29.10.10

I'll be your Tokyo













My friend Schokosays says this: More ATP news. I'll Be Your Mirror has been announced for February. In Tokyo. I want to be there... The first time I went to Tokyo was in 2005. I was only in Japan for about 5 days in total – for the boy's opening at the Yokohama Triennale. I arrived having had very little sleep for days on end, and this exhaustion joined forces with extreme jetlag and the utterly overwhelmingness of Tokyo to an unsuspecting newcomer to make me feel decidely ill. The noise - the onslaught of sounds and musics and loudhailers and pedestrian signals and train announcements and jingles and machines of every shape and size talking to you - did my head in. But since then, every time I go back, Tokyo softens and warps into a quieter place, one I can navigate with greater ease, one where I know small corners and good friends and legendary shops and hidden neighbourhoods whose ancient hearts are right there behind the thin layers of contemporary cosmopolitain life. Most of my Tokyo is somehow related to music – all my friends there are either artists or musicians. So whenever I think of the city, I think in songs, or filmtracks. ATP in Tokyo is a good idea. Who do you think play??

28.10.10

'April and the Phantom'

















Leon Kossoff, Dalston Junction With Ridley Road Street Market, Friday Evening, November, 1972. Animal Collective. Lewis Heriz, God is Able Hair Salon, 2010. Mikrophony–awesome from Awesome Tapes From Africa

So Animal Collective have just been announced as the curators for next spring's ATP. Which is exciting. And their first confirmed choice is a DJ and film set from Sublime Frequencies, a worthy descendant of Smithsonian Folkways and Alan Lomax. Which is very exciting. And which brings me to this:
Awesome Tapes From Africa
Our studio is on Ridley Road market in Dalston, right opposite one of the music stalls – the guy who plays the same record all day long for months on end. At the end of every messy day, when the rubbish is knee high and the butchers are scrubbing their floors, the music is turned up to saturated cracking level on small speakers in pretty much every market-side shop. And even in those questionable sound-quality conditions (or maybe enhanced by them? i'm always undecided) there are great tunes to be heard. I always want to know who's playing. Now Awesome Tapes-From-Africa-man is in Brooklyn, a long way away from Ridley Road, but he has a collection of tapes that could defo be found or compared to the CDRs and other things available in our neck of the woods. And he's archiving all his finds on his site. There is so much to listen to there.
Therefore: new playlist in the making – Fantômas (for Soweto and all things kwaito, Baltimore, my new friend in Brooklyn and the ladies who run the God is Able hair salon)

22.10.10

Like lightening

Today's become a Marnie Stern / Zach Hill day. Now Carson Mcwhirter too. Right now listening – well trying to only listen as I am at work – but not watching is becoming a bit difficult, to this:

Damn.
I'm making a youtube playlist of the tracks as I listen. Here. Ok, so, you will find Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence in there too, but there is beauty everywhere. Stay open///

21.10.10

Pull up a memory




















Dan Locke went to the Slade with me. He's one of the first people I met there, and one of the kindest. His website is now ready for the world, which is exciting. He draws a lot – comics mostly, with all kinds of perspectives and observations and details that you'd only glean on your own if you were actually Dan yourself, going through life with his peculiar, funny, skew take on the world and with his heart of pure gold. You can find his work here at daniellocke.com

20.10.10

'On top of the world without the fear of fallin'

Have you listened to Black Milk's Album of the Year? He wasn't kidding with that title, presumptuous though it might have seemed. It has something of the beauty, the magic touch of a real Dilla. He appears in part 2 of this documentary about Detroit – a place of magnetic, tantalising raw potential. Total decrepitude and bankruptcy have meant that the city has been abandoned by practially every semblance of official authority and left to its own devices. And so the prairie and the free are taking control, and it's a beautiful thing to behold. The narrator is annoying, but the people he talks to (who include Carl Craig and Mr Larry Mongo, a total don in a bright pink shirt) are not, and the ruins, the intitatives and the perspectives they talk about are inspiring. If I could find me a way to get there, it would be an exciting move.
Check it Black Milk's Losing Out here:

18.10.10

'He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world'











