Last year I started tweeted a Music Writer Exercise created by Gary Suarez. It happens every February all month long, here are the details:
I figured that I shouldn’t keep to just the 280 characters If I wanted to, so here goes for week one:
Television – Marquee Moon : The title track is a dizzying piece that mesmerizes you, while the remaining songs are improvisational post-punk to their core. Decades onward, and there’s still a lot on the album that’s fresh. “Venus”, “Friction”, and “Elevation” are standout of Verlaine’s poetic lyrics over unrestrained riffs. You can hear the influences its made on LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, The Strokes, and countless classic attacks like R.E.M. among others. Even Joy Division fans can’t deny that Television’s album, which came out years before Unknown Pleasures, is a bedrock to the genre and many that came after.
Doves – The Universal Want: Long time since Kingdom of Rust, and the sound is like they shook off a lot of it. Not overly ornate, but the expansive melody and Goodwin’s anguish (“Prisoners” and “Broken Eyes” come to mind) makes a luster that washes out the dull. It’s difficult to pull off a decent album after an eleven-year hiatus, many stumble on the comeback swing. yet Doves pulls the uplifting from the melodrama as the adept veterans they have become.
PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea: A love letter to urban life that reaches out to you. Nightlife, seediness, longing – Polly Jean makes the alt-rock strumming intimate, even with that widespread appeal. The Thom Yorke tracks are amazing, but you can’t overlook “Good Fortune”, “Kamikaze”, and “This Is Love”. On a more personal note, I feel a slight pang of guilt because I should have listened to this album DECADES ago when I heard her live when she opened for U2 back in 2001.
White Zombie – La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One: Slick, primal sleaze-metal w/ trashy intensity oozing out of every song. The monotony is saved by the punctuations of exploitation movie samples like the devil’s ad-libs. There’s nothing to be lost from an Iggy Pop spoken word bit in the middle of “Black Sunshine”, either. The crunch in”Cosmic Monster Inc.” and unrelenting “Grindhouse (A Go-Go) ” are of note, along with “Thunder Kiss 65”, of course. Faster, slimebag, kill!
Death – …For The Whole World to See: Some archeologists fight about the origins of musical instruments. It’s not the same for this album and Death’s mark on punk rock when you listen. From start (“Keep On Knocking”) to finish (“Politicians In My Eyes”) it is a burst of vibrant, nonconformist rock that should have been respected at release, but alas.
Animal Collective – Sung Tongs: What an offbeat little symbol of emergent 2000s weirdness. Veering on the twee at times, it’s a psych-folk album that takes you on a jaunt through an indie idyll. Whether it’s back to normal or down to hipsterdom, that would depend if you went on to listen to Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Actress – Karma & Desire: Certain hypnagogic melodies permeate this album. It has a Selected Ambient Works Vol II vibe, evolved into something organic, energetic, and cybernetic. Whispers slip into pulsating beats on “Angels Pharmacy”. There are haunting piano pieces throughout, but “Many Seas, Many River” with Sampha’s soulful vocals is a standout. Actress’ house roots still emerge on the bottom half of the album, and the T-909 special guesting.
Quick blog post. Doing the NaNoWriMo thing again, going to crash and burn most likely, but there is one thing that has helped me in the two weeks prior to it.
The first is my main addiction which is of course Tumblr. The scene is…interesting at times, especially because I really feel out of place from it a lot of the time. And that’s what keeps me coming back – looking into a petri dish of social commentary, fandom and assorted nonsense that’s intriguing to me. So, that’s where I’m getting my inspiration from.
Second has to do with the thing I started two weeks ago. I’ve been working for a client that has me working at breakneck speeds for writing articles. At first I didn’t really think I could write a 500+ word article in under 1-2 hours but apparently I can? and I’m getting faster – I wrote one under 40 minutes in sheer panic of the deadline yesterday.
