Something Awfully Hip

A hippie friend/enemy—apparently in the throes of psychosis at the time—once sent me the question, «Mr. Posh Punk Sex Symbol, are you ready for the Duke?» Cryptic, you might say, but still my all-time favourite question anybody's ever asked me. Didn't quite know what to reply, or even what the question was supposed to mean, but I surmised my confused or visionary friend was trying to call into question my credibility and sincerity as a human being—to call me, in a word, a «hipster», and to prepare this hipster for the violence of a revolutionary revelation that would baptise my soul in a fire of undeniable truth, its timelessness banishing all that soon-to-be-dated stuff from my fickle mind and returning me to great integrity, saving me in the process.

Still, being called a «hipster» is an insult, even to hipsters. Especially to hipsters: It's like being accused of following trends when, as a follower of trends, your secret dream is to actually be a trendsetter. Consequently you loathe the implication that you are, in fact, a mere sheep in the contemptible flock, whose irrelevant anonymity and humiliating subservience it was that made you want to rise up and be different (yet adored!) in the first place. It's the hipster's eternal dilemma. In the words of the great Ken Nordine, the hipster wants to «be different, yet stay the same».

Be that as it may, hipsters are universally despised, even by themselves. So much so that no one ever called himself a «hipster». Admitting to being a hipster is tantamount to implying you're following rather than setting trends, which is hardly hip. It's like the Messiah claiming to be the Messiah; ain't nobody gonna buy it. Now, I'm not going to sully my dignity by rejecting the implication that I'm a hipster. (Someone who has to protest to others he's not a hipster obviously is one.) Instead, let me draw your attention to the funniest website on the entire World Wide Web and what they have to say about hip folk:

The picture above is hilarious as is, but the article it illustrated is even better! I found it on a reactionary Christian/satirical website (take your pick, I can't possibly decide whether the comedy is intentional or not) called ChristWire. It's the very best in out-of-touch tabloid Christianity. There's a plethora of articles with titillating titles such as «Obama Is Literally Hitler», «Do Gay People Have Feelings?», «Do Mormons Think They're Better than Christians?», «Science of Homosexuality: Lesbian Mice FucM Genes Reveal Why Gay Males Are Moody and Dysfunctional», «History of The Beatles Haircuts: Hairstyles Directly Correlates Approximation of Drug Use», «The Anti-masturbation Movement’s 14 Greatest Inventions», «Afro-Saxon Rage Caught on Tape», «Is My Child’s Schoolteacher a Secret Sex Addict?», and so on. Then, just when you've been perusing the site long enough to become convinced that, sadly, this is in fact a serious website, you come across this:

This website truly is a godsend; say goodbye to boredom, people. I mean, who put this collage together?! Who actually sat down to find all those pictures, then to invent those categories? It takes a big freak to entertain, and this is very entertaining… In one article—the hot topical «Dressing Up as Lady Gaga This Halloween Is a Sin Against Jesus»—you can read that
October is the cruelest month for Christians in America. The summer is over, school semesters are underway and we look forward to the special joys of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The one tragic distraction in the middle of all that cheer is the institutionalized celebration of a pagan festival. Many will throw themselves wholeheartedly into this barbaric affair, spending hours making effeminate costumes, stocking up on overpriced sweets and decorating their homes with pentagrams and skeletons. Why do so many Christians willfully engage in this vile, hedonistic ritual?
Priceless writing from one Stephenson Billings, «Investigative Journalist, Motivational Children's Party Entertainer and Antique Soda Bottle Collector». Two of his pet hates are hippies and hipsters. Yet the two terms' root similarity can be confusing, so Stephenson lays out the difference between the two:
Hipsters, while also predominantly Caucasian, tend to come from more affluent backgrounds [than hippies] and their sophistication shows. The hipster rebels against wealth and power by slumming in urban, ethnic ghettoes. They use family money to create farcical careers as unpublished authors or fashion designers. They tend to be far more sexual and consequently likelier carriers of herpes and genital warts. Hipsters fetishize clothes above drugs, while for hippies it’s the opposite. There are far more homosexuals in the hipster demographic, for the hippie does not enjoy expensive hair products and tight clothing. Hippies are more often overweight and unappealing physically, as hipsters use more cocaine and cigarettes than their peers and remain lithe and active. Both groups are unnecessary distractions for children and should be avoided with a concerted, parental effort.
Snort some of that coke, light that cigarette and scratch those genital warts just beneath your tight clothing, dear reader, here's something awfully hip: a sampler of some of the most notable music of 2010. Are you hip to it? ARE YOU READY FOR THE DUKE?!

