One of my favorite jazz vocalists ever, “Little” Jimmy Scott possesses an unusually high and beautiful voice due to a rare genetic disorder which stunted his growth and prevented the occurrance of puberty and the vocal changes that accompany it. Starting out in the 1940s singing for bands led by Lionel Hampton and Charlie Parker, he had a career often obscured by credit slights and contractual shenanigans until fading back into civilian life in the late 60s.. only to resurface in 1991 after his performance at the funeral of friend rendered listeners speechless and raised his name in important circles. His first comeback album earned Grammy nominations and he’s been steadily recording and touring to this day at the age of 86. My introduction personal introduction was thanks to the impeccable taste and foresight of David Lynch. Performing a song written by Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti, Jimmy Scott appears in the bizzarre and wonderful climax of the singularly brilliant Twin Peaks.
I’m in a time crunch on route to a long day at work so I will have to edit and elaborate tonight. I need to get this out and have you hear it so I’m hitting Publish now. I’ll also share one of my favorite Jimmy Scott releases in the near future. For now, enjoy.
So I discovered that the entire groundbreaking, timeless, brilliant film is free on youtube.
Instructions for those who have not seen Koyaanisqatsi:
1. Stop what you are doing immediately.
2. Turn volume up high.
3. Watch Koyaanisqatsi.
4. Bask in silent astonishment.
5. Thank me.
Honestly, this is one of those life-changing works of art which you will simply and honestly never forget. I fondly recall my first viewing, laying prone in front of a laptop in a cabin on a mountain at night and feeling my astonishment overtaking all physical sensation. This truly begs for the big screen, or at least a reasonably large one, with a reasonable sound system accompanying the visuals. Yet its artistry thrives in any time, place, or size. Which is exactly why I am sharing the profound discovery that it is free to anyone willing to pay only time and curiosity. Hell, if you have firefox with adblock plus, you won’t even see the ads (and honestly, get it – I couldn’t imagine this seamless dream interrupted by commercials) and the only thing you’re missing is the absolute clarity of the original high fidelity print. You’ll undoubtedly recognize certain elements within this time travelling all-encompassing slice of Life Itself, both stylistically and culturally. From the frenzied time-lapse shots of nature and city life contrasting with assembly lines and traffic patterns to the impossibly slow motion glimpses of astonishment and banality, the style and content of this film has influenced more than a generation of visual art and storytelling.
The best part is that I haven’t even gotten to the music; the reason this stands 30 years on as the timeless accomplishment it is: Philip Glass‘ score is the 10 ton monolith blocking out the sun, the elephant in the room, the absolute gravitational pull of this work. If you are at all familiar with 20th century minimalism via Charlemagne Palestine, Steve Reich, Terry Riley or their contemporaries, or especially Glass’ emotive, often romantic take on the sound, you are likely already familiar with some or all of these sounds; if not you are in for a warm embrace of what will likely become a hermetic world you’ll find easily inhabited and unequivocally addicting. Call it lazy, but having the film here and ready to watch makes me reluctant to begin ascribing descriptors to the music. It must be experienced to be grasped. The marriage of sound and picture is essential for direct, uninhibited understanding, for knowing the intrinsic appeal of minimalism itself, for laying bare the nature of conceptual ourboros, the cyclical existence we’re evolved to respond to. This score is meant to evoke the cosmic design of life itself from violent beginning to violent end and all of the impossibly close and personal yet gigantic moments in between.
Note: Do not listen before viewing. Although entirely gorgeous, worthy, and entrancing on its own… divorced from the imagery at birth, Glass’ score will never reach the same affection and thus should be saved for after-film experience.
The Flaming Lips recorded this song for their 1987 (breakthrough? probably not.) full length Oh My Gawd!!!… The Flaming Lips, and to my ears it is one of the most perfect album intros in the history of history. This fan-made video I find to be inconceivably appropriate.
Just look at that trippy, phallic, jeuvenile fucking cover art! If you don’t love it well that’s just too damn bad.
Oneontrix Point Never is set to unleash another album to be considered as a ‘true debut’ next month. One (very productive) year after the epochal Returnal (Best album of 2010), Daniel Lopatin is ready to declare his creative ambition and lay waste to expectations, eardrums and frontal lobes all over again. Having excised his synth pop demons with a quirky and catchy Ford & Lopatin album and collaborative impulse on the exquisite, under-heard FRKWYS Vol. 7 – starring drone psych dream team Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo & Lopatin – he was ready to dive headlong into the depths of his inner muse, dredging up something distinctly next-level with Replica.
