Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Behavior, Good Behavior 7 inch, Whip Records

If I didn’t count some of my closest friends in the Brooklyn band Behavior, didn’t know their music like the back of my hand, didn’t even have the pleasure of jamming with them from time to time, I would probably describe their first 7 inch with the following words, and leave it at that: “the “Good Behavior” 45 is two drop dead beautiful psychedelic pop songs from a band that poofed out of nowhere just yesterday, but that seems to already have achieved something of a devoted following in the smoggy North Brooklyn netherworld of legal and semi-legal concert dives.” It may seem a bit dishonest to write “music criticism” about a group that I personally hope to see go very, very far; but since I cannot erase this fact, I figure that doing so openly is hardly as dishonest as faking an absence of personal investment. Moreover, writing about your friends can make for a more three-dimensional picture of the subject at hand: If a 7 inch is kind of the aural equivalent of a snapshot, only someone who knows the photographed environment very well can point to what lies beyond the frame.

What we “see” in this brief image is very lovely indeed: two very taut, well-crafted, counterintuitively melodic pop songs, spun out on rhythmically interlocking pulses of bass (Ian Campbell), guitar (Bryce Hackford), percussion (Khira Jordan), synth (Toshio Masuda), and raw adrenaline. A male voice (Bryce Hackford's) materializes above all this needlework, airborne and sprawling and reminiscent of some long-dead ‘80s rock hero that you just can’t put a finger on, only to be spirited away by the sequential degradations of reverb and echo. If we didn’t know better, we might believe that Behavior was a rock band with a clearly-defined leader/songwriter, one that whiles away its Sunday afternoons rehearsing these meticulously planned anthems to pitch perfection. But even if you haven’t heard these guys live in concert, haven’t digested the fact that none of their performances--even of these very songs--ever sound even remotely the same, there are far too many flyaway notes in the mix to sit comfortably with this conclusion: a certain twang in the bass that casts doubt on its tonal solidity, patches of pure feedback and drone, runaway synth frequencies that bleat their way into oblivion.

No, Behavior’s songs may unfold with skintight precision, but they never seem likely to stay put for very long. (And if they were your downstairs neighbors, you might see an apt metaphor for their music in this bit of biographical backstory: while three of the band’s members are studiously honing their craft up in a shared loft apartment/practice studio in the bowels of South Williamsburg, the fourth is presently walking his way from New York to Los Angeles. No joke.) Nor--given their taste for lengthy driftings of this kind--could they ever summon the military discipline to bend to the whims of a single ringleader. The folks behind Behavior are not the kind of people who would ever wear the communal/utopian badge on their sleeve, but they are one of those rare outfits that actually writes their music one hundred percent collaboratively--improvising their way, however long it takes, into the spastic musical consensus that we get such an iniebriating whiff of on“Good Behavior.” The band also likes it when people list their names alphabetically, which is why I did so above.
Something to consider before you head out to your first Behavior show: played live, the “songs” I refer to here will usually register only as small epiphanies in an extended, echo-dripping, criminally uninhibited free jam. What makes their music so exhilarating to listen to--and actually, so tremendously hard to pin down--is that it is equally defined by both of these musical attitudes--and by the fluidity of the barrier between them. Regardless of how well I can claim to know them, then, describing the beauty of their first offering is less a question of filling in the blanks of what cannot be heard, than of pointing to its constant, insatiable grasping beyond what can. And this realization alone is enough to leave me--and hopefully you--anxious to see where they will take themselves next.

Words: Emilie Friedlander
Photos: Adahbee

Originally published on Foxy Digitalis, June 2009.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jonathan Kane, Jet Ear Party, Radium/Table of the Elements

Mining the vein opened by his first solo album, February (2005), and later by his very successful EP, I Looked at the Sun (2006), Jonathan Kane continues down the shores of “progressive blues” with Jet Ear Party. Kane winds and unwinds catchy loops, purging the genre of all incidentals, keeping only the essential: the telltale chiseled riff, repeated ad infinitum. A pursuit that began with his collaborations with some of New York's most prominent minimalists, Kane’s quest travels backwards in time to the blues, the genre from which he draws his main inspiration: “Listen to Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, John Lee Hooker. These artists will often play pieces consisting of one droning chord and a hypnotic, repetitive riff!”

