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Dead Magic by Anna Von Hausswolff
Anna Von Hausswolff’s music, has, to me at least, always sounded like the decadent pipe organs from Catholic mass that have somehow gone a bit weird and spacey and menacing. There’s more of of that sort of thing on Dead Magic, along with gloomy incantations, raw, rapturous wails, and guttural groans–intimate and extreme human passions penetrating the infinite and unknown silences of our short, pathetic human existences. Dead Magic is a nocturnal, candle-lit, ritualistic listen for invoking beings beyond our realm, but whether you’ll wind up with angelic energies or demonic entities, who can know?
Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten by Ionnalee
If I had to sum up Swedish singer, songwriter, producer and filmmaker, Jonna Lee’s offerings in a succinct, digestible nugget for a new listener, I might call it, overall, “enigmatic electropop” but I think that might do a deep disservice to her music, a beguiling mixture of the irrepressibly catchy and the otherworldly-eccentric. I first became aware of her through her electronic music and audiovisual project, iamamiwhoami, which began as a series of mysterious, dream-like music videos in 2009, went massively viral, and which quickly gained a cult following. Her unconventional structures paired with irresistible beat and bass combinations and anthemic choruses, and that eerie soaring nightbird of a voice drew me in from the very start, and I’ve been breathlessly following her each successive release with feverish glee. Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten is a work encompassing new compositions, while hearkening back to her earlier sounds– marking both a connection with the artist’s beginnings and the evolution she’s been through since. An evocative album that raises questions about what drives an artist to create in a milieu brimming with people fighting to be heard and to express themselves in ways that would single them out from others, it “is a collection that concerns itself with what is the artist’s residual footprint, paralleled with people’s fear of oblivion.”
This sentiment is (for me) most clearly heard in “Samaritan”, in which she decries:
“I don’t believe in a god, let’s leave religion out of all this
I don’t remember promising my life and soul to bring you all bliss
If I am what you say, I expect to be hanging from a wooden cross
When all this is done, it’s done”
Intense, complex, and triumphant, but never dark, or heavy–even on my favorite track, “Harvest”:
“Come closer, my love.
Let’s drown in misery.
There is an ocean of possibilities”.
–one feels more hopeful than hopeless, and senses they may again float back ashore, if only to dance for a while longer in the euphoric dreams of ionnalee.
Every 4-5 weeks I drive from Portland to Seattle in pilgrimage to visit my hairstylist. When it’s just right, the relationship with one’s hairstylist is a sacred thing, something not easily surrendered, not even when one moves 3 hours away. I usually make these drives alone and I spend that time listening to audiobooks. So, while I haven’t any new music to share for Aural Fixation this month, I do have a few wonderful audiobooks to tell you about:
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard
I was already a devoted Eddie Izzard fan before listening to this memoir, so it was highly unlikely that I wouldn’t enjoy listening to him simply talk about his life. But I wasn’t prepared for how very, well, Izzardish this audio book is. The thing is, there’s no “simply” when it comes to Eddie Izzard. I specifically seek out autobiographies and memoirs as audiobooks when they’re read by their authors because the experience of listening to them is like having these people sitting right beside you, telling you stories about their lives. When Eddie Izzard does this it means he doesn’t just read his book, it means he frequently launches into additional material, footnotes that often themselves have footnotes. Their numerousness reminded me of the 330+ endnotes in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I’ve never listened to another audio book that was anything like this. On at least two or three occasions, Izzard stops reading (or extra footnoting) to switch on his phone so he can use Google or Wikipedia to look up the details of something he’s talking about. He also interacts with his sound engineers from time to time. In my experience, these things are unheard of in the audiobook world or at least get edited out in post-production. All these delightful occurrences are why the unabridged version of this audiobook clocks in at 14 hours, 39 minutes, but who would ever dare abridge Eddie Izzard? Granted, it took me two trips to Seattle and back to finish this book, but I loved it. It was fascinating, funny, inspiring, and very moving. I hope in 10 or 20 years he writes another one.
The Princess Diarist and Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
I listened to these two books in succession because after the first I was hungry to spend more time with Carrie Fisher and her unique combination of candor, razor wit, and literary skill. The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s memoir of her life in 1976, the year she spent filming Star Wars: A New Hope, and an exploration of how being involved in what quickly become a legendary film franchise and becoming a pop culture icon impacted her life. For a taste of the latter, Fisher describes participating in autograph signings as celebrity lap dancing:
“I don’t remember exactly when I started referring to signing autographs for money as a celebrity lap dance, but I’m sure it didn’t take me long to come up with it. It’s a lap dance with out cash being placed in any underwear, and there’s no pole — or is the pole represented by the pen?”
Fisher was moved to write this book upon discovering the journals she’d kept in 1976. She describes the experience of auditioning and landing the role of Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan, reflects on being 19 years old while participating in the making of a movie that no one then knew would eventually become legendary, and falling in love and having a secret affair with her co-star, Harrison Ford. The journals themselves are read by Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, and are very raw and vulnerable, full of heartache, poetry, and word play, and demonstrate that Fisher was already a gifted writer in her teens. It’s no wonder this audiobook won a Grammy. I can’t imagine how reading it from the page could possibly compare to listening to Fisher and Lourd’s respective readings.
Wishful Drinking was written 8 years before The Princess Diarist, but I read them out of order so I’m reviewing them that way too. This book is a broader autobiography of Fisher’s life and based on her one-woman stage show of the same name, which I’m now sorry I never experienced. After undergoing ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) to treat her crippling depression, the resultant memory loss found Fisher needing to reacquaint herself with her own life, to get to know herself again. With her trademark self-deprecating frankness and wit she talks about everything from growing up as the child of a beloved and later scandalized celebrity couple (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher), a phenomenon she describes as “Hollywood in-breeding,” her close relationship with her mother (who lived next-door to her), her marriages, her daughter, making the Star Wars movies, struggling with addiction and depression, and being a heavily merchandised pop culture icon.
Much like the experience of listening to Eddie Izzard’s memoirs, I was already very fond of and full of admiration for Carrie Fisher before listening to these audiobooks, but damn, did they make me miss her even more.