Pensive Prowler #18: Hamlet of the Abyss

Pensive Prowler #18 by Dmetri Kakmi

Hamlet of the Abyss

Hamlet’s actions and motivations have either been compared to the “unnatural” drives of Oedipus towards his mother, or he has been charged with an inability to navigate his way, in mature fashion, through the forest of choices pressed upon him during his ordeal in the dim corridors of Elsinor.

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These interpretations, it seems to me, miss the deeper metaphysical undertow of themes in Shakespeare’s great play. Not surprisingly, Nietzsche in his famous dialogue, The Birth of Tragedy, cuts to the chase when he pinpoints Hamlet’s dilemma, or inaction, to the hero’s awakening into Dionysiac truths denied the rational mind.

For Nietzsche, Dionysiac ecstasy while “abolishing the habitual barriers and boundaries of existence, actually contains … a lethargic element into which all past personal experience is plunged.” When the individual returns to the mundane, he sees reality as “repellent”.

John Austen Hamlet

For Dionysiac Hamlet, catapulted into his trance by the extremity of his situation, the curtain of everyday existence has been torn asunder. Like Ray Milland in The Man With X-Ray Eyes, Hamlet is driven insane by the vast daemonic forms of nature and of the cosmos swirling on the periphery of the rational mind. The door to the material world has been closed to him, but neither is he of the intangible world. He is cursed to linger in the empty corridors between worlds, as ghostly as his father King Hamlet.

In effect, as Nietzsche states, Hamlet has “truly seen to the essence of things, [he has] understood, and action repels [him]; for [his] action can change nothing in the eternal sense of things.”

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In Hamlet, fear of nature unadorned opens humanity to the random, inexplicable horrors of life, the shattering of every-day illusions. This theme is present elsewhere in Western art and it is close to the heart of many modern writers and filmmakers. Take, for instance, E. M. Forster’s mysterious Marabar Caves, which render Mrs Moores speechless in A Passage to India; and Mrs Brenner in Hitchcock’s The Birds, who is incapable of words after witnessing nature’s uncompromising barbarism in Dan Fawcett’s pecked-out eyes.

Once Dionysiac initiates have seen beyond the “veil of illusion”, words and actions are useless; they are obsolete because there is nothing left to say or do. At this point one either regresses to a pre-existential state, like Edgar Allan Poe’s Gordon Pym, or renounces the society of men.

Life depends on an illusion of order. That’s why the shattered crockery unhinges Hitchcock’s Mrs Brenner after the birds descend on her well-ordered house by the seashore. When she can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again, she becomes unhinged, an invalid, retreating to the security of her bed — a womb.

Likewise with Hamlet, the chaotic universe of impulses swirling beyond his control and comprehension kill his desire for action because, Nietzsche reminds us,  “action depends on a veil of illusion”. We must feel that we can do something and that something will make a difference before we can act. If we feel it will not make one iota of difference, we won’t bother. Thus Hamlet is no longer a man of action; he may not even be a man. Lady Macbeth’s taunt to her equivocating husband may well be addressed to Hamlet: “Are you a man?”

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For a man of thirty years, that’s a big question. Hamlet of the abyss may well be the first existentialist hero to have been affected by the “horror and absurdity of existence.” He, in turn, bequeaths it to an entire post-First World War generation.

Think of Conrad’s Kurtz screaming “the horror! The horror!” at the end of Heart of Darkness, and you are not far from Brian De Palma’s Body Double, which ends with the voyeuristic antihero, who has seen too much, teetering perilously between a raging torrent and an open grave. Out of this chaos, Nietzsche points out, is born art. For only through the alchemy of art, the sublime illusion of art, can the horror and the absurdity of existence be understood and redeemed.

Dmetri KakmiDmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.


Episode 311: M. Evelina Galang!



Episode 311 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s show, I talk to M. Evelina Galang about writing about the insistence of history, collaborating with other voices, being inspired by our elders, and conveying the true flux of language.

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Books Discussed

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Episode 311 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.






The Curator of Schlock #223: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Curator of Schlock #223 by Jeff Shuster

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I like turtles.

I like turtles. I especially like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yes, that’s right. I like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m not apologizing for this, acting like it’s some weird affectation. What’s not to like about them? They’re teenagers, they’re mutants, they’re ninjas, and they’re turtles. I liked them when I was a kid in the 80s and early 90s.


