NYC SHOW: UNNATURAL STAR ARRANGEMENTS

This Saturday I’ll be DJing at a new event series hosted by Lamin Fofana, Unnatural Star Arrangements. Find us at Trans-Pecos on the Queens/Brooklyn border. Dutch E Germ, VHVL, Lamin, and myself. AKA great surprise sound all night long. Haven’t DJed in NYC in awhile and am looking fwd to this one!
Oct 10. 10pm til late. $10 in advance.

PS: Philip Sherburne wrote a thoughtful essay on Lamin’s latest EP for Pitchfork, focusing in on “What Techno Can Teach Us About the Migrant Crisis

Mudd Up Book Clubb: FRAN ROSS – OREO

There’s a larger story to be told about how the Mudd Up Book Clubb met at Brazenhead, the best bookstore in the world, for nearly 4 years! About how Michael had to leave Brazenhead’s secret apartment location (& how I recorded its silence — a shareable portrait of the clandestine bookshop’s unique acoustic space)… but we’ll save that for later. Because the September Mudd Up Book Clubb selection is a whopper .

Back in 1974 Fran Ross published a great American novel. Oreo. An unruly picaresque. Black, Jewish, steeped in Greek myth and profane jokes gassed by polystylistic riffs, with Yiddish in spades and a masterful use/abuse of language at the heart of it.

How did Oreo not become an instant classic, revising the way we think of contemporary lit lineages? For all those selfsame reasons it seems.

When the book failed to make waves, Ross moved to LA — to write comedy for Richard Pryor. This actually happened. I love this woman.

So — let’s read her only book. New Directions recently re-republished it. This September we’ll meet at a post-Brazenhead location to discuss what happens when a hyperintelligent writer decides that there is no reality outside of language and that the Lawd/Jehovah gave us tongues so we could wisecrack and hoot. Shaking up our canons in the best possible way.

PODCAST ASSISTANT PRODUCER

Radio is in my blood. After 5 years of hosting a show on WFMU, and some time off, I’m ready to return. If you enjoyed Mudd Up! then you’ll like what’s to come… This fall I’m starting a new podcast, and am looking for a New York City based production assistant.

WANTED: a media producer/arts journalist with experience editing audio interviews and doing storytelling with sound. Duties include: artist and label liaison, audio editing/production, dealing with metadata/FTPing/etc., & research. I’m not after a musician (or DJ), although familiarity with new & old music is a big plus.

The time commitment will hover around 5 hours a week. We’ll need to meet twice a month in NYC, although much of the work can be done remotely. There is a monthly honorarium. This position makes the most sense for someone who is excited to work with me and get some flexible-yet-focused experience producing an exciting, unruly podcast about exciting, unruly music.
I am a benevolent dictator and an equal opportunity employer.

Interested? Tell me why with some examples of what you do. Email: radio at jaceclayton dot com

QUIETEST PLACE: Art Assignment Highlights

Back in April I did a video for Sarah Urist Green & John Green’s Art Assignment, PBS Digital’s weekly series where artists devise ‘assignments’ for the viewers to complete. My assignment was: take a stroll until you find the quietest place within walking distance and document it with photo or video, sharing the results on social media via #theartassignment. Amazing documentation poured in from all over the globe.

Ssshhhhh – YOU PEOPLE ARE GREAT. ‘The Quitest Place’ received a record number of responses, several of which are featured in this highlight reel:

And here John riffs on my assignment in an airport for his wildly popular Youtube Vlog Brothers.


“attention has become so fractured on the internet that there is no longer room in YouTube videos for any silence”

BROSTEP, MANSPLAINED

Today the Sounding Out blog posted an article called Going Hard: Bassweight, Sonic Warfare, & the Brostep Aesthetic. Now, when people say ‘Sonic Warfare’, that’s usually my cue that it’s naptime… Turns out the essay by Mike D’Errico can springboard some interesting discussions, but his core conceit involves over-gendering brostep. The best example I can give of this is by examing how Mr D’Errico misconstrues & misquotes writer Julianne Escobedo Shepherd.

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Discussing brostep, D’Errico writes: “Julianne Escobedo Shepherd describes the style as ‘frat-hazed, misogy blow-job beats.’” That gave me pause. Sure, it supports his reductive thesis, but Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is one of the best music critics around, and DJs an excellent radio show to boot. She’s got her ear to the ground in a way that few others do, and that includes being sensitive to how sounds actually play out on the dancefloor – where context and intent can queer up even the most heteronormative sounds –, and besides, hasn’t Shepherd, like me, championed the work of brostepping Mexican DJ Javier Estrada among others? Strenuously working to position a music production aesthetic as masculine is a tricky proposition at best. Not only does it reinforce gender binaries (male = hard!) but if you’ve spent any time in clubs, it’s never that simple. (Or if it is that simple, then you’re in the wrong clubs, but don’t worry, my friends can help you out).

