A section from a list of comics creators’ three favourite records, because we don’t know what Philippe Druillet’s favourite records are:
“Thriller” – Michael Jackson
“Bitches Brew” – Miles Davis
“Mishima” soundtrack – Philip Glass
–Dash Shaw (BodyWorld, The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D., Bottomless Belly Button)
“Unplugged” – Nirvana
“Celebrity Skin” – Hole
“Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign” – Dory Previn
–Molly Crabapple (Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, Scarlett Takes Manhattan)
“Here Come the Warm Jets” – Brian Eno
“Engine” – American Music Club
“Either/Or” – Elliott Smith
–Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Sleeper, Incognito, Criminal)
“Berlin” – Lou Reed
“Congotronics” – Konono No1
“The Complete Recordings” – Robert Johnson
–Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Crooked Little Vein, Crecy)
There should have been a name for what Jack Kirby did, a term for the style beyond “Kirby Style.” I mean, having a style named after you is great, but it implies to me that there was nothing to the man beyond his associated visual codes like Kirby Krackle or Kirby Dots (Hugo Pratt’s still wandering around a gallery of comics art in Switzerland — did Hugo Pratt ever “wander,” or did he stride purposefully? — and asking Paul Gravett how Eddie Campbell does the thing with the little dots, having apparently never before encountered zipatone/Letratone). Which is obviously not true.
I would have liked to see it get a name like Atom Style. Now that’s a good name for a style. And, you know, not having your name attached to a style isn’t a bad thing. Hard Bop was all Miles Davis, and Free Jazz was all Ornette Coleman, but not having your name nailed to it means you can move on and do something else. Miles Davis did a whole shitload of different things, some of which were so odd that they still don’t have names. Anthony Braxton makes up a name for every new “style” he creates — even though his honking free-jazz almost-musical experiments are so dissonant, random and alien as to be almost indivisible from each other.
Which is great. It’s big, and mythical (self-mythologising), and intensely interesting because it denotes the presence of an active and playful imagination trying to rewrite and redress its own environment and process. Ghost Trance Music. Falling River Music. Diamond Curtain Wall Music. Echo Echo Mirror House Music.
An acquaintance once told me of the time he was part of a group who’d determine if Anthony Braxton would receive a grant for some project. He told me that, on meeting Braxton, with his bright little eyes and his tight little smile, he determined that Braxton was a genius who should receive whatever he wanted, but should be kept under close supervision the whole time, because he was also quite clearly mad as a hatter.
Braxton conceives of music in terms of space vehicles –
“Now, the Ghost Trance Musics… is a prototype that’s a transport prototype, that allows for the friendly experiencer to be re-positioned inside of the space of the music, the area space of the music… Ghost Trance Music is a telemic prototype, and by telemic I’m saying that, if the area space is solar system or galactic, the Ghost Trance Musics is the point to have telemic signals come back, in the same way as satellites circling the planet give signals…”
– and in terms of cutting-edge genetic science –
“…in the Tri-Centric musics every composition has an origin identity logic, every composition has a secondary identity logic… and the tertiary identity is genetic splicing: two measures of Composition 96 can be taken out and put into Composition 103, so it’s like gene-splicing…”
– and I’ve seen his work most often described by critics as “galactic.”
Hurling these great mad constructions up into interstellar space, on a periodical basic, using short-run CD releases to document his thinking, Braxton is a nonpareil Do Anything case. He even titles his CDs with arcane diagrams that look like Jack Kirby got trolleyed on red wine and magic mushrooms with Picasso and then tried to draw cutaway blueprints of the Baxter Building for an issue of FANTASTIC FOUR.
And, yes, I do know what Atom Style actually is. I cover it next week.
Today I would send your attention to a piece of music I’ve been returning to since I bought it last year at the hauntological conference in London. THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC is a piece written by Gavin Bryars in 1969, interpreted in this 2007 version by disturbing mad-inventor/turntablist Philip Jeck and avant-garde classical group Alter Ego. It’s a semi-aleatoric work — elements of it are determined by the performers, not the written score, but whatever is brought to it must derive from sound sources related to the sinking of the Titanic. And Jeck, the hauntological ghost-train driver of modern music, turns it into an impressionistic seventy-minute-long spectral portrait of the last notes of human dignity and pride, a long watery depth and the echo of memories and final sounds reverberating down the 20th century. It’s a remarkable piece of sound. You can find an mp3 on eMusic, and the CD will be available from touchmusic.org.uk.
I can be sent things via Avatar Press at Avatar Press, 515 N. Century Blvd., Rantoul, IL 61866, USA, but I cannot promise a response or a review. Although, let’s be honest, it’s fairly likely, as eventually the ANYTHING section will need to be about comics. You can email me at email@example.com, but I warn you, it’s a dump address, not my regular email address, so it can take me a few days to check it.
DO ANYTHING IS © WARREN ELLIS 2009, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.