for enquiries/queries/Q's:



are one of our very favourite bands in the world right now. Listening to either their first, self-titled LP, on Dean from No Age's PPM or 'As Above, So Below', the 6-song follow up on Captured Tracks, for the millionth time we are still blown away by the range and clarity of emotions summoned by such minimal music. It gives us great pleasure to announce that they are returning to Manchester to play at the DEAF INSTITUTE on Wednesday 21st June.Here're a bunch of videos and a gmail chat with one of them. Lucy Jones made this beautiful poster. You can buy tickets HERE 

SILK FLOWERS - In Your Memory from Tara Sinn on Vimeo.

SILK FLOWERS "shadows in daylight" from brian degraw on Vimeo.

gmail chat with ethan swan



show details Jun 1
1:38 AM
me: good evening ethan, sorry i'm late
1:39 AM
ethanswan: hello! you're not really late

me: a little bit, how was your journey? are you tired?
1:40 AM
ethanswan: I'm not so tired. I slept on the plane a little bit.

It's fleet week here in New York, do you know what that is?

me: no idea

sounds good
1:41 AM
the words

ethanswan: All the navy ships dock off the coast and all the sailors
come ashore to drink a ton and harass women

it's gnarly

We were excited to be away for the weekend to avoid it, but then our
flight got delayed because there's an air show with the fighter pilots
and it meant New York was a "no fly zone" all afternoon. So we
couldn't land for an extra hour
1:42 AM
me: wow, that's what fleet street is like 24/7 but with a differerent
kind of entitlement to misbehave in the air
1:43 AM
ethanswan: also I have a lot of military in my mom's family and
especially navy so I don't feel like it's inappropriate for me to
badmouth the sailors. Or at least not just reactionary

when was the last time you were on fleet street?
1:44 AM
me: i walked along it last year and all the big guns were outside
smoking and leering at women- like over-educated construction workers.
1:45 AM
i think it was raining
1:46 AM
ethanswan: how much does it rain in Manchester? Is it more or less
than the UK in general? Obviously, in the US, we imagine it rains all
the time
1:47 AM
me: it does rain all the time, when i first moved here (in 2001), it
felt like it rained everyday for about 3 years. and it was the era of
converse allstars so it was a trudge
1:48 AM
sorry, i should clarify- Fleet Street is the home of the British Press
1:49 AM
in London

ethanswan: Weird. I thought it was some avenue with bars. Like in New
Orleans or something.

The first year I lived in Portland it rained for 96 straight days.
1:50 AM
me: yeah, sorry i was trying to be funny. It's colonial ignorance-
assuming everyone in the world knows every english cultural reference.
i'll keep it to a minimum
1:51 AM
that's incredible

ethanswan: I'm actually super impressed that colonial ignorance still
exists, it seems like the current international climate forces
everyone to concede that it's not possible. Except for USA
1:53 AM
me: and UK too, i feel like there is so little understanding of
anyone/thing outside
1:54 AM
Like the fear of the 'other' or something is still a massive part of
what defines britishness
1:55 AM
ethanswan: I lived in Geneva for a little while and they had two
English-language bookstores which I thought was sort of fucked, but
then I was in one and they fully had some book about the
"Englishization" of the world, as in the spread of the English
language internationally. And I thought it was hilarious to have it
for sale in French-speaking Switzerland, a country that has 4 official
languages, none of which are English of course. But I guess that is
the point.
1:57 AM
me: amazing- did you see that new 'language' that somebody is
promoting? it's like business english mixed with text-message speak
and baby talk.
1:58 AM
ethanswan: I definitely missed out on that. Sounds terrible. Where did
you hear about it?
2:00 AM
me: it was in the guardian- i'll try to find a link- it's pretty
scary. And also everywhere you travel there're adverts in
english---even in Bilbao and Barcelona where there are people actively
and violently trying to conserve their culture and language
2:01 AM
ethanswan: Do you know about the recent thing with No Age? They played
a show in Lisbon and tried to go to a club or bar or something
afterwards, and the doorman said "we don't want English" and when Dean
tried to argue with him they all got beat up. There were some pretty
hectic photos on their blog
2:03 AM
I remember during post 9/11 insanity when americans were dumping
french wine in the gutter and calling "french fries" "freedom fries"
hearing on the radio about how it was affecting the tourism industry
in France. Not because Americans were the most prevalent tourists, but
because they spent the most money.
2:06 AM
me: that's crazy, that stuff was in the press here but i thought it
was just a like 'those crazy americans'-type story. This is a pretty
good lead in because normally i assume with everyone that the
knowledge or idea that the world is an insane, frightening place
informs or inspires their activities
2:07 AM
Either to make their own, small part of the world more tolerable or in
an active 'let's make it better'-type way

