Yay. Placeholder blog post. Literally only doing anything at the moment because one member of an old peer group is also still assailing this mist.

Though my shit's been far less tumultuous over the last four years, I feel obligated to at least sound check the chasm.

Yeah, it feels okay. I used to write a lot. I used to like it. I can do it again.

Pseudoproof: I found a notebook that has preliminary research for the last handful of celeb interviews I did at USD. It also had class notes. And notes for op-eds I wanted to write but never sensed the audience for. And terrible, rough sketches for plays.

The freebie heroin taste you get is this: I apparently made my own mnemonic for the order of epochs for an earth science. Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, Holocene. For whatever, that's from most recent to most distant. Anyhow, that boiled down to PEOMPPH, which I remembered via "Porn ends on my penis; penis hard."

I was a crafty one all right.


Afraid to glance or glare...

Oh, Edsel...

 I'd almost entirely forgotten about them until I picked up the last Obits record Moody, Standard and Poor back when I was trying to review records again semiregularly.

 (deep breath for classic me storytelling, AKA done expect the point to reappear for some time)

I bought it knowing absolutely nothing about Obits other than the design of the packaging was ace. A mood was evoked by the colors, composition, and typography. Good enough.

 Driving home from the Electric Fetus, I gave the disc a preview. 45 seconds into the first track and barely a block down Franklin, the cigarette dropped from my mouth into my lap. My right hand was managing the steering wheel, and my left arm was out the window, fist clenched and pumping angrily. "FROBERG!" I bellowed.

 I don't really dislike Rick Froberg. I don't. But when I haven't heard one of his bands in awhile, I forget how his voice works and that human voices can work like that at all. Every ten years or so, I stumble across one of his projects, and this pattern had just been updated.

 Back in high school, I was a fairly bigbig Rocket From the Crypt Fan, which meant that I'd at least read about Drive like Jehu, Froberg's gig with Rocket frontman John Reis. I mean, the internet was around, but you couldn't burn CDs and you could maybe fit a short mp3 or two on a double-density 3 1/2 inch disk (still under 3 megs), and I was still in South Dakota, so it wasn't until I got to college in '97 that I got to experience Froberg for the first time.

 It was probably the first time I was left in alone in the KAOR studio that I really went nuts. I really had no idea which direction to go first. I went nuts and listened to pretty much every record and CD in there that I'd read about but had never heard. I even listened to Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, which I'd owned on CD for years, but, shit. They had the Blast First pressing. How the fuck do you not give that some love?

 But yes. There was a copy of Yank Crime. I listened to it. Think I actually still have it somewhere. Don't really recall. At the time, since it sounded nothing like RFTC, I was utterly uninterested. But Froberg. Oh, that voice stands out.

 Years later, I pick up the Hot Snakes' Suicide Invoice because I faintly remembered reading a good review of it somewhere and I knew Reis had been involved. Froberg!

 So anyhow. The first listen to the Obits record was hasty and broken up over several drives from here-to-there and back-again. Absorb-y, but not really cogent. Anyhow, fourth or fifth listen, I totally fucking notice that one (and eventually two) of the songs were sung by a not-Froberg, and the not-Froberg's voice was TOTALLY recognizable. So that led me to Googling Sohrab Habibion, the guy in the album credits labeled probably something more helpful than not-Froberg.

Turns out he was in...


 And I still have my copy of Techniques of Speed Hypnosis, which I actually remember hiding in the studio until I knew they were gonna sell all the CDs only I knew what were. Nope. Not concealing that I jacked stuff from the studio. But I felt guilty, so I made a point to but a TON of stuff when they unloaded. Man, it was OUTRAGEOUS what they wanted to charge for promotional copies (see what I did there, fuckers?) Anyhow. It's a great goddam record. Fits into that neat, bright, meaningful scuzzpop D.C. and nearby Virginia excelled at producing for so long, organized into a song-interlude-song-interlude rhythm. They put stuff out on Grass, Relativity, De Soto.

Full of goodness.


Musings on several months into vinyl fetishism...

I've been married for over a year now, and I like it. When I got married, I got many things: an amazing wife, a big party with all my friends and family, and a bunch of gifts. Still got the wife. Awesome. Still remember the party. Cool. Possess total recall of precisely one gift: a vinyl pressing of Mr. Bungle's California.

But the thing about that gift is that is was PERFECTLY suited to both Maureen and I.

The one problem: I burned up my stereo when I burned down France.

Sam, by way of giving us California, planted seeds that germinated several months ago when I convinced Maureen to let me go piece together a new stereo rig. Convinced is too strong a word as I didn't really have ply excessive charm, but still I prepared like it was going to be a Big Weird Fight. It's more fun that way.

I was unsatisfied with new gear offerings (in the financial ballpark we jointly agreed to), so I pieced together a modest system at a suburban pawn shop, and away we went.

A couple months in, and I'm throwing out about $50 a week on records. Sometimes it's $70 on two heavy pressings from a high-end boutique label like Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, sometimes it's $30 on a wholly random smattering of used records at the Fetus (the Fall, Michael Jackson, and Jethro Tull).

I'm not really an audio snob. I easily slipped from CDs to mp3s without a complaint. I couldn't tell (that I could tell). The records I had were more out of ironic faux nostalgia or out of simple neat-o collectorhood. The difference between a polybagged comic book and Kraftwerk's Computer World were surprising negligible.

But years and years into the digital revolution, vinyl offers a surprisingly nice punch. Again, I don't have a high-end system. It's a Technics-made JC Penney turntable with a generic AT-71 stylus on a Nakamichi receiver through some old Avid speakers. But the presence is outstanding, and depending on the record, the clarity of space and separation is somewhat mind-blowing.

