31 December 2005

Lord Alfred Tennyson (New Years)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind

For those that here we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,

And ancient forms of party strife;

Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,

The faithless coldness of the times;

Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes

But ring the fuller minstrel in.

- Lord Alfred Tennyson

09 December 2005

(Red Journal Excerpt 8 - Japan)

I really wish I spoke Japanese because I feel the familiarity of English slipping away the more I immerse myself in the viscera of this rich culture, and am almost more satisfied communicating without it. I prefer the smiles, nods, or hearing the few Japanese words or phrases I do know over and over again. It's reminding me of how non-verbal communication felt with [her] and how it took each of us to a deeper layer in our mind, subconsciousness rising to the surface with the noise of words falling somewhere underneath.

Everything has been so amazing, beginning from the moment I stepped into a sunset on "the land of the rising sun." Ken and Aya met me in the concourse, and he stood holding my album in his hand, looking around blankly from behind the railing. We took care of my rail pass and hopped into a van which drove us to Osaki, where I'd be staying the night at the "P-Vine Guest House." It's an apartment they own on the ground floor of a complex alongside a canal, and everything in it is about three or four inches too short, making my face invisible in mirrors and precariously close to the tops of doorways. Other than a small table in the kitchen and one or two card chairs, there is no furniture and no art on any of the walls. A television sits on the floor next to thin mattresses set up for me to use, taken from a pile of bedding sitting atop tatami mats in the other room.

We went to a nearby mall and bought breakfast for tomorrow morning: a rice ball with flakes of salmon, a box of different small sandwiches on crustless white bread, a large, pale red apple, and a bottle of Suntory mineral water to wash it all down. We shared a delicious dinner in the mall- a tempura box- and I read my journal that night until I fell asleep with it open in my hands. I awoke at 3:30 AM, so I flipped through the twelve television stations and listened through my set on the computer, then finished what my eyes were too heavy to read before.

Aya took me to Tokyo station and we sat drinking tea, talking about blood types and how they are the analog to astrology for the Japanese- I don't even know my type! It was a little rainy as the Shinkansen headed to Kanazawa, making the illuminated kanji drip along my window. And Friday, just like Saturday in Fukuoka and Sunday in Hiroshima, began the routine: arrive by train, find the promoter in the station, soundcheck at the venue, eat dinner, then return to the club and drink Asahi and shouchou and perform, eventually crashing at a hotel or the promoter's house late in the night. The audience and other artists were so absolutely welcoming and kind that I am sorry I didn't bring gifts; it felt imbalanced, and I couldn't emphasize enough how grateful I was to be among them and sharing my music. Adventures before and after the shows had me eating raw chicken; sharing music and movie tastes with a progressively drunker promoter as I ate boiled clams, sashimi, and shared his oden; and in Hiroshima, enjoying okonomi-yaki and an after-show dinner with a huge group drunkenly eating hamburgers.

Yesterday was my first day off, and I spent it in Hiroshima: a beautiful city whose violent history haunted me and sometimes gave me an undeserved feeling of guilt. I thought of how fucking ruthless it was to use the atomic bomb- wasn't there something human enough inside of the people who made that decision to stop it? I imagined horrible images, especially when I saw the elderly, knowing they may have been round to witness the aftermath.

We ate an early lunch of yaki-tori and udon at a restaurant next to an enormous Santa Claus, and their menu featured "Jew Ear." I still have no idea what on earth this could possibly be other than a horrendous and inadvertently offensive translation of a derogatory statement? Like, pig ear or something? [Note: I have come to find out "Jew Ear" is a type of mushroom!] Either way, we enjoyed delicious food as we dined outside with our legs crossed underneath a heated table. Then, we drove to Kintakyo, a series of bridges over the water, and took a ferry to Miyajima, a beautiful and sacred island with an abundance of deer and blood-red leaves splashing against autumn's yellows, greens, and browns. I ate kaki (clam) and walked alongside camera-happy Japanese dotted with gai-jin, all enamored with the deer. Some of the does begged for food, while others sat lazily by, disinterested with their fans among the passersby.

I arrived at my hotel- Hotel 28- and said goodbye to my gracious hosts Hanada and his friend Junko. I bought a 1000 yen television card which afforded me viewing access to adult entertainment: the Rainbow and Ruby channels. I lay sipping an Asahi switching between the two, getting bored with the melodramatic and censored fucking but becoming completely confused by footage of Japanese women showing their armpits in stairwells (or in the backs of cars), then having sex after plucking or shaving them clean. Figuring I just wasn't drunk enough to enjoy the programming, I took the elevator to the public bath where I alternated between the hot pool and shower until I was sufficiently exhausted. I napped, then was awakened by a phone call from DJ Ken, a nice guy whom I met last night.

I checked him in, then brought him to my tiny room where we shared a joint. We were both stoned to the extent that we stood in a stationary elevator until- after a bit of conversation- I realized we were not, in fact, moving! I was floating and a bit uncomfortable. The outside air was colder than it had ever been, and I couldn't tell if the tension in my chest came from shivering or my rapidly beating heart. I paid attention to the tiniest details of my new friend's voice: the way he made a deep hum before beginning a sentence and grunted for "yes," and the sound of English filtered through his hesitant speech.

We made it to a small bar where he asked something I didn't understand, and we stayed only briefly. Before we left, we stood near the stairwell and spoke to a keyboardist he knew. Behind our conversation was the crystalline meandering of "In A Silent Way"'s keyboards, and nostalgic comfort filled my heart. I wanted to stay and listen to the entirety of the album, but we soon descended to the street. I reminisced about drives in the ravines when Joe and I would listen to that music backwards due to some beautifully fortunate glitch with his Honda Civic's tapedeck.

Then, in the warmth of a nearby cafe named Citron, we ordered pizza made with sweet mochi and cheese, hot soup, and delicious cocktails prepared with green tea liquor and milk. In my inebriated state I worried about the caffeine, but realized the more I drank the less I'd care.

Soon, we left to go to "the Edge" where we'd stay for the rest of the night and into the morning, listening to the DJ's selections of jazz loudly cleave at the stillness of the underground lounge. The DJ was an adorable girl named Yoshimi, and I wondered what each record was as soon as she put the needle down. That trend continued with the next DJ who played a record by an obscure French band named Cortex that I recognized from a Madvillain 7". Never before had I been to a club that played jazz on such a banging system! It was really inspiring.

I got back to the hotel after drinking a few more cocktails: a Bailey's on the rocks, an Asahi, and finally, another green tea drink, this time mixed with oolong tea. I fell asleep with the television on, watching a beautiful girl named Mihiro being interviewed and then pleasured for my viewing enjoyment. Yawn.

Ken was 40 minutes late to pick me up the next morning. I had showered, eaten breakfast that made me mildly paranoid due to its inclusion of a raw egg, but soon I was punching away in the old school Nintendo hit, "Mike Tyson's Punch Out." My 200 yen ran out halfway through a bout with Bald Bull, the furthest along I've ever gotten! I narrowly made my train- at least, what I thought was my train. I boarded a Nozomi bound for the same route, but the conductor informed me I had to exit at the next station to transfer to an ordinary train (my rail pass didn't cover that high-class of a ride!). Ten minutes later, I was on the right train, and slept on and off on my peaceful journey to Tokyo.

Aya met me at the station as I confusedly waited against a column in a sea of commuters, and we went to the P-Vine office to meet the staff and check email. We arrived late to the dinner that followed. Everyone was very nice. I met Kai- a Japanese woman who was raised in America- and had the first conversation involving another fluent English speaker since my arrival! A beautiful girl from the sales department named Mai sat opposite me, and smiled and nodded at what I said to Kai and the others though I doubt she understood. I drank a couple of beers and had delicious soup, noodles, sashimi, and finally a live fish.

It lay curled on a plate with a long, sharp stick lanced through the back of its tail and into its throat to keep it stationary. Its flesh was sliced off and placed delicately underneath a small, yellow flower next to its body as it stared at me with blank, glassy eyes. It didn't move at first, but soon its fin began to quiver, its tail flapped, and most disturbingly, it breathed dry air through the gills on its neck. It was barbaric and quite disgusting, to be honest, but I tried to put myself in a different frame of mind. In other cultures, it's just a sign of freshness to see the creature's body. They'll hang rabbits in a window, even nail a lamb through its feet to wooden planks outside of a butcher shop like the one you saw in Portugal, and it means something else. But here, sitting among new friends watching the last minutes of life twitch in the suffocation of this fish, cultural perspective went to shit: it was just sad, plain and simple. Yet, paradoxically, it was delicious! Following dinner, most of us went to a tiny bar in Shibuya called Roku ("6") for delicious shouchou distilled from sweet potatoes, and I went home happily drunk.

Ken, Koki, and Kaz came to the apartment at 2, and we went together to Asakusa to see the shrine and eat delicious okonomi-yaki and monja. We sipped Yebisu on our cruise along the river in Tokyo, and the colored lights from skyline advertisements danced mechanically in the waves. I spent the next day alone, taking the subway to Ueno and visiting the Imperial Park. I saw the Hokusai exhibit at the Tokyo National Museum which was frustratingly crowded, but beautiful nonetheless. I then went to the zoo and walked from cage to cage, hearing all the young girls on dates with their beaus squealing "kawaii" and pointing at the animals. After only having eaten a pork bun as a snack, I was starving, and sat down to dinner at a second-floor restaurant next to the train station. A man sat alone at the table next to me and watched as I wrote.

"Vely small writing," he said as he pointed to a page of my scrawl, squinting his eyes and screwing up his face. We started talking, and soon I was laughing as he explained in terribly broken English -using emphatic charades- that he didn't really care for electronic music. He told me he had a Gibson Les Paul that he enjoyed playing, and named a few guitarists that would probably be the first to pop up in a Google search for guitarist: "Elic Crapton, Santana, and Jimmy Page." He was a television producer who had traveled extensively in the United States. The only thing strained in our conversation, though minimal in content, was his face as he searched for the right word in a mind clouded with Sapporo. And then, looking at the flyer I presented him for my show the next evening, he began a long monologue in Japanese with his eyes averted and mine beginning to dart nervously away from him. It was as if he forgot I was there and started waxing poetic about God-knows-what, but something felt slightly frightening about it: his mind was somewhere else, and maybe someplace dangerous.

