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August 31, 2001

++ Or + Women in Afghanistan + Schlammpeitziger + more

++ The back cover of Touch imprint Or's compilation Or Some Computer Music: Issue 2 features a big-breasted, swim-suited hottie, but it's not meant as an impulse-consumer's come-on. It's the sleevenote to Jim O'Rourke's contribution to the album, "Like Urine Loves Cold Slate," an off-putting title, but oddly evocative, if you think about it. Curated by Russell Haswell, Or could give a fuck about marketing, and accordingly the label offers a welcome antidote to the depressing binaries of popular aesthetic reception ("I like it" vs. "I don't like it"). OSCM:2 really isn't an album to like or not like, which is to say it reminds us that there are artistic categories beyond immediate gratification. The eight tracks featured here, from Alberto de Campo, Atau Tanaka & Eric Wenger, Curtis Roads, farmersmanual, Jim O'Rourke, Phoenicia and Tom Wallace, all explore "computer music" — fightin' words, for plenty of disgruntled music-school dropouts — from a rigorously non-academic background. Tanaka and Wenger use the program Metasynth to turn Japanese bondage-porn photos into a densely shimmering wall of pixellated sound. Phoenicia, known for their dark blending of electro, techno and microsound for Miami's Schematic label, remystify desktop music methodologies with a cheeky screenshot that seems worlds removed from the abstract gurgle of their "Non-Specific Acoustic Stimulation." And Mego's farmersmanual open their annotations with a Macintosh icon cleverly reconfigured from a pointing index finger to an extended middle digit flipping you, dear reader, the bird. In a scene sometimes susceptible to insiderism and mutual back-patting, the rejection of warm fuzzies is refreshing. Will you like it? How the hell should I know? Every genre needs its Soup Nazi, after all, so welcome to Or. Now take a damn number.

++ "Beneath the Borqa," a benefit for the women and children of Afghanistan, will take place at San Francisco Film Center on Thursday, Sept. 6. The event — presented by Caipirinha Records, 39 Exposure and Under the Radar — will include a short film by Iara Lee, director of the electronic music documentaries "Modulations" and "Synthetic Pleasures." Also planned are a photo exhibition from Marcus Burnett, Barron Rachman and Andre Vieira, and a reconfiguration of traditional Afghan music from Christopher Willits and Zygote of San Francisco's Under the Radar. While Lee is known primarily for her work with electronic music, curating projects such as Caipirinha's Architettura series, she has recently focused her efforts on publicizing the women's-rights crisis in Afghanistan. As she wrote me in an email, "Through Caipirinha I have been servicing the film and music community for many years, always trying to create opportunities for young artists. After my trip to Pakistan, I felt compelled to extend my realm of work and also service that segment of society that, unlike heady Caipirinha people, may not even be able to write nor read. So I felt a good turn in my life would be to gear up all the work we have been doing in arts and culture to raise awareness and try to engage people to support causes of global relevance. The idea is to be hands-on and depart from checkbook philanthropy. The idea is to get people to become activists, social changers. The short we made will give an overview of how Afghanistan has been victim of geo-politics and neighboring countries' interests. Despite the fact that the U.S. government does not want to admit [it], one knows the U.S.A. participated in creating that monster (the Taliban) and should now help to improve the situation." "Beneath the Borqa" will be held at 39 Exposure in The Presidio, 39 Mesa Street, San Francisco. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show begins at 8. Driving directions and further information are available at www.caipirinha.com. Suggested donation is $20, but according to Lee, "People should do whatever they feel comfortable with. So much is going on in the Middle East and Central Asia, most important is that people come to educate themselves and be involved in global issues. After all, the whole world is so interconnected."

++ When I worked at a record store in Providence, R.I. — the quintessential "High Fidelity" indie store, a last bastion of elite tastes and mutual resentment between customer and clerk — we had a regular customer, a Dutch guy with a fondness for Apollo 440 albums. My always-irreverent coworker insisted upon calling him "Schlammpy." I'm not sure why, but I'm quite sure that this fellow wasn't the same as the estimable Schlammpeitziger. I have no idea where Schlammpy is now — probably trying to wheedle a buck out of Amoeba for those CDs — but Schlammpeitziger (easier to say than to spell, trust me), a.k.a. Jo Zimmermann, is soon to release Collected Simplesongs of My Temporary Past on Chicago's Thrill Jockey records. Compiled from his five previous recordings for Gefreim, a-Musik and Entenpfuhl, Collected Simplesongs gathers eight years of the Cologne musician's finest lo-fi pop revisionism. In a cultural landscape glutted with quotation and reduction ("It's like Beck meets the Pretenders"; "It's like The Strokes meet Aphex Twin"), Schlammpeitziger offers an oddly all-and-nothing proposition. His Casiotonic harmonies hark back to Kraftwerk; his unconventional approaches nod to Cologne contemporaries like Mouse on Mars, F.X. Randomiz and Lithops; his merger of techno grit and pop appeal puts him in the same camp as Ladmoat artist Turner. But you've really never heard anything quite like this before. The cover designs, odd little pictographs from Zimmermann and Frank Dommert, recall Joan Miró and Paul Klee, and in this, they do a fine job of suggesting the weird retro-futurism you'll find here. Discover and be enchanted.