and now we've made that explicit
2:10 AM
ethanswan: I definitely assume that too, although I've never really
thought through articulating it. I think our generation is pretty
certain that songs or paintings or poems or plays won't really improve
life on a broad scale (as opposed to our parents), but I do think we
have reacted to that by thinking on a community level, even if that
community is defined as comprising an individual's few closest friends
2:13 AM
me: totally- just to not go insane or get too depressed- like
'capitalism is rampant and is killing us all and our world but- look
at that Chris Johanson painting for a few minutes and feel less weird,
less alone'
2:15 AM
ethanswan: Which is exactly what I love about Chris' painting. Sadly,
I don't think that any critical writing I've read about his work deals
with that. I'm not sure why, but the essays always seem to talk about
his art historical lineage, outsider painting and that kind of
silliness. I feel like it's such immediate work, but I guess if it
doesn't catch you it really doesn't catch you.
2:19 AM
I really remember the first painting I ever saw of his, it was at a
group show in Brooklyn organized by Kathy Greyson years before she
worked at deitch. For sure Keegan McHargue was in the show, I think
maybe Christopher Garrett but I'm not sure? Anyway, most of the other
artists had a lot of work in it, but Chris Johanson just had one
painting, it was of a castle. Just flat grey paint with the castle,
all it's elaborate brickwork drawn in black, like a focused kid. I
thought it was so grim but also so funny, like it just laughed at the
notion of property or barricade. It made protection seem like some
juvenile fantasy
2:22 AM
me: and that's such a rare thing- those two qualities- the grimness
and humour- separate but in the same work. not just light 'black
comedy' but something actually like life as tragic and hilarious as it
2:24 AM
i just remembered a quote i wanted to show you- it's David Foster
Wallace talking about a book called 'Wittgenstein's Mistress' by David
Markson (which i've not yet read) -
2:25 AM
ethanswan: I think that it's difficult for people to acknowledge two
things at once in that way for sure. Things either have happy endings
or sad ones. I had years where I couldn't watch movies with sad
endings since I felt like I had enough opportunities to feel sad in my
life. But in the last few years I've been able to merge thoughts a
little bit better. I bet I could map it out with my return to the east
coast and to east coast life and perhaps also to the art/music I was
experiencing more readily here that was more open to balances
2:27 AM
me: whoah, i feel bad for you- in the period where you couldn't
'enjoy' sad films
2:28 AM
how does that figure in 'A Taste of Honey'? at what point in your life
did you first encounter that?
2:29 AM
did the Morrissey curiosity overweigh the sadness?

ethanswan: I didn't feel bad at the time but I was unreasonably
fragile for years. Then I moved back to Portland and went through it
all over again. The vegan grocery store had a benefit where they
showed that movie "Office Space" and I really freaked out because of
all the prison rape "jokes" and had a confrontation with the owners of
the store. What a jerk!
2:31 AM
In terms of 'A Taste of Honey', I read that in a class called 'Modern
British Drama'. Basically I had a professor at college that I was
completely overwhelmed by, I thought she was the smartest ever, full
of the most amazing ideas and really capable of sharing them. I think
she studied at York University? She was definitely focused on British

