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April 30, 2000

Photek interviewed. I've been listening to his 1997 album Modus Operandi today, and am much more impressed than I ever have been - I've already owned it for more than a year. For some reason the intricacy of the programming was never that easy for me to discern. It's also less boring to me now. Like much of the electronic music I like (nerdy undanceable stuff, but I think this applies to much of the dancy stuff too), a drone attitude helps.

This careful review reminds me of something else related to the incredible intricacy of much of this album (see track 9, KJZ, for one example - those are little tiny parts of drum solos and sounds, from old jazz records, just like the rest of the album - very little parts). Warming up to Bedhead's WhatFunLifeWas recently, I noticed how noisy and loud much of it is. At first, that somehow completely escaped me. In much the same way that the good qualities (well, most of them - I didn't give up on it, now did I?) of Modus Operandi eluded me.

And finally (Yes, finally. "How can you blog all this stuff and still study category theory for your Monday algebra test?" you ask. Good question. Time to study.) - a much meatier (beefy some might say) interview from

OK, one more - a great Autechre interview.

To counteract the negative press generated by the recent Rolling Stone blunder, here's an interview with the Asian Dub Foundation.

My friend Neil likens listening to Autechre to "watching a ball trapped in a box, bouncing around." Photek, too. I can see his point but I tried to argue that the two are worlds apart. With limited results. Because there is some truth to the ball image.

A nice review of one (among many) of my favorite albums, Hum's Downward is Heavenward. I think he's right - if Hum were on an indie label, they're be indie stars.

I've been listening to Neil's copy of Doggystyle lately, and among other things, this amazes me: Snoop was around 21, 22, when it was released in 1993. Which happens to be how old I am now. Of course, this point can be made with any one of many people (Thomas Mann, David Foster Wallace, Bob Dylan, etc.), but: what the hell have I done with my life? Earned a couple of degrees. Eh.

Doggystyle was the first debut album to enter the charts at number one.

The Western Homes interview with Travis from the Dismemberment Plan brings up an interesting contribution to the recent nylpm hip-hop debate: Travis digs on both Mos Def and Timbaland. Another sign of how the Plan are in touch with their hip-hop influences - they're not one of those lame bands with a shuffly pre-programmed store-bought hip-hop beat.

Did I mention that I hate those?

Anyway, near the end we see:

I ask what might happen if MTV thought about rock music the way they do R&B, giving the most inspired and innovative stuff the most airplay. "I wish rock music thought about rock music that way," Travis replies.

Also, Jon correctly notes that Stanley Crouch is an ass. Not that I didn't know this before, but the other night I read Crouch's "On the Corner: the Selling Out of Miles Davis", which is an infuriating essay. Among other things, Crouch traces Miles' "sellout" back to his time on Columbia, despite heaping glowing praise on Kind of Blue, the Evans collaborations, and most of the second quintet work. All of Davis' fusion era work is collapsed between In a Silent Way (which Crouch hates) and Tutu. Bitches Brew is mentioned as Miles' biggest-selling album, but dismissed out of hand.

The most interesting thing, I think, was how throughout Crouch seems to be staking out a stance against Western art music, defending jazz as a unique development, which is typically weakened when it comes into contact with Western musical elements. But he also attacks any other popular music developments - rock, funk, Motown, soul, etc. - viciously, finding basically no value in them. In this, he resembles many critics, who he would hate, who defend Western art music and attack jazz and rock - it's as if he's saying the same thing, just standing in a different spot.

April 29, 2000

A few comments on my listening habits.

Thanks for the present, Anna. I spent a little extra and bought myself both the Beta Band's self-titled album, and the Baby Namboos' Ancoats2zambia.

Also, while buying a graduation gown and hat (ugh), I found a heavily discounted book, Reading Jazz, that collects autobiogaphy, reporting, and criticism from 1919 to "present" (late 90s). It includes such famous articles as Miles's autobiography chapter on Bird, and Stanley Crouch's attack on Miles, circa On the Corner.

The British, being from a rainy island where everyone talks funny
and eats boiled food, know about some misery.
- Steven Byrd, on Pitchfork

The NME didn't like The Beta Band. Dotmusic discusses their trials and tribulations. A fan website collects some information. A fair-sounding review is at westernhomes.

