Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Who Said (Stuck in the UK), by Planet Funk

April 2003. It was a night at the Soho. José and I had been wandering around London all day. We dropped our stuff at the hostel we were staying in, near Monument. I spread all the flyers we had collected over the day on our room's floor . One goth party called our attention. We passed by an overpriced pub for last orders, where not even José could resist a pint of Guinness (he does not drink). The jukebox played The Smiths and The Stone Roses. We stood by the bar, in silence, looking around. We said: where the fuck have we been all our lives.

We walked through narrow cobblestone streets. The club was at this basement on a dead-end street. The single bouncer was a huge guy who did nothing but stare at some football game in a miniscule tv set all night. The place reminded us so much of the underground clubs where we used to promote parties in Mexico City it was uncanny. The dj mixed new wave, electroclash and some jewels from the glam rock years. And then we listened to it. Everything was exciting about the track: the voice, what it said, the uptempo beat. Honestly, it had been a long time since we had listened to something like it; the combination of working-class anger with unavoidably danceable loops; the breakdown epic enough to give you a heart attack on the dancefloor. We were there, listeining, in awe, and we knew it: that dj was saving our lives that night.

When we left, the promoter of the party went after us asking us to stay. It was like seeing a Brit version of ourselves. The reflection was, again, uncanny. We were profoundly moved, but I can't remember if we stayed a little longer or not.

The next day I bought the 12" single. When I came back to Mexico City I managed to spin it at three or four parties, full of nostalgia for those glorious days when I was poor and in love with the ubiquitous rotten beauty of Britain and wishing I could be stuck in the UK.

Whenever I listen to it I am reminded that people are always wishing to be somewhere else no matter where they are. When I listen to it now, I am sent back to that time and place when I was unbelievably, irrationally happy without fully realizing it.

You Are My Sister, by Antony & the Johnsons

We were djing at this bar in Mexico City, first every Monday night, then Wednesdays as the crowds were getting larger. That was at the beginning of this year. The night was called "Indietronic Melancholics", and Alfredo and I were later joined by old friend Lenin, playing all our favorite tunes to a very receptive audience as the sky broke into mad tears outside.

I had asked José for the vinyl version of Antony's second album, I Am a Bird Now, because he had gone to New York City, but he complained so much about "the obsolescence" of the vinyl format that he must have unconsciously wanted to forget it, because that's what he precisely did. He says that he only realized he had left my record when he was about to take his flight back home.

But I still kept playing this track, night after night, in different versions, on my laptop. No one ever complained.

For me, one of the best tracks of the decade so far. Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty: that is all you need to know.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Long Way South, by JJ72

I vividly remember the first time I heard JJ72. I had been out with some friends, one of whom had a friend who was a DJ who didn’t particularly like me, though he was certainly making a concerted effort to be nice to me despite that fact, and I had decided to meet him halfway. After the club we were drinking in this guy’s house, and he and I were talking about our mutual love of Joy Division. He mentioned that, in his capacity as a DJ, he had recently been sent a 4 track CD by a new band, local and young, and he was struck by the similarity of one song to Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control. He played the song, and as it started he was wondering aloud whether the bassline was a case of blatant pilfering, or a homage, but after a few seconds I stopped paying any attention to him.

In retrospect, I know it couldn’t have been the lyrics that grabbed my attention, because I could only snatch a few words of what was being said, though the “magic mixed with mud” image impressed me right away. It had to have been the vocals. The whole song had a sense of urgency to it, communicated by every single element – the looped drumbeat; the bass which was played, Joy Division-style, like a guitar; the fact that the singer tripped over some words as though he was in a rush, reducing three syllable words to two syllables; the way that the song doesn’t end, per se, it stops, in much the same way as something stops when it collides with a wall – it seemed as though the instruments were plugged out or snatched from the band before they could finish; the lyric even ends mid-sentence. But the vocals were absolutely startling, and it was these which impressed me most on first hearing. Mark Greaney’s voice is generally described as one you either love or hate but, regardless of preference, the most used adjective to describe his voice seems to be “plaintive”, and this vocal is a perfect illustration of that claim. By the end of the first line he is practically screaming, even when he drops a few octaves in the next line, he is screaming again before the chorus. It reminded me of something, and it was months later before I figured out what that was.