Merry Hallowe'en!


Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 8: Jana Hunter

Jana Hunter side of split LP with Devendra Banhart [.zip, 192kbps vinyl rip]

Jana Hunter occupies an odd space, not quite fitting in with the suburban-garden-goblin-gone-metropolitan-hippie-bohemian fantasy crowd, nor with more brooding singer-songwriters whose words dribble derision on the stock sentiment of «love & light.» In equal measure, there's something for nerds and something for Nihilists on Hunter's albums.

Although far more subtle than most exponents of Freak-Folk/Weird-Nu-Americana-whatnot, Hunter is one of its most remarkable artists—in part because she's more subtle. There's no sunny San Fran fluff here, nor contrived eccentricity; what there is, is a certain kind of mumbly murk that sets her work apart from sunshine psychedelia and willfully naïve folk, and is more reminiscent of, say, Skip Spence or Sly Stone (ca. There's a Riot Goin' On)—only without that nervous breakdown feel to it.

Yet it's not doom & gloom; there's humour, there's positivity. The good and the bad are inextricably interwoven, not separable at all in Hunter's recordings. Everything simply is as it is, as Hunter reports it without judgment, obsession or attachment. This may be the closest popular music gets to Buddhist mysticism, simply by virtue of the music just being itself, without contrivance. There seems to be no agenda, no message, no ambition, even. What you get is merely what it says on the tin.

Not that it's easy to read what it says on that there tin. Everything about the words and music seems to occupy the space in between the lines. There doesn't appear to be a commitment towards anything, and although that may sound boring, it's actually a kind of revelation, as Hunter tiptoes through a minefield of masculine hatred and feminine love, guiding you safely to somewhere you've never even thought about, where no one wants to crush, own, smother, penetrate, enter or subsume you. And surely, the sweetest embrace is a lullaby telling you (as on personal favourite «Black Haven») «to never, ever wake up»?

These tracks are all from an untitled, out-of-print, split vinyl-only album released in 2005 on Troubleman Unlimited, with Devendra Banhart on the other side. My transfer is a bit shoddy, I'll admit, but Toilet Guppies makes no excuses: This is what vinyl sounds like, and when they only released the material on this format, that's what you get. I'm not about to spend hours «restoring» music I bought new and mint on a supposedly superior format. These transfers are still far, far better than nothing. Or, if you're a Nihilist, damn near as good as nuthin:
  1. «Black Haven»
  2. «A Bright-ass Light»
  3. «Crystal Lariat»
  4. «That Dragon Is My Husband»
  5. «Laughing & Crying»
Don't forget to enjoy.


Tormented Rappers vs. the Man

Saul Williams: «Freestyle (live from No Man's Land)» [128kbps mp3]
Salaam Remi: «Made You Look (A/K/A In My Bed) (instrumental with guns)» [192kbps mp3]

A few days ago, Pitchfork reported that Nas is having a public dispute with his record label, after an email from him to Def Jam executives was leaked. Apparently, the rapper is outraged that his second volume of outtakes(!) is not being marketed aggressively enough by Def Jam.

Reading Nas' rant, it's interesting to note that a man who makes his living on words—streams and streams of rhythmically delivered swashbuckling and vaguely expressed hype about how Nas and his homies roll/do/wear/drink/smoke things and perform various activities (without really specifying anything, except perhaps where exaggerated and usually unprovoked threats are concerned)—a man ostensibly so gifted with the gab cannot spell. Yet let's not lower ourselves to petty pedantry. What's far funnier than ignorance of spelling, words and their meanings are the sky high pretensions of a wordsmith who uses so many words to say so little. Idiocy is only funny (rather than just depressing) when the fool thinks him- or herself profound, or otherwise blessed with superiority of historical importance. Thankfully, then, Nas' lack of logic (or just a set of relatively coherent values) gives us some of the most entertaining statements coming out of hip-hop in 2010:
From: Nas
To: LA Reid, Steve Bartels, Steve Gawley, Michael Seltzer, Joseph Borrino, Chris Hicks

Peace to all,

With all do [sic] respect to you all, Nas is NOBODY's slave. This is not the 1800's, respect me and I will respect you.

