Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We Were Once A Fairy Tale

Spike Jonze / We Were Once A Fairytale from background on Vimeo.

Spike Jonze is killing me these days. I find it an encouraging testament to the elasticity of human potential to watch a skater kid turn into one of the preeminent philosophers of our time. Where The Wild Things Are was part Camus, part Cassavettes and completely without filters. I felt something every second of that film. At the end Claire and I are both wiping our eyes and I realize that, because Jonze's story was told from such a deep, subconscious place, Claire and I, 6-year-old daughter and father, were able to experience a movie from an identical vantage point for the first time ever. To our reptilian, primal brains, we're all the same age.

Jonze has also just released a short film starring Kanye West called We Were Once a Fairy Tale and I suppose some people will think it's too abstract to accept, or even dig it for its abstraction as kind of unassailably out. For all its magical realism it seemed pretty straightforward to me, and again Jonze is defying filters by tweaking the public shortcomings of his film's lead actor - getting under the dirty fingernails of fame, a trapping Kanye West has been vocally struggling with. Gutsy all around. West, in a white tux, makes an ass of himself at a high-class club (his performance is so believable I have to wonder if he actually got drunk to to it), wanders into a bathroom, vomits a gush of rose petals, and then comes face to face with his own demon, literally.

Watch this with headphones on because the sound design is overwhelming. The whole time you'll feel like you're in a womb.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Repost: Fennesz's Full Blast

Followers of the Hebrew g-d believe that h-s name is so holy it can't be spoken, only referred to. Muslims believe it's a sin to make an image of their prophet, and aboriginal Australians won't let you take their photograph lest you capture their soul. I'm a shitty mystic, but there is something about the music of Christian Fennesz that makes me want to avert my descriptive gaze - to shuffle in backwards, eyes downcast, to the sacred temple of his sound when trying to write about it. It would seem crude to do anything like talk about process, or actual instrumentation, or, g-d forbid, his software. Because in the end it all ends up dumped in a sea. The black fathoms of hot crackling blast. The liquid void. The holy drone of his music.

This time last year I was compiling a year-end best-of list of sorts and a sentence kept popping up in my mind that I never posted: the best album of 2007 was the one Fennesz never released. By that I didn't mean that I had gotten my hands on a leaked draft of a new work by the Austrian sound sorcerer; I meant that 2007 was both the year of my discovery of Fennesz and the period of my life most suited to resonate with the disembodied beauty of his work. It was a year of psychic house cleaning during which I destroyed more fixtures of false belief than ever before. I spent a lot of hours staring at candles, cross-legged on wood floors in dark rooms, fighting with silence. Hours of peeling away the layers of mental dust and paint that had caked onto the walls of my thought. It was subtractive work - taking my mind down to its most minimal, looking for the Still, Small Voice underneath it all. I don't know what, if anything, I found in all that subtraction, but what stayed with me was a better sense of my environment and a certainty that the great spiritual battle of our time is to make war with clutter - the full blast of stimulation and information gushing at us on a daily basis. (Sadly, I'm barely fighting it. I spend more time on my computer than ever. If this blog goes dark, feel free to hope that I left to care for my soul.)

The more I allowed myself to melt the more Fennesz I played. On thick summer nights I'd find the room with the best cross breeze, throw a mattress down and smoke out to Venice. As I listened with chemically widened ears, I knew that Fennesz was making the true music of our age. An ambient requiem for an entire generation of souls sizzling in a digital frying pan - cell phones, microwave ovens and power lines, piping us full of disease and bathing us in a black sea of anxiety. Fennesz, it seemed to me, was the only artist making any music of spiritual concern. It was wordless, wide stuff. Our own voices, bouncing back to us off canyon-like walls of city buildings in reflections of distortion and smeared melodies.

That summer I also took Salvia, the diviner's sage, a few times. I loved and respected it as a leafy portal to lucid dreaming as well as a dangerously powerful magnifier. With Salvia environment is key because it will take the slighest sights and sounds in the room with you and project them up on a massive wall like flickering puppet shadows cast ghoulishly by candles. Idiots cocktail the stuff like a party drug and get sucked screaming out windows and have their souls steam-rolled like doomed 'toons in a Warner Bros. cartoon. I only did it alone, in silence and in the dark. But this one night I was careless and took too big a hit. I came to on all fours, sweating the shapes of my forearms and shins onto my yoga mat, without memory. The fan of my macbook's hard drive eight feet away, a barely perceptible hum under normal circumstances, became a deafening helicopter blade chopping the air just above my head and descending upon my bedroom like the whirling, flaming sword of an archangel.

That Salvia trip taught me something about our true natures and how we weaken them. That we humans are engines of power and dream who muffle the godlike boom of our souls by smothering them in paper-mache nests that we build our whole lives, strip by flimsy strip, until they are as hard and containing as a bomb shield. A piece of information here, some empty stimulation there. NPR, cable, radio, magazines, blogs, records, movies. We're caked over in false security like the shivering homeless - passed out on winter benches, swaddled in makeshift newspaper blankets.

That is what Fennesz's music sounds like - the quiet beneath the debris. It's a vital hum that never competes, never tries to rise above our filters. We can only go diving for it, and once submerged we are given over to dream. Sitting down for the first time to listen to Fennesz's new recordings, Black Sea, immersed in headphones and staring out the window at a heavy snowfall, I saw things. I saw a lumbering dark giant carrying a black Santa sack over his shoulder in which he carried light. I saw him sidle up to the side of a house at night and peek down into its chimney. I saw the giant dump the contents of his bag down the chimney like an electric Pentecost which poured through the home, blanketing every sleeping person in it in currents of white-hot healing.

Fennesz - "Glide" [From Black Sea]

Fennesz - "Rivers of Sand" [From Venice]

Fennesz - "The Point of it All" [From Venice]