The following is a catalogue text for the Borealis festival in Bergen, Norway, in 2006. It was written on request as Reynols was one of the festival’s headliners that year and because my documentary about them – «On The Outside All The Way In» – had its premiere screening there. The text and the movie was a result of a long visit and a short tour to Buenos Aires with Lasse Marhaug and Line Abrahamsen the previous fall.
WHEN I WENT TO BUENOS AIRES TO DRINK COFFEE WITH THE ASTRAL BODY OF REYNOLS
Or: The accidental meeting between a dog and a man on all four on a sidewalk in Buenos Aires
by Tom Løberg
(1) Some days after returning home from Buenos Aires I had the following dream: We were many people gathered in Anla’s apartment; people were standing and sitting everywhere but it was not crowded. Under the roof Roberto flew round in circles making strange whistling sounds with his hands. Anla was sitting by a round table in the corner, together with Paz and several other people I knew but didn’t know the names of. He was playing a guitar (a milonga), but there was a voice that came from the guitar and I could not understand what it said. I tried to ask someone but instead of answering they brought me out in the kitchen where Roberto was preparing a cup of mate. He gave me the cup and I drank it all in one large gulp. The mate made everyone around me into small, black birds. I followed them up the stairs to the roof and watched them fly away over the roofs of the houses in a night where the moon gave more light than the sun does during the day.
(2) Buenos Aires – Loddefjord
The first night in Buenos Aires. Before we went out to eat – Anla, Lasse and Line, James Plotkin and his girl friend Chris, and me – Anla played for us «Kræsj – en plate uten sikkerhetsnett» (Crash – A Record Without A Safety-net), a compilation album from the sound studio of the communal cultural centre in Loddefjord, outside Bergen, Norway. Made with children and youth he and Roberto worked with when they visited Norway in 2003. As written on the album sleeve: «This is a collaboration between people with psychological disabilities and other local performers.» Anla and Roberto plays «experimental music». A term not very fitting for their music or for music in this musical sphere at all. Both teaches children and youth with learning disabilities, they refuse to admit they are «different» – «special people» they call them. One day in 1993 Miguel Tomasin came for drum lessons. He said, «Hello, I am the world’s greatest drummer». This would become Reynols. If you would like another origin history, Reynols was created in 1967 when Miguel was three years old; Roberto Conlazo was born in 1969, Anla Courtis in 1972. Regarding Miguel you have to accept his sayings as a matter of fact, even though they may go against rationality at first, against all logic. Only when taken at face value one discover that they do not contradict the rational or logical at all. Some words used by others to describe the music of Reynols: Hot dog. Prima ballerina. Pressure. Herbergist. Contra. Serpentine. Plaster. Scrubber. Colloquium. Spending a day with Anla and Roberto is like going through a tireless series of ideas-whims-experiences which refuses to be understood-perceived in the form of or as a being a total or united or meaningful form and/or expression. Reynols is a concept in the musical world. But you cannot fill this concept with a concrete content. There are conventions for other types of music. With Reynols, simple ideas contains elaborate concepts and concepts dissolve into nothing. To make an album with 10.000 chickens makes all conventions meaningless. I suddenly understood more about who Anla and Roberto were when we one Saturday went to eat parillada complete and Anla made a recording of our food. Roberto posed with pommes frites in his nose and told us his dream: «This dream I had for about a year ago. I was in the park. Mr. T* was there, riding doggedly around on a pony, kicking up a lot of dust. This dream I will never forget.» The point of this anecdote is to show how Roberto became Mr. T when he told us his dream; some people are what they pretend to be. Journal entry, August 27.: How to describe Roberto? He is like Buenos Aires, a schizophren chaos of whims, quirks and fantasies, a human collage mixmaster. Anla said about him, «Roberto never stops. He’s a metaphysical clown.” He spins out on everything; the pommes frites became a character in a story that spun on in the most unlikely combinations of thoughts and ideas. Anla is quite different; more ruminating, an alchemist with flashes of something almost magical. Perhaps frickeliss is a more fitting term. «A spiritual risk duo.»
Anla let us stay in his apartment for two weeks. He gave us the keys and said, «This is you home now.»
