Still turning somehow, albeit in a more interesting fashion

•February 16, 2017 • Comments Off on Still turning somehow, albeit in a more interesting fashion

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Trying to remain positive in light of the general paranoia that currently comes as part of the package of being an immigrant family in the current regime. As I write this, I’m taking care of my weekly office hours duties, which, being new to the faculty game, I’m realizing is less about providing a time for you to be available to meet with students, but more about taking the time to actually do something in your office. Hence this post. I’m also fresh off the plane, having taken a trip out to Ohio to lecture in the possible anticipation of another academic position. More on that as it comes through the pipes, but I figured I’d mention that to put things in perspective as they unfold. So, what’s new? Other than the barrage of news media about the reality show currently called the United States of America, there’s actually a few shows and some music I should mention, if only to keep things relevant. First, the shows. Now that Xime’s old enough to spend time with both mom and dad, we’re beginning to branch out a bit and start booking things again. Upcoming on my end is a show in Takoma Park at the Electric Maid on Feb 25th. This will probably be a Sound System show, though I’ve also considered dusting off a could Max patches to twiddle around with. I guess I should figure that out sooner than later. Also upcoming is the retirement festivities back out on Ohio of my dear friend, mentor and professor John Talbert, where I’ll be performing on laptop and sound system, delivering a lecture and supporting Pau in her presentation as well. Also on the bill will be some stuff by Peter B and Bevin Kelley – always fun! After that, an east coast tour with Alex Catona and a lecture at Columbia University – and then a show at RhizomeDC taking us into May. Looking forward to every and all. But in the meantime, lots of building to be done, a few pending releases on VF Industrial and a heads up that VF collaborator Brandon Ross has been really going deep with his 23. Here’s a recent track of his – check it out!

 

And the world continues to turn, it seems

•January 29, 2017 • Comments Off on And the world continues to turn, it seems

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SO hi there. It’s been an unseasonably warm January in Baltimore, albeit gloomy in both the meteorological sense, as well as the spiritual one as well. Not to say that there hasn’t been a few nice days, but if we stick to the weather, it does feel like we’re somewhere in the UK as opposed to on the other side of the Atlantic where the birds are happy and there’s always music in the air. At least from a personal perspective, things have been quiet here as we’ve pretty much sheltered in place, waiting for whatever was going to happen when in proximity to Washington happen. Having a toddler and being in a perpetual state of immigration, the thoughts of coming into contact with either tear gas or detention by a militarized police force, instantly forfeiting the thousands of pages of documents and dollars sent thus far in our current adventure into bureaucracy. Never a good thing. Not to say that we aren’t with the rest of you in spirit but hey, family comes first.

That out of the way, this is what we have been up to – our car drama has come to an end as well as a new beginning it seems as we finally plunked down and bought ourselves a brand new auto. Same make and model, just 10 years younger. Given that this was our first experience with shopping for a new car, we were a little blindsided by the experience, almost accidentally bought a very expensive jeep without realizing it and in frustration, decided to go with what we knew. So there’s that. Leaving the dealership, the general thought was that it feels great to have a mild return to normalcy in our routine. Life, as they say, goes on. Focusing on the positive, there’s also a few art shows on the horizon, a couple shows in Ohio and Washington in Feb/March, a pending tour at the end of March and the course I’m teaching at the University of Baltimore on Technology in the Arts. More on that as it comes available. As usual, a couple proposals involved things that haven’t been invented yet, so I should probably get on that.

Finally, to address the possibly too-neglected cottage nest of electronics, the Pejibaye was featured on Pedal of the Day about a week ago, providing an insight into what it does in a better fashion than I could possibly explain it. Of course the review came at a time when I was basically out of Peji’s, meaning the chance to surf the hype was a limited, but hey, bigger waves be out by the breakers. It’s just a matter of paddling out and fighting the rips.

Speaking of, tomorrow’s my first class as an official college professor. How about that?

