Category Archives: transience

REMEMBERING DJ MEHDI: TONTON DU BLED

Fafi en Mexico by GraffMX

[Fafi en Mexico by Fafi]

Young deaths, accidental deaths are always the worst. The graffiti above is by artist Fafi, wife of DJ Mehdi, who passed away on Tuesday when, during a party for a friend, the roof of his Paris home collapsed.

Most people in the States know Mehdi from his electro/disco/house, his association with Ed Banger records, the Daft Punk / Justice upswing. But he began in France’s hiphop scene, and that’s where I first discovered him.

DJ Mehdi

In DJ culture, certain songs exceed themselves, turn epic, turn anthem, crystallize a moment so well that whoever created the song becomes one to watch for – they enter in the conversation (often bypassing people who have been doing similar things — without the greater cultural resonance — for years). Because you can hear it, clearly, when music takes on zeitgeist weight, heavy with meaning.

“Tonton du Bled”, produced by Mehdi for Paris rap crew 113 is one such song.

If, like me, when you first heard it you had no idea what they were saying beyond a few snatches of words — it was DJ Mehdi’s beat that brought everything together, that made the whole articulation danceable and audible to us outside of the Afro- Arab- Francophone rap world. It’s a big tune.

“Tonton du Bled” was released in 1999, one year after Rachid Taha’s cover of Dahmane El Harrachi’s “Ya Rayah” became such a hit. “Ya Rayah” is the classic Algerian song of exile, a poetic and bittersweet cautionary tale about leaving your homeland (you’ll always want to come back), the restlessness of the traveler, the migrant worker (and the touring DJ). 113’s lyrics narrate a French-Algerian taking the car-and-ferry back to the ‘bled’ for a few weeks — with none of the Taha/El Harrachi longing. On the contrary, they are smart and hilarious in their reproach — using French slang peppered with Arabic words to playfully discuss the trip to Algeria, referencing Playstations, darboukas, librarian-sexy raï superstar Zahouania, all while gently riffing on urban/country differences without falling into easy dichotomies, not a drop of nostalgia in sight. If “Ya Rayah” invokes the split identity of someone who can’t shake longing for a distant home, 113 and Mehdi use hiphop swagger to express utter identitarian confidence – at ease in multiple languages, countries, Euro cities or African villages – empowered by the ability to travel (hiphop as portable homeland).

tonton-du-bled

So the rap song offers a detailed reply to the raï one, and this black and brown intergenerational conversation is happening in France. It’s a rare and vibrant moment of a call-and-response conversational topic stretching across musical scenes.

And it put Mehdi on my radar. We never met but I’d always wanted to ask him about the transition from making beats for major players in the French rap scene to getting international traction as an electro DJ. It’s a fascinating move, probably a great way to think about changes in the French music scene over the past decade or so, too.

“Tonton du Bled” stayed in my crate for years. I actually became known for playing this track to Francophone audiences. An afterhours party on a Paris boat ended with the Moroccan manager giving me his copy of the 113 record it came on. The LP that was later destroyed when a drunk driver slammed into the tour van of Kid606 and myself outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, smashing the rear windows and sending my record bag onto the highway. But in that crash we were blessed: apart from a little whiplash and my best 80 records completely destroyed, nobody was hurt. We walked out of a totaled tour van alive. It was a hit-and-run. Who knows what that driver has done since.

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Here’s how I used “Tonton du Bled” in my 2004 mixtape, Bidoun Sessions, sliding in a spacious dancehall riddim underneath:

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DJ Rupture – Bidoun Session excerpt

Less than a week ago Mehdi released a free mix called Tunisian Summer, saying “Last but not least, this mix is, quite humbly, dedicated to the people of my ancestors country, TUNISIA, for obvious reasons.”

To close, here’s a lovely Tunisian song (with a hiphop beat).

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Aliah Blaid Raked – Alahamra

PRINCESS IN A MERCEDES

800px-Alma tunnel Paris

[Pont de l’Alma tunnel, Paris. Wikipedia]

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she’s inconsistent, but she’s still alive…

A haunting new song from Anne-James Chaton & Andy Moor. Haunting: presences which do not, cannot leave. Even – especially – after the song ends. Music as quiet constant supplement to the historical record.

she’s in a hotel, a palace, at the Ritz, in Paris…

available now as a 7″ on the Unsounds label!

