You cannot deconstruct unless you know how to construct. - Alexander McQueen

Sebastian Masuda’s Colorful Rebellion permalink

Not much of a heads-up, but kawaii evangelist Sebastian Masuda’s exhibit, “Colorful Rebellion” opens tonight at Kianga Ellis Projects in NYC and runs until March 29th. According to the gallery, “From March 6 - 9, 2014, Masuda-san’s alter ego and female self will inhabit the gallery during open hours”.

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Sebastian Masuda and his “kawaii anarchy”.

Masuda designed the set for my guilty pleasure. Oops, couldn’t resist a period there. By guilty pleasure I mean NHK’s Kawaii International (yay for Tokyo Photo Book!), co-hosted by extraordinary local gal, Misha Janette.

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Still from Kawaii International’s intro. Set by the show’s art director, Sebastian Masuda.

And while we’re on the subject of kawaii, these Manish Arora high tops are awesome:

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Manish Arora, Fall 2014.

Some Eden Ahbez Love permalink

So great to see LA Weekly shine a light on Eden Ahbez, one of the more intriguing figures in the Exotica pantheon.

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Eden Ahbez: protohippie, musician, mystic, Nature Boy. At the Lake Shrine ashram in Pacific Palisades, CA.

If you come across Ahbez’s only solo LP in the wild, Eden’s Island (Del-Fi, 1960), then lucky you. Ahbez composed all the music on it. He sings and plays a wooden flute. Dreamer of “untellable dreams”, he recites his grasp of the elusive in a peaceful, hypnotic cadence. It’s a rare and beautiful record:

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Eden Ahbez’s Eden’s Island, 1960.

And since it was the Retro Cocktail Hour that introduced me to Eden Ahbez, it’s only fitting to plug the most recent show, the All Exotica Special. In it you’ll hear Ahbez’s “Full Moon” as well as a zoo-full of tropical animals or people imitating them. If you’re wondering what Exotica is, this program is a great primer:

In Praise of Shadows: An Imaginary Course Syllabus permalink

The thump of that party bus called summer feels long gone with fall’s forced entry into the Pacific Northwest last week (complete with tornado). Cooler and darker days are here to stay; pre-Halloween days good for ghost stories and tales of the supernatural. What follows is the syllabus for an imaginary course on the horror short story that you never asked to take.

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The stunning Anna Falchi as She in Cemetery Man, based on Tiziano Sclavi’s novel, Dellamorte Dellamore. Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) broods in the background.

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“It’s better to burn out than to fade away” permalink

Takahiro Ueno was in a grunge mood while designing his A/W 2012-2013 collection, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. These are some of Kurt Cobain’s parting words and, incidentally, a creative spirit I am sympathetic to. Ueno’s repurposed flea market t-shirts are combined with other, totally unrelated cues from the past to create something entirely unique. “When I worked on my collection, I thought about using book construction as garment construction. Then I came up with the idea of using Japanese bookbinding techniques and I used it as a main detail for my collection. I wanted to make something beautiful, strong and savage, so I researched 15th century Italian menswear and grunge.”

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From Takahiro Ueno’s A/W 2012-2013 collection, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. Photo by Maria Ziegelböck.

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Gun, with Occasional Nick Cave permalink

Most of us will agree that getting a song stuck in your head is annoying at best. The one currently on mental replay for me is “Red Right Hand” off of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 1994 album, Let Love In. This is made tolerable by, a) serving as mood music for Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music, which I’m only now getting around to reading (this should serve as a department heading as it is a constant state of affairs around here); and b) it’s simply a fantastic song:

“Red Right Hand” has set the mood for a variety of movies and tv shows, including Hellboy and The X-Files. Recently it has resurfaced as the theme tune for Jack Irish, a very enjoyable Australian noir tv series adapted from the novels by Peter Temple and starring Guy Pearce.

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Creating, the Cave way. An insert from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 1994 album, Let Love In

I’ll reserve final judgment on Lethem’s Gun since I’m not done, but with the airtight noir narration, snorting lines of make, babyheads and an evolved kangaroo tough it’s a pretty fun read so far. Apparently, the babyheads are inspired by children in the Strugatsky brothers’ The Ugly Swans, which is waiting patiently on the bookshelf to be filed under, “Only Now Getting Around To Reading It”.

Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music, 1994.

Fabrice Monteiro’s Signares permalink

On show at Seattle’s M.I.A Gallery through August 30th is Signares and Hereros, portraits shot by Fabrice Monteiro and Jim Naughten. While Naughten’s photos might be more recognizable, Monteiro’s are no less enchanting. The subjects of the model-turned-photographer’s first exhibit in the U.S. are descendants of the signares of Senegal’s Petite Côte, south of Dakar (where he lives and works). On what a signare is, exactly, the gallery’s site says, “These women of power from Senegal were the official wives of European colonizers…Celebrated for their beauty and business mind, they played an important role in the socio-economic development of Senegal.” And so this heritage is communicated through dress:

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Unrelated work from Monteiro below. I can’t resist, they’re so good:

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Flashstrap’s Unsung Heroes, My Unsung Heroes permalink

In the real world, I have found the path of the Exotica collector to be a lonely and brambly one. My preference for stalking vinyl in the wild as opposed to on internet game reserves like ebay makes hanging my trophies all the more rewarding. At record stores I get comments like, “You collect that stuff?” and, “You like that crap?” and my favorite, “Is ‘Exotica’ a band name?”. On those rare occasions I’m caught in a squall of appreciation, it tends to be drool over the cover girls. Anymore, I prefer to put on some bug spray and head farther afield, to estate sales. Better deals, less opinionated sales people.