I flashed on my bizarre decision to pick up a mental patient from Cafe Express and drive him the four blocks he was afraid to walk to his hospital. He feared the cracks in the sidewalk. As he sat in the front seat of my mom's Mercedes, his jaw clicked violently back and forth, the joint in his sunken cheek like a loose metal bolt. When I asked if he was OK, he ignored me and stared straight ahead into the green nothingness of suburbia and the red light I wished would change at the intersection. Yet, as soon as I brought up a different topic of conversation, the clicking stopped as suddenly as it had started, and he calmly and eloquently answered my question. This new situation (a stranger speaking to himself in a language I didn't understand as he completely ignored me) was the same: his mind went to that non-place where you forget you aren't alone. His eyes lost spark and glazed over, and his fingers pushed and pulled the flyer along the veneer. Finally, he returned inside of himself and asked me a question, or at least looked at me (I can't remember), then offered to pay my bill. I obliged. He wanted to pay for my cab to Osaki, but I kindly refused, saying goodbye and walking briskly down the stairs.

I rode to Shibuya to see a movie: "In Her Shoes" with Cameron Diaz. It was hardly worth the 17 dollars I spent to see it, and sadly, the price was the least of the movie's glaring problems, including the fact it was even made! The film totally sucked, although it still managed to make me cry; I believe that feat is becoming easier and easier as I get older. The next day, Ken and Aya brought me to Frames- a bright restaurant and bar in Shibuya- to meet with a writer and photographer from Nylon Japan. Aya translated the writer's questions from Japanese, and then took notes as I answered to relay my response back to him. With my face a little flushed from the cassis and plum shouchou I had during the interview, they took photos of me outside against a painting of a flower while I held a real one in my hand. I got tired of normally posing with the flower and decided to start taking it apart, chewing the leaves and petals as the camera clicked away. The onlookers snickered.

We went to Warszawa (the record store that helped book my tour) and dropped my stuff off before heading to lunch at a sushi bar whose plates rotated invitingly on a conveyor belt, each with a different color or pattern to indicate price. As with every meal I've had, it was delicious. Ken and I went into a Manga shop and looked around at insane wares: a Sailor Moon outfit for hundreds of dollars, action figures, bizarre anime porn (which, like other porn in Japan, is censored), and rows of rows of comic books. Ken explained the shop was "for nerd."

My show that night went beautifully. I felt so happy that most everyone I had met from P-Vine was there to dance and cheer me on. After dropping my stuff at the apartment, Ken and I took the last train back to Shibuya. We killed a little time to have beer, raw tofu, and skewers of chicken meat, cartilage, and heart. I suppose I would've liked to know what I was eating before I put it in my mouth, but maybe it was easier to stomach in retrospect. The heart tasted like a mix of beef and liver and, although I doubt I'll ever eat it again, it wasn't bad at all!

We went via bus to an all-night party that was packed with a couple thousand people listening to corny jazz and house. I wandered off to get another drink as Ken stayed to watch the live act in the main room, and met some young gai-jin at the bar. She had supposedly ordered a cocktail but was served a shot. For some reason, I didn't want to talk to her at all, and only motioned with my hand that she should drink it, as if I didn't speak English. I don't know why I almost go out of my way to avoid other westerners, but it's almost out of reflex.

We did speak. She was blond, and stood with a brunette who was celebrating her 21st birthday. They were taking a semester abroad from a small college in Minnesota I had never heard of, and had paid forty dollars each to get in that night. The birthday girl was flanked by two nerdy looking schoolmates lingering stupidly by as I talked to her and her much prettier blond friend, Marie. "Find her a nice Japanese boy," I said as I walked away towards the crowded stairwell and the noise to meet Ken. The next band unfortunately also sucked, and my attention was waning terribly. I thought I'd try a different room.

Navigating through seated and standing people, I squeezed into a dark and sweaty room where a DJ maintained the loud, crowd-moving pulse. Faces were lit intermittently by strobe flashes and colored beams, making the dancing appear as a series of photographs. And, among the changing still-lifes was Marie and her friends up near the front, not really dancing. I made my way around her, getting slight eye contact but sneaking past to stand about five feet away. Then, as she moved slowly in my direction, it became four feet, three and two, until my hand rested on the small of her back with her large breast pressed against my bicep. She smiled, and we did all the talking necessary to lead into the kiss- a few routine sentences. It's not that I am completely growing out of random encounters like that because I still enjoy the thrill of the chase, but it's all just so meaningless, and knowing that has made the desire fade ever-so-slightly.

As we embraced, I thought of [omitted] and how I wished it was her instead of this blond from South Dakota who I'd never care to see again and leave minutes later. I wondered what she was doing at that moment - if she was waking up or if she thought of me. I imagined her rubbing the sleep from her eyes and fumbling to find her broken glasses at her bedside, then stretching and lumbering quietly barefoot to brush her teeth. And it's funny, because I think that turned me on more than that stranger pressed against me.

Ken and I made our way out and passed Marie, with whom I shared a brief goodbye involving a kiss on the cheek and a few pleasantries ("thanks much, have fun in Japan"). Ken suggested I stay, to which I shook my head and kept moving forwards.

The only thing I remembered about getting home was that, as usual, choosing the correct exit at Osaki Station baffled me, and I wrongfully followed the canal away from my apartment and towards the previous station, Gotanda! The worst part- worse than it being six in the morning- was that I desperately had to use the toilet. It was such an imminent situation that I actually entertained the idea of squatting behind a vending machine and waiting until I returned to my apartment to clean myself. There wasn't a soul around except for a homeless guy I had passed and a few random stragglers like me, so these dark streets became more and more alluring as a bathroom with every strained step in the wrong direction. I was eventually pointed along the right path, and I made it to my apartment and onto the toilet with flying colors.

The next day was a huge fog, but I managed to navigate a confusing mall to find the theatre showing Natalie Portman in "Free Zone" as part of the Tokyo Film Festival. The layers of language and translation were so thick that witnessing Hebrew and Arabic translated into English, and then again into Japanese on an adjacent screen, was an even more engaging spectacle than the film itself! I wondered how much of the true drama between the Jews and the Palestinians was conveyed, or how much the Japanese cared to know about it in the first place. I suppose it didn't really matter- the movie was great, as was each actress' performance.

Koki met me at the theatre, and accompanied me to dinner of Okinawan cuisine. We had shouchou and beer, and shared salad, pigs ears, sea grapes (which were so beautiful I wish I had brought my camera along), and laughed about music and some of our favorites. I had plum ice cream for dessert, and thankfully it helped to mask the taste of raw liver I had tasted from our neighbor's plate. And after hunting down an internet cafe and doing a little emailing, I was ready for bed.

The next day I left for Kyoto, taking an extra day to sight-see around the beautiful and historic second capital. Ai- a bartender at Metro (the club I'd play the next evening)- met me at the station, and he and I spent the entire day together going to temples and wandering around the streets brimming with shops and people. One street had a line packed solidly of mainly Japanese waiting to view the illuminated temple Kiyumizu, making the remaining space for traffic so cramped you'd swear there was a rollercoaster- or a riot- nearby! We sampled some of the Japanese treats along the way: a delicious green tea cream-puff of sorts, and a sweet bean paste wrapped in translucent dough.

I grabbed some cash at the hotel and we went to Rub-A-Dub, a tiny Jamaican- and Reggae-themed pub nearby where I washed down jerk chicken donburi with Guinness and Red Stripe to a loud dub soundtrack. There was an interesting older Welshman there named Geraint, and he had been living in Japan for the past 30 years. Now married with children, we talked about how his original plan of coming to Japan just for one year didn't quite go as planned!

Ai and I walked to Club Metro and drank for free, which is always dangerous; of course, I got wasted. I talked about philosophy with some Italian girl for quite a while, and that was funny for a couple of reasons: it was terrifically loud in there, and she spoke only broken English anyhow. I don't know how much we were able to communicate to each other, but I was too drunk to really remember anyway.

And, I paid for it the next day with a huge hangover and a throat so parched that I wandered to the front desk wearing only the little bathrobe they left for me, my green Asics, and my eyes red, half-open, and crusty. I had to do laundry, so I started the wash cycle and did my best to press the buttons (all in kanji) in the correct order. I found a nice spot for some tempura udon and oolong cha. The tables all had a little shelf filled with pornographic magazines underneath, so I flipped through one while I waited and sipped the hot tea. Most of it was manga, but there was a good deal of photos as well. I found it odd to be leafing through porn at a restaurant (especially at lunch!), but figured they wouldn't have put them there if they didn't want them read. I guess if it's good to slurp your soup, westerners' concept of proper table manners may as well include indulging in a touch of pornography, no?

I wandered around alone all day, finding a graveyard with rows of beautiful flower-covered sites. I thought of [omitted]. She had asked me to ring a bell for her, and next to the graveyard was a huge one located within a tower. I was timid and asked permission- there was no one else around and I didn't know if it was a public bell, you know? I didn't want to be the ugly American and ring some bell that hasn't sounded in hundreds of years and awaken ancient gods from their slumber. Well, with great relief and pleasure, I took the knotted rope in both hands and, with a small prayer and thanks, sent a wooden shaft swinging into motion. The low, pure hum of the bell resounded forever; I leaned in close to feel the vibrations tickle my ear until they became still in the quiet outdoors. I got lost in shopping center mazes where red lanterns hung round hand-washing pools, and incense smoke swirled towards shrines. It struck me as sad that this was my last full day in Japan.

