PICKS OF THE MONTH
diskurso art magazine's
April 2021 Picks
Published April 27, 2021
Goat Girl - Full Performance (Live on KEXP at Home)
(Streamed then published 8 April 2021, KEXP)
PERFORMING from London on our computer home screens or private cellphones, Goat Girl here appears as a pandemic-era pleasure sight as they deliver three songs from their new album On All Fours and a cover of Carole King's "It's Too Late." The Goat Girl songs here include "Sad Cowboy," a piece about waking up to post-truth dark days and wanting to go back to sleep, "Badibaba," about society's general apathy towards climate change, and "Anxiety Feels," a piece against anxiolytics (elliptically challenging us to embrace exposure therapy). Funny that after all those, the band would do a Carole King piece that now sounds like something that just threw in the towel on all these concerns. Is that irony there?
Lei Line Eon
(Release date: 2 April 2021. Label: Gloo. Genres: progressive electronic, UK bass, deconstructed club)
IN Lei Line Eon, English electronic music producer IGLOOGHOST's kind of heterosexual deconstructed club does seem to embrace the subgenre's gay club origins with its sensibility for naughty sonic campiness and nerdy massurrealist imagery, even as it also implies a devotion to postmodernism's more sober rebelliousness and maximalism's sublime intellectualism. It is this quasi-serious part that keeps his album from being read as an earnest politico-religious bow towards pseudo-archeologists and their worship of aliens ("ley lines," get it?), a blind bow that would've sent anti-realist rightists jumping in ecstasy. In short, this half-seriousness rendered Iglooghost's thematic myths as mere club-party (or art-gallery) myths, not political party ones. To the point that they could now even be read as products of a parody, the type of myths, then, that would make people aware of their being just so, no different from those happy Santa Claus figures wise kids banter with in malls or those psychedelic landscapes in someone's guarded LSD trip.
On the other hand, deconstructed club's readily self-questioning postmodernist inspiration might also actually lead someone like Iglooghost to ask whether the mythologies owned by nature worshippers might actually be the ones that would make sense today, in our present world. It's a present world, after all, whose engineering knowledge seems to have failed at steering business economics into a more stable planetary climate.
Can we say, now, that deconstructed club is both happy and suspicious as a dance music subgenre?
Loud and Quiet: "You’ll find tales of tiny gods, a black market of alien music boxes, and a hidden sub-culture localised entirely within the West Country. . . . This is a more patient and slippery album than some may be used to from IGLOOGHOST, but no less rewarding. Its expansive quality and quiet spirituality show him as not just a great storyteller, but a new kind of myth maker."
The Line of Best Fit: "Lei Line Eon is a darker . . . sequel; leaving stark gaps where every sound can reverberate and conjure bizarre churns in the listener's stomach."
Social sculpture, semiosis event, aestheticization of politics failure
A video of the Maginhawa Community Pantry by PTV correspondent Naomi Tiburcio
Maginhawa Community Pantry
(Project launch date: mid-April 2021, Maginhawa Street, Diliman, Quezon City)
ALMOST a year after we included in our May 2020 picks-of-the-month list Supakit Kulchartvijit's Pantry of Sharing project in Thailand, we see ourselves now picking for our April 2021 list Ana Patricia Non's similar initiative for the Philippine context.
You heard us right, a similar initiative for the Philippine context. Which is quite a unique context, the obvious uniqueness of which can't escape the eye of even the dumbest semiotician there is. For although Kulchartvijit's Pantry of Sharing and Non's Maginhawa Community Pantry both seem to have patterned their systems (consciously or not) after the community fridges of the past in other parts of the world or after Little Free Pantries and Blessing Boxes (although it's more likely they were both inspired by the Feb 2020-launched Friendly Fridges project at the start of some US cities' differently-scheduled lockdowns, or perhaps by Hubbub UK's earlier 2017 community fridge initiative), the Maginhawa entry still stands out as having the more interesting context, one that almost overwhelmed its significance in the sphere of mutual aid.