THE COLLAPSIBLE BODY

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Shackleton – Deadman King Midas Sound Death Dub

I am listening to this song which Lamin shared, some friends remixing another. It is filled with dusk-tones, close and fading, sunset a challenge to both darkness and light and at the same time I learn that a poet I’d read and knew in passing, has passed away. A friend who knew Akilah better sent some of us an excerpt of her speaking about grief.

And once again, we’re left with beautiful words and tones that linger but can never stay. In a sense, this is why we share it.

akilah-oliver

Akilah Oliver:

Grief is a complicated emotion but also an inadequate word in many ways. Maybe it isn’t so much that the term fails to encompass a range of emotional states, but I think also death itself, as an event, as a limit, as a field of investigation, is too many things at once.It’s solid and it’s slippery. For me what I’m doing in A Toast is using language to walk through that field to find out about love, the collapsible body, what it means to be human, all of that. Also, I think that I am trying to transcribe rapture. I mean that in the ecstatic sense of the word. . . . I am in a state of seeking. Grief is a part of that seeking, but so is redemption and anger, the forgivable and the unforgivable, this ecstasy of being in a kind of light, the simple astonishment of the impermanence of absence. This book is dedicated to my brother who died when I was very young, and he was very young, 28 years younger than I am now, so in some ways he has passed into myth for me, which is another kind of symbolic being-ness. It’s also dedicated to my son who died when he was 20, so there is that grappling with the loss of the body who has come through my body, a kind of intimacy that is almost indescribable. And it is also dedicated to my mother, who is still alive and kicking at 74, and the recognition of myself as the beloved body too, who has passed through another beloved. So there is this elegiac intent here as well. I am trying to trace the mystery of the bodylife, a term I’m borrowing from Cherríe Moraga. So there’s hope in these poems of course.

TEMPORARY CURATORS: SLEAZY + BEYOND

Peter_Christopherson-RIP-INCUBATE-640x428

“We are all only temporary curators of our present bodies, which will all decay, sooner or later. In a hundred years or so all the humans currently alive will have died. I take great comfort in knowing, with certainty, that thing that makes us special, able to enrich our own lives and those of others, will not cease when our bodies do but will be just starting a new (and hopefully even better) adventure … ” –  Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson

RIP Sleazy.

Coil was great. I can’t really explain it here. Just returned to NYC after a productive absence but today is one of those “days” where I’m “home” for less than 24 hours. His post–  post–  Throbbing Gristle project X-TG was slated to play at the GY!BE ATP this weekend, we were looking forward to that…

although his work that really opened my young self up was Coil.

Red Slur is the first Coil song I ever heard. Sometime in high school, these 3 minutes made an indelible impression. It remains one of my favorite songs.

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Coil – Red Slur (from Gold Is The Metal With The Broadest Shoulders)

I loved that they could be honestly, truly creepy…

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Coil – The First Five Minutes After Death (from Horse Rotorvator)

…and then go “pop.”

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Coil – The Snow (from Love’s Secret Domain)

AMERIKAN POETRY IN 2 PARTS

1.

Developed Nation by Joyelle McSweeney

Is this how a god returns from victory?

This is america. The boy soprano
into the doughnut-world.
Fresh from the fish-mold.
Clattering out across the snow
to buy a paperknife,
clutching a flier…

A test in harmonies.
Here comes the perfect pitch-
it’s white, it falls to the glove,
showing its stitches. Here comes
the hot-front, stitched with flags

O beautiful he produceth
language from everyplace
on his body, the room
where the heatcloud lifts to the ceiling…

the subcommander crouched in the stalkbed breathing
into his lily-season

2.

Hard Times by Baby Huey

LIFE IS TRANSIENTS (JUSTIN BIEBER 800% SLOWER 800% FASTER)

200px-USmile

Turns out the only thing in Justin Bieber’s corpus better than “U Smile” 800% Slower is “U Smile” 800% Slower (Sped Up 800%). In which the 36-minute long Bieber smear gets restored to its original radio-friendly length by the same algorithmic process:

It’s a poignant reminder than nothing can ever be fully undone, that life is transients, that the attack matters most… Everything else is simply hundreds of offset and overlapping grains playing back at varying pitches centered around the original frequency.