Since D’Errico’s quotation of Shepherd felt so weird to me, I decided to follow the link to check. What I found was shocking. He had taken two sentences out of context, combined them into one phrase, and slapped an adjective used to describe fans of a single musician onto the music itself — all in the service of inverting her nuanced points about the reductionism required to align mid-range bass frequencies with bro culture!

A male music writer chopped up, distorted, and misquoted – ‘modulated’ to use his parlance – a female writer’s words, willfully ignoring her article’s clear points, in order to support his thesis that Brostep is a hypermasculinst hypermediated control gambit. The mind boggles.

Here’s what Shepherd actually wrote, in a 2012 article discussing how brostep is in fact on the wane:

The concept of “bro-step” as a typecast is also strange — because, what makes mid-range bass so overwhelmingly bro-y? Perhaps I’m missing the point, but I consider myself far outside the realm of brozones, and as a female-born, feminine woman who loves gut-rumbling wobble and monstrous subbass, its codification as particularly bro-y is unnecessarily exclusive and of course super-reducto. Of course in certain realms maybe it makes sense — the misogy blow-job beats of Borgore, say, probably hold a greater fascination for the recently frat-hazed than, you know, me, although I still can appreciate the gnarled nastiness of the rhythm section.

It is as if the twisted distortions of hypermasculinist Brostep have invaded D’Errico’s writerly sensibility. Perhaps this is because they can’t be found in the musical world, especially in 2014, when brostep as a genre is clearly on the way out — although, as has been the case since the beginning, many artists continue using techniques gleaned from it in fascinating, unanticipated ways. Sure, the sounds of brostep are used in violent video games and movies — so are many other music genres and aspects of sound design… And the brosteppy wobble is also present in easy listening radio pop…

To suggest a relevant alternative to D’Errico’s starkly schematic area of inquiry: where does Hatsune Miku fit into all this?… A post-gender android singing synthesizer whose use requires enormous amounts of ‘hypermediation’ to sing well, a feminine-avatared piece of proprietary code that sparked a popular phenomenon where you have boys and girls and women and men spending as much time any brostepper programming synths, and as a bonus, Hatsune’s case gives us uncanny and confusing challenges to standard notions of voice, body, sexuality, transmedia fandom, and more…

Perhaps the Hard, Loud sounds of brostep left D’Errico desensitized to the considerations found in Shepherd’s take. Perhaps the best music critics really are dancers and DJs, not because they engage with the songs at a bodily level but because in order to dance reasonably well one must first be a good listener, and aware of all the many other bodies in the room.

2013: THE YEAR IN MUSIC, SLIGHTLY

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[from Anita Sullivan’s The Seventh Dragon]

Earlier today I tweeted: “1 of my fav albums of 2013 was the flash drive @NarcoIris gave me, another was the Jai Paul leak/bootleg/thing. Legit releases r 4 amateurs” — aphorisms aside, let’s dive into some notable vibrations from 2013.

Before discussing other people’s music (& some books), brief thoughts on my own–

Performing the Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner with gifted musicians Emily Manzo, David Friend, and Arooj Aftab was great — I learned so much, and can’t wait until our performances resume in 2014 so I can return to that overwhelming sound, signals sent from Eastman in the late 70s received in the here & now.

Big thanks to TimeOut Chicago + Other Music for including the album in their ‘Best of 2013’ lists. Working with the excellent New Amsterdam label was above & beyond –know that if you buy the album, you’re supporting the right people. This video explains the JEMD project, with footage from its NYC debut at MoMA PS1:

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The most incredible thing I heard all year, hands down, is “Allemande” from my NewAm label-mate Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices. She won a Pulitzer for this EP, which is crazy — who would have expected the Pulitzer committee to actually have good taste?! “Allemande” is A LOT, every time you hear it the angles shift and new surprise enters the world, beauty, voices in your head. Have a listen:

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I’ve known Roberto ‘Helado Negro’ Lange for a minute now, but it wasn’t until after I saw him perform in LA this fall that I had opportunity to listen to his new album, Invisible Life, and from then on it kept growing and growing with Deep Personal Significance. This did, for me, what a great album traditionally does — becomes something you live with, return to, share.

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The most head-exploding moment of pop came from Kanye West’s “New Slaves” premier, projected simultaneously at 66 locations around the world. Much was made of Beyoncé’s marketing genius (hey, you’re famous — let your fans promote the album for you!), much was made of Jay-Z’s grimly efficient Samsung deal, and much was made of Ye’s bigheadedness — itself a shrewd marketing strategy. But kicking off his album with this Wiley-inspired bass mix/devils mix of a song, which was then amplified into circulation via grainy lo-fi cellphone video capture and remained (for a few months) unbuyable — great! Distributional aesthetics, people. Interesting that the minimalist bass mix, one of grime’s many early 2000 radicalisms, only enters pop a decade later (and fleetingly at that), while the wobble and shudder of bro-step lept into EDMainstream within the span of a few seasons.

