How To Make Perfect Mini-Mutations during The Week Between.

Well, the Santa Ana Noise Fest last night was a blast, and there was a fairly decent turnout, considering all the technical difficulties that we were plagued with. But, in the end, it all worked out, and you can now watch the entire thing at your leisure. There was over four hours of content, all told, and the line-up was international. It was nice to make new Music Friends, and the chat was pretty lively. So, congratulations, Santa Ana Noise Fest. Maybe I’ll get to visit you in person, someday.

This year, I decided to go a little holiday themed, and revived an old TV Program I used to be involved, with, “Cleaning Up After Snoop & Martha,” where I clean up after they bake something in the kitchen. For some reason, the show was not a hit, as they were never on the program. But sometimes the show offered practical advice, and in this episode, I offer a recipe for Perfect Mini-Mutations, which is the right kind of thing you’ll want to be baking between now and New Year’s Day.

The first two minutes and five seconds of this video are interstitial bits from the live stream, that relate to the show. (Same with the last 1:23 of the video.) It gives it all context for how it was seen on the live stream.

If you want to watch the entire live stream, here are the links. In the first video, there is about 30 minutes of “pre-game” looping videos, and Mark butts in once to talk about the history of experimental music. The bulk of the show is in the second video.

Thanks again, everyone! It was a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Which One of Us Am I, Again?

It is so much more complicated than Deja Vu, and yet the sensation certainly lives within the realm of similar experiences. But only Borges* himself managed to relate this experience in a way that I feel addressed it with any sense or value. At least, he artfully articulated the experience, no less than three times in his own written work.

I, myself, have been compelled to explore the concept as ineptly as I was able over 10 years ago, and while I certainly wore my influences in my prose, I know that I was no closer to having nailed down the moment, this experience in any useful way. Perhaps the closest I came was making another appearance on UB Radio Salon, where I read both my own ham-fisted attempts at this concept between the three more elegant efforts by Borges himself.

But an inability to express this experience does not prevent it from happening. As I catch these glimpses of the person I once was, I cannot rationalize how they would react to me without eventually landing on some kind of disappointment. I see the posturing arrogance of the person I was, as seen through a random blog post, an old photograph, or even a simple memory of having done something, and I know that person would never give me the time of day.

I try to live within the musings of my past self, and I find the experience uncomfortable the words don’t fit, and I worry that the person I was is the person I’m be judged for, that his crimes are the ones that I will be left doing the time for. I see all of his nonsense, and wonder how transparent I’ve always been. How just on the edge of bullshit every utterance was. All the grand plans were made up along the way, and I know what folly that youth would soon go through.

Can we ever learn to live with who we used to be?

Will I look back on these words with a grim moment of pain, as I realize how boneheaded I sound, now?

Or will I be a worse person, then?

* * * * * *

* Borges and I (translated from the Spanish) by Jorge Luis Borges

It’s to that other one, to Borges, that things happen. I walk through Buenos Aires and I pause, one could say mechanically, to gaze at a vestibule’s arch and its inner door; of Borges I receive news in the mail and I see his name in a list of professors or in some biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typefaces, etymologies, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; the other shares these preferences, but in a vain kind of way that turns them into an actor’s attributes. It would be an exaggeration to claim that our relationship is hostile; I live, I let myself live so that Borges may write his literature, and this literature justifies me. It poses no great difficulty for me to admit that he has put together some decent passages, yet these passages cannot save me, perhaps because whatsoever is good does not belong to anyone, not even to the other, but to language and tradition. In any case, I am destined to lose all that I am, definitively, and only fleeting moments of myself will be able to live on in the other. Little by little, I continue ceding to him everything, even though I am aware of his perverse tendency to falsify and magnify.

Spinoza understood that all things strive to persevere being; the stone wishes to be eternally a stone and the tiger a tiger. I will endure in Borges, not in myself (if it is that I am someone), but I recognise myself less in his books than in those of many others, or in the well-worn strum of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him by moving on from the mythologies of the slums to games with time and infinity, but those games are now Borges’ and I will have to conceive of other things. Thus my life is a running away and I lose everything and everything is turned over to oblivion, or to the other.

I do not know which of the two is writing this piece.

It’s Time To Celebrate With Holiday Memories

Holiday Memories and Mid-Valley Mutations

For many years I tended to ignore the simple pleasures of the holidays, and as my radio show became more singular, I resisted the holiday season, often openly mocking it (with shows like, “Christmas Music For People Who Don’t Like Christmas Music,” etc.).

But even someone like me, who has come to enjoy radio at it’s most unusual or atypical, there is a certain appeal to finding the place between “typical holiday music” and “what I usually do on this program.” And with Old Time Radio, punk rock holiday albums, experimental live radio and performances, and everything in-between, I have been fortunate enough over the years to avoid, “Here’s some Christmas Carols for you to enjoy this year.” The closest I come to that is putting on detective radio shows for the holidays.