I read the lyrics printed in the inlay card when the song was finally released and finally the proverbial bell rang; the singer didn’t just sound pained, the song was actually about the experience of being in pain. That was what it had reminded me of; the occasional surge of particularly bad pain against a background of dull, repetitive pain, the difficulty of articulating that, the bizarre flights of fancy one is prone to under these circumstances, and the sense that one is under physical attack despite outward appearances to the contrary. I hadn’t known this when I first heard it, but the sense was there nonetheless, and this trait – every element combining to communicate the sense of what the song is about, before the lyrics enter the picture – is a trait of every note of every song this band produced.

Everyone who has ever really, really, loved a band has had an experience where they thought, however irrationally, that that band really spoke to them; to the kind of thoughts and feelings they had but could not express. Even though I was 20 at the time, and not an excitable teenager, this was one of those experiences for me, the last one I’ve had, and one that was later to become the start of something far more serious.

Long Way South lasts only 2 minutes 51 seconds, but it was enough to signal the beginning of a love affair.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Some Velvet Morning, by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra

The first time I listened to it I was mesmerized by its strangeness. It does indeed begin like a brat pack composition, but suddenly all this melancholy sci-fi atmosphere is created; Lee's somber voice juxtaposed by the violent irruptions of Nancy's sweet and dangerous voice. After her dark, prophetic voice, Nancy's is an apparition, a white ray of heavenly light cutting up the shadows. There's something mythic, epic, about this song, something absolutely drug-induced. The creation of an unreal, fantastic space. An opening in time. The song is fragmented, cut up, divided by Lee's and Nancy's parts, creating a non-fluent dialogue, a strange, never-heard-before sound artifact. Before such distinct bands like Mojave 3, Belle & Sebastian or Sonic Youth, there were Nancy & Lee. This is 1968.

Listen to it first thing in the morning. You will notice immediate effects.

[There's a fairly recent cover version by Primal Scream with Kate Moss, by the way.]

