Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Tom McCarthy and Papercuts.
Listed: Tom McCarthy + Papercuts
Tom McCarthy's first novel, Remainder, to be released in America on Tuesday by Vintage, is exemplarily contemporary, not least for its history, which is as unrepresentatively representative, and soon to be as well rehearsed, as, alas, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's. Written in 2001, and admired by British editors but rejected by their marketing departments, Remainder circulated with McCarthy in the British art world and made its way to Paris, where in 2005 it was published in an edition of 750 by Metronome, a press modelled after Olympia (or, more accurately, an art project reenacting Olympia's Parisian lit-porn one-two). When well reviewed back home, Remainder was reprinted for the mass market by Alma, a British independent, but not before the majors had: come begging; fucked off. Vintage's editor in chief, meanwhile, read Remainder in the last of its Metronome edition and fell hard, and he now brings it to the U.S. in paperback.
Externalities aside, Remainder is contemporary as David Cronenberg's later films are contemporary. Though written in a rapid, neutral style - not desultory like Houellebecq but tersely chatty, casually rigorous - hints and traces of a thornier history (Huysmans, Ballard, Robbe-Grillet) insinuate themselves, emerging from a form and content clarified enough to suggest complications. McCarthy writes: “Against a backdrop of trauma and alienation, Remainder's nameless hero uses his vast fortune to set up a series of repetition loops which he inhabits, experiencing events as though afresh each time, continually upping the ante until the whole project spirals into violence and psychosis. I'm also founder and General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semifictitious avant-garde network celebrated, among other things, for breaking into the BBC webpages and inserting propaganda in their source code. My nonfiction work Tintin and the Secret of Literature is published by Granta Books.” And he writes: “About the accident itself I can say very little. Almost nothing. It involved something falling from the sky. Technology. Parts, bits. That's it, really: all I can divulge. Not much, I know.”
1. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
The best album ever? Maybe. The band supposedly all but bankrupted their record label by taking a year of studio time to make it. I met one of the technicians once and he told me that they'd listen to a track, turn all the pitch and level buttons down a fraction, then go out and spend two days smoking dope and watching television for inspiration, then come back in and turn the buttons down another fraction, dis-aligning the whole piece from its melodic centre that little bit more. The whole album is so far offset that it's almost dropping away from all tonal form, all geometry - it has what Shakespeare's Duke Orsino, describing the strains of other music, calls “a dying fall.”
2. The Fall - Live at the Witch Trials
The Fall come as much from a literary tradition that goes back to the text-sampling experiments of Eliot and Pound as they do from a strict musical one. This album has “Repetition” on it - a track very close to my heart.
3. William S. Burroughs - Break Through in Grey Room
Burroughs spent half the sixties splicing sounds together: recording stuff on reel-to-reel tapes then playing them back, running them backwards, erasing them, and rerecording what was left. For him this wasn't just an aesthetic experiment; it was also a way of subverting reality itself, short-circuiting its system, bringing it crashing down. This album has monologues, cut-ups, joujouka music, and who knows what else on it. The later album Dead City Radio is maybe a more accessible place to start with Burroughs if you don't know him, but Break Through is the hardcore version.
4. Sonic Youth - Goo
A breviary of the counterculture, all diffracted through the ironic lens of art-school ennui: Patty Hearst as the drummer who takes over the band, Karen Carpenter as newly anointed saint hobnobbing with Elvis and Janis as she gives her brother beyond-the-grave tips for the band… And cover image by the ultra-post-post-ennui artist Raymond Pettibon.
5. Jean Cocteau - Orphée
Cocteau's cinematic updating of the myth of the Greek poet/musician has the hero tune into the dead zone on his radio and pick up, on illicit, “pirate” frequencies, short lines of poetry transmitted from the Underworld: phrases that modulate and repeat, intercut with sequences of numbers and beeps of Morse code. He tracks them to their source, passing through a mirror to the sound of an eerie high-pitched frequency. It's a great piece of art for many reasons - not least as it rethinks creativity along the lines of transmission and reception: kind of like Kraftwerk avant la lettre.
6. Paul Celan - Mohn und Gedächtnis (Poppy and Memory)
All Celan's poetry is about transmission and violence and the virtual impossibility of the speech act itself after something as ineffable as the Holocaust, which he himself survived. This collection contains “Todesfuge” (Deathfugue), a poem so packed with violence that its surface cracks and erupts as the lines break down, reprise themselves, repeat again, like a stuck record. It was read recently in the German Reichstag, a conciliatory symbolic gesture that didn't go far enough by half: they should have blared it out over loudspeakers as the building burnt to the ground - again.