Context, we said. Well, first, there's the difference of an interested population. The number of people who would line up at a fridge in a US city district, for instance, would likely be incredibly less than the number of people who would do the same at a similar food pantry in a Philippine barangay (put aside the fact that many of these American visitors at a community fridge would be dropping by with their cars). And how many garden-friendly Thais did line up at those Pantry of Sharing outlets compared to the number that showed up at the latest Maginhawa Community Pantry-inspired community pantry in your own barangay?
And while on-welfare shame or the social stigma of being a recipient of state or private charity has always been a factor in many US districts that have been trying hard to attract and get more beneficiaries to line up for their share of the community's generosity (a shame factor US Republicans would like to ignore in their never-ending campaign to defund welfare), shamelessness is conversely quite the recurrent motif in Philippine community events when liberally guarded (the pantries here have to be guarded, like a warehouse food bank!). Anecdotal evidence abound. Is this because many of us have through the decades been limiting our kabaitan and Christianity to family and friends, and have automatically been regarding the community as a whole as our competition?
But the more obvious difference, the difference that you and we would now certainly be quite informed about, was Non's pantry's having been amply politicized. Sure, the US pandemic community fridges had some political overtones to them, too, given the partisan animosity that went on and on at that time regarding the release of stimulus packages, but at least the food pantries themselves did not become an element in these ideologic shit-slinging meetings (they weren't targeted in, say, Fox News by Trump's Ayn Rand-reading "parasites"-wary partisans). Now, some would aver that it was Non who started this politicization of her pantry project when she blurted out sentences to a media interviewer against the government's supposed lack of imagination in coming up with more efficient solutions for mitigating the effects of the furloughs during the Philippines' many-named (many-acronymed) lockdowns. This, coupled with a shot of her sporting a raised fist. . . . But if one is to widen one's judgments and include the many instances in the world that would influence Non's feelings of frustration, one might be gifted with the ability to say that the problem (along with its public solutions) was already politicized from the git-go even before private solutions like hers started to come in. Add to that, there came the mixed messaging from the president's big tent government about the not-so-funny red-baiting against Non and some other community pantry initiators, a messaging that went on forever until the President's national security adviser announced a supposed gag order against an army general and a cabinet undersecretary who were spearheading the red-baiting against Non et al. Incidentally, in the Philippines the word for it is red-tagging, which assumes the consequences that come with the tagging. The tag is seen as a quiet signal, then. In other countries the word is red-baiting, which describes the act as a loud effort to bait someone to do something against or towards the subject of the conversation.
Now, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that many of these community pantries were indeed initiated by apologists of radical leftism (forget for the moment that our present civilian government has been touting itself as the party most accommodating to the Chinese Communist Party). But a more savvy PR firm would advice that the ruling party would do well to appropriate the popular initiative instead of go on about endlessly demonizing it. It would seem that the Duterte government's messaging here failed to learn from the Aquino government's answers to the complaints against the laglag-bala scam of 2015, that scam where others owned solutions-to-come against it while Noynoy Aquino's government went on about denying the problem was real before launching a serious investigation on Aquino's manager-cousin's MIAA. So, for this round at least, our assumed-as-of-the-left-for-the-sake-of-argument community pantry organizers came out the winner in the eyes of the involved public, their demonizers seen as merely the equivalent of Myanmar's despised China-backed military.
(Streaming release: 2 April 2021, Netflix)
THELMA Adams on aarp.org: ". . . Idris Elba, 48, mounts a horse as Harp in director Ricky Staub’s uplifting father-son drama. It’s set in the real-life, but little-known, community of Black cowboys at the Fletcher Street Stables on the fringe of a gentrifying Philadelphia neighborhood. Based on Gregory Neri’s bestselling YA novel Ghetto Cowboy, the strongly acted, leisurely-paced family drama costars Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin as Harp’s estranged son Cole, who gradually learns the cowboy way. The film captures a fascinating urban subculture threatened with extinction . . ."
Stephanie Zacharek on Time: "Your classic story about an irritable young man redeemed by an animal, and the embrace of a community."
Richard Roeper on Chicago Sun-Times: "Concrete Cowboy is gorgeously photographed, with many of the riding scenes taking place in the magic sunset hour or under the lights of the city and in the rain."
Kevin Maher on The Times: "It's the incidental details, however, including vérité footage of the (Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club) riders discussing the whitewashing of black horsemen from Hollywood history, that have undeniable power."
