Generic Brand Video


Before proceeding please watch the following:


Incredible no?  There they are, all the visual tricks big advertisers use in their media onslaught.  Very well done, and based on a piece by poet Kendra Eash.

What’s strange to me is how to process this.  I first saw this clip as a pre-feature at my local Arthouse cinema.  At that time it seemed like some sort of McLuhan-esque tome to how easily advertising can deceive through familiar images.  In other words, I read it as subversive.

It is actually an ad for Dissolve, who provide: “royalty-free stock images for designers and storyteller“.  I’m curious how effective this is for them.  They have done an amazing job of showing how these random images that are imbued with sentiment can work, but in another way, have pulled the curtain ALL the way back. Basically, they’ve showed us how the magic trick works before we’ve seen it.

I think the video IS subversive because it shows how meaningless all these cultural and emotional triggers are.  But if they are trying to get business, aren’t they shooting themselves in the foot?




Comment all you want, I really don’t have an answer, (but the video is so well done….)

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Anders Petersen

anders1Gritty, grainy, and ever-so-real: welcome to the photos of Anders Petersen.

anders3I have seen the work of Swedish photographer, Anders Petersen before (you have too, see below), but until I came across this latest overview of his work:  (Anders Petersen ) I did not fully understand the depth and range of his photographic canon.

His most famous work is the Cafe Lehmitz photos.  The patrons of this Hamburg bar seem both charismatically hostile and human.  Petersen took pictures here for nearly three years and slept in the kitchen, so that might explain the level of intimacy he established with its regulars.



Here’s two regulars you might have seen before: Rose and Lilly.

anders6Yup, it’s the Rain Dogs cover.

It’s fitting that Waits was drawn to this image.  Petersen’s gritty world of prostitutes, drug addicts and general fringe-dwellers resonates with the same seedy energy and humanity of the early Asylum-Era Waits material.  But again, that’s just one piece of Petersen’s work.


To me, it’s encounters that matter, pictures are much less important.” – Anders Petersen


anders9(the above photo really illustrated the power of the unspoken in photography…)



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True to the game (of architectural appreciation)


In recent times, Ice Cube has parlayed his many talents into his own media empire.  Like him or hate him, you must admit he’s come a long way from his South Central origins. Did you know he also does architecture videos?  Great ones. (Can this please be a comprehensive series?)

This is going green 1949 style, bitch!


* Maximum propage to Dangerous Minds for this day-maker!



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Mungo Thomson

Working knowledge of current trends in conceptual art is not a strong point for me.  I know it can be good, bad and ugly.  The good part seems best exemplified by Los Angeles-based artist Mungo Thomson. My new acquaintance with his work came via this book : Time People Money Crickets.

Perhaps it is the variety of 20th century subject matter that attracts me to his work: (Dylan, Chuck Jones and Jack T. Chick), or the way Thomson varies the subtext of such familiar things.  As Martin Herbert says in the book:  “That by pointing to the margins he’s talking about the existent breadth of a spectrum: of experience, of culture.”



Take the above, for instance: Yes, it’s truly that much time, only the Bob has been removed.  It’s about the audience and thirty years of the sound they make. (If you have a Real Media player, you should be able to hear it here.)



The American Desert (For Chuck Jones):  Again, what’s taken away is Coyote and Roadrunner.  What you are left with is the truly beautiful, abstract byways of the great Chuck Jones.


Acoustic Partition:  Of course these thing should be giant accordions!  Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?


Coat Check Chimes:  For the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Thomson made a random enormous musical instrument that still allowed the function of coat-checking to commence.  (I hope they kept this.)



Everything Has Been Recorded: In the style of the evangelical comics of Jack Chick, Thomson hems a comic from his old journals.  He left these at various airports!

Here’s a panel, that encapsulates (to me) the spirit of his work:



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True/False Wrap-Up


Another fantastic time was had by yours truly at the True/False Film festival this year. I saw many enlightening documentaries, as well taking a mini culinary tour of Columbia Mo. (catfish, bbq, etc.).  I cannot recommend this festival enough, here’s my highlights:

20,000 days on earth / Dir. Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard

Portrait of the artist as a very fancy man.  Stylistically, there’s not another music doc like this, however watching Cave drive his luxury sedan to his shrink to discuss his father wasn’t quite what I had in mind.  Worth it for the Warren Ellis appearances.

