|Marvin Pontiac — The Asylum Tapes (Nov. 22, 2017)
Marvin Pontiac — The Asylum Tapes (Nov. 22, 2017)♠≡ „Chci se odsud dostat,“ vtíravě opakuje v jednom místě střední částí alba a pravděpodobně se mu to podařilo. Jinak by nebylo vysvětleno, jak asi to mohlo probíhat pod koly autobusu, který ukončil éru jedné z nejkontroverznějších postav hudební scény 20. století. Muž s mimořádným příběhem, na který vás odkazuji skrze jeho jedinečný životopis.
♠≡ Marvin Pontiac byl v červnu 1977 sražen autobusem a ten tak ošklivě ukončil život jednoho z nejuznávanějších géniů moderní hudby. Narodil se v roce 1932 jako syn afrického otce z Mali a bílé židovské matky z New Rochelle v New Yorku. Původní jméno otce bylo Toure, ale změnil jej na Pontiac, když se rodina přestěhovala do Detroitu a věřila, že to je tradiční americký název.
♠≡ Skladby jsou převážně takové miniatury, často trvající méně než dvě minuty, s odlehčeným, často multi~trackovaným hlasem, harmonikou a banjem. Texty mají integritu roots Delta Blues, často venkovské, prosté, hrubé, kulantně řečeno rustikální, někdy však hluboké, osvětlené záblesky či paprsky a nápady neočekávaného humoru. Stejně jako legendární album „Trout Mask Replica“ Captaina Beefhearta, je lehoulince nevinné a inteligentní, jindy primitivní a nedbalá, toť hudební analogie Lurieových podivných a krásných obrazů. Poznáš to okamžitě.
♠≡ Náladou je vše na bluesovou, surrealistickou, temně humornou a na kost svlečenou osobní poznámku — nebo alespoň tak osobní, jako fiktivní charakter může být. Jak uvádí stránka, Marvin Pontiac nahrávku anonymně nahrál na 4~stopý magnetofon v průběhu let, kdy se léčil v Esmerelda State Mental Institution.
♠≡ David Bowie se o albu vyjádřil takto: „Oslnivá sbírka! Je mi jasné, že Pontiac byl tak neochvějně nadčasový, jasnozřivý a prorocký, že si člověk může myslet, že tyto skladby byly shromážděny právě dnes.“ A Leonard Cohen dodal: „Zjevení.“ Všichni tři jsou dnes mrtví.
Genre: Roots Folk, World & Country
Album release: Nov. 22, 2017
Record label: Strange and Beautiful
01 Unbelievable 0:56
02 I Hope She is Okay 1:58
03 My Bear to Cross 2:20
04 Hollerin’ 1:40
05 I Don’t Have a Cow 1:43
06 It’s Always Something. It’s Never Nothing. 2:42
07 We Are the Frog People 2:25
08 Let Me Tell You 2:39
09 I Am a Man 3:28
10 I Don’t Like to Stand On Line 1:24
11 Baby Pigs 1:24
12 You’re Going to Miss Me 1:55
13 I Want to Get out of Here 1:15
14 Beastliness 2:41
15 I Am Not Crazy 1:41
16 Temple of Banjos 3:05
17 Santa Claus 1:10
18 Godzilla 2:18
19 Don’t Fuck with Me 1:30
20 My Little Garden Gnome 2:10
21 Horse Fell Down the Well 6:10
22 I Like to Wear Funny Outfits 1:07
23 Little Banjo 1:14
24 I Am Not Alone 1:34
℗ 2017 Strange and Beautiful
♠≡ In 1999, the artist, actor, and composer John Lurie invented a personality: Marvin Pontiac, the musically gifted son of a man from West Africa and a Jewish woman from New Rochelle, New York. Pontiac’s biography, as Lurie imagined it, was a wry and purposeful sendup of the ways in which critics canonize and worship the disenfranchised and the bedevilled. In Lurie’s mythologizing, Pontiac, who was born in Mali in 1932, was abandoned by his father. His mother was institutionalized in 1936. He eventually ended up in Chicago, where he studied blues harmonica: “At the age of 17, Marvin was accused by the great Little Walter of copying his harmonica style. This accusation led to a fistfight outside of a small club on Maxwell Street. Losing a fight to the much smaller Little Walter was so humiliating to the young Marvin that he left Chicago and moved to Lubbock, Texas where he became a plumber’s assistant.”
♠≡ Later, Pontiac went nuts; he believed that he had been abducted and probed by aliens. He was hit and killed by a bus, in Detroit, in 1977. Because Pontiac “held the tribal belief” that cameras suck the soul from the body, there are only two extant pictures of him — both candid, both impossibly blurry. His recordings were discovered and released posthumously, though it was also true that Pontiac’s music was “the only music that Jackson Pollock would ever listen to while he painted.”
♠≡ In corralling all of our preposterous critical fetishes into a single, nonsensical narrative, Lurie is, of course, writing a kind of meta~commentary on the ways in which we assess and value so~called outsider art — that Pontiac’s characteristics (all of which point, in one way or another, to misshapen yet pervasive ideas of authenticity) are so precise and absurd is also what makes them funny. Working~class, mixed~race, mentally ill, dead and heretofore undiscovered: eat it up, suckers!