I won't even tap dance around in an email, I will get right into it. People connect to the Artist [sic] @ the end of the day, they don't connect with the executives. Honestly, nobody even cares what label puts out a great record, they care about who recorded it. Yet time and time again its [sic] the executives who always stand in the way of a creative artist's dream and aspirations. You don't help draw the truth from my deepest and most inner soul, you don’t even do a great job @ selling it. The #1 problem with DEF JAM is pretty simple and obvious, the executives think they are the stars. You aren't.... not even close. As a matter of fact, you wish you were, but it didn't work out so you took a desk job. To the consumer, I COME FIRST. Stop trying to deprive them! I have a fan base that dies for my music and a RAP label that doesn't understand RAP. Pretty fucked up situation [sic]

This isn’t the 90's though. Beefing with record labels is so 15 years ago. @ this point I just need you all to be very clear where I stand and how I feel about «my label.» I could go on twitter [sic] or hot 97 tomorrow [sic] and get 100,000 protesters @ your building but I choose to walk my own path my own way because since day one I have been my own man. I did business with Tommy Mottola and Donnie Einer, two of the most psycho dudes this business ever created. I worked well with them for one major reason……. [sic] they [sic] believed in me. The [sic] didn't give a fuck about what any radio station or magazine said….those [sic] dudes had me.

Lost Tapes is a movement and a very important set up piece for my career as it stands. I started this over 5 years ago @ Columbia and nobody knew what it was or what it did but the label put it out as an LP and the fans went crazy for it and I single handedly built a new brand of rap albums. It's smart and after 5 years it's still a head [sic] of the game. This feels great and you not feeling what I’m feeling is disturbing. Don't get in the way of my creativity. We are aligned with the stars here, this is a movement. There is a thing called KARMA that comes to haunt you when you tamper with the aligning stars. WE ARE GIVING THE PEOPLE EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT. Stop throwing dog shit on a MAGICAL moment.

You don't get another Nas recording that doesn't count against my deal….PERIOD! Keep your bullshit $200,000.00 fund. Open the REAL budget. This is a New York pioneers ALBUM, there ain't many of us. I am ready to drop in the 4th quarter. You don’t even have shit coming out! Stop being your own worst enemy. Let's get money!

-N.Jones [my italics]
Interesting that a guy whose creative endeavours mainly consist of self-centred bullshitting about bling and sexual and violent bravado, invokes the words «karma» and «soul» (and «truth», as coming from the «innermost» «depths» of this purported spiritual self). One minute he's the tortured artist castrated by the Man, the next he's giving a fat cat money maker's pep talk—as if he can't decide whether he wants to battle the unjust deprivation suffered by his multitudes of fans, all ready to fight for a much larger budget to promote a second volume of outtakes (unless they're already «dying», that is), or whether he simply wants more cash to buy gold chains and some nouveau riche decor worthy of an MTV reality show episode.

Be that as it may, when delusions of grandeur meet the limitations of reality, a Messiah complex is born. But if you want to be Christ, you need to be prepared for the crucifixion. Actually, Nas is loving it, which is why he's inventing this persecution in the first place.

It takes a certain something—or someone—to make you side with a big corporation for once. Unlike Saul Williams, rapper of substance who was given producer Salaam Remi's incredible backing track to Nas' «Made You Look» (and Amy Winehouse's «In My Bed») to say something actually relevant to someone beyond only Nas himself. Whether you agree with Williams' political sentiments or not, at least he's not just gazing into his own diamond encrusted navel.

We can't recall when and where we came across Williams' rare recording, but it was ages ago. «Made You Look (instrumental with guns)» was the B-side to Nas' by now out of print CD single «Made You Look», which, in all fairness, is a monster. Nas may not be the sharpest shiv on the cell block, but the man's got flow and a voice:

Keep it real, etc.


