Read Tripticks and Berg by Ann Quin, Endurance by Alfred Lansing, Speedboat by Renata Adler, and Kind One by Laird Hunt. Watched The Place Beyond the Pines and Nebraska. Listened to Antecedent Conditions by threethings, The Machine Stops by The Frozen Vaults, Where Shine Bright Lights by Tara Jane O’Neil, and July by Marissa Nadler.
Reviews of Tripticks, Berg, July, Antecedent Conditions, and The Machine Stops after the jump.
Ann Quin’s Tripticks follows a man through cheap hotel rooms, encounters with ex-wives, numerous high-speed chases, fights with pencil tycoons, and many other surreal events. To call it stream of consciousness would be a disservice — Quin’s sentences are well constructed, acoustically balanced, and strangely efficient. The narrator often lapses into advertising lingo, and he fetishizes clothing and products in exhaustive lists. Released in the 70’s, the book’s structure (short sections that veer wildly in time and space) creates a kinetic, varied experience that stands apart from the British realism that followed.
I liked Tripticks enough that I bought Ann Quin’s first novel, Berg. It opens with the line, “A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father…” The story spools out from there. It’s a more controlled work than Tripticks, and has a comparatively small cast of characters. However, Quin’s skill with detail is evident, and the seaside town is clear and vivid. An excerpt: “Cafe lights tinselled round the windows, inside red bulbs were hearts cut out against a perspiring ceiling — a whale’s stomach about to expand, appeared to tremble as Berg entered.” A blurb from the Daily Telegraph refers to her “untamed talent,” but her talent isn’t the issue. In Tripticks you see the same sort of skill, just untethered — the concept of talent is, in both instances, irrelevant.
Marissa Nadler’s July was produced by Randall Dunn, who has worked with Sunn O))), Boris, and Earth. While July comes from a folk tradition, it includes some uncommon elements: off-key piano, ghostly backing vocals. Randall Dunn also worked on Tim Hecker’s Virgins, and it shows in these non-traditional sounds. The album has a terrific sense of mood, and does a great job of honoring Nadler’s roots while pushing the music in a dissonant, menacing direction. Eyvind Kang’s string arrangements are wonderful as well. Despite the overblown style used in this review (“July is a self-knowing and zenlike advocate of change,” “as if emboldened by the deep ebony outline of a Sharpie marker”), Jenn Pelly aptly connects July to Bill Callahan’s Dream River. She mentions a “beer/thank you” moment in the song “Holiday In,” and it’s a great comparison.
Antecedent Conditions is a fantastic ambient record by threethings. It uses a base of guitar loops and other textural effects, and strikes a great divide between dissonance and assonance. It’s simple but contains a wonderful amount of depth. You can listen to it here.
I wasn’t as happy with The Machine Stops by The Frozen Vaults. I had enjoyed their track “A Year Without Summer” on the Headphone Commute compilation …and the darkness came, but their contribution to Wist Rec’s Book Report series lacked the varied, fully realized sound of their prior work. They have a full length coming soon from the excellent Heat Death Records, and I’m looking forward to that.