Archive for Tag ‘Christianity‘

The State of Kuwait: Pussy Riot 4eva

What Pussy Riot has done over in Russia is of no small importance and cannot be understated by everyone the world over. Even this small thing I (Richard) am typing here is justified and should be done by all. No facades, all praise.

I don’t read many blogs. One I return to frequently is The Quietus out of the UK. They always have fascinating records that I know nothing about and write fantastic pieces on a variety of subjects, almost none of which pertain to the current spin cycles of the surface or the underground. I did, however, expect to read an article on the Pussy Riot verdict, but I did not, however, expect to read this one. I can’t agree with it enough and have no interest in deferring any of the language or tone. I’m posting it here because it’s somewhere close to the heart of us here around Blacktooth, and because it is articulate about subjects that don’t get held together often (in my opinion), and because Pussy Riot rules for what they did. Add them to the pantheon, from Guthrie to Bombino.

“And the Pussy Riot case does remind us – religious or not – of a very worrying truth: that when faith gets too cosy with the centres of power and social control, it risks betraying itself.”

READ: Why Jesus Would Have Been a Pussy Riot Fan

Music for the Gift: Riley & Bombino (Reflections)


May 1st, 2012. Strange things coinciding, convulsing.
Terry Riley – 20th Century Avant-Classical composer – is speaking, along side a panel of others, at Vanderbilt University in conjunction with the premier by the Nashville Symphony of his newly commissioned piece.
Bombino is playing their initial – and presumed by some (although proven wrong) to be their lone, ever – show at the VFW Post 1970 in West Nashville.
May Day is happening. At once an ancient, cross-quarter pagan holiday, relatively neutered by Christianity, and (more popularly known as) the International Workers’ Day after the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago. A fine, lost-but-resurfacing memory of police brutality if there ever was one.

I decided to set out on all 3 of these events, all together in my life by happenstance, and to see if I couldn’t make something out of them. I don’t know if I did, but recount is worth explication.

The May Day event took place internally. A re-membering of mine and many others’ lives and stories to a Grand-Narrative scale, one that would serve true posturing, inward disposition, and personal politic.

Most likely, Terry Riley does not need an introduction. If you do, it’s relatively easy to sink into, and will probably be given by someone far more adequate than me. I am fairly familiar with his corpus of work – mainly from my brother – but I was also familiar with his thoughts and musings, spiritual or otherwise. I expected a sagacious old man; what my friends and I got was so much more – and so much smaller – than that.

As Riley spoke (he is who I will primarily focus on, although most everyone else on the panel had not only great insight, but convivial tales of running around New York with their buds as well) I got the more than slight impression of a reflective life. Not only because he was the oldest among the group speaking (77, the others 40-50), no, his internal pace was different. Unhurried and unsullied. When he talked about taking the “improvisational moments and composing from them to allow the architectural possibilities to get seen,” I didn’t hear pious or heady nonsense; I heard a light-gravity from a man who was (and still is) desperately seeking to convey beauty, and who seemed to know that to do that sifting through of life took a long, slow time, and was on nobody’s schedule but its own’s. He was truly insightful and quite the regular human being. Riley didn’t get classically trained players when he premiered (what would turn out to be) his monumental piece, “In C”: he had regular players because he felt that amateurs “get it”. (Of course when some of those amateurs happens to be John Cage and John Gibson, well…) He said he wanted to make consciousness music, not in melody, but in the sound of it all. He wants people who were open to that.

The crowd was sparse, tame (save when an impromptu jam session happened between violinist Tracy Silverman, which was electric), white and (probably) educated. The atmosphere was proper, clean and very conducive to thoughtful conversation and questioning. That’s not to say it always happened, but it was most certainly ready for it.

We left.

The sun was setting at the VFW as we arrived, full of fun thoughts and discussion. In this turn, the VFW was to become a hybrid for the evening. There were the regulars, presumably (always) there for the fried chicken and would soon – again, presumably – leave once the show began (spoiler alert: not so! entirely).

The Cherry Blossoms and William Tyler opened for Bombino, but again, my recounting will focus on the one.

