Music

Nicholas Urie: My Garden

Like Bukowski, the gloomy laureate whose work is re-sounded here, Nichloas Urie is not afraid to walk on the dark side. He's also able to find fragments of beauty in the gloom.


Nicholas Urie

My Garden

Label: Red Piano
US Release Date: 2011-03-15
UK Release Date: 2011-03-15
Website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

To read Bukowski has always been, to a great extent, to hear Bukowski. Such was the conflation of art and man in his poems and prose that, whether their narrator was called Charles Bukowski or Hank Chinaski, you felt like you were on the receiving end of a highly personal confession. Sure, it was a heavily mythologized and ultimately unreliable autobiography, but that only served to heighten the sense of direct communication between the man and his readers. Age, experience, and the joys and anguishes of the flesh were the mainstays of Bukowski's oeuvre. These, and hard-bitten, hard-won philosophy, truth refracted through the bottom of a bottle, moments of rare beauty when the clouds parted to reveal a burning clarity.

Bukowski's voice became an even more familiar sound for those who had the fortune (or misfortune, depending on the poet's mood) to witness his notoriously rowdy readings. A safer, more selective experience could be had by sampling the numerous official and unofficial recordings of such events that circulated amongst his many fans. Hearing him read confirmed the presence of a voice that could be easily imagined when reading his books: a laconic, husky drawl that alternated between slurred confusion and razor-sharp brilliance. For a self-confessed dirty old man, Bukowski sure had a way with a clean, new poetic line. At his most concisely eloquent he could have you in 10 words or less. And when he had you, he had you for good.

Bukowski has already provided inspiration for a range of popular music artists, from direct references such as Rheinhardt Rowlands's album Charles Bukowski to indirect associations, such as Tom Waits' beat-referencing, booze-soaked early albums (and no, Bukowski didn't want to be thought of as a beat writer, but few popular music artists have combined lowdown bo-homily and tender perversion as well as Waits). Tom Russell brought homage and vocal style together brilliantly on his 2005 album Hotwalker, a poetic recreation of the glory days of Bukowski, Kerouac, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Dave Van Ronk, and other fellow travelers.

Jazz composer and arranger Nicholas Urie adds to this tradition by putting a number of Bukowski poems to music, repeating the mixture of big-band dynamics, free-jazz experimentalism, speech, and song used on his inspired 2009 project Excerpts From an Online Dating Service. For that work, texts from actual online sites were set to music and sung by Christine Correa, resulting in a hybrid language that mixed deadpan banality with unexpected lyricism. The sometimes bathetic mixture of the sublime and the absurd is something that links Extracts to My Garden, with the notable difference that, this time, Urie and co. are dealing with work written deliberately as poetry. Correa provides the vocals for most of the pieces, thus providing both a link to Urie's previous work and a neat solution to the problem of giving voice to a poet whose own voice is so familiar. What's more, the use of a female voice to articulate the words of a defiantly male writer brings a critical, gender-aware fidelity to the project.

At the same time, the various jazz instruments (all played by men) also provide variations on the poet's voice. Frank Carlberg's Rhodes and Kenny Pexton's tenor sax flesh out "Round and Round", the swinging track that circulates around the repeated lines "You have my soul / and I have your money". "My Garden" finds John Carlson's trumpet giving way to Alan Ferber's trombone in a long, muted midsection that gives mournful resonance to the lines "pain is flowers / blooming all the time". The horns take a more dissonant turn on "For Crying Out Loud", offering a rich array of textures to this hymn to weeping and giving a sense of the "droning malaise and chronic unrest" that Urie identifies with Bukowski and Los Angeles in his liner notes.

All in all, this is an album that stays true to the spirit of Bukowski while offering a new way of hearing his words. Like the gloomy laureate whose work is re-sounded here, Nichloas Urie is not afraid to walk on the dark side. Equally like his subject, he is able to find fragments of beauty in the gloom. Pain may be a flower but it can grow away from the dirt in its search for the clearer air.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.