Maher Shalal Hash Baz – Hello New York
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“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
I gradually desired recognition from you // and that’s all , all I would get
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 DerniÃ¨re 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 !