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Episode 437: October 13, 2019 (John Giorno special)

John GiornoEpisode 437 of Brainwashed Radio: The Podcast Edition is a celebration of music of John Giorno and of Giorno Poetry Systems

With the passing of John Giorno, we have decided to devote an entire episode as a special featuring poetry and music by Giorno himself along with words and music released on his Giorno Poetry Systems label. Poets and musicians for this episode include Cabaret Voltaire, Anne Waldman, PMS, William S. Burroughs, Laurie Anderson, Frank Zappa, Jim Carroll, Philip Glass, and Coil.

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John Giorno, 1934-2019

We are devastated by the loss of our brainwashed family member John Giorno.

Giorno was a NYC-based poet, artist, musician, and label owner who founded Giorno Poetry Systems in 1972, initially to release recordings that were served up on the Dial-A-Poem hotline. Over the years, GPS was responsible for issuing numerous collections with words contributed by William S. Burroughs, Anne Waldman, and Jim Carroll and music by Cabaret Voltaire, Coil, Diamanda Galas, Einsturzende Neubauten, and Swans.

Giorno kept active and his current exhibition, Do the Undone, is running through October 26th in NYC.

A wonderful obituary has been published by Art Forum.

We wish his friends and family our deepest sympathies.


Forced Exposure New Releases for the Week of 10/14/2019

New music is due from Carla Dal Forno, Bill Orcutt, and KMFDM, while old music is due from Low & Spring Heel Jack, Luc Ferrari, and Cornelius Cardew.



Carla dal Forno, "Look Up Sharp"

cover imageThe downside to releasing a beloved and perfectly distilled EP like The Garden is that there will eventually have to be a follow-up to it and people will expect it to be every bit as good (if not better) than its predecessor.  That is an unenviable level of creative pressure to be confronted with, but Carla dal Forno seems to have passed through it with grace and aplomb (and even managed to start her own record label along the way).  To her credit, dal Forno was not at all interested in making The Garden II, though her subsequent cover album (Top of the Pops) seems to have provided a rough template, as she has clearly been thinking a lot about what goes into constructing a good and memorable pop song.  Having internalized that, she then wrote a bunch of her own.  In a broad sense, it is very apparent that dal Forno is heavily influenced by the classic minimalist post-punk/indie pop of Young Marble Giants and AC Marias, but the best songs on Look Up Sharp feel like an inspired update rather than a loving homage, as she strikes a truly elegant balance of pared-to-the-bone starkness, muscular bass riffs, casual sensuousness, and understated experimentation.


Abul Mogard, "Kimberlin"

cover imageThis has been an unusually eclectic and prolific year for Abul Mogard, as he has followed up his first ever remix album (And We Are Passing Through Silently) with his first ever soundtrack album in the form of Kimberlin.  On paper, the transition from Mogard’s usual fare into soundtrack territory makes a lot more intuitive sense than turning him loose on deconstructing Äisha Devi jams, but his innovation in bridging that stylistic gulf was a large part of why Passing was such an absolute left-field delight.  The pleasures of Kimberlin are arguably bit more modest by comparison, as it falls into more expected aesthetic terrain and feels more like an EP than a full-length (by Mogard standards, anyway).  In terms of quality, however, it does not fall at all short of his usual level of sublime mastery, culminating in a final slow-burning epic that can hold its own against any of his previous work.


Emptyset, "Blossoms"

cover imageNo one can predict which trends or innovations will shape or define the experimental music of the future, but Emptyset's latest bombshell certainly feels like a gloriously bracing vision of one possible path: Blossoms is an album "generated entirely from the output of a neural network-based artificial intelligence system."  While the duo of James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas has always been extremely forward-thinking and experimentally minded, this is the first Emptyset album where it seems like the pair has actually leapt several years ahead of everyone else rather than merely taking existing ideas to unexpected (and sometimes fascinating) extremes.  That said, Blossoms is also a culmination of the same themes that have obsessed Emptyset for years, as the source material comes from recent acoustic improvisations with materials like wood and metal as well as their backlog of more architecturally inspired recordings (though it all ultimately emerges in radically unrecognizable form).  At its best, Blossoms sounds like little else that I have ever heard, evoking a kind of visceral, shape-shifting sci-fi nightmare.


Boduf Songs, "Abyss Versions"

cover imageIt has been roughly four years since the last Boduf Songs album (2015's Stench of Exist), but Mat Sweet is finally back with his seventh full-length.  There are few artists who are as tirelessly focused on exploring a narrow stylistic niche as Sweet, so it was fairly easy to (correctly) predict what Abyss Versions would sound like: hushed vocals, slow-motion arpeggios, seething tension, and quiet intensity.  However, the details are always a surprise and I was especially eager to hear this particular release, as its predecessor felt like an inspired creative breakthrough that added a bit more color and rhythmic dynamism to the Boduf Songs' vision.  Perversely though, Abyss Versions does not build upon those particular innovations and instead makes a hard turn in the opposite direction: more understated, more intimate, more austere (though there are a pair stellar exceptions at the end of the album).   Despite that turn even deeper inward, Abyss Versions is yet another characteristically fine album, as Sweet unveils a solid batch of new songs that brood, creep, and smolder in all the right ways.


