I have been quiet over here of late, too busy doing my part in the ongoing cyberwar at Sukhumi State. In the spirit of Paul's homage to civil defense communiques from the state, a few potentially liberating distractions for your slow Saturday.
1. Dery in Roma.
At Boing Boing, the brilliant Mark Dery is guestblogging a series of fantastic short essays based on his recent stint with the American Academy in Rome. Have witnessed it firsthand in another venue, I can assure you that no one does deep tourism like Mark, who should be liberated from the book and given his own cable show, like the semiotic Anthony Bourdain (if there's a frames-per-second medium that can keep up).
2. Riffing with Mats.
Over at The Quietus, an outstanding interview with Swedish maestro Mats Gustafsson, the brilliant punk who turns a jazz saxophone into a postmodern Gjallarhorn that heralds the Ragnarök of our everyday Zeitgeist.
Ohhh herregud . . . what’s that sound? That viscous, abrasive tone, resembling Albert Ayler drowning in hot bitumen? That squealing, squalling, peeling, mauling degradation of brass? That would be Sweden’s finest export, Mats Gustafsson. The prolific saxophonist has been an exponent of wildy unfettered improvisation since the early 1980s, working with everybody from improv legends Derek Bailey and Ken Vandermark to Italian hardcore math-skronk trio Zu and visonary sun-god eYe from the Boredoms.
His most stable project has been his long-standing trio The Thing, with bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love — a swinging harsh-jazz ensemble renowned for meaty deconstructions of Bowie, the White Stripes, Peter Brötzmann, Lightning Bolt and countless other unlikely targets.
How spontaneous or pre-planned is the music of The Thing?
MG: I was very influenced by Per Henrik Wallin (Swedish free-jazz pianist and composer). Hearing his Trio as a kid in the early ’80s . . . I’m happy to say that we took some of their music-making tools and made them ours.
We have a ‘book’ of perhaps a couple of hundred pieces, all in the fingers, feet and heads… and we never, ever decide what pieces to do before a performance. That’s the method that works best for us, just improvising with what we have. Whatever shows up, we play!
All the great music we can find, we try to use — be it hardcore or metal, tropicalia or schlager, noise or garage rock, free jazz or West Coast. We try to make it our music. The Thing’s music. Our concerts are always improvised. We have to find out during playing what pieces to do. I think that makes it much more involving for the audience as well. And for sure it keeps us on our toes!
What’s the source of the highly physical, almost violent aspects of The Thing’s music? Rage? Frustration? Joy?
MG: Peace, love, fire, vinyl, grappas and good BBQ! Again, ‘Music is like living, but better.’
3. Looping the apocalypse.
The Wall Street Journal examines the phenomenon of apocalypse movies, trying to understand what cultural forces propel the never-ending stream of of fantasies of the destruction of civilization. Especially interesting is the trend of filmmakers using real footage of contemporary catastrophes like Katrina and 9/11, decontextualized, to trigger the viewer's emotional experience. Even more interesting would be if WSJ would explore the link between apocalypse movies and the things covered on the front page of the chronicle of American business: the status of narratives of disaster and depopulation as works of realism, depicting the emotional reality of what it often feels like to live in our alienated society.