Contagion! James Hoff's infected media

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Music video by Nic Hamilton for James Hoff, Blaster (PAN, 2014).

In 2003, the Blaster Worm was a formidable security breach. A blended threat, rolling bad code into elements of various viruses and worms, it moved swift and ruthless across four hundred thousand Microsoft computers within two weeks.

For his record Blaster, released last month on the Berlin-based label PAN, artist James Hoff used the Blaster computer virus to warp beats from the 808 drum machine into a fungal aural mass. 

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The Lure of an Untold Story: An Interview with Fatima Al Qadiri

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WaWa Complex, 2011, Fatima Al Qadiri w/ Khalid Al Gharaballi (From WaWa Series)

There is little distinction between Fatima Al Qadiri’s work as an artist and composer. Her compositions and related performances are intertwined and in reference to the cross-pollination of genres, mediums, and artifacts of culture that infiltrates her video art and multimedia installations. Her most recent musical output, Desert Strike EP, is a testament to this blending of disparate ideas.

Born in Senegal and raised in Kuwait, Al Qadiri studied Linguistics at New York University and has performed and exhibited at the New Museum, MoMa, the Kitchen, and Performa, among others. As a child, she also witnessed the unfolding of the Gulf War. A love for and fascination with video games grew during this period and sustained for years afterward. In particular, the Sega Megadrive game “Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf,” which involves a US army helicopter waging war on a Middle Eastern country, was a frequent source of entertainment. The dichotomy between her own experiences outside of and in relation to videogames shapes the sound of the EP.

Desert Strike is filled with dry, hypnotic beats, cold, 8-bit-like synths and gunshots to create songs that are haunting and ethereal. The all-instrumental work is a deep and heavy soundtrack to a surreal yet familiar game that has yet to be not been created. But most importantly, it is a smart piece of music and work of art. Like her previous work, Genre-Specific Xperience, Desert Strike is representative of a multi-faceted and post-modern consumption of music and culture that fits in seamlessly with the sounds and creators of contemporary society.

Dala3 (in Vegas), 2011, Fatima Al Qadiri w/ Khalid Al Gharaballi (From WaWa Series)

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Wavelength: "The Paris, Texas of the Second Empire" by Lawrence Kumpf

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The Paris, Texas of the Second Empire

Compiled July 2012 by Lawrence Kumpf

The flâneur is someone abandoned in the crowd. He is thus in the same situation as the commodity. He is unaware of this special situation, but this does not diminish its effects on him, it permeates him blissfully, like a narcotic that can compensate him for many humiliations. The intoxication to which the flâneur surrenders is the intoxication of the commodity immersed in a surging stream of customers. -- Walter Benjamin, 1938

A phantasmagoric journey through mid-20th century Country-Western music inspired by Walter Benjamin’s "The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire."

Like the poet as flâneur in Benjamin’s essay, the country singer holds a position as the susceptible vessel that embodies the incongruities and ruptures characteristic of modern life. Neither an active symptom nor proprietor of a solution for the social ills, the singer finds himself drawn into the intoxicating world of empathetic relations to, with and as commodity. We hear, perhaps more clearly then in Baudelaire, a voice speaking not from the elevated position of a social commentator or critic, but as the desire of the commodity and commodified. Connoisseurs of narcotics sing empathetic odes to inanimate objects and intoxicants, fortifying themselves in homes that are really bars. Hobos, trashmen and ragpickers walk the street collecting and picking through the worn out, exhausted items that have escaped our economy of exchange: the antiques of modernity, the images of obsolescence. The perpetual peregrinator, a rambling man, heroically stripped of the comforts of modern life finds himself stalking graveyards and mourning a loss that has yet to occur, the final refuge of his own death. In a way these songs embody the last gasp of a failed American politics, the moment before county western music slips into an emphatic listing of personal property as banal as Rick Ross’ "Trilla." The tragedy of our era is that the latent revolutionary desires present in Hank Williams Jr.’s "Fax Me a Beer" (not included in this mix) are forever doomed to find their outlet in an inane fantasy of endless technological advancement.

1.Porter Wagoner - The Wino
2.Jim Ed Brown- Bottle, Bottle
3.Porter Wagoner – Shopworn 4.Hank Williams – Men with Broken Hearts
5.Leon Rausch – Glass of Pride
6.Don King – Live Entertainment
7.David Allen Coe – Sad Country Song
8.Don Silvers – Play me another Hank Williams
9.Porter Wagoner – Bottom of the Bottle
10.Merle Haggard – Swinging Doors
11.Porter Wagoner – I Just Came to Smell the Flowers
12.D. Sheridan – Don’t Make Me Laugh (While I’m Drinkin’)
13.The Willis Brothers – Gonna Buy Me A Jukebox
14.David Frizzell – I’m Gonna Hire A Wino to Decorate our House
15.Frank Lowe - "Trash Man"

Lawrence Kumpf is a curator at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY.

