All posts by Syd Fablo

Jandek – Interstellar Discussion

Interstellar Discussion

JandekInterstellar Discussion Corwood Industries 0747 (1984)

Jandek is an interesting proposition.  Interstellar Discussion makes for a good barometer to gauge why it is anyone listens to Jandek albums.  Side one very much sounds like a bunch of young people with minimal musical instrument proficiency banging away in a rehearsal space with a tape recorder running.  The harmonica parts seem almost overdubbed.  While the performances are, by most standards, inept, the guitar does display hints of a very deliberate and unusual sensibility.  Side two is acoustic stuff, like other early Jandek releases but seemingly trying more than usual to be melodic — and possibly failing at that effort.  So, there is something in here, weird outsider art potential, but this does sound like rehearsals on tape.  Actually, this listener subscribes to the theory that this recording is archival in nature and predates earlier Jandek/Units releases.  Some listeners may out of fascination just find a way to like this in spite of its objective qualities.  But, really, this is not as intriguing as other Jandek albums, in spite of its potential.  Given a more careful listen, it’s noticeably less proficient than other efforts.  If this is your favorite Jandek, you’re probably more interested in the myth and mystery than the actual music, or just see it as an affirmation of “be yourself” new ageism.

Jonathan Feldman – Police Shootings, Neoliberal Scarcity Regimes and the Left

Link to an article by Jonathan Feldman:

“Police Shootings, Neoliberal Scarcity Regimes and the Left: Behind the Balch Springs, Texas Murder”

Bonus link: “How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence” (“It should be clear by now that the focus on racial disparity accepts the premise of neoliberal social justice that the problem of inequality is not its magnitude or intensity in general but whether or not it is distributed in a racially equitable way.”)

Andrew Hill – Smokestack


Andrew HillSmokestack Blue Note BLP 4160 (1964)

Hmmm. Quite an interesting album.  It was Hill’s second set recorded for Blue Note records, but was kept on the shelf for a few years before release.  The results are successful, but not entirely so.  The most striking feature of the album is the use of double bassist Richard Davis as a lead voice, a position in jazz combos most commonly held by wind instruments or piano.  On songs like “Wailing Wail”, “Not So”, “The Day After” and “Verne”, the effect is spectacular, providing deep shading to Hill’s typically intriguing compositions.  However, Davis is sometimes buried in the mix, and cannot clearly be heard over Hill and drummer Roy Haynes on “Smoke Stack” and other cuts.  To further complicate matters, Haynes seems just a bit ill at ease here.  A hallmark of Hill compositions is, despite complex structures and arrangements, a strong dominant theme running through his songs.  In that respect it is more interesting to compare Hill with Albert Ayler or Cecil Taylor than more traditional post-bop players or the previous generation of jazz composers.  Here Haynes uses a bit too much space in his drumming, and he is so loud in the mix that this tends to obscure the main themes.  That is one of the main difficulties for a listener approaching this album for the first time.  Haynes was spectacularly effective on Black Fire.  In all, a great set of performances frequently marred by sloppy production, making this just slightly less enjoyable than other Hill recordings from the same time period.

Andrew Hill & Chico Hamilton – Dreams Come True

Dreams Come True

Andrew Hill & Chico HamiltonDreams Come True Joyous Shout! JS10010 (2008)

What a sorry album.  This was recorded back in 1993 and then released in 2008 in the wake of Andrew Hill’s death.  It should have stayed in the vaults.  It’s clearly just a crass attempt to cash in on the publicity surrounding Hill’s death.  The music is dull.  Hill’s playing is aimless, and there are pointless drum fills from Chico Hamilton littered everywhere.  One gets the sense the performers are trying to be too deferential to each other, to the point that neither steps up to take charge.  So there is a definite lack of purpose in the music — like this is merely a recorded practice session.  Take for instance “Watch That Dream,” which is a composition with plenty of potential, but Hamilton banging away on a tambourine is really too distracting to allow a listener to engage with the lovely melody.  This recording is probably best ignored in the catalogs of both performers.

On Criticism (4)

Martin Mull is credited with the phrase, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”  There are many variations on this theme around.  The crux is that it is “impossible” or “pointless” (or some such thing) to write about music.

I once knew a guy who published his own independent film magazine, and he pontificated about how music writing seemed pointless to him because music needed to be experienced and there weren’t adequate ways to describe the content of music.  I always found his views rather self-serving, as a way to justify his choice to write about film instead.  And for that matter, musical notation provides extremely precise (if boring) ways to describe musical content.

When people talk about how futile it is to write about music, I wonder if they feel the same way about menus at restaurants.  Can a menu ever really capture the “experience” of eating one of the dishes?  Does it matter if it cannot?

More often than not, people who decry music writing are simply uninterested in the sorts of things that music writing can do, such as contextualize the social purpose as to why the music is being made (for live performance) or was made (for recordings and composition/songwriting).  Moreover, the people who emphasize “experience” probably just psychologically favor feeling over thinking, which is a tad arbitrary, no?

Tom Bartlett – Can We Really Measure Implicit Bias? Maybe Not

Link to an article by Tom Bartlett:

“Can We Really Measure Implicit Bias? Maybe Not”


A problem with “implicit bias” theory is that it has its own implicit bias of the cognitivist and/or politically liberal variety.  In short, the question of detecting “implicit bias” is inexorably tied to a supposed “solution” (or “acceptable” range of solutions) that is less explicitly discussed, thereby denying the political character of how the question is formulated in the first instance.  While no doubt the elimination of bias/discrimination/oppression is important, it is possible to question whether advocacy of political liberalism under the guise of “neutral” science is worthwhile to those ends.  Conservatives, who are mostly the problem in terms of advocating for biased institutions, obviously oppose this stuff because they realize it is set up to be against them and their desired hierarchies of inequality.  Moreover, offering political liberalism as the solution to the problem of bias has the subtle effect of excluding liberalism from being part of the problem — especially if liberalism is seen as being about limiting/softening but still maintaining the sorts of hierarchies of inequality that conservatism seeks.  So consider what follows a critique of “implicit bias” theory from a left perspective.

Bonus link: “Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap” and “A Southern City With Northern Problems”