Jet Ear Party isn't happy simply to dig the plot mapped out by February. With his new album, Kane frees himself from Rhys Chatham's influence to discover his own voice, that of a jubilant Americana launched at full speed on the hot rails, bringing all the voices of the New Continent along with it. The tracks of Jet Ear Party are also spiced with new sonorities, lending passing winks and applied homages to Kane’s musical heroes. Slipping and sliding through the slow and irresistible progressions we came to love in February are denatured loops à la Phil Glass, heavy tremolos à la Chatham, the 2/4 measure of Ragtime, and jubilant funk riffs à la Sly Stone.

After forging this new route alone on February, the composer invites numerous collaborators aboard, making Jet Ear Party a story about friends. Passing from track to track, we chance upon his brother Anthony's harmonica, David Watson’s bagpipes, and Igor Cubrilovic's guitar. Finally with “Up in Flames,” a soul ballad that is certainly not the album's strongest piece, but absolutely its most touching, Kane silences his guitars to let the voluptuous voices of Lisa Burns and Peg Simone ring out, set to a text by Holly Anderson. Hypnotic, explosive, at times abrasive, Jonathan Kane’s music is always warm. We wish him many more happy encounters.

Words: Sophie Pécaud
Translation: Khira Jordan

Originally published on Chronicart, along with an interview with Jonathan Kane. English version available here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guitar Parts: An Interview with Jonathan Kane

Minimalist and pop music have always been closely linked, the vocabulary of the latter coloring the austere principles of the former. Terry Riley and Philip Glass drew inspiration from jazz, just as Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca, in their monumental symphonies for electric guitar, did from rock 'n' roll. Since 2005, and February, his first opus, Jonathan Kane has been revisiting the history of the blues. What could be more logical?
"The blues is an intrinsically minimalist art form," he shares. "John Lee Hooker [...] often played consisted of one droning chord and a melodic, repetitive riff. Minimalism, yes?"

A child of the blues (his first band, formed with his brother Anthony, opened for the greatest groups of the genre in the early 70s), Jonathan Kane began frequenting the New York experimental scene in the early '80s, participating in the creation of Michael Gira’s Swans and bolstering the group with the rampant groove that would become his trademark. On the lookout for musical encounters of all kinds, Jonathan Kane notably surrounded himself with major players from the current New York minimalist scene: first Rhys Chatham, who chose Kane to seat the explosive rhythms of his symphonies for electric guitars, then La Monte Young, who recruited the drummer in the '90s for his Forever Bad Blues Band.

This steady musical maturation, largely a mingling of the timeless heat of the Old South and the smokey dives of '80s downtown New York, reached its term in 2005 when Jeff Hunt, the head of the experimental label Table of the Elements, offered its artists the opportunity to interpret a contemporary work of their choosing for a compilation. The compilation was never released, but Kane’s interpretation of Chatham’s Guitar Trio (1977) would open a new chapter his career: that of composer. Mining the vein of "minimalist blues" for sharp riffs, with obstinate bass and unrelenting groove, Jonathan Kane, little by little, amassed the fragments that would form his first album, February. With Jet Ear Party, recently released on Radium (Table of the Elements), he pursues his tireless quest for the exemplary riff. Some Commentary below.

Where does the title of your new record, Jet Ear Party, come from?

It's from a Babel Fish translation of a Dutch review, into English, of my record February. The phrase “guitar parts” came out as “jet ear party”!

You began your musical career with the Kane Brothers Blues Band, which opened for some of the greatest bands of the genre in the '70s. What did you learn from listening to and playing the blues as a kid?

