12 min read

Real Life Top Tensions, And The Protest Photography of Jammi York

Real Life Top Tensions, And The Protest Photography of Jammi York

During times of liberatory insurrection, nobody needs a navel gazing exploration of the whys and wherefores of a niche-concern, limited-readership, newsletter. As with the all the other protests against systemic murder, be they in response to the hundreds of years of domestic oppression of American black bodies or the two decade occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq (which I mention not to take away focus from black lives but to acknowledge that an empire built on racism has the dehumanization of the other built into its DNA), what is called for is solidarity. I don’t begrudge other non-black music writers their ambivalence about the value of what we do but I would beg them to remember that what we do really doesn’t matter. In a good way! While music writing can seem inherently parasitical, it’s really more commensalistic. We’re usually harmless remorra hanging tight with the beautiful shark of music. And, occasionally (and thank you, Wikipedia, for telling me about “mutualism”), we can even strive to be the red-billed oxpecker eating ticks off the impala’s coat. While it’s important to interrogate my own complicity, privilege, and failures, it’s easy to stray from that path into a white/Jewish-liberal neurotic hand wringing. If the black box instagram debacle taught us anything, it’s that nobody needs our preciousness and everybody needs money.

This Friday, from midnight to midnight Pacific Time, Bandcamp is once again waiving their share of sales. They’ve been doing this once a month in response to the massive loss of artists’ income that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused. The nationwide protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, and the disproportionate response to said protests by our nation’s militarized police force, has spurred a number of artists to donate their own sales to a variety of bail funds and Black Lives Matter organizations. In an attempt to split the difference between not doing the newsletter this week at all, something that felt like tortured self-aggrandizement masked as solidarity, and just writing another 4,000 words on “Brit Pop Versus The New Wave of The New Wave As Depicted In The Book Cover Art Of Will Self,” as though a nation’s historical trauma wasn’t being interrogated through a haze of pepper spray on the streets around me, I decided to keep shit simple and ask for suggestions of artists raising money for the cause, and then say nice things about them.

Of course this list is unnecessary. Bandcamp Daily itself has compiled a long list of donating labels and a million other people will be doing band lists. But I feel like the protests and fundraising are inspiring, positive acts, and I selfishly want to be part of it. And let me say that first part again. The protests and riots are good for this country. Despite their horrific causes, and despite the pain and suffering and deaths (and I don’t care about the property). Despite the naysaying of Dan Crenshaw and Jesse Kelly types (men who have spent their entire lives on workfare and still can’t imagine a meaningful work divorced from Monopoly money, or imagine a courage outside the high school football glory days of their respective pointless wars), what’s happening right now in America is necessary. If the thousands of opportunities to render the protests and riots unnecessary, from mere police reform to total abolition, had not been ignored and/or crushed by failure of both policy and imagination on the parts of both political parties, then the protests and riots would not be happening. Anyway, we’ve all seen The Good Place, and therefore have a passing understanding of right and wrong, right?

Also, to those not in NYC: Despite what you may have heard from sentient gapes like Tucker Carlson, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the New York Times op-ed pages, the city (besides the plague, the curfew, the cops, the mayor, and everyone being out of work stuff) is fine. It’s certainly not in flames, except for a few cop cars. People are outside, in masks, just shooting the shit, chanting Ludacris lyrics at cops, and waiting for covid cocaine prices to stabilize.  B&H Dairy is doing takeout again. The C.H.U.D.s and the sewer alligators are picnicking in the parks and shaming maskless Hasid online. Mr. Softee has more money than he/she/they know what to do with.

Along with music links, I’m honored and delighted to have the street/protest photography of Jammi York here in my humble newsletter. York grew up in Queens, East New York, and New Haven. He’s been doing street and art photography (including some woo woo stuff) since the ‘80s, documenting hardcore bands like Sheer Terror and Sick of It All since the ‘90s and, for the last few years, has been doing a truly awe inspiring job documenting the conflicts in Ukraine. I’ve known him since (we think) Coney Island High and we ran into each other at one of the Bryant Park protests. We marched to City Hall together, him taking pictures and us both taking time to make fun of awkward teenage boys trying to get teenage girls to raise their hands up on video, protest/Coachella style. I asked him what he thought about the protests and he said that he’s still processing but that he “saw young black women on scaffolding, leading the marchers through microphones, and thought about how Fred Hampton and all those dudes were around the same age when they were doing what they did… I got teary up.” Like I said. It’s all PMA out here.

It should go without saying that you can and should purchase music by black artists today, regardless whether the artist is donating to any fund. Covid-19 has fucked up many an artist’s bank account so dig deep if you can. Moor Mother tweeted a spreadsheet of black artists (made in part by @chinchillaah ) with music for sale. (fwiw I don’t know/care if they’re donating to anyone than their own grocery fund, but I bought the good as hell Mourning [A] BLKstar, Cities Aviv, and Preservation albums.) AND OH SHIT NEW ARMAND HAMMER IS OUT. Give these heroes a million dollars. Give them all the dollars. They can set it on fire KLF style for all I care.

