INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Pitchfork MAY 19, 2014 - by Nick Neyland
ARTO LINDSAY: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ARTO LINDSAY
If there's a constant in the career of Arto Lindsay, it's in the way he positions deep contrasts in close proximity to one another. He's an American musician who spent a great deal of time growing up in Brazil, ultimately getting spewed out into the the public consciousness in the late 1970s No Wave scene as part of DNA. The band were short-lived, just like fellow New York corrupters Mars, but in Lindsay's case it made sense that he'd want to move on quickly. Raised on a diet of tropicalia, punk, and avant garde impulses, he clearly wasn't the kind of musician to get locked down in one style. The arrogance of youth played a part, too. On talking of DNA's short history in Pitchfork contributor Marc Masters' book No Wave, Lindsay said: "We had managed to make a great band - then I just tossed it away because I thought I'd do something else."
Where that "something else" took him is documented on this compilation, a two-disc set released by Northern Spy that includes a fistful of tracks spanning Lindsay's solo career circa 1996-2004. There's a cohesion to the first disc, which includes twelve tracks culled from various albums, and often settles into the lilting tropicalia-influenced material Lindsay practiced following music made with John Lurie's Lounge Lizards, The Golden Palominos, and his Ambitious Lovers project. On the second disc, containing solo live recordings taken from performances in various venues between 2011 and 2012, he gets more abrasive, throwing shards of noise in among the prettiness, covering Al Green and Prince along the way, and generally illustrating how his no-fear approach to art has stuck with him as he enters his fifth decade of gelling inverse properties.
The first disc's standouts feature Lindsay vying with his peers, or at least leading them astray into his vision. On the wonderfully doomy 4 Skies from O Corpo Sutil (The Subtle Body) he's joined by Brian Eno (credited with "sonics") and Amedeo Pace of Blonde Redhead; Ryuichi Sakamoto lends piano and keyboards to two of the breezier tracks, Simply Are (from Noon Chill) and Child Prodigy (another Subtle Body cut). Lindsay's approach is fascinating largely because of the way he flicks from relaxed to tightly wound in a heartbeat, making it sound like he's soaking up the sun on some back porch somewhere and then unleashing a beat-heavy strain of claustrophobic electronics. On Personagem from Salt he's somewhere in between all those things, filling the air with scratchy guitar, unhurried vocals, and arresting horns.
The misfires are few - which is surprising, considering it's coming from someone so keen to look for joins where none are apparent. Complicity from 1996's Mundo Civilizado bears the marks of the times a little too overtly, with its reliance on overly compressed electronics and DJ Spooky guest appearance. Still, Lindsay rises above it, largely due to his sharp enunciation, positioned somewhere between wistful and hurt. The live material on the second disc feels like a great release of pressure after the meticulously arranged studio compositions that precede them. Lindsay barks and wails, shouting into the loneliness as his guitar feeds back against him, making it sound less like he's playing and more like man and machine are brawling on the floor. The atonal work-over of Prince's Erotic City even elicits a few laughs from the crowd until Lindsay pummels all the sexuality out of it with great lumps of dissonant guitar.
The best way to experience this side of Lindsay's career, to get a feel for where he likes to go and then utterly disembowel it, is to stack up versions of the same song from discs one and two of Encyclopedia. The original Invoke is all swooping strings and bright electronic pulses, while the live version sounds like someone being smacked in the face with a piece of sheet metal; The Prize is positively funky in recorded form, being built on a bedrock of dark analog bass synth, while live it's utterly mechanical, stripped of all momentum, swapping swagger for tension. In most hands, a live album tacked onto a best-of compilation might seem like a cheap piece of padding, but this is a rare case where both documents feed off one another, even if it is in the most hostile way imaginable. Instead of trying to make sense of things, to summarise the unsummarisable, this compilation simply pits chaos and order against one another and lets a beautiful mess unfold.