Saturday, January 31, 2009

Peace, Love, Weed, 3D: Out of the Bush and into the Weeds

Eliot Lipp, beat producer, smoker and world traveler, has just released an epic piece of 21st century electronic song bliss. I've known Mr. Lipp for quite a few years, even living with him briefly in 2003. We shared a two-flat, walk up apartment in an insanely diverse Chicago neighborhood. The apartment was a long train ride away from the hip and pretentious parts of Chicago. The closest thing we had to a record store was the Arabic grocery that sold Jordanian pop cassettes along with candied almonds, hookahs, and fruit juice. Eliot has since moved to North Hollywood, and the producer currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

We shared the apartment/music studio with two other music makers, and suffice it to say I learned a thing or two about making beats, italo-disco, Georgio Moroder, and jazz fusion. Lipp has always been a prolific music maker and a man of immense intuitive creativity. His beat making catalog is sprawling for a kid who has yet to french kiss thirty. Eliot is a rare breed. He is a music maker that is at once cynical about his own abilities and completely optimistic about the world of music. The kid loves sound. On his new record, Peace Love Weed 3D, Lipp intertwines cynicism with sensitivity and a willingness to suspend his own musical disbelief. The product is a joyous, naked, corny, strong, and completely innovative piece of unpretentious sound. I will refrain from the standard music review and just simply say that PLW3D invites Lil' John, Timbaland, Prefuse 73, George Duke, Georgio Moroder, Luke Vibert, and Herbie Hancock to a cocktail party, gets them drunk on punch, and then forces them to skinny dip at the synth pool. What surprises me about PLW3D is how un-hip it sounds. Lipp made this record for himself and that is to his credit. It is a record he would enjoy listening to, and he isn't concerned with how this beat cake will taste in the mouths of hipsters in his Brooklyn neighborhood. Lipp is also collaborating with other musicians these days, namely Guitar Ron and members of the Pnuma Trio. This collaborative spirit has had a maturing affect on his beats. His synth lines are more considered, and his melodic phrasing is elegant and restrained. PLW3D is the product of many divergent factors, but it is without a doubt, one of the most accomplished releases from a producer who is searching through the crates and the weeds.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Unemployment and the Joy of Chicago

Chicago can be a bleak place. It is also a city of unimaginable beauty and roughed up charm. It is, if you look hard enough, a city of secrets, lies, and triumph. Chicago, in its rusty, dusty guts is a city with a perpetual hangover. Never is this more apparent then in the dirty, snow crushed January winters. January in Chicago is filled with the perfume of car exhaust and chimney smoke. The city is never silent in the winter. Boots or shoes pulverize the crystalline snow underneath even the most fleet foot. The wind whirls around alleys, between bare branches and through pant legs. The daylight in winter is brief and flirtatious.

Being unemployed in the winter is epic in its classic bit of tragedy. The salt stained pants, damaged leather shoes and lint covered coat bolster the already dire mindset of the job seeker. I have been unemployed now for almost a week. I have been putting off going to the unemployment office, mainly because the psychology of the place has the power to soak all round your being. On Monday I decided to brave the elements and head over to the office and fill out the required forms. I stood in line behind a man in his 40's and his elderly mother. They were Italian, or Polish, or Romanian. In Chicago, ethnicities weave together like Persian tapestry. The man in the faded, over-sized, dim yellow coat, and his tiny thimble of a mother stood in front of me in line. I tried not to pay attention to every second of their uniquely Chicago conversation. I read an article about George W. Bush in Newsweek. The man kept talking to his mother like she was his only friend in the world. He spoke to her like she was his wife, pool hall acquaintance, girlfriend, and work buddy. I could tell his mother was his main point of contact with the world. He talked jive to her in a very Chicago way and discussed conspiracy theories, porno, the economy, politics, and the ins and outs of unemployment. I instantly pictured this man living with his mom, eating her stuffed pork chops every night and dipping out of the house,after she goes to bed, to get erotic massages and play pool at the dank neighborhood bar. He was the kind of guy who never left the neighborhood and purchased grocery store socks.

As I stood there, I felt as if I were watching a play on reality. A curtain free one act featuring this Chicago man and his mom. A character study, or a warning shot, I wasn't sure. Was he the ghost of Christmas future? I felt as if I could relate to the guy's situation, but not his relationship to his mom. She was everything to him and it showed. He had not developed the kind of relationships adults use to move forward in life. His whole world started and stopped with what his mom was having for lunch. He was wearing a headset. I wondered what AM news station he was listening to.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The True Eccentric = Cornet (Tiny Trumpet)

The true eccentric. The man in the big band, full of big men, holding the tiniest of trumpets. I know, the item in the photograph hovering above this paragraph is actually the very respectable cornet, an instrument of impressive sound quality if played correctly. We must admit however, there is something of the eccentric about it. After all, I still see a tiny trumpet when I glance at it. It takes a man or woman with a fair amount of self confidence to place their lips on this little trumpet and blow. The tuba is such an all encompassing status quo of an instrument. And let’s be honest, tuba players are the Porsche drivers of the jazz world, and let’s face it; they all have extremely inadequate genitalia. Sorry Germany.

Some find eccentricity in excess. The Hindus for instance, or Donald Trump, or Devendra Banheart- they are all hedonistic eccentrics. I would also put the hilariously enthusiastic chef Mario Bitali in the camp with the hedonistic eccentrics. In fact, I would like nothing more than to see Devendra Banheart and Mario Bitali being heroically, hedonistic and eccentric together. If it were a TV show, and free, and both characters were in various stages of undress, I would watch it with bliss painted across my face. An excessively hedonistic, eccentric, adjective filled bliss. Both of these entertainers, one an indie-rock folk singer and the other a world traveling chef, seem to exhibit their eccentricity through every aspect of their lifestyles. Even their beards and haircuts flaunt convention.

In Catholic school I would wear the same pale blue polo shirt and faded black chords every single day. It was my grade school uniform and eliminated eccentricity. I was cajoled into conforming to both imposed theocracy and traditional education. I found out later that eccentricity was in fact resting dormant inside of being, and would soon creep its way out in the form of neon skull adorned pedal-pushers and a series of unfortunately rebellious mullets. I was 12, it was 1990, Milli Vanilli had just been exposed for being horrid frauds, and George Bush's father was leading the nation in a sterile techno-war with Iraq. In the midst of all of this action, my eccentricity furrowed its way out, covered in awkward acne patterns and arm-pit hair. In Catholic school eccentricity is something to be buried under a Family Circle cartoon book, a game of red rover, or a clergyman’s robe. It is in Catholic grade school where I learned that eccentricity, at least of the Devandra Banheart haircut and beard variety, will get you relegated to long lonely bus rides, and bouts of Greco Roman wrestling.

Sometimes it’s better to refrain from the cool haircuts, but then again, sometimes a cool haircut can lead to an unfortunate sexual experience. If there is anything that has the potential to define a potentially eccentric man or woman, it’s a backlog of unfortunate sexual experiences. There is something very eccentric about mounting another human being at 3am with a bottle of rum coursing through your system, and trying, without hesitation to muster some default satisfaction . Maybe that is what keeps the Devendra Banhearts eccentric. Maybe eccentricity is the result of multiple failures, turned brilliantly into success.