Saturday, August 1, 2009

Time for Uncle Sam to Let Go of Iraq's Bike Seat?

Check out this curiously-worded memo by Col. Timothy R. Reese, the chief of the Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, MND-B, which has the offhandedly urgent title, "It’s Time for the US to Declare Victory and Go Home."

Among the strange, domestic-themed idioms:

"Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose."

Iraq is not a country with a history of treating even its welcomed guests well."

"The [Iraqi government and Iraqi Security Forces] will tolerate us as long as they can suckle at Uncle Sam’s bounteous mammary glands."

"The [2008 Security Agreement] outlines a series of gradual steps towards military withdrawal, analogous to a father teaching his kid to ride a bike without training wheels. ... We now have an Iraqi government that has gained its balance and thinks it knows how to ride the bike in the race. And in fact they probably do know how to ride, at least well enough for the road they are on against their current competitors. Our hand on the back of the seat is holding them back and causing resentment. We need to let go before we both tumble to the ground."

To paraphrase Uncle Reese: We should put the cookie jar away because the Iraqi government wants to bake brownies. Iraq pour itself a glass of milk. And even though, in spite of
Maliki's efforts to swab it all up with his old college tee-shirt, the government commits milk spills that cost the country enormous amounts of milk money; even though the den is a total mess, the garden is overgrown, and the kids are still fighting over the T.V. remote that is Kirkuk; even though the Sunnis aren't doing their homework, and Sunni hall monitors aren't getting the respect they deserve from those lazy asshole prefects and hall monitors who aren't inviting us to their parties; and even though bullies still roam the halls brandishing AK-47s and setting off bombs, the fact is that our cookies are overcooked, and we're crowding the kitchen terribly.

Therefore, we should declare our intentions to withdraw all US military forces from Iraq by August 2010," Reese writes. Or, to put it another way: It’s time for the US to declare victory and go home!

I'm sure America's anti-war activists are wringing their hands over this one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nurse With Wound, "The Surveillance Lounge" (Dirter; 2009)

Steven Stapleton, who for thirty years has been recording under the moniker Nurse With Wound, is to music what David Lynch is to film: an ambitious experimentalist inspired by the brash antics of Dada and the trippy vibes of Krautrock, whose releases win glowing reviews (“Genius, pure unadultarated genius”) as well as biting critiques (“And no one seems to give a shit”). In some of his more recent releases, like Lynch, Stapleton has dredged the wretched from the mundane—in the Shipwreck Radio series, he and collaborator Colin Potter reworked field recordings from the fishing village of Svolvær, Norway into sonic flotsam; in last year’s Huffin’ Rag Blues, he highlighted the wasted dirtiness of Martin Denny-style exotica. But in The Surveillance Lounge, Stapleton, along with longtime collaborator Andrew Liles and a team of vocalists (including David Tibet, leader of the mystical folk outfit Current 93), dredge the wretched from outright squalor. Nothing if not a monument to panic-inducing terror, Nurse With Wound’s latest full-length gives us some idea of how it would feel to have one’s soul annihilated in the Black Lodge, the demonic lounge hall of Twin Peaks.

Creepy is a great word to describe some of the more memorable selections of Stapleton’s 122 collaborations, albums and singles, and it is an especially appropriate descriptor here. Based on a commission for a live soundtrack of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film Der Brennende Acker—which delves into such heavy themes as greed, devotion, and death—the album’s four extended tracks are full of ghoulish drones, jarring transitions, and some of the most unsettling vocals (an unpredictable mix of jabbering, croaking, and clipped yelling) ever recorded. The mood reaches a fever pitch with the cracked-out horse race monologue of “The Golden Age Of Telekinesis,” driven by hypnotic percussion and accented with a child’s screams and bursts of high-frequency feedback. In terms of uncompromising hideousness, The Surveillance Lounge rivals the famously obtuse “game pieces” of John Zorn’s Cobra (2002) and the hilariously offensive Top 40 medleys of the Residents’ The Third Reich ‘n Roll (1976).

But many listeners will no doubt have lost their nerve (to say nothing of their patience) long before they reach the grating musique concrète freakout at the five-minute mark of “Yon Assassin Is My Equal,” and that would likely be the cut-off point for most everyone else. Frankly, even a Bastard Noise fan is bound to be at least a little disturbed by this one. I can scarcely imagine the right moment for anyone in any situation to sit through The Surveillance Lounge. If it had been released in the years when American troops were subjecting detainees to hours of tunes played at ear-splitting volumes, though, it would have probably have gotten a lot of play at Guantánamo Bay.


This review was published today on

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Micachu again?!

From the Facebook notes page of Sean Elder:

A fast, fun music game to play, to learn more about your friends' musical tastes, or, um, what they've been hiding on their iPods. My list is below. It only takes a few minutes!

Once you've been tagged... (1) Turn on your iPod, MP3 player or iTunes. (2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode. (3) Write down the first 15 songs that come up--song title and artist--NO editing/cheating, please. (4) Choose 25 (or so) people to be tagged [edit... or DON'T. You go right ahead and choose however many people you wish]. It is generally considered to be in good taste to tag the person who tagged you.

