The cruelest month was generally pretty kind to me this year. I took a break from some projects (like my field recording project) in order to focus my energy on the performances I had as well as the one coming up in May. I also did quite a lot of administrative work. As I no longer have a 9-5 day job, I had to treat being an independent artist and researcher like it was my job. So I spent a lot of time writing abstracts, grant applications, and preparing materials for the PhD application I’m working on.

What is coming in May

  • May 11, at 8pm at Sun Tiki Studios in Portland, Maine, USA. I’ll be performing as part of Perfect Hair, opening for the band Codeine. A dream!

What I read

  • Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett. Completely unhinged. I couldn’t stop reading this. Somehow this book manages to be hyper mundane and hyper insane all at once.
  • The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay. My first Kay. Kay has a reputation for being a writer of beautiful prose and great sensitivity and subtlety. While I enjoyed reading this book I was not blown away. I found myself wishing that we lived in a world where a book like this was the norm, and not, as it is now, a canonical example of exceptional and extraordinary genre fiction. It is very good–but not life changing.
  • Koike and Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub, omnibus vol. 5. Yes!

What I watched

  • 悪は存在しない aka Evil Does Not Exist, by 濱口 竜介 (Ryusuke Hamaguchi). Score by 石橋英子 (Eiko Ishibashi). I loved this. Really haunting and beautiful. Very subtle. The brutal ending was perfect and made perfect sense, though I could tell that the folks in the theatre with me were perplexed and a little annoyed. It was obvious that a lot of the people in the theatre thought this was going to be a story about a small town standing up to big city developers. Nope. This is a story about nature, action, and being living.
  • Adaptation, dir. Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. I hadn’t seen this movie for at least 10 years. Still bonkers. Nic Cage is terrific and weird as hell. I no longer have quite the same taste for overly meta-textual games in film and literature as I once did, but Kaufman’s script here really is brilliant and absolutely hilarious. If this film were just about Kaufman’s struggles to adapt an unadaptable book, then I don’t think it would be so captivating. But it is more broadly about adaptation itself (duh–look at the title). Biological adaptation as well as literary. It’s about the changes that must be made when pressure builds–whether that’s pressure within an ecological system or pressure within a social system or pressure from the high stakes Hollywood movie-making system. The way Kaufman so clearly does want to just make a movie about plants, and yet cannot (and ultimately succumbs to cramming in all the Hollywood tropes which he rolls his eyes at–forbidden love, attempts at murder, high-stakes chases through the wilderness, car crashes) serves to get us thinking about what movies usually do, but what else they can do, and, tantalizingly, what they could do. That ending is beautiful. The flowers opening and closing and opening and closing again. Would I have watched Adaptation if it were nothing but that?

What I listened to

  • Back on a Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 kick. Strangers From The Universe [1994] is just astounding. The sad brilliance of Noble Experiment is really hitting me hard right now.
  • More Alastair Galbraith. In addition to cry [2000], I’ve gotten really into mirrorwork [1998] and orb [2008].
  • Drive Like Jehu’s magnificent Yank Crime [1994], one of my favourite albums since I heard it 20 years ago, has worked it’s way back into my heavy music rotation. No album has a better opener than fucking Here Come the Rome Plows.
  • And of course Jehu leads me into Hot Snakes. This month I’ve been obsessed with 2004’s Audit in Progress.

New releases this past month

  • From João MS, disambiguations is a glorious, ever-shifting album of sounds which can move from utterly alien to uncannily organic in an instant. Really really lovely work here.
  • I had never heard of The Scrapes before, but someone sent The Sun Never Rises on Mount Sorrow my way and I was transfixed.
  • When I first started to explore and make dungeon synth and adjacent music, the person behind Desolazione Rurale, himself just getting into the music, was one of the first friends I made. I’m really stoked for this album, Magia Naturalis, which merges a ton of disparate sounds and influences into a really coherent record.
  • Thin Places, by the duo Sinsyne, is really excellent ambient from the Philadelphian label Folded Note which seems to only put out terrific ambient and minimalist music.
  • As is tradition, Bernard Parmegiani’s Complete Works 03 is another essential entry in this massive archival project. The dude just didn’t not make stunning work.
  • Technically it came out on March 31, but Cindy Lee’s Diamond Jubilee is pretty astounding. I can’t believe there are that many excellent songs on this album. Incredible.

What I did

  • Earlier in April I did two performances of An Archaeology. An Archaeology is a poem/play/performance/event scored by my partner, Éireann Lorsung and directed by Jeanne Tiehen. I provided 15ish minutes of overture music at the start, and then provided music throughout the performance. My score was almost entirely improvised and reactive to what the performers were doing (that said, I had a handful of “moves” or “gestures” that I repeated often). Really fun, really exhausting!
  • I performed in a concert of gamelan music with the UCD Gamelan at Mary’s Church on Haddington Road in Dublin. While gamelan in a big church can sound pretty incredible, the sound can also get washed out a bit and it was tough to hear the ensemble while being in the middle of it. Oh well. I got to perform on the rebab for the first time and that satisfies that decade old dream of mine.
  • Horse Lords played in Dublin, and they were extraordinary. Yet again I find myself wishing for a non equal-tempered fretboard.
  • I saw Ryoji Ikeda perform in Dublin. His abstract earlier projects like cyclo. with Alva Noto were a huge deal for me. This concert was great, with tremendous visuals, but I was surprised at how conventional and “beat” oriented much of it was. Certainly fantastic, but not the abstract trip I expected.

What I made

  • I made a piece of music which will be included on an upcoming compilation of plain music, made after the wonderful album by Fendoap which I wrote about this past February. Fendoap is organizing the compilation, and we have a wide variety of wonderful and weird works being included, including some non-sonic music. I can’t wait for this thing to be released. In the meantime, you can listen to the original album on bandcamp.