“KEEPING IT LOCAL”: Trinie Dalton visits BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT (Arthur, 2008)


Nabob, photographed by Trinie Dalton

Two transplants from the Heart of Dixie who went west to the land of mesas, pueblos and geodesic domes, Rachael Hughes and Nathan Shineywater have found a way to thrive beyond society’s mad dash to survive. Trinie Dalton travels to New Mexico to meet BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT, and hear their stunning new album in the pair’s natural habitat.

originally published in Arthur No. 31 (Oct 2008), with photographs by Lisa Law

Leaving Brightblack Morning Light’s northern New Mexico deep wilderness enclave, I finally get their obsession with the local AM radio. The daily monsoon moves in as I fly down the hill from their town in my red rental car. Mexican cumbia, a variation of the upbeat Colombian pop music, sounds interplanetary crackling through the fuzzy AM distance. I imagine it transmitting from some far off Mexican star, a star I’d like to visit. Crank the cumbia, see what it can do in a storm. Brightblack Morning Light’s Nabob Shineywater says AM is like Sun Ra. Yesterday morning, just after I’d arrived, we were hiking up a wash and Nabob asked, “Who are we to say Sun Ra wasn’t from another planet?”

The sky gets dark as wind kicks up. With the first lightning crackle and boom, the radio shorts and cumbia cuts out—quiet for a moment, then back up, hissing, scratched, and damaged. Have I blown the speakers? Has the radio station’s tower been struck? Each lightning bolt slicing vertically down the flat horizon causes more disruption. Nabob also mentioned that in Los Alamos, scientists recently disproved Einstein’s theory that light travels fastest. Radio waves now win that contest. Two days after the anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt of 1860—a big deal in these parts—thunder means the obliteration of human sounds. Recognizable dance beats are exchanged for something Frankenstein-ish: a live, electric orchestration so weird and marvelous it could only have been invented by Nature, the omnipresent force in this sandy region.

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ARTHUR BEST OF 2007 LISTS No. 7: Trinie Dalton

TOP stuff all of equal greatness
by Trinie Dalton

Valerie Project is a live re-soundtracking by members of Espers, Fursaxa, and Fern Knight of Czech New Wave film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. Live, the orchestra kills the original sound and plays their own magic, creepy score to this goth horror fairy tale about a girl losing her virginity. Lubos Fiser’s OG soundtrack has been recently re-released on CD and that is a treat as well. But live, the show is stunning, with full instrumentation beyond the average rock band, including Mary Lattimore’s lovely harp playing. CD’s out on Drag City if you miss the live show.

Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Missouri: killer caves, unreal cave classroom in which boy scouts learn speleology and geology, and an annual gospel retreat accommodating 600 people underground that I REALLY want to go to. There is also a disco ball in the cave entrance. Won’t spoil the highlights of the tour, but let’s just say it’s an hour and a half of mind-blowing wonder.

Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County, California: land holdings include one of the last protected pygmy forests, in which topsoil has eroding, causing nutrient-starved plants to flourish despite stunting conditions. This mixed conifer and redwood forest is ideal for mushroom hunting as well, not psychedelics but other showy varieties.

Gore (Picture Box Inc.) by Black Dice and Jason Frank Rothenberg: features collages by the talented Bjorn Copeland. Psychedelic humor and bold color palette.

Ariel Pink: new album recorded this year, unreleased as of yet? Played several spot-on Los Angeles shows, such as an opening gig for Gang Gang Dance at the Henry Fonda Theater and a rooftop blowout in Echo Park the same night Devendra Banhart closed his long Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon Tour at the Orpheum. Catch him live.

Les Mangalepa: Endurance

New American Writing series at the Hammer Museum: hosted by Benjamin Weissman is the best reading series and is even better now that the Hammer’s hot pink-seated Billy Wilder theater has opened. Highlight shows in this venue were Miranda July reading from her new book and artist Jim Shaw performing with orchestra of handmade instruments for the closing of the Eden’s Edge exhibit.

Panda Bear: Person Pitch

Family Books: the bookstore hosted many fun events, including a mini-reading series I curated, and continuously offers new titles to browse while visiting. Brings the boutique-style, niche-shop of New York to Los Angeles, and also proves to me that there’s a younger generation who read.