So, that means, under concentration, I can hit the 1667-a-day pace for the 50,000 goal this month in about….6 hours. But, because the closest thing to research I’m using is riffing off Tumblr, it really won’t take that long.
I wrote 400 words when I woke up this morning, actually. From 4 Tumblr posts, completely dismantled to fit the narrative. All in…what, half an hour? This might work, maybe.
Expect updates. Happy writing.
Note: I was published in a poetry book by Saul Williams years ago. The title of the poem is Girl Band, and I decided to write a four-part flash fic piece from each stanza.
Little maiden blue, burqa blessed,
she holds monstrous stories told
in the spaces of her lyre; infantile,
how her voice is muffled by the cloth
It didn’t surprise her fans that tickets to her shows sell out in ten minutes or less. She liked choosing small venues – this time a considerably-sized lounge – and a place where protesters would not be an issue.
The fear in her mind left years ago when she escaped the terrorist camps, so she had her dark gray tour bus park in front of the lounge and the few protesters that had made it outside on that cold December night. The shouting were a cacophony of Arabic, Urdu, Farsi while the police shouted in English. She remained silent, her mouth hidden beneath a black burqa adorned with a bronze grille. Her blue eyeliner gave the looks she made at her opponents the more menacing while she walked inside the lounge.
The techs set up the stage quickly – all that was needed was a rug to cover the stage’s wooden flooring, a comfortable and stylish seat, and a table at the proper height for her instrument. She had been using a three-foot tall lyre, gilded and Sumerian designed for the better part of a decade.
The red and purple stage lights came down on stage, and she came in, draped in a long, light blue burqa with a golden mesh. It looked as if she was floating towards her lyre. She sat down on the seat and pulled her arms out from under the burqa. Both her arms, covered in full-sleeve tattoos, depicted images of the bloodshed she witnessed at home, like a dark tapestry of sorrow and violence. She plucked at the strings with her right hand, whose arm had images of AK-47s and beheaded infidels.
“We born from the earth leave buckets of blood,” she sang, her voice the exquisite mix of the child and pixie, “my clit is gone…”
She commenced with her left hand, the one with an arm draped with buildings in ruin and explosions. The complexity of the melody was beautiful, making her lyrics and odd juxtaposition.
“I’ve run thousands of miles in the woods and the mud, but my clit is gone…”
The crowd could not make it if she was in pain or or if she was detached as she sang. There was a whimsy in her movement, swaying her head side to side and tapping her feet in black leather boots that seemed impossible to think she could be enjoying singing what was coming out of her mouth.
“My family is under the sand with the rest of the town,
The killers blessed my neck with knives, and I lied down… now my clit is gone.”
Her die-hard fans soaked into every word – some knew the lyrics and whispered it to friends and lovers. Others in the crowd simply walked out in discomfort or repulsion.
The song ended with a complex arpeggio. Afterwards, she spoke softly on the microphone.
“Thank you that was the easiest song on the set list. Let’s continue.’
With that, she removed her burqa, revealing an Afghani woman wearing a Rancid t-shirt and ripped jeans. The scars on her face mapped her life’s pain, but she maintained a genuine smile as she moved onto the next transgression.
I wasn’t planning on going to the Black Hole Disco, but having forty percent DNA of dance music makes a person weak for opportunities such as those. In the spirit of “fuck it why not,” I bought a ticket from a junkie days prior and made my way to the 8th Palace.
It was near midnight, and people of all sexes and genders stood outside, smoking. Women wore black shirts with ragged multicolored sigil, denoting their favorite band or god, who knows. Men wore light-colored tank-tops and caps. They all looked equally disaffected.
I passed through the sliding glass doors, into a hallway of shops that were completely locked down. Before I passed the particle-screen security gates leading to the shut-down escalators, I noticed that the floor above me was shaking from a thumping bass.