Regardless, there are over 20 years of Holiday Programs in our “Holiday Memories” Podcast feed, waiting for you to enjoy. This includes broadcasts on a number of stations, in a number of forms, with a wide range of holiday offerings for you to put on and digest. Over 100 hours of programing, with over 80 different shows to choose from. This year, we’re adding some new items to the feed, including some holiday episodes of Somewhere In-Between: A Radio ‘Zine that are new this year, and a handful of new Mid-Valley Mutations, where we feature a Hal McGee holiday album, cut up some amazing Old Time Radio stories, offer some futuristic Christmas Carols, and a full episode-long holiday deconstruction by Mini-Mutations. We’re pulling out all the stops this year, and we would love to have you come and join us, too.

The easiest way to get it is to subscribe with our App-Agnostic-Feed, where you can get all the goodies. But you can also find it in iTunes. (I’ve heard it is in other services too, but I haven’t put that to the test.) Just search for “Holiday Memories Austin Rich,” and it usually comes up pretty quickly.

The Holiday Feed contains everything from all the end-of-year holidays from November through January, so if you want individual episodes for separate holidays, here are all the Christmas Shows, and here are all the New Year’s shows.

If you would prefer a little music that has a seasonal flavor to it, then you might want to look into our “Seasons Greetings” digital album, perfect for the kind of person who enjoys the holiday season, but wants their music very, very weird. Almost 2 1/2 hours of Mini-Mutations not available elsewhere, with over an hour of bonus instrumental tracks. This includes live radio jams, live performances in front of audiences, spoken word with sound FX, everything in-between. This one is only available digitally, so head to our Wanting To Be Cool online store via bandcamp, and enjoy some new tunes that speak to this time of year.

And, if that’s not enough, we have, hew this year, the Mini-Mutations Musical Holiday Card, with an EP of new Holiday Carols that you can only get via the mail. This is part of a monthly Postcard Project that I’m working on in 2021, and if you want to start getting these, then you’ll want to contact me with your address. There will be one-of-a-kind music offerings through these postcards, that only come via the mail. Support the US Postal Service, and small experimental artists, and get something cool in the mail.

While this year has been a bummer, and it is hard to get into the holidays, maybe our atypical traditions will be the perfect antidote to the holiday malaise.

 

More Details for The Santa Ana Noise Fest on December 26th.

The Santa Ana Noise fest is just around the corner, and as usual, everything is different this year. This includes being entirely online, which means that we all had to make videos, and that some of the “live” elements of our performances are “taped” so we can actually pull this off.

The long and the short of it is: this will be one of the last shows that Mini-Mutations will be playing this year, and I’m excited about the line-up, the show, and everything about it. And: it will be the perfect way to celebrate that lethargic feeling that sets in after Christmas and until after New Year’s.

Show starts at 7 PM, and will be live streaming from This FB Event Page. Sets are short, so if you are late, you might miss a few acts. I’ll be in the chat all night, so drop in, and check it out.

Here’s a little promo for the event. On the event page, it says I’m in the second set, so that probably means I’ll be on before nine, PST. For this set, I’ve revived my “Cooking w/ Mini-Mutations” television program, where I offer some instructions on how to make Perfect Mini-Mutations for then Holidays. This should be a lot of fun, and I hope you get a chance to drop in for the live show.

Join The Mailing List, and Get A Postcard

For a while now I’ve been experimenting with mail art. I used to do this a little bit in the 90’s, but never very often, or with much consistency. That didn’t really change for most of my life, but in the last few years I’ve been getting much more into it, and have been trying – when time allows – to stay on top of it as much as possible.

To that end, this year I’m engaging in seasonal, musical postcards. 12, in fact; one each month. To get a sense of how to do it, and what the process would be, I have a postcard made and ready for December of 2020, too. The first batch of cards, for mailing list members, go out today.

If you would like to get on the mailing list, and receive a musical postcard with 30 minutes of new audio material, all via the mail, then contact me via e-mail and mention this in your message. There’s only so many of these, so if you want one, you should say so, soon.

Curious about the Postcards Project? This link should help answer your questions.

Really, this is just a good way to get more engaged with the mail. And for that reason alone, this will be a lot of fun.

As it stands, the real job ahead of us in 2021 in convincing our family members that they need to get on board with some much more progressive politics than any of them think they are willing to allow. Because, every single one of those people who voted for and are aligned with a more fascist interpretation of America are someone’s family.

So: how do we get our family members to improve points of view that are truly distasteful?

Bigger Than Elvis?

In 1954, Polio was still a big problem. A Vaccine had been developed, but no one wanted to take it, unless their doctor directly recommended it and explained the reasons for needing it to you, in person. That wasn’t going to be enough to get everyone on board, and so while there was a cure on-hand, getting Americans on board was the problem. Educating people about getting the Polio Vaccination was slow work, and Americans are a cowardly, superstitious lot. And how do you reach all people in all classes? Literacy is still an issue, and for many, it was easy to refuse the vaccine, even if it was easy to get.

After two years of struggling to solve this problem, they hit upon an idea: Let’s get Elvis Presley, one of the most popular rock musicians at the time, to help promote the idea of vaccination. Elvis is then vaccinated on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, which is seen by millions of people, and is accompanied by some clear Public Health Data. This event was reported on widely, so even if you didn’t have a TV, it was that generation’s, “Shot heard round the world.”

According to many historians, that single TV appearance alone accounted for nearly 80% of the population getting vaccinated, something that was unheard of before. By 1963, it had been announced that the number of Polio cases had dropped to zero, which is truly astonishing, when you consider that nearly a decade previously, it was nearly impossible to imagine any way that could ever happen.