Allen Almachar on macguff.in: "The strength of the acting - combined with the warmth given to this community and those that populate it - elevate the material above its recognizable premise."
Charles Koplinski on reeltalkwithchuckandpam.com: "There's an urgency to this tale, the vibrant nature of its telling making it vital, necessary viewing thanks in large part to the exceptional work of its cast, the authenticity of its setting and the passion through which it is told."
(Release date: 9 April 2021. Label: MF Tomlinson. Genres: progressive folk)
GIGWISE: "Brisbane-born; London-living; acid-folk pioneer; chamber-pop genius; very talented and quite cool. What do these words have in common you may ask? Well, they can all be used to describe the wonderful MF Tomlinson, who manages to be all of this and more on his glorious debut Strange Time. . . .
"Strange Time manages to capture the turbulence of the last 12 months and give it a distinctly buoyant spin. In a gleefully charming way, Tomlinson has stepped into the path of a new and fresh direction, giving us hopeful folk, for soon to be hopeful times."
Social sculpture, Cause marketing action
[right-click on photos and "open image in new tab" to get a larger view]
BNP Paribas' Top of the bill cause marketing action
(Launch date: April 2021)
PARIS ad agency Hungry and Foolish's press release on this cause marketing project by BNP Paribas in cooperation with select movie theater owners in France states in French English:
"Since several months, cinemas are closed once again in France as a consequence of the Covid crisis and can’t display any cinema poster. In order to offer them an unprecedented visibility, several theaters accepted to display more than 40 shopkeepers and craftspersons within their own neighborhoods."
Fearless (Taylor's Version)
(Release date: 9 April 2021. Label: Republic. Genre: country pop)
THE Telegraph: "After a protracted fight, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) restores (Taylor Swift's) ownership of her second album, both musically and legally."
The A.V. Club: "The songs maintain the lovelorn essence of 2008 while syncing up tonally in a striking way with her two 2020 releases, folklore and evermore. It essentially makes Fearless (Taylor’s Version) the perfect retrospective follow-up for Swift."
Consequence of Sound: "This is probably just the latest interesting thing she’s done in music and business, but it’s worth our consideration since it’s been undertaken with such care and could pave the way for other artists."
The Guardian: "After her masters were sold to an old foe, Swift’s re-recording project starts with her 2008 opus on the teen-girl experience – an apposite contrast to venal male industry executives."
Clash: "With her voice sounding far stronger than the original as it’s aged into her own unique blend of country, pop and indie, there’s something beautiful and important about hearing these songs sung again that really goes above opinions on the album."
Gigwise: "Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is both a power move and a poetic force."
The Observer: "Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is both an art project executed serendipitously and a strategic move the industry will be poring over for some time."
Exclaim!: "Being able to hear the empowerment in Swift's voice and shift the meaning of these lyrics is a true testament to her power as a musician."
The Sydney Morning Herald: "As Swift sings on 'Fifteen', 'wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now.' By looking back, she’s looking forward."
The Weather Station - Full Performance (Live on KEXP at Home)
(Streamed then published 1 April 2021, KEXP)
Concert, Spoken word performance
Dry Cleaning - Full Performance (Live on KEXP at Home)
(Streamed then published 3 April 2021, KEXP)
(Release date: 9 April 2021. Label: Red Grape Music)
MOJO: "SHE MAY BE 85 and the grande dame of folk song, but this doesn't sound like farewell. Unfeasibly prolific in recent years, (Peggy Seeger) clearly still has much to say and, with a voice miraculously dodging the ravages of time and a close family circle of musicians working to her strengths, this is affectingly intimate."
The Arts Desk: "Seeger is by turns wistful, occasionally sentimental, poignant, and acerbic – 'The Invisible Woman', co-written with (her son Neill MacColl), is a neat commentary on the older woman’s lot. (Other son Calum MacColl) shares the credits on two songs: 'We Are Here', a half-spoken lament about the distractions of modern life, and 'All in the Mind' about the loss of identity that comes with dementia. 'Lullabyes for Children', on which she collaborated with (daughter-in-law Kate St John), sounds almost like a chanson, the musings of a stranger in a strange land, looking after someone else’s children and missing her own. 'How I Long for Peace' is hymnlike and beautifully simple, tonic/dominant chords supporting the vocal. You feel it should close the album, but Seeger punctures the atmosphere of reverence with a light-hearted look at the hassles of old age, 'Gotta Get Home By Midnight'."