(3) The Life and Death of Underground Music in Buenos Aires
In 2004 there was a fire in the night club República Cromañón in Buenos Aires; 194 people were killed. «It began during the early stages of a concert by rock band Callejeros when a flare ignited soundproofing material on the ceiling.» (Buenos Aires Herald, August 25., 2005) The day before we arrived in Argentina charges were made against further seven people responsible for the fire, adding to the 22 people already charged. The fire was the end of all concerts in places not defined as a scene (bars, cafes, clubs). FESTIVAL DECIBEL II was held at TEATRO EMPIRE, a beautiful art deco theatre from 1934. 240 people came to hear Anla play with MINECXIO V and Roberto with COSMIC MOSTACHOLLI. Lasse and I played as TWO LIMITED. Lasse also played solo, as did James Plotkin, from KHNANTE and other groupings, and on the playbill this evening was also legendary Nelson Gastaldi, the avant garde guru of Buenos Aires. Afterwards I talked to people who thanked us «for the first concert with experimental music in Buenos Aires in eight months.» Anla said, «Of course I feel sorry for all the people who died, but the fire also killed the underground scene.»
Reynols played on a plaza; the police came and chased them away. The week after they came back, plugged their guitars into pumpkins and played. Also this time the police stopped them, this time as «bad representatives of Argentina.» I asked Tom Chimichurri about this incident and he said, «When in Buenos Aires, do as the Romans.»
(5) Two meetings with people who have influenced Conlazo/Courtis in Buenos Aires
Miguel Tomasin. What struck me with Miguel was the forceful dignity he radiated, the calmness. He sat among us, for long periods he did not speak, he sipped his tea and ate cookies. He lives with his mother a few blocks from Roberto, on the ninth floor. A bourgeois home; it is serene up there, the sounds from the street only a hum in the background, the air noticeable cleaner. His mother greeted us as long time friends and served us tea and cookies. Miguel was at the centre and yet he remained on the outside; he controlled the situation, I remember thinking «He is the Master of Ceremony.» This is the man who instigated Reynols. He is the world’s greatest drummer. He has been a guest on national breakfast TV and the most profiled talk-shows in Argentina. I have never experienced anyone who has such a commanding control without doing anything but being present. Miguel leaned over to Roberto and said, «The Skys of Flimming are Blue.»
Nelson Gastaldi. Composer, painter, writer. I met him for the first time at the FESTIVAL DECIBEL II. In the foyer before the concert I spoke with him for a long time, that’s to say, he spoke for a long time to me – in fragments and expressions in Spanish, English, German and Swedish alternately – «tilsammans». He lives in the Once part of BA, in a house with more than twenty cats. I was introduced to his daughter – «This is my daughter» – which I mistook to be his «doctor» because of his pronunciation. For a man well over 70 years old, having a doctor with you when you play live is probably a wise thing, was my thought. His daughter told me how beautiful it is in Norway; she had seen this on TV. Nelson told me about Norwegian music. He had studied it for many years at the library at the English embassy. He listed a long line of composers from Norway, Denmark and Sweden, many of whom I had never heard of. He belongs to another world, music for him is an initiation process: «Discovering things that are not normal or average.»
One Sunday I left Lasse, Line and Anla in the apartment and went over to Av. Corrientes to have an espresso at La Opera and to buy records. In the afternoon I became hungry and went to Pippos (Paraná). I first believed it was closed, as all the lights were turned off and turned to walk away, when the waiter waved me in. He looked at me with a mixture of forbearance and mild amusement. No one comes to dine on a Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Not on any other day, for that matter. I ordered a Bife de Chorizo with a salad and a beer. I was thinking about how easy it is to end up out of rhythm with a city of 14 million people. Thus I understood the city better. That a city this big has such a fixed rhythm that you have to learn how to adjust to it to see it unfolding. That to eat dinner in the afternoon is enough to have life pass you by later in the evening, when the rest of the city moves to the restaurants.
There are over 40.000 registered taxis in Buenos Aires. Taxi is a cheap and practical way of moving around in the city. You get tired from walking very soon, the air pollution is high, the distances long. It is a very large city. The taxi driver who drove us from the harbour and up to the Xul Solar museum noticed our discontentment with the Michael Bolton tune on the radio. He inserted a cassette with Pink Floyd’s «The Piper at the Gates Of Dawn». We approved of this and eagerly started to discuss Pink Floyd in Norwegian; this record we had not listened to for a long time – why not? When the taxi stopped for a red light, the driver turned to face us and said, in English, «Pink Floyd is my life.»
