Thursday, May 25, 2017

Matthew Edwards & The Unfortunates - "Folklore" (Gare du Nord Records)

Matthew Edwards & The Unfortunates - "Folklore"  (Gare du Nord Records)

Matthew Edwards, I think, is the son or nephew of David Bowie or/and Howard Devoto.   Just the opening song "Birmingham" alone can bring him to the world of champions.  A beautiful song with a gorgeous lyric.  A narrative of sorts, but more of a mysterious Alain Robbe-Grillet plot.  Devoto's Magazine comes to mind mostly due to that Edwards and his group The Unfortunates know an excellent orchestration.  They work as a unit and serve Edwards' vocals and songs.  My type of band.

"When We Arrived at the Mountain" has a Bowie era "Man Who Sold The World" vibe, but by no means is Edwards digging into another's world.  The music here is very much part of his DNA, and he's a great singer and lyricist.  Weary of the world around him, he's romantic, but one gets the feeling that the singer/narrator will get burned again.  It's an album of reflection, but very pop and there lies the beauty of "Folklore."

The playing on the album is very layered, and hearing the organ on "I can Move the Moon" is very Zombies-like in that it conveys a storm among the aural delights that are this song.  The electric organ on some of the songs drives me wild.  This is a very sophisticated world that Matthews is skipping into, which is a landscape of memories, some regret, but the eyes are going toward the future as well.   "Folklore" is easy to the ears, but the tunes will stick in one's head for a long while.  Ten songs that move from one end to the other with economy and taste as if  Marcel Proust made a rock record.    Noir-pop played excellently, and Edwards is going to take his band and music on another plane.  It's a remarkable album.  This and Perfume Genius are the only new music that I love at the moment.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sparks - What The Hell Is It This Time? (Official Video)

Sparks' new video for their new song "What The Hell Is It This Time?"  And yes, we have to be selective in what and when we ask for God's assistance.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

"Kzradock the Onion Man and the Spring-Fresh Methuselah: From The Notes of Dr. Renard de Monspensier" by Louis Levy (Wakefield Press) Trans. by W. C. Bamberger

ISBN: 978-1-939663-28-3 Wakefield Press
Louis Levy's "Kradock the Onion Man" is a fantastic novel. Reads and written as pulp, but has many layers (like an onion - ha) that at the surface seems to be a crazed thriller, but alas, it's very 20th-century angst. In a nutshell, the plot is regarding a doctor in a mental hospital who is looking over a patient with troublesome patterns that leads to violence and surreal overtures to what is and what isn't reality. Our Dr. Renard de Montpensier chronicles the narration, where in essence do we trust his point-of-view? The novel was written and published in 1910, and I believe the novel was serialized in a newspaper or publication. It reads like a serial, where there is a cliffhanger at the end of the chapter. So it is pulp, but I think this piece of Danish literature is picking up the vibes of 1910 Europe. Like all good art, its ears are picking up things that we the public are not aware of. The book is full of surreal horror scenes that are theatrically set pieces, where one can almost meditate on its meaning or how it conveys within the plotting of the novel. It's interesting that both Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin were fans of "Kzradock," so they must have picked up on the vibrations that are within the story. The afterword by the novel's translator W.C. Bamberger is enlightening and enjoyable. Thanks to him and Wakefield Press bringing Levy's book to the 21st century. A superb book.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"art sex music" by Cosey Fanni Tutti (Faber & Faber)

I have never been a fan of Throbbing Gristle. My sense of aesthetic is entirely the opposite of this band. First of all, I hate their name. It's funny, but I don't think they met it as being funny. It seems Chris (and Cosey's half) always hated the band's name, and I can understand why. There is something juvenile about the TG aesthetic that just makes me feel tired. Saying that I respect them for what they do and all of that, but for me, never an essential band or art group. On the other hand, Cosey Fanni Tutti's memoir is a fun and gossipy read. In no way or fashion can a TG fan ignore this book. Cosey is a fascinating person. I have heard of artists being in the sex adult market before their careers in music/films, but she is the first to have a career of stripping, sex work - while making music and being in a major band like TG. Her writings about the life as a stripper are entertaining but also fascinating, with respect to her interest in making art at the same time.

The one thing that becomes upsetting to me, and frankly tires me out while reading this book is the subject matter of Genesis P-Orridge. Reading Cosey's memoir, and only getting the story from her side of the world, I hate P-Orridge, her, or whatever gender he/she is or not. A terrible person. I keep yelling to the text on the page to kick Gen out of TG! She keeps coming back to him. If the narrative is correct here, Gen is not only creepy but a sadist/girlfriend beater. I have always looked at him with suspicion because I never bought his 'act.' I find Gen's work very obvious and a fan-boy-girl mentality that is obnoxious.