I stayed up half the night playing Turtles in Time on Super Nintendo and bopped my head to the beat of the live performance of Pizza Power. Heck I’m wearing a t-shirt featuring Master Splinter from the old cartoon series. I’m also wearing Superman pajama pants and Pillsbury Doughboy boxers!.

Tonight we’ll discuss 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from director Jonathan Liebsman.


I liked it. But it seems there are some other critics out there who need to rain on my parade, so you’re curator will offer up some rebuttals. Okay, I’ll try and remain cool and collected. Simon Peters from writes:

“If nothing else, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reminds us that nostalgia is often used as a mandate for spectacularly lazy filmmaking. Yes, I too loved the action figures, video games, cartoons, and previous live-action commercials, I mean movies.”

Okay, you never loved the Turtles. Let’s get that out of the way.  Any movie that features Michelangelo beating up burglars with a pair of sausage nun chucks and Vanilla Ice belting out “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, GO!” while the four brothers battle the largest Muppets I’ve ever seen is more than a live-action commercial! You’re not a Turtles fan, Simon, and you never were.

Here’s another gem from Mr. Peters:

“So these Turtles are bullet-proof, six-foot tall mountains of biceps and quads. Likewise, Foot leader Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) looks like a samurai-themed death metal band-leader with an Edward Scissorhands fetish.”

Yes, biceps and quads are a good thing. It’s what the heroes need to beat the bad guys. As for The Shredder, how should he be dressed? In a tweed suit? He’s the greatest super villain of all time. The Shredder needs to be giving the kids in the audience nightmares!

It gets even worse when we go across to the United Kingdom. It’s no secret that Brits have always hated the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I guess their idea of a super hero is far superior: an alien with an overlong scarf that travels through time in a blue telephone booth and fights garbage cans with plungers for arms. Let’s take a gander at a Telegraph article entitled “Dreadful” by Robbie:

“But what endears the characters to nine-year-old boys – the smart-alecky dialogue, the threadbare catchphrases, the worship of junk-food – is what also makes them so annoying to everyone else.”

Collin, did you ever stop to think that this movie was made for nine-year-old boys and that nine-year-old boys have a right to exist? He drones on:

“The script is equal parts pop-culture references, toilet humour and patience-sapping contrivance”

I don’t know what a patience-sapping contrivance is. Maybe he’s referring to that sweet fedora Will Arnett is sporting in the film? I need to get me one of those.


As for toilet humor and pop-culture references, what else do you need? Maybe a good eye-gouging or spiders or eye-gouging by spiders. If only Lucio Fulci was still with us. I’d love to see his take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As for Simon and Robbie, you two have gotten your wish. Paramount has dictated that there will be no TMNT movies for the foreseeable future. To all the nine-year-old boys out there, the world doesn’t want anything to do with you. Go sit in a corner and hum real loud until you turn ten.

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #8 : Oumou Sangaré: Mogoya (2017)

Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #8 by Stephen McClurg

Oumou Sangaré: Mogoya (2017)

Innovation in pop music seems connected to production rather than musicianship. I hear great sounds and textures sometimes in pop music, but it’s rare I get excited by musical performance. Maybe that’s my own failing in not putting in the listening hours in the genre. Whatever it may be, I’ve been enchanted by not only the production, but also the depth of musical performance on Oumou Sangaré’s recent album Mogoya.


The initial allure was a pop record played by humans. Sangaré’s voice isn’t overproduced or layered in effects. Sometimes it’s bare and raw, yet still melodic. She’s effective and beguiling in any dynamic—understated or soaring—though I do not understand the lyrics. I still enjoy music, especially pop music, with lyrics I can’t understand. Even my elementary school-age children were undaunted by the language barrier. Their reaction to this record was to simply dance.

From what I understand she sings in Wassoulou, the name of the language and region in Mali in which she lives. She has been a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations and is frequently working for and singing about women’s rights. Part of me dismisses needing to know anything about her biography or the lyrics in order to enjoy the music. Another part of me rejoices that she does humanitarian work and is a role model for women in and outside of Mali. Like Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, Sangaré’s music is proof that politics, poetry, and dance do not have to exclude each other. Incidentally, master drummer Tony Allen, who helped create Afrobeat with Fela, appears on Mogoya.

