photo & text by nacrowe
with MIDNITE VULTURES (DGC, 1999), its hard to discern whether gifted songwriter / cultural chameleon BECK is parodying 70s/80s FUNK and R&B (a la PRINCE) or lionizing it. case in point is the song "DEBRA" which finds him coyly crooning and then wailing away with his impressive falsetto about his feelings towards a woman and her sister, whom he think is named, well, Debra. its so ridiculous yet virtuosically performed that it really walks that line. its also my favorite song on the album. to this day i cant discern whether it is pastiche or parody and maybe that ambiguity is the point.
other standout tracks such as "BROKEN TRAIN," "GET REAL PAID," "SEXX LAWS," "NICOTINE & GRAVY" and "MIXED BUSINESS" all utilize the synth lines, gated reverb, clipped percussion and synth pad textures that make the genre such a sonically pleasurable experience. it is a fun record that seems less concerned with the pastiche techniques utilized in his universally celebrated ODELAY (DGC, 1996) record and more directly interested in exploring the sonic oeuvre of classic FUNK from ZAPP and LAKESIDE to PARLIAMENT and the THE GAP BAND with a healthy bit of AL GREEN, LIONEL RITCHIE and BOBBY WOMACK thrown in the mix. at least that is what i hear.
this record is basically the answer to the question "what would a PRINCE record sound like if BECK made it?" it makes sense to me that he could pull it off given his staggering gift for songwriting and mercurial persona. and that core identity as a songwriter is what makes his discography so interesting, irregardless of genre or recording techniques, however experimental. this is his FUNK record, but he shines just as brightly in a FOLK or HIP HOP context.
i first heard this record when it came out. at the time i was in boarding school in NEW ENGLAND and like most things i was exposed to during that period, i had no context for understanding it. at 15 i wasnt familiar with the pioneering DUST BROTHERS pastiche production innovations found within the BEASTIE BOYS' PAUL'S BOUTIQUE (CAPITOL, 1989) record, much less classic FUNK. i just knew it sounded energetic, fresh, idiosyncratic and above all else, fun.
and that is pretty much why i still go back to this record. its just fun. its definitely worth revisiting and pays dividends for those seeking experimental audiophile easter eggs and classic pop hooks alike. recommended highly.
photo manipulations by nacrowe
in the obtuse documentary BURROUGHS: THE MOVIE (CITIFILMWORKS, 1983) by director HOWARD BROOKNER we are provided a rare glimpse into the mind and writings of the influential BEAT writer WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS through not only his narration, but interview footage with peers and acolytes such as ALLEN GINSBERG, TERRY SOUTHERN, LUCIEN CARR, HERBERT HUNCKE, BRION GYSIN, PATTI SMITH, FRANCIS BACON and JON GIORNO as well as his only son WILLIAM BURROUGHS JR (who passed on during the time of filming).
we follow BURROUGHS as he guides us through his past including his time spent as a child in ST. LOUIS as well as his time at HARVARD, medical school in VIENNA, his failed attempt to enlist with the OSS (now the CIA) during WWII and subsequent fall into HEROIN addiction in NYC which was around the time he made the acquaintance of JACK KEROUAC and ALLEN GINSBERG. this continues through his marriage to JOAN VOLLMER and brith of his son through her accidental shooting in MEXICO and his son's eventual death in his 30s due to the chronic effects of alcoholism. littered throughout this personal narrative we find BURROUGHS reading excerpts from JUNKIE, NOVA EXPRESS, NAKED LUNCH, THE WILD BOYS and EXTERMINATOR! among other publications. we learn that NAKED LUNCH was written during his time in TANGIERS in the early 1950s when he was able to make use of the lax customs of local pharmacies to indulge in narcotics.
as a documentary this film was exceedingly dry. this is partly due to BURROUGHS prodding vocal affectations that seem to drone on ad infinitum. its funny, if i wasnt a fan of his work than i would find this film impossible to stomach, but he is a figure that pretty much brought POSTMODERNISM to literature in the 20th century and is a preeminent literary figure among his peers. his work is almost like a collage in art terms or montage in film terms as his cutouts served to provide jagged juxtapositions of concepts, words and phrases that seemingly spawned new visualizations and ideas out of multiple perspectives connected over space and time.
to verbalize his influence on modern culture, which has only bent more towards his worldview in the digital age of fractured realities where truth isnt relative, its irrelevant. seemingly we are in a post-truth and post-morality world where everyone is a JUNKIE for information. brutal low-grade gossip or refined, well-articulated and researched essays all fill the same fix and are mainlined and discarded the same, onwards looking for the next hit.
so this all makes me think that to experience this film expecting a straightforward presentation of a coherent narrative is wholly missing the point. if anything this film is a snapshot that is out of focus and out of context. a brief window into his late life mindset after a long fruitful yet painful career. it is up to his to draw our own conclusions on the worth of his perspective and words. on us to provide the context for this disjointed documentary of a man whose trade was navigating moral and temporal ambiguity.
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO complete with a playlist celebrating the enigmatic, shapeshifting career of 90s postmodern ALTERNATIVE ROCK icon BECK.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
photo manipulation by nacrowe
there was an interesting period during the end of my time as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA when i knew it was only a matter of months before my move to VENEZUELA as a secondary english teacher. what an interesting era that was.
for 2-3 months i basically read everything i could about SOUTH AMERICAN history as well as LATIN culture writ large. this led me to things like reading OPEN VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA (MONTHLY REVIEW PRESS, 1997) by Uruguayan historian EDUARDO GALEANO as well as several HUGO CHAVEZ biographies and musical artists such as ANA TIJOUX (CHILE/FRANCE), LA VIDA BOHEME (VENEZUELA) and probably my favorite discovery, EL GUINCHO (SPAIN).
what makes music the music of this CANARY ISLANDS multi-instramentalist/producer stand out is his ability to contextualize disparate genres and textures into a cohesive sonic expression. the nearest analogues i can think of were artists like BECK and BJORK who both seem to revel in using multiple production techniques in the same track. i think the difference here is that for EL GUINCHO is playing with a different set of reference points (tropicália, afrobeat, old school hip hop) as BECK is known for genre-exercises as he was a child of the post-modern FLUXUS movement and BJORK is firmly a bridge between the pop and avant-garde world music scene.
for me the music of EL GUINCHO is very exciting on a sonic level and his album POP NEGRO (YOUNG TURKS, 2010) is something i have been listening to on constant rotation since it came out almost 10 years ago.
well worth checking this guy out. could not recommend his music any stronger.