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Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 12:10 am
Around the world in a column

Momus
Playground column, July 2009
Travels of a Chameleon


My beloved readers! How are you doing? What have you been up to? It's been too long -- almost three months! -- since last we met.



I'm not quite sure how it happened, this gap in communications. It's partly because I went traveling. I spent a month in New York with only an iPod Touch to keep in touch. I imagined I'd have something to tell you about the music scene in New York, something I could tap out on the iPod's tiny keyboard. But in the end I was so busy doing other things that I hardly saw any live music.



The only new band I discovered this time in New York was Twi The Humble Feather, a trio who play acoustic guitars and sing in ways that remind me of the Animal Collective (though they're a bit tired of that comparison). In the video lounge at the back of Monkeytown in Brooklyn I saw the Twi trio play a refreshing, relaxing set accompanied by the quirky projected animations of Nobuko Hori, one half of the Matsuri-kei girlband Groopies.



When I got back to Berlin, a funny thing happened. Kyoka, the other half of Groopies, brought the touring guitarist from the metal band Korn round to my house. It turned into a real-world re-enactment of my last column, in which I attempted to scandalize my own internal "good taste Taliban" by listening to music I wouldn't normally tolerate.

Shane Gibson sat on my sofa and politely watched the Mower videos I cued up for him, before taking control of my bluetooth mouse and showing me songs by (ahem!) "progressive metal" bands Sikth and Meshuggah. I made polite noises, but my inner Taliban hated them.



Metal music out of context doesn't have to be a bad thing, though. I heard a nice example when I attended Dexter Sinister's "documents opera" True Mirror Microfiche at the ICA in London in late June. Hunched at overhead projectors or standing stiffly at podiums, actors and art world personalities performed press releases and read pages of text, interrupted occasionally by a guitarist and drummer who played very short, very loud phrases from a Napalm Death song. The dryly cerebral texts were beautifully counterbalanced by the aggressive spurts of grindcore; the dream collaboration of Apollo and Dionysus.

But the music that's touched me most over the last couple of months hasn't been Western, and hasn't been rock. I heard street musicians in the Athens district of Kerameikos playing the most beautiful Balkan mountain music on accordion and clarinet. I held a pajama party at my flat in which we played only Greek Orthodox church music and the music of the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey, and it was the most fun party I've ever had; we whirled till our skirts spun high!

Most of all, I was impressed by an American called Jonny Olsen, who's become a big star in Laos and Thailand singing his own version of the local folk music. As the No Age blog explains, Jonny was a skate kid in California who started working in a Thai vegan café and, through it, fell in love with Thai culture.



Jonny Olsen moved to Thailand, mastered the language and several traditional instruments, and began making records. He's now a pop star there and in neighbouring Laos -- an incredible cultural chameleon, and an example to us all. With love and dedication, anything is possible!

Translated from the original Spanish by a robot chameleon. Tip of the hat to the Pulled Up blog for putting me onto Jonny Olsen.

68CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:06 pm (UTC)

Here's the best thing I've heard lately, they play the ICA on July 3oth if you are in town.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)

Oh, Jeremy Reed! I like his work a lot, and he's a great performer of his writing. This is a nice video, something rather Colour of Pomegranates-like about it:



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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)

that jonny olsen is straight up gangster shit, man.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 01:51 am (UTC)
NY bands

I've been really liking Dirty Projectors lately. They do ride the JuJu music rend a bit, but I can't get enough of Dave Longstreth's falsetto. It has vague semblances of Ariel Pink, David Byrne, and Nina Simone as well.

-David
trumpery.tumblr(dot)com


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)

i do not like johnny olsen


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC)

but really, what's inspiring about moving to a foreign country and making a career of being an awkward foreigner performing kitchsy replica of the local culture? i'll admit that he seems to play the instrument well, but that seems to be all that sets him apart from william hung (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_hung).