Bombino might need an introduction. In brief: The GROUP is called Bombino, which consists of 4 players, but the MAN in question is Omara “Bombino” Moctar, a member of the pseudo-nomadic desert people, the Tuareg. The Tuareg have traversed the Sahara desert since time immemorial, allowing IT to provide for THEM. In some ways, they have kept their nomadic ways, and have settled in some. They are also a very matriarchal society. The fantastic musical group Tinariwen is also Tuareg. Their peoples’ movements (or lack there of) has caused rifts with the made-up borders that now exist (i.e., Niger, Mali, etc.) and have led to two uprisings of the Tuareg people. It is my understanding that after the first one, Bombino started writing songs for his people, both to encourage and educate, as well as help them remember their past (there’s that consciousness thing again). To say the least, they took to them quite nicely. As the second Tuareg rebellion, the government of Niger executed two of his fellow musicians/band mates and sent him into exile. After the “peace” (and Bombino’s rise in popularity) he was allowed back and…here we are? In short: I felt an immense respect to get to hear the music.

The scene was wild, sweaty, and fun. The usual walls were gone – or were at least not apparent within the crowd. The usual “cool” was gone; the new sincerity was gone; the irony was gone. The vibe felt cohesive. Something, in a crowd that diverse, I hadn’t felt in a long time. There were older people from poor to affluent amounts of money and culture. There were people who had their ear to the ground as far as music in Nashville. I never thought I’d see weed smoked in a VFW, which struck me as ironic at first, but later on not so much. There were people who had fought in wars, some which were just fine relegating themselves to the back bar.

Bombino struck a chord with a bunch of Nashvillians. So did Riley. (I later saw the premier of his piece via the Nashville Symphony, which I thought was ok.) It was very apparent that they were both after a third thing, on “the cusp of magic” if you will. The thing that happens apart from the self and creation of something. The thing that can change things. Both were equally as gracious to us as we were to them, and it seems fitting to me that on May Day I got to experience these workers in the field. The events themselves were very different in some ways, but were strikingly similar in others. It was nice having some sort of Classical Avant-Garde world sit nicely next to desert rock and roll AND have people enjoying themselves (we were not the only ones at both).

Alchemy by other means.

The State of Kuwait: WiLi//AmHo

(Welcome to our latest installment of the State of Kuwait)

- Amos House Community: A loosely to tightly affiliated group of people here in Nashville, TN that do the righteous thing, especially gearing toward those who don’t usually get the time of day, let alone dignity and decency.

- Brett Fleener: a “member” of Amos House Community, Blacktooth orbiter, and great dude. Knowledgable, flexible, and – in short – down.

- Wiki Leaks: Wiki Leaks.

Brett Fleener is spending time in London this summer working at a Catholic Worker house, gaining new traction and loosing some others. His concerns in life are valid and thoughtful, and he has written an excellent piece on the Wiki Leaks/Julian Assange extradition situation. The link to the article is posted below. We just deemed it pertinent to further the digging and the thoughts being swapped on this issue.

Read the article here: <click!>

Who benefits from excessive reputation damage of Assange and Wikileaks?”

Blacktooth Records Presents: Sunday School Shakedown


The raw and reformed Sarah Carter of underground, rock-bottom-but-that’s-the-way-I-like-it-so-I-can-have-more-time-to-watch-King-of-the-Hill no-fame comes at you today with a mix of heavenly gems. Sunday School Shakedown is a mix she compiled of her favorite gospel/salvation songs. Let’s just say it right out: Christians do weird things. Christianity is a weird thing. It’s the most beautiful, weird thing I can possibly think of. We here at Blacktooth Records are Christian as hell and that’s why we can say it. However, like Christianity and Sarah Carter’s music, this mix reflects the tension between form and content. On her EP Bravery, she utilizes the Folk format she loves so well, playing the auto harp and rocking those basic chords over and over, but what she sings about is far – very, very far – away from the old-time, picking party world that exists so rampantly here in Nashville. There’s no nostalgia, no pining for them olden days, because she has to get up while it’s still dark outside and teach kids in high school who are getting knocked up and who still don’t know how to read. Every one of her songs is uplifting and life affirming with just a hint of critical and judicial thinking sprinkled throughout. That’s bravery.