Black Baby, by Kruder & Dorfmeister

A Paula D.
Hace unos años, cuando acababa de hacerme licenciado y había encontrado mi primer trabajo de profesor, conocí a Paula. Yo estaba en el mundo laboral por casualidad: mi cabeza seguía estando en la disciplina de la escuela y mi corazón seguía pensando que la juventud era un bien derrochable, cosa que lo es. A Paula la conocí en Febrero del 99, unos meses antes de la huegla de la unam, cuando se registró conmigo para presentar una materia que los del tec llamaban "Clásicos de la Literatura" y que años después llamaron, pomposamente dado el libro de texto que armaron y en el que aseguraban que Homero era poeta lírico y que Sartre había muerto en 1985, "Literatura Moderna", juar, juar, juar.
Para que se ubiquen: los celulares apenas empezaban a proliferar, los i pod no existían y las lap tops tenían 5 cm de espesor. Creo que los carros Peugeot y los Seat no existían en las calles de la cd de México. Eran los días en los que yo era un dios y leía a Dostoyeski y escribía poemas tomando en cuenta el número de acentos y no el número de sílabas. El único ejercicio rescatable de esos días fue Ancestros.
Que yo recuerde a Paula le gustaba la música electrónica y sabía del Alcachofa Sound System; escuchaba radio activo, como muchas personas de esa época, y anduvo con alguien de allí; también le gustaban las marionetas y hasta donde entiendo hizo un curso de teatro guiñol en Checoslovakia, de Praga fue de donde me llegó una postal. Un día me la encontré, ¿o yo la invité?, en un deportivo de Azcapotzalco donde Ernesto tocaba (ponía discos diría José) y se quedó con nosotros, pidió un café, me platicó de las desventuras con su novio etc . Después se fue con las personas con las que había ido y la volví a ver al lunes siguiente. Los cursos terminaron. Ella se fue a Europa, yo me quedé en Lomas Verdes. Nos perdimos de vista. Los teléfonos que tenía de ella dejaron de funcionar y yo cambié de dirección. Creo que tuve su dirección electrónica pero ya la perdí.
La última vez que la vi fue hace unos años, en el Intituto Goethe. Yo había ido con Mariana y allí nos habíamos encontrado a unos amigos. Las cervezas eran baratas y tomé dos, me anduvo del baño, fui a formarme y en el camino me encontré a Paula. Nos abrazamos.
Jamás la he vuelto a ver, y la extraño. De verdad, de todas las mujeres que conocí en esos días, que para mí son el intermedio entre la escuela-licenciatura y la pesadilla-maestría, a la única que recuerdo con especial cariño es a Paula. Me gustaría pensar que leerá estos renglones o que alguno de ustedes la conoce y le dirán que la extraño. También me gustaría imaginar que la volveré a ver, aunque la verdad es que temo verla: quizá ya no le guste la música electrónica, ni le interesen las marionetas; también es posible que su voz ronca haya cambiado pues ¿cómo hace uno para conservar, a pesar del tiempo transcurrido, todos los atributos de la juventud?
Un día, cuando llegué al salón de clase, se acercó a mí y pasó su mano por mi cabello mientras decía "tú siempre llegas despeinado."
Un beso a Paula.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Neighborhood 3 (Tunnels), by The Arcade Fire

There's one great thing about not being a native english speaker: you get used to having your own version of songs.

Of course, when you're really interested, you browse through the internet to get the lyrics right, but you never forget that first impression, that first image you got .

Whenever I hear "Tunnels", I close my eyes and try to believe I'm part of a science fiction movie.

It's the end of the world. There's snow falling in Africa; frozen cities all over the world.

We're teenagers. We know we're going to die, but we find each other joking on that icy playground: our lost city. I think of you and decide to spend the rest of my short short life next to you.

Then I' ll dig a tunnel, from my window to yours
Yeah, a tunnel, from my window to yours.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Crown of Love, by The Arcade Fire

No, I'll not weep:
I have full cause of weeping; but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
Or ere I'll weep. O fool, I shall go mad!

-King Lear, 2. 4

Sometimes, the spark fades. You don't necessarily see it coming: it happens suddenly. It's something that has to do with names: you carve the name of someone across your eyelids; it becomes the only name you can pronounce.

Being in love means falling in love with a name. A name that one cannot but see all the time, every time. Then, the loved one changes her name and you are left there, doomed, the name painfully inscribed in the flesh.

The crown of love: it makes us feel like kings: it can also make us fall in madness, dethroned, eyes plunged out, like a Shakespearean old king, under the tempest, naked, hurt and mad.

Picture Lear. Under the storm, blind with pain. "You pray for rain/I pray for blindness".

The crown of love: it can also be made out of thorns. It pierces the mind, making blood run like tears over the face. Love can make even the proudest kneel and beg for forgiveness.

Such poverty, when the crown has fallen from you.

Such wounding madness, to fall in love with a name.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

My Favorite Things, by John Coltrane

Aunque él hubiese querido decir lo contrario, que le gustaba el saxofón y que entendía a Coltrane, prefirió decir lo que pensaba. "El saxofón no me gusta, y que sea el 'instrumento' del jazz es la idea del amater, lo mejor de Coltrane es que hizo mancuerna con Tyner." Sin entender, vio cómo todo se crispaba; cómo la luz blanca lo cegaba; cómo el rostro de Ana desaparecía y luego reaparecía al tiempo que un ardor en medio de su rostro se iba expandiendo como incendio. Cuando supo lo que había pasado ya era tarde: Ana se había levantado diciendo algo de estar harta y se había alejado mientras él espiaba esas piernas y ese trasero por el que había navegado tantas veces. Esas cosas que siempre preferí de ti, murmuró.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Poster of a Girl, by Metric

I played tennis on a grass lawn in Jesus Green yesterday. Doubles with Yanna, Mike and Nichol.

