I like the review, Tom, but don't buy the intimation that lyrics are necessary for meaning or emotional content.
This is a dumb law.
An index of all the jazz tracks I chose for my Star Chamber jazz education tape is up, with links to completed reviews and plans for more.
In light of the recent jazz entry on I Hate Music, here's a blurb about In His Own Sweet Way, a tribute to Dave Brubeck.
"Dave Brubeck is an enigma. Vilified by the underground intelligentsia for his stiff rhythmic feel and high record sales, Brubeck was a daring and distinctive composer whose experiments in expanding the language of jazz never got in the way of his natural melodic sense. Cross cultural influences, exotic scales and fhythms, experiments with odd time signatures, polytonality and unusual bar lengths are commonplace today in the music of cutting edge young jazzers like Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas and the like, but in the 1950s they raised more than a few eyebrows. Brubeck was the first. This is a tribute to a misunderstood experimentalist who introduced these elements into jazz over forty years ago In His Own Sweet Way."
So I read something about a koto player, Miya Masaoke, who released an album of Monk interpretations. I find a Perfect Sound Forever article about the growing Asian improv scene. Lesson: if it's new to me, PSF has probably written about it. The same thing has happened a few times recently.
Is Mark Richard-San just dumb? The song after "My World is Empty Without You" is "presumably Hebrew," according to him, which I take to mean either (a) he's never heard anyone speak French, never heard of Charles Baudelaire, and didn't look inside the liner notes to see what is pretty obviously French, or (b) he's confusing it with one of the other foreign-language tracks on the album ("Supplica a Mia Madre" in Italian, "Si La Muerte" in Spanish, or "Keigome Keigome" in Greek), probably "Keigome Keigome," in which case again see (a) about the looking in the fucking liner notes and seeing all the sigmas and deltas and such. Plus: are his tastes really all that broad, if he can't (as they say) get next to this? My tastes aren't that out there, as far as avant-skronk music is concerned, but I think this is pretty accessible, for avant-skronk.
Also, note that "Blue Line Swinger" is, as on Electr-o-pura, at the end of the sampler disc. Oh yeah.
From the Matador web site (see below), news of a new special version of Yo La Tengo's new album. This really is a weird promotion, because I don't think most YLT fans will have not heard the songs on the sampler, and I don't think that many of the people who bought And Then... were complete newcomers (maybe Matador's marketing weenies know differently, though). Other than that, the sampler's kind of like a greatest hits (heh) from the previous three albums, except that one could arguably pick loads of different songs that are just as good. Hmmm.
Matador will be offering a special version of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out with a free bonus CD. This package will constitute the regular And Then... CD with a slipcase CD shrink-wrapped to the back. Said regular + bonus item superduper thing will be in stores 6/6/00 for a limited time only while supplies last:
Yo La Tengo Sampler 1993-1997 (all songs previously released):
1. "From a Motel 6"
This might seem like a weird way of saying thank you to all the smart, loyal Yo La Tengo fans who purchased the new album when it first came out, but that's because we're not actually thanking them! This nutty promotional effort is designed to get a few of the fencesitters and Johnny/Joanna Comelatelies to check out a band we absolutely love to death. If we have to pander to or bribe this hypothetical unseen audience, we most certainly will do so. Anything to get the customer hooked, that's always been our motto. Maybe that was our last job, so hard to remember. But seriously folks, while enjoying Yo La Tengo records the day they come out is a nice reward in itself, we will endeavor to come up some non-degrading scheme where some of these freebie comp. CD's shall fall into the hands of the band's longtime fans (i.e.. persons who already own all of the songs already). But please, no bulk e-mail campaigns, ala the Pavement tree or the JSBX box set or I swear to god, we'll shut down the entire company and move to Jupiter (FL).
The last track on the Kronos Quartet's Early Music - "Bells" - is just that, 1:28 of bells ringing in the distance. I wonder if it's worthy of being repeated for more than eight hours as I slumber.
I have been thinking (idly of course) about, since finishing Ocean of Sound, both gamelan and ethnodrone (not sure if the two are mutually exclusive). Since I'm being idle about it, I will start off poking around the DroneOn FAQ, which is just goldarn full of information about droney things from other countries.
NY Times article about the a shift in emphasis, away from the solo, in jazz. [free login required]
I feel as if there are a whole bunch of points to be made, but I don't feel like mustering a longer bit of writing. So...
Ratliff mentions how rhythmic interplay, etc. can still be outlets for improvisation. But he appears to regard these as minor, relative to the solo. It's difficult to figure out when he's referring to the state of contemporary jazz, and jazz in general (both, it seems, and possibly not distinctly one or the other). I mostly only listen to classic jazz from the bebop to fusion period, so my perceptions are definitely colored by that limitation of the jazz scene. But when I listen to a solo, I'm not just listening to the solo. In the best jazz what the rhythm section (or the other players, as well, though it's more common for them to sit out) is doing "behind" (the word belies the importance) a solo is almost as important as the solo. The rhythm section helps drive the soloist; they are in dialogue with one another - it's not the case that the rhythm section is simply hanging out, playing "background" to the man with the horn. For these reasons, I don't really think Ratliff's got a handle on how to listen to jazz with solos. Maybe he does, but if so he's not making his point effectively.
In fact: much of any rhythm section player's part is improvised, in much bop-derived music. Even when there's more paper involved, rhythm section players tend to get less structure than horn players - chord changes or times, rather than notes. They have more latitude in what to play, from a composer's point of view. Though it's harder for players of instruments with tones (i.e. bass and piano), it can even be done by relatively inexperienced players; we were always amazed, in high school, how often our drummers went sans music, once they learned a tune. Later to show off we tried to do the same, to varying degrees of success; but it was much harder.
The quotes from Marsalis make Ratliff's point clearer. In part, Marsalis was talking about how tired the head - solo (repeat) - tail format has become (his opinion, I note), and how he believes other measures are in order - more group activity, or more arranged music. Marsalis's remarks about this were of course controversial, among the jazz listeners who listen to more than what the New York Times promotes - i.e. jazz as it becomes more and more canonized by Marsalis and the LCJO. In particular, attempting to make credible the idea of improvised soloing a transient thing, popping up briefly in the history of pre-bop jazz, seems crassly revisionist. It's been around 60 years since bop's innovations took hold, for better or worse - making up now the majority of the history of jazz.
Ratliff doesn't really talk about this, though; he talks about solos themselves (not the bop-derived basic jazz song form). He also writes as if arranged music and the like is a relatively recent development, after the years of bop's soloing madness. I'm now listening to a Modern Jazz Quartet recording from 1955 or so, which for bop is incredibly arranged - yet it still has improvised solos and lots of group interplay. There has also long been group-improvised music, or at least music toward the group end of things. Bitches Brew has "solos" but it's more a matter of the group, adding to the brew (hence the title). Mingus's groups weren't given music in standard notation, or often music at all - improvisation ran rampant, but in a good way - during solos and his extensive ensemble parts. Even Keith Jarret, who Ratliff picks out as someone we still want to hear improvise, is equally well known (or should be) for his standards trio, which picks tunes - standards! - on the fly, then improvises as a group (members taking solos of various lengths, etc., but always deeply group-involved).
The last bit really gets me, too.
If Mr. Marsalis, who spends a great deal of time concerned with jazz education, is thinking along the lines of building something that will last -- a jazz literature for the future, rather than just a few exploding minutes of genius in a B-flat blues -- he's not the only one. It only takes a look at the schedules of the Bell Atlantic and JVC festivals this year to know that the music, across the board, is deep in its compositional phase. But this time composition doesn't just mean old repertory; it means new music that can survive, as written, into the future.
In one fell swoop Ratliff assumes a typical Western, canonical, composition/form centric stance on music, and trivializes a great deal of the history of recorded output of jazz. "All Blues" has a great melody, but we don't just want to hear it, as notes on a page or as some formal construct, but we want to hear Miles and his band perform it. As I've mentioned before, people don't cover later-period Coltrane as often as, say, Gershwin, or even earlier Coltrane (variously difficult, especially Giant Steps material, but still eminently doable). We don't want to hear, formally, Coltrane compositions. Formally, they're far less interesting. We want Coltrane's (and his band's) performances of them. They put the "eyebrows" on it, as Frank Zappa would say. But from the point of view of the Western establishment, performances are nice but not the ideal to strive to - they're not lasting enough, not universal enough. Fuckers.
J.D. Considine interview.
