Tag Archives: Watersports

Walter De Maria, R.I.P.

Reports across the internet indicate that Walter De Maria has died. He is one of my favorite sculptors and musicians of all time, his most famous works being the installations “Lightning Field” (in New Mexico), “The New York Earth Room,” and “The Broken Kilometer” (both in New York). He also briefly played drums in the Primitives, a precursor band to the Velvet Underground. Back in 2005, I wrote a review (for Swingset Magazine) of his self-released compact disc Drums and Nature, containing two pieces of his from the 1960s, in contrast with then-new works by Watersports:

Painting, sculpture, hell even being in a regular rock band wasn’t enough for Walter De Maria. After moving to New York in 1960, hobnobbin’ and theorizin’ and fluxus-izin’ with crazyman composer La Monte Young, playing drums for a stint in The Velvet Underground, and establishing himself as one of the prominent sculptors in the emerging “minimalist” scene, De Maria looked for – and found – the ever-larger gesture. In search of an art that was more than just “art,” De Maria in 1968 filled the Galerie Heiner Friedrich in Munich with dirt, kicking off the whole earthworks movement. That same year, he recorded “Ocean Music,” which along with “Cricket Music” (from 1964) is available for the first time on Drums and Nature. “Ocean Music,” recorded with the help of rediscovered minimalist badass Tony Conrad, is a meditative piece beginning with – you guessed it – the sound of waves crashing along some shore somewhere. Some heavy solo tribal drumming eventually mixes in, then subsumes the ocean sound, and what we’ve got is something akin to New Age if New Age wasn’t fucking lame. That is, a perfect representation of the “natural,” but with an acknowledgement of the “human” (incidentally, La Monte Young also recorded a vocal piece with the ocean off Long Island as his backin’ band around the same time for Columbia, but it has yet to see the light of day). “Cricket Music” is less meditative, but no less amazing (and no less truth-in-advertising, title-wise). Listening to these compositionally simple, yet striking pieces, it’s too bad that De Maria hasn’t seemed to have done much since, musically…

De Maria’s Drums and Nature will be available for download here for a limited time: http://www.sendspace.com/file/9vcr0i. If you miss it, you can also download it from UbuWeb here: http://www.ubu.com/sound/demaria.html.

UPDATE, 7/26/13: The Los Angeles Times has confirmed De Maria’s death by publishing an obituary here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-walter-de-maria-died-20130725,0,1642854.story.

UPDATE, 7/27/13: The New York Times has published their obituary of Walter De Maria here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/arts/design/walter-de-maria-artist-on-grand-scale-dies-at-77.html.

Weekend of Public Humiliation (For Some, Not Me)

Blues Control with Brian Turner

Blues Control with Brian Turner at the Rock Star Bar for Mark’s birthday party, 8/11/07

Sharkey Eats the Mic

Isn’t “Most Hated Band in Philadelphia” something like “Most Useless Celeb in L.A.?” Clockcleaner’s John Sharkey III gets wild on the mic, something Kidd Chris would most certainly approve of.

Clockcleaner

The strobe lights make it hard to take a crappy cellphone shot, yet Karen looks good here.

Berdan Looks On

Noted super-bro Michael Berdan looks on as Clockcleaner winds up.

Watersports and Aaron Rosenblum

Watersports and Aaron Rosenblum give Gavin Bryars a run for his money at Goodbye Blue Monday, 8/10/07.

Lots more to come, shortly.

Random Cellphone Camera Photos, May-June 2007

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork Sandwich from Black Jack BBQ (Charleston, SC) at the Big Apple BBQ Fest, 6/10/07

Watersports

Watersports at Matchless, 6/2/07

Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield warms up in the bullpen at Yankee Stadium, 5/21/07

Daniel Higgs

Daniel A.I.U. Belteshazzar-Higgs at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, 5/4/07

HOME BLITZ/GUITAR TRIPS/GREYSKULL/HORSESPIRIT PENETRATES/WATERSPORTS at a random bodega in Brooklyn, 6/24/06

One of the joys in life is when what appears to be a complete clusterfuck, a SNAFU of the highest order, actually turns out okay. It’s even more joyous when it turns out better than okay, even a good fucking time. That’s what happened last Saturday at the Home Blitz/Guitar Trips/Greyskull/Horsespirits Penetrate/Watersports show in the back room/restaurant area of some random bodega on Broadway deep in the heart of Bushwick. Organized by my man Russ Waterhouse of Watersports and Blues Control, this was originally was supposed to go down at Micheline’s, a Caribbean restaurant down the block. Needless to say, they double-booked and the combined weird noise/fashion show didn’t go down (though that would’ve been an interesting clusterfuck, too).

Watersports began the show with their characteristic lo-fi new age murk, and all I can say is I continue to be impressed with the way Russ and Lea play together, both in Watersports and their more “rock” project Blues Control. What they do is pretty much what I want to hear, all the time. The two new songs they played (and I assume that they’re playing on their current tour through the South, check the links for dates) were sweet meditative faux-nature awesomeness. As I’ve written elsewhere, you definitely need to hear it.

