two feminist punk/post-punk classics, and some thoughts on youtube

I spend a lot of time trolling YouTube for obscure punk, post-punk, darkwave, and associated fringe music. It’s a compulsion, although I remain conflicted over listening to this music without paying for it. If YouTube was like an all-you-can-eat buffet where you paid one price and could gorge on as much music as you wanted, I would gladly pay that fixed price (provided it went directly to the musicians). And frankly, I’m surprised YouTube has not yet gone the subscription route, though I suspect such a fate is not far off. The fact is that I cannot afford to individually support every musician I listen to on YouTube by buying their music, if it’s even still available for purchase, which it very often is not since most of these bands are inactive and/or have no web presence. And I should clarify that I do still pay for music. If there is a band that I really enjoy and find myself repeatedly wanting to listen to their music, I will seek them out and if their music is available to purchase somewhere I will buy it. But with many of the bands I find, I’m just sampling them and moving on. Only a select few do I find myself returning to listen again. In this respect YouTube is a good place to do music research, and so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing if it leads to people buying music they otherwise would not have known about. With that in mind here are a couple of my recent finds below. And I should add, as many music-uploading YouTube users often do: if you like these bands, please support them by buying their albums! The Au Pairs albums can be hard to find but they are still out there in various formats. And the Poison Girls website offers most of their releases as downloads, with a PayPal ‘honesty box’ for payments.

Au Pairs – Fronted by lesbian-feminist Lesley Woods, whose lyrics both skewered sexual and social politics and celebrated sexuality from a woman’s perspective, the Au Pairs played post-punk occasionally reminiscent of Gang of Four, with its prominent funk-inspired bass and trebly guitar. Their second LP ‘Sense and Sensuality’ found them straying even more into jazz and funk territory. Here’s a fantastic live track from that album. Also check out this episode of Post Punk Britain from earlier this year featuring an interview with Woods, a playlist chosen by her (including several Au Pairs songs), and a new song she recorded for the show.

Poison Girls – An anarcho-punk band led by Vi Subversa, a middle-aged mother of two, Poison Girls were early contemporaries of Crass and recorded their first single on Crass Records. But they weren’t a typical anarcho-punk band (if there is such a thing), and later went their own musical way. From what I’ve read of their story, it’s more interesting than that of Crass and the rest of that milieu, but I’m always more captivated by the outsiders, even in a scene already far outside the mainstream. Vi’s lyrics, capturing the perspective of a smart woman growing older as she continues to rail against the patriarchy, communicated an experience not commonly heard at the time in punk music. And the music was certainly not run-of-the-mill, either.

the wing of sleep by roger gilbert-lecomte*

The Wing of Sleep

He waded all the way back up life’s stream
And came out the other side
Lost where others wander not yet born

He dreamt he was dreaming
Changing planets
Sleeping only to awake over and over
To the block of blood ticking in his head

Plunging in an ever deeper sleep

Awaking in depths of light unmeasured
Yet closer to that blaze
Plunged in the mortal deep of shadow

His bed a sumptuous cradle whose plumed head
Rocked him
Then froze into the lintel
Of a tomb

His dead eyes the wing of the enchanter sleep
Brushed to glittering life
Then rubbed out

Into so total a revulsion
Their lids
Squinched up like spleen-envenomed lips

He felt himself expand becoming the sky
Making fair weather and foul while dispensing rainbows

As the mills of space crushed
And flattened him like a shadow…

(to be continued)

*tr. David Rattray

More information on RG-L

‘he walked arm in arm with his shadow’ (éric chevillard)

[note: cursory statistical analysis reveals this blog would receive heightened traffic if it contained more practical advice on ‘all weather bike commuting,’ but instead it chiefly contains impractical, infrequent, and largely unread text such as the following…]

aural darkness in june. a way to refuse the heat. alice. another merciful release. a spiral of silence. another five minutes in this chair. jabès with his name in his pain but his pain with no name. writing about the book and its hold over us. the power of the word. meanwhile duras is looking at the time. ‘it was ten o’clock. in the evening. it was summer.’ and what could maria call the time opening ahead of her…’this incandescence, this bursting of a love at last without object.’

been here too long. here early / leave late / write in boxes / move on wheels back uphill. two legs, four legs, crossing thresholds over and over. sidewalks of daily desolation. tedium in quin’s ‘city where every street declares its defeat.’ consider bernhard and his ‘born barricade fanatics’the shared ‘desire to barricade ourselves from the world.’

