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Maher Shalal Hash Baz – Hello New York

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A New York, d’abord nous avons joué John Cage, puis on a joué ‘Sweet Jane’ en flamenco. Au début de ‘Sweet Jane,’ j’ai essayé de dire ‘Hello New York.’ Je n’ai pas su si ma voix portait bien. J’ai dit ‘Hello New York’ encore. ça a été assez pour moi à propos de New York. Un de mes rêves est devenu réalité. » — Tori Kudo

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I gradually desired recognition from you // and that’s all , all I would get

« In New York, we played John Cage first, then played ‘Sweet Jane’ on flamenco. At the beginning of ‘Sweet Jane,’ I tried to say ‘Hello New York.’ I didn’t know whether my voice carried well. I said ‘Hello New York’ again. That was enough for me about New York. One of my dreams has come true. »

— Tori Kudo

Tori Kudo and Reiko Kudo began Maher Shalal Hash Baz in the mid-’80s & it has grown since into a multi-continental concern with a changing cast of true members of varying background & experience . as usual , any brief synopsis would be defective & by way of introduction you would be best advised to listen to the many extant recordings on youtube & read the many & comprehensive interviews published over the years . their first full-length record since 2009’s ‘C’est La Dernière Chanson’ , ‘Hello NewYork’ was recorded in September 2014 when nearly a dozen members of Maher coalesced in New York for the occasion of a 30th anniversary gig . we holed up here at the sweltering Manual FX basement and worked for the majority of their stay on my deficient rig , joined intermittently by a gaggle of superfans like myself who couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw down a few notes on a Maher record (it’s unfashionable to wax autobiographical in this context but I will say that Maher was one principal light that brought me into music as a younger youngster & gave me the hope necessary to start this sort of enterprise in a dim world of hollow culture)

Maher is often represented incorrectly by the Western press , who have typically lampooned its lack of traditional musical dramaturgy as a kind of « naivist » aestheticism & its emphasis on miracular playing as a sign of its instrumentalists’ deficiency , and refused to see the communal nature of the group & the nonlinear relationship between Tori’s composition & the group’s playing . in fact , what is really unusual about Maher isn’t any one specific quality or principle , but the extreme reverence appreciable in the music for what is beyond words and available only in experience , and a concomittant indeterminacy on all levels , always busy in the middle : composition v. improvisation , the page v. the ear , the group v. the writer , style v. content , the beyond v. the worldly , etc… Tori is drawn to spiritual themes , with many lyrics adapted from Bible verse , not as an aesthetic conceit but as one tool for working through this life . actually , the band’s Western aestheticization is ironic given the direct critical treatment Tori’s lyrics give to that sort of process (see « Epignosis » with its « the ’60s carries weight with you // you like it better than your wife , son , brothers & sisters ») … but enough of that sort of talk . we all did our best on this revelatory rock record & I will always remember it !

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