As a proviso, I started writing this a week ago and then got sidetracked by course preparation, etc. Since then, the world has become a much darker place by way of a degenerate vulgarian who’s managed to surround himself with the correct group of sycophants willing to pass his insipid agenda along without any reflection of juan soul or conscience. Here’s hoping the money runs out and a hole forms in the wall. Obviously I’m not a fan. But of course, for the sake of immigration purposes, let’s hope my usual florid prose only tips the hat that I’m a terrible writer, as opposed to anyone in need of some extreme vetting. Though what the veterinary sciences have to do with immigration enforcement, lord only knows.

Three New Releases on VF Industrial

•December 29, 2016 • Comments Off on Three New Releases on VF Industrial

Hey there true believers,

As mentioned in the last post, three new releases dropped last week on the VFI net label. In theory, I was supposed to post about that as it came up, but something unfortunately came up by way of a deer splaying itself across my hood at about 40 miles per hour on the way to visit my family in New York. For those interested in experiencing the sheer ecstasy of dealing with insurance claims and transportation over the holidays when most body shops are closed and the car is physically 300 miles away, let me tell you, the ecstasy part is lacking.

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What’s not lacking is the quality of these releases, however. First up is Consumer Affairs by The Flayed Choirmaster. Admittedly, I don’t know much about his work – he arrived in San Francisco right after I left, but I’ve seen his name pop up here and there. After my first post about the first three releases, he wrote me asking of he could release something and considering that part of this project is to be as inclusive as I can, how could I say no?

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Second is the first studio record by f.org, the cello + electronics duo I’m currently playing in wish Alex Catona from down Costa Rica way. Also credited is the Norman Conquest on this hit, since when you record with Norman, he’s always part of the mix. We recorded it in Oakland before of of our west coast gigs back in September. Hoping this leads to many awesome things. For instance, shows in Europe, or something.

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Finally, we’ve got Grandes Exitos 2011-2015 by Costa Rican culture-jamming sound artist Bloqueos. Clocking in at over 4 hours long, this is a greatest hits album of sorts – in that every track has already been released on various other labels. In fact, even this record has already been released in it’s entirety, with the only modification being a slightly-altered cover just so there’s no confusion. Or something. Above all, I’m just happy to share some of this stuff with a few other rings of the sphere. I’ll need to check the pulse of the current scene down south, but for the briefest moment, there was a pretty amazing convergence of sound artists and experimental musicians in San José, Esteban being a crucial member of that scene.

So yeah, more on the way with another three releases scheduled for March, possibly with another few surprises in the mix as well, but at least for the moment, I’m enjoying my last few days of holiday rest, albeit car-less. Hoping I can clear a large chunk of projects off the desk if I can. Wouldn’t that be the day, yeah?

Holiday Tidings from the House of Vaux

•December 20, 2016 • Comments Off on Holiday Tidings from the House of Vaux

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Friends, well-wishers and seemingly politically-validated trolls snooping around looking to make sure that we’re up to fire code: The year is over. And what a year it was. Not to imply that it was all bad, but we definitely took our lumps. Of course, there were some high points as well – travel, inspiration, opportunities, etc. but then there was also the last two months to account for. Pauline, the Oakland fire, my grandmother passing all in less than two weeks time. It’s currently 5:30 in the morning and I’m up primarily due to explorations of cat and wiggles of baby – we’re trying to sell the notion that her own bedroom is much cooler than ours, but that of course invites the thought of “if my room is so cool, how about you hang out in it with me? Why would you want to go back to yours?” So Pau and I have been trading shifts hanging out next to Xime’s bed so she at least gets the notion that a parent is still in her cool room with her and eventually, int he long run, we get more privacy and a happy, autonomous bambina.