(8) How Reynols transformed itself into what we believe is the World and then dissolved itself: «There used to be one Reynols, now there are thousands. There were one Reynols, now is there thousands. The large quantity which now is there you used for having 1 Reynols. It was used to be Reynols. Maintaining there has thousands. You used for having one Reynols. Now there is a large quantity. It was used in order to be Reynols. To support there has thousand. You used because of the thing which has 1 Reynols. Now there is a large quantity. It was used, in order to be Reynols. Support have thousands. He became, to have used for Reynols. He became in order to use for Reynols. He has become, so that he used for of Reynols.» Reynols was disbanded in 2003 – a new cycle has begun.
After our usual breakfast consisting of croissants with dulce de leche and mate cocido, I was reading the Buenos Aires Herald. Anla said, «Tom, you know more about Argentinian politics than I do.» I asked if he didn’t care or payed no attention to politics, as it was closing in on the parliamentary elections in October. Every day there were demonstrations somewhere in the city; the day we arrived there were fighting in the streets between discontented protesters and the police. The level of unemployment is high, the wages are low, the political parties attack each other with accusations of running destabilization politics. Purchasing power for public employees has decreased with 70 percent since 2001-02. So it’s not that he isn’t paying attention; it’s that he lives in and with it. Anla calls it «the Argentinian Style» – everything limping along in its own crooked way. Anla holds four different jobs; Robert has two. After half a century with military coups, corruption and mismanagement, the destruction of public offices and a currency with hardly no monetary value, the decay even in central Buenos Aires is clearly visible, the difference between the haves and the have nots likewise. Buenos Aires is a continental city in South America, with a population with an predominantly European ancestry and cultural sensibility, but lacking in fundamental, democratical habits and traditions. (It is not strange that Roberto loves this city as much as he does, and let it inspire him as only it can do.) (Pablo, our pop music friend, tells us he has to lock his bike. He felt sorry for this, «but what can I do, this is the third world.» He should only know how it is to live in the first world sometimes, trying to make it as an artist.) But this is here and now more aesthetics than reality, it is a condition, a state of mind that influences and perhaps decides how to live one’s life. One of the first days of our stay there was a news story in the Herald – actually the only news about Norway we had down there – that Norway for the fifth year running was named the Best Country To Live in by the UN. Anla said, while making lentil soup, «You can do anything in Norway, you are so good.» It wasn’t before I got back home that I came up with the reply: «But we don’t do what we want to, we do what we can do.» Anla told me he didn’t relate to the reality my newspapers presented, that he didn’t watch TV – «It is not reality.» He said, «The only option is the metaphysics.»
(10) God has a TV Show in Buenos Aires
Roberto and Anla plays football without a goal. One of the first really big events in my life was the World Cup in Argentina in 1978. Reynols had by then already existed for eleven years, according to Miguel, something I at the time was not aware of. I was a fan of Mario Kempes and collected Panini stickers in an album. I didn’t know that Argentina in 1978 was run by a military regime, that in the period 1973 to 1983 more than 10.000 people were abducted, tortured and killed in what now is called The Dirty War. Johan Cruyff knew this; he refused to play football in a dictatorship. Some people claim he was blackmailed into not participating; my belief is that he chose to not participate. Many people believes his absence is the reason the Dutch Golden Era team didn’t make it to the finals, where West Germany lost to the host nation. Argentinians to day have divided feelings about this victory. In a country fanatically interested in football – Maradona is still worshipped as a god (he is thin again now, after his visit to Cuba and has his own TV show) and you find iconic images of him everywhere, on t-shirts and pictures in bars and as street art stencils all over the city with the «Dios» and number 10 painted under, and I remember cursing him when Argentina played England in the 1986 World Cup, when he did his «Hand of God» against Peter Shilton (for me always one of the truly great goalkeepers and who would hang from the ceiling with weights around his ankles to make his arms longer as he was told he was too short to be a goalkeeper), but forgave him again later in the match when he dribbled his way through the whole English team to score one of the greatest goals in World Cup history – this victory is by many seen to have legitimized the dictatorship internationally and thus prolonged it with several years. The wounds are still open, thirty years later. Can you blame Mario Kempes for this? For giving them the victory? According to Miguel football has its own colour.
The first CD released by Reynols was «Gordura Vegetal Hidrogenada», a CD that would dematerialize 15 seconds after opening the cover. It contained 10 THEORIES ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF THE UNIVERSE:
1. It was created by an involuntary sneeze
2. It came as gift in a french fries promotion
3. It exists only because the mosquitos exist
4. It was never created
5. It’s a cardiovascular illness of the Creator’s Dog
6. It created itself because it was bored and it wanted to see war movies
8. It practices Yoga
9. It’s only a publicity trick
(fra «Gordura Vegetal Hidrogenada» («Vegetal Hydrogenated Fatness»). No label. Argentina 1995.)