Now her mix. It’s slightly left-of-center, as would be expected. And it will save you. The characters and the beautiful voices that show up here are at once intriguing and inspiring. It’s not at all a surprise to me that Sister Gertrude Morgan is on here twice, because that’s the spirit of things that are probably taking place in Ms. Carter’s head. (For those unfamiliar with Sister Morgan I would advise you to read her bat-shit-crazy story and listen to her record and listen to King Britt’s interpretation of her work.) Cliff Gober’s rendition of, ‘I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger’ has the perfect balance of panache and self-deprecation you would expect from a follow of Jesus Christ and the Shaw Singers make us raise our modern day eyebrows with their song, ‘Since He Touched Me’.

Download it below (click the individual files and then click download all) and eventually we’ll post Sarah Carter’s EP as well. Happy Summer and more mixes soon to come as it all ends.

Sunday School Shake Down Mix


Previous summer mixes:

Square People’s It’s Hot and I Don’t Wanna Go Outside summer mix

Cock D’s summer of Soul Mix


in other news…news is coming.

George Harrison – Brainwashed


“…Your employer is trying to put pressure on me. To blackmail me.”

Pressure is a prettier word,” I averred.

“I don’t care much about pretty words anymore. You live with words a long time. Then all at once you are old, and there are the things and the words don’t matter anymore.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Suit yourself,” I replied, “but you get the idea.”


In Robert Penn Warren’s blisteringly, clear-eyed novel, All the King’s Men, the characters of Judge Irwin and Jack Burden convey a hint of wisdom that comes (seemingly) only with aging: the letting go. I admire George Harrison the most out of the Beatles. Quiet, unassuming, profound. Like Lennon he was political, but didn’t seem to be coming from a place of self-grandeur (and they certainly can’t market or make T-Shirts about the ideas George was talking about, yeesh).

To point to Brainwashed, Harrison’s final and actually posthumous album. The undertones spoken by Judge Iriwin is echoed in the mood of the album itself: I have no care for pretty words anymore and let me give it to you straight. The way George Harrison lived his life, the things he cared and didn’t care about, his song themes, all are loosed on Brainwashed (the album) and even culminate in Brainwashed (the song). The Folky/Rock and Roll/Eastern Indian/Spitiual leanings that permeate all of Harrison’t existence  show up as pillars, not moments, on this record.

Recorded right up to his death in 2001 and left with instructions as to how it should be finished (down to the artwork), Dhani (his son) and Jeff Lynne (who is Electric Light Orchestra and played on/produced the record) were (one assumes) faithful to the note. If one needed a Master’s Class conducted by Harrison explaining his thoughts on life, this would be it. Sure, you could suss out a lot of similar themes from All Things Must Pass or even 1987′s Cloud 9, but here, Harrison – for better or worse – communicates explicitly about matters both political ans spiritual. He can’t be bothered with pretty words anymore. “If you don’t know where you’re going/any road will take you there,” he sings on the album’s opening track (which is a helluvalot better way of saying the quip, “Not all who wander are lost.” Hippie stuff rules, ya’ll.)

From critiques against the abuses that can take place from Institutionalized religion (see: P.2 Vatican Blues, which is a hilarious song) to admiring the contemplative, simple life that he ended up living post-Beatlemania (see: Pisces Fish), Harrison doesn’t mince and muddle down where he’s coming from, even if it’s not the easiest to understand or swallow: “I’m living proof/of all life’s contradictions/One half’s going where the other half’s just been.” The whole album is both celebratory and scathingly serious.

The closing track is Brainwashed and it is unrelenting. To my knowledge, the closest Harrison had ever gotten to being this critical of his time was on “Awaiting On You All” from All Things Must Pass: “And while the Pope owns 51% of General Motors/And the stock exchange is the only thing he’s qualified to quote us/The Lord is awaiting on you all to awaken and see/By chanting the names of the Lord you will be free.” But even that direct of a statement doesn’t hold a Great-Easter-Vigil-Candle to the litany of things Harrison lines up on “Brainwashed.” I don’t even want to write any of the lyrics, because it would end up being the whole song. Suffice to say, he doesn’t stop and nothing seems safe, from the military to himself. And what’s the cure for all of society’s ills? God. That’s all, he says. “Won’t you lead us through this mess/From the places of concrete,” and “You are the wisdom that we seek/The lover that we miss/Your nature is eternity/You are Existence, Knowledge, Bliss.” Straight to the point.

