ARTHUR BEST OF 2007 LISTS No. 25: Elisa Ambrogio (Magik Markers)

ELISA AMBROGIO (MAGIK MARKERS) BEST OF 2007

Giant Skyflower Band show at the Hemlock.
Closing out the show under swirling lights, Jason stumped out deep crazy timpani, Glenn sawed away at melodies and chords like a old-timey German cobbler channeling Dave Kusworth and Shayde “Mushmouth” Sartin slunk out basslines like a somnambulant Greg Lake. It was a night to remember. They’ve got a cd on Soft Abuse called Blood of the Sunworm, and name notwithstanding, it is effen rad.

A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey
It came out this past year or so, but first I would recommend reading Yates’ easiest to find novel, Revolutionary Road, before it goes out of print again. Eros, pathos, flop sweat, it’s all there; a man outside and inside his own time. Highs and lows as a writer, but at his best it does not get better; more of a grown man than Salinger and less of a prick than Updike: the comic and horrible desperation of the 1950’s middle class white guy. I can’t get enough! The biography is filled with his drinking, teaching, TB, war service, women, self-defeat, madness, work, beard-growing and sadness.

Alex Nielson & Richard Youngs Electric Lotus LP
These guys make glue-sniffing rock and roll cast in the crucible of the entire recorded history of time and act really nonchalant about it.

Evolution of a Cromagnon by John Joseph.
Finally. But don’t take my word for it, Adam Yauch had this to say:“So if you want to remember what NYC was like in the 70′s and 80′s, if you are interested in selling fake acid at Madison Square Garden, or dressing up like Santa Claus in a wheelchair to hustle money for the Hari Krishnas…put a read on this.”

Moving to San Francisco, California.
I can’t believe this place. Lousy with people with the right ideas, jamming, playing good records and eating salmon tacos on the edge of green cliffs over the ocean.

Spectre Folk-The Blackest Medicine.
Here drum-dilweed extraordinaire Pete Nolan takes on new dimensions of low-fidelity radness through the Woodsist imprint. The infamous label in charge of releasing other super-jammers such as Axolotl, Loosers and Blues Control, Woodsist put this mother out in the o 7. So many good songs, I don’t know where to start; it’s like Gene Clark in a manhole with Von LMO in Bushwick. This is another artist criminally unappreciated for his solo work, most probably due to his surly manner. Just ‘cause the man don’t hold doors for people doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to build castle bridges of strangeness into the void. LISTEN.

28 Artists and 2 Saints by Joan Acocella.
Since she works the danse circuit for the New Yorker, this is a little heavy on the choreographer/ballet dancers for my plebian tastes, but has been one of the books I come back to again and again. As a warning, despite her beautiful prose, do not look up Bob Fosse clips on youtube. You will probably not be as moved by the musical Damn Yankees in this cultural context as Acocella was, and you will feel funny if anyone sees you. This compilation of biographical essays that all focus on what makes people get work accomplished as artists is stellar, with essays about Italo Svevo, Penelope Fitzgerald and Stefan Zweig.

Viz U.S.A.
VizUSA is the new psychedelic simple, hard: the rock and roll of Buddy Holly bare bones with the doors of perception jimmyin’ and repetitous riff milkin’ of Les Rallizes Denudes. The first time I came into contact with these dudes, Caitlin was wearing tight neon pink spandex pants and a white furry coat; she was surrounded by a bunch of scuzz-duh dudes in Paris,
talking real French to French folks. Calder looked like he just dropped out of Alice in Chains and had his hair in a big momma hippie braid down his back. They were the nicest people I talked to all tour. They were playing with Excepter then; most recently I saw them with Richard and John from Sightings with Blues Control in New York, which was an amazing show. Look for the epic full length out on Seres ASAP. Check out this video. Whoa dude, if this is what they do with jams, imagine the baby!

Donovan Quinn.
Though best known for his work with the Skygreen Leopards, Quinn has been culling his private weird recordings since he lived in a rotting trailer in the suburban sprawl of Walnut Creek. Due to popular insistence, the man has finally gone solo, kicking it off with a UK tour and a ltd. release cdr on Soft Abuse called October Lanterns. His distracted breathy vocals serve to obscure what is surely some of the most evocative pop pastiche lyric carving since Phil Ochs went hippie, and guitar playing as bossy anything Duane Eddy ever did. Looking forward to this dude having to cajones to put out a real release in a larger edition. While I am here, I might as well mention another criminally under-jammed record, which is the Jehovah Surrender EP by the Skygreen Leopards.

Kill All Your Darlings by Luc Sante.
Using New York City as shorthand for America, Sante writes in a dry, elegiac prose style and lived in Alphabet City when it was scary. He captures a very specific time in New York and bridges this with more current essays on Giuliani, 9/11 etc. Sometimes he can sound a little arch, like when he’s talking about the ‘genius’ quotient among the Nuggets garage rockers, but his essay on the plastic injection mold alone is worth the price of the book. “There remained the lingering aura of the Wobblies, of the miners’ strikes and auto workers’ strikes of the 1930’s, as well as a cascade of images from the Paris Commune and the October Revolution and the Long March. We imagined basking in the radiance of that aura when we wore our blue chambray shirts and listened to the MC5, not suspecting that within a decade or two most of Americans’ jobs would be exported or terminated. Then the remnants of the working class would either be handed neckties and told they were middle-class, or forced into fast-food uniforms and told they didn’t exist.”

