William Ryan Fritch sitting with his daughter, taken from Jody Amable's interview (photo: Estefany Gonzalez)
I'm a sucker for good writing. I build friendships off of it. I hunch my neck at unwise angles for it while cramped on rush-hour BART. And when it's great writing, it lifts me out of this damn darkness that lately has seemed to permeate unrelentingly. You know what I'm talking about. Instead of digressing further into how much of a word nerd I am, below you'll find some of the best music writing from Bay Area journalists I've had the privilege to read this year. I highly suggest getting to know each and every article.
Please keep this going in the comments thread if you want to give a local writer a shout-out about a particular piece of theirs you loved. I could use the reading material.
KQED Arts: "James Blackshaw's 'Holly': When a Record Is More Than Just a Record"
Written by Chris Zaldua
"Earlier, in 2004, thanks to some tireless international crate-digging at our own Aquarius Records (R.I.P.), I discovered James Blackshaw, a British composer and guitarist of boundless talent. From the first listen, I was enthralled: Blackshaw plays the twelve-string guitar (whose strings, double the number as usual, sound pearlescent and celestial in comparison) like he was born to do so, performing his own longform compositions inspired by the minimalism of Reich and Riley, the serialism of 20th century European classical composers, and John Fahey’s American primitivism. Listening to Blackshaw’s music felt like being ensconced in a cloud."
The Bay Bridged: "Music For The End Of The World: At home with William Ryan Fritch"
Written by Jody Amable
"It’s almost like the old tale that comedians are often the most troubled people — William Ryan Fritch, maker of doomy, murky instrumental compositions, is startlingly upbeat. He gestures wide with his hands when he talks and greets people he’s never met before with deep hugs. He calls his dog, a hound named Verde who constantly lopes a few feet behind him, his 'hero.'
But there’s a morbidity; a constant dread and pining in his work, at odds with his bright life on earth. William Ryan Fritch specializes in making soundtracks for the end of the world."
KQED Arts: "It Could Have Been Any One Of Us"
Written by Gabe Meline
"And yet for many of us, these spaces are what have kept us alive. In a world that demands its inhabitants to be a certain way, think a certain way, or live a certain way, we gravitate to the spaces that say: Welcome. Be yourself. For the tormented queer, the bullied punk, the beaten trans, the spat-upon white trash, the disenfranchised immigrants and young people of color, these spaces are a haven of understanding in a world that doesn’t understand — or can’t, or doesn’t seem to want to try."
The New York Times: "Waking the Spirit of a Disco Innovator"
Written by Sam Lefebvre
"The material captures Mr. Cowley’s affinity for synthesizers’ potential not to replicate sounds but to forge new ones. Tracks murmur and thrum or surge and palpitate, flush with bleary murk and melodic curlicues reminiscent of earthen atmosphere and galactic ascent alike. The duality evokes the carnal grit and transformative, escapist role-play that characterized sexual scenarios available to intrepid San Franciscans."
KQED Arts: "How My Father Taught Me To Love Devil Women"
Written by Michelle Threadgould
"I am six, sitting on the carpet of my parents’ living room in a quiet little Victorian in the Richmond district, watching a performance of Diamanda Galás’ Plague Mass; a penetrating mini-opera about the AIDS epidemic and the Catholic church’s complicity in it. Watching Diamanda cover herself in blood, shriek, writhe, and condemn priests at the altar of God, I should be afraid. And yet when she howls, I don’t see a devil woman. I see a woman demanding to be heard. I see a woman taking the real sinners to task; I see the blood that she wears and drips onstage on the hands of those devils in priests’ clothing."