The album opens with the track “Bena bena” and the now iconic sound of Malian acoustic guitar. The other musicians come in together with a bass riff that drives the song–a line that plays off of the rhythmic tensions of a meter based on 3 and 4. Sangaré is also called “The Songbird of Wassalou” and as on many of the tracks, this one highlights her and her fellow singers’ voices.

Yere Faga” carries an anti-suicide message, according to NPR. The groove and some of the synth sounds are similar to those from the Talking Heads Speaking in Tongues-era. Dark, rolling marimba chords provide an atmosphere punctuated by distorted slide guitar licks.

“Mali niale” is a ballad that is undergirded by polyrhythms, and initial chord changes that are reminiscent of the beginning of the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” The similarities end there. The stars here are not surprisingly the choral and solo vocals that are powerful, but still tender enough to make the song work as a ballad.

Kamelemba” features a syncopated bass groove that accents the and-of-2 and the 4 (as a reference, the stereotypical classic country bass plays on the one and three–the BOOMS of the BOOM-chicka rhythm). Like “Fadjamou,” it’s a nice groove-oriented dance track, but like “Mali niale” the vocals are a highlight. The interplay of the choral vocals and Sangaré’s solo voice is one of my favorite performances on the album. Complementing the weaving of the voices is the exchange between the guitar and the n’goni, an African harp with a rustic quality to it used throughout the album (a likely ancestor of the banjo).

“Koun koun,” another ballad, develops throughout the track. The bass line begins with a three note phrase and lots of space over several measures that becomes more complex as the song continues. Again, the n’goni provides a foundation and the drums eventually slide into a double-time feel. It’s a dreamy, low-key track, but one that is far from filler. “Mogoya” is a tender, gorgeous closer featuring strings and synth washes and other abstract electronic sounds that help build the soundscape for the vocals.

Song order matters and care has been taken in organizing this record. The performances and both the attention and restraint of the production team make this an overall exceptional selection of pop music. I intend to dig into Sangaré’s earlier recordings, but I am a little wary given how high the bar is set with Mogoya.

Oumou Sangaré’s Mogoya is available through her label, No Format, and other online distributors. World Circuit carries her previous releases.


Stephen McClurg (Episode 24) writes and teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. He co-hosts The Outrider Podcast, writes at Eunoia Solstice, and infrequently blogs. He has contributed music as a solo artist and with the group Necronomikids to past episodes of The Drunken Odyssey.

Aesthetic Drift #18: O, Miami!

Aesthetic Drift #18 by Freesia McKee

O, Miami!

When you move to a new city and tell strangers that you’re a poet, brace yourself for reactions like, “Do you actually make money?” and “I don’t really get poetry.” But when you tell strangers in Miami that you’re a poet, they tend to say, “Have you heard of O, Miami? Wait till April.”

O, Miami is a colossus of poetry in South Florida, famous for its unusual methods of getting verse into the hands of every Miamian during National Poetry Month. One of their many programs this year is “A Room of One’s Own: A Teeny Tiny Poetry Residency.”


A different poet took residence each day for a week in the Bridge Tender House, a windowed kiosk built in 1939 which stands in front of the Wolfsonian Museum on South Beach. Originally used as an office for bridge operators, the Tender House was moved to this stretch of sidewalk in the 1980s.

For our residencies, the museum staff outfitted the place like a 1940’s office with old photos, a vintage LIFE Magazine, wooden shelves, and all sorts of fun objects for poets to play with like fancy paper, sharp pencils, a Roget’s Thesaurus, and a typewriter. Poets were encouraged to write any kind of poems in any style. Ideally, we’d also interact with the steady stream of pedestrians.


Since my residency fell on Friday the 13th, I’d decided to hand out GOOD OMENS. I enlisted the help of my girlfriend Jade to distribute the omens and play a little live music.

Here’s what threw a wrench into the works: struggling with a cold, I completely lost my voice on the 12th. I would need to distribute the omens without speaking.

The Tender House was full of creative energy. In addition to the vintage setup, the windows were filled with the poems of previous residents. They each took a different approach, some writing on envelopes, some using the typewriter. I felt at home.