While the political and spiritual content of the album is reaffirming/a wake-up call/dismissive (depending on where you’re coming from), what’s not to be missed and is most interesting to me is the context of the record as far as Harrison’s life is concerned. It was damn near the very end of it all (even though he had written some of the songs that would appear on Brainwashed as early as 1987) and this may be the reason for its bluntness. Returning to “Awaiting On You All,” even though it does say what it says about the Pope, GM, etc., on the original vinyl sleeve, those lyrics in particular are strangely absent, which has been an interesting conversation point with us here at Blacktooth. He was 27 at that point and was in his 50′s when he wrote Brainwashed. What was it that gave him reservation back then, but not so later on in life? Was it because – at the time of All Things… – the general conversation in the music world was around Van Morrison’s Moondance, MC5′s Back in the USA, or Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, versus in 2002, where Britney Spears, Nickleback and Nelly were dominating the general public’s talking points, thus the time for subtly had passed? The exert from All the King’s Men may have some clue for us, but wherever/if you settle on an answer, the fact remains: George Harrison is a little sage, and that’s why he is this year’s recipient of the Blacktooth Best Christian Recording Artist of All Time award. Congrats George, you did better than us.


Below is the song Any Road for experiencing, and a link for the song Brainwashed on Youtube

Any Road (Brainwashed)


The State of Kuwait

When we get to drinking (anything), we the people get to talking. It’s a Monday morning, Friday night. No big deal. In this reoccurring segment here on Black Tooth, The State of Kuwait gets into the grind of the mind, or rather offers signs and symbols of people pushing and pulling it; political, illegal, fun, and radical (Latin:radix) in nature.

The first of two recent radar blips takes us to the ever-lovin’ border between USA and Mexico, where the insanely awesome street artist Ron English, who has been “hijacking public space worldwide for the sake of art since the 1980s,” struck on April Fool’s day. And did a damn fine job of pointing out the obvious to everyone who would never see it (or care, even if they did), which is basically what culture jamming accomplishes. But we love it here.


For those of you who are burnt out on all they hype and mainstreamitization of BANKSY, Ron English is your man. You too can feel cool again by liking subversive works that not everyone has seen a hundred times, having lost their semiotic pertinence and sensational shock, rendering a Duchamp-like indifference from the general public. Ron English is funny and pretty good at his job. The world is his cubicle and canvas. Check him out.

Our last stop today on The State of Kuwait is an important one: The Reverend Billy/Bill Talen.

Rev. Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping asks the great questions that leave us heavy hearted today:





In a fantastic article by Jill Lane – Reverend Billy: Preaching, Protest, and Postindustrial Flanerie – the moves and plays and semi-ironic acts that Talen sets off in the public sector are brilliantly expounded upon. Lane interprets Talen in such a clear-eyed, lucid way, no matter what your opinions are on the subjects the Reverend is tackling, one can’t help but be moved to an AMEN! and a wink after reading this article.

Reverend Billy: Preaching, Protest, and Postindustrial Flanerie – (click for download)

By entering into contested spaces, Rev. Billy stages things like “shopping interventions,” “Spatathons,” and (my favorite), “Cell Phone Operas,” risking the “poetics of Embarrassment” in the same Mise-en-scène that corporations do every day, breaking the routinely disciplined daily structure that they make for us (or we make for ourselves), and, literally re-members the stories and spots (and even lives) that are run over in the modern world and forgotten.

I can’t praise this article enough – as well as the work of the Reverend – because it’s more than the protesting of Globalization and Predatory-Capitalism, it’s more than an ironic rip at the religious right, and Jill Lane is brilliant as a guide through his world. It’s worth every minute you have to not shop and read this. You too can be delivered.


And that, friends, is the State of Kuwait. For today.