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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28 Aug '01 06:39:41 PM

Listened to Kid A on my headphones last night, on the stereo, which makes it less bassy than my discman. Sound seemed disturbingly separated into "main instruments" and "floaty stuff higher up in the headphones" levels - division wasn't always kept, but it felt pretty rigid to me and so made the produciton seem a lot less enveloping. Needs room-space to smear those little details out more.

This made it all a lot less involving.

28 Aug '01 06:35:25 PM

Monk at the Jazz Workshop seems a lot lighter than the other Columbia era stuff I've heard. Monk's playing is more nimble. It highlights a similar kind of lightness that's in a lot of his other recordings - often his playing sounds a lot more gentle than you would expect from the way the music sounds, melodically, harmonically, rhythmically. In some places where it seems like huge crashing haphazardly swung chords would suit the music "best", Monk's a lot more subtle. Part of what makes him "difficult" maybe?

The sound on the Jazz Workshop album aids this: everything is more trebly from the live recording, the piano especially - and it's all kind of distant, while still being well-defined.

The band as a whole sounds a lot looser, as well; compare to the It Club stuff where they just seem kind of in-between somewhere (not quite sure), and Straight, No Chaser where they're much more dug in. Here the drum kit sounds more pliable, limber. The others follow suit.

25 Aug '01 11:16:50 PM

The scene: Murph and Josh, sitting in the living room, listening to James Brown Live at the Apollo. Mr. Brown is pleading for her not to go.

Murph: what's the difference between this and the Cardigans?

Josh: that's a very good question.

25 Aug '01 10:07:23 AM

"Fifteen" seems to be shifting on me.

25 Aug '01 09:56:29 AM

I have had a tiresome night. I put on Loveless and then after digging around all the wrong stacks for Isn't Anything I also found Tortoise's new album and some other stuff I've been wanting to listen to for a while. I don't like any of these three albums. So of course I decided to listen to them back-to-back.

Something about the My Bloody Valentine tomorrow, maybe. It left me bored and tired. The Tortoise did this as well, but with the added benefit of being cheesy. Some of this cheese comes from the 'music itself' (like, what the notes would look like on paper, in terms of time and pitch). Like the stop-start Zappaesque playing (and normally I would say 'and I like Zappa' here, but at the moment I'm not so sure and not really itching to go back to those records). Or most of the melodies and harmonies on the record. (Ugh.) Other cheese comes from the trashy 80s synths, bad fusion guitar tone, and so forth - the 'arrangements'. That's a lot of fucking cheese. The most disappointing thing about the album is that so much it seems to point the way toward an album similar to the previous ones in the appropriate ways, but which still mixed it up in some of the new ways they're apparently attempting.

What kind of similarity am I looking for? Mostly similarity in mood, maybe. I think part of what I found appealing about the earlier records, even when they came close to what some reviewers call 'futuristic lounge music', is that they avoided that through their drift - some kind of vague sense, in melody, rhythm, song construction, harmony, etc., that the whole thing was just drifting by. But when enough elements of that complex are moved around in slightly different directions, it starts sounding too much like, uh, futuristic lounge music. Goddammit.

Augh. Fucking Tortoise. Please don't turn into a band that's bad for all the reasons people give for why your not-bad albums are.

21 Aug '01 06:37:49 AM

I spent a lot of last night and today listening to DJ Vadim's first album, USSR Repertoire. I bought it last fall and didn't even make it one time through because the first time I played it it was so utterly unprofoundly boring. That is, not the kind of boredom I like. It felt like Vadim had deliberately (at least, I hope deliberately - if it was an accident that would be very very spectacularly unlikely) squeezed all the rhythmic vitality out of hip-hop. And also made it slow.

It was of course better last night. For one thing, I had barely even heard it once, and I was trying to give it a fair chance last night. Also, liking hip-hop even further in the intervening time may have helped some. But I think mostly it was the actually trying that mattered. Vadim didn't exactly remove the rhythmic vitality; a lot of the times you can still feel it there. Picture it this way: a really bad way to do hip-hop beats would be to just have something flat, featureless, like a concrete floor - and every so often you hit it, just smack. Smack a floor like that - it's deadening, the floor has too much mass compared to your hand, all of the motion from the hit is just immediately dissipated. Beats with vitality are more tied to the body, maybe. There's a hit, and before the next hit something goes with it - because it's more like the thing doing the hit (your arm, you jumping on the floor) is busy in the interim, maybe saving up energy, waiting for the next beat to drop, slight tension.

So, yeah. I could hear some more of that last night, but it's hard to hear, because Vadim works in a small range, apparently trying for subtlety. It could be that part of my confusion stems from Vadim's (and the music press's, and listeners') insistence that this is abstract hip-hop, with all kinds of attendant self-important rhetoric (complete with liner note quotes from Luigi Rossolo!) about how his music is real hip-hop, how it's not pop like what's currently taken to be hip-hop, blah blah blah, bullshit you've heard a million times before whatever the genre being claimed as special.

B-b-but it is hip-hop, right? C-cuz there are beatz n even guys mumbling every once in a while! Well, yeah. Obviously the music on this CD has some connection to hip-hop. Initially I was bothered by the "abstract" ("abstract hip-hop") because it seemed to me that the word was being used not to describe the music as some more general kind of hip-hop, particulars cleaved away - or whatever (like, I didn't really get it, that's just a guess, no one ever says what they mean by "abstract") - but as a kind of label of approval: "this music is for boring chinstroking backpackers who want to like hip-hop but feel for whatever dumbass reasons that they can't like Jay-Z et al - a-and cuz it's abstract it's better." Compare to manifold uses of "progressive" (rock, altrock, trance, house, jazz, whatever).

Well I was wrong! The "abstract" in the genre-label-classification that people slap on Vadim's music is by far the more accurate of the two/three words. I think it really does sound like he's taking the materials that hip-hop music is traditionally made from, and then playing around with those ("formallistically," if you will) materials, seeing what happens. The bad part, the thing that should've set me off more, is the crap talk about how he's expanding the boundaries of music, how that's what hip-hop really is all about, blah blah, because that talk obscures the fact that his relationship to hip-hop is not at all as direct as the one he claims. Am I going to say what it is? No I am not - I don't think that's a question to be answered lightly, and though I have a few jars in the closet I don't really feel like butterfly collecting right now. Is it OK for me to avoid that question and still say I think he's full of it? Well, maybe - here's why: Vadim's rhetoric ignores the real history of hip-hop, the fact that, yes, KRS-1 and Public Enemy were great and all, but they were part of a huge complicated thing that also involved MC Hammer and Puff Daddy - and all that stuff was somehow hip-hop or involved with hip-hop. And not just in a simple "real hip-hop" / "pop crap stealing hip-hop's style" dichotomy (please, step to the side, DJ Adorno).

(Does this conflict at all with what I think about Wynton Marsalis? Maybe. Maybe not. Shut up.)

19 Aug '01 06:43:10 AM

Hooray, I found my Monk boxed set. Unfortunately it wasn't what I wanted either.

18 Aug '01 10:41:12 AM

The first track on the last Morphine album glides.

18 Aug '01 10:18:39 AM

I heard an old Michael Jackson song (I know it was him because it was obvious, and I know it was old because I didn't recognize it) on the radio while we were cruising around in Murph's jeep tonight. I liked it. But Murph made me change it. Oh well. I'll have to set up my antenna soon for my stereo.