The next two bands, Horsespirits Penetrate and Greyskull, were more akin to that noise thing that ‘the kids’ do these days, except about 90% more entertaining and fun than most anything I’ve seen lately. Maybe it’s ’cause these guys are from Western Mass., which seems to be a hotbed for this stuff (Byron?). Or maybe it’s just ’cause they were good, committed to non-craft craftiness. I dunno.

The pleasant surprise of the evening was Guitar Trips, who I had no idea about whatsoever. Fantastic psychedelic guitar-drums duo jams providing lots of heavy drone. Kind of like when you rub your eyes and various lights keep rolling through your field of vision. Even with the abruptness of some of the transitions, this was a-rollin’ and chooglin’. I expect we’ll hear more from these dudes.

The headliner of the evening was New Jersey’s own Home Blitz, playing their second-ever show hot off the heels of their debut 7″. Nervousness abounded, and the 15-or-so takes on the first song probably didn’t help much, but I actually thought it was a rockin’ good time. Apparently some of the noisier dudes were rollin’ eyes, but I liked it. And fuck it, none of us would be here without Half Japanese, so I’m cool with that. All in all, considering none of this might’ve come off at all, that’s fine with me.

Walter De Maria, Drums and Nature (no label, no number) CD; Watersports, III (White Tapes, no number) CDR; Watersports, s/t (White tapes, no number) cass

(The following review appeared in issue #7 of Swingset Magazine)

Painting, sculpture, hell even being in a regular rock band wasn’t enough for Walter De Maria. After moving to New York in 1960, hobnobbin’ and theorizin’ and fluxus-izin’ with crazyman composer La Monte Young, playing drums for a stint in The Velvet Underground, and establishing himself as one of the prominent sculptors in the emerging “minimalist” scene, De Maria looked for – and found – the ever-larger gesture. In search of an art that was more than just “art,” De Maria in 1968 filled the Galerie Heiner Friedrich in Munich with dirt, kicking off the whole earthworks movement. That same year, he recorded “Ocean Music,” which along with “Cricket Music” (from 1964) is available for the first time on Drums and Nature. “Ocean Music,” recorded with the help of rediscovered minimalist badass Tony Conrad, is a meditative piece beginning with – you guessed it – the sound of waves crashing along some shore somewhere. Some heavy solo tribal drumming eventually mixes in, then subsumes the ocean sound, and what we’ve got is something akin to New Age if New Age wasn’t fucking lame. That is, a perfect representation of the “natural,” but with an acknowledgement of the “human” (incidentally, La Monte Young also recorded a vocal piece with the ocean off Long Island as his backin’ band around the same time for Columbia, but it has yet to see the light of day). “Cricket Music” is less meditative, but no less amazing (and no less truth-in-advertising, title-wise). Listening to these compositionally simple, yet striking pieces, it’s too bad that De Maria hasn’t seemed to have done much since, musically. (Incidentally, if you ever get the chance, you should visit De Maria’s triptych of earthworks masterpieces: Lightning Field in New Mexico, the Earth Room in New York, and the Broken Kilometer, also in New York.)

Watersports are a Brooklyn-based duo who, on first take, don’t seem to have much in common with De Maria: what they do is on a much smaller scale. We live in a world overrun with the detritus of consumer culture, and Watersports recognize this through using petrochemically-produced consumer goods masquerading as “natural” devices. Yes, they make music with (among other more conventional instruments) those cheesy plastic waterfall meditation device thingies. In a sense, making music like this is a sort of ironic post-De Maria move (hence my connection): forget hauling your ass out to the ocean or a waterfall or a river or the woods on the chance you’ll hear some birds, bring (an artificial) nature to your cramped urban apartment! Anyway it’s a lot cheaper, and even cleaner, than filling it with three feet of topsoil. It may be that, in 2005, the closest we can get to nature is to just make our own hybridized, bastardized pockets of it. And while we’re doing that, why not make art from it?

Watersports take this sort of self-invented consumer-culture environmental art to new highs with their III CDR and their second self-titled cassette on their White Tapes label. And it doesn’t stop with the music: to listen to the damn cassette you gotta destroy a part of the red-stickered tape packaging. The CDR doesn’t require such confrontational tactics, but what you get is an extremely quiet, yet tactile (and hella short) meditative modern music, akin at its finest moments to a quieter, spiritually low-key but ultimately De Maria-esque “nature” jam. For those determined to spoil their progeny’s college fund-via-eBay (fuck the future, anyway), the music hidden inside the cassette might be worth disappointing a child. It would be hard to describe any of Watersports’ stuff as confrontational, seeing as their “aggressive New Age” m.o. would probably confuse the hell outta most ADHD-addled Lightning Bolt fans or somesuch, but the cassette is so quiet (even more so than III) that on the first track I had to check whether that was really the ice cream man outside the window or some bleed-through from Watersports’ Kingsland Avenue jamspace environs. A second piece ends the side with more identifiable drums and (perhaps) guitar, thumping a tribalistic jam reminiscent of Amon Duul being played by a housewife on a transistor radio as she daydreams idly while Montel’s on. When “getting back to nature” for most Americans means a fucking humpback whale tape in the car on the way to work, I can’t think of anything more perfect.

Buy Walter De Maria’s Drums and Nature and the Watersports cassette from our friends at Fusetron.