The news today is Robert Lopez's No News Today, featuring a poem by our own Jeff Simpson, EIC.
The news today is Robert Lopez's No News Today, featuring a poem by our own Jeff Simpson, EIC.
Deadline: May 31.
Reading Jane Eyre at 16, I did not like Edward Rochester. I did not picture an Orson Welles look-a-like or even a Michael Fassbender-esque hero. I was thrown into a world that was dark and gritty and left little room for happiness. I became a fan instantly, although my interpretation of the novel changed over the years.
Literature appeals to the masses because it leaves room for interpretation. The descriptions allow readers to create their own worlds with unique characters.
Fans are known to obsess over the work of their favorite authors. Jane Eyre Illustrated is a unique website in that it provides not only a look at the evolution of Jane Eyre over the years, but it allows the viewer to see how the visual display of books can shift our perceptions to see the work in a new context.
Jane Eyre was published in 1847. Regarded as a masterpiece and sufferable to many a feminist critique, the novel, written by Charlotte Bronte, has never been out of print in its 164 year history. As the collection shows, images of Jane Eyre, and her Byronic hero, Edward Rochester, vary significantly and range from book illustrations and postage stamps, to graphic novels.
The most interesting aspect to the collection is how the lines of interpretation become reconstructed. As a teenager, the Jane I envisioned was fragile and awkward. But over the years, I began to see her as a composed figure with strong convictions. I was impressed to see both of my versions in the collection. Each image implies that there is no one “true” Jane; she is just as unique as Bronte described, just now in illustrated form. Helen Sewell's 1938 book illustrations capture the gloomy essence and Gothic characteristics by using caustic blues and simple lines. Here, Jane seems softer, whereas Richard Lebenson uses charcoal to convey a deep sense of foreboding and imminent danger in his 1984 depiction.
Bronte described her character as “plain, obscure, and little,” but this site shows a vastly different woman. With its colorful and dreary reimagining, Jane Eyre Illustrated shows how the packaging and marketing of books alters our reactions, perhaps even our judgments of the work between the covers. It is a collection of all things not so plain, and not so obscure.
In the early 00’s, The Books showed up, seemingly out of nowhere, with two lovely and engaging albums crafted from chopped up found sounds and a lovely, searching hybrid of electronic pop music and folk. After the unqualified successes of the, now, oddly overlooked Thought for Food and the even more impressive The Lemon of Pink, The Books seemed to lose their way on the spotty Lost and Safe before spinning off into an odd void of on-again-off-again Pitchfork news updates that culminated in the pleasant-enough-but-nothing-special 2010 release, The Way Out. After The Books peaked so early with The Lemon of Pink then spent the rest of the decade in decline, it wasn’t particularly surprising or disappointing when the duo, comprised of Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jeong parted ways. Now, with Zammuto’s release of his new eponymous full-length, the project’s dissolution can be recontextualized from expected, to outright necessary.
The songs on Zammuto cover a wide range of territory, from electro-folk, to prog-inflected pop, to collages of funky pop cut with found sounds. On the one hand, Zammuto feels like a logical extension of Zammuto’s work with The Books, while on the other, it introduces a fresh emphasis on warm textures and melody that somehow got lost in the shuffle in the back half of The Book’s problematic 00’s. Album opener “Yay,” works as a fine point of departure for Zammuto’s solo work. Steeped in heavy percussion, a thoughtful organ arrangement, and a melodic core comprised of what sounds like chopped and splattered, effects-laden vocals, the song breaks from the meandering, static and skeletal folk bits designed to spotlight various samples, and moves, instead, towards a pop-infused melodicism. This move becomes even more apparent on tracks like the lively and ecstatic “F U C-3PO,” and the funky “Weird Ceiling.” To this end, Zammuto’s biggest success is his move away from the navel-gazing, sample-centric approach of The Books toward compositions that are more interested in motion and energy. In other words, if The Books were about the analysis of samples, Zammuto is about the synthesis of samples into a more satisfying whole.
Of course, Zammuto isn’t flawless. It’s back half loses much of the momentum of its first as the tempos slow down and the compositions open up to the point that there is almost too much space between the songs’ various elements—“Harlequin” has some nice moments, but is slow to get started, and drags on for much of its six minutes, and the funky synths and artificial voice sample of “Zebra Butt” feels like an in-joke that isn’t particularly funny or enjoyable. Still, on the whole, Zammuto is an exciting album that indicates that Nick Zammuto has come away from his decade in The Books with a refreshed sense of purpose and a willingness to hang on to what worked from his old project, while bringing new ideas into his compositions.
