Welcome to Downtime, a series in which we ask our favourite artists for their cultural recommendations.
This month, we catch up with New York two-piece Battles. Battles formed in 2002, masterminded by a set of musicians who’d cut their teeth in math rock. Their 2007 debut, Mirrored, remains a touchstone for bracing, strange and defiantly avant-garde music. Three albums later, and now a two piece comprising Ian Williams and John Stanier, they’ve shaped their frenetic, experimental sound into sharp-witted electronic music that still sounds like little else. It’s no wonder that their picks are suitably cerebral.
The OverstoryBy Richard Powers
I’m reading a book right now that I really recommend. It’s a series of separate tales where trees are part of the characters, with human lives unfolding around them. Sometimes the trees are in the background of the story, sometimes more upfront, but they’re always indifferent to the dramas happening in people’s lives that take place around them. And lots of times people just abruptly die – whether it’s a car accident or suicide or murder – and the thing is, the trees are still there living their own lives, brutally indifferent. I’ve had a lot of people in my life suddenly die, and I can so relate to this kind of thing. Shit happens and yet the universe keeps going on without even seeming to notice. This book captures that feeling so beautifully.
A Mountain of Skulls and Not One I RecognizeBy Guy Richards Smit
This 184-page hardcover book is the result
of artist Guy Richards Smit’s skull painting series that began in 2015. It’s an exhaustively impressive and ambitious collection of gouache and watercolour paintings which includes 220 works, as well as essays by Christian Viveros-Fauné and Jerry Brotton. Like the text goes: “A Mountain of Skulls is an oddly affecting meditation on morality, history and unbelievable human suffering. A village’s worth of the dead, dumped in a mass grave with their personalities, traits, desires and dramas intact. A lumbering death march of wise cracking memento moris demanding their humanity be acknowledged.” Heavy stuff.
Triadisches BallettBy Oskar Schlemmer
My all-time favourite music video has always been Daft Punk’s Around the World, directed by Michel Gondry. A major influence for the video would without a doubt be Bauhaus associate Oskar Schlemmer’s mesmerising ballet Triadisches Ballett. Already an accomplished painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer at the time of its premiere in Stuttgart in 1922, Triadic Ballet would launch Schlemmer into international stardom and prestige. The ballet saw costumed actors transformed into geometrical representations of the human body. Essential viewing.