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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Tha Carter II
Cash Money : 2005
Dear You [enhanced reissue]
Blackball : 2004
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Track/Atlantic : 1968
Silber : 2007
Lil Wayne's got it, Hendrix wanted to stand next to it (yours, to be precise), M83 don't want to be saved from it - popular music is no stranger to fire and its bottomless metaphorical potential. But the true music of fire does not speak its name, does not reduce it to metaphor. The true music of fire is like fire itself, an implacably pulsating abstraction, a continual movement of energy. Last weekend, at a fire festival, I sat in a tent late at night, listening to the competing DJ tents scattered across the grounds, whose emissions blended into one gargantuan throb, which seemed from my enclosed vantage to emanate from a single source, as if Terry Riley were conducting a mad symphony just over the hill. The music of fire is diffused and all-encompassing, as if the air itself had a beating heart, reverberations condensed out of vapor and smoke, energy burning off from some ineffable source. In the presence of fire and the music with which we pay tribute to it, latent potential for transformation becomes manifest, even inevitable. In that tent, I thought of fires I have known, fires which, while retaining the universal quality of all fires, seemed to distinguish themselves for me by their overstated and personal transformative properties.
The house that my family lived in when I was seven and my brother was three had a back yard that was abutted by a largish field of broomstraw, which was the property of a neighbor down the street. One of my favorite activities at this age was to go outside with a magnifying glass, using its lens to focus the sunlight into a tight beam, burning patterns and holes into leaves, twigs, bits of paper - and ok, sometimes ants. I'm surprised I was allowed to do this unsupervised - I suppose it was decided that I'd done it enough to amass some expertise, and that I had the good sense to stay on the concrete driveway when I did it. I can't say, on a particular afternoon, what compelled me into the field of broomstraw with my magnifying glass. I can't recall the sequence of events. I know there must have been a moment, when the broomstraw began to burn, spreading quickly, that I knew things had gotten out of hand. The part I remember clearly is standing beside my brother, back in our yard, dumbly watching the field burn. From my childish perspective, it was an inferno, but I've no idea how serious the fire actually was - it must be amplified in my mind, as a neighbor who was washing his car across the street was able to extinguish it with a garden hose. I don't remember how I felt, besides awed, and maybe that was all I felt - seeing all that fire up close, uncontrolled, and knowing I was responsible for it, perhaps my awe blocked out all my fear, my guilt, my anxiety over getting in trouble. I recall the endless walk down the street to knock on the neighbor who owned the land's ornate, imposing double doors; I don't recall whether they were understanding or angry. But here is what I recall most clearly: my father, rushing out onto the patio with a look of utter panic on his face, rushing down to where my brother and I were standing. From his perspective in the house, when he saw the blaze through the window, my brother was standing behind me - my father couldn't see him, and for a moment, between seeing the fire and rushing outside, he believed my brother had been engulfed. I wonder which of us changed more that day - me, in my newfound power, or my father, suddenly possessed of a trace of dark knowledge.
Sometime around my high school graduation, I attended a small party with my group of closest friends. As usual, we were drinking, gathered around a fire in a rusty barrel in my friend's yard. Although I couldn't have expressed it at the time, there was something elegiac in the air, something tangled about the celebration's energy, a sadness veining the muted revelry. The end of high school is a pivotal time for everyone, in ways that are too common, too trite, and too profound to even get into. We'd weathered some calamities together, and perhaps we all had the latent sense that greater, more confusing, less resolvable ones lurked on the horizon, that we were trembling in some ephemeral interstice between one life and another. At a certain point, as we stood in a motley ring around the barrel fire, one of my friends, as if at some secret cue, picked up a bucket of gasoline (why we had an open bucket of gasoline handy perplexes me to this day). Moving slowly but deliberately, as if hypnotized or underwater, he began walking toward the bucket. I felt a heightened sense of reality in this moment, a strange and dreamlike lucidity - everyone else was chatting aimlessly, and I felt as if only I were witnessing the scene at hand, somehow seeing the whole thing play out simultaneously, somehow entranced and unable to speak the warning that I felt welling up in me. In slow motion, my friend cocked back the bucket of gas and hurled the entire thing into the barrel. Time sped up again as a great pillar of flame erupted from the barrel, causing everyone to leap back, seemingly pushed through the air by the flames like heroes in an action movie. Luckily, no one was burned, and the inferno quickly subsided. We gave the friend who'd thrown the bucket some shit and got back to our aimless chatting for some minutes before someone thought to look up, and discovered that the boughs overhead were aflame.
I thought about all these fires at the fire festival, during the lazy days, as my partner and I sat around singing songs with the guitar, swimming in the lake, reading from my dog-eared copy of Borges' Ficciones. (When I read Borges, my heart would like to burst with love, and yet I have never read Borges - only his translators. This relationship too seems evocative of fire - intense yet somehow deflected, a reaction to an energy coming down some cloaked and remote corridor.) A fire festival is an invitation to transform, and I witnessed the costume I wore all weekend - a full-body tiger-striped unitard, a pair of earlike feathered discs, an improvised tail (fur trim cut off of a puffy coat's hood) - manifest different selves for me. On the first night, I was a housecat, inclined to curl into and around things, staying close to the ground. Or a churchmouse, meek and perceptive - someone asked me if I wanted to try out his poi, and I said to him, "Tonight, I am a creature who watches," realizing as I said it that it was true. I had the distinct sensation of peering out at the world around me - the fire dancers and drum circles, the poi spinners and psychedelic lights - through a crack in the floorboards.
