3 min read

Sound and fury.

When words fail, what music or gesture could suffice?


Sunset, West Texas. (Photograph: Toni Medina)

Today's planned newsletter is preempted by the enormity of it all. Chatting about culture, however positive the subject and the gesture, feels futile at the moment.

If I see that Bernstein quote anywhere, I'll tear out what's left of my hair.

George Carlin (Image courtesy HBO)

Last night we finished watching George Carlin's American Dream, the four-hour documentary about the life and times of the late comedian, directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio. (It's on HBO Max, and recommended if you can access it.)

I was struck, late in the second part, by a statement made by Stephen Colbert, who confesses that at a certain point he found Carlin's content had turned too dark to follow. Recognition of such a threshold seemed like a striking thing for someone of Colbert's intelligence and nerve to admit.

Carlin's late-stage nihilism seems hard to refute right now. Damned hard not going full Luke O'Neil some of these days, but that's his gig, not mine, and he excels in it.

Suzuki Junzo (Photograph courtesy suzukijunzo.org)

Music doesn't always provide accompaniment to feelings like these, but something serendipitous and timely landed in my inbox today to address my need.

Note that this providence is not without its own element of trauma.

Suzuki Junzo is a prolific Japanese singer and guitarist active in his homeland's well-established psychedelic noise-rock tradition. He plays in Overhang Party, Miminokoto, Mienakunaru, and numerous other settings and projects.

Earlier this year, he had a life-altering accident:

In February 2022, Junzo fell from a train platform in Tokyo and was rendered unconscious. Junzo suffered intracerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He regained consciousness and is now in a rehabilitation hospital.

I borrowed that text from a new Bandcamp page, We Love You Junzo, which was established this week to help raise funds for the artist's recovery. The first release posted to the page, Strato Arcology, is a weighty yet easygoing slab of power-trio improv featuring Mienakunaru, Junzo's trio with bassist Mike Vest and drummer Dave Sneddon.

Evaporation of Holy Water, by Suzuki Junzo / Tetuzi Akiyama
2 track album

This morning a second release was added: Evaporation of Holy Water, a duo pairing Junzo with fellow improvising guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama. The two idiosyncratic players don't typically sound much alike. But here, their abstracted approaches to blues vocabulary coalesce in an excoriating howl, rendered still more lacerating by a weedy, overblown recording.

Is it meant to sound like rage? Is it ecstatic? Erotic? Cathartic? Or simply esoteric noodling with really loud amps?

Whatever else it might be, the ear-peeling fusion of fiery noise and sinew was just what I needed. And it felt good to know that the very modest purchase price served a real purpose.

Feeling as though you've served a purpose is a good and decent aspiration, and this is all I've got in me today.

Be kind.