Furthermore, 800% Slower (Sped Up 800%) restores the Canadian entertainer’s lyrics to full audibility so we can once again appreciate Mr Bieber’s elegant (if unoriginal) Lacanian proposition – rare in a successful pop song – that through the mimetic impulse, immanently subjectivizing and spliced with a libidinal charge impossible to master or suppress, we are all socialized. For better and for worse.

“You smile,” sings Mr Bieber, “I smile.”

File under: advanced banjee realness

220px-Mirror baby

BIRTHDAY LOVE TIME STRETCH

Yes, today is my birthday! I survived last year (barely). Hugs, large bills, mp3s, and gift certificates to the crematorium all accepted…

nttl 002

Eat, drink and consume media, for tomorrow we get deleted. Or maybe not deleted. Maybe just replaced with squid pictures.

As is the Mudd Up! custom, I give you stuff – words, decentertainment, my time – for free a few times a week. And why should my b-day be any different?

If you want it to be different, please consider getting me something via my Amazon Wishlist. #JustSayin

but back to the “gift economy” (did someone say pro-art, pro-market?)

First off: here’s a nine-minute excerpt from my Bidoun Sessions mix CD, released six years ago. Ah, the passing of time! But it still sounds fresh, no?

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DJ Rupture – Bidoun Sessions excerpt

& some Algerian chaabi, which always manages to improve my mood, especially lovely unhurried fifteen minute plus songs such as this one:

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Kamal El Masôudi – Lehnina memti

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maybe <3 is time minus anxiety. Let’s consider that as we listen to these:

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Baths – Maximalist = happy vocal samples (“it takes a lot of courage for you to go out there and radiate your essence”) woven into sublime glitches as my jeep gently beats, or What’s Love Telling Me To Do Right Now?

Obviously, this music is Californian, and California is another country, but <3 is the word of the day.

Which leads us to Nicki Minaj’s Your Love, chopped and screwed, from Straight to the Room #12.

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Nicki Minaj – Your Love

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For those who want to extend the moment… to make a day last longer… here is the software used to pull Justin Bieber into Hopelandic ambience: Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch (free, windows / linux).

As the instructions say, this is best used “if have a melody of 3 minutes and you want to listen it in 3 hours [sic] . . . ‘HyperStretch’ mode may stretch up to 1,000,000,000 times”

(Incidentally, this sounds better and less glitchy than the algorithms used by the guy who pulled Beethoven’s 9th Symphony into a 24-hour work of glistening tones six years ago.)

RADIO GOO GOO

studio museum

If you’ve visited the Studio Museum in Harlem in the past month or two, chances are you heard my installation wafting down from the front two rooms. It was a soft launch of the piece, Radio GooGoo, which officially opens on July 15th. By the end of its Studio Museum run, Radio GooGoo will have created hundreds of hours of “original” “music”, plus the museum will offer free CDs with an hour of Radio GooGoo. I’ll have more info as well as audio excerpts soon… In the meantime, here’s an official blurb:

StudioSound: DJ /rupture’s Radio GooGoo
DJ/Rupture’s Radio GooGoo is a radical audio installation that challenges widely accepted notions of authorship as well as the deep associations attached to musical genres. Radio GooGoo features computer based algorithms that assemble media sounds from a range of radio stations in real-time. Combining and synthesizing these sounds, Radio GooGoo continually broadcasts in the Museum lobby.

I like that they call it ‘radical’ — I would add, importantly, that Radio GooGoo lies at the fertile intersection between ‘radical’ and ‘lazy'; as an Artist, I consider myself an active participant in a venerable lineage of Negro Laziness. I’d write more, but it takes so much work…

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And my actual radio show was broadcast last night. You can listen back here.

CUMBIA REBAJADA

Everything is happening too quickly. We gotta slow down.

Turtle3m

[Turtle at zoo in Czech Republic, wikipedia]

I hit the cumbia rebajada motherlode in MX. slow & low, downpitched sublime. Cumbias rebajadas are slowed down cumbias that you can buy on the street in the right towns. Time gone viscous. Here’s a dark one, really stellar this. I twittered it yesterday:

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Parranderos de Colombia – Cumbia Serrana (rebajada)

and here’s a deep one.. about Arizona:

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Super Grupo Colombia – Cumbia Arizona (rebajada)

I can’t believe it’s July already. This is shocking. Everything is happening too quickly. I’m gonna go for a walk outside and when I come back it’s going to be 2015. Wait…