Playlist: Matthew Waldron
Matt Waldron is the sound artist behind the culturally marginal project irr. app. (ext.), as well as being a visual artist in a haphazard selection of media. Since 2005 he's been one of the core quartet making up the Nurse With Wound live band and an occasional NWW studio collaborator. Other collaborations include R K Faulhaber, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer, Andrew Liles, At Jennie Richie, Stilluppsteypa, Thomas Carnacki, Petit Mal, Fovea Hex and Faun Fables. Exciting new (but entirely separate) collaborations with Finnish underground masterminds Pentti Dassum and Jussi Lehtisalo are underway, as is a project with French pianist Sylvie Walder. Born in Toronto, Waldron was stuck in California for far too long before finding a better life in Oregon. For more information about irr. app. (ext.), visit http://www.irrappext.com. Waldron's artwork can be seen can be seen here and here.
The current batch of favourites I've been listening to during the past month or so:
1. Thomas Carnacki - 'Oar of Panmuphle'
A brand-spanking-new album from the famous ghost-finder. Mr. C was an original member of the irr. app. (ext.) live ensemble, back when none of us had any idea what we were doing, and it's been fascinating to watch his own style of audio landscaping develop. This record definitely shows a consolidation and refinement of ideas.
2. Pharoah Overlord - 'Lunar Jetman'
Ever since I took a chance on the two Circle 7"s listed in a Bad Vugum mailorder catalogue back in 1993, I've been a rabid collector of anything released by Jussi Lehtisalo & his associates. This is the most recent release by the more improv-based Pharoah Overlord project, and one of my favourites so far. Can't listen to it enough.
3. At Jennie Richie - 'So Far Out' & 'Absurd Machine Drama Four'
A pair of recent cassette-only releases by the sonic conundrum known as At Jennie Richie. I haven't been this excited about cassette releases since discovering the United Dairies cassette series in the late 80s and ordering some rare tapes direct from David Jackman in the early 90s. AJR is endlessly fascinating.
4. Keuhkot - 'Laskeutumisalusastia'
A welcome return by a wholly-unique Finnish outsider artist. There's definitely a progression from the older albums, but without losing the distinctive Keuhkot sound.
5. R K Faulhaber - 'Conversions'
I've been re-listening to the original 1996 cassette release of this album while Mr. Faulhaber is busy remixing the original multitracks for a long-overdue reissue on CD. A great work and a classic slice of
6. Grumbling Fur - 'Furrier'
Another side project from Circle overlord Jussi Lehtisalo, this time working with two members of Guapo and some other worthy collaborators. Simmering slabs of sound sculpted out of a day's worth of inspired improvisations.
7. The Bee Gees - 'Idea'
I have a real fondness for the orchestrated pop music of the 1960s, and I think the Bee Gees made some of the best. Tracks like 'Down To Earth' and 'I've Gotta Get A Message To You' are like a spoonful of really good ice cream. I end up compulsively singing this stuff for days afterwards. And the lyrics are really peculiar: typically, they suggest a story without ever being clear what they're about.
8. Little Dragon - 'Ritual Union'
One of the few contemporary pop outfits that has grabbed my interest. Nice mood.
9. Rush - 'Permanent Waves'
I was inspired to pull out all of my old Rush albums after watching the recent 'Beyond The Lighted Stage' documentary about the group. It's such a relief to see a band that still enjoys each other's company after 40 years and never degenerated into bickering, resentment and litigiousness. This album in particular still gives me a thrill.
10. King Crimson - 'Starless And Bible Black (40th Anniversary Edition)'
Fourth time I've bought this (and every other KC) album, now fleshed out with a lot of extra related material. This is my favourite period for KC, when they frequently jumped off the deep end into improvisations that aren't really 'rock' or 'jazz' or anything else. Fripp has been one of the primary influences on my creative thinking since I was a teenager (along with Wilhelm Reich, Steven Stapleton and Kurt Schwitters) and one of the only musicians that has had a conscious influence on my own playing style (as laughable as that may seem).
