Listed: Matana Roberts + Lali Puna
Matana Roberts (who now lives in New York) was born and raised on Chicago's south side where she was exposed to some of the most exciting and important jazz ever created. With bassist Josh Abrams and drummer Chad Taylor she founded trio Sticks and Stones, a forward-thinking jazz trio that caught the attention of many after a series of stunning shows at Fred Anderson's legendary Velvet Lounge club. Sticks and Stones have release two records, 2002's Sticks and Stones (482 Music) and 2004's Shed Grace (Thrill Jockey), both of which earned utmost praise from critics and fans alike. Roberts is also involved in a number of other eyebrow-raising projects, including If Trane Wuz Here, a collaboration between herself, poet reg e. gaines, and dancer Savion Glover. The trio perform intermittently in New York, and recently performed a series of shows in Los Angeles, where they will return shortly. Roberts also performs with the ensemble Burnt Sugar, who recently completed a tour of Europe. Shed Grace is out now on Thrill Jockey Records, and Sticks and Stones will be performing a record release show at the Jazz Gallery in New York on May 13th.
I struggled over trying to give you a list that talked directly about music. List of cds, favorite records etc. But I couldn’t seem to do it. Instead I was able to compile a list of some of my favorite books that I feel have in some way affected my perspective as a growing musicartistindividual being.
1. Shunryu Suzuki - Zen Mind Beginners Mind- If you’re gonna be an artist you better find everything you can to help you cope with dealing with how fucked up everything else around you is gonna be while you are trying to do your artsy thing. I don’t believe in being religious, but I do see importance of trying to deal with yourself on a core spiritual faith level of some kind and finding things to support this core that are ahem..legal. I’m not a practicing Buddhist but you don’t have to be a Buddhist follower to appreciate the simplicity, frankness, and humor of this little book.
2. Ron Sakolsky and Fred Ho - Sounding Off-Music as Subversion/Resistance/Revolution - You don’t necessarily have to combine your socio political views with your art. I admire the artists that seem to transcend that. Unfortunately I am not one of them. And it’s okay. If you are like me, this book will make you feel like you belong. It is a series of great essays that touch on all different sorts of social, economic, world issues written by musicians that span tons of different genres.
3. EVASION - I have problems with this book which is supposedly a pile of zines published by some random straight-edge white boy. But I like the spirit of what he is saying regardless of the fact that he speaks from the perspective of someone who is able to get away with a lot more than most folks because of his social strata as a middle class Caucasian maleópunk or not. As an artist I think it’s important to always practice thinking ‘out of the box’ in terms of dealing with society, taking normal mores and perspectives and just flipping the shit completely. This book will give you some new things to ponder in that direction -- Which brings me to one of my next favorites -- an absolute classic:
4. Abbie Hoffman - Steal This Book - Okay, so I don’t advocate theft of any kind. I don’t advocate bomb making. And a lot of the scams in this book are outdated, but again it’s another book that talks about looking at society from another angle. And it’s really funny. Again I think it is important for the artist to be able to have another way of seeing their surroundings - if only for the purpose of trying to cope with all the BS they are bound to encounter.
5. Octavia E. Butler - Kindred, Dawn Octavia Butler’s imagination inspires me greatly. Her books really kick ass mainly because they scare the shit out of you in some really super imaginative ways. Not in like a gory or spooky way, but in a realistic, youknowwearedestroyingtheearthandaregoingtogetwhatscomingtousecologically way. Most of her scenarios - even the science fiction - can seem like they may one day be possible since we are now in the wonderful age of cloning etc. Kindred is more of a historical "what if" time travel story but it's so well written that it makes it highly believable. Dawn is totally freaky period - sex with aliens the whole nine yards...
6. Alan Licht - An Emotional Memoir of Martha Quinn - Okay so personally I kind of blocked out the 80s. Awkward growing stage (I had really immense buck teeth with a wide gap in-between,hair with a mind of its own, and my chest remained flat no matter how much I begged in-between stuffing my training bra), awkward girl image time for me ( I wanted to look more like the Barbie dolls my mom always refused to buy - thanks mom! - she pretty much refused to buy me dolls, or anything that even hinted at domesticity - and look at me now!!!), bad social scene (not many places you can go when you’íre between the ages of 9 and 12) really bad fashion (anyone remember day glow socks?), and pop songs that I still can’t get out of my head till this day despite the fact I never heard them at home. My parents were into really good funk, stratospheric R&B divas, mushy hippy singer song writer types, and Sun Ra. Although come to think of it my best friend Heather (she had really cool hair. Anyone remember the 80s feathery hair flip? Cool time for white girl’s hairstyles - unfortunately my options were either cornrows or an afro like my mom’s. Yes folks my mom had an afro until 1986! I hated dreadlocks too then - kind of funny considering). Heather was heavily into Queen, Joan Jett, and Duran Duran, but we moved away. I always wondered what would of happened to my musical influences if she and I stayed close. I even tried to beg my mom to change my name to ‘Heathe’î ‘cause I thought it was way cooler than "Matana" - go figure. Anyway Guitarist Alan Licht’s commentary on the decline and fall of rock music spanning from the 80s until now actually unearthed some cool memories for me, and makes some cool statements regarding the music that is created as a by product of what else is going on in the world will definitely give you some funny things to ponder.
7. Jim Flynn & Nelson Hall - Stranger to the System - life portraits of a New York City Homeless community - As an artist It’s important to read books that make you realize how lucky you have it despite the fact you have absolutely no idea how you’re going to pay your rent next month. At least you have something to pay for!