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Wavelength: "Japanese Noise: A Reminder" by C. Spencer Yeh

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This post is part of a new monthly series of guest curated mixes for the Rhizome blog, entitled Wavelength.

 

JAPANESE NOISE: A REMINDER

Compiled Summer 2012 by C. Spencer Yeh

Back when I was an undergraduate and involved with college radio, we would hold educational meetings covering a wide variety of music by genre, artist, and geography. I was very much in thrall of the Japanese musical underground at the time, so I developed a presentation and this was the handout I made as an accompaniment. [See above.]

I’ve noticed the term ‘noise’ thrown around quite a bit lately, to encompass particular variations of form, ideology, and even affect, within organized sound culture.  I generally have no qualms with what 'noise' can now mean and manifest.  With that said, Japanese noise is my preeminent definition of 'noise'–my first and most formative experience.  The birth and development of Japanese noise is singular, defined by its relation to time and place, to culture and aesthetic.  Japanese noise taught me about freedom, fetish, listening, autodidactism, self-mythology, self-publishing, senzuri.

The selections for this mix date from the mid-'80s to the early '00s, are edited for length, and intentionally eschew the array of strategies in the scene (often deployed under the same project name) to focus on NOISE.  Big parties can be a blast, but once in a while, a long visit with an old friend is incredibly fulfilling and necessary.

Tracklist
(note: all tracks are edited for the purposes of this mix)
01. Violent Onsen Geisha 'Heavy Introduction'
02. Government Alpha 'Anonym Slander'
03. The Gerogerigegege 'Nothing to Hear, Nothing to... 1985'
04. K2 'We Destroyed Barcelona Again'
05. Aube 'Aquatremble 2'
06. Merzbow 'Chant 2 (Part 1)'
07. Hedlah 'Proud Flesh'
08. Solmania 'Panic Bend Rock'
09. MSBR 'Psychic Blue'
10. Incapacitants 'Necrosis'
11. Masonna 'Spectrum Ripper (Part XVII/Part XII)'
12. Hanatarash 'We Are 0:00'
13. Killer Bug 'One-Eyed Nudist'
14. Monde Bruits 'Continuum'
15. Hijokaidan 'What A Nuisance!'
16. Masomania 'Burn Me Fast'
17. C.C.C.C. 'Loud Sounds Dopa (Part II)'
18. Gomikawa Fumio 'Satan's Tail, Santa's Head'
19. Niku-Zidousha 'Untitled'
20. Flying Testicle 'Testicle Rider'
21. Pain Jerk 'Crack n' Roll'
22. Kazumoto Endo 'Itabashi Girl'

 C. Spencer Yeh is an artist and musician in Brooklyn, New York. He will perform at the New Museum on June 22nd with Graham Lambkin.

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Introducing Wavelength

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Wavelength is a new series for Rhizome’s blog that will examine sound art and music, with some attention towards the technologies that enable them. One significant aspect of Wavelength will be thematic guest curated mixes, which will appear on the blog monthly.

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A Conversation with Jonathan Lethem

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Jesse England, E-Book backup (ongoing)

 

In 2007, novelist Jonathan Lethem published an essay in Harper's ending with a grand reveal: "every line I  stole, warped, and cobbled together." The patchwork includes dozens of sources — part of a Steve Erickson novel, something from a Pitchfork review, a quote from an interview with Rick Prelinger. Sandra Day O'Connor and Ralph Waldo Emerson are stitched in too.  

The Ecstasy of Influence, now the title of his recent collection of writings, often addresses the process of integrating and "cobbling together" ideas and culture to make something new. Yet, stories Lethem relates of hosting "mailing parties" for the Philip K Dick Society or working in a bookstore seem like snapshots from pre-digital age. Recently I talked with the author about our rapidly dematerializing culture as well as appropriation as an art practice:

 


 

JM:  Have you ever tried to imagine what kind of career path you would have had without a culture of physical objects?

JL: It’s really interesting because I do think of the procedural experience of having to dig, having to find out what, let’s say, all of those names in the back of Greil Marcus’ “Stranded” were. Now when I read that collection, I see it put together like his esoteric nod to the history of rock and roll and like 80 percent of it was terra incognita. I didn’t know the names at all, and I couldn’t just go skimming around and get a little taste. I had to make each and every one of those things that compelled me —because of the name or his description — a search. I’d have to go find some broken down piece of media, some old vinyl or something, and you know, the delay that inserts, the relationship to time. I spent a lot of time thinking about a culture that wasn’t right at hand.

