Midwinter altar

Ohio. Blank skies, single-digit temperatures, and the sun goes down at 5:38pm. Spent the afternoon at the Department of Motor Vehicles, trying to figure out how to legalize a car. It takes a lot of paperwork to be a person. While explaining myself to the grumpy clerk behind the glass, I realized I have no idea where I legally live. Ohio for a few more weeks. Maybe Nevada in a few months. Perhaps we’ll wind up back in New York. But I need to make a decision so I can be taxed appropriately: another small reminder of the fiction of states, the collective hallucination of nations and borders.

Here in the Middle West, I’m filling the quiet with books and music, absorbed by text and sound in ways I haven’t felt in years. I’m midway through many books at once, which is unusual for me. I tend to doggedly read one book at a time, grinding it out until the last page even if I’m not enjoying it. I like to believe I have faith in an author’s vision and should see it through—but really, I just don’t want to admit I’ve made a poor selection. 

Right now, I’m midway through a few books, and I’m enjoying all the ways to tell a story while I continue to work on my own. After discarding a few buzzy new novels that were rants and op-eds masquerading as fiction, I’m settling into Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark, a dreamlike series of vignettes about calamity and grief. And I’m looking forward to getting deeper into Agustín Fernández Mallo’s Nocilla Trilogy, a patchwork of desert weirdness, scattered histories, and technological speculations. 

At night, I fall asleep with Bring Up the Bodies. Although I’m not terribly interested in the Tudors, Hilary Mantel’s prose is so lyrical, dense, and wise that it feels like learning to read—and write—again. I drift off with Tomonari Nozaki’s Waves looping on the hi-fi: 54 minutes of ambience that pulses and breathes.

This month I’m playing Dedekind Cut‘s entire discography for days at a stretch: a suite of releases that fuses the quiet with the dreadful, occasionally erupting without warning into growling synths and manic percussion. (I recommend starting with Tahoe and American Zen.)

And I’m obsessed with the sleazy synthesizer that appears around the 3:30 mark in Autechre’s “Cloudline”.

Autechre – cloudline

Exai | Warp, 2013 | Bandcamp
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