Books

Becoming Bucky Fuller by Loretta Lorance, R. Buckminster Fuller

Mike Pursley

This post-millennium rediscovery examines Fuller anew, seeking help with our most dire ecological and economic challenges within his philosophy of sustainability and technological balance.


Becoming Bucky Fuller

Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 9780262123020
Author: R. Buckminster Fuller
Price: $29.95
Display Artist: Loretta Lorance, R. Buckminster Fuller
Length: 304
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2009-05
Amazon

America’s great 20th Century polymath, R. Buckminster Fuller, is best known for popularizing geodesic dome structures used for houses, equipment shelters, and even playground equipment. A self-described “comprehensivist”, Fuller was an architect, cartographer, conservationist, poet, countercultural icon, and all-around visionary.

Contemporary exhibitions (like “Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe”, currently on view at MCA Chicago through 21 June) and publications point to an ongoing Fuller revival. This post-millennium rediscovery examines Fuller anew, seeking help with our most dire ecological and economic challenges within his philosophy of sustainability and technological balance.

Becoming Bucky Fuller is an in-depth look at the thinker’s early projects and personal ordeals. It is, in author Loretta Lorance’s words, “both a revelation and an unmasking”. Her tight cross-section of Fuller’s career brings his glaring business foibles, idea borrowing, and retroactive spin doctoring to the surface. Lorance covers Fuller’s move to Chicago in 1927 to his growing repute in the early 1930s, using entries and sketches from his diary (and wife Ann Hewlett Fuller’s diary also) to survey his first major project: The Dymaxion House. Lorance suggests a parallel development occurred during this time. As Fuller developed his architectural project, a carefully engineered public persona was also emerging.

Fuller moved to Chicago to organize a materials firm that specialized in a lightweight, standardized block for construction. Still in his early 30s, he’d already been twice booted out of Harvard, served in the Navy, and suffered the loss of a daughter. His most inspiring ideas like the geodesic dome and the World Game were decades away. Bright with promise, Fuller’s initial success in the business world quickly tanked. He was ousted over lack of communication and soon was in legal hot water over patents belonging to his former company. Fuller emerged mostly unscathed and soon was working as a flooring salesman by day and prefabricated housing iconoclast by night.

His Dymaxion House went through several incarnations. First called the Fuller House, then Cosmopolitan Homes, and later 4D, it finally was called “Dymaxion,” short for “dynamic-maximum-ion,” or “dynamic-maximum-tension” depending on who you ask. (Based on Fuller’s concepts on doing more with less, this reviewer puts his chips down on “tension”.) Regardless of the name du jour, Fuller’s house would be mass-produced and assembled quickly and affordably on-site. It would have a raised, hexagonal living area supported by a central pillar. Time-saving electric amenities would come standard.

Photos of early models show a blocky dwelling that resembles a carnival ride you’d be glad to emerge from alive. As the house was developed further it became a sleek and futuristic design that looks like a vintage sci-fi movie prop today. Despite its dated aesthetics, the Dymaxion House had a timeless objective. It was Fuller’s attempt to provide affordable housing via the assembly line, taking his inspiration from the paradigm shift of automobile manufacturing.

Fuller’s gusto quickly sunk when his project failed to generate the interest he anticipated. He fell flat at the 1928 American Institute of Architects (AIA) convention. Unable to secure a speaking presentation, Fuller cornered notable architects individually and no doubt made a pest of himself with his unsolicited pitch. The struggling designer failed to realize his message of prefabricated housing simply did not align with the AIA, who were more focused on architecture’s artistic applications.

Fuller viewed aesthetics as an unnecessary tradition barring progress and the AIA couldn’t disagree more. Even so, Lorance notes that Fuller desperately wanted AIA approval for his project while he publicly dismissed AIA policies. The institute was interested in celebrating design and preserving regional architecture while Fuller was pushing mass-produced universal housing. They had reached an impasse, and today’s scorecard shows mass-production isn’t the saving grace promised a century ago. Fuller’s salvation through prefab homogeny even has a vaguely dystopian vibe.

So the Dymaxion House was never realized. But all was not lost. As Bucky realized his house would not go into production, he shrewdly changed up and rebranded the Dymaxion lodging as a “house of the future”. His media savvy grasp of the situation allowed him to lecture and share his ideas without a tangible product that could win or loose on the open market. Rather than an architectural never-was he could now be a futurist that one day the world might come to understand. Aspects of his biography that conflicted with this enlightened image were later redacted.

Becoming Bucky Fuller is a valuable look at the early development of an endlessly intriguing thinker. Some readers may find Lorance’s prose a bit technical or lament her emphasis on the Dymaxion House over a warmer, more personal study. It shouldn’t be too surprising that Fuller’s career had its share of misfires. Utopian visionaries do not usually arrive fully formed without some period of trial and endurance. Should Fuller be faulted for realizing he needed an engaging, media-friendly hook for life in the public arena? With this book, Fuller’s early calculations and failures become real, making him more likable and more human.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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