The Palace used to be a family restaurant and gateway for immigrants looking for cheap breakfast. It shut down two years ago and is still remains a gateway, to an extent. The floors still have their red carpets and foreign decorations, but at the far left is the Black Hole rig. Four speakers strategically placed, two turntables, a sound mixer and two laptops, one connected to an empty metallic ring over the dance floor.
There were two blackouts before the main event came on stage. Each time the ring hummed when it shouldn’t have in the middle of a deep house cut, or in the staccato of a trap jam. I slipped into the crowd and stared at how the pulsing lights from behind the stage bounced from the wallpaper. Such an odd juxtaposition, but I love it.
And then, the dark princess came. Everyone expected the first songs playing were to be her well-known harsh industrial-electro cuts, but she surprised us. She switched heavily between deep bass, southern underground rap, and then to 90s pop anthems. It was interesting, seeing this pallid, black-haired woman playing this kind of set, but we all wanted more of it regardless. Out of nowhere, in our drug-and-euphoria giddiness, she pressed a button on the second laptop and then jumped over the rig on on top of the crowd. She used a party-goer’s hand for balance, and walked to the center on a path made by the hands of others.
This was when I finally learned why it was called the Black Hole Disco. There was another blackout, but the music kept playing. The ring above us burst with a blue light, and I felt a slight pull coming from its direction. My instincts from years of illegal rave escapes kicked in and I ran away as I heard the screams from behind. It took only the length of one song, the DJ’s own from her recent album, for the crowd to get sucked into the dance-singularity. I’m confident those ravers will never be seen again.
I stumbled out of 8th Palace, and in the few minutes I had run from the chaos I found it was now the morning two days later, thanks to time dilation. I could have been sucked into the beyond of wherever that ring took the DJ and the crowd. I should have been on my knees, traumatized. But I did not. I walked for blocks and blocks of damp post-rain city, enjoying the warmth, smiling. Hoping I get another chance to cheat death, someday.
“You feel weak, but I still think
you’re the strongest man I’ve –“
it’s dark and I am sitting in bed,
three attacks in two hours
“You’re the bravest –“Shut up,
shut up. This is no daring here
this is primal survival, walking
in the woods of the city making
sure the cars don’t run me over.
“You can do this, you have me – “
no one is enough to fight this,
just me and the absence, anger
the desperation, and my tears
This is not genetic, there is no curse
tied to the ATCG worth passing on
to a child, in my future, I will hold
scared to death the seizure drops
The fluids show it is not cancer, no
panic then, you are healthy (sort of)
keep true to your smiles no matter
how you hide them, or slip away
Photosensitivity free, lucky for you
there is a light at the end of this
tunnel unlike for the rest, but recall
the absence, when it hits, breaks you
I walk out the building, hood up, monstrous
The homeless of the Tenderloin and I share
a certain shame and resiliency this morning
These streets know not the steps or pattern
of the brain waves hunted by the sensors
married to my head, held in holy bandage
There is no consummation – humiliation,
perhaps — but I want to lay in bed, alone
my head held high in hope of the sign
from on right-brain glitch to nodes,
the heavenly disconnect of my senses
to the tech – one cord, from monitor
to temporal lobe, temporary, lonely
The talismans are wrapped on
a string around my arm, wrist first,
penitent. Why did this happen?
What ties did I break that made
this condition my faith, my body
its sole temple and priest?
