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Sunday, March 14, 2004

Outside Providence

I got an e-mail from someone who hasn't contacted me in a while about an hour ago. It was a cryptic e-mail that threw together references to a Dylan Thomas poem and then ended by asking if I knew of any music that was 'off and corporeal' like Thomas' poetry. Here's my response

'off and corporeal'? If you're looking for something vicious and haunting, there's Dock Boggs. I'd suggest Leadbelly for the comic terror and blood-spurting honesty. Mississippi John Hurt is a wonderful old blues guitarist, Roscoe Holcomb, you know Will Oldham, Daniel Johnston, and possibly kimya dawson as post-folk and 'anti-folk' contemporaries. Actually Kimya is, in my opinion, the only female singer-songwriter to ever come close to the hyper-potent surrealism of Dylan's lyrics. Mismatched ideas and sentence fragments that are so charged with meaning that every line rattles my spinal cord with the dreams of an alternate universe. Her album "My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess"(2002) is stunningly raw and gorgeous and weird and funny and sad and really, really quiet. Do what I and many people do: pick up an anthology with a weird enough name. There are plenty of pre-war folk music anthologies available at St.Marks and Other Music, I'm partial to "Prayers from Hell", a collection of apocalyptic gospel songs.

Harry Smith's World Anthology of Folk music is really quite perfect, and if you really want to hear folk music that will scare the shit out of you, collect any anthology of the folk music of Fascist Italy or pre-war Italy, preferably ten years on either side of Mussolini's leadership. Cries, whelps, yelps, guttural flicks, insane animalistic hollering, all you can do is sit back and say "jesus fucking christ". Italian folk music is something else. Er, Neutral Milk Hotel's lyrics are correctly pigeoned as 'dylanesque', and I think that's a fair attribution, even though its not very musically complex, but weird and gorgeous nonetheless. And I don't know, listening to people talk on the street or in a crowded public place and attaching sounds to the wrong mouths in your head is kind of terrifying and sonically gorgeous as well, to end on a Cagean note.


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