25 December 2006

Lodown Magazine no. 54

Lodown Magazine, no. 54


Open space is still the place, some argue, be it Outer or Myspace. But as more and more people remain indoors in order to roam the ridiculous depths of avatarian surface tubes and alt-worlds, some still carry that old school flag and pursue their travels on (at least more) real grounds. So does Caural, aka Zachary Mastoon – at least most of the time. The soon-to-be 29-year-old Chicago native, who recently made his move from Manhattan to Brooklyn, seems to be constantly going places, viz,: he likes to hit the road, get rollin', hit new cities. That is, when he's not on Myspace himself (where he's pretty aptly filed under Experimental-Shoegaze-Hip-Hop). Yet, neither his endless touring with the likes of Acey, Daedelus, Rjd2, or CocoRosie, nor his neverending backseat arguments about musical (non-)taste with Busdriver (who digs They Might Be Giants a li'l too heavily, if you ask Caural) will lead you to the sonic core of his individual journey: Cuz in fact Caural's trip is inward bound, meaning he ventures both into his archived snap-shot past, the computerized present, and hip-hop/electronica's sample-based future. There's a reason why he's into Vipassana meditation.

With his latest Mirrors For Eyes (out on Mush), he finally pulls the fine art of bedroom-based headphone production out of the oversized hard drive and rubs it softly but steadily into your sweetly stirred gut. Together with lesser-known vocal friends like Hrishikesh Hirway, Paul Amitai, and MC Racecar (oh yes, step on it, boi!), Caural perfectly balances his melodical manned mission between spaced out beat production – there are significant layovers and even lovely delays at PRF (Prefuse), FRT (Four Tet) and the more mellow BBP (Boom Bip) on his flight schedule – and organic nods to the more na├»ve, more grassroots, more contemplative and meditational side of the instrumental spectrum. "I included a lot of my close friends on this album, and either asked them to play on something, or used a recording they had made as source material. In the end, I write everything myself through the editing."

So what you get to see in those Mirrors is colorful and bipolar caural riffs and reefs, chanced upon in the pursuit of loops, that are either in full bloom, or being dominated by the sweeping forces of nature: "Well, I'm really a person of extremes: I can be very outgoing and extroverted, and alternatively want to stay in and look at photo albums or read old journals alone."

Checking out old journals, though, he's bound to undust little notes about his former neighbor and surrogate older brother Stuart Bogie (now of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra) who first got him under way with the drum set and some Fisher Price gear: "He was my absolute first friend. Stuart was a leader." 15 years later, after he'd learned to stand on his own two feet and had left Chicago to study jazz guitar and improvisation at Weseleyan U and NYU, Caural became a full-on multi-instrumentalist, sample wiz, and mile collecting frequent flyer. It was in-flight that he first learned about the different kind of dangers out there…

"Jet Blue flight 292 last September was a pretty crazy event in my life, in that it was the one that brought me closest to death – my own anyway. When we took off from Burbank, the plane's landing-gear didn't fully retract, leaving the wheels perpendicular to the runway and making a regular landing impossible. In reality, this sort of a malfunction had happened in the past and pilots are trained to land after such an event, but it was little consolation to the other passengers and me up in the sky. I was genuinely frightened for a short time, but when the guy sharing my seat row offered me his smuggled bottle of vodka tonic, I accepted there was nothing I could do and grew less and less afraid."

True you saw TV news on what was going on while still in the air?

"Yes, and that's what made it terrifying! I mean, we knew there was a problem, OK, but when you see the image of your plane hovering ominously in the small seat-back television in front of you – and on every major network! – it lets you know it's pretty serious. I'll never forget the pilot coming over the loudspeaker and saying, 'It looks like we made the news – sorry about that!' Here are these reporters describing us flying in circles to burn off fuel, discussing all the potential things which could go wrong in our incipient emergency landing, and we're helpless listening in the sky, eating Terra Blues or fucking Chex Mix! It really made things exponentially worse."

