Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Man, a Plan, a Canal, Heidegger

My struggles with that pointy-physiognomy'd ex-Nazi's "The Word of Nietzsche: 'God Is Dead'" and "Metaphysics as the History of Being" have foreclosed my innanet-optional time for a minute or two here, but allow me to remunerate (possibly not on the ultimo-obscuro tip, as I'm doing this on a Very Important temporal restriction):



Notorious B.I.G., "Party and Bullshit," non-album single (1993)
Brilliant debut single from the man who would make, I am sometimes inclined to posit, what remains hip-hop's single greatest album-length statement. The Last Poets were unhappy with the way Biggie appropriated the critical "party and bullshit" refrain from their "When the Revolution Comes," but as they say, if you don't like the way things look in the ghetto, don't blame the people who live there: the fact that one of the definitive social-consciousness provocations of the Black Power era had become a sort of self-consciously empty but nonetheless alluring alternative to facing the brutalities of the post-Reagan world spoke, and continues to speak, far more eloquently than we might wish.



Mark Hollis, "Watershed," Mark Hollis (1998)
Post-apocalyptic chants and liquid flutters among the ruin of skyscrapers from the man who led Talk Talk from the New-Old-Romantic wasteland of Euro Duran Duran clones to the only band in the world doing what it did: it's lazy to tag those last two brilliant Talk Talk records, The Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, as post-rock, in that nothing to appear in their wake and claim that tag was anywhere near as subtle or as multifarious as what they aped (in terms of instrumentation and dynamics) but failed to understand on the macrostructural level (Hollis and cohorts recorded hours of droning, shadowy improvisations which where manipulated into vaguely 'songlike' structures in a process not at all unlike Holger Czukay's visionary work with Can). Arguably, only Radiohead from Kid A on has worked toward the evolution of these ideas in a nominally pop-rock context, and if In Rainbows was any indication (one hopes it wasn't), even they have begun to take the reductivist view of themselves.



Can, "Mushroom," Tago Mago (1971)
En parlant de Can ... Jaki Liebezeit's tape-echoed drum breaks are the stuff of pure legend, Damo Suzuki sounds like post-structuralist Europe in semiotic and vocabulary chaos, and the fact that Can was an improvising group in which the European and Afro-American concepts of indeterminacy clashed from moment to moment (Czukay and keyboardist Irmin Schmidt studied avant-garde music with Karlheinz Stockhausen; Liebezeit and guitarist Michael Karoli were gigging jazzers) meant that strange disjunctions and uncomfortable bifurcated presences abounded in a way that "better" or "more cohesive" groups almost certainly couldn't have worked: listen to the way that Holger's minimalist basslines change without notice or structural signal, the way that Karoli's post-psychedelic guitar plays in and around the eerie organ chords in a way that finds ambiguity among their interstices.



Scott Walker, "Jesse," The Drift (2006)
Official Art-Damage Game Over notice: consider it served. It gets hardly more strangled, off-putting and horrific than Walker's ode to Elvis Presley's stillborn twin Jesse, to whom the King would speak in episodes of stress- and drug-addled psychosis, and the concomitant overtones of post-September 11 strike-anywhere terroristics he manages to wring from the nightmare side of that most American of symbols (see Greil Marcus' "Presliad" in Mystery Train for a brilliant examination of the Elvic mythos). "Blocks of sound" in a way that Stravinsky never could have imagined; Zappa if he had combined Varèse with Weill rather than electric R&B and avant-jazz.

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