s / s / s /Serengeti
The Diverse Moods of Serengeti
s / s / s: Beak & Claw (Anticon)
Serengeti has long been fascinated by the upper-middle class arty-farties David Brooks once tried to lampoon as "bobos." But though he's always been wittier and smarter about bourgeois bohemians than Brooks, collaborators like Tony Trimm and Polyphonic have seldom provided the eclectrobeats his jokes and ideas deserved. This one-off EP with singer-songwriter cum symphonist Sufjan Stevens and semiclassical drum'n'bassmaker Son Lux is different, because the primary function of his raps is to ground the beautiful musics his collaborators contribute. Stevens's Auto-Tuned apostrophe, Shara Worden's soprano harmonies, the layered chorus hooks and electro-percussion‑-all would float into the arty-farty ether without Serengeti stumbling through his fictional misunderstood life, and that confluence is the point. Croons Stevens: "If I could figure out what it was all about." Repeats Serengeti: "I had the world figured out beyond any doubt." Both are lost‑-but touchingly and even nobly. A MINUS
Serengeti: Kenny Dennis EP (Anticon)
A surprise comeback EP from the long-silent Grimm Teachaz crew may be for Kenny Dennis fans only, but he deserves more of them. Who knew from the likes of "Dennehy" that this superfan could speed-rap like on "Flat Pop"‑-and also, who knows what he's saying when he does? Kenny never falters as he disses Shaquille O'Neal, goes to bat for shamed Cub fan Steve Bartman, and packs a Ruger as he smacks down a loud kid, helps a stranded motorist, and tears up his parking tickets. The beats are as basic as in classic Teachaz, only modernized with extra effects, and the rhyming remains prime: "I'm Charles Bronson, I'm from Wisconsin/Chicken MCs call 'em Swanson/They get grilled up like a porkchop/Catch 'em on the street right in front of their bus stop." A MINUS
Okay, Gilad Atzmon's antisemitic remarks make him a jerk. I don't care if he's "really" antisemitic or not. "I'm not a bigot I just make nothing but bigoted remarks" is a distinction I've always found too, er, refined
the resemblance of the bolded (emboldened?) phrase to "rock & roll".
I caught that too. And laughed out loud over it too.
This was the power of music in action: an alternate reality that can subsume one's sense of self while enlarging it -- the player's and the listener's too.
is the kind of thinking then writing that I especially admire -- intentional cognitive dissonance for the purpose of clarifying hard to reach ideas or feelings.
And since I never read this trivia bit when "Portlandia" is mentioned, I feel compelled to note for the record that Fred Armisen is Sally Timms' ex-husband.
Jeez kevin, that Spin edition is about to make me late for work. Wonder what box I check on the absence report for that . . .
Pussy Galore's Right Now
A band I wanted to love but never quite could, maybe because their punk aesthetic was more cauterize than open up and bleed...
Great titles, though: "White People," "Pig Sweat," "F**k You, Man."
Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis
i said i would go to this every year i lived in Nashville and never did. heard it was awesome though. i said i would go to bonnaroo every year too and never did... although i diiid go to manchester, tn several times during non-bonnaroo weeks for work-related business, and i'd like to think those visits were every bit as awesome.
also heard that getting a hotel close to Beale Street will bring most fun. if you've got the change, check out the Peabody Hotel, where at 11 am and 5 pm a group of ducks march out of an elevator and into the fountain in the lobby. of course that's if you're up by 11. or 5...
"Favorite actor: Dennehy, favorite drink: O'Doul's,
Bears, Hawks, Sox, Bulls..."
is Milo saying that Atzmon's pro-Palestine position or collaboration with a crippled Stalinist makes his work ipso facto less acceptable?
No, no -- I'm only saying that his evident antisemitism makes him a jerk. I thought the pro-Palestine stance of Exile was a plus. It has nothing to do with the quality of the work. I've always thought Wyatt's politics were on the ridiculous side, but as long as he expressed it through things like a cover of the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, all was swell. I'm only sorry that nowadays he's collaborating with a strong player who's, sadly, not only pro-Palestine and anti-Israel but carries the last aspect into outright bigotry. (I disliked the recent Wyatt albums, but that was before I recognized who Atzmon was or knew anything about his antisemitic statements.) I think adding an addendum to the positive review would have shown a lot more fortitude than yanking it entirely.
"When the feeling comes/You know it's gonna pass you by," the rocker role she was playing
my humble apologies to my jewish friends for reviewing rich sigel [sic] an anti-zionist peace activist that supports the destruction of israel. had i know [sic] who he was and what he was all about i never would have given him 30 seconds of my time. his review is pulled and e mail blocked. again my apologies i stand with israel NEVER against her but firmly against her enemies.
The [sic] was added by Siegel -- I changed parens to brackets. What I meant by politics was that Black bowed to political pressure to suppress the review. The generic term for this is blacklisting (sorry if that seems like a pun).
Atzmon figures into this two ways: he played on the record, but more importantly is that there is a significant movement to condemn him and shun his work -- again, to blacklist him. The petition to condemn him (at least the one I've seen) is phrased like a loyalty oath: anyone who fails to sign it is presumed to be committed to the physical destruction of Israel.
Atzmon is an extremely marginal figure in the political debate over Israel's occupation: their illegal settlements, their denial of Palestinian rights, their refusal to acknowledge the refugees, their threats of war against other countries in the region (most especially Iran). The only reason he's become an issue is that pro-Israeli propagandists want to deflect the discussion, to get people to talk about something other than Israel's own acts and posture.
For my part I've never not reviewed an Israeli jazz record -- I've written at least 100 Jazz Prospecting notes on records by Israeli musicians, quite possibly 200 or more. (Seems like one of the legacies of socialism that the government of Israel puts a lot of money into music education. There are probably more Israeli jazz musicians per capita than in any other country -- Norway and Portugal strike me as the closest competitors.) I don't know anything about the politics of any Israeli musicians unless they've made a point of it. I'm not party to any boycott effort, nor to any blacklisting. I've never described myself as "pro" any side, and I don't think I've ever taken a position that cannot be applied equally to all.
So I'm not out to defend the statements of positions of Atzmon and Siegel. But I do resent, and worry about, the authoritarian attitude that seeks to condemn and expunge them.
Also for Milo (and others): I should caution you against jumping to the conclusion that any self-identified Jew is an anti-semite. I know for a fact that my Jewish wife is a lot less cautious and circumspect when she talks about Jews than I am. (I mean, you don't automatically assume that every rapper who uses the n-word is a KKK supporter, now do you?)
I've written for a copy of the record (Rich Siegel: The Way to Peace), so we'll see. Gilad Atzmon appears on the record. I recently received a petition asking people to condemn Atzmon for various allegedly anti-semitic statements -- I haven't followed his polemical writings close enough to sort out the context (my conjecture is that being Israeli-born, he doesn't quite appreciate how different Israeli and diaspora Jews are), but I have been shocked by the vitriol some jazz critics -- David R. Adler is the prime example -- hold for him.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.