Speaking of which, westernhomes reviews lots and lots of the things I've been buying lately. At first I was a little unsure about his tastes - he slagged outright things I love, then also loved outright things I loved - but this quote from a Dismemberment Plan (wh says: yea!) clears things up:

We've had the discussion before about how I have the record-buying patterns of a crack addict. There are basically only two possible results whenever I get a record by a new band. I either dislike it, and sell it as soon as possible to buy more records, or within a matter of days I buy every single other release that band has that I can get my hands on. In a few more days I'll buy the side project stuff, and then the bands they've toured with, and then I run out of internal organs and have to turn to insider trading and shortchanging hot dog vendors. collects lots of links to "post-rock" bands' home pages.

A review of the forthcoming Rachel's / Matmos collaboration.

April 28, 2000

I have been thoroughly outed as anti-pop by the Star Chamber. A suitable birthday celebration, I think.

If you are a benevolent soul, and interested in gifting me, then you may be interested in my list. That is all.

Well, not completely all. Here's an article that I stole from someone who stole it from Billboard's website. So maybe it's copyrighted by them. Or something.

Plan fans take note: Sonic Youth are also thinking of joining Pearl Jam's European tour.

Sonic Youth Ventures Through 'NYC Ghosts & Flowers' By Chris Morris

LOS ANGELES -- Sonic Youth's new DGC album, "NYC Ghosts & Flowers," due May 16, finds the veteran modern rock band at its most adventurous.

"We didn't intentionally try to make a record that was completely outside," says guitarist Thurston Moore. "I just think it's weirder. It's not a noisy record. I think when people think something is kind of out, they think it's noise and skronk going on."

While the 44-minute album is far less sprawling than Sonic Youth's last album, the 72-minute "A Thousand Leaves" (1998), "NYC Ghosts & Flowers" generally eschews neat song structures in favor of a more abstract approach. The set's eight tracks often veer into the evanescent terrain explored by the band in the four all-instrumental sets on its indie label SYR -- especially the most recent volume, last year's "Goodbye 20th Century," a collection of neo-classical modern works by such composers as John Cage, Steve Reich, and Pauline Oliveros.

Moore says, "In a way, our involvement with that music was really early on, in the '70s, when [guitarist] Lee [Ranaldo] and I were doing stuff with [composer Glenn] Branca, etc. That whole school was potent at the time for us, but at the same time we were very young, and we didn't lend it too much credence. It was sort of something there, informing us. It was something that made an impression on us and [that] we always somewhat employed through the years, although we were much more interested in being an all-out rock band.

"I think it's not until now that we got involved with working with these musicians, with their music, and dealing with it historically and having sort of a newfound appreciation for it -- maybe just because of our own development, our age, being able to look at it as 40-year-olds," continues Moore. "That, in a way, did something. We felt we could make that music part of our world more than ever before, without losing the idea of being a four-piece rock band."

Moore also attributes the texture of the album to the theft of the group's instruments. Sonic Youth's collection of modified and unusually tuned guitars, stolen from a van in L.A. last summer, has never been recovered.

"That was at once completely debilitating, but on another level it was completely liberating," Moore says. "It was insane coming home and knowing that in a couple of months we had to really start working and writing and recording. This record is basically us going into the studio with nothing except scraps and picking up those scraps and jamming things in them and pretty much being a new band -- or at least having new instruments and enjoying it, because it was radicalizing us further, in a way."

Additionally, the album's lyrical content -- especially on "Small Flowers Crack Concrete," a recitation with musical accompaniment reflects the impact of the Beat writers and poets and particularly the Cleveland school that included D.R. Wagner and the late d.a. levy.

"I really wanted to draw more attention to the literature underground, it being really hand in hand with the music underground," Moore says. "It always has been, and I've always felt that to be a really important thing, through Dylan, through Patti Smith, and then through things... like Iggy [Pop], the way he was writing. Even those lyrics like the Ramones were writing."

"NYC Ghosts & Flowers" was co-produced by Sonic Youth's longtime collaborator Wharton Tiers and Jim O'Rourke, former member of the Chicago band Gastr Del Sol and one of the Windy City's most prominent young producer/musicians.

Moore says, "Jim is representative of this generation that is younger than us who we were really sort of attracted to -- as somebody who is so attuned and informed by academic musical ideas, like modern composition and avant-garde musics but at the same time is completely in love with the great work of Van Dyke Parks or Sparks."

With bassist Kim Gordon, Moore's wife, now serving as a third guitarist, O'Rourke contributed some basswork to the new album and will also appear with the group on tour.

"He's going to be our Eno," Moore says with a laugh. "He's going to play bass; he's going to play some guitar; he's going to play synthesizer. He's going to stand right up there in the front right next to Kim, with a Steinbrenner bass, and just bum everybody out in the front row."