I might envision a given song or movie for five or ten years before I’d lay hands on it at times, and that creates this sort of personal, fictional vision. It’s like having a book unread on your shelf and just staring at the jacket or the title or what you’ve heard about it, and having it emanating all this promise. Books I guess, can still do that, but it’s a really peculiar thing for me to think about how I would relate differently.

I mean, I was advantaged. I grew up in New York City. Compared to other versions of access in our generation, I had great access. My parents had a good record collection and really interesting books on the shelves and pointed me to them. There was no quarantine. I was in New York City and there were great repertory houses and I started going to them when I was 14 or 15 years old, just gobbling down some curators’ ideas of cinema. I was getting all these versions of importance or interest out of the obscure past or out of other national cinemas. So in that way, it was like I was surrounded. I didn't even think of myself as deprived.

The strange thing that the question sets up is an image of me, or anyone my age, as somehow suffering from a drought. But I wouldn't have, of course, had the comparison. I wouldn't have had any notion that I was lacking materials. I still had to make really complicated priorities for myself because there was so much that seemed so compelling, potentially compelling. And it wasn't too hard to get a hold of it. But I did, in retrospect I did have these kinds of limits and always a physical relationship — a movie theater that smelled a certain way. What it was to go to the Thalia and watch Bunuel films. It's associated for me with the feeling of that lobby and the strange loneliness in that place on a Thursday afternoon and the other people who would be there present or the kinds of record stores where I would at look at things or the bookstores and the way the objects themselves felt and became talismanic. And the way my own room was changing if I brought these things! It wasn't like I could close the computer and it would all go away. It was like I was changing my body practically. To just start accruing all this stuff like armor, like an exoskeleton. 

JM: I'm sure your consumption of culture now is different though. Do you have a Kindle or an iPad? Are you an ebook reader? I'm sure you have MP3s, at least.

JL: I have a lot of MP3s! I'm going to qualify this in a number of different ways. I've always been a very late adopter. I mean even MP3s, I didn't have them after other people I knew did. Something about me always sort of wants them to become a little more part of the world. It's like I need to believe in them by seeing people form attachments before I make that move. I've got a friend who teases me because he remembers me saying that I would probably never bother with email. I knew a few people who were doing it and it just didn't seem that appealing to me. Now I'm ten years into an unbelievable promiscuous emailing binge that will never end. So I've been a late adopter a lot of times with tech. I wrote novels on an electric typewriter after it was possible to begin writing prose on computers. I just wasn't quite there. I wasn't ready to make a move from something that felt very important and material and personal to me. So who knows what I might do later on, but I've never read anything on a Kindle and I haven't even really had an iPad or a Kindle in my hands. The nearest I've been has been in the seat beside me in an airplane when I feel smug because they have to stop reading when the announcement goes out and my book is still open.

I think as a writer about the shape and heft of a book. And so I think the reason I am attached to reading them is I’m writing into that form. For better or worse, I still think of where physically my hands would be turning the pages. Feeling, oh, maybe now I’m ten pages from the end. And so some of those things are sacrificed in the Kindle.

Also, the kind of doubling back that I do as a reader seems very fundamental to pages. I’ll keep my finger sometimes even three or four pages width in two places in a book. Because I’m interested in doing a doubling. It’s very much a part of the physical object to me....

 

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Rebecca Allen's 3D Graphics for Kraftwerk

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Geeta Dayal interviews Rebecca Allen, who created computer graphics for the video for “Musique Non Stop” and other 3d work: 

Creating the milestone video, which made Allen a major force behind the German band’s visual aesthetic in the ’80s, was a painstaking process that took nearly two years for Allen and her team at the New York Institute of Technology’s Computer Graphics Laboratory to complete.

“Nowadays you can pretty easily digitize a 3-D object,” said Allen in an interview with Wired. “Back then, it was a very crafted process. I would have to put little pieces of tape over the models…. Then you put it in this reference cube, and then point by point you’d digitize.”

In the abstract video, animated heads flash across the screen. It took hundreds of hours just to get the colors exactly the way Allen wanted them. (See behind-the-scenes photographs of the creative process in the exclusive gallery above.)

“There’s so much involved — not just the color, but then you had to get the lighting … and it’s on some crummy TV, ultimately,” said Allen, now a design professor at UCLA. “But that’s the way I am. If you’re an animator, it’s already clear that you’re a fanatic — an obsessive. Anybody who wants to make frames for every second of movement is obviously pretty obsessive about things.”

The attention to detail paid off: The “Musique Non Stop” music video still looks prescient, even today. In Kraftwerk’s recent eight-day stand at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the band made ample use of visuals gleaned from the video. Other pioneering music videos with rendered 3-D graphics sequences — such as Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” which won Video of the Year at the 1986 MTV Video Music ...