There is something about Aaron Dilloway’s Modern Jester that makes me want to use visual metaphors as descriptors. Imagine art made with a Spirograph, the effortless symmetry and elegant curves of those designs intersecting and spiraling into and out of themselves. Now imagine that, instead of a plain old spirograph, we were instead using a hybrid Spin Art/Spirograph, making those lovely, loping lines and precise geometric patterns messier, more raw. Now, and here is the last step, imagine that, instead of running paint into our fantastical Spin Art/Spirograph art making machine, we were dumping blood, and gasoline, and freshly chopped grass mixed with vinegar, and yellow phlegm, and molten ore, and any number of other odd fluids—bodily or otherwise—into the machine to make the designs. The resulting piece of art would be a pretty accurate visual representation of Modern Jester—an album of unabashed, unhinged loops of white noise.
Dilloway is best known for his work with Michigan sound murderers Wolf Eyes, whose music ranged from terror-inducing post-industrial noise jams, to sinister, nightmare inducing ambient drone. These same threads—and many variations on them—run through Modern Jester, but while Wolf Eyes tended to compartmentalize their aesthetic experiments by album (2001’s Dread was a clanging, post-industrial collection of songs, for example, while 2005’s Dead Hills was more firmly rooted in the “dark ambient” approach) Dilloway has managed to bring them all together—and then some—to construct one of the more ambitious, seamless albums of his career.
Released on four sides of vinyl, Modern Jester is an expansive and architectural album. Dilloway’s compositions, built largely around various loops, are exercises in building tension. Each track is a series of mutations, escalations, and deconstructions in which the repetitions of patterns and loops are timed perfectly to elicit often times uncomfortable visceral responses from the listener. The album’s second track, “Eight Cut Scars (For Robert Turman),” builds around a brief, gritty distortion loop. As Dilloway heaps additional loops into the mix, the track becomes a delicious pile-up, a headache inducing, stomach churning mess of noise, fighting for release. But Dilloway’s compositions rarely offer release, and when they do, that release is often just as confounding as the tension of the build-up. “Eight Cut Scars,” as it were, never offers that release—only brief moments of respite, where the cacophony subsides momentarily allowing listeners to refocus on a single loop. Of course the track builds and subsides, and builds and subsides, until we’re left with a single, loud loop that abruptly stops, giving way to the placid, and oddly beautiful “Labyrinths and Jokes.”
As with most of the best noise artists, there is something profoundly physical about Dilloway’s album. His use of repetition in creating this album’s unsettling soundscapes has a way of tightening our muscles, making us grind our teeth a little as we listen. While some might feel these responses as a sign of irritation, the plain truth is that Dilloway’s compositions are about making us feeling uncomfortable to varying degrees. The aforementioned “Labyrinths and Jokes,” is a mildly unsettling track that might have been conventionally pretty were its gait not a little too unsteady. Conversely, the nineteen minute “Body Chaos,” builds from arrhythmic, percussive noodling into terror inducing, exploding bomb, earfuck territory, complete with guttural moans and immense chasms of feedback and static. Likewise, “Shatter All Organized Activities (Eat the Rich),” lives up to its name, shifting through various forms of audio-vitriol.
Ultimately, Modern Jester feels like an important album. Each composition is so meticulously constructed that the album becomes a sort of aural cathedral. It is tempting to extend the metaphor and make that cathedral rife with decay, but each track is so architecturally sound that the cathedral ought to last forever. Besides, it isn’t the ugliness of many of the textures Dilloway employs on Modern Jester that makes the album so uneasy and, at times, physically difficult to listen to—it is the moves he makes with those textures. Just as we become accustomed to each iteration of a loop, or each movement within a composition, Dilloway tweaks it just right so that our uneasiness is derived from the minor variations, not the violence of the sounds themselves—those slight tweaks come to represent an aural equivalent to the uncanny valley, as we struggle to make sense of those shifts, no matter how subtle they are. To be blunt, Modern Jester isn’t an album for all of our readers—its sounds are violent, uncomfortable, and devoid of any notion of conventional melody. But make no mistake, Dilloway has made a special album with Modern Jester. From the almost playful tonal bursts of album opener “Tremors” to the woozy static of album closer “After the Showers,” which runs infinitely into side four’s locked groove, Dilloway has made a challenging but rewarding album that doesn’t just stand to be one of the best noise albums of the year, but one of the best albums of the year, period.
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2.2 is live, featuring work by Jason Bredle, Kiki Vera Johnson, Joe Bonomo, Chiara Barzini, Chris Keimig, James Ferry, Caitlin Plunkett, Lowell Jaeger, Ark Codex (Calamari Press), Shelly Oria, Angie Mullen, Will Gray, and Jamie Kinroy. Plus music reviews, book reviews, and an interview with Campbell McGrath. DON'T. MISS. OUT.