(13) A ficcione, written for the occasion by Tom Chimichurri: The first man he saw that day was also the last. It struck him that this person really couldn’t be the same og be himself both times. That must be a more accurate way of seeing it, he thought to himself. The man wasn’t himself at both times. It was first and foremost a geographical issue that made it impossible. But then again, it was more than just the obvious likeness that made him realise that it must be the very same man he looked at and who stood there now looking at him on the platform. But if this was the case they would both have had to make the same trip with the train, because there only was this one departure daily to this station out in the provinces and twice he had walked the whole length of the train on his way to and fro the dining cart and not seen the man standing before him now. The train had been close to empty, there was no way he would not have seen him. This is how it is in Argentina, he thought to himself, cities with nothing in between. Few people would ever travel out here if they didn’t have to, out here there is no work, everybody would travel up to Buenos Aires. But on the platform in Buenos Aires he had not seen the man and he was alone in exiting the train when it arrived. And yet there the man stood now, looking right at him and had been standing there when the train entered the station, just like he stood there, outside his apartment building, when he came out with his suitcase to hail a taxi to go to the train station. He put his suitcase down and looked the man straight in the eyes. How did you get out here before the train? he asked, disregarding all formality. I walked, the man answered, not showing any surprise to the question. How can you walk faster than the train? he asked. I didn’t walk faster that the train, I merely took a different way, the man answered, his voice calm as before. You’re joking! the man responded angrily, you are having me on! But why would I do that? the man said. Why do you follow me? he asked. What makes you believe I am following you? the man asked back. You were standing there when I came out of my apartment building this morning and now you’re standing right here, he said. Or is it so that you came out where I was waiting and now you are leaving the train where I am also waiting? the man said. He had not thought of this as a possibility. It then has nothing to do with me that I see you again now? he asked, now somewhat awkward. None at all, the man answered. I am waiting for someone else now, and was waiting for someone else this morning. His eyes followed the train leaving that station and heading into the vast emptiness that is between the cities out here in the provinces. But apparently they didn’t catch the train, since they didn’t arrive on it. The man made his excuses, turned his back and left through the station building. Somewhat embarrassed he picked up his suitcase, walked along the platform and down onto the road that took him to his hotel for the night.
(Translated by Tom Løberg.)
(14) I asked Anla and Roberto for 10 questions they wanted the audience at Borealis to answer:
1. Can you imagine a first question for this interview? Answer it holding a Kiwi in the right hand and imitating the sound of a Wild Seagull.
2. What would happen to the nordic microscopic ecosystem if small portions of the Norwegian snow are suddenly replaced by Argentinian snow?
3. Who would be the winner in a Ping-Pong match between Merlin the Magician and Fu-Man-Chu? Give an imaginary prize to the looser.
4. Do you know that Napoleon in his terrestrial life didn’t have a chance to taste Chimichurri?** Compose an Opera where Napoleon begins to play drums as Gene Kruppa after a Chimichurri Overdose.
5. Can you imagine the sound of your pancreas?
6. Do you know that in South America there is an embalmed dog with healing powers that is visited by 1000 persons per week with the only aim of caress his head?
7. What is the common link between Billy Idol and Kabala? Explain your answer using a colour of the rainbow as poncho and practicing a slow flip-flap toward the east.
8. Discover how many operations were practiced on Joan Collins’ nose? Multiply that number 56 times and when you have the result give that number of kisses to your grandsons in a spring afternoon.
9. Have you noticed that in the 8th dimension “La Gioconda” is a George Foreman’s portrait? (Verify this on the backside of the painting.)
10. Imagine the last question of this interview and don’t answer it until you are 100 years old. Then forget about the existence of this catalogue and in your next reincarnation trade it for a Carlus Magnus’ artificial beard kit.
(*) Mr. T is an American actor, most famous for his aggressive persona («I pity the fool!») and for roles in Rocky 3 and the TV show The A-Team.
(**) Chimichurri is a typical Argentinian condiment-sauce with slight spicy taste that is used on grilled meat.***
(***) Too much chimichurri will make you John Wayne.
© Tom Løberg Hovinbøle 2006