More Shostakovich, hand-picked from the Shostakovichiana link I posted yesterday. Recollections of a Man is an excellent memoir of K. Meyer's meetings with Shostakovich. Universal because Specific makes some interesting arguments about "pure music" and the need to put Shostakovich's music in historical context (make it more specific) in order to make it more universally appreciable. A Manual for Beginners provides an overview of the debate over Shostakovich - was he a Communist, was he not, did he bow to Soviet pressures, are there covert anti- or pro- Communist passages in his music, and so forth.
A great quote from that overview:
Beyond these tough challenges to our listening habits, Shostakovich's music poses an equally stark challenge to modern musicology, which, since around 1950, has been more or less exclusively score-centred and structurally analytical. Much of the disquiet caused among Western musicologists by the Shostakovich debate appears to stem from resentment of resurgent contextual issues which mid-20th century musical developments sought to transcend. Few academic specialists in modern music find it easy to accept the possibility that questions of history, politics, biography, and ethics may have to be reintroduced into the study of music because of what we are discovering about Shostakovich.
Tom responds in nylpm to my comments on his soul questions.
But in response to his comment that this is why he finds it difficult to write negatively about things - surely that's just another form of listening, taking a record and trying to dislike it, finding its weak spots. The musical equivalent of covering and countering an opponent's arguments in a debate, perhaps...
I understand the distinction, but I should have qualified what I wrote a bit more. I think the overwhelmingly dominant mode of negative criticism is the shallow kind; in general, negative criticism relies on default tendencies and tastes, and doesn't involve all that active of listening.
Maybe something that makes me believe this: I have nowhere near as complicated a relationship with any of the music I don't like, as I do with the music I like. The kind of "negative" I'm thinking of is the kind where, ultimately, the critic is giving the record a "no" rather than a "yes." Not "oh, this lyric is weak," or "this ending leaves the song unresolved, and thus not as good."
Today I decided to learn more about Shostakovich.
On a related note, a Salon article about repackaging classical based on rock stars' tastes. I agree with the author's sentiment, but I think the power of star endorsement goes underappreciated. Lots more rock fans probably would like more classical, if they listened to it some. At least star endorsement gets a foot in the door.
I don't feel right about any of the quiet(er) music I've been picking for dream time. It's 5:24 in the am and all I want is gentle bliss. Only, different bliss than the mess of stuff I already have. Not sure how though.
Lars speaks in an apparently unedited (so you know he's keepin' it real) slashdot interview.
More on Tom's soul questions: Fred does something interesting by fixing on the "critics" part of Tom's questions, which I pretty much ignored. Fred's right - I don't think the critics hold all that much power (though they definitely hold more than the average listener, I think). But my comments apply to critics as well, since they too are listeners.
Is the idea of 'soul' - whether as genre or innate musical quality - actually preventing critics from appreciating the breadth of music being made by black artists? Or to put it another way, is the constant insistence by critics that albums by black people be 'soulful' itself a ghettoizing position? Or to put it a third way - do the words we sling around as critics have more implications and societal weight than we perhaps think?
In my opinion, yes, yes, and yes.
I think the things Tom point out, though, are part of a problem that has little to do with black artists or soul, specifically. Tom likes the word "rockist", and usually combines it with "tendencies." Roughly (trying to be charitable here - I don't bear him any ill will), Tom seems to think it's good to not be given to "rockist tendencies," because they tell us that music should be certain ways (i.e., it should come in album-length chunks, or it should have "real" musicians, etc.) - that it should conform to certain notions of what good rock music is. I don't think this is a bad idea.
But - BUT - these "tendencies," these proclivities for certain kinds of reactions to music, and certain kinds of expectations, are much more crafty than we're usually aware. Even when we think we've got an artist figured out, or a piece of music, or a whole genre, we often don't. People thought Miles should play jazz - after all, he played trumpet, and he had always played jazz. So his forays into rock and funk threw lots of people. Those reactions were obvious, though. Some are more subtle. Sonic Youth is constantly subjected, critically, to all kinds of contradictory expectations. Some people want them to rock more, or to be more pop. More structure. Less structure. They're not thoroughgoing enough in their free improv, or their atonality, or... take your pick. They're too long-winded. Their new album is too short. Et cetera. I think the mess of reactions Sonic Youth provoke has a lot to do with their music; as the liner notes to the reissued Daydream Nation point out, their music is constantly involved in a dialectic, a dialogue between mainstream and experimental or avant-garde music, in many guises. As listeners, we are all mostly lazy: we use our tendencies, and a piece of music's conformity to our expectations, to decide how good the piece of music is. This isn't necessarily conscious, and I don't mean it to be precise; but surely you, dear reader, have found that once you started listening "a different way" to some song or CD you had problems getting comfortable with, things started clicking for you. Those clicks were a sign, I think, that your expectations had been shifted, changed, altered.
Wynton Marsalis stirred up some complaint on the jazz newsgroup a few months back, with his (no doubt Stanley Crouch -approved) proclamation that music just couldn't be jazz, without the blues. Wynton is one of the people who holds a lot of sway over the public conception of what jazz is, and thus what good jazz is. Most "real" jazz fans (and no, I'm not going to touch that one) consider ideas like Wynton's detrimental to the greater history of jazz, and its future growth: Wynton would consign (has, already!) most developments in mainstream jazz, post- Miles' second quintet, to the dustbin of history, as well as many of them before that. In the style of jazz he promotes as the one "right" style, he also helps kill off innovation from that style.
The relationship between the above comments and Tom's question about ghettoizing effects should be clear. I think it works similarly all across music (other arts and activities, as well). This is partly why I don't feel comfortable giving negative reviews. More often than not, the work really is good at doing something (I think of it in terms of Wittgenstein's language games: different music plays different games, and part of how good the music is involves both how much I like/understand the rules of the particular game being played, and how well the music plays the game - but I digress) - it's just that I don't like that something, or don't get what it is yet. Avoiding overly negative or, at least, final judgments gives me more of a chance to come to terms with the work; otherwise, I tend to give up, as it were.
Yet another Sonic Youth review, this one from the NME. Summary: good stuff, much better than the stinky Thousand Leaves. It seems every reviewer has a different opinion about every single one of Sonic Youth's albums. The number of combinations of opinions about their albums is left as an exercise to the reader.
PSF offers an interview with David Toop.
motion offers a different take on the new Sonic Youth.
Also, I've linked to it before, probably, but it's more interesting now that I'm listening to it: Malediction and Prayer.
News about the new Spiritualized album from Chris's own Spiritualized web page.
[Hmmmm. This seems to have disappeared. Oh well. I've been having problems with the machine I log into lately. C'est la vie.]
The new Pitchfork review of the Rachel's / Matmos collaboration makes an often-made claim, that Rachel's are really a classical music substitute for tentative indie kids who don't want to get into the real thing. The reviewer mentions that he's not a Rachel's fan, which confirms an idea I have: that peple who don't like the Rachel's will tend to think along the same lines, while people who do like them recognize that they're offering something different, somewhere in between indie rock and classical music.
Another reason I don't believe him is that I like the Rachel's, and classical music.
I've been slacking off on my recently begun project, to write briefly on a bunch of jazz tracks. If you know which ones I picked already (I'll try to put up a list tomorrow), bug me if there are any specific ones you'd like to read about.
Link for Jon, stolen from kepma: Yo La Tengo sounds galore. I suggest you listen to the recent stuff in the discography, Jon. I don't want the live stuff to scare you. YLT are rumored to be doing a show more in keeping with the tone of their recent album, in seated venues.
What the hell? Pitchfork says the put the wrong review up of the new Amon Tobin yesterday. I can't be sure, but wasn't it also a review of the same record, just a more negative one?
westernhomes has two new reviews up, both of interest to me. His take on Sonic Youth is much fairer than Brend DiCrescenzo's, though he seems ambivalent about the record. (I still have yet to decide, but given how difficult it is to follow the sorts of things Sonic Youth are into, I don't count my indecision as a bad thing - the pop music metric is not the best one here.) Also, he reviews the new Pearl Jam. I'm interested in this one because it's Pearl Jam, once among my favorite bands. But along with my explorations of all kinds of different music, I've become, over time, less and less interested in straightforward rock music, which from the sounds of Yield (which I bought just on my downswing of mainstream interest), is what they have left to offer. Quite nicely done, but still... I probably won't buy the album, unless I'm rich someday and feeling completist and/or nostalgic.
I sold about $70 worth of CDs today, the most I've ever dumped at once. I've still got a pile of crap left, though.
At the used CD store I found a copy of KLF's The White Room. The background on the KLF is quite a read.
