on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2019 8 Mrz

„I also want to die in New Orleans“

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Like Dylan when he went electric, and Waits when he went Beefheartian, Mark Kozelek (aka Sun Kil Moon) divided his fans when he moved from jangly elegiac rock of standard proportions to expansive, digressive prose enquiries into the crumbling state of a nation, and the crumbling state of the man just trying to negotiate it all. But my advice to dissenters is to surrender rather than resist. No, Kozelek hasn’t „lost it“. If anything he’s found it, and found it in abundance.

So on to specifics. In this instance his partners in crime are Donny McCaslin (sax) and Jim White (drums). McCaslin deserves a medal for his restraint. After all, this is the man who bought as much to Bowie’s Blackstar as Mick Ronson and Robert Fripp brought to the great man’s 1970s output. Yet much of the times, here, he simply spends shadowing Kozelek’s guitar riffs, his sensuous breathy timbre adding little more than texture and atmosphere.



Lyrically Kozelek continues to reflect on the things that make life worthwhile – meals, music, books, films, conversations with friends and strangers. But then they’ll be a queasy slide into everything that threatens all this – the current administration, school shootings, the suffering of innocent animals, death. Perhaps there’s more light and humour than before: opening track “Coyote” includes a hilariously telling conversation with his partner centred on a possible gas leak. And “Couch Potato” is even quite chirpy in a melancholy Joni Mitchell kind of way. But Kozelek’s genius lies in how he indirectly conveys how temporary everything precious is, how contingent on outside forces.

Essentially what we have here is music as conceptual art. Or if you prefer, a new form generated from two quite distinct older forms: the quiet pleasures of the short story – wit, character, dialogue, digressions and expositions – given a partly improvised musical framing. No wonder the man has been so prolific in recent years – he’s out there on his own and the possibilities are limitless. How exciting that must be.

written by Howard Male

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