here is music i enjoyed this year (according to last.fm 12 month chart)

Madlib – Madlib Medicine Show #11: Low Budget High Fi Music

James Blake – James Blake

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Onra – Chinoiseries Pt. 2

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Jonwayne – Bowser

Geotic – Mend

Shlohmo – Bad Vibes

Knxwledge – Flowrs

lets see if we cant turn all those links blue

shlohmo – bad vibes

the fascination with analog decay that permeates the chillwave movement, that is so often a point of derision for critics of the style, has the tendency to come across as contrived, as an all-too-convenient way to mask the imperfections of the songwriting behind superficial technological imperfection. while bad vibes certainly shares a lo-fi aesthetic that might be associated with chillwave, it distinguishes itself in a crucial way: it is not just music that has been artificially made to “sound old,” but music that is derived from the imperfect nature of the medium itself (in this case, cassette tape) such that the two are inseparable from one another.

the familiar elements of tape hiss, distortion, and overcompression, which might otherwise merely serve the purpose of evoking some vague notion of nostalgia, are well represented here. yet the brilliance of bad vibes is the way in which these extraneous details are represented organically, blurring the distinction between noise and music. the samples are used not only for their melodic or percussive content, but the implications of the physical space in which they were recorded. ‘big feelings’ for example opens with a recording of birds chirping while the music gradually fades in beneath it, as an image gradually being pulled into focus. it is not until the entrance of the mbira (which itself is an imitation of the bird song) and the percussion (which similarly imitates the clicks and pops of the cassette tape) that the image settles into place. the field recording is used to establish a setting, then the music springs up all around it, as if to suggest that the music was contained within these sounds all along, that it is an enhancement of the sounds of nature and not the other way around.

by viewing the world through old, imperfect equipment, the music suggests two things: that nature itself is imperfect, and that there is beauty to be found in its imperfection. we live in a world that has become increasingly obsessed with the recording and cataloging of life, where nothing is transient to the point that things cease to exist if they have not been recorded. bad vibes is a reminder that despite our best efforts, nothing is actually permanent, that decay is as important a part of nature as growth, and that the two have equal potential for beauty.

if ‘big feelings’ was the music of growth, its polar opposite, ‘trapped in a burning house,’ appearing at the other end of the album is the music of decay. it’s a shocking moment in an album which until this point had focused almost exclusively on memory and nostalgia to the point of willfully shutting out the present (‘anywhere but here’). ‘trapped in a burning house’ is a sudden, violent jolt back to the now, where we are forced to acknowledge not only the abstract notion of lost memory, youth, etc. but the frightening notion of our own mortality. the delicate vocals which had been present throughout much of the album are nowhere to be found here, replaced by a single voice which has been tuned so low as to be utterly incomprehensible, a wordless moan. everything in the track burns. a heavily distorted instrument, which sounds as though it may have once been a piano, alternates between two resolute, menacing chords, as a melody seemingly made up entirely of fuzz and distortion slowly winds its way out from underneath.the track is a twist ending of sorts, revealing that the album had not been a celebration of nostalgia but a representation of transience itself. as the present comes roaring back into focus we are left with no recourse but to accept and perhaps find consolation in our destruction, the house burning all the while, crumbling to pieces around us.

Shlohmo – Same Time

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you’re no boy scout

i was reminded of one of the introductory scenes from breaking bad’s pilot, where walt is trying to explain to his students what chemistry – and essentially breaking bad itself – is all about: change. “growth, then decay, then transformation.” walt has gone through several phases which might be described as growth, decay, or transformation. however, it seems to me that season 4 is, in the broader scope of the series, walt’s point of decay: he has faced humiliation after humiliation, been scorned by perhaps the only true friend he had left in jesse, been reduced to pleading for his life, and finally (once again) resigned to his inevitable death.

and that is part of what makes the events of ‘face off’ so shocking. when walt spins the gun in ‘end times’, pointing twice at himself, and then once at (what we know now is) the lily of the valley, regardless of whether or not we understand the implications of that plant, we get an impression of just how limited walt is in his options: to accept his fate, or to take that gun and face the world head-on.

walt spends a great deal of ‘face off’ appearing desperate and frantic. it’s a testament to the show’s brilliance that, having seen firsthand the horrible things walt is capable of, we still see him as the same hapless, bumbling, in-over-his-head chemistry teacher. when the two officers confront jesse in the hospital, they completely overlook walt nervously clutching the bomb concealed in his daughter’s diaper bag (echoing a similar scene from season 1 in which a police car drives right past walt). when saul’s secretary attempts to extort walt, he takes a while to come around to the fact that the $20,000 she demands is not, in fact, for repairing the glass on the front door (he may or may not have been playing dumb in this situation). or the scene where walt escapes his house from gus’s men, clumsily tumbling over his backyard fence.

