Thursday, December 27, 2012

0 G. Stuart Dahlquist's (Asva / Brokaw) Best of 2012

Photo courtesy of
Best of 2012.

The challenge music offers the artist is to create something interesting and distinctive and then not only do it again but do it differently and better still. What do I like in 2012. What? I didn't listen to much, I never have. Mostly listening to what gets sent by friends or people who've some musical feeling connected to my musical core that will connect somehow. Some of it does, and the people who've sent something meant it. And I trust their intuition; they might be right and maybe it did connect... Regrettably I am not always aware of that connection. It would take a good 22oz framing hammer to wake me up to something better than simply the lazy approach I always take 'What I like is this stuff and not much else will ever do nor is it necessary'. Older or more contemplative music otherwise, those composers that I admire and manage to do all the stuff that music ought to be able to accomplish without saying 'I've accomplished this so listen to me' well, it just is... I'll leave them out, all those recent introductions to those now dead. And I'll leave out all the other non-musical stuff that came about in 2012 that had an effect. There's been a lot this past year. Mostly shitty- initially- starting shitty and then recovering in a way that didn't end up shitty. Like moving. Like cooking eggplant. I'll keep in the stuff that didn't even attempt to whelm me with anything other than what they make because they have to. Here are the things I liked and returned to. This might sound new age or hippy-ish but I can't think of another way to sum it up... These artists are magical.

Xaddax 'Counterclockwork'

 Nick Sakes. I was introduced to the music of Nick Sakes through his band 'Dazzling Killmen' some 20 (?... hold on... !) years ago at the Off Ramp. Sparsely attended, maybe 20 people in the place. A pal of mine and I had gone simply to fuck with this band that someone had previewed and said was '... better than the Jesus Lizard.' No fucking way. We thought we'd go fuck with them. I fought a heckler. It is to this day the best show I've ever seen. Xaddax only serves to confirm how absolute Nick's mastery over his own voice is. 20 years later and stripped down to a duo with drummer (and now wife) Chrissy Rossettie Nick's is still the voice I turn to when I really want to fucking kick some ass. I hope they/he never give it up... Xaddax has everything I need to hear in guitar driven music. This is not replacable. This is not transferable. Don't lose it. As I finished writing this list Nick me wrote a short note and we briefly discussed how hard it is to do,
this music thing. It is hard. We have each others back.

Scott Walker 'Bish Bosch'

This is the recording I chose to act as a backing track while typing this short list. Scott Walker has in the last several of his recordings created (when listening chronologically to his catalogue) an audio trajectory that is completely surprising and at the same time predictable. 'Bish Bosch' takes this trajectory to the only place left that he could have gone and he's handed not only my ass to me but an appreciation of an artform- both on a platter- that I never quite understood. That artform is Kabuki. Subtle, graceful, dramatic, absolutely accusatory, un-appologetic, difficult. "I've severed my reeking gonads, fed them to your shrunken face". Indeed. There is nothing out there that challenges me and my weak-kneed perception of what makes music 'music' more than Scott Walker. Nope. Nothing.

Susanne Hafenscher

That first sentence in my drunken introduction, the one about the challenge we face regarding music as art, being able to create something interesting, distinctive, and then find the ability- the tools- to do it again in a way that is distinctively you but different and better... Susanne Hafenscher pulls it off over and over. People can do it once- create something original, distinctly their own, that qualifies as 'art'- but even just the once is an extraordinarily rare thing. To do it twice is considerably more difficult; the artist has to know himself or herself intimately, know what that self is capable of from both a technical and an emotional standpoint (both evolving or devolving), and finally tie all those variables together to form a 'something' reflective of themselves, not merely music formed of notes and some words, but a portrait of themselves. To be able to do this over and over is- in my opinion - the realm of genius. In my insular world Susanne has joined the ranks of Dix and Albers, of Reznikoff, of Gass, Penderecki, Orff. I'm lucky to know her as a friend.

Bryan Lewis Saunders 'Near Death Experiences'

Another friend. I was introduced to Bryan's work through his guest appearance on one of my own recordings 'Empires Should Burn...' (with Philippe Petit. Basses Frequences/Small Doses 2012). We wrote each other a few times after the albums release, his notes always positive, friendly, nothing short of charming really, signing off with 'Have a wonderful evening Stuart!' or 'I hope your weekend is terrific!'. He offered to send me a few things he'd recorded and sure enough a week or so later a box showed up packed full. How he escaped my attention over the years is beyond reason... my only excuse would be that I'm lazy. I don't try to find things that might effect my world view, my conceit in this respect is stifling... much flits right by that shouldn't. That said the truth is I don't particularly like 98% of what's thrown out there and trying to shove it down my throat repulses me... That 2% (and there is an astounding amount of work contained within that 2%) will find its way on its own and in this case it did. Bryan Lewis Saunders tells truths, his method of delivery carefully balanced to reach and create an interior dialogue- a proposal and response, countered with another proposal, etc. He's made me question so much of what I believed to be my truths, reinforced other personal truths to iron clad status, destroyed others, shed light on still other perspectives and thoughts that I had no idea existed. How he's judged the vehicle that a listeners perspectives might ride in and subsequent receptivity to his ideas of life around him, from ideas and images that could only be associated with his immediate surroundings to those ideas and images that confront us all through various media arms- I'll never know. Bryan's words and his delivery of those words is without question the most striking thing that came my way all year.

Always prolific, Stuart is constantly writing music with a variety of collaborators -- Asva's "Presences of Absenses" was released June 2011, Brokaw's "Interiors" came out in January 2012, and Asva and Philippe Petit's "Empires Should Burn" was released July 2012. Most recently Stuart has worked with Silkworm's Joel R. Phelps on an as-yet-to-be released project, has been scoring an independent film, and writing the follow-up to "Interiors" with Brokaw. Next Brokaw show is January 19th at Mootsy's in Spokane, WA.


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