That emotion and intensity were critical, but that the groove takes priority over everything. Also, if you're not a sweaty rag after you play, you haven't really done much!

What did you learn from your extended work with art music composers like Rhys and La Monte? Was their work an inspiration for you?

That the evolution of sound was necessary for music to evolve. It struck me as similar to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Little Walter plugging their blues into amplifiers in the 1950s. Also that repetition and the pursuit of a trance state are not all that different from making people dance. I try to do both.

When did you first have the idea to mix the principles of both musical traditions? What pushed you in that direction?

I've been experimenting with blues hybrids for more than 25 years, but certainly my experience working with La Monte Young and Rhys Chatham helped guide the sonic landscape of my music.

How would you describe the evolution of your music since your first solo record, February?

I've tried to distill the sound to a relentless undeniable groove, while expanding on the principles of trance and serialism.

When and how did you compose Jet Ear Party? What did you want to achieve with this new record?

I started writing some of these songs when I was touring in support of my February release in 2006. The rest, throughout ‘07 and ‘08. I wanted to dig in further to my sound while introducing some new elements. I also wanted to throw in more fireworks from my drums than on my other records.

How did you record it?

On a laptop in my studio in Long Island City and upstate in Bovina, NY. My producer, Igor Cubrilovic, has some amazing Russian mics that make laptop recording sound like you're in Radio City Music Hall.

There are a lot of collaborations on Jet Ear Party: Anthony's harmonica, David Watson’s bagpipes, Holly's lyrics and Lisa's voice. Can you tell me more about some of those collaborations, and what they bring to your music?

Harmonica and bagpipes are two of my favorite instruments. Both are capable of pushing my emotional state to the limit. My brother, Anthony Kane, and David Watson on harmonica and bagpipes, respectively, are the best players in NYC. I was thrilled to put them into the context of this music and find out that it sounded even better than I hoped. Lisa B. Burns and Peg Simone singing a duet of Holly Anderson and Lisa's song “Up in Flames” deliver a mysterious and spooky love song, a harmonic soul ballad, if you will. I couldn't have imagined any other way to introduce vocals in my music.

Some of your songs are tributes to your musical heroes. On February, it was Richie Havens, with a home-cooked version of “Motherless Child,” then Mississippi Fred McDowell, with “I Looked at the Sun” (one of my favorite pieces of yours). This time, it's Sly & The Family Stone, with a wild version of “Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin.” Why this one?

Well, first of all, I love the song. Larry Graham invented popping funk bass on it, which is part of the reason my version doesn't even have any bass at all for the first 4 minutes—who's going to try to compete with Larry Graham?! Second, it's in E, my favorite key, although I tune it down to E flat to accommodate the bagpipes. Also, it's capable of being a drone piece with a big fat swampy groove, but it has that melody and hook that are so damn bluesy.

On your albums, you play almost every instrument yourself. Who is February live?

Jon Crider, Peg Simone and David Bicknell on guitars, Adam Wills on bass, and me on drums.

What do your musicians bring to your music when it's played live? What does a February concert sound (and look) like?

My band is amazing. They play my music note-perfect, but they each have their own style and approach that brings something different to the sound. People yell and scream at our shows, which I love, but what I really love is when people dance, which seems to happen a lot when we play. When all that is happening it makes us play better.

Where should we listen to your music? In the beauty of Bovina's nature, or in the frenzied streets of NYC?

In the car is the very best, on a long drive, but any place will do, as long as it's at or near lease-breaking volume!

Today, you still play drums, but you're also an accomplished guitarist and composer. How do you identify yourself? As a drummer, a guitarist, a composer?

All of the above, and bass too. But I guess to prioritize the list, I'd say I'm a drummer and composer who plays, writes and arranges on guitar. To be honest, right now I play a lot more guitar than drums.

What's up with the Kane Brothers Blues Band? Are you still playing together sometimes?

It's been a while, but we're looking at some possible performances in the future. KBBB will always be ready to go, if something interesting comes up.

