THE GENIUS OF THE CROWD (2012)
CLOSER LISTEN (USA)
all the entertainment arts, poetry may be the least appreciated.
Film, TV, music, other literature, even painting and sculpture
seem to have wide audiences. Poetry, not so much. Some households
may claim an anthology or two, but books of poetry are being released
every day like pieces of trees falling silently in a forest. Perhaps
the medium needs a new medium: a live audience (as in poetry slams)
or a musical context (FareWell Poetry, Esther Burns). The Genius
of the Crowd provides such a medium, embedding the words of Charles
Bukowski in a field of glitch, organ, mellotron, theremin, and
other appealing instruments. The end result comes across as a
soundscape, a hybrid of Godspeed! You Black Emperors early
dialogue experiments (with politics included) and the ambient
industrial excursions of artists performing during the same time
period. And yet, because this music veers away from obvious melody
or any popular mode of composition, its effect seems timeless.
depressing may be the best way to describe this three-part,
22-minute piece. The sentiments are dour, the backing subdued
until the closing minutes. But the creativity trumps the mood,
producing an injured awe. The French duo deepens the drama by
separating its dialogue segments, occasionally repeating a significant
passage or phrase. This repetition invites the listener to ruminate
on the meaning of each downcast utterance.
the bulk of the recording is from Bukowski, the piece begins with
Milton Friedman: first of all, tell me, is there some society
you know that doesnt run on greed? This section directly
attacks not only the status quo, but the idea that we are achieving
our ideological goals. That was a myth; what was the reality?
That was a period when millions of people from all over the world
streamed to these shores. They came here with empty hands, in
the hope and the belief that they could make a better life for
themselves and their children. The crackling static and somber
piano surrounding this passage emphasize the gap between hope
and reality, underlining a nostalgia for blinder times.
then the spotlight turns to Bukowski, who seems convinced that
everyone but an artist is a scoundrel. His distinction seems to
lie with a different set of the elite and the masses. The genius
of the crowd, he sullenly rages, is its hatred, participating
in exclusion while railing against it. The poet sounds utterly
defeated, forlorn, deserted, one step away from total retreat.
As he speaks, percussion and strings begin to punctuate his words.
Without the music, the diatribe is powerful, but with the music,
it grows into something nearly transcendent. Unfortunately, its
a transcendence of hope, a turning of the back upon dreams in
order to avoid disappointment. On the one hand, this seems very
disillusioning. On the other, who hasnt felt this way from
time to time? Esther Burns own genius is the courage to
rescue such sentiments from the sands of time, to cloak it in
new cloths, to bring it to the party to which it never wanted
to go, to put a drink in its hand, to step back and wonder if
it will ever mingle on its own.
brightness of the glockenspiel indicates movement, but as the
piece concludes, its angry gloom that wins. The dark guitar
of the final three minutes demonstrates what happens when the
coin of depression flips to anger. This is by all indications
a healthy thing, although more healthy for the person expressing
it than for the person or institution receiving it. And while
it may not be a call to arms, its still a lifting of the
head from the mire, a final boost to Bukowski that enhances his
words while thrusting them into modern contexts and conversations.
Those wishing to confront emotion rather than to flee from it
will find The Genius of the Crowd an excellent companion. (Richard
April 21, 1975, Milton Friedman wrote an economic policy letter
to Chilean president Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. The brief, condensed
letter detailed a shock program intended to curb inflation
and promote economic growth. It also completely avoided the subject
of Pinochets fetish for the disappearance, killing,
torture and kidnapping of political rivals, claiming over
3,400 victims in all, as documented by the Rettig Commission.
The association with Pinochet cast a shadow over Friedmans
1976 Nobel Prize award, and indeed, over the rest of his career.
Five years have passed since Milton Friedmans death, and
he is still an incredibly divisive figure in American politics
and academia. For some, he was the most tireless freedom advocate
in our lifetimes, and for others, he will remain the quintessential
when his voice opens the new Esther Burns album, The Genius of
the Crowd, we know were in for a ride: First of all,
tell me, is there some society you know that doesnt run
on greed? You think Russia doesnt run on greed? You think
China doesnt run on greed?
