COLUMNS

  • Robert Wyatt

    IN 2006, A NEW WORD, Wyatting, entered the lexicon. Referring to the prankish activity of sneaking an experimental music track onto an unsuspecting pub jukebox in order to vex other patrons, it got its name from an English teacher who suggested that Dondestan, a 1991 album by Robert Wyatt, epitomized the kind of music suitable for such a venture. While it’s hard to imagine one of Wyatt’s records actually clearing a room, he is the consummate cult figure with a taste for subversion—albeit one with a vulnerable, inimitable voice as cherished by his fans as Chet Baker’s or Chan Marshall’s by

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  • Indonesian pop

    THE DESIRE TO HOLD ONE’S HEAD HIGH, to determine one’s own future: This is the reason so many regimes throughout the twentieth century rose and fell. But to hold one’s head high while crisply dressed all in white and wearing a black velveteen pillbox hat? This was Indonesia’s fate alone. When Kusno Sosrodihardjo, known simply as Sukarno, became the first president of Indonesia in 1945, he wanted all to see that the legacy of Dutch colonization and a brief spell under Japanese rule had done little to dampen his—and, by extension, his freshly christened nation’s—sartorial flair. “I say,

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  • Michael Benson on Laibach

    LAIBACH USED TO BE A FORCE to reckon with. To begin with, the band—if you can call this ensemble of sophisticated politico-cultural provocateurs simply a “band”—were the only group from the socialist world ever to make it in the West, signing a long-term recording contract with London’s prestigious indie label Mute Records (home to Moby, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode), and they did it entirely on their own terms. “Art and ideology don’t exclude each other,” was one of their earliest slogans, but I prefer another: “All art is subject to political manipulation except that which speaks the language of

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  • Throbbing Gristle

    WHILE MANY LIVE RECORDINGS are accompanied by disclaimers—invariably apologias for the sound quality—few come with warnings as to their possible side effects. Throbbing Gristle’s TG24, a limited-edition deluxe box set of twenty-four CDs of live Throbbing Gristle (TG) recordings made between 1976 and 1980, is prefaced with the following: “Industrial Records and Throbbing Gristle will not be held responsible in any way whatsoever for the results of any physical, mental or structural damage either inflicted or incurred by the owner of this collection or any third parties.” A coda further suggests

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  • Le Tigre

    FAMILIAR WITH HERM CHOREOGRAPHY? Well, if you’ve ever attended a Le Tigre concert, choreographed by band member JD Samson, you’ve seen it. Herm (slang for androgynous queer) locates Samson and the boy-band-derivative moves one sees at Le Tigre shows—her tributes to how queer bodies negotiate the world. Equal parts dance style and critical intervention, Samson’s choreography is just one element of a performance practice that reopens questions about community, fandom, feminism, queerness, and their conjunctions and differences, by drawing on staged spectacle, audience exuberance, and punk-derived

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  • Electronic Music

    THE TRADITIONAL SCENARIO might be described like this: People onstage make music, and, in response, people in the audience make noise.

    And if the people onstage make noise?

    Sonic Youth’s contribution to the two-CD Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music 1921–2001, the first of eight planned releases on the theme, takes this situation to its logical conclusion: “Audience” is six minutes of applause taped at the end of a 1983 Sonic Youth performance in Berlin, subjected in the studio to the same sorts of manipulations that the band applies to sounds generated by their instruments. The result is

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  • Wilco

    IT’S A GREAT AMERICAN STORY, late-capitalist style. Scruffy heartland band (Wilco) makes its best record (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) amid internal strife and shakeouts (two members fired); submits master tapes to its record label (Reprise, a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner); receives deafening silence (two weeks without any response), followed by demands for changes (due to “lack of commercial potential”). Then, when bandleader (Jeff Tweedy) refuses to rerecord the songs, label exec (David Kahne, then acting head of Reprise) unceremoniously shows band the back door. Band leaves label with unusual

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  • D. Strauss

    D. STRAUSS

    1. Boredoms, Vision Creation Newsun Japanese Dadaists break from po-mo gamesmanship, embracing pure emotional power, with enough noise that you can’t march to it.

    2. Free Dirty: Best of Ol’ Dirty Bastard Serving a six-year prison sentence for smoking crack while wearing a bulletproof vest. OJ he ain’t.

    3. Angus Maclaurin, Glass Music Speaking of crack, this was recorded on the glass armonica, invented by Ben Franklin, who also, sadly, discovered electricity and created the post office.

    4. Russell Gunn, Ethnomusicology, Vol. 2 Iffy musically, but a primo album cover bamboozling Gunn as a

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  • Nam June Paik

    NAM JUNE PAIK IS OFTEN PICTURED with an instrument: banging his head on a piano; dragging a violin along the ground; stretching a string across his back, to be bowed by cellist Charlotte Moorman. What these images share with many of Paik’s multimedia works is the sense of a dreamed art-they represent a music that isn’t heard, necessarily, but whose effect might be even greater than music that is. With television, the distance between Nam June Paik’s dreams and reality seems starker: Works such as Zen for T. V., 1963, Moon Is the Oldest T.V., 1965, T.V. Buddha, 1974, and Candle T.V., 1975,

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  • Bob Nickas

    BOB NICKAS

    1. Rodney Graham, Getting It Together in the Country Is this the sound track to the new reality? Recorded two summers ago but lately on my turntable just about all the time, “Nature Has No Purpose,” “Champagne for Everyone,” “This Is the Only Living I’ve Got (Don’t Take It Away from Me),” and a beautifully resigned cover of Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright” got me through the dusty days.

    2. LiLiPUT A reissue of everything from ’78–’83; an eccentric, electric rush. Never underestimate four bored Swiss girls.

    3. The Fall, The Unutterable Mark E. Smith stuttering all over the k on “Ketamine

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  • Rachel Greene

    RACHEL GREENE

    1. Neu! The perfect sound track to Richter’s “18. Oktober 1977” cycle. With its mesmerizing oppositional and aimless tracks, this rerelease, from the same fraught world (’70s West Germany) as Baader-Meinhof, encapsulates that culture’s urge to self-define.

    2. P.J. Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea No longer a singing interface to some archetype of a suffering, rejected woman, P.J.’s energy has become less labile, more Patti Smith.

    3. The Strokes, Is This It Like Vanessa Beecroft’s bored mannequins, the Strokes ooze ennui. I’d imagined them as normal kids who’d

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  • Dennis Cooper

    DENNIS COOPER

    1. Pinback, Blue Screen Life The year’s most enigmatic, impeccable, swoonily beautiful songs.

    2. Weezer, The Green Album America’s most popular great band brings rock formalism to the masses. Thirty perfect minutes.

    3. Björk, Vespertine She escapes Lars von Trier and Matthew Barney unscathed.

    4. Daft Punk, Discovery Intricate, vapid, irresistible, brainy French electro-pop piffle.

    5. Mouse on Mars, Idiology Electronic music’s creative recession continued this year with a few eccentric exceptions. This was the wackiest.

    6. Stephen Malkmus, Stephen Malkmus Even wiser words and music from

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