In recent years I haven't had much opportinuty to sit down and just read, so I end up having several books sitting around that I crawl through a little at a time while waiting for my computer to chew on a big file, or when experiencing a particularly severe bout of insomnia. This is what I'm juggling right now, as well as some of the most recent ones I've finished:
1. William Shirer - 'The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich' (1960)
A very thorough, if not completely objective, examination of perhaps the most important period of modern human history. For the past several years I've been preoccupied with the question of how so many people can be compelled to act against their own best interests, and why so many cultures are dominated by irrational ideas; I'm only about a third of the way through this 1,500 page book and it's already given some very useful insights into that concern. If one jumps back to the first major culture founded on military obedience (the First Reich, the Roman Empire) and follows the steady evolution of those attitudes into the obsessively militaristic culture of the Second Reich (the Prussian Empire), then the appearance of the Third Reich, and the passive acceptance of its development by so many people, becomes a predictable outcome. The same attitudes make the lapse of Communism into totalitarianism a predictable event as well. The thing that has unnerved me the most is discovering just how passive that acceptance was -- and then realising how little attitudes have changed. I had always thought that comparisons between Hitler and the second President Bush were just lazy and trite liberal hot air, but the similarities between the aggressive bluff that Hitler used to gain control of Austria in 1938 and the
equally aggressive bluff that Bush used to secure the presidency in 2000 were immediately obvious (as were the similarities between Nazi bullying of voters in the Austrian plebiscite and the bullying of (primarily black) Democratic voters in Florida): they both could only be effective when the social norm is fearful 'polite' obediance.
2. Wilhelm Reich - 'People In Trouble' (1953)
One of Reich's primarily autobiographical works, I pulled this out again after starting 'The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich' since it deals with the same period of time (or at least overlaps with the early part of 'Rise And Fall') and gives Reich's own street view of the social developments taking place. Reich lived in Austria in the years leading up to the Third Reich (no relation) and was an active Marxist up until the early 1930s, giving him first-hand exposure to how both degenerated into totalitarianism (and, not surprisingly, both Nazis and Communists wanted to kill him for his criticisms). This was when he developed his ideas about the importance of 'character structure' and how it is socially conditioned.
3. Robert Gellately - 'Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age Of Social Catastrophe' (2007)
I've only dipped into this one a tiny bit so far, but I'm hoping that it fills in a bit more of the picture given by the two books above and connects some dots with the books on the Russian revolution that I've already read.
4. David Miles - 'The Tribes Of Britain' (2005)
I bought this book to do some research for an upcoming project, but I was also curious about the subject because of the British strains that figure into both sides of my family history. So far, it's even better than I had hoped: absolutely packed with interesting tidbits of information while giving an intriguing glimpse into the movements & lifestyles of prehistoric British tribes.
5. David Cross - 'I Drink For A Reason' (2009)
The first book by one of my favourite comedians. I'm still picking my way through it, but so far I don't find it as enjoyable as his stand-up material or 'Mr. Show'. The delivery adds a lot.
6. Stanislaw Lem - 'Imaginary Magnitude' (1981)
One of my favourite 'science fiction' writers, although that description is only vaguely appropriate for this unusual book. Rather than having any kind of conventional story, it's a collection of introductions to imaginary books that are too bizarre to exist.
7. Olaf Stapledon - 'Last And First Men' (1930)
My other favourite 'science fiction' writer, much more science- than fantasy-oriented. I re-read this every few years and it never loses its interest. The story speculates on the evolutionary path of the human race right up to its extinction a couple billion years in the future. The early part of the book is remarkably prescient of the totalitarian regimes that became dominant later in the 30s and the development of atomic weapons in the 1940s.
8. Stephen Fry - 'The Hippopotamus' (1994)
The second novel by one of my favourite British comedians, which I had a fun time re-reading again recently. I've enjoyed his convoluted wordplay and inventive approach to profanity since first seeing the 'A Bit of Fry & Laurie' series back in the 90s. The audio book version (read by Fry himself) is worth a listen as well.
9. Eugene Linden - 'The Octopus And The Orangutan' (2002)
A great book that explores the unexpected range of intelligent behaviour demonstrated by the two animals in the title (and several others as well). There are some amazing examples given, such as a captive octopus that was repeatedly able to steal fish from an entirely separate tank and knew how to disguise its movements afterwards, and an orangutan that figured out how to pick locks and conceal its tools from its keepers.
