Music Review: Jochen Arbeit & Huan (2013)

  November 12th, 2013



     Nine biomorphic forms neatly arranged in a grid, looking like something you might find in a book of Ernst Haeckel illustrations, — among them a writhing anemone, an alien sponge clump, a spiky yawning pod, & new growth sprouting from seed — this is the cover of “Jochen Arbeit & Huan”, the 2013 LP by Jochen Arbeit (Einstürzende Neubauten member since 1997) & Huan (A.K.A. Víctor Hurtado from Qa’a, a band whose work I’ve previously reviewed here). And, in a way, these spare images aptly sum up the powerful music produced by this collaboration: ~18 minutes of carefully-arranged sound that call to mind the language of ancient lifeforms undersea & from the soil, lifeforms being born, flowering & dying across the sonic spectrum, from murmur & chatter to drone & pulse to shriek & howl.
    Arbeit & Huan, using what sounds to be just guitar & drum machine, start the first of the LP’s two tracks with a steady heartbeat pulse & low ominous drone. Above that backbeat, spectral steam bursts punctuate gradually-swelling guitarscapes. The music gathers, howls, suggesting the primordial, the elemental: a vast red geyser-shot terrain that could be a world’s first hesitant centuries, or a barren dusty planet eons after wipeout. The sound of algae forming, trilobytes thickening their chitin under a violent sky. Late in the track, the beat & low-end drop out, giving way to long, sustained squealing distorted notes twisting & angling around each other. The track crescendoes to a rich complex noise-barrage.
    Part two begins more delicately, the guitar squall thinned out & less dense, replaced by a background squeal & occasional clattering percussion. Recessed underwater grotto guitar explorations follow, accented with cavernous space droplets. The guitar’s midrange grinds back in near the end, intensifying the sound. The piece ends in a satisfying, delicate fade-out, a tiny mechanical underlying motif endlessly repeating.
    What distinguishes this effort is its focus & sense of architecture across its relatively short running time. There’s no shortage of kosmic guitar-driven post-Kraut prog in today’s musical landscape, but it’s rare to find that aesthetic married, as it is here, with exceptional restraint & a sense of organization. Arbeit & Huan’s collaboration feels purposeful, departing from the merely ambient & moodscaping, sustaining interest by providing variety & detail of timbre, range, development, motif & dynamics. The music rewards close listening, its ideas, motifs & sound-cells arriving & departing with surprising, natural flow, like exotic unicellular critters sliding in & out of a microscope’s view. Preview the record here on soundcloud.


“Jochen Arbeit & Huan” is released on the not-for-profit, Barcelona-based Màgia Roja label.

For more about Jochen Arbeit, check out his site.

For more about Huan & the band Qa’a, and other Màgia Roja musicians, check out Màgia Roja’s Facebook Page.


[SnailCrow at 8:44 PM]


[file under: ART ||| music ]

Sappho Durrell

  June 29th, 2013

Sappho Durrell-Granta 

       Sappho Durrell (b. 1951, d.1985), photographer unknown


Sappho Durrell was born to english author Lawrence Durrell & Durrell’s second wife, Yvette Cohen. Sappho was a writer and playwright. She committed suicide in 1985, at 34.

I just finished reading a compressed selection of her journal entries and letters found in Granta #37 (1991). It’s pretty harrowing stuff. For starters, her prose style and means of forming ideas are fairly disjointed & oblique in a way that suggests a troubling disconnection from others and herself. She does reveal a savvy, astute bluntness in assessing her early life and teen years in several passages, but once she settles into her present day conflicts with life & men (especially her father), you find yourself in a confusing, dismaying blizzard of psychodramatic cross-currents & symbols & life-theories.

Her relationship with her father is at the core of this blizzard. It’s a tangled, saddening one, and we get a missing-piece jigsaw puzzle of it as readers in the form of her journal entries (including notes on her psych visits), snippets of their letters to each other, (complete with bewildering kabbalistic notes she made to her dad’s) & bits of her poetry (urgent, sideways-angry, incoherent).