Moore expects Sonic Youth to begin touring at the beginning of June.

He says, "We're going to run around the U.S. a little bit, a lot of Midwest kind of stuff, then go to Euro, do some stuff, and come back and do all of August with Pearl Jam. They've asked us before, and we've always [said] no, but I think we want to do it this time."

April 27, 2000

According to Pitchfork, the insert to the new Sweep the Leg Johnny album says "You just got your asses whupped by a bunch of goddam nerds". Heh.

In a review on today's War Against Sound, we have:

You and I will survive this album or not, though, depending on what happens during track eleven. The listing, if you haven't thrown the packaging away, identifies it as "Song With Chorus", a glib assertion immediately undermined by the fact that the running time, printed to the right of the title, is 22:54. There is a little bit of singing at the beginning, followed by very large amount of squeaky, abstract guitar noise, much of it quite literally worthy of Aube. Every few minutes Kathleen inserts some truly alien and horrific screeching, some even scarier dog-like panting, and some near-ultrasonic blippy noises that sound to me like the patronizing speech you give a dolphin while torturing it for information you know perfectly well it doesn't have. The second half of the song has a long muttered text not included in the notes, which I think we would be well-advised not to transcribe. There is, near the end, a chorus in the loosest possible sense, a repeated snippet of melody, but the words to it are not repeated, and calling this track "Song With Chorus" is about as apt as referring to Gravity's Rainbow as War Story With Bananas.

Heh. I'm a sucker for Gravity's Rainbow

April 26, 2000

The Star Chamber is playing invent-a-band, based on the genres invented from sciences (model: math rock; example: psychology rock).

Of course, the corollary game to play once you've played invent-a-band- from-a-science is, what-kind-of-music-would-this-band-play?

[Karen came up with these names.]

>> Anyone for Psychology-Rock?   sure! how bout :
>       Imprint

An arty hardcore band? This one's tough.

>       Bi-polar

Emo, if you take away the witty college-aged lyrics, song titles,
and band names.

>       Challenger

Sentimental, mediocre 80s arena rock. Possibly eastern european
in origin.

>       One Small Step

They have Socially Conscious lyrics. I sense a less bohemian version
of Rusted Root.

>> Nuclear Physics-Rock?
>       Neutrino

I would say some kind of progressive house, but perhaps Tim or Tom
could narrow things down a little more. :)

>       Peptide

Definitely a ska band.

>> Archeology-Rock?
>       The Pleisto Scene

Whatever they sound like, they look earnest, there's a woman in the
group, and I don't expect to see them after I set down the promo CD.
There's something vaguely European about them.

>       Lucy

Seeing as how that's the name of a Candlebox album, and I can only
conjure up images of a boring band, how bout a band, derivative of
Candlebox (ouch), that scores a minor alternative radio hit and
then disappears?

>       Homo-Erectus

Queercore, or something entirely more like Devo.

I have to admit, these are sexy.

An article about Disco Inferno.

Again from Tom, a profile of Robert Moog.

On Salon, a review of the new Sonny Rollins boxed set.

From Tom on nylpm, a funny article at Salon on Napster and Metallica, which contains the following great passage:

You can read Marcuse (or shoot smack) till you're blue in the face, but you won't achieve that sort of understanding: It's something you only come by through personal experience. You have to Live It.

Autechre single review of mine on nylpm.

April 25, 2000

Under the heading "Esthetics of Plagiarism" in the liner notes to Tom Ze's Com Defeito de Fabricacao:

The esthetic of the fabrication defect will re-utilize the sonorous civilized trash (everyday symphony), be they conventional or unconventional instruments (for example: toys, cars, whistles, saws, hertz orchestra, street noises, etc.) - all of this put into a rhythmic or dance format with choruses, and within the parameters of popular music. It will recycle an alphabet of emotions contained in songs and musical symbols of the first world, that sealed each marked step of our affective and emotional life. They will be put to use in small "cells" of "plagiarized" material. This deliberate practice unleashes an esthetic of plagiarism, an esthetic of arrastao [a dragnet: technique used in urban robbery. A small group fan out and then run furiously through a croud, taking people's money, jewelry, bags, sometimes even clothes. Translator's note: a type of "wilding" with a purpose, i.e. robbery.] that ambushes the universe of the well-known and traditional music. We are at the end, thus, of the composers' era, inaugurating the plagi-combinator era.