I've read through the first 200 pages or so of David Toop's Ocean of Sound, but now I'm too tired and need to sleep. Let me just say, for the moment, though, that this book is a joy. It seems as if whole huge chunks of my musical and non-musical life up to this point have just been in preparation for the beautiful job at tying together disparate strands of history that Toop does. If you like josh blog, and you want a million-times-better read that covers much shared ground, get this book. If you like any of the musicians or musics Toop touches on (including Debussy's impressionism, old-school ambient, ambient house and all modern varieties of ambient with or without beats, gamelan, mid-century minimalism, free jazz, deep funk fusion, Zorn's jump-cut compositions, Public Enemy and sampledelic music of all sorts, Indian classical music and a dozen or two more genres that I'm forgetting), you will likely be fascinated.
Today on josh blog we have a tribute to minimalism, courtesy Einsturzende Neubaten.
new no new age advanced ambient motor music machine
I'd stick in the little "das schlieft" vocals, to show that it is changing (otherwise it's not really quite classical minimalism, now is it?), but since I don't spreken sie Deutsch (yeah, don't correct me, punks), it wouldn't look very good.
Oh, and you have to read through it word by word, to get your full daily amount of minimalism. No reading one line and then letting your brain go "same. same. same. same." (Same thing for that line, there, too, dammit).
Almost finished putting my CDs away on the shelves tonight, after like more than 5 months of stacking them wherever, many out of their jewel cases. And better yet, I found my lost Frank Zappa disc from The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life, and the recently missing The Melody At Night, With You by Keith Jarrett. I also thought, for about half an hour, that I lost Rush's Caress of Steel. Some of you will understand why that didn't bother me that much.
The most interesting thing about this article to me is, ironically, the information about economics: Ani ain't no entrepeneur.
A somewhat old story about the St. John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church's eviction, which talks about Coltrane, and music in general.
More on electric Miles: Greg Masters writes some perceptive things about the music, and talks about the reissues of the live 70s material. The Austin Chronicle gives a bit of history I didn't know, and is also less kind to the fusion years.
It's difficult to find reviews of old jazz stuff on the net. Easy to find peoples' lists of Miles CDs, though.
This excellent Keith Jarrett site, besides having some Miles/fusion stuff, is a good read in its own right.
Thoughts on the Dismemberment Plan that I gave to Tom, who was asking about their "original" songs (in reference to a review which distinguished them from their more standard indie rock songs, like say "What Do You Want Me To Say?"):
The key two things about the DP's "originality," I think, are these:
Though they do derive from other places sonically (the synths), really their debts are more for musical ideas. That is, you can't really hear hip-hop directly, but you can draw similarities between it and Morrison's delivery, or the way, in some songs, there's rhythm everywhere (especially the closer, or "Girl O'Clock"), and shards of noise popping up here and there. Or there's the way it sounds like the drummer's done his homework, and will try any beat as long as it's fresh - thus the drum n bass similarities, the hints of funk, etc.
The other thing is that they seem to do this effortlessly: it sounds original not because none of this has ever been done before, but because it makes sense that it would all happen together. As if, since these guys have had time to grow up with all sorts of music - punk, emo, hip-hop, dance, etc. - they don't have the problems "integrating genres" the way someone more stuck on one viewpoint would. I.e. rockers doing an "electronica" album, or the gawd-awful rap on Rush's "Roll the Bones" (oh yes, hate me, if you are now recalling that one).
The album seems more innovative on the last half. "You Are Invited" doesn't sound all that innovative, but it's great anyway and that's where I often start listening if I don't feel like listening to the whole thing.
Incidentally, the Plan offer (well, Travis offers) their take on Napster at their official site, curently: www.dismembermentplan.com (since they remembered to pay their bill).
I have the older, Japanese issue of Miles Davis' Live at the Fillmore East, which sadly does not have tracklistings for the separate numbers done - each set is a separate track. However, the AMG gives this tracklisting, which I'm putting here so I can find it in the future:
Whoops. That one is maybe completely wrong though, because the times aren't right. Some schmuck who puts his CD list on the net gives these times, probably from the new Columbia reissue:
I trust these times much better, since it's 7:05 into my track 2, disc 2 right now, and Miles is screaming through "Sanctuary." Wow.
One neat thing about this disc: you get 4 (3-ish, really) different versions of "Bitches Brew," and thus the opportunity to hear jazz do what it does best, improvisation. The final version has a scrunched-out bassline in the main section - not sure if it's a keyboard or fuzz-bass. Maybe fuzz-bass, because the bass just came back in right when the fuzz stopped.
The AMG calls this album "self-indulgent" at times. I especially hate that word, in aesthetics. What's it supposed to mean? According to the man it means something like "excessive or unrestrained gratification of one's own appetites, desires, or whims". How can a reviewer tell if a musician is excessively gratifying his or her own appetites, desires, or whims? How can a review tell if a musician is satisfying his or her whims at all?
Usually the word is applied to long and involved things, like solos (especially solos). I don't think it follows though, from the fact that a person is playing solo, that the person is satisfying only theirself (or is, at all). Rather, it seems to me as if "self-indulgent" is applied both rightly and wrongly, when musicians really are not paying attention to their audience (either a real or perceived one), and when listeners (reviewers) just don't get or like what they hear.
I've probably quoted this before, but why not again?
I don't like to hear someone
I am disappointed that my local classical/NPR station has found a larger audience for satellite-carried NPR news at 4 AM, than for fucking music. All I wanted was a little western culture...
Note on the back of Verve's "Master Editon" whiz-band 20-bit digital transfer remaster of Bird and Diz:
This issue presents all takes from the session, every bit o' Bird and Diz, including fascinating studio chatter between takes. Of course, the original LP program is presented first, uninterrupted, for those who like their bebop straight up.
Gee, that's great, but I also like to be able to not have to go dink with my CD player when an album's done, since I don't necessarily want to listen to seven false starts on "Leap Frog." That's what's so great about Miles and Coltrane - they released first takes, almost always. Think of it as a way of getting the jazz to you, the listener, fresh as possible. So there are almost never false takes, or any other takes, on Miles and Coltrane reissues. Yea.
Stolen from Tom at nylpm: symphony orchestra shocked by offensive Scorpions lyrics. With these kinds of fucking "collaborations" (the only sort of thing the classical world seems to think it can do with popular music, apparently), shouldn't we rightly also see articles like "rock band shocked to find classical collaboration boring as fuck"?<
Slightly new "design" up today, just to open up some sidebar space over on the right. Also toying with style sheets in order to get one or two simple things (%#$% computers), which you may or may not notice. Slashes stolen from Tom - they're "ace".
Predictably, results with Netscape and IE are different. I've gotten it to look reasonable under Netscape, but have no IE with which to test it. So please let me know if you see (a) yellow, (b) sans-serif fonts, and (c) decently sized text (should be a bit smaller on PC, sorry, that's just platform differences). Because that, humble as it is, is my goal.
Loads of free indie rock MP3s for you to know and love.
Andrea pointed out to me the following excerpt from "grrl, you'll be a cliche soon," by Michelle Goldberg.
"The members of Sleater-Kinney, like riot-grrl veterans ranging from Kathleen Hanna to Courtney Love, are in a strange position, not because their ideals have failed, but because they've been absorbed into the mainstream. On their latest album, the women in Sleater-Kinney try hard to stay true to their fierce roots, but there's a new self-consciousness present---almost a sense of guilt. They attempt to navigate a much trickier course than the full-on rebellion they threatened in the early nineties; the band is moving between fury and knowingness, balancing the pleasures of acceptance and authenticity.
As Andrea said to me (and I'm cribbing from her heavily) - Goldberg presnts it as if somehow S-K never before had to participate in the greater culture, as if now the unbelievably terrible weight of it all will crush them like the weak women that they are.
Or, in other words: is it really so fucking hard to just make your own decisions and live your own life?
More from ATN: Greil Marcus going on about the Backstreet Boys and beating his punk drum, some more.
S-K interview at ATN.
Fire Music at Tangents.
I think maybe Sleater-Kinney's become more cuddly and girly, in the indie-rock-public perception, over time. It seems every mention I read of them and their new album, All Hands on the Bad One, gets in a quick comment about how hot one or more of them are. This didn't seem to happen back pre- Call the Doctor. Hmmm.
I missed the news about Einsturzende Neubaten's newest album, Silence is Sexy, which apparently came out in April. Though I only liked their last, Ende Neu, so much when I got it (it being both my first EN album, and a somewhat subtle one), it's been growing on me lately - "NNNAAAMMM" and "Die Explosion im Festspielhaus" being favorites.
