Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: LP

See The Music

LP spins a deep cut, a romance of the authentic; a story deceptive in its simplicity and deep in its intention. Imagine what 'Surfs Up' or 'Cabin Essence' sounds like to Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks in that spring and summer of '66; or how, on instinct, David Lynch knows, knows, it has to be an ear in 'Blue Velvet.' LP operates on that level.
Curt Pires writes LP as a kind of open source code, an invitation to collaboration that gives more than it takes. Pires's prose is genuine with the right amount of uncanniness built-in to spur the reader into inquiry -- a kind of 'Rashomon' in the style of its storytelling and cartooning.  

On its shellac surface the story tells of an apathetic drugged-out worn-out rocker, F., and his supernatural 33. Either wearing socks and abed in a gangbang, alone in a crowd or taking a tire iron in his map, F. looks right for the space, mutable in every aspect. F. goes places, he is a cipher, a zero, a complete non-entity, a man who holds none of the secrets or answers. Instead, F. acts as the access point, the key. What F. provides Pires is the means, not the end.

There is a grungy, lived-in thrift-store quality to Ramon Villalobos's art, not cheap or disposable, far from it; Villalobos is a find. His character designs and backgrounds track in the raw and the organic. Art so full of energy and so alive it attains a synesthetic quality -- that's right, Villalobos's art has a smell to it and a taste -- an artist whose talent lets the reader see the song.

Like Pires's story, Villalobos's art lives at the margins, a singular style both visceral and built up over time, callused. There are details in the art, an Aladin Sane reference here, the serrated edge of a sneaker logo there and a scrap of half-remembered lyric, all elements that make up the mix. It's like this story has been out in the æther and Villalobos and Pires act as translators, speakers for a collective unconscious. LP tracks in the mythic.

Villalobos draws a lot of gateways, panels dedicated to doorways, entrances and exits (there's a difference). F. is forever on his way to somewhere else, in transition and impermanent -- a traveler of both time and space; this in-between-ness and emphasis on access riffs on LP's open-ended quality. When the record takes its solo, Villalobos uses three standing rectangles and turns them ever so much as allow whatever exists in that other place, the world of the record, to bleed through into this world. Like some Lovecraftian Old God's menace, pseudopodia (signals) shoot across dimensions and go from grey-green to red and then to black -- it is analog, it is messy, the message is clear: don't fuck with the messenger. You don't choose the record, the record chooses you.  

Pires is a George and he wears 'the quiet Beetle's' influence on his (record) sleeve. In a book thick with boffo depictions of the slaughter of dog-headed bent-eared henchmen and bare-chested punks with shaved heads and smeared mascara, the most memorable image is of a lotus-legged F. as he opens his third eye in search of what has been taken from him. Villalobos splits F. down the middle (an intermediate illustration if there ever was one) half of him in this world and the rest in the next. A heading at the top of the page, outside the panels and inside the narrative reads: ''withinUwithoutU.'' No album cut is perhaps deeper in rock-and-roll than the lead track on side two of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.' Pires and Villalobos don't cotton to the singles, they're on their own stone groove.
LP fulfills the promise of all great art: to translate the personal into the personal.

Curt Pires and Ramon Villalobos are on tumbler and Twitter here and here.

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