Six Microphones

cover imageThis impressively ambitious double album documents (in necessarily excerpted form) a month-long installation that ran during NYC's Storefront for Art and Architecture's 30th anniversary celebration back in 2013.  Its true roots go much deeper than that, however, as Six Microphones is the culmination of a project that Robert Gerard Pietrusko has been fitfully struggling to perfect for almost two decades.  It is easy to see why it took so long to realize, as Six Microphones is the sort of complex, process-based experimental music that only an electrical engineer or a rabidly gear-obsessed noise artist could hope to fully comprehend.  Thankfully, grasping the intricacies of Pietrusko's system is not a necessary prerequisite for appreciating the resultant sounds, as Six Microphones is a quietly hypnotic symphony of drifting feedback that deserves a place alongside Nurse With Wound’s Soliquy for Lilith and Toshimaru Nakamura's No-Input Mixing Board experiments as a significant and inspired work of self-generating sound art.


The Legendary Pink Dots, "Angel in the Detail"

cover imageOne thing that I have learned time and time again over my years as a Legendary Pink Dots fan is that Edward Ka-Spel's muse is an eternally unpredictable one: wonderful songs can appear anywhere, anytime, and in any shape and high-profile releases are not necessarily always going to be the strongest ones.  Nevertheless, The Legendary Pink Dots' recent run of albums on Metropolis has reliably featured some of the band's tightest and most hook-driven songs, which certainly appeals to those fans hoping for a reprise of the band's late '80s/early '90s heyday.  I am not sure that I would include myself in that category, as I am quite fond of the band's more hallucinatory and abstract fare, but I do believe that Ka-Spel can be a legitimate pop genius when he is properly inspired and able to rein in his more indulgent tendencies.  Happily, this latest release (two years in the making) finds him in especially fine form, offering up an especially concise and focused array of great would-be singles along with some more outré forays into skewed psych-pop experimentation.  While I very much enjoyed the more playfully warped side of 2016's Pages of Aquarius, I feel quite confident in stating that Angel in the Detail is the strongest album yet to emerge from the band's Metropolis era.


Adam Wiltzie, "American Woman OST"

cover imageFor someone who loves drone as much as I do, I have always had a curiously fragile and shifting relationship with Adam Wiltzie's work and it has only become more so since Stars of the Lid stopped releasing albums.  Consequently, Wiltzie's first soundtrack album (2016's Solero) slipped by me unheard, though my longstanding apathy towards film scores as albums may have been an even more significant contributing factor.  That is unfortunate, as it turns out that composing for film arguably brings out Wiltzie's best: if the understated radiant drones of late-period Stars of the Lid and the deep melancholia of Winged Victory for the Sullen represent the two poles of his artistry, the score for American Woman lies somewhere in the middle and I quite like it there.  Amusingly, that makes this album kind of an exasperating release, as the high points sound like the Stars of the Lid album that I have always wanted: bittersweetly lovely, melodic, and simmering with quiet emotional depth.  The catch, of course, is that the soundtrack nature of this album means that it is more of a series of brief vignettes rather than a fresh batch of fully formed compositions to get enveloped in.  I suspect that is why Wiltzie is only releasing this album digitally, but there are many appealing glimpses of something more substantial and satisfying flickering within this ostensibly minor release.


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Review of the Day

As a violinist, Eyvind Kang has played with the likes of Sun City Girls, Bill Frisell, Secret Chiefs 3, Laurie Anderson and many others. As a composer, Kang has carved out a unique position for himself, releasing a series of studio albums drawing on his concept of the NADE (a concept which I won't attempt to explain here, mostly because I don't understand it). The albums combined elements of disparate ethnic music forms with esoteric spiritual ideas, and sudden, unexpected transitions into fully-formed pop songs or long passages of pastoral ambience. I've liked most of his work that I've heard so far (especially 2000's The Story of Iceland), but it appears that Kang has outdone himself with Virginal Co-ordinates, a beautiful recording of an ambitious live performance staged in Italy last year. Kang composes and conducts a 16 piece ensemble—called the Playground—augmented by himself on violin and several guest musicians, including Mike Patton on voice and electronics, Michael White (former Sun Ra Arkestra violinist) and Tim Young on electric guitar. I suppose the inclusion of Mike Patton is the only reason this album has surfaced on Ipecac Recordings, seeing as it's otherwise entirely different from the label's usual output. It's quite an impressive work, split up into ten movements of varying lengths, each gently joined to the next with gossamer instrumental threads. The title of the work evokes images of untouched glacial expanses, secluded valleys and mountains untouched and unadulterated by the progress of man—Virginal Co-ordinates in which the mind and spirit are free to find connections with nature beyond those limited ideas inculcated in us by the artificial strictures of society. The album artwork is pure white, the color of virginity, with a white cobra in the center, appearing poised to strike. The cobra is a perfect symbol for the current of hidden menace that runs through much of the music. There is a spiritual yearning throughout, but it is often joined by vibrating undercurrents of dread. "I am the Dead" transforms into a full-blow orchestral pop song with echoes of Brian Wilson, but its lyrics presage the death and rebirth rituals of the Bardo Todol. Mike Patton's voice lends an ethereal beauty to certain passages, and Walter Zianetti steals the show with his acoustic guitar solo on "Taksim." Elements of Spanish guitar, Indian raga, tonal Oriental scales, film soundtracks and American pastoral symphonies all weave their way into Kang's work, culminating in the majesty of the title track, a magnificent, shape-shifting wall of orchestral noise in which musical phrases from earlier movements are recycled and juxtaposed to hypnotic effect. At 73 minutes, Virginal Co-ordinates is never boring, which is something that cannot often be said for works of modern composition. In fact, its appeal goes well beyond the usual modern classical crowd, and I imagine it would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the transformative and magical possibilities of music. 


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