Unfortunately I also found this about the album (emphasis mine):
Not currently scheduled for US release. "The new album Silence Is Sexy has been recorded in various locations since 1998, following their exhaustive tour in 1997. It consists of 2 CDs in a special digipack with a 20 page booklet. The first CD has 14 new tracks and features the single 'Total Eclipse Of The Sun'. The second consists of an 18 minute vocal improvisation over the mechanical installation of a drill hitting a row of aluminum strips. Recorded live without cuts of overdubs. Other instruments used on the album include metal bar, cellular phone, vase and brushes, car tires, free falling objects, plastic percussion and vibrator, presence, silk and polystyrene -- not to mention the more conventional pneumatic piston and drills."
Heh. "More conventional."
The next in my ongoing series of jazz stuff is up, this time on nylpm: Charles Mingus's "Ysabel's Table Dance," from New Tijuana Moods.
I recently picked up Mingus's New Tijuana Moods, so it's nice to see an overview of his work at Perfect Sound Forever, which I should read more frequently because of its great articles, but which I forget to do because of its infrequent publication schedule. I was reminded of this by Tom's pointing to the OHM article, which is also full of fascinating stuff. Go to the article archives and enjoy.
John Zorn's Circle Maker is astounding. It's split into two discs, one with a string trio (violin, cello, and original Masada bassit Greg Cohen), and one where the trio is augmented by avant-guitarist Marc Ribot, a percussionist, and some other guy [who I would tell you about, but I would have to look it up online - there are no notes for the second disc, doh]. Both ensembles perform Masada (Zorn's Ornette Coleman meets klezmer Jewish-roots group) tunes, albiet in a more laid-back fashion than the original group.
The first disc has the intoxicating allure of Masada's modal, mideastern-tinged tones and slinky, insidious rhythms, and also its more challenging atonalities and Zorn-trademarked quick tempi. The latter, though, in the context of a string trio rather than a jazz combo, sound as if they were derived from some superhep Shostakovich, rather than from Coleman or Coltrane or Ayers.
The second disc, though its ensemble builds on that of the first, moves away slightly from the 20th century classical connections, largely because of the addition of the percussionist, and more importantly, Marc Ribot. Masada's modes are often reminiscent of latin jazz, and they are moreso with the addition of small toms and otherwise sprightly percussion. Ribot plays here with a subdued tone that recalls the guitar instrumentals from the early days of rock, as well as (probably more notably) Ennio Morricone's soundtrack work - which brings the second disc closer in sound and spirit to Zorn's own Filmworks series.
Like the other Masada-related material I've had the opportunity to hear, Circle Maker is amazing, vital stuff, well worth your time and money.
A review of Sabbath in Paradise, which is a documentary about modern klezmer music. Of course, the review spends a lot of its time on John Zorn's role in the film - his Masada group, and the related things like the Bar Kokhba string ensemble.
This article also discusses the proliferation of "Jewish music," from a much broader perspective. I wonder: is there Jewish house music?
Zorn's own label, Tzadik, offers a large selection of discs in their Radical Jewish Culture series.
Also, for Otis, a perceptive but flawed piece at Salon about Miles' Bitches Brew. What they get right: the jaw-dropping astoundingness of the recording, both in Miles' career and in broader historical perspective. What they get wrong: that Miles never did anything great again. Case in point: I just heard most of On the Corner tonight. The Salon author derides it, at the very end, as "dead-end funk," which means to me that he obviously doesn't understand funk. Both Bitches Brew and On the Corner are relentlessly funky, but Corner is somehow more so, if that is possible. What's more, it contains whole worlds explored years after its time. Whether its modern-day creators realized it or not, the seeds of things like drum-n-bass and jungle were sown in this recording. Which is yet another reason that, still, I think more and more that Miles was one of the greatest musicians who ever lived, and why it's so damn hard to start exploring jazz outside of his back catalog.
The related article pointed to at the end of the above one reviews the post-1969 live material, including the Fillmore stuff and Dark Magus. This reviewer, though, is sympathetic and understanding where the above is dismissive.
MP3 article (link from Tom) mentions, along the way:
31.9 percent of the students said that they currently spend less than $10 a month on music, but nearly 60% of all those surveyed agreed that they would be willing to pay a subscription of $15 to access the Napster service. "The more often they used (Napster)" says Dube, "the more willing they were to pay to use it"
What were the numbers like earlier - before Napster, before MP3s, before the internet, etc?
At present I'm in the middle of encoding a bunch of MP3s for the star chamber (fnord), in order to learn them on jazz a bit. Rather than try to be comprehensive or cohrerent in most other ways, I'm just taking some of my favorites from the three artists I've devoted the most money to, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Charles Mingus - who happen to be pretty good choices as some of the biggest figures in jazz history.
I'm thinking of it in my head as a giant, gawd-awful mixtape, which is maybe not very productive since I haven't been paying much attention to theme, ordering, or any other tape geek stuff. I will, though, be offering comments on the songs, trying for at least one a day for the time being.
The first is Miles Davis' "Nefertiti," the title track of the fourth album by his famous second quintet (Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums).
This one may or may not sound pretty boring to you, depending on what you expect. It's pretty unique, as far as I can tell, within jazz because of the improvisation. For the most part, it's not the horns that solo, as is the norm in jazz. Rather, the roles are switched - the rhythm section is the soloing part of the ensemble, and the horns provide the foundation. Also, for the most part, it's really a Tony Williams solo, though Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter get to say a bit.
This has the effect of suspending the motion. The liner notes in the recent remastered edition of Nefertiti note the resemblance to "a series of time-lapsed photographs," which is dead on.
This track also somewhat obscures one of the most amazing qualities of the second quintet - its rhythm section. Because here, their traditional roles are changed, you can't hear the subtlety and grace with which they interact with each other and the rest of the band, when in a normal setting. There are still plenty of hints here, though - and most importantly, Tony Williams' elastic, delicately filigreed drumming. It's said frequently of Williams that he figured that by that point, all the experienced players knew the beat, it was ingrained in their playing - so he stopped playing it, and played pulse instead. Thus freeing him up to be one of jazz's most imaginative drummers.
For the first time in as long as I can remember (remembering selectively, probably), TWAS hasn't yet updated on a Thursday! Maybe he lies on the floor of his Cambridge home, crushed under a fallen stack of CDs.
I stole this link from Tom. It requires no commentary (hi, Jon).
The scary part about the article Tom links to is that, broken apart, it contains all sorts of dogmatic ideas about aesthetics that appear separately when not being pushed with a God-oriented message.
Pitchfork's 0.0 review of NYC Ghosts & Flowers, which I can't yet disagree with since I haven't gotten in a good listen. However, given my recent experience with Sonic Youth's most recent albums, I suspect that DiCrescenzo's take on NYCG+F has its problems.
Three things are impeding me from making more frequent updates at the moment: writing some code for work, working on a few longer thoughts (just for Jon the bitch, who has a point but partly doesn't understand the way blogging works, I think), and listening to Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet.
Tonight after missing my chance to pick up the new Sonic Youth, NYC Ghosts & Flowers, at my local indie emporium, I got Neil to swing by Hastings (music, video, book superstore, but the books are lame), despite his protests that I wasn't being indie enough - not supporting my friendly indie emporium (I indie-fied that bitch, who burns copies of indie music on his CD burner, so I don't want any shit, understand?). Hastings was just good enough to have the Sonic Youth, and also the Public Enemy, used, and coincidentally something brought up recently among the star chamber as something we might all like (which idea was derailed by my never having gotten around to buying any Public Enemy).
And now I think the damn thing is so great I've barely had time to figure out what the Sonic Youth sounds like - this in the middle of my big phase of listening to all my Sonic Youth albums. So with work and my thinking about a feminist aesthetics, Public Enemy has arrested all my other music-related attention, for the moment. If you haven't heard it go buy it, punk.
Loads of articles on Public Enemy, post-"comeback".
More Sonic Youth.
In response to sudden overwhelming sales figures, Island Records announced last week that they will be reissuing folk icon Nick Drake's studio recordings. Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon will come freshly repackaged with all of the original artwork, along with extensive liner notes detailing the events of Drake's short career. Nick Drake died from an overdose of anti-depression medication in his parents' home at the height of his success. Interest in his music has been resuscitated not from the 25th anniversary of his death which fell on November 26 of last year, or through praise from Drake sound-alikes Belle and Sebastian, but sadly, because his classic "Pink Moon" was recently featured in a Volkswagen ad. If his estate is lucky, they'll rake in more money than Trio's "Da Da Da."
Byron Coley on A Thousand Leaves.
Notes for later: again, seesaw - tonality, rhythm. Internal logic. Structures as strings (AABABAB) vs. pictures (diagrams, ...).