Anyway, I took every class she took, starting with '19th century
British Novel' to 'Modern British Lit' to 'the Postcolonial Text" and
2:32 AM
The 'Modern British Drama' wasn't 100% exciting for me (although I
liked Harold Pinter) but I took it because she taught it.
2:33 AM
When I started reading 'A Taste of Honey' I didn't know anything about
it, but freaked out when I read all the lines I'd already heard sung a
thousand times. It made me really happy and I guess a little bit
disappointed at the same time.
2:34 AM
It didn't feel inescapably sad to me, I liked the idea of unexpected
endurance. Jo isn't exactly brave but she doesn't hide either. That's
how I felt most of my adolescence so it was helpful to recognize it
somewhere else.
2:35 AM
'Look Back in Anger', on the other hand, drove me insane. It was as
frustrating and petulant and strangely entitled as Kerouac, or any of
the post-WWII US stuff that my friends all loved
2:36 AM
me: there's a bit in this Leonard Cohen film where somebody asks him
the meaning of life and he just replies 'survival'
2:39 AM
ethanswan: Visiting home this past weekend reminded me of how
fortunate I am to have parents that don't have expectations of my
success, they've both always said as long as I'm happy and safe they
don't really care. But one time, in my mid-20s, my mom threw in there
"and helping other people" which suddenly seems an extreme additional
pressure, as fearsome as the kids I knew whose parents wanted them to
be doctors. But I agree with her I think, even though in general I
think 'survival' is the easiest way to say it.
2:42 AM
me: that sounds like one of the most healthy and noble parental
expectations i've encountered. I'm lucky that my parents share similar
hopes for me---the step dad years were tough though.oh yeah - the
quote "W's M" , - a novel this abstract and erudite and avant-garde
that could also be so moving makes "Wittgenstein's Mistress" pretty
much the high point of experimental fiction in this country.

i didn't mean to do the crossing out
2:46 AM
i wanted to share the quote as when i read it it seemed to capture my
feelings about Silk Flowers and why i liked it so much--- this really
abstract thing that is really emotionally affecting. And in a way that
i'd yet to encounter in music.
2:47 AM
Is this over the top? It makes me feel the way some incredible, dark
painting does
2:48 AM
where i feel something and don't understand why maybe

ethanswan: First, I want to say that I'm really flattered and honored
by the comparison. Thank you. Second, when I was much younger I sang
in a punk band and one review of our LP described the lyrics as
"erudite", which I had some trouble with. I ended up looking up the
word in the dictionary to figure out why it confused me

the dictionary definition of the word is something like "learned from
reading instead of experience" which blew my mind. Also I liked the
irony of having to look that particular word up.
2:49 AM
me: perfect

ethanswan: But of course it's not really what we mean when we say "erudite"

The thing is that I'm glad to hear it because we do work really hard
to try and put the songs in that in-between
2:50 AM
the song I like best from the new record, the one we're recording now,
is the one that took so much work and re-evaluation to put together

There are so many kind of ethereal, sun-rise in fast forward shining
moments in the song, and it felt too triumphant
2:51 AM
but at the same time, when we tried to dirty it up, we just made a mess

I think it finally came together, and I am so happy with that balance,
between the celebration, the laughter, and the acknowledgment of time
passing, of that darkness surrounding
2:53 AM
me: I was talking with Laetitia about Silk Flowers and we ended up
comparing it to architecture- like the organisation of things in time
and space- dark and light

i can't wait to hear the new record

2:55 AM
ethanswan: That's rad! I actually am writing an article for ANP
Quarterly right now about this thing that happens here in New York,
Wierd, which was originally a party but then became a record label.
Now it's both, but more importantly a super sustaining and thoughtful
community. One of the major bands involved is a solo thing called
Martial Canterel, and I just had a really similar experience of not
being able to write about it in any context but architecturally
2:57 AM
As I become more comfortable with myself I think I'm better prepared
to understand what I'm drawn to and why. And one of the things I have
the most respect for is deliberateness, like Chris Johanson's
carefully measured bricks in the castle painting described above. And
I think that's why the vocabulary or reference of architecture is so
important, because architecture requires that kind of deliberateness
2:58 AM
me: and it's tricky too, because we're aiming to describe how it feels
and how much we like it and but without pretension or cliche. I hope
we're not just part of a paradigm shift in the lexicon of music from

i mean i worry that's what it would sound like to someone overhearing
it on the bus or something
3:00 AM
ethanswan: I guess you're right. But this is a safe space. That's why
communities are important. I read an article on the plane about the
woman who races cars and is trying to transition from indy 500 racing
to NASCAR and how it's been difficult because they're so different. I
appreciated the author's efforts to unpack the distinction but
ultimately it felt ridiculous to me. In this case I was the someone
overhearing it on the bus, right?
3:01 AM
me: you're right, we're safe here.

