Citizen M's Bon Voyage
Darn it. Luc Sante had to go and write this splendid thing about Patti Smith (read it now, I'll be here when you get back)
So I finally got around to tweaking my ancient Voice review of Smith/Shields' The Coral Sea
(go listen first). Just added a little bit in the middle (any visual oddities are Blogger's of course)
PATTI SMITH/KEVIN SHIELDS: THE CORAL SEA
From the ambered memory and legacy of the artist-collector Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989), his friend and colleague Patti Smith has drawn "the passenger M," whose name appears thus in her 1996 prose poem The Coral Sea,
now a performance piece, nailed in collaboration with elusive My Bloody Valentine guitar hero Kevin Shields. M's abbreviation mark washes away as he (dreams that he) sets sail to find the Southern Cross—or at least glimpses "wet crepe, a beloved port, or a loved one fading, a tiny dot dissolving, in the vast grainy sea." But he's on his own way now (this isn't a Mapplethorpe biography), and even if he's glimpsed death, his sudden "weightless" relief isn't about casting off earthly snares and cares; instead, it's filled with "the earth-rageous scent of his own volition: The air is sweet. . . . "
Smith says "earth-rageous" in the second of two presentations, from 2005 and 2006, which comprise this double-disc set. Like all of her wordplay—as written, sometimes spontaneously spoken, and occasionally sung—it fits. Which is surely nature's way, and after all, M's real-life original claimed that he never wanted his work to be outrageous. Even the photographer's Portfolio X
, an eerie slow train of S&M-mad hopefuls, is fueled by the extended draining of pain (and shock, revulsion—all bad blood) from its sculpted wake. With the same intimate conviction, Smith rides and guides the diverging momentum of these two unstoppable shows, one 64 minutes long, the other 55. As M's visions and decisions ("He would dine on desire . . . ") keep zigzagging and spiraling through the last of his refiner's fire and oxygen, the tides of his veins, so Smith and M attune and recalibrate each other via the raised and extended twang bar of Kevin Shields' otherwise-unaccompanied guitar, with its metamorphic pedals. A wicked tableau of a tropical paradise, in which other travelers, all of pleasing aural color, come bearing gifts to the discerning infant phenomenon, eventually jolts into, "He couldn't--he couldn't remember what they were for.
" One performance also wobbles into a tremulous, superfluous fable for hoarders (okay, c'est moi). But soon enough, Shields' steely flutter brings another reminder: all moments are rungs bumping the voyager though his tilting passageway. Ultimately, Shields' celestial navigation is closer than it sometimes seems to his recurring role as My Bloody Valentine's blowtorch-breathed gator. Though a beast is waiting in and for M, so is something gorgeous. Don Allred