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Oneohtrix Point Never and Nate Boyce's Performance at MoMA PopRally

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Photos by Kristy Leibowitz/elkstudios

This past weekend, MoMA presented a collaboration between electronic musician Daniel Lopatin—who records under the moniker Oneohtrix Point Never—and video artist Nate Boyce, as part of its PopRally series of art parties. While not an overly serious gathering, Boyce and Lopatin delivered an hour of strobing, structuralist-minded imagery over relentless digital throbbing. Each of the work’s sections was based upon a specific object in the MoMA’s sculpture collection and the overarching title, Reliquary House, suggested a congratulatory pat on the back for the museum. PopRally events are more often than not thematically connected to what’s concurrently on MoMA’s walls, while in this case the institution’s history was the tie-in.

The video screen displayed 3-D renderings of modernist forms by Isamo Noguchi, David Smith, Jacob Epstein, and Anthony Caro, which gyrated in “impossible” landscapes evoking the Panopticon look of the music video to Nine Inch Nail’s “Down In It.” To clarify their intention, Lopatin began each movement with details of the image being projected—dates, dimensions, curatorial texts—dictated by robotic voices a la Siri and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Within the foreboding visual environment, these came off as provocations of a sort, which gave way to beds of digital glitches and rollicking bass oscillations, positing a bleak underbelly to the neutrality of the subject material. Boyce and Lopatin, who often communicate a sense of humor about the austerity of contemporary tools and approaches in their work, perplexed the droll audience, who perhaps expected Lopatin to perform the angelic synthesizer music indicative of his latest record, Replica. Boyce and Lopatin stood ground side-by-side, facing their laptops, but more often were caught gazing up at the video screen.

Lopatin’s other recent art project, a zine ...

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RECOMMENDED READING: Maximal Nation by Simon Reynolds

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Simon Reynolds (author of Retromania) writes a long essay considering "maximalism" in electronic music starting with the "awake" sounds of Rustie's Glass Swords: "The overall effect of pulling from all these different phases in the evolution of electronic music technology is a fiesta of retro-futures: as if flashing back simultaneously to all the moments when a bunch of new machines changed the sound of music could somehow redeliver that original shock of the now. But there's no melancholy for a "lost future," just delirious reiteration, thrilling overkill."

Compared with the analog hardware that underpinned early house and techno, the digital software used by the vast majority of dance producers today has an inherent tendency towards maximalism. In an article for Loops, Matthew Ingram (who records as Woebot) wrote about how digital audio workstations like Ableton Live and FL Studio encourage "interminable layering" and how the graphic interface insidiously inculcates a view of music as "a giant sandwich of vertically arranged elements stacked upon one another." Meanwhile, the software's scope for tweaking the parameters of  any given sonic event  opens up a potential "bad infinity" abyss of fiddly fine-tuning. When digital software meshes with the minimalist aesthetic you get what Ingram calls "audio trickle": a finicky focus on sound-design, intricate fluctuations in rhythm, and other minutiae that will be awfully familiar to anyone who has followed mnml or post-dubstep during the last decade. But now that same digital technology is getting deployed to opposite purposes: rococo-florid riffs, eruptions of digitally-enhanced virtuosity, skyscraping solos, and other "maxutiae," all daubed from a palette of fluorescent primary colors. Audio trickle has given way to audio torrent-- the frothing extravagance of fountain gardens in the Versailles style

...

I got quite a long way into this piece before discovering that the term "digital ...

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A Crash Course in Post-Punk

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It should come as no surprise that under-recognized post-punk band Crash Course in Science met while attending art school in Philadelphia in 1979. Band members Dale Feliciello, Mallory Yago, and Michael Zodorozny experimented with the then-burgeoning musical genre by replacing the jangular and distorted guitars, rhythmic drums, and synthesizer beats with childhood toys and common kitchen appliances. Their choice of instruments was born out of curiosity as much as necessity: How could they create the music they wanted with their limited student resources?

Thankfully, their choices resulted in a sound uniquely their own: peculiarly original minimalism vocals mixed with danceable and downright catchy beats. Coupled with a need to express and explore their interest in performance art and music, their final product in such songs as “Cakes in the Home,” and “Cardboard Lamb” resonated for years after. The band is frequently regarded as an influential force in the electro sound and the techno industrial genres.

I recently spoke with Zodorozny about their initial interest in performance art and how it influenced everything from their live shows to the creation of their Frankenstein-like instruments.

 


 

You've been classified as a post-punk band. Would you consider that to be an accurate term for your sound and aesthetics?

Crash Course in Science was formed in 1979 so we would consider being referred to as post-punk band accurate. We were inspired by punk-rock music and we we’re all big fans of the genre. We were also inspired by the work of Brian Eno prior to the punk explosion. As artists and songwriters, Crash Course in Science became a format for our expression.

 

Can you tell me a little more about the performance art aspect tied to the band? What was/is your history with performance art?

The three of us performed personal performance ...

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