Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And I Will Come And Sit Beside You...

ALI FARKA TOURE "Machengoidi"
IVOR CUTLER "Go & Sit Upon the Grass"

We all know that life's short, and clearly I've not been spending any of it blogging on here in the last five weeks. Still, more than a few of my favorite people have all passed away just recently: Ivor Cutler, Octavia Butler, Ali Farka Touré, Rev. Charlie Jackson, Barbara Guest, Walerian Borowczyk, and maybe more but those are the ones I'm thinking of this morning.

Ivor Cutler was of course a wonderful old coot, even though he sometimes played up his cranky coot-ness a bit much, and I'm still not so sure his whole Noise Abatement Society thing wasn't another joke, though those in the know swear this isn't the case. I like his books a lot, but the album Velvet Donkey is his masterpiece, if you ask me. This MP3's from that 1975 Virgin release.

Octavia Butler's short story collection Bloodchild is among the five best science fiction/ fantasy/ whatever books I've read. I had the pleasure of interviewing her in 1998 for the finally-defunct Index; I called and wanted to interview her after reading two of her books. She sternly suggested I do "more research," and phone later. I was scared like hell when I rang up a few months after that, but she was really sweet with her time once we did talk. That piece was only about half of the interview -- I should track the rest of it down. Hmmmm. Old boxes of cassette tapes flung in the attic somewhere, reveal your contents to me so that I may find this thing!

I didn't realize Farka Toure was in his late-mid 60s, 'cause he always looked so youthful in pictures. Never saw him perform. I forgot I reviewed the collection Radio Mali (which this MP3 is taken from) for Amazon, and that I said this about it (in one of those cliche-laden reviews where all of a sudden you're an instant expert just 'cause you read the liner notes and looked up what they had to say on AMG about it):

Previously available as a 1996 import on the World Circuit label, this nearly 72-minute collection of recordings were originally made for radio broadcast between 1970 and 1978. As a single collection, this is the finest yet of Toure's slow-burning music, characterized by nimble, expressive guitar playing and strong, expressive singing. Lyrically, the songs are mostly devotionals, praising a loved one, Allah, and various government initiatives (including Radio Mali itself). Half the tunes feature Toure alone on guitar and vocals; elsewhere he is backed by the ngoni's beautiful rattle-buzz, a full choir, a smattering of percussion, and a violin player whose sliding, high-pitched notes echo the fiddle playing of Appalachia. Throughout, Toure's singing has a wider range than you'd expect (considering that he's known as the "African John Lee Hooker") and his bluesy guitar playing is always melodic, modal, and meditative. Toure repeats musical phrases over and over again, subtly changing them. But he never gets fancy for its own sake--his style (which adapts Sonrai, Peul, and Tamascheq techniques) sounds as natural as a babbling brook. Strands of sing-songy, seemingly simplistic melodies wrap around each other, coming together and unwinding like strands of RNA. This is some mind-blowing stuff.

The Rev. Jackson was one of the last great practitioners of the gospel blues and his music is amazing and I am actively missing him and thinking of him daily (especially as I ready working on a feature on Rev. Louis Overstreet, who has serious Portland roots and more on that soon I promise). "God's Got It" was probably the best single song released in 2004. It's posted here for the few lucky enought to not have heard it yet, who don't yet know its insanely rockin' charms, the way it sounds like the wrong speed at first but it totally doesn't matter.

Barbara Guest was a poet I like quite a bit but alas, do not know that much about, so I don't know what else to say.

To finally put an end to this morbid list, I just learned about the amazing animator Borowczyk (from my girlfriend and Will of Ye Ovverkille Riverre, who stayed here a few days last month, when they were both talking of him as the primary influence on Jan Svankmajer, himself the primary influence on the Brothers Quay). Umm, so I do not have much else to say about him either...

Someone told me mercury is in retrograde or something? Fuck. Whatever.

Since last I wrote, let's see: I've gotten some good assignments and stuff (though my editor at SPIN got shit-canned the day after handing in my assignment). The group art show I curated was a great success and I always forget how much work those things are -- thank God I had friends who know what they're doing handy and eager to help. DJ'ed Josh and Emily from Barsuk's wedding in Bellingham, and it was a lot of fun as well as the best service I've ever seen (short - sweet - wow). If you don't know him, Josh Rosenfeld is one of the three most honest and sweet people in the "music business." My girlfriend got to meet a bunch of my Seattle friends at the wedding and en route to it. And she has now moved into a groovy old house with the best shower ever inside it, located in "close-in" Southeast Portland. This shower has two heads -- truly decadent and remarkable, if environmentally uncool. A good shower with excellent water pressure is very important. YETI #3 is almost gone now, while #4 is shaping up nicely. Fred Cisterna's lengthy interview with Fred Tomaselli is awesome; I can't wait to hear the six minute Bright song for the CD, too.

Also in the same span of time: I was diagnosed with another diabetes-related ailment (gastroparesis -- stomach is now pretty fucked-up due to nerve damage). Felt tired and weird a lot from this diabetes stuff; it's better but still kinda messed up. Was way late on a piece written for an old friend, someone I professionally admire a lot and had never worked for before. My laptop hard drive totally died and I'd not backed it up in over two months meaning MORE DELAY for the MBV book (not much more, but still!). Simultaneously, my home computer finally succumbed to an evil virus that had been inside it for a long time. My truck got towed. Sold prized possessions for rent. Umm, but it could always be worse! You know -- not complaining, just saying.

Here's to hoping that NOTHING happens this next month, aside from getting a ton of work done, on time -- or my own personal approximation of that anyway...