++ There's so much good music out there, and so little space for writing about it, that usually I reserve my comments for the good stuff and let the crap sink to the bottom of the cultural compost heap. But every once in a while, an album appears that, for whatever reason, is so bad that I'd be shirking my ethical responsibilities if I didn't call it out. First up in the hall of shame, then, is Suite 706: Paris-Madeleine, compiled by MTV Europe host Jacky Jayet, who doubles as music supervisor for Paris' Man Ray nightclub. This would have been just another flaccid downtempo comp of unobtrusive beats and watered-down house were it not for the co-branding by the Hyatt Regency Paris-Madeleine, for whom the CD was created as "a compilation reflective of the hotel's image" and a means of "enticing international clients that are looking for the lifestyle of Parisian elegance and flair." Symptomatic of the seemingly inexhaustible spread of boom chic (evidenced elsewhere in cover designs for Naked Music and the comically suave Hedkandi), the album makes me think that a prolonged global recession might not be so bad after all, if it would make all this mirrored-lens, cocaine 'n' Cristal crapola go away.

++ Miss out on your favorite installment of Fällt's invalidObject series, released just weeks ago as a series of 24 CDs, each limited to 250? Fear not: the entire series of 360 tracks (24 artists, 15 tracks each) will made available for free download in MP3 format throughout the month of September. "Our ISP's going to hate us!" says Fällt's Christopher Murphy. But the antipathy ought to be balanced out by the love and gratitude of fans eagerly scooping up exclusive material from the likes of Pimmon, Stephan Mathieu, Scanner, Taylor Deupree, V/VM, Pita, Kim Cascone.... Wait a minute, did he say free? "Just to clarify, that's everything 100% free," reiterates Murphy. As my favorite appliance salesman, Portland's Tom Peterson, always says, "Free is a very good price." Three hundred sixty tracks, one month: consider yourself warned, and start clearing out some space on your hard drive.

++ No DIY tradition is older or grander than the indie tour. And there's no bigger pain in the ass, either — a poorly booked tour has been the demise of more than one band. Punk rock has its Book Your Own Fuckin' Life, and now electronic music has a new resource for musicians and labels booking their own tours: the memorably named Tsjok, a means of bringing together musicians, labels and promoters of electronic music. The project of Joana Seguro, who has worked with Mute and Warp, and Dave Driesmans of (K-RAA-K)3, Tsjok offers an information hub for touring artists to link up with promoters across the globe. The venture's success or failure will hinge upon how the resource is utilized, but judging from some of the names already taking part — Cylob, Flowchart, Hazard, Kim Cascone, Twine, Mikael Stävostrand — the outlook appears promising. Tsjok encourages artists, promoters, labels and fans to join up; see the General Info page for details.

++ Chicago experimental music organization Lampo has announced its fall lineup, promising four evenings of advanced music for Midwestern listeners. On September 8 Alan Licht will perform music for guitar and screwdrivers (presumably not the beverage, but who knows?), backed by an ensemble including Chi-town stalwarts Jeff Parker, Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt, Casey Rice, Rick Rizzo and Kiki Yablon. On September 29 M. Behrens, known for his delicate soundworks and processed field recordings on Trente Oiseaux and Digital Narcis, will perform his U.S. debut, including a sound/video work composed specially for the event during his stay in Chicago. On October 27 French bassist Kaspar T. Toeplitz will debut a new work by Phill Niblock, also playing his own "BassSculptures" for electric bass and computer. And Raster-Noton's Carsten Nicolai (a.k.a. Noto, Alva.Noto) will close out the season on December 7 and 8 with two nights of sublime and austere data crackle.

In the last two and a half years, Lampo has established itself as one of North America's premiere venues for experimental music, with performances from Phill Niblock, AMM, Mirror (Andrew Chalk and Christoph Heemann), CM von Hauswolff, Achim Wollscheid, Dean Roberts, Maryanne Amacher, Francisco López, John Duncan, Ryoji Ikeda and Kevin Drumm — in short, enough top-notch artists to make you start saving your frequent-flier miles. All performances take place at 6ODUM, 2116 W. Chicago Avenue; for more information, join the Lampo list.


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