Rich Hill / Dir. Andrew Droz Palermo & Tracy Droz Tragos

Poor, white and rural, but to the filmmakers credit (they grew up in Rich Hill) it avoids judgement.  There are moments of staggering beauty in this otherwise bleak tale about being a kid and having no options.

Tim’s Vermeer / Dir. Teller

Someone said at the screening I was at (after Tim himself came out) that he was the most inspiring person they had ever seen on-screen.  I couldn’t agree more.  Tim’s superhuman will to discover leads to an answer we haven’t known for 350 years.

Jodorowsky’s Dune / Dir. Frank Pavich

Jodorowsky had one criteria for anyone working on his Dune adaptation.  THEY MUST BE A SPIRIT WARRIOR!  Film as a vision quest, as well as the ultimate “what if?” for the science-fiction world.

Particle Fever / Dir. Mark Levinson

I think just explaining particle physics is pretty impressive.  Here is everything you wanted to know about the Large Hadron Collider in France.  Amazingly, the point of this 7.5 billion-dollar operation is to “make sure they’re on the right track“!  A fascinating look at how science and hypothesis interact.

The Joycean Society / Dir. Dora Garcia


Uber-smarties meet in Zürich to discuss Finnegans Wake, which they’ve been doing since the 80’s.  The movie is about an hour-long and they only cover a page and half! Finnegans Wake knowledge is not required, but you’ll probably be infected after seeing this.

Here’s a link to the 2012 wrap-up, should you need more to watch…

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I know I don’t usually cover smartphone apps, but I do cover Radiohead: hence let’s talk about Polyfauna.


Polyfauna is Radiohead’s (in conjuncture with Stanley Donwood and  Universal Everything) first foray into the app world.  Basically, the user is dropped into an expansive landscape (complete with 8-bit rain) where you can wander rather aimlessly.  Drawing on the screen creates a spiked-centipede creature or other geometric abstraction. Follow the red dot and you’re in a different environment.  Each environment plays an extended loop that constitutes some minor portion of “Bloom“.  Pretend the liner notes from Kid A came alive, and you have some idea of what you’re in for.


The enjoyment factor: variable (depending on your current conscious state while operating).  The execution: perfect (what I would imagine a Radiohead electro-dream world to be).  But my favorite part is its purpose: none.


Radiohead has always been good at using their elevated platform as artists to challenge, or at least subvert typical business models, musical expectations, etc.  But this is truly just arty. They could have easily evolved this into a more robust app (like Bjork’s Biophilia) with many more bells and whistle, or things to purchase, or even a simple directive purpose.  But they didn’t.  They just put it out there, it’s free, it’s goofy and wonderful, and it makes me appreciate them even more…



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Best Reissues of 2013

(Again, no real order.  See last year’s here.)


Lee Hazlewood / There’s a Dream I’ve Been Saving

First off: most fantastic packaging EVER.  The level of quality Light in the Attic put into this is beyond amazing.  Cowboy in Sweden and Requiem for an Almost Lady are two of the best Hazlewood album crop, both are included here along with: the Ann-Margret album, 40, two discs worth of the LHI music stable, and the strangely-non-mustached-Lee in the “movie”: Cowboy in Sweden.


The Fall / 5 Albums

A budget package of the Fall’s late 80’s output.  While current criticisms cites the early Warner Fall albums (Nation’s Saving Grace, Wonderful and Frightening) as the keepers, there are so many buried treasure on Kurious Oranj and the Frenz Experiment (Cab It Up, New Big Prinz, Carry Bag Man, Athlete Cured, the Steak Place (!?!) to name a few).  Plus you get a half-live album, all the singles and b-sides of the era, and a whole disc of Hit the North mixes (that works far better than it should).


Ilaiyaraaja / Ilectro!

Finders Keepers has been doing a terrific job of giving Ilaiyaraaja his due.  This collection of dancefloor-friendly soundtrack cuts from 80’s is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.    Think of Bollywood breakdance music that changes rhythm, tone and instrumentation every 40 seconds.  Confusingly adventurous and so fun.