If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about your musical tastes, or at least a random sampling thereof.

(To do this, go to "NOTES" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, enter your 15 Shuffle Songs, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click Publish, the little blue box at the bottom of your screen).

Sean's list:

Good Luck Charm -- Kinks (BBC Sessions)
I Can't Get My Head Around It -- Aimee Mann (The Forgotten Arm)
Children of the Hydra's Teeth -- And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Our Dead (Madonna)
Julie On My Mind -- Prince Buster (FABulous Greatest Hits)
Wheel Stands -- The Super Stocks (Monster Summer Hits)
Job of Journeywork -- The Chieftains (The Best of the Chieftains)
Save the Country -- Laura Nyro (Stoned Soul Picnic)
Murder He Says -- Tori Amos (Mona Lisa Smile Soundtrack)
Hate & War -- The Clash (Clash on Broadway)
Right to Love You -- Paul Gryten and Myrtle Jones (Chess Blues 1954-60)
Wonderboy -- Kinks (Ultimate Collection)
Baba Ghanooj -- Cavedogs (Joyrides for Shut-Ins)
Medley: Lu/Flim-Flam Man -- Laura Nyro (Spread Your Wings and Fly)
I Can See for Miles -- Lord Sitar (Mojo: The Who Covered)
Track 14 -- Henry Mancini (Touch of Evil)

Sean, I will give you my list and raise you a comment for each track. (My only warning is that my iTunes on my laptop is oversaturated with certain things and lots of music has sadly been banished to external HD exile due to space concerns--I should get that figured out.) Here goes:

"B-Boys Beware," Two Sisters (Fly Girls compilation). Comment: Hell yeah.

"Odé, Sábio Babá Alayê (Agueré E Ijexá)," Afoxé Filhos Oyá Alaxé (pretty sure this is a live recording but not sure). Comment: Mesmerizing rhythms and convivial call-and-response vocals. I'll say it again, hell yeah.

"Train For A Brain," Micachu (Filthy Friends - Mix Tape Vol. 1). Comment: A fellow music critic once described Micachu & The Shapes as dance music as interpreted by Pokemon characters. I probably haven't remembered that comparison exactly right, but at any rate I think it's more or less an apt comparison, and I think it's a good thing.

"Pelas Ruas Que Andei (Ao Vivo)," Alceu Valença (Pelas Ruas Que Andei). Comment: More music from northeast Brazil. I had a friend drop a motherload of the stuff onto my computer a few months back. This is more like gospel compared to the last track; gospel with with wacky keyboards.

"Pamuromo," by Chiwoniso (Rebel Woman). Comment: Marvelous singer/songwriter/mbira player from Zimbabwe. She's so cool that I think I have become cooler simply because I had dinner with her after watching her record in a studio session once.

"Treehouse," Arthur Russell (World of Echo). Comment: Another heeeeeell yeah. Sean, thanks for the track list chain, my list is just getting better and better!

"Aus," Fennesz (Hotel Paral.lel). Comment: The funny thing is that the shuffle is not only making great choices, but linking tracks that fit great next to each other. Chi's rich voice moves to Arthur's rich echo-drenched cello-and-voice moves to Fennesz's rich miasma of electronics moves to...

"Tshitua Fuila Mbuloba," Kasai Allstars (In the 7th Moon, the Cheif Turned Into a Swimming Fish and Ate the Head of His Enemy by Magic). Comment: ...a pan-tribal Congolese spiritual with multi-part harmonies, not to mention the best album title ever!

"Divisions Of Joy," J*Davey (The Beauty In Distortion). Comment: Slightly weird R&B pop with processed beats, just begging for an Auto-tune vocalist. This album always comes on when I have shuffle on; I don't know how this got on my computer because I don't usually listen to this kind of music, though I'm fairly certain it came from the same place as all that Brazilian music and my friend Jon plays keyboards on it.

"Lick Ur," Micachu (Filthy Friends - Mix Tape Vol. 1). Comment: This mix has 33 tracks and a lot of them have a bizarre London grime vibe--the distinctly British side of Michachu's Pokemon dance coin, I suppose.

"Nafrouha l'youme," Abderrahmane Djalti (Choufi). Comment: Layers of live and processed percussion and very fake sounding keyboard horns and strings achieve such great heights of sentimentality with such a low budget.

"North Six (Live)," Gang Gang Dance (Hillulah). Comment: 12 minutes of GGD back when they were a quasi-tribal stoner jam project. What is that I hear, a megaphone alarm run through a sampler?

"Dona De 7 Colinas," Alceu Valença (Marco Zero Ao Vivo). Comment: More Brazilian music; "Love Boat" suddenly comes to mind.

"Bee-Ree-Bee-Kym-Bee," Machito & His Afro-Cubans (Mambo Mucho Mambo - The Complete Columbia Masters). Comment: Afro-Cuban exotica reminiscent of Martin Denny, but way more bombastic. Not exactly my cup of tea (or should I say not exactly my Cuba Libre?)

"Rocked Shocked," Micachu (Filthy Friends - Mix Tape Volume 1). Comment: Micachu again?! Come on, shuffle, you can do better than that!