Didn't get much sleep last night. I cried myself awake and listened to Fobia for a while. Yo no soy buen perdedor.

Then I decided to go do some maths, as ever an efficient escape.

Dawn was just breaking and the air was crisp.

I got to my office and started pottering about. Maybe reading a bit and stumbled on two hundred bars.

Had way too much tequila last night, followed by pints and pints and then some more alcohol. When I got back to mine I had a wee night cap too.

I first invited Nichol to come play football with my friends because she was too stressed and didn't even leave her room, always studying for Part III exams.

Her room overlooks a street lined with pubs. Every night rambling drunks shout and sing just outside her window.

Sitting there all these months, toiling away.

She has been so far the only person that has moved me to tears over the last three years. My heart trembles when I see her still.

I've missed her from five different countries and a couple of continents.

But she does not want me.

Even went as far as driving back from Geneva to pick her up from Heathrow.
It didn't impress her much.

She said she had a crush on Mike a couple of days ago.

Throughout the entire year I had been pestering her for attention. Calling her too many times a day and caving in to her ridiculous vegan diet.

I introduced her to Mike, effectively, and never thought I would lose her like that.

Obsession does not even begin to describe my last 8 months. We met on the 2nd of October and I've spent so much time thinking about her since, sorry, lost so much time.

Mike sent me an email yesterday. It said he and Nichol were together. I could see it coming. But just as a train rushing towards me, it is hard to get off the tracks once its close.

Nichol had her last exam yesterday. I had been waiting for this day for 8 months, she was always too busy solving example sheets.

Mike was in his office and Nichol went to see him just after she finished her last exam. I tried playing it cool. Instead of licking my wounds I thought I was above it.

So we decided to play tennis, and for a couple of hours I played my best part yet. My inner thesp was proud. Me, not so much. Ever sprayed lime on your open bleeding flesh?

She was trying to be nice, and in doing so lied to me.

Now I feel like an imbecile.
She was my poster of a girl.

by Pablo.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Love Minus Zero/No Limit, by Bob Dylan

From a breakthrough album (the album that started it all, Bringing It All Back Home, 1965) a breakthrough song. After the political experiments in The Times They Are A-Changin' and the first onirical experiments in his lyrics featured in Another Side Of Bob Dylan, here Zimmermann played with language, played with the structure of the pop song, experimented what he had learned with the Beatles and at the same time showed them what you can do with clever lyrics.
The cloak and dagger dangles,
Madams light the candles.
In ceremonies of the horsemen,
Even the pawn must hold a grudge.
Statues made of match sticks,
Crumble into one another,
My love winks, she does not bother,
She knows too much to argue or to judge.
Besides, this is the title I borrowed for my novel.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Johnny Cash, by Sons & Daughters

It had been a very long time since any band had made me feel like this.

I remember my classroom in the second floor, being 16 and listening to the Pixies in my walkman. I remember rewinding I've Been Tired again and again, looking at the weekday morning get old as my Geography class started without me. The morning would grow colder as I listened to my taped version of Come On Pilgrim for the upteenth time, while something inside me made me want to jump, get tattooed, make love until I ran out of breath, run under the rain as if there were no tomorrow.

That feeling suddenly came back as I was listening to this song. It's the reference in the title; it's the addictive guitars and the percussive tempo, the male, prayer-like voice in combination with the mixed vocals in the chours. It's this part,

She wrote you a song and you bought a wedding dress
Having handsome bite buxom
Have insured people met
Then sundry and nocturnal
You lay your peace to sleep
With your new loves good fortunes
And secrets safe to keep

that makes me think of Black Francis and Kim Deal's dark, sexy, cryptic, steamy lyrical heritage. It's the kind of piece that makes you stop everything and ask, "hey, what the fuck is that?". I had been listening to mere memories, nostalgic returns to a long-gone era, and, with crack and thunder, this wondrous piece of pop craft appears before me with all the power of a true epiphany.