Bob Dylan / Another Self Portrait

In 1972 I was probably still bumping Sesame Street Disco, so I didn’t really have time to get up in arms over the original Self-Portrait.  If (for some odd reason) we ever wanted to take stock of Dylan’s majesty, let’s remember this is an album of outtakes from one of his crappiest albums, and its probably on 9 out of 10 Best of Lists.


Roky Erickson / The Evil One * Don’t Slander Me * Gremlins Have Pictures

Many times reissues become attractive because of extra cuts, demo recordings and other value-added selling points.  These 3 Roky albums have no extras, and it matters so little.  First off, the Evil One is a near perfect album of unhinged chaos and genius, it still gives me goosebumps.  It’s also great having terrific-sounding versions of the other two.  All come with super-copious linear notes that provide more details to the Roky story we all thought we knew.


Francoise Hardy / Midnight Blues

Everybody’s favorite ye-ye girl gets deeper.  Singing in English, this collection collects tracks from 1968-72.  Even if the lyrics are light, the arrangements are incredible.  Comparable to what Mickie Most did for Donovan, in terms of turning an ok song into an immaculate cut.


Various Artists / Good God! Apocryphal Hymns

Numero (as usual) had many noteworthy releases this year, but this was my favorite.  A collection of private-press gospel records doesn’t sound that exciting, but the sheer variety within is incredible.  From the seemingly broken drum machine of Otis G. Johnson’s “Walk with Jesus” to the stoney-basement vibe of the Sprititual Harmonizer “God’s Love“, this proves real people are the funkiest of all…


Mountain Goats / All Hail West Texas

The fidelity is the same cassette quality as before, but I totally forgot how fun, honest and heartfelt these songs are.  MANY bands tried this formula in the 90’s but this is one of the best examples of home-recorded, end-of-the-century blasts of localized ennui.


Miles Davis Quintet / Live In Europe 1969

This is the In A Silent Way Miles band, the Third Great Quintet, and there are only a few shows with this line up.  Late-period-electric-Miles is a universe unto itself, so let’s call this one of the larger moons of Saturn.  I guess the best thing I can say about this music is that it NEVER feels familiar, it’s dense, sometimes overwhelming, but never boring…


Townes Van Zandt / Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions

I have to admit, I don’t really like the TVZ studio albums, they’re overproduced and bury the majesty of his songs in unnecessary over-production.  Little of that is here.  Instead we get some sparse out-takes, and most-importantly: the demo versions that trump many of the originals.

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Best New Music of 2013

(Again, no real order, see last year’s here.)


Boards of Canada / Tomorrow’s Harvest

It seems very difficult to make electronic music sound organic.  Boards of Canada beautifully pull off the impossible.  Somewhere between the Blade Runner soundtrack and Cluster’s Soweieso, my affection for this album grows daily.


Bill Callahan / Dream River

Bill keeps it minimal as usual, but the tones are different.  He’s always used different sound palettes but this configuration is beguiling and magical.  The songs seem to do something different every time I listen to them.  If you worship song, this album is your stylized altar of the year.


Mark Kozelek and Desertshore

Mark Kozelek had a busy year.  He released an album of covers, a electro-collaboration with the Album Leaf’s Jimmy Lavelle, and he made this record with his old Red House Painters bandmates.  The Perils album sounded like two separate entities that never quite meshed, whereas Mark Kozelek and Desertshore saw the new diary-like lyrical style merged with great BAND playing.  Not quite a new Red House Painters record, but an amazing first step in a somewhat familiar world.


Robert Pollard / Honey Locust Honky Tonk

Do I even have to tell you how busy Pollard is?  A new GBV album, two solo records, new double-album Circus Devils, plus assorted other team-ups.  Here’s what you need to know: Honey Locust Honky Tonk is the BEST solo Pollard since Waved Out (way back in 1998).  If you are intimidated by the sheer output volume of this man, ignore it and start here.


Washed Out / Paracosm

Ah the difficult second album…Why not just solidify what you’re really good at?  That’s what Paracosm does, plops you deep into a blissful murk of swelling electro-mush.  It’s impact is felt tenfold with headphones…


Iceage / You’re Nothing

ANOTHER second album.  Angular, seismic, and exhilarating. A few years older, these Swedes cover the ground so missed by bands like Nation of Ulysses and Wire.  My great regret of the year is that I didn’t get to see them tour this album.