Let it be known that the news feeds are possibly more disturbing at 5 AM when you’re still in the pre-coffee grog and the chirping bird app still has a sheet over it’s cage. Most disturbing read this morning came from the Washingtonian stating that the creepy alt-right 4chan/reddit freaks who only learned of the various venues and cultural subsets that I spent a good part of the past 15 years inhabiting by way of a fire that killed a couple of our friends have been snooping around the Takoma Park art space where I’ve been teaching workshops, taking pictures and looking for fire hazards. Just a little invasive. Thankfully, according to the article, we supposedly “checked-out,” but even so,  invasive. Having run a space or two in the past, it makes me think about the general notion of openness – as in where do you draw the line when you’re building on the backs of the all-ages scenes of generations-gone-by? Can you restrict openness? Dark times ahead – especially since the seething entities looking to shut this stuff down are traveling the same information highways that we’re using to build and harbor our own communities. Even creepier to think that there might have possibly been one of these dudes hoofing around as I was teaching with Xime napping in the back room and I was completely oblivious. Let’s hope that’s not the case. Though it makes me wonder – if not for art spaces and the like, what do these folks deem as acceptable artistic outlets? Honky-tonks? Amphitheaters? Stadium shows? Demolition derbies? Unfortunately, as Pau pointed out before heading to her Xime shift, it could very well be that the outlet of this particular subset of intolerance may actually just be trolling the web and trying to undermine culture, community and anything else the hive-mind deems inappropriate for the sheer hell of it. Good for them, I guess. Here’s hoping the turn on themselves and self-implode quickly – if only for the sake of me being able to veg out on the web in peace between the cat knocking things off the dresser and shifts spent curled up next to the humidifier, which is of course, totally cool. So much cooler than a nice, comfy pillow-top mattress, fluffy pillows and the few, spare hours where it’s just Pau and I together. Because it’s cool to sleep in your own room? See, mommy and daddy’s room is cold and boring. And so on.

Or something like that – not to be too personal or nihilistic. I’d normally save a statement like that for something a little more social, but fact of the matter is that social media kind of scares me at the moment. Case in point – a mutual friend receiving death threats due to a mural he painted at a pizza place that had since been painted over but was somehow a clue to some sort of torrid baby-trafficking ring. Maybe I’m paranoid, but the thought that all it takes is one errant chirp and you’re suddenly the subject of collective, communal rage doesn’t sit well for one trying to raise a family, make art and build instruments, especially when we’re still going through the whole immigration thing – which of course is another target of the previously-mentioned politically-enabled populism folks. Gotta keep it cool and fancy for the sake of the big picture. But at the same time, it helps to say your piece when you can. Have issue? Request discourse? You know where to find me. A bold statement, but fact of the matter is I’m pretty suburban these days. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, it’s the holidays, with exactly one day standing between me and some highly-needed rest, relaxation and catch-up time on all the projects sent to the back-burner as the crazy commenced. There’s also a few new projects waiting in the wings, but the bench is full again, so space needs to be made first. Also, three new VF Industrial releases drop tomorrow. More on that in about 18 hours, but I figured I’d at least offer what happy tidings I can to you and yours. But in the meantime, it’s now 6:30 – an acceptable time to begin making coffee, so I’m going to do that now. Hang in there, everyone. We’ll make it through this.

The Mancunian Report

•November 23, 2016 • Comments Off on The Mancunian Report

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So hey there. For those who actually read my postings as opposed to just scrolling through the pictures in search of furry guitar pedals and whatnot, you’ve probably gotten the clue that I’ve been a little busy since my last missive since the links are still empty and there’s no nifty pictures. Thankfully, the year is winding down – or at least in some regards. For those that have been under a rock, it appears that the closest thing that my country’s had to a tyrant on the level of the ones that the CIA’s been propping up in other Western countries for over a century now has somehow been elected into the executive office. Somehow, somewhere, I’ve embraced a mantra taken from a Flying Burrito Brothers song, copping my best Gram Parsons accent and crooning “on the 58th floor, a gold-plated door, won’t keep out the Lord’s burning rain.” And this is coming from someone typically against country music, religion and political statements. But that’s a story for another day. In the meantime, I figured I’d at least report that I’m recently returned from the Sines-Squares festal in Manchester, England. Splendid time, truly. Met some new friends, presented the Colorado Adventure as an actual academic paper (I’ll post it up later) and performed before flying home via a circuitous route afforded to me by one airline being so terrible that they simply just transferred me to their competitor to have one less passenger to worry about. I’m still on UK time at the moment and my body thinks it’s somewhere around 3 AM, but I at least figured I’d mention the adventure while it’s still fresh. Thanks to the organizers and everyone else. More in a tick.

