around art images, I remembered Giorgio Morandi. Not sure of his current status these days (not that it matters a whit) but he was a big favorite of Alton Pickens, my prof at Vassar, someone whom he urged me to study and I did. Doubtless, Morandi became a big influence on my own work, something I see more clearly now than I might have at the time.

Most of his oeuvre consists of very simple still lives, often with the same objects painted over and over, moved slightly, in subtly different lighting conditions. But, of course, not simple at all though I wonder how tough it is to pick up on the tensions and complexities. I find the "aesthetic connection" between work like Morandi's and much current quiet improv to be clear. Sometimes I wonder if analogies made between eai and painting might not be (at least, sometimes) better served by visual work with a foot in the realist camp, though "metaphysical realism" (as Morandi's and similar work is often referred to) is likely more to the point than more traditional forms. For example, much of Rowe's work resonates strongly, to me, with Rauschenberg's combines with their melding of abstraction and brutalist realism (an actual chair, ladder, lamp, etc.)

Anyway, idle musings for a never-ending morning.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bored yesterday afternoon, I was futzing around looking for a Windows background that might baffle fellow workers. I'd been going with one of Gerhard Richter's "Baader Meinhof" series for a while, one of a prostrate dead body, looking like a grey smear across a black ground. Looked rather striking and I'll probably bring it back.

Part of the qualification is a horizontal orientation and a fairly large source reproduction to minimize distortion and pixelating. For a couple days, I had Velazquez' divine "Las Hilanderas" but its busyness was a bit too distracting. Searching for a darker image but still thinking of that period, I came across a great Zurbaran still life, several pieces of pottery against a black background. It was a little too horizontal, though, and ended up on the screen a bit squished.

Then I thought of Robert Bechtle.

I was a fairly big fan of the so-called photo-realists back around '72-'74, about when they began to enter the public consciousness (though many had been plying this tack since the early 60s). The more interesting of them considered their work as an extension of color field painting, something that's clear in work by people like Chuck Close, perhaps less so in Estes, John Salt, Ralph Goings, etc. but I think it was there. Not that I immediately or always appreciated that aspect of it; to me it was also cool that some artists were brazenly thumbing their noses at the academy of abstraction and revisiting a corner of realism, albeit one distorted by photography. Eventually, most lapsed into stultified repetition and, moreover, came to reveal a certain amount of shallowness in conception and I came to more deeply enjoy those realists who worked from life--Alfred Leslie, William Beckman, Claudio Bravo, Gregory Gillespie and others (not that they, too, turned out to be terribly consistent--they didn't).

But I always liked Robert Bechtle. Why, is hard to say. Maybe because his work is so blank. Cars in front of houses...

No more, no less. No overt commentary, no striving for effect. But laid out almost as beautifully as a Rothko.

I always especially loved the family snapshot at the top, my current wallpaper (which is in the Whitney Museum in NYC). Awkward, throwaway, extremely real as an image from around 1968, more so than romantic hippie evocations or what-have-you. But with a photographic patina that wraps everything in a dull gloss, comforting and chilling at once, the having-it-both-ways idea already nascent in California culture of the time.

So, bored once again this afternoon, I thought I'd toast Mr. Bechtle.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

For the last few years, every so often, I've experienced a strange and unsettling visual phenomenon. Suddenly, without an apparent ulterior stimulus (like excessive exertion or rapidly standing), an arc of shimmering lights would appear, usually on the periphery of my visual field but generally taking up enough "space" so as to obscure my vision somewhat, making reading, for example, difficult or impossible. The arc is prismatic in coloration, reds, yellows and blues predominating. The colors are in a zigzag pattern, reminding me of nothing so much as (some of you oldsters may recall) that illustration of a cat done under the influence of LSD that was used to document effects on the brain of the drug in science journals of the 60s, which image I can't immediately locate on the web. Often, it would begin as a relatively small kernel, slowly expanding to a pincer-like, thin slice of bright colors.

No pain was associated with this event and it would gradually disappear after about 15 minutes. They tended to happen in clumps, one a day for 3-4 days, then nothing for a few months. Although the image was usually more on one side than the other, it appeared in both eyes as well as when my eyes were shut, overlapping the normal phosphenes, so I knew it wasn't specifically eyeball-related, but was emanating from deep enough in the skull at least where the optic nerves met. Nonetheless, it was a bit troubling. I rather like the sense of sight and was worried these events might be symptomatic of other issues that could develop further. Aggravatingly, googling around on "visual problems", "prismatic", etc. didn't yield anything that I could ascribe to what I was undergoing.