To the forearm, and the threads
become tenuous, protective
to the shivers in a blind animism
where all my will would rather
stay with frayed elder strings
than unbound to the seizures
The bicep, where there rests icons
misused saints I used to pray to
but stopped – now, I whisper
small phrases to them as auras
move past the shoulder towards
a flux – divine, wicked, unknown
I will remain the man shaking violently
Even at 90 and the last flicker of light
When my daughter stops calling me
As I see my wife go into the ground
After I see my child’s eye for the first time
Before “I do” leaves my mouth in May
The last time I’m allowed to go to a festival
Tonight, writing this in fear of my future
Despite all the control and safety from pills
There is one maxim to learn, after all these battles
when I have hyperventilated into angel’s trumpets
refusing the touches of careful women saving me
from the midnight fear and morning complications
finally facing complexity, embracing my absence
until my body turns into the predictable maelstrom –
Yes, there is no particular ending to a seizure
The waking up, the consciousness resumes
and we are once again left in this universe
on fire, white hot or slowly burning lethargic
But we will not let the black and blues define
us, we will take the bruises and the pain
as signs that, yes, we are still here, fighting
the ghosts that refuse to let go of our brain
And we will push our bodies, just as they do,
until we become heavenly, orbiting, unlimited,
drifting with hope that we will meet each other
And I will finally remember all of our names
No rest for loud thoughts.
Stay up alone? No, savage
fits destroy my words
Roses and fire that prick
my fingers and arms
Sight is a luxury slipping
into my ruin on repeat
The ashes, I will not let
them choke me down
It does not have the right
to leave me here, alone
And nobody truly aware
that I am hurting inside,
dragged into a spiral
of thorns and flames
I feel but cannot see
Let’s go far away where the shivers won’t scare me,
my body reacts at the contact from phantom winds
I want to see the bay and the dark sky, the stolen
mix of highways and comfort in masking absence
This may be the only road I see out of this trip
where my world is lost when lights become auras
Triggers create threats, a stream of scattered havoc
springing out from the ether and breaks of emptiness
Triggers bring flames and flames on the walls my hands
are banging against – no burns, only wide-eyed fear
Triggers create memories, displays and a pageant
of frenzies I portray in front of you, my dear
Triggers sit tight, for they live inside and around me
watching for a time and place to grab my hands
There you are, taking off your dress, a smile
slight yet bit-lip enough it washes cautions
held every time you saw me fall into space
and caressed me in the post-seizure haze
This is the moment I hold you down, hard
onto the sheets and say “Fuck the fear.”
I have touched you there before and loved it
My thoughts, I shut down with a tongue –
a flurry of strokes and moans and I am free
But, in the sex and switched postions It returns.
The damn thing was hidden between the thrusts
and the command “Keep going, don’t stop,”
I follow the wrong gypsy, the cursed one
who puts her spell on me, the impossibility
of an orgasm when my body forgets its place
All these mind-fires burn what was the old me,
a blaze in the last bonfires of a cold beach
I see, in the inner effigy there is hope left
If I use the ocean – I see it there, the waves
of the new coast calling to me in a new tongue
What is there left to do but to lean back,
let it crash over me, wash the flames away
and ready my mind for the new self, waiting?
Hi, I am your lungs contracting at rates of complexity
per seconds, blinking faster, your words on remix
Ven aqui, compadre mio this won’t end ‘til you chill,
‘til you die, ‘til the shivers go away happy once they
ate away at all the quiet air you had left in the day
I have a new job, one that has me leaving the house after years of working in my pajamas. So that means a commute, which I’m comfortable with. This has afforded a small moment of peace, as turbulent as that sounds, since I am away from the family and the office for a combined eighty minutes give or take when the next train comes. So, of course, I write. I keep three notebooks in my bag along with all my other items. Lately I’m using one of the smaller ones since I’m working on my new Haiku Mixtape project, which doesn’t really need a lot of real estate as far as paper is concerned. The larger notebook comes out rarely, but when it does it’s only when I can sit down waiting for the next train, and when i really need to put down something long and drawn out.
This isn’t a new thing, I’ve been doing this for years. What makes it different is the ritualistic nature of it now. The pulling out of the black book and pen, the faces of daily commuters surrounding me becoming small easels for facial descriptions, etc. It isn’t like the weekend train ride. there’s a permanence to it now. This continued mobile isolation of sorts will be a productive one, hopefully. Until the job drives me insane.
(Note: parts of this were made in repeated drafts written on the PATH train on Monday and Tuesday of this week.)