This definitely signals that Ze is up to something, but if you're like me then maybe you can't tell from listening to Fabrication Defect (as it's known in English). For one thing, all of the lyrical and vocal effects are lost: I couldn't tell you if they're singing in Portuguese, or what. For another thing - the tape loops, the rhythm stuff, etc. (which you can read about if you're unfamiliar with Ze) are hard to pick up on. Forgive my pedestrian analogy, but reading Ze's manifesto you expect his music to sound more like the Beastie Boys, than the slightly funky, definitely Brazilian music that it is - because that's all it seems to be at first, to the ignorant (i.e. me) listener.

It's interesting to note that Ze's been thinking things like the above for a long time now - this isn't some sort of bandwagon thing. But perhaps more interesting are how the signs of traditional copyright, etc. are still present: the lyrics are published by BMI companies "by permission". The copyright in the sound recording appears to be owned by Warner Brothers. I wonder what Tom would say if you wanted to copy his CD?

Ze's website has some info, but not much.

April 24, 2000

An Autechre interview.

April 23, 2000

Quote from the liner notes to Frank Zappa's Laether (yes I know there's an umlautted a character but I can't be bothered to look it up):

Like Joyce (James, that is - you know, the other guy with a thing about panties) Zappa has harnessed all the vocabulary available in his chosen heritage, and made it completely his own. His range, palette, execution and coherence are at a level unmatched by his peers (You don't think so, huh? Well, go ahead, name one...) and yet some people still have the nerve to believe: "comedy music." Ingenuity, poise, and audacity are stamped on all the compositions like a hallmark, a constant source of inspiration for those with ears that do not merely hear. In the context of contemporary comparisons, "Read 'em & Weep" is indeed the adjustable slogan: but the tears, when they come, will be tears of joy.

Initially I just wanted to quote that because of the Joyce/panties thing, but now I'll make a brief complaint. Tom said recently of Zappa: "he's like the Bloodhound gang with a Ph.D., yes?". No, emphatically. Hence the "comedy music" note above.

Something I really hate about novelty records that aren't just standouts by their creators, or something like that (say, Nada Surf's "Popular") - prime perpetrators being people like Weird Al, but also scores of other nameless one-time noveltyhitmongers - is how the music all sounds so flat. Even when the music jumps genres on an album primary composed of novelty music, it all has the same sickly studio sheen shared by all parody music.

And I really hate that sheen. It's not even the same as normal "slick" production, nothing of the sort. It perpetually reminds me that what I'm listening to is supposed to be funny first, and musical, perhaps, somewhere else down the list.

That's one of the main reasons you shouldn't call Zappa "comedy music:" the music is first, and any "comedy" there comes in simply as another aspect of his complex, varied musical outlook.

Just in case you were wondering, here are my favorite Tom Waits albums, in order.

Rain Dogs

His two most famous albums, and the ones where he started his carnival music / weird percussion and miking / low brass thing. Crazy stuff. I will forever associate these with the Cookie Monster, because of the way my boss at work sang them.

Bone Machine
Mule Variations

90s "surrural" update on his 80s developments. Rougher than Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones, and I don't like the songs as much - but there are still plenty of great songs.

Night Hawks at the Diner

"Live" (really they rented some bar stuff and set up a night club in the studio) album from Waits' beatnik balladeer period. Good stuff, and I might even rank it higher, but it's sort of qualitatively different from all the other stuff listed here, so it's tough to compare directly. He really loosens up here, though, which is a joy. Especially on the beat-poetry-ish numbers.

Frank's Wild Years

The successor to Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones. I've just never gotten into it for some reason.

Charles Mingus was born on April 22, 1922 in Nogales, Arizona. So if you've got some Mingus and are feeling festive, why not play it today?

An index of jazz art and photography - lots of pictures of musicians.

April 22, 2000

Sorry about the paucity of interesting things lately. I've been working at graduating, and will be for the next two weeks. However, I'll try to have something to offer.

Today, for now, it's just a little snapshot; someone on rmp asked for people to name five favorites from 98 and 99, so I named mine. Somewhat perversely since they don't fit in well on rmp. Oh well. Maybe enough people will mention Godspeed that this person will check them out.

These are just for today, and in no order. 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)


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

I note that the Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I is slowly but surely working its way up the 1999 list.

April 21, 2000

red-balloon seems like a good idea but all the mixes I looked at seemed so... well, plebian... that it made me want to go make up imaginary mixtapes (since I don't have a tape recorder), then keep them to myself rather than post them there.