My soundcheck was uneventful, but I was brought a plate of meats and cheeses, and offered a very sweet dessert from the bar. Ai and I went upstairs to a great little bar called ETW. I had Baileys, listened to Stevie Wonder and Aphex Twin, and filled out a survey choosing a word describing love for each letter of the alphabet: "all-encompassing, brightest, deserved, mother," etc. Soon enough, I was back downstairs wearing earplugs, drinking tequila and sodas, and watching without listening. I got pretty drunk- more drunk than I had been prior to a show that entire trip- and performed to a full and eager room.

I had flirted the entire night with one girl whose name escaped me seconds after she cupped my ear to tell me, but suddenly she was gone, and I was sitting against the back wall with the bartender, a petite girl who wore a short skirt over her jeans and had been smiling at me since we first saw each other. It was nearly three in the morning and we were going out to dinner. She said she'd meet me when she finished closing. As I ate plate after plate of okonomi-yaki and other tapas-style entrees, my burning eyes kept closing and I often forgot where I was, only jolted into awareness within I was addressed within the constant stream of unintelligible conversation. And when we were almost finished- and I was ready to collapse alone- she arrived, shyly smiling at me as she took a seat at the table behind me. A blur of events that followed included settling our check, splitting up in separate cabs, and arriving at the hotel. Ai, [the bartender] and I remained together as I got my room key, and then Ai said goodbye, leaving her and I to take the elevator upstairs alone- and together.

I still can't believe this all happened only a week ago, but it's safe to say I have trouble believing any of it happened at all. Only as I glued and taped in tickets, flyers, and other pieces of Japan into my scrapbook, or shared the images with my friends over the internet, did all this seem less like a dream I didn't want to awaken from quite yet. But there it is, and I have just over a week back in New York before I leave again- this time for Chicago. The red wine, lack of sleep, and last tugs of jet lag are making it harder and harder to keep writing, so I think I'll click the ink pen closed and call it a night.


Thank you a million times for this experience and for the others that will soon follow.

05 December 2005

Back From Japan/Remembering Today Out Worldwide Tomorrow

It’s December and I imagine it’s really cold outside, but I haven’t left my house in two days as I have been feverishly finishing up a remix for my friend K.Kruz (due out on Organik Recordings (http://www.organik.us/) early this spring) and generally hibernating after my tour in Japan. Everything went phenomenally well thanks to everyone at P-Vine, Warszawa, and the local promoters and fans in Kanazawa, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Tokyo and Kyoto; thank you so much- I can’t wait to return! But Ken, next time please let me know if I am eating chicken heart instead of just smiling afterwards, OK?

And: Remembering Today, a new album of unreleased material released in Japan this past September, will be out TOMORROW December 6 WORLDWIDE on Mush Records at a low cost! Check your local record stores and, if it’s too cold to leave your house, try www.amazon.com or iTunes!

Also on iTunes is my recent 7″ on Consumers Research & Development (”Suicide/Krylon Psychology”); remixes for Take, Diverse, GB, and The One AM Radio; my first album for Toshoklabs called “Initial Experiments in 3-D”; and finally some of my older Chocolate Industries material!

I hope my friends in wintry climates are all keeping warm and, for those of you in LA and other constant summers, I only have this to say: GRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

16 November 2005

(Red Journal Excerpt 7 - "Crush")

"Please select another channel" is what vibrates in white pixelated letters on the small, blue screen in front of me. I just flashed on the image I saw on the Jet Blue flight- a white plane, seemingly peaceful in Californian blue sky- and wondered what the news cameras are focused on now. I am listening to "Rhubarb" by Aphex Twin, the third song on his Selected Ambient Works II album, and the first selection on an ambient mix I made for [omitted], or- as she's more easily referred to by my friends and me- [omitted]. The synths are half-drowned in the wind-like hum of clouds passing by at hundreds of miles per hour outside.

Then comes Pole, "Modul" from his first album. I remember listening to it in Carlisle, watching thick snow fall in the darkness of the courtyard beyond my windows. It is so odd how many memories music can hold. On the way to the airport, on the A train I took to make boarding this morning by the skin of my teeth, I listened to Cocteau Twins' "Four Calendar Cafe" and shot through image after image: Reggie, my old suite mate at Columbia College, singing along to "Oil of Angels" in our living room; his then crush (and one of mine as well), Amy, who is now married to another person from that era- Justin, whom I used to visit on the second floor. If I remember correctly, they used to live across the hall from each other. That's the beauty of dormitories: those same hallways I'd decorate with highlighter pink, blue, and florescent yellow bubble letters spelling the word "love" would ironically spawn it.

And I thought of Jenny, who put "Know Who You Are At Every Age" on a mix CD for me. I can't think of what company's tag line was "Give The Gift of Music" (I want to say it was Sam Goody, but Sam Goody's is "Goody's got it," which is painfully gay), but when you do that, you include yourself within it, and remain there forever- somewhere in the melody, or the chords on which it dances, or even in the reverb saturating a voice. And now, all these songs will have a once-secret girl named [omitted] in them, a girl I never met while at NYU. She saw the same snow through her window, walked the same sidewalks littered with stares, headphones, and people passing her by. We could have passed each other a million times on Broadway or University Place, or eaten across from each other at Weinstein or Third North, but I feel I would've remembered her. She has a face you wouldn't forget.

Instead, we met at a time a little later, on a summer morning on the upper-east side. I sat next to her at breakfast. Her friend had gotten up to get food and I offered to save their seats so she could as well. And, quite honestly, I didn't mean to get a crush on her. I didn't mean to talk to her the entire day, sitting away from her at lunch out of guilt- guilt because I had just begun living with my girlfriend a couple weeks before. I didn't mean to have her come in between, but you never "mean" for these things to happen.

*

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*

But, none of those things really make much of a difference in terms of how everything worked out. I feel I could've continued on with [my girlfriend] until the same thing happened and we broke up for the same reason, because [omitted] had nothing to do with our problems. Yet, in the midst of it all, she was there, and she wasn't someone whom I'd just let go. There was and is something there- what it is I can't explain- but it draws me to her in this really pure way. It's not a crush like I've had before, and I don't know if it's because I'm getting older and have been tiring of shallow encounters, or if it's that- after being with [my ex]- everything else pales in comparison. And I am not writing this as praise or prophecy; it's simply what I feel, and I have no idea what will happen between us, if anything.

That's what I have to stop doing- for my sake, if nothing else. I have to stop analyzing, stop skipping ahead, stop making everyone "the one," even if that's who they eventually turn out to be. In the meantime, I need to enjoy each moment of each day. And I am lucky to even have someone that compels me to write in this way no matter what it means!

At our first dinner together at the Organic Kitchen on St. Marks & 1st Avenue, we couldn't stop talking. It was to the extent that the waitress asked us to leave after we were the last among tables all covered in overturned chairs. We went outside, and I fed her a cactus pear we bought at a bodega up the street. At her door, she apologized for being so distant and "slippery" when we first met, and explained unnecessarily that it wasn't me. I had "intense energy" she said. Having spent those few hours together made me think of her even more incessantly. She agreed to go ice skating with me the next weekend.

We met at Bryant Park. She had made it there first and phoned me to ask where I was. I walked up the stairs and looked for her at the fountain, then noticed a girl watching the skaters round the rink. She wore her beautiful red hair down with her back to me. It was her. We hugged hello, and got in line for our skates and bag check. Our initial lack of balance on the ice necessitated us holding hands for support, and I felt the slightest shift in energy when she smiled, regaining composure or helping me to do the same, dizzying ourselves in circles and conversation. The moon shone brighter than all the skyscrapers surrounding us. She'd compliment me on my skating, and when either of us got too far ahead, we'd slow and turn our heads in a smile, looking for the other.

When we were out of our bright blue skates and back on the street, our natural walking momentum felt thickened in molasses. I still yearned to slide and to turn, and my mind felt the same. When she apologized for becoming less talkative, I suggested we stop speaking altogether. Thus began one of the more memorable times I had recently spent with a person, absurdly gesturing and humming on the way to- and aboard- the subway, heading to dinner. We shared what remained of my Sweet Tarts, and she'd stick out her soft tongue to show me the broken colored pieces.

I grabbed her hand as we exited at Union Square, and she gave it the slightest squeeze as we crossed the yellow square tiles onto the platform. We had started talking again after trying to plan dinner without words proved too difficult, and we slid past drunken and under-dressed bar patrons, shivering in perfumed packs and heading to their next haunt. We sat at Yaffa Cafe against a window in the back, underneath two statues illuminated in a dim red and surrounded by black and white checkered tiles and paintings of women. She sat next to a mirror and occasionally glanced at herself to fiddle with her hair; she claimed it was wind-blown. We both laughed about this and, without thinking, I held her face gently in my hands and told her she looked fine as I brought it to mine for a brief kiss. She mmmed when our lips came together, and soon we were nonchalantly looking back at our menus as if nothing had happened but knowing full-well that it had.

We talked passionately the entire time as usual, and got to learn more about each other. I felt increasingly comfortable with her, and she was even looking away less. I took that as a sign that she, too, was becoming less nervous. She is a chocoholic, so we shared a piece of cake with a warm, gooey and rich center. When the waitress had explained that detail, [she] had looked at me smiling as if seeking my approval; I could've told her then that she didn't need it. We ate our cake and I fed her the first spoonful, smothered by sweet whipped cream.

At her door this time, there was a different energy, a more familiar feel. Her hug was stronger and longer, her smile maybe a little wider, but what set this time apart was what followed. Our lips met in the gentlest way, candy slightly masking chocolate and the taste of sweet gloss covering that freckle on her bottom lip: the one I had guiltily imagined kissing the day we met. My scarf was wrapped so tightly around my neck that it was almost difficult to cock my head to the side. When I pulled away, she remained still, eyes closed and lips apart, completely motionless in the light from her stairwell, my hands on her hips. Before we kissed again, I not-so-elegantly spat my candy on the sidewalk. We locked fingers. I touched her face, then her hair, and breathed in the moment so slowly I would've forgotten it was happening had it not been for the feel of her warm mouth and my heart and stomach tingling as a reminder.

"What are you thinking about," she asked as I cradled her face in my hands.

"Nothing," I said.

