TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT May 2021

TOP TEN

Elias Bender Rønnenfelt

Photo: Lasse Dearman

Copenhagen-based Elias Bender Rønnenfelt is a musician and poet. He is the lead singer and lyricist of Iceage, whose most recent album, Seek Shelter, was released this month by Mexican Summer.

  1. STANLEY SPENCER’s SANDHAM MEMORIAL CHAPEL

    Spencer painted these great big religious tableaux using local townsfolk, grannies, and postmen as models for his saints. I’ve long wanted to pay a visit to Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire, UK, which was built to house a group of paintings he made after serving in World War I. I like how Spencer humanizes the soldiers rather than glorifying the throes of battle, the passages where he shows them in mundane moments, folding laundry or making marmalade sandwiches. You sense that they were people.

    *Stanley Spencer, _Frostbite_, 1927–32, *oil on canvas, 41 1⁄2 × 73". From the Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire, UK. Stanley Spencer, Frostbite, 1927–32, oil on canvas, 41 1⁄2 × 73". From the Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire, UK.
  2. FISHING WITH JOHN (1991)

    As a warm-up for John Lurie’s new HBO series Painting with John, I have been rewatching his early-’90s fishing program, which I consider among the greatest pieces of television ever to be put on tape. Lurie’s subtle humor and liberating unprofessionalism weave through the episodes, whether he’s ice fishing with Willem Dafoe in Maine or playing Ping-Pong with Dennis Hopper in Thailand. He rarely catches anything.

    *_Fishing with John_, 1991, *still from a TV show on IFC. Season 1, episode 4. Willem Dafoe and John Lurie. Fishing with John, 1991, still from a TV show on IFC. Season 1, episode 4. Willem Dafoe and John Lurie.
  3. GAVIN BRYARS, JESUS’ BLOOD NEVER FAILED ME YET (1971)

    After realizing that a field recording he took in Elephant and Castle, London, of a homeless man singing was in pitch with his piano, Gavin Bryars composed this piece, centered on a twenty-six-second loop of the vagrant’s melody. It is as beautiful as anything I can think of. The composition’s bittersweet string arrangement seems to slow down time itself, speaking to the sweetly aching nature of everything with a seemingly authentic innocence.

    *Cover of Gavin Bryars’s _Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet_* (Point Music, 1993). Cover of Gavin Bryars’s Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Point Music, 1993).
  4. LAOGANMA

    I am addicted to this crispy chili oil, the name of which translates to “Old Godmother.” I put it on damn near anything. I prefer the peanut variety.

    *Jar of Laoganma peanuts in chili oil.* Jar of Laoganma peanuts in chili oil.
  5. EILERT PILARM, EILERT FOREVER (BJÖRK, 2003)

    Swedish Elvis Presley impersonator Eilert Pilarm seriously believed that he was possessed by the spirit of the King. Pilarm may be somewhat tone-deaf, but listen to one second of his “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and you’re enraptured by a force that can break down doors and fry brain cells. I’ve never heard such unpredictable timing.

    *Cover of Eilert Pilarm’s _Greatest Hits _*(Green Pig Production, 2013). Cover of Eilert Pilarm’s Greatest Hits (Green Pig Production, 2013).
  6. MONT ICONS

    Last year, Australians Mahmood Fazal and Daniel Stewart started an independent publishing house, Mont. Now there’s a podcast to match, with guests ranging from ex-convicts to Black Panther Party founders, political journalists, and musicians. Fazal and Stewart are both extremely attentive, considered, and curious interviewers who consistently offer offbeat insights into global counterculture.

    *Promotional image for _Mont Icons_ podcast, *episode 13, March 6, 2021. Brace Belden. Promotional image for Mont Icons podcast, episode 13, March 6, 2021. Brace Belden.
  7. RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT, “912 GREENS” (1968)

    This cut from the folk musician’s album Young Brigham (Reprise) plays out as an anecdote. Ramblin’ Jack’s lengthy monologue reminisces about traveling wild and free across America, and while the story hardly goes anywhere, you feel like you’re right there with him; when the rain hits, you can practically smell the wet grass. It’s the kind of song you can live inside.

    *Ramblin’ Jack Elliott with his wife, June Elliott, Stratford, London, ca. 1960. *Photo: John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott with his wife, June Elliott, Stratford, London, ca. 1960. Photo: John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty.
  8. SOMMERFUGLEHUSET (BUTTERFLY HOUSE)

    Copenhagen’s botanical garden recently redid its orchid house so that the small space is now packed with butterflies of all sizes and colors. The insects don’t seem to be too bothered by the presence of humans, and you’ll find them flying into your face as they float between fruits and flowers. Be sure not to miss the old spiral staircase in the big greenhouse that takes you walking among the treetops.

    *Sommerfuglehuset (Butterfly House), Botanical Garden, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, 2018.* Photo: Signe Bækdal. Sommerfuglehuset (Butterfly House), Botanical Garden, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, 2018. Photo: Signe Bækdal.
  9. NYEGE NYEGE

    The members of this Uganda-based label and artist collective embrace a broad variety of abrasive, frenetic, and experimental styles. A 2020 live session by HHY & the Kampala Unit, which sets soaring, jabbing, sweeping horns over broken rhythms, feels like it belongs to the future, while Jay Mitta’s collaboration with Dogo Mjanja, recorded when the singeli MC was just fourteen years old, is stone-cold, and Ecko Bazz’s “Nightmare Song” hits like a bag of bricks.

    *Still from Jay Mitta featuring Dogo Mjanja’s 2019 video _Tatizo Pesa _(Money Problem), directed by Pillo X. *Dogo Mjanja. Still from Jay Mitta featuring Dogo Mjanja’s 2019 video Tatizo Pesa (Money Problem), directed by Pillo X. Dogo Mjanja.
  10. NIGHTINGALE

    One of my favorite bars in the world, Nightingale is located in Golden Gai, a bastion of old-school Central Tokyo nightlife. Up a nondescript narrow staircase one finds a hidden fluorescent time warp where challenging but interesting music blasts through big speakers, sometimes at almost insufferable volume. Dim yet colorful, it is a place to lose yourself for a night.