By day I sleep, an obscurantist, lost / in dreams of lists compiled by my self / for reassurance.
Sigur Rós: “Glósóli”
From their 2005 album Taak. I first heard this tune sometime in 2015. I was driving Mandie’s car listening to Sirius radio on my way to buy carne para asar and pollo at the nearby Northgate when Jenny Eliscu introduced the song on Left of Center’s “Old School” show. I knew Sigur Rós’ music, admiring what they’ve done, but I usually listened from afar, passively; in other words, if a track popped up from a playlist, shuffle, or in this case, on the car radio, I’d listen, and admire. For some reason, I never sought them out at the record shop or even on YouTube; I guess they’ve always been a little too slow, which I admit, is my personal shortcoming.
The bass line introduces itself from beneath the high, tender vocalizations, the sound of windchimes, and the steady clack of percussions that march throughout the song’s duration. The music lifts, taking flight for me almost immediately. At the same time, ethereal and long-standing, like watching a thick, block of ice slowly melt. I remember pulling the car over on University Avenue once I thought I knew what the song was doing. I edged my car to the curb and sat there and immediately fell in love with the orchestration, the falsettos that unspooled as the song took shape, the atmospherics aided by the guitar textures and the shimmering synth work that floated above the track for the next few minutes. The eventual crescendo. For the next couple of years, I listened to “Glósóli” obsessively, my imagination wandering, until finally, it fused itself with this story.
This song opens “These Days of Candy” and complements a conversation between Don Felipe and ETDB, text that is a mistranslation-mash-up-sample of an excerpt from Fernando Arrabal’s play Fernando y Lis. It’s a dialogue about doubt, reassurance, and transcendence. Arrabal remains one of my favorite writers; and in film, Jodorowsky, who later adapted the play for film as many know.
I find it fascinating that the word glósóli is a word combination of “to glow” and “sole or sol,” meaning alone or sun, something that struck me sometime long after that first listen. How unexpected, though totally unsurprising! What a fitting song for a little firefly on a quest to save himself and the community he loves so much.
Dirty Beaches “Café Lisboa”
A long-time Dirty Beaches fan, this song became an instant favorite of mine when I first bought the double album Drifters/Love is the Devil. Gritty and full of attitude, this tune kicks the doors down, while churning and ruminating with its unrelenting groove that refuses to let your ass go. The sticky, bouncy bass line. The drum sample. That frightening keyboard. Alex Zhang Hungtai brings it on this one.
At this point in the story, ETDB’s experiencing some kind of nightmarish interrogation. He’s terrified and fearfully grasping for some sense of stability as an unseen inquisitor demands answers from him from the darkness. ETDB and Don Felipe are in the middle of the desert at this point, far away from the safety of Hard Bent Tube Sock.
“Once a man / twice a child”
My brother’s bandmate (The Batwings) and guitarist, Larry, introduced me to Gonjasufi several years back. “Ageing” is a track that stood out to me after listening to Gonjasufi’s 2010’s A Sufi and a Killer. This tune features a swampy bass line and guitar that sound just as menacing as Dirty Beaches’ “Café Lisboa.” ETDB, sensing his time on this planet is diminishing, still marches forward while Gonjasufi’s effects-laden voice ominously repeats, “Ageing, Ageing, Ageing.” Propulsive. Heedful. A lifetime’s stomp. What better form than a blues, because so much depends on this little luciernága and his little piernitas like thread-like pistons courageously treading forward. Don Felipe and ETDB are steadfast in their journey, though Don Felipe is quickly showing signs of distress. He’s beginning to falter. ETDB offers him assistance, but the prideful elder rejects each gesture with an invective.
“Once a man / twice a child”
Salvia Palth “I Don’t Know Anyone I Am”
I can’t remember when I first heard this track, but it obviously left a mark on me, considering that I’ve listened to it hundreds of times. The song’s light on its feet, the guitar is airy, and the drums exude a levity that I immediately found appealing. In time, this song began to represent the flight of the fireflies, more specifically, a scene in the piece where ETDB’s magic, superhero towel secretly escapes from our hero’s miniature rucksack and dances a beautiful flight-choreography above the sleeping firefly. ETDB’s beloved towel, protectant, keeper of dreams. This song opens and releases my imagination, even as I listen to it today after so many years. Lo-fi, hallucinatory, dream pop, deceptively simple, but with a hell of an impact.