And it was true. My mind was a blank. I could've stood there until we both collapsed on the pavement. It's strange to daydream of something for so long because when it finally happens, it's seldom easy to differentiate those thoughts from reality itself. You are left with a meta-experience, almost oblivious to the fact it's actually happening outside of your own mind. But, with [her], I was just there for most of it- that is, when I wasn't doing cartwheels in my head. Meanwhile, I am on the plane to Tokyo feeling fatigued after drinking two Kirin beers and watching three movies in a row, all of which were- at their core- love stories. I am going to close my eyes for a while. According to the little image of our plane in the monitor, we just crossed the international dateline. That means I have to ignore the fact that it's 8:38 PM Wednesday night; it's now Thursday at half-past-nine or so if I am doing the math correctly, and I should at least try to sleep.

22 October 2005

Todays & Tomorrows

Somehow, it is late October, and I have no idea how that came to be… Well, I do- time has been continually accelerating, so don’t blink too often. I hope this communication finds all of you well. September came and went, and I was lucky to see friends in LA, NY, and Chicago; come November, it’s on to Japan!

Todays:

Remembering Today LP/Japan Tour

My latest full-length release- a collection of unreleased material spanning the last couple of years entitled “Remembering Today” (released on P-Vine)- hit stores in Japan on 9.16, and I am zooming out east (or, really far west depending on how you look at it) to tour and, um, take another vacation! I’ll need to update those of you over there with the venues, but here are the dates and cities:

Friday, 11.18: Kanazawa

Saturday, 11.19: Fukuoka

Sunday, 11.20: Hiroshima

Friday, 11.25: Tokyo

Sunday, 11.27: Kyoto

I’ll post specifics on my myspace page as it gets closer. For those of you in the US & Europe who aren’t keen on buying the import version of the album, Mush will be releasing it on 12.6 domestically with the same music and mostly the same art, handled beautifully by Doug Bowden (www.pandayoghurt.co.uk)

Suicide/Krylon Psychology 7″ Out Now on Consumers Research & Development


Out as of this week is a very limited 7″ on Chicago’s Consumers Research & Development label. The A-Side, “Suicide” appears on the album, while the 2 B-Side cuts are exclusive to this pressing of only 500 copies. “Krylon Psychology” is an old track made circa my Paint EP on Chocolate Industries, and is a favorite of mine. The second song- a short one based on an incredibly damaged CD I took out from the library- is available for previewing on the site. Its title is what the Evanston Public Library types on a small piece of paper glued innocently to the inside of the jewel cases: “The Plain Silvery Side of This Disc Is The Side Involved in Sound Reproduction. Be Careful Not to Scratch or Mistreat The Silvery Side of This Disc”

Tomorrows:

Between the traveling and the fucking Jet Blue incident (believe it or not, I did an interview with Japanese 60 Minutes this past Monday at my apartment, and what was hopefully a final interview with Reader’s Digest!), I haven’t been able to get very grounded in the last month or so. BUT, I am finally getting back to work on new material. I am working on a remix now that I’ll divulge a little more about when it gets closer to release date, but will soon be able to work on music for my next album for Mush, which I truly hope to finish by late spring. I’ll write soon with news about my compilation/remix releases over the winter but, meanwhile, have a wonderful Halloween!

19 October 2005

[DISCOGRAPHY] Suicide/Krylon Psychology 7”


Suicide/Krylon Psychology 7” (Consumers Research & Development, 2005)
CRL-010
Format: 7”, Digital [Bonus Track Version]

1. Suicide
2. Krylon Psychology
3. The Plain Silvery Side of This Disc Is Involved in Sound Reproduction. Be Careful Not to Scratch Or Mistreat The Silvery Side of This Disc.
4. Suicide at Twilight (Miles Tilmann Remix) [Bonus Digital Track]*
5. She's Everywhere I Look [Bonus Digital Track]**

* = Remix of "Suicide" by Miles Tilmann, not included on 7"
** = Also appears on Hazardous Materials (Consumers Research & Development), not included on 7"

Run out groove - Side A: "listen to disappear completely"
Run out groove - Side B: "thank God for graffiti"

12 October 2005

(Red Journal Excerpt 6 - "Mirrors For Eyes")

Monday was Rosh Hashana. I went to a wonderful dinner at Olia's, then played at the Lucky Cat across the street. I went out with Colin andthree friends of his to Capone's for pizza, karaoke, and more beer. I sang my staple "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley, then had cigarettes on the roof garden, talking about relationships, sex without love, and moving on. And the next day, exhausted and emotional, I flew to Chicago. I really had a wonderful time there, but at times, I felt I was visiting a time more than a place...

Hanging out with Rob and Kate Simko, barbequing dinner on his stoop, performing at Sonotheque and seeing old friends, I felt sort of distanced. My dad and sister came which was wonderful- it felt so good hugging them.  

I went out with Kate Alpert and her sister Kim, both of whom I haven't seen in something like five years, and tagging along was Jarrett from Walter Meego. We got high at Kim's place on Division, upon her roof. It was crazy looking around- there was so much construction on what looked like Deerfield row houses! After going to Betty's Blue Star lounge, I drove Kim home and made the trip down I 94 like I had a million times before. I pulled into the driveway after 4AM, and the house looked like an old friend: a still, hauntingly familiar memory that wasn't a memory at all, but a structure made of wood, brick, and metal, and inside it held a time capsule with the directions "open now- you have no choice." And that's just what I did.

Red-eyed, drunk, and in awe, I stood in my front hall and stared for an eternity at mom's painting of the child with angels on his face. I don't know why, but I just couldn't bring my eyes away from his. It was the most arresting gaze I had ever seen, and I met it like I was seeing it for the first time. I started sobbing. Hard. The tears streamed down my face, and the house's silence was broken only by the quiet breaths I tried to catch in between.

I ventured into the basement, and every object was an artifact: I looked at toys, books, jackets, laundry detergent, posters of me with Mickey Mouse ears, Shana as a child, and noticed the photo of my mom was turned to face the wall, showing only its faded grey back to the basement light. I flipped it forwards, and cried even harder. There was no forgetting, no hiding, and no real "moving on" in this house, this rich museum of my life.  

I went into her office, and plugged in her answering machine, laying on the barren carpeted floor that used to be covered with her desk, drawers, paperwork, and everything giving it a sense of her. I listened to every message on that machine- her business line. There were all these strangers from different companies making orders, asking questions, and doing exactly what you do when you leave a message. There was the click of the call's disconnection and the hightone signaling the next message to come. And as the messages went on, people started mentioning her failing health, wishing her luck with prayers and thoughts. Then, the final message, a sad and morbid one hoping she was OK. I don't even remember what was said, but I just cried there on the floor, listening while turning pages of my dad's high school yearbook. I played the outgoing message my dad had left. It explained she was closing her business and to contact the stores directly. I just played it over and over again, hearing his voice rise and fall like music, and I heard so much emotion- even through his attempt to make it sound professional.  

Finally, I went upstairs and leafed through our first family photo album. Each photo was so familiar, but something was different about the images this time: there was this richer dimension, this space that hadn't quite been there before, and it allowed me to see my parents and their friends and family as individuals completely independent of my memories and attachments made over the last 27 years of my life. I saw my mom and dad as children in Chicago, then as teens with their parents and siblings- going from black and white to color, brighter and brighter- growing older but still remaining so young. And then, they met and intertwined their worlds. My dad was a year younger than I when he married her.  

Then, photos of my mom's 30th surprise party, her standing at the front door with her mouth agape and my dad beaming behind her. I imagined all of their friends (who were all around my age at the time) cheering, then thought of Colin's and Stuart's surprise parties this year... All the same milestones.... I think we forget our family has separate lives, identities, and histories from the ones we share with them, and it was this newfound recognition that kept me awake until six that morning, staring at those photographs until the sun began to tinge the morning with light.

04 October 2005

(Red Journal Excerpt 5 - "Gratitude")

I have to interrupt that entry and write for a short time about right now. I don't know if it's from being a little hungover and tired, but I feel overly emotional, nostalgic, melancholy, and grateful. I feel like crying, but I don't know what for. I was thinking yesterday how walking into my room at home will be like walking into a spaceship, and how I'm a little scared to deal with all the emotions that will arise from coming back to Chicago and, specifically, from being with my family- without my mom. I sat at the gate today prior to boarding and imagined coming off the plane at Midway, walking through the narrow gray passageway to the arrivals terminal and seeing my mom and dad standing together with broad smiles, waiting for me. I kept seeing this image this afternoon, and I became aware that my eyes were only scanning pages of "Norwegian Wood" (this Haruki Murakami novel I've been reading); I had no idea what was just written since I was so wrapped up in that thought. I got teary-eyed, then simply returned to eating vegetable lo-mein and chicken as three Chinese tourists to my side loudly chatted in Mandarin.

And before lift-off, I thought of how much I love Olia, remembering my move back to NY: the smell of fall, South 4th & Driggs, our steps and stoop, Monsieur Papillon's little yelps and the sound of his jangling little bell as he scampered gayly about on our hardwood floors; then last night at Rosh Hashana dinner, bringing in the new year with wine, prayer, and friends, holding the phone to Olia's ear as she spoke with my dad, smiling ear to ear.

Then I thought of [omitted] and the way it felt to go to the beach and drum that night with her. How shy she had been, and how beautiful. I thought of seeing her last time I was in Chicago, and that I really wished she'd be in town this time around. I thought of the fact that I will truly love her forever.

I just had this flood-like rush of images, each so detailed that they became more than only memories and feelings: it was as if I was brought to that time-space and my whole being was led through it, a passive observer to my life- only feeling...

I am flying over clouds, tired but excited, and happy.

28 September 2005

(Red Journal Excerpt 4 - Jet Blue: Part 2)

I immediately phoned my dad and told him the news. He had no idea it was happening, which is probably for the best. He was in the garage working on his car. It must have been strange to hear I was OK after not having known anything was amiss. It could've almost been left unsaid, but of course that would have been impossible since I soon related the story to the rest of the world!