Jon asks: "How did the standard four-part symphony develop? Mainly, why four parts? I can't think of any other sort of major art form that uses four parts, off the top of my head."
I am still working on a good answer, but some helpful information may be found here.
The classic story/play structure that Aristotle saddled us with (well, OK... the playrights helped, but he theorized and gave bored literature teachers something to do) has five elements: exposition, complication, rising action, climax, and denouement. Some of these are sort of questionable, though. I don't like the idea of "complication" being separate. (Draw one of those diagrams; I suppose then it's an inflection point, like climax is. Hmmm). So, arguably four.
Lo, and there was another amusing DiCrescenzo review.
Somewhere in that explosive burst of blogging, besides calling me the pop antichrist, Fred talks some about the (apocryphal) American tape. My question: why not Snoop Dogg?
Sonic Youth, by the way, seem too European. Maybe not, though; if they're too European then the Velvets might be, and that just doesn't seem right. Maybe I'm confusing "European" with "cosmopolitan."
Tom reviews "War" - both the Henry Cow and Fall versions. I of course could be mistaken, but I think that's Fred Frith's "scree," not Henry Kaiser's (he not being in Henry Cow or Slapp Happy, despite sounding kind of like Henry Cow; no one in Henry Cow was named Henry or Kaiser, or Cow).
I don't think I'm flouncy enough to be a tart. Sorry Tom. :)
Star Chamber member Doug on label economics.
I only own the late-80s / early-90s CD pressing of Miles Davis' proto- fusion album, In a Silent Way. So I'm not sure if it's just very bass-light, or if it's the mastering. The bass parts on the subsequent album, Bitches Brew, were much more noticeable on the remastered version. But this music is far more amorphous, with less dug-in rhythms, necessitating less dug-in bass parts.
Oh dear. Says Tom: "like a pop Uriah Heep (the character silly)."
I'm pretty sure that if I could remember which 1-3 of the bad songs I don't like on KGGO (local classic rock station) were by Uriah Heep, as opposed to, say, Nazareth or BTO or something, I would still rather listen to them than read a Dickens novel. So I say, let this not be a start to bigger and worser things - down with Dickens references in music writing!
Last night I listened to all of OK Computer on the headphones before going to sleep to Hildegard von Bingen's 11,000 Virgins: Chant for the Feast of St. Ursula (performed by Anonymous 4).
It was an interesting experience, because I've never before seen so clearly the connections between OK Computer and the previous album, The Bends. I've listened before on headphones, so maybe it was just because I was listening for the nth time or because I was in a particularly receptive mood. For many of the songs, I heard things that sounded as if they could've come from The Bends, hiding underneath other sounds. Perhaps "Airbag," "Paranoid Android," and "Climbing Up the Walls" are less typical modern rock, Radiohead-style (there are a couple few others, I think, but I can't remember them right now) - more innovative sonically and/or structurally. The other tracks, though, on closer inspection, bear a stronger resemblance to older Radiohead. They are Radiohead with a facelift. Maybe.
This is all merely wanton speculation.
Thinking back about Things Fall Apart while I listen, I wonder how much stuff here could be said to be hep cutting-edge stuff. Not because I doubt it, but because I have no idea - I'm not as familiar with other rap.
A Minor Forest's 1998 album In Independence has been growing on me today. Unfortunately they've broken up, so no matter how much I eventually like this album there will only be so much back catalog available.
And more commentary on the English tape and the idea of an American tape. Since I'm not much of a tape mixer, I think I'll just start my erstwhile plan off with a scattering of things that seem especially American to me, hoping that some Americans out there will join in (hint hint):
The Flaming Lips. Dylan. Ellington. Mingus. The Dismemberment Plan (suburban twitch and ennui). Nirvana. Some Zappa. Sun Ra? Snoop Dogg (and most rap, probably, though for different qualities). Low. Tom Waits (German carnival music influence post-Rain Dogs is questionable)?
These are just some ideas for directions - there are huge, ENORMOUS gaps, especially older ones. Maybe one tape per decade is more appropriate.
Well how about that.
I notice that Radiohead's "Airbag" has moved into Tom's top ten, I suspect during his preparations for his top secret birthday review, since if I recall Tom has professed to not care for Radiohead frequently in the past. :) Funny, "Airbag" is probably my least favorite song on OK Computer. I started out with a slight proclivity to disliking it, I suppose, because of the sound - there's just something dry and barely grating about it. That, combined with my perversely single-minded habit of listening to albums rather than songs, led me to be annoyed more and more as I listened to the album again and again ("Airbag" being the opening tack). And - ha ha - when I bought the Airbag / How Am I Driving? single, guess what track 1 was?
Reading some Tortoise reviews tonight, many of which seemed to note that it took them many listens to realize how beautiful TNT is, I was reminded of something I think about periodically. There are some people who listen voraciously to music, and who understand that sometimes it takes a lot of time and patience to come to terms with a piece of music. There are also people who aren't like that. Maybe they're a little more open or adventurous than, say, your dad (to pick a random example), but there's a point where they'll just say, without planning to listen further, "this sucks" (or "this is boring," or "this is pointless," etc.). The thing I'm reminded of is that, with regard to this indie rock stuff that's so popular with the kids, there are both kids of people. They are often hard to distinguish from one another.
Last night I listened to Bang on a Can's version of Brian Eno's Music for Airports, and the Dirty Three's new album Whatever You Love, You Are. Today I listened to Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle before leaving for dinner, and while sitting here attempting to work I've listened to the Magic Carpathians Project's ethnocore, and am now listening to Henry Cow's collaboration with Slapp Happy, In Praise of Learning.
Tim pointed out Anthony Carew's revitalized Gravity Girl. Anthony is often wont to mock Weather Report on the Low list, so I'm familiar with his work - which is highly recommended.
Hi to the nice people reading and linking to josh blog, including my science project and EuroRanch. Star Chamber youngster (not the youngest though) Tim also checks in with Skykicking. Sometime soon I'll fiddle with this page a little to find a good place for all the new blog links.
Though it might be hard to find a middle ground in the music itself, another alternative is just that the fans try to get into both scenes.
Fred voices thoughts I've had myself during Freaky Trigger's English issue: that America has no national identity. Well, OK, we do, but it's such a mishmash that to call it an "identity" at first seems to be a joke.
Maybe there could be an "American" mixtape, but it would have to be hours long. So of course I'm dumb enough to suggest that we (nylpm bloggers, star chamber members etc.) try to make one...
Tom's cool rap articles find. And relating to his comment: maybe there's less theorizing of alternative music online simply because of the punk heritage - it's just assumed that that was all taken care off back there somewere.
Tom squishes talk of rap, lyrical quality vs. musical quality, and Guns 'n' Roses into the space of a single review.
motion reviews the latest Dirty Three.
Ned spots some choice news: Chuck D to debate Metallica on Charlie Rose.
As is fitting for my recently increased interest in Modest Mouse, here is a bit of research: an interview with Isaac Brock, an article, another interview, a nice review from a channel who probably almost never plays Modest Mouse, and a fair review.
"WE MUST BRING THE RUCKUS... TO ALL YOU MOTHAFUCKAS!!"
Tom points out this rant, which he of course has problems with. Once again I'm led to wish that the divide between the pro-lyrics/rhymes/flow undie crowd and the pro-production/beats crowd could be lessened. Clearly pining for the days of socially conscious, non-vapid lyrics will get us nowhere. But it's equally clear to me that pushing for whiz-bang developments in production technique, to the detriment of good lyrics, misses what made original hip-hop so potent: the combination of words and production. Rather than complain about or promote either, why not take the middle ground?
Hmmm. I feel I've written that before.
Catherine has a nice weblog and sent me some insightful stuff about women and music, which I will respond to shortly. By which I mean soon, not mean. I try to be nice.
A new review of the first track from This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, "Dramamine".
Forgot to blog this a few days ago: Jon, responding to my comments about "chick music", brought up what should have been an obvious point: "it's the lyrics, stupid." In short, the idea is that there's more music that I don't like made by women because more women are more interested in lyrics than "innovative" or "different" music; it's very very hard to do both at once, and given their preferences, women tend toward lyrics rather than "music" (you know what I mean) in music.
Surely that idea's stereotypical enough to raise some ire, but it really does seem to me to have some truth to it. Care to dispute it? Send me a link or some email.
The War Against Sound has something very, very interesting to say today, quoted below.