April 20, 2000

Listening to Bela Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra" tonight, I was again reminded of my complaint against classical music's rhythmic sensibilities. But I was also reminded of something that is more lacking, or at least not done so grandly, in popular music. Classical done with an orchestra has enough sound mass at its disposal that it can do really well that swirling accumulation of sound, that's so common in classical.

April 19, 2000

Amusing tensions for Dr. Dre (and thanks to Ned for the link).

April 18, 2000

Maybe another found hokku, this from the Plan's "Gyroscope":

she's wearin' too much lipstick tonight
little black dress a little too tight

April 17, 2000

A found hokku.

Tom's mention of Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project led me to Benjamin's essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. I might be able to incorporate this into a paper, finally, on George Ritzer's lame book The McDonaldization of Society. Which so far has resisted paperization since it offers little in the way of philosophy. But my idea is to critique Ritzer's characterization of the "McDonaldized" society along the lines of art and entertainment, which he touches on the least (compared to less-entertaining products and services).

April 16, 2000

The new King Crimson album (proper King Crimson this time, too, not a ProjeKCt) comes out on May 8th. I might get it.

Low interview.

Over the weekend I DJed for about 8 hours and 40 minutes (I gave the last 20 to DJ Sober) - 2 with Neil for our regular show, 2 12 hours later (more of the same) to fill in for Dan, 3 5 hours later (all jazz), and 1:40 right after that since EBM didn't show up and I feel bad about turning off the transmitter at the station. The final 1:40 I offered to play anything at all, which is a lot more permissive than I usually am, being as how people call up and ask for Blink-182 and Sixpence None the Richer. So the first 3 calls I got asked for things that were good anyway, and I had a lot of fun. It felt good to get some calls after the previous 7 hours of mostly call-less airtime. But I guess I was too good at picking "more music like this", because I didn't get any more calls. That or they went to sleep.

Getting calls is definitely one of the most pleasurable things about DJing, aside from the vague sense of community service that can result, if you squint really hard, from playing music you think people might like.

After I left, though, I missed all of DJ Sober's 20 minutes (I told him to bolt the door, but I guess he gave in) during my walk home. He turned the mic over to "Dr. Steve Chaos", who has got to be my number one all-time least favorite DJ. Note that that puts him below both the smarmy lite radio DJs and all those in the Howard Stern / Mancow axis of shock jocks. This is interesting because Dr. Chaos's show is essentially (a) classic rock - the same cuts you can hear on classic rock radio, only with vinyl scratches (since the station has no reason to buy CD copies of Foreigner albums), and badly done transitions, and (b) "talk" in which Dr. Steve complains, as shallowly as possible, about some sort of current issue of public interest. Now, I'll readily admit that often college radio lacks, let's say, a certain smoothness - polish. In general the DIY ethic and the great variety of music (including lots of music you can't hear anywhere else on the dial, if you're in the middle of Iowa like we are) make up for lack of polish, which isn't really worth much anyway.

In Dr. Chaos's case, though, you get amateurness PLUS bad taste. Ugh. If I drank I would go to it right away while I listen to my Massive Attack, to hasten my loss of memory. And now he's playing Kiss. "Kiss My Ass". Ugh.

April 15, 2000

Bill Barbot complaining - thoughtfully - about major labels, but also more.

April 14, 2000

This lines up well with the way I often feel about jazz as presented by public radio and TV.

There's a new Mojave 3 album out on May 16.

And I went to a great Dismemberment Plan show last night. Review to follow, maybe.

April 13, 2000

TWAS discusses High Fidelity today.

April 12, 2000

Retailers may drop MAP. Sadly it seems I helped to contribute to this process's driving-out of smaller music stores. When I was in high school Best Buy was my favorite place to shop for music simply because they had a broader selection than I wanted (so I was never left disappointed), and they offered music for cheaper than anywhere else. Soon after that though they changed their minds and returned to higher prices and lower selection, which drove me out.

April 11, 2000

Mr. Bungle's most recent album, California, is the first I've heard by them. At the moment I don't want to reduce it to a list of things I can hear in it, so let's just say it's goofy, wacky, rich, weird, surprising, complex, irreverent, and reverential. Not necessarily in that order.

The Pitchfork review makes a couple of good points: (a) boy, Mr. Bungle probably freaks out wannabe metalheads, and (b) what the hell is this doing on Warner Brothers? Then again, the Flaming Lips are on Warner Brothers and even released Zaireeka on it. And weren't booted as a result. So I guess the more important question is, what else is hiding out at Warner Brothers? Do they have monkeys running the place? Because obviously they couldn't have people with discerning taste in power, etc. etc. insert hackneyed major label criticisms here.