We got right to work. Not knowing how many Miamians would need an omen that day, I’d prepared some beforehand, which we painter-taped to the outside of the house. With the windows open, Jade started playing her saxophone and I sat in front of the typewriter to write fresh omens for the luck-hungry public.

The foot traffic in South Beach is perfect for a project like this. Someone walks by every four or five seconds. We ignored those who were engrossed in technology and focused on people who had the capacity to receive.


Someone who took an omen asked if he could write one about “Trumpski,” but we said that sounded more like a bad omen, not a good one. Another group, interested in the sax, told us they felt like they were in New Orleans. We handed them omens. They didn’t seem particularly interested, but graciously accepted them anyway.

We distributed omens to tourists, locals, security guards, runners, dog walkers, fellow poets, beach-goers, people carrying many bags, friends, museum staff, and several sets of parents and children.

We communicated through the universal language of poetry in many dialects: French, Spanish, English, and rough hand signals. Jade did most of the talking. After heavily medicating myself with copious amounts of slippery elm tea, I even got my voice back (a little).


One person said that Friday the 13th was her late mother’s favorite day. She lifted her good omen to us as if to “cheers” and said, “This is for her.”

Another told us about his “death app,” which reminds you five times a day to contemplate death. He said, “When you’re mad or jealous of someone, think about where they’ll be in 300 years. They’ll be dust. You’ll be dust, too! None of it matters! It’s great!” He showed us the most recent reminder, a Philip Larkin quote. Jade and I dually noted that we want to look into getting this app for ourselves.

We handed out close to 100 good omens. Before we left, we taped several unclaimed omens to the windows. Should you find yourself walking in South Beach over the next few weeks, I invite you to take a look.


When I was a kid, I dreamed of having a booth similar to Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help, 5 Cents” in Peanuts, except instead of therapy, I’d be giving the public “Information.” Who knew that all I had to do was become a poet?

I love the delicious possibility in public writing projects. Community poetics explodes the notion of creative writing as a solitary act. It’s always good for writers to meet our readers face-to-face, and projects like O, Miami’s afford us the opportunity to think outside the bookstore, bar, or art gallery. Poetry readers and writers are everywhere. Should we be so lucky to encounter each other on the sidewalk.

Thank you to all the poets of the week for filling the Tender House with creative energy. Special thanks to Heather Cook, the Wolfsonian, O, Miami, and to Jade. Your support of poetry is a good omen for all of us. To learn more about O, Miami, visit

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Freesia McKee is author of the chapbook How Distant the City (Headmistress Press, 2017). Her words have appeared in cream city reviewThe Feminist WirePainted Bride QuarterlyGertrudeHuffington Post, and Sundress Press’s anthology Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity. Freesia lives in North Miami.

Episode 310: Chelsey Clammer!

Episode 310 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s show, I talk to essayist Chelsey Clammer about the lyric essay, finding humor in trauma, and being honestly surprising.

Chelsea Clammer AWP



Episode 310 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #222: 13 Cameras

The Curator of Schlock #222 by Jeff Shuster

13 Cameras

This is a gross one, folks.

No Friday the 13th movies this Friday the 13th. I thought about going with the 2009 remake, but 2009 isn’t 2010 and I am committed to digging for schlock from this decade no matter what the cost. We could have had another Friday the 13th movie this decade, but Paramount studios took a bath on the Ring sequel, Rings, and have now forsworn the production of any new horror movies including another reboot of Friday the 13th.


I’ll have to find out what went wrong with Rings.

Not to worry. I’ve got 2016’s 13 Cameras from director Victor Zarcoff for your consideration this weekend. It’s on Netflix. It has 13 in the title. Good enough.


The movie begins with a clerk in a home security store giving the hard sell to a disgusting looking man. Seriously, this guy has patchy hair, oily skin, the frame of a goblin, and dead man’s eyes. I don’t like him. Granted, one in seven Floridians look just like this guy, but that doesn’t mean I’m used to it. His name is Gerald (Neville Archambault). He’s a landlord who rents properties in a California suburb. The clerk manages to sell him thirteen cameras to install in one of his properties, all out of sight and hidden.

