the black dog – neither/neither

2020 in books and music

The less said about this year the better (at the moment and in this space, at least).

My current total of books read for the year stands at 136 and I’m sure I’ll finish a few more before year’s end, though they probably won’t make this list, so I’m posting it earlier than usual. I will update later if this changes. As it turns out I read more books last year, but I suspect I spent more actual hours reading this year due to the circumstances. I think I read more longer books this year, which probably accounts for the difference. Once Goodreads provides my year-end stats I can compare number of pages read and see if this is the case (Update: turns out my suspicions were off the markso far I’ve read about 10,000 less pages this year than my total for last year. Definitely not going to make up that difference in the next couple of weeks).

Concentration was definitely a problem this year. As a result I found myself switching between books, starting and stopping books, and completely abandoning books more than usual. But reading remained my top leisure activity and provided a safe refuge from the chaos and negative energy in the world.

If you’re a Goodreads user you can view my entire list of books read here.

Top reads (in order within each genre by date read):

Note: in most cases links are to my Goodreads reviews, not all of which are actual reviews)

Novels/Novellas:

The Box Man / Kōbō Abe (review)
Wide Sargasso Sea / Jean Rhys (review)
The Atrocity Exhibition / J. G. Ballard (review)
The Doll / Lukas Tomin (review)
Dézafi / Frankétienne (review)
The Golden Cut / Merl Fluin (review)
The Diary of Mr. Pinke / Ewald Murrer (review)
Mount Analogue / René Daumal (review)
Rogomelec / Leonor Fini (review)
Mangled Hands / Johnny Stanton (review)
The Model / Robert Aickman (review)
The Narrator / Michael Cisco (review)
The Undying Present / Syd Staiti (review)
The Warren / Brian Evenson (review)
Yesterday / Ágota Kristóf (review)
Such Small Hands / Andrés Barba (review)
The Bridges / Tarjei Vesaas (review)
Malicroix / Henri Bosco (review)
The Left Hand of Darkness / Ursula K. Le Guin

Short Stories:

All of Your Most Private Places / Meghan Lamb (review)
Secret Hours / Michael Cisco (review)
The Sleep of the Righteous / Wolfgang Hilbig (review)
Waystations of the Deep Night / Marcel Brion (review)
Unreasonable Hours / Julio Cortázar (review)
The Delicate Prey and Other Stories / Paul Bowles (review)
Morbid Tales / Quentin S. Crisp (review)
The Doll Maker and Other Tales of the Uncanny / Sarban (review)
The Sea-Rabbit; Or, the Artist of Life / Wendy Walker (review)
The Unsettled Dust / Robert Aickman (review)
The Earth Wire / Joel Lane (review)

Poetry:

Autumn Sonata: Selected Poems / Georg Trakl (review)
A Certain Plume / Henri Michaux (review)
Coma Crossing: Collected Poems / Roger Gilbert-Lecomte (review)
The Last Gold of Expired Stars: Complete Poems 1908–1914 / Georg Trakl (review)

Drama:

Complete Plays / Sarah Kane (review)

Cross-Genre:

The House of Illnesses / Unica Zürn (review)
Nights as Day, Days as Night / Michel Leiris (review)
The Star Opens Slowly / Casi Cline (review)
Desire for a Beginning Dread of One Single End / Edmond Jabès (review)
Wasteland / New Juche (review)

Literary Anthologies:

Man in the Black Coat: Russia’s Literature of the Absurd / Oberiuty (review)

Nonfiction:

The Trouble With Being Born / E. M. Cioran (review)
Mutations: The Many Strange Faces of Hardcore Punk / Sam McPheeters (review)

Comix:

The Portable Frank / Jim Woodring (review)
Nijigahara Holograph / Inio Asano
Gast / Carol Swain (review)
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters: Vol. 1 / Emil Ferris (review)

________________________________________________________________

MUSIC

I listened to a lot of mixes this year, as opposed to full albums, so I’m keeping the list short, tailored mostly to bands whose songs I keep replaying. I will note that not much has changed with my favorites over the past few years. Occasionally a new band gets added to the heavy rotation roster, but it’s often within an existing favored genre. Nearly everything Justin Broadrick touches continues to floor me. The drone doom and wider post-metal genres in general are popular zones, supplemented with frequent forays into ambient, post-punk, industrial, and retro trips to hardcore, punk, and 80s alternative rock. Much like with my reading tastes, a solidification seems to have occurred. I blame middle age.

The (very) abridged list of what got me through 2020, in no particular order (links in most cases direct to artist Bandcamp pages):

True Widow
Emma Ruth Rundle
Helms Alee
Thou
Jesu
Final
Transitional
Scorn
Nadja
Pelican
Seefeel
Dead Can Dance

‘zones without people’

The title track from Oneohtrix Point Never’s 2009 album Zones Without People—perhaps the ultimate soundtrack for 2020, with other tracks to include ‘Learning to Control Myself’, ‘Disconnecting Entirely’, and ‘Emil Cioran’.