Their previous album La Valeur du Vide, (French for The
Value of the Void) was woefully overlooked and under-reviewed,
and such critical aloofness is difficult to explain. Take Lintranquille,
for one: the wintry solo piano cuts a clear path, which is groomed
by the slightly trilling cello and voice sample, then properly
annihilated by a shrill industrial coda. The title song is reminiscent
of a three-way stand off in which no one blinks: looping piano,
an interlude of Ennio Morricone-inspired guitar, and a straight-line
sample from Youre Gonna Need Somebody as recorded
by Charley Patton. (Tell me when he come down his hair gonna
be like lambs wool and his eyes like flames of fire, and
every man gonna know hes the son of the true living god.)
The Genius of the Crowd is far more focused in scope, borrowing
its name from the Charles Bukowski poem. Bukowski shows up for
his Friedman debate five minutes late, but with ample time for
rebuttal. The voice recording is shrouded with a thickly sad piano
and synthesized cello likeness. Bukowskis work is not exactly
uplifting on paper, but the sample of his slow, mournful voice
and long exhales make for an agonizing listen. You can smell the
tobacco smoke in the air, taste the cold whiskey in the glass.
The man really does sound like serotonin with legs in this clip:
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
I and II, the first of which begins at 5:15, find synthesized
Mellotron and drum fading in and out between the poets admonitions.
Perched somewhere between Antonin Artauds rants on their
previous album, the simulated reed would have communicated stark
raving insanity. But here, the timid, low-density instrument and
its tightly-looping two-note riff are punishingly dismal. Bukowsis
voice becomes our voice:
the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
entrance is grieving, as if Friedmans ideology has shaken
him down to his cells. But his exit is cocksure, a slashing cowpunk
guitar riff that Quentin Tarantino ought to hear before writing
his next screenplay. That almost has to be the crack of horse
spurs with every boot stomp, the strike of a hammer against rail
spike with every percussion shot. The poets morose conclusion
is hair-raising: their hatred will be perfect
Was Milton Friedmans letter to Pinochet an open endorsement
of that dictators bloodspilling inclinations? Or the sort
of unfortunate lapse that plagues the mild-mannered? Quite frankly,
that is a matter for those who knew Friedman to decide. In their
time, both men would only have praised the wisdom of crowds only
ironically, but here, on Bukowskis court, the writer scores
a clear win. And so what if the listeners conclusions arent
entirely their own? Sometimes a soapbox makes great music even
that much more fun.
Fred Nolan for Fluid Radio (Posted
On: June 22, 2012)
MUSE IN MUSIC (USA)
will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect
a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
Charles Bukowski, The Genius Of The Crowd
about sums it up, no? The new album is here, a short play in three
acts featuring Bukowskis poem, some Milton Friedman interviews,
and that Esther Burns crazy we love so well.
l'électronique est plus présente dans The Genius
of the Crowd, Esther Burns reste fidèle au style de
son étrange et bel album La valeur du vide (2011). Le groupe
passe avec un grand bonheur des sons grinçants et des larsen
aux notes mélancoliques du piano, alternant les passages
mélodieux et la stridence des guitares, la douceur et l'agressivité.
Esther Burns est un groupe de contrastes, contraste entre les
machines et les instruments classiques, entre avant-gardisme et
nostalgie, contraste, dans cet album, entre le poème désenchanté
de Charles Bukowski qui vient comme une réponse au discours
presque cynique de l'un des papes de l' économie libérale,
Milton Friedman. Encore une fois on est surpris de l'extraordinaire
créativité de ce groupe qui trace son chemin en
marge sans aucune concession et nous fait découvrir un
monde, son monde, avec un immense talent et une cohérence
qui forcent le respect. The Genius of the Crowd est le digne successeur
de La valeur du vide, tout en étant peut-être plus
abordable ... à moins qu'Esther Burns ait déjà
su nous imposer son univers et son style!