♠≡ Lurie is preceded in this experiment by John Fahey, the finger~style guitarist and collector of 78~r.p.m. records, who, in 1959, invented a figure named Blind Joe Death. The name was a nod to the real~life bluesmen (Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller) whose records Fahey hunted down and cherished. But Blind Joe Death’s backstory (he played a guitar fashioned from a baby’s coffin) was a gag at the expense of revivalists, who were so pie~eyed at the idea of discovering some gloomy and tenebrous new artist from some previously unreachable rural pocket that they bought in without asking questions.
♠≡ “The Legendary Marvin Pontiac: Greatest Hits,” which Lurie wrote and recorded with Marc Ribot, John Medeski, Billy Martin, G. Calvin Weston, and Tony Scherr, was released in 2000, by Strange and Beautiful Music. Even its cover — which features one of the two obscured photographs — feels like a lampooning of the many reissue labels dedicated to hunting down lost talent, and then repackaging and recontextualizing the work, trading on the idea that, in our era of abundance, obscurity is its own currency.
♠≡ Lurie has always been a playful and adroit satirist, and a deft comic. His series “Fishing with John,” which aired on IFC in 1991, is a reimagination (and a spiritual dismantling) of shows like “Bill Dance Outdoors” or “Fishing with Roland Martin,” which featured a jocular man in a boat, trying desperately to catch fish. On “Fishing with John,” Lurie invites a famous friend — Jim Jarmusch, Matt Dillon, Tom Waits, Willem Dafoe, Dennis Hopper — to join him on a fishing excursion, though he appears to know very little about the particulars of the sport. His companion inevitably becomes agitated. (He takes Jarmusch to Montauk, where they try to shoot a shark by dangling a chunk of cheese over the surface of the water; he invites Matt Dillon to Costa Rica, where they perform a fish dance.)
♠≡ …seventeen years after Marvin Pontiac’s début, a new record, “The Asylum Tapes,” unexpectedly arrived on various streaming platforms. The conceit is that Pontiac made these songs on an anonymously donated four~rack recorder, while locked up at the fictional Esmerelda State Mental Institution. (“I want to get out of here,” he repeats on “I Want to Get Out of Here.”) Lurie has been tweeting blurbs of support for the work from Albert Einstein (“Great spirits, like Marvin Pontiac, have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds”), Aristotle (“Knowing Marvin Pontiac is the beginning of all wisdom”), and Charles Dickens (“It isn’t the best of times, but this is an amazing record”).
♠≡ “The Asylum Tapes” is, in its own way, an album about solitude and insanity — which form the twin pillars of a truly artistic life (or so we are taught to believe). There’s a complicated element of semi~autobiography to all this, too, insomuch as Lurie left New York City — where he was a darling of the downtown art scene in the nineteen~eighties and nineties — in 2008, after he and the artist John Perry became entangled in a vehement disagreement, and Lurie believed that Perry threatened his life. Lurie, who was also suffering from a mysterious, debilitating ailment (he has since said it was advanced Lyme disease), went into hiding. The entire debacle was chronicled for this magazine, by Tad Friend, in 2010. (Perhaps in response, Lurie recently tweeted a clip from the 1973 film “Papillon,” about a wrongly accused French convict, at The New Yorker’s account: “Hey, you bastards! I’m still here!” Papillon hollers that line from atop a bag of coconuts that he’s fashioned into a makeshift raft and used to escape from prison).
Bio by Sufferhead
♠≡ Marvin Pontiac was hit by a bus in June of 1977. The life of one of the most expressive music geniuses ended. He was born as a son of African father from Mali and white Jewish mother from New Rochelle in state of New York. His father’s last name was Toure, but he decided to change it to Pontiac when the whole family was moving to Detroit, as he believed that is a more convenient American surname.
♠≡ Marvin’s father left the family when Marvin was only two years old. When his mother was institutionalized in 1936, Marvin’s father returned and took him to Mali where he lived until the age of 15. The music he heard there had a deep impact on his work.
♠≡ When he was 15, he moved to Chicago where he became known as a great blues player on mouth harmonium. When he was 17, Little Walter accused him of copying his style of playing, which resulted in a fight in front of a club in Maxwell street. After the predicament, Marvin decided to move to Lubbock, Texas, where he became a repairman. Little was known about him in the next three years; there were rumours that he was participating in bank robbery. In 1952, he had a minor hit for Acorn Records, with controversial song I’m a Doggy. In the strange stream of events, he had a hit single in Nigeria at the same time where Pancake was ruling the ears of the nation. He and his record label knew nothing about it.
♠≡ His mistrust and detest towards music industry lead to breakup with the owner of Acorn Records, Norman Heck. Although other labels were begging to take him, he was rejecting the offers. In fact, he asked label owners to first come to his house and clean his toilet.
♠≡ There is an urban legend that Pontiac’s music was the only music Jackson Pollock was listening while he was painting. In 1970, Marvin believed that he was taken by aliens. He also felt his mother believed the same way, which lead to her mental breakdown. He stopped creating music and dedicated his time to developing personal relationships with extraterrestrial creatures that were examining his body. He was arrested in Slidell for naked driving, and then moved to Detroit where his madness had escalated. Musician John Lurie claims that Pontiac’s soul had possessed him (after Pontiac died in a bus accident).
♠≡ Seventeen years after the debut The Legendary Marvin Pontiac, the story about enigmatic musician continues with the recordings he made in Emerald State mental institution. I don’t know when was the last time I felt this strange listening to someone’s music. Total recommendation!
|Marvin Pontiac — The Asylum Tapes (Nov. 22, 2017)