part of the genius of walt’s plan is in the way he exploits the means of his oppression and turn it against his enemies. those omnipresent surveillance cameras, gus’s proxy, frustrated walt at every turn this season. yet walt manages to use the cameras to his favour, when he is trying to convince jesse that gus is responsible for brock’s poisoning. when gus shuts the lid of the laptop displaying surveillance footage, i was reminded of that scene from the matrix where the agent torturing morpheus takes out his earpiece – it’s a moment where gus leaves himself exposed, blinded by his hatred for hector.

in ‘end times,’ walt told skyler that he intended to accept the consequences of his actions. throughout the series there have been various points which offered walt a way out of the destructive path he’s chosen, and each time he has rejected it. now, walt finds himself in a position where the only escape left to him is accepting that he will be killed. by choosing to kill gus – to protect his family, perhaps, but largely out of self-preservation – he denies himself what may have been his only true redemption. before now, walt has never really seemed to fit into the role of heisenberg, fancy black hats and door-knocking notwithstanding. ‘face off’ is a crucial turning point, perhaps the exact moment of walt’s transformation into heisenberg. with gus out of the way, he no longer answers to anyone. yet if there’s anything that the downfalls of people like gus and don eladio can teach us it’s that this sort of victory is never permanent, no matter how smart you are. how much longer can walt prolong the inevitable?

can’t say it’s been a pleasure

ok i want to still write up 406-410 but i wanted to get caught up so i could watch the show live this sunday, so i’ll have to get back to those. this episode was just too overwhelming to not write something.

it’s incredible how this entire season walt has been this blustering, delusional figure, believing himself to be the center of a story which could not possibly be less concerned with him. he’s been ignored, shut out, beaten, humiliated, and yet through all of that it was difficult to feel too sorry for him because he had so clearly brought it all on himself. but that moment, when skyler tells him that she gave the money away – to ted beneke no less – and he lets out that awful yawp, in that moment i can’t imagine anybody not feeling for walt who, for all his genius, has effectively sealed his own tomb, not to mention that of his family.

watching the show at my own pace, without the week-long wait in between, i don’t have to deal with any of the frustration that i imagine some people must feel, given the show’s relatively slow pace. i was reminded especially of what bryan cranston said during the breaking bad insider podcast for bullet points, talking about the pace of the show:

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that’s exactly what i felt during the last scenes of this episode. in a way it feels like this episode is the cumulation of not only the events leading up to it in the season, but in the entire series: hank’s brother being a dea agent, skyler’s entanglement with ted, walt’s mistreatment of jesse, and so on, and so on. and that moment where walt is lying there in the dirt looking up at skyler and he yells “Where’s the money?!” and the music just drops out…i definitely felt that weightlessness bryan cranston was talking about, just this incredible emotional DROP. i must have watched that scene five or six times last night. it was an unbelievably powerful moment that, from the careful, deliberate pacing of the show, feels so earned, and is horrifying, tragic, pathetic, and gratifying, all at the same time.

and there are still two episodes to go. that was the drop, heres where the ride really begins.

we’re not leaving anything to chance

skyler white’s ambitions as a novelist – set up early in the series, then, for the most part, abandoned – finally pay off in this episode in which she constructs a thoroughly detailed apology/explanation scene, set to take place during a family dinner. she practically has to drag along an uncooperative, resentful walt, who perceives the entire exercise as a way for skyler to further demonize and humiliate him. walt’s complaints generally center around the amount of dialogue dedicated to him apologizing – or as walt puts it, “making me look like crap” – and he spends a great deal of the “rehearsal” negotiating down the number of times he has to use the word “terribly”. walt ends up not having to work all that hard to sell his remorse, once hank shows him and walter jr. gale’s ridiculous karaoke video. walt is visibly shaken, and his apology comes across as quite sincere, as gale continues to haunt walt from the beyond the grave, reminding him that he does indeed have some things to answer for. as for skyler’s plan, it appears to have been a success. marie has already bought into the story, walter jr. is mostly interested in what it means for his prospects of getting his own car. hank, on the other hand, is bemused at best, and it will be interesting to see whether or not the story will hold up in the coming episodes. if nothing else, hank has proved throughout the series to have a fairly well-tuned bullshit detector (aside from, of course, his critical inability to make the connection between Heisenberg and his brother-in-law).