The book is 500 pages long. It's a very long book, and I think her and the editor could have done some more editing. Beyond that, this is a book for anyone who is interested in the subject matter of Throbbing Gristle, Chris & Cosey, Coil, etc. I like Cosey a lot through this book. She goes out of the way to credit other musicians and artists, that may not be entirely known to her fan base or readers. I sense she's a generous person. But I really can't take any more of Genesis.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Zettel" by Ludwig Wittgenstein Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe & G.H. von Wright (University of California Press)

ISBN: 978-0-520-25244-8
"Zettel" by Ludwig Wittgenstein is a collection of short writings that were put in a filing cabinet by the author, and later collected by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright. Wittgenstein is probably the most difficult, but yet, enjoyable read for me. As a writer, I often think of him as a role model of sorts. The way he looks at the world is unique, and his thinking of what an image is and what is the thought of that image has a profound effect on me. And again, I may have misread him, and made my own version of Wittgenstein!

I usually re-read his pocket size statements or observations twice. But in the long run, I think it's good to read him straight through, and not worry about getting 'it' on the first try. He's a philosopher where it's best to meditate on his words and the meaning of his sentences through your own dear time. "The limitlessness of the visual field is clearest when we are seeing nothing in complete darkness." That statement stays in my mind the most because I find myself writing in a state of mind that is very much a dark void. I then fill that space with words, that is usually connected to something visual or a sensuality of an object of some sort.

Wittgenstein didn't write a lot. Some of his 'literature' is from his lectures in class. I'm presuming that this book is him working through his philosophy/thoughts. Which is another reason why I love Wittgenstein's work so much is that it's not about the answer, but the journey. He focuses on the senses, and how that communicate to our brain. His writing is not scientific, but almost poetry. In fact, I tend to look at him as a poet than anything else. 

- Tosh Berman

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Roussel Returns" by Mark von Schlegell (Semitext[e])

I pretty much purchase anything that has the name "Raymond Roussel" on its cover. Which means, I read everything that is possible on this fantastic French writer. For me, Roussel is very much the ground zero of avant-garde culture, which is ironic, because Roussel pretty much wanted the mass audience, and by no means did he see his work as being a difficult read. The fact that he didn't have the masses, but instead had every significant avant-garde artist, poet, and writer as fans, well, at least he had emotional backing.

If you dig deep enough in one's favorite literary bookstore or library, you can find books on Roussel in English. What is there not to like about him? He was rich, and he spent his fortune in producing his books as well as doing a big budget theater piece based on his masterpiece "Impressions of Africa." He had a limo/automobile in the 1900s that was probably the first limo, or at least a car where he didn't have to leave to go to the bathroom. He wore his suits once, and then never again. The ultimate dandy in a country (France) full of dandies. But his real brilliance is his writings. Word-play, amazing non-plotting, yet spectacular images of new machines, and even newer locations. One can think of him as an early pioneer of science fiction narrative. Mark von Schlegell wrote a beautiful and fascinating essay on Roussel, where he states the importance of Roussel's work in line with Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe. The thing with Roussel, in many ways, he predicted the Internet, and the method of artists who had their fortune, produce work for the consumer.

Schlegell makes interesting sight into the world of Roussel, and how one shouldn't only look at him as a man of wealth (which he was of course) but also as a worker, who could work anywhere in the world. He built his car which is a combination of a mobile home as well as a workspace where he can do his writing anywhere in the world, with the help of a large ship as well. Him being mobile gave him the ability to see the world, but the real travel was always in his head and within the boundaries of his imagination.

A superb chapbook published by Semiotext[e] and well-worth the journey in locating this Roussel-appreciation. Here's the website to purchase "Roussel Returns":

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Paris Scratch" by bart plantenga (Sensitive Skin)

ISBN: 9780996157049 Sensitive Skin
I have a deep interest in Paris. Not only what I imagine is Paris, but other people's Paris as well. It's a city that demands one's attention, especially in the field of the arts. It has a lot to do with its citizens, but it is also a city that is reflected quite often by various foreigners. For me, it is something in the way the city is laid out. I think architecturally first, then how that space is filled by what I think are interesting people. Charles Baudelaire, Boris Vian, the songs of Juliette Greco, the imagery of Serge Gainsbourg - all of this makes intriguing pictures and sounds in one's head. I would also like to add bart plantenga's "Paris Scratch" to that cultural pile as well.