Any other musical projects in the works? What about that new Kropotkins record?

I'm working on a duo with Peg Simone where we both play guitar, and she sings. We have just finished a 20-minute track that will appear on her forthcoming new record. Dave Soldier is pretty near, I think, to finishing up the new Kropotkins record. Krops is his baby, like February is mine.

Do you still listen to blues, jazz and funk as much as you once did? Have you heard anything new and interesting that you would recommend?

I do listen to a lot of all of those genres. Mostly the classics that I never, ever tire of. There are some great new artists out there, not necessarily playing those styles of music… I like Megafaun, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Agathe Max, New Randy, Tinarawen, to name a few.

When are you coming back to Europe/France?

We're planning to tour in fall of 2009 or winter 2010 in support of Jet Ear Party. Hope to see you there!

Interview: Sophie Pécaud, 2009
Translation: Khira Jordan

Originally published on Chronicart, June 2009, along with a review of Jet Ear Party.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jonathan Kane, Jet Ear Party, Radium, 2009

Exploitant la veine ouverte par February (2005), premier LP solo de Jonathan Kane (lire notre entretien), et I looked at the sun (2006), très réussi EP subséquent, Jet ear party recèle de longues plages de « blues progressif ». Kane y roule et déroule inlassablement des boucles entêtantes, expurgeant le genre de toutes ses accidents pour n'en garder que l'essentiel : le riff ciselé, exemplaire, répété ad infinitum. Une quête initiée lors de ses années passées à jouer avec les plus grands du courant minimaliste new-yorkais, mais surtout, la quête ultime du genre duquel il est issu et aux sources duquel il puise son inspiration, le blues : « Ecoute Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, John Lee Hooker, nous conseille-t-il. Ces artistes ne jouaient souvent que des pièces consistant en un accord bourdonnant et un riff hypnotique, répétitif ! ».

-Sophie Pécaud, 2009

Lisez la suite dans les pages de Chronicart, ainsi que notre entretien avec Jonathan Kane.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Germ Studies, live at Ausland in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg

Germ Studies is an Australian duo made up of Chris Abrahams on a DX7 synthesizer and Berlin-based Clare Cooper on a zither-like instrument called a guzheng. I was fortunate enough to see them perform at Ausland in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg on 4 June.

Opening is Organ-Off, whose more domineering half, Thomas Meadowcroft, overshadows his partner Magda Mayas. Through a series of seemingly planned false starts, their discordance is well measured, but nonetheless a sorry preview for the headliner.

Sitting audience-level following the opening duo's sprawl of six keyboards and synthesizers on stage, Germ Studies proceeded to play a number of pieces--some improvised, some taken from their newly released double CD, GERM STUDIES for guzheng & DX7.

Germ Studies' music is a conversation in time. The ages of the musicians, like that of their instruments, play into this recurring theme. Their eyes rarely meeting, they set to work extracting the most delicate noises as possible from their respective instruments. The result? Partly soundtrack to a digital planet, partly a study on the permanence of music.

While Abrahams' programmed synth carries the audience from thudding depths to painful and instantaneous highs, Cooper's guzheng morphs from ancient acoustic to space-age and back, played masterfully with fingers, palms, and drum sticks. Their mature and entirely accessible music resonates well with the German and American audience; given the experimental nature of the show, those gathered at Ausland are impressive in their knowledge and engagement.

Words: Nicholas Wells

Photo: Glenn O'Malley, from Clare Cooper's website.

Cool Tunes:

Germ Studies, Germ Studies for Guthberg and DX7, Splitrec, 2009.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rhys Chatham's Astrological Advice for Musicians: June

Aries - The Ram - March 20 to April 20

Evaluate the projects you have started to see how they are coming along. This is a time when you will normally be swimming in a sea of musical ideas; the only problem is, you might be experiencing a bit of confusion about which ones to pursue.