‘open house’ ended with hank beginning to flip through gale’s lab notes, raising the question: what, if anything, would hank find that incriminated walt? the scene shifts from the dinner table to hank’s bedroom “office”, and here walt finds some real demands being made on his acting abilities: he must carefully toe the line between innocent curiousity and doing what he can to remove any suspicions that might arise from gale’s notes. when hank points out gale’s mysterious “w. w.” dedication, walt’s first response to defuse hank’s mock accusation with humour is awkward. it isn’t until walt remembers gale’s appreciation for the poetry of walt whitman that he offers a more confident – and clever – explanation. “you freakin braniac. you freakin braniac!” hank says excitedly. walt’s greatest weapon is not his ability to dissemble, but his intellect. unfortunately, it’s the pride that goes with his intellect, his need to be the smartest kid in the class, that is his weakness.

it’s his pride that causes him to oppose skyler’s scripted pseudo-confession, under the guise of criticizing its mannered attempts at provoking sympathy. what he fails to realize is that the notion of a lie agreed upon as an effective means of self-preservation is not unique to his wife: walt later confronts jesse in a similar attempt to straighten out a story by (insensitively) demanding a play-by-play of the night of gale’s murder. of course, jesse is still far too traumatized to relive that night on his own, let alone with an aggressive, frantic walt yelling in his face.

jesse – now sporting a shaved head, which seems to be an indication of moral decline for the characters of breaking bad – is utterly unconcerned with these desperate, superficial survival tactics. if the deteriorating situation at jesse’s house is meant to represent the current mental/emotional state of its owner, the Paranoid Babbling Guy represents the voice of fear. jesse appears not to hear his ceaseless rambling at all, instead focusing his attention to more practical concerns like making sure there’s enough pizza for everyone. the reason jesse appears so unaffected by the fear that seems to have overcome the others is that he is perhaps the only character willing to admit, or perhaps even able to recognize that the situation is beyond repair. no matter how bad things have gotten for walt, he is not about to admit defeat, refusing saul’s offer of a clean escape. meanwhile jesse, unblindfolded, stares blankly out the window as mike drives him out into the desert, resigned to what is almost certainly his demise. it’s as though death is the only real escape jesse can hope for, and perhaps the only outcome he feels he deserves.

you do kinda get used to it

get more cheese than doritos, cheetos, fritos

when huell and his “stomach thing” interrupt saul’s meeting with the whites, saul chastises him (“why didn’t you think of that before?”) like a frustrated parent to a child in the back seat of the car. the meeting continues as saul and skyler brainstorm ways to take over the carwash, and the scene ends with the sound of the toilet flushing. it’s a brief, somewhat crude comedic moment that hangs over the heads of the characters in this episode – the notion of small, seemingly insignificant mistakes that have severe repercussions.

when jesse says to walt (re: getting the shit kicked out of him) that “you do kinda get used to it” there’s this dull, hopeless pain in his eyes. unlike walt, jesse lacks the necessary delusion that would allow him to rationalize gale’s murder and move on. he is paralyzed by his guilt, spending his evenings in that claustrophobic indoor go kart track, and a home that has morphed from neverending party to something ugly and violent, a physical manifestation of jesse’s suffering.

for marie, home life has become unbearable, as hank has pushed her away to the point that she no longer feels welcome in her own home. the situation has become so miserable that she has, seemingly out of desperation, returned to her old klepto ways, constructing elaborate fantasy lives for herself as she travels from open house to open house, leaving with a keepsake from each. yet for all of her attention to detail in crafting these false identities, she overlooks the possibility of being recognized, and her fantasies come crashing down. when hank finds out, he responds to her angrily (“how could you do this to me again?”), yet in the company of tim he is sympathetic, perhaps more aware of his complicity in her actions than he would have marie believe.

as marie and hank drift further apart, skyler and walter’s relationship appears to be strengthening, as skyler is drawn deeper into walt’s criminal life. like marie, skyler assumes a false identity (in this case, the EPA agent) to scam bogdan out of his carwash. unlike marie, however, skyler is cautious: she makes sure of every detail in her plan, and prepares for every possible outcome – right down to the number of times she allows the phone to ring when bogdan desperately calls her back.