I called Anastasia (who had been watching the event unfold on television with her fingers crossed) and then Tom- he was tuned in and didn't know I was on the plane! He informed me of the news crews filming passengers exiting the plane, and when I told him I was almost ready to do so myself, he told me to wave. Once out, I did. I waved at a helicopter and smiled widely, laughing drunkenly in disbelief.

We boarded a bus, the sun setting on the tarmac and the firemen walking about, illuminated by sirens. The terminal was swarming with media, and we were told we didn't need to answer any questions if we didn't want to, but I didn't care. As I went to retrieve my baggage, I was approached by a sea of lights, lenses, microphones and dictaphones, and I was asked a string of the same questions over and over again; I somehow never tired of answering. I stood next to a pretty girl with whom I had exchanged smiles on the plane. Someone inquired if we knew each other and we answered no, but I smiled, saying I had noticed her and thought she was cute. Oh, to be drunk with a beautiful girl in front of news crews.

I was soon requested to do the early show on CBS, and thought, "What the hell? Sure, I'll do it." Good Morning America asked me as well and I had to turn them down. How bizarre is that? CBS put me up in a three hundred dollar suite complete with a flat-screen television at the Beverly Hilton, and Alan (the show's producer) accompanied me to my room to relax and handle logistics. He flipped through the channels and caught news coverage of the flight. I watched myself responding to reporters on four different stations, and it already seemed distant- even more surreal. After a sushi dinner on Wilshire and La Cienega, I showered and half-listened to the news about the incident on a small monitor in my bathroom (yes- there was a second TV in my bathroom!). I went to bed after midnight and nestled in the soft, fluffy, strange comfort of a hotel bed, and thanked God that everything was OK. I scheduled a wake-up call, and finally let my tired eyes close for two hours...

As the outside world was dark and fast asleep, I washed up and put on the same clothes- they were the only clothes that weren't packed and protecting all of the promo albums I received from Mush. My hotel phone rang, and with groggy and burning eyes, I entered the bright, spacious lobby where Alan was waiting for me. "Hey rock star," he said, handing me the morning paper, "you made the cover of the Los Angeles Times!" And there I was, descending the steps from the airplane, holding my cell phone in the air and smiling triumphantly. I was on the cover of the fucking newspaper!

Alan picked up two iced coffees for me at Starbucks, and I started sipping one of them once in the limo on the way to the studio. The girl I had seen at the terminal (Christiana) was coincidentally also asked to be on the early show, and she arrived soon after with her father and her kitty, Margot, who also traveled with her on the flight. We were given light make-up and basked in the lights in front of the camera. Our interview was brief, and then we were whisked off in an even nicer limo to KCBS for a second round of interviews, and then did two radio interviews by phone on the way back to my hotel! I had an hour to kill, and I spent it talking to friends who were just hearing about the whole thing, seeing me on the news and in the papers.

Once at the airport, I did yet another interview with someone from AP, then met CBS at my terminal- they were waiting with a camera to film me checking in! I had lunch from a cafe upstairs and spoke with Stuart, finally heading to the gate and receiving star treatment from the airline. Surprisingly, I wasn't scared getting on the plane, and ate almonds watching "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" as if absolutely nothing had happened. I had a gin & tonic coming in to JFK and laughed at old Monty Python routines on TV. I made it off the plane feeling very lucky and happy, albeit exhausted.

I was given a gift basket containing fruits and cheeses and driven home in a limo after a final interview with CBS. I was so excited to be home in Brooklyn! I joined Swati and her friends Shalani and Yemi as they had a picnic in the living room, showing them the newspapers and images in my camera. Swigging some whisky Christy-Claire had gotten for me and smoking some weed of theirs, I opened my inbox to 72 messages... I wrote the whole adventure down in my Myspace blog and went to sleep after three; I had been awake for 24 hours.

The next week that passed was eventful and lovely. I did an interview the next morning, modeled for Forrest, and ate delicious sushi at Geido on Flatbush. Stuart's surprise 30th birthday party was that Sunday and was very emotional. We cried together, and it was just so heartwarming to be among close friends on that occasion after such an incredible ordeal. I was a paid member of the Maury Povich show audience the following day, and it was even trashier than I imagined it being- especially the audience! They should've been on stage themselves! I tried going to a second job on the west side where I would've been an extra in a Bollywood movie, but apparently they had enough people.

Christy-Claire and I met at Rai Rai Ken for delicious ramen, sitting near the window at the bar. She wore a nice dress and had done her hair up a bit, and looked beautiful. We bought Sweet Tarts and brown-bagged Sparks, drinking on the streets as we made our way to the Lower East Side. I really just remarked how nice it was being with her, looking pretty dodgy as we laughed and drank together on busy side streets. I finished mine by the time we got to Ludlow and Stanton, but we sat on a stoop so she could catch up. Unfortunately, she didn't finish in time: a police car pulled up and she was issued a ticket! I felt kind of bad for her, but thought it was pretty funny- so did she.

23 September 2005

Jet Blue Flight 292 and My Last 24 Hours

Before I even start the story, I just want to thank all of my friends- both new and old- for getting in touch with me with kind words, prayers, concerns, and even shitty jokes in the last 24 hours… I am still reeling from an experience I haven’t yet processed, and seeing myself on the news and on the covers of newspapers is only making these impending realizations even more difficult to make.

First, some exposition…

I arrived in Los Angeles last Thursday, taking some extra time off to catch up with friends in town before playing the Six Degrees Festival on Saturday: the reason I was initially flown out on Jet Blue. And, if you haven’t rode that airline, I still fully recommend it as they are one of the classiest airlines I have been on, and I’ve been around the world. I was lucky to stay with my friend Take in Hollywood and have him and his girl Sarah cook for me (I was the guy washing the dishes), and did fun things like take a sunset hike in griffith park, swim in backyard pools and hot-tubs in Bel-Air, shop for records and get VIP treatment from the great folks at Aron’s, share vodka with my friend Anastasia and her neighbor Grover in Laurel Canyon, and go to trashy bars in what I think was Los Feliz (I have no idea, actually). Whatever we did, there was a lot of wine and smiling before Tuesday, which I thought would be my last day in town.

That day, I met with Robert Curcio at Mush and handled the logistics for our workings together (I will be doing my next two records with Mush as they are licensing my record from P-Vine for a December release), and then headed to record a shoegazer rock set with the illustrious Mark McNeill (aka Frosty) at Dublab. Take did an amazing set as well- check out Dublab.com to listen! Then, after a nice dinner with our friend Valida and her roommate Nadine, we headed to the Little Temple for Sketchbook- the illest downtempo night in LA. Kutmah, Take, Orlando, and Eric Coleman spun records, and I performed live to a happy and engaged crowd. As 2AM drove us out onto Santa Monica, I figured it was a wonderful ending to a wonderful trip.

Not quite…

I got on my plane in Burbank completely exhausted the next day- yesterday- the now famous Jet Blue Flight 292. A nice businessman sat to my left and we had a seat open between us, so everything was comfortable. I swiped my credit card and purchased “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” and was able to watch about ten minutes of it before Brad Pitt’s face froze and the pilot came on the air with an announcement:

“Ladies & Gentleman, this is the captain speaking. Unfortunately, we encountered some trouble with the landing gear upon our departure from Burbank, and we are in contact with Burbank and NY to see what course of action we should take.”

Basically, our landing gear didn’t retract after lift-off. I thought this was no problem: just leave it down and, when we get to NY, you won’t have to bring it back out! Obviously, it wasn’t that simple. A little less than a half-an-hour later, the captain announced we’d be doing a low fly-over Long Beach (another Jet Blue terminal) so that someone- with binoculars (!!)- would be able to ascertain if our landing gear was in fact down or if it was only a computer glitch. Either way, as they were figuring out what to do, we knew we weren’t making it to NY that day, and would have to perform some sort of an emergency landing at LAX.

My neighbor suggested I stop watching the movie as I would have to watch the beginning all over again on my next flight, so I started switching around on Jet Blue’s Direct TV channels. I stopped at MSNBC, but could’ve stopped at any network: Hurricane Rita’s coverage was interrupted by footage of a Jet Blue Airliner in the sky, with the caption “Jet Plane Is Burning Fuel Before Attempting Landing.” It was our plane.

My heart sunk, and I could taste the anxiety in my throat. The cabin-attendant lights were blowing up in every row, and the stewards and stewardesses were calmly making their way around the airplane and reassuring everyone that this was nothing out of the ordinary and that everything would be fine. Well, the trouble was that now more than half of the passengers- including myself- were watching the news, and were being informed that our landing gear was skewed 90 degrees from its landing path! The potential was there for it to simply break off in what was going to be our crash landing, and any moron could surmise a possible result: the nose of our plane scraping the runway at well over 150 miles an hour and a fire that would eventually ignite in the fuselage. To many of us, there was little comfort in the commentators’ assumptions and predictions…

People started to mill about in the cabin- some cried, some just stared- but everyone wanted to know what was going on. I became terrified in one moment, and tears came to my eyes as I watched our small, white plane hanging in the sky on the little television screen. I felt humbled and scared yet surprisingly disconnected, because it was as if the news broadcast somehow extricated me from the reality of the situation and things continued as they would in a movie: a now-public experience shared with strangers I later learned were lined up on the freeways watching in real-time. I needed a drink.

Jet Blue wouldn’t give me anything at that point, but my neighbor passed me a large bottle of what looked like seltzer and said, “Have some of this- it’s leaded.” He had smuggled a huge mixed vodka-tonic on the plane. It reminded me of my little subway whisky cocktails in coke bottles and I had a whole new appreciation for people’s creativity and guts. I’ve been ticketed for drinking a 40 on the subway, but who is going to stop someone with a bottle of seltzer?