-t.

By the way – for anyone interested in how I sounded, here’s a link for you:

VF Industrial. All Hail!

•October 5, 2016 • Comments Off on VF Industrial. All Hail!

So hi there. In case you missed it, there’s a new tab on the top of the site touting the words VF Industrial. Want me to explain what that’s all about? Sure you do. So. A few months back, Pau and I decided to take a trip to Mexico to take advantage of Xime’s waning child-in-lap privileges, as well as meet up with some art-friends, check out a couple galleries and eat ourselves into a coma on our favorite Poblano snacks, of which there are many. And while we were there, two general trains of thought collided, creating the secret sauce that’s lead to this current venture.

Thought the first goes back to January 2013 when I first met Carlos Amorales when Pau and I were showing at the Central American Biennial in Panama City. He was giving a talk on his Nuevos Ricos project and I, being slightly submerged in the worlds of punk rock and absurdity was amused. By the by, since I’ll only screw up on explaining the project, here’s a video of Carlos himself making the pitch.

Thought the second was taken from David Novak’s Japanoise book that I brought with me on the trip, leading to so highly circumspect reading as I tried to take a book about the noise scene in Japan seriously in spite of it’s use of one of my most hated phrases in the lexicon of academia – “ethnographic field study.” Long story. I’ll probably write a book about it one day, possibly a dissertation. Either way, let’s talk about what ties these two thoughts together as opposed to my usual gripes and tandems. For me, said tie was the thought of curation. In one of the later chapters of Novak’s book, he compares the differences between US net labels and Japanese net labels and what archival data can be derived from them. Was there a scene? Did these people know each other and play shows together? Or was this the product of a singular fanatic who offered to release recordings that tickled his particular fancy? My money’s on door number three – which in some ways is also what ties the idea of curation to Amorales’ project where he’s more or less creating the music scene that he would have wanted during his youth in Mexico.

This of course led to one of my infamous thought spirals whee most of the dogmatic rules that provide cohesion to my universe momentarily become unhinged. A quick case study. During my time at Oberlin, I was pretty hard into the IDM, but eventually realized I lacked the skills, patience and community to truly commit to the genre. Not to mention Reason was limited, Ableton was in it’s infancy and I lacked the cash to pick up hardware. Through the usual liberal arts channels – i.e. recreational thought exercises, college radio, the indie media network and the virtue of running a clandestine venue out of my living room, I was introduced to noise music – which appealed to me through the idea that trough noise, you could express limitless possibilities simultaneously. Imagine 9 symphonies playing at once. Now imagine 9000. Now imagine every piece of music ever recorded. Somewhere between the bad and the ugly, the beautiful lie. To rewind back to my thesis, imagine the recording produced 15000 feet above Manhattan – where every individual sound of 9 million individual contributes to the caustic drone of existence.

Or at least those were my ideals coming into California. Before I enrolled at Mills, I began collecting my share of records, centering primarily around Load, Bulb and Skin Graft. Later, by way of the Oberlin Conservatory Library, I was exposed to Asphodel and Tzadik. During my 6 months in Ann Arbor, I inherited a copy of the Merzbox, copied over a series of late-night guest DJ sessions at WCBN. Somehow I actually ended up with a lot of Merzbow records – not sure how. Or where they are. Apparently, they’re worth a lot of money when they’re not on your iPod. Whoops. In California, my first semester allowed me further access to the Tzadik catalog, the experimental bins at Amoeba, Tigerbeat 6, and by way of several unnecessary paragraphs, Ipecac Recordings – a label that somehow featured anything from Japanese noisers to the Locust to the Melvins. Ok, kind of a narrow band there, but from the perspective of my early-20’s addled cranium, the associations were insane – I mean, how can a label have all these disparate elements going on at once? What’s the connection? Obviously, later on I learned the lynchpin to it all was Mike Patton’s general eclecticism (again, curation), but I was still under the influence of the ’80’s hardcore credo that for a movement, all you ever really need is 10 people and a space and it’ll happen. And typically it does about 70 percent of the time. Thanks for that one, Black Flag. I had also recently met Mike Watt shortly before graduating Oberlin, so I was still glowing with the thought that if you stick with your buddies and support them through thick and thin, you’ll all end up famous and guest star on each other’s records. Not to say that this isn’t happening and a slow, yet progressive clip, but in most circumstances, I think I could be described as naive, or at the very least, optimistic.