During the first part of the month, make an effort to concretize any ideas for new directions you've been having, and be sure to try them out. Play your pieces or songs for trusted friends and colleagues to get feedback and energy; any effort you make in this direction will pay off, but you'll have to make the effort first. If you're in a band, don't hesitate to try out your ideas. It should become clearer towards the end of the month which ones are worth pursuing. At any rate, communication in general will flow more freely.

For those born between April 14-20, be sure to do a lot of networking and partying, because you'll really be at your best. Towards the end of the month you might feel a strong sexual attraction to people. If this should occur, don't worry: it's normal and will not last forever. By all means, have as much sex as possible; touring is also favored during this period.

Taurus - The Bull - April 21 to May 21

Present planetary influences favor communication of all sorts, so clear your evenings and take the time to network and go partying; you'll certainly have the energy for it. If any interpersonal problems have been brewing in the band, now is the time to air them--at least from your point of view, as you'll see the issues clearly and be able to appreciate others' point of view as well.

If you need to change course on one of your songs, compositions or other musical projects, discipline will come relatively easily this month, so now is the time to reign in all those disparate ideas you've been having and impose a bit of order on them, taking a fresh approach for the weeks to follow.

Spring is in the air and along with it physical attractions of all sorts. Be sure to take advantage of them if you are presently unattached. This energy will be quite strong, particularly towards the end of the month. For those in a monogamous relationship, exploring new approaches to sensuality and carnal pleasure will bring untold rewards for those who dare!

Gemini - The Twins- May 22 to June 22

With your birthday this month, June is a time of new beginnings. Have a look at what you've accomplished this year and take the time to think about your plans for the coming months. Work on any existing projects will normally flow along quite smoothly for now; make every effort to tap deeper into the realms of the unconscious for new ideas, because doing so will come easily to you at present.

Be careful with any authority figures in your life such as band leaders, managers, bosses, or the like, as you are likely to want to break out of any restrictions that you feel have been placed on you. Just remember that it was you who agreed to work under these restrictions in the first place. You might feel a bit undisciplined in general, because you are experience a yearning to break out of your usual routine and try something new. If an opportunity to do so presents itself, be sure to take it, because otherwise you'll feel frustrated. This same energy leads to a tendency to be accident-prone, so be sure to let the restless spirit within you express itself!

It's spring and your birthday is this month, so by all means get out there and socialize. Just be careful not to overindulge, because you'll probably be tempted to.

Cancer - The Crab - June 23 to July 22

Practicing or anything else that requires self-discipline might be a bit difficult at the start of June. However, after the first week, it will be as though a cloud has lifted and you'll find your mind in an orderly state. This will be an excellent time to make concrete plans for the near future.

If you've been trying to cope with a difficult or blocked financial situation, the solution is to get organized and make every effort to tie up any loose ends. This is no time to hide your head in the sand with respect to any horrors that your bank account might hold. Don't avoid your banker; you need to play by the rules at this time, and the best way to do that is to meet the situation head on. In fact, energy present after the middle of the month favors resolution of financial matters in general, especially making new arrangements for a project already begun. You'll certainly be able to argue your point of view during this period and will work well with others, because you will be relatively balanced emotionally, particularly towards the middle of the month.

An excellent time for new activities. It will be normal for you to feel unusually strong sexual urges towards the end of the month, but they won't last forever. By all means, take advantage of any opportunity that might present itself during this period, always remembering to take the proper precautions.

Leo - The Lion - July 23rd to August 22

Make an effort to be sensitive to other people's feelings, as there will be a tendency towards being argumentative, especially towards the middle of the month. If there has been sexual tension brewing in the band, or in any other professional context for that matter, it will probably boil over towards the end of the month. You'll be thinking more clearly then, so this would be a good time to get things out in the open, or at least have a frank talk.