The power of celebrity, indeed.

I’ve been thinking about the kinds of celebrities now, that could have that same kind of juice, and could get that many American’s on board with a massive vaccination effort. Clearly, Americans can’t really think for themselves, and need a trusted celebrity, who is loved across parties and across economic backgrounds, and at this point, across generations. Presidents are too divisive, and this issue is so politicized that, like with the Polio Vaccine, the appeal of the celebrity has to be so universal that people of different opposing religions will still stand six feet apart from each other in the same line just to get the vaccine, and that’s a pretty tall order.

Universally Loved? In 2020? Wouldn’t that be Pikachu, or an Animal Crossing character?

An Interview With LEZET mentions… Mini-Mutations?

This is something very pleasant, and unexpected, that I only just heard about, and that I find very exciting.

I was recently name checked in an interview by Cian Orbe Netlabel (a Netlabel from Rancagua, Chile), with Serbian experimental artist LEZET. What a wonderfully strange, international confluence of events. And, fortunately, you can read the entire interview, in English, here: Interview with LEZET (6 December 2020).

So, dig this big crux: one of the strange up-shots of the pandemic has been the simultaneous isolation of a number of artists, all over the world. So through mutual friends we each have in Hal McGee (and his “Electronic Cottage” group online), we were both recruited to work on a compilation produced by {AN} EeL, which featured a wide range of artists being paired off to create work together. The results are “Two Halves Vol. 7,” which features 18 tracks by 36 different artists, all producing collaborative tracks. For this project, {AN} EeL paired myself and LEZET, who I was unfamiliar with at the time. But, in working on this track, and then through being more aware of their work through {AN} EeL and Hal, I’ve become quite fond of LEZET’s work.

The track we produced together is called, “Riverside Hop Scotch Game,” and you can hear it here:

It was incredibly easy working with LEZET. They mailed me some recordings, without much conversation about what to do with them, or how we wanted to work. We had initially discussed the possibility of LEZET following the muse, and having me coming in to flesh out the track afterwards, but it’s hard to recall that conversation exactly. What I do remember is that when I received the tracks, I immediately heard where my accompaniment would fit in, and very quickly we had a finished tune.

We submitted the track, and I didn’t think much more about that specific song until the comp came out. And it was very cool, not only to find that our track was very early in the running order, but that the entire collection was very, very cool. (I’ve included the entire thing below.

I would have thought that would be the end of it. We both had other projects, and while I was following LEZET’s work with interest, I didn’t imagine I’d get mentioned in an interview like this.

In the question, “Which are your favorite music projects who inspire your work?” Mini-Mutations gets a mention, along with a whole mess of other great artists, too. I feel like I’m in very good company on that list, and I’m sort of nervous about having to live up to the quality of the other artists on this list.

I did a lot of collaborations this year, and in a way, the album I did sort of got lots in the shuffle, as it was packaged with a zine. Between that and other non-musical projects, this has been a very a-typical year for both myself and Mini-Mutations. But it is very inspiring to know that people like LEZET are enjoying the journey, as we both feel out what to do in the coming year.

2020 has been wild, yo.

One of The Last Mini-Mutations Performances for 2020!

I’ve been curious about the Santa Ana Noise Fest for quite some time, but the timing has always been bad for me to attend. This has been the annual problem with attending the Olympia Experimental Music Fest, in that the timing of the show is nearly always around my anniversary, which makes it very difficult to attend. NorCal NoiseFest is probably the one that is perfectly timed for my natural travel rhythms every year, though I had intended to make more trips in 2020, before Covid, that is.

Anyway: this year, they have gone entirely digital, and that has not only made it possible for me to attend, but has really opened the roster up in a way that has allowed 17 acts spread out over five countries to perform, all in one evening. In fact, speaking of the line-up: damn! An impressive run of folks from a number of flavors of experimental music, and considering the date, I have revived one of the more well-loved things I have done for live shows: Cooking with Mini-Mutations. I think you will enjoy what I have etc’d for you this time. (Content note: this is a pre-recorded video, unlike my other recent live streaming things, which have been live. I will be in the chat live, but the video is not exactly live. You’ll see what I mean on the 26th.)

I’m really looking forward to this. There’s a number of acts I am completely unfamiliar with, and a number that I really enjoy, and it should prove to be a fun way to spend the night. This will be the first thing on Twitch that I have been involved with, so that will be fun, too. I hope to see you in the chat! It’s nice to have music things to look forward to.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Beginnings are easy. Everything is open to you, nothing has been decided, and you can make anything possible.

Endings can be dramatic, if done well, and they should be easy if all the art work is done. They should snap into place, and sort of feel like they follow from the beginning and the rest.

It’s the middle part that is the hardest, in all things, because it is there where the hard work has to be done.

We seem to be in a very strange place right now, where we are in transition, while we wait for reality to adjust itself to the new way our world, and our country, will be in the future. But we are far from there, yet. And getting there will be very difficult, and most likely, not easy. We aren’t in any places or phases where things will be easy, for a while.

We’ve been manipulated and had our desires toyed with, and now we are on the other side of something, but what, exactly, is hard to say. The problems of most people were not solved with a new president, and might not even be solved by having the pandemic handled in a way that matters. It turns out that mosts problems revolve around having to have a job, make money, and pay bills, and that pandemics and poor presidents only exacerbate those issues.

