Loose Strife

An MP3 blog

Saturday, May 07, 2005

#2 - Bjork, flora

“Ammæli” – The Sugarcubes
“Hyperballad (live at Tokyo Bunkamura Orchard Hall, Japan; 12/5/01)" - Bjork

I’m a little embarrassed about these first two song postings, but they were inevitable. The first is the Icelandic version of The Sugarcubes' 1988 single “Birthday,” from the Bjork box set Family Tree , a sweet little fetish item with five 3” CDs inside elfin cardboard sleeves stuffed into a pink plastic compact that’s wrapped in a handmade paper sleeve embossed with weird little figures. As I wrote, my birthday was last week. And Bjork may be my all-time favorite singer/musician. I know this is not unique, that it’s virtually a cliché, that there are millions of men like me, obsessed with pop music to an unhealthy degree and supremely obsessed with her, who adore her for being so uncompromising in her art, for working with venerable free jazz musicians like Oliver Lake (of the out supergroup the World Saxophone Quartet, among other projects; he did the horn arrangements on Bjork’s Debut) and harpist Zeena Parkins (who has been part of New York’s downtown scene for years, turning up on recordings with guitarist Fred Frith (Henry Cow, Art Bears)(yes, I know I’m putting parentheticals inside parentheticals; if you are an editor and have a problem with that, well, fuck you) and alto saxophonist/duck call player/composer John Zorn) and also guys like Tricky and those adorable boys in Matmos who make beats with textures and timbres so visceral you feel like they’re coming from your insides (Matmos, in fact, once made a record of beats constructed largely if not entrirely from the sounds of surgical procedures, which is probably where I’m getting that metaphor from, along with the fact that my ulcer is acting up a bit at the moment). Men who also adore her simply for being a powerful creative hard-drinking woman who is also small and impossibly cute, who have perhaps like me visited Iceland solely for the purpose of seeing where she comes from, to eat whale blubber and strange seafood dishes made with cheese and visit geysers and glacial waterfalls and sit in blue-green algae-clotted thermal hotspring pools set in moss-flecked volcanic fields and marvel at how marvelous a place it is, and imagine faintly how cool it would be to meet an Icelandic girl, but they are all too beautiful and European-seeming and won’t give this sort of cliché---an American music fanatic with a minor weight problem who comes to Iceland to see where Bjork is from---a second glance, so said guy buys a big stack of Icelandic art rock discs at the suggestion of a clerk with a condescending air and then returns home to play them and fill the void in the usual ways.

But there you have it.

The version of “Hyperballad” comes from a bootleg recording of a 2001 Kyoto concert (titled Feel My Breath and issued by a dubious enterprise called Coffee Tea or Me Records) given to me by my yoga teacher/dealer, who, since I keep him supplied with new age music that doesn’t suck, tries to reciprocate. “Hyperballad” may well be---and in this moment of my typing, at least, I can say assuredly is---my favorite song of all time. It is about someone so violently happy that they wake up early to contemplate throwing themself off a cliff in order to heighten the happiness at returning to bed with the one who is making them so happy. To me it represents a kind of a platonic ideal of the drive for happiness, a drive I try to absorb when I listen to it, something that I think has informed my decision to do this blog. When those ecstatic 4/4 house beats kick in halfway through, I still get chills, even after the ten thousand-and-fifteenth listen.

Oh yeah---about the title. Loosestrife, purple loosestrife specifically (Lythrum salicaria L., also known by garden variety names like Morden Pink, Dropmore Purple, and Morden Gleam, all pretty good names for a prog-metal band) is a non-native plant introduced to the Americas in the 1800s that grows wild across many parts of the United States. It’s very common across marshy areas in the Catskills, an area I frequently visit, and in bloom it’s absolutely gorgeous. It grows in dense patches, washing huge expanses with a pink-purple hue that’s a couple of volume notches up from pastel. Not garish, but rich, deep, just loud enough to startle your senses to attention.

Too much loosestrife, however, is not a good thing; it is, in fact, a very bad thing. Though it’s widely used as a decorative plant, it breeds like a weed, and infestations spread quickly, choking out nearly everything else in their midst, especially in aquatic sites, where loosestrife displaces wetland plants like cattails and native grasses that support local wildlife. It isn’t much good for food (songbirds don’t bother with its hard seeds; even muskrats snub it) or for nesting (it’s too dense to offer cover; waterfowl, especially ducks, avoid wetlands that have been taken over by it). In short, it suffuses ecosystems with beauty, and simultaneously wrecks them.

As a metaphor---given my present situation---let's just say it resonates.


Post a Comment

<< Home