Late NYC Street Composer Moondog's Busy Afterlife as a Mixtape MC (MP3)
He sat at the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue in New York dressed as a Viking, with a long beard and intense eyes, from the late 1940s through the mid 1970s. There, he recited poetry and performed music, and eventually went on to record stunning, rhythmic compositions unlike anything you've ever heard before. The little miniatures that Moondog ended up recording for Columbia Records in the early 1960s still stand up today, and sound like long lost kindreds to electronic body music. (The best collection available right now is Honest Jon's essential The Viking of Sixth Avenue.)
Though he died in 1999, Moondog's music and spoken word pieces have lived on. His work has been used in car commercials, been covered by indie rockers and hippies (both mid-90s NYC avant indie band Lovechild and Janis Joplin's Big Brother and Holding Company interpreted his "All Is Loneliness," as has Antony and the Johnsons), examined by genius guitarist John Fahey, and adapted for strings by the Kronos Quartet (on their perfect collection, Early Music).
This year his work has found an unlikely home on dance mixes. Two of my favorite Fabric sets of this year, Simian Mobile Disco's Fabric 41 and Ame's Fabric 42, both adapted Moondog's sounds to include on their mixes, and both uses are transformative.
British electro duo Simian Mobile Disco adapt Moondog's "Suite Equestria," a vocal track that sounds like Sun Ra working with Snow White's seven dwarfs. It's been updated with electro thump and piano clonk by SMD, and it's beautiful. And Ame, a German techno duo, couple one of Moondog's great monologues, "Death, When You Come to Me," with Jens Zimmerman's "ModModBlubBlub," and the result is pure, thoughtful bliss.
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