i was the one worth leaving

“…Farewell happy fields
Where joy for ever dwells: hail horrors, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new possessor: one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what should I be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? 
Here at least
We shall be free;”

Paradise Lost

a Postal Service song

faking the books

Things have been bad lately, and I’ve found myself sinking deeper, losing light, forced to explore down here in the darker places.  On a recent deep dive I stumbled upon the influences of the Postal Service, and discovered something gorgeous.

I’ll be true again
But until then

The best thing about the void is that absolute black is the perfect backdrop to feature something beautiful.  So I placed my find on that lightless plane, and up from the depths I carried it back, cupped in my hands, to share its warmth and color here, with you.  

the cage it called

Whatever he was asked about Zen, Master Gutei simply stuck up one finger.

He had a boy attendant whom a visitor asked, “What kind of teaching does your master give?”  The boy held up one finger too.  Hearing of this, Gutei cut off the boy’s finger with a knife.  As the boy ran away, screaming with pain, Gutei called to him.  When the boy turned his head, Gutei stuck up one finger. 

The boy was suddenly enlightened.

a Phosphorescent song

forever dolphin love

I was talking about fruit from the Mac Demarco music tree here recently, and this performance is the prime example.  Check out Mac back there in the blonde fan-boy wig, happily playing back-up egg-shaker.  He’s much more famous than Connan Mockasin, but here he is on stage without a guitar, grooving and singing along.  Watching him back there, just happy to be hanging out, asking no part of the spotlight, really makes me smile.

As for this video, I’m putting it here as much for myself as anyone else.  Much of it is from Connan’s second album, Caramel, and the real delights don’t start for me until around the 23:00 mark when they begin ever so slowly to tease out Forever Dolphin Love (30:00), and then again at 51:00 for Megumi (57:00).  But if you’re looking for something to put on in the background at home, I recommend it all.

The sound is mixed better than any live recording I’ve ever heard, the aesthetics are on point in all aspects, and they’re just having such a good time together up there.  The music is complex and sneakily potent, drawn from a jazz background and then played in an almost lazy, laconic style, like he’s not even sure how his guitar works.  Make no mistake though, that weird little Kiwi is a serious god damn musician.

If you’re looking to up your hipster cred, here’s your chance:  Connan Mockasin is currently on every indie musician’s list of hopeful underground collaborations (most recently he featured on a James Blake song).  What he has chosen to express is undeniably strange, but you can’t argue with his ability to articulate his vision.  The guy is a scientific singularity.  Though he draws from a thousand influences, you could never mistake him for anyone else.

Full disclosure, it might take some work to get in there.  This sort of Funkadelic-meets-Pink-Floyd phenomenon didn’t click for me right away.  I recommend taking a maybe counter-intuitive tack and starting your listening with the bass player.  Close your eyes and find the groove he’s laying down.  Then work your way back through the instruments:  bass, then drums, then rhythm guitar and synth, then lead guitar, and last land on the vocals.  When you look up and it’s the middle of Forever Dolphin Love, and all that weird noodling has come together and your head is bobbing uncontrollably, well, come and find me — I’ll have Mac get you sorted with a wig and an egg shaker.

Connan Mockasin.

Seriously, get involved.

the look

If you ever find yourself wondering what album to play while speeding down the coast of East Africa, high on cocaine and cane liquor, heading to a local white sand beach, feeling cool as fuck in your aviators while the hot wind whips your hair and the thing you love most in the world withers and dies in your senseless hands, well, wonder no more.  I got you.

“and now you’re giving me the look…”

pyotr

The story goes like this:

During his first marriage, Peter the Great (Pyotr Alekseyevich) took for his mistress a peasant woman named Marta Helena Skowrońska.  When his first wife died, he married Marta in secret, she changed her name to Catherine, and would go on to bear him twelve children.  Peter spent much of his reign rooting out corruption in his government, and Willem Mons, Catherine’s secretary, was accused of peddling access to the royal family through his position.  Catherine supposedly knew, but chose to ignore the offense out of affection for her secretary.  After Peter ordered his summary execution Catherine was furious — the couple didn’t speak for months.

The story also goes like this:

At some point during their marriage, Catherine took for herself a lover, this man Willem Mons.  When Peter found out, he had Mons beheaded, and his severed head preserved in a jar of formaldehyde.  Then he forced Catherine to take time each day to sit and look at it.

So… Yeah.

Andy Hull’s song tells the second version, from the alternating perspectives of Peter and Willem.  It’s almost pornographically gruesome, yes.  And there appears to be no evidence for any of it.  And I absolutely hate when art requires extensive contextual explanation, or a background in obscure esoterics, before it makes any god damn sense.  But this obtuse erotic torture fantasy somehow won me over, because despite all of that, what it really is, is a love song.  And it’s just brilliant.

“Oh Catherine tell me, was it worth it for him?”

a Bad Books song

Also, it’s worth noting here that when Peter died he had no male heirs.  During the succession crisis, the “new men” whom Peter had raised to prominence, for merit rather than birth, pulled off a successful coup against the return of the old aristocracy.  For the face of this new government, they chose Peter’s popular widow.  So this peasant woman, born Marta, now known as Catherine, would succeed Peter to the throne of Russia, and rule for two years as Empress Catherine I.  As the first female to sit the throne in her own right, she would set a legal precedent for the position that would come to include her own daughter, Elizabeth, and in time her great-granddaughter-in-law, Catherine the Great.

So?  How’s that for a happy ending?

Yeah, still pretty dark, I know.

on failure and sadness and beautiful things

“…and the man goes walking, I go walking, through the forest and I run into five hundred thousand Galicians who are walking and crying.  And then I stop (a kindly giant, an interested giant for the last time) and I ask them, why they’re crying.  And one of the Galicians stops and says:  because we’re all alone and we’re lost.”

Joshua Clark Orkin

holes

On the moon there was neither air nor wind.  Its vacuum was perfect for preserving memories unscathed.  No one could unlock the heart of the moon. Aomame raised her glass to the moon and asked, “Have you gone to bed with someone in your arms lately?”
_____The moon did not answer.
_____“Do you have any friends?” she asked.
_____The moon did not answer.
_____“Don’t you get tired of always playing it cool?”
_____The moon did not answer.

~

Tengo had no idea, of course, what Aomame had offered to the moon that time, but he could well imagine what the moon had given her: pure solitude and tranquility. That was the best thing the moon could give a person.

–Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

riptide

“A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drownded, for he shall be going out on a day when he shouldn’t.  But we do be afraid of the sea, and we do only be drownded now and again.”

-John Millington Synge (1871-1909)

Joshua Clark Orkin

it was the nature of things

“His mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow; that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his, not at all, but, rather, its like had been felt, would yet be felt, by scores of others, in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because, in this state, he could be no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.

All were in sorrow, or had been, or would be.

It was the nature of things.

Though on the surface it seemed every person was different, this was not true.

At the core of each lay our suffering; our eventual end, the many losses we must experience on the way to that end.

We must try to see one another in this way.

As suffering, limited beings —

Perennially outmatched by circumstance, inadequately endowed with compensatory graces.

His sympathy extended to all in this instant, blundering, in its strict logic, across all divides.”

–George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

a Townes Van Zandt song

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