Baldi/Gerycz Duo, “Frog Congress at Dawn,” After Commodore Perry Service Plaza (American Dreams Records)
The word “chancery” fascinates me. It means “an office attached to an embassy or consulate”: “a medieval writing office,” according to Wikipedia. The chancery is the interior where decisions are made, to be executed out there, in the real world. But there is also a seedier connotation, because “chancery” by nature contains the British slang “chancer” — literally, a person who takes chances. A chancer is a sketchy sort, someone who throws dice in back alleys, someone who cheats a little bit — not a lot, just enough — to gain some sort of petty advantage. A chancer is a bit sleazy, hitting on your partner right in front of you, leering. So, chancery could also be the pursuit of a chancer, a chancer being one who engages in chancery. We are only given so many chances in this life. It’s time to make the most of them.
MJ Guider, “Simulus,” Sour Cherry Bell (Kranky Records)
In mid-March, as the lockdowns were imposed, I pulled out my Brother Activator 800T mechanical typewriter and started writing. I wasn’t sure if the power or internet would go out, if there would be total chaos in the streets, if the world would end. A voice awakened in me, though, and every day for three months, I pounded words into my Brother. It was a liberating way to write: there is no ‘erase’ function on that particular model of paper machine, so if I made a mistake, I had to accept it and just keep going. Since it wasn’t connected to anything, not even a wall outlet, there was never an impulse to switch screens, to check the news, to refresh a Twitter feed, to quickly send an email.
I began to look forward to my time spent in front of the typewriter, the sturdy clack of the keys which needed to be pressed intentionally, not simply hinted at like the keys of a laptop; the ding of the bell when I reached the margin, reminding me to return onto another line of text. I wrote about things I never would have written about on a computer, because it felt safer somehow to have the indelibility of ink on a page. I wrote about the state of things, but also about memories that have plagued me since childhood, about my other obsessions: David Letterman, William S. Burroughs-style literary cut-ups, conspiracy theories, sex, drugs and snooker. The pages started piling up, and by May I had a book. That book is now out (digitally) via Repeater. It’s called The Limits of Control, and I couldn’t stop you from reading it if I tried. Verily, the word is a virus, because I have the word, and now you do, too.
Lee Paradise, “Message to the Past,” The Fink LP (Telephone Explosion Records)
When we slip into dark places, it’s because of an absence in our lives, a lack — of companionship, of love, of money, of choice, opportunity, agency. Something’s missing. Talking about it doesn’t help. It’s like going to an AA meeting and talking about how badly you want a drink, or talking about the good times, or even the horrible times you had when you were drinking. Talk doesn’t fill the void. The void can be just as much for pleasure as for pain, too. The pleasure or pain of moments stretches out for far longer than the moments themselves. This is what we call memory. When you’re in the company of memory, you’re in the grip of loss.
Oneohtrix Point Never, “Auto & Allo,” Magic Oneohtrix Point Never (Warp Records)
Going into stores has become a surreal experience. Like a Pharmaprix: the most ordinary objects have taken on another kind of character entirely. I scan the products lining the shelf behind the clerk’s till. Nearly obsolete cameras and game cartridges, straight-to-video DVDs and a stack of Celine Dion’s Greatest Hits on CD, wrapped in 20-year-old cellophane. A sad lot. Some of them pleaded, some sulked, some shouted in anger at being left alone, but they were all alone. Hanging on the wall, waiting for someone to take them home, to make them a part of their life — to love them. These unclaimed products were inseparable from their content and provoked a profound empathy that even most humans could no longer muster in me. At that moment, they were the most honest objects in existence, naked in their desperation and futility.
Masma Dream World, “Becoming the Magician,” Play at Night (Northern Spy)
Not long ago, I watched as a couple moved their infant child from the stroller into the car. They worked in perfect tandem, her opening the back door and him detaching the baby carriage from the stroller, nestling it into the back seat, snapping the seatbelt in place, removing the blanket from over the child’s face and gently closing the door shut. Then he folded up the stroller and fit it into the hatchback like he’d done it a thousand times. They performed this like a choreographed ballet or an acrobatics routine. As she started the car and opened all the windows, I could hear the song on the radio — the Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe.” ■
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