The other truth, though, the one I'm going to get in trouble for revealing, is that if you're an even cursorily informed music listener, almost none of the bands you've never heard plays music that is significantly different, in nature, from the music you know. If you know the Cardigans, Aimee Mann, Live, Weezer, Nirvana, the Goo Goo Dolls, Hole and Elliott Smith, for example, to pick a random set of people to whom you might easily have been exposed without undertaking any special research, then I have a thousand more records whose general outlines will be familiar to you. The details are important, of course, so some of these records might seem initially familiar in outline and then change your life anyway, later. But mostly obscurity has depths, not breadths.
Somehow I feel I should argue with this.
Uh oh. I am starting to like Modest Mouse's twitchy, spazmodic, INDIE ROCK This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About. Despite the barked vocals, elliptical song structures (come to think of it, that's not too much of a problem; but as a Pitchfork reviewer remarked, these guys will find a riff and then play it forever... it's like listening to a bunch of mental retards play indie rock), super-trebly bass (really it sounds like another guitar), this damn thing is growing on me. And they have a healthy back-catalog. At least they're no longer releasing like 50 albums a year, now that they're waiting on the major label debut. Surely that will change after they leave the major label (as with many bands, the question is: what do they WANT these guys for?).
I want this.
Tom has "Paradise City" in his top ten at the moment. I have a hard time picturing a stereotypical Londoner even listening to this song, much less liking it. Not that I think Tom is stereotypical. Etc. etc.
It's interesting to compare the soundtrack to American Psycho (which does, to be true, contain music from the movie) with the music which is most prominent in the movie, namely the 80s stuff like Katrina and the Waves, Phil Collins, Huey Lewis and the News, and so on.
Thought on large bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Godspeed You Black Emperor!: how do they make enough money to stay in business? Surely Godspeed would say something about blah blah blah art, blah blah blah starving, if in fact they're not making huge money as indie rock darlings. But they and the Bosstones really aren't super-popular, and probably don't make much on recordings and shows as it is - there are plenty of bands probably paid just as well (poorly) with like three or four members. So how do they split the profits? Is it a communal thing - they make sure everyone's got bread to eat and cigarettes to smoke? Or is it some business deal - songwriters get more, performers only get paid only during performances, the Bosstones' dancers get paid in goofballs...?
Katie mentioned in an email how she's glad Bad Religion haven't broken up, and how she likes No Substance. This made me think more about the intermediate, i.e. Tom's response to the manifesto - he mentions being more interested in what's left unsaid - making shouty guitar music. I imagine that Tom's response was kinder than mine (I really should go read the manifesto more carefully) because he's never heard any Bad Religion, especially not enough to hear (what I take to be) their decline.
Speaking of Pitchfork, THEY think they named "sci-rock." Whereas it's well known the star chamber got to that weeks before them.
I was led into this line of thinking by Tom's mention - just so you know.
kempa gripes a lot about recent Pitchfork reviews. Though I hate to side with The Man - and Pitchfork are definitely becoming slowly but surely, if they're not already, The Man - I think it was painfully obvious that the Canada list was intended as a joke.
On the other hand, though it's funny, the Promise Ring review seems to be intended seriously. Which is somewhat believable; the Promise Ring have been sliding more and more toward "poppy" music for a while now. Maybe this one just didn't work out for them. The review also points to the way reviewers tend to treat any genre they hear a lot of crap in - say, emo, dance music (for those like Pitchfork writers who have a hard time distinguishing between good and bad because they apparently don't listen to much), etc. They become less forgiving of the less-good stuff, and maybe even the better stuff.
But then it's reviews like Brent DiCrescenzo's review of the new Bedhead Loved Macha, or his outstanding Plan review, that tell me: yes, they screw around, but they really do care about good music, and sometimes they write extremely perceptive reviews.
Snagged from Tom: Salon article on royaltes, payments, etc. to musicians.
I have started another blog, which I hope to get off the ground pretty soon. It will be not deal with music, and that's pretty much its defining characteristic. Hopefully that will put an end to my urges to talk about things which aren't music here.
The past day and a half or so has been mostly spent doing this and that, and most importantly, listening. I don't feel ready to say much about them yet - I think I could get some reviews if I wait - but suffice it to say I am very happy with everything I just bought. And those are the best kind of mass-purchases.
Remind me to revisit PJ Harvey and to give Modest Mouse another chance.
I'm not patient enough to read the whole thing, but there seem to be both good and bad ideas in Greg Graffin's punk manifesto. It's been, oh, since the day I bought it that I listened to No Substance, Bad Religion's second-most-recent album. But Suffer is still awesome. I think Greg spends too much time thinking about being punk, lately, and not enough being punk. Bad Religion is to me a prime example of a band who should have broken up by now.
And I'm not even nice enough to them to try, as I do, excruciatingly sometimes, to come to terms with their latest work. I don't think it's worth it. The Gray Race is OK, listenable, but after that...
Now that the summer schedule has started, I am switching airtimes. For the remainder of the summer, I can be heard on 88.5 on the radio dial locally, or at webradio.com's simulcast of KURE programming, on Thursday nights from 9 to 12 PM, in the central timezone.
"Now lookee here
Weezer are touring in Japan this summer and claim to still be working on their third album. At least they're not broken up yet, is all I have to say - it's a small sign of hope for a new album.
I don't like ballet but I need to learn something about it so this goes here to get me to read it, eventually. Besides other historicalish stuff the article talks about Diaghilev's connection to the music of his time.
Ugh. I started refiling my music after a semester of neglect but don't have the chutzpah to finish it at the moment.
Speaking of Sonic Youth, I forgot about them when running down the list of women who make music I like. Again, Sonic Youth are both men and women (none at the same time though), so there's some push and pull. It's more obvious here too because often each member writes songs more in keeping with "their personal style." I.e. Kim Gordon tends to write riot-grrl-esque rants where she yells a lot, Lee (or is it Thurston?) writes things where he reads bad poetry, etc. Other than that internal division, though, their music on the whole seems less gendered than a lot of other rock music, maybe just because it's less like rock music in many other ways, and thus can't be tied to the same things normal rock music has been tied to (i.e. signifier of masculinity, blah blah). Also, it's interesting to note that for a while Kim Gordon's have been the more rockish tracks on Youth albums.
An Addicted to Noise interview with Sonic Youth.
Writer forced to come to terms with classic rock during guitar lessons.
I used part of my graduation money to buy some music. Surprised? Comments will doubtless follow.
Chris passed along an "open letter from Metallica" (heh) which coyly makes a point about promotional money that I mostly agree with. I've excerpted that part.
After all, there are thousands of amateur musicians releasing their music on mp3. There are thousands of little local bands that would give up a few organs to have 350,000 people downloading their music. It stands to reason that at least a few of them completely kick our ass, musically speaking. But they don't have that one crucial thing we have: We have millions of dollars going to convince you that we don't suck.
The new westernhomes review of the new Sleater-Kinney. I listened to "You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun" or whatever it's called the other day, and it was OK. Not great, but OK.
The Rap Dictionary. So you can find out about 'crunk'. Thanks to Greg for the link.
Maybe part of what makes it so hard to meaningfully review albums universally heralded as great (and this applied to anything which is regarded as influential, not just albums): once they gain influence, critiques are forced to be immanent ones, and can't depend as much on tastes or superficial criticisms.
Tom responds to my trip-hop comments below with something that is perhaps to me more satisfying than what he could have come up with:
Oh look, I'm sorry, I can't explain why I hate this stuff, I just do. Every record on Ninja Tune could be bundled into a huge skip and pushed into the fucking Thames for all I care, and the world would be an infinitely better place, as indeed it would be if people who designed bars to be 'funky' and 'kitsch' were given a one way ticket to Saudi Arabia to ply their wretched ironic minimalist trade there.
Some scattered thoughts on community service.
I am thinking about some redesign possibilities. But I still refuse to use Blogger.
Listening to a Faithless remix tonight got me thinking about Tom's old Tricky review from the best of the 90's singles list. Initially I wrote to Tom immediately, bugging him about his (what seemed to me) unfair characterization of what trip-hop had to offer. Thing is, Tom had had to deal with a lot more "downtempo" (as is perhaps more appropriate) music than me, it being a lot more popular in London since 1993 than in Iowa. Along with "a lot" comes "a lot of bad", by Sturgeon's law. That is, though a lot of the post-Bristol-scene trip-hop could be nice stylistically, and maybe satisfying enough to people who inhabit the genre more fully and are looking for more similar sounds rather than better, first and foremost, it's just not always better enough, to discerning music geeks.