Said property gets rented to a young man named Ryan (PJ McCabe) and his pregnant wife, Claire (Brianne Moncrief). Claire gets a little creeped out by Gerald as he lets them into their new home. Maybe it’s the fact that he smells like “rotten mayonnaise.” Ryan assures Claire that Gerald just won’t show up to their house out of the blue, that he has to give 24 hours’ notice. What Ryan and Claire are unaware of is that there are cameras everywhere! There’s even one in the bathroom! As Claire undresses and showers, a mouth breathing Gerald sits transfixed in front of his array of monitors. Ewwww.

I remember and episode of Errol Morris’s First Person documentary series that centered on a guy who had cameras all over his apartment. He would broadcast his life on the Internet for the entire world to see and comment on in the forums of his website. If he had a fight with his live-in girlfriend, members of the forum would debate over who was in the right. They’d also rejoice when they kissed and made up. I suppose people were living vicariously through him, but I was always disturbed by one aspect of this gentleman’s voyeuristic lifestyle. He has a camera installed in his toilet. Best not to dwell on why someone would tune into that camera feed.

Back to 13 Cameras. Ryan is having an affair with his office assistant, Hannah (Sarah Baldwin). He keeps inviting Hannah over to house while Claire is out attending pregnant women’s yoga sessions. Don’t worry. He’ll still let Claire have their Italian dinner leftovers. Hannah keeps calling at all hours of the night. Ryan wants to call the affair off.


13 Cameras reminds me of Peyton Place if Peyton Place had a sweaty, troll-like man (1) watching the beautiful people through hidden cameras and (2) building a soundproof torture room in the basement of their house while the husband and wife are out shopping for an antique rocking chair. Check it out!

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Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 309: David Mcloghlin!

Episode 309 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s show, I talk to the poet David McLoghlin about the pains and joys of being a third culture kid, the aesthetic fun of the poetic sketch, the importance of travel and being present even when home, and the importance of saving everything one writes. I read a poem from the ARC that got cut from the published version of the book, and David maybe has second thoughts about its omission…

David McLoghlin


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Check out David reading Rilke’s “Presentiment” back on episode 275.

Check out the surf rock of The Intoxicators.

Episode 309 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #221: The Foreigner

The Curator of Schlock #221 by Jeff Shuster

The Foreigner

The 90s Aren’t Coming Back

To say that much of my film going experience in the 90s revolved around the action titans of Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan would be understatement. I grew jaded over the slow decline of Stallone and Schwarzenegger movies, but the 90s had their charm. Brownian became 007 in 1995’s Goldeneye from director Martin Campbell.

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That movie revitalized the spy genre in cinema and television, two of my favorites being Austin Powers and La Femme Nikita. The Nintendo game based on Goldeneye became a legend. Brosnan was and is my James Bond.

And then there’s Jackie Chan.

Hong Kong cinema was still a bit of a mystery to me back in the mid 90s, but friends kept telling me about a movie called Rumble in the Bronx and its Chinese star who did his own stunts and had the scars to prove it. Seeing movies wasn’t as easy back then. A movie like Rumble in the Bronx would only be in a theater for about a week before being pulled and DVD hadn’t quite emerged on the market yet. So you would make an effort to see this happy-go-lucky action star from Hong Kong who performed literal death-defying gymnastics right before your eyes. Supercop and Mr. Nice Guy remain two of my most memorable theater going experiences.

Mr. Nice Guy

The late 90s were pretty good. We’d left the recession for the dot-com boom and even I thought we were headed to a better tomorrow. Of course, that all came crashing down. Years later, Daniel Craig replaced Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan became less prolific. 2017’s The Foreigner from director Martin Campbell reintroduces us to these action stars of old, but if you were expecting an Expendables-esque reunion, be forewarned. This movie will punch you in the gut.

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Jackie Chan looks tired.

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Pierce Brosnan looks tired.

I don’t think Jackie Chan cracks a smile throughout the whole movie, something I found very disconcerting considering he always struck me as the friendliest action star ever. Pierce Brosnan cracks fake smiles throughout The Foreigner, playing Liam Hennessy, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, a former IRA member turned politician after the Good Friday Agreement. Trouble starts when a group calling themselves the Authentic IRA, blow up a clothing store in London, resulting in the deaths of many civilians. One of these victims is the daughter of Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan), a local restaurant owner.

The Foreigner 2

Quan wants revenge against the terrorists who killed his daughter. He suspects Hennessy of being involved and his suspicions prove valid, but even Hennessy hadn’t planned on civilian casualties when he reached out to former IRA members to stir things up so he could reap a political advantage in the upcoming election. The terrorists are stopped, but no one gets out of this movie unscathed.