The range and variety of sounds incorporated here will likely jolt those familiar with his major releases, Returnal and Rifts, as nearly every track strays from the expected drifting keyboard clouds and laser light workouts haunting those works. Returnal hinted that things were getting stormy inside the OPN environment, most notably on opener Nil Admirari‘s volcanic eruption of beauty and brutality, before the album subsided into an occasionally hairy yet blissed out ride for its duration. It was made to be lost in, all thought muscled out in service of a meditative nothingness from which I’d emerge thoughtful and cleansed. But the translation of Latin phrase Nil Admirari, “to be surprised by nothing,” was perhaps more mission statement than anyone guessed, because Replica aims not only for novel horizons but an entirely new mode of conveyance itself.
Instead of the aural equivalent of a hurricane, this album begins with an invitation to slide. Nearly reprising the sighing contentment of last year’s Ouroboros, opener Andro lays back and lets gravity work magic as we’re led to believe this will be a less demanding journey than last time. Perfectly mirroring the chaotic intro dissolving into sleepy rivers on Returnal, Lopatin opens a trapdoor with distortion, tribal percussion and shattered vocals; snapping from the reverie, he unveils the dizzying, fractured realm inside. Sudden, repeating sample blasts of urgent words (“Up!”) and unintelligible phrases snowball into rhythms, gurgling under warm baths of electronic bass, giving way to flights of pornographic radiance. Delicate piano and wordless oohs-and-ahhs sparkle through as aggressive syllabic papercuts urge the dynamic tranquility, keeping the listener on his toes. Every moment of repose is punctuated, every hair raising sequence actively hunting the next surprise around a blind corner
Instead of suppressing the violent energy and gorgeous destruction after one controlled burst, Replica seeks peace, balance and eager dance partners in its propensity for noise and serenity. Transcendence is the natural offspring of this marriage and feels all the more hard-won and treasured. Instead of dissolving and blurring out the unpleasant realities of the world, Oneohtrix Point Never now finds a way to reconcile the righteous and beatific experience of life with the windows flung wide. If Returnal is a night spent alone in meditation, Replica is the morning’s journey into the uncharted future, heart and mind open to the mysterious possibilies ahead.
So you may be nodding your head with sublime abandon, smiling at the overtly direct lyrics, precious vocals and selfconsciously 1980’s production sensibility while the song plays. If not, I’d wager that you have yet to see one of the best films of 2011, Drive. There’s a certain neck-hair-raising context this song is placed into…
The story of a quiet stunt man who moonlights as a getaway driver, caught up with affection for a woman who melts his stoic edge, sacrificing his safe routine for the good of others has been done. Director Nicolas Wending Refn not only spikes this coulda-been-warhorse recipe with wincing violence and tender detail, but cuts through the surface coolness to reveal the messy desire, motivation and reason behind the action and reaction. In other words, we’re shown something any hack can make cool and slick, boiled down to – and built up from – the frail humanity from which is grows. In simplest terms: it’s a thriller done goddamn RIGHT for once. And the music is superb.
First: sorry I’ve been sort of quiet for a few weeks.
It’s true. This one pays far more than my prior occupation so it’s worth the being-busy-all-the-time aspect. However I have not – cannot – neglect music and thus always have something worth sharing with the world. Every commute, every bicycle ride, every nighttime book devouring session is accompanied by something new, expansive, exciting… punctuated by old favorites I find myself doubled over with joy upon re-hearing. So I’ve got something to say.
Unfortunately I worked my brains out today and must save the in-depth breathless praise and wild exhortations to purchase vinyl for the remainder of the weekend. I will simply state that there are a few albums I’m quite taken with, continually listen to, and wish that more people would get familiar with. These are a few of them:
United Waters – Your First Ever River
Sensations’ Fix – Fragments of Light
Robert Fripp – Let The Power Fall
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk
Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Thundercat – Golden Age of the Apocalypse
and finally, with apologies to the artist herself:
Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Colour Libres
Because this is, by some distance, one of the most powerful and heartfelt albums of 2011 and I really should have shared all about it when I got it months ago. I promise – I swear – I will soon. Keep an eye on this page, and stay ready for the deluge.