Further to the point, our communities are rules by laws that are inequitable, and enforced by government approved militias, and that does not rest easy for those of us who have ben subject to the horrors of those laws and enforcers. A new president and a vaccine does not change the systemic problems that are the thrust of this “middle section” of the story, and is why it will be the most difficult part of the entire ordeal.

There’s so much work to be done, even with a new president who will already make things slightly better than they were before. (If you don’t see that there will be slight improvements under the new president, then I think you might not actually be a progressive person in any useful way.) But to get to the end of the story, the dramatic moment when we repair our government and make the world more equitable for the largest number of people, we are anywhere but near the end.

We are only really barely past the beginning. We are in uncharted territory, where we don’t have a compass, and we don’t know how to get to the end we want, let alone the end we need.

We are currently lost, and the feeling is starting to mount that we could be lost for a very, very… VERY long time, before we find anything that could lead us to somewhere safe.

I hate reading the news. I hate trying to figure out what all the latest information means. And I hate the mounting evidence that the half of this country that feels burned by this election are going to go out of their way to make everything worse for all of us. For them, the story is only just beginning, too.

But what I do feel, more than anything, is that it is time for me to double down. It’s time to find new reserves of determination that I didn’t know I had, and figure out how the things that I do can actually make a difference.

And since I’m still in the middle, it is gonna be hard figuring that stuff out.

For a while, anyway.

Some Meta Reflections on Process

I fell down on the job, so to speak, with my goal of writing at least 1000 words a day, as I didn’t get a chance to sit down and write at all the last two days.

Or, rather, I did, but in different ways. On Saturday I wrote about 100 words in Social media posts, as I was busy most of the day working on another project that I only just completed this morning. Then, on Sunday, I was busy working on a couple other things, and while I did actually end up writing about 1300 words yesterday, it was actually for “work,” and not extra. (I actually wrote some bits for a video, which will be seen soon enough.)

I find it interesting that in two days I still managed to write 1400-ish words anyway, mostly though Social Media and a handful of other projects that require a little writing to go with them. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately; even if you aren’t trying to write, you often end up writing anyway, regardless of your real intention. This is largely a function of our modern lives. Texting and e-mail are very easy and very useful, and can communicate more nuance than in a quick exchange.  And, it allows you to gather your thoughts visually, and sort them into different paragraphs, depending on their relative connections to each other.

I certainly blew it today, as the days I have been the most successful in writing at all are days that I write in the morning, and that seems significant. I can already tell I won’t write as much today as I did yesterday. But I was also doing a number of other, non-writing things. There’s only so many hours in the day.

Still, over the last week, I’ve written almost 7000 words, and that’s not a terrible average, even if today sort of throws that out of wack again. I suspect that even professionals have days where they can’t really get much done, and I shouldn’t focus too much on what I haven’t done, but instead on what I have finished.

Plus: I think I need a new metric, because what if I spend a day editing video? That’s certainly creative work, that I am doing to scratch a different part of my brain. But, if that’s the case, how much video editing is equal to 1000 words? How much of a song is equal to 1000 words? How many photographs, or ideas for comic strips, are equal to 1000 words?

What is the equivalent form of a “writing sprint” in other creative forms? Can they even be compared?

Romancing The Stone

The first time my parents brought home a VCR that they had rented from a local shop, the also brought home the movie Romancing The Stone. That sentence is so quintessentially mid-80’s that in my memory we are all wearing spandex, Magnum PI t-shirts, and each of us sporting a single glove and / or a Madonna-esque fashion hat while we watched the movie. But that was probably not the case, either. What I do remember was that they probably rented other movies along with that new-to-us VCR, but the only one I remember 30+ years later is Romancing The Stone.

A friend of mine recently said that they had watched it for the first time this year, and hated it, and a part of me suddenly got curious about what didn’t hold up. As a youth, I probably saw this and the sequel a number of times, and my love of Raiders of The Lost Ark sort of embedded in me a love of adventure / treasure hunting stories, that certainly caused me to sit up and take notice of this one. And, at 12, this glimpse into the world of adult relationships in an International setting really appealed to this small town Oregon Boy, where it was so completely foreign to me. I was immediately enamored with all of it, and found there to be a lot in the film that puzzled me, as I tried to understand why these two were falling in love with each other at a time when I was only dimly aware of what it meant to fall in love at all.

It is true, with 2020 eyes, this movie is problematic, a sort of cringey time-capsule, where this document somehow manages to make the mighty Kathleen Turner seem like she is out-of-her element, and needed the help of a man to make it through this horrible experience. There’s some fairly weird scenes that border on the strangeness of the “Ghost Blow Job” from Ghostbusters, which serves no function except to have a racy moment on screen with our leads. It certainly has so much 80’s running through it that, in spite of first-hand memories of the movies, I have to remind myself that it is actually a nearly 40 year old film.

