Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

What It’s Like to Be A Christian Artist

I told myself I’d write about Waste Land, the incredible documentary my partner and I saw last night. However, I’ll hold off on that blog post, as it needs more reflection than I’m capable of now.

What does interest me is the band Danielson. Mostly because I just read Rick Moody’s thoughtful tribute/wrangling/personal symbiosis with the Christian band.

Here’s a sampling of the group’s eerie, completely entrancing music:

Here’s how Rick describes an extended “truly magnificent instrumental coda” from a song by Danielson called, (dubiously, at first glance), “Can We Camp at Your Feet”:

there is a beautiful overdubbed exhalation, by the vocal chorus, and this exhalation, the breath of God, I guess, recurs through the chord progression…and the song threatens to end three times, always with these exhalations, the breath of God, the thing worshipped brought near, away from the history of a religion, away from the religious controversies of the moment, away from the history of a religion, away from the religious controversies of the moment…

Now I’m not a faithful man. But I do view those with true faith with a kind of awe. Awe at their faith, but also in their security with doubt.

Daniel Danielson, lead singer and songwriter, performing in a tree costume.

Seems like Rick and the Danielson band live with both. It’s also clear that Rick’s affinity for the Danielson Famile (the band consists not only of songwriter and leader Daniel Danielson, but also siblings Rachel, Megan, David and Andrew on everything from vocals and percussion to flute, organ, and drums) lies not only in the hypnotic, Yo La Tengo-esque soundscape, but in the group’s unwavering devotion to a generous God, a difficult, larger-than-body spirituality. Rick was one of my mentors in grad school, and in this essay he again reminded me of his mastery, subtly structuring/moving the essay from a straightforward magazine feature to something that works as a subtle meditation on his own faith.

And the Danielson music he’s writing about is damn good.

Filed under: literature, music, religion, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Michael Jackson’s “Breaking News”

I’m an unapologetic fan of The King of Pop. When I was a kid, I remember my role as the president of the Lewis and Clark Elementary School Breakdancing Club. Don’t tell me I wasn’t rocking those parachute pants and red zippered jacket.

When Jackson died last summer, I grieved half-jokingly, half-seriously, with the interns in my office and tried to explain the real significance of Thriller–its newness, its vitality, its boundary-crossing racial implications–when it first exploded in the 80s. The key was to ignore the crazy. Despite dangling his baby over the hotel balcony, and altering his face to extremes, the man was a genius–an artist doomed by his childhood success. With that kind of fame so early in life, who wouldn’t slip into fantasy worlds?

“Breaking News” is Michael Jackson’s first posthumously released single, recorded in 2007. The song sounds like Jackson in his Bad days: lots of sampling, driving rhythms, and Jackson’s trademark howl.

The cover art, designed by painter Kadir Nelson last year, seems an homage to the playful collage art in the Beatles’ legendary albums–though with a serious spin. According to Sony: “In the oil painting, Kadir – who is known for story telling through his art – takes us on a journey through some key moments and important people in Michael Jackson’s life.”

Long live the King of Pop!

Filed under: music, pop culture, race, , , , , , ,

Kanye’s “Power” and Timberlake/Fallon’s “History of Rap”

So it’s one of those sleepless nights.

Fortunately, insomnia has led me to this video: Kanye West killing it tonight on SNL, performing a live version of his rousing, forward-driving song, “Power,” in a white room surrounded by a couple dozen female dancers. Misogyny and West’s notorious inflated ego abound (a knowing misogyny and ego, I think).

Whatever your opinions on Kanye West, you’ve got to give it to the guy–he’s pushing the sound and vision of modern hip hop. I also admire the way he’s taken his original video for “Power”–a pompous, over-the-top visual feast–and reimagined it for a live performance:

Also, this viral video I missed from earlier in the week (hey, I’ve been busy). Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake put together an amazing 30-years of rap in this three-minute mashup.

Every important rap artist from The Sugarhill Gang, Missy Elliot, to Eminem and Beastie Boys. The duo, backed by The Roots, ended by leading the studio audience in a sing-along version of Jay-Z and Alicia Keyes’ infectious “Empire State of Mind.” Good stuff. Good, good stuff:

Filed under: music, pop culture, , , , , , , , ,

Janelle Monáe is The Bomb

What I like about Janelle Monae:

  • She moves better than James Brown.
  • She wears a tuxedo without irony.
  • Her voice is smooth and precocious, gleeful as a young Michael Jackson, intoxicating as Sade.
  • She only dates androids.

So good, so good.

Filed under: androids, music, women, , , ,

The Who Woulda Thunk Files: Indie Bands with Gay Frontmen

So I adore Grizzly Bear and their hypnotic, near-ambient sound. Massachusetts local Ed Droste, of course, is openly gay and named the band after a furry ex-boyfriend.

But Droste is only one of many indie bands fronted by gay men. There’s Jonsi of Sigur Ros, Kele Okerereke of Bloc Party, among others. A burgeoning trend? Queerty compiled a nice little homage to the musicians and their stolid (defiant?) queer moments.

Filed under: gay life, music, , , , , , , , ,

Writing

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
March 2017
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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