7. Alessandro Moreschi - The Last Castrato
There's something so weird about listening, not just to a castrato, but to such an old recording of one - as though the voice were doubly denatured. For Roland Barthes, writing about Balzac's novella Sarrasine in his own book S/Z, the castrato is a loaded figure as it represents the zone of artifice and fakeness that artists in all mediums must enter and contend with.
8. James Joyce - Finnegans Wake
Joyce almost became a professional tenor in his youth, and music remained very important to him throughout his life. Finnegans Wake is often compared to a long musical score, in which various voices emerge, mingle, and fade away. It's also infused with technologies of listening: gramophones, radios, telephones, all ringing and crackling and generally spilling sound. No wonder that the title for John Cage's Roaratorio is taken straight from it.
9. Samuel Beckett - Krapp's Last Tape
Every year Krapp, an old drunk writer who maybe once could have been great, lays down a tape recording his thoughts and memories of the past year. Like Burroughs, we see him cutting into the old ones as he tries to lay a new one down - furious that he can't let the past go but simultaneously completely seduced by it. It's a vision of humanity at the end of history, nothing left but the recordings, and is probably the best play written since King Lear.
10. The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat
What can I say? The Velvet Underground are the First band, the origin and very possibility of rock and roll, its Shakespeare, alpha and omega, amen.
Papercuts' Jason Quever grew up in a Northern California commune and broke into music (literally) by prising the locks from a vacationing friend's house to record piano tracks for Cass McCombs. His first collection of home-recorded material, 2000's Rejoicing Songs came out on Owen Ashworth's (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) Cassingles label, hodge-podge of demos and rough mixes that nonetheless harbored unexpected moments of gorgeousness. The follow-up, Mockingbird on SF's tiny Antenna Farm, broadened Quever's sonic pallette with lush country folk arrangements, earned a four-star rating from Uncut magazine and got the attention of Vetiver's Andy Cabic. Quever has since joined the free folk nation, playing and recording with Cabic and signing with Gnomonsong. With Can't Go Back, out this month, Papercuts becomes the first Gnomonsong artist to sound more like Vetiver than Devendra Banhart, the songs full of space and ease and Laurel Canyon lyricism. Papercuts is touring the West Coast with Grizzly Bear this February, a combination that makes us foggy-eyed and daydreamy just thinking about it.
My favorite songs right now. *Note: this shall exclude every song on tThe White Album minus "Glass Onion."
1. Blind Joe Taggart - "I've Crossed the Separation Line"
No one around me seems to know about this gospel blues genius. He's my Robert Johnson. Every song on the record A Guitar Evangelist 1926 to 1931 is a classic.
2. Curtis Mayfield -"We the People Who are Darker than Blue"
He really didn't need to do anything with the rest of his life after writing "People Get Ready", but to prove it was no fluke he wrote hundreds of other amazing songs. This song chokes me up a bit, not necessarily for any other reason than it's so heartfelt, and there's no finger pointing.
3. Bo Diddley - "Cadillac"
It's hard to pick a particular Bo Diddley song. But this one proves to me that Chuck Berry was pretty good, but this guy brought down the tablet from the mountain.
4. The Kinks - "Wonderboy"
In the 33 1/3 book about Village Green the writer refers to this recording as an uninspired disappointment and a low point that Ray Davies took solace in John Lennon saying it was one of his favorite tracks of the year. That's ridiculous, this has been a really uplifting one for me, a purely positive, loving, innocent song that influenced my outlook greatly in the past couple years.
5. Gris Gris - "Baby You're Mine Now"
You think you've heard all the good songs and then the guy gives you the 7" for free and there's another amazing song on the b side. It was so exciting to hear a local band I liked this much.
6. Black Lips - "Boomerang"
Someone just turned me on to this. Like a great lost Troggs song, but still unique, I can't wait to see them now. If I wasn't so uptight this is the kind of music I'd be making.
7. Franciose Hardy - "Voila"
Maybe my most listened to song of the past 4 years. I don't know what it's about but i feel like I do just because of the way it sounds. It's like how a great film should let you know what's going on without dialogue, I feel like the melody and her tone of voice says it all.
8. Beach House - "Saltwater"
I would have liked to write this song, now I don't have to, I can go buy some Funions now instead. Can't wait to play with them.
9. Barbara Mason - "You Better Stop It"
I Found this 45 at a thrift store and sold it for $250 on ebay at a desperate moment. But that guy got a bargain, hits me every time and makes me want to stop it.
10. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - "New Years Kiss"
Best opening track. MF went and done it right, and at 2:02 minutes.
11. Leonard Cohen - "Chelsea Hotel"
I Drove my band mad listening to this song over and over again on tour. Lots of dead people around me I guess. There is an impossible to find movie of his 1972 tour and the version of this song on it would make anybody cry. Totally different and better lyrics too. I guess it's about Janis Joplin, which doesn't do much for me one way or the other, but I thought you should know.
By Dusted Magazine