I keep considering the words of Joe Dante himself, who recently has said (in a number of different ways) that every movie ever made needs a warning label on it, that says, “Warning: This Movie Was Made Before Today.” Every film embodies the taboos and mores of a particular time / place / point of view embodied by the creators at that time, and while it isn’t an endorsement or even an attempt to say, “Well, it was just like that, then,” what both he and I am saying is that in 1984, choices were made by people who were thinking to themselves, “What’s going to look good on screen?” rather than wondering for example, “How woke does this movie appear to audiences?”

The film itself is, in many ways, is probably more progressive than a lot of the fare that was being made in 1984, and certainly was one of the few films being made at the time that was written by a woman. As a kid, I think I only really responded to the treasure hunt elements of the movie, which I think is entirely conveyed by the fact that, before this week, the part of this movie I remembered the best is the 15 minute segment where Joan & Jack decide to use the map to find The Stone, which they do find fairly quickly. After which, the movie goes back to where it had been before, with the various romance and kidnapping subplots driving the remainder of the story.

In a way, the movie is a sort of patchwork of different soap-opera style subplots, and in the same way that a lot of soaps all have soap stars as characters in their shows, Romancing The Stone features a romance author getting embroiled in a story that is lifted precisely from her books, so much so that the characters all know her stories and tropes well, and the plot begins to bend toward things she’s seen in her novels before. Even the Stone itself is hidden in a way that is directly lifted from her first novel.

This element of the film isn’t really commented on, but the movie is framed by Joan and her editor reviewing a recently completed novel, and the one at the end is meant to imply that it is the story we have just seen on screen. This frame story suggests that, perhaps, in a sort of Total Recall sort of way, that some – all? – of her experiences in Columbia might be in her head.

Or, perhaps, in the parlance of a different Arnold action flick, she has entered one of her own romance novels? The kidnapping subplot is the pretext to get Joan to Columbia, but Joan’s sister is rarely seen (or heard), and most of what happens has little to do with the kidnapping, and more to do with the map, and The Stone. All three serve as McGuffins, and are only secondary to the primary plot. The film is really about how the people who are all searching for The Stone manage to bring Joan and Jack together by accident, in the fashion of a true romance, like the kinds that Joan writes and Columbian drug lords seem to love.

From the moment Joan gets to Columbia, every experience is something pulled from the kinds of adventure romances that she writes, which is very interesting for a couple of reasons. In the 1980s, one of the few genres of storytelling where women did have any real agency was in a Romance novel. In a romance, a woman can be the lead, and her concerns and interests (and desires) are allowed to be manifest, in whatever way she wants. While these stories are predicated on the idea that you need a man to complete yourself, everything prior to the pairing of the couple at the very end is about revealing how independent the protagonist really is.

She lives alone, fighting off the street vendors every day, a fairly savvy city dweller. Then, Joan gets on a plane and goes to Columbia by herself, a trip she has never done before. She manages to handle herself fairly well, considering a strange thug that comes after her, and when she meets Jack, she dictates the pace of their budding relationship. She’s onto Jack when he is trying to pull fast ones, and in the end, she handles the Columbian thug herself, even though she is calling for Jack’s help the entire time she’s fighting him. She really didn’t need his assistance, but is was nice to see that he did try, anyway.

Even worse, Jack abandons her for a while at the end, leaving her to have to negotiate getting out of Columbia with her sister, by themselves. Considering some of the Columbian government was out to get her previously, one can only imagine how difficult that must have been. Not to mention that Joan’s sister has just had her husband murdered by Columbian gangsters, creating all sorts of difficulties, which would call upon Joan to be the emotional center for her sister after she, herself, has been through the most insane experience of her life. Joan is going to need some time to process this experience, and probably will need some time to make sense of what she’s been through.

Instead, the movie decides to portray her and wistfully looking out windows, thinking about Jack. The final scene is so incredibly torn from the pages of a romance novel that it is unbelievable, and seems to me to be the evidence that she has climbed into one of her novels. Jack abandoned her and her sister, at a time when they really needed his help. Instead, he chases after his fortune, the shallow desire he’s hidden behind the entire film. And, to his credit, he gets his fortune, alligator boots, and all. But the idea that he could return, suddenly, to sweep her off her feet, so they could sail off down the streets of New York now that he can financially support her… and she wouldn’t be angry with him? She wouldn’t have a million other questions for him, all around the problem of, “Why do you suddenly show yourself again, now, mister?” In the final scene, she is still acting like she’s in Columbia, and in many ways, she never left, which is clear in that she is playing the part of a Romance Novel protagonist, and not that or Joan Wilder.

At this early stage of his career, Zemeckis was not yet willing to openly toy with the reality / fantasy presentation of his films, so this movie is not interested in exploring where the line between reality and fantasy is precisely drawn. And as a kid, I sort of missed that, too. I was entirely in the fantasy, not realizing that the movie is about a relationship forming, and not about a treasure hunt that I wanted it to be.  But I missed a lot of what was going on in this movie as a young man. While there’s no way that a film like this can hit the same buttons that it did when I was a kid, I can clearly see the elements did speak to me to me, both then and now, which made that experience very enjoyable.

Review of EC Split 23: Ben Presto and Jeremiah Paddock

The seed of the idea behind any release is often worth getting into, and when it comes to the Electronic Cottage Split series (organized by Hal McGee), the seed is deceptively simple: two artists, selected by Hal himself, go off to produce 30 minutes of material together, developing the release as a partnership. There are 29 installments in this series, which has yielded some surprising and incredible results as these have been coming out. The strength of the series not only relied on the artists involved, but their efforts to work together. If it had been approached randomly, or even with a little less thought, and if even a few of the artists had only phoned it in, then this could have seemed like a shoddy series at best.  