Encore un album aussi beau qu 'inclassable.
Burns is comprised of Emmanuel Chagrot & Philippe Sangara.
Their releases are perhaps two of the most powerful fusions of
music and spoken word philosophical tracks I have ever heard.
An avid scholar could write a lengthy dissertation on both the
music and socio-political theory behind the albums conception.
The casual, listener will instead become captivated by trying
to absorb and decipher the words and meaning behind the various
texts by Ronald Reagan's Doctor of Voodoo Economics Milton Freidman,
along with the counterpoint cultural analysis of poet Charles
Bukowski featured on THE GENIUS OF THE CROWD, taken from his album
70 MINUTES IN HELL.
Their debut album, LA VALEUR DU VIDE , features tracts by Antonin
Artaud, Robert Johnson & Charley Patton + Phillip K. Dick.
The music on both works is an incredible amalgam of electronics,
laced with guitars, old fashioned keyboards, vintage recordings,
static, mechanical sounds, samples, percussion, exotica and more.
The words and music fade in and out of each other to create a
surreal tapestry of intellectual stimulation and deeply emotive
LA VALEUR DU VIDE (2011)
valeur du vide" est un album venu de nulle part et qui
ne ressemble à nul autre. Vouloir le classer dans un style
ou un genre serait peine perdue. Où ranger une musique
de film sans film sinon celui que l'auditeur crée au fil
d'une ligne de piano mélancolique, d'un éclair de
guitare strident, d'un orage qui gronde au loin tandis que le
grincement d'une balançoire rythme le chant de la pluie
? Où ranger un disque dans lequel les voix sont celles
d'Antonin Artaud, de Philip K. Dick, de Charley Patton ou celle
d'une hôtesse qui demande aux visiteurs d'un aquarium de
ne pas déranger les poissons, un disque dans lequel le
vent emporte le son d'une fanfare, dans lequel les clochettes
des vaches côtoient le rythme lancinant des machines ?
La solution est certainement celle que nous avons adoptée
: ne pas le ranger puisque de toute façon on le sortira
souvent, même si "La valeur du vide" ne fait pas
partie de ces disques que l'on met en sourdine en discutant devant
un apéritif ! Ce serait d'ailleurs une très mauvaise
idée: sa présence et son relief auraient tôt
fait d'envahir l'espace et de couper court à toute velléité
de divertissement. Cette musique est une musique que l'on écoute,
pas de celles vouées à faire patienter le client
au téléphone ! Au-delà de la musique que
vous pouvez découvrir sur www.myspace.com/estherburns ou
http://www.estherburns.com/, une deuxième bonne surprise
attend l'acquéreur, l'objet en lui même. la pochette
est un modèle du genre, belle et sobre à la fois.
"La valeur du vide" a été enregistré
et mixé "at home", il est limité à
300 exemplaires numérotés, une raison de plus pour
vite le commander sur le site du groupe www.estherburns.com.
FLUID RADIO (UK), Fred Nolan
Artaud was a French poet, playwright and actor, who spent large
stretches of time in various asylums, was treated with opium regimens,
on occasions was subjected to electroshock therapy. He died in
1948 while clutching, it is said, one of his shoes. Philip K.
Dick was an American science fiction writer, famously prolific,
who credits amphetamine use for his output. He suffered five failed
marriages and claims to have become suicidally depressed
after the fourth, bringing street people into his house just to
fill the void. Robert Johnson was a Mississippi blues singer and
guitarist who in spite of his short life and remarkably
short recording career left a clear mark on the art form.
He died mysteriously, possibly by strychnine poisoning at the
hands of an irate husband.
Dick, and Johnson as well Charley Patton, who lived a charmed
life, by comparison form the guest list of the astonishing
Esther Burns debut La Valeur Du Vide. This is an album, it seems,
It is barely an exaggeration to say that the members of Esther
Burns are unknown. No EPs preceded La Valeur Du Vide, and a video
search produces only a brief promotional teaser. The two musicians
(Philippe Sangara and Emmanuel Chagrot) are far from household
names. This is the music equivalent to watching a movie before
seeing the trailer. But all cinema buffs will tell you that this
is the best way to see a film.
