Monday, September 2, 2013


The Mae Shi made an album called 2 in 2005. It wasn't their second album, nor was the album 1, from the same year, their first. Rather, 1 and 2 (and I assume 3 and 4, which I never knew about but found out about just now by reading about them on AMG) belong in sequence to their limited tour-only releases collecting bits and bobs and jams and noisy things that weren't going to fit anywhere else. It's Mae Shi, minus (most of) the hooks, with all of the variously listenable blips, explosions, gnarl, and static given the spotlight, and in this case, there's a "cover of a Cash Money Millionaires song" (unfortunately, no vocals - but stripped of genre signifiers, a revelation of musicality).

I wrote about this band before, and I'll write about them again, because this particular pick is from the original orgy of picking that my then-toddler did, in which she straight up raided the L's and M's of my CD shelf (also from that fruitful haul: Madonna, Mahler, Lucky Dragons, The Lotus, Lufa, The Lowdown, and Ray Lynch). I'm now coming up on the fourth anniversary of the very first FPE post ("Gateway Records 3534: Hustle, Bus Stop and Line Dances", and I find that slowly making my way through this backlog has made me reflective.

So, 2. Two. It's the record I'm writing about and also the phase I'm entering. Here's the thing. As this project was literally born of Frances's disruption of my precious order, so now it reaches an inflection point, where once again Frances isn't into me shaping her involvement or her production. She'd rather her leisure be playing pretend with a friend or parent, or watching a video, or going somewhere fun, rather than, you know, making a work-for-hire. Childhood! The state of being a child! The time of the present.

From this I take that the future is, in a very real sense, a waste of time. If I'm to truly collaborate with this kid, it means letting go of the production, of the future, and coming to the present.

This is the art that Frances produced while listening to 2:

Not into it, so much.

And this:

"What's wrong with the CD?"

It's not the first time the Mae Shi have crossed Frances. When she was a few months old, I went to see them play, and came home with a light-triggered noise-maker that produced a truly horrible sound. They were partially inspired to make and sell these little demons by my own band and the horrible-sounding light-triggered devices we had perpetrated. That thing totally pissed off baby Frances.

Yes so the present, and the future. The Mae Shi imploded, and it was ugly. The linked account cites substance abuse as a factor. I think ambition, or pursuit of fame, or "success", may have been as well. Substance abuse is an unhealthy, destructive, unbalanced focus on the present at the expense of the future; ambition is its opposite. Growing up is learning how to bring these two forces into balance, and learning how you can use both for positive change.

I've often thought that childhood is like being on drugs, or perhaps the opposite: one takes drugs to forget care and consequence, to induce a state of artificial innocence. Adulthood is the growing awareness of the future, of the clock, of death; the desicions to drive and plan or to drift. The future isn't a waste of time; it's all there is. But there's a lesson of childhood, too, which is that a future worth having requires engagement with the present.

The Mae Shi here have thrown fifty things in a bucket. There are multiple funky jams, Ezra rap-sings a couple of times, and sometimes it sounds like the CD is broken. They give you a chance to hear the birth of a rock song. It's all present and no future. The scraps cut away from the albums you were meant to hear. You can't make an album, not a good one anyway, without producing extraneous material.

They threw a frame around it. These bits were meticulously ordered and produced as a limited release. Frances's off-hand tossoff produced in response was accordingly framed. She made a decision. The paper was cut to size.

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