But Hal has sort of buried the lead when it comes to this series, and how these splits have been organized. Because, while they might seem to be odd pairing in a couple cases, what he has done upon closer evaluation is concoct some clever and wonderful pairings with the artists he has selected. This shouldn’t be surprising, as many of the projects that Hal involves himself in are very well thought out, and offer unique music listening opportunities that you just don’t find elsewhere.

On installment #23, of this series, the matching of Ben Presto with Jeremiah Paddock seems to be particularly inspired, and the proof is in the musical pudding we all get to enjoy during this holiday season. While I knew a little about Jeremiah’s music before this release, I was completely new to Ben’s work, an Italian artist who has been working for well over 10 years. Another bonus to this series is that Hal really introduces you to incredible artists from all over the world, and this series seems to really highlight the world-wide flavor of this project. I’m always learning about new avenues to explore in music, and Hal inevitably leads me to places I’m very happy to have visited. 

We open this album with Ben’s homage to film soundtracks, a breathtaking voyage through some of the musical ideas of cinema, while taking them into places that belong, very much, to Presto and their delightful bass playing. There is, in a way, a bit of a story that is developed throughout Ben’s songs. We open with our protagonist having gone through a particularly harrowing psychedelic experience, where they have wound up dead in the end. Not only must they escape the actual life they once led in the mortal world (first by physically leaving, then by spiritually saying goodbye), our protagonist must then bid farewell to the material world entirely, and thus embrace the emptiness of what lies beyond… whatever that might be. Fortunately for us, the metaphor maps nicely over the struggles that we all have in any new beginning, or rebirth, that we might have to go through. I’m also reminded of the “Black Blotter” episode of Fringe, for some reason: that same kind of psychedelic experience we are prone to having if we start having a “bad trip.”

“Farewell” stands out among these tunes, as it not only breaks the format of the rest, but does not lean on Ben’s bass playing and synth lines to create the brooding, atmospheric pallets that would make Mr. Carpenter proud, for sure. These songs all feel of a piece after you’ve been through them once, and I can’t imagine how you could listen to them separately, now. Presto’s performances and playing on these songs is superb, and while these are not discordant or even that “noisy” compared to some releases in this series, these songs are certainly only skirting the edges of popular music. And yet, they could very much live near the world of popular music fairly comfortably, on a movie soundtrack, for example. Overall, if I had to pick, I would say my faves are “Escape From New York,” and, “Nothing Out There,” just for the gloominess that they both evoke.

While some trips can be ominous, there is something a little wistful about the way that Jeremiah gets into a car with his guitar, and goes on a somewhat pleasant drive. Certainly, like on drives 5, 12, 14 and 15 in this collection, we hear some of the sense of foreboding and anxiety that this regular, routine trip can cause our protagonist, but while we are still on a journey into something that might be scary if we dwell too much on what’s going on in the world outside of the car, inside the car we get to hear Jeremiah’s dedication to trying to find the ways that we can endure this particular trip, through offering us some of the lighter thoughts that we can entertain through a guitar. 

And it is very, very fun. Jeremiah’s guitar playing takes center stage on these drives, and it is something to behold. While these are loops and other studio compositions, they highlight some of the best kinds of playing that Jeremiah has to offer, and gives a dizzying insight into they way their mind works, musically. This offers a great cross-section of Jeremiah’s style, and I find these songs endlessly listenable, and I would say that I could probably play this comfortably at a party with a bunch of squares and some would probably even start tapping their toes. It is incredibly catchy experimental music. 

I’m still working out how to interpret the final drive. It doesn’t have the same wistfulness of some songs, nor the lurking threat that other’s portray. We’ve arrived, somewhere, and it is dramatic. But how should we feel about it? How should we interpret the sense of joy and the sense of horror, both competing for attention? Perhaps we are merely meant to acknowledge it, and find a way to try and start over tomorrow, without feeling dread.

What I like about this release is that is doesn’t feel too “weird,” in spite of the deep weirdness that is at work here, too. These are very beautifully written songs, played very straightforward and with heartfelt attention to detail, then well mixed by people trying to create a total package. The performances are strong, and they don’t muck about too much with studio gloss to cover up the imperfections. This music is what it is, no frilly extras or filigree around the edges, and as a result, they work wonderfully together.

I can imagine that others who are not precisely into experimental music could find this a very good entry point into what this kind of music can do when it isn’t strictly noise. As someone who likes to find the edges of what experimental is and isn’t, this release fits into that territory perfectly. 

Between Things

I closed the door and began to look down the hallway, trying to outsmart the Monkees parody that my life had become. But in my case, it all made no sense. At least in the Monkees it was a segue from one part of the story to another. In my case, the chaos of life isn’t as simple as there being any actual story to it. It was so random, so completely insane, that there couldn’t be a narrative that you could chart though it. It’s just a series of experiences, with no arc to them.

It’s the repetitive, meaningless nature of it all that makes you want to crawl into a story.