So, the vodka took the edge off so much that the situation was rendered completely surreal. I became frustrated with the news and opted for Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, switching back and forth from Comedy Central to the news networks. After three hours of circling around with nervous/scared/confused passengers, the stewardesses instructed us on how to brace for our emergency landing. Almost like a mantra, the staff and what seemed like at least 25 passengers continually shouted “Brace! Brace! Brace!” as we sensed the ground getting closer and closer outside the window and underneath us. Our satelite signal was cut off about 15 minutes prior to our televised landing, but we would’ve been unable to watch it anyway since we had our heads between our legs and were too busy praying or just closing our eyes, accepting the skid of the landing gear along the runway.

Truth be told, it was an amazingly smooth landing! We touched our back wheels down and basically did a wheelie down the runway before the pilot gently inched down the nose of the plane. Fumes of burnt rubber and smoke filled our nostrils but, miraculously, none of the fire and smoke made it inside the plane. We grinded to a halt and everyone erupted in enthusiastic and grateful cheers: we were safe.

I had tried calling my dad earlier and got no signal, but now T-Mobile was coming in loud and clear. He was in the garage and had no idea what was happening, so my explanation of our emergency landing came out of left field! Friends in LA started calling me immediately, some watching the live news broadcast.

As I was exiting the plane I was talking with Take. Watching the news, he informed me they were filming everyone walking down the ramp and to the tarmac. So when I got to the door, he recognized me and told me to wave. We both started to laugh, and I was waving around my hand- holding the cell phone- saying hi to him through the news cameras. That is the story behind the photo so many of you have seen on what made front page of the LA Times and other publications.

The mood was emotional, humbling, warm, and bizarre. I was still pretty drunk, and we were shuttled by bus to the terminal where we were debriefed. “There is a lot of media at the gate, and you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to,” they told us. When we made our way to collect our checked bags, we were bumrushed by microphones, lights, and cameras. I spoke with reporters from what could’ve been 50 or 100 different television networks and newspapers, relaying the same story over and over again in a bit of a haze, but I felt surprisingly coherent through it all: I was alive.

Soon, a producer for CBS’ Early Show named Alan approached me to interview the next morning, and I even turned down Good Morning America! This was the ultimate in surreal. I was driven to the Beverly Hilton where I stayed in a beautiful room on CBS’ tab, and we relaxed for about 10 minutes while taking care of some more logistics with the network. We flipped through the channels, and I did double-takes seeing the footage of the interviews I had just done on the flat-screen TV. I had made CNN, Fox, NBC, CBS, and local stations like KTLA. Huh? I just wanted to eat- we went for sushi and Sapporo on La Cienega and Wilshire.

I returned to my room at around midnight and showered, but had no clean clothes- all of the dirty clothes in my duffle were used to wrap and cushion all of the promo CDs I had gotten from Mush! So, I slept for just over 2 hours and awoke at 2:55 AM…
I was taken via limo to CBS studios to film the early show, followed by a local interview for KCBS and a third interview with the anchor, Kent. I was joined by another passenger from my flight whom I had recognized, Christiana Lund from NY via LA. She had just moved to NY 2 weeks prior and had returned home to get her cat Margot. She was a sweetheart and so was her cat, and we had fun being in a daze together covered in airbrushed make-up.

In the limo back to my hotel just after 8 AM, I did two interviews with local LA radio stations KNX & the Coast 103.5, receiving calls from Fox News, the LA Times, and the beginnings of calls from friends out east who were just starting to learn of my little adventure. I was literally on the phone for the first half of the day, eventually doing another AP interview and just sleepwalking through security at the airport after CBS met me to film my check-in.

Getting on the plane felt natural, although at times the memories slid in and I was reminded of yesterday. But, soon enough, I was watching Mr. & Mrs Smith, having tea and almonds, and it was if nothing had happened. A gin and tonic eased my landing as I watched the end of a Monty Python episode, and we were safe in NY.

Jet Blue had arranged people to meet and greet me, giving me a bag of snacks including fresh fruits, cheeses, and bread, and we waited for my one checked bag. CBS was there once more, doing one final interview to see how I felt now that I had landed in NY, and I was taken via a car (thanks to Jet Blue) back to my apartment in Brooklyn where my roommate Swati and two of her friends were having a little picnic in our living room.

Having some whiskey and opening up my inbox was a little daunting… I had 72 messages in my hotmail box alone and felt simultaneously so happy that so many of you took the time to get in touch and so frustrated that I couldn’t respond to everyone personally. I have been doing my best to answer my phone and return phone calls as well- please know I am getting your messages and am so thankful to be hearing from all of you guys. And I am amazed that people who had seen my CNN interviews and such looked me up on google and found my myspace page, even posting about me on their own websites! Thank you so much. A friend jokingly said this was “the best publicity stunt [I] ever pulled” but, ironically, I was able to get in touch with new and interesting people. And, most obviously of all, I am able to share this experience with all of you.

You can see Christiana and me on the CBS Early Show interview here:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/09/22/earlyshow/main878702.shtml

Anyway, thank you so much for reading. Know life is more fragile than you can ever imagine, and live it like you understand…

21 September 2005

(Red Journal Excerpt 3 - Jet Blue: Part 1)

I was about to make a major move in every respect the next morning- away from the past, and away from her. I got settled in my new place fairly quickly, but September was probably the craziest month yet. I hardly felt grounded and raced from place to place, working on music, working infrequently doing modeling, and gearing up for my trip to Los Angeles. I signed with Mush Records, put together a new live set which I performed at CMJ, then trekked to Los Angeles the next day for a week-long trip.

My plane was grounded in New York for two hours due to weather conditions, so Tom was unable to pick me up as planned. Luckily, I had made plans with Anastasia, so she was able to pick me up. It was her neighbor Grover's car- the ultimate vehicle for someone in their 80's (which he was) to drive. We went to her beautiful apartment in Laurel Canyon and dropped off my stuff. I met her grandparents (they own the building) and had orange juice and delicious bread with garlic olive oil. They are both artists- sculpture and painting- and they proudly showed me their work.

[Omitted]

Anyway, Los Angeles was fun! It soon became obvious that I could never live there, despite the little fantasies I had before. It seems like a sprawling strip-mall of a town that famous and very rich people randomly decided to inhabit. LA could be in the middle of North Dakota and be the same, shallow city. If it wasn't on the ocean with its pretty palm trees and flowers, it would be the biggest shit hole I've ever seen. Yet, Tom and I would go to Trader Joe's and get food and cheap wine, cook, listen to music, and have a great time.

[Omitted]

Tom and I did our Dublab sets, had a nice dinner with Valida and her roommate Nadine, then headed to the Little Temple for Sketchbook. It was a real closure to the trip- or so I thought. The next day, after breakfast and ripping songs from Tom's computer, Anastasia picked me up in her new Volkswagen convertible and took me to Burbank for my flight. There was a pretty uneventful check-in, I was tired, sat in the waiting area and, well, waited. It's funny. I can't even remember anymore. I was sat at the last seat on the plane- 26E. A large businessmen named AJ was seated on the aisle, and we luckily had the middle seat free. Our flight attendant Judy was really cool and jokingly offered us cocktails. I swiped my debit card and bought "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," and it started soon after take off. About ten minutes into it, Brad Pitt's face froze, and the captain's voice came on in the cabin:

"Ladies and gentlemen, there was a problem leaving Burbank and our landing gear didn't retract. We are in communication with Burbank and New York and trying to determine the best course of action."

Huh?

Brad Pitt went back into motion, and it cut to Angelina Jolie. What the fuck was going on? It didn't seem like a big deal. I looked over at AJ and we simultaneously shrugged our shoulders. I continued watching the movie but felt the largest uncertainty building in my stomach. It wasn't fear yet, it was just a question: why hadn't the landing gear retracted, and is that actually a problem? I mean, OK, so the landing gear is down- just leave it down and, when we get to NY, you won't have to bring it down again, right? Wrong. About twenty minutes passed, and the movie froze again.

"This is the captain speaking. We are going to perform a low-fly by over Long Beach and someone in the tower with binoculars will be able to ascertain what exactly is going on with our landing gear. We'll find out soon after where we'll be able to land- either in Long Beach or at LAX."

Fuck. I wasn't making it back to New York yet. I kept watching "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," trying to remain unaffected by what was still relatively innocuous news, and ignore the fear starting its slide up my throat. The cabin attendant lights in multiple rows lit as they sounded, and passengers started milling about uncomfortably. Everyone wanted to know what this meant. The stewardess was completely calm and assured us it was no problem. I believed her, yet still, people were tense, and some had already begun crying.

AJ recommended I stop the movie since we'd be landing fairly soon, so I started flipping around channels with my little armrest remote. On MSNBC, I saw footage of an airplane flying about in the sky, with the headline "Breaking News: Jet Blue Flight 292 Burning Fuel Before Preparing For Emergency Landing." It was our plane! I can't say my heart sank right away, and it wasn't even shock really. I thought to myself, this can't be a big deal. It's just getting blown out of proportion. People started tuning into the news and I laughed, "that's us" and pointed to the monitor. AJ showed me the same coverage on Fox, and we had made CNN, CBS as well. We more or less monopolized television programming for the three hours we flew in circles to burn off our fuel and lessen our chances of dying in a huge explosion upon impact.

I was now afraid. Tears welled in my eyes. It was completely out of my control. I was a lame duck broadcast into homes, bars, sports clubs, hospitals, and anywhere a television could be plugged in, and these viewers- myself included- were watching what could've been the last few hours of my life with predictions and commentary about what would happen. There could be a loud crash, the landing gear- which we learned was skewed perpendicular to our landing path- could snap off, causing the nose to skid on the runway, catch fire, and ignite the fuselage. I told Judy I needed that cocktail right about then, and she refused me. I still don't know why- what harm could I have done? I tried powering my phone on to call my dad, and waited patiently for a signal to no avail. AJ noticed I wasn't doing too well, and as he got up from the bathroom, he offered me a bottle of what looked like seltzer, smiling as he said "why don't you have some of this- it's leaded."