Denise Emmer: Canto Lunar

Kenneth Anger Volumes I & II released on DVD: my favorite director now has DVDs available with Anger-approved soundtracks and film quality. Director’s commentaries on each film are invaluable. Scorpion Rising, Puce Moment, two versions of Rabbit’s Moon, a letter Bobby Beausoleil wrote about his trials and tribulations battling Satan while recording the Invocation soundtrack from prison, the list of greatness continues.

The Killing Kind: this lost-classic directed by Curtis Harrington is now easy to watch, and wow, is it a creepy tale of a serial killer and his psychotic mother. Best Horror Film 2007!

Oaxaca: visiting Oaxaca City and taking day trips out into each of the four mountain ranges that form its basin gave me a lifetime of inspiration. Monte Alban, the hub of Zapotec culture, was a highlight, as were visiting a calcified waterfall called Hierve el Agua and hiking into the montane cloud forest to caves, wild orchids, and several bromeliad species.

Olympic Spa in L.A.’s Koreatown: $15 gets you a pass into a world of hot baths, dry saunas, steam rooms, and a heated jade-tiled floor to lie on. Ladies only.

Diving Bell and the Butterfly: directed by Julian Schnabel makes you want to give the egomaniac another chance. This retelling of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s paralyzing stroke and his struggle to write a book by learning a blinking alphabet to spell each letter out to a secretary for transcription is completely tragic and beautifully filmed.

Fit To Print: Printed Media in Recent Collage at Gagosian: was my favorite group show this year, solidifying collage’s recent return into the art critical spotlight. Fifty people in this show, but highlights were Jim Drain, Rachel Harrison, Richard Prince’s nurse novel book covers, Bjorn Copeland, Paul McCarthy & Benjamin Weissman, Christian Holstad, Jason Meadows, and many more. Coincides with the collage portion of New Museum’s (Un)Monumental exhibit, inaugurating their new space on the Bowery.

Liz Craft at Marianne Boesky: best solo show starred maybe twenty new all-white painted bronze and mixed media Aztec-style boxes with windows, terraces, and various objects attached inside, outside, above, below, and around these intriguing forms. These surreal dream objects reminded me of Magritte, Cornell, Duchamp, Oppenheim, though with more Mexican-California flair.

The Art of Raising A Puppy
(Little, Brown, and Company) by the Monks of New Skete: was a book that taught me a lot about fostering the pup I adopted from the pound. Written by Eastern Orthodox Monks in upstate New York, this book describes positive-reward method training techniques for German Sheperds, though the theories apply to all canines.

LAMA annual mushroom fair: this year’s was totally dried up due to drought, but usually the display tables feature all the species people find and bring in for I.D., some dudes with microscopes identifying, slide lectures, and displays showing all the native Southern California fungus varieties.

Wanda, directed by Barbara Loden, was screened at the Redcat in conjunction with the WACK! exhibition at MOCA. This great, 1970s feminist-era film, turns the then-popular ideas of feminism on their head, starring an incompetent, redneck loser, Wanda, who continuously digs herself into holes she can’t get out of. She is a charming, funny protagonist who actually convinces the viewer that males are the ones who make the most sense sometimes. This film presents a complex view of gender politics, rejecting stereotypes either way, and can be hard to see, though hopefully one day it will be released on DVD.

TRINIE DALTON is an author, artist, mushroom enthusiast and longtime contributor to Arthur Magazine. Her most recent books are the illustrated novella A Unicorn Is Born (with artist Kathrin Ayers) (Abrams), the short story collection Wide Eyed (Akashic) and a collection of confiscated schoolroom notes, Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is (McSweeney’s). She profiled Ethan Miller of Comets on Fire and Howlin Rain in Arthur No. 24, Delia and Gavin in Arthur No. 21, Animal Collective in Arthur No. 19, Henry Darger documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu in Arthur No. 15, RTX in Arthur No. 12 and both Devendra Banhart and CocoRosie in Arthur No. 10. Trinie just moved to New York and is working on at least three secret projects.