With that, I’ll (for the most part) shut up. Here’s Jammi York’s photography and a bunch of real cool music that was sent to me, suggested to me, or I happened upon, that you should buy on its own merits, while supporting bail funds and BLM at the same time. We’re not children here. We all know that consumption is not activism… but activists still need to keep the lights on. So, here we go!

Algiers, the roller-disco-agit-prop punkers who I have written about often and will continue to do so for as long as the individual members can stand talking to me, have a new 7”. It includes the maelstrom-ic precursor to last year’s excellent There Is No Year, “Can the Sub Bass Speak,” and a new song, “It All Comes Around Again,” that sounds like Egyptian Lover doing youth crew (meaning, it rules). https://algierstheband.bandcamp.com/

Jayson Green & The Jerk will be donating all the proceeds of “Too Much Beauty” to the Emergency Release Fund. As a small child, Jay heard a sentient white belt calling out from the bottom of a well. He rescued it, kissed it, and inadvertently invented screamo. After Orchid, he spent years fronting the wildly under-appreciated Panthers and Violent Bullshit. All the while, Jay has had impeccable taste in disco of both mutant and non variety. So his recent teaming with various DFA all-stars to explore this aspect (while still maintaining his sardonic/romantic lyrical concerns) and make an altogether lovely motorik-pop is no surprise. https://jaysongreen.bandcamp.com/

Tenci, like Wilder Maker (who are also donating proceeds), play an urban Americana that, while indebted to the twang and pathos of old time country, isn’t interested in pearl snap button cosplay. It’s druggy and delicately sad; music for cowboys staring too long at the edge of the subway platform, considering. Tony from Keeled Scales told me “We're releasing the Tenci album My Heart Is An Open Field that day. We'll be donating 100% of all digital sales, 50% of sales of their Hummingbird shirt, and 25% of all physical sales to Brave Space Alliance, a black-led, trans-led LGBTQ center in Chicago. For all other Keeled Scales releases, we'll be donating 50% on soft merch and 25% of all physical sales to Austin Justice Coalition. We're still passing on 100% of all digital sales to our artists on June 5, many of whom are donating most or all of their revenue to organizations of their choosing.” https://tenci.bandcamp.com/

Autumn Sky Hall/Autumn Sky is offering up “My Anxious Brain & My Broken Heart.” The song isn’t a far universe from the muted and wry country moves of urban Americana, but Autumn Sky’s songwriting has a bit more of Carol King’s rainy day directness than the psych influences others may have. The strings may be gently plucked and the slide fittingly ethereal, but voice chimes out like a smarter older sister. https://autumnsky.bandcamp.com/music

Oakland’s Mass Arrest has a non-bandcamp t-shirt offer that goes through June 7th. The shirt says “Defend Black Lives. Fuck Cops. Fuck Covid. Oakland.” It’s a fundraiser for Bay Area ARC Bail Fund, Black Visions, and the Movement for Black Lives. If you’ve heard the music of supremely perfect Oi-infused punk rock ‘n’ roll hardcore brawlers, Mass Arrest, you’ve probably already ordered the shirt. And if you (for whatever reason) want to keep the day Bandcamp focussed, Mass Arrest’s vinyl is available from Iron Lung, god’s favorite punk label, who are also donating all label proceeds on Friday to bail funds.

Shilpa Ray is donating 100% of her Friday proceeds to Black Lives Matter. If you’ve slept on Shilpa Ray’s blues songs for the scorners and the scorned alike, now’s your chance to wake up. Her oeuvre is the calloused heart that’s covered in scabs that Shilpa insists on meticulously picking at, while simultaneously hurling drunken abuse at the cops at the door. It’s pretty keen! https://shilparay.bandcamp.com/merch

The mini bio for Cassette Spence describes her music as “fog thick with atmosphere and emotion,” which I resent as I habitually use both “fog” and “atmosphere” to make fun of promos for “dream pop” bands I’m never going to write about. But maybe I like fog and atmosphere now, cos this shit is good as heck. Breeders-esque songs and digressions as bright, sprightly dirges. It’s pre-sales but she’s donating all digital and tape profits to nationalbailout.org https://cassettess.bandcamp.com/

Chicago’s Ganser (and their label Felte Records) are donating to a number of funds, including https://boldorganizing.org/ and https://chicagobond.org/ . I’m always a sucker for this kind of no-wave-spazz-descending-into-riff guitar style. Makes me feel like I’m being circled by a vulture I like. In fact I dig everything about this swagger-punk outfit. The singer has, in the words of Brett Anderson, savoir faire. I bet at least half of Ganser smokes cigarettes. Do young people still smoke cigarettes? Multi-national death cult aspects aside, I hope so. https://ganser.bandcamp.com/