I took a sip and, shit- was it ever! He had made a very stiff vodka tonic! When I started drinking, the situation became much more surreal. I had gotten tired of listening to the paranoid news broadcasters and found the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I wanted to smile and laugh. It wasn't helping to see footage of myself. It made it too post-modern! You aren't supposed to see footage of yourself on television as people speculate whether you'll live or die. I did switch back and forth but, as I got drunker and the climate in the plane grew more intense, it was as if I no longer cared. I didn't think I was going to die and, even if I did, what good was it doing me to think about it?

They cut our television feed as the newscasters warned we'd land within fifteen minutes. People were crying, holding hands, talking with strangers and comforting them as if they were family. They moved people to the back of the plane, shuffling luggage around and doing their best to make everything fit. A woman named Nadi was sat in between AJ and me, and she began showing us pictures of her niece's wedding- the reason she had come to LA in the first place. Her parents had traveled there from Manila. The stewardesses started going over the emergency landing procedure, and we looked over the safety information card in the seat back as they came row by row to insure we knew exactly what to do. Then, we began our descent- slowly.

Nadi asked if I was OK.

I replied, "yeah, I think we'll be alright."

"No," she immediately said, "you know you'll be alright."

"Yes. I know I'll be alright."

I had stuck tissue in my ears to prevent hearing the "loud crash" the newscasters predicted, and squeezed my head against my knees, waiting for something to happen. There was an electronic voice that said "brace," and then, like a safety mantra, people kept repeating it as if to ease us into a better landing. I felt the wheels touch and it was so smooth it almost felt anti-climactic! Slowly, the nose descended towards the runway, and the touchdown was imperceptible. The smell of smoke and burning rubber filled the cabin, but there was no fire or danger on board! We ground to a halt- everyone safe with their heads on their knees or pressed against the seats ahead of them- and the pilot immediately came on with the news.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have safely landed and there is no fire in the cabin." Everyone erupted in cheers and tears of joy- we had made it!

13 September 2005

Upcoming Shows This Week in NY & LA

I will be playing some shows in the next few weeks and hope those of you who will be in NY and LA can come out to say hi!

This Wednesday, 9.14, 8:PM

CMJ Music Marathon 2005
@ The Knitting Factory - Old Office

74 Leonard Street, NYC 10013

$7 (yes, they are letting in the general public- you don’t need a badge)

Then, off to LA:

This Saturday, 9.17, 3:PM - Midnight

The Six Degrees Festival Collective in collaboration with the

Selah Artistic Giving Center present:


The 2nd Annual
 Six Degrees Art, Music, Fashion & Film Festival

WWW.SIXDEGREESFESTIVAL.COM

LOCATION: 1329 East 6th Street, Downtown Los Angeles

WHAT: Five independent creative zones hosting live performances, film, art, fashion shows, Q&A opportunities, and exclusive clothing and record sales. Outdoor vendors and concessions.
$10 all day / 21 & over

And

Next Tuesday, 9.20, 9:PM

Sketchbook- with DJs Kutmah, Reneau, Eric Coleman & Take

@ the Little Temple

4519 Santa Monica Blvd, LA 90029

FREE/21 & over

Then, back in NY:

Monday, 10.3, 9:PM

Wrecking Ball - with Calmer and MishaSnall

@ The Lucky Cat
245 Grand Street, Williamsburg, BKLYN

$7 donation

Lots of music to come- hope to see you soon!

06 September 2005

[DISCOGRAPHY] Remembering Today


Remembering Today
(P-Vine, 2005) PCD-23706 (Japan)
(Mush, 2005) MH-242
Format: LP, CD & Digital

1. I'm Way Too High
2. Bleached Platinum
3. They'll Make A Video Game Out Of Killing People Like You
4. Entre Chien Et Loup
5. In Tandem
6. Summer On Cassette
7. Auto Rickshaw
8. Lake
9. Wishing On Airplanes
10. Suicide
11. Mouth
12. Insect Headphones
13. Non Art

Artwork by Doug Bowden


One-sheet

Remembering Today collects tracks recorded during the gap between Caural's 2001-2003 releases for Chocolate Industries and his relocation to New York. Originally from Chicago, Caural debuted in 2001 with the full-length, Initial Experiments In 3-D. He then joined the respected Chocolate Industries label, appeared on the compilation Urban Renewal Program, produced standout EPs in 2001 and 2003, and released his critial breakthrough full-length, Stars On My Ceiling in 2002. After moving to New York, he began work on a new album scheduled for release in late 2006. Remembering Today is both a companion piece to his earlier work and a link to his upcoming material. A series of snapshots from the life of an ever-evolving talent, it is the perfect set for Caural to both reintroduce himself to old listeners and court new in preparation for his next steps as an artist.



Reviews

Rockpile
Whether Caural's Zachary Mastoon is busy making drunk pedestrians laugh at four in the morning, turning down CBS's Good Morning America for an interview after becomming the poster boy for a narrowly avoided plane crash, doing animation voiceovers, or fronts his Myspace music page not a new "photo" but an ultra-realistic painted portrait crafted by a severely talented Brooklyn artist, there is this fantastic pervasive sense, in both his music and his life, of "Huh? How?" It's all freakin' there in tracks like "Summer on Cassette" and "In Tandem" and Suicide." This is electronic music that breathes with life, and gorgeous, drunk melody. It's fucked up hip-hop that makes you think and bob and trip on your cat. "Auto Rickshaw" is genius and WTF at the same time. There are only a few names that have justified the existence of electronic music to me, and Caural is one of them.
-Chris Eichenseer

Signal to Noise
How do you spell happiness? B-E-A-T. I'm a sucker for a tight groove. We're not talking 200bpm dance music, but rather solid downtempo boom baps that activate the spring in the back of your neck - the rhythm of misty rain, heartbeats and good sex. Remembering Today is full of just this type of goodness. Caural employs simple, well programmed beats, but he lovingly tucks them in an intricate quilt of glitchy electronic noise, warbly turntable samples and crisp jazz piano licks. His style of production could be compared to the quieter, more stripped-down aspects of artists such as Four Tet, Prefuse 73 and Boards of Canada, but his work is not derivative. He's able to effectively breathe new life into musical concepts that would normally seem cliché. For example, in "They'll Make a Video Game Out of Killing People Like You," he uses old-school video game sounds to create a section of melody. This has been done time and again, but he's able to pull it off by blending these sounds seamlessly with jazz riffs and ambient fuzz, effectively turning something that could be cold-hearted and synthetic on its head and giving it heart. There are a few purely ambient tracks on this disc as well. "Suicide" goes back and forth between droning, filtered fuzziness and a stark, haunting melody that seems to come from a toy piano. In the vein of Massive Attack's "Mezzanine," this music is simple enough to be sexy and complex enough to linger around long after that sweaty, satisfied cigarette.

XLR8R
A collection of unreleased material recorded after 2002's full-length Stars on My Ceiling (Chocolate Industries), Remembering Today provides a glimpse into the tonal meiosis of Chicago-bred, New York-based producer Zachary Mastoon (a.k.a. Caural). Caural's latest is an anthology of fuzzy memories though not fuzzy logic-these 13 session outtakes are both nebulous and distinctly contemplative. The bleary, corner-of-the-eye pirouette of these shambolic, sepia-toned memoirs places Caural as a kitsch-free contemporary of LA anachronist Daedelus, while the record's dovetailing, soft-focus snaps are akin to those of Prefuse 73. But Caural's willowy, huddled, dream-pop/mope-hop exudes its own signature sway, as refracted rustles and wispy melodies flicker atop blunted stutter. Remembering Today's stereotropic vignettes taper off more than resolve, but there's cumulative warmth in the embossed ridges and static-strewn hollows of Caural's pastel-dappled haze.
- Tony Ware

XLR8R
Musique concrete and instrumental hip-hop collide on Zachary Mastoon's second full-length outing as Caural. A beautiful, near haunting mix of snips, click s and otherworldly cut 'n' paste tricks are sure to put you to sleep—in the best way possible

3Hive
Caural is short for Chicago's Artful Underdog Resists Abstract Labeling. Okay, I made that up. Caural is the stagename for multi-talented musician Zachary Mastoon whose off-kilter beats, found samples, and moody synths often find him compared to Four Tet, Prefuse 73, and Daedelus. Flattering company as far as I'm concerned, but not necessarily satisfying as a description. He's got a sound all his own and each track packs its own little surprises if you listen carefully.

Aiding & Abetting
Fabulous cut-and-paste (electronic style, of course) combined with stellar beatwork. I know, I've said as much about Caural in the past, but this album puts a fine shine on past glories. Yes, digging an album like this does require some ability in the area of abstract thought. Goes without saying. But come on. There are so many interesting ideas meandering in and out of focus here, how can anyone get bored? Stupid question, I know. Philistines rule the world. Whatever. Those who jam to the likes of Prefuse 73 probably already know Caural well. Perhaps the rest of the world ought to get better acquainted. Just so damned...pretty, I guess. In an occasionally dissonant, sometimes in-your-face kinda way. I suppose this isn't the easiest album to like, but it's real easy to love.

Boomkat
Let's get them out of the way early; Prefuse, Daedelus, Four Tet and Caribou... Caural (aka Zachary Mastoon) could legitimately be compared to any of the above without contravening a single EU directive concerning artistic similes, but whilst his music certainly shares textures with these peers, Mastoon has carved out enough of a niche to more than demand your attention. Raised in Chicago, Mastoon has recorded for Chocolate Industries and Consumers Research, with new LP Remembering Today culled from material originally committed to tape between 2003 and 2005.

Building on the foundations established by his 2002 debut Stars On My Ceiling, Remembering Today is an aural bridge that glances back to his past whilst keeping a stomp on to future destinations. Opening with "I'm Way Too High," Caural delivers an all too short prologue of sweaty breaks and digital pins+needles, before plunging the listener into the intricately twinkle-hop of "Bleached Platinum." Disjointed in a Steve Reid kind of way, "Bleached Platinum" is the sound of Scott Herron enjoying a sunny afternoon down the open-air pool; a beatific atmosphere that is belligerently shattered on the granite hyperactivity of "Insect Headphones." Elsewhere, "Suicide" is instrumental solipsism at it's most poignant, "Auto Rickshaw" resembles a coherent Magnetophone, whilst "Month" indulges in swirling soundscapes of muted elegance.