10. F. T. Marinetti - 'The Untameables' (1922)
A profoundly odd novel from the founder of the Futurist movement, which combines absurdly extreme moments of violence with absurdly extreme moments of sentimentality. It's an interesting glimpse into the mind of someone seduced by the emergence of industrialism and militarism before their worst consequences had come to pass.
The artists that have preoccupied me the most in the past year or so (in no particular order). Mostly old favourites; not as many new discoveries as there should be...
1. Gunter Brus
One of the founders of the Actionist movement, but who gradually changed his focus to drawing fascinating (and sometimes perverse) 'illustrated manuscripts'.
2. Kurt Schwitters
The artist who first prompted my interest in using found materials (and one of the first practitioners of the idea).
3. Steven Stapleton
A tirelessly creative mind. I've been fortunate to see more of his work than the general public, and am always inspired by the wide range of his output and his explorations with different materials.
4. Rudolf Schwarzkogler
Another of the original Actionists, but with a distinct aesthetic all his own. I can't help but wonder what direction his work would have taken if he had lived longer.
5. Jim Woodring
I love the unique world he's created in his stories & art pieces, with its own self-contained meanings and natural processes.
6. Sarah Sze
Elaborately constructed environments, primarily using everyday objects. To me, her work seems a logical extension of Kurt Schwitters' 'Merzbau' approach.
7. Kay Sage
A frequently overlooked surrealist. I've still never found an adequate collection of her paintings and rarely see them in exhibitions.
8. Jan & Eva Svankmajer
Two remarkable multi-media creators. I was fortunate to visit Svankmajer's tiny gallery in Prague after the NWW show in 2009 and picked up some hard-to-find collections of their work.
9. William Davison
Founder of Toronto's infamous Recordist movement. He has an incredible facility with subverting rationality and creating unexpected juxtapositions.
10. Brian Dettmer
A highly inventive sculptor that uses found materials in unexpected ways, carving elaborate portals into old books and moulding second-hand cassettes into detailed skeletons. A recent discovery for me, courtesy of my friend Stan Reed. Amazing craftmanship.
Moving to Oregon and having access to a garden has re-stimulated my interest in cooking for myself, although the results are still pretty feeble. The leafy devils that have been the most compelling for me:
I'm a fiend for basil, and was thrilled that it grew so well in Oregon: in California, I couldn't keep it going to save my life. I'm still living off the massive batches of pesto I made & put in the freezer last year.
I never get tired of Mexican food (although a lot of my British friends find it intolerable). I also love Thai food, and it figures into a lot of those dishes as well. I don't have access to a fresh supply yet... maybe this year. It's a good thing it's so inexpensive: I can't usually get through more than half the bunch before it turns to green slime or dries out, no matter how I try storing it.
I haves me some just abouts every day, to maintains me I-ring intake as an old guy. Aghk aghk aghk aghk.
My friend Colin Potter put me on to this one during one of my most recent visits with him for NWW activity. It's hugely popular in the UK but not so much in the States, so it tends to be kind of pricey. I get it whenever I can afford it. Works good in pesto with the basil.
I never had much interest in this one until I had access to a garden full of it. Also works good as an added ingredient in pesto.
6. Green Onions
Another essential when I'm trying to cobble together one of my feeble approximations of Thai food.
7. Lemon Tree Leaves
I learned about this one from my friend Amity Sandage, who is a spectacular cook. When you put lemon tree leaves in soups and sauces it adds a nice zing. It's another distinctive ingredient in of a lot of Thai dishes. They're used like Bay leaves, though: you don't eat them. Sadly, it's one thing that doesn't grow so well in Oregon; I miss my old lemon tree, which put out torrents of lemons all year round.
It's always good to have a fresh supply of this as well. Fry it up with some potato slices. Mmmm.
9. Green Tomatoes
There was such an avalanche of tomatoes last year that many of them could not compete and never turned red, so I decided to try out the infamous 'fried green tomato'. They're actually very tasty fresh, but you have to eat them right away. Cold or re-heated they're absolutely disgusting.
10. Radish Greens
This is still a question mark for me. There were so many radishes last year, I wondered whether I could eat some of the massive piles of greens that I was throwing away. I decided against trying it since they seemed a bit too coarse. I've since learned that you can eat them, so I'll give it a try with this year's batch.