Collecting Exotica through the internet seems to be the road more often travelled. All you have to do is ride your Side x Side right up for an easy lung shot. Often times, however, you’ll be surprised at the last minute by the number of hunters nearby, and bidding wars can get frenzied for a prize buck.

Finding other Exotica enthusiasts on the internet has its rewards. Learning about the genre is made easy because there are some wonderful resources out there by dedicated folks like Flashstrap:

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The content is outstanding and includes lovingly curated mixes, eye-popping collages and sensuous run-on sentences:

A smoldering triumph of hazy tropic/modal bluesy languid-erotic repetitions– with Pearson’s piano acting as mysterious guide through the spiritual structure and Bobby Hutcherson’s vibes as both explorer and scurrying wildlife, accented by a classic jungle-shadow flute sound (from Jerry Dodgion), and a killer bass line– this track lives up to, and indeed surpasses, the sensual and exotic experience impossibly promised by the exquisite cover art.

Of course, Flashstrap will taunt you with curiosities that verge on mythical beast territory…

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Bianchi & the jungle sex-tet - “music to play in the dark” (1959).

…but I always leave the site satisfied that I have learned yet more information that I can share with nobody I come in contact with on a daily basis. But that’s what keeps me going. That, and this:

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An Evening At Arnie’s Lounge. From left: Adele Edwards on organ/vocals (and occasionally the trumpet), Arnie Aka Nui on vocals/Hawaiian steel guitar and his son Arne Becker on drums/vocals. Arnie sounds like Elvis on “Hawaiian War Chant”, so what’s there not to love?

Ok, so An Evening At Arnie’s Lounge isn’t Exotica, but I say it keeps me going with zero irony. It makes me happy. I even daydream about a fictitious documentary called Follow the Yellow Shag Carpet: The Search for Arnie Aka Nui.

Reintroducing Linda Lawson permalink

Had a successful record show dig recently. Not only did I manage to round up some elusive Toiling Midgets , but I also came across this gem:

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Introducing Linda Lawson, Chancellor Records, 1959. A Twin Peaks vibe here, I think.

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Chess, Vilmava, Tenuous Connections and Jung permalink

Came across a couple of things in short order, sparking a connection in spite of myself. (Reason gives a watery roll of the eyes over its book and bifocals. It tries to look casual leaning on the granite mantel, which pulls uncomfortably at the inseam of its jacket. A sad sight, so I go on spiting.) The connection? Chess. Too impatient to be good at it. When pressed for tactics my brain becomes a slip-n-slide. Thoughts can’t gain traction and race off the edge, getting a friction burn on the grass.

Yesterday The Cut reported on an upcoming fashion exhibit that makes a tenuous connection - they prefer to call it a collision - between fashion and chess (ok, so there is Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2005 show):

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A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, Fashion and Chess will be held at the World Chess Hall of Fame in Saint Louis, Missouri. It opens on October 19th and runs through April 18th, 2014. “…Jungian archetypes and archetypal patterns in literature, film, fashion photography and folktales will be used to examine the relationships between power, risk-taking, as well as feminine roles in queen archetypes and the representations of those roles in the designers’ works.” Included in the lineup is Koji Arai, one of the most talented and intelligent designers I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. The unusual setting alone makes the exhibit worth going to, but it will also be a treat to see how they make the connection between Jungian archetypes and the works featured.

A little later, in a completely unrelated search, I came across these wonderful looks from Vilmava’s “Mitosis” collection by Finnish designer Vilma Riikijoki. In the image below they appear to be playing chess:

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From Vilmava’s “Mitosis” collection. Photo by Aleksia Perä-Rouhu.

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Model Meri during the making of. Photo by Eetu Heinonen.

Vilmava’s Mitosis collection was inspired by, “…cellular biology and fluorescent photography. Riitijoki aims to honor and praise the invisible authors, who build breathtaking worlds all around us. Mitosis is purely an art collection, not based on industrial or commercial principles. Leather is recycled. The process was experimental and the last of it’s kind.”

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Riikijoki at work.

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An impressive sketch.

It is interesting to note that instead of Paris or London, Riikijoki has opted to spend six months studying in Vilnius, Lithuania. For those in the area, Vilmava will make a showing in Berlin this July.

Finding meaning where there is none. It’s what I do. Maybe coming across the fashion exhibit and Vilmava within an hour of each other isn’t a coincidence after all. Maybe there’s a little synchronicity at play.

An Abduction By Man or Astro-man? permalink

Was abducted by aliens from Alabama (it’s tough being an alien in Alabama. Their words, not mine.) and it’s only now, after a few days of memory reconstruction, that I realize I’ve dragged space - along with a crowd that resists all attempts at identification (except maybe the guy that looked like he was on his way to the Ink-N-Iron Fest in Long Beach) - with Man or Astro-man?

Man or Astro-man? Defcon 5…4…3…2…1.

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