Down the hallway, every door was labeled something far too obvious. “Western.” “Sci-Fi.” “Drama.” None of them fit my mood, or what I was looking for. I always feel like I have to back-solve to find the story that I want to live in, the place where I feel the most comfortable. I know that I like Repo Man, so I need to find things that also evoke that same feeling, then try and figure out what genre they are. And it’s usually a long shot, not even something that is really in the same league, but is close enough, I guess? How do you find that door? “Feels Like Repo Man but might not be really all that much like it?” Is that a door I can open?

I pop into the Sci-Fi door and just look for anything that is vaguely interesting, but I find myself retreading the same five stories that I always do, and even that path to finally saying, “Fuck it, I’ll just do Red Dwarf again,” is far too over trod, and in the end, feels a little unsatisfying.

There needs to be a genre called, “I’m between stories and I don’t really know what I want yet, but I kinda want something that I like, but not exactly like something I already like.” And I wander the hallway, door after door, looking for that label. I find, “Stories that are secretly a romance but they don’t really appear that way at first.” But I’ve spent a lot of time in that room already, and I’d rather not go back unless it’s another Green Lantern comic that I haven’t seen before, or something like that.

There’s a door marked, “Stuff labeled Strange & Weird but is really mundane and average,” which is a place I visited constantly for years. I sort of liked how simple it was. It delivered what was on the tin. No lies there.

I didn’t even bother with, “Sports Stories that are cool, we promise.” They’re almost never as good as Slapshot, and probably never will be.

There is something about the honesty of “Pornography” that is also very simple. You’re not there for the story. It’s about something else. I wish there was a room that was sort of “Reverse-Pornography.” I’m ONLY interested in the story. But really strange, odd, not exactly a story that is easy to follow, or even that has any obvious components to it. Maybe even impenetrable? Well, sometimes, anyway. I certainly do love some straightforward things, for sure, so that’s not it. But there needs to be a focus on the story, before the other qualities first.

There’s a door called, “The things we’ve all done over and over again, everyone, and we somehow have these random things to connect all of us,” and every time I try to remember that I don’t go in there much, I find that I have lived in there, for years and years on end, and that perhaps I’m still inside that room, and that this Hallway is inside of that place?

I’ve never seen a door called, “Real Life,” but I wonder if I could see it if there were one? That seems like cheating, to just sit around in real life, but with a narrative forced on it. It’s almost like cheating. You couldn’t bother to even come up with another way to present this idea? You had to frame it in the context of something that was “true” in order for it to be palatable? “True” isn’t exactly the best way to describe real life. Real life is boring, and has a repetition to it. But you can ignore all of that, and force a sort of story on top, if you cut out this, and omit that. It’s only Real Life in name, and I can only imagine why someone would even want to find that door.

But I secretly think about that a door a lot.

What sort of story would I prefer to live inside? I don’t know if I know the answer to that question, and if I did, could I explain it to you? Could I tell you about the story that I’m looking for, the narrative that really makes me excited to keep going forward, to find out how it all resolves? How can I describe this thing to you? I’m not even sure how to find it myself, let alone how to tell you what I want it to be, how I want it to turn out, where I want it to conclude before it really tickles my fancy.

The door I’m the most afraid of is, “The Stories In My Head.” I know it’s out in the hall, and occasionally I feel like I almost glimpse the sign on the door. But I always turn away at the last minute, even though I’m not even sure if I’ve actually found it. The idea of what, if anything, might be inside, and if I were to conform that thing, the actions I would then have to take to nurture it in just the right way, in order for it to live.

The knowledge of what it will reveal about me when seen by others. The embarrassment at the limitations of my own imagination and ability.

The wonder at how it can constantly lurk beneath everything else that I do, and at the same time, scare the crap out of me in so many compelling ways.

For some reason, I’m so much more comfortable in the Hall, not that I should be trying to live there. It’s probably worse than all the others combined.

You can pretty much assume that I probably haven’t cooked / made something, especially anything even SLIGHTLY more complicated than “microwave.”

What should I make for the holidays? I’m pretty much willing to try – and fail – at almost anything. Maybe I should focus on Indian food?

Out of Print Mini-Mutations Track Played on What’s This Called?

It was a delight to catch up on my podcasts, and to find that Mini-Mutations made a appearance on the November 21st episode of What’s This Called?, the program hosted by Ricardo Wang. What a true delight. You can hear the entire episode here, which is a just a direct link to the show hosted over on his site. It’s always a treat to hear my material mixed in with other stuff, although I feel like I should probably send him some new stuff, as I feel like I’ve made a lot bigger advances since then.

Still, it’s nice to hear this stuff, and the CD is out of print, meaning the only way to hear tracks like this is from DJs that play the tune on their show. I might re-issue that disc eventually, but for now, you can pick up, “You Are There,” digitally, which contains bonus tracks that are not on the CD.

Thanks again Ricardo!

 

21 November 2020

Lessons

Today is the first day that I don’t have to work on my November Novel in a month, and there’s something sort of relieving about not having to crank out words on any particular schedule about any particular thing for a little while. Which, of course, is funny, as I will still be writing a number other bits of text here and there and whatnot, in a number of other capacities. (Like this 1261 word “thought.”) The point is: I won’t be working on that novel anymore, and that alone feels like a sort of lifted weight.