Aspects to Neptune and Jupiter have the potential to make this month a very creative and productive one for you. Be careful, however, of excess. You'll definitely feel like partying at the start of June; try to avoid overdoing it with booze or mind-deadening drugs, as your psycho-physical complex will be especially sensitive during this period

If you have been sitting on the fence trying to decide whether to "go for it" with respect to that completely extravagant and unrealistic project that you've been itching to do for ages, don't drag your feet and be prepared to act quickly if funding unexpectedly presents itself, for there is an energy present which favors financial support from unexpected quarters.

Virgo - The Virgin-August 23rd to September 22

Look at any current projects or looming situations that you have going on and review them, because they are likely to be challenged in some way this month. You need to validate what you are presently doing and make any necessary adjustments.

You're likely be having nagging feelings of insecurity or doubt about what you have been doing. If you've been experiencing confusion about current directions, don't lose heart quite yet; your mind will be functioning more clearly during the opening weeks of June. You'll have the energy as well as the vision to edge your way to the light at the end of the tunnel. When looking at your projects, ask yourself what it is about them that make them your unique voice rather than someone else's. Focusing on this will enable you to breathe fresh life into your music, possibly leading to an unexpected new direction towards the end of the month. Be careful, however, to avoid starting new projects before finishing the ones you are currently working on, for you are nearing the end of a cycle that started roughly 14 years ago. This period is more one of culminations than one of embarking on something completely new.

If you've been having a tough time lately or feeling the blues, take a good, hard look at the situation and make every effort to face the truth and see things clearly, even if it's unpleasant. Cut to the heart of the matter and define a goal to reach. Once this has been accomplished, success may already be within reach!

Libra - The Scales - September 23 to October 22

In general, things sail along smoothly during the month of June. Your energy will be up, you will experience a period of equilibrium in your life: one where you can just be yourself, with the fewest obstacles from people or circumstances. A favorable aspect with Neptune, the ruler of music, allows you to tap deeply into the unconscious. This should be a fertile period of creativity of all kinds.

Your mind is active, and, towards the end of the month, will be unusually clear. This period is favored for getting rid of any backlog of paperwork, so use the opportunity to make those long put-off phone calls and email responses.

If you've been feeling stuck in a rut lately or that there is a general lack of excitement in your life, now would be a good time to do things that nourish you. Get back in touch with the senses by focusing on your body and mind: have a love affair, for example! Do things that make you feel vibrant and healthy, and start responding deeply to life. If you've been feeling restrained on any level, now is the time to express yourself. A touch of poetry may be what is needed. Go for the delights of the senses this month – food, pleasure, and beauty.

Scorpio - The Scorpion-October 23 to November 22

Current energies present for Scorpio can have two completely different effects, depending on how you have been handling things recently:

On the negative side, this can be a time of conflict. Recent actions, either on your part or on that of other people, may have created energies that lead to anger, rage, or general disagreement. Put less dramatically, unless you have been working on yourself of late, all manner of subconscious energies are likely to be stirred up that will make you difficult and not easy to get along with. This is not a good time to resolve any problems that have been festering with the band or your manager.

On a more positive note, this period can be a time when some activity of yours is brought to a triumphal climax. In either case, it is important now to achieve a creative working relationship with others. Your present actions will create consequences for the future; what you do now will largely determine how the whole project, whatever it is, will work out in the long run.

Your creative energies will be highly stimulated this month, so that is something on the plus side; but be careful about overindulgence of all kinds--especially overdoing it with food and drink, because you'll be tempted. This would include sex as well, so be careful of any new relationship you might form in June, because you might well be lacking in discrimination. Such a relationship might be OK for now, but make it withstand the test of time before committing to anything serious.

Sagittarius - The Centaur -November 23 to December 22

An energy is present which favors wrapping up your various projects, so June would be a good time to put the finishing touches on that new song or polish the rough edges on your latest masterpiece. If there are areas of your life that haven't worked out very well over the last six months, don't feel defeated by it; you can learn from your mistakes with the information you've gained, and launch a new project that will avoid the flaws of the one that failed.