It's an easy and unsurprisingly accurate summation to dismiss my wonder as the result of years of settling for almost all recorded music to be absorbed via either my car or my computer. I get that.

But that's not the reason I've fallen in love with records.

It's the ritual.

I want to listen to some music. I select a record, shuck the plastic sleeve and the paper sleeve, gingerly pull out the record and examine it. I put it on the platter. If it's clean and shiny, I drop the needle. If not, I dose it with some Pfan Stat and give it a twirly wipe first. Then the music comes.

While not circumstantially identical, it takes me back to when I was a high schooler in Redfield; when I first discovered music. A box would come in the mail. Depending on who I thought I was getting a great deal from at the time, it contained music from either BMG or Columbia House. Down to my basement room I'd run, grabbing a comp notebook and my trusty Aiwa disc portable on the way to flopping on my bed where I'd lie and ACTIVELY LISTEN, going so far as to even transcribe any lyrics I found particularly compelling.

So far, the only regret I have is with selection. I'm not taking too many chances with unfamiliar material, instead frequently choosing to repurchase my greatest favorites from circa '96-'01.

I assume this is a personal fad that will eventually die, either from exhaustion of reasonably priced still-in-print options or a significant uptick in trustworthy new releases.

Oh, and as an added bonus, Maureen kind of likes listening to records too*. She raises the same eyebrow she raises whenever I find a new way of spending money as a substitute for being a creative, productive human, but, hey, to that end, I don't recall ever writing this extensively about either my various lens lusts or even about having spent the last three years as far more of a photographer than as a writer.

So there's that.


* Yes, she more than "likes" listening to records. She still (correctly) thinks I'm spending too much money on it though.


Musical wife with spectatorjim.

This is fun. We had intentions of that sort of far-ranging house-cleaning couples frequently speculate about in their second year of marriage, but thankfully, I managed to subvert that by buying some beer and lugging some gear upstairs.

We've now been playing a game called Jim controls the iTunes, and Maureen plays bass to whatever Jim picks. We started with Echo and the Bunnymen's "Killing Moon" and have segued to Enon's "Natural Disasters."

This is fun.

Where to next?


Ten more yards.

Bah. Another false start. Blogging is tough, especially if you're loath to self-promote. One can project out to the void, but with not even an echo, desire to create either falters or is distracted by nearer, louder sirens.

Hence, I've been sinking time into elsewhere.

I'ma come back here and get more post-y.

Primarily because regular writing is the only thing that will keep my voice flexible, but also because I just posted something really clever on someone's Facebook update and nobody's noticed yet, even though it's been a whole seven minutes.



Recent photos of note...

Shot lazily within 15 feet of my front door.

A pane of glass at work decided to shatter unexpectedly today. Something about a disproportionate glob of cadmium used in the tempering process absorbing heat and expanding at an unfriendly rate.

Perhaps a nice wallpaper?


Reviews of stuff I bought last Tuesday pt. II

tUnE-yArDs w h o k i l l
Both henceforth referred to as, respectively, Tuneyards and Whokill for convenience.

This album gives me pause. It is clearly good. It is clearly innovative and expressive and powerful and neato. But I have no idea what the hell any of it means. This is a work of restless genius, but it begs to be listened to almost more as an assertion of its own brilliant novelty than for any motivation that conventionally compels human beings to listen to music.

There's the blaringly awesome Gangsta, which herds Solex, Lily Allen, and M.I.A. into an inconsistently lit alley, takes their lunch money, and kicks the shit out of them for no other reason than that's just what happens when it gets out of bed.

Naturally, it's followed by the beautiful Powa, which is sweet (like a lullaby) and leads into sweet (like bad-ass). Merrill Garbus gots pipes, and she uses them here like they were both the fishnet stockings that caught your eye and the broken bottle used to demonstrate why you shouldn't stare.

Later, Bizness rips like you somehow already forgot about Gangsta. It's aggressive in its reach, but it feels merely assertive because you don't doubt that it gets what it wants.
You Yes You sets up with Garbus doing her thing, but then she yelps "What's that about? What's that about?" like a scalded Mark E. Smith.

As we start moving towards the wrap-up, Wooly Wolly Gong invokes the same spiraling introspection that made DJ Shadow's Endtroducing so powerful and with similar results. A circular guitar and a plainly affected drumbeat provide the bed over which Garbus croons sounds that evince both hope and dread independent of the word-vessels that contain them. Also, a truck drives by. You will look out your window for the offender, but no, it's just something there to fuck with headphones wearers.

The album closes on Killa, the feel-good not-a-single of the barbecue season. It sums up the album rather nicely. There are bits where a singular Garbus informs you of this and/or that, and intermingled are bits where multiple Garbi wrestle each other for the honor of exclaiming something you will never understand on the first several tries.

But there is something alienating about this album that keeps it from seeming more enjoyable to me. Is it the willful inconsistency? The chasing ideas back out from the rabbit hole?

The best I can come up with is to out myself as something of a sexist. I could use all the same hyperbole and praise I used for Ms. Garbus to describe a Dan Deacon record, except that I'm somehow all for that. The two aren't really stylistically similar, but they do share a similar grating-as-fuck-when-you're-not-in-the-mood quality. But I think I perhaps find a more satisfying logic in how a guy putters with deconstruction than a lady. Maybe?

Whokill is more than just a deconstruction though. Through all of its myriad filters and edits, it is a pop record (somehow) when all is said and done, and a damn good one.


UPDATE: Technically 10/24/12, though I've been meaning to add this for months. Maybe after the implosion of indie/college rock, I'd fallen out of the habit of challenging my tastes? I don't know. I no longer question this record or Garbus. It's just plain great.