I'm concerned that you'll need to go soon so i wanted to ask you a BIG
question, if that's okay?
3:02 AM
ethanswan: Yes, big question!
3:05 AM
me: I wanted to ask about your relationship with 'Death'. I recall a
previous correspondence where you said that you felt that the more
death you encountered, the less impact it seemed to have. And i
suppose i associate busyness with the looming or fear of death- like
without it, if we thought we'd live forever, we'd never get anything
done. And well you seem very busy. do you acknowledge the looming of
death as a motivator?
3:08 AM
ethanswan: It's an interesting time to talk about this. We have this
series at the museum called "Propositions" that I think is one of the
best things that the museum does. The idea is for an artist (or
curator, or critical thinker) to present an idea in progress, a topic
or idea or hypothesis they're considering but haven't yet formulated.
The structure is for the artist to give a lecture on Friday night
about their topic. Then on Saturday an invited guest, an expert of
some sort provides a set of information or ideas to interact with the
initial idea. After that presentation, the two lead a discussion with
the audience that hopefully moves forward the idea for everyone

Last weekend the presenting artist was Matthew Barney, who spoke about
his current project which is called "Ancient Evenings"

For me, Barney's work is all about endurance, which I am interested in.
3:09 AM
The logical endpoint, or point of conflict within endurance, is of
course death. So he invited two respondents for the Saturday session,
a father and a son

The son is Gabe Bartalos, who does special effects in Hollywood and
did all of the visual effects, makeup etc for Cremaster etc
3:10 AM
The father is Michael Bartalos, who is a doctor at Columbia, and leads
a yearly seminar about death.
3:11 AM
They both spoke about their own relationship with death, the
considerations they both have. For the son, it was largely about his
own childhood fascination with horror movies, and the way in which
death was abstract, but as an adult, he has a much different
relationship with death, which colors his work.

For the father, he spoke about how different belief systems, death is
a threat or a weight that's used to control people, and how we
shouldn't worry about it so much
3:12 AM
I've never really been that concerned with death; I feel very
fortunate that I'm in love, have been a lot of places, have meet
incredible people and made things I'm proud of. I don't think I'd have
regrets or unfinished business if I met my end now
3:14 AM
In terms of my remarks about death affecting me, and how that's
changed, I think it has more to do with not being so worried about
fair or unfair. I had a friend die here in New York last summer who
has a baby girl and so much left to do on earth but it didn't work out
that way

If I had to watch that happen at age 20 I probably would've lost it,
done something dramatic or ridiculous to express how unfair I thought
it was.
3:15 AM
But now I just have sympathy, and that really is better spent on the
living. Like I'd rather direct that energy to helping out or taking
3:16 AM
The lectures from the father and son were really deep though, and it
made me revisit death a lot in my head, and in my conversations with
Heather and friends afterward. And I think it was nice to be forced to
consider it, but I don't think it really illuminated any new
3:18 AM
I think the primary motivation factor in my life these days is being
so excited to discover something that I want to tell other people
about it.

On Mon, May 31, 2010 at 3:19 AM,
<> wrote:
> These messages were sent while you were offline.
> 3:19 AM ethanswan: I think the article about 222 Bowery, or the Morrissey
> zine, or even my parts in Silk Flowers songs are really just a way of
> sharing things that I feel happy to have learned. I don't really think I
> deserve so much credit for the 222 Bowery article. I just brought together a
> bunch of stories that I was lucky enough to hear and presented them in a way
> that is easy to access, or at least easier than it was for me.

ethanswan: That's a long answer. I'm not sure how close I got to your
question. I think my fascination with vampires is embedded in there
somewhere too but I'm not certain where.
3:23 AM
me: no it was fully comprehensive and i'm really grateful for the your
consideration and honesty- i hope the question didn't seem too
aggressive or 'goth' or philosophy 101 'death- discuss'
3:24 AM
ethanswan: Not at all! I think if you asked 2 weeks ago I wouldn't
have been prepared to answer. But the lectures were good.