Net Nuggets 34: Deerhunter & a Ghost of the Russian Sex Industry

Deerhunter: «Helicopter» (Diplo & Lunice mix) [mp3]

We here at Toilet Guppies don't much care for advertising, especially in cases where it pretends to be art, as with «music videos». Yet the new single by Deerhunter is so sublime you should hear it (without actually illegally downloading it), so here's the relatively inoffensive video, for your listening pleasure:

Diplo and Lunice's remix, however, is freely up for grabs. It's a good listen, too.

The song is based on a true story, as told by author Dennis Cooper:
Dima (real name Dimitry Marakov) was born in 1986 in the town of Nalchik, Russia. From a young age, he dreamed of working in the fashion industry as a designer. Lacking the moral or financial support of his parents, he actively sought out contacts within the industry through the internet. At the age of 14, he became acquainted with a successful fashion photographer in St. Petersburg who invited the boy to come live with him and work as his assistant. Dima accepted the offer and moved in with the photographer. According to friends of Dima, he became the older man's lover for approximately the next year. He eventually grew dissatisfied with the lack of benefits he had been promised would result from the arrangement. He left the photographer to become live-in lovers with a wealthy man who provided the financial backing for a conglomerate of pornographic gay websites. It was at this point that Dimitry adopted the stage name Dima and, with the help of false documents that corrected his age to the legal 18, began a successful career modeling naked and starring in hardcore sex videos on the gay websites financed by his lover.

Between the age of 15 and 18, Dima was a highly sought after pornographic model and performer. He saved the money he made from modeling to pay for the tuition at a leading college of fashion that he hoped to attend when he reached 18. At a certain point, Dima began supplementing his income by renting himself out as an escort within his lover's circle of associates and acquaintances. According to friends of Dima, they included several leading figures in the entertainment industry as well as one of the most powerful men in Russia's world of organized crime. Dima began to express concern to his friends that the organized crime figure had become obsessed with him, but he refused to accept their advice to stop seeing the man because of the large amount of money these dates were earning him. Sometime in 2005, Dima abruptly left his lover, gave up his modeling career, cut off all communication with his friends, and moved in with the organized crime figure. The last public Dima sighting was late that year when his friend Ignat Lebedev, who was also working as a male escort at the time, accompanied a client to a private sex club where he claims to have witnessed a very thin and confused looking Dima being forcibly sodomized by a group of perhaps ten to fifteen men. Lebedev claims his client identified one of the men as the organized crime figure and dissuaded him from speaking to Dima for his own protection.

Lebedev claims he described what he'd seen to Dima's former lover and was told Dima had been killed the previous week and that he shouldn't speak of this again. Lebedev reported both incidents to the police, but after interviewing the lover and being told Lebedev had made the story up, they declined to investigate the matter. In 2006, Lebedev persuaded a prominent Russian gay journalist to write an article on Dima's disappearance, but during the course of investigating the story, the writer was abducted by unknown assailants, beaten, and told he would be murdered if he wrote the story. Dima has not been seen or reliably heard from in three years, although in early 2007 another organized crime figure, Evgeny Ershova, who was awaiting trial on an unrelated murder charge, claimed that in late 2005 he witnessed a young male prostitute matching Dima's description be pushed out of a helicopter over a remote forest in the north of Russia. Before Dima's ex-lover died of lung cancer in late 2007, he reportedly confessed to friends that Dima was sold as a sex slave to a man in the Ukraine in late 2005 and had lived until late 2006 when he'd committed suicide.


The Glorious Return of the Male Appendage

Never before has a cultural product featured so many… well, not even phalli, just out-and-out penises, really, whilst not being gay. (They even say so, in writing, in the music video: «Im not a gay».) Seriously. I don't think these people are closet homosexuals. Possibly not even the least bit «bi-curious» (not even for fashion, or for cool's sake). They're probably making a wryly ironic political statement, though. But still… THE PENIS IS BACK! It makes a grown man shed a brave tear. Sure, it's the lone drop of pre-cum at the tip of my head, but a tear it is, nevertheless:

Possibly more glorious than even the peni, is Yo-Landi Vi$$er's white-and-red rat suit—or the gold lamé tights worn by the dancers. Everything you could possibly ever want, is in this marketing product for the exciting new band, Die Antwoord.