Cause marketing project, social sculpture, systems art, information art
Banco Bradesco's New BIA Responses Against Harassment project
(Launch date: April 2021, Brazil. Ad agency: Publicis Brazil)
THIS cause marketing project by Banco Bradesco via Publicis Brazil, which involves an AI named BIA, was explained in a press release thus:
"In 2020, BIA received around 95 thousand messages of offenses and sexual harassment. Although she is not a real woman, the number reveals a reality that women face. In the campaign, developed by Publicis Brazil, the interactions are represented by means of voice-overs and projections on walls. Then, the film shows the change in tone of the BIA's responses, taking a strong stand against harassment.
"Previously, when the bank's artificial intelligence received some of those attacks, the answer was passive: 'I didn't understand, could you repeat it?', in an attempt to make the customer change the tone of the question. From now on, BIA becomes more direct, stronger, without subservience or passivity. 'These words cannot be used with me and anyone else' and 'It can be a joke for you. For me, it was violent' are some of the new feedback from the bank's artificial intelligence. The action is in line with UNESCO's 'Hey Update My Voice' initiative."
(Release date: 26 March 2021. Label: Luaka Bop. Genres: modern classical, progressive electronic)
THE Observer: "Five years in the making, this breathtaking album transcends the genres each of its three collaborators bring to the table."
Pitchfork: "The all-star collaboration between a producer, a saxophonist, and a symphony is a celestial event. But it’s Pharoah Sanders’ playing that holds it all together, a clear late-career masterpiece."
PopMatters: "Perhaps it's reverence for the power of the expansive that makes Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders such a dynamic combination on Promises, their breathtaking collaboration."
floodmagazine.com: "Its lengthy epic movements, gently textured and opulently lived in by the London Symphony Orchestra’s startled, spacey strings, could exist on a planet of their own—a rainy evening’s night sky with stars blinking dimly before the clouds."
Mojo: "It's a subtly sophisticated piece, but it also creates space for Sanders to showcase his tender, measured, lyrical phrasing, abstracted scatting and, 34 minutes into this 46-minute marvel, a brief sputtering blast of free saxophone energy that proves, at 80, his fire remains potent."
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
(Release date: 2 April 2021. Label: Constellation. Genre: post-rock)
THE Skinny: "On G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END!, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have created a perfect soundtrack for these strange times."
Pitchfork: "For a quarter-century, the Canadian chamber ensemble has made hold music for awaiting a revolution. Suddenly, on their seventh album, they sound hopeful it could come."
floodmagazine.com: "Eliminating context from a record can be a useful exercise—especially if the story surrounding an album only distracts from how mediocre the actual music is—but Godspeed demand you engage with the politics surrounding their music, to swear allegiance to an anti-fascist state, to demand those around you treat those less fortunate with dignity and respect. All of this is conveyed without a single word being uttered (in English) on their albums. This music is punk in the most traditional sense of the word—it refuses to give in, engage with the status quo, or adhere to societal norms. . . . Godspeed like to dirty things up, to sink their hands into the dirt and see what kind of mud gets stuck beneath the fingernails. This is resistance music, built off the back of the most difficult year in the modern era."
northerntransmissions.com: "G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! arrives with another list of demands: 'empty the prisons, take power from the police and give it to the neighbourhoods that they terrorise, end the forever wars and all other forms of imperialism, tax the rich until they’re impoverished'. . . . Other than this statement the group lets the music and sounds contained within do the talking. The artwork for the album contains images that represent the iconography of GY!BE which sets this album up to be a grand definitive statement while the songs here ebb and flow containing darkness but mostly overflowing with triumphant beauty. . . . The themes within all their compositions are ever-present and perhaps more important than ever at this moment in time."
Consequence of Sound: "There’s a cleansing quality to G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END. A dip into the baptismal pool that leaves us shivering in the afterglow. Or to put it in more current terms: the feverish aftereffects of a vaccine."
