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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5 Feb '02 07:18:40 AM

After not hearing The Blueprint for a while, and mostly Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life instead, the former sounds far more opulent. I think Fred said something about how lush the strings sound, somewhere on here. At the time I couldn't understand how he could think that. Everything seemed very... faded, I guess I want to say, though that's not quite right. Monochrome maybe. But now, after a bit of a break (hearing the different arrangements, perhaps more monochrome actually, on Unplugged may have had something to do with it too), there are all kinds of colors. Things seem placed more spaciously in the sound stage, and I'm noticing more parts of the samples standing out as separate parts, rather than all sounding like one monolithic sample.

A separate thing, but on the rap-and-jazz-similar tip (see below): I've noticed before but tonight the contrasts between Jay's flow and Eminem's flow on "Renegade" especially struck me. Eminem is uncharacteristically lyrical there, still, but since tonight I was already thinking more about the difficulty of Jay's rhymes, I thought that juxtaposition with Em's verses made his on that song seem even more syntactically and semantically obfuscated (but in a good sense) than usual; it also shed light on all of Jay's rhymes. He uses so much slang, and otherwise colorful language, yes. But also, more importantly, his rhymes sort of go wherever they want, or have to. Constant use of enjambments (like Outkast!), and that's probably just the start of it. Could it be that this has something to do with Eminem's success? His rhymes elsewhere are crazier but as I remember they're still a bit more linguistically tame, even if his flow is great (I don't want to detract from his accomplishment, is what I mean - he's just doing something different).

The opening string bit just hangs suspended for what feels like forever before the beat drops.

5 Feb '02 06:53:17 AM

Cannonball's playing just sounds so effortless!

5 Feb '02 06:52:39 AM

The experiences of listening to fast bebop and fast rapping feel very similar to me: the same sense of (me) trying to catch up, follow it, put everything together into a coherent whole.

5 Feb '02 06:36:35 AM

Today's listening: Talking Heads on the way in, them some Pan American at my desk, then Emergency & I, Jay-Z on the way home, and now Milestones.

5 Feb '02 12:58:58 AM

I'm happy to report that Badger is only temporarily away as a result of internet access problems and a new computer, and will be back again in a while.

5 Feb '02 12:57:26 AM

More thoughts (to add to these) on what Tim had to say about the Dismemberment Plan, especially his comparison to Talking Heads.

I popped in Remain in Light on the way in today, and I have to say, only "Born Under Punches" really approaches, for me, the kind of giving-in-to-the-groove that I understand Tim to be talking about. It sort of happens in other tracks, to some extent, but even the most dance-friendly ones seem to have more of a single-groove component with embellishments. "Punches", on the other hand, attains a kind of polyrhytmic magnificence that I wish the whole album had. Also, it reminds me heavily, in the way all the parts are contributing important things rhythmically, of the Plan's "Back and Forth". I guess what I could be saying here, then, is that neither album seems to me to do what Tim wants (which means I'm probably misunderstanding him, or he's not getting through to me).

However, there's something to be said for the song structures, production, and lyrics. I think they make some of the difference (somewhat paradoxically, since one typically thinks that it's mostly the prevalence of beats that would make the difference). By "song structures" I mean the way that the singer interacts with the band, where his lyrics go in the whole mix of things. (Both albums have lots of singing + cooking band songs.) Without looking more closely, I'd venture to say that Morrison's lyrics are more unified than Byrne's, even though I know full well that lots of the lyrics on the Heads album hang together pretty well. So it might be in the precision, the strangeness, of the individual phrases. Vocal delivery important too as Tim notes. Greater reliance by Morrison on first person probably key. (Even on "Ellen and Ben", rare for them by involving lots of third person narrative, involves the third-wheel first-person narrator, though the extent to which he is a third wheel is debatable, since as he makes clear Ellen and Ben sort of alienate or at least ignore everyone they know as a result of their "having sex again and again".)

It would be interesting to look more closely, then, at the sources in the lyrics (music too?) to which the singer-narrators' psychological uneasiness could be attributed, since they're obviously psychically related in distant ways. Besides just the third person stuff, it seems to me as if the sources in Byrne's lyrics are more worldly, external, uncontrollable stuff; in Morrison's case, even if he's often driven by his reactions to the unconrollable external world, his concern is with the stability of his self under the barrage of influences. Byrne's concern is more with a self, or selves, maybe - something more general, or at least aspiring to it.

4 Feb '02 11:32:55 AM

I mean, like, "Double Rail" sounds like a really busy Plastikman track. And if HE'S dance...

4 Feb '02 11:20:35 AM

Oh, and I guess I should say: yes, of course the things I liked a lot then changed over time. Not surprising. Part of what I wanted to write down was just some of what things have shifted. I do think, though, that the reasons for the shifting are more complex than "I discovered that these records were actually better." I would be a fool to think that.

4 Feb '02 11:14:29 AM

Back in April 2000 I mentioned five favorites from 1999 and 1998.

1999: Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage Volume I, Mogwai - Come On Die Young, Labradford - E luxo so, Burning Airlines - Mission: Control!, Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (Remaster). 1998 Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children, Dirty Three - Ocean Songs, Godspeed You Black Emperor! - f#a# oo, Hum - Downward is Heavenward, Autechre - LP5.

Though I did say those were just for that day, some thoughts on the choices now. I haven't listened to Olivia Tremor Control in months and months. Hum or Godspeed either, though I've listened to them more recently, and would be more willing to put them on now (especially the Hum, which is just more generally comfortable music for me - the other two are a lot more set apart from other music, in my mind). I haven't listened much to the Mogwai or Labradford in the six months, though I've had new records by them that I've been listening to a lot instead. (Also when I have put on older records by them they've been earlier than the ones listed.) The Dirty Three I've listened a lot to lately, though that's been unusual for the past six months. I haven't listened to much Autechre, including LP5, though I guess I wouldn't mind (I think my copy of Incunabula is on the shelf in my office right now). I listen to Burning Airlines frequently, though since I moved I've been listening to their second album more, trying to get with it. The Miles is one of my favorite albums ever, so even though I haven't listened to it much for a while (here and there, here and there), I'm not at all concerned about having forgotten it or drifted away from it. The Boards of Canada I listen to all the time, at least once a month, but usually a lot more once I get it out again (on and off again as nighttime music).

Without even trying to make sure I consider everything I like that was released in those years, I can come up with records from them that I now like better than some of the ones above. The Dismemberment Plan record mentioned in the original posting (as one I would feel like listing pretty soon). American Analog Set's Golden Band. Low's Secret Name, which I probably didn't list then because I was slightly disappointed by it in the face of the expectations I developed due to their earlier albums (the disappointment arose because of its differences, not deficiencies). I probably like Tortoise's TNT better than the Godspeed or Autechre records, although unlike the other 1999 records I just mentioned I'm suspicious enough about whether I like other records from 1998 better than it to say so. I like Outkast's Aquemini better than any of those 1998 records, probably. Also, the Beta Band's 3 E.P.'s and s/t came out in 98 and 99, and I would probably throw the s/t in on a good day.

(I put in the caveat about not being exhaustive above because of the way I chose the records: by looking around my room at CDs I've been listening to recently, and then checking the interweb to see when their earlier albums were released.)