I was thinking this because of the research I did on Faithless, which made them out to be a pretty lame euro-trash approximation to the Bristol sound, Blue Lines to Protection era Massive Attack mostly, along with more housey elements. I was disappointed to find this, and to hear a second song which wasn't so hot, because the first track I picked by random to play from Faithless's Saturday 3 A.M. remix disc was really, really nice. Say what you will about knock-offs, but I think it would have fit nicely on either of those two Massive Attack albums, in terms of sound, or maybe the first Tricky in terms of lyrical and vocal approach.
So I say all this to motivate the following idea, which I don't claim to be all that new or interesting (just taking personal notes, you see). If you want to be crass about it, you can roughly characterize each of the three big trip-hop pioneers by their most valuable qualities. Massive Attack's seems to me to be their eclecticism - which is brought out most in the ways they are different from the more-monochromatic Tricky and Portishead, primarily their soul tendencies and more varied personnel. Tricky's is his personality (whether it's the real one or an incredibly contrived one I don't care to discuss right now - and I don't think it's that important). Portishead's is their noirish romanticism.
So, my theory is that a lot of the downtempo hip/trip-hop that has been less-successful has been partly so just because the latecomers are copying initial sounds and musical ideas and failing to come through with these other strong qualities that tend to unify and give vitality to the Big Three's music. Case in point: the Sneaker Pimps. I never listen to their album anymore. It was nice, but it never really meshed for me. It seemed as if they were making music in the trip-hop style, but there was nothing else there to motivate the music for me. I could say the same about Beth Orton, except that she seems to have a "thing" - it's just one that I don't like, so for me there is effectively nothing bringing together her folky brand of trip-hop (if indeed it could even be called that). Thought: Assuming it's not just something genetically male or across-the-gender socialized, it would be nice if there were more girl music geeks.
I played Primal Scream's "Kill All Hippies" tonight. It was alright but it didn't seem excellent or anything. At the moment I think Yo La Tengo's cover of "Be Thankful for What You've Got" (originally by William DeVaughn but more popular to modern listeners from its covering on Massive Attack's debut Blue Lines) is truly excellent. Sadly "Thankful" in its Yo La Tengo version appears on the Little Honda EP (which if I recall correctly is all covers), which I can't just walk into my record store and satisfy myself with immediately. Sigh.
But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
Lately though, on my two recent walks, my focus has drifted. Last week I had an unpleasant experience. Tonight I walked home from a five-hour free shift at the station, wearing my new sandals on progressively more painful feet (the sandals haven't broken in yet).
During the former walk, I was listening to Keith Jarrett's solo improvisational Koln Concert, which is some of the most directly emotional music I own. After running into my ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend I immediately became upset. Not angry upset, but a whole range of emotional reactions, raging. My focus on Jarrett's music turned from one where I was attentively allowing myself to be taken by the music on a slow, comfortable walk home, to one where I felt jerked around by its musical highs and lows. And, to speak visually, whereas before my encounter I felt as if the music were in the foreground, after the encounter it was sort of backgrounded, but in a way that let it erupt forth (and no, I don't mean to echo Kristeva here). Giving it more reign over the way I felt. Unhappy with this, I continued on with my walk, stopping just before I left the park at the play equipment. I sat there and stared at the sky, and at a large tree cast in sillouhette by the street lights nearby. While I still thought - constantly - all the crazy sorts of things that I hope other people think about when they're hurt and jealous and upset, I started to do it more peacefully, detachedly. When the last song started I started walking home and it finished just before I got to my house.
On tonight's walk, my focus had already been on my feet for most of the way home. Ways to walk differently that might ease the pain and discomfort, idle worries about how long it would take, if ever, for my sandles to soften up, or my feet to harden up, whether or not I would be able to go out again later (I didn't), how I would continue to feel bad when I got home (Paul had turned on the air conditioning - focus changed once again). And so on.
So understandably I wasn't paying as much attention as I might have otherwise to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Something of the same sort of backgrounding as above happened here, but it felt different. Somehow I felt as if the sounds were a lot more broken up - I could hear different instruments playing more clearly, even on the most fuzzed-out songs. Especially on songs like NMH's where the onslaught-ness (minor as it may be relative to some other music) is so important, this really demystifies the musical experience, and makes it sort of flat, less interesting.
Despite the sometimes unexpected or undesirable consequences and (or) side effects, I think I will take more walks - at night of course - through the woods this summer. Maybe just back and forth, too - the path is only long enough to sustain maybe a 6-minute song.
Short-term "maybe" shopping list: new live Built to Spill, Macha Loved Bedhead, The Real Slim Shady.
A programming note: though it's not updated frequently these days, I still follow lemonyellow, which is a first-rate blog. From before blogs were big, apparently, too. I first found out about it from a feature story in last summer's New York Times, and it was partially a motivation for me to begin this piece of crap.
KURE is off the air so I've been listening to static for more than an hour. You should try it sometime; it's relaxing.
[Note to Tom: I didn't direct that Albini link just at you!]
Thought on women in music: every time I'm confronted with this issue, I'm reminded that I own almost no music made by women. And a major portion of that which I do own is what you'd expect - the Jewel CD, the Ani CD, etc. Beth Orton and Beth Gibbons (of Portishead) move beyond that mold somewhat (though Orton does it only through beats-added trickery that I never listen to). Massive Attack have female vocalists but they're somewhat generic - there's a reason they rotate frequently. I've got an old Veruca Salt CD that I never listen to. Freakwater is two women (and maybe some guys, I'm not sure) but I don't yet like them. Ruth Underwood plays malletts on some Zappa albums, but her feminine influence seems completely subverted to Zappa's, like anyone in his bands. Kate Radley played keyboards for Spiritualized, but again, the subversion to the leader's influence... Sleater-Kinney is all women, but I don't like them that much. I think it's because of the music, though, which the femininity of is debatable.
Diamanda Galas is definitely unique. I'm afraid of her. But at least she doesn't sound like a chick with a guitar.
Other than that three examples that come to mind. Yo La Tengo are Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew. I think there's definitely a female influence in the music, and not just in Georgia's singing. How traditionally "woman in rock" that influence is is a tough one. Georgia tends to sing on the quieter, folkier songs.
One of Stereolab's two main leaders is Laeticia Sadier (she shares lots of the writing, etc. with Tim Gane). And there's another woman in the group. It might just be the French infuence, but Stereolab definitely don't seem stereotypically masculine, and often Sadier's voice is alluring in an unusual sort of way. Maybe that's a bad thing.
Low is a husband and wife, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, and their friend Zak Sally. I don't really attribute much gender to their music. Both Alan and Mimi sing songs together and apart. The entire band receives writing credit.
So what I always think is this: whenever I look at what's most often offered up as "music by women," I find that I just don't like the kind of music they make. Especially in the last few years, I've been drawn to stuff less tied to trad rock/pop songwriting. So is it sexist of me to not attempt to like, say, Julliana Hatfield (who I've heard some songs by which were quite nice, but which I'm not sure I would ever really grow to like that much; plus which I find myself staring at her album cover during my radio show, which is maybe a sign that I am a sexist), when I'll go out of my way to get comfortable with the Roots and Mos Def?
Can I just say how I have found almost all of these links through nylpm? It's a lazy day, you know.
Stephen Merritt of the Magnetic Fields.
Tom points out two new westernhomes reviews: Radiohead and the Beatles. The Radiohead review seems pretty good to me, but of course I have a hard time seeing how anyone could note like OK Computer.
On Monday, Thomas Pynchon will be 62 years old. I would say I am going to celebrate by listening to something Pynchoneque but I don't think any single album I have can touch Pynchon.
westernhomes pointed out this cool story. I helped contribute to those sales!
From the Napster lawyer, courtesy Doug:
"Napster will review the over 300,000 fan names that Metallica turned in as soon as possible," Pulgrum said. "If the claims are submitted properly, the company will take the appropriate actions to disable the users Metallica has identified. Of course, if the band would provide the names in computerized form, rather than in tens of thousands of pages of paper intended to create a photo op, that would expedite the process."
In search of lost time? It might help make sense of my use of time words to note that I often start an entry sometime after midnight on the same date, then sleep, then add more stuff later. Thus "tonight" often appears in multiple places.
I did a nice little radio spot tonight on the spur of the moment, since my parents are in town and within listening range. The new Macha/Bedhead collaboration seems very nice indeed. And pop whores take note: there's a slow, telephone-using cover of Cher's "Believe" on the 86th track (not that it's hidden - the previous 80 tracks are claimed as occupied by music, though I haven't yet heard it). And the scary part is, though it was hard to not think of Cher's version (ugh), it sounded very much like a beautiful little indie song.
I am DONE!. Maybe interested parties might want to look at my paper on necessity - it's maybe the paper I'm happiest about from my college years. Definitely not about music though.