Clash: "Twenty-seven years on from their formation, their ability to convey the spectrum of both emotional and political feeling through the raw power of music remains unparalleled."
Kerrang!: "Resisting social media and releasing just two grainy press shots in a quarter of a century, Godspeed remain wary of the mainstream. But as the world spins inexorably towards tipping point, they’ve never sounded as central to their times."
NME: "‘STATE’S END’ is a tumultuous record for tumultuous times, but there’s a piece of galvanising beauty for every moment of crushing dread. For all the gunshots and explosions in the background, there are church bells and birdsong too. Godspeed’s new album articulates dark times, but it also presents the countermovement with breathtaking power."
Beats Per Minute: "As we watch the old world tear itself asunder, the concept of emancipation via anarcho-syndicalism has never sounded so elegiac and wonderful."
The Observer: "With global events confirming their long-held worldview, the Canadian prophets of doom sound angrier, sadder and more beautiful than ever."
(Release date: 26 March 2021. Label: Ipecac. Genre: alternative rock)
METALINJECTION.NET: "One of the ways in which Tomahawk stands out, refines, redefines, and separates itself from the broader populace’s idea of what constitutes a supergroup is how the marquee name isn’t the dominating presence. Sure, Mike Patton can create an engaging vocal line over the weirdest of musical sequences (on 'Predators and Scavengers' he sounds like a demented angel deliberately singing flat over a Cows album transposed into a major key) and has a linguistic knack that would have old-timers referring to him as a ‘wise-acre’ ('Tattoo Zero' has pure gold in the form of 'Faces down in the dirty lust/In the testicles of the country dust' over a strained spaghetti western chime), but his bandmates are no shrinking violets. Guitarist Duane Denison demonstrates skill at juggling the force-feeding of movie soundtracks into Danelectro pedals and Lollapalooza’s original spirited angst. Trevor Dunn provides a warm and slinky, yet sinister, thumping swagger. And anything that John Stanier sits behind is going to be festooned with a solid zip-lock groove. In fact, legend has it that metronome manufacturers calibrate their products to Stanier’s lockdown meter and timing. True story. Many people are saying it."
Metal Hammer: "Mike Patton’s deranged provocateurs Tomahawk are in prime form on their first album in eight years, Tonic Immobility. . . . If you just fancy the hits, stick with Faith No More. But if you want premium Patton, his band playing from the heart rather than to the crowd, then Tonic Immobility’s your poison. Bottoms up."
(Release date: 26 March 2021. Label: My Own Pleasure. Genres: Electronic)
HERE'S an apt soundtrack for everyone practicing, say, regenerative agriculture out there.
Ben Hogwood on musicOMH: "While sourcing her original material for Fir Wave, (Hannah Peel) turned to the library music label (KPM Musichouse). They gave her permission to reinterpret music from their 1972 anthology of the music of Delia Derbyshire and the (BBC Radiophonic Workshop), a rare privilege giving an idea of the esteem in which Peel is held these days. She got to work re-sampling and generating new digital instruments from the sounds, feeding the results directly into Fir Wave. She brought in TJ Allen to work on the beat-based tracks 'Emergence in Nature' and 'Ecovocative'. . . .
"The album is structured with a natural ebb and flow that begins with the scene-setting of 'Wind Shadow', the ‘ahs’ of the implied vocal blossoming seamlessly into the beat-based workout of 'Emergence In Nature', an energising portrait of spring awakening. The beatific sounds of the following 'Patterned Formation' are surely the rich blooms resulting from that process.
"By contrast, the title track – representing a cycle within fir trees on mountainsides that takes place over hundreds of years – moves through several phases, the first of which somehow portrays the branches shedding snow. It culminates in a stately loop with gorgeous shading. 'Carbon Cycle' is another slower moving beauty, where we get to fully appreciate the analogue-sourced colours of Derbyshire, who would surely have revelled in this music. When the beats return, as they do with 'Ecovocative', Peel has the riffs to match them."