First of all, I don't know if one can look at this book as fiction, non-fiction, a journal - it can be a combination of all three. The way I read it, "Paris Scratch is between a memoir and a travel journal. It is similar to taking a photo by or sketching on paper a scene in front of the author. The book consists of 365 chapters/sections, which in theory can be an actual year. "Paris Scratch" is not a book of lists, but deeply investigations of feelings, places, and people, as conveyed by the author. Various French artists and authors, as well as pop singers, run through the pages, but also foreign writers such as Henry Miller commenting on Paris. It's a city that has a lot of cultural baggage, and there is no way getting around the awesomeness of the place - and plantenga clearly conveys the magic that is or was Paris.

Entirely personal, and one-of-a-kind approach to Paris, plantenga successfully writes about a place that most readers of this book will be familiar with - yet, will discover new sensibilities and sensual aspects of a city well-lived, and reported by exquisite writers, for instance, bart plantenga.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews" by Geoff Dyer

ISBN: 978-1-55597-579-1 Graywolf Press

I'm a fan of a book of essays by particular writers. Not for the purpose of learning something new, but to be able to spend time with an author and his thoughts. If I don't like the author, I tend not to like the essays. I like Geoff Dyer. Therefore I like his book of essays "Otherwise Known as the Human Condition." What I like about him and his writings is that he has a great deal of interest in the world around him.

Besides being a literary critic, he also writes about photography, travel, and jazz. He's a writer who loves jazz. Boris Vian was a musician who wrote about jazz and was passionate about the subject, but far as I know, Dyer is not a musician. He has incredible insight into the music and is an excellent observer in what makes a jazz recording works or not work. The other great thing about his work is his brief memoirs that are towards the end of this volume. Personal, and very enticing invitation to his social world, and how he places himself in that landscape. There are also signs of his sexuality, not only to his attraction to women but apparently his attention to porn. He wrote a brief essay in this book regarding the hotel room, and how sexy such a room is to a gentleman. He also wrote about porn viewing in the hotel chambers. The fact that a hotel room is so clean (hopefully) makes it even more erotic. Nice observation on the nature of hotels.  

The book is large, and usually, I read a book of essays off and on. I tend to read three essays in a row, and put it down, and pick it up a month later. This book, I read from the first to the last page. As I mention, one of his great interests is in photography. And like his love for jazz, he is a viewer of photographs, without being a photographer. He has no interest in taking photos but enjoys writing on the subject. The distance between him and a passionate object is a right approach. At least for him. Nevertheless, Dyer is a fantastic writer. I enjoy dipping into his cosmos.  

- Tosh Berman

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

April 12, 2017 (Tosh's Diary)

April 12, 2017 (Tosh's Diary)

It's Wednesday, and I'm waiting for the mail.  My day is, waiting.  I wake up due to the sun coming up, and I move around the house to avoid the intense and direct sunlight.  It is not until around 7 PM where I feel I can stay still and place my body on the seat facing Waverly Drive.

Once the sun goes down, I feel more alive. Perhaps due to its cocktail hour at that time.   The first sip of white wine drains all my anxiety away.   I feel guilty about spending money on vinyl records, but it's one of the great pleasures in my life where I can sit in front of the turntable, with headphones on, and play an old record, that clearly has a lot of history on it.  The album may have been at the very least in one household, but perhaps two.

 I remember in the 80s I sold my records to get credit to buy new albums.  It was the only way for me to afford in getting a new record.  At that time, it was Aron's Records on Melrose, but I often regret in letting go records that mean a lot to me.  It's mostly an impulse on my part that when I want something new, I just trade in what I feel I can trade in at that moment.  I'm happy to get the new record, but it always comes with a profound sense of regret.

The wine drinking now is very much like the sun moving in a 12-hour day, it's just a reminder that time is moving on.   I sense a significant loss of wasted time, but that comes down to the nature of doing work, and on a schedule.  As I wander around the house to avoid the sunlight, I plan to sit myself down to write.  Within 12 hours I very much want to write something special or original. Or if anything else, something that will bring importance to whoever reads the text.   On the other hand, the truth is, I just want to make a presence within those hours to prove that I can be productive.   Alas, I often fail.

As mentioned, I feel close to Stephen Bannon.  We did arrange a meeting early this year, but we never met up.  Although I don't have proof, I suspect he deliberately ignored me.   I can feel his presence hooking me, and pulling towards his direction.  But then he rejected me, not by words, but by expressing no communication or clearly expressing the fact that I have no meaning in his life.  It's ironic that he's getting the same treatment from President Trump and his family.   They use you for your ideas, and once finished, they throw you back into the ocean.   He and I are like bloated whales, that are stranded on a beach.   I was thinking of approaching him again, now that he has been rejected, but decided that would be cruel on my part.   I sit here and get angry, but what good is it to add misery to his already miserable existence?  This is what I think about, when drinking a glass of Charles Shaw white, and listening to an old Move album on my hi-fi.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Books I Read in 2014 Part 2

