Beauty Pill’s Chad Clark was musing on his bandmate, the talented saxophonist Sarah Hughes, but I felt extremely seen by that tweet. (Coincidentally, Chad is tickled by that saying — “being seen/read” — so, full circle.) I take time to process information — sadness, rage and even elation spin out in webs of thought, getting lost inward in order to move outward. It’s not terribly practical; time is a privilege. But I have been and certainly always will be overwhelmed by the world.
Think of a minimalist piece of music. “Gay Guerilla,” Julius Eastman’s composition for four pianos, comes to mind as it’s been on-mind lately. An idea is introduced: small, but steady, and slightly unformed. As the music shifts so does the mind; minor shades and clustered chords enter the frame, disrupting, but also informing the movement. Resolution comes in brief respites, but the discord returns often; the confusion at times turns to pounding rage. Eastman doesn’t tear apart but deconstructs and empowers the thesis. It’s a thorny piece of music that, in its finale of simultaneously ascending and descending figures, comes to an epiphany scarred by memory.
This is how my brain works. An epiphany scarred by memory.
But in using the example of “Gay Guerilla,” I must acknowledge the pain and triumph from which it’s born:
“These names, either I glorify them or they glorify me. And in the case of guerrilla, that glorifies gay,” Eastman said, as quoted in a belated Village Voice obituary from 1991. “A guerrilla is someone who in any case is sacrificing his life for a point of view. And you know if there is a cause, and if it is a great cause, those who belong to that cause, will sacrifice their blood because without blood there is no cause.”
Julius Eastman’s brother, Gerry, goes on to say that Julius died of “mental stress causing physical deterioration… Racism within the classical world prevented him from doing the things he was doing. It’s the same old Scott Joplin/Charlie Parker story, only with a different person. Julius is just another in a line of Black geniuses who get squashed in this particular hemisphere.”
Music helps me to process the world. If my little self-pity party — okay, hey, emotions are real — finds revelation in the music of a Black composer who was (and still is) systematically relegated to footnotes by whiteness, that only fortifies my purpose to share their history and make damn sure to uplift Black genius as it’s happening. (It’s always happening.)
[By the way, Helsinki label Frozen Reeds will release Femenine on Bandcamp for the first time this Friday, June 19 (Juneteenth), and will donate 100% of its share to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.] — Lars Gotrich
(Note: Some of these albums can only be found on Bandcamp, so click the links to explore!)
Space Afrika, hybtwibt? (self-released): Here’s one of my many discoveries during the most recent Bandcamp Day that’s gonna stick with me all year. This is ambient dub steeped in sadness and resilience, a bleary collage lovingly and achingly pasted together to make sense of grief. For all of its ghostly atmosphere and fractured beats, melody guides this hazy voyage into the void, with spoken word broken apart, buried and, at times, brought to the fore with a desperate rage, like the little black girl who cries, “It’s a shame that we have to go to graveyard and bury them.” Headphones on, ears up, hearts open.
CB Radio Gorgeous, EP (Not Normal / Thrilling Living): As someone known to create (and relentlessly reiterate) winky fake genres, I tip my hat to the Sorry State newsletter’s succinct read on this spunky EP, calling it “Telecaster punk.” A sharp guitar tone and bass boogie with Buzzcocks bounce as the singer yelps, shouts and sings through four blink-and-you-missed-it rock-and-roll punk bops.
Six Six, Six Six (Atlantic Rhythms): I’ve been waiting for this D.C. duo to release some dang music ever since I saw them tear through some frazzled noise at the dearly departed Union Arts some years back. Side B, in particular, offers some screeching nubbly shit, but throughout these two side-long improvs from bassist Luke Stewart (Irreversible Entanglements, Blacks’ Myths) and guitarist Anthony Pirog (The Messthetics), they dial into satellites scoping the spaceways.
Aurat, Zeher (self-released): There’s a mood for every goth here: dungeon noise, Terminator industrial, bass-flanged post-punk and what can only be described as a goth Jazzercise workout jam. Azeka Kamal howls in Urdu, her native tongue, holding this darkly spectacled tableau together.
Kate NV, Room for the Moon (RVNG Intl.): The Russian experimentalist has always exuded a playful charm, but here transforms her MIDI menagerie into spectral synth-pop that lands somewhere between Sun Araw’s wobbly hypnosis and Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s funky not-so-minimalist pop.
No Home, Fucking Hell (self-released): The punkest shit I’ve heard in a minute and barely a guitar is power-chorded. This is punk the same way Suicide or Liz Phair were punk, with unnerving keyboard noise, unlearnt rhythms, mope drones and, oh, that emotionally raw-as-hell voice! Charlie hollers, laughs and coos, “You say, ‘I wish you well’ / But you’d rather I’d burn in hell.”
36 tracks. Playing catch-up: a swirling piece by London saxophonist Nubya Garcia, Terrace Martin’s raging protest against police brutality with Denzel Curry and Daylyt, a psych-folk zoner from Sarah Louise, Ric Wilson’s high-powered disco tribute and history lesson about Ida B. Wells and drag icon Marsha P. Johnson, a 19-minute funeral-doom collabo between Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin and Mr. Bungle’s first studio recording in over 20 years (an Exploited cover!). But these past few weeks, when new music offered little refuge for my busy mind, I returned often to Sun Ra, UGK and Ornette Coleman’s orchestral work Skies of America.
What: Toyah & Robert’s Sunday Lunch (YouTube)
Why: Get you a grumpy, old Brit who lovingly looks at his partner like Robert Fripp looks at Toyah. In short videos that goof on Swan Lake, tap dance to King Crimson’s knotty “Fracture” and tenderly cover Bowie, the guitar shredder and eccentric pop singer are #quarantinecouplegoals.