Toilet Guppies Presents…

We here at Toilet Guppies have been unhealthily obsessed with music far longer than our undernourished brains are able to recall. It occurs to us that to fail to share all the accumulated obscurity to be found in our ludicrously (and quite unnecessarily) extensive mp3 collection would be the paragon of selfishness. We have decreed, therefore, to make available little surprise packages on this here blog every now and again, for your downloading convenience. Every time an acquaintance of ours requests a collection of some sort—be it based on an artist, a genre or subject matter—we will upload it to this blog, so that all you other trusted followers, too, may enjoy it.

The copyright adherence we strive to maintain may not always be strictly observed, so the tracklistings won't be published in the blog post. We may write a blurb about the artist/genre/subject, but without mentioning the relevant names. This to keep multitudes of random Google surfers from happening upon this site and downloading, I mean freeloading on artists that deserve to live off their work. (If you like what you hear, the mp3s are tagged with the artist name as well as the song and original album titles, so you can go buy the record.)

By downloading, you'll never know what you're going to get: an introduction to an artist, an era, a movement, a style, or just a motley crew of tracks somehow flimsily connected in the confused minds of Toilet Guppies' resident DJs… This Toilet bowl is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get. Consider the collections surprise presents to the few people who bother returning to this blog. (Or an attempt at educating you people.)

In fact, if any of you Toilet Guppies followers desires a compilation, simply ask for it in the comments section. We take requests/challenges.

To start off, here's not one but two compilations, both showcasing music that is intellectual, after a fashion and in different ways. The first one is cerebral and funky (really!), the other just devoid of sentimentality:

There's something cold and true that art sometimes expresses, provided the artist is uncompromising and intellectual enough, unmoved by sentimentality yet not impervious to the almost impossibly uncomfortable conclusions that come with never sugaring the pill, even unconsciously, tightening the screws of determined and lucid reasoning until nothing superfluous or false slips in between the cracks to provide false comfort. Stanley Kubrick and Le Corbusier were such singular artists, never positing what we might like to think, only what we're justified in thinking, letting everything else—all those easy comforts—fall by the wayside. A life without sweetness, but also without bitterness: Always remaining calm in the face of what drives
many people to neurosis, illusion, delusion or insanity, never giving in to the temptation of lies, nor losing the composure of reason (so infuriating).

You know that Old Testament God Job struggled with, dishing out constant, relentless and undeserved misfortune? This God is no God or anthropomorphic being—or even the vague something-or-other «force».This pointlessly, ungratefully testing Old Testament «God» is simply reality—the way life goes and is. Which is why «God» didn't intervene on Job's behalf. Couldn't intervene. And like Job, you realise there's no point asking why or in fighting the facts. The uncomforting «God» Job had to contend with is the truth we all would have to contend with, if we weren't such good liars.

Artists, of course, make for some of the best liars; only a very few of them aren't in the business of telling you what you (and they, too) want to hear, but what good, solid sense and undeniable reality dictate. And the best instrument to see through all the wishful thinking is—if you don't mind me saying so—the rational mind, ridiculed by so many artistic minds.

The Morning's Small, the Evening Tall illustrates just how devastating art can be when completely emptied of sentimentality or wishful thinking, taking you to a very fundamental and absolute place not visited by many artists (nor by the public, for that matter). What's more, it becomes perfectly clear that rationality isn't opposed to emotions, thought to feeling, but that once reason has peeled away all the excess sentiments we indulge in for our distraction and escape, the feelings that remain are the most fundamental, important, confronting, difficult and truthful ones. Not to use hyperbole, but in our irrelevant opinion these are some of the most impressive works in the history of recorded music, by an artist not nearly given their due, mostly reduced to iconography and celebrity gossip, artistic achievements ignored.

Intellectual art may often have an appearance of harsh coldness, or feel yawn-inducingly irrelevant. Often it doesn't seem to really plunge into the deep end of the pool. Yet sometimes an artifact can be so cerebral it breaks through its own barrier and comes out the other end, an expression of something that's unique to the animal that is, after all, a rational being. (Among all the other things it is.) That is, a being that can explore its own irrationality rationally. Living Turned Inside Out shows how cerebrally contrived art can become so weird it ends up speaking to something beyond the rational mind, using reason like a fire—to fight fire. The carefully constructed, intellectually contrived art of a pretentious avantnik somehow results in emotionally fundamental art, against all the odds, if you just listen closely enough.