Unwoman - Lemniscate: Uncovered Volume 2

Preorder Now: http://unwoman.bandcamp.com/album/lemniscate-uncovered-volume-2

I'll start with the bottom line: Erica "Unwoman" Mulkey's second collection of covers is terrific, and if any part of "dark pop covers performed with cello and voice" sounds appealing to you, you want this album.

Unlike the first volume in the series, every song on Lemniscate is executed in a restrictive sonic palette: looped cello layers underlying vocals and more cello, with limited use of effects. The result is crystal-clear, powerful, and effective. Mulkey performs, records, and produces solo, and makes it look easy. She's equally skilled with her two primary instruments. Her cello work is surprisingly versatile, serving melodic, rhythmic, and even percussive roles; with a touch of distortion it sounds like an electric guitar. Her voice is expressive and emotional without being overdramatic, carefully controlled but still able to reveal some urgency in tracks like "Seven Nation Army".

The spare production brings attention to the lyrics of songs that you may have heard many times without actually listening to; a number of the songs fall into this category for me, including the opener, MGMT's "Kids".

The cover of Florence and the Machine's "Heavy In Your Arms" is excellent; lyrically, it feels very much like an Unwoman song, and it makes a great antidote if you're tired of hearing the original.

Among the iconic goth songs here, Mulkey wisely holds the Sisters of Mercy's "Temple Of Love" to 5 minutes, and manages to give the impression of more breathing room in the vocals despite hitting almost exactly the same tempo as the original.

Unwoman's take on The Cure's "A Forest" is the standout track on the album for me; more liberal use of reverb and distortion here brings out the tension and menace in the track in a way the original never managed. It's that rarest of covers: one that's not only better than the original, but closer to some Platonic ideal version of it.

There's no such thing as a perfect record, but my problems with Lemniscate are minor and subjective. One, Ladytron's "Destroy Everything You Touch" is a bit repetitive, lyrically, so the aforementioned clarity and focus doesn't do the song any favors. Two, there's only so much variety in the sound of the songs due to the chosen constraints, and 15 tracks of it over 70 minutes is on the long side of things. I hate to even raise that as a complaint; it feels like saying "perfect rare filet mignon for dinner-- again?"

(Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter to fund recording of this album, and selected the Dead Can Dance cover, "In Power We Entrust The Love Advocated", for inclusion.)
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rabbit hole day: game over

So, bad news. Usually I'm very careful to check for spore pods, I mean who isn't these days, but seriously especially at bedtime, but I was kind of wiped out last night and crashed without my usual under-bed flashlight check. It got me in the arm, entered just above the elbow, looks like, and I guess I was in too much of a hurry this morning to even notice the itching. The clinic said that if I'd come in first thing in the morning they could have amputated, but it's too late now, it's into the brachial plexus and I have at most a day or so before my whole nervous system is compromised. 

Wow, little deja vu flash there, so I guess it's even further along now. 

It's weird, I feel like there's not even any point in being mad about it - pretty soon I won't care anyway, right? They say that for most people the only noticeable symptom is a little increase in TV watching. 20% of friends and 14% of family members don't even notice the change. I think that says something about how detached we all are from each other to begin with, but, again, I can't even work up real irritation. I don't know if it's the infection or just my natural apathy. 

Anyway, I seem to remember it was nice knowing you guys, and I want to give a shout-out to you creative types that I mostly interacted with here and on Twitter. You really inspired me for a couple of weeks in there. Kinda sucks that I'd have to get hit with the soul worm just when I decided to really start fulfilling my potential. Too little too late, I guess. I hope you can stay ahead of the spores a while longer. I'm rooting for you. I mean, not really, not now. But like yesterday I'm pretty sure I was rooting for you. Now it doesn't really matter, maybe you're careful like I was but there are more and more of us every day, coughing and shedding and shitting and sneezing soul worm spores all over the place, and not even bothering to wash our hands any more because what's the point you're all going to get it sooner or later then you can just relax finally stop trying to be special and awesome and just enjoy the couch and the TV and stop feeling guilty about not being productive or not being good enough at what you love to do and really it will be a relief don't you think you could actually just stop checking for spores now save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort can't beat the worm in the end so just give in already

Failure 8 - 1/27/2011 - 7th Annual Rabbit Hole Day

Failure Mode

 I'm fascinated by failure.

So many times I haven't bothered to try something, or put off trying something, because I was sure I would fail. 

Edison said "if I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."

You have to try and fail and fail and fail if you ever hope to succeed.  It's a truism that every artist has 10,000 crappy drawings inside them; the only way to get good is to get those crappy ones out.

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." - Samuel Beckett

"Failure mode" is a grim engineer's joke - a fancy gadget with multiple operating modes breaks down; you say it's operating in the failure mode. If, like so many complex modern gadgets, it has more than one way to go wrong, you ask which failure mode it's in. When I started making music in 1991 I chose the name "Failure Mode" for my broken synthpop releases. An acquaintance's inksplatter art experiment, an image of the fall of Icarus, became the icon I associated with Failure Mode. After carrying that image around for 25 years I'm ready to get it as a tattoo. 

For the new year, I knew I needed to step up my game, try more, fail more, create more. I have so many ideas, so short an attention span. I want to create a glorious epic novel, graphic novel, soundscape, computer game, crime scene, so much more. I work in fits and starts, producing only small fractions. I was introduced to a Real Writer once with "Russell writes too," and the Real Writer said "what do you write?" I answered "um, chapters." My most heroic effort at completing a project yielded two thin comic books, just 30-40% of the whole vision (huh, 40% doesn't sound so bad actually) and a paralyzing fear of trying to go the rest of the way.

Last year, I followed along in LiveJournal as crisper executed his 2010 resolution of writing a piece of short fiction every day for a year. I found it vastly inspirational and entertaining. I would love to be the type of person with the discipline to match that feat, but I don't think I am. 

I tried setting myself a more modest resolution: to create something - anything - every day. Not necessarily complete, but a sincere effort at production, every single day. Shoot for a complete ultra-short story, or 500-word chunk of something bigger, or a complete drawing, or a complete design document for a system, or a pitch document for a game design, or a sexual innovation, or a song, something, anything. 

That lasted two days into the new year.

Okay, fine, I don't have the discipline to do something new every day. I decided to at least catalog all my creations this year, give them Failure numbers (Nine Inch Nails Halo style), so at the end of a year I can look back and say "hey, I created 100 things" or whatever it turns out to be.

So far it feels good to produce, even unevenly. Some of the Failures (like design documents) will remain under wraps for now, but a lot of them I will post here. Maybe at the end of a year I'll post an index. 

In the meantime, hwrnmnbsol is picking up crisper's torch and running with it with a 365-day writing project of his own. So start following that if you know what's good for you.

Here's to failure.

Little Red, part 1

 A whole ecology had sprung up around the strange demographics of the town. Its dye factories spewed fumes that drove frail grandmothers to live in clearer air on the other side of the forest, and as a consequence there was a more or less constant flow of young girls in brightly colored cloaks traipsing through the wood with baskets of food, which in turn supported a number of stalking wolves who preyed upon them, and not a few brave woodcutters found themselves wives by rescuing girls from such wolves. And so it went in the Darwinian way, girls and wolves and woodcutters each learning new tricks to survive and thrive, or playing out their own brief tragedies.

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Wolf watched her move on from the clearing, and he wondered.

Failure 5 - 1/12/2011