Would you say that this was the scariest thing you ever went through?

"No, actually. Why? Because – no matter what happened – it was out of my control. I think it's the experiences we initiate ourselves – taking drugs for instance – which prove to be the scariest since there's always that feeling of responsibility and ensuing guilt. Don't get me wrong: I used to love taking LSD or eating mushrooms, but if and when a bad thought entered my head and I let it stay, well, it was absolutely mortifying!"

It might be indebted to this notion (entering his head) that self-inflicted dangers are more startling than others, which led Zak to concentrate on more collaborative efforts lately. In collaborating, he can minimize the dangers of being too much in control, so that right after Mirrors For Eyes, he'll release an album he recorded together with his ex-roommate Jason Hunt (as Boy King Islands), and will then return to his first musical influence ever – the leading Mr. Bogie.

"After just over 20 years, I am still collaborating with Stuart Bogie, and as a duo we call ourselves The Original Ultraviolets. We are working on a record together which is very poppy – poppy for me anyway – with vocals, guitars, out-of-tune pianos, and whatever we can borrow from friends to record with in Brooklyn."

Well, maybe the tangible hood is still the best place after all. Way better than My- or out-of-reach spaces. I mean, who could help you out with sugar, an egg, or keyboards in the digital or orbital realm?


10 December 2006

Lost at Sea

Oh yes. My bedroom is finally looking like my own again after having had a subletter use it as his all-in-one living and storage space for the last three months. This fall has been a blur which has left me floating and reeling. After Be The Riottt in San Francisco and a short tour in France with Busdriver, I had only a day back in New York before heading to cold Chicago for a long Thanksgiving holiday with my family. It was lovely as usual, and the weekend included some drunken adventures in the city with friends, which thankfully did not result in a DUI; I'm fucking smooth.

Anyway, my next stop was a Carnival cruise with my younger sister, Shana. Upon the successful signing of her apartment lease, as an added bonus, her realtor threw in a free cruise for two. Luckily for me, my sister's boyfriend couldn't go for some inconceivable reason, and I was her lucky man in tow for a cheesy romp in the Gulf of Mexico. 75% of our ship was from Texas, and I'd safely say 20% was from Oklahoma; that leaves only the paltry remaining 5% of us to relish in the fact that we were not from the south. You should've seen the formal night for christ's sake! Never in my life have I had the distinct pleasure of seeing so many overweight, seasick women in red-sequined evening gowns, carrying tall, $7 pink frothy drinks with their cowboy boyfriends. Each night- and practically every morning- a photographer would walk around and capture all kinds of "exciting" and "fun" happenings on the ship- you know, like a completely bored "pirate" with a hook coming around tables at dinner and posing with the unimpressed patrons, or perhaps an "authentic" looking Mexican wearing face paint and feathers (huh?) waiting for debarking passengers at port- and then place all the photos along the hall of the atrium for all to see and, um, buy. I have few regrets, but one of them is not taking pictures of the pictures, if you know what I mean.

Sadly, we had only 1 and a half days of sun. Generally, it was cloudy, cold, and raining, and that had an obvious effect for us: motion sickness. But, without fail, our Australian cruise director would get on the loud speaker a few times a day following a little melody to announce "it just doesn't get any better than this- you're on vacation!" Um, yeah- I can think of a few ways it could get better, but I don't want to upset the people playing Bingo, paying $200 for an hour-long massage, or blowing money in the casino right now, so I'll just keep my opinions to myself.

All in all, through even my most cynical moments, I had fun, and loved taking in the ocean probably more than it loved giving me seasickness as return karma for laughing at everyone around me.

I now have only a week to spend at home before going back to Chicago for my birthday and the holidays and am feeling quite insular; perhaps I've been listening to Benoit Pioulard's beautiful album too much and should put on something a little happier. Until then, enjoy seasonal affective disorder with me!