Back to that curation thing. Years ago I tried to run a label. It didn’t work out so well and it ended with a cease and desist notice. That’s how we ended up here. It also failed for reasons other than that – for instance lack of capital for materials and distribution and largely, simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the late-oughts, there was a swarm of net-labels that propped themselves up during the twilight of the Myspace. They were interesting, for sure, but never quite had the heft of a label that printed a physical disc at the time. A decade later, the physical disc has become a product of ephemera with an enclosed download code. Why even print it – you might as well give away small action figures or those weird all-white Japanese figurines. At least those look more interesting on a shelf than a stack of sealed 180 gram vinyl. So looking to curate a space where I could have all my friends and interests on a single page, with little-to-no overhead and the incentive of designing new gear for my friends’ projects, I decided to launch VF Industrial. It’s a little freeform at the moment though I’m sure rules will eventually impose themselves. The initial one we thought of was to only do releases on solstices and equinoxes. So 3 discs dropped the other week. One from me, one from Dereck Donohue and one from Hey Exit. 3 more will drop in December. And so it will go. Call it a project. Call it a curation. Call it a dated concept and I’m showing my age. Whatever. It’s something. A sobering thought I often return to is that over the course of my musical career, I’d estimate that 90% of the venues I’ve played at and nearly every label I’ve released on is defunct. If anything, I’m just doing what I can for my fellow survivors to fill the void. Either way, go take a listen. If you’re racing this and there’s no links or pictures, just give it a few days. As the last post clearly establishes, I’m a.) doing al that I can here and b.) I’ll get to it. Just give me time.

 

Over/out,

 

t.

Halfway from the Freeway

•September 30, 2016 • Comments Off on Halfway from the Freeway

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Definitive signs of aging: jet lag does weirder things to you for longer. Of course it would help if I set my computer clock back to EST, but considering that I really don’t use my laptop as much as I used to, thank you phone and work computer, so it goes. The gears, they change and I try to head back to the office as if nothing’s happened – if only that were the case – 3 shows, a recording session and a manic burn to San Diego to check out the general environment of the city that may be the next whistle stop for my little family. More on that later. Still adjusting. The last time I tried to do one of these weekend warrior jaunts, the first thing I did on return was accidentally smash the family iPad on one of my road cases owing to the ill effects of sleep deprivation and gravity. At the moment, we’re three days out, so I think we’re in the clear with regard to broken objects, but there’s still the small matter of catching up on everything. Case in point, things need to be built like whoa. And if you’re expecting an email from me, you’ll get it. I arrived back in Baltimore on Tuesday, and had just enough energy to shower and crash. Wednesday was 8 hours at the day gig and a dance party with Xime – because that’s what you do when you’re away from your toddler for a week. Thursday was all about the dentist appointment that was actually on Wednesday and doing sound for a folk music concert. And now it’s Friday, and I feel like I’m channelling a Cure song. You know, the one about the days of the week. So ok – the first shot across the bow of productivity. No emails have been sent, but I did take the initiative of crunching the lave recordings from this jaunt. So here they are, in chronological order. Listen, like and love. More on the way as always. No rest for the wicked, and apparently whatever I am as well. Special thanks to Alex, Noah, Sarah, Matt, Rent, Aram, Moe!, Thomas, Kanoko and everyone else who contributed to a charming weekend of jams in Fog City.

f.org, 09.22.2016, The Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco, Ca.

f.org, 09.23.2016, Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, Ca.

Catona/Johns/Phillips, 09.24.2016, Studio Grand, Oakland, Ca.