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    Location: Brooklyn, NY

    The MP3s available here are for sampling purposes. Please support the artists by buying their albums and going to their shows. If you are the artist or label rep and don't want an MP3 featured, let me know. Links will otherwise stay live for about two weeks before they vanish into the ether.

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    Thursday, February 28, 2008

    Mixtape for my sweetheart, the drunk #19

    1) "Anchor States, Part One" - Stars of the Lid from Per Aspera Ad Astra [Buy it]
    2) "We're Looking For a Lot of Love" - Hot Chip from Made in the Dark [Buy it]
    3) "The Pull" - The Microphones from It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water [Buy it]
    4) "Humming" - Portishead from Portishead [Buy it]
    5) "Eat Him by His Own Light" - Jonny Greenwood
    from There Will Be Blood OST [Buy it]
    6) "Ingrid Bergman" - Billy Bragg & Wilco
    from Mermaid Avenue [Buy it]
    ) "I Can't Talk About It" - El Perro Del Mar from El Perro Del Mar [Buy it]
    8) "Don't Even Sing About It" - The Books
    from The Lemon of Pink [Buy it]
    9) "Horizon Variations" - Max Richter
    from The Blue Notebooks [Buy it]
    10) "Sad, Sad Song" - M. Ward from The Transfiguration of Vincent [Buy it]
    11) "Good Times" - Jim O'Rourke
    from Insignificance [Buy it]
    12) "It's Not Up To You" - Bjork
    from Vespertine [Buy it]
    13) "In the Cold I'm Standing" - M83
    from Before the Dawn Heals Us [Buy it]

    Or you can
    download the full mix as a .zip here.

    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    Great Wall series #1

    Around the world #3

    Photo by J. from Heart on a Stick

    * Hot Chip discuss the inspirations and ideas behind Made in the Dark track by track, Eat shit, VH1 Storytellers! [YouTube]

    * J. makes me incredibly jealous with his ongoing series of stunning travel photography from years past. [Heart on a Stick 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and more]

    * Weiss reminds us why his blog is so relentlessly necessary with an interview with no less than Pete Rock. [The Passion of the Weiss]

    * A fascinating and revealing look at Guantánamo Bay's detention facilities, complete with narrated slideshow. [The Atlantic]

    * Said The Gramophone shares the impressive runners-up in their impressive Wonderful Video Contest. It's like the MTV Video Music Awards without having to puke in your mouth repeatedly. [Said the Gramophone]

    * The Film Society of Lincoln Center reveals its annual festival of contemporary French films. Start arguing with your friends now about which ones you'll be attending when! [Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2008]

    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    The greatest #7: "On the Nature of Daylight"

    Tonight’s not a night for words. Words fail, words lie, words fall frustratingly short of their meanings. I’m sick of them. So I exile my books back to the closet shelf, toss my mail into a growing mound, shut off the cell phone, put my laptop to sleep. I uncork a bottle of red swill and flop dumbly across the couch. The first song is coming on, unspooling like a ribbon. It’s dense and cryptic, abstract and indecipherable. In accordance with my mood, it’s an instrumental. A somber violin is drifting out of the soundscape; it seems to operate at the very threshold of revelation.

    Lately, feeling exhausted by language, I’ve been drawn more and more to (primarily) instrumental music. Groups like Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Do Make Say Think, Stars of the Lid, and Explosions in the Sky, and artists like William Basinski, Brian Eno and Max Richter who manage to find the greatest fluency outside of speech. Fittingly, there isn’t any good word that encapsulates what these musicians are trying to accomplish, though they often find themselves tagged with terms such as "post-rock," "neoclassical," "avant-garde," and "ambient." The phrase I fall back on is “epiphany music,” because it’s difficult to listen to a work as gorgeous as Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight,” and not feel utterly transported.

    “On the Nature of Daylight” may well be my favorite instrumental track ever. In a little over six minutes, it can tear me open and leave me raw. It can produce a euphoria more substantive than drugs or a low like a freefall. With its soaring turns, it approximates flight. With its elongated measures, it draws out every transcendental breath from its strings section. The vibrato is deeply affecting too, as if the instruments have spontaneously started trembling with emotion. In the dialogue between cello and viola, every exchange feels charged and heroic. Every note feels like an iamb from an epic poem.