8. Days of War/Nights of Love (really anything from the people at crimethinc workers collective inc.) – I’m pretty much a push over by anything from the crimethinc collective. I don’t abdicate all that they speak of - I don’t support the Unabomber for instance, or agree with some of their commentary on art but I like the attitude of this book. Topics range from anarchy to hierarchy, work to sex, alienation to liberation and technology. Every page talks about the importance of living a freer existence.
9. Travis Hugh Culley - The Immortal Class - Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power - All artists must research alternative modes of transportation.
If I sold my saxophone maybe I could buy a car. But I don’t want one. I’d rather have a saxophone and my best friend, Rufus. Rufus is my bike. I love Rufus. I have seen New York in a way that folks who put themselves in those little motorized boxes never see. It has been beautiful and it has been ugly. Manhattan traffic is sometimes akin to a death wish; windy, snowy, or rainy days can suck, as do days when I get a flat tire for the umpteenth time. But getting places in half the time it takes on the train, riding by the rivers, going over the humongous kick ass bridges (the Williamsburg and the Triboro still kick my ass), actually gives you a sense of the beauty that exists even in the ugliness of this polluted, stressed out wasteland that NYC can sometimes be. This book focuses on bike culture issues as told through the eyes of a Chicago city bike messenger. (I am a sucker for books that talk about my hometown.) I have toyed with idea of messengering from time to time, and was even offered a job once but the pictures on the owner’s wall of various messengers in various states of traction did what it was supposed to do - scare me into realizing that I couldn’t handle the idea of fucking up my hands or mouth for the sake of some corporate fuck head’s package of goodies. Anyway it’s a good book and it will make you feel good about being another biker on the road despite some depressing stories regarding bikers’ rights and how they are violated somewhere in this country everyday of the week.
10. David Barsamian - The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile - conversations with Arundhati Roy
11. Arundhati Roy is awesome. She’s not afraid to speak her mind. Artsists should not be afraid to speak their minds. As an artist It’s important to remind yourself of this at all times.
12. Hakim Bey - Immediatism - No words can describe how much I love this little book.
13. Aaron Cometbus - The Cometbus Omnibus - I love Aaron's train of thought and the way he writes it down ( by hand!) on paper. This omnibus is a collection of many of his zines over the years. My favorites are the ones in the middle that are all text and no graphics.
14. Christine Taylor Patten - Miss O’Keefe - Okay, I love old people. I love how when you see them they automatically stand for something special - survival. They have survived. And elderly artists fascinate me. This book is really interesting. In 1983, artist Christine Taylor Patten was hired as one of the people who took care of Georgia O’Keeffe, who was then ninety-six. It’s really interesting to read about how Georgia O’Keefe felt about her amazing artistic life towards its end.
15. Autobiography of Angela Davis - There is not enough space here to write bout how much Ms. Angela Yvette Davis has inspired me over the years and continues to do so. Just read this book or anything by her for that matter.
Lali Puna are from Munich, Germany. The band was brought to life by Valerie Trebeljahr (who sings and plays keyboards), after her all-girl band, LB Page, split up. She soon began working with Markus Acher (Notwist, Tied and Tickled Trio) and began performing and recording as Lali Puna. Lali Puna's pristine melodies and electronically poppy instrumentation are instantly recognizable to those who are fans of Acher's other work, but it's Trebeljahr's innocently gentle voice that helps to make Lali Puna as uniquely captivating as they are. Trebeljahr contributed this week's Listed.
Favourites of all time on April 13th, 2004
1. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless - What can I say about a giantly great band, a giantly great record everybody knows already that this one is a classic?
2. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy - Ease Down The Road - Will Oldham has many different names and projects and every single one is beautiful, but Ease down the road is truly the most ‘pop’ one.
3. Low - Secret Name (Kranky) - I heard this record while driving through the night and I had to turn it off, because otherwise I would have had an accident. "Will the Night” is so intense you shouldn¹t drive around in the car while hearing it.
4. Roberta Flack - First Take - I discovered this record through a friend and I couldn’t believe that Flack had sort of a jazz-career before "Killing me softly.” Very, very good.
5. Stereolab - Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Vol. 2) - I think I got every Stereolab album (it would be impossible to have all the rest too I guess, I already found Stereolab-stamps though), and this one is my favourite.
6. Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth - Seems like a plan: Young Marble Giants did just one album, but that one was a classic. It’s minimal, but poppy. This record is from 1980 but there is still something futuristic about it.
7. Team Dresch - Personal Best - Another band that dissolved too soon. It didn’t really dissolve but one of the singers left the band, which changed it quite a lot. For me they sort of dissolved and did so just after I missed a concert of theirs, which I still regret after all these years. The good and true side of the so-called Rrriot Grrl Movement.
8. Laurie Anderson - Big Science - Experimental and pop. The early Laurie Anderson was very important for Lali Puna, especially the song "O Superman.”
9. Aphex Twin - I Care Because You Do - In 1995 everybody in my indie surroundings were discovering the electronic side of music with Aphex Twin’s I care because you do. Maybe he has done better things since, but this album means a lot to me.
10. Wunder - Wunder - Jörg Follert from Cologne. Under the name "Wunder” he released one of the most beautiful and soothing records. He never did a second one under that name, maybe knowing that he couldn¹t top it.
By Dusted Magazine