Aspects to Saturn and Uranus suggest that unexpected events may occur that test your ability to withstand change and stay on the path that you have chosen for yourself. If you've been feeling discouraged, take a look at your circumstances to see what has been holding you back. It may be that now is the time to break free of any restricting relationships or situations. Change is in the air during June for Sagittarius!

If you've been having difficulty making an important decision on deciding whether or not to walk away from a difficult project, situation, or relationship that you've spent a long time working on, it's definitely time to get off the fence and change direction. It will take a huge load off your mind if you do.

Capricorn - The Goat - December 23 to January 21

Things should run fairly smoothly in June without any special effort; you should be able to make significant progress and get a great deal done, so take advantage of this and accomplish as much as possible. You energy will be high, and you'll normally be willing to work. While this period generally favors initiating all kinds of projects and activities, it's more likely that you will work on projects that you have started earlier. Collaborative projects of all sorts are particularly favored from mid-June until the end of the month.

Aspects to Venus favor personal and amorous relationships, and a conjunction to Mars arouses strong sexual attraction, possibly even of a mildly kinky variety. If the opportunity arises, go for it by all means; sexual satisfaction is particularly intense under this transit. Even without sex, you'll be very happy with other people, particularly as the month progresses. You will feel more attractive than usual and may well be the life of the party!

If you have been going through a period of relative inactivity due to not having been able to disentangle yourself from a situation, or otherwise being unable to let go of something or someone, now is the time to get out more and open yourself to new experiences and situations. Define a specific goal you would like to obtain within this context. Success will be within your reach if you do.

Aquarius - The Water Carrier - January 22 to February 20

June will be a period of high energy, balance, and equilibrium; normally, you will encounter the fewest obstacles from people and situations. Examine the projects you started over the past few months that have worked out well, and begin preparing them for a time in the near future when they will reach a critical culmination. Success in these matters is almost at hand, so you should spend some time preparing for it; if you are not ready when the moment comes, any effort you have put into it so far will have been wasted.

You'll be able to assert yourself effectively this month and accomplish a great deal of work. You might, however, find that you are being tested in some way to demonstrate the validity of what you are doing and challenged, either by circumstances or people. All this energy might channel into your being argumentative, and lead to disputes. You won't feel like making compromises, but this is precisely what you should do--especially if you can mange to do so without giving ground on essential points.

Having a blow-out might actually be a good thing, clearing the air of tensions that have been building recently. If you feel you must do this, a favorable time would be towards the end of the month, when aspects to Mercury make your mind unusually clear. You'll be able to state your case forcefully before others, should the need arise.

Pisces - The Fish - February 21 to March 19

You may experience challenges this month with respect to getting a project off the ground. It's as if some part of you were struggling to get into the light, but the world is demanding that it prove itself before being allowed to enter. Keep at it; you can be confident that things will bear fruit in about three months, based on your current efforts.

Aspects to Mars give you the potential for great physical vitality; you'll be able to work hard and accomplish much. Even if you are normally shy or retiring in nature, you'll find that this month you will be able to be more assertive towards others and stand up for your views in any controversy. New opportunities to be personally effective open up under this transit. If you're in a group, by all means make your contribution because your energy will compliment that of the group. You will know what you want and how to get it without causing people to resist you while you're at it.

Aspects to Venus favor all kinds of group activities. This transit is also likely to provide personal advancement as a result of a favorable impression you make on a producer, agent, bandleader, boss, or other person in authority.

For those born between February 28 – March 7, a current aspect to Saturn that only happens once every 28 years might be taking the wind out of your sails a bit, and you have probably been feeling somewhat overburdened. If this is the case, don't get discouraged. The best way to deal with it is to go with the flow and not to fight events. This transit represents a period of endings, and it's important to understand that these endings will be followed by new beginnings. This energy will not last forever, so it's important not to allow yourself to be frustrated or overly saddened by the endings and keep in mind that there will soon be exciting new projects on the horizon.

Rhys Chatham is a composer from New York who has lived in Paris since 1988.

Art Work: Florian Quistrebert