On a related note, Steven Shaviro’s chapter/essay on Grace Jones’ Corporate Cannibal video is a must read for anybody thinking about feminism and the female body in pop culture and/or afrofuturism.

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Did you check the Bangladesh mixtape?? So Many Sound Ideas.

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Bangladesh – Let Me Go feat. Brandy

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Bangladesh – Cockiness feat A$AP Rocky & Rihanna

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Here’s a diagram which explains how I was thinking about music in 2013:

DJ Mustard <-----------------> Rashad Becker

It’s a spectrum. Shades not binaries. Reason presets on one side, SuperCollider(?)/who-knows-whatsis on the other. Formalism and its discontents. The title of Becker’s debut album, Traditional Music of Notional Species could apply equally well to his startlingly original take on sound/composition as to the projections of black manhood voiced by the ratchet MCs in Mustard’s camp, whose personas flourish thanks to the space-filled architectures he crafts underneath them with such golden ratio precision.

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Rashad Becker – Dances II

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Kid Ink – Last Time (prod. by DJ Mustard)

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I read four brilliant, odd books about pianos and/or tuning this year.

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The most under-heralded & poetic of them is Anita Sullivan’s The Seventh Dragon: the Riddle of Equal Temperament (1986). If you want a lyrical mediation on piano tuning or simply a deeply weird-yet-unpretentious nonfiction book about sound, then this is your jam. Buy it directly from her! listening anti-dragon

Then there was dear László Krasznahorkai, an eerily gifted Hungarian writer who eyeballs the apocalypse with “a slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type.” Melancholy of Resistance (1989, Eng. trans 2002) contains a great rant on piano tuning, whose importance is reflected in the title of Béla Tarr’s 2000 film adaptation: Werckmeister Harmonies.

In the sunset glow: Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata (2012). James Bridle first mentioned this one to me — an SF space opera whose central character grafted an additional pair of arms onto her body in order to play an impossibly difficult piece of music written for a spectacularly unwieldy instrument. This novel deals with civilizational senescence (alongside the musical musings), and was published only months before Banks’ tragic passing.

And last but not least, Thomas Bernard’s The Loser (1983, Eng. trans 2006), a novel I first wrote about when it was the Mudd Up Book Clubb selection. Be the Steinway, not the person playing the Steinway.

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Fact is, I spent much of 2013 listening to rap, r&b, and obscure American piano eccentrics. I invite you to spend some time with Charlemagne Palestine’s “Three Fifths in the Rhythm Three Against Two For Bosendorfer Piano” from 1974.

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The Colin Stetson album is a sepia-toned skullcrush. Circular breathing and unorthodox micing techniques modulate his sax’s sonics, displacing the bebop heroin languor with vocal aid from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.

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Like everybody else, I was hypnotized by Twigs “Water Me”, co-produced by Arca.

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so many things we’re forgetting. most things.

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forrgggetttt

THE ACT OF KILLING

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By now you’ve heard of the extraordinary documentary, The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. Josh and I went to college together, and for a year or two we collaborated on wild art & activism projects. So, having helped out on his early work, it is particularly delightful to see The Act of Killing make such waves. The documentary challenges audiences and receives well-deserved critical acclaim everywhere it goes, and, even more impressively, back in Indonesia it opened up space for political discussion where there had been decades of media silence.

Here’s the trailer in case you haven’t seen it yet. In the middle video Josh explains what happened with the film in Indonesia, from the massive amounts of investigative journalism that it sparked to organizing invite-only screenings to avoid getting it banned. Incredible stuff. After that, big dogs Errol Morris (“I think there’s some inherent madness in this approach.”) and Werner Herzog explain why they find Josh’s film so powerful.



JIBAL AL NUBA – from Minesweeper to Alsarah


I’m not entirely sure why French producer Débruit gets top billing in this new project, since Khartoum-born, Brooklyn-based vocalist Alsarah sings in Sudanese over his interpretations of melodies and rhythms from her homeland, such as this lovely song “Jibal Al Nuba”, which you may have first heard sung by Mahmoud Fadl’s chorus in the opening track of my Minesweeper Suite mix way back in 2002, before the internet was invented.

Although the title translates as “The Mountains of Nuba,” their video confuses with its volcanic rock & lips AfterEffects melange — weirdly reminiscence of Shelley Jackson’s ‘mouth objects‘. That said, Alsarah’s rendition of the Nubian traditional is an unmitigated joy. It’s from their new album on Soundway, Aljawal الجوال .

EINE KLEINE NACHTMUSIK: Ramadan edition

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Jerusalem In My Heart – 3andalib Al-Furat
From the album Mo7it Al-Mo7it.

Literally, 3andalib Al-Furat means Nightingale of the Euphrates… spoiler alert — birdsong makes a lovely appearance here. Nighttime mood.

Welcome to Eine Kliene Nachtmusik: Ramadan edition.