Ordinary language is all right.
One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.
Listening to Stuart Dempster. The way the long decay times in the cistern really make the fades seem like fades - like when the players momentarily stop, and the sounds gradually cease as the cistern catches up with what they've done - really really made me want to use the word 'drift' just now, despite the fact that it immediately seemed inappropriate.
It felt like a 'drift', except that the music is so slowly changing, from the appropriate distance, that it seemed silly to use a word that made it sound like it was moving. ('Appropriate distance' because, as I have said before, there's really a lot going on here.)
'drift' is a powerful word, though, because besides just some music that it more arguably applies to, it has a way of turning things from describing the music onto describing the listener - so, maybe, what the music seems like to the listener, or does to the listener.
I wish Andy had written more in his year-end roundup about Arab Strap that didn't require me to know about Steely Dan (which I don't), since I bought The Red Thread and just wasn't in the right frame of mind to hear it at all and have barely heard it since then. But (caveat: at least, when I was in the right frame of mind, you guess what that is, and bought all their earlier records in short of a short span of time) I like their earlier records a lot (well not the first one, oh well). And I want to give this one another shot eventually.
Oh, and, uh, the reason turning it up to make it more pleasurable (because of all the great sounds, duh) would make listening to Rooty less enticing: it started hurting eventually. Heh. Oops.
Basement Jaxx' Rooty is another of my favorite albums of 2001. (Which reminds me, I really do want to add Dave Holland and Prefuse 73 to that list. Give me more time and I'll probably add the Wu-Tang.)
This is a slightly unusual pick just for the reason that, taking into account how much longer than some other records I've had it, I think I've listened to it the least of all. (Meaning, I've listened to say the American Analog Set record less, but I haven't had it as long.) I think this is mostly due to not wanting to listen to it much since I've moved to the Twin Cities.
It could also have something to do with inadvertently making myself not want to listen to the album, because all the times last year that I did listen to it, I turned it up really really loud, because that made it a more pleasurable experience.
Since after the initial rush of listening to it a lot, I barely listened to it at all, I'm kind of at a loss as to what to write. As Mike noted with what I wrote about Fugazi, I'm thinking pretty generally about these albums. Of course, I have some (general) speculation about why that is. It's not that I can't write anything about the music, in the way that I think is very important, and which you can find elsewhere on josh blog. Often lately I hear something and sort of sense what it is I would write about, but the effort of getting at that something precisely is totally unappealing to me. In some way it doesn't seem as interesting, maybe, because the records all feel the same in an important sense.
They all have all kinds of fascinating and distinctive things about them - the ways they sound, the feelings they evoke, the ideas they bring to mind. But more and more music seems to be the same to me because it's so much easier to appreciate it. I know, I know, that sounds like a terrible problem. And it's not as if I like everything immediately or I can like anything I pick up. But it doesn't feel so strange now to like a record that's unusual or foreign to me, or one that I just start out disliking or not liking.
A lot of the struggle is lost. For the past few years at least - more since I came under Tom's influence - I've consciously tried to expand my tastes. This hasn't meant just "making" myself like things that I dislike. It involves being open and tentative to things that I dislike, or even that are just foreign to me because I've been ignorant of them or avoided them, and then seeing where that openness takes me. And it involves trying to listen more 'naturally'. (No I'm not going to explain or defend that. Don't invest it with a lot of significance.) My blog isn't just documentation of that process, it's an important part of the process. I know I wrote "struggle" above, but I guess often it hasn't seemed that hard. For "struggle" substitute, usually, "feeling of being in a strange place, doing something unusual."
Without that sense to make things rougher, writing more about the little things is more of a task. I know I can do it, with effort, but at the moment I don't care. Maybe this has something to do with why lots of people (so they tell me) can't write anything at all about what they like. (Nothing at all to make it rough on them.) I must admit that it makes me worry, a little, about my own capacity to have anything to say.
THE RECORD. Yes, I am still talking about the record. I talk above as if this process of expanding tastes stopped, or at least as if I have developed some kind of unbiased music nose (I know that's a mixed metaphor, but I like the picture). That's not true. One way in which it's not true is that, regardless of how little difficulty I have appreciating a pop-dance record like Rooty, the fact remains that I don't really listen to pop-dance records like Rooty. Also that I really never have, and except for some various and sundry antecedents (in my own tastes, not in dance music), mostly which I've come to like in the past four years, I've actually found dance music abhorrent.
All of which means that as I listen, there are potentially things for me to write about in this "struggle" sense. Except that at present I don't really care to think about it, when I hear something like "I Want U," so jittery and jumpy, or the unabashed "Do Your Thing" (unabashedly what?), and notice that it feels really different from "my music". Because it feels more and more like my music every time I listen. If I even need a reason to have an album on my list, I guess this is good enough as a placeholder, at least: Rooty is a sign that my tastes are doing just fine.
If you live in Ames (and I know there are some people who live there and read this), consider attenting the following event (passed on to my by Kelly).
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
8:00 p.m., Institute on National Affairs Lecture, "Talking about Music," Ian McKaye, a member of the Fugazi band and cofounder of Discord Records, free , Sun Room, Memorial Union, 515-294-9934.
There are a number of new articles and interesting archived material up at Freaky Trigger.
I am thinking about something. If you can decide, tell me who your favorite band is. Tell me anything else you want too, but at least tell me that.
Allowances made for pedants who will choose to say "but I have a favorite artist, not a band," or "it's actually a composer, even though you said band, so...".
P.S. Stevie Wonder is great. Do not consider this an injunction to answer "Stevie Wonder".
And at the end when the other parts stop and the phone conversation comes in, the drones lose direction - they're louder, not telling us where the song's going, because it's not now.
Hearing "Tracy" today I took notice of how important the shimmering drone that runs behind most of the song is. It changes, it's on different notes. That contributes to the dynamics of the song just as significantly as the more prominent guitar parts in the foreground. The drone acts like a cue: "the song goes like this". Or maybe a distillation.