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.

newest | archives | search | about | wishlist | flickr | email | rss

30 Dec '01 07:49:57 AM

One of my favorite records of the year was Since I Left You by the Avalanches. (Technically it's older, but it wasn't released in the States until 2001.)

Consider these notes for an essay I'll probably never finish.

I think that Tim got a lot right, especially about the sounds on the album, but his talk in the review and especially elsewhere, as well as that of plenty of other people, seems to make the album out to be an idyllic, sugary-sweet somethingorother, the kind of thing most appropriate for soundtracking endless fun-filled summer nights. I think Tim has even said something about how he listened to it every day in the summer (Australia's summer) and hasn't picked it up since.

Maybe it's that I got the album this fall, then, but I doubt that; it's more likely that my reaction has more to do with me than the season. I get a much more wistful, mournful feeling from the album than a lot of the people whose reactions I've read have seemed to.

It has a lot to do with memories. Not my memories specifically, but memories in general. Of course, because of my interest in memories (sorry to link to that again and again but it's my favorite example of this sort of thing), I'm more than a little prone to find them everywhere. This doesn't make what I've heard any less potentially interesting.

Partly it's the samples. Not just these samples. I get the impression of age, something from the past, from lots of music that involves sampling. Some of this is obviously due to the vinyl sources, sometimes deliberately grainy or scratchy; not always, though. I think more often it just has to do with the way the sample is marked off as being from somewhere else: through its repeating, or the musical cues that indicate it comes from a larger context which has a different musical logic than the song where the sample is used.

The way samples often repeat when they form the backbone of a song makes them reminiscent of memories for me because of the way they seem cut off, fragmentary - just the one little bit that I can get hold of, coming back over and over again, because that's all that comes; the rest doesn't follow once the fragment enters my mind. Sometimes I rehearse a memory, re-play it, and sometimes I can't help its coming back. This kind of sample is all over Since I Left You - they form its foundation, even.

A lot is made of how the record's songs segue into one another, in a more or less continuous mix. Sometimes this is because the adjacent tracks have a lot to do with one another, and sometimes it seems more like the gaps are filled in by some more stuff, if you will. Either way, this makes the music drift. Lots of music drifts, and maybe the connections I'm drawing work for that music too, but because of all the connections to memories that I hear here, the drift makes the music resemble the kind of logic of memories (or dreams!) where one memory leads to another, lazily, by association, with whatever it takes to connect the two.

All this doesn't yet sound as down in mood as maybe I originally indicated. I'm not totally sure how it all adds up. Obviously just the associations with memory are, for me, sort of sad. I think this has something to do, in a way I'm not prepared to go into at the moment, with loss. This makes the album as a whole even more appropriate to me because the drift is a quick one. Most of my favorite parts go by too fast. The intoxicating, heady bursts of dirty funk or stomping house are short, and then replaced by something else. While it's true that there's something to be had in that something else, there's always a sense of privation when the best parts fly by. The reasons for this sense of loss, and that coming from remembered memories, are probably different. But the feeling is similar enough.

30 Dec '01 06:04:22 AM

Dave Holland's band is so good I kind of wish they would screw up more.

29 Dec '01 06:23:27 AM

Besides the uniquely propulsive effect of the 3/4 time, "How to Disappear Completely" also has a great sense of inertia to it because of the way it seems to continuously rise throughout the song. So the part near the end where the dissonant strings and other atmospheric noises threaten to overwhelm the motion is especially interesting. Radiohead are too consummately pop to let that happen, though, so a hint of the foregoing pulse can still always be heard, even when the threat is at its strongest.

I didn't want to say "atmospheric" because I read the word used elsewhere tonight and found myself grumbling, but you get what I mean.

29 Dec '01 05:28:01 AM

I think the most interesting point made in this "group" review of Kid A is made by Andy Battaglia, when he notes that any debate about the album is asymmetrical because the detractors get to take advantage of the dominant, well-established vocabulary and arsenel of critical tools, whereas the proponents have recourse mostly to less definite and less-established language.

Relation to debates between objectivists and subjectivists, realists and anti-realists. Ramifications for any experimental or hybridized music.

28 Dec '01 10:44:58 AM

I didn't expect to like Vanilla Sky very much at all, but I ended up thinking that it has a lot good about it. It obviously wasn't perfect, but reading some reviews that conflict about which parts were good and which were bad makes me think that that imperfection isn't such a bad thing.

The film used lots of music. The opening scene has Cruise's character going about his morning ablutions while listening to "Everything in Its Right Place". Later in a bar "I Might Be Wrong" plays. I found it very odd hearing Radiohead as incidental music in a big-budget film like this. "Everything" just sounds far too personal, or private, something like that, to accompany the part of the film it does. Ideally I think it's fair to say that any music could go with any visuals, as long as it fit. But typically I think that outside popular music used in films isn't meant to carry too many associations with it = it's meant to be sort of surface appreciated, which is why it helps to use music that the audience may have actually seen before. Music as something more like a slap in the face, I guess, to accentuate the movie. Which is why "I Might Be Wrong" sounds out of place - its dirty beat works well as bar-background music, but Thom Yorke's moaning doesn't, it's too implausible. (Though it would be easy to argue that the moaning fits in somehow given what Cruise's character learns while at the bar.)

But on the other hand, maybe this is still exactly what Crowe was going for. Maybe it's just that my own reactions to some of the other music weren't as strong as they could have been. I say this not just speculatively, but because "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" is playing at the party after the death of Cruise's character, and though I found it affecting, I don't think it was due to the specific content. Instead, I was just very off-kilter at that point from having seen more of the movie (I found, for example, the nightclub scene and what followed very successfully uncomfortable, and worse things - plus there was plenty more to knock me around); so then hearing the Spiritualized was a very effective slap in the face, like above.

27 Dec '01 06:10:56 AM

This project is now entering its third year.

The longer I go on the more difficult it is to come up with some perspective on the thing. For much of 2001 I was unhappy with what I was writing, and thought that I did much better in 2000. Now I'm not so sure - when I look back there's plenty I'm happy with in both years.

Last year at this time I attempted to go back over what I'd written, and over the mail I received from readers, in order to take a stab at writing about what my point is here. I think plenty of readers are aware of what it is, but I just wanted to do it anyway (it's the philosopher in me).

I didn't get very far. I've thought even less about it this year, but that's OK, because that kind of thinking is a long-term part of my project here. I do have this to offer, though; I've thought of it before but this way of putting it is due to a conversation I had recently with Kelly. I'll put it in the form of a slogan, although as a slogan it's too clumsy.

josh blog: making the natural complexity of subjectivity perspicuous.

Thanks for being with me for another year.

26 Dec '01 07:05:33 AM

A tiny bit late, but here's a Christmas present: a fulltext search of Josh Blog, with some caveats. I'll be working in the coming month and extended future at indexing some more stuff (including, hopefully, pre-August 2001 entries) and developing more frills.

Please let me know what you think, or if it breaks or something like that.

24 Dec '01 07:06:21 AM

I am "home" in Iowa for the week. In between nu-metal videos on MTV2 I saw the "video" for Rush's "Limelight." It was bad. Very bad.

21 Dec '01 06:41:05 AM

The songs on the best-of from Outkast's first album (the one I don't have) are really thick-sounding for mid-90s p-funk-inspired rap; some of them, like "Ain't No Thang," is just unbelievably thick. The guitars have this great way of just filling up the soundstage and reverberating between the channels.