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milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
likes/dislikes

ok, so, Meshuggah is good. You may not like them but the are good.
I really rarely listen to them but they are really fun. And like all good bands, they get better, and try different things with each new album.
but yeah funny mr.Korn had the, lets refer to it as gall, to put you through his little 'lets show mr.momus the cool metal bands that are out there' time... wtf, people are too predictable.
twi this humble feather, is also good, but ah, hmmm, I cant dis them, but not the most exciting thing on this planet.
Jonny Olsen... I"m using a computer right now that doesnt have sound... that is I cant cue up his sound right now, so... no idea, but the general story about him falling in love w thai blah blah blah... is sooo cool. Really just cool. He decides thats what he wanted to do, and did it. Awesome. Plus, you know... Thai girls are VERY HOT! thats cool too.

the picture w you and mr. Korn HAHAHAHA that is funny. try that one again now that you have a shaved head... you'll be jumping up and down, pulling him off of the dj console and playing him your most insane cool music... Yeah! lets see how much mr.Korn likes it when the tables are turned!!!!!!



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petit_paradis
petit_paradis
erik
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 04:32 am (UTC)

is johnny olsen the new jero?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 06:58 am (UTC)

I had the same thought, and when Emma and Joe were round the other day, went straight from watching Olsen videos to Jero videos.

But I think there's also something of a Zelig about him. I think he's probably a very bright Jewish-American nerd who's able (or perhaps it's a compulsive disorder and he can't help it) to replicate whatever cultural environment he finds himself in -- a "human chameleon".


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olamina
olamina
blackgirlgenius
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 04:54 am (UTC)
cultural CLOWN

I can only hope that they are having a long international laugh at this Johnny Olsen clown.
" I worked in a Thai restaurant and I am enamored by your women yer kullll-chur. "

This THIS!! is the endgame of fetishizing Asian women. You are exposed for the culture-appropriating little sniveling swine that you are.

I hope this dude gets beat down by a gang of real Thai pop stars. Fall in love with that! Get your butt back in the kitchen!


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milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 05:51 am (UTC)
Re: cultural CLOWN

ah, most people (as in most people) do what they do for or started doing what they do... for very silly reasons... like that... but anyways.thaigirls are way hot... so what ever!!! I'd go become a thai pop star if I got to be in videos with cute thai girls boping around...

just saying...


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 08:51 am (UTC)
hmm

Jonny Olsen is very big in the Laotian community and even became fluent in all 5 dialects.
He has a song called "Gued Pit Bon" (Born in the wrong place).



Laotian and Thai woman love him.. but I find him a bit corny. A good Khaen player though!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 09:16 am (UTC)
blimey!

a Korn between two roses (guffaw/wince!)
that is, utterly, utterly, a post-post-modern gathering
would he be welcome back chez toi again?

Dale


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 09:20 am (UTC)
Re: blimey!

Oh, sure! It's well known that I welcome "the other".


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 09:30 am (UTC)

try i.e. 'sleepytime gorilla museum' and 'the book of knots' for interesting metal out there
not to forget mr. bungle, boris and kayo dot!






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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 09:35 am (UTC)



is there a recording of the dexter sinister session at ica?


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brokenjunior
brokenjunior
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 10:05 am (UTC)
Takeo Ischi - a Japanese Jonny/Jero

Have you ever heard about Takeo Ischi? He is a Japanese MeisterJodler and seems to be quite famous in the traditional German folk music scene.

Here he is, performing a song called "Ich fang den Tag mit einem Jodler an" (I start the day with a yodeler) ... and then goes on singing: "es ist so schön, daß ich hier leben kann" (it's so nice that I can life here)





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subalpine
subalpine
subalpine
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Takeo Ischi - "cultural CLOWN"

"He is exposed for the culture-appropriating little sniveling swine that he is!!

I hope this dude gets beat down by a gang of real German MeisterJodlers. Fall in love with that! Get your butt back in the schnitzel kitchen!"

kidding.. (see above)


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akabe
akabe
alin huma
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)

this one made me spill my coffee. good one kyoka :-)


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akabe
akabe
alin huma
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 10:33 am (UTC)

the dude does match the the iconographic lenin in the background much better than you could ever hope to.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)

I prefer Nellie Olsen


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)

And let's not forget Johnny Olson:


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jul. 10th, 2009 06:12 am (UTC)

I felt a sense of that metal de-/re-contextualizing aesthetic in Birchville Cat Motel's "Bird Sister Blasphemy"... not sure if that's what they were going for, but the campy title and flattened textures where you could almost make out aggro riffs and vocals was strangely intense and appealing.


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