The AMG review is positive but like many of their reviews of avant-gardish music seems a little hesitant in its praise. They question whether we're supposed to be able to make sense of the rapid-fire genre switches and bizarre juxtapositions, and mention that they often seem to be without reason. So what does it meant that I like it, and it makes sense to me, despite my being able to tell where these oddities lie?

The official Mr. Bungle site has lyrics (not sure it matters what they are, but OK) and more importantly, sound samples.

A FAQ has some interesting information, as well as lots of bean-counter type stuff.

April 10, 2000

Sad news for jazz fans from Walter Davis on forthcoming Ken Burns documentary on the history of jazz is uneven, uninformed, and has Wynton's grubby revisionist fingerprints all over it.

April 9, 2000

Lots of stuff here, and lots of it translated, thankfully: Piero Scaruffi. Who is apparently one of the most prolific men to walk the earth, if his biography is any indication.

A little diversion: Alphabet list #1. Those with gift-giving minds might be interested in the I, Q, X gaps and the weak U. ;)

Also on nylpm - a review of Galas's "Double-Barrel Prayer".

A list of what CDnow claims are the most violent recordings of all time.

From a Diamanda Galas interview at motion:

P: Concerning your persona, there are the ongoing issues around this, as far as the way you are presented in the media, what I've read in interviews, etc. You seem to be often portrayed as this gigantic, Wagnerian female Vampire Bat ...

D: That weighs 700 pounds? I know! I always disappoint people when they see I'm not fat. You know who called me a Satanist the other day?

P: Who?

D: Cecil Taylor! That motherfucker! I said you're the biggest pederast in New York and you are calling me a fucking Satanist? You pig! What happened is that I was in this gay restaurant the other day with my friends, and I said to myself, I have had tremendous respect for this man's music for 20 years, so I thought, I'm going to buy him a drink. So I bought him a drink. The next thing I know , he's sitting at my table, and he's looking at me, and he's talking to his friends and he's saying (in a low croaky voice) "She's a Satanist".

Reinforcing something I was thinking last night about nylpm's rap discussion, a note (from Talib Kweli) from the Def/Kweli Black Star album about "Brown Skin Lady" (emphasis mine):

This is an important statement for "underground" artists, such as ouselves (right) to make. Too often, hip hop artists make songs about women with conditions. You know, "you my boo but you can't see no dough", or "if you get out of line, I have to smack you", or they talk about how non-black looking the woman is, all of that extra shit. There is not enough material out to balance that aesthetic. We just wanted to do a song that celebrated women of color with no conditions, just because we love them.

Mos Def and Mahler! Try finding that mix elsewhere, kids.

I made a little attempt to add something to the mini-debate surrounding the underground rap / street rap dichotomy, in nylpm, despite feeling (as is usual with rap, still) a bit like a tourist, with a review of Mos Def's "Mr. Nigga".

Lots of sources cite the 'difficultness' of Gustav Mahler's seventh symphony. It's very long and the 5 movements don't appear to go together very well at first. This usually leads classical afficionados, in their large-scale-structure-fetishism, to either (a) say it's not very good, if they don't like it, or (b) look really hard for "complicated" structure.

Instead, I'll offer a different approach: listen to the symphony as you would an "album" of movements. I've argued in the past that the "album," loosely considered (none of this concept album crap - until I hear otherwise, "My Generation" tromps all over Tommy) as a form in its own right, is where large-scale form is manifest in most popular music. It's definitely a more lax structure than standard symphonic form, or the more "complicated" ones of more modern music like Mahler's 7th, but that laxness allows other things to come into play.

For one thing, it allows too-different things to sit together somewhat more comfortably, as can be the case with the disparate movements in the 7th.

April 7, 2000

Zorn and file-card composition (a review of the new Godard and Spillane reissue). Also, an awesome class assignment.

A while back on the qb list a nice person named Victoria said, among other things:

In fact, I'd argue that by its very fluid nature, there are almost as many truly groundbreaking and influential jazz artists as there are classical composers, even though western "classical" music has existed in its current form for over three times as long as jazz.

The recording of the day is Bang on a Can's live-in-the-studio reperformance/reinterpretation of Brian Eno's seminal 1978 work, Music for Airports. If you've never heard of this or you don't know much about it I suggest you read the original liner notes (which are sadly absent in my copy). Glenn McDonald's review of the Bang on a Can version offers some insights.

