PM Pick

Joy in repetition

I'm still ruminating over my insane need for musical variety. Once, when I was in high school, a friend's girlfriend picked me up in her car to take me somewhere. I don't remember where we were going -- maybe a party or a teen dance night somewhere -- but I'll never forget what we listened to on the drive. She had filled both sides of a 90 minute cassette with the same song taped over and over again: "Burning Flame" by a band called Vitamin Z. Surprisingly enough, I had enough politeness in me then not to deride her choice of music, but I certainly complained vociferously about it later. I asked my friend who was dating her how he could stand it, but apparently he hadn't even noticed. Hadn't noticed? Back then it hadn't occurred to me that there was much of anything else to notice about someone. (I suspect if I had my mind on other things besides music back then, I would have had fewer arguments and more girlfriends.)

At the time, I thought that girl was hopelessly narrow-minded, but since then I have often wondered if she was on to something. I even find myself envying her; she had the secret of being able to know her mind and be satisfied rather than be continually searching. She could find the joy in repetition that tends to elude me, that complacency of which consumerism may indeed train us to be suspicious. Consumerism seeks to instill in us repetitious routines that yield no satisfaction, merely hunger for more, for different.

I find that I am implacably restless in searching for new music, as if I stop discovering new songs, the emotions music evokes in me will also disappear. Of course, my actual experience with listening has proven to me that the music I know best and have listened to the most yields the richest emotional reactions, especially if the songs have become palimpsests of the things I was feeling each time I made a point of listening to them before. Though some songs become unfortunately encrusted with nostalgia, others remain alive and undepleted despite the freight of emotions they carry.

Nevertheless, I still have the fear that the music I know will somehow fail me and that I need to seek more, need to set aside time not for the music I already know can move me, but for the unsorted hodge podge I never cease gathering, hoping that something in that effluvia will inspire. It seems like a terrible waste, but for those unexpected moments when out of nowhere, a album track from some forgotten band delivers an unexpected spark, and it's like falling in love all over again.

But I am waiting for the day when what I already know will be enough, when contentment won't seem like a rumor, when I'll turn inward with what I have and reap the harvest of all that effort of endless accumulation, when I'll supplant the search for that spark with something deeper, with a feeling more like an eternal flame, I suppose.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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