Download
Perhaps you placed this experimental/ambient artist in Paris--because American music isn't supposed to sound this cool. Titling songs in French only adds to the geographic illusion. These shifty time signatures, glowing tones, and smoky textures are the product of Chicago's hippest son, in New York City

Grooves
Having studied jazz guitar and improvisation (with Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan University), Indonesian gamelan, Southeast Asian music, and experimental electronic music at New York University, Zachary Mastoon draws from a rich background for his Caural project. Those influences surface subtly amid the blunted breaks and bleepy haze of Remembering Today, a collection of unreleased material recorded after his 2002 full-length Stars on My Ceiling. Though his leftfield hip-hop naturally aligns him with Prefuse 73, Daedelus, and company, Caural's material distinguishes itself with its rich sound. He sweetens a sleepy synth-funk groove with a glockenspiel melody and a warm bass prod on "Entre Chien Et Loud," for example, and Mastoon is equally comfortable injecting jazz references into one song ("Bleached Platinum") as he is Casio noises elsewhere ("They'll Make A Video Game Out of Killing People Like You"). Proving that this material can be experimental without being off-putting, classical string pizzicati rubs shoulders with a smeary groove, bell accents, and underwater piano on "Auto Rickshaw." The disc gravitates towards quieter territory with the leisurely lurch of "Suicide" and beatific dreaminess of "Mouth," but the staccato hyperactivity of "Insect Headphones" abruptly re-adjusts the mood with its distinctive gamelan bell strikes and thrumming pulsations. While Remembering Today offers much to appreciate, perhaps its best moment arises with "Summer on Cassette" whose grooving stutter-strut pulse, piano sprinkles, and vocal snippets Prefuse himself would be proud of.

Halo-17
In a world of million-dollar advertising budgets for "garage" bands, slickly marketed teen idols, and expensive producers who can make a blonde bimbo's singing voice passable faster than you can say "Holy ProTools, Batman!", electronic music remains the great leveller. Sure, having money and fame helps, but it's perfectly possible to make a record that sounds just as professional and sophisticated as a megastar using consumer grade equipment in the privacy of your own bedroom. Which is exactly what Zachary Mastoon, AKA Caural, has done with "Remembering Today".

Most of this stuff has a real DIY-vibe to it, yet it's still as polished and sharp as anything you'd expect from one of the greats of the genre. Mastoon has quite professionally spliced together a hybrid of glitch, hip-hop, and IDM that shows that he has no shortage of ideas, even if his sound does get a little too abstract and busy at times. If he's mastered anything though, Mastoon is the master of the beat, and he loads this album up full of good ones. Much like Massive Attack, the music is for the most part very simple, relying only on the beat and perhaps some snippets of melody here and there to give it bones. Unlike Massive Attack though, rather than making fully formed songs out of these ingredients, everything sounds as if it's been cut up and rearranged in no particular order.

Opening track I'm Way Too High, for instance, uses occasional bursts of harsh, dissonant, trilled noise to open the album with a punch. They'll Make A Video Game Out Of Killing People Like You takes the gimmicky of using 8-bit video game like samples in it, but for once this actually works pretty well, making the track something a bit more solid than a mere novelty effort. On the other hand, there's nearly completely ambient tracks like Entre Chien Et Loup, which glides along accompanied by a gentle chiming pulse and what sounds like almost random bass licks.

This album is not going to propel Caural to stratospheric superstardom, it's far too abstract and occasionally alienating to achieve that. Much like the cover art, it's occasionally too busy as well, cramming more ideas into a track than there is room for. But the rest of the time, this is a pretty impressive effort, that showcases Mastoon's considerable musical strengths while staying away from trying to do too much. Definitely worth a listen for fans of glitch and ambient IDM.

Orlando Weekly
Somewhere in the speedy tape-reel crackles and ambient buzz melodies of Remembering Today actually lies a cohesive album. These recordings represent the period after producer/performer Zachary Mastoon completed work on the 2002 Caural album, Stars on My Ceiling. Less a cohesive album than a collection of miscellaneous session highlights, Remembering Today works as a flowing compilation of understated, sample-heavy beats, slowly expanding melancholia and stretches of organic/electronic shoegaze psych. Mastoon's multiple routes are dizzying at times, but moments like the ones that make up "Lake" and its short subsequent track are worthy of deep, focused study. "Lake"'s whirling radio static and tape chirps give way to unfortunately brief, fluttering string section pulses in "Wishing on Airplanes," which are both worlds different from the busy, delirious drum loop that underscores opener "I'm Way Too High."

Other Music
Best known for his 2002 breakthrough Stars on My Ceiling, Caural's (aka Zachary Mastoon) fusion of electronic, hip-hop and Eastern sounds has earned him a place next to Four Tet, Caribou (formerly Manitoba) and Prefuse 73, while his productions are still very much his own unique style. Remembering Today is an excellent overview of the music from this Chicago native (who now lives in New York City and is currently working on a new full-length), featuring unreleased material recorded between 2003 and 2005

Properly Chilled
Caural gives us a dousing of experimental electro hop. Beats are glitching but not full-throttle IDM glitch. Video game keyboard sounds pop out new melodies and stereophonic mixing brings it all together. Imagine Orbital using their fantastic multi-layering style without the dance beats. Picture (insert abstract hip-hop artist here) dropping dope beats in and out of the mix, and with that image in your head put on songs like "They'll Make A Video Game Out Of Killing People Like You" (Possibly one of the best in your face intelligent put downs) and you'll hear Caural at his best. "Insect Headphones" is a wonderful track with buzzing noise sweeping from ear to ear and a wonderfully calming soundscape develops as the song grows in dimension. Again, Mush brings us another out-there but accessible release that should hit home with the indie/college rock crowd filling the need for beats, retro references and aural experimentation.
-Dedric Moore

Tiny Mix Tapes
Is Caural not a legend yet? Well, I guess this is only his second album. Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself a little. Remembering Today is Chicago-bred bedroom producer Zachary Mastoon collecting session highlights recorded around the time his well-received Chocolate Industries debut was released and his subsequent move to the Big Apple. As such, this is an almost breathtakingly coherent release that, to my mind, sounds greatly improved over Star On My Ceiling. If not stylistically disparaging, Mastoon's unique brand of ambient, surreal, otherworldly glitch has certainly hit its stride in mature fashion. The first two tracks after the grinding, "Do Not Fire!" (Madvillain)-like, warbly Nokia-sampling opening track "I'm Way Too High" employ similar lazy, hollow-sounding beats that I just find tasty, though the mood for both cuts is quite different.

"Bleached Platinum" puts Caural's extensive worldwide musical education to work, as he richly strums out some contemplative chords with pieces of an unreleased Transmission track, while "They'll Make A Video Game Out Of Killing People Like You" makes the beat more in-yer-face as seen under a menagerie of 8-bit sounds. By that point, you should have a pretty good idea what Today is all about, and damn if you wouldn't be lucky to get more of the same. People who meditate know trip-hop, so quit thinking (yes, that's a joke) and just buy it already, will ya'? Finally, a day worth remembering.
-Filmore Mescalito Holmes

Urban Pollution
Self-described "electronic based record label" Mush Records has been pulling off something of a coup as late, first spiriting Daedelus out from under the nose of Plug Research and getting him to commit to tape his best album yet (March 2005 release Exquisite Corpse), and now releasing this shimmering creation from former Chocolate Industries artist Caural. Subscribing less to the hip-hop aesthetic of his earlier days, the sound on Remembering Today is more a mélange of sticky beats and clangs, balmy hums, buzzes, and fragmentary melodic dialogues, all wrapped up in the warmth of a friendly personal interaction.

With feet planted equally in the realms of IDM and abstract jazz, and fingers in the pies of hip-hop, world, and experimental musics, Caural treads with a lighter step than many of his producer peers. The result is an experience akin to having the artist speaking directly to you through the music, not in any pompous or didactic way, but as if each listener were on the same level as him. He just wants to have a normal conversation, tell you about what he loves, what his passions and projects are, who he's been listening to. This kind of informality is seldom found in the works of "electronic" musicians, and might seem a bit of an impropriety to listeners accustomed to the more clinical moods of acts like Matmos, Aphex Twin, or Boards of Canada, all of whom are handy reference points for Remembering Today. Instead of coming directly at you with dry clicks and cuts, this record invites you to sit down and enjoy its forays into the eclectic contemporary music world.

Opener, "I'm Way Too High," belying its title, chaperones the listener through a tasting of the vintages that lie ahead, its scrambled keyboard loop providing continuity atop a mix of sounds before morphing into the orchestral-warm-up beginning of "Bleached Platinum." This, in turn, gives way to the jazzy, stuttering meat of the song as naturally as leaves turning in fall. The song then breaks itself down, deconstructing its own elements, preparing the way for the next in a pattern that is to be repeated throughout Remembering Today. A pair of gurgling water-droplet, pizzicato string breaks in "Auto Rickshaw" anticipates the placid rise of "Lake." The gentle knocks and swells of "Suicide" fade into the ethereal wisp of ambient tone that begins "Mouth," before a haunting vocal line slides in, bringing with it a faint tambourine rhythm.

The basic elements of the album, its beats, melodies, and moods, are stable only in the most transitory of ways, but their slipperiness is somehow necessary to the complexities underlying its organization. Remembering Today is assembled as a totality, with each step being a logical progression from the one before; the songs, for the most part, hold up on their own, but they gain an extra, and necessary, level of meaning within the context of the whole. Few artists even attempt this kind of organic coherence; Caural succeeds, marrying a level of intimacy on par with label-mate Daedelus to an ear for sustained development of which Nobekazu Takemura would be proud. After spending time with Remembering Today, it's hard not to be eagerly anticipating the next project, already in the works, from Caural and Mush Records.