Faster Than Sound: Nine Records That Inspired Austin Author Fernando A. Flores' Valleyesque
From Pauline Oliveros to Big Boys, sounds behind the surreal South Texas-rooted story collection
By Rachel Rascoe, Fri., June 3, 2022
The epigraph of Austin author Fernando A. Flores' new book pairs a quote from canonical outsider William S. Burroughs with a supremely lesser-known figure. A lyric from Marc Hardcore, leader of Nineties-launched Texas border punks the Malcontent Party: "Shut up – get the fuck away from me!"
At a BookPeople event last month, celebrating new short story collection Valleyesque, Flores said his younger self would enjoy seeing the two quotes settled next to each other in print. The writer also compared selecting the book's delightfully surreal 14 stories to putting together an album – cutting some and adding others, over many years, for just the right tracklist. Since the May 3 release with MCD x FSG Originals, the author recently earned New York Times acclaim for "[floating] into and out of bizarre dreamscapes as if passing through a police checkpoint."
Sonic sensibilities of the Rio Grande Valley have long saturated the work of Flores, born in Reynosa, Mexico, and raised in South Texas. Alongside the punk voyages of 2018 debut Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas, area psychedelia snakes its way into the strange, funny familiarity of Valleyesque. One story imagines Romantic-era composer Frédéric Chopin's kidnapping in a dream sequence set in Ciudad Juárez. With such sonically minded literary chops, the Chronicle polled the employee of Austin's Malvern Books on his new collection's musical fuel.
Flores says he's put together the nine most "Valleyesque" albums he could think of.
Fantasia del Barrio by El Gusano
"The psychedelic, instrumental creation of Vietnam veteran Eugenio 'Gene' Jaimez, from Cotulla, Texas, recorded in 1975 and originally released in a private pressing of 300 copies – this record deserves the red-carpet treatment as a sui generis classic."
To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation by Pauline Oliveros
"If the title isn't devastating enough, the music itself is. I play it as loud as I can at least once every eight months or so, and by the end I always feel compacted into a cube of useless metal."
Excerpts From the Holy Scumbrella by Moira Scar
"I witnessed this gothy, noise-pop, bluesy duo perform at a backyard show during South by Southwest 2010 with only about eight other people, and I've yet to recover. This was the record they were touring at the time, and it's the hardest to find, unfortunately. Takes me on a futuristic silent film, trans-Atlantic journey like nothing else."
Leftover Blue Fur: Sounds Frum Palfloat 1992-2006
"Chad Hopper is still one of the most prolific underground musicians and artists in town. Out of all the mind-bending material he's constantly putting out, this out-of-print anthology from Green Cherry Records is the one I revisit most often."
Touch of Evil (Soundtrack) by Henry Mancini
"My favorite of Mancini's soundtracks, from my favorite Orson Welles film. It pops and fizzes and lights up like a neon beerlight in a smoky, rowdy, tequila-soaked room."
Duh by Foreign Mothers
"I lived in the duplex next door from where this band practiced, and whenever they started up I'd try to siphon some of that creative energy and use it to write. At least two stories in Valleyesque were partly drafted this way."
Bach: The Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould
"Every now and then, when I feel out of balance, I'll sit alone in a room doing nothing but listening to these recordings all the way through. The silence afterwards reminds me anything is possible."
Graphic as a Star by Josephine Foster
"With her own lyrics, Foster's exuberant, imaginary, folky landscapes make her one of the most original talents of our time, but here she takes Emily Dickinson poems and arranges them into sublime, dreamy melodies."
The Skinny Elvis by Big Boys
"Randy 'Biscuit' Turner just happened to grace the cover of this publication the week he passed away in 2005. It was my second week living in Austin, and I stood by the stacks of Chronicles at the H-E-B on Congress & Oltorf with Randy's face, when a strange woman walked up to me, nearly in tears, and told me Randy had given her a place to live during a rough patch in her life. One of the stories in Valleyesque is dedicated to him."
Grimnasty, aka visual and musical artist Solomon Perry, died May 11. According to a GoFundMe set up to support Perry's wife and three daughters, he "passed away in a tragic and unexpected manner." At the age of 13, the Nashville native's artistic work earned him a set design opportunity on an Emmy-winning television show, mentored by James R. Threalkill. Specializing in Trompe-l'œil, or 3D optical illusions, the prolific artist competed on the 2015 Oxygen show Street Art Throwdown. Remembering the multihyphenate hip-hop producer, friends plan a benefit concert Friday, June 3, at 9pm at Flamingo Cantina, with a $10 suggested donation.
Gary Clark Jr. joins a star-studded list of artists announced to soundtrack Baz Luhrmann's Elvis biopic, alongside the likes of Stevie Nicks, Jazmine Sullivan, Tame Impala, and more. The four-time local Grammy-winner's inclusion comes as no surprise, as Clark plays American blues giant Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup in the film, alongside a few other real-life musician castings, including Yola as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Following previous silver screen experience like 2007 film Honeydripper, catch the Austinite in Elvis in theatres June 24.
C3 Presents, concert promoter behind ACL Fest, expands its reach to a major light installation at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. British artist Bruce Munro's Field of Light, open September 9 through December, will illuminate 16 acres with stemmed spheres lit by solar-powered fiber optics. C3, local subsidiary of Live Nation, also announced a new September music festival called Format in Bentonville, Arkansas – spitballed by Bloomberg to be "the next Austin."
Switched On relocated to 5013 Duval St., between Hyde Park's Flightpath Coffeehouse and the Peddler Bicycle Shop, in March. The electronic instrument repair shop and showroom was based on East Cesar Chavez since 2014, following its launch on 11th Street. On Instagram, the shop teased eventual events and more room for "restored vintage gear, synthesizers, electric pianos, tape machines, gadgets, pro-audio, mics and a few records too."