Books

Paradoxia by Lydia Lunch

Matthew Kantor

Paradoxia is a brutal but boring and predictable circus, about which Lunch shows no emotions. Only fatigue seems to have given her pause.


Paradoxia

Publisher: Akashic
Subtitle: A Predator's Diary
Author: Lydia Lunch
Price: $13.95
Length: 162
Formats: Paperback
ISBN: 1933354356
US publication date: 2007-10
Amazon

“[I] had to learn to replace Them, It, Want, Hurt, Anger, Sorrow, Loss, with Power, Healing, Wisdom, Fulfillment, Satisfaction.” That’s Lydia Lunch’s epiphany that concludes Paradoxia. For the preceding 150 pages, her story is for those who thrill to the exploits of sociopaths and revel in sex as both the ultimate means and metaphor for power itself. This means that its tedium is hard for any adult to sit through without skimming and groaning. Rather, young male virgins completing their freshman year of college or the proverbial 14-year-old Goth girl from Kansas might find Lydia Lunch’s Confessions of a Sex Addict a compelling ride. For Lunch herself, it must feel cathartic to pour out all these memories of sex beyond its limits out onto the page.

But if sex does not titillate the reader, or he or she does not crave the vicarious thrill of sex with strangers in ‘80s New York’s flea-bitten but lionized flophouses, then Paradoxia is as riveting as reading about someone who travels from buffet to buffet. If Lunch wrote about food instead of sex, no one would pick this up. “The trays were steaming hot and Johnny grabbed the back of our friend’s neck and pushed her face into some spicy sag paneer. The next day, I met a strange Greek man at Chinese Buffet II and we each consumed four plates of dumplings. When he went to the bathroom, I took thirty dollars from his wallet and skated on the check.” Perhaps lamentably, this is not a tell all buffet diary, and her somewhere between fiction and memoir book comes off like Henry Rollins re-writing Xaviera Hollander’s autobiography. After pages of Penthouse Forum style encounters, Lunch realizes that she “[has] to find the center wound and cauterize, undo the original sin, the origin of my sickness.” It’s not sex that is her actual illness but rather an abusive father and family structure that pushed her into a Sisyphusian cycle of excess.

Lunch is not her hero, Hubert Selby, Jr., because she lacks his beating heart. She hammers away like him in noir-ish and forceful sentence fragments but whereas Selby at points expressed empathy and hope for his characters, particularly in the Willow Tree, Lunch sticks with sociopathic vignettes on a victims’ playground. She, as her main character, and everyone she encounters, are victims who victimize victims and get victimized by victims and then victimize those victims back, whether symbolically or in actuality through sexual and violent acts. It is a brutal but boring and predictable circus, about which Lunch shows no emotions including glee or satisfaction. When the rush of extreme sex grows bland, her taboo thrill seeking and sophomoric fascination with serial killers such as Richard Ramirez reaches its logical Satanic conclusion on the roads of Southern California.

Here, her and a male companion take to abducting would-be johns and bringing them to the point of near murder. It is shocking that Lunch has ever washed off the mutual pathetic stench of everyone involved’s lust and desire. But perhaps like most sociopaths, she doesn’t care, and thinks too much of herself to commit suicide. Toward the end of Paradoxia, she says, “I was addicted to fuck.” Only fatigue from non-stop eating—rather, fucking—seems to have given her pause. How many recipe cards can one try and execute before she gets tired and needs to contemplate something more sustainable?

Lunch does have occasional moments of insight into her larger environment, citing her New York as a unique place where the wants and sickness of millions of people often stood right next to you. New York could not be more different in 2007. Open-air drug deals and cheap single room occupancy sex are now literally impossible in Lunch’s old stomping grounds. The book might make a case that nostalgia for the ‘70s and ‘80s Gotham is just that. However, right alongside next door’s open desire and danger are many of the incredible artistic scenes with which Lunch is associated. From the Blank Generation to no wave and underground spoken word, film, painting, and music as whole, possibility infused the streets in the once affordable and enormous New York City. The romance for the creative is merited but often, Paradoxia challenges one to romanticize what Lunch portrays as a backdrop of people slumped over on Seconal, their urine, blood, and vomit running down the sewers.

Perhaps it is a strength of her prose that she does not usually comment on events, and that it is her choice to leave out any emotional or sentimental viewpoints, meaning that they are not actually absent. However, it is also that Lunch’s mission in her young life was to obliterate emotion as a way of allowing her male side to manifest as her dominating character. “So twisted by men, a man, my father, that I became one,” she says. “Oblivious to the brutality and selfishness with which I would lacerate others.” As a way to possess male power, power that held her in the hands of her father, she sought to destroy the slightest feminine inclinations she might have and exploit any feminine characteristics in men she meets.

This plays out literally and symbolically through sex and many forms of violence. Alcohol and other assorted pills provide a necessary sedative and the only buffer from the raging insanity endemic to such a lifestyle and continually exacerbated by it. Lunch’s ideas about male power and its possession are not new. But at the end of Paradoxia, it appears that their practice leads to nothing other than the want for more or the rejection of more based on exhaustion rather than principle. In the most extreme cases, all that’s left is either a martyr or a monster. Before this can happen, Lunch says at book’s end, “I began to realize exactly how much of my energy I had been squandering on other people. On men. Men who would never understand that I would always want more than they were ever capable of giving. Because I didn’t need them. I needed myself.” Her obsession concludes and she leaves the reader to imagine what her new outlook wrought the next day and in the ensuing years, if the interest remains in such a tragic but known character.

4

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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