walt’s nonchalance regarding the expensive bottle of champagne seems strange, as i’m pretty sure early on in the series walt had similarly lectured jesse about his carelessness with the money. in any case, walt’s need to be control as “the man” of the house makes it difficult for him to accept criticism from his wife, who has already begun to display some keen criminal instincts very early on. similarly, walt’s extravagant purchase suggests that he, in fact, may be a liability that skyler has overlooked. unfortunately for skyler, she still sees walt more or less as the man that she knew, and her (perhaps willful?) blindness towards him may cost her a great deal.

nothin but good days ahead

jesse’s guilt for jane’s death had resulted in an earnest attempt to distance himself from the most damaging aspects of his life, particularly his drug use and his association with walter. it was a long time until he was finally able to forgive himself, to accept that it wasn’t his fault. gale’s death, however, is much more clear cut: he stood there in his doorway and pulled the trigger.

understandably, jesse reaches out to his old friends, people who knew him before the killing. badger and skinny pete serve as reminders of just how far jesse has strayed from his innocence. he is forced to listen to them bicker over the best zombie-killing game, and is disappointed by their hesitance to abandon the twelve steps. for badger and skinny pete, the drug dealer lifestyle has remained something abstract: they are able to flirt with the violence and the casual drug use without allowing it to consume them. when jesse stands in front of his blaring soundsystem, bathed in the rapidly changing coloured lights, he is forced to confront the fact that he cannot simply drown his problems out. this runs much deeper, in his soul.

there is a sense that skyler’s insistence on using the carwash has some other motivation besides its plausibility. when saul had first raised the idea of walt buying the laser tag business, skyler found the very idea ridiculous: “do you even know walt?” she does not know she is speaking about a person who ran down two drug dealers with his car and finished one of them off execution style, or a person who is now sitting alone at home working on his draw. yet the walt she knows now is still far different from the walt from a year ago, let alone the walt she had married. after all walt has put her through, skyler still clings to the man she knew; the man who, like jesse, is likely beyond redemption.

in a way, hank’s fate has allowed us to view a sort of alternate universe, the one walt so dreaded where his infirmity left him ashamed and his wife resentful. throughout the series hank has been a man who put on a tough front, and it became clear that this front had extended beyond his professional life and melded with his identity completely. hank feebly attempts to keep up the act around the physiotherapist, where the high fives and hell yeahs are just as much effort for him as those last 10 steps to his bed. marie, on the other hand, has seen him at his most vulnerable, and his shame is such that he shuts her out completely.

walt, somehow, still holds on to his belief that things are up for negotiation, that there exists that perfect combination of words to absolve him. as in ‘box cutter’, walt desperately tries to argue, persuade, and plead, only to be met with a startling physical response. both gus and mike have come to the realization that walt is their sin, and are trying to shut him out. one way or another they are going to have to come to terms with their actions, and all it will take is for walt to admit to himself that the gun he just bought with the serial number filed off is not for self-defense.


the new website is up. this etc is gonna be just bloggy stuff from now on. all music goes to scatterling. this post is a half-hearted attempt at google bombing.

New EP: I Am See Through Of Course


an EP/mini beat tape. dedicated to the endles s winter of 2010. inspired by old movies and pictures of iceland.

1. Spitbubble
2. Turquoise
3. Old World
4. Born Mind

Jonwayne – Bowser

There’s a strain of hip-hop which, over the past few years, has shown a particular fondness for the sounds of vintage video game hardware. Video game and hip-hop music are, it turns out, highly compatible with one another: both are by necessity concise, catchy, and loopable. As widespread as this trend has become, Jonwayne’s Bowser is the first to draw the connection between the two genres directly. If the album’s cover didn’t tip you off, tracks with titles like “Dreamland” should, a beat which simultaneously evokes the referenced game while re-interpreting it in a hip-hop context. It’s a beat that would allow Kirby to put his microphone ability to good use.

While artists like Lone and Hudson Mohawke have incorporated detuned synths and samples to denote a sense of nostalgia, Jonwayne’s utilizes these techniques in a slightly different way. There are no dusty vinyl breaks or reverb-soaked synths here: each sound is presented raw, as though it is being played directly off a sound chip. The detuned synths and slightly off-beat drums, therefore, do not convey the kind of half-remembered, tape-warped nostalgia that you might get from artists like Lone. Listening to Bowser is like switching on an NES that’s been collecting dust in the attic for just a little too long, the music of hardware whose circuits are still functioning after all these years, albeit a little worse for wear.

Jonwayne – Be Honest

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