La Valeur Du Vide opens with Chimaera, an inch-by-inch
shuffle, powered by art house cello, the sound of Artauds
caricatured ranting, and spaghetti western six-string. The bass
guitar skirts the deepest edge of the register; a few shapeshifting
field recordings arrive, fashionably late; and this insane march
ends with nothing short of a marching band. The first few minutes
here are a telling and poignant summary of the whole release:
bewildering, yet savory. Disquieting, yet visionary. Esther Burns
are not above telling a joke (Merci Pour Les Poissons
seems like a nod toward The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy),
and they steer far clear of clichés. There are no rabbit
holes or quoted ravens here.
The title track warms up the albums first act, featuring
a small-room piano waltz and some radio noise, for texture. Enter
the big-tremolo guitar at the first quarter pole, and it has all
the ingredients of a masterpiece even now. But an old Charley
Patton vocal recording decides the matter: this old delta blues
piece is a prodigious choice, haunting, dazzling, and snug. How
the competing song structures interact when put together this
way is, indeed, something to hear.
For what is already an unpredictable album, Soliloques
is a surprise, a touching and slow composition for melodica, with
piano accompaniment: a simple piece for a simple instrument. Merci
is pure David Lynch, a darkly-lit lounge piece with a hypnotic
rim-shot drum line, train station background noise, more Ennio
Morricone guitar, and a two-finger piano composition. The rainfall
introducing Esther is Waiting is something of a relief,
and the lentissimo piano would be heartbreaking if it wasnt
mixed down to the point of willful afterthought. The title to
On Schizophrenia has a delicious, clinical feel, like
a peer-reviewed article in a mental health journal. The content
does not belie the packaging: a testy, halting interview caked
with a paranoid, often noisy composition for guitar and piano.
It all promises to set the neighborhood dogs to barking.
But the finest song here is the closing one, Lintranquille.
A sparse, melancholy piano line opens the track: the sound of
painful rebuilding (keep the central theme of the album in mind).
Piano compositions can change in character with ease, and at 90
seconds in Lintranquille assumes a more optimistic
posture. No change in key or tempo, just a slight shift in wind.
Yet in short time some deep, baritone stringwork restores the
museum quality of Chimaera, and things begin to fall
apart at four minutes in with imprecise, industrial percussion
and a last-moment shift from stereo to mono. In this context it
is a brilliant touch: the sound of deaf ears, of closing off.
As debuts go, it can hardly get any better than this: a beautiful,
intelligent, experimental piece, with some familiar components,
but all repackaged for truly disarming results.
Souffle Continu (Paris, XIe)
14 Décembre 2012
) C'est Esther Burns qui ouvre la soirée Entropy
Records. Il s'agit d'un duo mené par Emmanuel Chagrot et
Philippe Sangara. Le premier alterne entre clavier, percussion
et mélodica tandis que le second se produit essentiellement
à la guitare en touchant parfois au laptop et glockenspiel.
La surprise est donc déjà là, avec une musique
que l'on devine avant tout acoustique et électrique alors
que l'on connaissait surtout Entropy Records pour ses productions
électroniques tout azimuts, entre ambient expérimentale
et dub techno. Le duo jouera trois titres. On commence avec des
grincements de guitare, une voix, un discours affirmé,
et la douceur du piano. On navigue dans une sorte de post-rock
ambient mélancolique, parfois un peu sombre, à l'image
des projections qui défilent sur un drap tendu derrière
eux. Nappes d'orgues et cliquetis ponctués par la voix
de Bukowski, et voici la rythmique lourde qui arrive, brute et
métallique alors qu'Emmanuel frappe sur le montant d'une
grosse caisse. Le jeu de Philippe nous fait quant à lui
penser à un blues-rock sur le dernier titre à l'atmosphère
plus tendue. Une découverte inattendue.