I wish I had an Impala, flames painted on the sides, to ride into the sunset listening to this, a quarter of bourbon warming my old, scarred heart:

What will await you
Can tether no more
What's shrunken withers
In the path to your door

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Overlover, by Delays

En mucho tiempo no había escuchado una canción que pudiera servir como postal auditiva de un momento intimo. Esta mañana sucedió la epifanía que pensaba se había extinguido junto con la adolescencia.

Al llegar a mi casa luego de pasar la noche fuera prendo mi nueva grabadora vintage, abró el anacrónico compartimiento del CD, pongo el disco en la charola, la cierro, aprieto random… entonces comienza el hechizo.

El bajo y la guitarra armonizan el sonido del momento en que termina la fase pública de la noche para abrirle camino a la intimidad.

Inevitablemente recuerdo que los viajes nocturnos en taxi son insoportablemente impersonales; sólo avivan el sentimiento de soledad mientras corren por las avenidas casi vacías como corre por la piel la sangre de una herida. Las señales de quien podría redimir la soledad no aparecen. La música transmite la atmósfera del momento en que el silencio de la soledad es tan opresor que sólo se puede desear romperlo con una canción que no llega; de tu voz que no llega...

Lover its over so let it go,
This club is dead and I'm off home.
The taxis are bleeding they're way off track.
I need some sign, that you'll come back now so...

Come on, come on and make it real
And feel the feelings that we feel,
I'm only waiting for a song to push you into my arms
And keep you there 'till morning comes.

Well lover it's over the sky has drawn this day in close
That we're still gone with.
We're watching the world as it's flags unfurl
But you still escape me so...

Come on, come on and make it real
And feel the feelings that we feel,
I'm only waiting for a song to push you into my arms
And keep you there 'till morning comes.

Finalmente llega la tan esperada señal, la canción que me lleva a tus brazos, de donde no me dejas escapar hasta que el sol alumbra nuestra intimidad.

Tras el aire húmedo de la mañana llega la hora de partir. Al mirar hacia atrás es un recuerdo, al mirar hacia el futuro vuelve a ser una esperanza lo que hace un momento era la íntima y calida realidad de tus brazos: hemos trazado un camino circular al huir de la soledad.

“Por favor, haz que pase otra vez”, pienso al ver tu carro alejarse.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

(Do you wanna) come walk with me, by Isobel Campbell

I know, someone said one shouldn't write when one's jolly drunk but I want this to be fresh... like orange juice in Mexico City's morning corners. I just saw Isobel Campbell playing at the small Homefires-Coway Hall festival and it was the mellowest concert I've ever been to. Before Campbell played there were other good bands like Grizzly Bear, ex-Beta Band members as the Aliens and another guys from Glasgow, I think their name was P.C.O. or something like that -they didn't give programs, so that explains why I don't know the name.
I went on my own because, as always, I told my friends at the very last last minute, and they couldn't aford it. Prrrrt. Glasgow was in tha house tonight and the Scottish crew made the London music scene appear pretty upight. Man! Londoners are uptight that's the truth.
The Scottish girl is more like a woman actually. I expected her to be dressed in pink or something retro but she was wearing a plain black dress. While she was playing the cello she looked like the typical mucisian of a chamber orchestra. She is beautiful of course and very very shy, but that wasn't an impediment for her to shut up the people at the back because they were too drunk and not giving a damn bout the gig. Oh that woman is in love, and one doesn't have to be Dr. heart to know it.
Her voice is like a whisper said on a distant cold mountain, warm and sweet as honey. The combination of hers and Mark Lanegan's voice, is a good one coz, as she says, their voices are 'like the two sides of a coin.' Some people call them the beauty and the beast duo, but anyone -well, not actually, I'm thinking of Liz Fraser, but mmm, let's say, any man- could appear as a beast when singing with her.

