josh blog

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.

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10 Dec '01 10:54:08 PM

Stolen from an email to Mark, about the Mouse on Mars album Iaora Tahiti:

I bought it at least a couple of months ago, I just haven't gotten too comfy with it yet. I think it has something to do with the music; it sounds better to me environmentally as opposed to on headphones, but most of the time I have is headphone time.

It also seems very trebly. This may be linked to why I like it better in rooms.

Also I think that even though I like music that for whatever reason or in whatever way lacks structure, I probably prefer that I know that music well before I can listen to it on headphones and also get anything else like reading (which is what I am doing the majority of the time when my headphones are on) done. For instance, now the last Labradford album works fine on headphones but earlier on I didn't like to hear it that way. The same thing probably happens for free jazz and such - and so also Iaora Tahiti. It just seems to me right now to have so many big long "go-nowhere" (I mean, they go somewhere but that somewhere doesn't always seem to be very related to where they started; or they keep going the same place over and over again like a hamster on a wheel, ha) tracks.

10 Dec '01 06:27:59 AM

So far I've been suspicious of the new Spiritualized album, Let It Come Down. I've been dealing with that suspicion by listening to it under specific conditions. I'm not even forcing myself to only listen under these conditions - it just seems to have happened that I only feel like listening then: when I'm taking a nap, when I wake up on a weekend and decide to get back in bed, and when I'm drunk. On Saturday, I happened to encounter the album in all three of these states. I have to say, I like it. But I'm not sure what that means. At quite a few points on the album, I can find things to dislike. I like it despite those things. In that respect I don't think the album is much different from many others - though it may be different in that the things that I dislike about it carry more weight, or should, because of the things themselves. But what's more, as I mentioned previously, I only seem ready to hear the album at specific times. This too is not that different from other music I listen to, in that I only want to hear it occasionally. But this too seems as if I want to hear it only occasionally for different, more heavily weighted reasons.

I'm being vague about this just in case you're like Tom and this kind of thing entices you into having another listen.

10 Dec '01 06:02:06 AM

"the sense of keeping up..." It's weird, how this song shifts back and forth for me. The first time, it was like that ton of bricks. And plenty of other times, like one night walking home through snow. But sometimes everything fits more into place - it's less surprising, there's more of a sense that everything is fitting together "normally". I've had this happen to me with other drum-and-bass. I wonder if it's not just due to some tendency I have to hear music as "normal", to make it fit together in ways that are more natural. For instance, I have to pay more careful attention to Giant Steps to make sure that I remember what's so remarkable about it, instead of just hearing it as good music. I think there's something to the idea of the critic (and by extension listener) keeping the work alive.

When I'm not moving the drum beats and bass line sound more frantic, but Travis's vocals sound more paced. When I'm moving (including moving on a bus, even though I'm technically sitting still), it sounds like his vocals are trying to catch up, and the other parts have it easier.

10 Dec '01 05:21:30 AM

Right near the end of high school I was hit in the eye by a tiny rock while I was driving. The doctor said it might leave a scar; I can't tell when using my eyes normally, but a handful of times since then I've gotten something in my eye and then apparently irritated the scar. Like today. Just like usual this means I can't get much of anything done - both eyes are affected, not just the left one, because it feels better to close both than try to close just the left (that puts a different strain on the muscles). It's also painful, which distracts me. So all day I've been trying to sleep or lay quietly on my bed. I also have been wearing my sunglasses in the house and listning to lots of music.

First off after I woke up were Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. I'm working on a paper about them (actually about a paper by Patricia Herzog about them), and I haven't quiet warmed up to them. We've had some discussion in class which has made the connections between the variations and Diabelli's original waltz clearer, but I just don't like most of them. I like a lot of the slow ones and some of the faster ones that move farther away from the waltz, but a lot of the rest of them are still tied in some way to the basic rhythm of the waltz, which just annoys me. It's in a fast three (I think it counts as being in "one"), and just about every note in the thing except for a grace note or two is a quarter note. I'm still trying, though. I'd like to be able to like the variations for what I have to write about them, because, as with most things, I think I have more to say when I like something.

Next, a Dismemberment Plan mega-mix - all of the stuff I have on CD from them: !, ... Is Terrified, Emergency & I, the split EP with Juno, and Change. I don't listen to their first album ! much, so it's interesting to hear it mixed in with everything else. Like on Is Terrified, but to an even greater extent, you can hear where their early songwriting abilities give way - it's when the thrashing around starts. But on Is Terrified things pick up, a lot, and even though there's thrashing around, the song structures are a lot sturdier, and they make more sense (rather than just transitions to and from thrashy sections). This is probably true of some earlier songs, but when songs from Emergency & I came on it seemed very clear that that's the album where they really figured out what to do with the parts they had. In more highbrow music they talk about "problems" of composition, but those exist in all kinds of music. The Dismemberment Plan's musical materials present lots of these compositional problems: how to import non-rock music into rock music, how to be noisy while holding on to structure, how to get the music to complement their often amelodic or weirdly melodic melodies (including getting it seem more lyrical, and stringing these more clipped parts into 'proper' whole songs)... hmm, I'm not sure how much sense these make, but if you listen I think you'll see what I mean.

Later in the afternoon: more shuffling, with Smog's Red Apple Falls, DJ Shadow's Endtroducing, the Velvet Underground's banana album, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and Mouse on Mars' Iaora Tahiti. It all fit together nicely.

9 Dec '01 10:29:32 PM


8 Dec '01 07:16:07 AM

One of the amazing things about Journey to the End of the Night is how natural it seems for the Mekons to use this quasi-mythical mode that runs through the album. It's natural. I don't find it odd to have a song where Heracles is the main theme; with another band I might find it to be a forced attempt at being epically meaningful.

One reason it could be different is that the material seems to have been made their own.

8 Dec '01 07:06:51 AM

The albums before 69 Love Songs sound more monochrome now. And I've even heard them plenty since hearing 69LS. It's just today.

8 Dec '01 06:02:11 AM

On the way home today I put on the first Silver Mt. Zion album, which I'd had sitting around in my office for a few weeks, but which I hadn't heard for months. It has a strange intensity for an album that's so atmospheric and "ambient". I didn't think it would fit well with riding on the bus, but that didn't seem to matter - in fact, it even complemented the almost-end of Crying of Lot 49, which I was rereading, very well. Oedipa's despair at putting together the pieces of the Tristero puzzle was mounting, and I started feeling it.

I started it again because my trip took long enough due to waiting at stops; when it got to the track with the childlike vocal smears, maybe "Angels Stand Guard Round His Bed" or something like that, I had just walked down the block on Ashland far away from Snelling and all the traffic that everything seemed totally quiet around me - just the sound of my boots on the sidewalk and the cries in my headphones. It reminded me of snow.

6 Dec '01 08:17:07 AM

Sometimes I don't realize that I'm having a memory until I snap out of it somehow. There's some kind of house noise in our house right now, water or something, maybe the laundry. For the past few minutes I had been sitting here, half-noticing it while I type, until I realized that I thought it was the big noisy fan on the woodburning stove that was down the hall from my room in the basement in the house where I grew up.

Sometimes I have similar mis-memories, like thinking that I will walk down the hall to a room which is in a place I used to live or work, or like being aware of the place I'm in yet seeing it as some other one (especially the case with bedrooms).

There's a relation to music.