    Now the wine is setting into my system, and my legs are sliding off the cushions. I’m feeling loose and untethered, and the song seems to instantly adapt to my new state. It takes on new meanings, new gradations of beauty. The main source of “On the Nature of Daylight”’s power is its open-endedness, inspiring infinite possibilities and interpretations. It could be the soundtrack to a newborn’s first visions just as readily as a dying man’s last rites. While lyric-based songs are largely affixed to set circumstances, instrumental music is more welcoming to the ineffable and improbable. It not only crystallizes your experiences, but heightens and expands them.

    I could easily waste ten thousand more words on this song's potency, but I know my explanations would perpetually fall short. I’d always be skirting around the its edges, flirting with its mysteries. “On the Nature of Daylight” is just too good to adequately encapsulate, surpassing any attempts to deconstruct it. It’s also just the inherent nature of the exercise. Music has a primacy that the written word lacks, an eloquence with which "On the Nature of Daylight" can render everything else speechless.

    * MP3: "On the Nature of Daylight" - Max Richter from The Blue Notebooks [Buy it]

    Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    The writing on the wall #25

    Five Pointz edition #3

    The writing on the wall #24

    Five Pointz edition #2

    The writing on the wall #23

    Five Pointz Edition #1

    Saturday, February 16, 2008

    Listening booth #31

    Illustration by Rémy Tornior

    * MP3: "Archangel" - Burial (Boy 8-Bit Remix) [Buy other Burial]
    * MP3: "Ice Cream Girl" - Wale from 100 Miles and Running [Download the mixtape]
    * MP3: "U R A Fever" - The Kills from Midnight Boom [Preorder it]

    Check out more illustrations by Rémy Tornior at his blog Gribouillage & Coloriage here.

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Two years of bests

    The best 15 films of 2007

    Photo by Jan Glas

    15) This Is England
    Clippers snipping, buzzer humming across scalp. Strips of hair snowflaking to the floor. The low whine of machinery on a bare nape. Sideburns rubbed out, a center part vanishing. Sink running in the bathroom, lapping the dull teeth clean. Washing away all the little hairs still clinging to skin. Applause for a new man, beer tabs cracking open, suspender braces snapping against proudly inflated chests. The wind of a night drive, the protesting motor of a battered Volvo. Baseball bats swinging through air, landing against the ribcages of more dark-skinned immigrants.

    14) Live-In Maid
    The creak of an lacquered porch door. The tap of heeled feet on newly laid tile. Stocking the refrigerator shelves with fresh groceries, every product thumping into its assigned location. The bombilla stirring the floating yerba leaves, tinkling the glass. The absence of señora giving orders, assigning hourly chores. Only the swaying trees, only the telenovelas drifting in from the next room. Sounds to spend your whole life working toward.

    13) Rescue Dawn
    Bone crunch and skull snap. Fingers bent back to the wrist, snapped from their knuckles. Joints cracking under cuffs. Kneecaps warping under crude metal restraints. Sallow cheeks caving in, hollow bellies grumbling, nightmares invading the subconscious. This is how we'll all break down, skeletally, corporeally, under the scalpel of daily attrition. This is how it all ends out here, a last cartridge from a rifle's lips or our bodies devouring themselves inch by needful inch.

    12) No Country For Old Men
    Measures of horse gallop kicking up the earth. Scarred dust-trails unstitched under pickup tires. The bay of a lone wolf in the bowels of a red arroyo. A thread of water weaving through the desiccated land. A caravan of unmarked cars barreling through the valley. The clop and slap of human fear. A knife pummeling in and out of cartoid arteries. Laser-guided bullets carving paths in the intestinal tracts of innocents. Centuries of myths being scratched out and rewritten.

    11) The Savages
    Breath pulled in, held, extended. Whistled across wires, transmitted between lovers, telegraphed on cold nights. The gasp of a two a.m. wakeup call, shrill alarm to a shattered world. The mechanical wheeze of breathing apparatuses and idling tailpipes. The ragged huff and puff of hotel aerobics. The breathlessness of a tremendous joke, until the tragedy of the punchline sinks in. The breathlessness of tremendous tragedy, until you can finally bear to laugh away the pain.

    10) The Wind That Shakes The Barley
    The squish and snap of flames feasting on rafters. Orange fists smashing every length of tinder to ash. The vicious slap of kerosene, the cackle of colonial warfare. Women wailing prayers into their apron folds, men wailing curses and declarations of vengeance. A ragtag posse of village boys coalescing around the embers. Mere children pledging to give their lives to the cause, and one by one, fulfilling their promise.