She wrote the lyrics of her last album, The Ballad of Broken Hearts, from a male's perspective, and made Lanegan sing them. I can imagine that must have been fun.

I'm not saying I love you
I won't say I'll be true
there's a crimson bird flying
when I go down on you

I wonder how many men would dare say something like this, since they're not only afraid of love and compromise but also of expressing that they actually enjoy giving pleasure to girls.

Let Down, by Radiohead

Te llevaste todo.

No puedo dejar de sentir asco al verte cruzar la calle, negar tu derecho a ser tú mismo. Seguro piensas lo mismo que yo, esto que creo lo masticas como cuero todos los días, al sentarte en tu casa vacía, viendo algún noticiario sobre los hijos de la pobreza, alguna comedia sobre la guerra... esas porquerías que te gusta ver.

No puedo verte a los ojos desde que no hay imagen en el espejo. Y te odio por eso.

Let Down, by Radiohead

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Untitled No. 3, by Sigúr Rós

The fresh morning air running thru my lungs. But it is too pure for me, so I mess it up with a cigarrette. The first cigarrette of the day. I get to my usual spot in Parque México, a bench nearby the small lake. I observe the usual people. The beautiful thirty year old lady, walking her two dogs. The old man walking his German Shepperd. The first sun beams passing thru the trees, while I close my eyes and concentrate in the piano scale repeated over and over again thru the 6.33 minutes the song lasts. This part of the park has become too affluent.
The following day I change my location and move where the tower with the clock is. New usual people, a man with his guitar who stares at me, an old lady with yellow pants and sweatshirt, the cafeteria across the street. The same song. Nothing changes in the end. The piano, the people, the same routine for five or six months.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Endless, by Keith Jarrett

Cuenta la leyenda que el disco Changeless de Jarrett fue grabado en dos días y que cada pieza fue interpretada una sola vez; y sólo una vez porque ellas son hijas de la improvisación: ni uno de los tres músicos que en ellas tocan tuvieron partituras que seguir, nada de eso.
El éxito de la improvisación es que la pieza que se toca parece nueva, adquiere una energía única y el escucha se contagia de la destreza y de la frescura de las estructuras. Aquí, sin embargo, ocurre que la improvisación no es un sistema colateral a la estructura base, sino que ella es la estructura. Y esta estructura es emotiva y se pone más emotiva cuando hacia la mitad de la pieza el piano se vuelve agudo y los graves los da el bajo ayudado por el tartamudeo de las percusiones que, a su vez, son el reflejo del repetitivo sonido del piano. Luego de este momento, el piano se tranquiliza, todo vuelve a la calma, una calma momentánea.

Si ustedes quieren escuchar la pieza métanse al blog del evelio, y disfruten.

Endless, by Keith Jarrett

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pure, by The Lightning Seeds

Los noventa...

...el hermoso candor desde Liverpool...y de pronto en un disco casi mediocre: una joya que transmite pasajes de dulce porvenir:

night time slows, raindrops splash rainbows
perhaps someone you know, could sparkle and shine
as daydreams slide to colour from shadow
picture the moonglow, that dazzles my eyes
and I love you

Yo tenía 19 años cuando salió este disco: me gustaba adormecerme con teorías lejanas en la lluvia y en el incansable walkman:

just lying smiling in the dark
shooting stars around your heart
dreams come bouncing in your head
pure and simple everytime
now you're crying in your sleep
i wish you'd never learnt to weep
don't sell the dreams you should be keeping
pure and simple everytime

El mundo, en su infinito azar, ofrece crepúsculos que colman de plenitud el alma: la ingenuidad puede ser un nuevo paraíso:

I'll sing a softer tune
pure and simple over you
pure and simple just for you

Pure, by The Lightning Seeds

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