But the next night, the night of the burn (the climactic moment in any fire festival, where some sort of immense effigy is ceremonially set aflame for a great, purgative revel): same costume, different tiger. As the fire dancers circled the effigy in center camp, Ashley and I joined a great outer throng around them, dancing, playing percussion, whooping and exhorting. I beat a guiro until it split in two, then played the shards until they were pulverized. Finally the effigy was set aflame, the improbable heat of the inferno momentarily pushing everyone back a few steps - was it fifty feet high? One hundred? Large fires wreak havoc on your sense of scale. Hundreds of bodies pressed into a circular orbit around the fire, which eventually came to rest, the trippers grooving with their eyes closed, others stunned and mute in the heat. That night, I was a tiger as strong and powerful as I'd been meek and timid the previous night, a playful tiger and a fierce one. Ashley and I took up jingly bells and slinked through the crowd, moving like jungle cats, close to the fire, feeling the full power of our lithe bodies and our status as most wondrous creatures in our costumes, purifying people with bells. And I will tell you now that there is no better feeling in this world than moving through a crowd of strangers, in a ridiculous costume, purifying them with bells, and for the purity of this intention to be conveyed wordlessly and perfectly - to move through a crowd of strangers and see on their faces not wariness or scorn or apathy but a reflection of your own burning spirit, to see face after face light up at your approach, for no other reason than that it is your intention to be wonderful and to transmit this wonder, to hear them gasp and say "Thank you!" for doing something that might get you punched in everyday life (imagine walking through the subway jingling bells around people's faces and bodies) - to incarnate your desire as twinkling bells, at the root of a pillar of flame, and to be those bells, or that tiger, or whatever you want.
Labels: acid rock, brian, hip-hop, indie rock
posted by Brian
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
MAGGOT BRAIN (ALT. MIX)
Westbound : 1971
Slim Smith & the Uniques
Unity : 1970
Available on: Keep That Lovelight Shining
Trojan : 2004
BAD GIRL (PT. 1)
REACH OUT, I'LL BE THERE
Time and Place
Maple : 1971 / Castle/Sanctuary : 2007
Labels: acid rock, alex, rocksteady, soul
posted by Alex
Friday, December 29, 2006
9. DUO OURO NEGRO
Available on: Angola 60s: 1956-1970
Buda : 2000
10. SUGAR ON MY TONGUE
The Talking Heads
CBS Demo Recordings : 1975
11. A WEDDING IN CHEROKEE COUNTY
Good Old Boys
WEA : 1974
12. I CAN'T HELP MYSELF
Chess : 1964
Available (As an import) on: Mojo Chess Northern Soul
Umvd : 2005
13. PLEASE PLEASE ME
The Ladies and Gentlemen, Keith Richards
c. 1968 (?)
14. DIRTY WHIRL
TV on the Radio
Return to Cookie Mountain
Interscope : 2006
15. ALLAH WAKBARR
Ofu The Black Company
Decca : 1972
Available on: Nigeria 70
Strut : 2001
(And various other compilations that go in and out of print)
Click here for part one of this post....
9. I've been getting into these Angolan compilations Buda's been putting out; they're spectacular. If anyone can tell me what this song if about, I'll be obliged - as far as I can make out, it's about trains, soap, and chickens.
10. Another thing I've been curious about is Asperger's, and the hidden horde. The Rock and Roll H.o.F. has some lyrics of David Byrne's up on the wall, next to drafts of Chuck Berry's "Schooldays' and The Replacements' "Bastards of Young." Byrne's are written on graph paper. They're a whole lot cleaner than Berry's or Paul Westerberg's.
12. 4 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
* * * * * 2nd Best Album of All Time, June 10, 2005
Reviewer: Joseph C. Defilippi - See all my reviews
Besides "Exile on Main Street," this is the 2nd best album ever made. The songwriting is amazing, and it is an unbelievable record to drink to. Just ask my friend Myles--a no-nonsense kind of guy. He's into Puerto Rican women, big jungle cats, hanging out without his shirt on, and paintings of race cars. He'll rock you. Hard.
13. Right now, the best girl groups were: The Crystals, The Cookies, The Shirelles, and Gems.
14. 'Orrible Beatles bridge. I could have written it better meself.
15. I was afraid that TVotR would be all downhill after that first EP; I was wrong - their career's been more of a sine wave. Here they are pleased to be playing in France
16. On last year's New Year's Mix, Prince Buster represented Islam. Here, Nigeria's Ofu The Black Company hold down the fort. Afro-acid rock that will rock you. Hard. Esp. today. As the Hajj approaches spritual climax.
Labels: acid rock, afro-beat, alex, autism, girl groups, infidelity, keith richards, marriage, new year's mix, the hajj
posted by Alex