William Tyler / Impossible Truth

A great year for Fahey-style guitar outings.  Impossible Truth certainly falls in line with it’s contemporaries, however, the elements and space that Tyler puts around those intricately tuned and played guitar parts are what sets this apart.  It’s hazy impression of suburban malaise is moving.


Tim Hecker / Virgins

I still don’t understand why this is referred to as drone?  I guess that’s kinda what it does, but the layers involved are unsettled and constantly changing.  That’s probably why I haven’t stopped listening to it.  I suppose drone sounds better than minimally-layered-abstract-hyperconstructions?


Yo La Tengo / Fade

There will theoretically come a day when there aren’t new Yo La Tengo records.  Thankfully that day has yet to come (it has been 3 years though).  It’s easy to overlook how imaginative, consistent and surprising this band can be.  It’s all on display here, perhaps a tad quieter, but all the more rewarding for it.


Omar Souleyman / Wenu Wenu

A Syrian wedding singer recorded this album in Brooklyn.  Futuristic and overdriven party music.  Based on folk dances but you really won’t notice.  What you will notice is the ultra-liberal pitch shifting of the soloing keyboard.  One of the most musically exciting discoveries of the year for me (thanks Four Tet).

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organic geometry with Charley Harper

harper3                     harper9harper10

My knowledge of the great American illustrator, Charley Harper began a few years ago with the re-issue of his 1974 book Birds and Words.  It’s fantastic stuff ; organic geometric illustrations of the natural world.


I’m always a sucker for more information so for the last few weeks I have been enthralled with the new Charley Harper book: An Illustrated Life.   This begins to provide a more complete picture of his overwhelmingly productive oeuvre.


The book features an extended interview with Harper by devotee Todd Oldham. Oldham describes a biology book he had as a child, that was illustrated by Harper, and the life-long effect it had on his work.  The interview is fantastic and Harper appears the solid minimalist who probably is just as “non-fussy” as his work appears to be.  When asks for design specifics, Harper  says you can simplify everything with “straight lines and curves“.  One of the humorous highlights is when Oldham asks: “What’s next for you, Mr. Harper?”, he replies “getting older“.  It’s a simple answer to a not-so-simple questions, but to me, it encapsulates the straightforwardness of his work.

harper8  harper7 2

harper1  harper2

An Illustrated Life covers his time doing book illustrations, the birds series, his work on Ford Times, posters and mosaics!  It’s worth noting that he had been consistently cranking out fantastic work since the mid-50’s.  This last image is a painting from 2005 (Harper died in 2007), and it’s just as visually singular and amazing as all the others before it…


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Sergio Larrain

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I am by no means some sort of photographic expert, but I know what I like when I see it.  The name Sergio Larrain was not on my “artistic radar” until now, thanks mainly to this new retrospective.

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I’m familiar with photography’s great street photographers: Winogrand, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Friedlander, Brandt, etc.  There’s a similar magic at work in Larrain’s images.  He’s both compositionally interesting as well visually humane.  It’s also worth noting that these images cover a wide range of Europe, so we can’t blame it all on location.

His images of kids, birds, dogs and people resonate deeply nearly 50 years after they were taken.   The subjects seem to be showing their pride in living through the angry chaos of the world.

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Larrain was “discovered” by Cartier-Bresson, and later joined his Magnum group.  His body of work only encompassed a 15-year timeframe.  He retreated into the Chilean countryside because (as author Richard Conway describes):

“He stopped his career. It was not bringing him what he [thought] it would bring to him,” explains Sire. “[He felt] the fact he photographed those kids will not change the fact that there will always be kids abandoned. Photography will not help save the planet.”

I think I’m drawn to artists that are a little under-valued.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the world isn’t constantly screaming their name for recognition.  Things stick with you longer when you have to dig for them…

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“A good image is created by a state of grace. Grace expresses itself when it has been freed from conventions, free like a child in his early discovery of the reality. The game is then to organize the rectangle. ” – Sergio Larrain
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