but then there is jabès in unwilling exile from his beloved desert. everyone in some form of exilemental, physical, spiritual—feeling incapable of return. like robin about whom the baron thinks ‘there was in her every movement a slight drag, as if the past were a web about her, as there is a web of time about a very old building.’ and yet nora saying ‘robin can go anywhere, do anything, because she forgets, and i nowhere because i remember.’ because what bliss it would be to forget, right, to not always be dragging that chain of keyless padlocks behind. two (mis?)interpretations of another’s experience. dangers of outside looking in. but what of robin. what of robin. on the floor barking like a dog. a shattered mirror. surrendered to expectations. a final transition to conditioned response. or the ultimate shedding of humanity’s heavy carapace.

from Aurélia by Gérard de Nerval

I resolved to fix all of my dreams in my memory and to know their secret. “Why,” I said, “should I not break through these mystical doors, armed with all of my will, and dominate my senses rather than submitting to them?” Is it not possible to tame this fearsome, compelling chimera; to exert control over these night spirits which toy with our reason? One third of our life is spent in sleep. It is consolation for the sorrows of our day or atonement for their pleasures; but I have never experienced sleep as mere rest. After a few minutes’ torpor, a new life begins, untrammeled by the limitations of time and space, and without doubt, similar to the one which awaits us after death. Who is to say whether or not there exists a link between these two existences and whether it is not possible for the soul to establish that connection?

Gérard de Nerval, Aurélia

Justice for Freddie

a haiku for spring

Buzzing tree of bees
carries sound of other world—
somewhere else to go.

coleman dowell, from island people

You drive, walk, eat, look at television, read, and all the while, beyond you and the cozy circle created by your lady around herself and you, like the natural emanations of stars, other lives circle yours, seeds still winged and wind-borne, looking for sympathetic soil. You feel the juices and solids of your body in attempted rearrangement, or, more disturbing, making an effort to create a stillness that approximates death, beyond which the body does become soil, receptive to all wind-borne seeds. In a not especially prolonged stillness, as though no chances could be taken that you might decide to become perpetual motion, words fall out of the air, a random fall from which you might be tempted to make selection, and as you do not move, cannot, a string of words falls onto you, and from you, onto the paper: winter rye greening up, smoothing the old brown earth with a fine new plane: Carpenter Rye, neighbor.

–Coleman Dowell, Island People

now recording observations on tumblr

I made a Tumblr for my field reports. I hope to post there on a more regular basis, while reserving this blog primarily for new fiction, book reviews, and whatever else is not a field report. Like anything, this is subject to change (read: fail) without notice. Those of you on Tumblr please visitI’m still orienting myself and some company would be nice.

publication note

My story “Orbiting” appears in the new issue of Dark Matter, available on ISSUU or in PDF.

the solitudinarian known as l.

The solitudinarian known as L. knew that certain things had already occurred. The distant past held L.’s fascination in a detached way, while the more recent past resembled ash. To extend this so-called ash metaphor further, L.’s memory was a cold fireplace with a few embers catching spark now and again. Sometimes L. stirred the ash with a poker. If a fire caught, L. described the pattern of the flames.

[This questionable metaphor has now run its course.]

What more can be said of L. Work, hobbies, home life, all of this is unworthy of reportage. It’s best to proceed to direct observation.

‘The past is constantly shifting in one’s mind. I relish the opportunity to lend a hand in rearranging what actually happened during any given moment. In writing, the published word is a corpse, stiff and deprived of the ability to reshape itself. The need to fine-tune each piece is a compulsion that should not be suppressed.’

L. announced this in the middle of a meeting at work. When the moderator mentioned the inappropriate nature of the comment, L. stood up and replied:

‘I am unconcerned with the proceedings of this gathering. I wish you would take note of that and desist from inviting me each week. Good day to you.’

L. promptly left the room and returned to the alcove in which sat a machine, a table, and two sets of bookshelves. L. thought about being recreated and destroyed each day. It could not be helped. One must take every opportunity to declaim one’s beliefs. Tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow might bring silence. The uncertainty of what was about to happen at any given moment prevented the completion of any work. Concentration was a myth L. refused to explore.

L.’s supervisor O. now entered the alcove unannounced.

‘The moderator reported your outburst at the meeting this morning.’

‘I despise those meetings. Am I not permitted to speak my mind?’

‘Yes, if it is relevant to matters being discussed.’

‘Relevance is arbitrary.’

O. sighed. ‘Please just try to stay on topic if you choose to speak.’

L. stared at the machine until O. left. The first premonitions of tomorrow’s rebirth filtered into L.’s consciousness. Sundown brought absence, where L. waited in limbo for dawn. Only a few hours to go until the bliss of self-destruction.  Buoyed by the certainty of this coming relief, L. keyed into the machine and began to type.

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