Colossal Yes.
Colossal Yes/Jack Rose at 21 Grand, Colossal Yes at the Make Out Room, Colossal Yes at the Rite Spot before Christmas. Drinking something kind of like alcoholic coffee lotion, Utrillo played the piano with his back to the audience and his radness on full display. Like Lieber and Stoller if it was just one dude who liked to talk about diarrhea, his songs are beautiful narratives, melodically perfect and lyrical bitchse. Utrillo, Adam, Charlie and Ben played acoustic jams and brought down the house, then a spontaneous conga line broke out. I think Aculpoco Roughs was one of the most underrated albums of 2006, but luckily, Kushner has another album in the works as we speak that kicks its ass. Slog your way through the Beirut promos on the Ba Da Bing site to see when it comes out.

Werner Herzog.
Seeing My Best Fiend and the making of the soundtrack to Grizzly Man was…awesome. I am not too good about talking about movie stuff. You should see them too.

Mick Barr.
This guy is a mind blowing guitar player, and yet he infuses all of his technical, joint destroying dexterity with some kind of heavy spirit and meaning. I guess they call it phrasing, but I think it might be mojo, which Barr has got in spades. The first seven
inch record I ever bought was by a Connecticut band called Thinner, which, it turns out, Mick used to playin. Not only is this guy an axe-master, but he was really nice to me when I was 16 talking at length about the lyrics to “New York Crew.”

Coffee Plant Demos.
Cam Archer sent this my way, and I have been listening to it. Skip Cathouse Blues, the song about the Goldfish and Garbo. The rest: PURE gold. Especially hearing Lindsey Buckingham’s twerpy self-introduction at the start of a set- “And now! Buckingham Nicks!”

Tony Rettman’s Detroit Hardcore article in Swindle.
Finally. Dedicated to Larissa Strickland, Tony talks first person to the people who you idolize: this from Steve Miller of The Fix on the D.C. scene and straight edge: “[a]ll those kids in those hardcore bands were throwing out their Aerosmith and AC/DC records. It all
seemed fishy to me.” This, Barry Hensler, Ian Mackaye, Dave Stimpson, Tesco Vee, and John Brannon chatting like they’re at a sleepover. Tony’s gift as a writer is not what he knows, which borders on the obsessive, but his ear for the language and music he loves, and his gift for capturing rhetorical pratfalls. This is his head and his heart. The best music writing in a periodical since before I was born. Now will someone please pay him to write about Abba and/or Roger Nichols?

Jason Wambsgans’ Seagulls Attack! Piece for the Chicago Tribune
Jason is a photojournalist for the Tribune and the sounds and the photos of suburban Illinois here are Jason’s, as is the sense of mystery and unexplicated narrative of the photos. Vitality convulses through all his pictures, bucking the natural limits of mortality, decay and order. Jason has taken photos of Magik Markers in the past, and has an amazing back catalogue of photographs that he will not display for reasons which are his own.

Joe Carducci
Reading Rock and the Pop Narcotic kinda changed my brain, and I even saw where he was coming from on Springsteen. This year Mike Wolf gave me his copy of Enter Naomi: SST, L.A. and All That, which started as a really great internet essay recommended to me by Tonya Loiterman. Carducci on the bands Naomi shot: “When the German or Japanese reissues, or the wireless ring-tone file-sharing eco-system, or the film documentries, or Archaeology itself allows their rediscovery by some future kid dropping out of their over-produced, over-sold pop hell, they will find this music as clean and pure as field recordings. It’s the last music recorded in our world before noise-gates and digital delay replaced space and air with a virtual reality that promised a lie better than truth.” Fucking A. Carducci writes like a fan dance, and it can be maddening what he leaves out or obscures, but what he puts in lifts from the page to become bass relief illustrations in your mind to explain much bigger and more complex things. Reading about SST always reminds me of how important work and discipline is, and reminds me to pony up and stop being a pussy. “Get it happening, this ain’t Van Halen!” Just don’t think about the money, lawyers, life-long feuds stuf that happened later. As a companion to the times from an entirely other mind, I recommend Saint Joe by Joe Cole.

Falk, California.
Up north near Eureka,California, there is a redwood forest that used to be a logging town and mill. Covered in new trees and old stumps, there is a trail that gets wilder the deeper you get into the woods and will take you all the way to Fortuna. You can walk inside a stump of a redwood that a logger used to live in, and there are a couple of signs that there were humans there once but mostly it is a forest. Awesome to know how quickly elaborate mechanations of humans can be totally invisible in only a few generations.

Mick Flower
The house Mick renovated in Leeds is clean, filled with light and stellar, like his dopest jams but less psych. Seeing Mick play live is insane. He is so precise and attentive to detail but then flies into other time and space and in his precision gets buck-ass-wild. Solo, with the Vibracathedral Orchestra and in all incarnations Mick taps into a genetic memory of sound. With Chris Corsano this year, Textile Records released The Radiant Mirror, one of the best records of, 2007, and I will bet 2008 too. I hope one day shitty Customs lets him back into the U.S.

Getting to play with Six Organs of Admittance in Europe.
Besides getting to play music with Ben, and making fun of the way Fitz talked, this tour was also awesome because it included running into Spencer Clarke wearing a lei in Den Haag and having dinner at Helbaard, seeing wet naked Finnish people running from the cops, jamming in a Swedish cave, and sleeping under a cafeteria table on an overnight ferry.

Other stellar books I read this year:
Ordeal by Hunger: The Classic Story of the Donner Party by George Stewart
Skeletons of the Zahara by Dean King
The New Science by Giambattista Vico
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
Anarchy and Alchemy: The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky by Ben Cobb

The ever-astonishing ELISA AMBROGIO sings and guitars in Magik Markers, who played one of the most talked-about performances at ArthurFest in 2005. She is going on tour shortly as part of Six Organs of Admittance’s current lineup. No prisoners will be taken.


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