I’m stoked that a band like The Losin’ Streaks reached out to tell me that they were donating to https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/. Back when the Brownies green room was lousy with garage rock bands like this (zip-up boots, sunglasses, riffs, at least one ex-wife in common with The Raunch Hands, etc), I dug every single one of ‘em… but, despite their record collections, contemporary issues pertaining to African-American justice wasn’t usually an overriding concern. So this is cool. And I should be clear: The Losin’ Streaks are wayyyyy better than 90% of those bands. Wicked fun freak beat tuneful aggression with some zigs when I thought they were gonna zag, and none of the fluff that people in the Actual ‘60s had to sit through just to get to “Dirty Water.” https://thlosinstreaks.bandcamp.com/music

Anybody who knows me knows that I don’t like shoegaze and Nothing is the only shoegaze band I like and I don’t care who knows it. This raucous live session, with 100% going to https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bailfunds, is a perfect showcase of why I love Nothing. A bunch of perfect lil’ angels flipping oblivion the bird. https://nothing.bandcamp.com/music

The sweeties in Garden of the Ark are donating the sweat of their labor to Black Visions Collective. So all you AmRep cretins can righteously indulge both your love of pigfuck and fucking the pigs with this delectable slab of grunting push ‘n’ pull. https://gardenoftheark.bandcamp.com/

Paris-based musician and music writer, Ana Leorne, gives us an earnest and moving palate cleanser with a straightforward cover of “If I Had A Hammer” that will benefit the George Floyd Memorial Fund. When Ana wrote me and told me that she had a cover of the standard, I was like “errr” but I was being a cynical dope. Just goes to show you the folk tradition, maintained with conviction and a crystalline voice, can still have power. https://analeorne.bandcamp.com/music

The “Minneapolis centered collective” Marijuana Deathsquads will be donating all proceeds (on Friday and for the foreseeable future) to Reclaim The Block . While they have a new live album coming out on Juneteenth, you should get into their addictive techno-infused krautrock freak scene now. https://marijuanadeathsquads.bandcamp.com/

Har Mar Superstar (of Heart Bones and, uh, his own bad self) tells me “100% of Heart Bones Bandcamp proceeds on June 5 will be split evenly and donated to these two organizations that benefit black communities of Minneapolis and Austin, TX.   African American Youth Harvest Foundation https://aayhf.org  Let’s Rebuild African Immigrant Businesses in MN https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/rebuild-african-immigrant-businesses… Organized by https://aeds-mn.org  In addition, Har Mar Superstar, A Giant Dog, and Sean Na Na digital sales will also be donated back to the community.” I’ve been a fan of Har Mar since his days in Sean Na Na and A Giant Dog put out (no lie) one of my favorite albums of the last twenty years. The collaboration between Sean Tillmann and A Giant Dog’s Sabrina Ellis is exactly the joyous celebration of dance-pop, electro-R&B songwriting that you’d expect from two of the multiverse’s finest hook writers. https://heartbones.bandcamp.com/

I rarely shut up about any and all of Rachel Aggs’ bands. Trash Kit (not on Bandcamp because their label is weird I guess) is my favorite but what does “favorite” even mean when the other choices are as sick as Sacred Paws and Shopping. Aggs is just the best rock and roll guitarist in the world. That’s what I have to say about that. Shopping have a live KEXP session, with proceeds going to The Bail Project in the U.S. and National Memorial Family Fund in the UK.

Last year, the Dallas, Texas synth band Nervous Curtains put out a fantastic peace-punk-on-keys album, I Tried To Fight It But I Was Inside It, that was overlooked because… I dunno… Maybe Dallas isn’t on the synth peace punk intelligentsia’s radar. Anyway, the band’s Sean Kirkpatrick, under the solo moniker Mirror Box, has made a scathing dancefloor remix of I Tried To Fight It But I Was Inside It’s “Fatal Flaw,” with proceeds going to Dallas Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression's Bail fund for Justice for George Floyd protesters. https://nervouscurtains.bandcamp.com/

My favorite duo of industrial spitecore existential howlers, Uniform, is (along with the entire Sacred Bones label) donating all of Friday’s proceeds split between Loveland Foundation and a national bail fund. https://unifuckingform.bandcamp.com/

The previously mentioned Mourning [A] BLKstar, whose Don Giovani full length is a stunner worth getting, have released a special single to benefit Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality. Like most of Mourning’s songs, “These Hands Are Up” pulls from jazz, electro, and avant traditions to make something the feels sophisticated and wild and, most rare, new.

Finally, my family, Josh Strawn and Zohra Atash, are making all the sales of Azar Swan, Blacklist, and all the other artists on Strawn’s Primal Architecture label go to The Movement For Black Lives. There’s a conversation going on about the complications of perceived self promotion during all this so I won’t take up space slathering praise on those closest to me. But needless to say I’m a fan.

Thanks for reading. Buy all the music your digital knapsack can carry. You can eat next week. Check out Jammi York at
https://www.instagram.com/jammi_york/ and https://jammiyorkphotography.com/home.html

And stay in the streets as much as you’re able. Our history, by example, warns against optimism, but I believe this country will be positively transformed by Black Lives Matter and those who stand and kneel with them. Fuck a coronavirus and fuck a curfew. All corny fascists bound to lose.

Subscribe now