COLUMNS

  • WHERE’S THE PARTY

    TECHNO WAS BORN BLACK in the American Midwest, although we have the twin engines of European connoisseurship and commercial interest to thank for the detailed hagiographies given to innovators like Carl Craig. Craig’s enormous influence is due as much to his label, Planet E Communications, as to his prolific output as a producer and DJ. In the early 1990s, his adventuresome yet accessible style formed an integral part of what fans call Detroit techno’s “second wave.” The most distinctive feature of Craig’s music may be its lack of distinctiveness. Always tasteful, his most idiosyncratic and

    Read more
  • Cannibal Club

    SHE’S MORE WILD . . . released last month by Black Truffle, was recorded in 1981 at the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM), the studio at Mills College in Oakland, California, then codirected by composers David Behrman and Robert Ashley. CCM was a hub for experimentation, outfitted with otherwise inaccessible amenities such as a multitrack recording setup and analog synthesizers. The studio was open not only to Mills students, but also to Bay Area composers, artists, and community members at reduced or no cost. This combination of communalism, cheap rents and tuition, and the nascent possibilities

    Read more
  • AND THE WORLD IS WIDE. AND THE WORLD IS SO SMALL.

    THE LATE COMPOSER-LYRICIST Michael Friedman entered my life in such a whirlwind that I can’t even remember exactly where we met. Perhaps our most significant encounter was at “A Safe and Special Place”, a fundraiser for the Trevor Project and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) organized in response to a line from one of then president-elect Donald Trump’s tweets: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.”* I contributed a song but wasn’t going to be available to attend, so Michael was slated to play and sing it for me—but then the evening wound up running long, and I made it there just

    Read more
  • Old Friends

    ANTHONY BRAXTON HAS TACKLED JAZZ STANDARDS throughout his career: from an unexpected mid-’70s appearance alongside his hero Lee Konitz on an obscure Dave Brubeck record, to outstanding recordings with Hank Jones and Mal Waldron, to a hefty eleven disc box set of sixty-eight Charlie Parker pieces. “I did the music because I love that music, I love that period, that is my lineage,” he told Graham Lock in 1985. Standards, for Braxton, are not some sort of side project or way of proving himself as a “legitimate” jazz musician. Instead, they are tools for responding to the history of the diverse

    Read more
  • Ambient Conditions

    TUCKED BETWEEN the few discrete layers of indeterminate guitar phrases that make up “It’s Late,” the fifth track on Santa Fe–based musician Theodore Cale Schafer’s latest album, Patience (2019), is a nonmusical rustling, like a phone recording of someone walking outside: boots on gravel or dry leaves, keys clanking, some laughter. These details stand out for the degree to which they’re effective, but not useful; of a place, but not a place the listener quite has access to; personal and intimate, but without the attendant narrative dramas.

    Schafer has a dry way of arranging sounds. In his music,

    Read more
  • Love Streams

    HAVING MOVED TO BERLIN from New York last September, I was dismayed to learn that Valentine’s Day is also a thing in Germany. It’s not just that the holiday tends to endorse a set of normative conventions around love (heterosexuality, monogamy, consumerism); it also reminds me that I might want parts of these normative conventions (despite—or because of—my usual queer predilections, which tend towards non-monogamy, long-distance, etc.). In preparation for this piece, I read Dodie Bellamy’s Valentine’s Day essay in this magazine: to my horror, Bellamy confessed her own attachment to February

    Read more
  • Resident Evil

    IN HIS 1846 TREATISE “The Philosophy of a Composition,” Edgar Allen Poe contended that “the death . . . of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” The Residents, San Francisco’s most famous anonymous art collective-slash-band, offer a rejoinder: The death of beautiful conjoined twins of indeterminate gender is more poetic still. Such is the narrative of God in Three Persons, a rock opera of sorts—written in the extremely uncommon trochaic octameter, just like Poe’s “The Raven”—in which Mr. X, a roving talent manager, plainly narrates his fraught relationship

    Read more
  • Private Label

    IN 2019, WARP RECORDS TURNED THIRTY AND EDITIONS OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC (ECM) HIT FIFTY. The connection felt superficial, and then it didn’t, though I couldn’t immediately figure out why. Both of these independent labels have seeded the air for decades. They didn’t cash in, scale up, and abandon what made them good, like Atlantic and Def Jam and other indies before them. ECM and Warp both stuck to the daily grind of personal relationships, careful record-making, and consistent business practices. This isn’t to say that the two present as similar: ECM generally puts out albums created in real time

    Read more
  • 20,000 GECS FOLLOWERS CAN'T BE WRONG

    GURGLE-Y THUDS, chiptune squeals, breakcore beats, sirens, gleeful rapping, and enthusiastic screaming—no, a Gen Z ne’er-do-well isn’t having a party at your house; someone’s probably just turned on 100 gecs and now has some explaining to do. Formed in 2015 by Laura Les and Dylan Brady, 100 gecs make music by sending digital files back and forth to each other from their respective headquarters in Chicago and Los Angeles. So far they’ve released one EP (2016’s 100 gecs) and an album (summer 2019’s 1000 gecs) along with a handful of remixes. You can find the EP on YouTube and the LP on platforms

    Read more
  • Power Players

    FROM ITS FOUNDATION IN 1969, the Art Ensemble of Chicago was always more than “jazz,” more than a quintet, and more than the sum of its parts. Like the slogan of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) from which it emerged, the group has been “a power stronger than itself.” Its flexible approaches to ensemble-building and to ways of thinking collectively have taken its musicians from early days, scraping it together in post–May ’68 Paris, to sold-out gigs in concert halls around the world. While predecessors such as Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane had played on an array

    Read more
  • Pyre Festival

    WHAT IS A MUSIC FESTIVAL? Is it like a label, an overarching and visible marker of taste? Is it like group therapy, a way to guide and protect fellow souls? Is it a big money laundering scheme? The Kraków-based, internationally present Unsound offers some answers.

    Amazon is trying to artwash its hegemonic skid marks by funding a new festival called Intersect, slated to launch in Las Vegas this December with Beck, Kacey Musgraves, and dozens of other acts. Coachella soldiers on in the California desert every April, providing ever-shifting backdrops for TikTok tutorials and impromptu influencer

    Read more
  • Sentimental Duration

    WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, dreaming about New York and reading weeks-old issues of the Village Voice, the extended and even epic creative moments were the ones I most wanted to experience: La Monte Young playing the music he famously refused to release in recorded form; Lou Reed or Patti Smith performing multiple nights in intimate venues; spending a whole day at the Guggenheim watching Andy Warhol’s Sleep, 1963, or Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster Cycle,” 1994–2002. Before YouTube and file sharing, these adventures couldn’t be accessed secondhand; you just had to be there, which I wasn’t. I remember

    Read more