(Release date: 16 April 2021. Label: Metal Blade. Genre: death metal)
BEFORE we address any protestation at this, our inclusion of a Cannibal Corpse album in our list for this month, . . . just in case one or two or a hundred or more such protestations happen to arrive in our inbox, let us just quote vocalist George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher once more from that interview with him by markprindle.com, wherein he said:
"We don't sing about politics. We don't sing about religion... All our songs are short stories that, if anyone would so choose, they could convert it into a horror movie. Really, that's all it is. We like gruesome, scary movies, and we want the lyrics to be like that. Yeah, it's about killing people, but it's not promoting it at all. Basically these are fictional stories, and that's it."
There you go. So it's a kind of adult Halloween stuff, then. Something to laugh over as you all, men and women, try to scare each other inside a club.
In another interview, this time by puregrainaudio.com with bassist Alex Webster, Webster addressed the accusation that the band's music is desensitizing people to violence:
"I think people probably aren't that desensitized to it, you know, including myself; like, you know, we sing about all this stuff and you watch a movie where you know it's not real and it's no big deal. But if you really saw someone get their brains bashed in right in front of you, I think it would have a pretty dramatic impact on any human being, you know what I mean? Or some terrible, gross act of violence, or whatever, done right in front of you, I mean you'd react to it, no matter how many movies you've watched or how much gore metal you've listened to or whatever. I'm sure it's a completely different thing when it's right in front of you. Even though we've got crazy entertainment now, our social realities are actually a bit more civilized than they were back then. I mean we're not hanging people or whipping them in the street, and I think that's positive improvement for any society in my opinion."
We think that totally makes sense. After all, if there's something out there that's truly desensitizing people to violence, it's the fully-armed alt-right in the US and Europe that wants to truly and literally shoot and hang people like it's just another thing one does on any given Christian-Right Sunday. The same with the "alt-right" elements of, say, the Philippines or Myanmar who have been legitimizing in their minds the extra-judicial murder of people opposing their dear leaders' Stalin-like ("list"-derived) diktats on who are supposedly the good guys and who are allegedly the bad. The same with those other Russia- or China-backed disappearances of people in the First or the Third World, done via these new superpowers' proxies in their respective parts. Talk about the horseshoe theory on fascism and how the current right-left alliances are illustrating that theory's validity full well.
Sure, one can argue that the band's old songs that carry titles like "Meat Hook Sodomy," "Entrails Ripped from a Virgin's Cunt," "Stripped, Raped, Strangled," or "Fucked with a Knife" might really encourage a serial killer or an angry rightist, but the band would actually say, "It's good to have anger music as a release." Catharsis would keep your anger at bay, something like that. Or, "There's nothing ever serious. We're not thinking of anybody in particular that we're trying to kill or harm or anything." Now, we do understand when the fear towards song titles like these are coming from a group like the National Congress of Black Women. But when it's coming from somewhere else, we would expect these people to hurl these same protestations in their guts towards the talk of red-baiters, too, who would on Facebook or Twitter call for the gang-rape of, say, Angel Locsin. Otherwise they can just shut the fuck up about death metal, for, after all, as Fisher once pointed out in the documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, far more violent art (than death metal's violent art) can be found at, say, the Vatican. These art, he claims, are actually the ones that are more transgressive, precisely because they depict events that actually happened. Death metal art inspired by gothic art vs. the punishment imagination of a Hitlerian philosophy-inspired mob? You know who to really fear.
So, having reiterated all that as well as the Halloween-esque purpose for death metal music such as Cannibal Corpse's, let's go now to the band's present, albeit understated, album:
Metal Hammer: "Potent and perilously addictive, Violence Unimagined is, without question, 2021’s bloody benchmark for the genre."
Kerrang!: "Violence Unimagined sounds exactly as you imagine it will, but still surprises in just how much Cannibal Corpse have left in the tank. Meet the new murderous lunatic, same as the old murderous lunatic."
Pitchfork: "While Violence Unimagined ranks as a top tier late-era Cannibal Corpse record, its triumphs are somewhat understated."
PopMatters: "Violence Unimagined is chock full of discreet touches ... each song filled with detail upon detail that the ears can feast on over repeated listens. And if you don't hear the intricacies right away, it's only because Cannibal Corpse is so good at masking its complexity behind a wall of brute force."