Aside from these I don't have it in me to do much more to the blog than a list (sorry, the boring kind) of a few recent listens.

  • Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters. I rarely get past the first track when I listen, but oh man. Required listening for Funk 101.
  • The Beta Band, The 3 E.P.'s. I don't know if they're quite so innovative as everyone makes them out to be (sounds like 90s stoner-drone music to me), but that doesn't mean it's not good.
  • Low, I Could Live in Hope. Referred to on the Low list recently as "speed metal", in comparison to their later stuff.
  • Apples in Stereo, Tone Soul Evolution. Less distinctive than Her Wallpaper Reverie but still satisfying.
  • Massive Attack, Mezzanine. Being that "Angel" is an enormous monster of a track, I think it merited selection over "Radiation (Ruling the Nation)" as a best track 1 side 1 in High Fidelity.
  • Brian Eno, Another Green World. Still growing on me, despite my liking it and not really finding anything wrong with it initially (a couple of years ago?). Track 1 presents a great argument that Eno missed his calling as a psych-freakout musician.
  • Red Stars Theory, Life in a Bubble Can Be Beautiful. DRONE.

April 6, 2000

Lyrical sampling in rap, take 2: last night I saw part of the excellent PBS documentary I'll Make Me a World, in which they focused, near the end, on a spoken word artist slash poet (maybe a "slam poet"?) who did his thing for like 5 minutes at the end. The coolest part? When he quoted "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos": "they wanted me for their army, or whatever".

Joke: the bandleader gets us in front of the band and says "On this tune tonight, play five bars in the intro instead of four; in measure 9 take everything up a half step, skip the first four bars of the bridge; play the last four bars of bridge in a stretched out 3 over 4 and end the song 6 bars early". The singer stands up and says "What about me?". Bandleader says, "Just sing it the way you did last night".

Some things that came up recently when musing about music that makes me glad when I'm sad...

some Aphex Twin from the RDJ album, some Phish, some Boards of Canda (that bassline!), some James Brown, lots of Flaming Lips, lots of Frank Zappa (especially Apostrophe'/Overnite Sensation - "I think I might be movin' to MONTANA soon... just to raise me up a crop of... DENTAL FLOSS..."), some Massive Attack (probably simply because Protection is one of my favorite albums - otherwise there's a bit to not be happy about), rip-roaring Mingus, some of Revolver (Geir would be so proud...), Surfer Rosa - especially the first 5 tracks, some Primus, some Refreshments, some Rush (most of Moving Pictures, for one), sometimes Spiritualized's "Take Your Time" and "Shine a Light", despite still somewhat contributing to my being depressed if I am already, goofier Tom Waits (anything I can imagine the Cookie Monster singing to), the most blissful Yo La Tengo, much Weezer despite still being depressing...

April 5, 2000

I'm removing this from my home page, so I thought I'd store it here for safe keeping.

One has to realize what restraint it needs to express oneself with such brevity. Every glance can be expanded into a poem, every sigh into a novel. But to express a novel in a single gesture, joy in a single breath: such concentration can only be found where self-pity is lacking in equal measure.

These pieces can only be understood by those who believe that sound can say things which can only be expressed through sound.

- Arnold Schoenberg, from the introduction to the Six Bagatelles for string quartet, Opus 9, by Anton Webern, a Viennese friend and contemporary of Egon Schiele's; whole quote appears in Rachel's Music for Egon Schiele notes.

Often I feel as if something that keeps me from really taking to a lot more classical music is how so many of the things expressed in it are now foreign. In Beethoven, for instance, there's a lot of, well, let's say majesty, and pomp. Big 19th-century feelings. So it's nice to be reminded by the Flaming Lips' "They Punctured My Yolk" that modern music can sound majestic, too. Of course, that song is simultaneously goofy. But that just makes it more loveable.

A new intro to Low on the official Low site. Does that first paragraph look familiar?

Also, and perhaps more interestingly, a wealth of comments from Alan Sparhawk on all of Low's songs.

Zen koan: Pink Floyd are the Led Zeppelin of rock and roll.

April 4, 2000

A Salon piece on High Fidelity.

Another, talking with Nick Hornby.

OK, so here's an initial thought on the Beta Band's 3 E.P.'s: maximalism (as opposed to minimalism). I say that because both rely heavily on groove (though in minimalism's case it's usually too academic, or too distinguished, or too lacking in actual sounds, to be called that - buy you get my drift). Why? Simple, I sez: both maximalism and minimalism push at the limits of sound, and in order to compensate, they require extra-solid structural backbones. Rhythmic backbones. Groovy backbones.