Last week I went to see Fallout, Wilhelm Sasnal's new film, at the Prince Charles, and it hasn't left my thoughts since. I need to see it again to be clearer in what I think of it, but instinctively i was drawn to the palette of both sound and colour, the rhythms and tones of this desolate, debris-ridden world, where those left live on in tension and in anger. The beginning of the film is beautiful. The camera tracks someone cautiously as they descend a hill, hesitant images of some kind of pylon or tower silhouetted against a slowly clearing pre-dawn sky, blue and intense, with crisp, strident sounds, industrial perhaps – I keep thinking of a factory, although I know there wasn't one. The person arrives on level ground. There are a few others seated on the ground, strewn with rubbish and dead-looking scrub, the landscape punctuated by obscure and perhaps obsolete towers, which reminded me of the sound-barrier pylons encircling the abandoned Dharma Initiative village (bringing up Lost when talking about Sasnal is potentially questionable... what can I say – I did watch the whole series in less than a month and that was bound to leave its mark).
     Some terrible but unexplained catastrophe has taken place and these people survive in its wake, collecting, foraging, bartering, with abrasive mistrust and immense weariness colouring their every waking moment. They are ill. They are cold. They are hungry – but not starving. Their bodily presence is thick and heavy, as is their despair. They have no hope. There is an intense sequence of a man walking through the grounds of an estate, high-rises towering on every side. He has his hands cupped around his mouth, and shouts over and over the same call to action, amplified by the amphitheatre of the estate. The words (translated into English in the subtitles) don't make immediate sense, but they are mesmerising in their repetition. And while their meaning might evade you, their urgency is palpable. It brought to mind rallying angry shouts from 70s punk anthems or no-bullshit, no-RNB hiphop tracks – Black Flag's Rise Above, for example, or Dead Prez's Murda Box.
     I first saw Sasnal's film work during a talk he gave at Bezalel art school in Tel Aviv last November. The film he showed there was of footage filmed during an extended road trip throughout the US, homing in with eyes wide open on those murky backwaters of the American way most often overlooked or ignored. The images that stuck in my mind most were of Texan ranchers branding and castrating their young bulls, and a group of predominantly black kids bored out of their minds in dusty urban squallor. Sasnal seemed to quietly be seeking out complexity. His film spoke of a bitty, foreign culture – a place we definitely don't know or understand and one that is far too layered and dense to frame.
     There is something unflinching in the artist's take on his subject - whatever that may be. He does not shy away nor does he judge. This is raw, unapologetic, withering honesty – he records tiny details and great overviews with the same strength and determination. I keep thinking of how unbearably real Cormac McCarthy's tales become, a vividness which is, in great part, due to his unerring thoroughness. He only writes about places he himself has travelled to. So when he talks of the young boy's father taking apart a machine in The Road, you can feel the weight of each bit part, the cold, slimy touch of greased-up metal, the clockwork precision of the mecanism – he knows each thing, each action, each thought from the inside. Sasnal has that same exacting sleight of hand. Everything is measured and counted – the tenderness and the horror.
     The main character in Fallout leaves his workshop and goes by bicycle back to his appartment. He eats directly from a tin can in a kitchen as bleak and empty as the sky outside, then walks through successive rooms to a bedroom. He stands in the doorway and watches a naked woman as she washes herself, standing up and leaning over in a small tin basin. The light is slight and cold, she is as raw as any other of the film's people, and yet it is a moment of unmistakable grace. The woman glances at him. They don't speak. You shiver in spite of yourself – these bare interior spaces can't be much warmer than the barren frozen outside. But she is beautiful in her exposed state, and as old and familiar an image as can be fashioned. The motif of the woman bathing is ancient and with those depths of time comes an intimation of life enduring. 'Borrowed time', perhaps, but time no less.

'He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.'
Cormac McCarthy, The Road


6.10.10

Fake rocks















I'm working on a piece about Full Metal Jacket right now, and I've just read this Kubrick quote:
'We worked from still photographs of Hue in 1968. And we found an area that had the same 1930's functionalist architecture. Now, not every bit of it was right, but some of the buildings were absolute carbon copies of the outer industrial areas of Hue...We had demolition guys in there for a week, laying charges...Then we had a wrecking ball there for two months, with the art director telling the operator which hole to knock in which building... I don't think anybody's ever had a set like that...To make that kind of three-dimensional rubble, you'd have to have everything done by plasterers, modeled, and you couldn't build that if you spent $80 million and had five years to do it. You couldn't duplicate, oh, all those twisted bits of reinforcement. And to make rubble, you'd have to go find some real rubble and copy it...no one can make up a rock. I found that out in Paths of Glory. We had to copy rocks, but every rock also has an inherent logic you're not aware of until you see a fake rock. Every detail looks right, but something's wrong. So we had real rubble. We brought in palm trees from Spain and a hundred thousand plastic tropical plants from Hong Kong...All in all, a tremendous set dressing and rubble job.'
     No one can make up a rock – I like that statement.
     This is making me think of Andy Holden's piece at Tate Britain earlier this year: Return of the Pyramid Piece, 2008. And, tangentially, the slow-motion close-ups of rubble lifting from the impact of a bomb in The Hurt Locker – the closeness and precision of those sounds, the maddening crispness in the detail. 

5.10.10

Ode to Scout Niblett
















She is playing at Cafe Oto late November, and if you've never seen her live, and you live anywhere nearby, this is not to be missed. Scout Niblett plays with fire in her eyes and fingers. She's raw and tense and fierce, and as beautiful as Paris, Texas.