me: You made me think of this big Hans Ulrich Obrist thing we saw in
2007 called 'Il Tempo Del Postino'
3:27 AM
Matthew Barney did this big performance thing which was supposed to
last 15 minutes but was closer to an hour and involved a live bull,
contortionists, a cyber-punk stage set and a man with a tiny dog for a
head in this really involved resurrection ritual. It seemed to me that
the narrative involved an attempt to corrall the bull into having sex
with this weird car-sculpture thing in order to revive a fallen maiden

ethanswan: I don't know about that show but he was one of the people
who presented at propositions. He talked about his maps of the 21st
century project/book. He was charming.
3:28 AM
me: i reviewed it at the time and but i've only just realised that it
was maybe all about the absurd lenghts we humans go to to cheat death
or time
3:29 AM
ethanswan: It's interesting because we ended up talking about Barney a
lot afterward. I think his series of connections, his language of
image substitution is really interesting but requires so much thought
or time that it's pretty hard to establish during the actual
time-based event

me: It was in the opera house
3:30 AM
ethanswan: which is fine, but my coworkers and I, in discussing it,
had to come to terms a bit with the fact that a lot of viewers aren't
actually interested in unpacking the meanings, they're just happy to
experience it as a super visceral, body-focused series of visions,
like a drug experience or whatever, completely without meaning
3:32 AM
which I have no feelings about, except that it's helpful to recognize.
I thought some of the questions directed at him were really unhelpful,
but only for me. For someone more interested in the vasoline and
contortions, they were probably illuminating

Heather describes it as "corporeal morbidity" which I think is
perfect. Don't steal it!
3:34 AM
me: 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing'- i don't feel that
way either but i can understand it
3:35 AM
I just remembered something- the bull- despite their best attempts-
could not be aroused
3:39 AM
ethanswan: My sister is writing about this current show in Berlin,
works by Damien Hirst and Michael Joo at Haunch of Venison and she was
explaining to me an idea of Derrida's about how the animal gaze is the
most "Othering" gaze because it is so completely alien that it
requires the individual to acknowledge him or herself. I like that
idea a lot, I like that the bull won't be complicit in the
resurrection. Animals can be helpful in that way.

I wish I hadn't put Othering in quotes.
3:41 AM
me: i blame tao lin for that- he's really killed the quotation marks.
I mean they existed just fine and now it feels weird to put anything
in them

Laetitia just did these really amazing paintings of commas
3:42 AM
I just have a couple more quick questions if that's okay?

ethanswan: Of course! Paintings of commas sounds amazing. I want to see.
3:44 AM
me: What did/ do you intend to eat for dinner? Do you like the music
of John Maus? And what was the name of the punk band you mentioned
earlier. I'll send a scan of the paintings- they're like miro or

i wanted to put them on the cover of this book of a story i wrote but
they're waaay too good
3:46 AM
ethanswan: Okay. For dinner I ate steamed kale, "unchicken" which I
believe is a grain-based protein, avocado salad with tomatoes and
onions, and beets. There is a grocery store by our house called Earth
Matters which has a little deli and they have 3-4 different sizes of
plastic containers and you can take as much as you can fit. I get the
"small bowl" size which is eight dollars. It is enough for a meal.
Tonight I actually brought back a used plastic container from the last
time I went and they were stoked that I was reusing it. It was a good
night to ask that question because I ate healthy and I did something
3:48 AM
Heather and I were laughing while I ate because as a kid I wouldn't
have eaten a single one of those things, I didn't even like tomatoes.
And more importantly than that, as a kid I wouldn't have eaten
anything that touched, like if my potatoes mixed in with the
applesauce they were both tainted. But today I mix it all up and like
it better that way.
3:49 AM
Okay 2, I do like John Maus but I don't have any of his records. Avi
and Peter's old band played with him in Austin a few years ago and Avi
made me come over and hear the record after they got home and I liked
it a lot but worried that there was a secret about it that I didn't
figure out. I like believing it's sincere but a lot of people close to
John say that it's actually really complicated and ironic, which is
troubling for me.

I think the songs are really good though. At a distance I like it a lot.
3:50 AM
3, the band was called Emergency. I will totally send you one of the
LPs, along with the Corpsekisser LP and a few zines that I owe you.
3:51 AM
Thank you for offering to scan the paintings! I want to see. I also am
excited to read a story!

For the record, Heather and I did not know each other as kids but over
the weekend was subject to many recountings of what a picky eater I
was as a kid.
3:53 AM
me: it's exactly the same for me, when Laetitia comes to see my family.
3:54 AM
Thanks so much for your time and generosity, anything you send will be
gratefully received (but you definitely don't owe me any zines). Have
a wonderful evening and enjoy your day off tomorrow. XO
3:55 AM
ethanswan: Thanks Perry! It was fun to think about everything and have
a conversation with you. Looking forward to seeing you again!

1 comment:

David Bailey said...

sweeet g-chat chicken chat, you've found your format!