    9) Control
    Bassline like a heartbeat, dark and irregular. Guitar drones as dim as the London dusk. Drumming that foretells the long, lonely slog that still lies ahead. Recordings that sound phoned in from pitch-dark rooms or hyperbaric chambers. Bottled SOSes from deserted islands. Love songs for the loveless. Cupid's arrow penetrating the aorta, drawing blood. A voice forever trying to part ways with its body, never succeeding.

    8) The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
    Lid flutter like bee wings. Nurses flipping through charts across the hall. Wheelchair wheels spinning across linoleum. Walkers and canes scraping at the surface. Bedpans filling with piss, weary mattresses commiserating, heart monitors and feeding tubes staging indifferent debates. Outside, through a gold-rimmed window, sparrows and airplanes, the toss of the distant sea, visitors coming up the walkway. Life being lived in its full lushness. Lid flutter frantically, desperately, uselessly, silent as a deafness.

    7) Syndromes and a Century
    A gong reverberating over the lakeside, in clear and longing peals. A gong reverberating over the lakeside, in weird and muddled meter. The soft shuffle of monk feet assembling to prayer, a grove of their orange robes flapping in the wind. Flags without nations whipping in the wind. Thudding onto knees, palms clasping together, necks bending modestly, a hundred minds deliberating on solving koans without solutions. The sound of invisible doors unlocking.

    6) The Host
    An earthquake stomp. Emergency sirens wailing like newborns. Buildings trembling, huts and stands splintering, skyscrapers bowing. Ambulances, paratroopers, guardsmen, agents in lab coats rushing toward the damage. Asphalt splaying, a nuclear hailstorm. The plink and sprinkle of bone matter scattering. Speeches quick and furious, curtailing rights, issuing curfews. Radio addresses from black-suited authorities, breathless updates, talking heads squawking. Terror in the wake of terror. Twenty-four-hour alerts on every channel, wholly devoid of information.

    5) Ratatouille
    Pans of amuse-bouches sizzling cheerfully. Pots bubbling over with the lava of bernaise sauce. Salt shakers rattling quarter notes like maracas. Knives banging out beats on cutting boards, sharp études of herbs and onions. Swinging doors smacking open at both ends. Line cooks dosey-doing between stations, banging skillets over burners. Three languages barking out demands over the nonstop clatter. The full orchestra of a dinner-service kitchen, playing its nightly symphony.

    4) The Lives of Others
    Tape hiss, button clicks, the static of bedrooms and foyers. Cassette teeth turning and grinding, the mealymouthed shudders of fast-forward and rewind. Voices on the periphery, muffled whispers, mutters buried under microphone feedback. Voices slithering through walls, deadlocked doors, the slivers of windowsills. Voices looping over satellites systems, intercepted calls, wires taped to neighbors' chests. The imperceptible fuzz of crowd noise, every decibel another potential traitor lurking in our midst.

    3) Persepolis
    Clampdown in the city. Streets of bootsoles punctuating the fat glide of tanks. The military pulse of feet scaling up stairwells and landings. Apartment hinges giving way, extended families being herded into living rooms. The panicked flush and glug of Western tracts, lipstick, bootleg wine. The ancient plumbing choking on the contraband. Boy soldiers yelling slogans in unison, their accusations echoing under low ceilings. Hijabs yanked down to cover the young girls' faces. Black hoods yanked over the features of disappearing uncles.

    2) Eastern Promises
    Brim-full shotglasses clinking over lavish spreads. Vodka launched down gullets and promptly refilled. Bottles circulating, spilling their rich contents, slamming down percussively. Dance music erupting from wall-sized speakers, drenched in synthesizer and painfully sunny vocals. Men rising up from their chairs and screaming joyously, trading nicknames, patronyms, backslaps like shiatsu. In a backroom, a woman's tiny yelp, caught in a throat of balled-up rags and chloroform.

    1) Killer of Sheep
    The choir of weekend noise. Backyard girls giggling over the dramas of three-limbed Barbies. Chipped-painted jalopies gurgling down the avenue. Garbage trucks dragging their heft to make the Saturday rounds. The calls and raises of dollar-ante men slugging corner-store beer, fanning ace high or two jacks. A sleepy jazz standard oozing from the radio of some unseen nook. Lovers moving together, swaying to the trumpets in doorways, sanctifying the melody.