Some go on hikes through the woods, others watch dumb action movies, but when I need to go blank, I stir cornmeal that's soaked up water overnight. If you care about your grits, it's not a monotonous activity, but one guided by the grain, as they slowly become a mass that needs movement. In its singular focus, minding grits allows the mind to wander.
On a recent morning, I played Saint Cloud by Waxahatchee. Volume turned low so as not to wake the sleeping house, Katie Crutchfield's slow-spun Americana took me to 24-hour diners off Southern highways just as dawn crests, where college kids work out hangovers, truckers pound coffee and hash browns for the long day ahead, the old timer claims his spot at the counter and young families share pancakes and eggs. Here I am most at home, with a plate of something greasy and syrupy, ladled with white gravy or spread with grape jelly. The bagged tea is cheap and scalded by too-hot water, but a little honey helps. From the counter, I watch griddle magic with a close eye on the eggs, always the mark of a line cook who learned from some unnamed master known only to locals, but whose legacy lives in yolks.
A commotion upstairs stirs me from my dawn-dream. I mind my grits.
A new sixer (almost) every week. Follow my collection on Bandcamp.
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Emmanuelle Parrenin / Detlef Weinrich, Jours de Grève (Versatile): The cubist artwork caught my eye — bodies not broken but reassembled into beautiful, entangled forms. The name sounded familiar: Emmanuelle Parrenin… I've had her 1977 album Maison Rose on my Discogs wantlist for a few years now, and didn't even know that she was still making music! The rolling sense of adventure on that drone-y French folk record can be found here, but regenerated through free-jazz saxophone dub, electronic wobble, shamanic trance and folkloric drone (by way of hurdy gurdy). These are mythic dance rituals that remind me of Remain in Light's lanky funk motions, but refracted by kaleidoscope.
Alcian Blue, Collection (Anathemata Editions): I've got a soft spot for bands that were too late or too early for a revival (see: St. Vitus and doom metal, Luxury and dreamy post-punk) — bands that love a sound so much that only the devoted reward their passion. Didn't know about Alcian Blue, who came up in the late '90s/early 2000s D.C. scene as Dischord punk came back in full swing, but instead made the kind of blisteringly loud and heavy shoegaze that wouldn't become cool-kid approved until after they broke up. There are hints of Jesus and Mary Chain's distorted pop bliss and requisite MBV nods, but in Alcian Blue's ecstatic volume and noise, there swims a thunderous romance.
Johanna Hedva, Black Moon Lilith in Pisces in the 4th House (Crystalline Morphologies / Sming Sming): Johanna calls her music "hag blues." With just an electric guitar and her voice, melodies float like ghosts, feedback moans into dark ether, and guitar strums weigh a ton. There are shadows of Khanate's extreme doom, but squealed and wrought from one person; the howling spirit of Keiji Haino, especially, lives in these scarily intimate folk songs that scream through ceremonies of grief.
B L A C K I E, FACE THE DARKNESS II (self-released): There's a moment in distortion where the noise clips, breaking up the waveforms with stuttering hiccups of accidental beats. B L A C K I E builds bombastic punk-rap noise from overblown distortion on purpose. But even in the relentlessly harshing mellow somewhere between Negative Approach and Albert Ayler, there's a perversely anthemic quality to these dangerously catchy trash-pop songs.
Poison Ruïn, S/T LP (Urge): Motörhead and Thin Lizzy riffs as played by a basement anarcho-punk band, excerpt the band is one dude from Philly who loves fantasy synths. Collects first tape, adds a second.
27 tracks. Opens with Thirdface, a Nashville hardcore band I've had my eye on. Rata Negra's poppy punk (not pop-punk) gets wiry. Tunisian nu-metal maniac Znous adds some freakin' flute and slap bass. Gatecreeper's death-metal powerviolence groove. Do not watch Sangiosugabogg's video for "Menstrual Envy" unless you like penis monsters. Metal-friendly goth David Eugene Edwards (Wovenhand, 16 Horsepower) guests on a track by the metal-friendly synthwave artist Carpenter Brut. Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards) and a dude from Woods make California pop. Midwest emo en español via Catalonia's Llacuna; early 2000s Polyvinyl power-pop/emo via Camp Trash (but on Count Your Lucky Stars). Alivenique is the hypnagogic electro-pop moniker from raw rocker Ali Beletic. Is it me or does the chicha-goth band XIXA's "Genesis of Gaea" sound like a Starflyer 59 song circa Leave Here a Stranger? Psychedelic hypnosis via Sunburned Hand of the Man. Chinese NWOBHM (Dog Slayer), blasted metallo-noise (The Body), avant-industrial metal whatever (The Amenta), Argentine OSDM (Ataudes) and Monolord's stoner-rock mantra during COVID: "I'm Staying Home."
What: Dreams of Beirut (tea)
Why: Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar would regularly appear on tour schedules for Circulatory System and Daniel Bachman, circumventing bigger cities for Charlottesville, Va. This, of course, caught my eye way back in the day, so for our honeymoon years ago, my wife and I spent an afternoon in this walk-up tea shop. A gnarly tree out of a fairytale creeps over the counter, there's fresh hummus and warm pitas and a hookah lounge out back. We drank one of its tea blends, Dreams of Beirut, which is simply described as a "black tea spiced with cloves, mint, and black pepper," but, oh, how the black pepper awakens the mint like a satisfying soul sneeze. After years of trying to make our own version, I was happy to discover you could now buy direct from Twisted Branch. Brew it with rock (or raw) sugar; it also makes a fantastic sweet tea.