I found their letter-writing relationship most poignant and compelling. It’s a coy, writerly, between-the-linesy ultra-layered back-and-forth which, granted the typical in-joke esoterica freighting any correspondence between close family members (especially when both are writers!), to me is still sadly fraught with an inordinate degree of passive aggression and psychological cryptography, trap-laying, maze-running. It’s fascinating and painful to read the extent to which these two artfully dodge love.

What’s worse is that we get Sappho’s journal entries which, elliptical as they may be, give us some insight into what she feels for him (& more frequently, against him), and the relationship needs of hers that are going unmet. This makes it all the harder to read those letters, and how hard it is for her to be immediate and authentic in directly addressing her issues with him.

Not to let Durrell off the hook — the opposite in fact. He had more responsibility to engage with his daughter in a meaningful away, and find out what was going on with her adulthood drift and emotional turmoil and identity-malaise. Because all the signs were there: depression, self-loathing, withdrawal. Sappho lacked the courage to speak to him frankly, and was still trying to figure out, both on her own and with the help of her psych, why she was upset with her father. Durrell had the power here, and certainly the insight and intelligence to be able to come to her emotional aid, but failed to. The sense I get from his letters to her was of a man interested in his daughter as intellectual foil and cultural cohort, someone else to prove himself to as artist and intellect, someone to irony-spar with.

For more about Sappho, please check out this NYTimes bit that preceded the Granta publication:

For more about Lawrence Durrell, check out this Encyclopedia Britannica bit:


[SnailCrow at 8:19 PM]


[file under: photography ||| prose ]

Poem: Jean Joubert’s “April Again” (trans. Levertov)

  May 25th, 2013

  Jean Joubert


April again, its
frail flames,
nightingales, lilac.

Hail, Sun, behold
our festal garments,
the fire of our words.

At the crest of day
we could almost
seem purely blithe.

But at our earth’s
darkest, most secret
place there is
an emptiness nothing can fill.

  [translated from the French by Denise Levertov] 






A new poet to me. I love this poem! The incredible evanescence of all seasons. The death of them already implicit in their beginnings, even as life begins to adjust to their claim, either in flushing dance or huddling shiver. Stink of rot as soon as the new blossom or fruit starts to bud. Stirrings of new shoot even as first snow blankets. Everything is already always turning. And Spring, the great joyous awakening passage of the year: a shaky blush, it’s all bravado. The globe always lusts for renewal, for destruction. Hard to be at peace enough to celebrate when always careening from death to rebirth. Seesawing an egg and hoping it’ll come to rest in the center. Just to know beautiful things when they are simply being still. By some spiritual traditions, part of suffering is not accepting these vicissitudes. And so we suffer. If we are unfortunate enough to just want to stand still and take a deep breath and keep things still for a bit.

For more about Joubert, and more examples of his work, please direct yrselves over to Narrative Magazine
as well as the Poetry Foundation.

[SnailCrow at 1:28 AM]


[file under: art of the day ||| poetry ]

Chris Way – Featured in Printer’s Devil Review plus New Artworks

  May 1st, 2013


       Chris Way (b. Ft. Myers, FL)
          ManorCare Rec Room, Sunday February 20, 2011, 2012, pastels and colored pencil on charcoal paper


I’m happy to announce that Printer’s Devil Review has featured my 5-part DuPron Suite — an interconnected series of pastel and chalk works on paper about my family and about events in my childhood — in their Spring 2013 issue. They meant a lot to make and I’m happy to share them with you.

The above image, “ManorCare Rec Room, Sunday February 20, 2011″, is part of the series.

View the entire gallery here:

Also check out the interview with me here (also including images of all five works).

Finally, please be sure to check out the entire PDR Spring ’13 issue here, chock full of goodies literary and visual.

In other news, I’ve got about 20 new recent art pieces and photographs up at my art gallery page over here — take a peek when you have a chance. Below is a recent artwork of mine included in that update:

       Chris Way (b. Ft. Myers, FL)
          The Ferns, March, 2013, pastels chalk and white out on black charcoal paper

Thanks all of you for your continued support!


[SnailCrow at 12:01 AM]


[file under: art ||| ART ||| [STUFF I MAKE] ]