In and amongst so much prolix philosophical rambling on the nature of
reality, Richard Linklater as himself, in his own film struck upon
particularly telling phrase in his animated motion picture "Waking Life,"
espousing in the simplest of words that "time is a lie." Such a
sentiment runs counter to the central themes of his twain works "Before
Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," which are completely obsessed with time and
the passing of it. The signature poetic evocation in those works comes
in the latter stages of the former, where Ethan Hawke (then serving as
proxy for Linklater, before he turned his character into a thinly veiled
version of himself for that second film) quotes W.H. Auden by way of
Dylan Thomas, saying "The years shall run like rabbits," a phrase that
struck me as unbearably profound when I first heard it at 17, as it
does typing it, now, at this moment in time, at 27. In "Waking Life,"
Linklater's concept of time is not as some runic rhyme, but as a lie,
he telling a convoluted tale of Philip K. Dick's experiences of being
the "artist as antenna" as a way of proposing the theory that all
instants of existence are happening at the same time, and that all moments
are the same moment, and that the time is always now, for now is always
the same time.
Whilst most would associate popular culture as being the
antithesis of such an idea, with fashion forever dictating a distinction
between what's now and what's past (and, thus, passé), spurred on by the super-capitalist need for the new that consumes popular culture's forays
forever forward. But that same need seems to make the past and the
present as one; not merely content with delivering a steady stream
of the new, the record biz gives us a steady diet of the old served up
as the new, the unending stream of excavations and reissues from
pop culture's darkened corners only illuminating the lack of distinction
between the new and the actually new. This notion seems
central when accepting these two "new" recordings by The Blow Olympia,
Washington heroine Khaela Maricich as works relating to each other.
One, a collection of electronic songs made as an on-the-side "collaboration"
with Little Wings/Y.A.C.H.T's Jona Bechtolt, is actually less a
side project, and more a pointer towards the future direction of The
Blow. The other, a collection of lo-fi songs recorded when Maricich was
first finding her artistic footing, compiles once-private at-home
offerings that the artist was once adamant she wouldn't make publicly
available; the public compact-digital release of such is, in that
familiar record-release way, an excavation of long-lost,
previously unreleased material, painting a portrait of the artist's past
whilst making that past resonant in the present.
The difference between the two is radical, not only in the disparities between the past and the future of The Blow, but also in how the two don't really add up to what The Blow has been on their/her two previous recordings, the past and the
future bookending the life Maricich has lived on disc up until now.
They may be both new in the eternal "now" of popular culture, but the
works seem to speak of completely different times, the distinction in
such being that Maricich was, quite possibly, a completely different
human when she authored each.
Such is evinced, perhaps, by the fact that the songs on the
lovingly-titled Everyday Examples of Humans Facing Straight Into the
Blow were originally self-released, in friends-and-family amounts, in
handmade fashion, under the name Get the Hell Out of the Way of the
Volcano. In those days, Maricich wasn't yet versed in being a
performer; this disc is the gathering of recordings she made when
first starting out down her musical path, rolling tape as she strummed
her way through a set of guitar-based songs. The constant presence of
guitar immediately makes these recordings stand apart from future Blow
records, which were built less around tuned instruments, and more around
voice and rhythm; the strums here seem somewhat alien. One
moment hints at what will follow, as "Why Don't You" layers
Maricich's voice into a glowing chorus, singing a simple hymn without
any instrumental backing, hinting at things like The Microphones'
"Ocean" and The Blow's "She Buried Herself in the Air" that'd soon
arrive on her horizon. The reason that it (and the whole set, really)
only hints at future examples of songs performed by The Blow is the
shyness of the songs, and their purely personal quality; their pitch and
delivery seem to be aimed solely at the self. Without the projection
or gesture of performance, here Maricich assumedly just learning
guitar mumbles downward into the microphone, talks into her chest,
sings in a bashful whisper. She's adamant that these recordings were
made for herself, and, well, it kinda shows; the contrast between the
hushed, nervous girl on these songs and the dynamic, charismatic
stage-show performer who would later arise is pronounced. Which is,
of course, the reason this record has been released, and is, of course,
what many will find charming about them. Like, beginnings are beautiful
Far from that awkward adolescence is Poor Aim: Love Songs, in which
Maricich hooks up with Bechtolt to make new-millennial party music, with
Maricich's play-like lyrics depicting an array of characters/humans
navigating modern-day mating rituals (happily using words like "homies,"
no less) set to Bechtolt's playful beats, which pound out
enough sophistication and syncopation to get the kids up on Saturday
night and dancin'. Seemingly sorrowful indie-hipsters like Will Oldham
and Devendra Banhart have recently been exuberantly expounding the
virtues of R.Kelly to anyone who'll listen, and I'd not be surprised if
Maricich were also a fan; cuts herein like "Hey Boy" and "The Love
That I Crave Is a Polar Bear to Gore Me" move with the slinky gait of
modern-day pop production. Seven songs long and issued as the premiere
installment of a collaborative "Pregnancy Series" conceived by States
Rights Records, the disc was initially just to be a one-off; but
Maricich grew so fond of Bechtolt's beats, and thought their union was
so grand, that now The Blow are officially a duo; and this
hip-swiveling, dancefloor Mikhaela is here, now, to stay.