There are no happy endings left for Pierce Brosnan and Jackie Chan. The 90s are over, and they’re never coming back.

Am I recommending The Foreigner? Absolutely. It’s a good action/thriller in an age where everything is tailored to PG-13. Brosnan and Chan give off tortured performances, but it’s well worth seeing. Chan can still do the stunts, if not as agile as he once was and it’s interesting to see Brosnan portray a character doing his best to charm his way out of the mess he’s made for himself and failing miserably at it. It’s not a feel good movie, but one can’t feel good all of the time anyway.

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Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #7: Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun

Lost Chords and Serenades Divine #7 by Stephen McClurg

Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (2017)

If someone has been escaping reality, I don’t expect him to dig my music, and I would begin to worry about my writing if such a person began to really like it. My music is alive and it’s about the living and the dead, about good and evil. It’s angry, yet it’s real because it knows it’s angry.

        —Charles Mingus

My first notions of music as political and social commentary grew out of seeing the once omnipresent TV commercials for Time-Life box sets. I mostly remember boomer nostalgic over the music of the ‘60s. This was all vocal music, stuff like “Give Peace a Chance” or “Fortunate Son,” with the exception of Hendrix’s jagged take on “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Was it protest? Or drugs and distortion?

I’ve heard arguments about the beauty or crassness of that moment, but it’s not often that instrumental music, unless nationalistic, evokes much commentary, at least in the world in which I’ve grown up. There are stories of people walking out, hissing, or being generally disgusted over the third movement of Mahler’s first symphony when he turned a children’s song into a death march in 1889. Stravinsky caused a riot with the premiere of “The Rite of Spring” in 1913, though the intensity of the disturbances in both of these cases seems to grow and get mythologized over the decades. Ornette Coleman was bullied by other jazz artists and had his head shaved by police–for being different and playing differently.

“Blues People” by LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) opened me up to ways of hearing politics in instrumental music. For example, he reads bebop drummers as engaging particularly African approaches to rhythm and polyrhythms as a rejection of the swing style that had been a part of many of the large, mostly white, big bands.

There has been an openly progressive and protest movement within the large group improvising tradition. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) has been known for its avant-garde creativity and has been a rich ground for African American and other artists of color. Similarly in Europe, the Globe Unity Orchestra wanted to unite players from around the world in a large free jazz ensemble. Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra made pointed protests against America’s involvement in Vietnam. Maybe Sun Ra created his own universe, through the Arkestra, in order to break free and comment on the one Herman Blount was born into.


My assumption is that Angles 9 is working in this tradition of free jazz ensemble with “Disappeared Behind the Sun.” The title of the record is a translation of an Iranian phrase that is meant to describe people who are detained by governments, but not formally arrested or tried, and never come back. The music is born out of frustrations and the complicated emotions of difficult political climates. This music shrieks in protest and howls affirmations. It rocks and swings, cries and punches, laments and screams.

“Equality & Death (Mothers, Fathers, Where Are Ye?)” opens with free sax playing, an expected sound for a record like this. But the drums come in and drive the track using a variation of the Motown rhythm, a snare hit on each down beat, often played by Uriel Jones, which is unexpected and propels the track. It’s one of my favorite recordings I’ve heard this year. Andreas Werliin’s drum sound is dynamic, with a bass tone at times wonderfully cavernous–likely a large marching drum. His use of tonal colors with cymbals and slight altering of rhythms with the same beats, creates interesting alternating textures throughout each tracks.

Along with the sensibilities of a free jazz ensemble, Angles 9 mixes in the sounds of Balkan brass and occasionally New Orleans second line marching bands and funk grooves. A few of the tracks echo elements of the late 60s’ Coltrane groups, particularly the Jimmy Garrison bass ostinatos. But regardless of influences, Angles 9 is making a music that is beneficially filling and fulfilling: a music for the body and mind, heart and soul.

You can hear the recording and purchase it from Clean Feed Records.


Stephen McClurg (Episode 24) writes and teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. He co-hosts The Outrider Podcast, writes at Eunoia Solstice, and infrequently blogs. He has contributed music as a solo artist and with the group Necronomikids to past episodes of The Drunken Odyssey.