LINER NOTES: NO ID
NO ID playlist.
The good homies Nate, Francis and Emily, as well as Saul (whom I may have met back in the day through the museum world -- but nevertheless a good dude!) put together the
Governing Body exhibition at Temporary Agency. 'twas a great show -- hope you caught it. They wrapped with a doodle party. I sent the jams, Nate made it happen. Here's the scoop:
One of the undercurrents that caught my eye between the four artists's works was the idea of an ambiguous identity. One of my favorite angles about music is musicians working undercover. Whether it's a musician or producer working anonymously or under an alias, I'm generally fascinated. Creating honest art requires requires access to your ego, so when artists either distort or obfuscate the ego, the act creates both discomfort and fascination in me.
We opened and closed the set with a literal take on this idea -- the masked musician. Numerous artists today use masks or costumes to perform their identity. As much as everyone would have loved a night full of Slipknot, I bounced around genres and history to get a thorough sample.
Los Straitjackets are a high school/Los Angeles-era fave, and I had to include "Tempest" from my favorite Lauren Ambrose feature, Psycho Beach Party. I mean, look at this face.
How did she not become the late '90s Gidget? Travesty.
KISS are massively influential in this lane. Plus, Nate was a Stan. Not sure if "Strutter" was his jam. Forgot to ask. Fast forward to today and MF Doom has elevated the mask game by fully embracing the personality of said article. We all know what SBTRKT, FlyLo and THEESatisfaction look like, but their forays into masks and headdresses have been memorable. Kanye and Kells have their own history with masks, so I had to include the over-the-top "To The World."
Pseudonyms and alter egos are the logical next step. Whether the idea is singular and focused, like eternally old cool guy Leon Redbone, or mass-replicable, like Kool Keith's myriad identities, the results are often entertaining. Shock G is a massively underrated musician who is possibly overshadowed by his own creation Humpty Hump. Bowie is king of the chameleons, so, uh, duh. I'm unsure if "Betty and Dupree" and "Andrea Davis" were legal side-steps or simply lame alternatives to "Etta James and Harvey Fuqua" and "Minnie Riperton," but the possibly contractually-motivated pseudonym deserves its own theme.
The forgotten or previously-unpopular musician has become a contemporary genre of sorts. With reissues and forgotten-then-but-love-em-now documentaries being all the rage these days, it would have been easy to fill the entire night with the Light in the Attic catalog. I picked just a handful. I still regard Rodriguez's story separately from his music, but he has some gems that get occasional spin, so I went with his debut single, which quickly disappeared at the time of its release in 1967. Donnie and Joe Emerson's rural home studio is another example of a remarkable history that somewhat overshadows the music, but the brothers had some smoooooth ballads, like "Baby." If you can get past the 'net hype of Lewis, you'll also find the occasional nugget. He's like a less cerebral Eno.
More interesting are the genuinely unknowable folks, like Hezie Johnson and Jandek. Johnson has two songs to his name, the afore-spun "Wedding Bells..." and equally bizarre "Muddy Mississippi River," but these gems are staples of truly underground found art. Considering Jandek's three-decade-plus run, you'd think there would be some glint of information. Not that it would bring much clarity to his numerous indescribably releases. Which is perhaps the best part of their music: they represent rare instances where you can throw out context (and your reliance on marketing schlock) while listening to their songs.
A less amusing marketing trend is the 'mystery identity' musician. Along with the 'surprise' release album (regardless of one's feelings on this strategy, we can all agree Michael Cera's album does not belong in a list alongside Beyoncé and Magna Carta...), it's still a marketing approach meant to instill a consumer's willingness to consume the object. Whether I know that Artist A is a smalltown girl living in a material world, or Artist Who? is an un-Google-able entity with this. sick. beat. is not entirely different to me. In either case, I still have to read the same press release copy. I chose a handful of mystery artists who have risen above the fray. Burial and Zomby seem to be genuine cases of artists desiring privacy, which I'll gladly respect in exchange for some gorgeous music. Hype Williams is amusing mostly for straight jacking the iconic '00s video director's name. I'm happy to ignore the calculation behind Jai Paul because I still bump "BTSTU" on the regular. And Spark Master Tape makes the odd music I wish Jay Electronica had been making all this while.
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See y'all on the 'flo.