April 3, 2000

Top five almost-best-end-of-album songs.

Saw High Fidelity tonight and it was well worth it. While it wasn't entirely faithful to the book, the changes made were minor and some even made it better. Most notably: in the book, though Rob turned his life around in a way, it seemed slightly lame - the dance music remained nostalgic, Barry's band played it extra safe, etc. But in the film, Rob releases a single by a couple of skate punks, and Barry's band seems less nostalgic (I don't think they did "Let's Get It On" either - can't be bothered to check though - the book is sitting under a pile of CDs) - a more positive outlook, less like "Rob turns around but does it by returning back to where he last was," which seems slightly defeatist.

Moving the film to Chicago seemed to have little effect. Some people have mentioned the loss of the London color, but I think that only affects Anglophiles. There was no space for that color in the film, which had to stay focused to keep interest and still cover all the events in the book.

Nice to see the Mad Professor remix "Radiation Ruling the Nation" of Massive Attack's "Protection" get mention.

Something in the movie, but not the book, is the expanded scene hinted at on page 97, where Rob discusses how Barry brow-beats people into buying Blonde on Blonde. In the movie Rob leans over and stage-whispers to Dick that he will now sell 5 copies of the Beta Band's 3 EPs. He begins to play said album, and everyone in the store starts nodding their heads. Brilliant. And now I'm thinking about giving the Betas a second chance, after the one track by them I heard in the fall on the night of my first radio show.

Also, because I feel like it, a quote from the book:

Even though we get a lot of people into the shop, only a small percentage of them buy anything. The best customers are the ones who just have to buy a record on a Saturday, even if there's nothing they really want; unless they go home clutching a flat, square carrier bag, they feel uncomfortable. You can spot the vinyl addicts because after a while they get fed up with the rack they are flicking through, march over to a completely different section of the shop, pull a sleeve out from the middle somewhere, and come over to the counter; this is because they have been making a list of possible purchases in their head ("If I don't find anything in the next five minutes, the blues compilation I saw half an hour ago will have to do"), and suddenly sicken themselves with the amount of time they have wasted looking for something they don't really want. I know that feeling well (these are my people, and I understand them better than I understand anybody in the world): it is a prickly, clammy, panicky sensation, and you go out of the shop reeling.

I am not really like this. Not quite.

Also, news (stolen from Pitchfork) about the new Sonic Youth album:

Sonic Youth are finishing up a new album for release later this Spring. Speculation is that the record, NYC Ghosts and Flowers, should be in a more traditional Sonic Youth vein than their SYR series, as it will be their first full-length for Geffen since 1998's A Thousand Leaves. Ghosts and Flowers will span eight songs in 42 minutes, making it their shortest since 1987's Sister.

The album was produced by Gastr Del Sol member and multi-instrumentalist Jim O'Rourke, who pretentiously brought "visions of shared color and greyscale meditation" to the band. The cover art is a painting by the great late beat writer/poet William S. Burroughs titled "X-Ray Man," and the inlay will have work from Joe Brainard, D.A. Levy, Dan Graham, and Sonic Youth's own Lee Ranaldo and Kim Gordon. Song titles on Ghosts and Flowers include "Free City Rhyme," "Renegade Princess," "Stream X Sonik Subway," "Small Flowers Crack Concrete," and the album's title track.

April 2, 2000

I think maybe I missed what it was I originally set out for, but nevertheless here are some thoughts on Apples in Stereo and pop-as-style.

Interestingly enough, this links up, ever so slightly, with Tom's new piece on exotica. I quote:

As exotica becomes less of a method of working musically and more another style to be deployed and quoted, it loses any connection it might have had with the musics it is itself appropriating.

This leads me to two interesting thoughts, or at least, directions for thought. On the one hand, you could argue that the pop-style appropriation of artists like the Apples does, or eventually does, taken far enough, break the connection between the original pop and the "sampled" pop. On the other hand, you could argue that there's something about the pop-style that won't allow that connection to be broken.

Konketsu reviews both GYBE! and Mingus. Heh.

A little Mogwai interview.

The Apples in Stereo page at the UBL offers me three choices in the "jump back to" section: Apples in Stereo, The Apples (In Stereo), and John Zorn. Which of these doesn't belong?

Do check out Simon Reynolds' original article where he coined "post-rock".

March 2000