‘yeah, that’s right, that’s the way it is’

bass terror – tetragrammaton

From the 1995 Bass Terror album by Bill Laswell and Nicholas Bullen.

the botanist LIVE



‘There are some elements rooted in established musical theory that make their way into how Botanist songs get written. But really, it’s more a question of summoning. When Botanist music gets recorded, I channel an entity within me that’s been named ‘The Botanist’, a character whose perspective dictates the content of the music and lyrics. In some sense, The Botanist plays through me. When you read an interview with Botanist, you get it with me, Otrebor. The Botanist does not speak in these situations, as he would not have anything to do with humanity. The Botanist speaks only through the music and lyrics.’

Can you outline your vision, ecologically speaking? Do you subscribe to any ecological theories – ie Gaia theory, deep ecology, the “eco terrorist” writing of the likes of Ted Kaczynski? Have you had any ties with any environmental action groups – Greenpeace, Earth First, etc? Or do you take a more figurative or spiritual approach?

O: It’s been remarkable how much of a hook that “eco-terrorist” tag has been, and how the term triggers inquiries to political associations. In Botanist’s world, that descriptor is not necessarily defined by its popular perception – namely, that of people acting as the agents of terror for naturalistic causes. Rather, the term “eco-terrorist” used here regards nature itself as the agent of terror against the human oppressor, and more specifically a representation of how The Botanist, in his particular worldview, sees nature as playing this role. In the mythology of The Verdant Realm, there is no political affiliation, as choosing a political side is about choosing the interests of one group of people over another. In the romantic worldview in which plants reclaim the earth after humanity has killed itself, surely there is no possibility of political alignment.

The dominant, capitalistic global culture essentially sees nature as a resource to be exploited or plundered in the pursuit of profit. Have we lost something important in our relationship with the natural world?

O: Unfortunately for the natural world, the issue of saving the environment is primarily the concern of a portion of the middle class in first world nations, which is very nice when all the lefties in San Francisco or New York are making sure their compostable garbage is in a special biodegradable bag, or when youth hostels make you pay for your contribution to ‘CO2 emissions,’ but the rest of the planet’s human population, the vast, vast majority, is made up of a) people too poor to know, care, or be able to do something about deforestation or the ozone layer, and b) those of immense wealth who enable those with none to continue to be unable to do anything.

Even though green is a hip trend in the USA, major green initiatives keep getting voted down. It will continue to happen until the shift can go from saving the whales for the whales’ sake to saving the whales for the sake of the quality of life and the state of the wallets of those voting. When the environment becomes an economic issue rather than a moral one, change will be made.

Fortunately for the natural world, even if humanity nukes the planet 800 times over and destroys every living thing on it, nature will bounce back eventually and carry on as it always has. Mankind cannot ruin nature. It can only ruin it for itself.

Excerpts above from this 2012 interview at The Quietus.

(thanks hannah!)

r.i.p. david berman

It’s so hard watching them continue to fall . . .

Oh Where

by David Berman

Where did you go, my dear, my day;
Where, oh where, did you go?
To market, to maker of market, to say
Too much of the little I know.

Where did you go, my dear, my year;
Why did you flee from me?
I went from here to there to here
Loitering breathlessly.

Where did you go, my life, my own,
Decades gone in a wink?
Some things are better left unknown
Some thoughts too thick to think.



‘It is autumn and my camouflage is dying . . .’

the nocturnes – aokigahara

solid space – a darkness in my soul

 

[Remastered for vinyl release 35 years later]

lungfish – hallucinatorium

 

My wife has a head of smoke
My wife has a leg of flame
My wife has a hand of bone
My wife has a silent name
My husband walks upon the walls
My husband is ten miles tall
My husband is the atmosphere
My husband is a living prayer
My daughter sleeps up in the trees
My daughter is a complex creed
My daughter keeps a shaft of light
My daughter moves in degrees of might
My son has invisible eyes
My son laughs as though he cries
My son maintains a perpetual stride
My son wanders in dreams at night

My sister waits behind the moon
My sister binds her mind in books
My sister’s voice must crush the sun
My sister snaps the shepherd’s crook
My brother’s face is a hexagon
My brother revolves at increasing speed
My brother heals as he harms
My brother decries what he has decreed
My mother excretes a reality
My mother puts her torch to sleep
My mother spreads her ribcage wide
To guide the trumpet blast inside
My father is my mother’s bride
My father resides in rocks and stones
My father has fins and wings and claws
My father is my husband’s throne.

Fun fact about this song: It was originally recorded as an instrumental, but Dan Higgs decided he wanted to add vocals. Problem was the song as recorded was too short for what he had to say, so producer Ian MacKaye suggested slowing down the tape near the end to provide enough time for Higgs to fit in all the lyrics. So that is why the song sounds all trippy near the end.

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