Saturday, February 2, 2008


The worst thing a folk musician can do is stop smoking. Smoking is important. It tells the world that you understand your own transience and mortality. At least, it enables surface conversation outdoors in large cities, remarks punctuated by a silent inhale, a glance into the night sky. And in better circumstances -- and to the smoker, this is smoking's persistent lure -- it is a vehicle for existential "fuminations" on the mortality that smoking both defies and defers to. This writer is lame. He has stopped smoking. He is spiteful, spiteful, spiteful. He misses his transience. He is unhappy about how long he will have to not smoke cigarettes in order to safely die. Please, God, please, make America smart, but make it stupid about smoking again. And oh, if your mother was a waitress who died of emphysema, mine was a doctor who died of gin.

Eustace Pendragon III

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Post-Folkology 101 with Eustace Pendragon III

With regard to the proliferation of sonorous compositions via the live and recorded platforms, this writer would like to create intercourse focused on the concept of “folk” music. What does that entail? Is it a museum piece of Americana that is no longer pertinent to our commercial/psychological landscape? Or is it a progressive element of our cultural current, synthesized every moment as we watch and react to what our celeb’s children wear?

On the right coast, which is all this writer can speak of, save for a small West Virginia town of little note, the folk music entity is a wheezing understudy to the climbing aesthetics of boredom. It seems as though the general goal of do-it-yourself and indie music is to confound itself, to squeeze its own juices out into nothing and wipe them away before hearing, i.e. Califone’s Roots and Crowns. Frightening music. Its implications are staggering. To this writer it seems as though the body of music itself on said record is a convulsion of American music, a sort of cancerous sound derived from blues and old fiddle. Is it folk music? Is it indie rock? Is it American? Is it new? Is it old? Answer: yes.

So what is this monster, this thing exemplified by, but not limited to, Califone? This writer would like to call it something like post-folk. It ain’t not your grandpappy’s rock and roll.

Eustace Pendragon III

Post-folk, Defined (Sort Of)

First: What is post-folk music? Brace for disappointment if what you seek is absolute clarity. As Eustace Pendragon III -- who was, upon release of his brilliant but popularly overlooked historical revision of hurdy-gurdy subculture in 14th-century Europe, labeled by Revolving Rock magazine (now-defunct) “an essential and timeless musicologist” – would have it (and as he will elucidate further in subsequent posts), post-folk music is merely, solely, a label. Unbreakable is the habit (or, to put it pejoratively, addiction) of denominating music and those who create it. Even if done only for convenience, the practice often unfairly compartmentalizes artists, thus jeopardizing their individuality and muddling labels themselves – indeed, it is a cyclical problem. Yet we at the Bjournal, these beliefs in hand, have devoted a publication to the very practice we question. Why? If labels must exist, must be ascribed, must mean, we prefer to assist in the development of that meaning. Lest the meaning be altogether lost.

For starters, then, post-folk is an elaboration on, a reinvention of, its traditional predecessors. An obvious idea, maybe, but it becomes quickly and frustratingly uncertain when one begins to observe all the various, even innumerable elaborations both possible and actualized. How are observers to keep up? And how are those with narrative influence to assist? One method is to brush label off completely, another is to label excessively – “... Joanna Newsom has gone from strength to strength as the poster girl for the indie, alt country, post-folk crowd on the back of her much-trumpeted Ys album,” wrote a journalist in New Zealand last year. The assiduous study will do neither. He will dissect art’s elements. He will understand the synergy between what is new and what is appropriated. He will discuss it and label it accordingly. In short, he will call it like it is, because he is fucking qualified. Again, and without further ado, welcome to the Bjournal, and read on.