There is a weird experience you go through when you are “done” with something, especially in the creative world. The project is “complete,” but you have been working on it for ages, so it is still active in your mind. Not only that, but the project is only “complete” in one sense. The “novel” is done, but I still have to edit it, if I want anyone to read this at any point. Another “project” to take on, someday, and certainly not any time soon. Even still, I can help but keep thinking about the characters, and considering parts that I should revise. I’ve had these people and this idea in my head, every day, for 30 days now. It’ll be a while to let all these ghosts move on.

Regardless this one is done, and there isn’t anything immediately on the horizon for now, as I spend my time wrapping up a number of other projects that have been on the so-called back-burner, while I was writing all November. Which, itself, is something interesting to contend with: the limited amount of creative juice that I have in a given day, and why I can’t just knock out 2k words in the morning and then write a full song in the afternoon.

This is a fairly obvious realization, but we do all have a limit to how much we are able to do in a day. While I try to maximize my own output as often as possible, the reality is that no matter how clever or smart you might be, you do need to let the engine rest if you do plan on any more big trips this year. You might be able to go and go all night long as a teen, but as a grown man, you need to save that for special occasions, so to speak.

I’m attracted to a number of different kinds of creative expression, and they all run into the sustainability problem. You can do them for a while, at a pace that makes sense, but after a while even that pace will get to you, even if you think you have it all balanced. Radio is the perfect example: it requires a consistent creative effort, and sometimes that effort can begin to feel like a lot, just to do the regular bare minimum, even if it feels like it shouldn’t be too much to exert, for the first 100 weeks anyway. There will be a week that you want to take off, and in spite of all of that, you still have to make a show when you don’t want to.

There is something about trying to establish good creative habits, and finding the right balance, in spite of whatever it is that you might want to be doing, otherwise. Like any muscle, you might not be able to be as creative as you would like, as often as you like, at first. But the more you do it, the better you get at it, etc. etc. None of this is news, but the implementation is the interesting part. If you ever say to yourself, “I want to be a creative person,” usually the first question is, “How do I do that?”

I often get told that I produce a lot of material as an artist, and perhaps that is true. But I don’t know how to do any less, to be honest. And the reason is because I’ve been doing it for so long, that the habit of making things is fairly well ingrained.

I was able to take on #NaNoWriMo this year is related to the number of years that I did try to do it and failed, terribly, for a number of very boring reasons that aren’t obvious until you have to stare it down in the debriefing after the fact. It has taken almost 20 years of attempts to know what I need, how to go about it, and what I should do to set myself up for successfully completing my book in 30 days. But the handful of times that I’ve actually beaten #NaNoWriMo were only possible when I learned from the previous times. (And, honestly, I think there’s only been two novels I wrote of those that could, MAYBE, be revised into something that would work as a book or story that I would feel comfortable sharing.)

It’s that same sort of attitude that I’ve applied to almost everything that I’ve done in life, that allows me to do anything at all as a middle aged man. I didn’t realize that writing ‘zines in my teen years prepared me for being able to write in the here and now. (The consistency of writing stuff for all sorts of DIY presses, where there’s no real deadline, forced me to be self-directed in order to finish anything.) When I have to get up in the morning and write 2000 words and there’s no one waiting for that text on the other side of me writing it, that really is where the creative rubber hits the road.

Doing radio for over 20 years, a lot of it not amazing, has only taught me what not to do, and how to get to the point where I can fairly easily do the kind of show I wish I’d been doing for over 20 years ago. Ditto for music. Failing at doing what I intended to do has only made it possible to successfully do what I want to do, now.

Again, none of this is “earth-shattering” or even that much more insightful than the hundreds of self-help style commentaries you can find in books, blogs and podcasts. All of what I’m experiencing also felt like I’d read or heard someone else talk about it. Putting in the work over the years is where we get our skills or cleverness from. As a middle aged man I have an advantage that the 18 year old I was did not have. But without having been an unskilled teenager making an effort, I wouldn’t have any of the leg-ups that I do have now, and I recognize that advantage.

Case in point: driving. I’ve only had my license for a single year, and I would say that in all the time that I’ve been behind the wheel, I still haven’t had enough hours to really consider myself any good at it. I should have been driving since I was 18, so that now I could easily do it, almost as a second nature, and free up my mind to think about other things. But as a new driver, I still make a lot of mistakes, I’m still very nervous, and when I do everything correctly and successful, it still feels like the exception, and not the rule. I just haven’t put in the hours yet, and not enough to say I have that skill confidently.

All of this is easy to reflect on when you are on the other side of a project. But it is nice to know that all the years I spent writing and mixing records and working on songs that didn’t go anywhere weren’t wasted efforts, and that I seen their benefits today.

Now, the matter of taste is another matter entirely, but just from my own perspective, I know that I could never have finished a #NaNoWriMo style challenge when I was 18, even though I would have been sure that I could. Just from the skill and planning perspective alone, I know that I’ve learned a lot over the years about what is a reasonable expectation, and what I can successful pull off on my own. While I have always wondered what I could accomplish if I had a partner, I will say that if I could write one novel a year for the rest of my life, even if they were never published, at least that would feel like I accomplished something.

Maybe this year I’ll try to edit this one in March, something I’ve never actually tried.