"A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton" by Holly George-Warren

"Don't Tell Sybil" by George Melly

"3 New York Dadas and the Blind Man" by Marcel Duchamp

"Phantoms on the Bookshelves" by Jacques Bonnet

"Answered Prayers" by Truman Capote

"The Basketball Diaries" by Jim Carroll

"No Poems or Around the World Backwards and Sideways" by Robert Benchley

"Low Down: Junk, Jazz, and Other Fairy Tales from Childhood" by A.J. Albany

In The Dark Room: A Journey in Memory" by Brian Dillon

"Art as Art: The Selected Writings by Ad Reinhardt" edited by Barbara Rose

"Laziness in the Fertile Valley" by Albert Cossery

"Captain Cap: His Adventures, His Ideas, His Drinks" by Alphonse Allais

"The Mayor of MacDougal Street" by Dave Van Ronk

"Daily Rituals: How Artists Work" by Mason Currey

"The World is Ever Changing" by Nicolas Roeg

"Is It My Body? by Kim Gordon

"Pal Joey" by John O'Hara

"The Kept Girl" by Kim Cooper

"The Atrocity Exhibition" by J.G. Ballard

"Tokyo On Foot" Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods" by Florent Chavouet

"Inside a Pearl" My Years in Paris" by Edmund White 

"Blue Bamboo" by Osamu Dazai

"Goodis - A Life in Black and White" by Philippe Garnier

"Culture and Value" by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Books I Read in 2014 Part 1

"Fanfarlo" by Charles Baudelaire
"The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis" by Lydia Davis
"Give My Regards to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman" Edited by B.H. Friedman
"Unspeakable Acts: The Avant-Garde Theater of Terayama Shuji and Postwar Japan" by Carol Fisher

"My Vocabulary Did This To Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer"  Edited by Peter Gizzi & Kevin Killian
Straight From The Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang" by Max Décharné
"The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa" by Yasunari Kawabata
"David Bowie Is" by Jon Savage, Camille Paglia, & Howard Goodall
"Detroit 1968" Photographs by Enrico Natali

"Dump This Book: While You Still Can!" by Marcel Bénabou

"Notes From A Revolution: COM/CO, The Diggers & The Haight" by Kristine McKenna & David Hollander

"The Stray Bullet: William Burroughs in Mexico" by Jorge Garcìa-Robles

"Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern" by Nile Southern

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lee Lozano: "Private Book 1" (Karma)

Lee Lozano Private Book 1  (Karma)

I never heard of Lee Lozano till I picked up this little replica of one of the artist's notebooks.  I'm always intrigued by artist's notebooks - even more so by writers.  The sole reason is that an artist deal with the visual medium, and although time-to-time they can also write, it's the ones that need to express themselves in such a manner where the notes are unorganized and very much thought-in-progress.  After reading Lozano's notebook, I went to our bookstore (ARTBOOK) as well as another (Alias Books East) to look at her artwork.  As a friend mentioned lots of dicks, cunts, balls, and some abstract expression like drawings.  By the end of that day, I feel in love with Lee Lozano's art and scribblings (writings).

What becomes clear through her writing is that Lozano thinks conceptually.   Her conceptual pieces are straight to the point, and it has touches of a Fluxus flavor as well.  For instance:  "Win a grant.  Invest half of it on the stock market for six months.  Pat the rent and piss away the rest."  Or here is something called "Withdrawal Piece":  "Pull out of a show at Dick's.  "Hang" with work that brings me down (David Budd & Kuyama)."   Or observations such as "Every day thousands of pounds of paint are applied to buildings in NYC, signs, benches etc., which can only mean that the city is getting heavier and heavier."   There is also poetic observations such as "Smoking remains attractive because it is an excuse to make a little fire."

"Book 1" is a small memo lined notebook, and due to size it's very intimate, but also the writing/notes with her handwriting, is witty - and very personal.  "Abortionist John Adams" and then his phone number and a note that "Dr. Spencer's recommendation."  From one page to the next, it seems Lozano's brain didn't stop.  Her appreciation or acknowledging the drugs of that time and period (1968-1969) as well as her listening habits (Pink Floyd) and views on fellow artist friends such as Dan Graham, is a combination of horrific, charming, and such a great document of New York City art Soho life.  

This notebook is an art object, but a total readable experience due that Lozano has perfect handwriting (block letters) and enough pop culture references that run through the whole journal.  It's interesting to know that soon afterward she eventually stopped communicating with women.   At first, it was a "piece" but it became a lifetime activity on her part to separate the female from the male in her world.   Women she didn't associate with at all - and she only did business with men.   A very eccentric and of course, an incredible artist.