Brian Eno “The Big Ship”
Ah, Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship,” a long-time favorite. I can’t listen to this track without feeling an immense emotional-physical response. Sometimes it inspires tears, sometimes it summons a hidden grief, and other times, it drops joy on my doorstep. As the title suggests, this song evokes a great journey, perhaps a life’s journey, with those spectacular twinkling electronics high up over the beat. What can one say of Brian Eno’s music that hasn’t been said already. I’ve been a fan of his for over thirty years. Another Green World was released in November of 1975, a month after I was born. In my head, there’s a connection here.
As Don Felipe and ETDB float on a banana leaf down the dangerous Lost River, they are met by the Moaning Malevolents that live just below the noxious waterway. Think Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” and Dante’s “Inferno.” Think piss, excrement, pus, and toxic chemicals. To distract the terrified luciérnaga from these hideous surroundings, Don Felipe pulls out a miniature tripod and camera from his rucksack and plays a film using the dense, low-hanging fog as a screen to project the images. Captivated, ETDB soon watches his parents, Mouse Pad Becky, a little lamb, and Hard Bent Tubesock. “Don’t stop watching the film,” Don Felipe admonishes his tiny apprentice. “Whatever you do, don’t stop watching the film.”
Twelve Hour Turn “It’s Your Move”
I heard this song in 2001 or 2002 upon the release of Twelve-Hour Turn’s Bend Break Spill. Back then, this song struck me with its slow, almost beguiling intensity. I always knew I wanted to use it to inspire a larger work, such as a libretto or punk ballet. It’s funny, but that’s where my head went. The loose, windy guitars, the rise and fall of the bass line. And for the first couple of years I thought about different scenarios, plays, dance recitals I could write for this song while riding my beach cruiser around the streets of El Centro, Califas, though as what often happens, these ideas always led to a dead end.
In the end, I found a place for this Twelve-Hour Turn song nearly fifteen years later. ETDB’s running for his life. Mouse Pad Becky urges him to run and not look back. From the darkness, run, run, ETDB, run and fly away.
David Bowie “Lady Stardust”
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust remains securely placed in my inner pantheon of “one hundred records that rule.” I have so many David Bowie favorites that the word “favorite” should be revoked from my lexicon. But it’s true. Many know this song. To me, it represents victory, triumph, audacity. A long-time favorite, this song found its way into the fabric of the story, ultimately playing over the loudspeakers in the divine donut shop finale as ETDB meets Mr. Signal and agrees to descend the staircase to embrace his eternal light. The heroic, hammering piano. David Bowie’s vibrato, also a member of my inner pantheon of “vibratos that give me goosebumps,” a membership that includes the likes of Vicente Fernández, Whitney Houston, Linda Ronstadt, and so many others.
With a pair of goggles and a Walkman, ETDB descends the mighty staircase to meet his fate, one that includes a meeting with the incomparable Borges. And with his little finger, he presses play, just as Mr. Signal has instructed him to do so. With extraordinary courage, ETDB takes the first step, as Bowie sings, “People stared at the makeup on his face / Laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace.”
* Finally, two songs that were part of the original playlist and story, but were ultimately cut in the end like so many other scenes (I got really carried away with this joint), were Nina Simone’s “Stars” and Nico’s “Afraid.” One scene included Mama Flesh and Bone soothing ETDB’s worrying heart with a bedtime story about the beauty that comes with fully inhabiting the day. Once ETDB falls asleep, she sings: “Stars, they come and go, they come fast or slow / They go like the last light of the sun, all in a blaze / And all you see is glory,” reflecting on her own life. My favorite version of this song is Nina Simone’s 1976 Live at Montreux recording, a must-watch video recording of the queen wearing her beautiful necklace and holding court on her stage.
Nico’s “Afraid” was part of a scene where ETDB is floating above the edge of a cliff. Don Felipe has died, entered Disintegration as they call it, or so ETDB thinks. He observes the desert’s expansiveness. He misses his friends, his family. He questions his decision to accompany Don Felipe. Was it selfish of him to leave everything behind? Or was Don Felipe right when he accused him of being too passive, too afraid to make his own decisions, and that’s why he finds himself in this predicament? He wants to give up, but he knows that Don Felipe believed in him, that he risked everything to see the mission through to its (un)foreseen conclusion. Hauntingly beautiful, from Nico’s 1970 album Desertshore, this song is a gem.
Here are links to Sigur Rós’ “Glósóli,” Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship,” and Nico’s “Afraid” in case you don’t have Soundcloud’s Go+ to access them there.