Until this morning. I had an episode on the way to work, did some extra diligent googling upon arrival and, happily, found the damn thing: Ophthalmic Migraine. Migraine sufferers are apparently familiar with this as a symptom of an onset of an attack, which occurs when small blood vessels behind the eyes go into spasms. However, there are many people, yours truly included thank goodness, who experience the visual symptoms but no pain. It should just continue to be the nuisance it is now. The image above is a representation of what it looks like, though my patterns are thinner, more luminous and with much more red and golden yellow. Anyway, nice to put a name on the thing.

btw, sometime, I'll have to write about phosphene imagery. Not that I know anything about it, but I've always been fascinated by it, curious about the "realistic" images we tend to create out of those patterns as well as wondering about the demarcation between actual retinal images and one's imagination, a line which strikes me as blurred.

Reading: (when not blinded by prismatic arcs)

Frederic Jameson - The Seeds of Time
John Banville - The Sea

on deck (getting to 2005 Man Booker Prize winners and nominees, obviously...)

Zadie Smith - On Beauty
Umberto Eco - The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Douglas Hofstadter - I Am A Strange Loop (though after his NYT Magazine 20 Questions page this past week, I'm less sanguine)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I wrote about Marc Blitzstein's "The Airborne Symphony" last summer and won't go into it again (except to say: Listen to it!). Playing the vinyl this afternoon, though, I extracted the libretto that was included and I can't resist printing the lyrics to at least one of the songs. This kind of 40s American dialect impudently referencing classical mythology is just so choice.

Ballad of History and Mythology

Etana jumped on the back of an eagle,
In Mesopotamia.
Tried to fly in forty-five hundred B.C.--
But he got dizzy; got dizzy and tumbled off.
Got dizzy, tumbled off, and fell and died.
Old Etana had wings on the brain.

To be Airborne.

There was Phaeton, son of the sun Apollo;
And he stole his sun wagon.
But he didn't know how to steer that wagon.
When it rose up, we froze.
When it dropped on down, we sizzled.
Going up and down,
We froze and sizzled by turns.
That was Phaeton had wings on the brain.

Wings on the brain, wings on the brain.
Mad for to fly and walk the sky.
For they had wings on the brain.
Archytas of Tarentum tried a wooden pigeon
But it wouldn't pigeon [!! - BO]
Leonardo designed a fine propeller model
Never sweller model
Oh they tell of strings and springs and rubbers
And vertical revolving screws.
Tell of aerial steamers, multiple gliders.

There was Henson's aerostat, Cayley's model,
Langley's drome and Penaud's bird,
And Octave Chanute and Lilienthal and gliding Pilcher--
And safety valves, movable sides--
Oh yes--
Fore and Aft rudders, Water tube boilers--
Oh! Yes--


And later, from 'The Enemy':

Connect two facts:
The record hop to California by fliers from Russia;
And one other fact:
The rich and well-placed Italian
Stating that the bombs from his plane over Spain
Exploded on people,
Opened like a rose,
And proved great sport.

Man, hard to believe it's been 20 years since this was recorded. Still sounds good, I must say, and goes some way toward the argument that rock works best when it's being created by 20-year olds. Mixing prog more muscular than King Crimson at its best with thrash with, most surprisingly, dub as well as a dash of Funkadelic, Blind Idiot God (pretty great band name) tore things up for a couple of years in the late 80s. Probably at their best here, though the follow up on Enemy, marred only slightly by Zorn's presence on a couple of tracks, is fine as well. Actually the last album on Avant is OK too, just that they're clearly covering old ground by that time. I understand they re-united last year (different drummer) and played Tonic, though I never heard anything about the music.

Andy Hawkins (I can never quite look at a BIG album without thinking of the Yankee pitching bust) did some interesting work in the 90s for some of Laswell's imprints as "Azonic", iirc. Always expected more good work from these fellows and maybe it's out there but I've missed it.

But this one has some mighty ferocious work, full of bravado and heedlessness. Wonder if their kids are forming a band....