On some days, when I don't have the constitution for it, I think that Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space should have ended with "Cool Waves." Today is such a day. I'm also getting reacquainted with just how monstrous the big loud section on "Stay with me" is.
Dave might like (or at least, take umbrage with) this review of Wolfie's new album, which is interesting in its apparent band-reviewer interactivity.
Tom says: Spears is, what, 18? How then can people who fancy her be paedophiles?
Hint: the plaid schoolgirl skirts help.
Note to self: music as fabric; importance of threads which aren't primary.
My word of the day email (geek!) says today's word is "druthers." Thus I am reminded of Primus's "DMV," from Pork Soda - "and if I had my druthers/I'd screw a chimpanzee/call it pointless".
As Tom said, the Moloko album is said to be from something the singer said to the other person when they met. The entire quote is
"Do you like my tight sweater? See how it fits my body."
Recent Metallica junk related to their case against Napster users: a live chat, user-submitted questions for a slashdot interview (not yet held), comments by Richard Stallman in a slashdot interview (noted free software advocate - search for "Metallica" as the review covers many other topics), Bruce Perens on how the Metallica case negatively impacts the free software movement, and finally, Jon Katz (frequent slashdot contributor, Wired columnist, etc.) on the case.
Metallica have made the interesting comment that they hate seeing their music commodified by the people who just pass it around freely. Apparently selling the music in stores is not commodification.
From cnn.com via Ned, part of an interview with RIAA cheese Hilary Rosen:
IS: What do you think about the "music is free" movement? HR: Everything should be free in a perfect world. We've done a lot of focus groups, and there's no question in my mind that although everyone wants music to be free, no one really expects that it was free to make. Or that it should be free over the long term. I think that people understand the consequences of that statement.
I find it interesting (though I shouldn't really - it's utterly typical) that on the one hand she acts as if free music is the perfect idea, one that no one could dislike, and that on the other hand she hints at the "consequences" of music beeing free over the long term, without actually laying them out. No, Hilary, I don't understand, and I don't think you do either. And if I'm a little concerned about what the consequences might be, I can see why she might be scared to death. That she only hinted, without actually discussing the consequences of free music, tells me that she doesn't want us to understand them, really.
Later she talks about "defending" rights, etc. Falling into the common trap of treating copyrights as if they were meant to entitle musicians (more importantly for the music business, copyright holders - i.e. record companies) to money from the sale of their recordings. Word on the street is that the framers of the constitution intended copyright to act as an enticement to innovators - so they wouldn't be afraid to release work, lest it be, well, copied. I.e., it's a pro-sharing principle - copyright is supposed to lead to more people sharing their ideas.
Tom offers Detritus, which is interesting but about 10 million times less a) comprehensive, b) dense, and c) theoretical than I hoped for. Any other takers?
I think I did ochen' xorosho on my Russian test today. So only one more thing left, my paper on the foundations of mathematics by way of Ayer, Quine, and Wittgenstein. Just in case you were wondering.
I have now decided, after countless hours of tireless research, to bump The Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I into the dizzying heights of my 1999 best-of list. I didn't hear it during 1999, save for a few songs, but now it's there to stay. It might even be my favorite from that year, though it's hard as always to compare it to utterly different things like Godspeed or Mogwai or Olivia Tremor Control.
I got a few more birthday gifts in the mail (or UPS? anyway, there was a package sitting in front of my house) today, from my parents: Elliott Mendelson's massively dense Introduction to Mathematical Logic, and Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Remarks and The Blue and Brown Books. Not musical, but just you wait: Wittgenstein constructed much of the Remarks, which are much like the later Philosophical Investigations, structured as a long numbered group of paragraphs, somewhat interrelated, by cutting out paragraphs (with scissors) and pasting them into a manuscript book.
So I guess what I am saying is fuck Derrida. Fuck Stockhausen. Obviously Wittgenstein is the godfather of sampling! :)
Does anybody know of a good, rich source (online or print) of information on the entire range of sampling / cut-n-paste / Burroughsian "cut ups" / tape edit music / Zornian file-card music / dadaist juxtposition / etc. phenomena in art and culture? It seems there should've already been a weighty book written on the subject.
Tom says he'll respond someday. I think his secret debate tactic is to delay response so long that his interlocutor forgets what their point was. :) At the same link, Momus seems to have some interesting ideas but I don't have time at the moment to sort them out from the jokey Britishisms and continental tendencies.
I've never heard Moloko (sounds like Russian for "milk" to me), but Do You Like My Tight Sweater? is an awesome title.
How to make your own emo band.. At which point something occurs to me: how do I know I haven't blogged this before? Oh well.
Some new Star Chamber blog wannabes: Fred's Steal This Blog, and Dave's Day by Day, Week by Week, Nature Haunts This Little Freak. Both are not necessarily focused on music, but these guys do know their stuff, and are worth checking out even if you're not part of my target audience (i.e., me, Tom, and the four-odd other people who read josh blog).
Someday I should catalog everything I can hear in Mr. Bungle's California. With diagrams. And stuff.
Is this almost over yet?
In the CD players today:
If anyone out there is looking for pointless thesis material, I suggest a monograph-length study of the relationship between the Orb's "Earth (Gaia)" and the declamatory style of Walt Whitman. It could be "cultural studies." That's hip, you know.
And now I'm listening to Sonic Youth's BIG GRUNGE BREAKTHROUGH album, Dirty. And seeing if I can write a paper on anti-work protests in the technologically modern workplace in less than an hour. Kim Gordon's howling on "Shoot" is at the moment the coolest thing in the universe. "And I wooooolnt... be assssssking..."
News from Pitchfork about OTC:
Brooklyn, New York's Kindercore Records announced yesterday that they have signed Sunshine Fix, a new band headed by Olivia Tremor Control co-frontman Bill Doss. Kindercore plans to release Sunshine Fix's first EP in June, followed by a debut full-length album later in the fall. "Bill is doing something really new and interesting with this project," said label co-owner Dan Geller. "It's like George Clinton meets Johnny Cash. He's going to tour and run this like a normal band." The Kindercore site elaborates: "File under 'psychedelic country funk.'"
You can listen all of the Dismemberment Plan's albums (the newer, better Emergency & I and the older, still good The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified, and the first one I haven't really heard, !) on RealPlayer! What a great chance to be indoctrinated!
From the intro to "Happy Jack" on the Who's BBC Sessions:
BBC Announcer: Now Pete, I think most people know that you frequently smash your equipment during your act on stage. Now, have you any idea of the value of the instruments you've broken?
talkin' 'bout my geeennn-erashun
I got a couple things with some birthday money: the Who's BBC Sessions, and Keith Jarrett's The Melody at Night, with You. Comments to follow eventually.
so put your hands
I took my algebra test. Hm. Eh. Grade to come. I passed, but I don't know if I still have an A. Luckily I have lots of depressing music to listen to. [Turns out I ended up with an A-. "Bugger," as they say.]
An entry on slashdot about MP3.com from Jon Katz ends on an interesting observation:
from the analysis:-the-music-industry-wins-a-whopper dept. MP3.com was bloodied Friday. As of this writing, the online music service is trying to negotiate a settlement with RIAA. A U.S. District Court ruled Friday that the site's My.MP3.com storage service violated copyright law. But the music-user rebellion sparked by this landmark technology is by no means over. The manner in which music is disseminated has been changed for good, whether record labels acknowledge it or not (and over the weekend, a few executives actually did). Without a settlement, the recording industry is in danger of blowing a historic opportunity to protect artists, make money, and capitalize on, rather than shun, the information distribution tools of the future. P.S. Who are the pirates? A record exec e-mails me this a.m. that it cost about 50 cents to make a CD, for which consumers pay $16.95. (Read more).
More to come, hopefully, after I face my algebra final.
Though I've had it for a couple of months, I was just entranced last night by the beautiful Tokyo '96, a live album from Keith Jarrett's standards trio (him, together with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock).
I'm saving this here because it's a convenient place to. Squint really hard somehow and make it be about music.
In the fields with which we are concerned, knowledge comes only
In the fields with which we are concerned, knowledge comes only
Yo La Tengo / "Be Thankful for What You've Got", Modest Mouse / "Dramamine", Dizzy Gillespie / "A Night in Tunisia," Sun Ra / "Rocket Number Nine," Spiritualized / "Take Your Time," Mr. Bungle / "Pink Cigarette"
Diamanda Galas / Malediction and Prayer, Modern Jazz Quartet / Django, Kronos Quartet / Early Music, Sun Ra / Space is the Place, Nirvana / In Utero