COLUMNS

  • Pop Is Pop

    YOU MIGHT NOT BE SURPRISED to learn that there are only four degrees of separation between Jacques Derrida and Charli XCX. The father of deconstruction and the atomic pop songstress form the ends of a chain held together by A.G. Cook of PC Music and Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. Cook, who produced XCX’s late 2017 “mixtape” Pop 2, has hailed Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche 85 as an example of pop music taken to its “extreme,” a limit toward which he himself aspires. As evinced by its title, Pop 2, like Cupid & Psyche 85 before it, is all about popular music. Curiously though, there is no

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  • MATTERS OF THE HEART

    IN MID-OCTOBER, the seventy-six-year-old percussionist, herbalist, scientist, and martial artist Milford Graves stood before an admiring audience at the Artist’s Institute on New York’s Upper East Side. “Well, I must say this is a new adventure for me,” he began with a buoyant smile. “It’s like I’m starting all over again.” Pointing to a sculpture across the room—a dunun-carrying skeleton swathed in a tangle of wires connected to laptops, circuit boards, and anatomical models—Graves remarked, “I’m entering a whole new era, because I’m on to my next sculpture piece now, and then another

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  • Glissando Through the Blues

    MORE THAN A FEW ASPECTS of Alice Coltrane’s life and music stand out as singular, epic, genius—and, sometimes equally, tragic. Her husband, John, passed away from liver cancer in 1967, and as a widow at just twenty-nine she raised their four children on her own, never remarrying. Throughout, she maintained a brilliant and groundbreaking solo music career. I could go on. She’s the kind of inspiring person we need to keep celebrating, and so we do.

    The Coltranes were wedded in 1965 in Juárez, Mexico, and their short time together looks, on the surface of things, as if it were pretty blissful. At

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  • Slash: A Punk Magazine from Los Angeles, 1977–80

    Slash: A Punk Magazine from Los Angeles, 1977–80, edited by Brian Roettinger and J. C. Gabel. Los Angeles: Hat & Beard, 2016. 496 pages.

    THE PORTRAIT DRAWN IN THIS BOOK—an enormous compendium of photos, mini-memoirs, drastically reduced facsimile pages from the Los Angeles–based tabloid-form magazine; original band interviews reprinted as inserts; and special sections for Gary Panter’s Jimbo comix and flaming editorials from Claude Bessy, aka Kickboy Face—is of people having fun. While oversize and heavy, the volume is fast on the eye and throughout its nearly five hundred pages maintains

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  • Jeff Mills

    THERE HAVE BEEN many unlikely events in the career of Jeff Mills, but perhaps few as odd as scoring to a Raquel Welch vehicle. Mills’s live soundtrack for the 1966 cult movie Fantastic Voyage was part of a weekend of happenings at London’s Barbican Centre this past summer that nodded to the pioneering DJ and producer’s decades-long experiments in sound and image. In 2000, he crafted a new soundtrack for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), the popularity of which led to further cinematic interventions; included among these was Mills’s arrangement for Georges Méliès’s 1902 A Trip to the Moon on the

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  • Alan Vega

    AS THE 1960S DISSOLVED into the ’70s, the late Alan Vega made two transitions: from painter to light sculptor, and from visual artist to rock vocalist. After an epiphanic experience witnessing Iggy Pop in concert in 1969, he teamed up with Martin Rev to form Suicide. The notorious New York duo was equally provocative and prescient, setting the pace not only for punk but for the electropop and EDM movements by stripping rock instrumentation down to a keyboard, drum machine, and vocals. One of Suicide’s first gigs took place at Lower Manhattan’s OK Harris gallery in 1970, alongside an exhibition

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  • This Is Grime

    This Is Grime, by Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016. 320 pages.

    THE ONLY STATESIDE PHOTOGRAPH in Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose’s book This Is Grime flickers at the edge of abstraction. Illumined by camera flash, a hazy specter—the fug of weed smoke, maybe—renders the signage of Williamsburg’s Music Hall barely legible: DIZZEE RASCAL—BOY IN DA CORNER. The show took place this past May, and Dizzee, offered an undisclosed fee by the Red Bull Music Academy, had agreed to perform the entirety of his Mercury Prize–winning album Boy in da Corner (

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  • Via App

    “FREAK TECHNO,” “haunted house,” “dark electro,” “noise”—any number of genres have been affixed to the sonic stylings of Dylan Scheer, a twenty-two-year-old electronic-music producer and DJ from South Carolina who has been performing under the alias Via App since 2012. Based in New York since 2014—the same year Vancouver label 1080p put out Via App’s first official release, the ten-track cassette Dangerous Game, to critical acclaim—Scheer has quickly ascended within the underground electronic scene, where she is celebrated for her unique and infectiously sinister output of

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  • Johanna Fateman

    1 BEYONCÉ, LEMONADE (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia) The Queen broadcasts on her own frequency, cutting through the chatter of a thousand hot takes to assert soulful authority on personal matters as well as those of grave public concern. With Lemonade she appears betrayed but unstoppable, triumphant on a sinking cop car, ready with hooks, hashtags, and fresh choreography.

    2 M.I.A., AIM (Interscope) Now that the West can no longer deny center stage to border politics and mass displacement, M.I.A., who has trained her spotlight on the refugee experience all along, tells us this album will be

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  • Total Freedom’s Anthem

    THIS SUMMER, the comedian Conan O’Brien was spotted outside the cult Berlin nightclub Berghain with a camera crew. Located at an abandoned power plant, Berghain is a legendary bastion of secrecy and freewheeling bacchanalia—no pictures allowed—and DJ the Black Madonna chastised O’Brien for his impropriety: “I don’t need to know what he’s joking about to know that he’s taking millions of people into a space that is private for a good reason.” Just weeks before, Wolfgang Tillmans’s techno track “Device Control” had appeared on Frank Ocean’s surprise album Endless, and apparently he and

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  • modern protest pop

    You don’t have to live next to me

    Just give me my equality

    —Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddam”

    IF THERE’S A PLAYBOOK for modern protest pop music, it is usually culled from the images and tropes captured, thank goodness, with indelible clarity in photographs taken more than half a century ago in the Deep South and all across the US at lunch counters, in churches, on college campuses, and on picket lines as the second Reconstruction unfolded. Such images conjure the sounds of secular and sacred music emanating from the masses, from the we-shall-not-be-moved, Sly and the Family Stone “everyday

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  • Matmos’s Ultimate Care II

    SINCE THE LATE ’90s, the electronic duo Matmos have brought together musique concrète and dance music in singular, arch fashion, crafting ebullient tracks from audio samples that frequently exhibit a penchant, descended from industrial music, for grisliness: Materials they’ve wired or otherwise manipulated to produce sound include a human skull, a goat spine, a cow uterus, and the neural tissue of a crayfish. On Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey), released in February, they have narrowed their scope to a Oulipian degree, deriving all audio from exactly one, notably nonbiological, component: the

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